The Yoga of the Sacraments

The SacramentsIntroduction to Yoga of the Sacraments

What is yoga (“union”)? It is union with God. For Christians it is union with God through Jesus Christ who said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Original Christianity

Writing in the beginning of the third century, Origen was the most renowned Christian writer of the early church, often declared to be the greatest teacher since the original twelve apostles. He wrote over a thousand books and essays which were widely read, and was considered by many of the early Church Fathers to be a saint. Pope Saint Damasus I in the fourth century decreed that those who aspired to the priesthood must study all of Origen’s works in preparation.

Origen begins his book On the First Principles (De Principiis) with the statement that despite the proliferation of doctrines and wranglings over them, the holy Apostles taught in a straightforward and unphilosophical manner only a handful of teachings, and that anything else was personal opinion which held no authority. Further he urged that only those apostolic teachings should be considered essential to Christian belief and adherence. Those teachings–in the order he lists them–are, simply expressed:

  1. There is one God, the source of all things, who from the beginning interacted with mankind.
  2. Eventually, having announced him through various prophets, he sent the Lord Jesus Christ to call Israel and the Gentiles to spiritual regeneration.
  3. The Lord Jesus was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit, suffered, died, rose again and ascended into heaven.
  4. Although it was not precisely defined or explained by the apostles, our Lord taught that God was Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  5. The Holy Spirit is the inspirer and sanctifier of the saints.
  6. Each human being has an immortal spirit that lives on after death and undergoes the consequences of its actions. (Later in De Principiis Origen expounds both reincarnation and the ultimate perfection of all men.)
  7. Every person possesses free will and choice, and decides his course of life, whether good or ill, even though he can be influenced in his decision by others.
  8. There are good and evil bodiless powers, including angels and demons, which can influence human beings, but who cannot violate their freedom of will.
  9. The world was created at a point in time and shall eventually be dissolved.
  10. The holy scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit and have not only meanings that are obvious, but also hidden, spiritual meanings that most readers cannot see or understand. This is because the scriptures are “the outward forms of certain mysteries and the images of divine things,” and known only to “those who are gifted with the grace of the Holy Spirit in the word of wisdom and knowledge.”

In conclusion he said that each person is to formulate his understanding within the broad framework he has given.

Why did the apostles of Jesus–and therefore Jesus himself–teach such a few simple doctrines and leave their understanding (and the understanding of the scriptures which at that time had not been collected into the Bible) to each individual’s capacity? Obviously because Jesus and his original disciples considered those beliefs and scriptures merely a framework within which each Christian should develop his own insight, that it was the life in Christ which constituted true Christianity and not dogma. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10). “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). “For we are made partakers of Christ” (Hebrews 3:14). “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things” (Psalms 119:18). This is why Jesus told the apostles regarding the Holy Spirit: “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17), that God shall dwell in each Christian just as he did in Jesus. (“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” Colossians 2:9.)

Saint Paul was speaking completely literally when he wrote: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16). “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (II Corinthians 6:16). “Ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).

Even more, Jesus said that “when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26)–not an external church authority; but each true Christian is to be in communion with God directly, a prophet of God. For Jesus further said: “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). What contemporary “orthodox” church teaches this? Not one. Rather, it would be considered outrageous heresy. No wonder Jesus asked the apostles: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). That is how far “Christians” have strayed from Christ.

The Holy Spirit–the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truth–is the intermediary between man and Christ, working for their deification and revelation as sons of God. So it was only natural that Jesus and the apostles had but little regard for theological concepts. Their focus was on the life of Christ in the Holy Spirit within every individual Christian–and needing no supervision or authorization by an external religio-political structure called a Church. The Church–the Ecclesia, the called-forth ones–of Christ is the living body of his disciples, living in and by the Holy Spirit.

And how do Jesus’ disciples live in and by the Holy Spirit? Through the life-giving and life-sustaining Sacraments of Christ. The Christian life is a sacramental life, a life in Christ dependent on none but Christ and the good will of the disciple. For this reason we can say absolutely that the Sacraments are original Christianity outside of which there is no Christian discipleship, no Christian life. The Lord Jesus came to earth to bring Life through the Sacraments. Those who live that life constitute his living Church. As Saint Peter assures us: “Ye also, as lively [living]stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” I Peter 2:5). This is original Christianity, the original and only Church of Christ.

