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Major thesis written by Dr Ian Ellis-Jones - copyright Ian Ellis-Jones - all rights reserved - commercial use (except by copyright holder) prohibited

Major thesis written by Dr Ian Ellis-Jones - copyright Ian Ellis-Jones - all rights reserved - commercial use (except by copyright holder) prohibited



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  • VISIONS OF THE REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATION OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST AND THE SERVICES OF SOLEMN BENEDICTION AND HEALING ACCORDING TO THE LIBERAL CATHOLIC RITE IAN ELLIS-JONES PhD (UTS) Copyright © Ian Ellis-Jones 2009 – All Rights Reserved A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of The Liberal Catholic Institute of Studies (Australian Campus) for a Diploma in Religious Studies The Liberal Catholic Church in the Province of Australasia (Including Indonesia) This thesis is not an official document of the Liberal Catholic Church
  • CONTENTS PagePREFACE iiiACKNOWLEDGMENTS vABSTRACT viINTRODUCTION: EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH JUST BEING The Meaning and Purpose of Religion 1CHAPTER 1: EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH FELLOWSHIP The Liberal Catholic Church 13CHAPTER 2: EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH UNDERSTANDING The Philosophical and Theological Roots of the Liberal Catholic Church 33CHAPTER 3: EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH TRADITION Christ in the Liberal Catholic Church Tradition 89CHAPTER 4: EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH LIBERAL CATHOLIC EXPRESSION Christ in the Liberal Catholic Liturgy 127CHAPTER 5: EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH ENCOUNTER The Christ of the Author’s Personal Encounter and Experience and the Future of the Liberal Catholic Church 174BIBLIOGRAPHY 211 ii
  • PREFACEThe primary focus of this thesis is an examination and exploration of the various notions orconcepts of “Christ” as understood in The Liturgy According to the Use of the LiberalCatholic Church (“The Liturgy”), especially in the context of the services of the HolyEucharist, the Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, and Healing, as contained in TheLiturgy. However, in order to fully comprehend and appreciate the former, it is necessaryto provide a context, that is, contextualize the subject-matter. Accordingly, the thesis willprovide the reader, in successive chapters, with various opportunities to experience theChrist through “just being”, fellowship, understanding, tradition, expression and encounter.It has been said that "words are only pictures of ideas on paper".1 Unfortunately, wordshave their inherent limitations, and, as Professor John Anderson constantly said, nothingcan be meaningfully defined by reference to the relations it has with other things.2 Thedifficulty is even worse when it comes to matters pertaining to spirituality and what may bereferred to as the ineffable, for that is ultimately indescribable and inexpressible … but itcan be experienced, albeit as “Mystery Present”, provided one always keeps in mind that“[t]he mind is the great slayer of the Real ... Let the disciple slay the slayer.”3On a more mundane note, references in this thesis to page numbers of The Liturgy arereferences to the 5th (1983) edition of The Liturgy. By way of special note, full points incontractions and between the letters of acronyms and abbreviations consisting of initialcapitals, together with any superadded punctuation marks (eg full points commas), havebeen omitted from all textual material including quotations, case extracts and all otherexcerpted material. Some other very minor stylistic word and spelling changes toexcerpted and quoted material have been made either to assist in reading or forconsistency’s sake. Unnecessary capitalization has been avoided as far as practicable,except when referring to God or, depending upon the context, certain attributes or qualitiesordinarily associated with or deemed equivalent in meaning to God (eg Love, Wisdom,Truth, Power, Presence, Personality, the Absolute, and so forth). For the most part,1 Fell v Fell (1922) 31 CLR 268 at 276 per Isaacs J, citing Wilmot CJ in Dodson v Grew (1767) Wilm 272 at278, 97 ER 106 at 108.2 See, eg, “Realism and Some of its Critics”, in Anderson (1962:42).3 H P Blavatsky, “Fragment One”, The Voice of the Silence, in J Algeo (intro), Inspirations from AncientWisdom: At the Feet of the Master/Light on the Path/The Voice of the Silence (Wheaton IL: TheosophicalPublishing House (Quest Books)), p 73. iii
  • original spellings have been retained. This has resulted in some otherwise unavoidableinconsistency of expression.Scriptures quotations in this thesis are primarily from the King James (Authorized) Versionof the Bible. In some cases, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible and certain otherversions of the Bible have been used.Penultimately, although the author is committed to the use of gender-neutral language,quotations from writings (particularly older ones) in which one gender is used have beenprinted as originally written.Finally, the views and opinions expressed by the author in this thesis are those of theauthor and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of, and should not beattributed to, the Liberal Catholic Church in any of its various provinces. Ian Ellis-Jones 14 June 2009 iv
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTSMy deep gratitude goes to those who offered support and encouragement on the project,particularly my dear wife Elspeth, my three children Fiona, Simon and Peter, and my son-in-law Mark.I also wish to thank, most especially, the Right Reverend Pedro Oliveira, and the VeryReverend Dr Ronald A Rivett, the latter a former Vicar-General of the Liberal Catholic Churchin Australia, who have believed in and inspired me, and who have shared with me so much oftheir wisdom and knowledge over the years.Very special and heartfelt thanks are also due to the Reverend Dr Arthur F Mowle, Director,Liberal Catholic Institute of Studies, for suggesting the title and topic areas of this thesis aswell as the wording of the various chapter headings, and for furnishing invaluable readingmaterial. I will always be grateful for his encouragement, kind words, wise counsel and adviceduring the preparation of this thesis and otherwise. I also wish to thank most sincerely theRight Reverend Graham Preston, Regionary Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church in theProvince of Australasia (including Indonesia) for his encouragement, support and wisecounsel.I have also learned much from my many friends at the Liberal Catholic Church of SaintFrancis, Gordon NSW in the years since I first started attending services there on a regularbasis in 1985.Thanks are also due to my good friends Ross Bowey, Peter Hutchison and Michael Martin, allof whom know that there is more to life than the temporal and the visible, and to MelindaAitkenhead for her IT technical assistance.This thesis is dedicated to my late parents, Harry and Phyl, who believed in me and taughtme to be honest and always to strive for the best. From them I learned that there can be truereligion, faith and objective moral values without dogmatism, fundamentalism, cant andhypocrisy. v
  • ABSTRACTThe aim of this thesis is to examine and explore the various notions or concepts of “Christ”as understood in The Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church, especially in the context of theservices of the Holy Eucharist, the Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, and Healing,as contained in The Liturgy. That is the primary focus of the thesis. However, in order tofully comprehend and appreciate the former, it is necessary to contextualize the subject-matter. Accordingly, the thesis will provide the reader, in successive chapters, with variousopportunities to experience the Christ through “just being”, fellowship, understanding,tradition, expression and encounter.As we have and receive our be-ing, our very livingness, from God which is the source andsubstance of all life and the ground of all being, the thesis begins with an examination ofthe meaning and purpose of religion, and regard is had to what a number of persons havehad to say about that matter over the centuries. Insofar as the Liberal Catholic Church isconcerned, the Church’s first Presiding Bishop James I Wedgwood wrote that the “purpose”of religion was “to ‘bind us back’ to God, the source of our being; to bring us back intoconscious relation with our spiritual self and to open for us the resources of our own higherand spiritual consciousness”. As regards the object of church worship Bishop Wedgwoodreferred once again to the “binding back” to God and to our spiritual nature, but he wentfurther, making the point that religion was “concerned with the awakening of those higherpowers of consciousness which are still chiefly latent within man, with the instruction of hismind and even with the fashioning of the physical body”. In what is a distinctive, and perhapsunique, Liberal Catholic perspective on the object and purpose of church worship, Wedgwoodwrote that a church service is a “service” rendered both to God and to the whole world inwhich we live in which we “take our share in His work of pouring out strength and blessingupon the world”.In the first chapter of the thesis, the nature of the Liberal Catholic Church is examined andexplored. The Liberal Catholic Church is not only a church but also a Christian church anddenomination, an independent Catholic and Apostolic church, a sacramental church in theCatholic tradition, a liberal church, a mystical church, and a church in the Platonic andNeoplatonic traditions. Each of those features or distinguishing characteristics of theLiberal Catholic Church is addressed seriatim. vi
  • The second chapter of the thesis explores the philosophical and theological roots of theLiberal Catholic Church, which has sought to recover and establish to its rightful place inCatholic Christianity what was described by the third Presiding Bishop of the Church,Frank W Pigott, as the “lost Gnosis”. The view of the present writer is that the so-called“lost gnosis”, the true Ancient Wisdom underlying all religion properly interpreted, whenfreed of carnalization, literalism and various external accretions and corrupting influences,is to be found most immediately and directly in early Greek patristic philosophy andtheology, especially that rooted and grounded in the philosophical and theologicaltraditions of Platonism and Neoplatonism, which themselves were built upon thefoundations of the Ancient Mysteries.Theosophy may have been the means by which the Liberal Catholic Church came intobeing, and arguably the inspiration for its coming into being, but it is not Theosophy thatunderpins and provides a theological foundation for the Church being a church, and aChristian one at that, but the very roots of Christianity itself as expressed by thoseChristians whose theology was rooted in Platonism and Neoplatonism. The early GreekChurch Fathers, like modern day Liberal Catholics, had a high vision of humankind andexpounded our innate divinity and potential. They believed in the oneness of all life, andtheir philosophical and theological system explained how the One becomes the many sothat the many may know themselves to be one, and in time come to know the Self as one.In the third chapter of the thesis there is a fulsome exposition of the different senses inwhich the word “Christ” is, and has been, used in the Liberal Catholic Church. Consistentwith its Platonic and Neoplatonic roots, and its esoteric approach to the interpretation,construction and application of Sacred Scripture, the Christ can mean any one or more ofthe following Persons, Beings or Principles in the Liberal Catholic tradition, all of whichmay be seen as manifestations of the Godhead through a process of emanations in asuccessive diversity of being while maintaining its essential unity: the “Historical Jesus”,the “Historical Christ”, the “Mythic (or “Pagan”) Christ”, the “Cosmic Christ”, the “MysticChrist”, and the “Anonymous Christ”. Those mentioned are certainly not mutuallyexclusive. Indeed, many overlap and coalesce. Each of the above is considered in turn,both in the third chapter of the thesis and in the fourth chapter as well relating to theLiturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church. There is also what is known as the “Eucharistic vii
  • Lord” whose Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar and in the service of Benedictionof the Blessed Sacrament is also considered in Chapter 3 of the thesis. Finally, there is the“Christ of Personal Encounter and Experience”, which forms a substantial part of thesubject of Chapter 5 of the thesis.The writer does not eschew esoteric approaches to understanding and encounteringChrist (in particular, what is often referred to as the “indwelling Christ” or “Christ within”).However, without the historical Jesus we have no real way of conceptualizing the moreesoteric approaches to Christ. In the words of one Liberal Catholic priest of yesteryear,“We cannot follow a God, we can only follow a man.” Jesus authenticates, actualizes andmakes real and possible for us what is otherwise not only inscrutable but unattainable.This has so often been overlooked or even openly repudiated by Liberal Catholics, yet theChurch’s second Presiding Bishop Charles W Leadbeater made it clear that the life ofJesus Christ is “the prototype” of the life of all of his followers, and that each of us must“pass through those stages, those steps, those initiations through which Christ [himself]passed”.In the fourth chapter of the thesis the writer examines and explores the various senses inwhich the Christ is referred to in the Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church. As alreadymentioned, the Liberal Catholic Church is a sacramental church, and one of the majoraims or objectives of sacramental worship is to assist in one’s spiritual growth anddevelopment, as well as that of others, indeed (especially, but by no means exclusively, inthe Liberal Catholic tradition) the whole universe. Further, what makes the Liberal CatholicChurch very special is the emphasis it gives as a church in its Liturgy to the easternwisdom tradition whilst also retaining much of the language, thought forms and teaching ofthe Western tradition. This is, in the opinion of the writer, altogether appropriate, given thatthe real Jesus was a man of the East who belongs as much to Asia as to the West.For the Liberal Catholic, the sacraments are an integral part of “the mysteries of God" (1Cor 4:1), and the Ancient Wisdom itself. Special regard is had to the services of the HolyEucharist, Solemn Benediction and Healing. Each is seen to be a ritual-drama in whichwords or rather “The Word” becomes flesh and empowers all who reverently seek, not justfor themselves but for others, the experience of the Living Christ offered by the services.Indeed, it is only in self-surrender, in moving from a sense of self to a sense of non-self, viii
