In the book of Hebrews Saint Paul wrote a great deal about Jesus being for us a High Priest “who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1). And he shares that priesthood with us that those he chooses may be “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ…, a royal priesthood, that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:5, 9). This is accomplished through the Sacrament of Holy Orders which imparts the Apostolic Succession to those receiving them, about which I wrote at the beginning of this study.
Because of their great importance–without them there would be no Sacraments and no Church–the rituals are quite complex. Rather than give the entire texts I will only present the parts that are of significance to our comprehension of the Sacrament. Once again I urge you to consult The Science of the Sacraments for a full explanation of the inner and outer sides of these sacred actions.
Before describing the rituals I would like to say that holy orders are not mechanical but truly spiritual. For two thousand years men have been given holy orders, but not all have been ideal deacons, priests, and bishops, because no ordination can make a man a worthy servant of Christ. That is done by the man himself.
In my beginning teens a woman who had been a beautician told me some of her experiences in a little town populated by what may kindly be termed “backward” people. Displayed on the walls of her business were photographs of beautiful models in various hairstyles. One day a tremendously ugly and equally stupid woman came in and pointed at one of the photos, demanding that hair style. My friend did her best and reproduced it exactly, but when the woman looked at herself in the mirror she wheeled around and, pointing at the photo, protested: “But I don’t look like she does! I want to look like her!”
A lot of men think that ordination can make them a priest like Saint John Vianney or Saint John of Kronstadt. It cannot. Even God cannot. As Yogananda once told a complaining disciple: “You have God’s blessing and you have my blessing. What you lack is your blessing!”
Ordination of a Deacon
After the epistle of Mass and before the Gradual is sung, the bishop sits before the altar and the person to be ordained a deacon is formally presented to him. The bishop speaks to him briefly, during which he says:
It appertains to the Deacon to minister at the altar, to read or intone the Gospel, to preach and in the absence of the Priest to baptize.
By this we see that the deacon is really being made an assistant to the priest. Though it is not mentioned here, the deacon also may administer the Anointing of the Sick and Extreme Unction at the request of the priest, though with some differences.
The litany for ordinations is sung. At its conclusion the bishop prays a special prayer for the candidate’s blessing and strengthening. Then the Veni Creator is sung (as in the rite of Confirmation). At its conclusion the bishop places his right hand upon the head of the ordinand and says:
Receive the Holy Spirit for the office and work of a Deacon in the Church of God.
When the bishop says the foregoing words, the Holy Spirit enters the ordinand and conditions and empowers his bodies, literally recreating him into a deacon. To seal this recreation, the bishop then prays with his right hand extended toward the new deacon:
O God the Holy Spirit, who hast deigned to descend upon this thy servant in spirit and in power, strengthen him with thy sevenfold might for the faithful performance of this ministry. May that power ever flow forth in his actions and kindle his speech; may he be resolute and steadfast in the service of his brethren so that, having always the witness of a good conscience, he may continue strong and stable in Christ, a pillar in the temple of our God, thou who with the Father and the Son livest and reignest, God throughout all ages of ages. Amen.
The bishop sits and invests the ordinand with a white stole and a dalmatic, blessing him with the sign of the Cross and a brief prayer for each one. Then he hands him a book of the gospels to be read at Mass, saying:
Take thou authority to read the Gospel in the Church of God, both for the living and the dead. In the name of the ✠ Father and of the ✠ Son and of the ✠ Holy Spirit. Amen.
Regarding this, Bishop Leadbeater says: “In the same holy name, and with the same triple sign of power, he gives him authority to read the Gospel in the Church of God, both for the living and the dead. In each of these cases the threefold influence of which the Bishop is so especially the custodian is energized, poured forth, called strongly into manifestation, so that by playing upon the corresponding principles in the ordinand it stirs them into sympathetic vibration, so that they are, at any rate for the time, enormously more active and receptive than ever before. It is for the deacon to see that this great temporary advance is maintained and increased.”
