Fifth Wednesday Post

The Law of Consequences

It’s a longstanding custom on this blog that whenever there are five Wednesdays in a month, the readers get to vote on what they want me to write about for the fifth Wednesday.  Far more often than not the resulting contest is a lively one, and this month’s was no exception. By a significant plurality, though, the winning topic was the concept of karma and what the occult traditions I study and practice have to say about that.

It’s a timely subject just now, for reasons we’ll get to a little later on in this essay, but it’s also one of the most frequently misunderstood topics in occult philosophy.  There are very good reasons for this. To begin with, the concept of karma has only recently found its way into the religious imagination of the modern Western world, and it contradicts some of the most common assumptions of the more traditional Western religious movements. In most mainstream versions of Christian theology the sins and virtuous acts of individuals are important, but in the final analysis human beings are damned because of something they didn’t do, the fall of Adam, and can only be saved by something they didn’t do either, the self-sacrifice of Christ.

I wasn’t there and neither were you.

For those raised to think in this way, the concept of karma often seems both baffling and blasphemous. On the one hand, it holds that each of us is responsible for working out our own salvation or damnation, rather than being punished for someone else’s original sin and saved by someone else’s redemptive act.  On the other, since the teaching of karma is inseparable from reincarnation, it teaches that salvation and damnation are not once-and-for-all events that happen in the afterlife (or after the Second Coming), but two sides of a continuous process.  Our present lives, however heavenly or hellish those may be, are the exact consequence of our own thoughts, words, and deeds in previous lives and in however much of this life has already passed for us.  In turn, our thoughts, words, and deeds here and now are building futures for us that are exactly as heavenly or hellish as we make them.

It’s also confusing for people raised in a Christian context to see karma as something other than a divine judgment of the type much discussed in Christian theology, in which a cosmic authority figure deals out rewards and punishments according to a scheme that, however good and just the theologians insist it must be, looks somewhat arbitrary to the human observer. It takes a certain amount of effort to get past this and realize that from the point of view of occult philosophy, karma is as exact and impersonal as the law of gravity.  Every action has consequences, and the consequences inevitably circle around to affect the person responsible, in this life or another:  that’s the nature of karma.

This sums up the nature of karma very well — not least because the domino you push isn’t the domino that clobbers you.

The Sanskrit word karma, in fact, means “action.”  The concept of karma can be understood, in fact, as something very close to Newton’s laws of motion, applied to the dynamics of human life. In the abstract, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Just as in physics, however, actions and reactions exist in a wider context; thus every combination of actions has a combined reaction that is equal to the sum total of those actions.  In old-fashioned occult literature, with this in mind, the principle behind karma is often given a helpful name: the Law of Consequences.

Since every thought, word, and deed has karmic consequences, karma is always cumulative. It’s quite common for people who don’t understand the principle of karma to insist that it can’t be valid—after all, this person over here did something good and is suffering, and that person over there did something bad and is flourishing!  Yes, but what else have these two people done in their past and present lives?  It’s not any one action, but the sum total of a person’s actions, that determines their karma for the moment. Does this imply that karma can be changed by deliberate actions going against its current momentum?  Yes, indeed it does, and we’ll be talking about how to do that a little later in this essay.

To understand karma in more detail it’s important to grasp how it works.  By and large, there are two principal avenues by which the consequences of your actions circle back around to bless or bite you.  The first is character; the second is circumstances.

The first step on a long and winding road.

The karmic dimension of character is easy to understand. Consider a person who does something sleazy. We’ll assume it’s something she hasn’t done before, and she got talked into it, or talked herself into it, for some seemingly plausible reason. Forever after, until and unless she discharges that karma, she’s going to be a person who is capable of that kind of sleaziness.  She will find it easier to repeat the sleazy action, and harder to resist the desire to do so when a comparable opportunity comes up again.  Unless she catches the trend in process and makes a sustained and effective effort to reverse it—not simply to resist it!—that particular kind of sleaze becomes habitual, and she becomes a sleazy person.

We all know sleazy people. We also all know how we treat sleazy people, and how that differs from the way we treat people who aren’t sleazy. That common human reaction is a powerful force, and not easily turned aside. Many people, in fact, can pick up on the sleaziness of a sleazy person even before they catch the person doing something sleazy. So the possibilities open to decent people in social interactions gradually close to the sleazy person, and another set of possibilities open up, most of them unpleasant and many of them tending to encourage further kinds of sleaziness.  Rinse and repeat, and an ordinary person who suffered a brief moral lapse becomes a complete sleazeball that nobody will trust with a burnt-out matchstick.

Let’s say our sleazy person dies, and after an interval, is reborn as an infant. Those people who think of young children as inevitably innocent and pure haven’t spent much time in a nursery recently.  Some children, let’s face it, are born sleazy.  That doesn’t mean that they’ve been unfairly loaded with a bad character; it means that they drifted over into sleaziness in a previous life and haven’t dealt with it yet.  Given good parenting and healthy discipline, some children of this kind can overcome their innate sleaziness and become decent people—but how does a soul get reborn into a situation where that’s an option?  That depends on the other side of karma, which we’ll get to shortly.

Don’t assume they’re innocent just because they’re small.

The drift into sleaze isn’t irresistible.  It’s always possible to begin the process of moving in the other direction.  Let’s say our sleazy person has the opportunity to do something even more sleazy, and backs away from it—that’s too much sleaze for her to tolerate. Suddenly a new factor has entered into the picture.  Alongside the momentum of descent into sleaze, she now has at least a little momentum pushing her in the other direction. Opportunities for further sleaziness become a little less common, and opportunities to treat other people decently start to pop up.  If she also happens to turn to some form of spirituality that brings her into contact with positive influences such as gods and angels, those will respond, adding their strength to hers—but only to the extent that she cooperates with them and makes a sustained effort to keep doing so.

Let’s say our not-quite-so-sleazy person decides to keep backing away from sleaze.  She refuses to do some other sleazy things, finds chances now and again to do decent things, and keeps up her spiritual connection with positive influences. Now her momentum begins to shift in earnest.  If she keeps at it, though there will doubtless be plenty of wobblings and waverings and bursts of renewed sleaze, she’ll begin to move back the other way. The more she works at being a decent person, the easier it becomes, and by the time she reaches the point she was at when the first moral lapse happened, it’s quite possible that she’ll have so much momentum built up that she’ll go rocketing straight past it into the realms of virtue.

Conscience is simply the subconscious memory of the consequences of past mistakes.  No little figures need apply.

What’s more, even if half a dozen lives have passed since she began her descent into sleaziness, she’ll draw back sharply at the thought of doing anything of the same kind of sleaze again. That is to say, she’ll have developed a conscience. According to occult philosophy, conscience is the subconscious memory of past failure and pain. It’s one of the things we accumulate from our previous lives, along with talents, preferences, and initiatory contacts.

This is a simplified model, of course. In the real world all of us are dealing not with a single line from decency to sleaziness, but with any number of virtues and vices pulling in different directions at the same time.  The normal state of human beings resembles nothing so much as billiard balls ricocheting around the board after an unusually energetic break. Yet the same principle applies: all thoughts, words, and deeds affect the person who does them, creating a momentum in the direction of similar thoughts, words, and deeds. As an old but by no means outworn saying has it, “sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

That’s the karmic dimension of character. The karmic side of circumstances is a little subtler in theoretical terms, though it’s easier to notice the effects in practice. Let’s return to our example. Once the person we’ve been following commits that first sleazy act, the world becomes a sleazier place, and in complex and roundabout ways, that will circle back to the person who caused it.  It’s not a matter of tit-for-tat—“you did X to someone, so someday someone will do X to you”—because karma is cumulative. The sum total of your karma, not any individual act, determines the sum total of your circumstances. As your karma becomes worse, those circumstances start to gang up on you, and they can quite literally make your life a living hell.

It’s rarely this dramatic, but the principle is the same.

If you want a good measure of your current karma, in other words, look for the little things: the ordinary everyday events that could work for you or against you.  If they generally work against you, you need to clean up your act. If they generally work against you, and you constantly find yourself tempted to do something sleazy in response, then you really need to clean up your act. If circumstances generally work for you, that’s a good sign, but it’s not an excuse to get sloppy; you can use up good karma, and if you don’t create more of it by thoughtful, compassionate, and generous thoughts, words, and deeds, you can slide right back down again.

Understanding this makes sense of some common experiences. Many of us have known sweet-natured, caring, radiantly good people who’ve been clobbered by one misfortune after another, and more often than not died young in some unpleasant way. They’re souls that have reversed the bad karma of many previous lives and are clearing away their karmic backlog in a hurry by coping with bad experiences in a brave and patient way. Many of us have also encountered people who have everything go right for them even though they’re nasty customers. They’re burning through the good karma of many previous lives, and setting themselves up for a plunge into utter misery later in this life or in lives to come.

Epictetus the Stoic. He had some useful things to say about virtues.

Now of course character also influences circumstances, and circumstances also influence character. The same qualities of character that generate favorable karma by shaping your thoughts, words, and deeds—virtues such as courage, temperance, prudence, and justice—also tend to create beneficial circumstances for you, while qualities of character that create bad karma—vices such as cowardice, extremism, foolishness, and selfishness—tend to generate miserable results in the realm of circumstances.  That’s not as self-reinforcing as it may seem, however, for difficult circumstances teach positive lessons of character, while circumstances that are too easy can teach negative lessons.  The saying “Bad times create strong people, strong people create good times, good times create weak people, weak people create bad times” is as accurate as it is unwelcome. The basic principles of karma apply in every case, however tangled things get in the hurly-burly of incarnate life.

There’s another wrinkle that has to be understood, however, which is that not all karma is individual. There is also collective karma. Most human beings are mass-minded—they don’t think their own thoughts, speak their own words, or choose their own deeds.  Instead, they think, speak, and act as their communities, their societies, and their species prompt them. Since they have few individual actions, they have little individual karma, but the thoughts, words, and deeds they enact on behalf of others also have consequences, and those consequences are the collective karma shared by all those who participate in the community, society, or species in question.

Collective karma’s a bear, because most groups of human beings act as though they are far more stupid and selfish than the individuals who make up the groups. (There are complicated reasons for that, having to do with the nature of group consciousness and the power of nonverbal cues to swamp the thinking mind of the individual, but we don’t have space to get into those here.) On average, then, the collective karma of any group of people is considerably worse than the karma that would be earned by any of the individual members of the group had they been acting alone.

Traditionally, collective karma has its primary effects on the group rather than the individual: that is to say, the changes in character affect the group consciousness rather than the individual, and the circumstances do the same thing. That doesn’t mean the individuals get away scot free, however.  By and large, the more mass-minded you are, the more likely you are to be swept up in  the consequences of collective karma.  Since these quite often take forms such as wars, plagues, famines, and natural disaster, this is not something to look forward to.

“Yes! We must all think for ourselves!”

It’s probably necessary to point out in this context that whether or not you think of yourself as an utterly unique individual has little to do with your mass-mindedness or lack of same. It’s highly fashionable these days for people who get every one of their opinions from the mass media and popular culture to make a fuss about how original and individual they are.  As a famous bit from Monty Python’s Life of Brian points out, the mass-minded are fond of chanting “Yes, we are all individuals!” in perfect unison.  Nor does it make you an individual if you get all your opinions from someplace other than the mass media; every counterculture has its own form of groupthink. Mass-mindedness is normal for human beings. We outgrow it only slowly, one at a time.  When somebody does become a genuine individual, for that matter, everyone around them thinks that they’re really kind of weird, and exerts various kinds of pressure to try to drag them back to one kind of groupthink or another.

One advantage we have just now is that the pressure of collective consciousness is easier to escape than at most times in the past. Yes, I’m well aware of mass media, advertising, and the other gimmickries used by today’s wealthy classes to exploit the mass-minded. None of it is as pervasive or as crushing as the overwhelming groupthink of small town society in the days before cheap printing presses and efficient postal systems opened windows on a wider world.  It hasn’t been that long since the days of Joseph Palmer, who was mobbed by his New England neighbors in 1830 because he grew a beard, and then got thrown in jail for the crime of defending himself against forced shaving. Television and the internet?  Sure, they’re annoying, but—ahem—you can turn them off.

Joseph Palmer. As you see, he succeeded in keeping his beard.

So how do you deal constructively with karma?  I’ve already covered the basics. You adjust your character by watching your thoughts and feelings, and changing them as needed. Every time you catch yourself following some habitual train of thought that leads in negative directions, if you stop thinking those things, and direct your mind to something else, you’re changing the momentum of your character. Every time you go out of your way to think positive thoughts—yes, this is among the benefits of meditation and prayer—you have a similar effect. Each of these actions is a very small push, but in metaphysics as in physics, little pushes add up.

You adjust your circumstances by doing generous, helpful actions in the world.  Find a charity you can wholeheartedly support, one from which you get no personal benefits, and support it to the best of your ability.  In your dealings with other people, make a point of being a little more patient, a little more forgiving, a little more thoughtful than you’ve been in the past. Find other ways to make the world around you a little less miserable for people and other living things. Don’t expect instant benefits—you won’t get them, because the momentum of your past karma still has to be dealt with.  Over time, however, if you keep at it, your circumstances will shift.

These days, there’s an abundance of good opportunities for both these modes of work on karma, because of the extraordinary viciousness of today’s partisan passions and class hatreds.  The results of highly nasty collective karma built up over many decades, those passions and hatreds are pushing toward the kinds of explosive release that tend to have a very high body count.  I’d like to remind my readers of Dion Fortune’s maxim that on the magical planes of being, you win by building up the things you want, not by trying to tear down the things you don’t want; I’d also like to suggest that anyone who wants to build some positive momentum in karmic terms can do so very easily by making an effort to think of your opponents as human beings rather than cardboard-cutout baddies, and to treat them as such even in the midst of conflict.

George Patton. Did you know that he remembered his previous lives?

That doesn’t imply any lack of effectiveness in the struggle.  It was General George Patton, not exactly a slouch at fighting the Wehrmacht, who roared “Rommel, you glorious bastard!” at the German lines.  He knew he was fighting a brilliant commander, and soldiers who believed just as passionately in their cause as he and the US Third Army he commanded believed in theirs. He respected them, and therefore he never underestimated them—and that’s why he beat them. Karma?  In a certain very real sense, yes.


  1. At this link is a complete list of all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. A printable version of the entire prayer list (current as of 8/28)may be downloaded here. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    * * *

    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    On 8/29, Brother Kornhoer’s son was scheduled for surgery to help to deal with his empty nose syndrome and sleep apnea. May the surgery have gone excellently, and may he heal quickly.

    Neptunesdolphin’s husband has just had his big toe partially amputated due to a staph infection, and his diabetes has worsened in connection. He and she and son all are struggling to cope with the difficult situation, made no easier by the fact that all three have different varieties of mental impairment. May Neptunesdolphin’s husband heal quickly and vigorously, and successfully manage his diabetes; and may her family all get through the situation successfully and with grace.

    Lunar Apprentice, who has started a private medical practice, that he find the strength and the capability to successfully fulfill his self-appointed duties both to his patients and to his family, that the insurers contracting with his patients be favourably disposed towards the service he faithfully provides and pay as they are obliged, and that the flow of new patients increase sufficiently to support his medical practice.

    Steve T’s brother Matt was recently in the hospital after a sudden violent seizure, and his daughter was having extreme panic attacks; they were both in a terrible car accident last fall. Steve asks for prayers for Matt’s recovery of health; for the emotional and psychological well-being of the rest of the family, including his wife Megan, his daughter Diana, and his young son Jake; and for the lifting of any spiritual harm afflicting the family.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all. The reasonable possibility exists that this is an environmental disaster on par with the worst America has ever seen. (Lp9 gives updates here and also here.)

    * * *

    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are now to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  2. JMG, thank you for selecting the topic I voted for!

    I am perplexed by this statement, which echoes ones you’ve made in the past: “They’re souls that have reversed the bad karma of many previous lives and are clearing away their karmic backlog in a hurry by coping with bad experiences in a brave and patient way.”

    Does this mean that attempts to reverse karma in this lifetime generate more bad karma? I have a problem with this because it seems to imply that we must passively bear all negative circumstances. That feels wrong to me.

    In this present life I have used magic to reverse two separate streams of bad karma. One of them is very personal and painful so I won’t go into it. The other one has to do with what I call “weak Jupiter function”, i.e. the ability to navigate group-social interactions, particularly in the work environment. Once this was identified, I worked various types of planetary charity, to the degree that I have reversed the most acute effects of this problem. I believe the planetary charity improved my Jupiter function (i.e. my character) and thus my circumstances are much better. I’ll add that since Jupiter is recognized as ruling Christianity, I also began more actively participating in Christian church activities (this isn’t a wholesale departure for me, more a change in degree than in kind, although I still keep to some pagan ways like recognizing nature spirits and deities beneath the One God). I believe this participation is also contributes to improvement in character. Thus, I would say that the magic I worked actually resulted in my learning the necessary karmic lesson. Am I incorrect? This same process is true of the other area in my life I alluded to, but again I won’t go into details.

    All this makes me think that redemption-via-Jesus really is a way to discharge negative karma: interacting with positive spiritual forces is indeed a way to reverse negative karma, if the result is actually a change in character. Thoughts on this point?

  3. JMG, did you get enough band names?

    🎼Some people think that we have had enough of silly band names
    Our friendly Archdruid says it isn’t so
    Our Druid wants to fill his book with silly band names
    And what’s wrong with that? He’d like to know.🎼

  4. Dear JMG,

    in its apparent simplicity, the information from your text makes loads of sense.
    Thank you.

    With deep regards,

  5. My favorite memory of Karma ( within a single life) was early in my manufacturing career. I had developed a down-flow welding table that pulled down the smoke from a welding process and filtered it out before exhausting it back in to the room. I was in the process of selling them and came across an experienced guy who offered to sell them throughout Washington state. He sold a few and about 6 months later his sales stopped and he didn’t answer my phone calls. I did some investigating and found out it had taken it to another manufacturing to build, and was selling an exact copy with almost the same name. I was young and had not patented it, nor did I have money for lawyers so I let it go and moved on to other projects ( it was not very profitable anyway).
    A few years later he had fallen on hard times and taken up a job as a salesman for a machine tool dealer who sold equipment to me ( I had a much larger company by this time). He got assigned to sell me a new laser cutting machine by his boss and showed up at my plant with a sheepish look on his face. I very much enjoyed his torment as he pretended to forget about our history. I called up his boss after he left and said the laser he was selling was my favorite, but his new salesman was not. I would work out a deal with him ( the boss) but the new salesman needed to be reassigned to a territory that consisted of just Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington and never darken my door again. Last I heard of him he was still driving back and forth between Walla Walla and Burns trying to sell stuff.

  6. Indeed; some centuries ago, a wise man once wrote about repentance:

    Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

  7. One claim about karma that irks me immensely is the insistence that individuals can be ‘agents of karma’ for other people. It’s mostly applied to victims of crime. I remember the first book I threw in the trash (a blasphemous act for a bibliophile like me). The author was Shakti Gawain (in my defense, I was twelve or so), I’ve thankfully forgotten the title. She lost me when she wrote that rapists and child molesters had made a deal with their victims before both of them were born, because the victim needed/wanted the experience in order to work off some bad karma, and the future perpetrator willingly accepted generating bad karma for himself by agreeing to abuse them. So virtuous! And the victim had really asked for it!

    I’m grateful that you didn’t put something like this in your essay; I’ve had a real aversion to the whole concept of karma ever since I threw that book into the trash.

  8. A lot to meditate about here, and a very synchronistic post in my own karmic battle!

    One concept I’ve arrived at in my previous meditations on karma is “there is no undo button.” I see a belief / desire to “wipe the slate clean” in our current society. Not just to forgive, but to achieve a state where the sin never occurred.

    The bad news is if you choose to do sleazy thing X at time Y, that choice is eternal. The good news is every choice you make is eternal.

    I admit I had an initial aversion to your statement “some children are born sleazy,” but I realized that’s the same thought process. You’re not saying “that kid has a scarlet letter but don’t worry you’re different…” You’re saying the human condition is to be covered in scarlet letters!

  9. Those raised within the Christian frame of reference might find it helpful to think of karma and the law of consequences as the “reaping and sowing” mentioned so often throughout the Bible. The Order of Essene’s mentioned this as “reaping and sowing” quite a bit and I certainly found it helpful.

    Your first few paragraphs, John, also had me thinking about the Pelagianist take on Genesis too. Apparently Pelagius thought it wasn’t that Adam and Eve caused us to be in a fallen state, as much as it was the fact that humans are copy cats. We follow the examples we are exposed to more often than not, and some of those would be “sin.”

    The literal interpretation of the Bible as fact, rather than as parable, allegory, and symbolism often seems to get very much in the way of this kind of interpretation of humanities origin story, as well as an initatic reading of the ascension of Christ as the attainment of state of God-within-Man that might be more viable if the book itself was less the subject of idolization and final authority on everything.

  10. Quote: “In most mainstream versions of Christian theology the sins and virtuous acts of individuals are important, but in the final analysis human beings are damned because of something they didn’t do, the fall of Adam, and can only be saved by something they didn’t do either, the self-sacrifice of Christ.”

    I like the way you put that. I also know there’s no point in trying to de-convert the Christians in my family. The programming is strong. Interestingly, I’ve been reading Urban Voodoo by Jason Black and Christopher Hyatt. They do not disguise their disgust at Christianity, saying, among many other things:

    “The ‘exchange’ in Christianity is passivity for assistance. The ‘exchange’ is made by the priest with minimal participation by the believer. More importantly, the blood sacrifice has already been made with the blood and body of Jesus. Thus, salvation (help) is vicarious. All has been worked out ahead of time— paid for by someone else. All the believer has to do is to have faith. This role is pathetic when compared to that of a Voodooist.

    “It is also sacrilegious for the [Christian] believer to feel that he was controlling, feeding, or bribing God. And it would be sacrilege in many Christian sects to believe that God needed you, unless, of course, to perform his ‘Will.’ Of course, in Christianity and in Western civilization, claiming that you are an agent of God or a Saint is looked upon with suspicion or regarded as insane.

    “For the Christian, miracles are made by God. In fact, if God is not dead. He is at least impotent.

    “For the Voodooist ‘miracles’ (magic) are made both by the spirit and the man. They are co-participants.” – Hyatt, Urban Voodoo

    Furthermore, it may or may not surprise you to know that their book is not kind to Neo Pagans, Wiccans, or most Ceremonial Magicians. The real issue in as few words as I can manage here is that humans are living lives separated from the spirits, and God is impossibly distant from everyone in the Protestant American Culture (even Jews and Catholics and most Occultists are basically Protestants in America). Would you really misbehave too much if you had intimate knowledge of a larger “community” of intelligent beings beyond ‘living’ humans? Yet that kind of life is actively discouraged in a materialistic society.

  11. Thank you for this thought-provoking article. I have been noticing quite a lot of apparent karma as you describe it, lately. The advice on working with it constructively is most welcome.

    The part about respecting your enemies is very interesting as well. Kutuzov may be another example; he had tremendous respect for Napoleon, to the point of expressing regret at the apparent decline in his military skill. (To the effect that none of us are infallible, alas.) This attitude, also extended to his other enemies, did not make him any less effective in warfare, although his preference for minimising losses to both sides made him some enemies politically.

    Another example I am thinking of has to do with the current conflict in Ukraine. As such, feel free to delete it if you think it threatens to derail the discussion, but I do think it is related to the topic, or at least to the last point. It is an interesting interview I read in a Russian city news portal, with one of the recently-mobilised soldiers. It was months after the partial mobilisation and weeks before the much-advertised Ukrainian counteroffensive started. I found it very striking in that the man expressed a very calm and steady attitude. He deplored the war, but was prepared to fight it as a civic duty (without denouncing those who decided to dodge it instead). He was dismissive towards jingoistic hysteria (of which we certainly have had no shortage). He refused to label the enemies as fascists and insisted that they were a serious, well-equipped, professional force with strong motivation – as were the people on his side, though, now that the chaos of the mobilisation was behind them. At the time, reading it made me think that if this attitude was at all representative, the Ukrainians’ and their allies’ hopes for an easy breakthrough due to poor morale were badly misplaced. Whatever one makes of the broader context around the conflict, people like that are very formidable.

    (This one if you’re curious: I can’t seem to apply Google Translate to all of it in one go anymore, but it translates passably well.)

  12. Greetings JMG,

    Very good.

    Some years ago, I had a job where I was selling services. It was common practice in the industry to lie to business customers to close the sale , and the result of the service was subpar.

    I did not have any other option to make money for a while. Finally after some time and patient effort I managed to improve the service quality and to improve the ethics of the communications.

    What would have been a better and quicker way to get out of this negative karma?

  13. Many years later, Joseph Palmer met up with a preacher who had been one of his most zealous tormentors. He fingered the man’s beard and said ” I know that my redeemer liveth”.

  14. I would like to thank you for sharing the Blessing Walk on your dreamwidth blog. It has been a noticeable piece of my karmic turnaround. I was born into a very negative family, always picking on and making fun of others despite having their material needs met. I must have had quite a nasty side in my previous lives!

    As I got older, I realized this wasn’t normal or healthy. I spent many years paying off my bad karma when I started slowing down this behavior. I say slowed down because it was so ingrained, it was hard to stop. The blessing walk was a real breakthrough for me because I was able to stop thinking bad thoughts about people and sending them negative energy and just offer them a blessing instead and walk away. In many ways, life has gotten better since doing that. Not perfect (me or life!) but I see blessings come into my life now.

    Here is a link to anyone interested.

    And…I offer my blessings to anyone who would like them.

  15. I realised something amusing. Occultists like to think they’re original thinkers who are resistant to the mass mind. But when you think about it, a lot of it is remarkably similar to what’s swirling around in the regular culture.

    The idea that to become an occultist or deal with karma is just a constant, ongoing grind of unending effort. It’s like the Labour Theory of Value had a one night stand with the Protestant Work Ethic at a Tony Robbins seminar.

    Or the criticism that Faustian culture wants to process and refine everything. Well so do alchemists. And the same with Faustian infinite expansion. Progress says we can go to the stars, occultism says everyone can become a god.

  16. Thank you for this brilliant article!

    A few additions from Buddhism, perhaps this interests one or the other from the community:
    – According to Buddhist views, the subject of karma is the most difficult subject in the entire canon.
    – The extent to which an action produces complete karmic fruit depends on five factors:
    (1) the will to do something is present (2) the action is actually performed (3) the object of the action is actually present (and is not just a mental object) (4) the action was successful (5) the action is finally evaluated positively.
    If any of these factors are missing, the action is not complete and the karmic fruit is limited.
    – Accordingly, how strong the karma one causes is also highly dependent on the degree of awareness. Since animals are more entangled in ignorance and have less awareness of their actions, their karmic seeds tend to be weaker.
    – Consequently, a human birth is like a highway that can take you to the top or the bottom.
    – It is said that when one rejoices in the positive actions of another, the positive karmic seeds appear in one’s own mindstream to the same degree. Compassionate joy is therefore a high virtue in Buddhism and a simple way to sow positive seeds.
    – When doing good deeds, dedicate the merit to the welfare of all beings. In this way, karma is “expropriated” and added to the general stream of good merit. In this way, this can also no longer be nullified by future negative karma.
    – Therefore, you do not have to actually give away something real (although this is, of course, even stronger). Spiritual gifts also generate positive karma.
    – When you give a gift, you multiply the gift in the mind. You can imagine how the gift is as big as the entire universe. Or you multiply it as often as there are atoms in the universe.
    – Even bad living conditions can be the result of good karma because it steers you in a good direction.

  17. I had a question about this section from the Office of Doorkeeper in the gnostic lessons, which struck me hard ever since I first read it:

    “Opening the door or gate for others means that you give them the thing they need to continue their spiritual journey. This may be advice or counsel but it could also be acceptance, forgiveness and love. As soon as you give whatever it is the other person needs from you, he or she will continue on his or her spiritual journey and so will you. Until you give the other person whatever it is he or she needs from you that person may continue to need something from you. Needy people can be a thorn in your side.

    Anytime you have needy people in your life, your best approach is to relax, breathe deeply and become aware. In this state, ask the Divine to help you open the door for this needy person or these needy people. Pay attention. Be receptive. Accept whatever it is the other person or persons bring to you. Open the door.”

    Do you have any other advice or tips for opening the door for needy people?

    Sometimes it seems that what they bring you may have a string attached. Maybe that string is karma. This is an area where I have continual need of discernment.

    On the one hand it seems to be an opportunity to either clear old karma, or generate some positive new karma. Viewed differently, it can be a thorn in the side, though there are sometimes flowers and fruit on the same plant as the thorn.

    Thanks & my apologies if this question is coming off as needy.

  18. I suffer from mental illness and did some bad things when I was in a state of psychosis. Is this likely to be the consequence of bad karma from previous lives and if so will the bad karma caused by it be mitigated by the fact I wasn’t fully responsible for my actions? Also is experience of mental illness something that may have been necessary in this incarnation on the grounds that one has to suffer all things on the journey?

  19. Dear JMG,

    This is a very thought-provoking essay. Thank you.

    May I ask, what are the karmic implications considered to be for cruelty to animals as part of food systems? Should we consider vegetarianism for reasons or karma?

    And as relates to what I believe may be a theme of your upcoming blog on climate change: should a motivation for reducing one’s carbon footprint be the law of consequences?

    Yours kindly,

  20. I have acquired a couple of precepts for coping with life.

    1 Be grateful. You’re alive, ain’t you?
    2 Don’t criticize until you at least try to understand what you are criticizing. Tailor you comment/criticism to your level of understanding.

    These are a good start, I think.

  21. When i studied the lessons of the Modern order of the Essenes, one insight i got is the importance of regarding other people in favourable terms. Favourable for them also, not only for you.

    This is a lifelong work, but now when i face someone whom for some reason i dislike, i try to remember that many things may have been harder for them that for me, and that they may be good people in other situations. That is to say, my antagonism to them doesnt make them bad people.

    When i was a child i was bullied, and one of the things i remember is the effect of having a lot of people regard you as a monster.

    So i guess there is also this kind of karma, the karma of defining others egoistically.

  22. JMG, what is the reason for the relentless insistence some people have that group identity is the most important thing about any person? And who are ready to kill anyone who challenges their officially allowed narrative of groups?
    From social class to religion, gender to nationality, race to sexuality…
    why the demand for all to agree that certain groups are inherently worthy, virtuous, to be helped and saved and get their way –
    while Those Others should feel guilty of their or their ancestors: original sin for which they must pay up, or be punished or wiped out?
    Jihad, vote the one right way, Woke, Marxist revolutionary struggle, cold war, civil war, the only hope of draining the swamp… despite praising or damning dfferent in and out groups, all seem to have the same mind virus.
    How to withstand? Is martyrdom to someone else’s cause really the only answer sometimes?

  23. Hi JMG, thanks for the detailed explanation of karma, though I imagine there will be some disagreement on some of the details from your audience. As there always is when parsing out an outline of faith.

    I believe in karma, but only in the sense of my internal perceptions, and within a single lifetime. During my life I’ve felt a progression of “being” and self-worth in what seems like the “right” direction, mostly through what I think of as a maturing process, and good role models like my parents. Keeping things like the golden and silver rules in mind, I found out early on in life that negative actions produced long-lasting negative effects. I’ve tried to eject any accumulated negative ballast, and have gotten to a point of maximum “peace of mind”, now in my early 60s. As a lifetime agnostic, I guess I’ll find out soon whether or not I get to join in the post-life party, or if perceptions go blank and that’s it. It’s out of my hands.

    As for collective karma, that does make sense to explain some of the stress in the system. I’ve held the point of view that factors related to the Long Descent
    are mostly responsible for the insanity we see today, but if there’s external pressure built up by bad karma that’s now being equalized, that certainly explains a few things. All I’m sure of is that up through about 2010 or so I could live peacefully in isolation, mostly due to the excess wealth and slack in the system – or so I thought. The last few years especially showed how the thumb-in-the-eye from the tyrants is now affecting all of us – except for maybe those hermits on desert islands. (until they get drowned by rising seas and climate change)

  24. This raises a question. If a conscience is the subconscious memory of past failure and pain, does that mean a sociopath, who has no conscience, is on their first human incarnation and has no inner touchstone as a result? Or is the lack due to past life efforts at suppressing any guilt to the point they have no sense of it in this life?

  25. Is it bad karma if you habitually slap mosquitoes when they bite (or are about to bite) you?
    What if you have a job that involves community-wide killing of millions of mosquitoes by spreading larvicide on standing water and/or spraying adulticide in infested habitats?
    Would any of these activities increase the probability of you being reincarnated as a mosquito?

  26. My experiences as a “past life” hypnotist (occasionally it’s a “future” life) have largely confirmed what you say…But I would add the following observations..Few subjects actually talk about karma, but generally it seems to be self-imposed, not something imposed by your life review..It mostly affects your choice of a future life, and the “masters of time” (Dr. Newton’s term) will usually urge you to pick a life that will further your spiritual development, which relates to karma…But you don’t have to accept their ideas, and often don’t..For one example, a man fathering children with a young teenage girl (who was indeed his soulmate) was deemed karma by the couple, but might have been viewed as harmless by other souls..and it has affected their subsequent choices in lives…Another rich woman, unloved by her family, fell into a life of drugs and alcoholism, and ultimately committed suicide..Her next lives were driven exclusively to be with a family that loved her, whatever their economic circumstances, and kick all addictions…in which she was successful….

  27. What bothers me about karma is that most people don’t know that they’ve had past lives, or what they did in their past lives, and they have no control over it. We suffer as a consequence of actions we can’t remember, actions taken by former selves who are strangers to almost all of us.

    I’m quite happy for my enemies to experience some consequences in an afterlife for a while. But I don’t want their future self who knows nothing about what they’ve done, and I think bears no moral responsibility for it, to continue to suffer.

    I understand that gravity doesn’t care about fairness either, but gravity deals with the physical world, so I don’t expect it to. Karma relates to ethics though, so why is it not different? It seems really barbaric to me.

  28. What do you think are the ethics and karmic results around white lies or not offering information (keeping silent) with regards to occult activity with those who would cut off ties with you because of it, or because they would actively persecute you?

  29. I’ll punt on whether this mode of thinking is more or less alien to Christian thinkers than to others—I suspect it’s far less alien than one might assume, based on how people behave, and given the general contours of conscience in Western thought.

    But one thing this model seems to presuppose, and that would likely be agreed on by both Christian thinkers and the karma-ists (?), is that there really are objective moral values out there, on a spectrum of virtue spanning from the Good to the sleazy…whatever the ultimate source of those values may be.


  30. I suppose the basic point about individual karma is that, well, you need individuals and people who are conscious of being individuals, and able to make moral choices on that basis. But as you know there are a number of writers (Gebser, Jaynes, McGilchrist) who argue (in somewhat different ways) that what we think of as the conscious “individual”, particularly one motivated by individual choice, is actually a recent development in human history, that didn’t appear at all until perhaps three thousand years ago, and wasn’t generalised in the West until the Renaissance, with the discovery of perspective and the beginnings of political and philosophical individualism. Until then, people had predominantly thought of themselves as members of groups. Even today, if you’re familiar with the difference between shame cultures and guilt cultures, the concept of individual moral agency in the former is less important than the concept of group solidarity: I’ve seen this first-hand in Asian cultures. Of course, these theories may well be wrong, or only partially true, but it must be the case that only a fully-conscious human being can really experience karma in the full sense. Anything else would be, in effect, the karma of a group soul.

  31. And as for the former point that I initally punted on, there’s always the rather suggestive…

    “As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” Obadiah 15

  32. JMG,
    Thanks for this. Some things I may be able to add to discussion.

    Sanskrit word for Karma as action – yes. This is something jumps out right away in reading the Sanskrit text and English translation. English call it action. In its original context it means action that is expected to have consequences on that persons karma. For example, Bhima rips a tree out of the ground to fashion a club and that act is called Karma because it is part of a process where the character emerges from hiding and living falsely as a brahman to become a kshatriya. Interesting to me.

    On the notion of past lives and karma – very interesting point! So oft in the west Karma seems to mean when someone gets a rake in the face after being an a-hole at the PTA meeting or something like that. All in one lifetime. A part of faith is recognizing/being conscious of this process and how living a life with quality as you outline is the best way forward as over many lives it will lead to liberation from rebirth. Those who are not aware of this process are sort of living by luck from life to life, and thus will remain in the cycle of rebirth indefinitely.

    Last – seeing the mention to Christ as the eternal sink for sin. I have wondered if part of what Christianity rose was that it offered a way out of rebirth in this one life compared to other faiths at that time that promised many lives of hardship to attain the hereafter. Jesus being a sink for all your sins may have seemed like a nice alternative belief. Any thoughts/know if there is evidence to support this?

  33. Karma as a continuous improvement process.

    Some parts of kaizen fit in quite well with minor editing.

    Improvements are based on many small changes rather than radical changes.

    As the ideas come from yourself they are less likely to be radically different, and therefore easier to implement.

    Small improvements are less likely to require major mental investment than major personality changes.

    The ideas come from yourself as opposed to using expensive consultants.

    Everyone should continually be seeking ways to improve their own performance.

    Take ownership of your progress thereby improving your motivation to continue.

    Original versions here:

    It’s considerably more structured than the ‘one random act of kindness per day.’

  34. Quin, thanks at always for this.

    Iridescent, no, such a person isn’t generating bad karma, he or she is confronting existing bad karma and dealing with it. Passive endurance is one way that this can be done, and for some people it’s the right way to do it. For others, in other circumstances and with other karma, it can be far more productive to confront the karma and overcome it actively. Yes, magical, spiritual, and religious practices are among the classic ways to do this. You might also be interested to know that many Christian occultists believe that Jesus took on the collective karma of the entire human species and overcame it on the Cross.

