Kheper Home | Essays Home | Topics Index | Forum | New or updated | Search

A Certain Ethical Problem in Esotericism

by Robert Searle


This short "thought-piece" challenges the esoteric orthodoxy of many traditions. It centres on the concept, and likely reality of reincarnation, and the so-called law of karma, or "perfect justice". It is accepted without question especially in the Buddhist, and Hindu traditions.

Reincarnation is also the "only" real explanation for the so-called injustices of life itself. Yet, it is believed rightly, or wrongly that there is a fundamental "flaw" in it which undermines the need for the "continous necessity" of re-birth, and indeed, the law of karma itself. This can no longer be ignored, and needs to be openly discussed as never before. Here, we will just touch upon the key areas.....

1. Free Will, or Conditioned Free Will?

It is not our intention here to review the notion of free will in Western Philosophy. Most people though would agree that our thoughts, words,and actions are largely conditioned by our past. Pure unconditioned free will is largely, if not wholly "non-existent". As such the rewards, and punishments we receive in this life due to the present, or past actions of another former birth are in the main due to our mental conditioning.

2. Virtual Non-Awareness of Subconcious, and Unconcious Forces Moulding the Concious Mind.

The central ethical problem is this. Since we are largely unaware of what makes us decide the way we do then it becomes clear that "we" are not totally responsible for our actions. In various esoteric traditions it can be said that our (mechanical) mind is in control of the soul (both can be seen as independent "entities" which interact with one another). The injustice of this is that we are really unaware of this predicament, and how it so greatly influences us to do right, or wrong. How many times have we heard people say that "I did not mean to do it", or "I cannot help the way I am"?

Western, and eastern psychologies recognize this in their own ways. If we were fully aware of how, and why we do certain things, and were in true concious control then the law of karma would be rightly applicable. The opposite situation appears to be true, and makes a mockery of the resulting "justice". The question is why? There are esoteric answers but they do not seem to fully justify this situation as we shall shortly see.

Furthermore, with the possible future emergence of Multi-Dimensional Science we may well be able to find how much of our minds are conditioned from actions in this, and previous lifetimes. This could be undertaken via controlled experiments.

3. Four Basic Pro, and Con Arguments, and the Possible Interactions of the Higher Self.

Many psychic communications from the "lower planes" usually claim that "free will" exists. Man is seen as the concious architect of his destiny. However, when we come to great mystics such as the Sufi, and Christian ones (eg. Rumi, and Boehme) it would appear that "free will" is nothing but an illusion as perceived from the "higher planes" of Being. Everything is seen in this world, and the next as the outworkings of the Divine.

Anyway, let us see the key arguments for, and against what has so far been discussed.

1a) In order to achieve spiritual evolution (ie. learning via experience to try, and hopefully bring about higher virtues, and greater purification in ourselves from one life to another) people have no choice but to have a mind through which the soul has to somehow function. Reincarnation notably into the limited physical universe is the only way to do this.

2a) The above claim assumes wrongly that an almighty, and super intelligent God, or the Universal Power cannot come up with something far better, and much fairer to achieve spiritual unfoldment, and ultimately union with the Divine after seemingly endless incarnations. In other words, we do not have full justification for the present "universal" predicament.

1b) The amount of suffering via life after life is nothing compared with the infinite bliss, and final union with the Divine.Thus, whether the process is"unfair" in any way is largely immaterial.

2b) Again, this does not address the central ethical problem of human beings making, and paying off good, and bad actions which are largely the outcome of conditioned free will. This is naturally confounded by the seeming fact that we are unaware of the subconcious, and unconcious influences of our minds!

3a) It has been claimed that what we are discussing here is simply beyond the mind, and the reasons for it can only be understood intuitively.

3b) Many people would regard this "argument" as a cop out when perhaps we have not really thought, and/or researched hard enough. Yet, to be fair it would also be right to say that we cannot explain everything in esotericism by the mind as there are always worlds, and forms of knowledge which are totally ineffable.

4a) In certain hypnotic regressions into past lives, and especially what happens between lives it has been claimed that souls are usually given a plan for the next incarnation. Indeed, they may well agree to receive specific negative experiences (meant to be remedial rather than retributive) that may help them to "grow" more spiritually. These are usually the result of "their" past actions. More incredibly, certain "advanced" souls may "volunteer" to experience bad things for the ultimate aim of speeding up their progress towards total perfection (the ultimate goal of spiritual evolution via experience after "endless" rounds of rebirth. and probable union with the "Divine").

