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Karmic Follies

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on March 2, 2010 | Comments (8)

The understanding of karma has proved very important in Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism, and magick. In Wicca and Witchcraft, this has taken the form of the “Law of Return” and the “Three-Fold Law.” The basic idea is that you will receive in some proportion to what you give. In ceremonial magick, this translates as “if you do something that negatively effects another, something negative will happen to you—so don’t do magick that harms others.” In general, then, these names—karma, the law of return, etc.—can be described as the natural law of cause and effect.

This is an important concept to understand. Karma is a natural law. A simple description of the law would be that if you drop a stone into a still pond, waves will come out from where the stone struck the water. Those waves are not positive or negative, they simply are. This means something rather startling:

There is no “good” karma or “bad” karma, there is only…karma.

Karma is not a system of punishments and rewards. For there to be punishments and rewards there needs to be some source—sometimes referred to as the “lords of karma”—to determine whether you should be punished or rewarded, and how much you should be punished or rewarded for any particular action. However, there is no individual, no council, no power source that does this. The idea of such a body, as far as I can tell, was invented for a game originally published three decades ago for use on computers such as the Commodore 64 and the TRS-80.

So why is there karma if not to punish and reward? It is to educate. It it to turn our consciousness to the concept that helping others has the advantage of helping ourselves and that cooperation is better than competition.* It’s to bring into our hearts that living an altruistic life is a good thing, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The purpose of karma is to help you develop spiritually. Theoretically, when you learn to be a completely spiritual person and adopt spirituality to a level where it is virtually a part of your very essence, then you will cease to need to live in the laboratory of life and not need to reincarnate (although you may choose to do so).

Errors, Errors, Errors

So why am I discussing this today? It’s because of a post I read on another site. Normally, I credit other sites when I comment what others have written, but I’m choosing not to do so today because the poster is presenting information that is simply in error.

The poster gets into the idea of “negative” karma which is completely false. As I wrote above, karma is simply karma. It is to educate you on ways to improve your life. And that’s what is heavily missing in this other blog. The writer discusses “fixing” your karma. Sorry, your karma isn’t broken. The fact that you’re interpreting the results as being negative for you shows that, indeed, your karma is working perfectly and as intended.

He writes that you can change your karma rather quickly. However, he is talking about “instant karma” and seems to assume that this is the only type of karma there is. Actually, there are at least two other types of karma (karma from past lives and karma from earlier in this life).

His technique for overcoming negative karma is to do something good for someone else. But note what is happening: you are told to do good not because you have learned that helping people is a good thing, but simply in order to fight your so-called negative karma. Respectfully, this is neither the purpose of karma nor will it really be effective.

Well, it’s a bit more complex than that (isn’t it always?). Karma is about actions, not intentions. So if you start doing good and helping others and continue with these practices, you will have a better life. You may not advance spiritually—the purpose of the learnings you should get from karma—but things will go better for you.

He also suggests that if someone does something to harm another (he calls it “insulting”), you should do nothing. He says you should neither act nor speak out against that harm. On a personal level, I’m not so spiritually advanced that if I witness someone attempting to rape a woman or harm a child that I’m going to ignore it. I’ll act, and act quickly, even if I do have to experience more karma as a result. So be it.

However, I would contend that to not act against something bad is virtually the same as doing it. Helping a person who is doing something harmful to others to realize the impact of what they’re doing is positive. It’s not forcing them to do something against their will.

Finally, he suggests (I’m not kidding) that you can get rid of “negative” karma by crawling on the ground. He claims that it “resets” your brain and your “emotional tone.” Well, it may do that, but that has nothing to do with karma.

Here Come the IROBs

I don’t know how much training this blogger has ever had in the study of karma. The only source he gives in the post is the Course in Miracles. One of the interesting things about the internet is that you can be an IROB (“I Read One Book and now I’m an expert!”) and your blog post, although filled with errors, may seem to have as much authority as someone who has studied a subject for years and is an acknowledge expert.

To readers of this blog, please remember the words of Dion Fortune: There is no room for authority in occultism. Before accepting what some occultist (including myself) writes or says. Check it out for yourself. In this way you can avoid mistakes and being taken in by the IROBs.




