The Karmic Sheaths
A karmic sheath is a metaphor that represents the manner that karma manifests in the person, and the different levels of attainment are depicted in the images that follow. Each person who manifests in this world is in the process of both creating and dissolving karma.
Stage One Karma
If we began at the awake, mental state, with the ego and the intellect, much of the karma that a person must deal with begins with ignorance about the spiritual nature of the being and the spiritual essence of creation (Figure 8). This karma manifests in defensiveness, very high levels of ego protection—pride, arrogance, and insecurity. They are part of a very superficial approach to the psychology of the person. This sheath, in effect, covers the conscious mind and is usually removed through life experience and education. Honest feedback to the person is of immense help when the feedback is internalized and accepted. The primary characteristic of this attainment is truthful self-assessment and self-evaluation. This karma comes from the effects of living in a material world and is broken through to some degree by most people.
The intellect can help the being overcome Stage One Karma issues—family of origin and cultural constructs, prejudices—where processes and information are heavily influenced by those who provide physical security and care for the immature being. If the intellect is used by the ego, trouble arises because the ego’s role is hidden and ignorance continues unchecked. When the ideal is present in consciousness, it functions like a counterbalance to the ego, and when combined with the intellect, consciousness moves toward God. The ideal exposes the false notion that the material body and the physical world represent ultimate reality. Families, cultures, and values are seen in a broader context. Jesus was able to experience the full realization and embodiment of oneness with God by overcoming the obstacles of ignorance, attachment, aversion, ego, suffering, and the unnecessary clinging to life. Using the Christ as an ideal, one can overcome all karmic patterns that are rooted in anything less than God consciousness, including purifying the chakras.
Rather than a fixed or literal understanding of “ideal,” we need to see the ideal as something flexible, open, receptive, yet still strong and whole, and yet again, without the limitations or boundaries that are sometimes placed on things understood to be “true” in only one way. All things—material and spiritual—are reconciled or resolved in the same consciousness and awareness expressed in and through Jesus.
In Stage One Karma:
- Behavior tends toward defensiveness and high levels of ego protection—pride, ignorance, insecurity
- The individual is ignorant about the spiritual nature of human beings, and creation
- The intellect can help one overcome Stage One Karma issues, as long as the intellect is not co-opted by the ego
- Most people break through this stage through life experience
Stage Two Karma
The next sheath is a layer between the personal conscious and collective consciousness, because much of what is contained in this sheath is still personal in nature (Figure 9). At the personal level, at the personal unconscious, and through layers up to the collective unconscious, we find the residue of previous lives—deep-rooted pain and hurt, some of which may come from the present life, but most of which has come through a multitude of experiences, and in some cases represents karma from the present life. Things that have been very defensively held—deeply- rooted patterns most frequently bound with the entanglements of fear— often result in unconscious anger. These remnants find expression in the awake, mental state.
The deep-rooted fears, the repetitive experiences generated by false perceptions, and the karmic patterns (latent tendencies) of Stage Two are often addressed by the ideal and the strengthened capacity of a being to suffer and still maintain equilibrium. The ideal helps the being seek the sources of suffering within themselves. The personal journey ventures inward rather than outward and seeks what is at the foundation of life and beyond the being’s personal needs and desires. When a being is in the process of relationship with another person, the ideal helps one acknowledge the existence of the ideal in the other, even if awareness of the ideal is latent. When Stage Two Karma issues are addressed, there is a sense of being alone, of being out of step with the material world, and relationships with others can feel out of balance. It is rare for a person in this stage to become completely comfortable with other people unless others share the same ideal.
In Stage Two Karma:
- Deep-rooted patterns manifest as fear and anger
- Use of ideal (e.g., the Christ) breaks the cycle of repetitive experiences generated from false perceptions
- The person journeys inward and seeks a higher expression of truth
- The individual may feel out of step with the material world, lonely, or different from others
Stage Three Karma
Stage Three Karma contains two levels. At the first level we find karma that is collective to the human being, and work that is done here benefits all of humanity and represents truly selfless commitment to the highest good (Figure 10). Work done in Stage One and Stage Two is primarily for the individual, and there is the benefit to humanity in the illumination of the individual as the karma is worked through and overcome.
