by the Rt. Rev. C.W. Leadbeater


In previous chapters we have constantly had to take into consideration this mighty law of action and reaction under which every man necessarily receives his just deserts; for without this law the rest of the Divine scheme would be incomprehensible to us. It is well worth our while to try to obtain a true appreciation of this law, and the first step towards doing that is to disabuse our minds entirely of the ecclesiastical idea of reward and punishment as following upon human action.

It is inevitable that we should connect with that idea the thought of a judge administering such reward or punishment, and then at once follows the further possibility that the judge may be more lenient in one case than in another, that he may be swayed by circumstances, that an appeal may be made to him, and that in that way the incidence of the law may be modified or even escaped altogether. Every one of these suggestions is in the highest degree misleading, and the whole body of thought to which they belong must be exorcised and utterly cast out before we can arrive at any real understanding of facts.

If a man put his hand on a bar of red-hot iron, under ordinary circumstances he would be badly burnt; yet it would not occur to him to say that God had punished him for putting his hand on the bar. He would realise that what had happened was precisely what might have been expected under the action of the laws of Nature, and that one who understood what heat is and how it acts could explain exactly the production of the burn.

It is to be observed that the manÌs intention in no way affects the physical result; whether he seized that bar in order to do some harm with it or in order to save someone else from injury, he would be burnt just the same. Of course, in other and higher ways the results would be quite different; in the one case he would have done a noble deed, and would have the approval of his conscience, while in the other he could feel only remorse. But the physical burn would be there in one case just as much as in the other.

To obtain a true conception of the working of this law of cause and effect we must think of it as acting automatically in exactly the same way. If we have a heavy weight hanging from the ceiling by a rope, and I exert a certain amount of force in pushing against that weight, we know by the laws of mechanics that the weight will press back against my hand with exactly the same amount of force; and this reaction will operate without the slightest reference to my disturbing its equilibrium. Similarly the man who commits an evil action disturbs the equilibrium of the great current of evolution; and that mighty current invariably adjusts that equilibrium at his expense.

It must not be therefore supposed for a moment that the intention of the action makes no difference; on the contrary it is the most important factor connected with it, even though it does not affect the result upon the physical plane. We are apt to forget that the intention is itself a force, and a force acting upon the mental plane, where the matter is so much finer and vibrates so much more rapidly than on our lower level, that the same amount of energy will produce enormously greater effect.

The physical action will produce its result on the physical plane, but the mental energy of the intention will work out its own result simultaneously in the matter of the mental plane, totally irrespective of the other; and its effect is certain to be very much the more important of the two. In this way it will be seen that an absolutely perfect adjustment is always achieved; for however mixed the motives may be, and however good and evil may be mingled in the physical results, the equilibrium will always be perfectly readjusted, and along every line perfect justice must be done.

We must not forget, that it is the man himself and no other who builds his future character as well as produces his future circumstances. Speaking very generally, it may be said that, while his actions in one life produce his environment in the next, his thoughts in the one life are the chief factors in the evolution of his character in the next. The method by which all this works is an exceedingly interesting study, but it would take far too long to detail it here; it maybe found very fully elaborated in Mrs. BesantÌs manual on Karma, and also in the chapter referring to this subject in her Ancient Wisdom, and in Mr. SinnettÌs Esoteric Buddhism, to which the reader may be referred.

It is obvious that all these facts furnish us with exceedingly good reason for many of our ethical precepts. If thought be a mighty power capable of producing upon its own plane results far more important than any that can be achieved in physical life, then the necessity that man should control that force immediately becomes apparent. Not only is the man building his own future character by means of his thought, but he is also constantly and inevitably affecting those around him by its means.

Hence there lies upon him a very serious responsibility as to the use which he makes of this power. If the feeling of annoyance or hatred arises in the heart of the ordinary man, his natural impulse is to express it in some way either in word or in action. The ordinary rules of civilised society, however, forbid him to do that, and dictate that he should as far as possible repress all outward sign of his feelings.

If he succeeds in doing this he is apt to congratulate himself, and to consider that he has done the whole of his duty. The occult student, however, knows that it is necessary for him to carry his self-control a great deal further than that, and that he must absolutely repress the thought of irritation as well as its outward expression. For he knows that his feelings set in motion tremendous forces upon the astral plane, that these will act against the object of his irritation just as surely as a blow struck upon the physical plane, and that in many cases the results produced will be far more serious and lasting.

It is true in a very real sense that thoughts are things. To clairvoyant sight thoughts take definite form and colour, the latter, of course depending upon the rate of vibration connected with them. The study of these forms and colours is of great interest. A description of them illustrated with coloured drawings will be found in the book entitled Thought Forms.

These considerations open up to us possibilities in various directions. Since it is easily possible to do harm by thought, it is also possible to do good by it. Currents may be set in motion which will carry mental help and comfort to many a suffering friend, and in this way a whole new world of usefulness opens before us. Many a grateful soul has been oppressed by a feeling that for want of physical wealth he was unable to do anything in return for the kindness lavished upon him by another; but here is the method by which he can be of the greatest service to him in a realm where physical wealth or its absence makes no difference.

All who can think can help others: and all who can help others ought to help. In this case, as in every other, knowledge is power, and those who understand the law can use the law. Knowing what effects upon themselves and upon others will be produced by certain thoughts, they can deliberately arrange to produce these results. In this way a man can not only steadily mould his character in his present life, but can decide exactly what it shall be in the next.

For a thought is a vibrations in the matter of the mental body, and the same thought persistently repeated evokes corresponding vibrations (an octave higher, as it were) in the matter of the causal body. In this way qualities are gradually built into the soul itself, and they will certainly reappear as part of the stock-in-trade with which he commences his next incarnation.

It is in this way, by working from below upwards, that the faculties and qualities of the soul are gradually evolved, and thus man takes his evolution largely into his own hands and begins to co-operate intelligently in the great scheme of the Deity. For further information on this subject the best book to study is Mrs. Besant's Thought Power, its Control and Culture.