David the Psalmist spoke of God as he “who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire” (Psalms 104:4). The new deacon is now of their number, therefore the bishop concludes the sacred rite with this prayer:
O Christ, the Lord of Love, who, by the heavenly and earthly service of angels which thou orderest, dost shed over all the elements the efficacy of thy will, pour out on this thy servant of the fullness of thy ✠ blessing, that in the fellowship of those glorious angels he may minister worthily at thy holy altars, and being endowed with heavenly virtue and grace he may ever be watchful and zealous in the service of thy Church, thou who reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
The Mass proceeds as usual, and after the singing of the Gradual the new deacon sings the Gospel. Everything else is as usual, except he is specially commemorated in the Canon of the Mass.
Ordination of a Priest
A priest is ordained after the singing of the gradual at Mass. The ordinand is presented to the bishop as in the ordination of a deacon. The bishop them charges him very solemnly with a lengthy and very necessary exhortation to realize the tremendous obligation he is now taking upon himself by being ordained a priest. In the first part of this address, the bishop says:
It appertains to the Priest to offer sacrifice, to bless, to preside, to loose and to bind, to anoint, to preach and to baptize.
In other words, it is the office of the priest to open the gates of eternal life and to keep them open for those who sincerely and rightly seek that everlasting life.
Wherefore, dearly beloved son, whom the award of our brethren has chosen that you may be consecrated to this office as our helper, after solemn premeditation only and with great awe is so sublime an office to be approached, and great indeed must be the care with which we determine that they who are chosen to represent our Blessed Lord and to preside in his Church commend themselves by great wisdom, by worthiness of life and the persevering practice of justice and truth. Do you, then, dearly beloved son, keep these things in remembrance and let the fruit thereof be seen in your walk and conversation, in chaste and holy integrity of life, in continually abounding in all manner of good works. Strive without ceasing to increase within yourself the perfection of heavenly love, that having your heart filled with the love of God and of man, you may be almoner of Christ’s blessing and bearer of his love to the hearts of mankind. Forget never how great a privilege is yours to bring the little ones to him through the gateway of baptism and to lift the heavy burden of the sorrow and sin of the world by the grace of absolution. Consider attentively what you do, imitate those things which in the Church of God it is your duty to handle and to transact. And forasmuch as you will now be called upon to offer the Holy Sacrifice before the throne of God, and to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Lord’s love, be earnest in ridding your members of all imperfections. You whose duty it is to offer unto God the sweet incense of prayer and adoration, let your teaching be a spiritual remedy unto God’s people; let your words of blessing and consolation be their help and strength; let the sweet savor of your life be a fragrance in the Church of God.
Thus both by word and deed may you fashion the temple of God, so that neither shall we appear blameworthy before the Lord, who in his name shall thus advance you, nor ye who shall thus be advanced; but rather may we all find acceptance and abundant recompense for this day’s act, which of his infinite goodness and loving-kindness may he deign to grant.
The litany of ordination is sung. At its conclusion the ordinand kneels before the bishop who extends his hands toward him and prays:
O Lord Jesus Christ, the Fountain of all goodness, who by the operation of the Holy Spirit hast appointed diverse Orders in thy Church, and for its greater enrichment and perfecting dost pour down thy gifts abundantly upon men, do thou pour forth thy sanctifying grace upon this thy servant, who is about to be numbered among the Priests of thy Church. May his hand be strong to achieve, may wisdom guide and direct his life, may the beauty of holiness sanctify him and shed a spiritual fragrance about his path, so that in all his works begin, continued and ended in thee, he may show forth the abundance of thy power and glorify thy holy name, O thou great King of Love, to Whom be praise and adoration from men and from the angel host. Amen.
“Immediately after this prayer the Bishop amid perfect silence lays both hands on the head of each ordinand. The same is done after him successively by all the Priests present, each willing intensely to give all that he can of help and consecration to the candidate. The Bishop uses his power to pour into him the power of the Christ and to draw him into the closest possible relation to him. The three principles of spirit, intuition and intelligence in the ordinand are made to glow with indescribable fervor. The oblique line connecting them is opened up into activity, and greatly widened, so that not only does the spirit become much more one with the Christ-spirit, but he is also able to express himself far more fully than before through the intuition and intelligence.