There are many great beings who have worked through karma at this level and have done great things for humanity, but have not had God consciousness or awareness. There are some who have done great things through self-sacrifice, sometimes surviving great violence or situations of war, and sometimes through a life dedicated to education or various forms of service. Many of these things can be done without an awareness of God or even an acknowledgment of God consciousness or Christ consciousness. Level two of Stage Three Karma is the combination of working off karma for the collective human, while at the same time embracing and embodying God consciousness (Figure 11).
In Stage Three Karma, Level One:
- A person at this stage demonstrates selfless commitment to the highest good and any work that is done benefits all of humanity
- An individual at this level has not achieved God consciousness or awareness
In Stage Three Karma, Level Two:
- A person at this stage has worked off personal karma and embodied God consciousness
- The individual’s movement inward is met by the love and truth that emanates from God, and the person is able to recognize these forces
- God sees God from within the being
- The being’s understanding of the Christ moves closer to perfection
As the being goes deeper into the different levels of consciousness, the movement inward is met by the life forces of love and truth emanating from God, and the being is able to recognize these forces. Recognition of the forces of love and truth is more difficult than in Stage One and Stage Two. Though help exists in the presence of God, the being does not always recognize or acknowledge the presence. The resolution of Stage Three Karma is when a mutual recognition occurs—God sees God within the being, the being begins to see the ultimate reality of God—and everything is quickened by the energy that flows through the channel opened in the being. The ideal, the Christ, functions as the aid to the being during the inner journey. The being’s understanding of the Christ moves closer and closer to perfection. Much of what is encountered in the journey is surprising to the being because the concept of perfection has moved from something very static in Stage One, to something very dynamic, flexible, and unfolding in Stage Three.
2014-163 At any stage—Stage One, Stage Two, Stage Three—all levels of karma are worked through much more quickly if there is a holding of the ideal of God consciousness. This is the opening of the channel and this is why it is so important when Jesus says that he must be acknowledged and not denied before others. When we say that we know him, a reciprocal knowing is acknowledged in our lives by God. Now this is why the ideal is so useful in prayer and meditation: it is like an accelerator that carries through these levels of karma, through these various levels of consciousness. But there is a characteristic of the ideal that changes from the lowest stages to the highest stages of consciousness. From the beginning, the ideal starts with a very fixed understanding, maybe even rigid and stubbornly held, but eventually this ideal breaks apart. Sometimes after it is broken it re-solidifies at other levels, but it will break apart again. Part of the lesson is to hold circumstances and people in a place of love and compassion in the presence of truth. As the ideal moves up the levels of consciousness toward God, it becomes even more open, less fixed, and at the highest level, it becomes the experience of being, and all sheaths, karmic and otherwise, from Stage One, Two, and Three are removed from the experience of life.
2014-166 Now we wish to give Jeffrey instruction on Mark 5. He received, through our prompting, the rediscovery that the events each soul meets in their life helps them meet their karma, helps them meet their purpose in the world, and the understanding that Jesus followed this path. And just as we have described the stages of karmic resolution as dissolving, Jesus experienced these as well. Most of what is written about Jesus deals with Stages Two and Three. Most of the early worldly karma for Jesus was dealt with during a time where there are few records and descriptions. These early stages of karma were dealt with, with Mary and Joseph at an early age in his childhood. In Stage Two, in the early part of his ministry, the kinds of things that Jesus was dealing with were fears about his own power, as represented by the temptations; questions about his identity; about being the son of Mary; whether he was a prophet or Rabbi; questions about healing and the law; his personal power and relationship to worldly authorities and powers; his relationship with other people, the disciples; these were Stage Two Karma concerns. Stage Three Karma concerns all that occurred after he was in the fullness of his power, after he had healed, after he was leading other people, after he had shown his mastery of the law, and after he took his ministry beyond the Jewish people. These are the key milestones or markers that can be used to determine Stage Two and Stage Three. This is why when Jesus stands before Pilate, he says that he comes to bear witness to the truth: the truth of who he is, the truth of God, the truth of things beyond the material world. These represent karmic issues and concerns for all human beings, and through the acknowledgment of God, Jesus exhibited the first expressions of God consciousness in the material realm.
