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Confession and Absolution: the Yoga of Spiritual Healing

Prodigal SonChapter Five of Yoga of the Sacraments

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.…Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (Matthew 18:18; John 20/23).


Every action has an equal and opposite reaction in every level of our existence, and that force of reaction is what we mean by karma. We mistakenly think that karma is a matter of values or morals, but in reality it is simple reaction–nothing more. The factor that lifts it into a practical aspect of life is our own personal consciousness. We and we alone decide what our karma is going to be, for we alone decided in the past what our present karma was going to be. It is totally a personal matter. There is no such thing as someone else interfering with the karma of another person, nor is there such a thing as someone else taking on another’s karma. It is all squarely on our shoulders, and nowhere else.

It does no good to worry over anyone’s karma, including our own. That is why in the Bhagavad Gita we find: “The Lord is everywhere and always perfect: what does he care for man’s sin or the righteousness of man? The Atman [Spirit] is the light: the light is covered by darkness: this darkness is delusion: that is why we dream. When the light of the Atman drives out our darkness that light shines forth from us, a sun in splendor, the revealed Brahman [God]” (Bhagavad Gita 5:15, 16). That is all there is to it.

Why, then, do exoteric Christians make such a fuss about sin with so little positive effect? Because they have no idea what sin is, nor its actual effect, and certainly not how to be rid of it–really free of it, not just having stuffed it in a corner and made sure it could not do anything for the present.

Sin is amartano: failing to come up to the mark. And what is the mark? Our eternal nature as spirit. What does sin do? It blinds us to knowledge of our real nature and binds us in our attempts to free and reveal our spirit. How are we rid of it? The Gita tells us in the verse just before the ones I cited: “Do not say: ‘God gave us this delusion.’ You dream you are the doer, you dream that action is done, you dream that action bears fruit. It is your ignorance, it is the world’s delusion that gives you these dreams” (Bhagavad Gita 5:14). Sin will ever be with us until we awaken and rise into spirit-consciousness and shake off the dream-delusions of this material world. “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

Absolution, then, is an infusion of spiritual light and consciousness, a spiritual energization that aids us in throwing off the bonds of the darkness of ignorance of who we really are: sons of God. It is a help, but all the work must be done by us. This is necessary for us to understand, because in more than one Sacrament there is reference to sin and absolution from sin. When misunderstood, they make us feel helpless, powerless against sin, but when rightly understood they strengthen our resolve to attain higher life, empower us, and show us the way.

Such a lengthy exposition is needed so we will not read into the sacramental forms of bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater the destructive ideas and attitudes of exoteric “Churchianity” that are a blight to humanity.

Now we can look at their version of Confession and Absolution.

Yogic Confession and Absolution

According to centuries-old custom, the person who wishes to make confession kneels at a prie-dieu in the church, beside which the priest is seated. It is also not uncommon for them to kneel at the altar rail, the priest sitting just inside.

In this Sacrament it is the person confessing that begins the rite with invocation of the Trinity:

In the name of the Fatherand of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Father, give me your blessing, for I have sinned.

There is no correction until a person admits the problem. Self-honesty is an integral part of truthfulness. Yet, the penitent does not need condemnation or “a good talking to,” as some exoteric priests think, nor an exposition of how he is a sinner. Rather he needs blessing–but a special blessing. So the priest blesses him, making the sign of the Cross over his heart and mouth, saying:

The Lord be in thyheart and on thylips, that thou mayest rightly confess thine offenses.

“Rightly confess” means to speak with actual understanding of the nature and consequence of his thought and actions with a genuine intention to expunge the roots of his failings from his inner mind so they will not be repeated, and with an openness to the spiritual counsel he will receive. (If he receives no such counsel, the priest is unworthy and he should go elsewhere for advice.)

It should be pointed out here that we sin against ourselves, and sometimes against others if they are involved or affected by our misdeeds. Therefore confession is meant to be a profound self-examination and prelude to self-amendment. It is a clear-sighted acceptance of responsibility for our actions. This being so, the penitent says:

I confess before God almighty, Father Son, and Holy Spirit, and to you, Father, that I have sinned in thought, in desire, in word and deed. Especially I have…

Now he calls to mind and recounts all those things whereby he has violated his nature as a child of God. It is to be supposed that he will not have killed or robbed or maimed anyone–things like that should have been ended in previous lives. But thoughts of hatred, hostility, or resentment, of greed and envy, or wishing ill of others, may well be quite present in his heart, and they should all be set forth in his confession, for often the admission of them is the banishing of them. Anything that is inconsistent with the life dedicated to the search for total union with God is a sin for a Christian initiate, and the aspiration to that state is not optional–it is the sole purpose of Christ in our lives.

When he has spoken everything to the priest, he concludes:

For these and all my other offenses which I cannot now remember, I am heartily sorry, firmly purpose amendment, most humbly ask remission of almighty God, and of you, Father, absolution and the benefit of spiritual counsel and advice.

Then the priest speaks to him about the practical ways of spiritual life and how he may strengthen his will for any correction needed.

As the final element in this Sacrament, the priest blesses and prays, saying:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power on earth to his church to absolve all those that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him, of his tender compassion forgive thee thine offenses; and by his authority committed unto me Iabsolve thee from all thy sins. In the name of the Fatherand of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. R: Amen.

The King of Love and Fountain of all goodness restore unto thee the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and give thee grace to continue in the same, that thou mayest inherit the kingdom of heaven and be made like unto his own pure and glorious image. R: Amen.

We must remember that in earlier English usage “forgive” meant to disregard or cancel something out. It was common to speak of “forgiving” a debt when it was canceled (remitted). So God is not miffed and we do not need “pardon” in the usual human manner, though a pardon granted to a criminal is also a cancellation.

Absolution is an empowerment of the penitent for a better life, and on his subtle levels many kinks are straightened out, for as Bishop Leadbeater says, the blessing of the priest combs out many snarls and tangles in the astral and causal bodies. His sins are not wiped out, but their effects are removed or loosened so he will not be hindered in striving for a higher level of life and consciousness which will purge him of all defects and negative karma.

The rite of Confession is a great blessing and a tremendous help to the serious initiate of Christ but, as I said at the beginning, all the work is to be done by us. So we must understand Confession as a great benefit that must be put to use, otherwise it is pointless, even superstitious.

Next in Yoga of the Sacraments: Anointing of the Sick, the Yoga of Bodily Healing

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