“It does not at all follow that he will do so in daily life; that depends upon the individual effort of the Priest; but the potentiality is there, and he who knows of it may use it to great effect if he will. The whole aura of the ordinand expands prodigiously with this direct influx of power from the Christ; every atom within him is shaken as its various orders of spirillæ are aroused. The influx rushes into [him] through the corresponding principles of the Bishop himself, which is the reason why he lays both hands upon the head of the candidate, instead of using only the right hand to distribute what is drawn though the crosier in his left, as he does in the case of the deacon, or at Confirmation.
“When the neophyte’s aura is thus dilated and extremely sensitive, the Priests pour in their influence. They do not confer power as the Bishop does, but each gives his quota of good; and adds whatever he has that is of value, while the neophyte is in a condition to receive it. The Priests may quite probably be on different Rays, and at any rate are sure to differ in character, so each will have some quality to contribute. The bestowal of the priesthood is above all things the granting of a wonderful, colossal opportunity, and no effort is spared to help the recipient to take advantage of it.
“The power of the Christ, the direct outflow from the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, comes always in the silence, for it has not yet descended sufficiently into materiality to manifest as sound; but the Holy Ghost came as a rushing, mighty wind and showed Himself in tongues of fire, conferring upon the apostles an unusual power of speech. So at the second imposition of hands later the words of power are employed as in the other Orders; but the tremendous gift of the first imposition descends in a silence that is felt. It is this act which actually makes the man a Priest and endows him with the power to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. The prayer which immediately follows the ordination beautifully refers to this.” (The Science of the Sacraments)
Consequently the bishop prays with extended hands:
O Lord Christ, whose strength is in the silence, grant that this thy servant whom now thou dost join unto thyself in the holy bond of the Priesthood may hence forward minister faithfully of the priestly power to those who ask in thy name. Amen.
The Veni Creator is now sung as all kneel. When it is ended the bishop puts both hands on the head of the ordinand and solemnly says:
Receive the Holy Spirit for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God; whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained.
Now the ordination is complete, and the man is now “a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec” (Psalms 110:4).
No words can convey the divine character of the Christian priesthood, but the prayer that follows the preceding words gives a hint:
O God, the Source of all holiness, of whom are true consecration and the fullness of spiritual benediction, we pray thee, O Lord, to ✠ open to thy heavenly grace the heart and mind of this thy servant, who has been raised to the Priesthood, that through him thy power may abundantly flow for the service of thy people. May he be earnest and zealous as a fellow-worker in our Order, and thus prove himself worthy of the sacred charge committed unto him. And, as by a spotless blessing he now shall change for the service of thy people bread and wine into the most holy Body and Blood of thy Son, may he be ever watchful that he keep the vessel of his ministry pure and undefiled. May every kind of righteousness spring forth within him, and may his heart be so filled with compassion for the multitude, that he may forget himself in the love of others. Thus steadfast in that thy most joyous service, may the radiance of thy love and thy glory shine ever more brightly in his heart, till he rises unto mature spiritual manhood, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, when his life shall be hid with Christ in God. Amen.
The priestly stole and vestment are placed on the new priest with prayer. Then the bishop takes Oil of Catechumens and sanctifies the priest’s hands by anointing them as he says:
Be pleased, O Lord, to consecrate and hallow these hands by this anointing and our ✠ blessing; that whatsoever they ✠ bless may be blessed, and whatsoever they consecrate may be consecrated and hallowed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Bishop closes the priest’s hands together, palm to palm, and binds them together with a strip of white linen. This is a very important act, for this enables a gradual assimilation of tremendous purifying, strengthening, and blessing power by his hands.
Although his hands are bound, the priest is presented by the bishop with a chalice containing wine and water, with a paten and a host upon it. He cannot take and hold them, but he touches them with his fingertips as the bishop says to him:
Take thou authority to offer sacrifice to God, and to celebrate the Holy Eucharist both for the living and for the dead; in the name of the Lord. R. Amen.
