“The Karmic Impressions” from The Wisdom of the Overself

Posted by – May 20, 2015
Categories: Excerpt Health & Healing Spirituality & Religion

by Paul Brunton


Below is a thought-provoking excerpt from The Wisdom of the Overself by Paul Brunton. It explains how the World-Mind stores memories throughout time and space, and how this gives rise to the immaterial force of karma. You can read more from this book when it hits stores on May 26th!


The Karmic Impressions

The mysterious working of karma, this force which moulds the conditions of every centre of being from protoplasmic cell to vast cosmos, must next be uncovered. If the world were nothing but a collection of material objects karma could never come into play. But because it is, as mentalism shows, a collection of thought-formations and because there is a World-Mind as the unitary ground connecting all these formations, the possibility of karma as an operative force exists. For karma would be meaningless if there were not some kind of orderly continuity between the past, the present, and the future of all those things and creatures which make up the universal existence. But this implies that Nature must keep and conserve some sort of memory in her secret recesses.

If every individual preserves a record of his own history, why should it seem fantastic for the World-Mind to preserve a record of its own history? And because its existence is inseparable from the manifested cosmos, in doing this it preserves an all-comprehensive record of the universe’s own history, too. No thought, no event, no object, no scene, and no figure has ever been wholly lost. This implies that the memories of globes and stars and nebulas utterly remote in space and time are still preserved…

In the end everything must return to its divine source, if not before by its own evolution then certainly at the end of a cosmic cycle by the universal rhythmic dissolving movement which then attains its climax. If we turn backward in thought to such a time when the universe was not in visible tangible existence, to one of those cosmic periods when the World-Mind had taken in its breath as it were, we find a mysterious state of nothingness that is yet not a nothingness. Mind alone is; a great Void alone reigns. It is as if there were no existence at all. There is not a thing, not a thought, and not a creature. Nevertheless the possibilities of the birth of all things, all thoughts, and creatures do somehow exist. Just as different sound-forms are latently stored in the tracks which have been made on the surface of a gramophone record, so different thought-forms are latently stored by karma during a period of universal rest within the World-Mind. Everything in the universe without exception being such a form or collection of forms, it follows that everything will then still have a potential existence.

Just as a massive oak tree once had an invisible and intangible existence in the acorn or the gentle fragrance of a white flower once had an unsmelt existence in the tiny seed, so the earth and stars and sun which we see around us today once had an immaterial existence in the germinal form which their own karma had stored within the memory of the World-Mind. Every starry body in the firmament with its particular distinguishing characteristics and every creature which dwelt upon it with its own desires, tendencies, and capacities were memorized by the wonderful faculties of World-Mind. From this it will be seen that memory played a potent part in creating the world of which we are conscious. During these periods of its own suppression, therefore, the universe still existed as a seed-like possibility.

… Just as the silent registrations on a gramophone record are converted under suitable conditions into vividly heard words, so the invisible registrations in World-Mind were converted at the ripe karmic time into vividly experienced things. Just as shouts uttered in a narrow mountain ravine call forth echoing sounds, so the karmic impressions stored during a cosmic night, repeated themselves in the space-time world as they passed into actuality and thus appeared again in tangible visible form.

This karmic seed-form must not be misunderstood. Because everything is really mental, because everything is a thought-formation, the memorization of it held by the World-Mind is not a second and separate substance but is the very essence or soul of the thing itself. If we compare the World-Mind to a piece of wax then the impression made on the latter by a metal seal represents the memorized unmanifested world and the force or pressure applied to the seal represents karma. And just as the moulded picture is not distinct from the wax itself so the innumerable karmic impressions which compose the memory-image of the whole universe, which is but a great thought, are not distinct from the World-Mind too.

A man forgets his own life and the external world during deep sleep but remembers them completely again the following morning. If all his ideas are latently and mysteriously preserved during the sleep state despite apparent annihilation, then we have a hint from Nature to help us understand how it is possible for all the ideas of the World-Mind to be latently and mysteriously preserved even when they are no longer actualized during the cosmic night. Just as not a single thought-form is really lost by the individual mind during sleep so not a single thought-form is lost by the World-Mind when a cosmic period closes and everything vanishes into apparent nothingness, but really returns to the original unity whence it earlier proceeded.

The karmic impressions are so subtle and so abstract from the human standpoint that a further analogy may help to clarify their meaning. A poet, by which we do not mean a mere versifier, who sits down to write an imaginative poem will not in the beginning know the precise sentences and exact words which his poem will contain nor the full course and final shape which it will take. He will most likely feel some vague intuitions and uncalculated inspirations pressing within him for expression and only as he goes on to create definite word-forms for them does he begin to see his way more clearly. What is happening? The actual and spontaneous composition and progressive development of the poem has brought down into this space-time world of visible forms something which previously had existed in his so-called unconscious mind only as a mental possibility.
In the same way, the universe in its potential state is a mental possibility existing in the World-Mind, a possibility which has no graspable existence until it appears in actuality as a visible form. Every thought-formation—which means every thing—that exists in this world is born of its corresponding impression in the formless world. The volume and variety of world-appearances arise from the impressions which have resided since the beginningless past in an unbroken chain of continuous transformations in the World-Mind. Every activity, every existence leaves its impress in the World-Mind and the cumulative result of all these combined impressions displays itself eventually as the universe.

Excerpted from The Wisdom of the Overself: The Path to Self-Realization and Philosophic Insight, Vol. 2 by Paul Brunton. © 2015, North Atlantic Books.

Tags: Esoteric Traditions Paul Brunton

About the Author

Marina is the Marketing & Digital Programs Coordinator at North Atlantic Books. After living in New Orleans and Amsterdam, and exploring a couple of continents, she returned to the San Francisco Bay Area to work at NAB. She's passionate about astrology, nonfiction books, and sustainable living, as well as all things metaphysical.