Abiding Presence

The Lord Jesus told his disciples–and through them all of us: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). This is not meant in an abstract way, but in a very concrete manner. He accomplishes this through the divine Sacraments, the rituals by means of which he infuses his life and consciousness into us as the leaven of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:33). For he is speaking literally when he says: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.“ (Revelation 3:20, 21). And: “I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:21, 23), so that it can be said of us as it was said of him: “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). This is an ideal far beyond present-day “orthodox” Christianity, so much so that they denounce it as heresy and “of the devil.” But it is nonetheless the ideal and intention of Christ Jesus for us. No wonder that Saint Paul wrote: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Purpose and power of the Sacraments

Because the authentic teachings of Jesus in their original integrity have been progressively either lost or deliberately rejected by state-supported churches over the last eighteen centuries, the Sacraments of Christ have been reduced to “mysteries” that must be approached by “faith” and “devotion.” But this approach cannot be supported by the apostolic teaching. Here is the original teaching regarding the purpose and power (effects) of the Sacraments:

The Sacraments recreate us, not merely purify or make us somehow acceptable to God. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15). Ktisis, the word translated “creature,” in modern English should be “creation.” The Sacraments are intended to transmute us from human into the sons of God, as the previous citation from Romans indicates. This is what it means to be a new creation. This cannot be done by “faith,” “obedience,” or anything on our side. Only God does this by means of the Sacraments when they are rightly administered by those with divine authority and empowerment to those who have made themselves worthy for (capable of) their reception. The four essentials for effective reception of the Sacraments are: 1) a right administrator; 2) a right form of administration; 3) the right elements of which the Sacraments consist; 4) a right recipient.

Ktisis also means “building.” There is a lot of talk at this time about “genetic engineering,” but Jesus engaged in the engineering of spiritual genetics and passed on to his disciples the “power to become the sons of God” in the Sacraments (John 1:12). Ktisis further means “institution” or “ordinance,” underlining the fact that the Sacraments are actions that occur on the physical as well as the spiritual level, as essential requirements for those who aspire to be true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Ktisis comes from the root words ktizdo and ktaomai which mean to make a thing one’s own, to claim or acquire something. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10), as Saint Paul said. The idea is that through the Sacraments we become God’s living sons. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him” (I John 3:2), fully recreated through the Sacraments and sustained through continual participation in the sacramental life, the life in Christ. This has nothing to do with the feeble condition of being a Christian in the standard sense, including within the “sacramental” churches.

The Sacraments bring us into living, conscious contact with Christ Jesus to such a degree that we become identified with him and through him with God. “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:6). “Ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:21-23, 26). I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:5). The branches are the vine. A distinction can be made, but essentially they are the same. Only a yogi can understand this. “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you?” (II Corinthians 13:5).

The Sacraments are the power of divine transmutation into “Other Christs,” for the word “Christian” literally means “little Christs.” Saint Paul refers to “them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Corinthians 1:30). “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26, 27). “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). We are intended to truthfully say with Saint Paul: “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Jesus proclaimed himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), but he also said to his disciples: “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 4:14). Satan said: “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5), but Jesus says: “Ye are gods” (John 10:34).

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). “After God” means that God is the divine archetype whose image we are to bear as sons of God, having “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” for “Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:10, 11). “For your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10).

Dare to be a Christian–a Christ

When we read all the foregoing, how can we help but wonder where all the much-vaunted “literal interpretation of scripture” is to be found in the various churches? For these citations are to be taken literally, not in some feeble interpretation that is nothing more than an excuse or a refusal to dare to be a Christian: a Christ. It is pointless to “believe in” Christ and not in what he says. God draws us into union with him through the Sacraments of Christ, for “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). The Sacraments have two purposes: Life and Living. They impart to us the Life of Christ and they enable us to live that Life.

The Yogic Sacraments

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” said Saint Paul (I Corinthians 12:1). Unfortunately, this is not the perspective of modern Churchianity which either claims they are nothing more than symbols or that the Sacraments are mysteries that cannot be fathomed, and that it is wrong to try to understand them. Long before horror movies ground out the cliché about “there are some things man is not meant to know…” in various permutations, official theology did the same in relation to just about every aspect of Jesus’ teachings and their distortion of those teachings. Certainly they “held the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18), to serve their own ends, one of which was to keep people ignorant, unquestioning and obedient. Consequently every aspect of Christianity was deformed to conform with their aberrant outlook. Although in some churches the Apostolic Succession was mechanically preserved, the sacramental forms were also deformed, sometimes almost rendering them inoperative (invalid) and almost always implying erroneous understanding of their nature and purpose. In this way truth was mixed with error. The fundamental cause of this was the loss of contact with the roots of Jesus’ Gospel: the wisdom of the Far East. (See The Christ of India.)