The hands of the priest are then unbound and cleansed according to mediæval custom with lemon and breadcrumbs.
The Mass is continued as usual, the new priest reading the Gospel and being commemorated in the Canon of the Mass.
After the celebrant intones: “Under the veil of earthly things…,” the bishop is again seated before the altar and gives the new priest a final charge, then stands and gives him the following blessing:
The blessing of God Almighty, the ✠ Father, the ✠ Son, and the Holy ✠ Spirit, come down upon you, that you may be blessed in the priestly Order, and in the offering of sacrifice to Almighty God, to whom belong honor and glory to the ages of ages. R. Amen.
He then sits and solemnly says:
Dearly beloved son, consider attentively the Order you have taken and be ever mindful of the sacred trust reposed in you. Since it hath pleased our Lord to call you thus closer to Himself, forget not the service of your brethren, which is the golden pathway to his most glorious Presence. Freely ye have received, freely give.
The Mass is continued and concluded as usual. But the priesthood continues forever.
Consecration of a Bishop
From earliest times it has been recommended that a bishop be consecrated by three bishops, one of them being considered the chief consecrator and the others his assistants, though often throughout the Church’s history bishops have been consecrated by a single bishop when circumstances warranted it. This is especially true in the Roman Catholic Church when the Pope has directed a single bishop to consecrate a priest to the episcopate. Sometimes one or both of the assistant bishops are represented by an official letter from a bishop who approves the consecration but cannot be present. Bishop Leadbeater was consecrated by Bishop Wedgwood alone. In what follows I will only be referring to the consecrator for the sake of simplicity. For the same reason I am omitting some preliminaries that are not really part of the Sacrament itself.
After the gradual of the Mass has been sung, the consecrator sits before the altar and addresses the bishop-elect, saying:
It appertains to a Bishop to consecrate, to ordain, to offer sacrifice, to anoint, to bless, to loose and to bind, to baptize and to confirm, to preside, to interpret and to judge.
This encompasses the plenitude of sacramental power that is to be bestowed by consecration to the episcopate.
The litany of ordination follows, the bishop-elect lying prostrate before the altar. At its conclusion the bishop-elect kneels and an open book of the gospels is placed upon his neck and shoulders to represent the yoke of Christ which he is now fully assuming. With hands extended toward him, the consecrator prays:
O Lord Christ, the Fountain of all goodness, who by the operation of the Holy Spirit hast appointed diverse Orders in thy Church, and for its greater enrichment and perfecting dost pour down thy gifts abundantly upon men, making some to excel in wisdom, others in devotion and yet others to be well-skilled in action, pour down upon this thy servant of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that in the pontifical dignity to which we are about to raise him he may shine resplendent with all manner of heavenly virtue, O thou great Shepherd and Bishop of the souls of men, to Whom be praise and adoration from men and from the angel host. R. Amen.
The Veni Creator is now sung. The consecrator then places both hands upon the head of the bishop-elect and says:
Receive the Holy Spirit for the office and work of a Bishop in the Church of God.
Now a new Apostle of Christ is there kneeling before the altar. It is not glamorous; it is awesome and of tremendous obligation, for the Lord Jesus assures us: “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).
With hands extended over the new Bishop, the consecrator prays:
O God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, most blessed and adorable Trinity, who wert and art and art to come as thou hast now bestowed upon this thy servant of thine awesome power, and hast deigned to consecrate him as thy representative and a teacher of thy people, ✠ open, we pray thee, his heart and mind to thy heavenly grace, that he may handle wisely that which he has received and, being ever mindful of thee, he may exercise his sacred power to the honor and glory of thy holy name. Fulfill in thy chosen Bishop the perfection of thy service, and having entrusted him with the supreme dignity, do thou sanctify him with unction from above.
Now the consecrator sits and the head of the new bishop is bound with a long napkin. The consecrator with his thumb anoints the new bishop’s head with holy chrism as he says:
May thy head be anointed and consecrated with the heavenly blessing in the pontifical Order, so that the power which thou dost receive from on high may flow forth from thee in ever greater abundance and glory. In the name of the ✠ Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy ✠ Spirit. R. Amen.
