It had to be. During my religious days -- well, make that 35 years -- I wrote two books that addressed the subject of karma.
In God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder, karma was secondary to my main theme of spirit being the creative power of the cosmos. But in Life is Fair, the whole book was about this spiritual law of cause and effect.
Now, when I've become an atheist, I'm fascinated by the strong neuroscientific and philosophical arguments against free will. What's interesting is that no free will is almost exactly the same as karma.
Guess I was meant to not believe in free will.
Of course, often karma is viewed as having supernatural elements, especially in its Eastern religious form. Karma is seen as extending over multiple lives, through reincarnation. But otherwise, no free will is the secular equivalent of karma.
To demonstrate this, below are some quotes from the literature of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), the India-based religious organization headed up by a guru that I belonged to for those three and a half decades.
I assembled these quotes in the course of my research for my first book. I read, or rather re-read, every book in English published by RSSB and took notes on various subjects concerning how mysticism and the new physics could relate.
Here's some of what the RSSB books say about karma, which sounds just like the notion of no free will, leaving aside the references to God as being the overseer of karma and mentions of past lives. Every quote is from a book written by one of the RSSB gurus, such as Charan Singh and Sawan Singh.
The Karmic Law is supreme on the material and mind planes, and nothing happens of its own accord, spontaneously, so to say. The law governs the planes; therefore, no haphazard happening of events takes place anywhere, whether the events are of microscopic or astronomical dimensions. (Sawan Singh)
According to the layer of our Karmas that comes into action, our Lord makes people act towards us in that way. So we should never blame anybody. (Charan Singh)
Our present life was marked out in the minutest detail, even before we were born, and no change can be made in that now. (Charan Singh)
No person, dead or living, can influence the life of another person. That is settled strictly according to the law of Karma. You go where your attachments are and you reap what you sow. These are eternal laws which work in this creation and every soul is bound by them. (Charan Singh)
Everything in our life is predestined according to the karmas of our past life, but this does not preclude all effort on our part. The effort that we make is also part of our destiny. We, in fact, have no free will as we call it... our will is very limited and what we call free will is all circumscribed by our birth, the family we are born into, the country, the education, and so forth, over which we had no control. All these circumstances have moulded our thoughts and we act and think accordingly. (Charan Singh)
There is no necessity to worry because whatever is destined, whatever has to happen, has already happened, is already destined. (Charan Singh)
We cannot think why should we do anything if it is already written in our destiny and we will get it automatically anyway. If a thing is in your destiny, then your way of thinking will be to develop it. We are all just like puppets who are dancing, and the strings are being pulled by Him according to our karmas. The realized souls and the unrealized souls are all dancing in the same way. The only difference is that the realized souls know that He is pulling the string and the unrealized souls think that they are dancing by their own effort. (Charan Singh)
If we look at it on a grand scale, from the top down, we have hardly any free will at all...We may say that this is my decision, this is my free will, but we forget what has led us to make that decision, to think in that direction... So, on a broader scale, we have absolutely no free will at all. Everything was planned, so to say. But with our limited view, looking from here up, we have free will. (Charan Singh)
We cannot know what is our karma or what is in store for us... Karma will be taken care of automatically. We should not try to analyze what is our karma or what is not our karma, for that will take care of itself. (Charan Singh)
What destiny has planned for you will come to pass without any planning on your part. Your destiny will cause you to act and make effort according to its plan. Destiny and effort go hand in hand. One is as much a part of the other as the sun and its rays. (Jagat Singh)