This unhappy condition persisted and worsened as the centuries passed until at the threshold of the twentieth century a remarkable thing occurred within the Theosophical Society.

Charles W. Leadbeater

Charles Webster Leadbeater was a minister in the Church of England, worthy and tireless in his pastoral ministrations to all levels of society, especially the “lower classes” in London. Despite his success, when he encountered the Theosophical Society and its founder, Madam Blavatsky, he resigned from the Church of England and devoted his entire life to writing and teaching the principles of Theosophy. In time he went with Blavatsky to India and lived at the society’s headquarters outside Madras. There he developed his faculties of clairvoyance to an extent and scope uncommon at that time in the West.

Years later, during one of his lecture tours he was staying in Sicily. One morning he keenly perceived a tremendous wave of high spiritual force inundating the place where he was, as well as the surrounding area for miles around. After a while it faded away, but the next day it returned at the same time–and continued to do so on subsequent days. He traced its origin: the nearest Catholic church a few miles distant. The next morning he attended Mass and discovered that he was indeed right, and being in the church building itself he perceived the descent of spiritual power to an extent he had never imagined could take place in the “Romish Church”–or anywhere else. By now, as a highly developed clairvoyant, he had come to understand the value of ritual and the fact that its efficacy often has very little to do with the ideas projected onto it or the lack of understanding on the part of those engaging in it. He also realized that he was seeing a source of spiritual power that was uniquely effective, even compared to his experience in the East. Consequently he wrote to several of his Theosophical associates, telling them of his discovery and urging them to investigate the same.

James Ingall Wedgwood

One of those Leadbeater wrote about the power of the Mass was James Ingall Wedgwood, Secretary of the Theosophical Society in Britain. Before becoming a Theosophist, he had been a fervent Anglo-Catholic and an organist at York Minster. Drawn to the monastic life, he entered an Anglican Benedictine monastery. In conversations with the abbot he revealed that he was a member of the Theosophical Society. In response the abbot insisted that he resign from the Society and abjure Theosophy–otherwise he should leave the monastery; so Wedgwood left.

The communication from Leadbeater revived his Catholic interests. Learning that the Old Catholics of Holland had established a mission in England, he contacted the English bishop, Arnold Harris Mathew, and in time joined the Old Catholic Church and became a priest. At the bishop’s request, in his private daily Mass he celebrated the Roman Mass in Latin, though publicly he used the English translation of The Old Catholic Missal and Ritual by Bishop Mathew for the Mass and other Sacraments.

Thus having continual personal experience of the Mass, he frequently wrote to Leadbeater regarding it. After a while Bishop Mathew resigned and Wedgwood was elected and consecrated bishop for all English-speaking Old Catholics in the British Empire. Several members of the Theosophical Society in England had already become Old Catholic priests as a result of Wedgwood’s influence, and Leadbeater agreed to become the bishop for Australia and its environs. So Wedgwood travelled to Australia and consecrated Leadbeater to the episcopate. (At the time all this was happening, the Old Catholic bishop of Haarlem and Deventer was a leading member of the Theosophical Society in Holland.)

A “new” Mass and Sacraments

Although Wedgwood had been used to celebrating the Old Catholic Mass in English for many London Theosophists, both he and Leadbeater realized that it contained many elements inconsistent with their metaphysical principles and esoteric experiences. Renting a house in Sydney, they set up a chapel and began celebrating Mass daily in English. While one bishop celebrated, the other would observe its effects clairvoyantly. Gradually they formulated a more effective and more truthful form of the sacred rite, though adhering very closely to the basic form of the Roman Mass. After a while they invited other clairvoyants to join with them in the daily Mass and contribute their perceptions and opinions. In this way the “new” Mass was tested over and over again in an objectively methodical manner, using the psychic insights of several reliable men and women as well as themselves.

On Easter of 1917, the new Mass was publicly celebrated and was enthusiastically received. By the next year it was obvious that the new Mass needed a new church for its furtherance. By that time many Theosophists in Europe, America, and Australia had joined the Old Catholic Church under Bishop Wedgwood’s jurisdiction and quite a number had become priests. After a great deal of deliberation, it was decided to discontinue using the name Old Catholic and become “The Liberal Catholic Church.” Accordingly, the two bishops produced new forms of the ancient Sacraments, also based on the clairvoyant observations of themselves and others. In 1919 there appeared the first edition of The Liturgy According to the Use of The Liberal Catholic Church. Prepared for the Use of English-speaking Congregations. This was issued with the official authorization of Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood as the Presiding Bishop of the infant church.