“This anointing of the head is an important item in the ceremony, for the chrism is especially the vehicle of the divine Fire. On the lower levels it is a powerful purifying influence, and on the higher it gives strength and clearness. Although it is applied down here in the physical world, its effects extend far above into unseen realms. The soul mirrors itself in the personality, and this reflection, like many others, is upside down. The higher mind or intellect is reflected in the lower mind, the intuition in the emotional or astral body, and the spirit itself down here in the physical vehicle. Ordinarily the triple spirit is so widely separate from the man as we know him that there is no apparent result from this reflection; but as in the Bishop this triple spirit has the opportunity of awakening, the application of chrism to the head intensifies the power of reflection, and makes the triple spirit glow most wonderfully, besides, clearing the way down into the physical brain for the flow of the new forces.
“The force-centre at the top of the head (called by Indian students of higher physics the Sahasrara chakra, and referred to in Baptism as the gateway through which the man passes in and out) is in most men a vortex producing a small saucer-like depression, just as are the other centers in the human body. They take that shape because force is constantly flowing into the physical man through them from higher planes; but in the great Saint force which he himself generates is constantly rushing outwards through this centre for the helping of the world, and so the vortex, rotating more rapidly than ever, becomes a cone instead of a depression, and is often to be seen in statues of the Lord Buddha as a distinct projection at the top of the head.
“Manifestly it is intended that the Bishop shall join this more advanced type of souls, for the action of the chrism tends strongly in the direction of this development. If he understands his business and uses his opportunities, every Bishop ought to be a veritable radiating sun, a lighthouse amid the stormy sea of life, a battery charged with almost unlimited power for good, so that he may be a fountain of strength, of love and of peace, and his mere presence may itself be a benediction.” (The Science of the Sacraments)
Rising and extending his hands toward the new bishop, the consecrator prays:
Thou who art wisdom strength, and beauty, show forth thy glory in this thy servant. Let thy wisdom dwell in his mind and enlighten his understanding, that in judgment he may be a true and a wise counsellor unto his people, discerning in all spiritual knowledge. May he be strong and of a good courage, sustaining his people in the face of darkness and despondency, a tower of strength to them that falter on the way. Let the beauty of holiness shine forth in his conversation and his actions. Do thou fill him, O Lord, with reverence and make him devout and steadfast in thy service. May gentleness adorn his life, that he may win the hearts of men and open them to the light of the Holy Spirit. Above all, may he be so filled with thy love that he may touch the hearts of men with the fire from heaven and bring them from the darkness of ignorance into thy marvelous Light; thou who livest and reignest, O Trinity of Might and Wisdom and Love, one holy God throughout all ages of ages. R. Amen.
The consecrator now anoints the hands of the new bishop with the sacred chrism as he says:
May these hands be consecrated and hallowed for the work of the pontifical Order by this anointing with the holy chrism of sanctification. In the name of the ✠ Father, and of the ✠ Son, and of Holy ✠ Spirit. R. Amen.
“The anointed hands are now potentially the hands of the Trinity. This anointing of the hands with chrism arranges the mechanism for the distribution of the three kinds of force (coming forth, if we push our investigation far enough back into light of ineffable glory, from the Three Aspects or Persons of the ever-blessed Trinity) which flow through the Bishop by virtue of the gift of the Holy Spirit at his consecration. For that reason the triple cross is made over him.” (The Science of the Sacraments)
The consecrator makes the sign of the Cross over the heart and hands of the new bishop, saying:
Mayest thou abound with the fullness of spiritual ✠ blessing, so that whatsoever thou dost ✠ bless may be blessed, and whatsoever thou dost hallow may be hallowed, and that the laying on of this consecrated hand may avail for the spiritual safeguarding of thy people; in the name of our Lord Christ. R. Amen.
