Karma and Ethics
The San Francisco Call, October 5, 1891
Last evening William Q. Judge delivered a lecture in Odd Fellows’ Hall, on “Karma and Ethics,” before another large audience. He was introduced by E. B. Rambo, President of the Golden Gate Branch of the Theosophical Society.
“It is necessary for us to inquire what is man from a theosophical standpoint.” he said. “The other evening I told you man is a composite, a septenate being, developing on all of the seven planes. Let us conceive him as one enveloped in six vehicles, each vehicle being a vehicle for the element one above it. There is the body material, which we see, then the ‘desire body,’ the astral body and the passions. These four vehicles are what are laid down at death, the others are composed of what are known to us as Atma, Buddhi and Manas; spirit, soul and mind. The man we see decays at death; the real man lives on forever, and it is this real man that feels and knows what are true ethics.
“What is the meaning of the word ‘ethic’? Ethics are said in the dictionary to be the ‘science of human conduct; a code of rules,’ without there being a standard of ethics for the world at large. The Chinese have one code of ethics; the Buddhists have their ethics. The latter say ‘right means, right thought, right action.’ The Christians have their ethics. They are founded on the golden rule (do unto others, etc.), but the ethics are not practiced. The code is only a theory. We have this nation of ours exterminating the Indians, the sons of the soil. Again, there is a business code, which is in contradiction and opposite to the religious code. So there is no necessity for us to say our code is the Christian code. We can only adopt it, add to it, and make it operative. When Tolstoi makes a recluse of himself and his family the world laughs. Yet he is following the Christian code closer than the so-called enlightened nations of the West. If the Christian code, as laid down by Christ, were to be followed by the Christian (?) nations they would have to disarm.
“The theosophic code is that men are brothers, touching each other dynamically. No matter how much you may think this nation or that people are diverse from you, yet they are of the human brotherhood. Every man in the whole breadth of the universe is vibrating with every other man. There is nothing that can make the real man think otherwise, though seeming manhood through stress of friction makes an eternal warfare for existence, the desire to subject and disown.
“What you sow you shall reap. Sow the wind and you shall reap the whirlwind. That is Karma. Karma is the law of cause and effect. Action is based upon thought. As we think so we act, and as we think of the Chinese in China, so is the influence of our thoughts in America. There are many proofs in all books, from the Bible—where St. Paul says, ‘God is not mocked,’ meaning (as we think, that is, as we sow God allows us to reap)—to the Vedas and Koran. As a man thinks the convolutions of his brain become deeper and more pronounced. It is known that Napoleon’s head grew after he had become Consul and still more when he became Emperor. Everything goes to show the effect of thought on objective natures. We arrive at this conclusion just the same as the scientist or materialist when he ‘discovers’ his atom, which no one ever saw and may never see, but which is logical.
“Now, the theosophical concepts of Karma separate it into several departments. There are the physical, mental and soul Karma. Sometimes we find a distorted body the vehicle of a brilliant mind. That goes to show that that person had not lived rightly in the past lives on the physical plane, but had on the mental. Catherine di Medici was a beautiful woman without, but within she was a perfect devil, which shows she had lived cleanly and goodly on the physical plane, but on the moral or soul plane had become distorted.
“At Johnstown whole families were wiped out by the floods, yet it gave a chance for the world to be good and go down into its pocket for help. Then there are: the present Karma, that which we are now experiencing, past Karma, and the Karma we are shooting, as it were, from a bow into the next life.
“Why should we attribute all the queer ‘coincidences’ to chaos? Why should we say that by an ‘accident’ this letter was written that elevated some wreck? Science, the accepted setting forth of laws, continually veils its ignorance with the words, ‘accident’ and ‘coincidence.’ Theosophy has none of this. To Karma, cause and effect, eternally and constantly existing, and to reincarnation, the method by which Karma works, Theosophy bases its philosophy.”