I have suggested that there are multiple levels of consciousness and that each one is geared to a particular aspect or set of information about "reality".
At the finer levels we experience our oneness with all creation. We know we are part of a single, self-sustaining organism. This is the experience of the Kingdom of God, not just a physical kingdom, but one encompassing subtle manifestations as well.
In the coarser levels we experience ourselves as separate beings, separate from one another, separate from the rest of creation, separate from God. This separation is the "original sin". Sin is a spiritual event, not a moral event.
We are not sinners because we are moral failures; we are sinners because we experience ourselves as separate from God.
We cannot be moral failures (or moral successes, for that matter) unless we are sinners first of all.
Fallen man is effectively confined within the lower levels of consciousness, separate from his fellows, separate from his surroundings, separate from God. Tradition has it that he is prevented from reurning to the garden by the Archangel Uriel, who guards the gate back into Eden.
Karma is a Function of Separation
Karma is an eastern term, but it has its equivalent concepts in most cultures. In the long term karma fulfils the Christian notion of "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." You might also think of it as "debt". Karma, unlike sin, is a moral phenomenon. I believe that it is the cumulative consequence of our separation from God over many lifetimes and of our behaviour in that separated state.
Not because of some external enforcement process that issues rewards and punishments for a lifetime that has been "good" or "bad" according to some arbitrary standards laid down by the Deity. Karma is not a punishment.
It is a consequence of our actions.
We are not punished for putting our hand in a fire. The burn is a natural consequence of our action. Whether we know about fires or whether we are ignorant of them, the result is the same.
In choosing some actions above others, we place a "value" on the feelings and thoughts that give rise to them. And those feelings and thoughts that are honoured most consistently determine the nature of the subtle matter in our superphysical bodies.
A life that is driven by anger and violence creates quite a different set of subtle bodies - astral and manasic - from a life ruled by gentleness and laughter, or one that is predominantly sad.
In the Garden, I have suggested that Creation was one self-sustaining organism. Outside of the Garden, as a separate individual, man's survival was dependent on exercising control over sufficient of his environment to ensure that he was able to eat, shelter, and procreate.
Good and evil relate fundamentally to these three needs, and in safer times we might add the experience of pleasure.
Beyond good and evil experienced in relation to his person, came the greater good and evil relative to such social units as man formed to secure better control over his environment. One of the ongoing tensions of separate human existence has been the relative importance of personal and social "goods", the relationship between individual and state, or for that matter, between an individual and any social group he belongs to.
Note: We can probably assume that man experimented with various ways of maximising his personal chances of survival. Those men who formed social groups are the ones that survived to procreate.
Within an organism, there is no good or evil. Within the Garden there was no good or evil. There is nothing to exercise power/control over if there is nothing separate from yourself. Therefore, no personal karma.
Good and evil are a function of separated consciousness. Karma is a function of separated consciousness. Separation from God, separation from the rest of Creation.
Here is the paradox, as I see it. In one sense, we have never left the Garden. Consciousness exists potentially at a number of levels. Yet, as far as we draw our information about things from our five senses, our emotions and our thinking, we experience ourselves as separate.
We cannot help judging because all events in the world of separated consciousness are interpreted as good or evil in relation to our own existence, in relation to our own needs.
If they do not affect us directly and immediately, we may respond with indifference, but if they come a little closer, the underlying judgement surfaces quite easily. (Indifference is not the same as being non-judgemental.)
So the journey of the prodigal is a journey through levels of consciousness. Those on the outward path experience it as a journey also in time and space. Those who have begun the homeward path begin to have glimpses of its "otherly" nature.
Jesus drew our attention to these further and simultaneous states of consciousness. You may hear references to Christ-consciousness, or perhaps Buddhic consciousness among Buddhists, theosophists and belief-systems related to theosophy.
These states of consciousness are represented by the homeward journey of the Prodigal Son. They are a function of the New Testament story, not the Old Testament. Their underlying quality is outlined most clearly in the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus summed up finally in the words "Resist not evil."
While we "resist evil", while we battle on the side of good, we anchor our consciousness firmly in separated mode. Ever wondered why right wing moralists are such awful advertisements for religion?
In Buddhic or Christ-consciousness, we become simultaneously aware of both our individuality, and of our oneness with all creation. Good and evil as concepts cease to be relevant. Personal control/power issues cease to be relevant. Creation is self-sustaining. Karma disappears while we are in this state of consciousness.
We cannot command this state of consciousness, or get there by our separate self. Trying to do this is a function of the outward path of the prodigal, the exercise of personal power, and anchors us even more firmly in a separate world of good and evil. All we can do is make room for it to happen.
This is the operation of Grace.
The Gift at The Altar
In the New Testament story of the gift at the altar, the giver is sent away to make peace with his brother. We cannot make the gift, which is the gift of ourselves, while issues of personal power remain unresolved.
Nothing will ever heal as long as we deny any part of it, for while we deny it, or attempt to separate ourselves from it, we are involved in a power struggle with it. We are in a state of sin.
The kingdom of God, the presence of God, is realised in total commitment even if only for a second or two. God is the epitome of politeness. As long as we are involved in anything else, anything at all, he will not interrupt. Ever.
The key is in the words of Christ in the Garden of Gesthemane, "Not my will, but Thine be done."
Well, eventually it happens. At last. We’re there. We’ve surrendered. We have our first (for aeons) taste of the garden, and feel the burden of our separation, our accumulated karma, fall away.
And we go, "Yippee! What was that?", or "How can I get more of it?"
And, bang, we’re back in separated existence. And so is our karmic load.
For a start, the only ways we know of to deal with this experience are those we have learned on the outward trip. We try and control it or command it. And both of those flip us out of the experience faster than thought. Or prevent us getting back.
A new way to be
This surrender of our personal will, the return journey to our father’s house, marks the beginning of a new type of consciousness, a return to non-separated, non-judgmental consciousness in which we partake of the original sense of oneness - akin to if not the same as that we experienced in the Garden. In this state of awareness, once more, all else is added, all things work together.
Safe in the Arms of Who?
Unfortunately, we do not reach this point and relax, safe in the arms of Jesus or anybody else.
Our initial contacts are fleeting as a rule. Karma, for the most part still rules, but gradually those experiences of Christ-consciousness begin to accumulate, and last longer, and once this starts to happen our lives are less and less influenced by our karma, even when we are grounded for the most part in our separate selves.
Realising the Presence of God
In addition, the quality of the life lived in these lower states of consciousness begins to change also. Our relationship with others begins to change.
We function more and more as healers, not by acting on others, or fighting disease or poverty or crime or immorality, but by realising (making real) the presence of God. In that presence, evil simply ceases to make any kind of sense, it ceases to have power.
Resist not evil
What happens if I don’t act to prevent evil? Won’t it just overtake us all? Especially me. Won’t we just become victims? Surely?
The opposite of being an aggesssor is not necessarily being a victim. This is purely a function of separated consciousness.
These are false opposites. Evil - and good - is sustained by separated human experience and separated human activity. You cannot sustain one of them without sustaining the other. If we experience ourselves as separate, and act as though we are separate, we support the continuing presence of evil. Even when, especially when, we are actively and deliberately working for the triumph of some so-called "good".
If we can sustain a non-separated existence, to that extent we withdraw our personal contribution. If we understand this, we catch ourselves a little earlier when we "get into a fight" with something, when we are labelling something as evil, when we are doing our best to defeat something. We can then drop the fight, and do whatever we need to in order to "realise" the presence of God.
This is the message of the Sermon on the Mount.
Understand – if all of humanity arrives at this consciousness of oneness, evil disappears totally. So does karma. End of story.