karma | biblical | Merton | ecological conscience | conclusion



the sum of a person's actions

In the tradition of reincarnation these actions are in this and previous states of existence, hence one can be reenacting. The emphasis here is on action -- the present acting out of ones existence -- the expression of the condition.

In some interpretations viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.

• informal destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.


ORIGIN of the word is from Sanskrit; karman ‘action, effect, fate.’


Thomas Merton, Catholic monk, 1968.

"Man is a creature of of ambiguity. His salvation and his sanity depend on his ability to harmonize the deep conflicts in his thought, his emotions, his personal mythology."

"Honesty and authenticity do not depend on complete freedom from contradictions--such freedom is impossible--but on recognizing our self-contradictions and not masking them with bad faith. The conflicts in individuals are not entirely of their own making. On the contrary many of them are imposed, readymade, by an ambivalent culture."

We are content to think like the others, and in order to protect our common psychic security, we readily become blind to the contradictions--or even the lies-- that we have decided to accept as 'plain truth.'


"One of the more familiar ambiguities in the American mind operates in our frontier mythology, which has grown in power in proportion as we have ceased to be a frontier or even a rural people."

"Victory consists in reducing the wilderness to something else, a farm, a village, a road, a canal, a railway, a mine, a factory, a city--and finally an urban nation."

Wilderness and the American Mind, by Roderick Nash is an important addition to an already significant body of literature about this subject. It traces the evolution of the wilderness idea from the first Puritan settlers, via Henry David Thoreau and John Muir to the modern ecologists and preservationists--and their opponents in big business and politics."

The Bible

"…one of the interesting things about this ambivalence toward nature is that it is rooted in our biblical… tradition."

"But a certain kind of Christian culture has certainly resulted in a Manichean hostility toward the created nature."

"For there is a certain popular, superficial, and one-sided 'Christian worldliness' that is, in its hidden implications, profoundly destructive of nature and of 'God's creation' even while it claims to love and extol them…"

"Much of the stupendous ecological damage that has been done in the last fifty years is irreversible."

Coal strip mining

"for instance, in eastern Kentucky, to keep mining interests from completing the ruin of the area that is already a ghastly monument to callous human greed… [decisions are]made in the way that is good for a quick return on somebody's investment--and a permanent disaster for everybody else."

"Aldo Leopold, a follower of John Muir,… brought into clear focus one of the most important moral discoveries of our time. This can be called the ecological conscience. The ecological conscience is centered on an awareness of man's true place as a dependent member of the biotic community."

ecological laws

"Man must become fully aware of his dependence on a balance which he is not only free to destroy but which he has already begun to destroy. He must recognize his obligations toward other members of that vital community."

The respect for life, the affirmation of all life, is basic to the ecological conscience."


Thomas Merton, "The Ecological Conscience."

Catholic Worker, June, 1968. reprinted; December 2008, pp 1-4.


karma | biblical | Merton | ecological conscience | conclusion


* Manichean

"has become a cliché" Merton so argues, meaning the conception of the world as an eternal struggle between good and evil. Once an heretical sect of the early Christian church.


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Last Updated on December 29, 2008.

By Joseph Siry