“Ye must be born again”
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:1-7).
Miracles mean nothing if a person has not been born into Spirit. We have all been born into this perishable world of inevitable death, but Jesus has given us the second birth of Baptism, “wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12), “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Baptism is the foundation of our life in Christ; therefore: “Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:18, 19). “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Baptism doth also now save us…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21).
The effects of Baptism
The first effect of Baptism is purification from the darkening of our consciousness that is the result of sin–amartano. Amartano means “to miss the mark,” to fall short of realizing and manifesting our eternal, divine nature and destiny. It also means to err or be mistaken, indicating that sin is ignorance. It also means to wander: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6), rather than the way of God and Christ. Significantly, it comes from the root meros, which means to be only a part rather than a whole, to be incomplete. That is why Saint Paul wrote: “Ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10). Baptism cleanses and supplies that which we have lost through ignorance whose fruit is wrong action.
It is also a new birth, an awakening into the life of the spirit which heretofore has been eclipsed by the life of the body and the world. It is entering into a new perspective on life that is rooted in consciousness of our immortal self within the Immortal God. It is the opening of the potential to in time hear the words: “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Even now, it can be said to the baptized: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33). And: “I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7).
Baptism is also empowerment, for Saint John the Baptist said: “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). “Then Peter said unto them, be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Ananias the prophet said to Saint Paul: “Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Of course it is not the actions that are washed away, but the injurious spiritual effects of those actions. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
The spiritual mechanics of Baptism
Baptism is an inner spiritual act that also takes place in the outer world–as are all the Sacraments. Comprehension of the inner aspect is possible for those who have opened their inner consciousness through meditation, and with the assistance of The Science of the Sacraments, but we should consider the external instruments of the inner work.
First, water is taken and made “living water” through the blessing of a priest. That is, it is infused with cleansing and enlivening spiritual energies. (See Chapter Eight: Blessing of Holy Water.) Next, the candidate for Baptism, known as a catechumen (“learner”), is blessed and purified through prayers and the anointing with oil that has been blessed by a bishop and is known as Oil of Catechumens. Then the sanctified baptismal water is poured three times over his forehead as the Holy Trinity is invoked. Since the human body is mostly water, the spiritual energies in the baptismal water are drawn into the catechumen’s body, especially his brain (the “thousand-petalled lotus” of the yogis), producing a profound change in every cell, purifying, correcting, completing and empowering his entire being. Finally the process is completed and sealed by the anointing with Holy Chrism, also blessed by a bishop.
Baptism was not new to Jesus or his disciples for most had been Essenes, among whom Baptism was a requisite. Some had also been disciples of Saint John the Baptist who was Master of the Essenes. Jesus had himself been baptized by Saint John “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Obviously Christian Baptism was as radically different as was Jesus from an ordinary Essene–even from Saint John himself.
Baptism is begun by an invocation of the Trinity by the priest:
In the name of the Father ✠ and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is a very real spiritual invocation of the Holy Trinity, not just pious words. The priest calls upon the Trinity at the beginning of all Sacraments because they are direct actions of the Trinity through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ; and the priest becomes their representative and instrument for the effecting of the sacramental rites.
As he intones this invocation, the priest also makes the sign of the Cross, the Christian’s major Sign of Power.
There are two forms of the sign of the Cross, one in which the right shoulder is touched and then the left. This is a continuation of the Kabbalistic tradition which was pre-Christian, and is used in the Byzantine Orthodox Churches. The other, used by non-Byzantine Churches, is opposite: the left shoulder is touched and then the right. Both forms begin with touching the forehead and then the trunk of the body. They are symbolic gestures, both recalling Jesus’ statements about the just sheep being set on the right hand and the unjust goats being set on the left hand (Matthew 25:31-33).
The first form means: Jesus came down from heaven (touching the forehead) to earth (touching the trunk of the body) to impart righteousness (touching the right shoulder) to the unrighteous (touching the left shoulder). The second form means: Jesus came down from heaven (touching the forehead) to earth (touching the trunk of the body) to transfer us from the left hand of unrighteousness (touching the left shoulder) to the right hand of righteousness (touching the right shoulder).
