Karma, Projections, Fantasy and Delusion

Mar 27th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

Karma, Projections, Fantasy and Delusion

By Imelda Almqvist


Karma (/ˈkɑːrmə/; Sanskrit: कर्म, translit. karma, IPA: [ˈkərmə] ( listen); Pali: kamma) means action, work or deed;[1] it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect).[2] Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.[3][4] Karma is closely associated with the idea of rebirth in many schools of Indian religions.[5] In these schools, karma in the present affects one’s future in the current life, as well as the nature and quality of future lives – one’s saṃsāra.[6]



My birthday and the spring equinox coincide. This year Dark Moon fell around the same time. I always make a “personal descent” around this time: taking time out to reflect on my own shadow and any treasure lurking in the personal and collective darkness. However, this year the process really packed a punch because of this “triple whammy”!

A number of thing have happened recently that made me reflect on what is karma and what is not karma but projection or even pure fantasy!


Actors who are the victims of their own success

Let’s start our exploration at the “glaring obvious end of things”: it is the job of movie stars to carry our projections. When we lose ourselves in a good film we identify with characters in the movie. I have heard stories about actors playing the role of the villains experiencing verbal abuse hurled at them in the street. This is because they do their job so well that people forget that they portray a role but they are not the character they play. This sounds obvious but apparently it is not so straightforward in real life… You could say that they are “victims of their own success” in that scenario.

Another thing that happens to movie stars is that people project all kinds of things on to them: deluded people entertain fantasies that actors or actresses are sending them secret messages because (in some parallel universe) they are soul mates and lovers. Sadly many big screen names have been stalked.

Less disturbingly they carry other projections too: who does not remember the film stars or musicians that were famous during one’s teenage years? These people are a bit like “coat hooks” – we hang things up on them: memories, yearnings, moods, our first love, our first kiss. They sometimes end up carrying that for us. We hear that song again and wham! We are right back in that moment!

Now does that mean that movie stars have karmic issues with all the people that project onto them? I should think not!! Our projections remain very much our own stuff – our own responsibility. (And if we do not own them and work through them: our stuff – our psychic rubbish).


Projections do not karma make…

Now take one step back and think of for example doctors or teachers. We project heavily onto those people as well. Either in a good way: we believe that our medical doctor is always right – just because they are a doctor – but the reality may not be so black and white. Or perhaps our teacher reminds us of an uncle we do not like – so we are not inclined to like them either and we tend to interpret their actions or professional advice in a negative light. I think that we have all been there. Is it karmic? I don’t think so! It is projection: expecting others to carry the hidden content of our own mind for us. It will weigh them down – and ideally any professional will learn how to deal with that and clear themselves of it – but to my mind projections do not karma make.

If a police officer arrest a criminal – is that karma? No, I think it is doing a good job! Imagine a police officer having karmic issues with every person they ever cautioned, arrested or had other dealings with – who’d ever want to be a police officer?! Then again, there is a whole grey zone in operation here: some people get wrongfully arrested. Some people are subjected to uncalled for physical abuse while an arrest or police interview occurs. Does that carry karma? Personally I think that the latter scenario probably does because it is not longer a person just doing their job. There is a transgression or violation that occurs on a inter-personal level.


Medical doctors messing up

If a medical doctor makes the wrong diagnosis or treatment decision – does that carry karma? This is trickier to figure out, I think. As I am not God, I don’t know…. I suppose a lot depends on if it was intentional, if they observed the correct protocol, if it was the right decision based on the information available at the time, if their work schedule had allowed them enough sleep in the days running up to the decision and so forth. Maybe doctors earn high incomes because there is a hidden karmic cost to their work?!

However, there are also doctors in war zones or developing countries making impossible decisions on no sleep and even less equipment. Not to mention junior doctors on duty in emergency rooms in city hospitals, coming face to face with scenarios way beyond their ability to handle. One sad truth about the human condition is that human beings often learn through making mistakes. Yet there are some professions where we all like to believe no one ever makes a mistake – but is that a realistic expectation?!


The Law of Cause and Effect

The point I am trying to make is that the concept of karma has made an upmarch in Western culture for the five decades I have been alive. Some people say it is the spiritual version of the Law of Cause and Effect:

The Law of Cause and Effect is better known as the law defined by Isaac Newton that “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction“. This is definitely true of physics.

I love quoting this law in class when I am teaching shamanism. Some people want to improve their lives without making changes (not going to happen!) and other people think that they can implement major life changes without this affecting the people around them in any way (they soon find out…)

To my mind there is a distinction between between karma and the Law of Cause and Effect. When a judge sentences a serial killer and puts him in jail for life – there are definitely an action and a reaction (many people feel that justice has been done and they now feel safer) but does a judge carry personal karma for all sentences meted out? (Again if this is so, why would anyone ever feel called to become a high court judge?)


Entanglement, fantasy or delusion?!

The issue I am trying to raise in this article is this: I do not doubt for one moment (and I see a lot of evidence of this professionally speaking!) that we all have karmic issues that keep us entangled with others but is also true that all of us project and fantasize like crazy when it comes to the people who cross our path. If see a handsome actor on the big screen, fancy myself in love and in with a chance – and then get angry when the phone call never comes, that is not karmic in nature, that is pure fantasy! The infatuation and anger may feel genuine but they are based on illusion (if not total delusion).

When I attend a life-changing course in shamanism I may entertain fantasies about the teacher or workshop leader becoming my friend for life – but again that is fantasy and projection. The teacher carries no such obligation. Indeed the teacher will carry many projections from everyone in the room while teaching that course. This is one the things that makes teaching far tougher than most shamanic teachers would like it to be (we prefer to think of teaching as a “more straight-forward” transfer of knowledge and skills).

In everyday life I myself am such a teacher of powerful material. Shamanism is dynamite with life-changing power. Does teaching this body of work (as well as I am able to, with the highest level of self -awareness I can bring to the table) mean I am now in a karmic relationship for all eternity with all the students who ever show up for one of my courses? I don’t think so! I do perceive this work as a divine calling and tell my long-term deeply committed students I see it as a soul contract. I take my responsibilities extremely seriously. I also acknowledge that here will definitely be karmic issues in operation with some people. However, does that mean I carry a karmic responsibility for every single student who freaks out, drops out, or projects like crazy (calling me their “friend” despite telling me telling them repeatedly our relationship is professional or shouting at me that I “remind them of their mother”?!) No – most of that is fantasy and projection – and I am just doing my job, just like movie stars, police officers and doctors do their job.


Your stuff – my stuff

This is also why we can clean up our relationships with others immensely by taking our projections back and no longer burdening them with an unspoken request that they carry our psychic rubbish for us!

My main reason for writing this piece was, after much reflection, unpicking the notion that we have some kind of karmic responsibility for absolutely everything others throw at us. It was liberating to unravel this – inasfar as I am able to – and realize just how much energetic stuff we carry is actually projection and therefore it does not belong to us!

I would love to hear how others (especially those whose professions force them to carry a heavy load of projections) view these issues.

I will look forward to reading any comments and reflections you choose to share!

Imelda Almqvist, London, 27 March 2018


Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016. She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit 2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Art Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/ (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

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