*Saying that “cooperation is better than competition” should not be taken to mean that competition is necessarily bad. Competition to make better products, for example, can result in products that are better in quality, lower in price, better for the user, better for the community, and better for the world. Competition can drive people to exceed the limitations they put upon themselves and become better at school, at work, as parents, at creative projects, etc. It is competition based on the concept of  simply wanting to overcome and destroy your competitors that is the problem. “Friendly competition,” where competitors try to improve what they’re competing over rather than trying to harm the business of their competitors, is actually a form of cooperation.

Reader Comments

Written By Tonya Hale
on March 3rd, 2010 @ 6:51 am

I like your article today seems to be almost talking to me as I spent my yesterday in the ER with my son who have horrible seizures. Being in the ER gives you lots of time to analzye and think and I wonder about my life and why it turned out the way it did. And then you say, “there are at least two other types of karma (karma from past lives and karma from earlier in this life).”..so this makes me wonder if I was a bad person in a pervious life cause in this one..except for kicking a few ex boyfriends to the curb I’ve never been mean to anyone.

I liked your input.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on March 3rd, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

Hi, Tonya. I’m very glad you made this post because I guess I really wasn’t too clear. I apologize for that.

You wrote that you wonder if you were “a bad person in a previous life” and that resulted in your horrible experience. A friend of mine responded on Facebook to this post by writing, “If you liked guilt, you’ll love karma. Now you can be guilty forever!”

First, I want you to know that when a child has a horrible problem, as yours did, it is common for parents to ask themselves what they did “wrong.” I have no doubt that you did nothing wrong. I want you to know that you are not alone. You might ask at the hospital if there is a support group for parents of children with seizure disorders.

I feel it is vitally important to understand that karma is NOT, NOT, NOT a punishment. It is NOT about guilt. The purpose of karma is NOT to say, “You were bad in the past and now you must be punished!”

Look at my post above. I wrote about the way a stone dropped into a pond produces waves. The stone wasn’t “bad” for dropping into the water. The waves weren’t “punishment” for the stone dropping. The stone didn’t commit a sin (Self-Inflicted Nonsense). The stone isn’t feeling guilty for falling into the water.

I want to make clear that the horrible events that happened to your son are NOT the result of something “bad” you did in the past or in a past life. In fact, they’re probably not the result of anything your son did in a past life, either.

In my opinion the purpose of an education—including a karmic “education”—is to help us become better people in the future. Getting an education should not have the function of causing us to berate and punish ourselves for anything that might have occurred in the distant past. Doing such berating is not only fruitless, but takes our focus away from a better future.

Karma teaches what we can do to evolve spiritually. It’s about moving forward, not looking back. If anything (including the horror of your experience) moves you to be a better person, the result is good. If it causes you to dwell on the past it is doing just the opposite of what it should be accomplishing.

So let me repeat: there should be no “guilt” or “sin” on your part.

That being said, there are many reasons why children have seizures. It is an absolutely horrifying experience when it occurs and you have my sincerest hope that this had one of the milder causes, is easily dealt with, caused no permanent problems, and never reoccurs. And let me repeat, you’ve done nothing wrong in this life or in previous ones.

If anything, Karma asks one question. That question is not, “What did you do?” Rather, it is “What are you going to do?” My blessings and best wishes for you and your son.

Written By Tonya Hale
on March 3rd, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

I thank you for clearing that up for me and I am glad I asked the question as I’ve always been told “there are no wrong questions or wrong answers”. Or something like that. I want to learn and enlighten myself which is my soul purpose for being on this site.
Thank you again. Hope your day is good.

Written By Victor
on March 4th, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

A lot of people also misunderstand the Wiccan “Three-Fold Law.” Some feel that this means that a karmic bogeyman will come and repay your unkindness and ill-will in a manner thrice as bad. Most Wiccans worth their salt understand that that isn’t the case.

When you do something bad (in this case, you can work out the argument for “good” on your own) to another person you will suffer repercussions for it. Those repercussions aren’t the result of some mysterious current flowing back to “get ya” — they are the result of being a jerk.