  • that there is any hope of spiritual and emotional growth and development, let alone healingof body, mind, soul and spirit.In the fifth and final chapter of the thesis the writer expresses his own understanding of theChrist, who is both the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith as well as the IndwellingPresence of God, the very livingness and self-givingness of Life Itself in whom we all liveand move and have our being. The writer then goes on to discuss the future of the LiberalCatholic Church and discusses two important things the Church needs to do in order tosurvive, especially in Australia. First, the Liberal Catholic Church needs to rediscover, orperhaps discover the first time, the true Jesus, and the true meaning of the Kingdom ofGod, without simply being another liberal Christian Church. Secondly, the Church needs toremain a mystical, sacramental and healing Christian church in the Catholic tradition but ina way which not only provides a vehicle for the continuance and promulgation of theAncient Wisdom or gnosis but which more fully takes into account and synthesizes suchmatters as the “new physics”, psychology and other disciplines and techniques such astranspersonal psychology. ix
  • INTRODUCTION EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH JUST BEING The Meaning and Purpose of Religion*It is often said, in various ways in different religions, that we come from God, howeverdescribed or understood, we belong to God, we are a part of God in the sense that we liveand move and have our being in God, and we are on our way back to God. It has also beensaid that the One (“Being-Itself” or “Life-IT-self”) becomes the many in order that the manymay know themselves to be One. In short, God is - we are. As Swami Vivekananda 4 wrote([1976] 2002:109), “Religion comes when that actual realization in our own souls begins.”Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood, the first Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church,who understood with great clarity that as we have our be-ing in God, religion has everythingto do with the Ground of Being in all of its various manifestations, wrote (1929:16): We penetrate straight to the essential core of religion if we study its etymology. The word [religion] itself has a wonderful significance. There is little doubt amongst authorities as to its origin, but opinions reduce themselves to two likely derivations, with the balance of probability resting on the former. Both are capable of the same interpretation. These are (1) religare = to bind back (2) relegere, which bears the sense of “sailing back over the same waters.”Wedgwood is right to stress the fundamental importance of studying the etymologicalmeaning and derivation of the word “religion” in order to gain insight into the object,purposes, functions and endpoint of religion. Regrettably, the derivation of the English word"religion" is by no means as clear as the learned bishop would have us believe, 5 but we do4 * Some of the material contained in this Introduction first appeared in Ellis-Jones (2007). * Swami Vivekananda, one of the most influential and beloved interfaith leaders of all time, spoke at theParliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago USA in 1893. In his speech Vivekananda quoted, amongother things, the following two passages from the Bhagavad-Gîtâ: "As the different streams having their sourcesin different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, throughdifferent tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!"; "Whosoever comes toMe, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me."5 “Concerning the etymology of [religio], various opinions were prevalent among the ancients.” Lewis and ShortLatin Dictionary, viewed December 16 2004, <>. The word religio refers to “what attaches or retains, moral bond,anxiety of self-consciousness, scruple”: see McCarson (2002:Online). Religio also refers to “supernaturalconstraint, sanction, religious practice”. “Initially used for Christianity, the use of the word religion graduallyextended to all the forms of social demonstration in connection with sacred.” 1
  • know that the current English word is derived from the Middle English word religioun whichcomes from the Old French word religion.6Now, according to Julia Cybele Lansberry (2003:Online) the Latin word religio7 (a wordused to refer to “respect, devotion or superstition”8 as well as “supernatural constraint,sanction, religious practice”9) has affinities with three separate Latin verbs: • religare, to restrain, bind, bind back, bind up, bind fast together, tie back (especially to oneself again), from ligare, to tie, close a deal, cement an alliance, unite in harmony • relegare, to banish, from legare, to depute, commission, send as an emissary, bequeath, entrust • relegere, to gather, collect again, review, re-read, re-examine carefully, from legere, to read, recite, or choose.10Birnbaum (1964:588) has this to say about the matter: The term [religion] is usually derived from the Latin verb, religere: the conscientious fulfillment of duty, awe of higher powers, deep reflection. The related noun religio refers to both the object of such inner preoccupation, and the goal of the activity associated with it. Another, later, Latin verb has been cited as a source of the term: religare, implying a close and lasting relationship to the supernatural. The scriptures of the various religions hardly contain general terms for religion.However, the Roman philosopher, lawyer and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero derivedreligion, not from religere, religio or religare, but from relegere [root “leg-“] (to treat carefully,referring to re-reading):6 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, viewed 30 November 2004, <http:///>.7 In poetry also relligio, to lengthen the first syllable. Bouquet (1942:15) has correctly noted that “from very earlytimes scholars have been divided as to its basic meaning”.8 JRV Marchant and JF Charles, eds, Cassells Latin Dictionary, London: Cassell and Co, p 478.9 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, viewed 30 November 2004, <http:///>.10 Julia Cybele Lansberry, “De Religione Romana”, viewed 21 December 2004,<>. Confirmatory support for the etymology of all three (viz ligare, legare,and legere, cf re: back) can be found in Merriam-Webster Online: see the entries for the English words “rely”,viewed 21 December 2004, <>, and “legate”,viewed 21 December 2004, <>, “legible”,viewed 21 December 2004, <>, respectively. 2
  • Those who carefully took in hand all things pertaining to the gods were called religiosi, from relegere.11Fowler (1998:Online) has written in relation to relegere: Some have suggested that "religion" may be derived from the Latin word relegere, which refers to re-reading. There is no doubt that "religion" is often associated with repetitious rites of liturgy and litany, and the reproduction of creedal formulas and expressions. …However, Fowler goes on to note: … Most etymologists, however, regard the English word "religion" to be derived from the Latin word religare which is closely aligned with the root word religo. [John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins, New York: Arcade Pub, 1990, p 438.] The prefix re- means "back" or "again," and the word ligare refers to "binding, tying or attaching." Other English words such as "ligature," referring to "something that is used to bind," and "ligament" which "binds things together," evidence the same root in the Latin word ligare. The Latin word religare, from which our English word "religion" is most likely derived, meant "to tie back" or "to bind up."Support for that view comes from the Roman grammarian Maurus Servius Honoratus, 12 aswell as the early Christian scholar Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius, who derivedreligion from religare [root “lig-“] (to bind, in the sense of bind back or together):13 We are tied to God and bound to Him [religati] by the bond of piety, and it is from this, and not, as Cicero holds, from careful consideration [relegendo], that religion has received its name.14Bishop Wedgwood, writing on the Latin word religare, says (1929:17)11 De natura deorum, II, xxviii, 72. According to Lewis and Short this is “an etymology favored by the verse citedap Gell 4, 9, 1, religentem esse oportet, religiosum nefas”. Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, viewed 16December 2004, <>.12 Ad Verg A, 8, 349. See Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, viewed 16 December 2004,<>.13 Religare also means to restrain, tie back: see Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, viewed November 30 2004,<http:///>. “The root word in Latin, however, has nothing to do withorganizations and systems; those are the structures which have developed from some religious experience andwhich often as not lose the true meaning of the word religion in becoming too concretized and rigid. The Latinword ‘religare,’ from which ‘religion’ is derived, simply means ‘to bind back.’ Thus, the religious function in thetruest sense of the word is that which binds us back to the original wholeness from which we came.” McCarson(2002:Online).14 Divine Institutes, IV, xxviii. For this derivation Lactantius cites the expression of Lucretius (1, 931: 4, 7):religionum nodis animos exsolvere. See Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, viewed 16 December 2004,<>.Tertullianus also saw the origin of the word in religare. 3
  • It is worth noticing the special significance of the prefix “re-” in “religare.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives a number of meanings which the prefix bears, of which the ninth is:- “Back, with return to previous state after lapse or cessation or occurrence of opposite state or action.” What could be more apposite?The expert on comparative religion A C Bouquet (1942:15), after citing both the views ofCicero (root “leg-“) and Servius (root “lig-“), states: Subsequently it seems to have carried both meanings, for St Augustine the Great uses it in both senses. It is, however, most likely that the earlier one (whether or not we dislike it) was the original, since it is the exact counterpart of a Greek word (paratērēsis) which means “the scrupulous observation of omens and the performance of ritual”. …Be that as it may, Saint Augustine of Hippo appears also to have derived religion fromreligere (which refers to, among other things, recovering):15 having lost God through neglect [negligentes], we recover Him [religentes] and are drawn to Him.16Later, however, Augustine abandoned that view in favour of the derivation previously givenby Servius and Lactantius (viz religare).17 In On the True Religion Augustine says: Religion binds us [religat] to the one Almighty God.18H P Blavatsky, who cofounded the Theosophical Society in New York City in September1875, acknowledges both the derivations relegere and religare: … whether this term be derived from the Latin word relegere, “to gather, or be united” in speech or in thought, from religens, “revering the gods,” or, from religare, “to be bound fast together.”1915 Yinger (1970:10) writes that the word religere also means to rehearse, to execute painstakingly, suggesting“both group identity and ritual”.16 City of God, X, iii.17 See Retractions, I, xiii. The Collins English Dictionary states that “religion” derives one of its meanings fromthe root words re and ligare, meaning “to bind or tie back to oneself again”: Hayward (1995:17).18 On the True Religion. Larue (2003:Online) writes: “The idea may reflect a concept prominent in biblicalliterature. Israel was said to be in a ‘covenant’ (berith) relationship with its God (Yahweh). In a sense, thenation was ‘covenanted’ or ‘bonded’ to the deity.”19 Lucifer, January/February 1891. 4
  • The scholarly Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the Doctors of the Church, lists the derivationsrelegere, religare and religere without favour.20 However, according to The CatholicEncyclopedia the correct one “seems to be that offered by Lactantius [viz religare]”:21 Religion in its simplest form implies the notion of being bound to God; the same notion is uppermost in the word religion in its most specific sense, as applied to the life of poverty, chastity, and obedience to which individuals voluntarily bind themselves by vows more or less solemn. Hence those who are thus bound are known as religious.22The Theosophist De Purucker (1996:148) favours the root derivation religio: It is usual among modern Europeans to derive the word religion from the Latin verb meaning “to bind back” -- religare. But there is another derivation ... from a Latin root meaning “to select,” “to choose” ... [Derived] from the Latin religio, [religion] means a careful selection of fundamental beliefs and motives by the higher or spiritual intellect, a faculty of intuitional judgment and understanding, and a consequent abiding by that selection, resulting in a course of life and conduct in all respects following the convictions that have been arrived at. This is the religious spirit.23Fowler (1998) has written this about the word religio: Religio was a recognition that men are often tied or bound to God in reverence or devotion. It can also convey the meaning of being bound or tied to a set of rules and regulations, to rituals of devotion, to a creedal belief-system, or to a cause, ideology, or routine.2420 See Summa, II-II, Q lxxxi, a 1.21 Religion: I Derivation, Analysis, and Definition, The Catholic Encyclopedia, viewed 1 December 2004, <>. “Modern etymologists mostly agree with this later view, assuming asroot lig, to bind … .” Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, viewed 16 December 2004,<>.22 Religion: I Derivation, Analysis, and Definition, The Catholic Encyclopedia, viewed 1 December 2004, <>.23 Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (Cleveland and New York,The World Publishing Company, 1950), after noting the French religion, also cites the Latin religio (-onis),stating: “… from religare, to bind back; re, and ligare, to bind, to bind together. Others derive religio fromrelegere, to gather, to collect, making the primary meaning a collection, and then more specifically a collectionof religious formulas”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 3rd ed (Oxford, 1934) agrees (“L religio perh[aps]connected w[ith] re(ligare bind)”). What does seem clear is that religio itself comes from something else, eitherreligare or relegere: see Wedgwood (1929:16).24 According to Lewis and Short religio has the following meanings (among others): “I. Reverence for God (thegods), the fear of God, connected with a careful pondering of divine things; piety, religion, both pure inward pietyand that which is manifested in religious rites and ceremonies; hence the rites and ceremonies, as well as theentire system of religion and worship, the res divinae or sacrae, were frequently called religio or religions (cf ouruse of the word religion) … II. Transf. A. Subject, conscientiousness, scrupulousness arising from religion,religious scruples, scruples of conscience, religious awe, etc (cf sanctimonia) … 2. In gen., a strictscrupulousness, anxiety, punctiliousness, conscientiousness, exactness, etc. … B. Object. 1. Abstr, theholiness, sacredness, sanctity inhering in any religious object (a deity, temple, utensils, etc; cf sanctitas) … 2.Concr, an object of religious veneration, a sacred place or thing … (b). A system of religious belief, a religion(late Lat) …” Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, viewed December 16 2004, <>. 5