    Your Kittenship, funny. Yes, I should be set for this book, though there’ll be others.

    Markéta, you’re most welcome.

    Clay, sometimes karma is fast, and sweet!

    Old Steve, it’s still excellent advice.

    Athaia, I loathe such claims just as much as you do. No, rapists and their victims don’t “make a deal.” Whatever the karmic state of the victim may be, the rapist has a choice — obey the sleazy cravings that make him want to rape, or reject them — and if he makes the wrong choice, he gets the nasty karma it brings with it. (Equally, if he white-knuckles it, resists the cravings, and doesn’t commit rape, he gets a jolt of favorable karma which can set him on a completely new trajectory.) Human souls don’t plan their next life in advance — can you imagine the confusion if every soul had to get together with every one of the other souls it would interact with and plan everything out? Furthermore, the level of conscious awareness needed to make any choices about the next life in between lives is one that only comes with a fairly high level of spiritual development. No, that whole notion is one of the many ways that New Age thinkers avoid dealing with the realities of pain and violence. It also helps them dodge the point that being compassionate to the suffering is one of the things we’re here to learn.

    Jack, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Some children happen to come into life with a more obvious scarlet letter than others, but we’ve all messed up at one point or another. The difference is that some of us are dealing with it and some haven’t gotten to that yet.

    Justin, all these are good points. I like to ask the people who insist that the Bible is literally true and infallible where it says in the Bible that the Bible is literally true and infallible…

    Keno, well, I’m sorry to hear the authors thought it was a good idea to bash other religions and magical paths. It’s so much more effective to talk about the good things of your own tradition and let people make up their own minds.

    Daniil, Kutuzov is another very good example, but less familiar to most English-speaking readers. 😉 As for the Russian soldier, I’ve heard similar comments from other people in the Russian military, which goes a long way to explain the failure of the Ukrainian offensive.

    Tony, in all probability you came into this life with plenty of karma earned by lying and cheating customers. So you got plopped into another situation where you had a choice — and fixing the problem by improving ethics and communication was the choice you made. It may not have been quick but it strikes me as a very good way to deal with your karmic burden.

    AllenR, I hadn’t heard that! Funny — and apropos.

    PrayerGardens, I’m delighted to hear this. One of the reasons John Gilbert taught that as the first lesson in the Modern Order of Essenes system is that it’s so effective a way of generating positive changes in character, and thus clearing away barriers to spiritual growth more generally.

    Yorkshire, occultists in Faustian societies are still members of Faustian societies…

    ExecutedbyGandhi, thanks for this — but I’m not so sure I agree with the notions that it matters to multiply the gift in the mind, or to hand out merit in place of more concrete benefits. If somebody is starving and you give them a crumb of bread and multiply it in your mind into a lavish feast, you get the karma of someone who’s busier trying to rack up points than to actually take care of people…which is not necessarily something you want!

    Justin, it really depends on circumstances. Sometimes what needy people need most is encouragement to stop being parasites and stand on their own two feet. That can be done in a loving way — which does not keep it from being as forceful as it has to be. Equally, sometimes you open the door to show someone else out.

    Robert, correct on both counts. When you do something negative for reasons that are out of your control, the karma is very different, and less extreme, than if you do it deliberately. Equally, mental illness — like other experiences — is sometimes a result of karma and sometimes a result of other factors, including the one you’ve named.

    Diane, you’re most welcome.

    Boy, all living things live by eating other living things — even plants choke each other out and send their roots to dine on the bodies of the dead. Plants are also alive and conscious, though their consciousness differs from ours. It is certainly appropriate to avoid cruelty in killing living things for food, whatever kind of living thing we’re talking about; the people I know who raise livestock for food like to make sure that their animals have only one bad day in their lives. As for vegetarian diets, that’s a matter of personal choice, and a vegetarian diet is not necessarily more compassionate — I’ve long since lost track of the number of vegans I know who constantly eat foods raised in third world countries by people who are laboring in horrible conditions, and still preen themselves on their virtue. As always, karma is cumulative, and everything counts. Yes, including carbon footprints.

    Raymond, a good case could be made!

    Guillem, good. Yes, exactly — that has a lot of influence on character.

    C from C, no, it’s a frantic attempt to avoid individual responsibility. Sartre had some very cogent things to say about the way people flee into collective identities to run away from the difficulties of actually becoming an individual.

    Drhooves, well, just keep in mind that whether you believe in karma or not, karma believes in you. 😉

    Jeanne, it varies from case to case. In many cases you’re dealing with someone who’s brand new at being human and makes a complete mess of it. In others, you’re dealing with someone who has spent one or more lives trying to silence his conscience so it doesn’t get in the way of his desires, and so he gets what he asked for, complete with the miserable karma that follows.

    Doodily, that’s exactly the kind of simpleminded tit-for-tat thinking I criticized in the post. You might want to read it again, paying attention this time.

  35. Thank you for this essay! It provoked more than a few thoughts, some of which I will share here:

    1) You write: “In most mainstream versions of Christian theology the sins and virtuous acts of individuals are important, but in the final analysis human beings are damned because of something they didn’t do, the fall of Adam, and can only be saved by something they didn’t do either, the self-sacrifice of Christ.” I suppose this is correct, but this only demonstrates that most mainstream versions of Christian theology are dumbed down, oversimplified versions of teachings that originally contained a great deal of subtlety and wisdom. These original teachings are still accessible to those who are willing to go to the trouble of reading old texts (ancient Church fathers, medieval mystics, etc.), and meditate on them slowly and carefully. It also helps to abandon some of the more problematic post-reformation Protestant thought patterns, which as another commenter has pointed out, have infected nearly everybody in western civilization.

    2) I tend to find the discussions about “past lives” vs “one life followed by eternal damnation or salvation” as pointless and tedious, at least in terms of any definitive description of reality. It seems to me that for every occultist or Buddhist who has a spiritual experience that seems to point to previous lives, I can find a Christian or Muslim mystic who has a spiritual experience that seems to point to the reality of heaven and hell, as presented by their respective traditions. John Vervaeke, in one of his lectures, points out that when surveying the reports of mystical experiences that result in positive personal transformation, different people will have different experiences that result in mutually contradictory and exclusive metaphysical claims, while both having readily observable improvement in their lives. The transformative effects of the experiences are real but the metaphysical content of the experiences may be non-useful.

    I myself have come to the opinion that what happens to us after we die is probably much more complex and mysterious than anything we can wrap our minds around, and may in fact justify all of the many and varied intuitions about what that may look like. Perhaps the Christian heaven and hell are simply the experience of the reincarnated individual (i.e., bad behavior results in hellish life circumstances in the following life, and vice versa). Perhaps memories of past lives are nothing more than a manifestation of a deep empathy with other human beings in different times, places, or social circumstances. Perhaps our soul actually has multiple parts, as seems to be understood by some African religions, and different rules apply to different parts. Perhaps we haven’t adequately grappled with the fact that when we leave this world and enter “eternity” (either temporarily or permanently) that our ordinary notions of time, space, or causality may not apply to this “eternity”. I could go on; the point is that I don’t think we can collectively claim to know much of anything on the subject.

    All of that being said, I think that discussions and speculations on this subject may not be entirely fruitless, if we approach them with the same mindset that we approach myth (properly understood of course): the discussion may have little relation with any observable reality (material, spiritual, or otherwise), but may still contain a great deal of embedded wisdom. Taking this approach, I can say that I found this essay to be illuminating, even if I am rather deeply skeptical and/or agnostic about some of the specific metaphysical claims.

    3) The discussion of collective karma and mass-mindedness was very interesting, and I think timely. Slightly off-topic perhaps (or maybe not) I read this yesterday and found it more than a little unsettling, largely because I can’t fault the overall reasoning: (Also read the pieces linked to in parts 18 and 19 if you want to maximize the unsettling feeling . . .) My question is: when two large populations both become pathologically mass-minded, both are acting in ways that seem to be maximizing the build-up of bad karma, and both are on a collision course, is there any way out that diffuses the energy without a massive explosion?

    4) You write: “Collective karma’s a bear, because most groups of human beings act as though they are far more stupid and selfish than the individuals who make up the groups.” Are there groups that are less stupid and selfish than individuals that make up the groups? I’m thinking here of the possibility that a religious group might be able to do this. Christian theology makes explicit the claim that the Church is the Body of Christ, and if this were achieved in a non-corrupted form (which I think one could make the case for in some specific times and places, though certainly not in all times and places), the collective body could be wiser and more generous than the sinners that make up its membership. Is this a plausible claim, in your view?

    Thanks again for the thought provoking essays that you so regularly churn out.

  36. Hey jmg

    What is the best source for reading about George Pattons experience of reincarnation?

  37. @Dot, #28

    Well, I will use an example that is likely to raise so many feathers among the more compassionate end of the spectrum: why poor people are poor? Is it fair that they suffer material deprivation from mistakes they don’t even remember, or sometimes that they did not personally commit?

    If you pay attention to what those stone-heart conservatives have been saying all along, you will notice a bunch of uncomfortable facts. Like that there are (working) poor and there are (welfare) poor; and one group tends to not remain poor at all. Maybe it takes years, or decades, or even it is a multi-generational project, but it can be done and is has been done over and over again. Does this mean there are not predatory agents, or financial catastrophes? Not at all, but again, the people clawing their way out of poverty find ways to isolate themselves from those realities to some degree, while the ones in autopilot get sucker-punched by reality once, and twice, and once again.

    So, the main roadblock that JMG talked about when dealing with karma from a Christian perspective is this: KARMA’S NOT PUNISHMENT. There’s neither judge nor sentence! Stuff just keep happening because people keep doing the same things, and when they do different things, some other different things happen too. It may sound harsh that people is suffering now from past sins, but the truth is that the minute they stop hurting they would go back to sinning again. But when, after much sourness, it really sinks in (and I do not have yet memories of past lives, just an intimation of some crassness I might’ve been involved), that vice just stops being appealing and you go ahead and commit new, more interesting, mistakes instead.

  38. JMG, thank you for confirming that it’s OK, from a karmic perspective, to try to meet your karma head-on, through magical means if appropriate.

    Though I wonder: is it always OK to “cop[e] with bad experiences in a [seemingly] brave and patient way”? I have a family member who is a perpetual victim. Her (mostly unconscious) formula is this: God rewards good people; good people don’t fight (which means that they don’t set boundaries either); therefore, good people are victims; therefore, if she doesn’t remain a victim, God will not reward her and might even punish her. This reinforces a lifelong belief in working through bad karma by being a perpetual victim (we grew up with both superficially practiced Roman Catholicism and superficially practiced Buddhism, so we got the very worst ideas about Divine retribution projected onto Western ideas about reincarnation and karma).

    This drives me crazy … which probably says more about me than her … and I have tried to help her in various ways (to no avail). Based on comments you’ve made in other threads I am guessing that your recommendation would be to let her work through her own karma in her own way. But from my perspective it feels like she’s not really learning anything. Maybe that’s just my own perspective? My own karma has been, partially, to work through certain issues around engaging life in constructively active manner as opposed to either being passive or being active in a counterproductive manner.

  39. Does the ability to sense if another person has an abundance of good Karma or Bad Karma after a brief meeting a metaphysical skill? If so, does it extend to Karma passed on from past lives, or just the karma earned during ones own life.

  40. Mr. Greer, this is a wonderful and fascinating essay. If I may, I’d like to ask how this gibes with our physical sciences that say time is an illusion. Supposedly, everyone who has ever lived or ever will is actually living right now, because now is all there is. I have enough trouble wrapping my head around that, and I have no idea how to incorporate it into your karmic reality. Is physics wrong on this? Does time exist, and if not, how can we square “past” lives?

  41. Now I’m wondering what kind of karmic circumstances could have led to so many people over the past five centuries being born into families and communities bound to teach them that a cosmic authority figure deals out arbitrary-looking (however ultimately inexplicably just) rewards and punishments.

    I can’t see how such a turn of events would be fitting for either good or bad karma, or otherwise explicable at all in such terms. Unless… given the many analogies to physical laws you’ve offered, and what the precise knowledge of those physical laws has led to during that same time period, might Protestantism have prevented or at least delayed the development of some kind of exploitative technology of karma?

  42. JMG, thanks for this.

    I can see how this all fits together, with one exception: there seems to be no way out. How does one escape the cycle? The Hindu and Buddhist way seem impossible to do. I can’t help thinking that I’m damned to continue this forever, a horrifying thought.

  43. @JMG,

    Thanks for another thought-provoking and entertaining text! 🙂

    Would you mind expanding just a wee bit on the difference between effects of actions and intention, as far as karma is concerned? E.g. if an action is done with the best of intentions, but turns out to have negative results, (or vice versa) how does this work out in terms of karma?

    And what do these occult traditions say about karma at the point when somebody moves on towards the mental plane, i.e. away from material incarnation? Would they have to “clear up” all their karma before this point? Or does that not matter much, as long as the mental body is sufficiently developed? And does the concept of karma still have any meaning on the higher planes – and if not, are there other “rules” or “laws” there which take over?

    @Darkest Yorkshire #15

    “It’s like the Labour Theory of Value had a one night stand with the Protestant Work Ethic at a Tony Robbins seminar.”

    Wine, almost meet keyboard. Man, you gotta warn people before you write stuff like this!! 😀

    @Justin Patrick Moore #17

    I don’t know if this helps, but maybe… While working through this particular gnostic lesson, I was gifted the opportunity to experience such a “doorkeeper situation” firsthand. What made a big difference in my particular situation was realising that it’s really a door for both of us:

    Even though from the outside it looked like that person needed (or thought they needed) something from me, in reality I had kept a door closed for them, and they for me – as long as we both weren’t ready to walk through our respective doors.

    As soon as I realised that and did my part of the work, just for myself, my door opened for me and I was able to open their door for them.

    I’m not sure if and how this related to karma for either one of us, but it certainly wasn’t as one-sided as the MOE text sounds.


  44. JMG – I so, so glad I wasn’t drinking tea or coffee when I read “In most mainstream versions of Christian theology the sins and virtuous acts of individuals are important, but in the final analysis human beings are damned because of something they didn’t do, the fall of Adam, and can only be saved by something they didn’t do either, the self-sacrifice of Christ.”. Dry keyboards should not be taken for granted.

    @ Princess Cutekitten (#3): FYI – Karma was a 1970s American soul/funk/jazz band…

  45. Thanks to everyone who voted for this. My revulsion for gambling and drinking establishments hints at a very dark past, but now I see it as a hopeful sign. I’ve actually made a lot of progress, and the stuff I’m going through at the moment will also be in the rear view some day. Special thanks for the mention of burning through good karma. It’s a good reminder that I’ve got to get back on the right side of that equation again.

  46. If Karma is real then practically everybody in modern industrial civilisation is going back to square one. Everything we do pretty much do (like writing this posting and commenting even) devastates the natural world and is destroying life. Then those consequences are going to cause immense suffering for eons to come for all life forms inhabiting earth. We all know this and yet continue to do so rather than step off the wheel and be good to all life. Even the simple cup of tea or coffee we drink while reading this causes suffering to huge numbers of humans and other lifeforms yet we don’t give it up. Maybe we will all work on it next time in the slime.

  47. @Daniil Adamov (#11):

    You’ve put your finger right on the main reason why I am more worried about all-out nuclear war now than I ever have been in all my 81 years, not even excluding the height of the cold war and the “Dr. Strangelove” era.

    The West seems to me incapable of believing that Kutuzov’s strategy could ever win a war, or even understanding why anyone might choose to fight any war in such a way.

    I lived in Berkeley for 12 years (ages 10-21), where many émigré Russians lived, dated a Russian Orthodox girl there for several years, and became well acquainted with her parents and grandparents and her other Russian friends. I heard about her parents’ and grandparents’ experiences during the Russian Revolution, in one case with Wrangel’s army through Siberia. I majored in Russian at UC Berkeley under émigré Russian professors (most of whom despised the Soviet Union, for whatever that fact might be worth). Years later I also learned from other Russians about the horrific losses endured by the Soviets during WW2, and the dogged endurance with which they continued to fight, and would have continued to fight even if their losses had been ten or twenty times as great.

    So Kutuzov made perfect sense to me–indeed, he greatly impressed me–once I got around to reading War and Peace.

    What never made any sense to me was the American and German way of conducting warfare, for example, during WW2: basically, smash and grab, smash and grab, over and over as rapidly as possible, with as little sacrifice as possible. In war, the West seemed to me to be playing football or soccer, with an eye on the clock and their dinner. The Russians, in contrast, seemed to me to be playing chess at the grand master level, prepared to continue the game as long as needed to win, hours past dinnertime if that was what it took.

    To win a war, it is never enough simply to hit your enemy as hard and as often as you can, to pound him into submission. Your enemy can always choose to fight to the last man, or nowadays even to detonate the equivalent of a gigantic nuclear suicide vest that destroys both sides equally. You need to understand your enemy’s method of conducting a war and his aims–which are probably not the same as your aims– before you can even hope for victory. (“Victory” is never the saem thing for each side.) And from everything I’ve seen, our military and political leaders haven’t got a clue about Russians, how they fight, and what counts for them as victory.

    There is a Russian village sport called “Wall Against Wall” (стена на стену). Originally, the young men of a peasant village would divide themselves into two teams of about the same size (say, 50 against 50) and face off against one another in two lines. The lines advance on one another and begin a giant fist-fight, each man hitting any man on the other team within reach. This continues until every man in one of the teams is lying incapacitated on the ground, however long it might take. Then the last few men–sometimes just one man–on the other team who are still standing have won the game. Wall Against Wall is still played today–there are videos online–though the context is not necessarily a rural village now.

    Could our leaders in the West even conceive of playing such a sport for fun? That is why I worry.

  48. Athaia & JMG – I think the sort of thinking you described is the attempt to smuggle the longing for human omnipotence into the concepts of karma and reincarnation. Everything planned and this justified.

    And as usually, the illusion of omnipotence bars the way to gain real power and understanding. The example you gave is a very high up on the scale of nastiness and I think if we climb down the ladder down a few steps, it could be easier to make a few points. Most likely all of us have suffered unjust treatment of some kind by others during our lifetime. And some of this might have resulted in us becoming stronger. But that happened not *because* of the mistreatment in a pre-planned way of thinking but *in spite of* the mistreatment. Nevertheless, there might have been other, possibly less painful ways to grow stronger and the other one did not have to treat you this way and made his own decisions.

    On the other hand it can be useful to analyze if there are reasons why a person is subject to mistreatment. There might be reasons involved that a person becomes subject to mistreatment that might not only lie on the side of the perpetrator. Again, not in the sense of “pre-planning” but in the sense of one bringing oneself “accidentally” into unfortunate situations.

    A personal example which does not involve another person but where I was both perpetrator and victim: Years ago, I suffered two bicycle accidents. One was really heavy, the other was not that severe but it was very painful and the wounds took a long time to heal. The thing is, I can see why the accidents happened, at least with the second one I could even see it shortly before it actually happened. It’s a thing to acknowledge “I did this to myself knowingly” and it would have been easy to dismiss it as the result of bad luck. There was an actor, it was myself and this part of me did it not because I wanted to teach myself a lesson but as a result of a stream of events and actions that made me become a person that was blind to certain things (and interestingly, the more severe accident unfortunately caused a permanent damage on one eye which significantly reduces the visual acuity). Scary stuff.


  49. JMG wrote: “Equally, sometimes you open the door to show someone else out.”

    Thank you for this! An older man of my acquaintance for 5 years recently decided, out of the blue, we needed to marry — although I have never thought that nor given any signals of such. He lives 12 hours distant so this took the form of lengthy, obsessing and hectoring texts and phone calls. He said he would drive here just for lunch!

    I discouraged his advances and steered conversations to neutral subjects — which made him more insistent 😕.

    3 days ago, I stopped answering calls and texts….the result being silence from him as well. I don’t know if this is a lull, or a permanent cease fire.

    He is 74, in generally declining health & has a strong family history of Alzheimer’s. I suspect he was looking for a last fling or relationship, and I seemed otherwise unencumbered. Or that he is entering an early dementia (there were other signs) and was behaving without the usual filters in place.

    I feel badly that I cut him off so abruptly — yet couldn’t seem to make him understand that his advances were unwelcome. I do not know his local friends or relatives, so couldn’t go to them either.

    In my youth, discouraging an unwelcome suitor seemed more straightforward … other fish in the sea for both of us. Here instead was a desperation bordering on mania, different than his gentlemanly behavior in the past.

    Would this be an example of opening the door to show him the way out? If not, any advice would be welcome!

  50. “Those people who think of young children as inevitably innocent and pure haven’t spent much time in a nursery recently.”

    I witnessed the birth of three children. For me it is impossible to look at this and still think that children come into this world as an empty sheet of paper. The first breath, the first cry and the first few moments – watch, and you can learn so much about the being that just entered this world and that is about to unfold itself in the years to come.

    If there is anything that has convinced me that reality is much larger than what we can see with out ordinary senses, it is this.


  51. For what it’s worth, regarding Christianity, I view the sequence Adam-Eve (one being, Primordial Human) to Mary-Jesus (the New Eve and the New Adam, one being, final and perfected human being) as an allegory of the human soul’s descent into matter and its purification re-ascent into the spiritual world, akin to the myths of Eros and Psyche and of Bacchus as understood by the Neoplatonists, with the genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew representing the cycle of reincarnation. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son-self represents the soul’s turn from material things back toward the spiritual, and it’s a slow uphilll journey from there.

    But I often also think that Jesus does teach a way of liberation from karma in a single lifetime, but that this is incredibly difficult. He said, “This is the narrow way,” “few will be chosen,” and “take up your cross and follow me.” Then he demonstrates what to do: Having earned the wrath of an implacable foe, go unresisting to a terrible death, forgiving your enemies. Many early martyrs followed his injunction, and what reward did they receive? Dying on the cross, he told the Good Thief “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” I contrast this with Plato’s discussion of breaking free from the cycle of reincarnation in the Phaedrus, where he says that a human being ordinarily spends 10,000 years in the material world, but, given a willingness to study philosophy, he can get that down to a mere 3,000! Personally, though, I don’t believe I could endure the Way of the Cross, and working it off gradually over 3,000 years seems fine to me. But I’m no saint.

  52. I enjoy a good NPC meme as much as anyone else, and there is some truth to the NPC trope, but I realize there are dangers as well. Taken too seriously, it encourages you to think of your enemies as drones lacking any inner life, and it blinds you to the ways in which you march along unthinkingly with your own side.

    “Conscience is simply the subconscious memory of the consequences of past mistakes.”

    Oh, yikes. I expect that means I fracked up in my previous lives, real bad.

  53. Hi JMG,

    Here’s something I’ve pondered relating to karma. The Earth is home to a great many incarnate entities, many of whose behavioral traits differ immensely from ours. Cats, for example, exhibit instinctive sadism toward their prey and this seems to be as natural and healthy for them as the behavior would be unhealthy for us. It’s led me to question: are common human beliefs of exiting karmic space through compassion the only valid view of karmic dynamics? Is this “how the cosmos works,” or just how the cosmos works when seen through the lens of human experience as social primates?

    For example, let’s presume that there is an “exit point” from the cycle of reincarnation through caring about other beings and not forming attachments to transient material things. A soul can reach this exit point by doing good for others, as reflected by the Jain religion’s motto “the function of souls is to help each other.” What if there was another exit point from karmic space at the end of the “apex predator” path? That is, a path to transcendence of mortal existence through perfecting the ability to dominate and exploit other beings, until the soul realizes the ability to kick open the door into the next plane of existence, per se, just as it conquered enemies on the mortal plane? This path of spiritual evolution could lead through incarnations as a hawk, a tiger, and finally a Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great-type human figure before transcendence. If hawks and tigers could formulate a religion that seems like a likely metaphysical view for them to hold. And there could be any number of other endpoints lying at the end of different behavioral/spiritual vectors.

    Religious teachers leading people down the Genghis Khan karmic path could cause more problems for human societies than those promoting Jain-like ethics, which is likely to encourage the survival of the latter over time as opposed to the former. However, there is a long historical record of clerics and laypeople from different religions claiming sanction from their gods to conquer and subjugate other peoples in order to advance their own. Can you think of other reasons to believe that spiritual development necessarily means movement in one particular direction as opposed to any other?

  54. Ken Breadner #41 – if I may: Where did you get the notion that physical sciences treat time as an illusion? I’d say physics don’t talk about illusions at all. The illusion only appears when the scientific method allows us to perceive details of nature that are unfamiliar to us because we couldn’t see them before but we still try to gloss our predefined concepts over them.

    Take quantum physics as an example and all the fuss and wriggling that had been made about the “paradox” nature of matter and the various theories that have tried to conserve as much of the old worldview as possible. Today, quantum objects that show non-deterministic and non-local behavior are still “something to see” but perfectly ordinary for all who deal with them on a daily basis.

    And by the way, IMO it is a very common misconception to believe that physics tells us anything about the true nature of things. All physics can do is to observe and frame the observation into equations. Yes, you can learn to see a few more details that way, it’s is true. But after all, what is the true nature of an equation?


  55. jstn, I don’t think, please correct me if I am wrong on this point, the pagan faiths in the Mediterranean world did profess a doctrine of reincarnation. Nor, I think, did the worshippers of Ahura Mazda at that time. Christ may certainly have been influenced in subterranean ways by Hindu and Buddhist thought, but I doubt that release from the Wheel of Reincarnation was part of the appeal of the new religion.

  56. Pyrrhus, duly noted. My take on the process differs quite a bit from yours, of course.

    Dot, you’re still thinking of it in terms of reward and punishment, and as I said in the post, that’s inaccurate. In each life you get the kinds of experiences that, if you respond to them appropriately, will make you a better person. It’s not a matter of moral responsibility, it’s a matter of spiritual growth, and the development of conditions of virtue and self-knowledge that will enable you to rise above the wheel. Remember also that those of us who are still incarnate are spiritual infants; this is very, very early in our overall arc of existence, and a million years from now we’ll look back on all these problems the way we now look back on the tears of infancy.

    Know Brainer, that’s fairly straightforward. When your elderly aunt asks you what you think of her new hat, telling her the truth would be a pointless cruelty. If you’re in occupied Norway in 1943 and a SS officer comes to knock on your door and ask if you know whether any Jews are hiding out, telling him the truth would be an unforgivable evil. Thus truth-telling is not always a virtue!

    Fra’ Lupo, depends very much on what you mean by “objective moral values.” If you mean that by and large, some actions tend to generate pleasant karma and other actions tend to generate painful karma, sure. If you mean that there are hard and fast rules that apply to everyone equally, not so much — consider the examples I gave to Know Brainer just above.

    Aurielien, yes, and I addressed that in my post in the discussion of collective karma. Mass-mindedness is natural for human beings, and the mass-minded experience mostly collective karma. A minority of people in every era break free of the mass and become individuals, and they experience individual karma.

    Fra’ Lupo, sure, but only in a certain sense. It simply isn’t true that people who do X inevitably have X done to them — I doubt Bill Gates has ever had to put up with the annoyances his incompetent management style has inflicted on millions of Microsoft product users, for example.

    Jstn, thanks for this. I don’t know of any specific evidence for or against that thesis concerning the rise of Christianity, but it does make sense.

    Siliconguy, it can be a continuous improvement process. It can also be a continuous worsening process. You get to decide which you want to enact.

    Roy, so noted. I’ve argued in my book A World Full of Gods that we have no evidence that everyone has the same kind of afterlife, or even a fixed choice between one of two kinds (along the lines of salvation vs. damnation); it’s as plausible that different people experience radically different afterlives, and participation in religious traditions could plausibly have something to do with that, since gods ex hypothesi have the power to influence afterlife experiences. As for collective karma, it’s theoretically possible to get out of the kind of rising spiral of conflict you’ve described without a high body count, but it’s far from easy; there are examples in history, but not too many. With regard to the Body of Christ being smarter than the people that compose it, that’s an interesting speculation, but I’d want to see some evidence for it — and, er, history isn’t kind to that suggestion, as I’m sure you know.

    J.L.Mc12, I’ll have to toss this to other readers, as it’s been decades since I last read about it.

    Iguana, that’s a good example of the complexity of karma. She’s clearly decided that she wants to suffer, for whatever reason, and very likely all you can do is let her do what she’s going to do until, in this life or another, it sinks in that the path she’s taken isn’t a good idea. Too much passivity is not a virtue — in general, too much of anything is not a virtue.

    Clay, it’s a metaphysical talent and one that some people of high spiritual standing are very good at. I’m not one of them, so I don’t know a great deal about it.

    Ken, remember that modern science consists of coming up with a set of abstract mathematical constructs that more or less mimic experienced reality, and then pretending that the constructs are more real than the reality they try to copy. Until a physicist is able to leave his office this afternoon and arrive yesterday morning, claims that time doesn’t exist should be taken with far more than a grain of salt.

    Walt, the complete blindness of the Western world to the metaphysical dimensions of reality may well have had a protective role. If occult tradition is correct, the last great cycle of human civilization which took place late in the last ice age (“Atlantis”) ended very, very badly because of misuse of spiritual forces. Protestantism may well have been engineered from the spiritual levels of being to keep that from happening again. I’ve encountered some odd things that lead me to think that this may in fact have been the case.

    Bird, of course there’s a way out. Material incarnation is the kindergarten of the soul. Once you awaken to individual consciousness and self-knowledge, you graduate to more interesting things. The simple experience of going through many lives will do that, and sustained religious, spiritual, or occult practice will speed things up considerably.

    Milkyway, your intentions shape your character while your actions shape your circumstances. If you have good intentions but your actions produce suffering, your character improves while your circumstances get worse. As for the transition to the higher planes, karma is still active; it’s generally pretty common for people to clear most of their individual karma before going on, but if there are reasons why this can’t be completed or isn’t advisable, you can handle it on higher planes.

    PatriciaT, hmm — I didn’t expect that to be funny. It seems like a pretty straightforward take on the Christian doctrine of salvation.

    Aloysius, exactly. If you look back on certain things with a shudder, that tells you that you’ve learned some things in your incarnations.

    nikoB, I’d encourage you to go back and read what I wrote about collective karma. Most people who are burning through fossil fuels et al. aren’t thinking their own thoughts and making their own decisions; they’re doing as they’re told, and their karma is collective, not individual. Will that karma result in huge disasters with a considerable body count? That’s what the traditional lore suggests, certainly. But “eons to come”? No. Within a couple of million years — an eyeblink in the life of the earth — all our civilization is or ever could be will be a layer of sediment a few inches across with some odd compounds in it, and the intelligent creatures (human or otherwise) that inhabit the earth in those days, if such there be, won’t know that we ever existed. We aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things, and it’s crucial to keep that hard reality in mind.

    Nachtgurke, thanks for this. Yeah, basically.

    Elkriver, it seems to me that you handled that very gracefully. Yes, that’s an example of what I had in mind.

    Nachtgurke, I’ve heard the same thing from many parents.

    Steve T, that makes sense — but then a well-handled allegory usually does.

    Cliff, yes, the whole NPC business is dangerous for that precise reason. As for screwing up in your previous lives, that’s an advantage — if you’ve got a sharp conscience, that means you’ve processed the karma and won’t be making those mistakes again.

    Deloyer, I tend to trust the saints, adepts, and sages who’ve walked the path before me, and that’s not what they say. Your logic could be used equally well to argue that there’s a path to enlightenment via sheer laziness, arguing that some souls go from being tubers and sloths to couch potatoes…

  57. A good natal astrologer can often find karmic lessons for this lifetime. I had a Hellenistic astrologer give me some details that made a lot of sense. One point he made regarding a certain planetary aspect was that the two planets related to my karma were both in fixed signs, so he thought this might be karma that would continue on in another life.

    A lady who would cut my hair asked me once to print out her natal chart. When I did, I discovered that she had the same karmic aspect in identical houses. It turns out we had very, very similar issues with our parents that we were still working on.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that good astrologers from different schools will often come to the same conclusion but in different ways. It is more important to find a competent astrologer than one from a certain school.

  58. I’m new to Christianity and I’m converting from an atheist baptized Catholic to Orthodox Christianity. The Church framing of sin and redemption is different than yours. We inherited our faulty fallen character from Adam and Eve, so we do sinful, prideful things. Some of he Orthodox approach is similar to the Buddhist approach – in order to be happy you need to detach yourself from passions, the 7 deadly sins and material goods. Sin is seen more like a sickness of the soul and accepting God’s redemption through Jesus is a cure for it. You can approach Christianity like a slave, do something bad and you will be punished. Or like an employee, do something good and except a reward. Or a real search for “Grace” which I have heard of, but I’m not exactly sure what it is.

  59. You made a tantalizing gesture towards explaining group consciousness. I find it incredibly hard to wrap my head around the obvious fact that a larger and more complicated entity can behave in a more primitive way than an individual that belongs to it. Can you point to any longer discussion of this issue? Thanks a lot!

    One more thing. Purgatory as described in Dante, or the afterlife as described by Swedenborg, bear some similarity to karma as you describe it, even though Dante and Swedenborg held fast to the Christian teaching of a single life as incarnate humans.

  60. “It’s a frantic attempt to avoid individual responsibility.”
    Aha! Thank you.
    And thanks to all those who requested this topic, and to our host for the initial essay and ongoing conversation! I’ve been reading this blog for a while, waiting for a suitable time to participate. Perhaps it was fated for this to be the day ;-).

    Athaia # 7, and Dot #28, I’ve had that same disagreement about how it’s sometimes presented. As a child, some abusive things were done to me. It makes no sense to say that anything some other adult personality version of me ever did, could justify harming a child who wasn’t involved in those awful things. “There’s a lesson in everything,” goes the platitude meme. Yes, sometimes the lesson is that other people should have chosen to not do evil to us in *this* life!

    Darkest Yorkshire # 15, Theory and Ethic shacking up at Tony’s place is hilarious!

    Executed #16, “The most difficult subject.” That is helpful! To know it’s not an easy subject where trivial platitudes solve it all, but really is a deep, challenging problem.
    “(3) the object of the action is actually present (and is not just a mental object)” Does that mean online interactions don’t count?

    jstn # 33, “I have wondered if part of what Christianity rose was that it offered a way out of rebirth in this one life compared to other faiths at that time that promised many lives of hardship to attain the hereafter.”
    “Get out of the wheel of rebirth forever with this one weird trick!”

    Siliconguy # 34, I’m familiar with many of these ideas from past jobs. Most important is Toyota’s rule that if you see the line is making defects, everyone – yes, even you – MUST pull the cord to shut it down, then all work together to find how to stop making defects. This seems to line right up with the point in the essay to interrupt the downward spiral, to reset one’s next choice.

    JMG # 35 “can you imagine the confusion if every soul had to get together with every one of the other souls it would interact with and plan everything out?” I think this is exactly the main point of the Seth books?

    “where it says in the Bible that the Bible is literally true and infallible”
    I’m not a standard Christian apologist, but you find this at least in Paul’s epistles saying all scripture is inspired, and Revelation’s ending curse on any who would change the message.

    “whether you believe in karma or not, karma believes in you.”
    Maybe next time it won’t be so naive, having learned its lesson! 😉

    Roy Smith # 36 “I could go on; the point is that I don’t think we can collectively claim to know much of anything on the subject.”
    Thank you for the food for thought. I sometimes say that I don’t know if there literally all young or old souls, but the descriptions certainly do sum up some human patterns we can recognize in many people’s lives now.

    “when two large populations both become pathologically mass-minded” That’s what I meant to ask about, less clearly than you did.

    “Are there groups that are less stupid and selfish than individuals that make up the groups?” Quakers aspire to this.

    Iridescent Iguana # 39
    We’re told that God loves a cheerful giver. There are many proverbs and parables praising the well prepared and conscientious. The master denounced the servant who only tried to not lose the initial investment. Etc. It’s easy to find scriptures opposing a belief that God delights in self-imposed victimization.

    Bird # 43
    “How does one escape the cycle?” I’m not a Baghavad-Gita expert, but it seems to say that what God wants most is that we act in the way truest to our God-given nature, while acknowledging we must leave the outcome up to God.

    JMG # 57
    “Until a physicist is able to leave his office this afternoon and arrive yesterday morning, claims that time doesn’t exist should be taken with far more than a grain of salt.”
    Did you hear the one about the time traveler? Not yet, but you did.

  61. Thank you for an excellent essay. It’s a tricky topic to discuss. I was sitting at my desk at work and images arose that demanded expression, and they relate to this topic. My apologies for the fact that the images refused to allow meter or rhyme. It’s kind of a miracle that they submitted to verbalization at all!


    Weaving in and through one another like strands of smoke,
    Lineages of living thought, materialized or not, flow onward
    To bear fruit constantly, or to give over to the other heritages
    Or to vanish entirely out of sight. We are the fruiting bodies

    Of the mycelium of endless lives, surely not born of earth
    Only, but stretching out between the galaxies, before any
    Bangs or explosions set anything in motion, smoke’s smoke
    Tied together by strange magnetisms, vast and too primitive,

    Too basic for our minds to comprehend. It is said that in the
    Moment of attaining enlightenment, a buddha understands
    All this, can trace every thread back and forward, but I wonder
    If even enlightenment comprehends the immensity of it all?

    Rough beasts, and smooth, like little outcrops of light-parts,
    We all journey to whatever Bethlehem there is, to be born.