The sign of the Cross is a profession of faith, but even more it is an evocation/invocation of the spiritual power which effects the salvific change. It is a mighty sign of power, as two thousand years of its use demonstrate. Both forms of the sacred sign are accompanied by the words: “In the name of the Father [touching the forehead] and of the Son [touching the trunk of the body] and of the Holy Spirit [touching both shoulders]. Amen.”
The Son is the extension of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the dual power that manifests as creation and its evolutionary purpose. The “Father” consciousness dwells in the head, in the Thousand-petalled Lotus or Sahasrara Chakra, the seat of the incarnate spirit-soul. The “Son” consciousness pervades the body in the same way that the Second Person of the Trinity, Ishwara, pervades and guides all creation. The “Holy Spirit” is the power that manifests as the body, for the Holy Spirit is the vibrating energy of the universe, of all relative existence. Making the sign of the Cross affirms that we are all images of the Trinity, as the Creed will later affirm.
Then he places his right hand on the candidate’s head and prays:
O God, omnipotent and omnipresent, Whose power worketh in every living creature, who alone art the source of all life and goodness, deign to shed upon this thy servant, who has been called to the rudiments of the faith, a ray of thy light; drive out from him all blindness of heart, break all the chains of iniquity wherewith he hath been bound; open to him, O Lord, the gate of thy glory, that being replenished with the spirit of thy wisdom and strengthened by thy mighty power, he may be free from the taint of evil desire and steadfastly advancing in holiness may joyfully serve thee in the course thou hast appointed for him; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
All the prayers in this rite express profound spiritual realities–many of them unknown to most Christians–so each one should be looked into, beginning with this one.
O God, omnipotent and omnipresent, Whose power worketh in every living creature. The baptismal rite begins with an affirmation of the Divine Life moving in every living creature and coming to inevitable fruition in the revelation of their divine nature, and not a cowering before God and a cringing prayer that some poor soul “born in sin” and “prone to sin as the sparks fly upward” would mercifully be granted entire remission of their sins in Baptism so they could have a clean slate to overwrite in their subsequent life as “sinners saved by grace” and guaranteed not to go to hell. Not at all! God is perfecting through his omnipotence and omnipresence every sentient being. Certainly most resist his efforts, but in time their innate divinity will bring them around to cooperating. And until they do, Baptism will do very little. Birth is a marvelous thing, but if it is not followed by life it is just a prelude to death. It is the same with Baptism.
Who alone art the source of all life and goodness, deign to shed upon this thy servant, who has been called to the rudiments of the faith, a ray of thy light. If we really want to live and be good, we must strive to become god, for only in divinity is there life and goodness. “And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18). “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid” (Matthew 13:44). The treasure is in us and must be brought out by our own efforts. Whatever philosophy we may have imbibed that persuaded us of the value of Baptism, no matter how many books, lectures, or classes may have passed through our brains, we really know nothing more than the rudiments of faith, have seen only a ray of Light. For perfect Gnosis alone is truth and wisdom, and we must seek it, aware that Baptism opens the door, but we must walk through and keep on moving toward the Perfect Goal.
Drive out from him all blindness of heart, break all the chains of iniquity wherewith he hath been bound. Momentarily God can do all this for us in order to encourage us and give us a kind of free start or free sample of what lies ahead for those who persevere, but that boost is going to end in time–usually in a comparatively short time–and if we have not put what is given us out to increase and profit, even what we have shall be taken from us:
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
“Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
“After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 25:14-29).
In the thirteenth chapter of Saint Matthew’s gospel he records Jesus’ parable of seed sown by a farmer. Some seed fell on ground that had only a shallow layer of earth with stone underneath. Because the soil had no depth, the heat from the stone caused the seed to germinate faster than normal and spring up quickly. But the plants soon withered away, scorched by the sun because they had no root with which to draw either moisture or nutrients from the earth. It is the same with people. In a burst of enthusiasm and dedication they adopt a philosophy or religion, but because they have no depth of understanding and experience, in a while they become “burnt out” and drop away. It is necessary to maintain the process of Baptism by what the Buddhists call “cultivation”–meditation, serious study and assimilation of what results from them.
