What I write now is going to seem like heresy to many people, myself included. For I too, have held some cherished beliefs about karma, indeed I have always supported the previous explanations. Now I am about to abandon these beliefs.

Most of us have chosen our own parts, but some people have had the script thrust on them. With our birth we are assigned a character: a particular physical body with various flaws and strengths, our intelligence, our memory, emotions. We are born into dire poverty or great wealth; we live in cities, slums, or villages. Each of us has a role to play, and we must develop the character we have chosen or been given.

In the play, salient points in the life of the character are written into the script: health problems, mental attitudes, social position, goals. Yet the script is not fully written, only certain conspicuous points — like we will meet X, we will be fascinated with politics, we will win a lottery and then get cancer. Perhaps our end is also part of the script, just as our beginning was.

The goals and actions of each player are modified during sleep. This is where things are evaluated, changes made on the day-to-day running. If someone forgot his lines, skipped a page, then changes would have to be made. The whole play is flexible — this is our "free will" — we make choices within a a framework. The framework is created from our mental attitudes, social characteristics, self-confidence, physical problems, and financial circumstances. But within all this we have some room to move, there are choices and decisions we can make.

As we play our role, there many opportunities to learn, to improve ourselves, to help others. Equally, we have opportunities to harm others, to be self-obsessed, to wallow in materialism. We can work in a hospital helping people, or we can work as a soldier killing people. Which is the better role? There is no simple answer to that, for there are no black and white rules, no instructions given to us by God. We each have to figure out our own role in life, our own philosophy, our own values, and do the best that we are capable of.

There are certain things for us to learn. Some of us may have been assigned to learn about poverty, physical suffering, or the correct use of wealth. We must work things out as we go: what the rules of life are, is it right to steal, to cheat, to lie, to manipulate? Is it best to focus on our material world or our spiritual world, our family, our abilities, or our career?

As we deal with the world around us, day by day, we learn and we grow spiritually. This is the ultimate purpose of our acting part: spiritual evolution. Just as there is physical evolution, and mental evolution, there is spiritual evolution. This will take place over a number of incarnations.

When we pass on to the other side, our home, we abandon the character we have been assigned. The part is finished, non-existent, for it was no more real than a script. Our poor health, our mental deficiencies, our material possessions, our wealth, are all evaporated. These things were the "make-up" for our character, so we could live the part and learn. The essence of the person goes on to the other side carrying the lessons learnt from the role, but not the total character with it.

A person's character at the point of their death will be an amalgam of their character when they were born and the character they have "developed" in their lifetime. Much of this "developed" character is not permanent, but superficial, belonging to the role, rather than the inner being.

An actor (in a movie) can play a saint or a villain, but neither of these parts is the real person. Often the audience forgets that the actor is not the screen person. And so it is with us, wanting Stalin to be punished in everlasting hell. Too late! Our job was to deal with him while he was carrying out mass murder, not wait for God to do the job.

And so the idea of needing to punish or reward the character is irrelevant. The character/ persona was a shell, like a car, a mechanism — no more real than a movie character. When a car has served its usefulness there is no need for rewards or punishments. Karma does not follow through to the next lifetime via some external force.

"All the world's a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts ..."

Karma does exist. Let's go back to the earlier statement and you will see that some parts of the explanation will fit in with this doctrine of the PLAY.

What is certain though, is that whatever you put out will come back to you via your own mind. Every thought you think modifies your psyche, and thus your essential character, for good or bad. Every thought you have reinforces the patterns in your mind; if you think thoughts of anger, you will become an angry person, if you think thoughts of peace and reconciliation this will become a part of your character.

So when a person tells a lie, they have taken a step to becoming a full-time liar. When a person steals, they have taken a step towards being a thief. The karma is in their own heads! One of the worse things that can happen to a person is to have exceptionally good luck when they first try gambling, because this convinces them that gambling is valid, and if they persist they will become wealthy. So if a person cheats, lies, or steals — getting away with it will allow these characteristics to be absorbed and repeated until they become a part of their personality. If they show compassion, kindness, honesty, courage, this becomes reinforced into their inner essence. This is karma.

When they pass on to the other side, they will have absorbed these characteristics into their being. Their karma will be carried within them and any negatives will have to be worked through all over again -- the lessons they did not learn from their experiences in the play..

All of this depends on the assumption that our goal as spiritual beings is spiritual evolution, ultimately being a unified part of God.

This is the essence of my new understanding of karma. In science, there is no definitive theory for anything. Each theory is accepted as being the best available at the time. A simple explanation is the flow of electricity. When I first studied electrical theory, we were taught that electricity flowed from negative to positive. We were told this was the latest theory that explained the working of a valve; the old theory of electricity flowing from positive to negative was out.

