THE above is the title of an essay in the T.P.S. series by Alexander Fullerton, in which he treats the question solely in regard to whether we should take punitive or reformatory measures with those of our fellow-beings who transgress in those respects in which we so often see culpability. In that essay he has said a great deal that cannot be controverted from the general rules prevailing, but there are other considerations, and also other ways of understanding the term "Karmic Agent."
For this H.P.B. had a particular and technical meaning under which the Karmic Agent is at once removed from the ordinary general mass to which the essay in the Siftings has reference. A statement of the law of Karma of course makes not only men karmic agents but also every other being in the Cosmos, inasmuch as they are all under the law of action and reaction, and, with the same law, go to make Cosmos what it is. Taken as a unit in the general mass of men, each man is a Karmic agent in the above sense, just as each horse and dog, or the rain and the sun are. So in our daily actions, even the smallest, whether we are conscious or not of the effect, we are such agents. A single word of ours may have an influence for a lifetime upon another. It may cause once more the fire of passion to blaze up, or bring about a great change for good. We may be the means of another's being late for an appointment and thus save him from calamity or the reverse, and so on infinitely. But all this is very different from the technical sense I have referred to, and which might be taken to be the sense of the title of the article thus specially removed from the general class.
The special sense is in this: a "Karmic Agent" is one who concentrates more rapidly than is usual the lines of influence that bring about events sometimes in a strange and subtle way. Of these there are two classes; the first, those among the mass who, from the lives they have led in the past, arrive in this one gifted--or cursed with the power unknown to themselves. The second, those who by training have the power, or rather have become concentrators of the forces, and know it to be the case. Of these are the Adepts, both great and small. An instance of this may be found in the life of Zanoni as related by Bulwer Lytton. It was observed that those who met Zanoni soon showed in their affairs very great changes, and although Lytton's son has said, out of his imagination, I think, that his father never intended what theosophists say he did by the book, there is no doubt that Bulwer meant to teach and illustrate the law.
In Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms it is also spoken of in the 36th Aphorism, second book, thus (Amer. Ed.): "When veracity is complete the Yogee becomes the focus for the Karma resulting from all works, good and bad"; and in the Bombay edition, "when veracity is complete he is the receptacle of the fruit of works."
It is a well-known tradition in India, called by the civilized West a superstition, that if one should meet and talk with an Adept his Karma good and bad would come to a head more quickly than usual, and thus that the Adept could confer a boon, letting the evil pass and increasing the good. I have conversed with those who asserted they had by chance met Yogis in the forest with whom they talked, telling them that some dear friend was sick unto death, and then on returning home found that the sickness had all gone at the very time of the conversation. And others met such men, who told them that the meeting would bring on the opposite by reason of quick concentration, but that even that would be a benefit, as it would, as it were, eat up much unpleasant Karma once for all. Of this class of traditions is the story of the centurion's daughter and Jesus of Nazareth.
And H.P.B. held that there are many people in the world, engaged in its affairs, who are, without knowing it, Karmic agents in this special sense, and continually bring to others good and bad sudden effects which otherwise would have come slowly to pass, spread over many more days or years, and showing in a number of small events instead of in one.
If this theory be true, we have here also the explanation of the superstition of the evil eye, which is only a corrupt form of the knowledge that there are such Karmic agents among us who by looking at others draw together very quickly effects that without the presence of the Karmic agent might never have been noticed because of their taking more time to transpire.
But if we follow too strictly the theory that men are Karmic agents for the punishment or reformation of others, many mistakes will be made and much bad feeling engendered in others, making it inevitable that we who cause these feelings must receive some day, in this life or another, the exact reaction. And on the other hand, we should not shrink from the duty to relieve pain and sorrow if we can, for it is both cowardice and conceit to say that we will not help this or that man because it is his Karma to suffer. In the face of suffering it is our good Karma to relieve it if in our power. We are ignorant at best, and cannot tell what will be the next result of what we are about to do or to suggest; hence it is wiser not to assume too often and on too small occasions to be the reformers or punishers as agents for Karma of those who seem to offend.
Theosophical Siftings, vol. 4, Nos. 14-15.