  • The rationalist Thomas Paine (2004:Online) had earlier favoured the related cognate wordreligo: The word religion is a word of forced application when used with respect to the worship of God. The root of the word is the Latin verb ligo, comes religo, to tie or bind over again, to make more fast - from religo, comes the substantive religo, which, with the addition of n makes the English substantive religion. The French use the word properly: when a woman enters a convent she is called a novitiate, that is, she is tied or bound by that oath to the performance of it. We use the word in the same kind of sense when we say we will religiously perform the promise that we make. But the word, without referring to its etymology, has, in the manner it is used, no definite meaning, because it does not designate what religion a man is of. There is the religion of the Chinese, of the Tartars, of the Brahmins, of the Persians, of the Jews, of the Turks, etc.25Birnbaum (1964:588) has astutely observed that: The complex etymology of the term is not fortuitous: the complexity and diversity of human religions, as well as the profound and ambivalent feelings they arouse, have produced a heterogeneous set of scientific definitions of the phenomenon. Usually, and perhaps inevitably, these definitions include evaluative assumptions: many emphasize unduly one aspect of religious systems. …Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Harrison 1960:441) makes the point: The etymology of the term does not help, both because it is uncertain and because neither religare nor religere throws much light on the present meaning of religion.Nevertheless, when one considers the meanings of the various suggested derivations (viz,relegare, relegere, religare, religere, religio, and religo) there appear to be some commonelements or at least similar themes: 1. Religion involves, at one or more levels, the notion of “binding together” or “binding back”, whether to oneself (in the sense of one’s true or spiritual nature), one’s ultimate “source” (eg God, Be-ing) or to other people as some sort of response to life, with a sense of awe, reverence, “fear”, devotion, veneration and respect, whereby meaning is gained.25 The word religo means “to tie or fasten” (see J R V Marchant and J F Charles (eds), Cassells LatinDictionary, London: Cassell and Co, p 478) refers to regulation and control, “good faith”, “rite” and “ritual” as wellas having other meanings. Noah Webster, in his American Dictionary of the English Language, was also of theview that the English word “religion” was derived from “Religo, to bind anew”. 6
  • 2. Religion involves, at one or more levels, the notions of “return”, “recovery”, “restoration” and “re-encounter” (whether to one’s own self, some condition or way of life, or one’s ultimate home or resting place, hence Bishop Wedgwood’s references to “sailing back over the same waters” (1929:16), and to the object and purpose of religion being “to restore to man the knowledge of what he really is” (1929:17)), with an attendant and consequential sense of value and importance. 3. Religion involves the selection and systematization of fundamental beliefs and motives and a consequent abiding by that selection with some degree of regulation and control (eg in the form of codes of conduct) as well as conscientiousness and scrupulousness arising from the religion and inherent as well in its practice. 4. Religion involves the notion of ties in the sense of the fulfillment of duties and commitment. 5. Religion also involves practices and activities to give effect to the foregoing including but not limited to repetitious rites and the reproduction of formulas and expressions. 6. Religion involves notions of holiness, sacredness and sanctity (including but not limited to sacred places or things and objects of veneration) and often involves supernaturalism or superstition.Thus, Birnbaum (1964:588) has concisely written: … Religions are systems of belief, practice, and organization which shape an ethic manifest in the behaviour of their adherents.The present writer has elsewhere concluded (see Ellis-Jones 2007) that, ultimately, anygiven religion comprises an amalgam of faith-based ideas, beliefs, practices and activitieswhich include: • doctrine, dogma, teachings or principles to be accepted on faith and on authority, • a set of sanctioned ideals and values in terms of expected ethical standards and behavior and moral obligations, and • various experientially based forms, ceremonies, usages and techniques 7
  • perceived to be of spiritual or transformative power, all of which are based upon faith in a Power, Presence, Being or Principle,and which are: • directed towards a celebration of that which is perceived to be not only ultimate but also divine, holy or sacred, and • manifest in and supported by a body of persons (consisting of one or more faith- based communities) established to give practical expression to those ideas, beliefs, practices and activities.Although it is always dangerous to reduce a religion, or any type of belief system for thatmatter, to the functions it supposedly serves, partly because any belief system tends to servea considerable number of functions, partly because functionalism by its very nature isinherently reductionistic, and also because there would not appear to be any clear-cut lineseparating religion from non-religion, it is generally agreed (see, especially, Yinger 1970:7,15, 33) that religion serves many functions. The present author is primarily concerned withhow some prominent Liberal Catholics have seen and described the functions of their religion.Bishop Wedgwood discusses a number of them in his helpful book The Larger Meaning ofReligion (1929). First, he writes of the “purpose” of religion per se (1929:17): It is the purpose of religion to “bind us back” to God, the source of our being; to bring us back into conscious relation with our spiritual self and to open for us the resources of our own higher and spiritual consciousness.26In essence, that is also the primary, but not the only, object of church worship itself.Wedgwood (1929:47) has this to say about that matter: I take it that the object of church worship is to “bind back” (Lat. = religare) man to God, and to his spiritual nature which represents what is godlike in himself. The church services are designed to this end ... [for it is] the instinct natural to man to give praise and to lift himself up to God.However, Wedgwood also makes the point that (1929:21) Religion is not only an affair of devotion and religious aspiration. It is concerned with the awakening of those higher powers of consciousness which are still chiefly latent26 Emphasis added. 8
  • within man, with the instruction of his mind and even with the fashioning of the physical body. The perfected man would be the finished product of religion, rightly understood, would have a physical body trained to express as adequately as possible the whole gamut of emotions, thoughts, intuition, creative energy and so forth. It is evident, therefore, that religion is concerned even with the good health of the bodily vehicle, and with fashioning it into a proper expression of the indwelling spirit.The purpose of all this goes beyond what might be referred to as enlightened self-interest.Indeed, it is very doubtful whether the latter would be religious in any true sense of the word atall. Thus, Wedgwood stresses the point that worship “does not concern the individual alone”(1929:58). He goes on to make the point that worship is also for the benefit of the “outsideworld” as well, saying (1929:58-59): It is not entirely a question of giving “worth-ship” to God, or of deriving strength, encouragement, love and illumination for oneself. It is also a matter of worship for the outside world, and, let me add, of working very hard, if one really understands what a prodigious work one is enabled and entitled to do.Wedgwood also writes of the nature of a church “service” (1929:59): We could use no better word than “service.” A church service is a “service” rendered to the world in which we live, and it is equally a “service” rendered to God because we are privileged in being able to co-operate with Him, and to take our share in His work of pouring out strength and blessing upon the world.Theosophist and Liberal Catholic priest Geoffrey Hodson has made the same point,expressing the view (1930:19) that ... the Church must be regarded as the most powerful agent for good in the life of a nation – the nation’s greatest asset – and its work as of paramount importance to every member of the race. The mission of the Church must no longer be regarded as limited to the performance of a certain number of ceremonies on certain days, but rather to the establishment everywhere of spiritual centres, whose radiant power and blessing shall illumine and enrich the national life, inspire every good work, and ceaselessly exert an influence for the spiritualizing of mankind.Similarly, Bishop Charles W Leadbeater, the second Presiding Bishop of the Liberal CatholicChurch, wrote that every time the Service of the Holy Eucharist is celebrated in a LiberalCatholic Church “there passes forth into the world a wave of peace and strength, the effect ofwhich can hardly be overrated”, and that such was the “primary object” of the Service(Leadbeater [1920/1929/1967] 1967:3). He went further, saying that each of the greatservices of the Church (but most especially the Eucharist) “was originally designed to buildup a mighty ordered form, expressing and surrounding a central idea – a form which would 9
  • facilitate and direct the radiation of the influence upon the entire village which was groupedround the church” (1967:7).27The present writer is reverently agnostic with respect to some of the foregoing, but is preparedto accept, with certain reservations, what is not otherwise self-evidently or intuitively true as aworking hypothesis, and as what Wedgwood referred to as “revealed knowledge”, that is,knowledge that “has to be accepted on faith, because it transcends the limitations of ourminds” (Wedgwood 1929:10), whilst ever remaining open to “the experience of the divine ... ofthe ultimate, of reality, of life, of truth, [that] is beyond all discussion” (van der Leeuw1930:Online) that may well contradict or supersede the supposed revealed knowledge. Early“foundational” Liberal Catholics tended to view their Church in overly optimistic, euphoric, andeven apocalyptic, terms. Sadly, if we judge by present day appearances, we Liberal Catholicsappear to have failed spectacularly as a church, but we are cautioned by Holy Scripture to“judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24). Further, ourmain concern ought to be that “Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith ... being rootedand grounded in love” (Eph 3:17), for “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain thatbuild it” (Ps 127:1a; cf Liturgy 224) ... words that perhaps have become overly familiar to us tothe point where we have lost sight of their true significance and meaning.One of the major tasks of any religion is, or at least ought to be, to provide opportunities formembers and adherents, and even others as well, to experience this sense and power ofoneness and the numinous. Ritual (or “ceremonial”)28 has been shown to have enormoustransformative power (see, eg, Watts 1968; Williamson 1994), and the present writer hasfound in The Liturgy According to the Use of the Liberal Catholic Church29 that the words (or“Word”) contained therein, when read, spoken, intoned or sung, possess and release atransformative and ennobling Power that is truly “divine”, even in the sense used by thegreat Humanist Sir Julian Huxley (1964:223):27 It would appear that Bishops Wedgwood and Leadbeater, and many other Theosophists and metaphysiciansof that era (not to mention some to the present day), were influenced to a large extent by not only thephilosophy of idealism (in either or both of its subjective and objective forms) but also neo-vitalism, that is, therevival of vitalism that occurred particularly in the second half of the 19 th century at least in part as a reaction towhat was otherwise an increasing materialism, rationalism and positivism in matters pertaining to the sciencesand philosophy in general. Platt (1982:114) refers to Leadbeater’s belief in “the monistic principle of the vitalbeing present in all things” as expounded in The Science of the Sacraments.28 Wedgwood consistently preferred the word “ceremonial”, which he defined as “the intelligent use of forms thatthey may be the best expression of the life” (1928b:Online).29 “Liturgy” means “public work”, or public work with “energy”: see Blanch (1971:8). 10
  • For want of a better, I use the term divine, though this quality of divinity is not truly supernatural but transnatural – it grows out of ordinary nature, but transcends it. The divine is what man finds worthy of adoration, that which compels his awe.In a similar vein, Dr N T Wright, a most eminent Anglican bishop and Biblical scholar who isa conservative evangelical,30 is one of many current religionists who seek to avoidaltogether notions of supernaturalism because of their inherent problems.31 He writes(1992b:80): The great divide between the “natural” and the “supernatural”, certainly in the way we use those words today, comes basically from the eighteenth century, bringing with it the whole debate about “miracles”.Bishop Wright goes on to say (1992b:81): But what if the God who made the world has remained active within the world? What if the word “God” itself might refer, not to this distant, remote, occasionally- intervening Being, but to a God who breathed with the breath of the world? … This is a very different picture from the eighteenth-century one; it is much more Biblical. It puts the question of “God” acting within the world into quite a different dimension.In other words, if the God of Wright’s understanding does, in fact, exist, and is active in ourworld, then anything done by that God would not be supernatural at all. In a similar vein, butfrom a very different religious perspective, namely that of New Thought, Nona L Brookswrites “there is no supernatural, for the natural is God in action” ([1924] 1977:Online).32The nature of our experience of the Divine is a complex and much debated one. Some(see, eg, Jenkins (1966:59-60)) see it as “existential” in nature, whilst others (see, eg,Mouroux (1954:9-15)) view it as “experiential”. Both Jenkins and Mouroux refer to thisexperience as being an “interpersonal” (albeit primordial) one - which, in the view of the30 N T Wright is the Anglican Bishop of Durham in England.31 For example, to say that something is "supernatural", that is "not natural", says nothing. It is simply statingwhat the supposed entity is not. It says nothing about what it supposedly is. Further, how is it possible to speakmeaningfully about the supposed "infinite" acting in the finite, the non-temporal acting in time? The philosopherJohn Anderson (1962) explains why there can be only one order or level of reality in terms of "the “problem ofcommensurability", that is, any notion of there being different orders or levels of reality or truth is "contrary to thevery nature and possibility of discourse". Indeed, any concept of there being some higher or lower order or levelof reality is strictly meaningless and unspeakable, and if in fact there were more than one order of reality, howcould there be connections between them? The inherent weakness of so much esotericism (other than thoseideas and concepts which can readily be seen by ordinary persons as intuitively self-evident, eg the oneness ofall life), is that ideas and purported teachings of so-called supernatural beings or entities, as well as the beingsand entities themselves, cannot be shown to have any objective referent. See van der Leeuw (1930:Online).See, generally, Ellis-Jones (2001).32 See “The Mystery of Healing”, <> (viewed 2 April 2009). 11