  62. OT: The hurricane that hit was more like a standard tropical storm. There were no power outages. JMG, I got one letter from Sara and the reason I haven’t answered that and the last two general ones is that my health took another hit after the oral surgery. Sorry… will try to catch up. More later,


  63. Kamma (karma) is one of those terms that has been appropriated by most esoteric traditions and they all put their own spin on it. I personally prefer the Buddhist explanation which I find to be the most detailed and cogent. With that in mind it’s worth pointing out that the Buddha defined kamma not merely as action, but as volitional (intentional) action.
    According to the Buddha, one of the most heavy, unwholesome kammic actions is killing living beings so people who raise animals to slaughter are regrettably incurring bad kamma. To be sure this kamma is less than someone who kills for sport but there’s no avoiding the defilement of the mind/spirit that comes from taking life.
    An interesting Buddhist story on this, if a society has capital punishment then those members of society who promoted/established the law will incur bad kamma every time a criminal is put to death. The Judge who hands down the death sentence will incur even heavier kamma still. However the heaviest kamma of all is incurred by the executioner who swings the sword. Now this headman might not agree with the sentence or he might fall back on excuses “I was just doing my job!” but excuses matter not with natural law.
    With this in mind, under the Buddhist understanding there are obvious occupations that one should avoid if one if mindful of the law of kamma.

  64. JMG, as a recovering Protestant who also thinks there remains much of value in it, I would be very interested, provided it is appropriate, in hearing more about this thought that Protestantism was a safety valve or stop valve, spiritually. Steiner of course maintained that Jesuitism for instance was extremely deleterious to spiritual growth. I take that w a grain of salt but I can imagine what he means.

  65. Jon, I’ve had many discussions with Hellenistic astrologers, Vedic astrologers, and other people who practice kinds of astrology different from the one I use, and routinely it turns out that we get the same insights despite our very different methods. It’s fascinating. As for karmic issues in astrology, I know that’s something that some natal astrologers of the classic Western school were into — iirc Alan Leo wrote about it — but I haven’t studied that yet.

    Candy, so noted! I’ve read that the Western Christian take on salvation and damnation is strongly influenced by Augustine of Hippo, who isn’t someone the Eastern churches study at all, so that difference doesn’t startle me too much.

    Aldarion, I don’t know of anything written in any depth on the subject; Dion Fortune has some essays about it in her volumes of collected pieces — one in Applied Magic, for example. The basic issue, though, is that groupminds have no higher self, no dimension above the astral plane. As human beings we have a fingernail grip on the mental plane, but our groupminds don’t even have that much, so they’re on the intellectual level of an animal, or a human being who’s dreaming. As for Dante and Swedenborg, I know! As I see it, they had a pretty good grasp of things despite their theology.

    C from C, as you see, your post came through fine despite the preview. As for Paul, let’s look at what he actually said. Here’s 2 Timothy 3:

    15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    That says very clearly that scripture is inspired, that it’s worthwhile for a Christian to study closely for the reasons given, and that studying the scripture will make a devout Christian as perfect as a human being can be. It does not say that the Bible is literally true and infallible — and it seems to me that by adding this to the Bible, the people who claim this are adding something to scripture, and therefore running a serious risk of falling afoul of that curse at the end of Revelations!

    Clarke, thanks for this. It reminds me rather of late TS Eliot — which is high praise in my book.

    Patricia M, glad to hear that the storm blew over so easily. As for the unanswered letter, good heavens, don’t worry about it — send something when you feel better.

    DJ, I quite understand that Buddhists — in your case, from the spelling, Theravada Buddhists — have their own opinions on th subject, which is fine. Of course Buddhism borrowed the concept of karma from Hinduism, so the sword you’re using here cuts both ways!

    Celadon, the short form is that the cultures of western Europe and the European diaspora had to have a spiritual tradition that would encourage them in the practice of certain virtues but keep them away from applying their burgeoning skills at technology and scientific research to the realm of magic. That could have caused all hell to break loose, in an unpleasantly literal sense! Protestantism basically erased the saints, angels, and spirits, to focus all human religious attention on one utterly transcendent god, and encouraged people to think of matter and spirit as two utterly disconnected realms. That allowed us to develop the physical sciences and engineering to a high pitch, and create technologies that will be valuable for millennia to come, without opening certain doors that needed to stay shut. Protestantism succeeded in that. Despite, or even because uf, its problems and limitations, it got us through a very dangerous period.

    Pg, have fun with it. 😉

  66. Hi John Michael,

    Well this will be an interesting discussion!

    The arrangements presented seem rather arbitrary to me as well, and the underlying assumption is that the deity remains steadfast, even handed and consistent. I don’t see that being repeated anywhere in nature, of which deities would also be a part of. In that world view, where is the courage to reach for better?

    Hehe! I learned how to be respectable member of society by being raised by some extraordinarily dysfunctional people, and yet also encountering some astoundingly strong role models. It was a real mixed bag of experiences going from one extreme to the other. Something I probably needed to learn the hard way, something, something, probably brought that poop down on my own head. 😉

    Yes indeedy, yes! Conscience and will are intertwined, at least that’s my best guess. What’s your view on that?



  67. JMG – I had never heard (the mainstream view of) Christian Salvation explained in such a concise manner. (Thank you!) Yes – straightforward, yes – serious point made – and amusing at the same time because (to me) the sudden realization was a bit a shock and quite the contrast to all the more drawn out explanations I’ve read over the years. “Yes, sometimes it really is that simple!”

  68. I just had a go on my dreamwidth site at the Aries Ingress for Wellington, New Zealand (a bit late, I know), and it seems to me like the current government is about to get its own dose of karma in the impending election for the lockdowns etc. Fairly predictable, though I’m not expecting much improvement as a result, given the other parties.

  69. Thanks for this essay – I was surprised by the way in which you described the functioning of karma in primarily non-metaphysical terms: that it’s not so much that someone is “keeping score” but rather that our own character and actions create their own consequences. Such a framework would not be out of place in a psychology or sociology text…

    A couple of questions for you, which I realize might not have straightforward answers:

    1. From your perspective, is the ethics framework inherent in karma objective (i.e. metaphysically defined) or subjective (i.e. dependent on the ethical frameworks of the individuals and societies involved)? We see these sorts of different ethical frameworks between e.g. vegans and livestock farmers, or between societies with ritual human sacrifice and those who regard the practice as barbaric. Does the self-avowed vegan who guiltily eats bacon acquire bad karma for doing so, while the omnivore for whom it is a moral act suffers no such consequences? Or does the act of eating bacon have the same karmic effect (or lack thereof) on everyone?

    2. What happens karmically when a person *believes* they are doing great good but are in fact doing great harm? Examples might include promoting DDT before the adverse effects were known (, or advocating for and administering new experimental therapies that turn out to be deadly in a significant proportion of people. Is karma incurred on the basis of *intent* (i.e. desire to do good, based on one’s understanding of the world) or *consequence* (i.e. the actual outcome, which may well be different)?

  70. I have lots of questions on this, some of which come from meditation, other from dreams and past life memories.

    First, is it more important karmically to treat people entrusted in your care well compared to strangers and other people? That’s something that came to me during meditation and intertwines with past lives memories.

    I have a memory of being quite horrific to loved ones in a previous life, suffering the same treatment in the one directly previous, and I think I worked myself into a situation where I now have the opportunity to make the correct choices that I didn’t make the first time. So I wasn’t sure if that thought that arose during meditation applies generally or just to my situation.

  71. JMG, re: your response to Celadon. The video game franchise Doom is entirely based on the negative consequences of applying scientific techniques to occult subjects, and er, all hell breaking loose and a singular superhuman figure having to take care of it, and wading through oceans of blood in the doing.

    I only bring up this subject because I think there is a certain wisdom in crowds; the fact that the Doom franchise is the most successful in its genre is evidence that its themes resonate with a whole lot of people and therefore have a certain truthiness. That being said I haven’t played a Doom game since the first half of the aughts, but what I’ve seen from trailers supports what I just posted.

  72. Do you think karmic consequences depend on nature of motivation?

    For example, the same “good deed” performed solely to reap the karmic (or other) rewards versus out of genuine compassion or altruism?

  73. Not to stray off topic, but re scriptural authority

    It is also worth noting that different groups consider different collections of texts as “scripture.” Consider, for example, the differences between the Old Testament canons of Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic bibles.

  74. Kimberly Steele here,

    Great essay JMG. I was hoping you would discuss karma.

    I just re-released a song to Odin adapted from the Havamal and the lyrics seem to fit today’s theme very well! Here are the lyrics:

    Odin hung on the yggdrasil tree
    For days and nights numbering three times three
    Stabbed with a spear, on the tree unknown
    Self-sacrificed where the tree had grown

    None came to help him as he
    Peered down into bleak abyss
    None heard his piercing screams
    In the quiet of the wilderness

    For only one way can the runes be learned
    Not bought or sold, they must be earned
    Crying aloud he brought down the runes
    Then he fell down after untold moons

    Nine mighty songs he learned
    from Balethorn, Bestla’s sire
    He drank of the wondrous mead
    Warmed by the Soulstirrer’s fire

    Before long he healed and learned
    Becoming the lamp where wisdom burned
    Thoughts became actions and actions deeds
    Action in this way becomes destiny

    He told us all to seek the unknown
    By transmutation find the hidden stone
    Listen for music and watch for the signs
    Fashioned by the holy and divine

    Thus great Odin the world began
    And one day he will rise once again
    He will rise again
    He will rise again
    He will rise again

    You can listen and download a high quality version of the song for free here:

  75. “Walt, the complete blindness of the Western world to the metaphysical dimensions of reality may well have had a protective role.”

    Not least protective of magical practitioners. There’s a case to be made that the West’s metaphysical blindness allows occultists to study and practice more freely than other societies. Imagine what might happen if government officials truly believed that ritual and intent could affect reality. Witch hunts would be the very least of it. Maybe there’s some secret council of archmages maintaining the gray curtain of materialism over the West, behind which they work in unprecedented freedom.

    “Your logic could be used equally well to argue that there’s a path to enlightenment via sheer laziness, arguing that some souls go from being tubers and sloths to couch potatoes…”

    That’s kind of what some super-contemplative traditions preach, isn’t it? Although they work hard to cultivate traits like mindfulness as opposed to following a dissolute path of true laziness.

    If what I were posited were true, I would guess that paths to “karmic escape” point in directions opposite the “gravity well” of spiritual entropy. You and others have described demons as creatures of total incoherence and chaos, so perhaps then productive spiritual paths lead a person away from entropy, toward becoming highly coherent in one way or another. Therefore a “path of laziness” is out.

    I would think any productive path must challenge the seeker – to overcome the challenge is to overcome entropy. A path of compassion without undue attachment is challenging but goes with the grain of human psychology in many ways so there are many examples of saints and sages who followed that path. Perhaps there aren’t any other valid paths, maybe other trajectories are too affected by “entropic” traits like hate and malice. But if there were it may be very difficult to tell given the common human perspective. Could people with extreme schizoid personalities be incarnations of souls advanced along a path of total detached contemplation?

  76. Mary B #56

    “I don’t think, please correct me if I am wrong on this point, the pagan faiths in the Mediterranean world did profess a doctrine of reincarnation. Nor, I think, did the worshippers of Ahura Mazda at that time. Christ may certainly have been influenced in subterranean ways by Hindu and Buddhist thought…”

    I asked as I have little idea what the pagan faiths professed but am interested in learning more, so I don’t know that I would qualify to correct you on any point. Thank you for the reply. In my mind the pagan faiths seem like a panopoly of faiths beliefs and practices – many of which we know about because Christianity borrowed from them. Reincarnation of some kind is a belief that appears in many faiths, not just in Hindu faiths. My mind would be blown if Christ had any knowledge of Hindu or Eastern traditions. Do you have a source for that? My understanding is he lived a culturally provincial life – its been years since I read the biography though. thanks again for reply!

  77. “I’d also like to suggest that anyone who wants to build some positive momentum in karmic terms can do so very easily by making an effort to think of your opponents as human beings rather than cardboard-cutout baddies, and to treat them as such even in the midst of conflict.”

    They don’t make that easy. The NPC meme exists for a reason.


  78. @ JMG – RE: Atlantis and those ‘things’…
    I would like for you to expound on that teaser my friend. What leads you to think that the Atlantean Age went spiritually amuck? What exactly sent you down the path that Protestantism was a reaction to it? Why the splinter and not Catholicism as well?

    To ALL:
    I am enjoying this – might send some of you interested to read Les Visible’s little blog…he has some good points welling up regarding karma and existing groups. Also take on omnipotence of God and what that directly implies to existence…

  79. Thinking on your comments about that unexpected benefit of Protestantism, in protecting us from what the blind blade of science might have unleashed, I think of Churchill’s comments about the “strange lights of perverted science” and shudder. There is every chance that a second Lemurian-like Deviation could have occurred.

    It also explains, I think, why those researchers who have pushed the boundaries, and there’s a long list of them, have been ostracised and generally died in obscurity. Nikola Tesla is high on that list, but there’s a long list of others, and it wouldn’t surprise me, if the same groupmind of Protestantism and whatever higher forces are guiding it actually casts a frown upon occult researchers into the topic. I’m thinking of the temple tech stuff here, and things like it. They can stay, but well hidden…

    Of course, the risks of this would naturally diminish as the energy and resource base diminishes, which is perhaps why there’s still a task to keep certain things alive and weave new systems from the left over fragments of old ones.

  80. Chris, the will is primary. Conscience might be seen as the painful bruises on the will that remind it not to repeat certain dumb stunts. So, yes, they’re intertwined.

    PatriciaT, gotcha. Well, I’m glad it made sense to you.

    Kerry, that wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

    Mark, (1) strictly speaking, it’s neither objective nor subjective, but contextual. A barbarian who strives to lead a good life by barbarian standards gains good karma for that, though it’s tangled up with the murky karma from all those raids and battles, while a person from a civilized society who does the same thing gets a lot of bad karma, not because their beliefs are different but because their contexts and motivations are different. The barbarian is striving to be the best person he can be according to his tribal teachings, and that motivation in that context leads to growth and spiritual maturity; the civilized person very likely just wants to kill and steal, and selfish motives in a different setting gives different results. (2) As I tried to point out in the post, intent shapes character, but consequence shapes circumstances. Keep in mind that karma is subtle; to intend to do good without taking reasonable care to be sure the results will be good is itself a choice, and has distinctive karmic results (for example, you become a little more — or a lot more — of a well-meaning fool).

    Dennis, that depends on context. If you’ve taken on the responsibility of caring for someone and then you abuse them, you’ve got the karma of ignoring your responsibility and breaking your word on top of the karma for doing brutal things, certainly.

    Justin, hmm! I’d heard of Doom but never knew that was the theme.

    Zak, your motivation shapes your character while your actual actions shape your circumstances.

    David BTL, true enough. I once read a fascinating little essay by an esoteric Christian who held that when the Bible says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” it doesn’t just mean Christian scripture: the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, the Quran, the Kojiki, you name it, if somebody uses it for scripture it’s given by inspiration of God and can be studied with advantage as per that passage.

    Kimberly, thanks for this!

    Deloyer, funny.

    AV, do you think it was easy for Patton?

    Oilman2, it’s been part of occult tradition since Blavatsky’s time that what brought down the Atlantean age wasn’t a natural disaster but the abuse of magical powers. As for Protestantism, notice which countries were in the forefront of the scientific and industrial revolutions and what form of Christianity dominated there.

    Peter, very likely, yes. Those researchers who stayed very obscure — and there have been a fair number of them, too — generally got by tolerably well, but those who tried to publicize their findings? Yes, exactly.

  81. Thanks JMG. That does make sense as to why the karma incurred by hurting those you’ve taken responsibility for would be quite extra bad. Here’s another one.

    I once knew a Russian woman who strongly believed that if you’re married with kids and then you meet the person who you know is right for you, it’s your responsibility as a human being to leave your spouse and your kids and go be with that person. If the most popular Russian Holiday movie, The Irony of Fate, is any indication, that sentiment runs strong in that culture.

    I found it abhorrent, but then years later I ran into a person who was thinking about doing just that and leaving a perfectly good relationship. And, I had a dream that felt more like a religious experience which strongly indicated to me that, contrary to my instincts, the Russian woman was right and I should advise my friend to follow her heart. I ended up giving her two perspectives.

    My question is, are people here to learn, in some cases, completely opposite lessons? I feel that for most people leaving your spouse and kids for another person is not a good thing and you wouldn’t want to take on that karma, but for some people that’s exactly what they need to do. I also get the inkling this relates to Tamanous.

  82. Hey jmg

    Regarding reincarnation and astrology, Stephen Forrest has written quite abit about the intersection of these two subjects in his book “Yesterday’s sky.”

  83. Along with Doom, another notable video game that draws on fears of magic/technology synthesis is the Japanese RPG series Shin Megami Tensei. It’s based on a book about a high school boy who writes a computer program to summon demons, leading to much carnage that he then must use his occult knowledge to stop. The Harry Potter series also mentions an ancient taboo against combining magic and technology.

    Given technology developed in a modern consumerist mindset holding that “I don’t want to change or work on myself, I just want to take a pill to fix all my problems,” does it make sense that technology designed to link with spiritual planes of existence will most readily bring the user into contact with infernal realms? It’s my understanding that demons are the least challenging class of entities for humans to communicate with, requiring only that one sink to their level of consciousness.

    This is an interesting article from a Steinerian perspective on the changing qualities of spiritual experience linked to drugs, aka “plant medicines.” Briefly, he thinks that in recent years there is a greater likelihood that drug experiences will bring a person into contact with noxious entities. Substances like ayahuasca could be seen as another kind of spiritual technology, a “booster rocket” to send someone’s mind into a state that they don’t know how to cultivate by themselves.

  84. One additional aspect of karma I’ve learned about from a teacher: at higher levels of spiritual development, karma is about more than being compassionate, generous, etc. It’s also being conscious of what one’s role in the world is. At those higher levels, humans often feel the tug of destiny guiding them towards a specific legacy they can leave on Earth. Actions of generosity or compassion that seem harmless and completely ethical to most people, can nevertheless generate bad karma if they cause consequences and create circumstances that do not align with that destiny that the Divine offers for you to achieve in the world. Of course, at that stage in development, one has the free will to pick a different destiny for themselves than what the Divine offer. But my guess is that most of the people who do so are the sort afraid to accept individual responsibility for some karmic issue or consequence of theirs, which requires facing the issue head-on. And in their fear they respond by walking or running down some safer path in life that leaves them sitting on the merry-go-round of incarnations until they face their issues.

  85. Really interesting. What are the karmic consequences of watching pornography/masturbation?

  86. While I read your essays most every week but have given up on your explanations and following along of the classic texts, way beyond my simplicity, after trying your Dion work;
    I was hoping this topic would be chosen; it and the one about Jung.
    I am so glad you took on this topic, I was eagerly waiting for your essay on it.
    I am totally intrigued by your essay; I couldn’t have imagined the way you shaped it.
    I get you on the “sleazy” aspect.
    What I don’t get is the past lives bit.
    I have no cognizance of any past lives; is it possible I don’t have any?
    When did you start realizing your past lives, at what age, and how many have you realized.
    Many Thanks John.

  87. Hi, JMG.
    Do you have a source for that painting of Adam and Eve with the (in this instance rather Asclepian-looking) Serpent? I’m interested because a. the latter’s head looks to be portrayed in a rather Solar fashion here and b. I can’t help noticing it is coiled precisely 3.5 times around the Tree.

  88. Hello JMG,

    sure, you are right, spiritual gifts should be seen only as reinforcement, not as a substitute for real actions and gifts. One should also be careful not to get too attached to one’s karma account, this can very quickly lead to spiritual materialism. A problem that often Western practitioners have.

  89. “Hard lives make strong people” – as a trauma-informed psychologist I have to say my experience says otherwise. Hard lives especially in childhood make for injured people – hurt people hurt people.

  90. @JMG,

    A spiteful thought from a wayward Catholic. The idea of Salvation you contrappose to the law of karma is a simplification of deeper and better Christian doctrines, but most Christians are not encouraged to know about them. It does not take too much digging to find the truer parts of Christianity.

    The Holy Father is an elegant formulation of the law of Consequences (freely translated, “only take what you really need, give the rest to those in need, and you will receive help when you are in need yourself”).

    The concept of Divine Providence is, I think, just the same as karma. The Benedictine Rule is, among other things, a way to slowly but consistently build up karma. The stories of Faust are exemplary of the Law of Consequences – and were written by Christians. More recently, Manzoni’s The Betrothed or Les Miserables are basically *only* about karma, but then in a deeply Catholic sense (or Deist, in Hugo’s case).

    The commonplace view of Christian sin and atonement is as silly as a feline beauty contest, where little animals get points based on how they look and walk. People who take the time to know the Scriptures know better.

  91. Dot wrote, “What bothers me about karma is that most people don’t know that they’ve had past lives, or what they did in their past lives, and they have no control over it. We suffer as a consequence of actions we can’t remember, actions taken by former selves who are strangers to almost all of us.”

    What you’ve referred to as people, they, we, and former selves is just a tiny aspect of anyone’s considerably larger Self. Although that small aspect is a very important part of us, our conscious awareness, it is one of the few parts of us that gets assembled newly for each incarnation and then dissolves away at the close of each incarnation. All the other aspects of the Self are continuously developing through our entire sequence of incarnations, and karma is absolutely essential to their development.

    Some religions conveniently refer to all those undying aspects of the Self as the eternal soul. Together they are learning how to manage this complex thing we call incarnation, including learning how to cooperate with the conscious awareness and clue it in to their immense wisdom and desire to partner. It takes them an inordinate amount of time to get the hang of incarnating, as they slowly learn how to succeed as a jellyfish, then as a leech, then as a newt, etc. Our vast souls remember all of the lessons they have learned through each of those past incarnations — that’s what allows them to eventually be prepared to incarnate as one of the species with a fully developed representational language, such as humans.

    But think of the learning curve the soul still faces as it tries to figure out how to successfully find balance with a conscious awareness armed with language. Now our minds can argue with our souls and invent self-aggrandizing stories that nothing but the mind really exists! Our first few incarnations as a human always end up being very messy and ugly. We should really count our blessings that we don’t consciously remember just how atrociously we behaved and all the stupid mistakes we made. Ideally our souls get more adept with each incarnation, until they can reliably guide a brand new conscious awareness to discover, within its limited lifetime, just how large the larger Self that it is a part of actually is.

    You’re right that most people’s conscious awareness does not know that they’ve had past lives; however, all the other parts of the Self certainly do know that! Our conscious awareness may well suffer as a consequence of actions it can’t remember on its own, yet those actions were taken by the larger Self it is very much a part of. The question is whether our conscious awareness can expand its awareness to include that larger Self with all of its accumulated karma, or whether our conscious awareness will instead just resent and resist all the lessons that karma is so valiantly trying to teach us (thereby accumulating some truly bad karma!) That “us” that karma is so graciously teaching includes all the aspects of the larger Self, with the conscious awareness being just one small and inexperienced part.

    Karma is a divine gift; the better part of us already knows that fact. So how can we teach the part of us that doesn’t know that? Our souls may not yet be coordinated enough to clue our conscious awareness into their existence, but, with sufficient dedication, we can train our conscious awareness to reach out and befriend our uncoordinated souls. It’s a very difficult path with plenty of challenges, and one might even say suffering, but so is waiting around passively for karma to eventually finish the job of waking us up from our disoriented stupor.

  92. Morning John,
    Thanks, that is the finest explanation of Karma I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It does, however, leave me pondering about the weight given to Karma is the realisation of the higher self. More specifically, if one has reached the point where the higher self is self-conscious, and has realised that the human personality/ego, is merely a veneer rather than its true self, does it have to shed every last drop of negative Karma before the individuality takes up permanent residency on the next plane? It seems to me very difficult to shed every last drop of negative Karma in a lifetime, as every day has its decisions to made and poor decisions do happen. Furthermore, it is possible to shed some of the negative Karma on the next higher plane post carnation, through conscious actions taken there by the higher self who has reached realisation and wishes to address a few errors made?
    Kind regards

  93. There’s a saying, “No good deed goes unpunished”, which certainly has some truth to it in my experience, but seems rather anti-karmic.

    For instance, I make a point of picking up litter in our neighborhood, a good thing, but on occasions have given myself an infected cut because of an unseen shard of glass in the litter, a bad thing. Why am I being punished for doing a good deed?

    Then a rather more difficult problem. What if you can’t predict whether your actions will have a good or a bad outcome? For instance, giving money to street people. You are helping them in the moment, but authorities say you are just enabling their dysfunctional lifestyle. Alternatively, they will live to beg another day and annoy someone else. (Or are they giving someone else a chance to improve their karma? Decisions, decisions.)

  94. Hi John Michael,

    I see, train the will, and the conscience gets dragged along kicking and screaming all the way. Makes sense. Please correct me, but my understanding then is that if the will becomes paramount, negative acts of consequence induce a much greater burden. Or have I misunderstood this?



  95. JMG I was swapping out lipsticks for the season when It occurred to me that cosmetic-shade names might be a fruitful source of odd band names. My fa/winter lipstick 💄 color, for example, is called Abstract Orange. Grab the wife’s Avon catalog and go to town.

  96. Very informative and helpful article. Thank you, JMG.

    Speaking of charities, this may sound like a dumb question, but does anyone have any suggestions for where to find good charities? Or specific recommendations of charities to donate to? I’ve been wanting to donate, but I’ve heard sketchy things about so many Big Charity organizations like Salvation Army, Goodwill, et cetera, and I want to make sure I contribute to a worthy cause. Most of the charities I’ve heard about seem to revolve around fluffy animals and cancer patients — surely there are other causes I can aid…

  97. Hello, JMG and everyone.

    It’s good to have this clarification about what counts as karma and what not. I didn’t know there were two aspects.

    In social sciences, there’s the concept of ‘return to average’, which is not exactly karma, but it’s another way to see the same thing.This means that if some people gets to be 20% better than the average, there must exist other people collectively that are 20% worse than the average, and sometimes it’s the same people who were overperforming who get to underperform some years later.

    My only irk with the karma explanation is the good-bad dychotomy, as it is usually explained. How to say what is objectively good? The good boy is the one who obeys his parents, the good citizen is the one who obeys his rulers. Thus, ‘being good’ is taking the role others have given us. That might work for kids who know not a thing about life, but it does not work for men who begin to think for themselves.

    Suffering is not a good measure of goodness. I cannot affirm that some action is positive because it results in less suffering. Sometimes I need suffering for becoming stronger, voluntary or not. Maybe pointless suffering is to be avoided, but how can I know? Certainly, I need failures and the right attitude for learning from them.
    A list of commandments, while helpful, is not set in stone. “Thou shall not steal”, except when it is for the greater good. States call this ‘expropiation’. I don’t buy that actions are good or evil by themselves (deontological morality), since most of them look cultural to me.

    So, for me, making a good deed involves looking into our will and into the will of the affected entities, be it another person, the group-mind, whatever, finding the stuff which is in the evolving path of both, and helping each other progress in the path.

    This path is the rythmic balance of the healthy ecosystems, where we can thrive. Here, all the elements are in a reinforcing relationship with the rest. These relationships are either collaborative, predatory or parasitic (the dual relationships, where one gives and the other takes) or competitive (the filtering that improves the species, encouraging evolution). Elements with poor relationships are weak to perturbations, they risk losing their will facing adversity. Therefore, increasing our dual relationships with everyone and everything (may we call this ‘love’?) is the way to reinforce the ecosystem we are inhabiting.
    I am starting to think that the blessings are one way of opening ourselves to the influence of others so these relationships can take effect. Mistrust, a consequence of excessive competitiveness (in our excessively competitive world), breaks the healthy interactions between people and in turn makes us endure miserable lifes.

    So there goes my blessings to every wishing soul! May you all be loved and happy!

  98. The idea, that Protestantism came into being for the purpose of preventing spiritual and occult practices to be used by governments for dark purposes could be formulated more expansively: maybe that is the purpose of the Age of Rationalism as a whole. Ages of rationalism come into being when a civilization, where the art of reading and writing is more widespread than among a small elite, reaches its hightest amount of power and complexity. This would mean that spiritual and occult matters are neglected by the power centers of such civilizations, and so these civilizations would be protected from producing a second Lemurian deviation. After all, Protestantism is the form that the beginning of the Age of Reason took in Western civilization.

    About collective karma: Are there any criteria about when and under which circumstances collective karma has been discharged?

  99. One thing that I have learned in trying to improve my karma is to beware of attempting to do so utilizing the ego alone. I agree with the Eastern religions that teach that the ego (that is to say, thinking of ourselves as these discrete and isolated islands of consciousness, separate from the surrounding Universe) is essentially an illusion. So when I was a socially-maladjusted and developmentally-arrested young man who realized he needed to outgrow certain self-defeating habits, I ended up sabotaging that project by basing my attempts at improving in an ideology of the ego. Because the ego is but an illusion, these attempts at self-improvement evaporated when the ego-fantasies that propped them up turned out to be illusory, and in some ways, I ended up worse off than I was before initiating this misguided project. (IOW, “Bad karma, man!”) It wasn’t until I started trying to relate to a more Universal consciousness that I started realizing long-term maturity. I believe it was this quest for a higher maturity, in fact, that ultimately led me to your first blog back in the two-thousand-aughts.

  100. Collective karma’s a bear, because most groups of human beings act as though they are far more stupid and selfish than the individuals who make up the groups.

    THAT brilliantly characterizes the 2020’s so far.

    I have always and will continue to believe in karma, and there’s a whole lot of bad collective karma out there that many involved have yet to recognize… and will not be happy with the consequences they’ve visited upon themselves.

  101. I have heard that “Karma” is made of “Karmans”, that is, individual units of action of which “Karma” is the plural. This makes sense. Each action puts a specific thing out there. Streaking at the Church Picnic is an event which is different from the alcoholism that starts it. But collectively they are your “Karma” which have consequences and results.

    I guess thinking of them as individual and not collective makes them more tangible and manageable. You’re not trying to stop your sea of endless Karma, a task no one can absorb, you’re just trying to not do this one thing that will backfire. One day at a time as they say.

  102. @Siliconguy #34

    Working in Japanese manufacturing concerns for many years, I noticed a peculiar phenomenon that I like to call “the circle of improvement” (not to be confused with “kaizen circles”). You start by making a small improvement, then make another, and another… After a long series of changes (each one an improvement on the previous state), you may find that you have returned to the starting point. It usually takes five or ten years to go around the circle of improvement.

    Come to think of it, what if Progress isn’t a straight line from the caves to the stars, but actually a circle that keeps coming back around by always moving forward?

  103. Thanks for this post! I don’t imagine it’s prudent to do virtuous deeds for the sake of gaining good karma for oneself. That would imply that your virtuous acts may bring better circumstances but your selfishly driven intention brings negative karma into your character. The question is, how to selfishly intend on not having a selfish intention.

    Also, there’s a certain irony that group-minds, as you put it, act as though they are more selfish than individuals, but behaving for the sake of a group by definition implies you are behaving selflessly. Much to ponder!

  104. Giving the comments a reread, I noticed your statement about people without consciences, “In many cases you’re dealing with someone who’s brand new at being human and makes a complete mess of it.”

    In one novel I read, someone is musing over whether her self-centered cousin is truly evil, or is it “just plain piggy badness?”* In a different book by a different writer, the main character tangles with the sort of low-level thugs she calls “Delta males,” and compares to chimps – indeed, says they’re still operating on pure chimpanzee programming.** It seems to me they’re both pointing to the “brand new at being human and making a complete mess of it.”

    I don’t think either writer had given reincarnation and karma a single thought, but they saw what they saw and reported on it accurately.

    * Gates of Sleep, Mercedes Lackey. The cousin was truly evil, and motivated by a drive for power and money.
    ** Blue, Abigail Padgett. Her viewpoint character hit the nail on the head with respect to the foot soldiers of crime still running on animal autopilot.

  105. Thank you for the response. I get your point. I guess I still have some programming to deal with about truth telling as a virtue and lying or bearing false witness as a sin. I guess too, since its not really an aunt, but a Christian friend I’m most concerned about, there is the fear of being found out, and that friendship ending in a rough way. But I’ll try not worry about that. I guess the self-editing that may occur in conversation is good practice, and quite a different feeling than telling everyone about magic like I used to do as a dumb teenager.

    I do have one more question: Do you think that WASPs and particularly male WASPs are now on the receiving end of collective karma due to all the woke hatred of said male WASPs. In many areas we really don’t have a good track record, even if I reject the notion that male + white = evil. Yet maybe now that I have to hear about the evilness of being a white male all the time from the mass culture is just part of our collective karma. I don’t mind if you need to mansplain it to us.


  106. John–

    Thank you for this essay; I have found it helpful in coming to grips with certain aspects of The Work, or at least in beginning to come to grips with them. The notion of the conscience as the unconscious memory of past-life will is of particular help. I have long struggled with the middle-right portion of the Tree of Life, namely the Yesod-Netzach-Chesed nexus. (Tiphereth as the Ipsissimus just kind of sits there, as far as I can see.) Feeling and emotion and compassion are necessary for a fully balanced life–I understand that. But as far as them being useful, conveying information, and actually doing something…that I have a harder time seeing. Hod (Thought) and Geburah (Will) speak clearly and produce direct action; those others, much, much less so. Your conceptualization helps to provide some basis for the usefulness, after a fashion, for those other parts.

    All that said, I’d much prefer clear, concise, conscious communication to vague, fuzzy mumblings, but as you’ve noted, the universe doesn’t care about our preferences.

  107. Siliconguy #34 and Christopher from California #61, as well as kaizen there’s a less well known Toyota principle of kaikaku. This is radical or revolutionary change. The logic is if you know the big change that needs to happen, you just do it. If you don’t know, kaizen will either provide improvement or learning opportunities until you figure it out, or cumulatively lead to a big change.

    An example of the first would be when they completely reorganised a foundry in one go, into a much safer and more efficient layout. A case study I read of the second was when their material handling progressed from pallets on forklifts, to parts on meat hooks, to gravity chutes, to parts towed by automated guided vehicles, to parts towed by AGVs that they made themselves.

    Another way to look at it is sometimes the big, brutal change needs to happen first. For example if you want some fine wooden furniture, you’re going to need a chainsaw long before you need a polishing cloth. Or if you want to clean out a pile of manure, you’re going to use the shovel before the disinfectant spray.

  108. Milkyway #44 and Christopher from California #61, since you like that joke I’ll share the original I copied the structure from. It’s about the architecture of Gotham City:

    The only reason Batman can get away with that ‘I am the night’ schtick is because Gotham City looks like the Art Deco movement had a one night stand with Soviet Brutalism in a gargoyle factory.

  109. Regarding “Doom”… the setup involves a large shadowy corporation that conducts teleportation research on industrialized moons. This work is done on behalf of the government which doesn’t want public scrutiny or to be restricted by laws within it’s own borders. The portals of course open up a gateway to hell. The other iconic game “Half-Life” adopted a similar theme and it’s continued to be a staple ever since.

    Like one of my favorite movies “V for Vendetta” these games were quite (analogically) prescient.

  110. Robert Mathiesen #48, as someone who played rugby league in high school, I can confirm some cultures are insane. I can also tell you there are few things in the world as unfair as a game of rugby where only one of the players has gone through puberty. They’d just give me the ball and I’d plod down the field with the entire other team hanging on to me.

    Justin #73, as soon as you said Doom I heard the demon growl and the sound of the double-barrelled shotgun. Doom 2 was one of the first PC games I played. I also had the first two books of the novelisation. Interestingly one of the most memorable parts of the books for me was when the narrator can finally barricade himself in an infirmary with working lights, food and medical supplies, and can even have a shower. Along with the Kurasawa film Sanjuro, it as one of the early things to prime me to like the idea of being warm, safe and comfortable, while there’s danger and chaos just outside. I also remember the vivid description of a ‘river of faces’ so the horror wasn’t completely lost on me. 🙂 I always wonderd if either had been in the first game, but could never find out because while I was fine with the second, the original gave me motion sickness.

  111. “Most human beings are mass-minded” – JMG

    It seems like the roots of “mass-minded” behavior are almost always nested within (or very close to) the most hyper communicative technology of an era. Maybe the best thing a person can do is identify that particular technology within their era and control their exposure to it.

  112. “The question is, how to selfishly intend on not having a selfish intention.”

    I didn’t write this sentence well in my comment earlier. I meant that I am thinking about how the intention to be selfless for its own sake is still a “self-centered” act, in a literal sense.

  113. jstn @ 78 I don’t know that I can give you a good answer. There were and are numerous legends about the unknown part of Christ’s life. Most likely He quietly helped St. Joseph in the workshop and studied Jewish scripture, but…Jewish legend from quite soon after His death calls Him a magician who learned that trade in Egypt. There are recent writers who claim to have evidence of a sojourn in Tibet. What is certain is that Alexander’s conquests, d. 323 BC, opened up trade between India and the Mediterranean world, and cultural influences of all kinds do come with trade. Also, recent writers about Christ’s early life have suggested that Nazareth was not a backwater, but was a kind of suburb which supplied the Roman authorities encamped nearby. Palestine was among the most turbulent of the Roman provinciae, and a legion was stationed there to cow the populace and watch the frontier with Persia.

    Plato may have speculated about reincarnation, but, so far as I know, Greek and Roman worship was intended to secure the favor of the Gods in this life and the passage across the River Styx was one way.

  114. Justin and JMG,

    The Doom allegory gets even better in the 2016 reboot/sequel, where you learn very early on that yet another portal has opened into hell, this time with the goal of harvesting “argent energy” (essentially, the fires of hell) to meet humanity’s ever-growing energy needs.

  115. Would it be correct to say that the “conscience” that is developed from conscious reflection over one’s own karma, is alike to the “guardian angel”/”higher self”/”Individuality” mentioned in previous posts?

  116. Martin Becck, have you considered that forethought is a virtue, and that the infected cut might be a warning that you need to wear gloves? If “authorities say” a generous, slam giving person is enabling a dysfunctional lifestyle, that is authorities making excuses for why they don’t do something about homelessness. The higher their position, the more responsibility.

  117. This might be stretching the point too much, but I can’t help but notice that the Celts of the British aisles were supposed to have had strong traces of Atlantean blood, and that it was in those lands and their colonies that the Reformation took its most extreme anti-magical forms. Almost as if someone Upstairs were saying, “All right guys, not again.”