But two years later, we were told: No, with transistors, it is better to think of electrical flow from positive to negative.

Does it matter? Well, the important thing is to have a theory that explains things as simply as possible. Even without being certain about the flow of electricity it did not stop us from harnessing it for our benefit. And so it should be with our own beliefs. Rigid beliefs end up creating fundamentalists — who are absolutely convinced that God is directing them — and anyone who disagrees with them must be working for Satan.

Life is a mystery play in which we are given a part. We have to ad-lib, work things out as we go, learn what we can from who we can. When we die, we take what we learnt with us, but not the character.

Getting back to Stalin for a moment; we don't know what his assignment was, but maybe it was part of a grand plan that would result in the awakening — via suffering — of millions of people. Maybe they were presented with opportunities in their lives to resist, to show courage, to overcome suffering, to show compassion to each other, and to abhor the abuse of power. Yes, that seems a hard lesson from God, but whatever way you think — it happened anyway.

What we need is an explanation of why it happened, and what it means. With this theory, there is no point in trying to punish the character that was Stalin, once the character has ceased to exist. It was up to people to oppose him, to deal with the situation at the time, while he was on stage, not to store up karma for some future existence. Karma is within each person — it is not some external force, working for or against us. It exists within our own being.

Let us look at a problem area of karma. Consider the driver who killed innocent people (although believers in the conventional karma would tell you the victims were being punished for some wrong they did in the past). With the internal karma concept, the person who caused the accident would be traumatically affected by the experience. The driver would be deeply saddened and would absorb this into his inner essence, taking what he had learnt to the other side — a hard lesson.

But what of the drunks or people who kill without remorse, without shame, without care? What do they take with them after their incarnation? Nothing. So this means they will have to experience this situation -- perhaps from a different perspective -- again until they learn the lesson. It is not punishment, but rather like a school where you cannot advance to the next class until you have mastered the one that you are in.

Nor do we need any explanations about "vibrations" attracting "vibrations" over hundreds of years, we do not need punishments of diseases or rewards of lottery wins. It all boils down to the evolution of the spirit. It is not a race, but it may be easier to learn lessons quickly -- rather than through endless repetitions.

When you are living these scripts — for example the people in Stalin's era — it would seem harsh, patronising and unbelievable to tell the 'characters' that they could have conspired in the creation of the scripts. It would be like telling a gambler or a victim of a house fire who has just lost everything, that they once planned their own predicament. It's not the sort of information anyone would welcome. It would be much more comforting to believe it was bad luck, God's will, or bad karma. That is, someone else was doing this to them, and they were not responsible. Although we would never welcome these disasters, each one brings with it an opportunity for our inner being to grow, to evolve, to overcome. And consider: if our purpose in life is spiritual evolution, then these catastrophes are happening for a reason — they are the steps on our pathway.

The essential attitude needed is that we must work through our circumstances to the best of our ability, doing the best we can to look for the highest values. To play our part in the play, but to realise the purpose of the events is to teach us something. Being obstinate and refusing to learn will mean repeat lessons.

Each of us tends to think that our own life is the only one plagued by disappointments, mistakes, and catastrophes. But look around carefully and you will see everyone — sooner or later — is faced with difficult tests of their character. At their marriage, Princess Diana and Prince Charles seemed destined to a life of pleasure and luxury — but underneath there was a bubbling cauldron of disappointment, sorrow, and anger. Sooner or later all of us will face trials — count on it!

Of course there are various assumptions in all of this that you may find unproven or unbelievable — things that I am taking for granted: God, the evolution of the soul, life after death, and reincarnation — which could be the biggest hurdle for many people. I know this section on SOUL FOOD is not for everyone, in fact not for most people.

What was needed was a better explanation of how karma operates — how it can pass on to people over hundreds of years. You might say it still does! You might say there are still rewards and punishments. But the major difference is that they are coming from within the person, not some external being or inexplicable law.

If you want to know why people don't trust you — look within for the answers, look at what you are. What you are now, is because of how you acted in the past. What you will be in the future, is being determined by your actions now.

Many people use their understanding of karma as an excuse for inaction. They see someone on skid row, down and out, and say, "well it is their karma that has brought them to that sorry state, and I should not interfere with that."

Why not say, "karma have brought them to a sorry state, but I have the opportunity for creating good karma by helping them"? There is no reason to use karma as an excuse for inaction.