They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him anymore, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.
The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. (Mark 5:1-20)
2014-167 Now we go to Mark, Chapter 5. Here Jesus meets the man filled with demons who lives among the tombstones. Here Jesus is in Stage Two. His power is becoming manifest and this is why the man expressed to Jesus, “Who do you think you are? What have you to do with me?” Jesus is able to name the demon, which is Legion. Inside the consciousness of the man was the multitude of symbols and archetypes, demons and spirits, that divided self, divided many times over, all containing fear and anger, and the multiplication of these things became Legion. Through the power that Jesus held and opened himself to, through the clarity of the channel in him, he helped open the channel in the man and emptied him of these demons, these divided selves, these spirits, thought forms, phantasms. Now all of this would have been dissipated except for the people who observed what had happened. If everyone present had been fully conscious and open, all of what afflicted the man would have dissipated and would have disappeared, but the consciousness of those present, unable to hold and even accept what their eyes saw and their ears heard, holding the same divided selves and demons, phantasms, thought forms. According to their senses, they thought that these entered the herd of swine and caused the swine to plunge to their death. And so in this way the story, as externally represented, appears to be true; but in reality, it was the fear of those present, the fear of their own demons, the fear of their own exposure, and the intense energy of their own karma to process, these were the cause of the swine plunging to their death. The animals, being so sensitive to the energy present—as you might say, “spooked” by the energy that surrounded the people who observed Jesus healing the man—it appeared as though the demons left the man and entered the swine, but this is not actually the case. Everything occurred between Jesus and the man, and such is the power of the person who has become a clear channel: through their presence they can offer the healing. Now the man lived among the tombstones because in effect the spirit, the life force in him felt as though it was dead. The people, fearing him, had consigned him to living in this place. But as with all cemeteries and tombs, with the decaying of the body, there is releasing of much karma.
The releasing of much thought form held by those living and dead; and by this you know that we simply mean dead to the world; for the spirit lives—this is the place where all material forms are broken down in a material sense but also in a spiritual sense, and all self-concepts are changed when faced with this dramatic transformation. So this experience of Jesus was primarily Stage Two Karma, at the personal level for him with the man he helped, for his power had not yet spread to the people around him. Later you will see the people who were around him supported him in the later stories because he was working at a more collective level; but in the early stories the people around him become angry and he has to leave, just as the people in the temple became angry at him.
2014-201 The being sometimes understands karma, but only at a lower level. This being the case when feelings arise or experiences occur, experiences of attachment, and there is sufficient self-knowledge to question, “Why, if I understand this lesson, am I still experiencing the same lesson?” This is a very common circumstance for human beings. When the being receives the lesson, or understands the attachment and questions why the same experience occurs, this should be a clue to the being that the lesson may have been learned at one stage of karma, and now must be learned at a second stage; or what was learned at a first and second stage now must be learned in one of the two aspects of the third stage. Jesus was asked to give a sign that he had the authority to overturn the tables in the temple. This is a curious phrasing, to ask for a sign that he has the authority, and again shows how many beings require evidence to be given to them in the material, outside of them, rather than an understanding of the connection to the interior or the spiritual. In order to illustrate the principles we have expressed about the stages of karma, we will look again at the story of Jesus with the rich man. The young man—sometimes the story is told with him being a ruler or a prince—the young man asks what must he do for eternal life and Jesus asks him if he has followed the law, and the man says “yes.” And Jesus says, "Sell everything you have and follow me," and the man drops his eyes and his gaze to the ground and leaves, as the story says, because he had a great many things. If we were to assess the karmic pattern of the man in Stage One, we would say the first karmic obstacle to overcome would be the false identification of who he is, or what he is, with his possessions. Inability to see his true nature as separate from his possessions is what we have called ignorance. But we must go deeper to the second stage of karma, which is somewhat intertwined with the first. The man must deal with his attachment to the possessions. He no longer identifies himself with them, but he is still unable to remove himself from ownership of those things. At the first level, or first stage, the ego in its state of ignorance, identifying with the possessions, is unable to separate because of feelings of security or loss. In the second stage, the ego has attached itself to the intellect, and the intellect prides itself on being able to recognize that it is not the same as the possessions. But the intellect is exposed by the attachment to the possessions; the will, or the life force in the being, is still being directed by the ego. And so we can say a second karmic stage to overcome is the identification of the ego with the intellect.