    Also regarding Christianity, to my mind reincarnation is the only thing that makes its moral system actually work. It’s easy to see that when you consider the fate of unbaptized babies. Do they go to Heaven, per St. John Chrysostom, or Hell, as Augustine taught? If to Hell, God is a monster; if to Heaven, then universal human infanticide becomes a moral imperative, in order to prevent the possibility of anyone going to Hell! The most moral and most rational alternative is simply, “They get another shot.” As God is not merely good and reasonable, but Goodness Itself and Reason Itself, he must make the most moral and most rational choice. Therefore, reincarnation exists.

  118. What are the karmic principles behind the physical body? Do we all just get to experience a wide variety? Or is a beautiful person someone who spent a number of lives working on being beautiful, and a strong person someone who expressed physical strength over many lives, etc?

    But if that were the case it would seem that once strong, you would never go back to an ordinary level of strength without screwing up. Is that realistic, or could physical strength manifest in some other way in a future life inside a rather average body, for example?

  119. JMG,
    What do you think of the old bumper sticker trope ,” My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma.” Is it just a shallow play on words, or is there a snippet of metaphysical meaning in that phrase?

  120. Len,

    I think it either makes or breaks a lot of people. My dad’s generation went through tough times and that led to seven very troubled adults. My cousins, sister, and I all had to deal with said troubled adults (we’re an Irish family, and you can imagine what that entails), and, amazingly, all of us are straight-laced, successful, and have managed to avoid prison time. None of us have even divorced, knock on wood, and we grew up around drugs, alcohol, brawling, criminal behavior, and generally dysfunctional households. We had to be the adults a lot of the time as kids, and that somehow made us mentally resilient at a young age.

    Being a trauma therapist, my guess is you mostly only encounter the people who break under hard times, but the opposite does exist.

  121. JMG,
    Excellent. Thanks for this – much for meditation.
    Karma, the Law of Consequences, is a difficult thing to comprehend, at least for me and maybe for many of us in the West considering our religious history. Understanding the associated concepts is difficult as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if things were clearly laid out in black and white? What exactly is character? What is sleaze? What is decency? As you said, there is no straight line between them. We can define these all in words, trying to pin them down, but still such definitions can only give a general sense, these are moving objects, so much “what about this?” or “what about that?”. It’s like herding cats or like the billiard ball metaphor. Even then, it does not seem constrained to a single plane. Perhaps it is more like a multi-dimensional billiard karma field or domain. Further, morality and ethics are part of this discussion and these differ over time and space among various groups, tribes, and societies of people.
    What do we comfortably or confidently use as a guide? In our day-to-day lives, we think our thoughts, speak our words, make decisions, take actions. Doesn’t the karmic value of any particular word or thought or action depend upon context, intent, perception? What about emotions, biochemistry, legalities? Oof, my head is spinning.
    This is only the tip of the iceberg and I expect that you could write a book or two on the subject and still leave much territory uncovered. Are there any entry level 101 books on karma, or perhaps morality and ethics you would recommend for further contemplation by a novice?

    Thanks again for this long awaited post. (very nice birthday present, btw)


  122. I think many of us know what you mean by ‘sleazy’, but at what point does an action or intentions get classified as such?

    If I scream at someone without cause and make them feel terrible and then they go home and take it out on their children and the child punches out their friend because they feel terrible etc… vs someone screams at me and I take it and dont pass it on and transform it into something else..does this fit in with what you’re saying? Is this stopping the wheel of karma? Is it a skill that has to be learn to transmute these types of chaotic forces into something more orderly? How does this fit in with the idea of enlightenment and exiting the whole karmic process? I know Alan Watts described karma loosely as ‘your own doing’ which sat well with me.
    The idea of a free neutrality in all things, horrendous terrible feeling or miraculously wonderful is one I like since many times I seem something ‘sleazy’ it turns out to be not and vice versa, so my instinct was this game is ridiculous. Damien Echols describes this like scoring points in a video game, and to exit the game completely and not be bound by it or something like that. How would he have achieved what he did with the Golden Dawn system if the friction of being locked up in prison didn’t happen?

  123. Talking about whether doing a good deed to tot up Karma or self-consciously not thinking about any possible reward are interesting points. My own attitude is that if anyone sees a need it is their job to work on it. Pick up the bit of paper, donate to a homeless person, or take them into your house for a night or two. Smile at that person who looks dangerous. Just do it. Don’t overthink.

  124. re: performing good actions for good karma

    I think the idea that doing good deeds for the sake of good karma is (mostly) a hangup from overly moralistic interpretations of karma and (ironically) ethics. If you read Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, he starts from the premise that everything we do is with a view to our own happiness, and analyzes virtue as what is good for us as well as good in itself. (Of course, the virtuous course of action may be highly inconvenient at a given course of time, but that doesn’t negate its long-term benefit to our souls.)

    So while there may indeed be more merit to an action if not done with merit explicitly in mind, I wouldn’t think it completely negates the merit of an action if done for later benefit.

  125. DT, why should God bother? A divine intelligence would be perfectly capable of setting up the system of karma and letting it run, knowing that the right outcomes would result.

    Dennis, from my point of view the Russian woman is wrong — not just a little wrong, but very seriously wrong. She’s made a commitment to her husband and children; to break that just because some other guy makes her feel tingly inside is selfish and cruel, and will land her with a boatload of nasty karma. Of course people may be here to learn different lessons, but very often one of those lessons is what not to do.

    J.L.Mc12, thanks for this.

    Logo Dau, interesting. Yes, of course — the kind of technology we’ve created resonates very well with the subnatural realm. Thanks for the article; I’ll read it when time permits.

    Tin Star, in the occult traditions I work with, there’s a distinction drawn between karma and destiny, but certainly you’re right that inner awakening leads to an awareness of the soul’s unique destiny — and, in some cases, to a panicked attempt to flee from it.

  126. Martin Beck, I meant alms giving person. I believe that in some religions, Islam and Hindu come to mind, the giving of alms is a duty. The comments by authorities strike me a typical PMC off loading of their own responsibilities on others. IDK about your country, but here in the US, many among the nomenklatura wouldn’t mind of the homeless went off and died somewhere out of sight.

  127. Thank you for this. The wider ramifications of karma, to me, belong in the realm of “not only complicated, but more complicated than we can imagine” territory. That said, it seems sensible to me to think that what I do counts as my “vote” towards what I want to see in the world. If, say, I want to see more generosity in the world, then my generous actions will allow generosity to have some space, and some concrete manifestation, from which to BE in the world. I do not think much further than this, at my stage of development, just try to put my “votes” out there as much as I can do.

    There are certainly people who challenge me at this time. I find that how I want to act towards them is at a petty, vindictive level, and neither pettiness, nor vindictiveness are part of what I want to see in the world, so I feel constrained to revise my intentions enough to cast different “votes” than the ones my immediate inclination would cast, when these people are around. (I will add to the voice of others and say that the blessing walk is particularly helpful in this regard).

    Reincarnation is a concept which makes sense to me – as in, it gives enough scope to the complicated learning processes which seem to be necessary for a soul to undergo – but I do not have much sense of my own pre-birth history, with a single exception. From when I was very young (3 or 4?) I seem to have a memory of a dream, which itself is a memory of being enclosed within stone walls, with no windows, which memory seems incontrovertibly associated with being in the womb and being born. It may be that being enclosed in stone walls, with no windows, is the state from which I exited a previous life before being born into this one. I do not know. And I have not tried to find out.

    Still, I trust that my higher self is keeping track, and that my job, as the personality, is to be HERE and NOW as hard as I can be.

  128. Love your coverage of the topic, JMG, and glad to see that you covered both individual and collective karmas as well as principles on ‘how to clean up your karmic act’. Much respect!

    Since karma has been a central pillar of my spiritual path for over four decades, I’d like to share a few stray thoughts on the subject (just to add colour; no ‘well, actually, bro’ stuff):

    As the topic of astrology has popped up in the comments, I will mention that from the perspective of vedic astrology, a person’s birth chart is literally a map of their karma – that is, the unique combination of strengths, weaknesses, proclivities, aversions, fears, the whole nine yards, is there in the sky open for unpackaging by adepts in the science.

    In the Hindu concept of karma, it is not possible to cancel a ‘bad karma’ with a ‘good karma’. That is, karmas are not like one huge bowl from which one can exchange a ‘red marble’ with a ‘green marble’. Each karma has its own distinct repercussions, so a person who is both a philanderer and kind-hearted towards the poor will reap the inevitable consequences of each type of action; in other words, the ‘hill’ of charity will not fill the ‘hole’ of infidelity.

    The traditional Hindu view of karma is that even though ‘good’ karmas are superior to ‘bad’ karmas, good karmas still bind one to the cycle of birth-and-death. Those who want to ‘get off the ferris wheel’ need to still engage in activity in the world but renounce all attachment and sense of doership to the consequences of the action: if every action in life is sincerely offered to one’s chosen god, then the karmic burden will eventually be exhausted and one’s release is earned. Simple concept; not so easy to practice!

    For better or worse, the Hindu practice of karma also has a strong magical element. Certain actions are refrained from during particularly inauspicious days/times and likewise certain actions are encouraged during particularly auspicious days/times. Why I say ‘or worse’ is that some people will wait for a particularly auspicious time to engage in good deeds (i.e., ‘if one donates money to a charity on such-and-such a day you will reap 100-fold the karmic benefit compared to any other day’), that is, maximizing benefit with minimal effort. Maybe it’s a pet peeve, but that rubs me the wrong way as a form of ‘gaming the system’. I won’t judge others, but that’s not my cup of tea. Then again, I usually prefer to do things manually rather than using ‘labour-saving devices’ so go figure.

    For Christians who are struggling with the whole ‘karma thing’, one of the best images depicting karma from a Christian author that I have ever encountered is in Leo Tolstoy’s short story ‘The Godson’ (which also happens to be my favourite piece written by Tolstoy. Period.). In it the Godson character follows his Godfather’s advice on how to reach the Godfather’s house by walking east through a huge forest until he gets to a clearing and observes what happens there. And what happens is that a mother bear and cubs emerge from the forest to feast upon a trough of honey. But, annoyingly, right above the trough is a log suspended by a rope hanging from a branch of a tall tree beside the trough. And the harder the bears push the log away the harder it swings back. I won’t say any more (in case some folks would like to read the story) except that the results are not pleasant and that this is the core lesson that the Godson must learn through his whole life.

  129. @Samuel #199 re: charities. I decided on a tight, local focus some time ago, and it works for me. I write checks to the local food bank, the local safe house, and two homeless charities. Because the $-strapped city is cutting out its highly successful street outreach program and sending people wanting a free breakfast to St. Francis House, I just stepped up my donation to St. Francis House.

    The Village Foundation has a fund to pay the rent for residents who have outlived their resources. That’s the first in-house check I write. The rest are for various funds to help the “associates” – in plain English, the hourly workers.
    Assistance, Emergency, Scholarship, and because they are forbidden to accept tips, an “Appreciation” fund, given to them yearly, based on the number of hours they have worked.

    Hope you find these suggestions useful.

  130. @JMG, Candy

    Indeed, the Orthodox take on sin is… just not the same as Western Christianity’s. St. Augustine is pre-schism so we do acknowledge him as a saint… but at the same time a lot of his stuff is “problematic” as the kids say these days. Any time you get into a discussion about where it all went wrong with the West, it all somehow comes back to Aquinas, and from him back to Augustine. Sigh.

    We don’t do the “original sin” thing the way the Catholics do– there’s this weird thing where, once they adopted that doctrine, then they had to find a reason for Mary to be in the clear of the original sin all the rest of us ostensibly inherited, and basically invented the immaculate conception of Mary out of whole cloth to make the logic work. The Eastern church never went there, because we don’t have the original sin thing to twist all our logic around (and frankly, we’ve just never been that in love with logic anyway. Aquinas was clearly missing the point of ‘mystery’– you can’t logic your way to salvation!).

    Another thing we don’t have is a substitutionary-atonement, punishment model of sin and the afterlife. Nobody ends up in hell except he chooses to be there, and in some renderings, hell and heaven are the same thing: the cleansing fire of the presence of God. If you’ve given yourself over to wallowing in the passions, and your soul is mostly dross… that fire’s gonna be fairly uncomfortable. If you’ve cooperated with God’s grace and done the hard work of ascesis, confession, self-abnegation, and humbly aligned yourself with God so that the divine image we all carry… is the whole of your self… well, there’s nothing left to burn, is there? “If you would, you could become all flame” as St. Antony says.

  131. Dear JMG,

    This essay has been a (welcome) distraction from work all day, so please excuse the further question.

    How does will relate to karma?

    I ask because I’ve started to wonder whether the concept of free will is, for the most part, an illusion conjured for ill-purpose. We live within societies and circumstances in which our choices are greatly constrained and manipulated. We act out ideas, often with little sense of where they come from, and with little thought to their implications.

    I say this from personal experience. Until a series of, I think, fateful experiences, I walked around with little sense of what I thought, felt or did. Indeed, I recall laughing at the idea I might control my thoughts: it sounded ludicrous.

    So I wonder, if humans are in many respects automatons, what is the function of karma, understanding it is not a form of divine justice.

    Yours kindly,

  132. @JMG I don’t think I am seeing it as reward and punishment. But it does seem to have a purpose which is to teach us spiritual lessons. So I view it as a kind of school, with no idea who set up the school, if anyone, or why they set the rules as they did. What I want to know is why the rules require learning through suffering the consequences of ‘someone else’s’ actions? I’d never voluntarily attend a school with rules like that!

    @CR Patino

    That would make sense if karma were limited to acting through your character and to your current life. But it’s not just a matter of stuff happening to you because you in your current incarnation keep doing the same things. People are suffering not from their own past sins but the sins of their former selves, who are unknown to them.

    Also, the example you’ve chosen of poverty (which isn’t suffering necessarily), with what sounds like adults being envisaged, is a relatively easy one. How about Christopher elsewhere in the thread who was abused as a child?


    We Irish are also on the British Isles and we definitely didn’t go in for any variety of Protestantism! We also pretty much never industrialized though.

  133. JMG,

    Well, someone’s got to ask about the reincarnation of animals, and that someone is evidently going to be me.

    Domestic animals, yes, I can see how the nascent soul of a cat can be quickened in the presence of humans, resulting in the cat’s eventual human incarnation. (I’d bet legal tender there are cat/dog owners here in Ecosophia who strongly sense that their cats, dogs have been with them before). But what about animals in the wild? At what point does a wild animal – I mean animals of low brain capacity, not elephants or certain cetaceans – “individuate” enough to reincarnate? Is that a simple matter of evolution?



  134. “Protestantism may well have been engineered from the spiritual levels of being to keep that from happening again. I’ve encountered some odd things that lead me to think that this may in fact have been the case.”

    It appears quite likely to me that aspects of my own Protestant family background and childhood kept my curious fingers away from certain spiritual live wires at various (and likely more vulnerable) periods in my life. I know this isn’t exactly what you meant. (Being harmed by unwise application of existing knowledge is a lot easier than developing harmful knew knowledge.) But it’s related and in my mind it adds plausibility to the larger-scale idea.

    Adeptly drawing a line between paying due attention to karmic concerns, and second-guessing them, seems to present a challenge.

  135. @Logo Dau, #86

    >It’s my understanding that demons are the least challenging class of entities for humans to communicate with, requiring only that one sink to their level of consciousness.

    Is it so? How inclined would you be to, say, produce artworks made of your own feces and decorate your home with those? Or work 80+hrs per week in a job you hate, just to spend 90% of your paycheck as rolling paper for your tobacco habit (as in, literally burning a fifty with every cig). Sinking to their level is hard, just as raising to “angel level” is hard. I lack direct experience of either, but I am led to believe that most people who do so appear to have an inclination towards one or another way since childhood, which itself argues for being a task accomplished through multiple lifetimes.

  136. JMG # 67 “as you see, your post came through fine despite the preview.” Relief!

    Yorkshire # 110 Yes, my impression from reading Taiichi Ohno’s book and others: If a big breakthrough is possible, you should do it! Otherwise, improve what you can.
    Per Jasper #104, deploy as many karmans as you currently can! (Do they combine to make Molecules of Virtue?)

  137. @ Dot– Oh I thought of that, but you– or rather, we, since many of my own forebears were still there at the time– were conquered early into the modern period by the English, and kept from industrializing as you say. And then, prior to the rebirth both of the Western magical tradition and Irish independence you had the Devotional Revolution, which eliminated a lot of traditional magical practices among Catholics in Ireland. And I might say “we” for that one too, as it was also very much an American phenomenon, and the Irish ran the Catholic Church in the US at the time. (Mainstream, suburban American Catholicism is almost indistinguishable from Protestantism today, and you’ll still find a plurality of Irish surnames in most congregations.) I wonder if this didn’t keep the very many Americans of Irish descent who were Catholic from participating in the Occult Revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of course, Irish and other Celtic-descended Americans then piled onto the Neopagan movement, sometimes in the most obnoxious of ways. But if JMG is right, that didn’t appear until the beginning of the end of global industrial civilization…

    Hmm. I originally meant this as a joke, or at least mostly a joke. But now I wonder…

  138. As this commentariat zone is part of European based culture I see the ghostly presence and memory of Christianity frequently hovering around it. I appreciate the heresy of JMG rejecting the view that all spiritual experience is really an experience of a common underlying reality expressed in different words, that instead Buddhists, pagans of various persuasions, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims are meeting and entering different realities, an actual and true diversity. It’s a plan B I may not especially like but can accept as a possibility.

  139. Jonathan, the problem with those isn’t primarily a matter of karma — in the strict sense, masturbation is not much different from scratching an itch. Its problematic aspects have to do with the health of the subtle bodies, and with certain problems involving interactions with noxious spirits; I’ve discussed that here.

    Tawal, if you’re human you’ve had past lives. Most people don’t remember theirs; it requires a lot of spiritual practice to get to the point that the memories start trickling through.

    IVN, I got it by doing a search on the Presearch engine for “adam eve serpent”. That’s literally all I know.

    Executed, oh, granted.

    Len, of course. How many strong and healthy people come to you for treatment?

    Disc_writes, so noticed. As an unbaptized pagan, I don’t claim to know Christian ideas from inside.

    Averagejoe, it’s never possible to shed every scrap of karma; we’re always creating more, and yes, some of it will be challenging to deal with. Just as we all deal with some of our negative karma between lives, we’ll have more of it to deal with after we finish the experience of material incarnation and go on to other things.

    Martin, that’s exactly why I said more than once in the post that karma isn’t tit-for-tat, you do one good thing and one good thing happens to you. It’s always cumulative. As for uncertain results, well, that’s part of life, isn’t it? Your task is to learn.

    Chris, you haven’t misunderstood at all. The stronger the will becomes, the more careful you have to be with it.

    Your Kittenship, I’ll keep that in mind — but Sara doesn’t use Avon, or any other kind of makeup. Like Ariel Moravec, her skin breaks out whenever she puts any of that stuff on. (I prefer its absence, anyway.)

    Samuel, first of all, small local charities are generally good, because they spend less money on administration and more on their causes, and the smaller and quirkier they are, the better. One other option is Masonic charities, because the Masons don’t take any money at all — it’s all volunteers. I do a lot of Masonic giving, partly because I’m a Mason, and partly because everything I give gets to the people who need it. One thing you can do is donate to the local lodge’s almoner’s fund, which goes to people who face emergencies — the roof blows off, the money isn’t there to fix it, and then an old man from the Masons shows up and cuts a check and the roof goes on.

    Abraham, those labels “good” and “bad” are a mess, aren’t they? By “good karma” I mean actions and their consequences that have results you like, and by “bad karma” I mean actions and their consequences that you really won’t like. Again, cause and effect.

    Booklover, hmm! That makes sense. As for collective karma, you’ll have to ask the gods; that’s their business, and I don’t think they publish guidelines.

    Mister N, that makes a lot of sense.

    TJ, unsurprisingly, I was thinking about this decade when I wrote that.

    Jasper, if that works for you, by all means.

    Jbucks, it’s no worse to say “I will do these actions to give myself better karma” than it is to say “I will build this house to give myself a good place to sleep.” Your character is refined in the direction of prudence, and your circumstances are improved.

    Patricia M, I think a lot of people have noticed that some of us aren’t very used to being human, and still act pretty much like ordinary mammals.

    Know Brainer, no doubt there’s some karma involved, since white men spent a long time praising themselves as the cutting edge of evolution, the Good People, etc.

    David BTL, it takes a lot of work for people focused on one Pillar to understand the other Pillar! That work is essential, though, because Tiphareth doesn’t just sit there — as the sphere of the Adept, i.e., the one who can do things skillfully, it can accomplish much more from the point of balance than either Pillar can on its own. Keep in mind also that the left-hand pillar is information, but the right-hand pillar is motivation.

    TJ, interesting.

    GlassHammer, nah, the mass-mindedness of small town life depends on no technology more advanced than gossip. One of the things that makes modern life so complex is that governments and corporations try to hijack and exploit the mass-minded using media technologies — but the mass-mindedness was there already.

    Viking, no, not at all. Your conscience is literally your subconscious memory. Your higher self is who you really are — the self to which you wake up out of the dream of incarnate life. The guardian angel or guardian genius is a spiritual being emanated from Divinity to help you along your journey of awakening. They’re three different things.

    Steve, I’ve heard and read a lot of esoteric Christians make exactly that point.

    Kyle, the material body is a vehicle for experiences, and you get the body that will give you the experiences you need. If you spend a bunch of lives being overly proud of your material body, you’ll probably end up doing some lives in an ugly and/or disabled body to break you of the habit. The enduring benefits you get from strength training, say, are the habit of self-discipline and the capacity to work hard at a chosen goal; when you no longer have or need a material body, you’ll still have, and benefit from, those.

    Clay, there’s a snippet of sense in it. Dogma is always a human construct, and so it’s never as true as its believers think it is; karma is one of the things that can show up its downsides.

    Will1000, I’ll have to look around and see if I can find a good basic intro to ethics. In the meantime, The Enchiridion by Epictetus, which you can download for free here, is a good start.

    Bobby, it’s not a matter of categorization. Whatever you do has effects that circle around and affect your life; that’s karma. If you scream at someone, that has effects. If you don’t react to someone screaming at you, that also has effects. It’s not a matter of scoring points — that’s one of the things I was trying to communicate in my post! It’s a matter of recognizing that nothing ever “goes away” and that everything you do shapes who you are and what you experience.

    Jill, that’s good advice.

    Slithy, exactly. It was a basic axiom of Greek philosophy that every being seeks its own good; it’s just that not all of us understand where our good actually lies, and the philosopher sets out to teach us how to be happy by being wise. There’s nothing wrong in seeking happiness as such; the wrongness creeps in sometimes depending on how you seek it.

    Scotlyn, thank you for this! The idea of actions as votes makes a lot of sense to me.

    Ron, thank you for this. Yes, I know the occult teaching is somewhat different from the Hindu account.

    Methylethyl, thanks for this also. Yeah, it really does seem to boil down to Augustine!

    Boy, we all have the potential for free will, but it’s just a potential and it has to be developed in order to be used. Most people are mass-minded precisely because they’ve never developed an independent will, so they just do what they’re told by their culture, their family, their friends, the media, or whoever. Being subject to collective consciousness, they are equally subject to collective karma, and that continues until the misery of collective karma becomes sharp enough to goad them into developing the first stirrings of free will. The more free your will becomes, the more individual karma you generate and the less subject you are to collective karma, for good or ill.

    Dot, it’s more like a training program for puppies. The puppies don’t understand the process either, but they end up housebroken and capable of doing various things that they need to learn to do.

    Will, that’s what evolution is all about. Souls start off in very simple animal forms, once they graduate from the plant level, because that’s as much as they can handle. Life after life, they experience more and more complex modes of being, until eventually they’re reborn into a species that can handle reflective thought — humans, porpoises, and so on. Then they proceed through that mode of being, before graduating from the animal level and going on to modes of being more complex and interesting still.

    Walt, hmm! Yes, that does make sense, doesn’t it?

  140. How does karma deal with someone like Hitler? Would the impersonal algorithm just say ‘lost cause, nothing to be done here.’ And that’s it, no more lives, that particular line of existence snuffed Apr 30, 1945.

    Or would that line called ‘Hitler’ between 1889 and 1945 get another shot? Maybe even as we speak, there’s a leper sleeping on the roadside in the worst quarter of Calcutta, maybe a no-go zone even for Mother Theresa’s nuns, wondering how he could have been dealt such a fate.

    I’ve read about Hitler’s early life. It wasn’t all that great, in a dysfunctional family for sure, but, to my eyes, nothing all that bad either. I doubt that anyone that knew him as a youngster or as a young man would have guessed at what he’d become. My reading of him is that he was a nobody who it’s true was awarded the Iron Cross First Class in WW1 but then seemed destined to go home like millions of other young men like him and never be heard from again. His commanding officers judged that he was a good soldier but, given that he turned down promotion, they wrote that he was no leader of men. Maybe nothing to do with karma but just a simple irony.

  141. Long comment incoming, I have been sitting on this for a while because of my quasi-christian (Mormon) upbringing. I’ve become a pantheist and a polytheist since losing faith in Mormonism, and now I have a nature-based spirituality.

    The salvation theology in Christianity, which many Christians consider to be the most beautiful part of the whole religion, makes little sense to me.

    In the first place, we are damned because of the actions of Adam and Eve, because they disobeyed God. This makes no sense because 1) Adam and Eve were ignorant, they didn’t know the difference between good and evil when they disobeyed. 2) Punishing an entire race because of the actions of their ancestors is deeply immoral. 3) God is supposed to be omniscient and made no attempt to stop this from happening to his precious creation 4) We now know that a literal Adam and Eve could not have existed.

    Then Jesus (who is God, by the way) comes in after thousands of years of suffering and sacrifices himself to save only those who believe in Christianity. This is a bad plan because billions of people have lived and died without ever even hearing Jesus’ name. How about Jesus’ sacrifice saves everyone who ever lived, no matter what they believe? Why does God need to sacrifice himself anyway? Couldn’t he just forgive us for being the imperfect creatures that he created?

    And then Jesus will come back any day now to destroy all the wicked unbelievers and finally set things right in the world. It will all make sense so just keep holding out for it, it’s coming soon™! Pay no attention that it’s been imminent for 2000 years!

    Sorry for sounding snarky, but at the very least, the dominant narrative in Christianity has some holes and can’t be literally true.

    Karma is interesting to me. I think it’s a neat concept but becomes kind of repulsive to me when I apply it to society. I think about the billionaire robber-barons who are by and large materialistic sociopaths who hold much of the responsibility for the destruction of our planet. Were they super good people in a past life? Is that why they have all their money? If they were kind and caring back in their past lives, why aren’t they that way today? What about those in miserable poverty? According to the law of karma, are they responsible for their sad condition??? Maybe I’m just interpreting the concept poorly?

  142. In seeking to contribute to a charity which you do not benefit from for the purposes of acquiring good karma, aren’t you actually seeking to derive benefits from it? Why would that not nullify the purported benefits of such behavior on your karma?

  143. JMG and Jonathan — I recently wrote a blog post that riffs off of JMG’s article The Metaphysics of Sex called Some Occult Perspectives on Masturbation. Here it is:

    Also, JMG — would you mind if I read your Metaphysics of Sex article aloud in a multi-part series on TikTok? I feel like the TikTok audience needs to hear the information in that piece very badly and they aren’t the reading kind. I won’t be offended if you say “no”. TikTok is icky. I publish there purely as public service.

    I think the danger of masturbation is imbalance: either not doing it at all ever because TOUCHING MY NO NO = BAAAD versus compulsively masturbating. Both seem like they would reap the consequences of imbalance. If you never masturbate despite wanting to do it, you gain the debilitating physical and mental consequences of being a timid, uptight fraidy-cat and/or prude. If you do it 5x per day, you gain the debilitating physical and mental consequences of addiction.

    As I detail in my post, much of the problem of masturbation is in the way women and men “flow”, especially where etheric energy is concerned. Women flow outward towards The One (Mr. Perfect, ideal guy) who does not exist. Men flow inward, their lust drawing in the imagined harem they believe they deserve. Men are etheric receivers, so compulsive wanking is a good way for them to open their channels up to massive etheric plane parasite infestation. They become occupied by legions of feeding entities. I suppose you could call them succubi but I wouldn’t credit them with being that smart, plus they are essentially male from what little I have been able to figure out. Women who masturbate too much become dry deserts: butch, brittle, and bullish. Women also become plagued by etheric plane parasites from excessive masturbation, but it is usually a single, dominating entity like the spiders and Clives that R.H. Stavis describes in her book Sister of Darkness: The Chronicles of a Modern Exorcist. I hope this makes sense.

    In case I don’t make it back before next Wednesday — I believe I was a goose at least once and then much later a cat (actually I was a cat many times) before incarnating as a human. I believe I have incarnated as a human since the early Middle Ages. I only started remembering my past lives in a meaningful way a few years ago, after about 2-3 years of doing discursive meditation and the Druid Sphere of Protection every day. I also believe I was a serial killer in a past life, and yeah, the karma from that is rather complicated. I talk about that here:

  144. Doodily Do asks (post #26):

    Is it bad karma if you habitually slap mosquitoes when they bite (or are about to bite) you?
    What if you have a job that involves community-wide killing of millions of mosquitoes by spreading larvicide on standing water and/or spraying adulticide in infested habitats?

    You know, I have thought about this very question countless times, having slapped and/or killed probably thousands of mosquitoes in my time outdoors. I’ve even imagined humorous scenarios in which, in some alternate universe, I am captured and held on trial on a mosquito court for “crimes against mosquitokind”.

    But why does nobody ever ask about the karma incurred by mosquitoes for being obligate predators and spreaders of disease?

  145. Smith, Hitler’s soul has a whale of a lot of ugly karma to work off; it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he’s been incarnated fifteen or twenty times since 1945, and each time beaten, burnt, or otherwise done to death in infancy or early childhood. There was destiny as well as karma at work in his career, though. His boyhood friend August Kubizek wrote somewhere about the time that the two of them went to Wagner’s early (and awful) opera Rienzi, and afterward the young Hitler talked for hours about how he would lead armies and rule a nation. He came into incarnation knowing what he was going to do. Where his soul will go once he’s finished working off his karma is another matter, and one I’m not prepared to answer.

    Enjoyer, as an outsider to Christianity, that’s certainly how it’s always looked to me.

    Gman, ahem. Benefits other than the karmic ones, of course.

    Kimberly, so long as you give credit and don’t edit, yes, you have my permission to do so.

  146. @John: What’s the moral difference between doing something for material benefit and doing something for karmic benefit, such that there would be a noticeable gain or loss of karma for either one? The underlying principle is the same in both cases.

  147. One difficulty with belief in karma is that it can tempt the believer to self-comfort by blaming the victim for the victim’s misfortune. It can be a version of the Just World Fallacy. Of course this depends upon the character of the believer.

    This danger is compounded when it includes karma from past lives. Then the self-comforter can blame the victim’s suffering on events in the distant past. This is particularly convenient for justifying racial or caste discrimination.

    By the way, about reincarnation: if it is true, then when the human population was expanding and the wild animal population shrinking, the does that mean that the human race has been recruiting souls from wild animals? And when the baby bust now happening almost world-wide results in population decline, starting about mid-21st-century, then does that mean that wild animals will acquire formerly human s-ouls?

  148. #61 Christopher from California

    I remember this so much that it’s about the difference between killing a fly in the mind and killing a real fly.

    So I think the point is that the object of action is not a spiritual object in one’s own mind, but something real outside one’s own mind. The object directly does not necessarily have to be in the sensory perceptible range. Therefore, online interaction can also count.

    I hope I have understood your question correctly.

  149. Thank you.

    Yes, your text makes more sense defining good-bad in this way.

    I still have the feeling that too many people think that what is good for them, what they would like to have in their lives, it’s actually not that good in the long run.
    For example, in the text-book example of a simple ecosystem wolves-rabbits-herbs, I am sure that rabbits would prefer to not be eaten by wolves, and they might even celebrate the extinction of their predators. However, without wolves, the whole system collapses and everyone dies.
    This doesn’t mean that rabbits should offer themselves to wolves as easy prey, if they were to do so, then rabbits would become extinct and the system would collapse too!
    But we humans have become so smart that we are destroying everything that bother us, not just predators, but unwelcoming habitats too. We’ve put ourselves in the highest step in the food chain everywhere, but we don’t love to eat preys from everywhere, we don’t make such connection with them, we don’t LOVE them, and in result they become extinct, replaced by our cattle.

    “Every action has a consequence and nothing goes unadverted”.
    Yes this makes a whole lot of sense. Even a brief thought can become cumulative with similar older thoughts and gain momentum. I’ve experienced it.
    But we don’t really know if the outcome is what we really need. Once thing is been aware that Consequences will be there no matter how small the action, another thing is knowing where we should push towards. As in the example, what we think good for us, might be the cause of our extinction. Maybe egotistics and nihilistics don’t care, but we as a species should care, otherwise we will be losing our will to exist.

    You say conscience helps here, because it remembers past actions with non desirable results. While it might be true for simple interactions on some small scale, I don’t think conscience can remember a time when humans gobbled the whole planet for themselves and their cattle. I say this because so many people are unconcerned that we have obliterated most wild habitats in the planet, regarding every advance of humanity as positive, no matter the cost.
    If any, the imbalances we are creating are making the biosphere scream, and if we listen we can hear her pain, becoming consciouss that the system we inhabite is in flames. But this comes not from our memories but through the interaction with a higher manifestation of a complex system, what you call gods. This summer she’s been roaring ‘HEAT’.
    Where our consciousness cannot lead, we better pray for guidance.

  150. “I once knew a Russian woman who strongly believed that if you’re married with kids and then you meet the person who you know is right for you, it’s your responsibility as a human being to leave your spouse and your kids and go be with that person. If the most popular Russian Holiday movie, The Irony of Fate, is any indication, that sentiment runs strong in that culture.”

    The sentiment does exist. Doctor Zhivago is another example in literature and there have been all too many examples in real life. I think it is mainly a holdover of 19th century romanticism, with its infantile aversion to responsibility, gradually propagating from the intellectual elites to the rest of the population. One might theorise further that instability and societal atomisation caused by 20th century political cataclysms made it all the more appealing to pursue individual gratification over uncertain long-term bonds. I will note that this sentiment is far from universal, however – I’ve often seen this mentality strongly criticised.

  151. I’ve been reflecting upon two neurological conditions. I won’t go as far to call them diseases or disabilities, although, in the modern world, they clearly are debilitating – OCD and ADHD. I have ADHD, and know people crippled by OCD. It’s become something of a quest to find the occult reasons for each.

    I know other traditions, Hinduism for instance, simply calls ADHD old souls, although I think this probably doesn’t translate well. I’m leery of the disability as special sauce excuse that seems to be doing the rounds. ADHD has been described as the mind of a Ferrari with the brakes of a Chev, which I think is apt. But why? Well, it makes some sense if it’s a way to burn off a lot of remaining karma in a hurry, we get into any manner of life drama, escapades, addictions, but have the ability if willpower is mastered to overcome all of it and achieve some fairly astonishing things. However, that can’t be all of it, because plenty wind up in prison, or are reliant on medication. A blind will bouncing about from stimulus to stimulus is the opposite of spiritual evolution.

    That may be the lesson – old souls regardless, you can still go up or down, and as you get older, maybe the universe starts to take the brakes off to see what you can do alone. You can still fail the initiation of the nadir, and at times, ADHD feels just like that – an internal initiation, where the only guidance is what you can find internally. Or it’s a last chance saloon.

    As for OCD, given its propensity for ritual action to resolve the intrusive thoughts, I think its the karma from past lives where people have dabbled in this stuff, or have been scarred by religion (cough, Christianity, cough), and who have natural abilities at magic but whom lack the training. When the fear drives it however, the last thing you’d want to be doing is giving them the tools. The advice about sound minds applies I would think – work off the karma in other ways until the anxiety goes, the occult could make it far worse.

  152. Hi John Michael,

    I see, and the story unravels a bit further. Thanks for taking the time to instruct us all.

    Makes me wonder how the elites with their wills being exercised so as to avoid learning from repeated failure, will go? It’s possible the fall will be great? Dunno, it’s hard to tell. Certainly there will be costs piling up for them.



  153. JMG,

    With your tutelage from Doctrine and Ritual and the study of the Tarot cards, it seems to me that one definition of karma can be understanding the effects one creates when trying to find balance between two Binaries, whichever those two happen to be.

  154. Well, to my mind the idea is so obvious that the exoteric churches’ rejection of it seems like pure wilfullness. The doctrine of one strike and your out clearly serves no other purpose than to terrorize people into obedience. This is especially clear since reincarnation wasn’t at all foreign to the cultures they emerged from. Since they were willing to plunder Greek philosophy for everything that wasn’t nailed down, the exceptions are especially telling. And the most glaring of these are reincarnation, which was taught by Pythagoras and Plato, and rejected by Aristotle in one of the dumbest arguments the latter ever made (in De Anima); and the absence of jealousy in the divine, which was taught by both Plato and Aristotle (in Timaeus and Metaphysics).

  155. @Milkyway: Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I too have had that experience where I seem to be holding the door for someone. Sometimes it feels like it is half way open and halfway closed. Maybe opening it all the way allows for me and the person in question to both step through together.

    @Darkest Yorkshire: You’re on fire with your comments this week…

    “The only reason Batman can get away with that ‘I am the night’ schtick is because Gotham City looks like the Art Deco movement had a one night stand with Soviet Brutalism in a gargoyle factory.”

    Then the Joker came around and threw up green and red graffiti all over it.

    Have a good one!

  156. Dear JMG,

    Thank you for your response at #143 above. Your description of free will as a potential to be developed is both enervating and terrifying.

