Karma, The Just-World Fallacy and the Magick of Action

written by Lauren Ouellette-Bruchez
I am an avid social media user. It’s one of the best resources at my disposal to conduct business, keep up on the latest news both personal and worldwide and to see pictures of kittens and puppies wearing sweaters and hats…for science, of course. Facebook also provides a unique opportunity to take a look at the trends in thought processes and tropes.

One concept resurfaces consistently and has begun to kind of grate on my nerves. I didn’t quite understand why I cared at first. I don’t believe in policing language or expression as I feel that it dulls the truth. But this thing was really getting to me and after some thought I figured it out.

The general perception of karma is out of alignment with its true nature. It’s not an infrequent occurrence to see a status update boasting that someone feels vindicated because another person has done them wrong and “got what’s coming to them”. Karma as it is understood in Hinduism and Buddhism is a far more nuanced notion than the vengeance-driven idea of it as is commonly accepted in western society. While karma is a system of cause and effect that relates to ethical concerns, it does not work within the realms of standard human thought or behavior. Karma, as it is poorly employed, is far more representative of the just-world fallacy.

The just-world fallacy is just that; the thought that the universe operates according to ones own moral compass. Some people truly believe that if someone wrongs them or does something “wrong” in general that the universe will smite them and all will be well. And of course, if you’re “good”, then good things happen to you. I have known those whom I believe to be ethically deficient who have beautiful families, good health and successful careers. I’ve also known some amazing souls who have cancer, have lost their homes and their jobs. This is how the universe operates. Frankly, it just ain’t fair.

So, why am I writing about this? It seems more like a general rant than a Pagan Activist blog, right? Bear with me. I’m a Gemini. I will eventually come to my overall point but we may have to get there by route of China first.

The misappropriation of karma and the consistent arising of the just-world fallacy as a theme in Neopagan culture is hurting us. It’s hurting us because it veils reality in non-functional ways and far more than you would think. If you consider for a moment the word activist, its root is the word active. This implies that action is being taken on the part of the activist to effect change according to their efforts. As Pagans, many of us practice magick and ritual, both of which allow us to connect with deeper expressions of ourselves and the natural world to also bring about desired results. Is it any wonder that so many of us gravitate toward activism?

But so often I find that the just-world fallacy and bastardized ideas of karma impede our progress. They rob us of our power. When we decide that “karma will handle it” or “I don’t have to do anything because bad people reap what they sow” we have accepted that we can no longer effect change or have deliberately chosen not to.

Now before anyone gets all hot and bothered, I’m not advocating vengeance as a means of handling our problems. Vengeance is a different animal born of self-righteousness and egotism. More specifically what I’m suggesting is reclaiming your ability to create the world you wish to live in and open yourself to the idea that those changes begin with “doing”.

The magick of action is something that I never intended to be more than a personal philosophy and practice. For a couple of years I worked at a spiritual supply shop. I interacted with practitioners from all walks of life and each with their own way of doing things. Sadly, I began to realize how many people practiced magick as an excuse to say that they were doing something to bring about positive change. In reality, they were just spinning their wheels.

But this is just it. We are so convinced of our inferiority that karma and magick have become our point of disconnect from personal divinity, which could not be further from the truth of their presence in our lives. In regard to activism, so many people believe that they can’t make a difference but karma, the real karma itself expresses that every action regardless of how small is never meaningless. Real magick begins when you discard the belief that you can’t make a difference. The ritual is reminding yourself everyday that while you’re here and breathing that you’re a living expression of the divine. You don’t have to be angry or hateful to decide that you refuse to accept the circumstances you’ve been dealt. You just have to dig deep and connect to that divinity to find your courage. This magick will give you the fuel you need to keep going.

Being an activist is an arduous path and does not lend itself to satisfying the whims of those looking for instant gratification. Some days we achieve our goals and are heard, but there’s a whole lot of disappointment and conflict before that happens in most cases. Some days you get arrested. Other days you receive phone calls and e-mails from loved ones tearing you down for embarrassing them or not representing their interests. I’ve known activists who’ve lost their jobs fighting for their beliefs. And again, that poor grasp of karma doesn’t help because we are programmed to wonder, “what have I done wrong?”.

The fact is you may not have done anything wrong. Even more so, when you accept and embrace your power it’s a lot easier to grasp that correlation is not causation. Just because things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped doesn’t mean you should give up. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good and when you find disappointment in regard to your cause, you aren’t being “karmically punished”. Let the power of your goals energize you. In my opinion the greatest magick is action. Anyone can half-heartedly anoint some candles and chant from the comfort of their own home but it is the successful practitioner who can transform energy into physical, substantial results. It is not enough to sign petitions, post a blog or argue with those who oppose you in a comment thread. Your actual presence and dedication are the things required to reach those who otherwise would not hear you.

My ritual does not stop here. My work begins when I venture out into the world, risk something worthwhile, knowing that I may never see the desired result in my lifetime and continue to try because it is my will to do so. It is my will that I know failure — to learn from my mistakes and gain the wisdom to not make them again. It is my will that I achieve success in my activism, so that future generations don’t have to fail the same way I did. I will not be a hapless bystander in my life or yield my will to that which I don’t support. My karma is a direct result of my actions and I can choose to be punished by it or learn from it. Everyone is gifted these very same choices. What will you choose?

7 thoughts on “Karma, The Just-World Fallacy and the Magick of Action

  1. Kalisara

    This is a great perspective. I host a podcast, Pagan-Musings, on blogtalkradio.com. Let me know if you would be interested in a show on this topic.

  2. Elizabeth McQuinn

    Very nice article. Thank you for the uplifting inspiration and reminder to use our power within. I look forward to future postings!!!

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  4. Pingback: PMP: PaganActivist author Lauren talks about Karma | Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel

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