The script/ play idea reflects the complex reality of life more than "good karma / bad karma". With a script, our intention is important: passing someone by indifferently hardens our hearts, feeling compassion makes us more compassionate. But passing someone by and feeling compassion still makes us compassionate. Our inner thoughts count as much as our actions, although our actions reinforce our thoughts.

Let's go into the theory of the vanishing personality again. The concept here is that there is no point in trying to punish a gangster by karma, because the gangster was not an eternal being, but a phantom, a character in a play, an actor. I can imagine some people will not be able to deal with this concept where they see the gangster gets off "scot-free". They would rather stick with the concept of karmic punishment.

Many Christians and Muslims believe when the day of judgement comes, the dead will rise from their graves, or from their scattered burnt ashes and be whole again. Maybe, but just which version of themselves shall arise? Will it be as a ten-year-old, a forty-year-old, or as their last version, ninety-years-old and falling apart? And what if they died at one year of age, would they be destined to remain as a baby? A person grows and changes mentally and physically as they get older. If we are spiritual beings, why would we need a physical body in paradise? The resurrection of the body is not going to happen.

The body has gone, decayed, disintegrated into dust, and so have many aspects of our gangster. The body that was given to him by his parents, the brain he inherited from them, the social values he learnt from those around him. These were the trappings of his personality, aspects of the character he played, once he is dead those aspects of the gangster are turned to ashes. The only part that continues is the inner essence, what many would call spirit. So there is no point in punishing this personality known as Al Capone. The time to deal with Al Capone was while he was alive and kicking! To think Al Capone will be punished by karma in some future life is not tenable; comforting, but not tenable because Al Capone no longer exists.

But the essence, the spirit that inhabited the mechanism of Al Capone, will have learnt or failed to learn certain lessons. A person who steals, is growing towards a thief. A person who acts out a gangster part, will be absorbing characteristics of a gangster. So how does the gangster ever progress when they are simply learning to be a better gangster, more ruthless, less compassionate? Those who believe in karma and reincarnation say that he will become a victim of gangsters in a new incarnation. Those who believe in the day of judgement believe that he will be judged by God or one of his emissaries, and receive some eternal punishment.

The script/play approach takes a different view. A new script will be assigned to Al Capone in a new incarnation, probably that is all that is required for the forces of this physical world are almost at random: violence, war, death, sickness, suffering are universal since day one. And each of us must experience these things before we can move on to the next stage of evolution, we must pass through good times and bad times.

So if Stalin and Hitler have vanished along with their bodies, we must also accept that our loved ones outward personality will be different to what we saw on Earth, but probably better. When we are born we sometimes choose difficult circumstances, with problems to overcome—for example a physical handicap, which would not exist in the 'other' world. What will remain though, when we pass over, is the true inner being, without the veneer, be it sinner or saint.

Most of us have had a dream where we saw a person in the dream and although they didn't look familiar we knew exactly who they were. The outward appearance had changed—as though they had put on new clothes—but the inner being was the same, and that is what we were able to recognise.

We must wonder why Stalin had such a gruesome role to play. Did he deviate such a long way from his script? I doubt it, because there are opportunities for corrections along the way. It almost leads me to suppose that this was planned for our planet. A ghastly thought, it would be more palatable to believe it was thrust on us by aliens, the devil, or original sin. It is not easy to accept that some of the bad things that happen in our lives may well have been planned by us to make us grow. But consider if we were sitting around in the Garden of Eden day after day, just lazing about, eating grapes (no apples for us!) — would we ever change? Would we ever grow spiritually? Is this concept hard to accept? I think it is. But what if it is closer to the reality than the idea that these things happen at random, or because of the nature of Evil? It is not easy to explain Stalin from any philosophical/ religious viewpoint.

And yet it is clear: without the murderous uncle of Hamlet, there would have been no play. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark required a villain; if there was no villain, then there would have been no story. When you want to exercise a muscle in your body, you have to oppose it against a weight, or some other force. Astronauts, who live in the weightlessness of satellites, must exercise each day to prevent their muscles withering away. Perhaps the world needs villains for the same reason; they tip us out of our warm beds and make us evolve.

Where do these scripts come from? Who is writing them? First we need to consider the workings of reincarnation. And quite frankly, if you don't accept reincarnation, you are not going to get much out of any of this! In the book LIFE BEFORE LIFE (Bantam 1979), Helen Wambach, a psychologist, explores in vivid detail the experiences of 750 people who were hypnotised so they could relive the extraordinary moments, days and months before birth. The book is filled with hundreds of accounts, the one below is fairly typical, and will explain how the idea of scripts works:

"Yes, I chose to be born, and a guide or teacher counselled me. It was a big decision and involved a lot of thought and debate with my guide. My purpose for this lifetime was to become free of materialism and to combat negativeness, to combine male and female emotions for control, love and strength.

