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Soul Life
Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.)


  by John Van Auken

In order to fully appreciate the secret teachings, we need to understand how the Universal Law of Cause and Effect works. It's easy to say that the experiences in one's life are the result of past activities, but the forces of this law are greater than we may first imagine.

Every action, every thought, every idle word sets up reactions, according to the Universal Law. When one thinks a thought, that thought makes an impression on the Universal Consciousness. Nothing is lost or done in secret. Everything is done within the Universal Consciousness, and the Whole is affected by it (as well as all others within the Whole).

This isn't easy for us to believe, living in our own little worlds. Secret, private, alone and separate are active words in our vocabulary. This is due to our current separation in consciousness from the Whole. In the higher realms of consciousness there is no space.

Things and people are not separate, but part of a Whole. All is actually One. All is within the Whole. By increasing the focus on self, we have created the illusion of a self separated from the rest of life, but it just isn't so. Our individual actions and thoughts make an impact on the Mind of the Universal One.

When the legendary seer, Edgar Cayce, was in the deeper levels of consciousness and was asked to give a "reading" of the soul-record for an individual, he found it very difficult to determine whether the soul had thought of doing something or had actually done it. In the deeper levels of consciousness, thoughts and actions are equal in their impact. Perhaps this explains Jesus' admonition that adultery in one's heart is the same as committing it in deed.

Thoughts are things. Thoughts are real.

Reactions to past thoughts and actions become our fate, destiny and karma. An individual's fate is simply the rebounding effects of previous choices remembered by its soul. The reason the effects of these previous choices often seem unfair to the conscious mind is because the personality doesn't see beyond its own life for sources of current conditions.

"Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1-2) Now if these disciples didn't believe in and understand pre-existence of the soul and karma, why would they ask if this man's own sins had caused him to be born blind? The only way this could happen is for him to have sinned before his birth! And, in fact, that is just what they thought he might have done. Notice also how the disciples thought that his parents might have brought this upon themselves through past mistakes. Here is a clear indication that within the inner circle of Jesus' followers there was the concept that misfortune had a source, and that that source could extend beyond the present lifetime.

As companions of God, we are free to live and choose and grow almost as we desire, but not without being subject to Universal, Spiritual Law. Through meeting our thoughts, actions and words we learn to discern wisdom from folly, lasting strength from weakness and true life from illusion. In turn we become more able to fulfill our ultimate purpose for existing: to be a companion to the Universal Creator. The law is actually a magnificent tool for perfect learning. It is completely impersonal -- everyone experiences it equally and for the purpose of enlightenment, even Jesus: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." (Hebrews 5:8)


The law of karma is not some fierce god in the sky keeping track of everything so that it can zap people when they least expect it. Most karmic reactions in fact come from the individual's own deep memory of what it has done.

You see, actions and thoughts build a consciousness much in the same way that exercise and food build a body. In a way, we are a memory complex. Our body and mind is the subtotal of all we have done. The memories, whether conscious or unconscious, make up our present condition. Thus, when we look at one another we are actually seeing a memory complex. Decisions are based on our past; reactions are based on our past; so are our goals. To understand a person, we must know something about their memory complex.

Not surprisingly, karma has been described as memory. Karma is memory coming to consciousness again. What has occurred in the past is recalled and has an effect on the present. Now, the recollection may not surface to the conscious level; the personality may have no awareness of the memory, in fact. Yet, it exists at the deeper, soul level. Nevertheless, the soul sees through the same eyes as the personality, and is reminded of its past use of free-will and consciousness. Naturally, some of these memories will be compatible with the Universal, and some will not.

Memory is an important concept in understanding how the law of karma works.

As a soul draws closer to the Universal Mind it becomes aware that some of its memories are not compatible with the Creator, and since its ultimate purpose for being is companionship with the Creator, it seeks out opportunities to resolve these incompatible memories.

Suppose a soul criticizes another soul among its peers and behind its back. As it becomes more aware of its true nature it will recall this wrong, and because of its incompatibility with the Creator, will seek to correct it. Now, the resolution could take many forms. The soul might seek out an opportunity to work closely with the injured soul as a supporter, assistant, publicist, agent or the like. Or perhaps it would seek to re-create the original scene -- putting itself in a position to criticize the other soul again in front of the same peers. The test would be to see if the soul would choose not to criticize this time, even if it meant a certain loss of position for itself. Throughout all of this the soul grows wiser and more compatible with the Creator.

If, however, a soul has gotten so far away from its true nature that it has no conscience, then the Law can become a formidable obstacle to any further free-will action. Such a soul becomes surrounded by its karma; everywhere it turns it meets the terrible effects of its previous actions and thoughts. Yet, even a soul who has gotten in this pathetic situation can return to perfection because there is no total condemnation from the Creator or the Law. If the soul turns away from its self-centeredness and begins acting, reacting, thinking and speaking like a companion to the Universe, then the Law is just as perfect as it is with error; and the reactions begin to build and establish a new destiny for that soul.

Karma is memory. As one recalls or relives situations, one meets self again, and a new decision point or crossroads is presented to the soul. "Before thee are set good and evil. Choose thou." (Deuteronomy 30:15) In our portrait of life, good would be equated with compatible, harmonious actions and thoughts which consider the needs and desires of others along with self's needs and desires. Evil would be equated with actions and thoughts that are motivated by a self-orientation that pays little or no attention to the needs and desires of others and the Whole. Metaphysically speaking, good results in oneness, and evil results in a sense of separation. Decisions in one's life could be approached by evaluating which choices promote greater oneness and which promote separation.