He then joins the new bishop’s hands and binds them with a linen strip. As in the ordination of a priest, the purpose is to give the hands time to assimilate the divine power imparted to them through the anointing.
It is traditional in the Western Church for bishops to carry a staff called a crozier that is in the shape of a shepherd’s staff. (In the Eastern Church they carry a pateratissa, a staff in the form of the caduceus of Asclepius.) They also wear a pectoral cross. (In the Eastern Church they wear a depiction of the Virgin Mary known as a panagia.) Only in the Western Church does a bishop wear a ring. These three items are now blessed by the consecrator.
The napkin and linen binding the head and hands of the new bishop are then removed and his cleanses his hands.
The consecrator hands the crozier to the new bishop, saying:
Receive this staff, and wield thy power with care as Shepherd of Christ’s flock. By virtue of the sevenfold fire of God the Holy Spirit be thou all things to all men; giving more strength unto the strong, yet showing gentleness unto the weak; full of wisdom for the wise, and for the devout full of deep devotion. Yet as the seven flashing colors of the rainbow make but one pure white ray, so shall thy sevenfold power be all the one great power of love.
The consecrator suspends the cross around the neck of the new bishop, saying:
Receive this cross, remembering that only by the perfect sacrifice of the lower nature to the higher canst thou fit thyself to bear it worthily. Go forth in the power of the cross, and may the sevenfold light of the Holy Spirit so shine through thee that thou mayest win others to the beauty of sacrifice.
He places the ring on the ring-finger of the right hand of the new bishop, saying:
Receive this ring in token of the link which binds thee to our Lord, for symbol of thine office as his legate to thy people. In his most holy name, be thou a healer of the souls of men, a channel of his love.
Then he delivers to him the book of Gospels, closed, which had previously been held on his shoulders as he says:
Receive the book of the Gospels, and be thou a teacher of the Divine Wisdom unto the people entrusted to thee.
The consecrator gives the salutation of peace to the newly consecrated Bishop and the Mass proceeds as usual, the new bishop being commemorated in the Canon. After the final blessing the new bishop is vested in cope, mitre, and gloves.
As the Te Deum is sung, the new bishop proceeds around the church, giving his blessing to the people. When he returns to the sanctuary, he is seated and the consecrator says this final prayer:
O God, the Shepherd and Ruler of all the faithful, look down in thy lovingkindness on this servant of thine who has now become a pontiff and ruler in thy Church; grant him, we pray thee, O Lord, both by his ministration and by word and example, so to profit those over whom he is placed that, together with the flock committed to his care, he may continually increase in the knowledge of thy mysteries. Though Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
Here we have the sum of it all. The entire purpose of Christ’s Church and the Sacraments that are its literal life-blood is to increase in the knowledge of the Divine Mysteries, for such knowledge leads to liberation of the spirit, the only true salvation. To devote ourselves to the cultivation of the spirit in wisdom is our holy and joyful obligation and privilege.
Finally the new bishop gives the final blessing of the Mass, pays homage to the consecrator, and all depart in blessedness.
Let us give Bishop Leadbeater the final word:
“Those of the laity who have the opportunity of seeing any of the major ordinations are privileged people. It is a great thing, a fine thing to be able to see the carrying on of this scheme given to by the Christ hundreds of years ago. By their presence, by their earnest devotion. the laity can help, and can strengthen the hands of those who are passing on this wondrous gift. They themselves have not been ordained, therefore it is not in their power to pass on the Holy Orders; but it is in their power to uphold the hands of those who are doing it, and to give in that way very real help in what is being done.
“Another point is that such a Service offers a magnificent opportunity to those who are trying to develop clairvoyance. Those who are beginning to see should try to see all they can. Humanity is evolving, the powers of our higher bodies are coming nearer to the surface, and sometimes some of us are able to see a little more than we used to see. Here are occasions when there is a great deal more to be seen than is visible to the physical eye. It is well worth while for those present to make an effort to put themselves into a receptive attitude, in the hope of seeing or feeling something of what lies behind the outer form of what is done.
