[On Spirit and Matter]
Theosophist, January, 1883
Selections from the Article “Karma” by A. Govinda Charlu | Reply by H.P.B.
1. We start with the supposition that the Karma (or merit) theory is admitted, and that it explains all the multifarious differences found between man and man . . . when we hear others saying “my fate,” “my destiny,” and “my luck,” these are synonymous with my Karma.
2. . . . The principle Karmas, then, of two different individuals, say a maharaja and a scavenger, must have been two (quite) different kinds . . . what is the origin of Karma, how came the numberless species, and how came the retailing of the “I’s” (or Egos) under the banners of each of these species? . . . [to answer] the reason for the classification of “I’s” under separate Karma leaders, I am obliged to introduce a dilemma . . . It is, that in order that an “Ego” should get into the clutches of a primal Karma, the “Ego” must previously have been the cause of Karma, which in turn became the “Ego’s” master; and, therefore, that the “Ego” must have existed previous to any Karma. It was just stated that Karma preceded Ego, and was holding “Ego” in subjection ever since eternity . . . I add, that the question whether “Karma” or “Ego” was original is similar to whether the bird or the egg, the seed or the plant or yet spirit or matter came first? (N.B.—the last simile should be understood in this way:—It may be maintained “Spirit” breathed Matter and created it by its “WILL,” or it may be extended that the essence or the necessary result of a particular combination—mechanical, chemical, magnetic—of Matter is “Spirit”). At this stage we will, then, suppose them as co-existent, and subordinate one to the other. . . . The next question arises: assuming of course that “Ego” is the primal originator of Karma, what makes the “Ego” create that particular Karma rather than any other? . . . [etc.]
3. In this connection, I would ask, as one of your contributors has already done, (1) why should have “Spirit” got itself entangled with gross matter, and subject itself to endless suffering? (2) Why should it undergo the many trials that are attributed to the very circumstances of the entanglemens, and laid at the door of “matter” which originated out of “Spirit” and is subordinate to it? (3) It is held that “bad” men gradually lose their spirituality, and become more and more grossly materialized, until the “Spirit” is “annihilated”! Has matter, then, such a power over “Spirit”? . . .
4. In the same strain we might discuss the questions concerning “God” and “Satan,” and we might thus enter into another and vaster field of doubt, and must and could see the absurdities of the Religions which proclaim the doctrines of “Hell” and “Heaven.” . . .
Editor’s Note: We fear our correspondent is labouring under various misconceptions. We will not touch upon his very original views of Karma—at its incipient stage—since his ideas are his own, and he is as much entitled to them as anyone else. But we will briefly answer his numbered questions at the close of the letter.
1. Spirit got itself entangled with gross matter for the same reason that life gets entangled with the foetus matter. It followed a law, and therefore could not help the entanglement occurring.
2. We know of no eastern philosophy that teaches that “matter originated out of Spirit.” Matter is as eternal and indestructible as Spirit and one cannot be made cognizant to our senses without the other—even to our, the highest, spiritual sense. Spirit per se is a non-entity and non-existence. It is the negation of every affirmation and of all that is.
3. No one ever held—as far as we know—that Spirit could be annihilated under whatever circumstances. Spirit can get divorced of its manifested matter, its personality, in which case, it is the latter that is annihilated. Nor do we believe that “Spirit breathed out Matter”; but that, on the contrary, it is Matter which manifests Spirit. Otherwise, it would be a puzzle indeed.
4. Since we believe in neither “God” nor “Satan” as personalities or Entities, hence there is neither “Heaven” nor “Hell” for us, in the vulgar generally accepted sense of the terms. Hence also—it would be a useless waste of time to discuss the question.