A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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We have seen that as the manifestation of a universe implies succession of phenomena, so the universal inter-relation becomes the sequence of cause and effect. But each effect becomes in turn a cause, and so on endlessly, the difference between cause and effect not being one of nature but of relation. The inter-relations which exist in the thought of the Eternal become the inter-relations between phenomena in the manifested universe – the portion of the thought put forth as a universe. Before the manifestation of any special universe, there will be, in the Eternal, the thought of the universe which is to be, and its inter-relations. That which exists simultaneously out of time and

space in the Eternal Now, gradually appears in time and space as successive phenomena.


The moment you conceive a universe as made up of phenomena, you are obliged to think of these phenomena successively, one after another; but in the thought of the Eternal they always are, and the limitation of succession has there no existence.


Even in the lower worlds, where the measures of time are so different from each other, we catch a glimpse of the increasing limitations of denser matter. Mozart tells us of a state of consciousness in which he received a musical composition

as a single impression, although in his waking consciousness he could only reproduce that single impression in a succession of notes. Or again, we may look at a picture, and receive a single mental impression – a landscape, a battle; but an ant, crawling over that picture, would see no whole, only successive impressions from the parts travelled over.


By simile, by analogy, we may gain some idea of the difference of a universe as it appears to the LOGOS and as it appears to us. To Him, a single impression, a perfect whole; to us an immense sequence, slowly unfolding. So what is to Him inter-relation becomes to us succession. Instead of seeing childhood, youth, old

age as a whole, we see them successively, day by day, year by year.


That which is simultaneous and universal becomes successive and particular to our small minds, crawling over the world as the ant over the picture.


Go up a mountain and look down on a town, and you can see how the houses are related to each other in blocks, streets, and so on. You realise them as a whole. But when you go down into the town you must pass from street to street, seeing each separately, successively. So in karma, we see the relations only one by one, and one after another, not even realising the successive relations, so limited is our view.


Such similes may often help us to grasp the invisible things, and may act as crutches to our halting imagination. And out of all this we lay our foundation stone for our study of karma. Karma is universal inter-relation, and is seen in any universe as the Law of Causation, in consequence of the successive appearance of phenomena in the becoming, or coming forth, of the universe.




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