    In reading your response, it also felt to me that the idea of an escape from collective consciousness might be the basis for the metaphor that is the ejection from the Garden of Eden: individuals who accept the burden of (self) knowledge, only reintegrate with God through the sacrifice of the ego, as represented by Christ.

    (Genesis 3:5 states: “For God knows that when you eat from it [the tree of knowledge] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”).

    I accept this may not be a traditional interpretation, but my goodness, as the foundational chapter of the foundational text of Western faith, I can’t help but wonder if there is buried meaning in there somewhere, because on a literal interpretation it makes little logical sense.

    Yours kindly,

  157. Is there a limit on the good karma that a soul can collect over many lives. Some kind of Karmic negative feedback loop that would limit how much good karma any one soul could collect. Is it like power, ” power corrupts”, where do much of it can give one overconfidence in their ability or station in life and tend to lead them to bad acts?
    The end game of too much bad karma ( hitler) seems obvious and would eventually result in better karma because once your soul get to the leper, untouchable, street urchin stage it really only had the option of good acts for a while. But is their such a limit on good karma?

  158. JMG,

    Interesting piece and comments, but I have to confess to being more than a little confused about quite a bit of this!

    I’m struggling with one thing in particular. You have been at pains to point out that karma isn’t a case of simple tit-for-tat, but forgive me if I’m being slow on the uptake here but when you say :

    “Hitler’s soul has a whale of a lot of ugly karma to work off; it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he’s been incarnated fifteen or twenty times since 1945, and each time beaten, burnt, or otherwise done to death in infancy or early childhood”

    that sounds like straight forward tit-for-tat vengeance/revenge/justice to me.

    And then to me, “Where his soul will go once he’s finished working off his karma is another matter, and one I’m not prepared to answer,” hints darkly at further punishment yet to come (although obviously that’s just my interpretation – not what you actually have expressly said).

    If Hitler’s soul needs to work off his bad karma – and presumably learn his lessons along the way – how does repeatedly dying before the age of 5 allow that to happen? Apologies for being a bit trite here, but if the whole thing is like training a puppy, you aren’t going to get very far with the programme if you beat the pup* to death at 12 weeks.

    As I say, just how it seems to me, based on rather too much wondering and rather too little knowledge, so sorry if I’ve entirely missed the point, but I am genuinely confused by this.

    *Obviously I am not advocating physical harm to any dog, of whatever age, real or imaginary, whether or not used as an amusing allegorical stand-in for the head of any brutal regime, historical or otherwise.

  159. Re. eastern vs western Christianity, this was a big deal for me in 2014. I’d ended up going to an Anglican church that held to reformed (blech. Heresy!) theology and it made me properly grapple with questions about the atonement and salvation.Western theology is very lacking in this area, quite possibly due to its difficulty accepting the mystical (what do you call someone with a fully worked out rational theology? A heretic.). Still go to a Protestant (Methodist, Free) church on a Sunday, and the local CofE for mass during the week, but my theology is a lot further to the east than those now.

    As for the matter of infant souls, one could always be a universalist, in which case they (eventually?) get to heaven as all souls do. David Bentley Hart has a good book on this, That All Shall Be Saved. His earlier book, The Doors Of The Sea, was an angrily denounced by the minister at the aforementioned reformed Anglican church, for daring to suggest that God isn’t directly the cause of every misfortune and that sometimes random events happen that lead to babies being dashed against rocks. Apparently he was denying God’s sovereignty by saying it wasn’t His Divine Will that infants be torn apart… yeah, I have a special hell in my heart for reformed theology.

    Anyway, a good explanation of karma, even if I don’t believe it operates for individuals on cycles longer than a single human life (groups, on the other hand… a nation can certainly store up trouble for itself through its actions). Its intuitive how it operates — if you contribute to making the world around you a little bit more like hell, the world around you will of course be a little bit more like hell.

  160. JMG,
    I appreciate you covering this topic as karma and reincarnation from a Christian esoteric perspective is something I’ve been thinking about since encountering Valentin Tomberg’s writings. Tomberg was a Christian occultist who continued to believe in reincarnation after he converted to Catholicism and he posited in his writings on the Lazarus miracle that reincarnation is a way that souls help “carry the cross” of Christ from incarnation to incarnation, and that reincarnation (along with sainthood) is a stage in the formation of the resurrection body.

    He wrote in Meditations on the Tarot that one sound reason for the Church teaching against reincarnation is that people, particularly in the West, could learn through occult practices to form an anti-resurrection body, basically a body that resists death and attempts to avoid a confrontation with eternity. We see this impulse at work within transhumanism, which ties into what you were saying about the protective measures undergirding Protestantism.

  161. @Martin Back, #96. Father Mychal Judge frequently handed a dollar or two to homeless people. When someone would question this, suggesting they will just spend it on booze or drugs, Father Judge would say “It doesn’t matter what he does with the money; it matters what you do with it.”

    Regarding some of the questions on literal interpretation of the Bible, a friend of mine likes to say that the Bible would be a perfect document if it began with “Let me put this in terms you can understand.”

  162. @Dot,

    If I may offer some of my thoughts on your questions, as I’ve dealt with similar concerns in the past. Here’s what I’ve come to understand, at least:

    It might help to consider that, in some sense, not everything that happens to you *is* karma, although karma unfolds from (and, again in some sense, makes good use of) everything that you do, including in reaction. Some people still act out of sheer human cussedness, as our host likes to say from time to time, and “stuff happens”, too, and some of that is (at least I think) simply the mess of living in this particular time and space.

    Thinking about it further, it may be that much of that random chaotic “awful” can be said to be arising from the collective karma (which is polluted), though I expect some of it is also the actions of certain actors with personally polluted karma. That implies that in at least some cases, you didn’t “earn” or deserve that crap, but you’ve got a lesson there (as our host was also saying) to grow from. Granted, some of those lessons might be harsh, and you might not see the connection to their source, and that source may not necessarily be *your* personal karma, but on the whole, it’s all connected, yet not directly causal (it’s not tit-for-tat, as JMG keeps repeating). We are on this spaceship together, and I do think that even innocents (in at least the situational sense) do suffer from time to time down here.

    I can’t go into the bigger picture of “why is [unfair] suffering permitted/necessary” – you’d need to take a deep dive through Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine or Lévi to get a sense of one way to interpret the balancing role that it and the rest of evil provide to the sustenance of the universe – but it *does* exist and it *does* seem necessary or at least useful to learn and grow from (both when we inadvertently cause it and when we experience it), and from our limited perspective finding a way to accept that and use it to grow is a far more fruitful approach than to go around wishing it weren’t so.

    Lastly, to your question regarding the experiences of people who have no clue why they’re experiencing what they are – I think to some degree and in some cases that may be necessary to cause them to start asking questions about why that’s happening and to try to understand it. In fact, that would be a very good example of karma doing its job of awakening someone to the nature of cause and effect and their role in that, which is directly a part of waking up and taking individual steps to separate from the group mind. It may be another role of suffering – I believe our host once said that “suffering is the pointy end of the law of limitations” (or necessity) – in other words, sometimes it’s the only thing we’re sufficiently motivated by to get off our duff and do the work.

    — V.O.G

  163. Adam and Eve “I wasn’t there and neither were you” might not actually be true, given the reincarnation theme – any one of us might’ve been Adam/Eve/Serpent/Tree… just sayin’ 😉

    Love the timing of this post as I just hit Lesson 10 in the Occult Philosophy Workbook and that of course has me thinking about the higher planes, including the causal, which seems pretty tied with karma as “actions as causes of reactions.”

    I can see that the Cosmos/Divine is the mother of all causes, having conceived (of) differentiation. Everything else is the karmic reaction spun out of that one action – a notion that kind of disabuses one of the equation karma=fault (or sin, or something generally negative). All it took (or so suggests my theory today) is Divine awareness of Itself and Its-Other to create all differentiation/variation/possibility – in the blink of a cosmic eye, which feels to us like a Universe’s almost-eternity. Kind of: “everything that exists is cosmic-stuff made manifest at the moment of manifestation” and just as momentarily brought back by the Divine’s awareness of its unity.


    And maybe, as each Divine Spark (the manifestations of Divinity off doing their myriad dances) in the cosmic imagination runs through all its options (so slowly, yet so instantaneously in Cosmic time(lessness)), the lessons we learn lead us to remember that we can choose to return, by:

    gathering our own (karmic) steam for the return journey by turning every faculty toward the source, the higher planes: doing good works and cleaning up our messes on the physical plane; nourishing ourselves and others on the etheric and leaving the energy better than we found it; imagining (and cultivating our imaginations with) sacred themes – even if we think we’re pulling them out of our ragged hats, they help us build something good; focusing our mental energies on that building rather than on tearing down and blocking what we don’t like…

    Just some ramblings, but I have to say I certainly *feel* something much more …true… when I consider that last paragraph’s options compared to the way our society suggests one ought to live a life.

  164. It reminds me of a story here from my colleague who once stayed for a time at Sai Baba’s Ashram in India when he was still alive.

    He told me of two hippies who thought they would do something good when they donated stuff to poor people India in person. They were traumatized when the people actually killed each other fighting over these items.

    He himself went to some town to give a care package to homeless children living there. He said when they did not hand over everything immedeately, he saw deep seated hatred in the eyes of the children. The other people there weren’t all too happy either, and there was no gratefulness received.

    Such stories I heard often and read, including those of anthropologists handing iron tools to hunter gatherer tribes, whom then also as a consequence fought each other over the tools.

    As to Sai Baba he said, he was an ambiguous figure; he believes he was indeed a man from a special sending, but still human, and far from infallible. He sat facing him directly once, and as they told him, his kundalini energy shot up his spine.

    In the Ashram he said, the main line was to “always help”, yet handing out stuff to begging children was frowned upon; also the children often sold the foodstuffs he gave them to buy something else.

    This as to the ambiguity of wanting to helping without thinking things through.

    I think good deeds arise out of spontaneous everday incidences, where decency in the public sphere, a helping hand, giving time to those in need more than money plays a role.

    Also I currently struggle with somewhat left alone, yet reckless and mentally deranged people who aggresively seek my company.

    Since I am anything but flawless, I have a higher tolerance for other people’s flaws. Yet I have to descover over and over again, that some people seem to simply deserve that is coming to them, and spending time with them only gives myself misery.

    A sad experience.

  165. Mr. Greer,

    What struck me was the relationship of how alcoholism is dealt with through the 12 Steps to your article’s thesis.

    One particular line of your reasoning had several in sequence. If I may directly quote, adding the relevant headers:

    “…I’ve already covered the basics. “

    Step 10:
    “You adjust your character by watching your thoughts and feelings, and changing them as needed. Every time you catch yourself following some habitual train of thought that leads in negative directions, if you stop thinking those things, and direct your mind to something else, you’re changing the momentum of your character. “

    Step 11:
    “Every time you go out of your way to think positive thoughts—yes, this is among the benefits of meditation and prayer—you have a similar effect. Each of these actions is a very small push, but in metaphysics as in physics, little pushes add up.”

    Step 12:
    “You adjust your circumstances by doing generous, helpful actions in the world.  Find a charity you can wholeheartedly support, one from which you get no personal benefits, and support it to the best of your ability.  In your dealings with other people, make a point of being a little more patient, a little more forgiving, a little more thoughtful than you’ve been in the past. Find other ways to make the world around you a little less miserable for people and other living things.”

    The Promises

    “Don’t expect instant benefits—you won’t get them, because the momentum of your past karma still has to be dealt with.  Over time, however, if you keep at it, your circumstances will shift.”

  166. @164 MJ, I agree re Tomberg. Tomberg mentions making friends with the elements, and seems to have been a henotheist or at least made room for such. Although he was very Catholic and anthroposophical, his esotericism could be a bridge for Christians and classical pagans to continue the great conversation. Which is what matters most. All will be well if that continues.

  167. Thank you for another fascinating and thought provoking post. Coincidentally I was already thinking of karma this week after seeing a local performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

    It was portrayed in a modern setting with Caesar looking striking in a white suit and hat, and Brutus’s clan all black looking like Antifa. After the performance the audience could ask questions, and one questioner asked who the actors thought the characters represent in our times. Thankfully Caesar’s actor responded that that was up to the audience to decide. It seemed the audience wanted Caesar to be Trump, getting what he deserved.

    But I thought the play wasn’t about Caesar at all, but about Brutus. Brutus agreed to kill Caesar and is then tormented by the ghost of Caesar and his conscience until it leads to a battle where he ultimately dies. From my perspective this play was all about karma and the repercussions of taking such a violent action in the first place.

    I see definite parallels to today where we are focused on people that we perceive to be evil/bad, but not as much on our own actions and if they are in fact beneficial for ourselves and others.

  168. It’s also possible that this whole “material” world is an illusion. Other terms for it could include a matrix or a sandbox. From my very limited understanding, my guess is that this existence is a testing ground. I have no idea how Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or any of those men or women (we cannot forget the women who stood right by and enabled the aforementioned dictators) will be dealt with. My guess is that their consequences could be meted out very slowly: the gods have all the time in the world. Maybe they are born average people who become swept up in similar Mass Formation Psychosis movements much like the ones they created and suffer the consequences. Maybe they are wiped and forced to devolve to become ants or spiders, which is what I believe the parable of Athena and Arachne is about. Arachne got too full of herself so Athena was like “fine, you can spend millions of years in evolution to become human again”. Or maybe they become some unfortunate kid somewhere who lives on the side of a garbage dump as a leper. I am not a god. I don’t know and I could be wrong about all of it. The important part is for me as a human to look at my own idiocy and wrongdoings and say “I am not proud of what I did, but I cannot change it. That’s why I don’t do that anymore.”

  169. Gman, haven’t you answered your own question? If you do something for material benefit, you get the material benefit. If you do something for karmic benefit, you get the karmic benefit. Take your pick!

    Paradoctor, yes, that’s a common mistake. Of course the question anyone needs to ask when they encounter someone who needs help isn’t “What was their karma like, that they ended up like this?” It’s “What will my karma be like, depending on my choice of action or inaction?” As for overpopulation, more or less, but there’s no hard line between animal and human souls; all souls of our general type, in this solar system, in this cycle of time, pass through animal incarnations before they get to the human stage, and then go beyond it. A lot of animal souls are hitting their first human lives in a hurry — and a lot of souls currently in human bodies will likely be tumbling back to the animal level for a while. The other factor is that most souls in human bodies right now are spending very little time between lives — under more usual conditions, you’re out of incarnation much longer than you are in it, but these days that’s usually the other way around.

    Abraham, of course — but then the universe isn’t a simple place, and conscience is only one of many factors in play in the unfolding of human history.

    Peter, interesting. Ex hypothesi, all neurological conditions are modes of experiences that at least some human souls need to have, and some if not all have karmic dimensions; I’m very clear on why I have the messed-up nervous system I do, for example.

    Chris, my guess is that the fall will be very great indeed.

    Jon, yes, that would work very well.

    Steve, it really is odd. I sometimes wonder if the widespread belief in classical times that the world was moving into a less and less spiritual state combined with an understanding of reincarnation to produce a stark terror of being reborn, and people turned to Christianity because it seemed to offer them a way out of a darkening world.

    Boy, it’s certainly worth meditation!

    Clay, the limit on good karma is that eventually it brings you into contact with the kind of spiritual influences that lead you straight on up out of incarnation. That’s what happens with saints, for example.

    Marsh, nah, you’ve misunderstood. If it was tit-for-tat, Hitler would have to go through that sort of thing millions of times! No, the point is that bureaucratic mass murder typically happens when the people responsible have lost track of the concrete reality of what they’re inflicting on other people, and so they get to experience it themselves, repeatedly, to produce the reaction of conscience that will keep them from making that same mistake. As for your puppy metaphor, here again, you’re forgetting both the role of conscience and the role of reincarnation. The puppy’s getting whacked with a rolled-up newspaper, but it’s still around — and the memory of past pain will make it think again before repeating the same mistake.

    Alice, oh, granted. One of the things that makes Christianity so complex is that it tried in its early days to become all things to all people, and the internal contradictions it built up in those days are at once the source of its richness as a tradition and the source of its incoherence. That’s what you can expect from a faith born in the Piscean era, whose symbol is two fishes swimming in opposite directions!

    MJ, that’s a good point, and of course Tomberg is right; the legends of vampirism have to do with exactly that sort of anti-resurrection body, which prolongs its own existence by stealing life force from others.

    TemporaryReality, funny. Suppose that two out of the seven billion incarnate souls on earth right now are the souls of Adam and Eve, what’s the chance that they’re Ecosophia readers? Your “rambling” is a fine and interesting little meditation, btw.

    Curt, Americans in particular tend to make that kind of mistake over and over again. We’re clueless that way.

    Cmdr, no surprises there; I don’t do the twelve-step thing but I know a lot of people who’ve benefited substantially from it, so clearly there’s some deep truth there.

    Tamar, a lot of Shakespeare’s tragedies make fine studies of karma on the hoof. He was good at that.

  170. JMG,

    With respect “when the people responsible have lost track of the concrete reality of what they’re inflicting on other people, and so they get to experience it themselves, repeatedly, to produce the reaction of conscience that will keep them from making that same mistake” still seems tit-for-tat to me.

    “As for your puppy metaphor” – (sorry to be picky, but the metaphor was originally yours) – “the puppy’s getting whacked with a rolled-up newspaper, but it’s still around — and the memory of past pain will make it think again before repeating the same mistake.” Well, first off, I have trained many, many puppies over the years – never have I resorted to whacking them with a newspaper, or anything else for that matter – but I think my point stands. A Hitler dying repeatedly before school-age is like a dead 12-week old pup. Neither is around long enough, surely, to learn their lessons, much less appreciate the “ role of conscience and the role of reincarnation.”

    Sorry; I really just don’t get it.

  171. Hello dear JMG! I have a question, even if it’s not in line with this week’s post, I’d appreciate it if you could answer it; As a Muslim, I try to remain calm, why the desecration of the Qur’an and the Holy Books may have occurred in Sweden… Are these events an effect of the Decline of the West on the human mind; With the occupation of Caesar’s city by the Goths, the Roman civil religion ended, or is it like that? I am eagerly awaiting your reply.

  172. I just stumbled over an interesting user comment written on

    The commenter examines the original posts subject to explain why he chose to not be a physician anymore. He closes with the sentence “It’s not that he “likes” doing these things, it’s that none of it is in the simple reflex flow chart where his mind should be: obey protocol, seek status.”

    I find this comment very insightful and also very fitting for this weeks topic. Described is a way to unintentionally and automatically amass both individual and collective karma. Imagine the physician the original post is about being reborn but having forgotten everything of this life. His character might still be much the same but now he is born into possibly negative circumstances that his previous incarnation took part in creating. At some point in a future life the burden of pain might have become so large that he finally wakes up and sees. And then it will be no longer be possible for him to follow the path he was on and the struggle begins, since the society he has put himself into due to his habitual reactions will not necessarily appreciate or even support his new aspirations.


  173. Okay, so karmically, correlation is not causation. If you do a good deed and something bad happens to you, you are not being punished for doing a good deed, you are working off some unrelated negative karma you may have accumulated, or possibly taking one for the team in working off some negative communal karma. Just do the best you can and don’t try to figure out the Inscrutable One.

  174. Urgh. Arguing on Twitter about whether or not fictional characters can be “redeemed”. In this case, Homelander and Omni-Man, villains from superhero shows. Apparently you’re an awful person if you think that redemption is possible even for those who have done awful things.

    It occured to me, reading the argument, that the character/circumstances distinction you mention here is the key thing. Some people (*cough* the writers of OUAT) appear to think redemption means the consequences of your past actions no longer affect you. I’d say however that it’s more about character. Your redemption is a moral change internally; you still have to live and deal with the mess you’ve made. And in the case of “The Son of Sam”, that means refusing release from prison because you know that you deserve to die there. Arguably, if you’re not willing to face what you’ve done, you aren’t yet redeemed.

  175. This reminds me of a perception I had of my broader self recently. I saw my incarnate self as a center of whirling movement (the forms built into my mind by imbibing Cos Doc), and I saw how my current upward arc had the great force higher intelligence behind it. I saw myself as a nexus of a system much smarter than me that was working for my benefit, manifesting in my life as synchronicity.

    I perceived that a large piece of this energetic system was the collection of karma created from 5 years of consistent practice in this incarnation (I cannot speak for the rest of my karma).

    It’s like riding through the multiverse on a chariot of my good karma. Pretty nice!

    (Of course, things aren’t all rosy, but all in all pretty good these times. Plus, bad karma processed makes great propulsion as it goes out the back side!).

  176. Do you have to be like a saint or a sage to reach the end of the cycle of incarnation? And do you have to be known as such, like saints usually are I think? Is there an option for not quite saint or sage-like hermits who exit the stage very quietly? Sagehood and sainthood just seem so unattainable, and too ‘public’ for my current personality’s liking anyway. But maybe I’m thinking in stereotypes. If there were very quiet ones it would make sense that you don’t hear about them I suppose.

  177. Whenever I see particularly nasty public personalities, sorry to say same of them are from the US, I remind myself that Jesus loves them. Hate must not be allowed to prevail.

  178. JMG # 149 “the young Hitler talked for hours about how he would lead armies and rule a nation. He came into incarnation knowing what he was going to do.” Interesting. To learn more about history I tried to read Hitler’s book. Quite a struggle to get through it! I gave up at his ranting about getting into politics. I don’t remember him being fascinated by politics before his military service. But my reading was a few years ago and it was like holding something smelly with tongs. I didn’t get every detail!

    ExecutedByGandhi # 152 That’s a clear answer to exactly what I meant to ask. Thanks!

    Daniiel Abramov # 154 “the person who you know is right for you” Isn’t that just a secularized, pop-mystical wording of the Romantic/Courtly ideal of True Love? Generations of Disney movies where getting the right couple to the wedding chapel is all that matters? Compared to Fiddler on the Roof, where “Do you love me?” is something a spouse might have never even thought about before.

    Peter Wilson # 155 “Hinduism for instance, simply calls ADHD old souls.” I’ve never seen that before. Reincarnation would help explain ADHD and OCD: A life full of too many things, a life full of too much of one thing. Rinse and repeat?

    Steve T # 158 “the absence of jealousy in the divine” How do you get from “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5) to an absence of divine jealousy?

    Clay Denis # 161 “how much good karma any one soul could collect” My understanding of Buddhist Dependent Origination is some are reborn, from good-karma surplus, as gods. They are usually complacent with their heavenly delights and powers. They waste those lives, and eventually sink back down.

    MJ # 164 “We see this impulse at work within transhumanism.”
    “If I die I’m going to hell, therefore… I’ll be sure to not die!”

    Phil # 165 “In the beginning, metaphorically the heaven and the earth were created. In the beginning, to train the mind but not to inform it, was, so to speak, the Word…”
    And then there’s the radical view like Neville Goddard’s: “That you may receive the full benefit of these instructions, let me state now that the Bible has no reference at all to any persons who ever existed or to any event that ever occurred upon earth.
    The ancient story tellers were not writing history but an allegorical picture lesson of certain basic principles which they clothed in the garb of history, and they adapted these stories to the limited capacity of a most uncritical and credulous people.
    Throughout the centuries we have mistakenly taken personifications for persons, allegory for history, the vehicle that conveyed the instruction for the instruction, and the gross first sense for the ultimate sense intended.”

    Viridian Obstreperous Gopher # 166 Usually I’ll only listen to polite gophers, but I agree this makes sense: “that source may not necessarily be *your* personal karma, but on the whole, it’s all connected, yet not directly causal (it’s not tit-for-tat, as JMG keeps repeating).” I know very little about my mother’s family and next to nothing about my father’s. I believe some of what played out was unaware multi generational stuff.

    TemporaryReality # 167 “to create all differentiation/variation/possibility – in the blink of a cosmic eye” Neville Goddard and the “channeled” Bashar are two of those who say creation is already complete. Now, they tell us, we are simply bits of consciousness exploring the infinite states that already eternally exist.

    Curt # 168 I’m torn between wanting to visit India some day, yet knowing these kinds of experiences would be shocking, unsettling, disturbing, heartbreaking, unanswerable.

    Cmdr. Nav # 169 The 10 Sephirot, the 12 steps, the 22 paths, and the 12 traditions… Fascinating combination!

    Tamar # 171 “But I thought the play wasn’t about Caesar at all, but about Brutus.” I agree! Caeser was ready to conquer and rule anywhere, anytime! Brutus is the one who wanted to take the tide of affairs at its flood. Brutus wanted himself, not his stars, to be responsible for his own fate!

    JMG # 173 “it tried in its early days to become all things to all people”
    “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake…” – 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
    (From similar passages, I think he meant not just adult males, but all people.)

    I was raised in a cult my parents joined before they had me. It had a weird interpretation of the Bible. The Bible was required reading. But only the particular quotes required each week, which the cult then explained away!
    The family then went to mainstream Protestant churches. With no hint from my parents that perhaps the cult had been a mistake. Not that my parents ever made ANY mistakes! There was also no mention to anyone of our former church! We now got sermons on standard theology.
    I went to a Christian college with chapel services. Had a great class in the history of the Bible.
    Became a lifelong spiritual seeker. Sometimes in a mainstream church, but not fully convinced about standard doctrine. Sometimes in other religious studies on my own.
    One reason I’m here is to help sort through what I actually want to believe now! I ponder if JMG’s ordination program might be part of my future.
    Anyway, I’m pretty familiar with what the text of the Bible says. It still surprises me as an adult, when I encounter an educated person who says they don’t know much about it.

  179. Darkest Yorkshire [#113]
    When my brothers played pee-wee (American) football, if a boy was above a certain weight for his age, he played with the boys one or even two years older.

  180. Within Buddhism, there is debate about whether or not one has to work out every last scrap of karma. Some say that yes, every last quark of karma has to be worked out. I think the Theravada schools (Thailand, Burma) see it this way. At least some of the Vajrayana (Tibetan) schools hold that if you reduce your karma to a small enough amount and get enlightened, then what is left goes poof with your ego.

    [Here, ego does not mean your individuated identity. It means identifying as only that individuated identity to the exclusion of one’s existence as pure awareness.
    “Identifying” here is much too weak but I don’t know a better word for this. It is not “identifying” the way we use the term currently. It is something that runs extremely deep and changes only with great difficulty.]

  181. DJ (#64)
    Because of the sense that intentional action is karmic, in Tibet the slaughter of animals was entrusted to Nepalis, I believe Muslim ones, since they would not incur as much karma.
    The Dalai Lama also says that it is better to eat beef than chicken because one death feeds so many.
    Vegetarianism was not an option in Tibet because of the altitude and the climate.
    On the other hand, Michael Pollan, based on his experience working in slaughter houses claimed that chickens did not suffer emotionally, that they never knew what was coming, but pigs knew what was coming and suffered emotionally very much.
    My (European) Tibetan Buddhist lama said to never eat meat when angry, that the spirit of the animal may come back and witness that. To always eat meat with gratitude.

  182. @EcosophyEnjoyer #145,

    Regarding the karmic circumstances of billionaires, my hypothesis is that in general, people living in extraordinary circumstances, especially when they’re born into them as many (though not all) of our billionaires were, are those in need of extraordinary lessons. As in, “stay after class for special tutoring.” One could imagine such lessons being either advanced or remedial, but in the case of billionaires who live for greed and excess and leave ruined economies and dysfunctional feuding heirs behind, my money’s on the latter.

    Let’s suppose, for instance, that one of the qualities needed to be ready to move on in higher worlds is a thorough understanding of happiness. (Makes sense, right? Otherwise you have a parallel situation to the cliché of a marriage counselor who’s on his third divorce.) So there’s a being who, after many lives through ordinary (occasionally) rich and (usually) poor like the rest of us, hasn’t grasped happiness and blames their failure to do so on whatever material privation occurred in life. No home in one life, an insufficiently luxurious private yacht in another. “Okay, let’s try a life where there will literally be nothing in the world you can’t afford.”

    (Anyone thinking, “nah, that probably wouldn’t work,” you’re probably right; such narratives can only be a cartoon-like distorted simplification of how karma really operates. But I hope there’s value in thinking in terms of things to be learned outside the good-bad reward-punishment box. If the only important thing to learn were “be nice,” wouldn’t a few lives as domestic dogs be sufficient?)

    While any specific extraordinary circumstance must be rare (by definition), having some extraordinary circumstance in one’s life is pretty common if not universal. We’re all staying after class, but for different remedial lessons. I think it can be valuable to consider what ones less-typical circumstances might imply about what ones karmic needs might be, but it’s also important to keep in mind whatever those are, they’re always only a small part of the curriculum. Billionaires still have to decide whether or not to cheat on their spouses, how much to eat and how much to exercise, whether to “betray” their friends or help cover for their crimes, and so forth, just like most of us. And tellingly, they rarely distinguish themselves in those ways.

  183. Thank you so much for this essay, JMG. It helped me see how foggy I was on the difference between individual and group karma.

    For much of my life I’ve wanted to “belong”. Perhaps this old, vague, but persistent desire of mine is at least partially the result of not quite wanting to be responsible for myself. As I age, and continue methodically with my spiritual practices, this old anxiety-producing desire seems to not dissipate, exactly, but fold back in on itself giving me a bit more strength and resilience. And a whiff of independence.

    Your point that allegiance to the group mind of whatever shiny something that attracts us is essentially an abdication of personal responsibility is a revelation to me.

    I think about your article from years ago, “Hagbard’s Feast”, if I remember right. That was quite a tale, and a fine caution to refrain from the buffet itself if you want to avoid the buffet of consequences that inevitably follow.

    Thanks as always,

  184. @Alice: re: Eastern vs. Western Christianity.

    ” if you contribute to making the world around you a little bit more like hell, the world around you will of course be a little bit more like hell.”

    In Orthodoxy, at the beginning of lent, we have a special service called Forgiveness Vespers. We all line up in the aisles so that each person in the church must in the course of the service, stand face to face with every other person, ask them, personally and individually, for forgiveness, and and receive it.

    There’s a fun bit of theology tucked in there– you have to ask forgiveness from the person, *even if you’ve never met them before* and couldn’t possibly have done them any wrong, personally. Why? Because every sin, every failure, every turning away from the light, however small, however private, even if it only happened in your own head, is like pollution. It pollutes the spiritual world that we all have to live in together. So even if I’ve never met you, my dumb failures make the world that much more difficult for you to live in. So we all need to ask forgiveness. From everybody.

    Fortunately, it works in reverse, too 🙂

    It’s not really analogous to karma. But it’s interesting to contemplate the similarities and dissimilarities.

  185. I wonder if karma or the rules around reincarnation would allow for someone to be reincarnated multiple times more or less simultaneously. For example, someone named ‘Joe’ is born, lives his life and then dies, let’s say in 2025. And then a whole gang of people are born within a tight time frame ie between 2025 and 2026, all of them reincarnations of ‘Joe’, all of the reincarnations of ‘Joe’ living their lives contemporaneously.

    What would be the point? What if ‘Joe’ is a mob enforcer and departs his life (whether by natural causes or otherwise) with a truckload of bad karma? And karma gags and then decides on a karmic cleanup that’s decades instead of centuries in duration.

  186. Mr Greer,
    You have given me much to think about with your blanket dismissal of modern science. I do hope one day you explain where science went wrong. You mention Newton in a positive manner in this essay, so we know it’s after him. But you’ve declared Einstein and all those who have ‘proven’ his theories about time and space to be wrong. That’s a mighty tall accusation to make without evidence, and highly unlike you.

  187. @JMG – after having spent decades and decades of trying to do things by my own strength – feeling impelled to do so – and not being up to it no matter how hard I tried – I came to the same conclusion you mentioned in #143. That I was given this sort of body as a corrective to counting on my own strength, and probably, being intolerant of weakness in others. That was a great relief.

  188. EcosophiaEnjoyer #145: “I think about the billionaire robber-barons who are by and large materialistic sociopaths who hold much of the responsibility for the destruction of our planet. Were they super good people in a past life? Is that why they have all their money?”

    Extreme wealth can be a curse as well as a blessing, so I don’t see it as an indication of good karma. In the Catholic tradition, money isn’t necessarily a sign of God’s favor: Saint Francis is one of many saints who gave away all his wealth and chose to live in poverty. (Of course, the Vatican has a lot of money, but that’s another issue.) I’ve always liked this quotation (attributed to Dorothy Parker): “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people He gave it to.”

  189. Christopher–

    There are a number of ways to do this.

    1. Aristotle rejects the possibility of jealousy in the divine at the beginning of the Metaphysics. Plato tells us in the Timaeus that God created the world because he was good, and because he was good there was nothing of jealousy in him.

    How, therefore, can we understand Moses’s claim that the LORD is a jealous God?

    The answer is simple. He follows this with “Thou shalt have no gods before me.” As God holds the rank of first in the whole series of the divine, it is impossible that anything can be placed before him. Therefore, he is allegorically described as “jealous.” But we are not to understand actual jealousy by this, only that the First God is unique and not like the succeeding divine beings.

    This might then be followed by an analysis of the ways in which the Greek word used by Plato and Aristotle (pthonos) is different from whatever Hebrew word was used in the Torah.

    2. The Creator gives freely of himself, and there is no jealousy in him. But the God of Israel is not the Creator God of Genesis 1. The latter is identical with the Demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus, but the former is one of the subordinate deities of Timaeus 41A-D and Deuteronomy 32:8. The Jewish people were especially appointed to Yahweh, and that is why they are enjoined to place no gods before him. (The relationship of Christ to Yahweh can then be worked out in detail.)

    3. The Sethian Gnostic solution. “He proclaimed ‘I alone am God, and there is nothing else like me.’ But he heard a voice saying, ‘Thou art mistaken, Saclas.'”

    Of course, another solution is simply to prefer Plato to Moses.

  190. Marsh, indeed you don’t. You might consider reflecting on the comments I’ve already made, as most of what you’ve said here was already addressed there.

    Kurtyigit, it’s one of the things that happens reliably toward the end of every civilization’s age of reason. As rationalism falters and breaks down under the weight of its own failures, some rationalists get furiously angry and lash out at anything sacred within reach. It doesn’t delay the end of the age of reason, though.

    Nachtgurke, thanks for this. Yes, that works.

    Martin, nicely summarized.

    Alice, it makes perfect sense, in a bleak sort of way, What Jung called projecting the shadow — blaming other people for one’s own flaws — is pervasive in today’s society. If these villains can be redeemed, that means the shadow will come home to roost, and that’s something a lot of people can’t stand thinking about just now.

    Jake, a fine visual metaphor!

    Dot, you certainly don’t have to be known as one. Many saints, sages, and adepts are very quiet people who pursue their spiritual work, and quite a few of them are busy dealing with the last of their bad karma and so they have problems of their own to face.

    Elodie, I’m very glad to hear this. That attitude’s an important one.

    Christopher, it’s not pleasant reading, no. I find it more helpful to read books by those who knew him, or the better grade of biographer or historian. As for the Bible, I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert, but I’ve read it cover to cover a few times.

    OtterGirl, is this the post that you had in mind?

    Smith, all I know for certain is that all the lives I remember were lived sequentially, with periods of time out of incarnation between them. That’s apparently standard.

    Ken, it’s not a blanket dismissal of science. It’s a blanket dismissal of the arrogant belief that science is something other than a creative art. I think of it as being like architecture: necessary, useful, and beautiful, but always and inevitably a human cultural product, not the absolute truth about the cosmos its more snotnosed publicists sometimes tend to claim. It didn’t “go wrong” — it simply had claims piled onto it that no human creation can ever sustain, and it had that happen from the beginning of the scientific revolution.

    Patricia M, yes, I can imagine so!

  191. From Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Curse of Chalion,” the viewpoint character muses “I always thought the God-touched would (actual words paraphrased from memory here) make a big splash in the world. Instead (actual quote here) they slip quietly through the world like fish through water.”

  192. I asked my yoga teacher about burning through good karma and trying to turn that around, and he said that doing good things for other people that don’t benefit me is still like trying to buy my way into pleasure and misses the whole point. He recommended doing daily tasks while practicing being fully present, with the same intention that we put into the asanas. Dish washing yoga. With more practice it’s supposed to get easier, and the point is to eventually develop the consistent awareness of what we really are so that we can move on sooner than later. Art apparently can be a great way to do that as well.

  193. “OtterGirl, is this the post that you had in mind?” (Night Thoughts in Hagsgate)

    Thanks JMG! Yes, I think it is. Wow. 2012, and Bill Pulliam in the comments.

    I’ll enjoy re-reading this. Perhaps others will enjoy reading it for the first time…


  194. It’s taken me a few days of thinking to begin to put my thoughts in order to comment on the post itself. I accept the character side of karma completely — if you accept reincarnation, then it’s pretty obviously how things work.

    However, I have some nagging doubts about the consequence side. In no particular order:

    1. It’s not obvious to me how the notion of “cumulative sum of karma” makes sense absent objective definitions of good and bad.

    Since it’s not tit-for-tat it’s presumably not a mere aggregation of all your deeds, but if there’s a measure that allows the deeds to be “bought off” at some rate (e.g. two thefts and a summer spent taking care of your sick grandfather in your past life resulting in a non-fatal car accident in this life — probably a nonsensical example but I hope you get the idea), then isn’t that measure just objective morality?

    Furthermore, your own example of Hitler in the comments dying over and over but not millions of times seems to imply that it’s not linearly cumulative.

    2. The idea has very low predictive power.

    On the character side, I can expect that I’ll be reborn with more-or-less (allowing for events between lives) the character I die with. On the consequence side, it seems to only predict that my actions will at some point be repaid in a general way — not tit-for-tat, not even in-kind, just generally my doing good things now will eventually result in better-than-the-counterfactual results, and vice versa for doing bad things.