Open to him, O Lord, the gate of thy glory. Baptism is wonderful, for it does indeed open the gate to glory. But we have to go through the gate and keep on moving higher. We must take to heart the words of Jesus: “Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30). The purpose of a tower is to ascend the stairs and look out, to gain a high view. Jesus uses this simile because the whole purpose of sacramental life is ascension in consciousness.
Exoteric churches have made Sacraments a kind of good luck charm or fetish, a guarantee of salvation, but of themselves they are absolutely nothing if they are not put to use, as already pointed out. Just as money might as well be blank paper if it is not spent or put to any use, so it is with the Sacraments. Sacraments open and empower us for potential attainment and spiritual function, they do not bring it about. That is why Jesus said of those that claimed to be his followers: “By their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” Matthew 7:20-23). So not only was their religion profitless, it was actually iniquitous because it was false and hypocritical.
That being replenished with the spirit of thy wisdom. Gnosis (jnana) is the object of the gate opened by Baptism, for such wisdom-knowledge-insight will completely regenerate the mind and heart of the initiate–and Baptism is the first step in being an initiate of Christ and attaining “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). To make it clear that the required gnosis is a living thing, part of the life of God, Bishop Wedgwood used the phrase “spirit of thy wisdom,” not just “wisdom.” This is a reference to the Holy Spirit with whom the initiate is to be imbued in the Sacrament of Confirmation (known as Chrismation in the Christian East).
And strengthened by thy mighty power. For the Holy Spirit is the Power of God, just as Christ the Son is the Word of God.
He may be free from the taint of evil desire. Desire (kama: desire, passion, or lust) arises from a false understanding of the object and of ourselves. “The abstinent run away from what they desire but carry their desires with them: when a man enters Reality, he leaves his desires behind him” (Bhagavad Gita 2:59). A sensible, level-headed understanding of the practical desirability of something and an equally sensible and level-headed going about obtaining it is not desire, but a legitimate intention and putting forth of the intelligent will (buddhi). The petition is for the person to be free from from egoic, compulsive urges of all kinds so spiritual intelligence can direct his life, and not passion in any form.
And steadfastly advancing in holiness. “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:16). Holiness is our true nature; we need to overcome our addiction to falsifying ourselves, and start being what we really are. All kinds of addicts cant on about accepting themselves and being accepted by others, but it is all nonsense, a kind of emotional con game and blackmail. We have to get out of the lie and enter into truth on all levels. The Life Divine is not “inclusive” or “non-judgmental”–it is adamantly exclusive of all that contravenes the revelation of our innate divinity, and since the exclusion can only be done by us, intelligent judgment is an absolute requisite–not hatred or condemnation, but a determined elimination of all the elements in our present situation that bring death and not Life. That is why Baptism and Confirmation give us a great empowerment: so we can successfully pass from death into Life, from darkness into Light by our own will and reason.
May joyfully serve thee in the course thou hast appointed for him. Only joy awaits the disciplined and purified initiate who follows the divinely-ordained path of his swadharma: the mode of life that accommodates and reveals his nature as divine spirit-self. “Holiness soon shall refashion his nature to peace eternal” (Bhagavad Gita 9:31). The undisciplined and unpurified will scarcely become an initiate though he be baptized a thousand times, and in time there “shall be taken away even that which he hath” by his own negative and misdirected will.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Through the joint endeavors of the Cosmic Christ, Jesus Christ, and our own Christ-nature all this shall come about. May it be so!
Evil is the distortion or suppression of good, therefore we need to become free of all such distortion and suppression. Some baptismal rites contain all kinds of bombastic cursings and banishings that imply the candidate is virtually or potentially possessed by “the Devil.” The more they declaim the sillier they get. Naturally Bishop Wedgwood wanted no such lying implications in the baptismal rite. Yet evil does exist as a condition which desperately needs to be banished from us. Therefore the priest blesses the one to be baptized with the sign of the Cross, saying:
In the name which is above every name, in the power of the ✠ Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy ✠ Spirit, I exorcize all influences and seeds of evil; I lay upon them the spell of Christ’s holy Church, that they may be bound fast as with iron chains and cast into outer darkness, that they trouble not this servant of God.