  • present writer, tends to imply anthropomorphic and anthropopassionate notions of God -although both of the above mentioned writers are at pains to point out that our experienceof the Divine is not one of the usual empirical (subject/object) kind because God is not anobject, but a Presence. Thus, our experience of the Divine is an inner and spiritual one of“creaturehood” with attendant notions of awe, reverence, wonder, gratitude, humility,devotion and love. Both of these ideas are, as will be seen, very much in the LiberalCatholic tradition, for the God we worship is both transcendent and immanent, with theexperience of God being both intimate and ultimate in nature,33 for, as the Apostle Paulwrote, “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Those words describewhat is referred to as panentheism.34In Chapter 1 of this thesis (entitled “Experiencing the Christ Through Fellowship”) the writer willlook more closely at the nature of the Liberal Catholic Church. In Chapter 2 (“Experiencing theChrist Through Understanding”) the focus will be on the philosophical and theological roots ofthe Liberal Catholic Church, which, in the view of the writer, are to be found in the Platonic andNeoplatonic35 traditions of philosophical and theological thought. In Chapter 3 (“Experiencingthe Christ Through Tradition”) the focus will be on the various senses in which the word“Christ” is and has been used throughout the years in the Liberal Catholic tradition. In Chapter4 (“Experiencing the Christ Through Liberal Catholic Expression”) the special focus will be onthe presence and meaning of “Christ” in The Liturgy, particularly in the context of the servicesof the Holy Eucharist, the Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, and Healing. In Chapter5, the final chapter of the thesis, entitled “Experiencing the Christ Through Encounter”, thewriter will discuss the Christ of his own personal encounter and experience as well as thefuture of the Liberal Catholic Church.33 Unitarian Universalist theologian and author James Luther Adams (1901-1994), who taught at MeadvilleLombard, Harvard and Andover Newton seminaries, came up with two things that, he said, permit appreciationor recognition of a thing being a religion, or being religious: ultimacy, that is, a place to seek meaning about theultimate questions of life and death, and intimacy, that is a place to belong. See Small (2003).34 Panentheism (from the Greek πάν (“pan”), meaning “all”; en, meaning “in”; and theos, meaning “God”), that is,"all-in-God". Panentheism is the theological position that God, the ground of and for all being, is not onlyimmanent within the Universe but also transcends the Universe in such a way that not only is God in all thingsbut all things are also in God, but not such that all things are God. Panentheism is essentially a combination orconciliation of theism (God is the Supreme Being) and pantheism (God is everything).35 Throughout this thesis the words “Neoplatonic”, “Neoplatonism” and other cognate words will be spelled assuch, that is, non-hyphenated, for the sake of consistency of expression. This has required a number ofchanges to quoted material. 12
  • 13
  • CHAPTER 1 EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH FELLOWSHIP The Liberal Catholic ChurchIntroductionThe Liberal Catholic Church,36 first and foremost, is a “church”.37In the New Testament of the Christian Bible the word “church” is translated from the Greekword ekklēsia. That word comes from two words, ek meaning “out”, and kaleo meaning to“call”, “call out” or “invite”. Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (see Harrison [1960] 1972:123)states that the New Testament uses the word ekklēsia to refer to a congregation assembledby and called out by the Living God about Jesus, as well as “the spiritual family of God, theChristian fellowship created by the Holy Spirit through the testimony to the mighty acts ofGod in Christ Jesus”.An ekklēsia is thus no mere assembly or place of public assembly or public meeting,38 but acentre of worship of people who have been especially “called out” by God for Divinepurposes. As sometime Australian Liberal Catholic priest and Theosophist Brian Parry haspointed out (1967:10), “A church is not a body separate from those comprising it.”The Liberal Catholic Church is not only a church but also:36 The Liberal Catholic Church, which is one of some 30 or more Catholic Churches throughout the world whichare independent of Rome, came into existence as a result of a complete re-organization in 1915-16 on a moreliberal basis of the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain, the holy orders of which were derived from the OldCatholic Church of Holland which had disapproved of the papal dogmas of the immaculate conception in 1854and papal infallibility in 1870, but which was otherwise able to transmit its Apostolic Succession to the OldCatholic churches of Germany and Switzerland, and also to Great Britain. In the early years of the LiberalCatholic Church, the church was often referred to as “The Movement”, that is, a “movement within CatholicChristianity, not a new Church” (Wedgwood 1976b:133, fn 1). Except where otherwise stated, a reference in thisthesis to the Liberal Catholic Church is a reference to that church, known as such, the current Presiding Bishopof which is the Most Reverend Graham S Wale, and which has as one of its provinces throughout the world theProvince of Australasia (including Indonesia).37 The English word “church”, along with its cognate forms kirche, kerk, kirk, comes from the Greek adjective, tokuriakon, “used first of the house of the Lord, then of his people”: Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (see Harrison[1960] 1972:123).38 There are other Greek words such as agora, paneguris, heorte, koinon, thiasos, sunagoge and sunago thatcan be used to refer to a mere assembly as such. 14
  • • a Christian church and denomination • an independent Catholic and Apostolic church • a sacramental church in the Catholic tradition • a liberal church • a mystical church • a church in the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions.Each of the above features or distinguishing characteristics of the Liberal Catholic Churchwill be addressed seriatim.The Nature of the Liberal Catholic ChurchA Christian Church and DenominationThe Liberal Catholic Church sees itself as both a “Christian church” and a “Christiandenomination” - “part of the historical [Christian] Church” - which “seeks to work in amitywith all other Christian denominations”,39 and which “emphasises the values of corporateChristian life and worship”.40 It is “a living Christian Church, both progressive andhistorical”,41 that seeks “not only to commemorate a Christ who lived two thousand yearsago” but also “to serve as a vehicle for the eternal Christ who lives as a mighty spiritualpresence in the world, guiding and sustaining his people”.42 Liberal Catholic Bishop MarijnBrandt wrote (nd [but c1965]:Online): The Liberal Catholic Church ... has brought us a Christianity with freedom of belief, without fear, without exploitation, and with priests who have no power over people, and who do not receive any money, but who are only servants of their fellow-men.43Brandt (as above) also wrote that Bishops Charles W Leadbeater and James I Wedgwood,the Founding Bishops - as they are often so described - of the Liberal Catholic Church saw39 See Section 14 (Other Churches & Communions), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary ofDoctrine, 9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006).40 See Section 3 (Overall Perspective), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006).41 See Section 10 (Philosophical Background), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9thed (London: St Alban Press, 2006).42 See Section 3 (Overall Perspective), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006).43 Emphasis added. 15
  • their “mission”, as regards the bringing into existence of what was to become known as theLiberal Catholic Church, as having been as follows: Theosophy inspired them to bring about this regeneration of Christianity ...44Bishop Wedgwood was in no doubt that the Liberal Catholic Church was a Christian church,stating not only that the Liberal Catholic Church “is a Christian Church” but that “its worklies with Christianity” and “it is with the teaching and humble practice of this Christianheritage that the Liberal Catholic Church is chiefly occupied” (1919:13-14). Wedgwooddefined, or rather described, the religion of Christianity as follows (1929:54): Christianity is essentially a religion of fellowship. It took over the idea of corporate worship from the Jewish usages, and from the beginnings it practiced it. Except for gatherings at great festivals, Hinduism and Buddhism have nothing in common with this, and neither Hinduism, Buddhism nor Islam, have the same corporate singing and liturgical worship. Moreover, Christianity is a sacramental religion ... .In one publication of the Liberal Catholic Church it is stated: The Liberal Catholic Church seeks to give the world the best elements of Catholicism with the best of Protestantism.45Bishop Frank W Pigott, the third Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church,succeeding Bishop Leadbeater in that office, in the course of writing about various aspectsof the “ancient wisdom of the East” (such as the “oneness of life - God’s life and ours” andreincarnation) that Bishop Leadbeater had, according to Pigott, introduced into the LiberalCatholic Church, stated (1934:Online) that Leadbeater presented them in Christian form and so made clearer the great Christian doctrines which were becoming or had become meaningless to many a modern mind in the West. Thus through his work the Wisdom of the East flows into the great Christian religion as still another affluent.4644 Emphasis added. Admittedly, the Liberal Catholic Church was established as a special type of “Adventist”Church, formed to prepare for the coming of the World Teacher (the Lord Maitreya, the Christ) and to make itselfavailable for use by the World Teacher as a special means by which the World Teacher would help the worldwhen He came, with the Church “putting itself wholly into His hands as an instrument to be used at His Will”.However, whilst Theosophy, or a certain type of it, may have inspired the two Founding Bishops to bring into itsmodern incarnation the Liberal Catholic Church, that does not means that the Church is, or was ever intended tobe, a Theosophical church. That issue is addressed elsewhere in this thesis.45 What is the Liberal Catholic Church? (Ojai CA: St Alban Press, nd), np.46 Emphasis added. 16
  • A former Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, Ian R Hooker, has written(2000:Online): Notwithstanding his heavy reliance on the members and resources of The Theosophical Society, [Bishop] Wedgwood was not building a church just for theosophists. From the beginning he saw the [Liberal Catholic Church] as a haven for open-minded, liberally inclined Christians, no longer comfortable in mainstream churches. In time, he believed, these people would form the majority of Liberal Catholics.A “Christian” church? Yes, most definitely so, but not, as we shall later see, a “Theosophicalchurch”. Parry, himself a Theosophist, nevertheless expressed it rightly when he wrote(1967:10): The Christian community exists to serve the world; it can flourish only when it is aware of what is happening in the world and responds creatively. Christian history is the history of great men who responded to the challenge of the present – men like Aquinas, Wesley, Wedgwood and Leadbeater – and of faithless men who did not.Yes, the Liberal Catholic Church is a Christian church with a special focus and anunderstanding of the nature and purpose of all true religion. Thus, C B Hankinwrites (1945:17): Christianity was given to the world, as indeed all religions have been given, not simply as a guide-post straight from the pomps and vanities of this world to the perfection of a hereafter. It is a prime fault of our present religious system that so much stress has been laid upon belief, and so little upon knowledge; so much upon the merit of the Atonement, and so little upon the working out of our own salvation. We have developed a teaching which has externalised spirituality, and which has led us to place our reliance upon something outside ourselves for the attainment of perfection within.47In addition, right from its very beginnings, the Liberal Catholic Church, whilst professing itsChristian roots and foundation, made it clear, often in very strong, even polemic, language,what it saw as true and false Christianity respectively. Thus, in an early edition of theChurch’s hymnal we read (Liberal Catholic Church 1921:5): [The Liberal Catholic Church’s] central and paramount teaching is that God is Love and Light, and that in Him there is no darkness at all. Consequently it regards as blasphemous all assertions of hell and damnation, all prayers for salvation by blood, all ignoble cries for mercy, all expressions showing fear or doubt of the Loving Father. It holds that heaven is not a place but a state of consciousness, and47 Emphasis in the original. 17
  • that death is not a plunge into a dim unknown, but simply a passage into a higher and beautifully familiar life.As mentioned above, the Liberal Catholic Church sees itself as being a Christian“denomination”. Over the years, but more so in earlier years, various scholars on religionhave referred to the Church as being a “sect”. For example, Warren Christopher Platt, anAmerican Episcopalian (Anglican) priest, in his doctoral dissertation on the Liberal CatholicChurch (1982), took the position that the Liberal Catholic Church was a “sect”, as opposedto a “denomination”, and a hybrid one at that, being part “catholic” and part “Gnostic” (orTheosophical).48 The word “cult” is inherently pejorative, and in the eyes of the law allreligions are equal and are “cults”. In any event, as Emile Durkeim49 rightly pointed out([1912] 1954:47, 63), religion is “an eminently collective thing” and a religious organizationwas a “cult” in the true sense of the word: In reality, a cult is not a simple group of ritual precautions which a man is held to take in certain circumstances; it is a system of diverse rites, festivals and ceremonies which all have this characteristic, that they reappear periodically. They fulfil the need which the believer feels of strengthening and reaffirming, at regular intervals of time, the bond which unites him to the sacred beings upon which he depends.An Independent Catholic and Apostolic ChurchThe late Sten von Krusenstierna, a former Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church,has written (1963:1): We are a Catholic Church. Catholic – first taken in its meaning of universal. Secondly in its acquired meaning of the traditional Christian Church administering the Seven Sacraments, and founded on Apostolic Succession.As just mentioned, the Liberal Catholic Church is a “Catholic” church in the original,universal sense of that word, being part of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (TheCreed, Liturgy 210, 230). In A Concise Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Terms Eckel has this tosay about the word “catholic” (1960:15):48 Platt had regard to such factors as the Liberal Catholic Church’s eclecticism and esotericism, its earlyadventist stance, the Church’s own self-perspective, its sense of mission (as regards being the custodian of theco-called “lost Gnosis), its sometimes self-imposed isolationism from mainstream Christian churches, and soforth.49 Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) taught sociology at the University of Bordeaux and later educated on educationand sociology at the Sorbonne from 1902 until his death. In his monumental work The Elementary Forms ofReligious Life, which was first published in 1912, Durkheim used ethnological evidence from the Australiantribes to support and explain his theories. The bulk of The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life is a detailedstudy of primitive religion, more particularly indigenous Australian forms of cults and beliefs. 18