    3. The idea seems to have low motivational power.

    Because of (2), the motivational power of the idea strikes me as limited. Indeed, the Dharmic religions — and especially Buddhism — seem to have felt the need to crank up the carrot and stick, threatening rebirths in hell or animal bodies for countless eons for anything less than stellar behavior in this one — killing a single bug can get you reborn as an animal, which can lead to a vicious cycle — while promising long-lasting heavens for especially good behavior, even though it’s hard to see how a human being could legitimately earn such a reward through the actions of a 70-to-100-year life.

    Indeed, in Jainism and Buddhism at least (I’m less clear on Hinduism), it’s tied to extremely austere (unreasonably so, IMO) systems of ethics, and so motivates following those. However, given your distancing of your exposition from objective morality, it can’t have this here.

    (I admit that this last point also points to some personal hangups I have from my background.)

    Finally, a question more than a doubt: what enforces the consequence side of karma? Is it enforced by spiritual beings or is it an impersonal process?

    Sorry for the long comment!

  195. JMG,

    How does karma relate to coincidences that are so common with magic and spiritual awareness?

  196. Thank you JMG, I will indeed look over your comments again to see how you have addressed most of what I asked. Perhaps it’s a language thing.

  197. @ Walt F – “Regarding the karmic circumstances of billionaires, my hypothesis is that in general, people living in extraordinary circumstances, especially when they’re born into them as many (though not all) of our billionaires were, are those in need of extraordinary lessons. As in, “stay after class for special tutoring.” One could imagine such lessons being either advanced or remedial, but in the case of billionaires who live for greed and excess and leave ruined economies and dysfunctional feuding heirs behind, my money’s on the latter.”

    Thank you for this lovely speculation! I can tell you that my own growing up (as a missionary’s daughter in Central America) positioned me *simultaneously* at two extremes of (comparative) wealth. In our neighbourhood, we were the ones with the soundly built, weatherproof house with real floors, who never lacked for food or clothes, who wore shoes daily, who enjoyed continued access to electricity and running water and telephone service, and where, to my friends on that street, each of these, or all of them, might be unaccustomed luxuries. Meanwhile I was schooled with the children of diplomats, wealthy businessmen, and even in one case, with the children of an infamous fugitive financier who had allegedly taken the funds and run, and my friends among these children lived in multiple houses, with swimming pools and servants, every imaginable fashionable new toy, device or clothing, holidayed frequently, and etc, none of which my family could afford. As a result, I found myself being a perennial outsider, and also very aware of how little material circumstances related to character. Still, I often found these discrepancies in circumstances both disconcerting and uncomfortable, but of the two, the discrepancy with those whose circumstances were more favoured than mine was a great deal easier to bear than the discrepancy with those whose circumstances were less favoured than mine.

    For sure, I reckon that to find myself born into a world where practically everyone is less favoured than I am would be to be handed an extremely uncomfortable lesson plan.

  198. Marsh #162, I’ve been thinking about your and Dot’s post, and this is my take on the problem: just as you “take one for the team” when dealing with collective karma, as someone else here put it, I think you take one for the team when you deal with karma put in motion by one of your former selves. You, as in the personality formed for this life, can logically only ever learn from consequences of actions you put into action yourself, if both action and consequence happen in the same life; but the self that endures and is the same through all incarnations, can learn from action -> consequences chains that span several lifetimes. So, the “team” is your soul, or your higher self and all its different “player avatars.”

  199. Just a disclaimer because it may not have been clear – I didn’t come up with the joke about Gotham City architecture. I saw it on TV Tropes, recognised its greatness, and had been looking for a way to reuse the structure. Which the three elements I substituted did perfectly. It’s a very potent layout for a joke if you can find the right words to fill it. 🙂

  200. Kind Sir,
    A big thank you for this post. I am probably not a very spiritual person
    The interest is there, but my knowledge and experience is rather limited.
    Two questions:
    1) It seems to me that there are humans alive today who experience life very different from me. Nachtgurke referred to an off-site post calling them meat robots. I am reluctant to deny some individuals their humanity, but the question is valid. Can there be humans alive who lack a soul, and how does that fit into the karma concept?
    2) I believe myself to be an independent thinker. Like just about everybody else. While I certainly do not follow the mainstream, I really have no way of knowing of I am not following some fringe groupthink. Or do I?
    Are there indicators can give me a hint?

  201. Hi John Michael,

    Ah! The little light bulb just went on. So, as a wild hunch, are that lot we were talking about, locked into a form of group think, where they might not necessarily be able to exercise their own wills? Thus they accrue a form of collective karma? And the pull and maybe even support (?) of the group think is a kind of self reinforcing feedback loop? You’ve given me much to ponder. Hmm. It’s a bit eerie really.

    Hi OtterGirl,

    Thanks for the memories. He was a feisty intellect, always fun, and sadly missed, but clearly, also remembered! 🙂



  202. Greetings all!
    JMG wrote: “without opening certain doors that needed to stay shut”
    Could you elaborate a bit more on the above. I find that very intriguing…

  203. Alice (@Cererean) says:
    #178 September 1, 2023 at 5:00 pm

    You said: “Some people (*cough* the writers of OUAT) appear to think redemption means the consequences of your past actions no longer affect you.”

    In the Jewish bible (Tanach), you can ask for forgiveness from those you have offended (in person and as often as needed, which is highly recommended) and from the Big Guy (Tetragrammaton, a.k.a. “God”), and you can turn a corner (repent) inwardly and resolve never to do whatever you are repenting of again, asking for forgiveness then as well. All well and good. But the cause-and-effect results remain the same. Arrested for murder, you will suffer the consequences in a well-run civil society. Steal and have it be revealed publicly, you suffer the consequences of it such as lack of trust, and so on. That’s just in this life.

    Regarding what someone just commented (“Boy”?), in my view it’s not about puppies or figuring out what happens to really bad villains as their karma plays out, because if you study the complexity of the situation, you’ll understand it’s beyond your capacity to understand. Just remembering that this stuff is not personal is a big help. Just remembering to try and keep a positive attitude no matter what is a big help.

    Remembering that one of the exhortations in the OT (Tanach) is “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Note the repetition of the word “justice.” It means we’re talking about big principles, not tit-for-tat. What, after all, is justice, and why should you as an individual pursue it? Ultimately, all socially accomplished things are the result of individual actions. I’m pretty clear on that. We’re talking eons here, vast periods of time, as effects of actions slosh back and forth across the worlds. FWIW, Judaism in some of its forms accepts the need for reincarnation (individuals who reincarnate being called “gilgulim” or “returners/those-who-circle”) to make sense of some of its teachings

    And there are plenty of instances in the NT that speak pretty directly about reincarnation even though your pastor or priest may try to paper over it: “who sinned, that he was born blind: the man or his parents?” and references to John the Baptist as the reincarnation of Elijah being but two. Strangeness doesn’t just begin in the 20th century! Or with classical Reformation theology.

    In Japanese Buddhism, the complex interrelatedness of things (remember, this also has to do with karma) is called “inen,” meaning “everything connected to everything else. When you consider that more than one plane of reality is involved, if your head isn’t spinning, you haven’t been paying attention!

  204. The scene in Life of Brian where the crowd chants, “Yes, we are all individuals!” is made even funnier by the fact that one person among them declares, “I’m not!” This ironically sets him apart as the sole individual in the crowd. It reminds me of Manly Hall’s concept of spiritual development as “The ways of the lonely ones.” In the introduction to his eponymous book, Hall states, “Every individual who comes into the world is a Lonely One – a stranger in a strange land.”

  205. I sometimes wonder if the fentanyl crisis isn’t Karma coming back from the opium dens of way back when. Not that there aren’t a couple million other things also going on

  206. Whew, all this discussion about paying off your karma and continued reincarnation. I can’t help having the following response.
    I’m with the Christian occultists JMG mentioned, as the old song says “Jesus paid it all” And I am gladly taking the gracious offer that I can know him and his Father and the Holy Spirit in this world and be with them after death. I am not coming back. My journey into holiness begins here and will be finished there. Another shameless beggar taking a pierced hand out. Jesus said “my yoke is easy and my burden light and you shall find rest for your souls”

  207. Perhaps a misinterpretation of Karma is behind the insane behavior of the elites in Washington and the Media. In terms of real deeds, the amount of bad Karma being chocked up by those in the mainstream media, the foreign policy establishment, the legal system and social media establishment ( just to name a few) is truly epic.
    Somewhere deep in their reptilian subconscious they know this and have come up with a feeble attempt to atone for it ( like J.D. Rockefeller tossing dimes to hobo’s). This feeble “dime tossing” is the lip service and effort they are putting in to raising up a few types of people they view as downtrodden, who also seem to be likely to vote democrat. That is why the strange push for the rights of LBGTQ+, Bipoc and others. They could really care less but are trying to save themselves from several lives of Karmic payback in a way that lets them keep their wealth, and power.
    I don’t think it will work and Victoria Nuland, Merrick Garland and Dean Baquet will have several lifetimes ahead of them as Oakland Gutter Punks, ( notice I didn’t say Calcutta street urchins, as by the time the miserable souls of these people are recycled it will be a much nicer place than the failed cities of the U.S.)

  208. @Clarke aka Gwydion (#207):

    Japanese inen (“everything connected to everything else”) reminds me of a favorite John Muir quote: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe” [from My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), p. 211].

  209. @Aurelian, way back at #31
    Warning: this is a long one.

    In relation to the idea of “conscious” individuals aware of their own will being a relatively recent historical development, as propounded by Jaynes et al, there is rather strong evidence against this theory, notably from ancient Sumer, say 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.
    Between the period 2,100-2,000 BC (known as the Ur III period) — so, over 4,000 years ago — there are more than 100,000 extant Sumerian tablets, an amazing motherlode. I don’t believe there is another historical period with anywhere close to this number of contemporaneous sources. I would not, however, fault the writers you mention for not being aware of these ancient sources, as many if not most of them were either unpublished, untranslated, or available only in specialist journals and collections held by a small number of libraries — which, in addition, would generally not let such tomes be taken out, so you would have to, first, go to the city these libraries are in, then convince them to let you into the stacks, then sit there all day taking notes. Today the majority of the Sumerian written corpus is on-line, though still, mainly, untranslated.

    But more significant than the information one can glean from the texts, which are after all still subject to interpretation, is the fact that one can not read (and, presumably, speak) Sumerian and refer to a human being WITHOUT categorizing that person as individual with agency or one who is “will-less”, that is, part of a collective or a slave.

    Instead of using grammatical gender to classify nouns, Sumerian instead divides them into two categories called, unfortunately (because, factually speaking, inaccurate), “animate” and “inanimate”. Like grammatical gender, whichever category a Sumerian noun falls into then affects other aspects of the grammar, e.g. which personal pronouns, plural endings, and verbal infixes must be used.

    The animate category includes only two types of nouns: deities and human beings. I am reminded of a Sumerian creation story, where the clay to make the bricks that will turn into the first humans is mixed with the ground-up body of a wayward god. That is, our dust does not have spirit breathed into it, as in Hebrew Scripture; rather, the divine spirit is distributed, in teeny pieces, throughout our whole body. So it makes sense that the Sumerians would understand humans as godlike, not in being immortal or able to perform miracles and such, but as partaking of divine essence, and thus lump them together.

    The inanimate category includes not only everything we would refer to as an “it”, whether material, notional, or otherwise abstract, but also includes animals and human beings! However, the humans who are so reified are either in a collective, e.g. the army, corvée labor gangs, or are slaves. Moreover, there are circumstances when an animal or a slave (but not a person in a collective) can be re-classified and shifted over into the animate category. For animals, it occurs in Aesopian-like fables, where the animal acts like a human. As for slaves, I have never detected a pattern. It seems to me it was up to the individual scribe writing a document whether to classify a slave as inanimate (the norm) or animate.

    What this demonstrates to me is the centrality of individual will to the Sumerian’s conception of humanity, so much so that it’s incorporated into their language. A person who can prefer, desire, think, and then make choices and decisions and act on them, as an individual, resembles in these things the gods who made us. Once a person loses these abilities, as when he or she gets absorbed into a collective or becomes enslaved, then he or she turns into a thing — grammatically, but I would also argue conceptually, as the criteria for the grammatical classification depend on the speaker’s conception of the referred-to person’s status as an actor with or without individual agency.

    Since the earliest Sumerian so far dated occurs between 3,400-3,300 BC, and since they must have spoken it for a while before then, I think one can date this emphasis on the difference between humans with and without will, without which one can’t even use the language, back to at least 6,000 years ago.


  210. Ironically, I’m on the Handbook lesson about dying and reincarnation – having let pain, weakness, late hours, and the rush to rid my apartment of excess clutter before an imminent move keep me from doing the meditations in the lessons. I’m wondering if Someone or Something saw to it these were synchronized.

    Back home, my small group of longstanding neopagan friends started a circle on Death and Dying, meeting separately, which was very enlightening, and a good preparation for the transition ahead. There was a major focus on advance directives etc, but also on how other cultures handled the process. Now I am very glad I joined them.

    It came to me in reading about (and praying for) those poor souls whose death took them by surprise and are afraid, especially those whose faiths had them in fear if Hell. It occurred to me that those whose faiths included Purgatory stood a much better chance of making an easier transition, since it has a lot in common with waking up to see all your mistakes and their consequences in cold daylight and resolving to do better next time. Any thoughts on that?

  211. We are in the eighth day of an internet outage here, so I’m limited to coffee house wifi. I’m feeling the effects of internet withdrawal. Your essay reminded me of a song my mother used to sing in her Methodist/Holiness days: “Trust and Obey.” I can’t remember the words. Anyway, I prefer Emily Dickinson’s take on the subject:

    Crumblings not an instant’s Act
    A fundamental pause
    Dilapidation’s processes
    Are organized Decays

    Tis first a Cobweb on the Soul
    A Cuticle of Dust
    A Borer in the Axis
    An Elemental Rust

    Ruin if formal – Devil’s work
    Consecutive and slow –
    Fail in an instant, no man did
    Slipping – is Crash’s law.

  212. @Ecosophian –

    Yes! “You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley, you’re got to walk it by yourself
    Ain’t nobody else can walk it for you. You’ve got to walk it by yourself.”

    And Leslie Fish’s delightful “Did you think the first leader, come preaching down the pike, can give you one big answer, as if we were all alike? Well, there’s no set salvation! You should have known all along, that Jesus, Marx, or your guru could be wrong – they may be wrong.

  213. Patricia M, good. Quite accurate, too, in most cases.

    Aloysius, and that’s also a path, of course.

    OtterGirl, you’re most welcome.

    Slithy, whether a teaching has low predictive and motivational power has nothing to do with whether it’s correct or not, you know. Consider ecology as an equivalent situation. It’s very difficult to predict how an ecosystem will respond to any given change; that low predictive power isn’t a sign of the inadequacy of scientific ecology, it’s a realization forced on researchers by the facts on the ground. In turn, that’s why so many ecologically based arguments in the political sphere end up falsifying the facts — activists usually end up trying to find a motivational power the realities of ecology won’t provide. As for your question, according to all I know about it, it’s as impersonal and automatic as gravity.

    Dennis, coincidences go on all around us all the time; magical or spiritual training makes us more aware of them, and teaches us how to use them. The details can express karmic factors but that really varies from case to case.

    DropBear, (1) I don’t believe in meat robots. I use the term occasionally to make fun of a particular philosophical school, the eliminative materialists, who insist that nobody actually has consciousness — but when I’m not making fun of them, I would argue that even the most mass-minded person in the world is still a person, still a conscious, ensouled being who has the potential to develop into a unique individual. (2) These days everyone thinks they’re individuals. The best litmus test I know is whether you can name at least three things you believe strongly that you can’t talk about in public, because nobody else you know believes them.

    Chris, exactly. Committe-style groupthink is the extreme form of mass-mindedness, and it generates its own collective karma. Every group that’s united by more than purely casual bonds has its own collective karma — families, businesses, churches, nations, and so on. That’s one of the reasons I encourage people to be very careful before joining magical schools and lodges — they also have groupminds and collective karma, and the effect of the raspberry jam principle makes their collective karma particularly sticky.

    Karim, I’ll consider a post on that at some point in the future. It’s a complex subject.

    Ecosophia, exactly.

    An2, it may be a little more direct than that. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Chinese are deliberately encouraging opioid addiction in the West as an act of revenge for the Opium Wars and their aftermath. The old cold men in Beijing have long memories and a 5000-year-old cultural tradition of holding grudges.

    Mous, fair enough. You follow your path, I’ll follow mine, and we can leave it to the gods — yours very much included — to sort things out in the longer run.

    Clay, hmm! Yeah, that makes sense.

    Mozhay (if I may), thank you for this! I found Jaynes’ hypothesis improbable but the evidence he brings up is intriguing, and deserves a better explanation than his. The Sumerian data helps strengthen that view. Can you recommend a good recent English-language book on Sumerian literature?

    Patricia M, I consider the teaching of Purgatory to be a praiseworthy attempt to insert common sense into the Christian teachings about the afterlife. 😉 Add reincarnation, and purgatory is right here, right now. You’re right, too, that belief in purgatory would make for an easier transition, since the bar for entrance into heaven is so very high and so many people recognized, with a little honest self-assessment, that they wouldn’t make it. Still, I imagine a lot of them were delighted once they blinked awake in the afterlife and found out they weren’t eternally damned.

    Phutatorius, Dickinson was certainly paying attention. Is your internet outage specific to you and your household, or is it something wider?

  214. #96 Martin Back

    Gave me a lengthy thought about your picking up litter & getting occasional injury in relation to karma question.

    First is the assumption that picking up trash is an intrinsic or karmic “good”. There may be deeper questions about why you believe this to be so….seeking order? Expressing dissatisfaction with others behavior? Demonstrating moral superiority? Or…?

    Perhaps this ties back to your 2nd question, about giving money to the destitute. If giving money might act as a codependent action which merely furthers the destitute to continue their ways, does cleaning up litter prevent litterers from seeing and experiencing the consequence of THEIR actions?

    As to the injuries you experience occasionally, two possible thoughts related to karma:

    1. It goes with the territory. Skateboarders fall, get scrapes and break bones — injuries are an expected part of the sport. Crocodile, dog, and cat rescuers get bitten. People trying to protect mugging victims sometimes get hurt. All part of the territory.

    2. If you know there is a risk and continue to do the same thing that gets you injured … maybe you’re seeking the injury to prove something to yourself.

    Just thinking aloud here.

  215. IIRC when karma was discussed one time (here or dreamwidth), was it not described as akin to adjusting the rudder of one’s ship?
    i.e sort of like: ‘if you don’t change direction you might end up where you’re heading’

    The post and the comments are fascinating, great stuff to chew on. It has made me wonder… how much I could possibly really understand karma viewed from this realm? An answer popped into mind along the lines of:
    “Don’t worry about it!”
    And that i should concentrate on intuiting how to navigate the circumstances life puts in front of me, and I might be better served, and better serve, if I focus on improving access to gut feelings and flashes of intuition rather than focussing on my karmic profit and loss account.

    But that threw-up a another thought; if I can choose to try and act in harmony with the cosmos/divine, that suggests for example, that someone could choose the complete opposite, so, if someone’s karmic track in space is consciously and consistently driven by general bastardry, is it one of those situations where the polarity is part of the show?
    The evilly evil players might actually be playing exactly the right part because sometimes we humans are so dumb, it takes a wack upside the head with a piece of 3×3 for us to wake up?

    Or, put another way, we are often not that bright so we get big flashcards like good and evil alongwith the slapstick pie in the face because anything more subtle would whistle by unnoticed…

    Can’t help but think this is something we won’t discover until the old mental body gets polished up and taken out for a test drive… maybe not even then.

  216. Mozhay @ 213, I second the request for link or citation of sources about recent discoveries and theories about Sumeria? Has it been definitively established that the institution of slavery even existed in Sumeria in any form?

  217. @ JMG #219, re Slithy Toves #198

    (A bit off topic, but forgive me) I wouldn’t be so sure that ecology has a low predictive power; in my (previous and professional) experience, forecasts of how ecosystems respond to change – notably human enacted change – are depressingly accurate!

  218. It is quite possible that a lot of atheists are so because of the same protective effects meant to avoid applying their minds to experimentation in the occult, where demons abound.

  219. About “meat robots” – I don’t share this view expressed in the comment I linked either. I think the commenter is referring to an – in his view – extreme form of “automatic reaction patterns”. Labeling another person as a meat robot does probably not do oneself a lot of good, I think. After all, we all have this “automatic reactions” in us, putting dehumanizing labels onto others might be one of them.

    I wonder – and one comment in this thread seems to suggest the same – if all that is needed is to become conscious of ones actions so that while we continue to create Karma (being part of the manifested universe, is it possible to not create Karma at all?) we do not get caught up in it anymore. And taking the thought further – if the results of previous stages of evolution (or incarnation) become implicit (“laws of nature”) in future stages, is the not-so-simple task we all are facing to make the implicit laws that govern us explicit again? Are the fruits of the involutionary arc, so to say, implicit laws that we need to make accessible to our consciousness again and sublimate them onto higher planes as we ascend on the evolutionary arc?


  220. Hi Chris (#205),

    The comments have always been part of the delight of JMG’s blogs. As a valued regular, no doubt you remember Bill’s phantom Vikings, who guarded his property. Those were among my favorite stories. I must say, though, your trials and tribulations with wombats, and those people who will not be dissuaded from fetishizing solar panels and industrial growth forever, are pretty amazing as well.


  221. @OtterGirl,

    I, too, am an oldtimer here (in fact, there is a comment or two from one ‘sgage’ in that thread :-), and yes, the comments/commenters here are to be valued. Bill P., Chris (or should I say Cherokee Organics 🙂 and so many others. Robert M. is a deep and sage voice, and I have learned much from him. And many more. May it long continue!

    In addition to your thoughtful, thought provoking essays… thanks for the use of hall, JMG!

  222. @Scotlyn, that’s a really interesting background that I can see leading to many nuanced insights. I’d guess, yours was an “advanced studies” situation, with the usual caveat that I barely if at all know what I’m talking about. I hope the intervening events between then, and your not being a missionary yourself today (if I’m correct in assuming that), weren’t too trying.

    I grew with an intellectually disabled twin brother who has never been able to learn to read, while I developed ten grades’ worth of reading and writing skills in first grade. Such circumstances seem poised to clobber one over the head with some kind of message—and in my case they have, more than once. Most dramatically, at thirteen, after having it drummed into me for my entire life by parents and teachers and experts how opposite my brother and I were in every important respect, it occurred to me that we were actually entirely the same in every important respect. Without the actual experience it might be hard to imagine why, but that triggered a mental breakdown of sorts. Twenty-four hours later, I had re-thought everything I knew from the ground up.

    I thought the event had gone unnoticed externally (I managed the right responses to convince my parents I was ill enough to not want to move or eat all day, but no so ill I needed medical intervention), but not long ago my mother, still alive at a very advanced age, told me she remembered that my whole personality changed for the better around that time, and she’d had no idea why. Since my personality since then hasn’t exactly been exemplary, I can only shudder in reflexive Lovecraftian horror at the vile jerk I might have become instead.

    So, dangerous question: what kind of being might need such experiences? Just perhaps, one who had died about a generation earlier, after having participated in the lethal persecution of the intellectually disabled, due to a deceptively instilled false sense of inherent superior worth? The history books tell me there were quite a few who fit that description. Ask dangerous questions, get disquieting answers.

    (All that said, I don’t actually believe reincarnation works this way. Our host often says, in many contexts, that belief doesn’t matter, which I interpret as meaning the literal truth of a narrative can be far less important than what you can learn from it. It’s not necessary for me to actually be the reincarnation of some specific Nazi to understand I have the same innate potential for evil they did, I live in a world still burdened by the legacy of their choices, and I have the responsibility to learn to be a better person from their mistakes.)

  223. Hi John Michael,

    I see. The traditions of this blog do you much credit. You’ve alluded to the messy fall out from the original GD folks way back in the day. And taking what’s left and ironing out the bugs. Hmm. 😉

    Years ago I was involved in a community group which quickly devolved into in-fighting, then broke up. A bizarre experience. As an older and hopefully wiser (maybe?) bloke, I’d stomp the living daylights out of such monkey business, but back then I was young and dumb. Oh well.

    Speaking about the much bigger group though, I watched the weak choices made from about 1997 to get out of the long recession with dismay. It wasn’t hard to see where it was going to end up, but people loved it and supported the big party time we all had to have (well, not everyone). Got my home insurance renewal last week. 32% annual increase (usually it’s been around the 20% mark, which is still painful and frankly unsustainable). What did all the party-people expect? As an amusing observation, even 24-7 party people eventually run out of steam, but a shame that they’re still in charge. But we do get what we deserve, and that’s karma. On a side note, I do wonder if they’re eye-balling the life boats right now? Probably not though. They might drown whilst still on the ship…

    Hi Ottergirl,

    I’d forgotten the Vikings, a formidable bunch even as phantoms, if I may say so. Thanks! Wombats are lovely creatures, right now I’ve got one digging a new burrow on the edge of the orchard. You’d have to suggest that the young wombat has decided that the living is good. 🙂



  224. @Mozhay #213: That was very interesting! I had heard about that category of animate in Sumerian, but having it explained by somebody who actually reads the language is quite a different thing. Myself, I am biased towards thinking that humans have not fundamentally changed over at least the last 200 000 years, but I have no proof of that.

    Quite OT, but since reading David Wengrow’s “What makes civilization” more than ten years ago, I have wanted to hear some specialist’s opinion about Wengrow’s ideas, such as the non-monarchical nature of Uruk society in the 4th millennium. For years and years, I waited for Wengrow’s and Graeber’s book, but cooled down a bit on it, so I haven’t yet actually read “The Dawn of Everything” after it came out. If you are willing to answer a few questions, is there some way I could reach out to you?

  225. Earthworm, oh, granted, the cruel and brutal among us also serve a purpose, or rather a whole galaxy of purposes, until such time as their karma leaves so many bruises that they do something else — and then they start to serve other purposes. The basic rule “don’t worry about it” is a good one, though; if you do your best and let the gods deal with the big picture, you’ll end up in a good place.

    Marsh, duly noted! It’s been a while since I studied ecology in at the Huxley College of Environmental Studies, and it wouldn’t surprise me if more had been learned since then.

    Anonymous, that’s a valid point.

    Nachtgurke, excellent! That’s certainly what the Cos.Doc. would seem to be implying.

    Sgage, you’re most welcome. Half the reason I’m still blogging away after more than seventeen years is the quality of the conversations I get to watch among my readers.

    Chris, exactly. One of the reasons I’ve made John Gilbert’s material public is so that people can use it without having to wade through the complexities of magical lodge politics. As for the weak choices, yeah; here in the US they’ve been piling up since the 1970s, and the skies at this point are black with birds coming home to roost.

  226. @Will M,
    I have a few observations of my own on reincarnation of animals. This is just based upon subjective experience and if people think I’m all wrong about it, I’ll take their views into consideration.
    About 50 years ago I acquired a pet bullsnake from my biology teacher and took care of him for about 10 years. This is an animal that is as smart as a box of rocks, but people observing him said he’d bonded somehow with me. I released him before leaving for Japan, wanting more than anything that he be free. It was like ripping my own heart out.
    Several years later, I had a sudden dream of him and figured he’d passed on. I suggested to him to try reincarnating as a cat.
    He didn’t do that, but would appear to me in visions and dreams occasionally, during which I would always tell him that he was welcome to dwell in my heart. He protected me from evil several times, and it seemed to me that he was on his way to becoming a dragon–a spiritual force of Nature. I am aware of him reincarnating at least once and I think twice as a snake.
    But then he seems to have had a revelation. He visited me one night about six years ago when I was ill, found what was wrong and imparted healing energy. In so doing, he gave me insight into how a snake sees the world. It’s very simple. There’s a goal and a path to it, and the whole world seems transparent and he proceeds most efficiently to the goal. He knew of people who had that ability one of whom was then our president. Having received this knowledge, I wanted to convey it to others, so I started formulating sentences to express what I’d experienced and seen. This ability impressed the snake. He could see my goal. He could see how I intended to proceed to it, but my method was way beyond his sphere of experience.
    In January 2020, I had a sudden vision of him. He’d been warming himself in a comfortable spot at the end of a day a hemisphere away from me, when he was assaulted by something that came suddenly and left just as quickly. He’d crawled off to a bush and lay dying. I was too late to save him with healing energy, but I knew what had assaulted him–a car–and again, that ability of mine impressed him.
    Around November, my husband and I were presented with a kitten. I have allergies so I really did not welcome that, but the kitten bonded with me immediately and within a few weeks I became aware of numerous attributes that he had in common with my old bullsnake. There is a lot about him that can be explained with “Well, you see, he was a snake in his last life.” He still doesn’t climb worth a darn. He’s finally stopped stretching out in warm places when it’s cold, but he still loves stretching out in the middle of the road.
    My husband says the first time he saw himself in a mirror he looked disappointed, like he had been hoping to be human. I learned recently that cats still have functioning Jacobson’s organs, so it would be less of a shock making the transition that way.
    The first step toward linear thinking is having a sound represent an idea. He has picked up that part. He had a peculiar call when he was looking for me, a sort of “Herro?” and I think he’d taken his own name, Maro, as an all-purpose summons. These days “Mrrngow” seems to be his name for me, usually used reproachfully; and “Aa” he recognizes and uses to mean some kind of oily fish I can give him to eat.
    That strikes me as good enough for the first step. I want him to relax and enjoy this life. The transition was clearly hard, but I’m happy to have my old friend back with me in the physical world
    The next time around I’m hoping he will be a dog, but he is impetuous enough that he may make the jump from cat to human. I have a relative who we think did that. My husband considers her the most dangerous person he knows, and it is clearly a hard life for her.

  227. Hi sgage (#227)

    Yes! There are so many valued “old timers” on that 2012 comment section that are still here, yourself most certainly included. I don’t comment often, because I’ve not much to add, but I sure do read the comments, and have benefitted mightily from so many of them over the years. I’ve a sneaking hunch there are quite a few long-time semi-lurkers such as me. JMG hosts an awesome electronic living room.

    I’d forgotten that Chris was once Cherokee Organics. Good times! May they roll on for years to come.


  228. Quin gives us a good example of one way to cultivate good karma in the very first comment above. People who have participated in this prayer effort report feeling healed by it themselves. He makes the most praiseworthy effort.

  229. This calls for multiple readings, for application in practice, and the comments too. I’m glad you posted it.

    “As for the weak choices, yeah; here in the US they’ve been piling up since the 1970s, and the skies at this point are black with birds coming home to roost.”

    Maybe the birds aren’t just metaphorical. Seven or eight years ago this region – east San Francisco Bay – rather suddenly filled up with crows. Early on during a local circumambulation I noticed a small patch of lawn covered with 20, no 30, no 40 crows. It’s been like that ever since. Maybe they sense we’re preparing something tasty for them. Come to think of it, isn’t that about when the dreaded TDS virus became endemic?

    I’m hoping to move soon, by the way. In fact I’d much appreciate any good vibes sent my way toward that end.

  230. Prayer request: A friend of mine told me that an old friend of ours, Thomas (Duke) McMullen, is in hospice care. I’m asking prayers for a good and peaceful transition. Duke is Ba’hai, so the deity to approach is Baha’u’llah.

  231. Hi JMG and fellow commentarians!
    I am enjoying this discussion very much!
    @Roy Smith #36, @ JMG #57
    re: Different outcomes after death
    In his book “The Seventh Sense” about remote viewing, Lyn Buchanan tells about being tasked by his RV unit to remotely view dying people as a part of his training. He did this “about 67 times” and was tasked to view them before death, through the moment of death, and after death.
    The targeted people seemed to end up in one of 4 ways; heaven, hell, oblivion, and reincarnation. “There was seemingly no rhyme or reason to the types or numbers of people who met the different ends…” remarks Buchanan, but also adds that, since these targets were all of interest to military intelligence, perhaps the results cannot be generalized to others.
    The full discussion of afterlife in his book is well worth reading, IMHO.

    @Nachtgurke #55
    re: What is the true nature of an equation?

    Working with equations is mostly one method of meditation. Properly done, truth and beauty are expressed.

  232. @Christopher from California

    “I’m torn between wanting to visit India some day, yet knowing these kinds of experiences would be shocking, unsettling, disturbing, heartbreaking, unanswerable.”

    As I was told by several people, there’s ofc a good lot of 3rd world poverty there in India, and as an obvious tourists, poor souls will chase you like flies.

    Otherwise, the Indian subcontinent has a lot to offer of course, in terms, of spirituality and culture, natural beauty, landscapes, and also a part of it is a 1st world infrastructure.

    regards, Curt

  233. I voted for this one and you didn’t disappoint. Many thanks for that.

    After being far more active on last week’s Open Post than is typical for me, this is one that I’m just sitting back in the shadows on, taking it in, and leisurely digesting some heavy thoughts, with a little shredded coconut and fennel seed.

    Thanks to everyone for their illuminating comments and questions! Chewy stuff.

  234. From my 15 y.o. daughter while reading this out loud to the family this morning:

    “America has been having a lot of bad luck lately. It’s almost like it’s built on an ancient Indian burial ground.”

  235. This is slightly off topic but so exciting, relevant to this blog and in many ways quite karmic. David Rovics released a new blog post today, about social engineering and the paralysis of the left.

    He pretty much describes how he has come to the realization that as a far left singer/song righter who was against Trump, for BLM etc he had really been used as a pawn by the establishment. I hope this mea culpa and a future direction for Mr. Rovics does wonders for his karma.
    I find this most interesting because of the inner look at a hard core Bernie style democrat coming to realize what a fraud the left has become.

  236. @ Walt F #228 – Thank you for your reply, and for your deeply “nourishing” story. I think I can very “slightly” relate. One of the things I also had to break out of – eventually – was the straightjacket that gets put on you as a “label” when you are young. In my case, I was the “smart” sister and one of my other sisters was the “beautiful” one. (We also had a “funny” sister and a “dear” sister… but, how and ever…) Being the “smart” one actually entailed me being a continual underachiever, in part because the label did not signify anything about what I did or did not do, only about my “essence” – ie what I AM and can do nothing about. It took me well into my 40’s to begin to learn some lessons in terms of how to apply myself towards achieving specific aims. But secondly, it was as though someone was also (by implication) telling my sister that she could NOT be “smart”, and telling me that I could NOT be “beautiful”. You get one “essence” label, and that’s your ration. Lol!

    Yes, these are shells to be broken out of, and I can see you breaking out of yours, all at the one go, well done.

    PS – I am not a missionary, although, from time to time, I can catch myself giving a wee sermon on some theme or other. As they say around here, “I did not lick that [habit] off the floor”… (translation from local Irish vernacular – “I definitely inherited [that habit] from my family”). 😉

  237. Thanks for this. Thank you also for suggesting a topic for me to ask you to go into in a future post: “(There are complicated reasons for that, having to do with the nature of group consciousness and the power of nonverbal cues to swamp the thinking mind of the individual, but we don’t have space to get into those here.)”.

  238. I started browsing a bit through the comments on the Hagsgate post, and came across this little gem:

    „I wish I had the spare time to write more on the theory of magic, but a good deal of my writing time needs to go to projects that will pay the mortgage, which that won’t, and most of what’s left over has to go to my two existing blogs.“

    Famous last words and all that… 😛


    Anyway, I‘m trying to wrap my head around two things, and would appreciate your thoughts:

    1. The Hitler discussion above: How does experiencing certain „bad“ things ensure that a soul/individual learns the lesson to not do these things to others in future lives?

    From practical experience, having „bad things“ happen to oneself can lead to all sorts of different conclusions or follow-up behaviour, and not necessarily to learning this kind of lesson.

    2. Trying to bring conscience as it is explained in the OPW („the voice of the divine spark in the human soul“) together with conscience created by karma and practical life experiences. If I learn something during an incarnation, would that then be processed up the planes, so to speak, and be „stored“ somewhere higher up (on the spiritual plane?), and then show up as conscience aka voice of the divine spark in a later life? But then does the divine spark really need incarnated experiences to develop conscience?

    (Or are we simply talking about two different concepts here??)

    Thanks, as always, for taking the time to manage and reply to all the the comments! 🙂


  239. My neighbors are out too, so it’s a neighborhood outage: AT&T U-Verse! This is day 9. Perhaps I’ll nail a letter on the door of the local central office, Martin Luther style.

  240. @kurtyigit56

    “I’d appreciate it if you could answer it; As a Muslim, I try to remain calm, why the desecration of the Qur’an and the Holy Books may have occurred in Sweden… Are these events an effect of the Decline of the West…”

    Maybe I can contribute my view, being 35 and from Vienna, having grown up a very standard middle class way here.
    As in my, broader view and experience with first my native religion, catholicism, then Islam, and now the secular and nihilistic elite culture of Western society as it has developed in these years, and formatively so.

    In my generation of Austrian people both in the city and the rural areas, there has been widely the same process: most fellow Austrians were catholics when children, still brought to church, baptized, reconfirmed at 14 and so on. Most around me, esp in the city, have left church then about when we were 20.

    As JMG has explained, the catholic church of Europe has become an emptying shell since the Second Vatican Council taking place 1962-1965.
    I have gone through that same route of materialistic nihilism, for a time, although for some reasons, I am one of the fewer still officially proscribed to the catholic church, though also not practicing.
    When I was a child, I was still much with my religion. Other kids said to “talking about god is stupid”, which at first I didn’t appreciate.

    One of the best people in my life was always my paternal grandmother, still alive and very robust for a 97 year old. She was firstly always a very positive and mild mannered person, despite having seen the second world war and all. She was also always nature oriented, vested in basic herbology, and a devout catholic, praying and visiting church.

    To this day, when I see her and say goodbye again, she makes a cross on my forehead, and I think and feel that her blessings are truly with me all the time.
    Back to childhood, it was the start of wide spread electronic home entertainment, and with it, nihilistic materialism.