The Liturgy contained sacramental forms based on the ancient Latin prototypes employed by the Roman Catholic Church, but which differed considerably in that some of the prayers were omitted or shortened and more exact esoteric expressions substituted for the Latin originals. An intelligent and precise understanding of all the Sacraments was made available to all Liberal Catholics by the publication of Bishop Leadbeater’s monumental work The Science of the Sacraments that dealt with the inner psychic and spiritual side of the Sacraments.

Theosophy

All of this amazing progress would have been impossible outside the understanding which bishops, clergy and laity had received as members of the Theosophical Society.

It is a historically proven fact that Jesus spent most of his life in India before beginning his ministry in Israel as a teacher of the Eternal Dharma, that he returned to India after his resurrection and lived the rest of his life in the Himalayan regions except for a few visits to the Apostle Thomas in the south of India. (Again, see The Christ of India.) As a priest of the Saint Thomas Christian (Malankara Orthodox) Church of India once remarked to me: “You cannot understand the teachings of Jesus if you do not know the scriptures of India.”

India was the home, the heart, of the Theosophical Society whose freedom of thought and depth of philosophical insight had morally and spiritually enabled the creation of the Liberal Catholic Church. Its president, Annie Besant, had immediately become a member of the church and Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater as popular authors, officers and lecturers of the Society had greatly furthered its growth throughout the world. Their writings clearly show that the two bishops were adherents of the Advaita (Non-dual) philosophy of India and well conversant with the practice of yoga. These two factors are evident in every aspect of their writings–especially those relating to Christianity and in the rituals formulated by them. Because of this, various esoteric Christian groups have preferred to adopt those rituals rather than create their own, considering that the bishops had produced the best possible expression of authentic Christianity–itself an Eastern religion. Even the American Catholic Church, a mission of the Saint Thomas Christian Church established at the end of the nineteenth century in America, abandoned the sacramental forms of the Old Catholic Missal and Ritual and adopted the Wedgwood-Leadbeater rites. A person believes as he worships, and worships as he believes. In this study I will be citing the sacramental forms found in the third edition of The Liturgy According to the Use of The Liberal Catholic Church, the last edition printed in Bishop Wedgwood’s lifetime and embodying changes recommended by both bishops. (Bishop Leadbeater left the body in 1934 and Bishop Wedgwood in 1951.) It should be kept in mind that The Science of the Sacraments is the final word on their Sacramental forms from a clairvoyant view.

In this study I will be citing the sacramental forms found in the fourth edition of The Liturgy According to the Use of The Liberal Catholic Church, printed in 1967. It should be kept in mind that The Science of the Sacraments is the final word on their Sacramental forms from a clairvoyant view.

The Yoga of the Sacraments

A yoga is anything that joins or unites. In this sense the Christian sacramental system is perhaps the only real yoga indigenous to the West. Its purpose is the uniting of human consciousness with Divine Consciousness. Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater being esotericists in the Eastern tradition realized that rituals can be mechanisms or devices for the production and imparting of spiritual energies–not in a hit or miss manner or dependent on either emotional or intellectual factors, but precisely as tools of spiritual science. Being clairvoyant, they took the traditional sacramental forms and reworked them into rituals that powerfully affect the participants and recipients, moving them into a completely other psychic dimension, restoring their inner bodies to the original pattern and infusing them with the highest consciousness to “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

Continued–especially daily–participation in the Sacraments, especially the Mass, when supported and furthered by the practice of meditation, opens unlimited possibilities in the spirit, for they open the door to Christhood. Bishop Leadbeater, in The Science of the Sacraments, explains all this in detail, so I will only be filling in some aspects of the esoteric effects of the Sacraments in this study. I should point out that there are a few small differences between the text I am commenting on and the officially printed texts of the Liberal Catholic Church.

Though these sacramental forms originated in the twentieth century, they ideally embody the authentic teachings of Jesus and the purpose of the Apostolic Succession. Thus they can be looked upon as the spiritual tradition of original Christianity.

Next in Yoga of the Sacraments: Apostolic Succession, The River of Life

Chapters in Yoga of the Sacraments

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