“Influences” are external forces that impel us to wrong thought or action, and “seeds” are internal forces that do the same. Both are the effects of our personal karma, which must be dealt with by ourselves, empowered by Christ. So the priest exercises the power of Christ through his priestly connection to bind and to banish or paralyze any negative forces that might prevent our purification and empowerment. The priest cannot dissolve or banish them forever, but can put them into abeyance, “into outer darkness” beyond our immediate life sphere, so we can use the initiatic powers of Baptism to overcome or neutralize them ourselves before they have a chance to return and impede or harm us. Jesus spoke of this symbolically, saying: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:43-45). For such neglectful people Baptism is the gate of destruction rather than the gate of glory.
The insistence of exoteric Christianity that Baptism expunges all sin and the effects of sin, making the baptized person perfectly free of all sin in any form is a harmful fable, as anyone that was baptized as an adult is aware. Yes, he is blessed and purified to a marked degree, but the wiping out of karmic evil (“sin”) can only be done by him, and the sacramental life enables him to do this. (“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). So the exorcism gives the candidate a kind of breathing space in which to gather his inner forces and set about his self-correction. Instead of karma troubling him, he should trouble karma by erasing it.
The priest then lays his hand on the candidate’s head continuing:
For he who is the Lord of love and compassion hath deigned to call him to his holy grace and blessing and to the font of Baptism.
It is the divine will for the baptized to be able to truthfully say: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). That is why there are so many verses in the New Testament in which Christians are designated as “over-comers.”
Our psychic anatomy
The errors of exoteric Christianity have many roots, one of which is complete ignorance of how human beings are constituted. Western Christianity believes that a human being consists of a completely non-material immortal spirit in a totally material mortal body, and that they constantly fight with one another, implacably, just as in their mythology God and his supposed nemesis, the Devil, are in perpetual conflict. Since their God is never at peace, it is no wonder that they never are, either. Actually the defects of exoteric Christians are attributed to their God–for after all, are they not created in his image?
The authentic Christian teaching is that humans are threefold, being images of the Trinity. A human being is made up of a spirit and a body, certainly, but there is a third component that is of paramount significance: a psychic level that links the material and the spiritual and enables the material and the spiritual to communicate. This psyche includes the mind, intellect and will, and is formed of subtle astral and causal energies. If a religion does not directly deal with all three levels it is incompetent and can do no lasting good, much less lead to the divination of the individual unless they have been greatly evolved in previous lives in traditions that had knowledge of these things.
The only source of complete and accurate knowledge of the psychic levels or bodies is the science of Yoga. Part of that knowledge is information about certain psychic centers or chakras in the person’s bodies that directly affect his mental states and which are themselves affected by his emotions, thoughts, and acts of will. This knowledge was totally familiar to both Bishop Wedgwood and Bishop Leadbeater (who wrote a book on the subject), and was incorporated in their baptismal rite since Baptism is mostly about subtle energies.
The priest makes the sign of the Cross over four of the candidate’s chakras: between the eyebrows (the “third eye”), throat, heart, and navel chakras. As he does this he says:
Ephphatha: that is, be thou opened.
The results of this action are described in The Science of the Sacraments. “These are four of the special force-centres in the human body, and the effect of the sign, and of the intelligent exercise of the will, is to set these centres in motion.…The particular power which the Priest exercises in Baptism opens up these centres and sets them moving much more rapidly…. The centre opens much in the same way as the eye of a cat opens in the dark; or it is still more like the way in which a properly-made iris shutter opens in a photographic camera. These centres are opened in order that the force which is to be poured in may flow more readily.”
Rather than praying, the priest addresses the divine Self of the candidate, saying:
Let thy mind and thy heart be opened to the Most Holy Spirit of the living God, that thy whole nature may be dedicated for ever to his service; so mayest thou have power to receive the heavenly precepts and to be such in thy conduct that thou mayest be a pure temple of the living God.
All this is the result of the cleansing and empowering that will take place in the candidate’s physical and psychic bodies–especially in the psychic bodies.
Baptism is the first step in discipleship to the Master Jesus. Certainly a disciple needs to be aware of the Master’s will and purpose for him. Therefore the priest prays that the Holy Spirit will open his heart and mind so he may be ever engaged in the Yoga of Christ in which the Lord Jesus will guide him. We need more than books and talks–even by saints. We need to receive the heavenly precepts directly from heaven, from spirit, and grow (evolve) “unto a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21).