2014-202 Now we move to the third stage. The being understands these first two choices, the attachments to Stage Two, the identification and the security associated with Stage One. Now remember the first level of Stage Three is where the being is able to choose to do something for the good of humankind, and so the being has overcome identification with the material wealth, all of the security and fear associated with the loss of material, and then, overcoming the attachment. The being gives up the material for the benefit of other human beings. But we see in this Stage Three, level one internal process, a very complex situation: The being has given up his material well-being, yet has transferred the same material well-being to others. While this temporarily raises them out of a sense of lack, or a sense of the absence of resources, it does not necessarily raise those beings to an understanding of their own true nature. So we might say that the second level is represented by the part of the story of Jesus when Mary anoints his feet with oil, and the disciples object because the sale of the scented oil would have brought money to feed the poor. And Jesus replies that, “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” We see in level one of Stage Three, this confluence of both understanding attachment, non-identification with the material inside the person, yet we have the inability to properly use the resources for the benefit, we would say the full benefit or the wholeness of the human beings. The act of giving of oneself does raise the consciousness of the being and may raise the consciousness of the recipient, but remember that level two of Stage Three requires that an understanding of God must be present. And it is in this understanding of God that the full process overcomes all the karma associated with possession of material wealth. There is the understanding that God is the true owner of all that exists because all that exists was created out of God’s own being. But the understanding that God must be present, that is, in the consciousness of the person, with intention and awareness, the disposition of the material wealth is understood according to its true value and we have a proper ordering of all forms of love connected to the use of material wealth. You might say that the presence of God provides a proper ordering of value, of love, and this, then, represents truth. So we see this with the karma of the person who, believing they have overcome the material, and sensing an understanding of purpose, perhaps it is only at Stage One. And the question that comes with the karma is brought to the attention of the being so that the being may advance through Stage Two and onto a higher purpose.
2014-203 So we will see within Jesus that this understanding of the process of human beings allows him to know human beings because he knows the process. He knows about the misidentification of the ego with possessions, but also the ego’s identification with power and position. He knows about the ego’s associations with those material things and the attachments that they form. He learns to identify himself with God and truth so that when the material condition is healed or resources are provided, the orientation of the soul is still pointed toward God and the consciousness, the awareness of God. And then finally, he knows how these material lessons can be transformed into spiritual lessons. The being must be aware, in order to advance spiritually, that the misidentification of the ego with the intellect is extremely difficult to understand and to put into practice. So often it is the mind that produces results or expresses understanding, and in some ways it can be said that the mind is the source of both suffering and ecstasy. We must make the distinction between these things and higher forms of awareness and consciousness. The human being must come to understand that experiences of ecstasy, as they are experienced in this world, are not experiences of awareness and consciousness. These things pull the attention away from the essence of the soul. Part of the problem is that by intellectually identifying with these sources of pleasure and pain, there is the feeling that the consciousness and awareness of the soul is empty and detached; that there is an absence of feeling or an absence of pain, and that there is some type of goal related to emptiness. This is not the case, because the true experience of this emptiness occurs because the emptiness is really a fullness of God’s awareness and consciousness. This inner reaction can be looked at from many different angles and perspectives, but the truth is that this awareness and consciousness at its highest level cannot be experienced through the mind in this world. We will have more to say about this experience and how it relates to the heart, imagination, and the will at a later time.