A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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The Third Thread



We have now to consider how karma works in relation to activity, the third aspect of the Self. Our activities – the ways in which we affect the outer world of matter – spin the third thread of our karma, and in many respects this is the


least important. Our thoughts and our desires so soon as they flow outwards, by producing vibrations in the mental and astral matter surrounding us, or by creating specific thought-forms and desire-forms, become activities, are our action on the outer worlds of life and form, of consciousness and bodies.


The moment they speed outwards they affect other things and other people, they are the action, or the reaction as the case may be, of the organism on the environment. The reaction of our thoughts on ourselves, as we have seen, is the building of character and of faculty; the reaction of our desires on ourselves

is the gaining of opportunities and objects and of power; the reaction of our activities on ourselves is our environment, the conditions and circumstances, the friends and enemies, that surround us. The nearest circumstance, the expression of part of our past activities, is our physical body; this is shaped for us by an elemental specially created for the task; our body is nature’s

answer to such part of the sum of our past activities as can be expressed in a single material form, and "nature" is here the Lords of Karma, the mighty Angels of Judgment, the Recorders of the Past. Two parts of karma we bring with us – our thought-nature and our desire-nature, the germinal tendencies we have

created in our age-long past; the third part of karma we are born into; that which limits our Self-expression and constrains us; our past action on the external world reacts upon us as the sum of our limitations – our environment, including our physical body.


It is probable that a close study of past activities and present environment would result in a knowledge of details that at present we do not possess. We read in Buddhist and Hindu Scriptures a mass of details on this subject, probably drawn from meticulous careful observation. At present, we modern

students can only affirm a few broad facts. Extreme cruelty inflicted on the helpless – on heretics, on children, on animals – reacts on inquisitors, on brutal parents and teachers, on vivisectors, as physical deformity, more or less revolting and extreme, according to the nature and extent of the cruelty.




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