Fritz Haber (born 1868), was a Polish Jew, who received a Nobel prize in Chemistry for his invention of the Haber-Bosch process (a method used in industry to synthesize ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas).
Today half of the world’s food production is dependent on the methods developed by Haber as nitrogen fertilizers are incredibly valuable in agriculture and as a result 2 out of 5 people alive today owe their existence to Haber’s process.
In Buddhist, Hindu or far eastern terms his noble research would result in huge amounts of Kharma, racking up in his cosmic bank account which would almost certainly guarantee him a fortunate rebirth as a prince or a king in his next life, destined to inherit every advantage known to man, but it doesn’t end there…
The many competing interests of the international arms industry are all also eternally grateful to Haber as the Haber-Bosch Process is also useful when manufacturing explosives, which is something that I’m convinced that Haber would have approved of, at least initially during his younger years, because we know from the historical record that Haber was a keen supporter of chemical warfare, pioneering and weaponizing chlorine gas (and others) for use on the battlefield during the first world war.
In Buddhist, Hindu or far eastern terms his ignoble research would result in huge amounts of Kharma being withdrawn from his cosmic bank account, in such a scenario he might even return in his next life as a humble flea or an earthworm as far removed from a prince or a king as is possible, but it doesn’t end there…
His wife didn’t like his gainful employment (industrialising death) and begged him not to carry on with the work, he continued anyway and in despair, she shot herself in the chest with his service revolver. She didn’t die straight away but was found by their 12-year-old son who had heard the gunshot and rushed out to see what had happened. She died in his arms. This apparently, is Karma coming to fruition, although why innocents have to die to satisfy karma is beyond me! Perhaps he’d been evil in a past life, but it doesn’t end there…
The German state that Haber had enthusiastically supported throughout his whole life (beginning with the Keiser) gradually began to turn against Jews with the rise of political antisemitism and the eventual installation of a Natzi government in 1933 making life very uncomfortable for Polish Jews like Haber, eventually, Fritz’s Karma came to fruition and he died on the run in Switzerland from a heart attack in 1934, but it doesn’t end there.
One of Haber’s inventions (Zyklon B) was used to exterminate Jews in the concentration camps, including members of his Haber’s own extended family.
So, what do we know about Karma?
Karma in Buddhist terms is deemed to be the sum total of all of the actions that a person has made in his or her lifetime. Karma, when viewed through a deterministic lens, is impartial, dispassionate and simply an accumulation of the results of all acts whether good or bad. Event ‘A’, leads to ‘B,’ and ‘C’ and ultimately ‘D’ respectively.
Fritz Harber suffered considerably in his lifetime and much of it could easily have been avoided if he’d understood the simple and stoic truth that good actions lead to good outcomes and bad actions lead to correspondingly bad ones. This is why the Stoics of the ancient world and many of their contemporaries in other schools such as the Academy structured their lives around the concept of ‘virtue.’ A good life was one filled with good actions that led to good outcomes gaining the philosopher the admiration and respect of all of his peers.
Deterministic Karma is simple, If I choose to step out of the house in the morning only to get hit by a bus when crossing the road, well that’s the accumulation of my Karma (the sum total of all of my actions). If I decide to leave at a different time then the bus would simply whizz on by unimpeded by my presence, thus it can be seen that calamities are merely the unforeseeable consequences of earlier actions. Very few people step out in front of a bus deliberately and if they do so this is clearly not an ‘accident,’ but deliberate intent.
To a Buddhist ‘intent,’ is everything, they understand that life is unpredictable because human beings have a limited ability to see ahead and predict the future. Good intentions today will hopefully lead to good results tomorrow but are not guaranteed to do so. Yet if the person’s intent was pure then only good karma can accrue.
Was it Fritz’s intent to kill so many people in explosive detonations and chemical warfare, or was it simply his intent to help the world grow more food and prevent billions from starving to death, or could both be true? When placed upon the cosmic scales one must clearly outweigh the other, and that we’re told is the mechanism that will transport us to either pain or glory in our next life, unless of course, we can learn to give up any attachments and archive nirvana! Yet the evidence of this is anecdotal, inconsistent and as such cannot be studied scientifically, which means that it’s no good to us. Thus we can conclude that It is not wise to think of past or future lifetimes whose reality we cannot confirm when evaluating our actions or our present circumstances.
This is the main difference between philosophy and religion. Philosophy is all about getting the best out of ‘this life,’ the life that you are living right now, by contrast, religion is all about the correct preparation for the afterlife in whatever form you happen to believe that it takes.
Whatever our present circumstances, they could only have come about through the aggregate effects of determinism. Your good choices led to (hopefully) good outcomes for you whilst your bad choices caused you to suffer.
The philosopher who understands the nature of determinism is truly wise, as he or she can assess their own intentions and the actions that might follow from them; mindfully determining whether they will produce good outcomes for themselves and the people around them, by premeditating the likely effects of planned action, visualizing how things can go wrong and taking steps to control as much as they can to prevent problems from occurring, steering their actions towards ‘virtue,’ and away from ‘vice’ in sharp contrast to the thoughtless actions of non-philosophical folk who choose a path they deem to be good for them and hope for the best. This is why good actions can often produce bad outcomes and bad actions rarely if ever produce good endings, simply because it’s easier to predict the likely consequences of a bad action than a good one.
Determinism for the win!
So to sum up, our understanding of past and future lives should they exist is not complete enough for us to make reliable judgements upon or draw moral lessons from, but our study of this life is more than enough. A deterministic understanding of Karma and its effects when mindfully employed around the law of cause and effect is more than enough to steer our actions towards virtue and away from vice, should the Buddhists be correct then we will still gain tremendously in our next life, if they are wrong then we’ve lost nothing but gained a good life presently lived.
In which the philosopher mindfully imagines the troubles and evils that might lie ahead, the imagining of things that could go wrong or be taken from us if our plans fail. Not only does it teach us that life isn’t as straightforward as it seems but things can go wrong and often do so despite our best efforts to the contrary. Mentally we must prepare ourselves for hard work resulting in failure, and for the less deserving to get ahead once in a while as they gleefully steal our achievements. We must also expect others to be ungrateful for actions even though they might directly benefit from them. We must also face the possibility that our good intentions might end up causing harm to ourselves and others. We must expect failure and mindfully plan for its occurrence which if done properly becomes the avoidance of failure.
The Sophists of the ancient world knew well that what was ‘good,’ and as such deemed to be ‘virtuous,’ varied from place to place as a result of a region’s culture, history and politics. Good choices are merely a product of our biology and the social climate that we happen to find around us. Good choices for men are rarely good for cows and sheep. What is good for the lion is not good for the gazelle. So in the spirit of this let us be mindful of Fritz Haber, the times he lived in and its resultant politics. He lived a life full of tragedy and opportunity and if asked would probably claim that all of his actions were indeed righteous.