    Being always very nature oriented, I started being angry at the catholic church in primary school because it sought to convert the spirituality of present and former hunter gatherers in places like Borneo. Being influenced by Buddhism from my maternal grandmother, I started to feel that belief without rebirth is obtuse. Also, I liked the aspects of kindness I knew of in Buddhism, just so put in a way that is easy to understand.

    I also hated humans or humanity in general and wished it eradicated by nuclear winter. The planet would be a nicer place without people, I thought.

    It so happened unfortunately that as I was heavily maltreated and made outcast since earliest childhood in Kindergarden and at home, and unfortunately as a result turned to cruel violence for a time against fellow pupils im primary school, and that was some early woke “integrative” school experiment with lower class kids, some middle class kids, migrant lower class (and resurging middle class) kids, and some mentally and or physically disabled kids. These were unfortunately some of my targets. My woke teachers in first class, two obnxious early woke women in 1994 from university, first time teaching children, who seemed to have never been around actual children before, hated me. They wanted to get me mandated to special care school for disabled or difficult children, but due to my mother’s effort against it, did not succeed.

    However, in the years from 1994 to 1998 I developed more of a conscience.
    I was plagued by horror visions of violent video games or movies and otherwise then, and when I prayed, and prayed for the benefit of my tormented disabled students also, I was able to relieve myself of a good part of these feelings of panic and utter anxiety.

    In 4 grade primary school, teachers had already changed, another young teacher forced the mall pupils to put on ballett clothes and dance carraying arcs with paper roses around them at an event in school. All male pupils, except the muslim kids. In 1987 or 1998, when that was, I had already heard these debates about migrants in general, and about islam. Islam came with many rural turks from the hinterlands migrated to Austria as construction workers and such things. The were very conservative, in the same way that rural Austria used to be after world war II still, but our “progress curve” had been a faster ride than in Eastern Anatolia.

    You can imagine there were often conflicts around that. In Vienna, urban working class people since the 1970s had been socialist, sexually liberal, maked bathing and so on. In the 1980s the “far right” started to crystallize from the broader socialist party due to the migration topic, for example people from Poland. Due to economic reasons, there were conflicts between the native heritage working class, especially the old, in a changing world, and poor newcomers from the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia.

    In 1997 or 1998, I understood perfectly well why muslim kids were excluded from this ballet event, and the woke motives behind these things. That made me resentful.
    In the proceeding years, I lost all faith. I was in high school with upper class snotty kids then. First the conservative catholic ones were dominant, then a leftist fraction among the pupils emerged and started to terrorize the other side often. The leftists accepted me more than the catholics, to whom being well dressed and social codes were more important. At 15 I desecrated a “guest book”(small paper notebook to leave a personal note if you want) in a small chapel in the country side. I declared victory of science over religion, and provoked that even god will be scientifically researched fully one day.

    It was in this year, that when I habitually revisited this chapel, I went inside to speak a small prayer for forgiveness, for my deeds back then. I felt relieving.
    When I was about 14 the catholic church and native religion prety much lost the last of its standing as a major force in wider society and the media.
    Devout islam, rural sentiments of Eastern Anatolian migrants and islamic political entites rose, more and more visibly.

    Traditional Christianity throughout Europe ossified, and was made fun of publicly in TV and elsewhere in every way, the very few jokes about Islam leads immedeatly to the consequence of people being killed and targeted who made these jokes.
    The jokesters received backlash from the political left, which pretty much stated, desecrating native christianity is OK, desecrating Islam is not OK and those dead people deserved it.

    What is the situation today? Many middle class kids have become devout materialists, muslim migrants have become a political pawn for the left versus the right, preaching values that contradict traditonal rural values and islamic political values, and these rules were only enforced on Austrians. Every slight hint of traditional catholic religiosity and faith is socially prosecuted, while islamic sentiments are accepted and taken as some kind of “cultural emotionality”.

    We could call this a divide and conquer strategy.

    Now as we speak, my materialist peers seem to fall into a collective depression. Some of the others, while finding no real access to catholic spirituality or any other, clearly long for some kind of spiritual home and mutual tradition. Often, they stay with the catholic church or re-enlist, and when they have children, the again let them be baptized, and conduct their marriages in church.

    So, as a long answer to the question “why the desecration of the Qur’an and the Holy Books may have occurred in Sweden… ” – I don’t know for sure, but it might be found somewhere in the societal trends I have experienced here.
    Right wingers trying to go against the leftist double standards and islamic consequeciousness, or maybe renegade former left wingers, maybe atheistic nihilistis that want to go a step further and show their open disdain for all religiosity.

    I would agree with our host: the crumbling nihilist materialist layer of our changing society makes noise, while breaking apart.

    kind regards,

  241. @Dot, #135

    Let’s call a spade a spade. You want me to say “then Christopher must have deserved it”, so you can claim I am all horrible and wrong, and you can not listen to what I have to say anymore. Please feel free to skip over to step #3, but I decline to play into this game; no less because I know nothing about Christopher and it would be a hurtful thing to say to someone in pain. Trying to assign blame to the victim is an utterly unproductive use of the concept of karma.

    In case you are still reading… Based on first and second hand experience, I will say that not every child is exposed to an abuser, and not every exposed child gets to be targeted by the abuser. Sometime you end up dodging bullets, and if your pilling up of good karma empowers you to do so, that’s a productive use I’d much prefer.

  242. @ JMG #219

    I just looked around on-line to find the latest works on Sumerian literature, and there doesn’t seem to be anything after Jeremy Black et al’s “The Literature of Ancient Sumer” (2006); before that, the big one was Thorkild Jacobsen’s 1997 “The Heart of Darkness”, which, I think, is great. Black’s volume gets mixed reviews, I haven’t read it so I can’t opine.

    I had noticed earlier that scholars seem to be more focused on writing about works assigned (usually by us, not the Sumerians) to particular genres, or even individual pieces, rather than the more general surveys.

    One that might interest you is by H. L. J. Vanstiphout et al (2003), called “Epics of Sumerian Kings”. It includes translations and commentary on 4 different tales, 3 of which contain some unusual episodes. Different types of magic are prevalent in all of them. The first tale features a fight between a female and a male magician, the second what is probably a precursor to the Tower of Babel story, but in reverse. It’s part of a spell of Nudimmud (= Enki, lines 135-155) that occurs after passages about forcing a foreign rival to come to Sumer to rebuild Enki’s temple – which does have a ziggurat — and a palace in Uruk. The spell says one day Enki will turn all the varied speech of the world into one language —Sumerian, one presumes 🙂 It aggravates me no end that, when you search for this passage on-line, it has been completely mistranslated, as Enki confounding a single language into many, and this boner is then repeated everywhere. No no no! The third story has long and rather confusing passages with astral deities and phenomena, rituals and sacrifices, dreams, and (maybe) daemonic spirits. As this book is still available for sale (about $24), a library could probably easily get you a copy to borrow.

    Another book that focuses on more than a single composition is Yitschak Sefati’s “Love Songs in Sumerian Literature” (1998), which translates and analyzes 27 pieces. They’re written as speeches between Inana and Dumuzi, but I’d bet they were also used for mortals’ wedding celebrations and romances. One of the most intriguing things about them is the lack of phallocentrism. Quite the opposite — the primary sexual feature praised is the vulva, the hair of which — but of course! — is like lettuce. Ha.

    An awful lot of studies of literature are individual articles in journals, which can be hard to access. When I was still in school I went bananas, first copying any articles that even remotely interested me, then getting pdf copies when libraries moved over to that system. So I have a ton of stuff, all in pdf format which takes 2 seconds to forward to someone else like, say, you, if you’d like..

    I have so much that, in order to try to keep track of it, I organized it into categories. One of my largest categories is Religion and Magic, with subcategories for articles about the cultic calendar, temples, cult personnel, entertainers, items and emblems, rituals and festivals, offerings and sacrifices, prophecy, ecstasis, incantations and divination, solar, lunar and astral aspects, oh, and I see now, browsing, even one for trees. . . which has 6 articles in it. For example, “Trees, Snakes and Gods in Ancient Syria and Anatolia”, and “Western Asiatic Tree-Goddesses”. Though mainly about Sumerian, I also collected stuff about Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Levantine, Hittite, Hurrian, Greek and Roman cultures.

    Of course, it’s impossible to ask for a copy of anything when you don’t know what’s here. Perhaps, more on the line of, when you’re researching a particular topic you might ask, Hey, got anything on gods and trees, and I would answer, why yes, yes I do (lol). Really, I’m like a magpie, “diving down to pick up on every shiny thing” (Joni Mitchell, though about black crows — close enough).


  243. Kevin, fascinating — and synchronicitous, too. The fourth of my Ariel Moravec novels, which I’m beginning to sketch out now, involves large numbers of crows. Positive energy en route for your relocation!

    Emmanuel, hmm! Interesting.

    Grover, you’re most welcome. You clearly are raising your daughter right!

    Clay, that’s interesting to see. He’s the guy who started being harrassed by the left when he praised Oliver Anthony, isn’t he?

    Tom, well, we’ve got a fifth Wednesday in November, so keep it in mind!

    Milkyway, (1) for the same reason that a child who touches a hot burner and gets burned won’t usually do that again. Pain is a powerful teacher. (2) That paradox is quite deliberate, of course. May I suggest it as a theme for meditation? 😉

    Phutatorius, good heavens. Do you have the option of changing to a different provider?

    Mozhay, many thanks for this. I have a longstanding interest in very ancient literature from any source — Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Chinese, you name it — and it’ll be good, when time permits, to check out the Sumerian sources. One thing, though — isn’t the Thorkild Jacobson book The Treasures of Darkness? I read it in an earlier edition.

  244. @Mary #222

    Hi Mary, this is a huge topic, with plenty of disagreement.
    I’ve been thinking about how to respond in a succinct manner, but it’s tough.

    More and more evidence keeps suggesting that one of the main drivers of Sumerian practices was a constant labor shortage — that is, from the point of view of the king and the biggest land holders. What, after all, is land or flocks worth if there’s no one to make it arable, or to turn its products into food or textiles? So, they did keep chattel slaves, but these all seem to have been foreign prisoners-of-war, and never amounted to a big part of the productive economy. And the male prisoners that they didn’t kill outright they blinded, which made them useless for anything besides sitting in one spot and drawing water from the canals for irrigation.

    The king did have access to corvée labor. The households of the free citizens typically had land-holdings, in return for which they owed labor to the state, as a type of tax. This tended to be used by the king for big projects, like temple building, the main harvest, and (for males) his infantry. Select people from each household were “on duty”, that is, liable to called up for services for 6 months out of the year. Since the records were made by the state, reflecting state interest, and once these people went off duty the state had
    no interest in them, what they did for the rest of the year isn’t really known, we only get small hints here and there. Some of them did return to the state’s attention by being hired on their off-time to supplement jobs for which the corvée wasn’t sufficient — again, speaking to a shortage of labor. (Off-topic: the Sumerian name for the sign we call Aries is The Hired Hand; why the Greeks, who more or less stuck with all the other Sumerian-via-Babylonian names, changed this one to a ram. . .? it’s weird).

    There’s also a legal category of women called kar-kid. This used to be translated as prostitute, as many kar-did did indeed work as such, but it’s now recognized to be a classification of women who did not belong to any household but were not slaves or indentured — in certain respects sort of like modern single women. Women who were widowed and left without resources and people who never owned any land to begin with usually became a dependent of a large institution, like a temple or a royal estate, but to my mind this does not make them slaves as we understand that word.

    But alongside all this there also existed indenture, or debt slavery. From the earliest Sumerian records the standard interest on debt was an eye-watering 20%. So, if a family borrowed grain, and at the end of a year could not repay 120% of it, someone in that family went into indenture to the creditor. This ultimately was destructive to social cohesion, and also dangerous to the king. Big creditors could scoop up a significant chunk of the labor force in an area, depriving the king of corvée, particularly for his army. So every once in a while the king would force “”, usually translated as “jubilee” after the later Israelite practice, where he would wipe out private debt and return the indentured to their former status. But I don’t see how a king could do this routinely, say every fifty years as some contend, as the big creditors would see it coming and perhaps be motivated to oust the king in a coup.

    In terms of the grammar, both the foreign chattel slaves and indentured people normally went into the inanimate category.

    Here is a fairly recent (2015) book on labor in antiquity, which includes some discussion of slavery. It costs over a hundred bucks, but I believe it’s “notable” enough — that is, not obscure, I see it quoted — that a library should be able to get it for you.

    Just to complicate the picture, while I was looking for a link to the above book, I came across this one, with various authors, which you can actually read on-line:

    It’s about women in the Ur III labor force, and a couple of the articles contend that there was a massive slave component. However, when I scrolled through, I found it sometimes self-contradictory. For example, there were over 135,000 females attributed to weaving institutions in one province, whom the author states were primarily slaves. Later, though, he admits a good chunk of them worked part-time, and these could only be free women.

    One of the big problems with interpreting this stuff is that, while there are different words for men in the labor force according to their legal status, for women one and the same word (geme) is used for ALL: free, chattel slave, indentured, institutional dependent. So, when one is reading about an all-female work group, unless there are other indications in the text, it’s really really really impossible to know which category they fall into, or whether the group is women all of one type, or mixed. So when interpreters jump right in and declare them one or another, they obviously have a pre-disposition to viewing this as, say, a slave society, or one basically composed of free small land-holders, and so on.


  245. Emmanuel Goldstein #237 – Well, that doesn’t really touch intention of the question. We could also ask what is the nature of 0 and 1? Is 0 a symbol for the Unmanifest or is it the absence of 0 and 1? If we can’t understand the absence of 0 and 1, how can we know what they are?

    A common habit of many people is to say “Look, we have an equation, so we know what it is.” While that in itself is usually not true, it is a kind of infinite regress since when you say “equation”, you refer to a vast conceptual framework of which we do not really understand the very basics, namely the nature of 0 and 1 and where they came from.

    That equations may express beauty and sometimes work in almost miraculous ways I can second. But truth? If we move in strictly mathematical realms, let’s take the Pythagorean theorem as an example, we’re possibly close. But how close? Euclidean space is a purely theoretical construct. So even some of our most fundamental “laws” are only approximations which seem to represent truth only because they are very close approximations for our everyday experience. If we move further into physics – name me any equation that spells truth. Even our most accurate theories like general relativity or quantum electrodynamics produce meaningful results only for a very limited part of the continua (?) of space, time and energy.


  246. @Patricia Ormsby #232 – first reaction – You had a snake as your spirit guide. That is one powerful spirit!

    And I’d let the cat pick his own next incarnation if I were you.

  247. @JMG
    I forgot the third way for some odd reason, thanks for the reminder.

    @Athaia, Christophe, Viridian
    Those are helpful ways of thinking about it thanks. It’ll take some pondering.

    @CR Patino
    You’ve entirely misunderstood me. I’ll say no more.

  248. @Aldarion #230


    I would be happy to discuss these things. As you can tell, I am deprived of Sumerological conversation, I get positively, maybe even revoltingly garrulous when I have the opportunity.

    As far as Wengrow goes, I never read his “What makes a civilization”, but perhaps I could get a copy from the library. Looking just now, I see one site that has a copy you can read on-line, if you “join”. I have to think about that.

    Early Uruk society is really interesting, how they conceived of and did things there seems to have become the model, at least on the ideational or rhetorical level, for the rest of Sumerian Mesopotamia, in particular as relates to the legitimacy of the king.

    Since this is an open thread, I don’t know whether it would be considered hijacking to discuss such matters here. However, if you think it might, or if you anticipate the discussions will be very long or get too much into the weeds to be of general interest, I will gladly give you an e-mail address for me, but I’d rather not publish it in a thread.

    Any ideas?


  249. @JMG #250

    Jacobsen’s “Treasures of Darkness”, IIRC, does have some translations in it, but it’s billed as a history of religion. Whereas his “The Harps that Once” is solely translations of literary pieces from various “genres”, 478 pages worth.


  250. JMG,

    Thanks for your reply.

    1) I got that, but people aren’t automatons. People who experience “bad” things might learn from them how to treat others better, or they might take out their frustration on others, or repress the memory, or act out in some other way, or do all sorts of other things. Pain is a powerful teacher, but the things it teaches aren’t always the things one should most learn.

    If people don’t “learn” the lessons they most need to learn, will they simply repeat the same class over and over again, so to speak, until they finally get it? Or how else is it ensured that people learn the right things from their experiences – whatever the “right” things are?

    2) You might not believe this, but I somehow expected this question and thus did some, uhm, pre-emptive meditation. 😉

    Unfortunately, I came out of this with more questions than I went in with… (If you now tell me something akin to “Good, this means you’re on the right track” – will this count towards my bingo card? 😀 ).


  251. @A Nony Mouse:
    I grew up being taught “Jesus Paid It All” and if He truly did, this would do away Karma and substitute it will limited temporal judgement from a father to son. If Karma wasn’t nailed to the cross then why did Jesus go to all the trouble.
    And yet I haven’t found that Jesus paid it all, my life has been a consistent struggle, and the heavens are bronze. I find comfort in either 1) a materialist conception that interprets that as just what happens sometimes or 2) Karma from a past life. Because in the Christian conception, God is completely rejecting me, or else relentlessly punishing me. I lived with both possibilities for years before I gave up my faith. I am now better psychologically in the sense that I can center my negative experiences around an impersonal cause and effect.
    Prayer is both the thing that I could not believe in and the thing that I miss. I could not believe because it never really seemed to work, but I miss because there is a real sense of turning your stress and worry over to the almighty, even if you couldn’t show it did any good in the end. I have had to learn non-Christian ways of coping with stress, as I have had to go through the existential crisis that deconversion involves as well.
    I live by the saying “brighten the corner where you are”. If Karma is correct, I may find my way out. If Christianity is correct, perhaps God will have mercy. If materialism is correct, I have helped others. There is no better thing to do than good.

  252. @JMG,

    I read this essay back on Wednesday and I’ve been thinking about it since then. I’m curious as to how the law of karma, as you understand it, handles the fact that not every code of ethics is going to see the same deeds as good or bad.

    If you believe – as followers of the Abrahamic religions do – that posthumous judgment is meted out by a personal god, then the implication is simple – if you want a “good” judgment, you’ll do your best to find out what God’s moral preferences are, and act accordingly.

    But what would an impersonal force of karma make out of things like that part in The Shoggoth Concerto where Brecken helps her gay friend fool his father into thinking that he has a girlfriend when he really doesn’t?

    I’m assuming that in the view of (most of) that novel’s audience, it’s good to defend one’s fellow human beings from irrational prejudice – so Brecken’s deed would generate good karma.

    But in the code of ethics that most Americans followed until about a generation ago, homosexuality is bad, and prejudice against homosexuals is not irrational, so can we expect Brecken to get bad karma for helping a homosexual hide his dirty secret?

    And then of course there are plenty of cultures throughout history that didn’t much care who a young man slept with, but which viewed deceit – especially deceit of one’s parents – as an evil deed worthy of punishment.

    Believing in a personal god gives you a reason to act as though one system of ethics is right and the others are wrong (although there is still bound to be plenty of disagreement about which system actually has the Supreme Being’s stamp of approval!) But I struggle to see how an impersonal force of karma could handle a situation like Brecken’s at all. How do you make sense of all this?

  253. Mozhay, I was referring to this comment of yours: “before that, the big one was Thorkild Jacobsen’s 1997 “The Heart of Darkness”, which, I think, is great.” I can’t find a book by Jacobson titled “The Heart of Darkness,” though I do recall the Joseph Conrad story!

    Milkyway, (1) sure. That’s why some people have to get taught the same karmic lesson over and over until it sinks in. (2) In that case, I’ll suggest that there’s more than one thing feeding into conscience — or, more precisely, that the word “conscience” is used to cover several different processes with similar effects. One of them is the subconscious memory of past failure and pain; another is the promptings that come through (rather than from) the divine spark.

    Sandwiches, codes of ethics are created by human beings; karma is not. Karma doesn’t care whether an act is good or bad; it simply means that each act has consequences, and you get to experience those consequences. Brecken’s action in helping Darren fool his father would be considered wrong by some codes of ethics, right by others, and a very mixed bag by the ethical code I follow — but none of those judgments determine what kind of karma it generates, because karma isn’t determined by what human beings think. It isn’t a matter of “is it good or bad?” Brecken’s act will have the specific consequences to her character and circumstances that such an act generates, for good or ill — or more to the point, for good and ill. Karma is not a judgment. It’s simply the consequences of actions.

    (This is one of the things I was talking about when I noted that Christians have a very hard time understanding that karma isn’t a divine judgment. We can speak in casual, inexact terms of “good karma” and “bad karma” but in reality, there’s just karma: the exact consequences that unfold from every action. Since human actions are always a jumbled mess, and so are human motives, it’s very difficult and usually unproductive to try to line up all karmic results as good or bad. Consider the important incidents of your life. Were they good, or bad? Usually some of each — and so is the karma that played a role in generating them.)

  254. @Grover #240: thanks for sharing your daughter’s comment. Two hours after reading your comment, the following text fell on my lap by chance (it a speech by Chief Seattle, 1854):
    “To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground… Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being… [W]hen the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe… At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone. Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless.”

  255. Okay, something just clicked but in such a way as to raise even more questions: a lot of people are determined to erase the past. This is nothing more than the societal equivalent of the person who is determined to ignore what they’ve done in the past. If, as you’ve discussed in this essay, groups have consciousnesses which in at least some ways parallel those of the individual, then similar dynamics could be expected to play out with group minds as compared to individuals. Quite often in my experience, this “I will refuse to acknowledge my past” thing occurs when someone knows they’ve made a major mistake; but cannot yet process it.

    Can the entire movement to erase the past and live in a perpetual present/future then be thought of as the first hints of awareness moving through the our collective group mind that our society has made at least one catastrophic mistake?

  256. Just found this from Manly P Hall:

    “5. Mars: Karma. The law of Karma is in some respects to be differentiated from Cause and Effect. Cause and Effect as governed by Saturn is entirely impersonal, that is, it transcends the moral value. Karma, or the law of compensation, is Cause and Effect applied directly to man or to a self-motivating moral agent. Karma comes into manifestation with the development of the conscious mind. Nature never chooses to do evil because it is ruled completely by law (My note here but same as elementals). Man, possessing the power to choose to do that which is wrong, creates thereby Karma, which takes the form of Cause and Effect as a medium of punishment or retribution. Thus, Mars becomes the devil, punishing misdeeds. Saturn’s law of Cause and Effect infers no element of punishment, merely inevitable ebb and flow.

    Page 4

    This is part of a very interesting letter concerning the study “of the various departments of Nature” and the associated astro-philosophical theory of “planets and laws. And I’d be lying if I knew what that meant so I’m going to dive into the letter now. If you don’t see me on Magic Monday send for help.

  257. Christen Karmic Prayer: Dear Lord, please save us from the consequences of behavior you warned us about yesterday.

  258. JMG, would it be possible for you to send my email address to mozhay, or his to me? mozhay, I would like to take full advantage of any garrulousness you have, but this week is not open thread, it is on Karma!

    In a nutshell, Wengrow proposes in “What makes civilization” that the En of Uruk did not wield monarchical power, and that actual power in Uruk might haven been shared among temples and neighborhood associations. Since the book is very short, he doesn’t elaborate on this thesis – maybe the other commenters who have read “Dawn of everything” can contribute on his elaboration of this thesis in that book. There are other things Wengrow hypothesizes very briefly, e.g. that if Mesopotamia had kept up its trade through the gulf after 4000 BCE, its history might have been different, possibly less centralized. He was evasive when I asked him about this in an email.

    Anyway, looking forward to hearing from you!

  259. Hi John Michael,

    This particular essay has been somewhat illuminating, because to everyone of your replies I keep wanting to say: “Ah, I see!”

    Ah, I see! (told you so! 🙂 ) So given what we’ve been discussing, presumably this may be the energy behind why such problems as those, if left unaddressed, impose a much greater burden down the track? Or am I off the mark here?

    Speaking of which. Just got my home insurance renewal bill. Whoo Whee! I was braced for a 20% annual increase, but no, it got better. A 32% increase. You guys in your country have the medical industry, we have housing to absorb the excess circulating mad cash, and we both have the arcane and mysterious world of finance. All very exciting and same, same, but different (as they say). Anyway, I worked out on the back of an envelope, that if this increase continues, within eight years that one bill will take half of my annual income to pay. And people keep asking me: Why do you think there may be trouble brewing? What other people see is something of a mystery to me.

    Anyway, mark my words here as a prediction. The lack of insurance will possibly seize up the circulation of mad cash within the economy. Bond holders and lenders won’t want to take on the risk of the underlying assets disappearing (or charge bonkers rates to reflect the risk), and credit default swaps will be unaffordable – like most other forms of insurance. And the flows which keep everything going, will little bit by little bit, just slow and die. Until we’re back on a more normal footing. Unless of course the gobermont tries to nationalise the lot. They might you know, but that act may just be the final act of indignity for the various currencies. Just a wild hunch there. Do you have any thoughts on that prediction? Of course Yogi Berra was right about predictions being hard, especially when they’re about the future. 🙂 I only provide this prediction as a general observation on overall trends, and it is not specific advice on any product.



  260. JMG, is it possible that Protestantism was both a stop gap safety valve, and also something positive at the same time? I wonder about Steiner’s project along these lines. A time of religious abstinence to clear the deck for a healthy path, perhaps pagan or henotheistic, but in any case, cleaned up in the sense that humans can relate to the gods and angels not on equal terms but with circumspect respect for the human condition. No more child sacrifice and cannibalism, at the lower ends of degenerated religious worship? I realize there’s no progress absolutely but just a widening of possibility for those of good ethos. Still, it’s a win.

  261. @mozhay, with JMG’s permission (otherwise I will wait for email contact), and since you don’t have access to What makes civilization, here are the passages I was thinking of:
    “Little is known about systems of government in these very earliest cities. The high ranking title of en – also documented from later periods – occurs in cuneiform texts from Uruk by the end of the fourth millennium, although its meanings may have changed considerably over the centuries. By the Early Dynastic Period (c.3000-2350 BC), for which fuller records exist, it relates to the ruler’s administrative and ritual duties in serving the cult of the city-god… Archaeological evidence for the existence of palaces – in the sense of royal households distinct from the temples of the gods – has not been conclusively identified in Mesopotamia prior to the third millennium BC. In considering the nature of earlier forms of urban government we can look, with due circumspection, to other types of institutions, which formed part of the fabric of city life in later periods. These included the major temples…; the assemblies of city-elders; wards located within the city walls but still organized on traditional family lines…; and also mercantile organization.” (p. 67-68).

    And in the previous chapter: “To summarize, the fifth millennium BC was a period of remarkable cultural symbiosis in the absence of marked urbanization or political centralization. The disruption of this pattern of development may have begun to the south of Mesopotamia, in the distinctive setting of the Persian Gulf, where current reconstructions suggest a significant – but localized – change in environment conditions around this time… high aridity and site abandonment along the eastern Arabian coastline, which coincides suggestively with the Urban Revolution in Mesopotamia, and with the reorientation of Sumerian trade towards the north and east. Maritime links between Sumer and the Gulf of Oman, temporarily severed, would only be fully restored towards the onset of the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BC). By that time, the aggressive northward expansion of Mesopotamian trading contacts along the Euphrates had decisively altered the fate of societies from Egypt to the deserts of central Asia.” (p. 64-65)

  262. @Patricia Matthews,
    What you say is very very true. A priestess who tried to cast a curse on me had it blow up in her face most terribly. She dialed our number at 4:44 in the morning, I was asleep but in my dream I was talking to her. She was a mentor and I have no ill feelings for her. Never did. Suddenly a dragon came roaring at us, and I slashed at him, and he turned into my dear little bullsnake, and I was terrified I’d done him fatal harm. (If I did, he got over it.) She, on the other hand, lost a daughter and her house 12 miles from Fukushima Daiichi.
    With this spirit guide, I cannot, must not allow myself to wish harm to anyone, even Nancy Pelosi! Shugendo warns about priestesses with snake familiars. I do have to be careful.
    Maro, in his current incarnation, is a fierce guardian of our house. (He’s not a “black cat” in any sense of the word.) He’ll ultimately do whatever he wants, and he may have some important goal as a human. I can suggest him to try dog first–it would suit his personality. Whatever he does, I want to be there, spiritually if not physically, to help him.

  263. JMG, Thank you and all that speak on this channel. I always enjoy the conversation here and often any questions I might have, I just wait. Sometimes I feel pressured to add my voice, but being a poor clown in this cosmic dance, I usually watch. karma is different, I see and I can see the wide range of perceptions has made me aware of how different we all are in how we understand our own viewpoint. I once read a response to the question of reincarnation, the responder stated he didn’t know what comes next, but, if it is true, you will be reborn as a child of your enemy. I worked once changing diapers on adult males, after feeding them, and washing them. I told a friend, doing this work is burning off lifetimes of karma. A few months later, I amended that to working there too long will incur a karmic penalty of several lifetimes. I walked out to my compost pile and asked it about karma, It told me, keep digging. I think carrying water and chopping wood help with the balance of living with Karma in mind. While out turning the compost, I thought about abusing what we are given, using and wanting much more than we need, ignoring the consequence of our actions, pretending there is no cost for our hubris. I have been trying to understand how my conscious mind can integrate my microbial gut feelings with my intellect, ranging from the infinity small, the universe, and the other stuff outside the range of rationality. A sense of whole systems, but with the parts we don’t see, or don’t know about required for us to understand. Then again, I remember there might be beings that return many times, just to help the idiots. The real question is identifying where we are, here and now, and what to do. Here in Fremont land, the summer is ending, so the peached are ripe, and they might be the best peaches…so when I remember how many times I have come back, I am drawn to fresh peaches.

  264. Samuel #99: “Most of the charities I’ve heard about seem to revolve around fluffy animals and cancer patients” — you’re playing my song.

    (Also that vision poem #62 above is too, thank you Clarke-aka-Gwydion for that, but Samuel first.)

    Insofar as you happen to be willing to go along with technocratic “spreadsheet altruism”, the charity evaluator “GiveWell” tries to evaluate charities on the basis of a statistical expectation of efficiency of “quality-adjusted life years” given to people per amount of money donated. So, sort of the opposite of what one would maximize by donating to something like a Society for Curing Rare Diseases in Cute Puppies. (The “expected quality-adjusted life years per dollar” is of course a proxy for the things they expect donors would really care about, but it’s hard to figure out how to put numbers to that, and just putting numbers to things turned out to be really important. So they just do the main part of the analysis in terms of expected QALYs per dollar, and then mention other considerations when they come up.) This results in the topmost charities (under GiveWell’s conservative calculation assumptions) being mostly public health charities in Africa like deworming medication, childhood blindness correcting surgeries, and anti-malaria mosquito nets. Also “GiveDirectly”, which just directly transfers money to each of the households in randomly selected dirt-poor villages, the theory being that this is where the kinds of goods that could be net imported more with a given amount of money would go farthest to improve people’s lives. (Dirt-poor meaning e.g. that $1000 for a household would buy “5.5 years of secondary schooling, 5.2 years of basic food requirements for one adult, 1.2 acres of land, or metal roofs for 4 houses”.)

    For those who are looking for astrological planetary charity options, GiveWell’s recommendations might work as Uranus charities, but with a proviso. The recommended procedure in the surrounding “effective altruism” culture is that, if you really have the time, instead of just going with the top recommendations of a charity recommender like GiveWell, you do look at the evidence the charity recommender has gathered together so that you can review it all efficiently — but then you choose a charity yourself based on your own priorities and specialized knowledge, even if that’s not “the most efficient charity” by any supposed public consensus standard. Which is more in keeping with the spirit of the Aquarian democratic/individualist theme of Uranus anyway: the public consensus standard is only worthwhile if it’s what would be ratified by that kind of individual choice. So, probably a donation would work better as a Uranus charitable donation if you did that.

    (Uranus’s symbolic number according to the system that’s popular around here is supposed to be 2, right? So, insofar as the numerological intersubjective associations matter, probably the donation amount should be a power of two rather than a multiple of two, and in the smallest convenient denomination — that’s the precedent from Donald Knuth’s famous posted bounties for audience corrections to his computer science publications. Neptune charities is maybe where you’d use whole or round numbers. To avoid losing efficiency to transaction costs, instead of making 2^n separate donations, if you’re a small donor and you don’t stand to gain any informative personal connections to the charities you’d be donating to, you should instead pick 2^n charities you’d normally send an equal amount of money to, flip n coins, and use those coinflips to choose which charity is going to get all the money for that donation cycle. The efficiency leads to Uranus-like unpredictable avalanches of giving. In statistical expectation, it works out the same, so long as your donation would still only be a small fraction of any charity’s income. If you’re a bigger donor, then maybe just donate once per cycle to each of 2^n separate charities.)

    (Before anyone asks, yes, GiveWell and the rest of the effective altruism movement know about the criticism of “telescopic charity”, and they totally do hand-wring about that, plus like twenty other potential systemic pitfalls you haven’t heard of. I’m not sure the handwringing is as efficacious as it needs to be, though. It didn’t catch the FTX disaster.)

    Under less conservative assumptions (most notably used by the more speculative Open Philanthropy’s analyses), charities for reducing the risk of human extinction get into the mix, the claim being that obviously you can’t have quality-adjusted life years if your entire generation never even got to exist. People get into huge arguments about that, because of how different people’s moral sentiments interact with uncertainty about the future (and with uncertainty about the motives of other people who are framing possibilities about the future) in different ways. Charities for reducing animal suffering (most efficiently, farmed animals) also get into the mix, and people get into other huge arguments about that. One prominent source of moral revulsion toward the effective altruist movement is that it contains some radicals who are hoping to one day re-engineer wild nature so that it produces less aggregate wild animal suffering per unit time. (I do admit that I’m technically interested in that prospect, but it seems largely pointless to think about: it wouldn’t mostly be feasible, economically or morally, until we had gotten our act together in other ways, and if we ever reached that point, the people then would probably be in a much better position than we are now to tell if there were any really significant version of it that would even be a good idea at all. Wild animal suffering is one of many topics where my thinking tries to relate questions of “better” or “worse” to the context of a many-layered evaluation-like process like that described in “Lineages“, and gets kind of bewildered.)

    GiveWell, and effective altruism more generally, explicitly rejects administrative overhead as a directly relevant measure of how deserving a charity is, compared with added quality-adjusted life years per dollar. The thing you do with administrative overhead is to check that it’s not any larger than it needs to be, taking into account the risks and inefficiencies the administration is meant to protect against and the state of the market for competent administration work, in order to maximize the expected added quality-adjusted life years per dollar.

  265. to all, I used to go by MountainMoma and maybe something else before that… cant remember

    @ chris #266

    No, we get hit with both Medical and Housing cost insanity. My house insurance doubled in cost , then the next year doubled in cost again. I pay more than 1/2 my income for homeowners insurance and property tax together ( it is “paid off” so no mortgage) . This is very typical for older folks. I met a woman the other day my age and she rents out her house for the income and rents out a 300 sq ft studio on someone elses property for herself. She would sell but shudders at the tax bill that would follow and so has not, yet. Anyway, 50% or up for housing is common for all age groups. Older folks having to do without homeowners insurance is no uncommon. not doing repairs. the usual. Anyways, a 20% rise in any cost seems like it would be a relief compared to how it is all rising.

  266. Mozhay #213, your explanation of Sumerian grammar was very interesting. I deduce from that that Sumerian society was quite class-conscious.

    The distinction between animate and inanimate would also be a rich source of insults. (Presumably it is better to be animate than inanimate.) We get something similar in Afrikaans, where there are different words for animal and human parts. For instance, a human mouth is a mond but an animal mouth is a bek.

    If you want to tell someone rudely to shut up, you would say Hou jou mond to for instance your cheeky child, but Hou jou bek to someone you consider an inferior, for instance a drunken street person. (Not that I recommend either. One is nasty, the other is very nasty, and treating people with disrespect no doubt piles up the negative karma.)

  267. Wer here
    JMg did you read my previous comment? Did you even recieved it? If i am banned can you plase explain the reson? (Interent in Poland were I live is getting worse so maybe it was a matter of a bad link.

  268. @Patricia Matthews,

    I will ask my kami to ask Baha’ullah to help guide Duke through his transition, and I have sent notice to Quin about your request to be sure he notices.

  269. Elkriver #220, re picking up litter, I’ll tell two stories.

    Story 1: I was in a 12-step group and we were encouraged to do someone a good turn every day, anonymously. I was in no shape to do anyone any good, and wondered what I could do about it. It so happened there was a large daisy bush in the front garden visible from the street. The problem was, it looked unsightly because it was covered in dead daisies. I reasoned that if I cut off the dead daisies leaving only the new blossoms, the daisy bush would look fresh and pretty and be pleasing to the eyes of the passers-by, thus doing a tiny anonymous favor for lots of people instead of one big favor for one person. And so for a few weeks I got up at the crack of dawn and dead-headed the daisy bush. No one noticed or commented, but it certainly helped me.

    These days I live in an apartment in an older lower-middle class suburb. Since I don’t have a car I do a lot of walking around the neighborhood, and there are plenty of properties with littered sidewalks and road gutters, and I think, why don’t they do something about it? Then I go home and look at our sidewalk and think, why don’t I do something about it? So I pick up litter, pull weeds, and clear the gutters. It takes just a few minutes, and the place looks much nicer. Also, the neighbors don’t complain about the mess, and we don’t get litter blowing under the wheels of the sliding gate, so there are practical considerations.

    Story 2: I was clearing the road gutters when a Moslem guy walked past. He walked on a bit, then stopped and turned and said to me, “In my religion there are two kinds of people that get automatic entry into heaven. Those that clear the way for others, and those who help water to flow.” He paused then added, “See you in heaven.”

