Karma is Sanskrit for "deed." In both Hinduism and Buddhism karma includes an individual's physical and mental actions which determine the consequences of the person's present life and sequential lives through rebirth. Karma is based upon the phenomena of cause and effect which denotes both action and reaction that extend through many lifetimes.
There are three types of karma: "agent-karma" which is concerned with the present cause and effect, and will influence future lives; "prarabdha-karma" which had already been caused and is in the process of being effected; and, "sanchita-karma" which has been accumulated but has not yet been effected.
Karma is normally thought of as a term used by eastern religions such as previously mentioned. But, in Plato's description of reincarnation he too touches on the theme of karma when saying the soul tends to become impure through bodily transmigrations. However, if the soul retains its pure state and does good acts it will return to its preexistent state, but if it continues to deteriorate by bad acts through bodily transmigrations it will go to a place of eternal damnation.
Karma is not mentioned in orthodox Christianity which holds the soul works out its rewards or punishments in a single lifetime. The closest mentioning of karma is the Biblical scripture: "...for whatever a man sowest, that shall he reap." (Gal. 6:7)
One of the most modern understandings of karma comes from the theosophical teachings on reincarnations. The many manifestations of the body are small parts of the whole; like pages in a book. The Monard, or Divine Spark, or the individual remains the same throughout many reincarnations.
This individuality is from three higher worlds; the spiritual, the intuitional and the higher mental. But for the individuality to widen its experience and knowledge it must descend into the lower worlds of lower mental and physical, and return to the higher worlds with the knowledge it has learned. This seems impossible to do in one lifetime, and must be repeated.
The objective of the individuality's journeys into the lower worlds to gain knowledge is to perfect it to a perfect perfection in order to enter the highest sphere of the heavenly world. Each time the individuality perfects itself by a reincarnation in the lower worlds it reaches a higher level of perfection in the higher worlds. But, if the individuality does not perfect itself during an reincarnation it must repeat the reincarnation again. Therefore, there are laws of progress which govern the number of reincarnations which each individuality must make. The more the individuality perfects itself during each reincarnation, the fewer reincarnations it must make, and vice verse. This is decreed by what, in theosophy, is called The Evolution of Life Theory which states "that all shall attain perfection by developing to the utmost their latent powers and qualities, and each manifestation in the lower worlds is but one short journey toward the goal."
The late American mystic Edgar Cayce relied much on karma in his trace readings. He thought the effects of karma could be symbolic instead of literal. Karma could be mitigated by the "law of grace" which, for him, involved both a state of mind and a gift from God. Cayce said physical deformities and illnesses arose because of karma from past lives.
Most occultists and neo-Pagans believe in reincarnation so they acknowledge the theory of karma. They, however, do not see it as a punishment, but rather a just return. The neo-Pagan's interest is mainly concerned with present karma.
There is what is called the Threefold Law of Return. Some claim that if a witch does good, it will be returned in three times the measure. The origination and verification of the law is debatable. There is not much discussion of evil because witches, especially Wiccan witches, say they have no desire to do evil. The reason why past and future karma is rarely mentioned is that witchcraft is a nature religion.
Most believe that at death, both the body and spirit returns to the Mother Goddess, the Earth; where the spirit rests and then is reborn again in a new body.