Those who believe in reincarnation also believe in the apparent divine justice that the tenants of reincarnation lend to the concept of a just universe. Why, they ask, should one person be born into abject poverty, to alcoholic, abusive parents, or with horrible disabilities while another is born into a rich household with good parents and all his faculties intact? Why would an American child live in relative luxury while a North Korean child might die of starvation simply because of the political sins of his father?
For people who believe in a “just universe”, it is much more satisfying to believe that the god of such a universe would not discriminate against one innocent soul, while arbitrarily treating another in a more kindly fashion. It seems more reasonable, or perhaps “humane” would be a better term, to believe that bad circumstances visited upon one person but not on another are due to the consequences of their respective behaviors in previous lifetimes.
In other words, reincarnation creates karmic justice from lifetime to lifetime, and this produces a “just universe” as well as spiritual advancement. Besides…In the late nineteenth century, it was a great rationalization for the wealth and luxury possessed by many of the spiritually inclined elites who were the people most involved in promoting Theosophy and its built-in doctrine of reincarnation. It appealed to their Calvinistic roots and soothed their feelings of guilt at living in luxury while the poor suffered in their poverty.
Karma is the term applied to the spiritual aspects of “cause and effect.” When a person does something bad or stupid, he or she generally suffers the consequences of his or her actions. This is simply part of God’s plan. His most important gift to mankind was the gift of Free Will. Free Will allows people to make bad decisions as well as good ones. Reaping the rewards for good decisions and suffering the consequences for bad ones is really the whole point of living in the world of matter.
Most of the time, the consequences for bad or evil decisions manifest immediately after the cause, but sometimes they can happen years later as the final result of a “chain of events.” If one believes in reincarnation, these consequences can also manifest as bad circumstances in succeeding lifetimes.
For all practical purposes, the term “karma” signifies a load of evil that a soul must carry around from lifetime to lifetime. The soul must carry this karmic burden until it can be “unloaded”, and it does this by experiencing counterbalancing evil in its later lives. Seen this way, karma is the justification for the poor life circumstances of apparently innocent people because of evil acts carried out in previous lifetimes. According to this theory, a soul that contains evil must be punished until it has paid its karmic debt and the evil has been expiated (repaid). On the other hand, souls that lived good and virtuous previous lives and carry no evil karma would be rewarded with good circumstances in a later reincarnation.
However, as you recall from our discussion of theodicy (in chapter 3), only those of us living in a world of matter see evil as an odious substance. It soothes our sensibilities to believe that evil acts will eventually be punished. It’s natural for people to want revenge, or some form of payback administered to someone who commits horrible crimes. However, from a spiritual point of view, evil is simply the emptiness of a hollow human soul. The concept of karma is just another way of materializing evil. Spiritually, an evil soul is not “filled” with evil. It is simply an empty soul. An evolved soul is one filled with light.
In the end, karma is simply a justification for an entirely material existence. Reincarnation plus karma equals an endless loop of one life followed by another life followed by another life ad infinitum. Karma eliminates the need for any form of spiritual existence. Why bother with Hell when a bad soul has to live life after life filled with pain, sorrow and prison? Likewise, why bother with heaven when a good soul can live multiple good lives right here on earth?
Real spiritual evolution is not based on punishment and reward. It’s a learning process based on a slow progression of experience and the accumulation of wisdom. The concept of karma is the exact opposite implying overt punishment for evil acts over and over again until the soul is empty. God has no use for empty souls. He craves souls filled with light.