  • CATHOLIC. Means universal, all-embracing. The church is described in the creeds as catholic “because it is universal, holding earnestly the faith for all time, in all countries, and for all people, and is sent to preach the gospel to the whole world.” It is incorrect to refer to the Roman Catholic church exclusively as “The Catholic church,” for there are other catholic churches – the Uniat, Anglo-catholic, Greek, etc.The Liberal Catholic Church sees itself as being one limb of the “one holy catholic andapostolic church” which is also known and referred to as the Mystical Body of Christ50 ofwhich Christ is the founder, living head and eternal high priest. Bishop Pigott referred to theLiberal Catholic Church as being “distinct from other parts of the Catholic Church” but “notseparate from that Church” ([1925] 1927:8). He went further, stating that the LiberalCatholic Church was “not so much a new Church as a new part of the old Church” ([1925]1927:8). The Church, in its Statement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine, makes itclear how it sees itself in the sense referred to by Bishop Pigott: From its inception, The Liberal Catholic Church has sought to combine Catholic forms of worship - stately ritual, deep mysticism and witness to the reality of sacramental grace - with the widest measure of intellectual liberty, and respect for the individual conscience.51The Liberal Catholic Church, although a Catholic church, is “independent” in that theChurch is neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant nor Orthodox. However, the Church doesclaim to derive its holy orders from the Roman Catholic Church, via the Old Catholic Churchin Great Britain, which derived its orders from the Old Catholic archiepiscopal see of Utrechtin the Netherlands. The Liberal Catholic Church claims to have the benefit of unbrokenApostolic Succession, having “carefully preserved this succession of orders” throughout theensuing years.52 That doctrine, traditionally expressed, “asserts that the Gospel ispreserved in the Church by means of a lineal succession of bishops who have handeddown the truth from the beginning and who possess the teaching authority of the Apostlesthemselves” (Enloe: Online), that is, that the original twelve apostles (or disciples) passedon their authority to their successors and so on throughout the centuries.50 Many Liberal Catholics also use the phrase “the Mystical Body of Christ” to refer to the universe itself.51 See Section 1 (Introduction), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed (London: StAlban Press, 2006).52 As respects Liberal Catholic apostolic succession, see Wedgwood (1920; nd), Burton (nd), Rumble (1958),Liberal Catholic Church (1967), Liberal Catholic Church of Ontario (1986), Langley (1998) and Kersey (2007).Despite not infrequent ongoing Liberal Catholic Church statements to the contrary, the Roman Catholic Churchdoes not accept the Liberal Catholic Church’s assertion of unbroken Apostolic Succession (see Rumble 1958),nor does the Anglican Communion whose own orders, in any event, were declared null and void by Pope LeoXIII in 1896. The Anglican Lambeth Conference held in 1920 cast doubt on all Liberal Catholic orders descendingfrom Old Catholic Bishop Arnold H Mathew: see Encyclical Letters from the Bishops with the Resolutions andReports, 2nd ed (London: SPCK, 1920), p 155. 19
  • In Roman Catholic descriptions of the doctrine the reference to the “Gospel” is oftenreplaced by a reference to the “doctrines of sacred tradition”, combined with the dogma thatSaint Peter was the first leader of the apostles and the first Bishop of Rome (Pope) and thatPeter’s successors were accepted by the early Christian Church as having supremeauthority of the Church and thus over other apostles or Christians. However, even theeminent Roman Catholic scholar Raymond E Brown, author of such texts as Antioch andRome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity and The Churches the Apostles LeftBehind, confirms what so many other Christian, and even other Catholic Christian, scholarshave stated over the years, namely, that “Peter never served as the bishop or localadministrator of any church, Antioch and Rome included” (Brown, as quoted in Wills2006:80). Wills, himself a Roman Catholic, and the author of such books as Why I Am aCatholic, What Paul Meant and What Jesus Meant, writes that there were “no bishops inPeter’s lifetime, and none in Rome till the second century (as the letters of Ignatius ofAntioch prove)” (Wills 2006:80). Wills even goes so far as to say that there is no evidencethat Peter was a priest, let alone a bishop.53 This does not sound like a very firm foundationon which to build a doctrine of Apostolic Succession of any sort, especially the traditionalCatholic one that asserts that Saint Peter was the first Pope and then retrospectivelycreates a papal lineage from there onwards right down to the present pope.The present writer does not question the importance of this doctrine of ApostolicSuccession to great numbers of Christians of various denominations including but notlimited to many Roman Catholics as well as Liberal Catholics, and recognizes the validity ofmany diverse traditions (including the Liberal Catholic tradition) which have sought tocarefully preserve the succession of their orders. However, the writer prefers to interpret thedoctrine more esoterically or metaphorically such that the “authority”, as well as the“message” or gnosis passed down throughout the centuries, is a certain body of teachingas opposed to an “office replete with successors” (Enloe: Online).54Now, the New Testament itself refers to the Church being “built upon the foundation of theapostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20; cf Liturgy53 See 1 Pet 5:1.54 Emphasis in the original. See, in particular, what the Apostle Paul had to say about the matter in, for example,1 Tim 1:3, 18; 2:14-15; 4:6, 11, 16; 5:21; 6:13-14, 20-21; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:1-2; 3:14-17; Titus 1:5, 9; 2:1, 15). 20
  • 224). Despite the Roman interpretation given to Matthew 16:18 (“thou art Peter [Petros],and upon this rock [petra]55 I will build my church ...”),56 a foundation, whether in the form ofChrist himself or otherwise, can have no “successors” as such, but there can be a passingdown or transmission of a body of teaching which Bishop Pigott referred to as the “lostGnosis”, more particularly, “the original depositum, perhaps; the Creed within the Creedsand the Gospel within the Gospels” (1925:35).57 Such an interpretation and understandingof the doctrine of Apostolic Succession is supported by the writings of such early Churchfathers as Clement of Alexandria and Origen. For example, Clement wrote in 208 CE: Well, they preserving the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the fathers), came by God’s will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds. And well I know that they will exult; I do not mean delighted with this tribute, but solely on account of the preservation of the truth, according as they delivered it. For such a sketch as this, will, I think, be agreeable to a soul desirous of preserving from loss the blessed tradition.58Origen wrote in 225 CE: Although there are many who believe that they themselves hold to the teachings of Christ, there are yet some among them who think differently from their predecessors. The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the apostles and remains in the churches even to the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition".59Thus, it is the true “teachings of Christ” and “the tradition of the blessed doctrine” that arehanded down, by the successive ceremonial laying on of hands with due ecclesiasticalauthority that constitutes, in the respectful opinion of the present writer, the true innermeaning and ongoing significance of the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. True apostolicitythen becomes something of incalculable value and worth inherent in both the AncientWisdom itself as well as a trait inherent in all people who seek to know the Self as one, asopposed to a lineate succession of Popes throughout the centuries with succession after55 A fragment of a rock.56 Wills (2006:80) states that in the same Gospel (Matthew) the power to “bind and loose” (cf Mt 16:19) is notconferred upon Peter exclusively “but to the followers as a body” (see, relevantly, Mt 18:18). Protestants havetraditionally taken the view that what Jesus is actually saying in Mt 16:18 - assuming for the moment theauthenticity of the verse - is that it is Peter’s profession of faith upon which will serve as the basis for theChurch. Whether Jesus actually intended to found a church, as opposed to a kingdom (the “Kingdom of God”),is another contentious issue. One thing is clear – the Church itself is not the Kingdom of God. See Wills(2006:80-84 et seq).57 Emphasis in the original.58 See Miscellanies 1:1.59 See The Fundamental Doctrines 1:2. 21
  • succession of bishops of various denominations, the majority of which, in any event, are notin communion with the Pope of the day whoever that Pope may be.Clearly, there is considerable disagreement among the various churches that holdthemselves out as being “Christian” as to what actually constitutes the the true “teachings ofChrist” and “the tradition of the blessed doctrine”, that is, the so-called “apostolic doctrine”itself. That sorry state of affairs is further complicated by the fact that not only is thereconsiderable disagreement among the various Christian churches as to what the doctrine ofApostolic Succession actually means,60 there is also considerable, and at times quiteacrimonious, disagreement among various denominations as regards the vexed issue as towhether or not certain churches have “broken” the doctrine. Finally, there is no escaping thefact that the world’s largest Christian denomination, Roman Catholicism, insists that muchmore is required to preserve Apostolic Succession than mere lineal succession from theoriginal Saint Peter.61However, be all that as it may, the Liberal Catholic Church can rightly claim to havepreserved Apostolic Succession by its being faithful to the true teachings of the LivingChrist and to its being a vehicle by means of which “the wisdom underlying all religionswhen they are stripped of accretions and superstitions ... teachings [that] aid the unfoldmentof the latent spiritual nature in the human being, without dependence or fear” (Besant([1909] 1984:60) can be faithfully transmitted to the present generation as well as to futuregenerations. Jesus himself made clear his understanding of Apostolic Succession, eventhough he never used those words, in a passage recorded in Luke 9:49-50: And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.60 In addition, there are at least two different schools of thought as to how to carry out the actual “requirements”of Apostolic Succession – one Eastern (grounded in the teaching of Saint Cyprian) and the other Western(based on the teachings and writings of Saint Augustine).61 St. Irenæus states the theory and practice of doctrinal unity as follows: “With this Church [of Rome] becauseof its more powerful principality, every Church must agree, that is the faithful everywhere, in this [i.e. incommunion with the Roman Catholic] the tradition of the Apostles has ever been preserved by those on everyside (Adv Haereses, III). In addition, the Western Church (and not just the Roman Catholic Church) adopt anAugustinian fourfold criterion to determine the validity of a bishop’s consecration in the historic apostolicsuccession, the four criteria being “form”, “matter”, “minister” and “intention”. The first three of those criteria areexterior” and the fourth is “interior”. 22
  • The present writer is confident that Our Lord would adopt an inclusive, as opposed toexclusive, approach to the matter in question, as he did on so many other occasions whenhe said things such as the following: “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.” (Mt 7:21) “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (Jn 10:16) “In my Fathers house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (Jn 14:2)The Liberal Catholic Church is also “independent” of all other Christian Churches in thesense that, as a Church, it is self-governing and autonomous. Further, there is “no centralSee, each province being independent under its Regionary Bishop” (Parry and Rivett [1969]1985:4).62The Liberal Catholic Church is also “independent” in that it has adopted “freedom of beliefas a cornerstone of its foundations”,63 thus allowing its members and adherents “freedom inthe interpretation of Creeds, Scriptures and Traditions, and of its Liturgy and Doctrine”.64Therein lies the true and quite unique catholicity, that is, universality, of the Liberal CatholicChurch, in that it understands that ... Christianity must henceforth become acceptable for its universality, not for its exclusiveness. If Christianity is to do its work as a world power among men of all nations, it must change, and it must recognize certain deep fundamental truths which I hold are from Christ Himself. Of these, the first is that there is one truth and one alone in all religions, one Christ’s truth, but manifest in all religions of the world. The second truth is that there exists but one Christ principle, one LOGOS, one Word made flesh, manifest in all the Teachers of the past, the present and to come, one Immanence and Power of God working through all ages, linking all worlds visible and invisible into one manifestation. There cannot be a division between God and man and nature, for there is ever but one Unity and that is God Himself.6562 However, as Parry and Rivett rightly point out, the Church “maintains its own cohesiveness through a GeneralEpiscopal Synod consisting of its bishops, and its unity with the whole Catholic Church through its ApostolicSuccession” ([1969] 1985:4).63 See Section 11 (Science & Religion), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006).64 See Section 2 (Freedom of Thought), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006).65 Jinarājadāsa ([1924] 1947:210). 23
