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The Hill of Discernment

By Alfred Trevor Barker

On Accidents and Suicides

QUESTION: The teachings in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett in regard to accidents and violent deaths, as published in the July English Theosophical Forum seem to me to be like some of the "hard sayings" of the New Testament, and very difficult to understand. (a) Are we to understand that the victims of great wars, earthquakes, cataclysms, etc., are to be included in the category of accidents and violent deaths? Surely the great warrior who suffers a violent death through the purest motives, thus giving his life for his country or kindred, would not come under this awful doom after bodily death.

(b) Again, Is the word "accident" in such cases perhaps a misnomer, and that really there are no accidents, all being the result of karmic law and past incarnations

(c) How does one explain or account for the suicide of the Roman soldiers who fell on their swords (as an honorable way out) when the battle went against them?

ANSWER: (a and b) Undoubtedly those who suffer death prematurely as the result of wars, earthquakes and cataclysms must be considered, from the point of view of the teaching in The Mahatma Letters, as coming in the category of "accidents." This, of course, does not mean that the unfortunate event was in any way contrary to the karma of the individual, but simply to the fact that death was not self-inflicted. The questioner is rightly appalled at the responsibility of the human race for the loss of life inflicted by one nation on another in war; but we can each of us take some comfort from the fact that it is impossible for anyone to suffer death by violence unless such is included in his own karmic destiny, even when that destiny is over-shadowed or dominated by a calamity coming under the category of "national karma." Furthermore, in the instance quoted in this question of a soldier who gives his life for his country with the purest of motives, the merciful and compassionate side of the law inevitably operates for his protection, and, other things being equal, the element of self-sacrifice involved will ensure that he lives out the unexpired term of what would have been his normal expectation of life in the higher regions of the Kama-loka, in a state of quiet slumber, full of pleasant dreams, with no recollection of the circumstances that brought about his death, until be finds himself reborn in the Devachan.

There is nothing hard or terrible about such a fate; but obviously the situation is not so satisfactory for those who die in battle full of hatred and enmity, and in the full tide of earthly passions. The teaching of The Mahatma Letters in this connexion serves not only as a warning, but a wholesome corrective and inspiration to right living whilst we still have the opportunity.

(c) This question is not quite so simple, as the answer must necessarily depend largely upon circumstances, and the customs and traditions of the particular nation. For example, in the Great War of 1914-1918 there was no moral stigma upon the soldiers of any nation who found themselves taken prisoner, and it would seem that such individuals would be going against karmic law if they were to take their own lives to avoid the penalties of defeat.



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