Notice that there is not a hint in any of this ritual so far, nor will there be even unto the end, that God or some other agent will take over and start doing everything for the candidate. It is just the opposite. Baptism initiates the process of spiritual growth “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). Although the disciple is at every moment watched over by God and Jesus and his saints and angels, and can certainly petition their help and guidance, the process is carried on by the disciple, for that is what his evolution is all about. Each sentient being evolves automatically, subliminally until he reaches the point where he can engage in conscious self-evolution. That is what Baptism and Confirmation are all about. They are true initiations: the beginning of the person’s conscious evolution.
Next the priest extends his right hand toward’s the candidate so a current of spiritual energy will flow into him, and prays:
Do thou, O Lord, with thine ever-abiding power, watch over this thy chosen servant, whom we dedicate to thy service, that, using well the beginnings of thy glory and heedfully observing thy holy laws, he may be found worthy to attain to the fullness of the new birth; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The “ever-abiding power” of God, is the Holy Spirit who according to the Eastern Orthodox prayer “art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life.” The Holy Spirit is ever with all things, especially sentient beings, but in so many human beings she is virtually inactive due to their lack of capacity for theosis. Therefore the priest is praying that in the mind, heart, will and life of “this thy chosen servant” she shall be supremely active to empower and guide his spiritual journey.
Two other things stand out in this prayer: the need to observe the laws of spiritual development, which include morality, ethics, and inner cultivation; and that although Baptism may be considered a new birth, the person must use it as the first step in the journey to the fullness of the new birth: the fruition of theosis or divinization. We all consider it a tragedy when a new-born child, or a child of any age, dies, but it is also a tragedy when a new-born initiate dies through spiritual stagnation, or after only a few months or years.
Placing the end of his stole on the candidate’s shoulder, the priest says:
Come into the temple of God, that thou mayest have part with Christ unto life eternal.
He places the end of his stole on the candidate’s shoulder to represent that it is Christ himself who invites him. The temple of God is not just the physical church, but the greater temple, the Church of Christ that is purely spiritual in character and which no earthly organization can truthfully claim to exclusively be. It is crucial that an aspirant understands that Baptism cannot make him a member of any earthly church, for he is not joining himself to an institution of any type at all but to Christ whose true disciples make up his Church as living stones (I Peter 2:5). Any priest who claims that Baptism makes someone a member of “his” church is either an abysmal ignoramus or an abysmal fraud. “From such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).
The eternal life of Christ is what is offered, as the disciple is a “partaker of Christ” in many mystical ways, as he will discover as he journeys onward to Christhood.
After they have come to the place of Baptism, the priest takes upon his right thumb a little consecrated oil known as the Oil of Catechumens which was consecrated by the bishop on Holy Thursday. It is used only in Baptism and the Ordination of Priests for cleansing and safeguarding of those touched by it.
The priest makes a small cross with the oil on the person’s heart center and the nape of the neck opposite the throat center. If the heart center is not easily reached or there is some other reason not to anoint the center of the breast, a cross is made at the hollow of the throat instead. The first-described way is best, though, because its purpose is to purify, connect and set a magnetic shield or seal upon the two centers so emotion will not easily impel the person to unwise or negative speech or to erroneous or confused thought. As he makes the crosses the priest says:
In the name of Christ our Lord, I ✠ anoint thee with oil for thy safeguarding.
His holy angel
Next a tremendously important act takes place: the linking of a holy guardian angel to accompany the person for the rest of his life–for safeguarding, but also for guidance, blessing and inspiration. This is done by the priest making two signs of the Cross before and behind the person, reaching to the entire length of his body, as he says:
May his holy angel ✠ go before thee, and ✠ follow after thee; may he be with thee in thy downsitting and thine uprising and keep thee in all thy ways.
Such a gift is awesome, indeed.
Baptism–baptisma–means to immerse, and it is historical fact that as a rule Christians baptized by triple immersion–one immersion at the name of each aspect of the Holy Trinity. At some time after the Reformation it became increasingly the practice to baptize by pouring the consecrated water on the head three times, usually in the form of a cross. There seems to have been little uniformity as to whether the water was poured on the top of the head or on the forehead. The famous Bishop Fulton Sheen definitely poured the water on the top of infants’ heads, for I have seen photographs of him doing so. But I have also seen Roman Catholic priests pour the water on the foreheads of those baptized on Holy Saturday.
Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater prescribed pouring the water on the forehead in the form of a cross as one of the aspects of the Trinity is named–three times in all. This no doubt arose from two sources: the usage they had seen in the Roman and Anglican churches and their knowledge of the chakras. For the ruling chakra in our spiritual energy system is the sahasrara, the astral/causal brain known to yogis as “the thousand-petalled lotus.” Pouring water on the forehead will profoundly affect the sahasrara, and thereby the entire complex of bodies. Sensitive people have said that when they were baptized by water being poured on their forehead they immediately felt and inwardly saw blazing light penetrating every cell of their entire body.
Therefore as the candidate leans over the font so none of the consecrated water will be spilt onto his clothes or the floor, the priest pours some of the consecrated baptismal water over his forehead thrice in the form of an equal-bar cross, saying:
N., I baptize thee in the name of the ✠ Father, and of the ✠ Son, and of the Holy ✠ Spirit. Amen.
When this is done, the divine energies infused in the baptismal water enter into and penetrate the person’s total being. Since the physical body is mostly water it, too, is deeply cleansed and energized. Certainly the newly-baptized gets a foretaste of Saint Paul’s affirmation: “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
Cleansing and empowerment are the major effects of Baptism, but there is a great deal of healing and realignment of the bodies as well as reconfiguration and a tremendous increase in their overall rate of vibration. So much so that Saint Paul could confidently state: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17).
The water of Baptism
In the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, the most ancient Christian document we have outside the New Testament, direction is given to baptize “in living water.” Naturally, non-sacramental Christians have no idea what this means, and assume that the flowing water of a river or stream is meant. Some even go so far as to have water flowing through their baptisteries. But the document means to baptize in water that has been infused with divine life through rituals of consecration.
At first Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater recommended that Baptism should be done with water blessed according to the usual rite for the blessing of holy water since its purpose is the infusion of water with purificatory, enlivening, healing and blessing energies. Later, at the end of the usual blessing of holy water the following prayer was added if the holy water was to be used for Baptism:
O Lord Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of thy boundless love didst take upon thyself the limitations of human form and in thy gracious compassion didst gather little children into thine arms; stretch forth, we pray thee, the right hand of thy power over this Holy Water and fill it with thy heavenly ✠ grace and ✠ blessing, that those to be baptized therewith may receive the fullness of thy love and ever remain in the number of thy faithful children. R: Amen.
The prayer is straightforward and needs no explanation, except to point out that although the priest makes the sign of the Cross over the water, it is really the right hand of God that blesses through his hand.
Next to the consecrated elements of the Holy Mass, the living body and blood of our Lord Jesus, perhaps the most sacred object in the life of the Church is Holy Chrism, also consecrated by the bishop on Holy Thursday: “that whatsoever persons or things shall be anointed therewith may receive the fullness of spiritual consecration.” The consecrated Chrism is the special vehicle of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that dwelt upon the mercy seat of the Ark in the Most Holy Place of the Temple and descended upon and into the Apostles at Pentecost dwells in and overshadows the Chrism.
The major use of Chrism is in the Sacrament of Confirmation, but it is used in Baptism at this point. The priest takes upon his thumb some of the sacred Chrism and, anointing the newly-baptized on the top of the head in the form of a cross, says:
With Christ’s Holy Chrism do I ✠ anoint thee, that his strength may prevent [go before] thee in thy going out and thy coming in, and may guide thee into life everlasting.
We really do need Bishop Leadbeater’s words on this.
“The chrism is that kind of sacred oil which contains incense, and therefore it is used always for purificatory purposes. Incense is made in various ways, as we have said; but it almost always contains benzoin, and benzoin is a powerful purifying agent. Therefore it is the chrism with which the cross is made on the top of the child’s head–in order, as an old ritual said ‘to purify the gateway.’ Remember that man, when he ‘goes to sleep,’ as we call it, passes out of and away from his physical body through the force-centre at the top of the head, and returns that way on awakening. Therefore this chrism is applied to the gateway through which he goes out and comes in, while the Priest utters the word given above.