  • Notwithstanding the above, the Liberal Catholic Church, whilst allowing its members“perfect freedom of opinion ... has at the same time a definite doctrine to offer to those whofeel themselves able to accept it, though it does not exact adherence to it or to any otherdogma as a condition of access to its altars” (Liberal Catholic Church 1921:5).A Sacramental Church in the Catholic TraditionBeing a church in the Catholic tradition, the Liberal Catholic Church is a sacramental churchthat seeks to perpetuate the historical sacramental tradition instituted by Christ himself.Roman Catholic priest, professor of sociology and novelist Andrew M Greeley, in his bookThe Bottom Line Catechism, succinctly explains the “Catholic” approach to the sacraments([1982] 1983:293): The Catholic approach to the presence of grace is sacramental, that is to say, it assumes God reveals himself/herself (Grace manifests itself) through creatures, through the world, through the events of human life. Indeed, whatever one’s Christological explanations might be, Catholics still must believe that while Jesus must be the most adequate, the most perfect, and the highest self-revelation of God, he is still a revelation which is made manifest through the created nature of Jesus and through the audible words and visible deeds of the Lord. The Catholic approach to religion is sacramental not because the church has a system of seven sacraments; rather, the opposite is the case. There exist seven sacraments precisely because Catholicism, like prophetic Judaism, which is its ancestor, takes a sacramental view of the world, believes that God reveals himself/unveils herself through created things and the events of ordinary life.The sacraments,66 which, in the Liberal Catholic Church at least, are made easily and freelyavailable to all who reverently seek them, are both means of grace and powerful “tools” forspiritual growth and development, as they help people “to reach their destiny – the peace,the power, the love and bliss of conscious union with God” (Sheehan [1925] 1977:39).67As Samuel Angus, a leading authority on the origins and environment of early Christianitypoints out (Angus [1925] 1975:viii), the ancient Mysteries were not only “an importantbackground to early Christianity”, they were also “the chief medium of sacramentarianism to66 “The Liberal Catholic Church recognises and administers the seven traditional sacraments, which are:Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Absolution, Holy Unction, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Orders.”Summary of Doctrine, numbered para 7, in [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006).67 The nature of the sacraments and, in particular, the Holy Eucharist will be considered in detail in Chapter 4 ofthis thesis. 24
  • the West”. Dean Inge (1899:354) also confirms that Catholic Christianity owes to theMysteries, among other things, the notion of “sacramental grace”. Thus, for good reason,the sacraments are called “mysteries” in the Eastern Church.Frank Stanton Burns Gavin (1928 and 1930) also attests in his various scholarly writings tothe non-Jewish mystery cults being the primary source of Christian sacramentalism, butGavin is also at pains to point out that Christianity, and particularly Catholic Christianity, isstill very much indebted to Judaism both as regards sacramentalism and in many otherrespects as well – something the “History of Religions” proponents such as Samuel Angustended to overlook or ignore. Wedgwood ([1928] 1984:42; 2009:24) correctly notes thatthere seems “much evidence ... that some of the foundations of the Eucharist are to befound in the Jewish tradition”.68The Liberal Catholic Church is committed to a belief in the essential oneness andsacredness of all life. Roman Catholic priest Andrew M Greeley makes the valid point that“[s]ome things can be Sacraments only if one has a world-view that sees everything ashaving the potential for sacramentality” ([1982] 1983:294). However, whilst all life issacramental in character, and although there are clearly many ways in which the essentialoneness and sacredness of all life can be appreciated and experienced, churches in theCatholic tradition have always regarded the seven historic sacraments of the CatholicChurch as spiritual means by which we can truly experience most wonderfully andpowerfully that sense of oneness and sacredness, and thereby change for the better.In the words of Bishop James I Wedgwood (1928c:Online), “the only way to bring aboutpermanent peace [is] when you awaken the real passion for peace and brotherhood andthe recognition of the One Life”. Individually, as well as collectively, the sacraments are apowerful means for positive transformation when they are approached in the right frame of68 Wedgwood ([1928] 1984:42; 2009:24), if anything, played down the influence of the Greco-Roman mysterycults, stating: “There seems no real evidence for the theory ... that the Christian sacraments, as we know them,were incorporated into the faith at a later period, having been taken over from the mystery-cults of theMediterranean basin.” See also Dix (1945) who, in his book The Shape of the Liturgy, provided much probativematerial to support his proposition that the Christian Liturgy had “its first formation in the semi-Jewish church ofthe apostolic age”, and that, as regards the Holy Eucharist, the Christian rite “exactly” and “ostentatiously”conformed to the rabbinical rules of the chabûrah supper (Rodd 1972:6). However, Rodd goes on to point outthat Dix’s own book “is [sic] now considered by his critics to be more literature than scholarship”. The presentwriter is of the opinion that the Holy Eucharist, as we now have it, shows evidence of both Jewish and non-Jewish sources. 25
  • mind and heart. Dr Nona L Brooks, cofounder of Divine Science, has written ([1924]1977:Online), albeit in a different context (namely, the “Mystery of Healing”): Form is the expression of God; it is Spirit manifest, and Spirit is perfect, true, and harmonious.69The words are, however, directly applicable to all of the sacraments, and the nature of theirworking and connection with Ultimate Reality, or Spirit.A Liberal ChurchThe Liberal Catholic Church is a “liberal” Christian church. In that regard, as mentionedpreviously the Church offers its members, adherents and all others complete liberality andfreedom of thought and belief so that each may seek, in their own individual respectiveways, a greater reality than self.70There has always been much misunderstanding about the word “liberal”. The word“liberality” [from the Latin liber, a free person] is the noun derived from the word “liberal”, asopposed to the word “liberty” which implies freedom of one kind or another. Liberality, onthe other hand, refers to munificence, that is, an abundant, non-literal, open-minded andunprejudiced quest for spiritual truth, enlightenment and, if you like, initiation into theAncient Mysteries.Ferm, in his Concise Dictionary of Religion, states that liberalism is “not so much a schoolof thought as it is a spirit” (1951:142). Ferm was referring to Protestant Liberalism but whathe wrote is, it is submitted, still applicable to the Liberal Catholic Church as well. Ferm,again writing about the liberal Protestant, says that such a Christian “trusts reason as theonly tool by which to measure truth, although he may weigh tradition and authority with therespect to which they are due” (1951:142-143). The Liberal Catholic places great value onthe use of reason as well. However, unlike most liberal Protestants, Liberal Catholics tendto be mystically-minded, acknowledging that insight into such matters as the nature of the69 See <> (viewed 2 April 2009).70 See, in particular, Sections 2 (Freedom of Thought), 4 (The Sacraments), and 9 (Mysticism and the WisdomTradition), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006). 26
  • Cosmos and our innate divinity can be derived by means of mystical experience as well aswhat may be called “spiritual intuition”.71The Liberal Catholic Church encourages people to think for themselves, and to search fortruth in whatever ways they think best, whilst showing respect, tact and tolerance for thosewho, in good faith, see things differently and seek to follow different paths of faith. As aliberal church, albeit a Christian one, the Liberal Catholic Church does not claim, and oughtnot to claim, any exclusive revelation or status for itself or its members, notwithstanding theassertions of some over the years that the Church’s leaders continue to receive and beinformed by communications from the supposed “Masters”.The Church’s position as regards its liberality is formally stated in these words: The Liberal Catholic Church leaves to its members freedom in the interpretation of Creeds, Scriptures and Traditions, and of its Liturgy and Doctrine. It asks only that differences of interpretation shall be courteously expressed. It takes this attitude, not from any indifference to truth, but because it holds that belief should be the result of individual study and intuition. Truth is not truth, nor revelation a revelation, until it is seen to be so.72 The Liberal Catholic Church believes that in religion, as in science, truth is the ultimate goal to which we should all aspire. Absolute truth rests with God and cannot be known in full by humans. Life is therefore a constant progression from less true to more true. That is why The Liberal Catholic Church has adopted freedom of belief as a cornerstone of its foundations. It has a body of teaching, but recognises that individuals must find their own truth from within, rather than adopt beliefs second-hand from without. The Church must also constantly review the doctrine that it teaches. For these reasons extreme tolerance is expected from Church members.73The General Constitution of the Liberal Catholic Church, the authorized Liturgy of theChurch, and the authorised Statement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine constitute theonly official documents of the Church.74 However, the Church has never made theacceptance of any creed, article or profession of faith as a condition of membership of the71 See Section 9 (Mysticism and the Wisdom Tradition), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary ofDoctrine, 9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006).72 See Section 2 (Freedom of Thought), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006).73 See Section 11 (Science & Religion), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006).74 See Section VII, para 41, General Constitution of the Liberal Catholic Church (London: Liberal CatholicChurch, 2004), [Online version]<>. 27
  • Church. Indeed, the very existence of a Summary of Doctrine, as opposed to a merestatement of principles,75 is, with respect, questionable for a Church that holds itself out asbeing a “liberal” church. As our own Bishop Allan Bradley said many years ago (1964:np[8]): A liberal church can have no doctrines, no dogmas and no articles, for each man’s path to God is his own. There can be no heresies in a liberal church, for we can never stand in judgment upon another’s belief. When we have found the love of Christ transforming our hearts our whole outlook will become full of the divine positive and not the restrictive negations of creedal belief. A new deep respect develops for those fellow members of the enormous human family, for we know it to be God’s family, and our care will not be the conversion of the world to our outlook, but a deep active concern for all men of all races and religious outlooks. To state it briefly, the Liberal Catholic Church stands in ideal not for a set of its own truths, nor for a rule of life, personal habits or moral standards. Our church stands for a NEW APPROACH TO LIFE AND RELIGION.76Bradley refers to what he calls “our grand charter as laid down in the front of every copy ofour Liturgy” (see Liturgy 7) wherein reference is made to “the widest measure of intellectualliberty and respect for the individual conscience”. To a not insignificant extent, we havefallen short of the liberal ideals we supposedly hold so dear, and we are far from beingprogressive as a church. Indeed, we are frightfully conservative in so many ways. In anarticle entitled “Are We Still Progressive?” and published in The Australian Liberal Catholicin June 1967, the contents of which are still vitally relevant today, more than 40 years later,Brian Parry wrote (1967:10-11): To be progressive means being responsive to the changing needs of mankind. It is an attitude of mind – not a party label; it means openness to life. ... ... What are the needs of our world now? As Australians we live in an affluent, secularized society, which nevertheless lives uneasily without God. We need a renewed sense of God immanent in the universe and in ourselves. We need an understanding of life in all of its aspects as the material expression of a spiritual reality. ... Our contribution to the world’s present need must be informed, intellectual and understandable – but if that is all, we will only be one more voice in a crowd. Without intellect we will never be heard, but without spirituality, we will not be worth hearing.7775 See, eg, the Statement of Principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA): Onlinecopy, viewed 26 May 2009, <>.76 Emphasis in the original.77 Emphasis in the original. 28
  • These are serious matters that we need to address. However, in an ongoing spirit ofliberality which, for the most part, we have been able to maintain throughout the yearsdespite some unfortunate schisms and more than a little unhealthy dissension, it stillremains the case that all who “strive to live in the spirit of love with all mankind and manfullyto fight against sin and selfishness” and “strive to show forth in [their] thoughts, [their] wordsand [their] works, the power of God which is in [them]” (Liturgy 421) are welcome tobecome members of the Church.78 Further, the seven historic sacraments are offered to allwho reverently seek them - not just members - and the Church erects no barriers around itsaltars.In essence, what “binds” Liberal Catholics together is not a rule book, a creed, a set ofprinciples, a summary of doctrine, or the like, but the willingness to participate in a commonliturgy.A Mystical ChurchThe Liberal Catholic Church also sees itself as a mystical church, and it specificallyrecognises that mystical79 experiences are “part of our spiritual heritage as children of theMost High” and that the recorded accounts of such experiences over many centuries are“remarkably consistent”.80 The Church sees its role as being “the mystical awakening of theindividual and the Body of Christ to reality, that Christ may be manifest in them to the full”(Parry and Rivett [1969] 1985:3).The term “mysticism”, in a Christian context, derives from a small work entitled The MysticalTheology written by the Neoplatonic Dionysius the Areopagite, also known and more78 Admission to the Church is either by way of baptism and confirmation (absolute or conditional) or by way ofthe making and acceptance of an application for membership with or without a service of admission. As to thelatter, see “A Form of Admission to the Liberal Catholic Church” (Liturgy 421-422).79 The word “mysticism” comes from the Greek mystikos (“of mysteries”) and root word mou (“to conceal”).Etymologically, the cognate Greek word muein stands for “closing the eyes and the lips” (Oliveira 2007b:207),“with the probable primary sense of ‘one vowed to keep silence,’ and hence ‘one initiated into the Mysteries”(Parrinder [1976] 1995:8). Ebner (1976:13) notes that mystery, in a theological context, “stresses the silenceand invisibility of the Ultimate that is also unlimited and undecipherable”. Further, mystery is inherently “holy”(1976:36).80 Section 9 (Mysticism and the Wisdom Tradition), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine,9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006). As the Apostle Paul wrote: “... we impart a secret and hidden wisdom ofGod, which God decreed before the ages for our justification” (1 Cor 2:7). The writer of Luke’s Gospel refers to“the mysteries [or secrets] of the kingdom of God” (Lk 8:10). 29
