RE: Theos-World Who to blame?
May 06, 1999 11:54 AM
by Peter Merriott
Hi Louis & Rich,
Interesting exchange. I have a sense that you are both putting different
sides of the same coin.
Rich makes a really good point in saying that through the Law of Karma we
are each responsible for the situation we find ourselves born into, there's
no point blaming any one else for where we are.
On the other hand it is also our duty (Karma) to help our fellow 'man', and
this seems to me to be the essence of what Louis is suggesting. Thus those
of us who live in those parts of the world where wealth and resources of
food are overly concentrated have a duty to help those who are poor and
destitute. It is not for us to decide that their Karma is such that they
should be allowed to suffer or die.
HPB says (in the Key, I think) something along the lines that 'he who lives
by the sword' would *not* 'die by the sword' in his next incarnation if
humanity had improved society enough to eradicate wars. In that case, she
says, Karma would need to find another way to act according to the new
conditions in which the ego finds itself. So we shouldn't accept the
inevitability of suffering on the basis of an 'eye for an eye'.
Not to feed the starving because it is their Karma or because the world is
overpopulated would be a very indifferent and fatalistic approach to human
suffering. One may as well not save a child in the road from a car about to
knock her down on the basis that 'it is her Karma' to be there or because
the world is overpopulated. If it doesn't make sense to think that about
the child in front of us, then it doesn't make sense to think that way about
the starving child just because she lives thousands of miles away.
The idea that people are starving because the world is overpopulated, and
therefore we should question whether it is helpful to give them food somehow
places the blame of overpopulation on those who are starving. *If* the
world is overpopulated we might equally ask, who are the additional extras
that shouldn't really be here? Is it those who live in the countries of
famine living out their Karma? Or is it those us in the western world
spending endless hours in front of television sets, videos, hi-fi, etc and
squandering money on endless material indulgences living out our fantasies?
Actually, many of the countries where famine is rife are not overpopulated.
The famine is often related to a complexity of reasons such as weather (lack
of rain, or floods), economic and political conditions, civil wars and so
Here are a few thoughts from HPB as to the Theosophical perspective on this
"Contrast the lives not only of the masses of the people, but of many of
those who are called the middle and upper classes, with what they might be
under healthier and nobler conditions, where justice, kindness, and love
were paramount, instead of the selfishness, indifference, and brutality
which now too often seem to reign supreme. All good and evil things in
humanity have their roots in human character, and this character is, and has
been, conditioned by the endless chain of cause and effect. But this
conditioning applies to the future as well as to the present and the past.
Selfishness, indifference, and brutality can never be the normal state of
the race -- to believe so would be to despair of humanity -- and that no
Theosophist can do. Progress can be attained, and only attained, by the
development of the nobler qualities. Now, true evolution teaches us that by
altering the surroundings of the organism we can alter and improve the
organism; and in the strictest sense this is true with regard to man. Every
Theosophist, therefore, is bound to do his utmost to help on, by all the
means in his power, every wise and well-considered social effort which has
for its object the amelioration of the condition of the poor. Such efforts
should be made with a view to their ultimate social emancipation, or the
development of the sense of duty in those who now so often neglect it in
nearly every relation of life."
(Key to Theosophy, p235)
I think these last words of HPB's touch on Rich's concern about material
help only being short lived. In modern day terms it is why aid workers say
providing food is not enough *in itself*, we need to provide famine stricken
countries with the means and resources to grow their own and become self
sufficient once again. The same principle of help and encouraging 'self'
(or indeed 'SELF') sufficiency surely holds good at many levels including
moral, ethical and spiritual.
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