“The effect of this anointing is great, even upon those who are but little evolved. It makes the force-center into a kind of sieve, which rejects the coarser feelings, influences, or particles; it has been likened to a doorscraper, to remove pollution from the man, or to an acid which dissolves certain constituents in the finer vehicles, while leaving others untouched. If during the day the man has yielded to lower passion of any kind, whether it be anger or lust, this magnetized force-centre seizes upon the excited astral particles as they sweep out and will not let them pass until their vibrations are to a certain extend deadened. In the same way if undesirable emotions have been aroused in the man while away from his physical body, the sieve comes into operation in the opposite direction, and slows the vibrations as he passes through it on his way back to waking life.”
Closing the chakras
The expanded chakras having been cleansed, energized, aligned and oriented to higher consciousness by the preceding steps of Baptism, the priest says:
Be thou closed….
as he makes the sign of the Cross over the brow, the throat, the heart and the navel of the neophyte. (“Neophyte” is a word coined in the mystery religions of ancient Greece meaning “newly enlightened.”)
As I have said, the Church of Christ is a purely spiritual entity, and this is indicated by the priest, his thumb still moist with Chrism, making the sign of the Cross on the neophyte’s forehead as he says:
I receive thee into the fellowship of Christ’s holy Church and do ✠ sign thee with the sign of the Cross in token that hereafter thou shalt not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ our Lord, to acknowledge him when he shall come, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin and selfishness, and that thou shall continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant throughout the ages of ages. Amen.
The complete entry into Christ’s Church is a spiritual one and is effected by the anointing with Chrism–by the action of the Holy Spirit and not by any lesser agent.
The “coming” of Christ mentioned in the baptismal prayer has two meanings: 1) When Christ “comes” to us by inspiration or spiritual insight into what should or should not be believed or done, and we need courage to confess our faith by acting on that. 2) When he who was born as Jesus Christ two thousand years ago at the onset of the Piscean Age will sometime be born at the beginning of the Aquarian Age which began in the year 2000. It is a tradition of esoteric Judaism that the Messiah would be born twice: first as son of Joseph and be rejected, and then as son of David and be accepted. So this prayer is offered that if he should be living at the revelation of the Second Advent the newly-baptized will be a dedicated disciple of Jesus, recognizing and following him as in his day-to-day following right now.
That is why on every Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity we pray: “Almighty God and loving Father, of Whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; grant, we pray thee, that we may so loyally serve thee in this life that we may be numbered among thy leal and trusty soldiers in all lives to come, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (“Leal” is an archaic word meaning faithful, true, loyal, honest and genuine.)
The white vesture
Quite early in the history of Christianity it became the practice to clothe the newly-baptized in a white garment to symbolize his birth into the Christ Light and to remind him that he should ever abide therein. So strong was this tradition among the Saint Thomas Christians of South India that until after the middle of the twentieth century they only wore white clothing when they entered a church.
Therefore some type of “white vesture” is brought, and the priest, having blessed it with the sign of the Cross, places it upon the neophyte, saying:
Receive from holy Church this white vesture as a pattern of the spotless purity and brightness of him whose service thou hast entered today, and for a token of thy fellowship with Christ and his holy angels, that thy life may be filled with his peace.
Handing a candle that was lighted from the sanctuary lamp to the neophyte, the priest says:
Take this burning light, enkindled from the fire of God’s holy altar, for a sign of the ever-burning light of thy spirit. God grant that hereafter his love shall so shine through thy heart that thou mayest continually enlighten the lives of thy fellow-men.
Here we are reminded that our spirit is an “ever-burning light,” being part of the Light that is God. Baptism is intended to empower us for reclaiming our lost awareness of that reality. Therefore our prayer should ever be: “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
The second part of the prayer reminds us of our obligation to follow the second greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).
Finally the priest places his hand on the neophyte’s head, saying:
N., go in peace and may the Lord be with thee. Amen.
In this simple, even humble, way the awesome rite of New Birth is ended, perhaps to indicate to the neophyte that it is never really closed but should be continued by his daily living until he himself hears the words: “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased…enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mark 1:11; Matthew 25:21).
Next in Yoga of the Sacraments: Confirmation, the Yoga of Divine Empowerment