    I might have misremembered the exact words, but that was the gist. So maybe there is a karmic connection to picking up litter.

  270. From one comment, excuse me for not remembering the author, it comes the issue of the burden of karma, being so large that nothing can be read into it. It just works as a moralizing theory. Not knowing why exactly it hits you, there’s little to be learned. Just a general “be good” rule.

    However, there’s a hint on how to deal with this burden in the Cosmic Night metaphore. When this time comes, all that has not transcended, will be erased. For example, when I develop a new idea, I use many logics, workings and thoughts in between, but once I’ve finished, I discard all those thoughts, forget about them and only the final idea stays in the memory. The final idea being the unification of all that I used for coming to it.
    Similarly, all the actions we take leave traces in the space, but once the cumulative effect goes from quantity to quality, these actions are unified into another more complex concept. We may call karma to the unified consequences of all of our actions, both as an individual and as a member of a collective, but that is too complex to analyse. It is one of those things that are so complex that looking into the individual elements that compose it yields little information.

    Maybe we cannot remember every epigenetic element, but that doesn’t mean we can’t separate our karma into categories: Trahisons-loyalties, hurting-helping others, rushing-overthinking, etc. That allows us to affect our karma into the categories we want, by selecting proper actions in that category, and analysing past actions pertaining to it. Even if not all past actions can be remembered (those that went away with the cleansing waters), there is still the synthesis to work with.
    The synthesis may look like a set of excuses for the current behaviour, instead of a summation of all the past actions. Excuses saying what we do is right, and excuses saying what we do is wrong but we cannot help it. Then we have a mentality formed with excuses. That’s what we can acknowledge. If we ever become conscious that one set of excuses relating to a category is unbalanced (read: when it hit us in the face), then we may start to do something about it.

    The interesing bit about the article is that we don’t need to debunk the excuses, that would be impossible since we strongly believe in them. Keep our excuses but take actions to balance our behaviour in that category, and eventually the old excuses will hold no longer, and some new excuses for our new behaviour will replace them.

  271. @DT #258
    Saddened to hear of your frustration and difficult circumstances. My prayer is that you meet the loving I Am, He Is, presence of the Living God that I met on my knees confessing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, Lord and Savior, the Way, years ago when I was involved in an eastern mediation system. I mean to go by A Nony Moose here but occasionally as I type I do “Mous” instead of “Moose” and don’t notice I have done so.

  272. Patricia M, I will be adding your prayer to the prayer list more or less as you phrased it momentarily. Do you happen to know if Duke would accept prayers on his behalf directed through other deities? If not, or if you feel uncomfortable asking, I’m certainly happy to leave it as is.

    Patricia O, thanks very much for letting me know about this prayer. I might not have seen it until the end of the week otherwise.

  273. Hi John,

    Really nice post! It has been something that has been on my mind as of late and it is a subject that does bother me as it does fascinate me at the same time.

    To start with – is karma and the system that runs it a good thing or a bad thing? On the one hand, it is somewhat better compared to the Christian concept of the one shot to heaven, one shot to hell” mindset. It does in essence allow for a soul to truly repent and do good elsewhere rather then a one way ticket to the lake of fire. Same with the person who behaves completely “good” within the dominant moral frameworks of the time they live in yet deep down are complete hypocrites and vile people.

    The other hand is that karma and reincarnation are justly unfair to a new person who is born and has absolutely no memory of what they did in a past life and have to suffer for someone else’s misdeeds. To me that in itself is actually a pretty evil thing to do…

    Either way I have seen quite a good number of people who want to “drop out” Of the “game” Together and go independent. Like the Gnostics of old did. Yet what I have learned is that there is no dropping out. An individual soul would have to be at a God tier level to drop out and even then, all is connected.

    Honestly I have no idea how it all works. It’s one big maze that no Human being can truly figure out just yet. We have only just touched the tip of the ice berg and have a long, long way to go answering this question…

  274. Patricia O, re: your comment about me and good karma:

    This may be the case. I have had a couple of amazing strokes of luck in the last few months that may or may not be related. I don’t have the sensitivy to say (and also, I don’t want to jinx anything from happening again), but the one thing I can say with certainty is that praying on behalf of others is a very good thing to do either way.

    Your snake story was pretty darn cool.

  275. @JMG #260

    I do apologize for wasting your time.
    I had the book in front of me — it does begin with an H, heh — I don’t know what happened, some kind of brain slide.
    Here’s the actual title

    The Harps That Once. . . Sumerian Poetry in Translation
    Thorkild Jacobsen

    My copy is the 1987 edition from Yale U. Press, don’t know if there are later ones.

    Again, sorry for that.


  276. A different provider? Yes, I’m considering it. Now its day 10 of the outage.

    But back on topic of karma; One guy who seems to have led a charmed life, is the actor Clint Eastwood. Check his bio on wikipedia. Wow! He survived a plane crash in the ocean, spent his military service as a lifeguard in SoCal, seems to be a “fortunate man.”

  277. @Patricia Ormsby: What a beautiful story concerning your snake, thank you for sharing it. I heard a mystic from a different tradition (so don’t ask me about the theology of it! 😉 ) once say that animals don’t have guardian angels, that’s what we humans are supposed to be doing for them. If that’s at all true, it sounds to me like you’re doing a lovely job.

  278. For those looking to clean up or improve their karma, it never hurts to perform an examination of conscience periodically. You’ll soon discover that you’re not superhuman or subhuman, not a genius or a saint, and that you’re done stupid things many, many times and can count on doing stupid things many times in the future. However (and it’s a big however) you can exercise the power of regret for your past misdeeds and stupidities.

    Then, it’s recommended that you leave whatever you were examining behind and not dwell on it, for dwelling on it is as if you were doing it all over again. Then go out and, again, do your poor best.

    This is collated from Christian, Jewish and Buddhist sources, by the way, as they all teach something very similar with regard to examining your conscience. What you do once you’ve discovered your misdeeds is of course up to you. A Christian would turn them over to Christ, a Jew to God, and a Buddhist would perform a dedication of merit (“by this merit, may all beings be brought to enlightenment”) for the act of examination and performance of acts of regret. I have no doubt the 12-step programs have much advice along these lines.

    I mention this because (and maybe I’ve missed it) I haven’t seen many people bring this up in their comments. There’s no point to discussing karma without it, in my view, no matter what your view of karma is.

  279. @JMG said,

    “Brecken’s act will have the specific consequences to her character and circumstances that such an act generates, for good or ill — or more to the point, for good and ill. Karma is not a judgment. It’s simply the consequences of actions…”

    I would be exaggerating if I said that you’ve made the concept clear to me, but I think I’m moving in the right direction. “Good” and “bad” karma are “casual, inexact terms,” a complicated action will produce complicated karma, ethical systems are human abstractions imposed on a messy underlying reality, and so forth. So naturally it is a wide gap to bridge between that, and a culture that has spent thousands of years thinking of spiritual consequences in terms of angels weighing their actions in the balance and writing down the results in some sort of book.

  280. Hi Atmospheric,


    I’ll tell you a funny story about where that goes. When I was a young bloke in the recession in the early 1990’s, facing 10% unemployment, and being an err, young bloke, I was made redundant from my job. Fortunately I’ve got something of a flexible mindset, and worked four years in corporate debt collection and studied at Uni at night, and worked hard. It paid the bills. And! With debt collection, you get to hear every excuse ever known to man. 🙂 But what I noticed at the time was that the inner city suburbs were full of the little run down workers cottages, which housed the parents of the baby boomers. The areas were pretty grungy and unappealing with few amenities, but they did have fresh food markets. Now I recall clearly with a sense of horror at the time, that these folks weren’t well off, and often described as ‘asset rich and cash poor’. They eventually got moved on, and by and large their kids moved in, and splashed the cash. The houses ate the land. You could get a latte. The markets began to come under attack by development. There were more shops. Parking became contentious. The number one economic policy became to support house prices, most other considerations to the side. This is the world that people voted for. I watched it all happen, it was dark, and unwholesome. But people want this.

    Now you might not have voted personally for that outcome, and I’m sort of sure I didn’t, but that’s the world as it is. It lacks compassion. And dunno about you, but I’ve always kept that above possibility in mind, and planned accordingly. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to retire, although one day I may get retired. That’s a different thing though.



  281. Does anyone have any intuition into the various ways that collective karma might be boomeranging on the attendees of Burning Man this year? I’ve never been to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, so all my knowledge comes from watching documentaries about Burning Man or from meeting people who have gone to it. That event has always struck me as having a contrived Utopian vibe about it, attracting some of the most sincerely well-intentioned as well as the most smugly self-congratulating people I have ever met. Somehow, I don’t expect that karma would be in any way impressed by the elaborate hedonism that Burning Man’s attendees are so fond of fashioning for themselves.

    The whole “I’ve never felt such a sense of community and belonging” shtick appears to have broken down quite dramatically this year, as desperate campers attempt to flee their inhospitable locale before circumstances can grow any more dire. I guess there is a silver lining hiding away in all the disaster porn, in that the event’s rigidly conformist egregore, demanding obedient repetitions of that idealized mantra, is now really getting the stuffing beaten out of it. All the wealth, talent, and energy that annually gets poured into erecting the complex temporary backdrop, which allows that intoxicated love fest to appear so convincing to its privileged participants, turned out not to be enough this year to even get the porta-potties emptied or the alkaline burns treated. D’oh! What a bummer of a buzzkill!

    If anyone has any insights into how the collective karma (or even communal hubris) of Burning Man has determined to get itself discharged this year, as well as what effects that is likely to have on the future of this Disneyland for the alt-PMC, I would love to hear them. I am now quite fascinated by this real-time, real-world unfolding disaster, perfectly modeled on this week’s post — synchronicity is alive and kicking!

  282. JMG – I heard last week that the University of Nebraska set a new world record for a women’s sports event, over 92,000 fans, for a day-long volleyball program. Hooray for women’s sport! IF you listen or read closely, however, you’ll learn that one of the things that made THIS event special was the first-ever sale of alcohol to the fans, and that the sports even concluded with a country-music concert (Scotty McCreery). I don’t have any idea what sort of audience Scotty McCreery typically draws, but when it’s one-price admission, I can’t help but wonder how many people came to see volleyball, and how many sat through volleyball to see music (and drink beer).

    I had to dig up two news stories to find one that mentioned the concert. I guess ESPN was just too focused on this big sports spectacle, not surprisingly. After all, it’s ESPN, not MTV.

    The karmic implications seem pretty clear to me: a University which perpetrates intellectual fraud with such a sketchy claim will have a hard time complaining about students pushing the boundary (with AI-generated papers, perhaps) of academic ethics, and drinking too much. It’s just “what you have to do to get the result you want”.

  283. @ Peter Wilson #85, @ Booklover #101
    Re: Protestantism as a deterrent to another Lemurian Deviation from the Lords of Karma

    Hmmm! I will have to read up on Lemurians–
    I am noticing a parallel structure here in mythic stories (perhaps archetypes involved?):
    1)Gods give instructions; 2) Humans disobey/overreach; 3) Disaster; 4) Restrictions placed by Gods:

    1) Don’t abuse nuclear-power-level magic; 2) Humans do it anyway; 3) Lemurian deviation 4) Enlightenment Reform Protestantism inflicted to prevent recurrence.

    Adam and Eve:
    1) Don’t eat the fruit of just that one tree; 2) Adam and Eve eat the fruit; 3) Irreversible knowledge of good and evil; 4) Kicked out of Eden, flaming sword installed to prevent return.

    Tower of Babel:
    1) Spread out and populate the world 2) Humans decide to stay in the city and make a giant tower to become like gods 3) Severe risk of acquiring god-powers 4) Languages confused, population dispersed.

    Stories like these (and many others!) may be meant to teach us something of the way that karma works in words we can understand. This is the same sort of thing as Dion Fortune’s ‘Cosmic Doctrine’– Not meant to inform, but to train the mind…

  284. @ Roy Smith #36, @ JMG #57
    Re: ‘Types of afterlife experiences’

    Roy said, “ what happens to us after we die is probably much more complex and mysterious than anything we can wrap our minds around, and may in fact justify all of the many and varied intuitions about what that may look like….”

    JMG said, “…we have no evidence that everyone has the same kind of afterlife…”

    –Along these lines, Lyn Buchanan (a Remote Viewer for the US Military) describes a part of his RV training in which he was trained to psychically accompany people through their deaths and to their afterlives. He successfully did this 67 times.

    Lyn reports 4 general categories of afterlife, and that “there was seemingly no rhyme or reason to the types and numbers of people who [ended up in the different types of afterlives].”

    1. Heaven “…an ambience of absolute and wonderful bliss….”

    2. Hell “…a place so dark that I can only describe it as ‘a glowing blackness’…”

    3. Oblivion. “…no place at all. I would follow the person through the death experience and suddenly there would be no person at all. I could move back in time to before their death and would still be in touch with them, so I knew I had not lost session contact. But if I moved forward again, beyond the moment of death, there was simply no one there….”

    4. Reincarnation “….the person would suddenly have other physical characteristics, different surroundings, different life situations, etc. There was a very strange and unexpected aspect….Every one of them suddenly became a child of about 12 or 13 years old…”

    It is well worth reading the full account– The book may be available through your library.

    Here is a reference:

    Buchanan L. The Seventh Sense – The secrets of remote viewing as told by a ‘psychic spy’ for the US Military. Chapter 15, Afterlife. New York; Paraview Pocket Books, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7434-6268-6

    Thanks once again, JMG, for another great essay! And thanks to all commenters for their many insights!

  285. JMG
    If I am in any way remembering and not just imagining these lives, which I have had flashes of, not comprehensive memories, I was a druid woman in Arthurian Britain, whose daughter was a priestess ( my present daughter), and I hated the conquering Christians; my next life would have been as a young man in early 19th century England who was transported to Australia for some petty theft,escaped to the bush but didn’t survive long; my next would have been as a very anti racist junior union officer in the US civil war, who drifted across the west after the war and died in CA in the early 20th century.The one before this would have been as an upper or middle class Englishman who was killed fighting for the republic in the Spanish civil war. In this life I have been an increasingly pro Viet Cong photo journalist in Vietnam, been on the Greenpeace Rainbow warrior, etc, etc.
    It seems that I have been quite successful in my quest for bad guys, but been somewhat unfulfilled in my quest for good guys, having quite easily found the faults in the causes I identified with.
    It seems that one of my main lessons is to drop this Manichean quest for good guys and bad guys. I find it very hard in today’s world situation and have to keep reminding myself.
    As I said, I don’t know if I just imagined these lives. They feel very real. Would it make sense to have such tightly packed series of lives, all in the Anglosphere, and all centered on this issue? I welcome your insight on this.

  286. Ron M,

    Powerful stuff. Can’t say we don’t deserve what’s coming to us either.

    In the past I’ve always taken some comfort in the idea that I didn’t personally own slaves, or kill Indians, but now that I’m a firm believer in reincarnation and karma? I’m not so sure. I just hope that I have made, and will continue to make, peace with the spirits of N. America.


  287. “but in the final analysis human beings are damned because of something they didn’t do, the fall of Adam, and can only be saved by something they didn’t do either, the self-sacrifice of Christ.”

    As beings that didn’t rebel with the full knowledge of God like the Devil and his Angels. As well as the nature of Angels and of the requirement that they become absolutely obstinate in order to rebel.

    It makes sense that for events out of their control that humans are given a way out that they didn’t earn for themselves either.

    I think humans will be judged according to what they know. According to their own knowledge of morality they will be judged. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair. Although this God also judges the intent of the heart. To harbor evil intent without carrying it out is to be guilty already.

    There is no mercy for Satan and his minions in contrast.

    As for Christianity compared to the Law of consequences there is an interesting compatibility between the Faustian View and the Christian Linear view of History with many cycles incorporated within but with a True End point and transition to a New Creation.

  288. @Quin. Thank you. I have no clue, but I think so; inclusivity is a central Ba’hai teaching.

  289. @Christophe re: Burning Man

    Is it true that the event is held on a dry lakebed?

    If so, I’m not sure it’s necessary to look anywhere beyond that. All our ancestors forever have treated bodies of water as entities– why else would wells, ponds, lakes, cenotes, etc be so crammed with votive offerings? So not only is it a *being*, it also demands gifts. I don’t think it’s any accident that an annual gathering at that place took on the trappings of an old-school ritual sacrifice. Lakes demand offerings. Dry lakes are hungry beasts.

    Perhaps the sacrifice finally worked, and now the lake is making a comeback?

    Perhaps the sacrifice was inadequate, and the lake is demanding more?

    Either way, a drought-stricken lake is like any other starving predator: stay well away.

  290. John,

    I am quite enjoying the discussion on karma this week – very illuminating. Your description of karma as an impersonal, balancing force unconcerned with human value judgements is quite clarifying. However, I am having a little trouble understanding one point – previously, you have said that a person can induce a karmic culmination through certain intentional rituals. This would imply that we can influence karma, if only to speed up it’s action. By analogy, it’s like we have the law of gravity, which normally works as advertised, but if we do certain rituals on certain objects, these objects suddenly start accelerating downward twice as fast as everything else. This makes karma seem to be less remote and impartial a force if it can be thus influenced. Can you elaborate on what’s going on when one induces a karmic culmination? Is this an appeal to the gods and goddesses, with them acting in ways we don’t understand? Or is something else going on?

    [P.S. Sorry if this is a duplicate – I think I had a previous post eaten, so posing the question again.]

  291. @Emmanuel Goldstein #291 – and the Noah’s Ark commandment is one of the two that should have included a “and when that’s been accomplished, STOP!” clause. Because we’re multiplied and replenished the earth, population-wise, far in excess of requirements.

  292. Anonymous, good. Yes, very much so.

    Scotty, excellent! Hall is as usual spot on; karma looks like punishment to us, because — unlike most things in nature — we have the capacity to foresee the consequences of our actions to some extent, and so we can generate modes of karma unique to that experience. Some of them slap us across the face good and hard.

    Michael, it’s not just Christian. I think everyone who believes in gods ends up in that situation now and then; some have the grace to admit that they made a mistake and take their lumps.

    Aldarion, it’s been sent.

    Chris, ouch! I understand that homeowners here in the US are facing similar hikes in insurance: just one more way in which the system is becoming insupportable for the people who are supposed to carry its burdens. Your prediction seems tolerably likely to me, for what it’s worth.

    Celadon, yes, I could see that.

    Jdm, thanks for this. I’ve also changed adult diapers — I worked in the nursing home industry for some years, before I got into print — and yeah, it’s a good way to work off some karma. (Also to get used to the transitory and self-terminating nature of human life.)

    Wer, yes, I got it. It was completely off topic and therefore was deleted. Please reread the first sentence of the text above the comment box:

    Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. (Emphasis added.)

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Ksim, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is a value judgment, and value judgments are unique to each individual. Nor, of course, is the universe under any obligation to change its habits because some people don’t like them…)

    Mozhay, no problem — brain farts happen. 😉

    Phutatorius, I really wonder what he did in his previous lives!

    Clarke, this is a very good point. Pythagoras taught his students to do this every night before bed: review the day, assess your successes and failures, and decide on what you’ll do about them.

    Sandwiches, exactly. It’s the same kind of mental struggle that happened when people had to let go of the idea that the planets moved because angels were pushing them, and try to make sense of concepts such as gravity and momentum.

    Christophe, not I, but I’ll be intrigued to see how all this plays out in the weeks and years ahead.

    LatheChuck, that’s seriously funny. Thank you.

    Stephen, I wonder what you were doing between the 6th and 19th centuries! That’s kind of a long time to go without incarnation. But yes, the sequence seems quite reasonable; a lot of people have lives packed close together just now, because there are so many more bodies to fill than under normal conditions, and it’s very common for one issue to play out in this kind of way.

    Info, of course — modern Western Christianity is the core Faustian religion, and that shows.

    Brother K, it’s quite simple. Imagine that you’re climbing down a ladder. You’re just as affected by gravity as if you were in free fall — the gravity doesn’t change one iota — but your actions keep you from responding to it as freely as you otherwise would. Now imagine that you jumped away from the ladder and let yourself fall to the ground. Again, gravity wouldn’t change, but you’d descend much more quickly, and the landing might be a jolt! Mutatis mutandis, that’s how karmic culmination works. If you let go of the things that keep you from responding to the pull of karma, that pull will accelerate you considerably, but the pull hasn’t changed — only your actions in response to it.

  293. @Ksim, #281

    I’ve been pondering a lot this week on the meaning of karma that “carries” from one life to the next, and to the fairness (or lack thereof) of this. This is a sort of mental coredump, so please forgive me if it is rough around the edges.

    I have an intimation of having fought and died in the Cristero War; most likely fought at least in the late phases of the Mexican Civil War as well. I may have died in my late twenties, somewhere around 1926-1928. That would put my former self in the generation of my great-grandparents. The personality (prosopon) that was that man had many biases that I do not share, but I (another prosopon) still get to both benefit and suffer from whatever enduring qualities (the individuality) I inherited from him. Some of it was painful, and the blame cannot be seriously assigned to my current self: I was bullied as a young boy, and I spend most of the time between ages 14-23 jumping back and forth between love-struck and hearth-broken. Why would all those boys hate me so much, and why would all those girls despise me so much? I don’t know. Maybe they were all jerks, but just maybe they did feel subconsciously threatened by me? What I know is that I have learned to control my tempter a bit, and to try and put myself in other people’s shoes a bit.

    Would I have had the raw stamina to pull off even that meager improvements without the pressure of being a paranoid, 24 year old virgin? Not a chance, I think.

  294. JMG
    Thank you.
    I wasn’t thinking that I went from the 6th to 19th centuries without an incarnation, just that I haven’t had any recollection of them: maybe in Cromwell’s army which would fit the pattern. The only other one I can remember was in classical Greece as a sort of messenger or special delivery postman on Samos.

  295. @info, #295

    For what’s worth, Ft. Fortea’s take on the judgement of Satan and his angels differs heavily from yours. In his “History of the Angelic World”, Fortea wrote that while angels may know now the true nature of God, it was hidden from them until after the time when they made their “pledge of allegiance”. Lucifer was the wisest and most powerful of the angelic beings, and one of the oldest… so it was a perfectly reasonable argument that behind this “God of Oz”, there was a curtain and another big angel that was older and at least as powerful as Lucifer himself. There’s no other way to make sense of the story that one third of the heavenly host rebelled against their Creator!!!

    I love this story because it puts angelic beings in exactly the same moral choices and dilemmas we humans face today. There are some manifestations that indicate the divine is real and proper for us to revere, but nothing is certain and there are a number of other plausible explanations that offer immediate benefits for our “needs and wants”. It is as if the text demands, what are you going to do about it?

    And, regarding the fairness of the judgement of angels. The fate of the rank and file is a tale for another time; but at the final phase of the war, Lucifer was aiming at “suicide by Blasphemy”. He was too proud to accept he was wrong so he did his level best at deicidium, in the vain hope that God would wipe out him and his in self defense. Instead, he got humiliated by a low ranking angel by the name of Michael. It was as if Sauron’s forces would have fought the forces of Gondor and Rivendell and Rohan to a checkmate, only to be flanked and thrown in disarray by a warband of hobbits lead by Samwise Gamgee.

  296. Dear JMG,
    Once again greetings from Türkiye, where Erdoğan still leads the country.
    What you describe karma as seems similar to what is in the video game “Spore”. In the Spore you start from a simple celled organism to a spacefaring species through different ages. The routes you take (such as choosing to be carnivore, herbivore, omnivore) affect the future ages.

    As for the Protestanism protecting us from supernatural disaster. You say regularly that opposite of a bad idea is another bad idea. The environment that lacks spirituality doesn’t protects us, it makes us utterly vulnerable to predations of spiritiual entities.

  297. My internet and landline service returned on the 11th day of the outage. Also, a note of clarification. I had no intention of maligning Clint Eastwood; just that his seems to be an interesting karma. Enviable, or not? It seems hard to say.

  298. Data point – I live in a fishing port, which is now (pretty much) bereft of fish landings. The fish are still out in the sea, but being fished by others, while regulatory and bureaucratic processes slowly and deliberately dismantle the Irish fish industry.

    Meanwhile, a memory. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, as part of the EU’s common fishery policy, fishermen whose catches did not attract a set price level, could sell their fish to the fishmeal plant at the Compulsory Purchase Office set price (a subsidised system), where perfectly edible and good fish would be sprayed with purple dye to render it unfit for market, and then turned into fishmeal for fertiliser. I have seen photographs of the local fishmeal plant holding so many boxes of purple-sprayed fish that it towered over the building itself. And heard stories of the old men who said at the time – “someone will pay for this.”

    And it’s true. Those decades are locally known as the town’s “Wild West” period, when so much fish was being landed, at guaranteed prices, that there was no thought of tomorrow, and everyone who fished was swaggering through the town’s pubs and restaurants like wee Midas’s. The first job I worked at in this town, in the early 90’s, was for a man who attended 2, and sometimes 3, fish auctions a day in the town. And it is more than 20 years now since any fish auctions have been held at all, in this fishing port. And the local fish processors are having to go further and further afield to find fish to process and sell, much of it landed in other countires, and then shipped here for processing.

    We may soon see a day when the island of Ireland, surrounded by sea on every side, will not contain a single fish landed on this island.

    Karma? Perhaps those lavish landings of fish known to be surplus to market requirements, whose fate could not be other than to be painted purple and turned into fertiliser, is already making itself felt?

  299. Stephen, gotcha. Thanks for the clarification.

    Ahmet, thanks for this. Duly noted, but keep in mind that Protestant Christianity doesn’t lack spirituality — well, not until it entered its decadent phase; it simply focused its spiritual attention very, very narrowly.

    Phutatorius, maybe it’s because I mentioned a new provider. 😉

    Scotlyn, fascinating. Yeah, sometimes collective karma isn’t too hard to spot.

  300. Hiya,

    Longterm reader first time commenter here! Its been like a longterm Quaker meeting for me here, Ive only just felt compelled to speak ! 😉

    I used to have an Indian Hindu friend who I used to have metaphysical discussions with. He was generally quite disparaging about the Western take on Eastern spirituality. He thought we had it all inside out!

    However, the description you have given in this essay as to how karma works is very similar to his. The one big difference I can see though, is he would say that while ‘good’ karma or ‘bad’ karma affects your life on this plane and how you are reincarnated, both are still karma, the positive and negative effects of the cycles of habitual action we’re all trapped in. In his view one has to break free of karmic influence to transcend this spiritual plane. Its not good karma that leads to freedom, but the release from all habitual action, and the working through of all accumulated karma. For hindus this can be done through practices such as nishkama karma yoga. (explanation here if folks are interested:

    In your reply to a comment you said that the saints, as an example, reached a higher existence by accumulating ‘good’ karma. Does this mean that occult traditions differ from a hindu perspective in that regard?

  301. Phutatorius #284 I didn’t know that about Client Eastwood! Instead of “everyone out of the ocean,” maybe… “Being this is a ‘54 spring tide, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do you, soldier?”

    Clarke aka Gwydion # 286 Thank you for that. It seems obvious that if our deeds have important spiritual consequences, we should examine our deeds. I agree that the discussion seems to have skated past the obvious!

    Chris at Fernglade Farm # 288 I sometimes wish I’d grown up when the government encouraged all to have Victory Gardens. My Dad liked Crocket Johnson and my parents, who lived through the Depression and WWII, had to explain what Barnaby’s fairy godfather was talking about.

    Lathechuck # 290 Do we know that the University did something immoral and reprehensible? It seems that ESPN, not the University, were the ones who reported on the event as all about women’s volleyball, without mentioning the country music and booze. How would it be inherently wrong for a University with a stadium to allow a country music concert that includes beer? How would that indicate disrespect for academic integrity without cheating? I feel there’s a dot that didn’t get connected between “this happened” and … “what a shame.”

    Emmanuel Goldstein # 292 thank you for the book suggestion. If I had some remote viewing talent, I wouldn’t need to ask my library for it!
    # 291 Those stories are also all consistent with the “jealous God” messaging of the Old Testament.

    stephen h. pearson # 293 Thank you for sharing your impression, of the eternal recurrance of the relentless protester. It would be a very fascinating novel or series to depict that. The only story like that I know of is the Innana series from devoted freelance Hinduism scholar Susan Ferguson. It leads up to the author as one of the Sumerian goddess’s fragments, who became acquainted and got re-integrated.

    Christophe # 298 and methylethyl #297 I was invited to Burning Man many years ago. A temporary arts town looked interesting, but something felt very much off and I declined. In large part because of the intention choice of a non life supporting site to cram in an instant multitude, in physically dangerous conditions. Christophe, I had exactly the same impression about the mix of sincere, exploratory artist types and upper-class smug types. Your view makes perfect sense to me.

    JMG # 301 “Pythagoras taught his students to do this every night before bed: review the day, assess your successes and failures, and decide on what you’ll do about them.” I suppose if you triangulate on your actions from enough angles, you’ll soon be right with the universe, squared up so to speak. 😉
    That ladder analogy is enormously helpful!

    CR Patiño # 304, I had no idea Orthodox doctrine included a veiled moral choice for the angels. I’m pretty familiar with Protestantism, some with Catholicism, but know nearly nothing about how Orthodox differs. Roosh V seems to be a very outspoken, attention-geting convert to Orthodoxy.
    And # 302, could some modern Mexicans have karma from Aztec human-sacrifice rituals?

    Scotlyn # 307, that’s fascinating. Makes one think karma is no fish story?

  302. I can’t begin to tell you how meaningful this post has become over the last week, and for that I am eternally grateful. So to speak…

    For one, it’s helped me to parse the behavior of the political left in the U.S. over the past decade and a half, especially the last 7 years. I know lots of lefties – both friends and family – and their behavior has been a real head-shaker. On the character side, I don’t think they’re being evil; I think they truly mean well. But on the other side, the circumstances side, I can now appreciate that what they’re setting up for themselves, via their misplaced faith in Progress, is creating a situation that will likely knock them upside the head with several sturdy 2x4s in the coming years!

    So glad I broke free of that mindset on that fateful day in January of ’09..
    That was a big day.

  303. JillN – As kind and generous as you might want to be, never ever ever invite a homeless person into your home. I’ve been there; done that. Eventually, it took a half-dozen police officers to wrestle that underweight young woman into a squad car when her erratic and violent behavior became intolerable to my neighbors. Months later, our paths crossed again, and … no hard feelings! She had gotten some important mental health care in the mean time. It was far more care than a well-intended amateur such as myself could provide. Since then, I have volunteered to stand night-watch at a homeless shelter with a dozen or two men, but not alone, and not in my home.

  304. Free Rain, from an occult perspective the practice of virtue, by generating positive karma, helps provide the conditions in which it’s possible to finish up the work of material incarnation and go beyond. Virtue doesn’t do it all by itself, but it’s a lot easier to practice spiritual disciplines when you’ve got a good karmic situation — that makes it easier to have the free time, the relatively peaceful surroundings, and so on.

    C from C, funny. Pythagoras was rather more than a geometer — did you know that he also remembered his past lives? — but he probably would have chuckled at that.

    Grover, glad to hear it.

    Scotty, thanks for this.

  305. Christopher from California: Re: the Nebraska volleyball festival. I first heard about it on NPR: big story about volleyball, interviews with excited fans of women’s sports, a strong sense that “at last, women are getting the attention they deserve”. Then, an audio footnote: “oh, and we also started selling alcohol, and playing music after the games.” So, then I followed up for fact-checking, and every story was about the great women’s sport event the university athletic program created, but not every story mentioned the booze and music along with it. Maybe it’s my personal bias, but I don’t see any honest connection between education and athletics. The baseball system has minor leagues of professional players, but the football and basketball industries rely on “scholar-athletes” for their minor leagues. I’m not claiming that there was fraud in the sense that people who attended didn’t get what they wanted, but something more subtle than that: that an institution promising and funded for education would divert resources to public spectacle, benefiting the participants at expense of a far greater number of taxpayers. And even if (especially if!) they turned a cash profit on the project, it still “divides their will” from the scholarship they were established to perform.

  306. @Christopher from California, #310

    Well, I do have my Orthodox influences, but Ft. Antonio Fortea is a Spanish, Roman Catholic priest and (AFAIK retired) exorcist. The book I was quoting from, “Historia del Mundo Angélico”, is available for free in electronic form.

    As for the Aztec religion question, well… many ancient peoples practiced human sacrifice, but the scale as well as the brutality and needless cruelty of the Aztecs speaks of something Dark ruling over the astral plane in Mesoamerica. Mexico is a place of contrasts, and surreal in more than a few ways. You can see incredible beauty and kindness side by side to incredible sleaziness and pigheadedness. So, in part yes, we are paying up some debt in our current crises, but also the Land itself is thirsty, and not precisely of water.

  307. JMG
    Thank you again. This has given me a new perspective. There are places, such as Australia, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, coastal CA that I feel a very strong connection to, and feel that I have had lives there before, but just can’t remember the specific lives. Most likely I was no one of any particular importance.

  308. Lathechuck, you are of course right. The only homeless person I have ever had in my house was a friend of my grandson and that is not necessarily a good recommendation either.
    Thanks for the warning as it could have a bad effect on someone else.

  309. Lathechuck & Christopher from California:

    Maybe you would be interested in the recent world soccer victory of the Spanish femenine team. Three years ago, nobody talked about femenine soccer. Oh, they played soccer, but they didn’t exist on TV news, so it is as if they didn’t exist.
    Last year, Maria Putellas, player of Barcelona F.C., was subject of a school work for my kid. This sportswoman won a golden ball (the soccer prize for the best player of that year). Suddenly, that got in the news.
    This year, the femenine soccer world cup competition got a surprisingly high attention on the news, ultimately justified by winning the competition. Even then, it feels weird. So far, femenine soccer had been as popular as volleyball. No one cares today if our male volleyball team wins a wold cup (no one but their friends and family).

    Why this sudden change?
    I can only speculate that there has been a media campaign. The owners of the media conglomerates have decided that it fits their interests. The ultimate reasons I cannot know, since I am not a sports fan in any sense.
    I can only say that there is interest in our PMC to promote/popularise women sports, and that they are investing money on the goal.

    I am happy for them (women sports deserve the same attention), and I celebrate that male soccer is not the only one sport that exists in TV, besides male basket. (Ocassionally, we hear about tennis champions, and the bicycle tours in summer, when soccer is on holidays). But I’d be happier if soccer was just another game like the others, not the money-washing machine it has become. And I fear that there are second intentions behind this movement of the PMC. It looks too orchestrated to be a cultural change.

  310. May be too late in the cycle…

    JMG #260 cleared up a point I was going to ask about, namely the relationship between ethics and karma. There is no relationship. Karma is consequences of actions, ethics and judgement is a human construct.

    Trying to think of an analogy, imagine paddling in a pond. You send out ripples, which reflect and intersect. Sometimes they cancel each other out when they cross, sometimes they reinforce each other. So you experience karma sometimes strongly, sometimes weakly. If the ripples push you back when you want to go forward, or left when you want to go right, you call it bad karma, and vice versa is good karma. Actually, it’s just karma, not reward or punishment.

  311. Comment submitted for feedback concerning something CR Patino said in #316:

    “…brutality and needless cruelty of the Aztecs speaks of something Dark ruling over the astral plane in Mesoamerica…” and “the Land itself is thirsty, and not precisely of water.”

    I believe earlier in this thread JMG mentioned collective karma or civilizational karma but Patino’s statements also point towards gods building up karma.

    The comment about the Land itself being thirsty is disturbing. I remember a popular Ecosophia post ( in which the “nameless forces that surge through the deep places of the land was mentioned.” Many commenters, myself included started to explore how to connect with the land. Disturbing in that the land itself may be going through a phase of “negative” karma. Don’t want to imagine too much on karma having me being born in such a time and place, a place in which the gods are building up negative karma and even the Land discharging karma as the whole life trajectory is towards a one way trip up a pyramid… Then again, can’t say the last few years were any fun…

  312. @Nachtgurke #252 Re: equations

    Perhaps an example would be helpful. The curvature of the universe, of the roots of our teeth, of the spirals in the seeds of sunflowers and so many things were described by the golden proportion and can be calculated by Fibonacci’s sequence. The Fibonacci calculations are not the truths themselves, just a meditation tool that helps to appreciate the beauty of one of the underlying unities of the universe.
    In numerology, ‘5’ is an important number as well. The ratio of the long axis of a 5-pointed star compared to the distance between two adjacent points is also the golden ratio.
    Speaking only for myself, when I looked into that a bit further, I was able to determine that the golden proportion is mathematically related to the square root of 5.
    Deriving equations is not everyone’s cup of tea! But for me, the tools of mathematics offer glimpses of the underlying order and interrelationships of the universe that are often not that obvious. Mathematics are a tool or a map, not the actual reality, but as a tool of meditation they can give glimpses of truth.

  313. @Sandwiches and JMG #260

    It is true that there is no direct connection between ethics and karma, but rather an indirect one. Here is an example to illustrate this:

    In Country A, it is common for girls to marry before having a sexual relationship with a man, and they remain under the care of their father until marriage. Country B is much more liberal, and it is tolerated for girls to have sex before marriage.

    Now, if you have sex with a girl before marriage in Country A, the karmic consequence of this is negative because you have acted selfishly in this case and disregarded the needs of society and the family to which the girl belongs. In Country B, however, this is viewed much more relaxed, so there are no negative karmic consequences.

  314. Patricia Ormsby #234


    > People who have participated in this prayer effort report feeling healed by it themselves.

    This reminds me of the Tibetan Buddhist practice “tong-len,” which among other akin practices, is:

    Breathe in the bad,
    Breathe out the good.

    One transforms bad into good, and leaves the world a better place. The next breathe breathes in better stuff than before, thereby compounding. It is like compound interest.

    This practice brings me out of myself.

    💨Northwind Grandma🍂
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA
    …wind is coming…

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