It’s no surprise many people reject the idea of karma. An oversimplified understanding of it is disempowering—e.g., shaming people visited by unfortunate circumstances. Let’s look at a definition of karma that is empowering and joyful.
Karma is usually defined as “If you do good, good comes back at you. If you do bad, bad comes back to you.” While I believe that is an important truth, it is also so oversimplified as to be dangerous. Psychic physics aren’t that simplistic. Instead, it seems to me karma is the unfolding of the specific repercussions of whatever you do. Example:
If you cut down a tree, you end up with wood. That’s one possible repercussion. That’s one possible repercussion. But, when the tree falls down, it might hit you on the head, which adds an additional repercussion. Or the tree might hit someone else, and then their son kills you in revenge.
Or you use the wood to build beautiful furniture, which you sell, and its buyers are happy, and you have money for groceries, which helps support the local grocer.
We’re all aware of the threats posed when too many trees are killed. Those threats, too, are possible repercussions. And, if cutting on a smaller scale, a space you clear can be a bane—or a boon—to the forest’s animals. If some of them leave as a result, each refuge will have its own impact on its new home. E.g., a possum who takes up residence in your yard could eat a lot of ticks, which might lower your chance of contracting Lyme disease.
Karma, as defined in this post, has three large benefits. It helps us
1) Understand that reality is an unfolding series of events that we affect.
2) Take responsibility for how much our actions impact the rest of existence (All Our Relations!).
3) Claim the beauty, power, and magic of such an intensely intricate weave.
Replacement of those three enormous strengths with “The bad you do comes back at you, as does the good” can rob us of power as well as the chance to be morally accountable for the chain reactions caused by our actions. There are also enormously positive chain reactions, in which we can take healthy pride. Misrepresentation of karma serves those who want others powerless and desire an immoral society.
Embracing karma’s full ramifications might seem grandiose but is actually humble. Humility is knowing one’s strengths as well as one’s weaknesses.
Humility is also knowing one’s place in the universe, but not in the way it’s meant when someone tries to make you feel worthless by saying, “You better learn your place instead of being uppity!” When we understand karma, we can see our place in life’s weave in terms of our immense power to do good or wrong. Again, humility is acknowledging both your strengths and weaknesses.
Another way understanding karma can help us see our place: we might start to actually experience the incredibly vast and complex weave of life. That can be simultaneously self-enlarging and humbling.
Self-larging because we can see ourselves both as part of something magnificent and as a magnificent element of the larger magnificence.
Humbling because, for one thing, the grandeur of the cosmos provides perspective that can remove any over-inflation of self. For example, we might start to sense there are millions of factors influencing the outcome of any situation; we can see how powerless we are by comparison to all those factors. (I cannot use that as an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for consequences of my own actions.)
The humility gained by acknowledging the consequences of my actions and inactions, and by acting accordingly, improves my life. For example, when I make reparations for wrongs done, I more fully engage in life, which frees me from any unhealthy preoccupation with self that has trapped me; I get swept up in the World Tree—the larger picture, the Gods’ plans. Being caught up like this is humbling on some level. But it is also empowering and even ecstatic.
The idea of “Your good acts generate good acts coming back at you, and your hurtful acts generate hurtful acts coming back at you” remains important. But reducing Karma to only that ends up blaming and shaming good people for the unfortunate events they suffer. Life is more complex than that. The World Tree—life—is a sophisticated organism. It consists of many parts: branches, trunk, leaves, roots, bark, sap, etc. Those many parts are made up of innumerable cells. All this weaves together in a complicated synthesis. Our own actions are only a part of that tapestry.
Spell to See One’s Karma
and Enjoy Life’s Weave
There are constant contradictions that, in fact, are not contradictory. Each one, when riddled entirely by the intellect, seems unable to abide as a reality. But, if entered into as an experience, the supposed contradiction has the chance to be understood, because we get to experience it as a living, breathing fact.
Later, that reality may seem impossible again. That is because, when we retire too fully from action into intellect, we might lose touch with reality again. Our minds are wonderful tools to use constantly, but they get in our way when we think the only way to discover whether something is a truth is to keep it spinning in the mind instead of applying it as an experiment.
So it goes with understanding karma: sole intellectual analysis of it will not work. But when I try to live according to it, it makes sense experientially. That is one of a witch’s powers: to know something is true because you feel it with your gut and in your soul. Witches use their fine minds without being trapped by their limits; instead, we use the whole being—mind, spirit, and body. The following spell helps us do that.
Optional: after putting a purple candle in a candle holder, sprinkle a teaspoon or so of lavender by the holder’s base. If you prefer, use the candle and no herb.
Recite the following. To what extent you can manage, say it from the bottom of your heart.
May I honor and celebrate
my place in the weave of all existence.
May my Pagan heart thrill
to the beauty and magic
of the intricate, powerful weave that is life.
May I see the ripples from all I do.
May I take responsibility
for my place in the weave,
so that I act with good intention
and make reparation for wrongs I’ve done.
May I understand that these words I say echo through the World Tree, as do all words and deeds.
Now say, “So mote it be” (while lighting the candle, if you’re using one).
Let the candle burn down. Or extinguish it after a few minutes to relight again, should you want to repeat the recitation some time soon. If leaving the building or going to sleep, extinguish the candle and relight it when you have a chance. Never leave a burning candle unattended.