If I go around spreading lies and rumors about someone I know then I can expect my “karma” to come back to me. How so? Well, for starters, I’m putting out information that can and most likely will be checked. I’ll get a reputation as a liar. I’ll lose friends over this, to be sure. When I need help from someone, the pool of people I know to call on will be greatly diminished. I’ll end up spending a lot of time alone — that’s time spent with someone who is a known liar and who doesn’t have many friends! The result of my action have left me alone, needy, and depressed.

That “three-fold law” doesn’t mean, “Comes back to you three times as a bad.” It means that your actions impact you on three levels: the physical, mental, and emotional. It’s not a supernatural force, it’s a natural reaction.

Written By Kyle
on March 6th, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

I’ve always wondered, do politicians and comedians and others who are in the limelight and whose job is to criticize, lambast, and mock others incur a ton of karma related to their actions?

In one sense, it seems fair. On the other hand, tearing apart your political opponent can help voters see a fraud. And a comedian can make fun of a celebrity, let’s say, but bring insight and laughs to millions of viewers.

Written By Kyle
on March 7th, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

One thing I would add to Tonya Hale’s remarks above,

In the film Charlie Wilson’s War, one character tells a “Zen parable” (I’ve also heard this being Taoist, but that is irrelevant).

Anyway, the parable goes, a young man received a horse as a gift, and the whole village said, “how lucky!” the Zen master replied, “we shall see.” Later, after riding his horse, the young man fell and broke his leg. “How awful!,” said the villagers. The Zen master replied, “we shall see.” Then a war broke out and the army came and conscripted all the young men, except for the one who had had his leg broken. “How lucky!,” said the villagers.” “We shall see,” replied the Zen master.

I think this touches on what Don and others above have said. Karma isn’t good or bad, nor is it “punishment” for past misdeeds. What we think is “good” can turn out to be bad, and can turn good again, and vice versa. Our conceptions of things are off, which is why we interpret karma as “good” or “bad.” Most of us, I think, can’t see the bigger picture and thus we’re stuck placing value judgments on what happens to us and what our experiences are, while forgetting that they are there to push us ahead and help us progress spiritually, not to knock us over the head just because we did something wrong.

A child with disabilities can learn to be tougher than most (famous men with epilepsy include Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar; a more recent example would be Sonia Sotomayor who said her diabetes pushed her to prove to herself that she was stronger than her condition, and now she sits on the U.S. Supreme Court). Meanwhile a family that wins the lottery can find that the extra money winds up destroying the bonds they had before.

As was said above, you have a special opportunity to look at this situation not as “punishment” but as a way to evolve, move forward, and to make your family stronger because of this.

Written By CJ
on March 9th, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

I think that indeed karma is about intentions, not only actions, as you seem to believe, in the sense in which *thoughts are things*. And if you hate someone powerfully for a long time, but don’t do any actual harm to him, that will still incur ‘bad karma’ so to speak. You always receive what you put out, whether that’s an action or a thought. So I believe that someone who does good deeds with the intention of advancing his egoistic wishes would get back a negative effect, because in actuality he *is* sending negativity out in the form of egotistical thoughts and intentions.

Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on March 9th, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

Hi, CJ, and thanks for your comment.

You’re certainly entitled to have your own beliefs. I do know that there is no historic documentation to support the classical idea that karma is about actions and not intentions. However, as Dion wrote, such authoritative commentary does not make it right.

However, it does result in a problematic situation. Let’s say I really hate someone named Tim. I spend years hating him and finally I do something about it. I know he’s broke and I buy his house from under him and force him to move out and onto the street. Muahahahah!

As he packs up he finds a shiny old penny that had been hidden in the back of a closet. It’s a mint state 1909S V.D.B. coin that he sells for $6,000.00. He invests it in a French company called Motor Development International which will shortly market a car in the U.S. that runs on compressed air. Within five years his investment is worth $20 million, and he donates $15 million to charity. Meanwhile, the value of the property where the house I bought doubles and I sell it for a huge profit.

In this situation, even though I acted out of extreme hate, my “victim” almost immediately prospered, I prospered, and perhaps thousands of others benefited.

So how did my intent, based on hate, harm anyone? In fact, my actions helped Tim discover a treasure. This seems to counter your intentions argument, and I wonder how you would respond?


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