However, it gets a little difficult to support this idea much further than that because in most of the secret teachings there is the belief that one must separate oneself from the world if one is to awaken to the greater reality beyond this life. Yet if we look closely at this belief, we find that the separation is more accurately a detachment than a separation. One is to strive to release oneself from the possessive power of the things of this world while still actively participating in it. In other words, one is to enjoy food and drink without being possessed by food and drink; one is to enjoy material life without being possessed by it.

Look at the "Seven Deadly Sins" of Western religion. Each of them (lust, envy, greed, gluttony, etc.) expresses a type of possessive power that overtakes the partaker. The "Seven Virtues" on the other hand, express selflessness on the part of the recipient: kindness, gentleness, patience, etc.

Notice also that the Sins are mostly self-experienced, but the Virtues require another person in order for them to be realized. This follows Jesus' teaching, "I seek mercy, and not sacrifice. He who has ears..." Sacrifice can be done alone, but mercy requires that one reach out beyond oneself and consider others and their needs.

Again, we come to the inevitable conclusion that sin is self to the exclusion of others and the Whole, while virtue is oneness with the Whole and consideration of others. It's important to note here that the ultimate goal is not the complete loss of self-identity, rather, as Cayce so aptly phrased it: to know yourself to be yourself, yet one with the Whole.


In one sense it is true that "not one jot or tittle shall be removed from the Law." One must meet every bit of its karma. However, there is a way that it can be modified, softened, even ameliorated. If a soul, knowing another soul has wronged it, forgives that soul and holds no lingering resentment -- perhaps has even forgotten the wrong in the depths of its forgiveness and understanding -- then it begins to take hold of the power of forgiveness. The more it forgives, the more it perceives and understands forgiveness. Then, when it approaches the Universal Consciousness and realizes it possesses memories that are incompatible with the It, forgiveness is much more viable, removing the barrier between Father/Mother and son/daughter. The law is so precise (what one gives one receives; no exceptions) that if one begins showing mercy and forgiveness for others, one begins to receive mercy and forgiveness upon oneself. Now, the law is very sensitive to the deep, true purpose for which one does something, and if the purpose for forgiving another is simply to obtain forgiveness for oneself, then little is gained. But if one truly forgives, and forgives by understanding, through empathy and compassion, then there is no way one can avoid receiving forgiveness upon oneself.

The law also works in some very curious ways. Somehow one's greatest weakness possesses the potential to become one's greatest strength. With each difficult situation, whether physical, mental or spiritual, there comes an opportunity. These "opportunities" sometimes appear to be hopeless problems, like a crippling disease, an uncontrollable habit or a situation in which one feels totally victimized without cause. More often they appear as annoyances or frustrations, like an unattractive nose, a difficult sibling, spouse, colleague, boss, lover or friend; or an ever present lack of money. In each case, the soul has an opportunity to resolve and overcome some weakness in itself, and by doing so with the right attitude, the soul can rise to new heights of consciousness, love, and companionship. Attempting to sidestep one's crosses is simply a temporary diversion, delaying the eventual glorification that is the soul's inheritance when it is sought.

All has to be met. And yet, no soul is given more than it can bear to carry -- this is the paradoxical blessing hidden in the limitations of time and space. A soul is given the time it needs to turn away from its selfish ways and, like the prodigal son, return home to a feast of joy and welcome from its Father in heaven. Reincarnation is not a way to avoid judgment and responsibility;, it is a way to allow the soul enough time to correct its mistakes and develop itself.


How can free will coexist with fate?

Suppose while traveling on a road you arrive at a point where the road divides into two and you must decide which road you will take. Once you make your decision, you have set a direction that can be almost totally predicted. In this way your fate is decided; but remember, it was your free decision that cast it in the first place. Now suppose that you could fly up in the air and get a bird's eye view of the road you selected to travel. From this vantage point you would see your future. The catch is that you couldn't be absolutely sure you'd stay on this road once you started. You might decide to go back to the beginning and take the other road, or you might choose to take a side road off of this road. You might even decide to sit down for a long time in one place along the road. In this way, your fate is before you, but you still have the free will to change your direction. It may take you some time before you can make a significant change, and perhaps it will require some considerable effort. For example, let's suppose you did decide to travel a different road. Where you are on the present road will in some way determine what options are available to you. There may be only one side-road within miles. You might be close enough to the beginning of the road to turn around, or too far down the road for that, in which case you'd have to push on until you could choose another route. Many of the decisions in our lives are like this. They are affected by our original choices, which may be long forgotten by now. The present road we're taking also affects our options. Nevertheless, no matter where we are in our lives, no matter what circumstances in which we find ourselves, once we finally wake up and take notice of what we're doing, our free will is at our disposal to effect the necessary changes. The only limitations are how long it will take us to get to the place where we can make a significant new choice.


One of the most distorted views of karma is the idea that nothing can be done about it. No matter how terrible our predicament, there is always something we can do, even if it's just dealing with it as best we can with a patient smile, a good attitude and a loving heart. The time will come when we will be through with this stretch of the hard road, and it's best to come out of it with no bitterness. Remember, no one has done this to you, it is a result of your own actions, thoughts or words. In patience you will overcome it and rise again to an even greater level than before. Again, keep in mind that in the worst situation often lies the greatest opportunity.


From the ancient Taoist text, The Secret of the Golden Flower, we find another wonderful concept: Amid all the circumstances of our life, all its activities, all its demands, there lies deep within us an undisturbed, unmoved place of ultimate quiet and peace. This is the center in the midst of conditions. When we learn how to enter this place for short periods each day, the demands of the day lose much of their sting. We find we can not only cope better, but we can actually make better decisions and effect better use of our time and energy each day. Meditation is a key tool for experiencing the center in the midst of conditions. See the section on Prayer and Meditation in this web site.

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