"I chose this time period because I and my guide felt that this would be harder, but best for me. I wanted to be a female for pleasure, but I chose male because, again, for me, the test would be harder. I did know my mother and father in a past life, together with my wife. I didn't get any impression as to whether or not I knew my friends before. I seemed to attach to the fetus, or at least become aware of it right after conception.

"I was aware of the feelings of my mother, and a strange feeling came through. I felt tied to her as a possible enemy, because my relationship with her in a past life had not been good. She seemed to be aware of this.

"There was no problem with the birth-canal experience and my impressions after birth were pleasant."

There are other books that present this same scenario of guides helping the spirit to choose a time, country and parents to suit the lessons they wish to learn: the script.

Karma isn't a strict law, but a script, a growth pattern – our character will grow from our thoughts and actions. It is not necessary to bind yourself to another person believing that you are linked by bad karma. It may be that you were given a scrip to act out. For example a child grows up within an alcoholic family, it doesn't mean they are being punished by past bad karma, it means they have been given a script where they are required, although surrounded by alcoholics, to remain sober and dedicated to better values.

I would like to quote this little piece by Cherie Carter-Scott, it puts the concept quite simply:


You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period of this time around.

You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called Life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.

Growth is a process of trial and error: Experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately "works."

A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.

There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

When your "there" has become a "here," you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here."

You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

The answers to Life's questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.


Cherie Carter-Scott

To this I would add one more piece of advice:

During the play different characters will enter and exit; some will be wondrous, some will be woeful. Do not regret those who exit before you are ready, but enjoy the experience of each character while you are onstage together.

So what is the point of all this learning? Spiritual evolution! We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Our inner being is on a long journey. It may go something like this: the universe, as we know it, began with the 'big bang'. At one instant in time there was a huge explosion and the universe — the one we understand with astronomy and physics — exploded into fragments. Eventually, the stars and galaxies will have run out of momentum, they will pause for a moment and then begin to collapse back to the same point from where they started. Some people believe this pattern repeats itself over and over, each cycle taking zillions of years.

There has been similar speculation about our own nature. Once we were integrated souls in some great ocean of God; then we divided — exploded like the physical universe. At the moment we are like drops of water drifting down to the creeks, where we will integrate with other droplets, creeks to rivers, rivers to lakes, and lakes to oceans where we will all form a whole again, perhaps like the physical universe.

Unfortunately, I cannot claim any of these ideas are original. At some time in the past I expect I have read or heard all of these bits and pieces. I am certainly not even the first person to put them together in this pattern. This "new" way of looking at karma, makes more sense to me than my old way of seeing karma spread across various lifetimes, acting like some erratic form of gravity.

To conclude, I want to quote a section of the small book by Mable Collins, Light on the Path. (You can download a free copy HERE). It pretty-well sums up all that I have said, but in fewer words.


18. Seek the way by retreating within.

19. Seek the way by advancing boldly without.

20. Seek it not by any one road. To each temperament there is one road which seems the most desirable. But the way is not found by devotion alone, by religious contemplation alone, by ardent progress, by self-sacrificing labour, by studious observation of life. None alone can take the disciple more than one step onwards. All steps are necessary to make up the ladder. The vices of man become steps in the ladder, one by one, as they are surmounted. The virtues of man are steps indeed, necessary — not by any means to be dispensed with. Yet, though they create a fair atmosphere and a happy future, they are useless if they stand alone. The whole nature of man must be used wisely by the one who desires to enter the way.

Each man is to himself absolutely the way, the truth, and the life. But he is only so when he grasps his whole individuality firmly, and by the force of his awakened spiritual will, recognizes this individuality as not himself, but that thing which he has with pain created for his own use and by means of which he purposes, as his growth slowly develops his intelligence, to reach to the life beyond individuality.

When he knows that for this his wonderful complex separated life exists, then, indeed, and then only, he is upon the way. Seek it by plunging into the mysterious and glorious depths of your own inmost being. Seek it by testing all experience, by utilizing the senses in order to understand the growth and meaning of individuality, and the beauty and obscurity of those other divine fragments which are struggling side by side with you, and form the race to which you belong. Seek it by study of the laws of being, the laws of Nature, the laws of the supernatural, and seek it by making the profound obeisance of the soul to the dim star that burns within. Steadily, as you watch and worship, its light will grow stronger. Then you may know you have found the beginning of the way. And when you have found the end its light will suddenly become the infinite light."

© Marcus Clark
27 November, 2003