“There will be wondrous outpourings of power visible to those have learnt how to perceive them–floods of light, flashes of splendid color, great angels who have come to help. Many can feel their presence, and there are some who can see them. There is no reason why others should not share this advantage. Let them put themselves in an attitude of sympathy; let them try to see and to feel. That is one way in which we, the clergy, like the laity to cooperate with us in the work which we have to do.” (The Science of the Sacraments)
A final but important point
In these rites it is evident that ordination and administration of the Sacraments is limited to baptized males alone, so we should address it here.
There is no reason at all why a woman should not be a Protestant minister, and from childhood many of my friends have been–and excellent ones, too. The thing that makes the difference in the rites we have been considering is that of Apostolic Succession. We are not speaking sociologically, but esoterically. The Christian system of Holy Orders is of a nature that demands an exclusively male clergy on all levels–not just in relation to the priesthood and episcopate. Again, this is a matter of subtle spiritual energies. To effect the Christian Sacraments the polarity of a male human priest and the Divine Feminine polarity of the Holy Spirit working together are absolutely necessary. It is just as I say: a matter of polarity. As a reader of The Science of the Sacraments can ascertain, all the Sacraments involve complex elements and processes on the unseen planes for their actualization. Whimsy or social prejudice or personal desire simply never enter into it. In The Science of the Sacraments Bishop Leadbeater writes:
“Another of the conditions under which we receive this mighty gift of grace is that it is arranged to flow through the masculine organism. In these days when it is the fashion to ignore or decry all distinctions of nature, and to claim that everybody can do everything equally well, women-folk sometimes clamour for priestly position, asking why they should not hold such an office and exercise its powers just as well as men. The ordinary clerical answer is in the old words: ‘We have no such custom, neither the Churches of God,’ fortified perhaps by the reminder that the Christ is said to have chosen his twelve apostles and his seventy preachers exclusively from among men. That is an argument of some force; but the student can add to it a further consideration–that this particular type of magic is not adapted to work through the feminine organism. There are other types of energy which are so arranged, but they are of quite different character, and are little known to our present civilization–much, I fancy, to its loss. The cult of our Blessed Lady in the Roman Church is an unconscious effort to fill a gap which many people instinctively recognize.”
And later: “It is often asked whether a woman could validly be ordained. That question has practically been answered in an earlier chapter. The forces now arranged for distribution through the priesthood would not work efficiently through a feminine body; but it is quite conceivable that the present arrangements may be altered by the Lord Himself. It would no doubt be easy for him, if he so chose, either to revive some form of the old religions in which the feminine Aspect of the Deity was served by priestesses, or so to modify the physics of the Catholic scheme of forces that a feminine body could be satisfactorily employed in the work. Meantime we have no choice but to administer his Church along the lines laid down for us.”
In an article on Holy Orders found in The Christian Gnosis, under the heading “Women and the priesthood,” he further wrote:
“The particular arrangement that we call the Holy Eucharist was ordained by the Christ to work through the male body. It is not arranged to flow through the female organism. It has been suggested that when the Christ comes again, that may be one of the modifications that he will introduce, but we cannot go beyond his previous instructions until he Himself alters them.
“In The Hidden Life in Freemasonry, I referred to certain channels in the etheric part of the human body called ida and pingala. The positions of these channels are reversed in the opposite sexes. That, in itself would be sufficient to prevent a force which was designed for the one from running through the body of the other.
“Women took a great part in the government of the ancient Church. They were made [not ordained] deaconesses and after they had attained the level of widow–a word used to represent a particular stage in membership in the Church–they sat in council with the bishop. In that respect, they ranked higher than priests but they were never ordained priests and so never celebrated the Eucharist. The necessary force is not calculated to work through the female body.”
We must remember that both Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater devoted their lives to the work and furtherance of the Theosophical Society which was founded by a woman, Madame Blavatsky (in salutation of whom Bishop Leadbeater bowed down and touched his head to the ground in reverence, as was the custom in India). After her passing the Society was headed by Annie Besant whom both bishops held in the greatest spiritual esteem and whom they consulted by correspondence throughout their formulation of the rites we have been analyzing. So no one can accuse them of simply conforming to social custom or pressures in their insistence on an all-male clergy.
