"As you sow, so shall ye reap". "What goes around, comes around". "What you send out returns three times". These are all sayings very familiar to all of us, all of them examples of a supposedly Universal Law of cause and effect, action and reaction. Of course many of the religious systems try to furnish us with some sort of "escape clause" that will allow man to either alleviate suffering for past misdeeds, or to escape responsibility totally. Let us take a little closer look at these three ideas and their inter-relationship.
It seems that, on one level, we do live in a mechanistic universe, one pretty much ruled by cause-and-effect. This Newtonian universe seems to react in a very mechanical fashion, i.e. every action "produces an equal and opposite reaction". A good analogy for this is the example of one billiard ball striking another. The energy from the striking billiard ball is transferred to the one struck and is used to push against the first, imparting motion in the same direction. This brings the second law into play, i.e. an object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force.
The principle of Karma basically says the same thing; i.e. any negative or positive action or thought remains that way, until it expends its energy by acting upon the originator. Of course this also makes implicit the idea that thoughts or mental energy have a reality of their own, one that interacts with the physical universe. If this idea is accepted, it then implies the existence of at least one more "world" or order of the universe, one with a non physical "reality", and one where the basic fundamental rules of physics (as we know them) may not truly apply.
The Witch can be described as one who "walks between" these two worlds. "Walking between two worlds" implies that an individual is connected with both and can move between them at will. The purpose of magick is to manipulate one world for the benefit of the other, i.e. to manipulate the unseen world for the express purpose of influencing events in the physical. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a "free ride" anywhere in the universe, and when an individual acquires the power to do this, they also acquire a great deal of responsibility! By accepting the power to exert "leverage" in the unseen world, an individual seems to also accept a multiplied susceptibility to influences initiated in that world. This is why negative workings are so dangerous! This may also be the reasoning behind the "law of three fold return".
Now comes the hard part! If all of this cause and effect stuff is absolute, how can any individual ever hope to "pay off" the debts for all of the negative karma they have done not only in this lifetime, but in many others? Must we "pay off" all past transgressions on a one for one basis? Is there no escape clause in this "contract" we seem to have for living in the universe?
This "escape clause" is called Grace by the Christians and by other names in other systems, but it does exist in all. Basically, the idea is this: "Once a lesson is completely learned and one grows beyond a need for this lesson, it need not be repeated, even if the 'books' are not balanced". This is the "enlightenment" sought by many religions that allows the "breaking" of the wheel.