  • correctly referred to as Pseudo-Dionysius, a man who was unquestionably the greatestChristian writer of the 6th century CE. However, it is important to bear in mind that Pseudo-Dionysius was not the "founder" of Christian mysticism. That honour belongs to none otherthan Jesus himself who uttered those immortal words, “I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:30).The Christian Church, even in its multiplicity of discordant forms, is first and foremost amystical church, despite the efforts of many who would rather have it otherwise. It was theChristian mystical writer Evelyn Underhill who said, quite rightly, “It is not Christian to leavethe Mystery out.”Mysticism has been defined as being ... in general, an immediate knowledge of God attained in this present life through personal religious experienced. It is primarily a state of prayer and as such admits of various degrees from short and rare Divine “touches” to the practically permanent union with God in the so-called “mystic marriage”.81Manly P Hall described mysticism in similar terms as being “the belief in the possibility ofdirect personal participation in truth, through the extension of consciousness towards unionwith the gods, or Divine Being” (1945:179).Felix Adler (1913:4), who was neither a Liberal Catholic nor a mystic in the usual sense ofthat word, eschewing, as he did, all notions of supernaturalism, nevertheless wrote of thepowerful, transformative emotional aspects of the spiritual experience of a sense ofoneness with all life and with others: The fact that there is a spiritual power in us, that is to say, a power that testifies to the unity of our life with the life of others, which impels us to regard others as other selves – this fact comes home to us even more forcibly in sorrow than in joy. It is thrown into clearest relief on the background of pain.In The Idea of the Holy Otto ([1917] 1977:6-7) expressed his opinion that, at the heart of theso-called mystical experience, there was a sense of the numinous or the holy. Thenuminous experience was, according to Otto, “inexpressible, ineffable" ([1917] 1977:5).Otto saw the numinous or holy as a mysterium tremens et fascinans, that is, a tremendous(read, awe- and fear-inspiring) and fascinating mystery. The experience of the numinous orholy is, according to Otto (as cited in McCarty 2006:4):81 See “Mysticism”, in Cross (1958). The Apostle Paul writes: “Even the mystery which hath been hid from agesand from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col 1:26). 30
  • a unique experience of confrontation with a power … “Wholly Other,” outside of normal experience and indescribable in its terms; terrifying, ranging from sheer demonic dread through awe to sublime majesty; and fascinating, with irresistible attraction, demanding unconditional allegiance.Further, the experience, writes Otto ([1917] 1977:12-13): grips or stirs the human mind. … The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its "profane," non-religious mood of everyday experience. It may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strongest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy. It has its wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering.Jung (1938:4) stated that religion involves “a careful and scrupulous observation of whatRudolf Otto aptly termed the ‘numinosum,’ that is, a dynamic existence or effect not causedby an arbitrary act of will”, and that this numinosum was “either a quality of a visible objector the influence of an invisible presence causing a peculiar alteration of consciousness”.Such an experience evokes and inspires paroxysmal feelings all the way from awe toecstasy and to terror. The first Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church James IWedgwood (1928c:Online) refers to the “tremendous radiation of power through the serviceof the Church, which goes out on all levels”. Thus, Rivett ([1972] 2008:36) affirms that “theessence of religion, the purpose and motivation and activity of religious life, must for everbe mystical”. Further, as Blanch (1971:7) points out, “it has been said that ‘religion is thenearest approach to reality’”. Amen.The essence of the mystical experience is the experience of oneness, which can only beexperienced in what has been described as the Eternal Now. In the words of Luong SĩHăng (1992:4): There is no more ego. When our spiritual heart is related with the universe, the ego ceases to exist. Our fundamental capital is “nothingness.” … When I know this principle, then I can begin to detach myself from the physical body and material matters on earth. 31
  • Many years earlier Plotinus (as cited in Burnier 1985:72), who is generally regarded as thefounder of Neoplatonism,82 described this mystical experience of oneness in very similarterms: For how can one describe as other than oneself that which, when one saw it, seemed to be one with oneself. It is not possible to see it or to be in harmony with it, while one is occupied with anything else. The soul must remove from itself, good and evil, and everything else, that it may receive the One alone, as the One is alone. When the soul is so blessed and is come to it, or rather when it manifests its presence, when the soul turns away from visible things … and becomes like the One … And seeing the One suddenly appearing in itself, for there is nothing between, nor are they any longer two, but one, for you cannot distinguish between them, while the vision lasts. … When is this state, the soul would exchange its present condition for nothing, no, not for the very heaven of heavens … .83In our own day, Krishnamurti (1970a:130) expressed it this way, when he said that religionis “the sense of comprehension of the totality of existence, in which there is no divisionbetween you and me”. Words have great vibratory power and energy, and The Liturgy, withits associated ritual, is not only a collection of mystery dramas but also a powerful vehicle tohelp us experience inner and outer transformation at very deep levels. However, in themost simple terms, “The Church is a purifying influence” (Wedgwood 1928c:Online), andthat must never be forgotten. Wedgwood (1928c:Online) has also written: Spiritual upliftment is reproduced by the services; and then we get inspired with the idea of producing that experience by our own self-initiated efforts from within that which the power has awakened within us. And growing more accustomed to it, we find we can more or less produce those modes of consciousness for ourselves from within.True mysticism ought not to be focused on "experiences", which come and go, but on thelasting personal experience of “ultimate reality”. Canon C F Harman, an Anglican priest,wrote of the importance of Christian mysticism (1964:12): ... Mysticism is something which has now got to come out of the monastery into the open and I believe that every Christian should be in some sense a mystic. The Church in the past has been afraid of mysticism and I don’t wonder, because the mystics, of course, leave the rational for the intuitional, and take the Church beyond the rational and the dogmatic to the super-rational.82 See Chapter 3 (“Encountering the Christ Through Tradition”) of this thesis.83 See The Six Enneads vi. 7. 34. 32
  • But the time has now come when mysticism must become part and parcel of our ordinary everyday Christian life.The Liberal Catholic Church is well-placed to provide opportunities for people to come toknow the Self as one.A Church in the Platonic and Neoplatonic TraditionsIn his Concise Dictionary of Religion Vergilius Ferm writes that the Liberal Catholic Church“combines liberal thought with the ancient forms of sacramental type of worship”(1951:142). It is often said that Theosophy or Gnosticism, or a combination of the two,provides the basis of and for that “liberal thought”, but the present writer does not hold thatview. Indeed, despite the Liberal Catholic Church having been founded by Theosophists,the true roots of the Church, as a Christian Church, lie not in Theosophy per se but in earlyGreek patristic philosophy and theology, that is, in early Christianity as expounded by thoseChurch Fathers versed in the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions. This has been officiallyand consistently acknowledged by the Church in its several editions of its Statement ofPrinciples and Summary of Doctrine. In the final draft of the 8th edition of that publicationone reads: The Christian church has always contained within itself differing schools of thought. The mediaeval schoolmen who systematized theology in the Western church followed the method of Aristotle, but the earliest among the Church Fathers of philosophic bent were Platonists, and The Liberal Catholic Church, whilst not undervaluing the clarity and precision of the scholastic systems, has much in common with the Platonic and Neoplatonic schools of Christian tradition.84What the present writer sees as the true position as regards the philosophical and theologicalroots of the Liberal Catholic Church are the subject of special focus in the next chapter of thisthesis.84 Statement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine (London: St Alban Press, 1986), pp 6-7. In Section 10(Philosophical Background), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed (London: StAlban Press, 2006), it is stated: “The Liberal Catholic Church has identified, from among the various schools ofChristian thought, the Platonic and Neoplatonic as being those most closely attuned to the Wisdom Tradition.” 33
  • CHAPTER 2 EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH UNDERSTANDING The Philosophical and Theological Roots of the Liberal Catholic ChurchIntroductionBishop Frank W Pigott wrote that the Liberal Catholic Church has a very special role andthat is “to recover the lost Gnosis, and to establish it in its rightful place as true teachingand, therefore, essential to the Catholic [indeed, Christian] religion” (Pigott 1925:35),85 butwhat exactly is this “lost Gnosis”?Is the “lost Gnosis” Gnosticism? If so, what form or variety of Gnostic thought are we talkingabout, as there were numerous competing Gnostic sects formerly in existence? Murray(1935:162) writes that “there were Gnostic sects scattered over the Hellenistic world beforeChristianity as well as after”. Many of these sects mimicked Christianity or were simplymystery-versions of Christianity.86 Others were quite independent of the latter, and made noclaim of any connection whatsoever with either the teachings of Jesus Christ or Christianity.As the former Liberal Catholic priest and Theosophist J J van der Leeuw pointed out in hisbook The Dramatic History of the Christian Church from the Beginnings to the Death of StAugustine (1927a:61): … [T]he splendid esoteric wisdom of the Gnostics was clouded over by the ravings of those whom Gnosticism was restricted to the name they abrogated.Further, there are numerous modern “reincarnations” of Gnosticism and Gnostic sectspresent in the world today, several of which purport to be Christian in orientation. Is theLiberal Catholic Church a Gnostic Christian church, and, if so, in what respects?85 Mowle (2007:183) has written: “Throughout the early centuries of the Church there were many differentGnostic groups, and all were not the same, and most certainly there was definitely a form of Gnostic Christianityin existence; but it would be most unwise to call our modern Liberal Catholic Church a remnant of that whichexisted back then.”86 For example, Valentinus (also known as Valentius) (c100-c160 CE) founded a mystical version of Christianityin Rome, Valentinianism, which had a large following in southern Gaul in the 2nd century CE. Valentinus’ versionof Christianity, along with other forms of Gnosticism, were the subject of a vitriolic attack by Irenaeus, thenBishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyon, France), in his Adversus Haeresies (Against Heresies) written in c180CE. 34
  • Is the “lost Gnosis” Theosophy? If so, what do we mean by that expression?87Is Theosophy “the experience of the divine, in distinction to theology which is discussionabout God … [noting that this] experience of the ultimate, of reality, of life, of truth, isbeyond all discussion”? Is it what was described “in an early theosophical manifesto as ‘thearchaic system of esoteric wisdom in the keeping of the brotherhood of adepts’’’? Is it the“system of doctrines put forward in literature or lectures since the beginning of theTheosophical Society”? Finally, does Theosophy embrace the “practice in important centresof theosophical work, where, in the work actually done and in the aims held before people,we can see what is looked upon as valuable”?88It is easy to throw around the word “Theosophy” but, like so many things in life, the wordmeans different things to different people. Anglican priest Canon C F Harman has written([1963] 1964:10): Theosophy, as the name implies, is the wisdom of God. But it is something more than that; it is wisdom in God. It has God for its subject matter and its principle. It embraces the philosophy of man and also of the Cosmos and History. It includes what we call Theology, eve dogmatic Theology, but much more – Mystical Theology; it also goes beyond them.Harman goes on to stress that “Christian Theosophy must be carefully distinguished fromthe modern Theosophical Movement”, the latter (“Theosophy as understood by Adyar”89)being a reaction to the rationalism and positivism of the 19th century and “too much attachedto Indian thought” ([1963] 1964:10).90 Harman refers to Saint Paul as “the first ChristianGnostic” and “a theosophist in the true sense of that word” ([1963] 1964:10). He goes on towrite ([1963] 1964:11): So Christian theosophy goes right back to St Paul himself. Later on Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa are unquestionably theosophical in their outlook and doctrine; so that we have some of the Christian Fathers laying the foundation of the Christian theosophical movement. Dionysius the Areopagite and mediaeval mysticism show a strong leaning in this direction; and let it be clearly87 The word “theosophy” literally means “divine wisdom” (from the Greek theos [god], and sophia [wisdom]).88 All of the quoted material in this paragraph comes from Van der Leeuw (1930:Online) who offers thesecompeting, but not necessarily mutually exclusive, definitions of Theosophy. Blavatsky (1879:Online) refers toTheosophy as “the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country havingclaims to civilization” [emphasis in the original].89 See Tillett (2005:Online).90 The theosophy to which Harmon refers, in objective contradistinction to what he refers to as “Christiantheosophy”, is the eclectic body of ideas and beliefs promulgated by the Theosophical Society, founded by H PBlavatsky and others in New York City in 1875. The Society’s maxim is “There is no religion higher than Truth”. 35