Actually, just as with their experimentation in liturgical forms, the bishops did privately in the presence of other clairvoyants, some of whom were women, attempt to ordain three women. Not only did the bishops and the clairvoyant observers unanimously declare that the ordinations simply did not “work” or take hold, all three of the women insisted that they were psychically harmed to some degree by undergoing the rituals. One woman said that she did not regain her normal status for half a year, another said that her recovery took a little over a year, and the third woman said that she felt an impairment and imbalance in her subtle bodies for three years. So everyone realized that the attempt to ordain women would not only be useless, it would be detrimental to them. (Remember that these three women were Theosophists who had refined and developed their subtle faculties of perception and wished to be ordained, so their testimony was of real value.)
So confident were the bishops in the perceptions of themselves and the invited observers as well as the women who underwent the experiment that it became an inviolable rule in the Liberal Catholic Church that only men could be ordained to any order. Because of the matter of polarity, also perceived by clairvoyant observers, no women were permitted inside the altar rails or altar area during the celebration of Mass, so there were no women servers or active participants at or near the altar.
Official policy respecting this was printed in Ceremonies of the Liberal Catholic Rite, written by Bishop Irving Steiger Cooper at the request of Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater and approved by both. Section 21, “Women in the Chancel and Sanctuary” in Chapter Four, Ceremonial Actions and Rules, says: “Women in choirs may be seated in the chancel, provided there is a rail separating the sanctuary from the chancel. Women are not given seats in the sanctuary during the course of the services. Women speakers should speak from a point outside the sanctuary. In such case the celebrant (or bishop in choir) will give the Invocation and Ascription [before and after the sermon].”
This was because it is normal and natural that when men and women stand or sit near each other their energies begin to react upon one another and create horizontal eddies of psychic force. Of itself this is no problem, but in the Mass one of the major effects is the directing upward of a tremendous amount of spiritual and psychic force (see the illustrations in The Science of the Sacraments), and the presence of mixed polarity in the altar area greatly impedes this. That is why in the East right now, and previously in the West, from Apostolic times, men and women stood on opposite sides of temples and churches. In this way a magnetic field is produced that facilitates any upward-oriented ceremony or activity (such as satsangs in India).
Evidence of the original Liberal Catholics’ conviction in this matter is the fact that whenever Mrs. Besant gave the sermon at a Liberal Catholic Mass she always stood outside the altar rails to do so, for she was in total agreement with it.
It should be pointed out that when Bishop Leadbeater says that “the present arrangements may be altered by the Lord Himself,” he is not speaking of some invisible inner plane revelation that anyone could claim to receive, but a change publicly instituted by the Lord in his second incarnation as “son of David” (mentioned in the chapter on Baptism). There is no thought in the bishop’s mind that “the present arrangement” could be changed by a psychic perception or a majority vote of a bishops’ synod.
What about the contention that the early church had “deaconesses”? It is the truth. However, they were not female deacons, as historical records abundantly demonstrate, but teachers and advisers of the women of a congregation. In the Byzantine Empire the deaconesses stood on the women’s (left) side of the church and directed them at certain times in the Liturgy, particularly during the time of Communion. They also prepared women for Baptism, did the anointing at Baptism (which was a full-body anointing), and took them Communion when they were ill. Their function was pastoral and not sacramental in character.
Next in Yoga of the Sacraments: The Inner Sacrament
Chapters in Yoga of the Sacraments
- Apostolic Succession: The River of Life
- Baptism: the Yoga of Life
- Confirmation: the Yoga of Divine Empowerment
- Mass and Communion: the Yoga of Union
- Confession and Absolution: the Yoga of Spiritual Healing
- Anointing of the Sick: the Yoga of Bodily Healing
- Extreme Unction
- Blessing of Holy Water
- Blessing of Objects
- Blessing of a House
- Consecration of Holy Oils
- Holy Orders
- Meditation, the Inner Sacrament
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