4b) From the general mystical perspective, lives on earth,and other planets are meant to be a means of learning via experience for the pressing need to develop greater, and greater spiritual qualities. This ofcourse can be an uneven path, and may result in a certain amount of spiritual "devolution".

An added dimension to this is the Higher Self which is our Pure Being working to a certain extent via the lower subtle bodies including the mind (ie. the mental body). It is the "God Within", and at the same time is part of the Infinite Power. It is who, or what we really are. Reincarnation is the way in which we re-discover our Selves. Since It can manifest ItSelf as our Chosen Ideal (eg. Christ, Krishna et al), and act as an inner guide before, or after death. It emanates from realms well beyond our limited understanding of time, and space.

In the light of what has been said the Higher Self may during the intermediate stage between births, and deaths may make the lower self, and lower mind accept certain future negative experiences to encourage spiritual growth. This whole process is laid bare in a state of superconciousness when one can see ones previous lives instantaneously, and objectively. It is then that we understand "everything". But is this really a full moral justification? Is it right that when one is incarnate that one is largely unaware of this arrangement if we had agreed to it conciously in the intermediate stage? Again, let us repeat ourselves is there not a better way of doing things? The answer we think is yea!

If what we have been discussing are part justifications rather than full ones it could perhaps even be argued that to a large degree reincarnation, and the so-called law of karma are "null,and void." In the physical world we could perhaps get legal recompense for such an "injustice!" In the spiritual one we have a different ball game. The person, or rather Being to be blamed ofcourse would be our own Higher Self which ofcourse to the limited vision, and understanding of our human mind is absurd! All the same, if our initial claim is indeed correct it should be possible to change things on the "other side" (or via controlled OOBEs, or meditation) with the help possibly of like-minded beings. It could be powerful bargaining counter for the lower mind, and self to achieve liberation from the wheel of births, and death (plus possible other matters) since the very ethical basis of this whole process of "evolution" is seriously in doubt.

4.Beyond the Mind, Beyond All Reason?

In a most bizarre fashion all that has been said for, and against this major ethical issue in esoterism is all correct. If we assume that the infinite psycho-spiritual universe consists of non-absolute truths then this would be possible, and "acceptable!" In other words, Esoteric Relativism.

On the other hand, the endless unseen realities would have absolute truths. Such Esoteric Universalism seems to be more "rational", and acceptable. Yet, it could be said that if the unseen (and indeed, the visible) universe is infinite then everything, and anything is, and can be possible. In effect, it goes beyond all reason which would be seen as the "ultimate(!)" limited illusion.

There are certain arguments which could be used in support for Esoteric Relativism,and they could include the following;-

i) Who created God? This is the classic question notably found in Western Philosophy. One answer is ofcourse is that He created Himself..... and we as the Higher Self are a part of It,and potentially It! This whole notion ofcourse defies reason...

ii) The universe in its "totality(!)" is probably infinite. This too defies reason because how can anything be limitless, and beyond our ability to imagine, and completely quantify in any "scientific" manner?

iii) In the many worlds interpretation of Quantum theory it is perfectly possible that parallel universes exist with an infinite number of alternate histories. Ofcourse, if correct this has some rather interesting implications for mysticism, and especially our claimed "unfairness" of the reincarnation process in connection with the mind, and conditoned free will.

No doubt we could present some more "evidence" that Esoteric Relativism could be the Absolute Reality so to speak. Whether it is, or not is largely unprovable by normal means, and will probably remain an Eternal Mystery. Yet, the claimed "unfairness" of reincarnation just mentioned would be fully, or partly justified in an infinite number of ways, and indeed, in an infinite number of worlds. This point was already expressed differently right at the start of this section of the present essay.

Indeed,there would probably be realities where reincarnation as a means of spiritual evolution would not exist. Again, such realities would inhabit countless numbers of different universes, and have their own kinds of "justifications." In the end the Truth cannot really be limited by finite reality but is boundless, and creative in any infinite number of ways both conceivable, and inconceivable to our limited mind, and vision.

What we have been reading here is very important. It can also be expanded by further debate, and research in the future. It is something which is well worth exploring.

A NOTE. Opinions expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the webhost, or anyone else on the Kheper website.




Kheper index page
Essays Home
Esoteric Home


Kheper Home | Essays Home | Topics Index | New or updated | Search


images not loading? | error messages? | broken links? | suggestions? | criticism?

contact webmaster


text content copyright © Robert Searle 2006, all worldwide rights reserved
page uploaded 28 December 2006