Karma stops with me (and you)

Today is Sunday. Nicolas and I are currently up at the family cabin for the long weekend, a four hour drive outside of Oslo. As usual, we have woken up early, had our morning coffee and now sit at the plush sofas facing two big glass-paned windows. Outside it is misty, overcast and remnants of snow cover patches of brown and green on the hills trying to wake up from hibernation. 

I just started reading The Mountain Shadow by Gregory Robers (sequel to Shantaram, one of my favourite books) while Nicolas is about halfway through a book called The Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati by Robert Anton Wilson. It was recommended to him by a friend who knew that he (make that “we”) are interested in all things philosophical and potentially game-changing. Despite the title, it’s not (from my understanding) just a bunch of conspiracy theory babble. It’s actually an autobiography about a man (Wilson) who puts himself through “self-induced brain change” to try and get a heightened (more illumined) experience of life. From what Nicolas has told me, and the little that I’ve skimmed through, he tries all sorts of things including (but not limited to), drugs, spirituality, conversations and friendships with renowned thinkers such as Alan Watts, yoga, meditation, so on and so forth.

One of the things Nicolas and I love to do, is to read the same book (if we haven’t already) and share what we think and discuss our thoughts. Usually, he reads a book I have read (like The Dharma Bums and Siddhartha) and asks me why I underlined certain passages, and why I left others untouched. Or he reads a book, such as now, and hands it over to me to read a chapter or a phrase he particularly likes, so we can share opinions right away. This morning was one of those moments. Just as I am about to dig into my book, cold coffee in hand (I takes ages to drink), he hands me this passage on Karma. I really liked it, so now I wish to share that with you, because I think it’s a good take on the idea. So here we go, I have highlighted my favourite parts, just as I would have with a pen to the pages of this book:

A lesson in Karma

Lao-Tse says (at least in Leary’s translation) that the Great Tao is most often found with parents who are willing to learn from their children. This remark was to cause me considerable mental strain and dilation around this time in our narrative, because my children had become very self-directed adolescents and were getting into occultism with much more enthusiasm and much less skepticism than I thought judicious.

For a few years, we could not discuss these subjects without arguing, despite my attempts to remember good old Lao-Tse and really listen to the kids. They believed in astrology, which I was still convinced was bosh; in reincarnation, which I considered an extravagant metaphor one shouldn’t take literally; and in that form of the doctrine of Karma which holds, optimistically, that the evil really are punished and the good really are rewarded, which I considered a wishful fantasy no more likely than the Christian idea of Heaven and Hell. Worst of all, they had a huge appetite for various Oriental “Masters” whom I regarded as total charlatans, and an enormous disdain for all the scientific methodology of the West.

My own position was identical to that of Aleister Crowley when he wrote:

We place no reliance

On Virgin or Pigeon;

Our method is Science,

Our aim is Religion.

After every argument with one of the kids, I would vow again to listen more sympathetically, less judgmentally, to their Pop Orientalism. I finally began to succeed. I learned a great deal from them.

A “miracle” then happened. I know this will be harder for the average American parent to believe than any of my other weird yarns, but my horde of self-willed and self-directed adolescents began to listen to me. Real communication was established. Even though I was in my 40s and greying in the beard, I was able to talk intelligently with four adolescents about our philosophical disagreements, and our mutual respect for each other grew by leaps and bounds.

This, I think, is the greatest result I have obtained from all my occult explorations, even if the unmarried will not appreciate how miraculous it was.

Luna, our youngest—the one who might have levitated in Mexico and who had her first menstrual period synchronistically on the day Tim Leary was busted in Afghanistan taught me the hardest lesson of all. She had begun to paint in watercolors and everything she did charmed me: it was always full of sun and light, in a way that was as overpowering as Van Gogh.

“What do all these paintings mean?” I asked her one day.

I’m trying to show the Clear Light,” she said.

Then, returning from school one afternoon, Luna was beaten and robbed by a gang of black kids. She was weeping and badly frightened when she arrived home, and her Father was shaken by the unfairness of it happening to her, such a gentle, ethereal child. In the midst of consoling her, the Father wandered emotionally and began denouncing the idea of Karma. Luna was beaten, he said, not for her sins, but for the sins of several centuries of slavers and racists, most of whom had never themselves suffered for those sins. “Karma is a blind machine,” he said. “The effects of evil go on and on but they don’t necessarily come back on those who start the evil.” Then Father got back on the track and said some more relevant and consoling things.

The next day Luna was her usual sunny and cheerful self, just like the Light in her paintings. “I’m glad you’re feeling better,” the Father said finally.

“I stopped the wheel of Karma,” she said. “All the bad energy is with the kids who beat me up. I’m not holding any of it. ”

And she wasn’t. The bad energy had entirely passed by, and there was no anger or fear in her. I never saw her show any hostility to blacks after the beating, any more than before.

The Father fell in love with her all over again. And he understood what the metaphor of the wheel of Karma really symbolizes and what it means to stop the wheel.

Karma, in the original Buddhist scriptures, is a blind machine; in fact, it is functionally identical with the scientific concept of natural law. Sentimental ethical ideas about justice being built into the machine, so that those who do evil in one life are punished for it in another life, were added later by theologians reasoning from their own moralistic prejudices. Buddha simply indicated that all the cruelties and injustices of the past are still active: their effects are always being felt. Similarly, he explained, all the good of the past, all the kindness and patience and love of decent people is also still being felt.

Since most humans are still controlled by fairly robotic reflexes, the bad energy of the past far outweighs the good, and the tendency of the wheel is to keep moving in the same terrible direction, violence breeding more violence, hatred breeding more hatred, war breeding more war. The only way to “stop the wheel” is to stop it inside yourself, by giving up bad energy and concentrating on the positive. This is by no means easy, but once you understand what Gurdjieff called “the horror of our situation,” you have no choice but to try, and to keep on trying.

And Luna, at 13, understood this far better than I did, at 43, with all my erudition and philosophy .. . I still regarded her absolute vegetarianism and pacifism as sentimentality.”


Wilson, Robert Anton (2016). Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati. USA: Bloomsburg Children’s

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