Is Karma Relative?
Or is it absolute? I admit I’m confounded by this thing, karma. Not so much by the idea
of it, but how did we come to know it as a major component of the universe? Really?
I’m also confused by other ideas we have about how the universe works, such as
quantum theory and relativity. If these ideas that describe how the same universe
works, karma, relativity, and quantum theory, are real, it seems they should mirror each
other. If it is true the material universe came into existence from a nonphysical place, a
projection out of the “spiritual” or nonphysical world, then how does a sudden and
profound change of consciousness, a quantum leap of enlightenment so to speak,
conform to what is regarded as a spiritual system that plays out in a relative universe,
but is experienced on the Earth as overwhelmingly linear?
On first pass, karma sounds fairly inflexible, “Do good and good comes to you. Do bad
and bad comes to you.” It was articulated by some Eastern religion way back ancient,
went viral and was eventually pirated by virtually all Eastern religions in one form or
another. Even Christianity has its spin. Look up Galatians 6: 7, something about
reaping what we sow. It could be argued persuasively karma is a posteriori; that is, we
know it exists through the experience of it. But this escapes me, too, for the simple fact
karma plays out over many lifetimes. That is, now you have to believe in reincarnation
Oy vei... To insist it is a priori, that is, someone just figured it out intellectually, makes
it a human construct and leaves it open to attack by the sky-god’s police, despite the
Galatians and now Matthew 17:10-13. (Sorry to get all Bibled up on you, but Christians
seem to have a big problem with reincarnation, so I’m using their own book to make
If you’re not persuaded karma and reincarnation are real, this little article will be a
waste of your valuable time. If you accept that actions have consequences, even if it
takes multiple lifetimes for them to play out, read on.
In asking if karma is relative or absolute, I am really asking how it allows for what I’ll
call karmic epiphany; a kind of quantum enlightenment that brings about a profound
and genuine change of heart, mind, and actions in a person. Let’s suppose for a moment
there exists a soul that has endured many, many lifetimes. Let’s make him such a bad
actor it’s more like many, many lifetimes have endured him (we’ll use a guy for this as
they’re the reason for the term “bad guy” in the first place.) And one day our villain sits
down and thinks about his actions and comes to the astonishing realization that the
reason for all his misery is him. He finally accepts that he’s his own and many others’
worst enemy and has been for a long time, and all his madness hasn’t brought him
much in the way of happiness. But within that insight is the key to unlock his
happiness, and it quickly culminates in what we’ll call karmic enlightenment. And he
uses that enlightenment to take responsibility for all of his actions and redirects his life.
“But, wait!” Karma says, “What about all these delinquency reports? I got a ton of ‘em
here, some dating back to King Tut! And here’s a really nasty one from the French and
Indian War.” And that’s a good question. Nobody likes being left holding the bag,
especially when someone else has filled it.
There are at least two possibilities here as I see it. One is that there is no such thing as a
true epiphany, that anyone claiming such is either lying, or has really worked
themselves out of the hole but was just too dumb to realize it, which seems kind of
inconsistent with the whole idea of enlightenment. Or, even though our villain-turned-
hero has in fact changed his thinking and his actions, he is still doomed for the next
umteen lifetimes to get beat up, live in poverty, live in disease and debilitation, despair
and dejection. Or, there’s more to Karma than we know.
The universe appears to be consistent from what we can observe of it physically, and
what we’ve learned about it spiritually: What goes up must come down; As above, so
below, as within, so without, etc. If Karma is a structural part of the universe, is it the
natural result of a cold, calculating universal balancing mechanism, or is it
micromanaged by some divine personality?
Up until the mid-1800s, Sir Isaac Newton had a locke on the minds of science and a big
part of philosophy, too. So much so, they let him sit in a special chair at Cambridge.
Pretty nice perk for sleeping under an apple tree. Some say he discovered certain things
about the world, but maybe he just defined what he could easily observe, factored a few
numbers, organized and quantified things a little. In any event, his work came under
question when Professor Einstein rolled out his theory of special relativity in 1905. A
theory that deals with gravity, but is generally considered to have kicked off the age of
modern physics. Eventually Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli,
et al, enter the picture with this puzzle called quantum theory. On the surface,
Heisenberg’s uncertainty seems to obliterate the metaphysical law of analogy referred
to above, As Above, So Below. But not really. He does not negate it, he really just
refines it by telling us we can’t predict where Above or Below are, and when they’ll be
there, at the same time.
If this is how physics describes how the material world works, and if we agree the
material world emanates from the unseen, or spiritual world, this might help explain the
squishy nature of karma, why it might take several lifetimes to balance out an event.
There is, of course, more to it than this, but our focus right now is only on the question
of karmic epiphany.
Comes now psychologist Carl Jung who eats dinner with Einstein, shrinks Pauli’s head,
and in 1935 reluctantly shares his theory of synchronisity. Carl is also a fan of karma,
but I admit I’ve not read his works on it because I’m too easily influenced by the
genius of others and too willing to concede they have preemptive rights to the Holy
Grail, which causes me to stop thinking for myself. And besides, Carl learned all he
knew about archetypes, and spiritual law, and meaning, and synchronisity from
indigenous peoples, my heritage, and the same people I prefer to hang out with.
As I understand it, synchronisity tells us that meaning is actually the driving force in
the universe, much the same as we’ve learned we cannot spy on subatomic particles
without becoming One with them, that the act of observation influences the actions of
particles. Human energy, form, and thought are as much a part of the fabric of the
universe as anything else in it, so much so we are connected in ways we have yet to
If we put all this in a petri dish and swish it around, we come up with something like
this: Where the unseen world of free and indestructible energy exists outside of what
we perceive to be the physical world, yet involves itself with the actions of the living,
and where the energy of the human mind is capable of not only interpreting these
actions, but of influencing them, it follows that when that same energy of the human
mind shifts so as to bring about a dramatic change in personal understanding (meaning)
and behavior, karma will adapt itself to the meaning of that change, and respond in
It would be close to impossible to prove karma is an exact science, that is, a literal eye
for another literal eye without some irrefutable link (cause) between the two. If we
have showed up in the physical to, among other things, learn how to be “good,” then it
is equally reasonable that who or whatever put us here has a mind, some sense of ethics
and fairness (balance,) and some reason to do so in the first place beyond a really
twisted sense of humor. That being the case, it would follow that once we get it, we’ve
got it, and this thing we call karma has done its job. If accumulated bad karma cannot
be quickly ameliorated in some fashion, but instead must trudge along to balance its
ledger despite a profound change, it would seem to cast its inventer not only in an
unloving light, but somewhat dim-witted as well, more like the Wizard of OZ than the
compassionate Great Mystery. Also, if we cannot intuitively understand there is
immediate relief from karmic debt when enlightenment is achieved, why bother
The whole purpose (meaning) of karma is to bring us to a place of “enlightenment.”
Once it has done its job, all debts are wiped clean.
If I am anywhere near close on this I think the bottom line is karma is just as in line and
functional with a quantum universe as it is a Cartesian universe. That is, I choose to
believe that right action is fast to correct and covers a lot more history than some
implacable theory chained to simple arithmetic. Karma is adaptable, as it works on
whatever level the individual is, and compassionate through the action of
enlightenment, or what some call grace. This gives us hope and a reason to grow.