The Nature of Karma
The problem with saying you get what you attract.
I read an article a while back that was critical of the law of attraction. The author seems to be different than me spiritually, but we agree that these “gurus” aren’t a cure all. The premise of the law of attraction is that you get what you attract. It comes from new age philosophies such as New Thought. The belief is that if you just have a positive mindset, you will get positive results. If you have negative thoughts, they will always result in negative situations. It results in images I’ve seen on social media like the below.
However, I’m very doubtful this is the case. I have numerous examples in my life and others where positive thinking amounted to nothing. It’s almost as if the universe is careless to us entirely. I have wrestled with this question before. In therapy the answer was that the rest of the universe may not care but people do. I disagree with this, because I perceive the universe as sentient. This idea that the universe is non-sentient is a modern one. The ancients believed in animism and pantheism. My own psychedelic experiences have confirmed this belief for me.
Why does positive thinking not always work? I don’t have the answer. Maybe it will but it just takes time, maybe we just need to put more effort in. However there’s a more problematic aspect to it, which is that if you get what you attract. Then if terrible circumstances come to you, you must always deserve it. If I lose my job due to financial issues, my parent dies, house accidentally burns down, get unjustly accused, or any other number of circumstances it must be my fault. We call this divine intervention and it’s a very Neo-Christian idea. It’s really an Abrahamic idea. Much of the Old
Testament was focused on God punishing people like Adam and Joseph. It even terrified me to the point that I believed we live in a computer simulation run by an evil AI.
Do we always deserve our circumstances? This is the way most people think of karma. I’ve listened to Sadghuru on karma because I like his definition. Karma in his opinion is similar to that of many eastern mystics where karma is cause and effect. There’s evolutionary karma which is karma gained through the biological process. There’s emotional karma, gained through emotional experiences. Karma is the result of millions of decisions building up to the present experience. It would be like in a video game, every decision you made to the present day creates the present. It is a game where the person you are today is the result of every decision made before. Watts considers Karma action. Coming from the Sanskrit root kri which means to act. We act whethe knowingly or unknowingly making our future.
Do we deserve all our Karma? Probably not, there’s people born with birth defects. Some into not so great situations of poverty. The argument might be that they deserve it because of past actions. Besides this being a terrible projection of our own problems. If they can’t even remember those past actions do they really then deserve it? I do agree that there is a sense in which certain actions are more likely to lead to certain outcomes. So for example if you hang around druggies, you’re likely to get into trouble. However, most of the time that’s not the case. Most of our lives aren’t our own. We live according to what our circumstances dictate.
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
There’s a sense karmically that when I hurt you, you hurt me back. That is the karmic trap, to overcome this is of great difficulty. Karma is what we do even unknowingly. If I walk across a bridge and the bridge collapses, that’s still my doing, my karma. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t my fault the bridge collapsed. However, when we speak of the bridge collapse, we must think also of the years of wear and tear. The years constructing the bridge, with a possible defect. The millenia of bridge constructing experience with possible flaws in bridge design. So in the end who’s fault is the bridge collapse? With cause and effect all the causes seem to flow together where you can’t tell where one event begins and the other ends.
To speak of fault when concerning events doesn’t make any sense. The man walking over the bridge is no more at fault than the engineers, or the financiers, or the designers of the first bridges. This might sound strange, but can we really attribute specific individuals at fault for a seemingly endless karmic chain that has various mistakes along the way. Bridges have been collapsing for centuries and there is never any specific individual usually responsible. I don’t mean to say that some individuals face some blame, but no more blame than anyone else involved does. When we speak of climate change can we blame the Big Oil executives anymore than the geophysical scientists, the first oil prospectors, or the workers of 19th century England who built the industrial revolution.
We live in a strange universe where we exist in a state of the world which is the product of trillions of decisions of conscious beings. From our predecessors in the stars to our current Politiking. Our planet has a whole karmic history we know very little about. It involves antediluvian empires from long ago and cosmic rebellions against gods. Much of our own personal karmic history we remember little of. Do you remember what you were even doing yesterday at this time? We remember so little of the past, that how can we ever be able to predict the future.
I dislike this idea that we are burning karma. Like it is fat we need to remove, or money we are spending. Karma is no more mysterious or different than billiard balls hitting each other or atoms colliding. Newton himself even expressed it in his laws of motion. Karma is what we are doing right now. We take action to make our thoughts reality. There is no way it is supposed to be other than the way we think it is. Karma is the sequence of events that led to you being right here reading this. I have a difficulty accepting the status quo for this reason. Because the status quo is our current karma and if we desire to change it we must take action to change it. If your current karma isn’t productive then change it.
Karma is a bit like Santa. He knows when you’ve been bad or good. Anyways I have my own problems to solve. We must live our lives knowing that the chain of events that led to us continues on with every action we take. It is as Sonmi said “by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” Let us hope that our future is what we wish it to be.