Many of us accept the idea that “like begets like” on the field of action. While this dictum may be true on the purely physical level of the reproduction of species, it clearly does not stand up to scrutiny when it comes to the results we see in the vital world of life. There are limited circumstances we can point to where this concept works to a certain degree, but eventually it breaks down and does not yield an overarching law or moral code that governs the universe.
Sri Aurobindo examines this question: “In the terms of a moral return or rather repayment to moral energies this would mean that by putting forth love we get a return of love and by putting forth hatred a return of hatred, that if we are merciful or just to others, others also will be to us just or merciful and that generally good done by us to our fellow-men will return in a recompense of good done by them in kind and posted back to our address duly registered in the moral post office of the administrative government of the universe.”
Certainly from the individual viewpoint trying to find out a rule of life, there is a certain amount of value in such a concept, to the extent that when we put out positive, warm, loving, supportive energies, we tend to create positive responses in many cases, just as when we put out angry, hateful energies, we tend to elicit angry and hateful replies. The problem with this approach is that it is clearly not universal and thus, we can just as easily point to circumstances where evil repaid good, or where being compassionate did not lead to a return in kind. How else can we explain the crucifixion of Jesus, or the Nazi holocaust? We see the strong and powerful prosper, without regard for moral right or wrong. If they calibrate their action to avoid the most extreme responses in kind, they can maintain their position for long periods of time. “If something in the world and in man returns good for good and evil for evil, it as often returns evil for good and, with or without a conscious moral intention, good for evil.” “Attila and Jenghiz on the throne to the end, Christ on the cross and Socrates drinking his portion of hemlock are no very clear evidence for any optimistic notion of a law of moral return in the world of human nature.”
The limitation here is that the vital world of life is not strictly organised on “moral” or “ethical” principles and thus, we cannot really expect that these principles will govern life action in its entirety.
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section II, Chapter 15, Mind Nature and Law of Karma, pp. 137-139, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117