  • understood that Christian theosophy, although it does include a certain amount of dogmatic theology, is more concerned with mystical theology.The view of the present writer is that, insofar as the Liberal Catholic Church exists as adistinctive Christian Church in the historic Catholic sacramental tradition, the so-called “lostgnosis” is to be found most immediately and directly in early Greek patristic philosophy andtheology, especially that rooted and grounded in the philosophical and theological traditionsof Platonism and Neoplatonism, which themselves were built upon the foundations of theAncient Mysteries.91 (Thompson (1963:9) writes that the Greek Orthodox Church92 “claimsto be the Mother Church of Christendom from which the Roman Church seceded”. There ismore than a little truth in that statement.93)The uniqueness, beauty and wonder of the Liberal Catholic Church is that the Churchmanages to successfully combine these various traditions - Catholic, Platonic andNeoplatonic - with complete liberality and freedom of though and belief. However, it must bestressed, forcefully, that the Liberal Catholic Church was formed not as a “TheosophicalChurch” per se (for such is an oxymoron in any event - a matter that will be furtherdiscussed shortly below) but as a liberal Christian church in all three of the Catholic,Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions, namely a church which: • is open to the wisdom contained in the world’s other religions as well, sensibly interpreted, largely but not exclusively as a result of the influence, that is, the “distinctive contribution” (Wedgwood 1926) of Theosophy, • is committed to recovering the “lost Gnosis”, and to establishing it in its rightful place as true Christianity,94 and91 Parrinder ([1976] 1995:8) writes: “The origins of the word mysticism were in the Mysteries of ancient Greece.”92 The “Greek Orthodox Church” is the common name for the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is a fellowship ofseveral different communions related by association with certain patriarchs in various regions, originallyassociated with what was known as the Eastern Roman Empire, and then with churches established by theoriginal patriarchal churches.93 The original 4 patriarchates were Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The Church of Antiochwas the most ancient church after that of Jerusalem. The patriarchs originally included the Patriarch of Romebefore the Roman see fell out of fellowship with the others, finally in 1054, after some serious earlier breachesof fellowship over matters pertaining to Christology. See Jenkins (2000:Online).94 Cooper (1996:xi) makes the very valid point that Christianity, for the most part, has not been a religion thatfinds it easy to accommodate dissent, let alone “other gods”, writing that when the Christians gainedascendancy, they “destroyed all the liturgies of other gods”. 36
  • • embraces mystical theology and what Harmon has referred to as “Christian theosophy”, which had its beginnings in the Apostle Paul and was later developed by some early Greek Church Fathers.As regards the latter, that is, the recovery of the “lost Gnosis”, Bishop Pigott, wrote in hismost helpful little book The Parting of The Ways (1925:34-35): There is some reason for believing that the teaching (Oriental rather than Semitic) of the divinity of all men and mans continual progress or evolution through countless ages of time from the One to the One, had its place in the Christian teaching in the first few centuries of our era. It was the teaching promulgated by some of the Gnostic teachers, and to some extent by such teachers as Origen and Clement of Alexandria, though little of this teaching has survived in documentary form. … The Gnostics truly so-called seem to have had the light of the true knowledge, the deeper teaching already referred to, and, when excluded from the Church, the Gnostic tradition seems to have been handed on, somewhat furtively because of the persecutions, from generation to generation … Even in the Church itself, there have usually been some teachers in every generation who have known the esoteric teaching, but their voices have rarely been heard above the din of those theological controversies from which the Church since its first beginnings has never been entirely free. It is, perhaps in the providence of God, one of the functions of the Liberal Catholic Church to recover the lost Gnosis, and to establish it in its rightful place as true teaching and, therefore, essential to the Catholic religion - the original depositum, perhaps; the Creed within the Creeds and the Gospel within the Gospels.95“The true knowledge or ‘Gnosis’ of the early church”As others, such as Parry and Rivett ([1969] 1985:8) have been quick, and correct, to point out,this emphasis on gnosis,96 and on the Liberal Catholic Church being a “Gnostic” church,means “not any perpetuation of certain extravagances of early Christianity, but an attitude ofaiding its members to reach for themselves [a] certainty of knowledge” 97 that is duly acquired95 Emphasis in the original.96 Pagels (1979) translates the word gnosis as “insight”, being “a term denoting both psychological andmetaphysical cognition arrived at intuitively” (Hoeller, in introduction, Hall 2000:12). The Liberal Catholic Church,in its [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006),describes gnosis or Sophia in terms of “each individual’s quest for spiritual understanding based upon personalexperience” (see Section 10: Philosophical Background).97 Emphasis added. Parry and Rivett are obviously seeking to distance Liberal Catholic gnosis from the variousGnostic controversies and competing sects of the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Indeed, the preponderance of recentresearch and scholarship (see, especially, Bock 2006, and the various authorities he cites), whilst supportingthe view that there certainly was “diversity” of opinion, doctrine, belief and practice in the earliest years ofChristianity, does not lend support for any wholesale “rehabilitation of the Gnostics” or “reimaging of Christianity”(Bock 2006:213) as Pagels ([1979] 1988) and others would like to see occur. 37
  • “by a process of inner illumination”, namely, what the present author has elsewhere (see Ellis-Jones 2007a:199) referred to as “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”: ... Gnosis refers to knowledge of God that is gained, not through intellectual discovery but through illumination derived from real personal experience and in- depth acquaintance with things spiritual such that one may be said to have been “initiated” into inner or spiritual mysteries. Paul says that we impart a “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor 2:7). This is true knowledge of God and things spiritual, and it is more than just knowledge of Biblical or spiritual things. It is sophia, the wisdom of God. I think that sophia and gnosis are really a pair, the feminine and masculine aspects of true, godly wisdom and knowledge, known collectively as “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).Saint Augustine,98 in an oft-cited statement, referred to this Wisdom which has alwaysexisted but which is now rightly or wrongly referred to as Christianity: The identical thing that we now call the Christian religion existed among the ancients and has not been lacking from the beginnings of the human race until the coming of Christ in the flesh, from which moment on the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christian.99Thus, Bertram A Bidwell, a former vicar of the old Saint Alban’s Pro-Cathedral, in RegentStreet, Sydney, said (quoted in McGarry 1966:18) that the future task for the Liberal CatholicChurch was “[n]ot to expound orthodox theology” but “to continue the unique teaching handedus by our great founders”, namely, “the true knowledge or ‘Gnosis’ of the early church, whoshowed us so clearly that the Christ spirit is the true self in EVERY MAN and that vicariousatonement is a gross error which has harmed the true faith and violated reason”. 100 Bidwell(again, as quoted in McGarry 1966:18) went on to say that what the Liberal Catholic Churchhad to do, if it were to survive, was this: ... to expound “the mysteries” in the sacraments and in scripture, hidden in the New Testament but clearly to be seen by the unshackled mind. These are the mysteries98 Saint Augustine, along with many of the other fathers of the early Church (eg Origen), was a Platonist inphilosophy, despite the fact that he became known as the “Father of Latin theology”. Augustine was ofLebanese origin (Punic or Phoenician) and had been educated in the Phoenician school of Carthage -something which appears to have left a lasting impression on him.99 See Retract I. XIII, 3. St Vincent of Lerins reportedly said something very similar, namely, "That let us holdwhich everywhere, always and by all has been believed: for this is truly and rightly catholic."100 Emphasis in the original. Whilst traditional notions of vicarious atonement (penal substitution) have provenunpalatable to Liberal Catholics, there are other forms and ways of understanding the nature and character ofJesus’ sacrifice on the Cross (eg in terms of the “moral influence theory” of the atonement, vicarious spirituality,and so on), some of which will be considered and discussed throughout this thesis. See also Chryssavgis(1991). 38
  • which are not exclusive to Christianity but which stretch back through history to the Greek, Egyptian and Indian civilisations.101However, given the disparate and often disharmonious, indeed irreconcilable, plethora ofviews, opinions and beliefs that have over many centuries been said to be gnostic, what, in thecontext of the Liberal Catholic Church, exactly is this gnosis? The present writer accepts, asboth a working hypothesis and an ideal, the description (as opposed to a definition) offered byDr Besant ([1909] 1984:60), namely, “the wisdom underlying all religions when they arestripped of accretions and superstitions ... teachings [that] aid the unfoldment of the latentspiritual nature in the human being, without dependence or fear”. Manly P Hall referred tothis wisdom as comprising “one ageless spiritual tradition” (1945:19). Thus, Liberal Catholicpriest Raymond J Blach (1971:89) uses the words “Esoteric Christianity” to refer to ... the underlying “Gnosis” which was in the early days of the Church the heart and core of Christian philosophy, but [which] has been largely lost or discarded during the passage of the years. It is part of the “mysteries of the Kingdom of God” of which both Jesus and St Paul spoke.In his book The Transcendental Unity of Religions (1953) Frithjof Schuon (as quoted inMehta [1955] 1957:27) wrote of the presence over time of an “esoteric nucleus” in anygiven civilization: The presence of an esoteric nucleus in a civilization possessing a specifically religious character guarantees to it a normal development and a maximum of stability; this nucleus, however, is not in any sense a part, even an inner part, of the exotericism, but represents, on the contrary, a quasi-independent dimension in relation to the latter.More particularly, Aldous Huxley ([1946] 1994), in his seminal book The Perennial Philosophy,enumerates and fully discusses what he refers to as the “four fundamental doctrines” thatunderpin the “Divine Wisdom”, also known as the Wisdom of the Ages or Gnosis. First, thephenomenal world, that is, all that is, is a manifestation of what Huxley refers to as a DivineGround (cf the “God above God” or “Ground of all Being”: Paul Tillich (1952)) within which allthings live and move and have their, albeit, partial dwelling. Secondly, we human beings havethe ability to come to know this Divine Ground, not just by inference but more importantly bydirect intuition. Thirdly, we possess a “double nature”, namely, an ego (or “little self or “false101 See also Tettemer (1951). Tettemer, an American Liberal Catholic bishop, and former Roman Catholic monk,saw the greatness of the Liberal Catholic Church as its ability to combine the Ancient Wisdom of the East andthe greatness and beauty of Catholic sacramentalism, provided the Catholic beliefs, traditions and rituals wereproperly understood having regard to their “deeper meaning”: Brown (1960). 39
  • self”) as well as a “real” or “true” self (“the Self), that latter being our true self, our god-self, thespark of divinity within each of us.102 Finally, the end-purpose of our life (or lives) on earth is foreach us to identify with the eternal Self, thereby becoming one, in knowledge and spiritualactuality, with the Divine Ground. (Ann K Elliott in Higher Ground refers to this experience as“what occurs when the ego is superseded by the Self as the new center [sic] of the totalpsyche, its glory now illuminating the total being” (Elliott 2000-2003:Ch 6:Online).) Huxleymakes the point that it is only in “dying to [ourselves]” that we become “capable of perpetualinspiration ... and instruments through which divine grace is mediated to those whoseunregenerate nature is impervious to the delicate touches of the Spirit” ([1946] 1994:364). Insummary, in the oft-cited word of Lady Emily Lutyens (1926:89), “The One becomes themany that the many might know themselves as One.” In his seminal little book Gods inExile the Dutch Theosophist and Liberal Catholic priest of yesteryear J J van der Leeuwwrites ([1926; 1940] 2001:13): Man is essentially divine; as a son of God he partakes of the nature of his Father and shares His Godhead. Man’s own and true home is therefore the world of the Divine; there we live and move and have our being “from eternity to eternity”.103For the present writer, who is a very much a religious liberal in the Christian tradition, butsomeone who is also open to multiple sources of wisdom and inspiration including but notlimited to the world’s religions, sensibly interpreted, the Liberal Catholic Church honours thetotality of our human experience, with the journey being the important thing. BishopWedgwood expressed it so beautifully when, in a sermon first delivered in 1921, he said(1928:163): That is the work which we set before our people in the Liberal Catholic Church. It is for this reason that we do not seek to fetter the intellect, even though we have certain definite teachings to lay before our people. These can only be verified as they grow in spirituality. And there is no greater help to grow into the reality of things than the power which flows through the sacraments, especially through the Blessed Sacrament of Christ’s love which is celebrated Sunday by Sunday in this church. As we open ourselves to the love of Christ which flows through the Holy Sacrament, we shall find his Spirit opening in our natures, and we shall begin to comprehend things which before were only matters of intellectual theory.102 As Parry ([1971] 2007:155) has written, “Each one of us, as an eternal being made in the image of God, wascreated by [God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ]”; cf Col 1:16.103 See also van der Leeuw’s The Fire of Creation (1927). 40
  • There we have it. The spirit of the Living Christ flows through the sacraments, especiallythrough the Holy Eucharist, and that Spirit, which is Love, changes our lives and the lives ofothers to the extent to which we “open ourselves” to that great love.As regards the emphasis placed by the Liberal Catholic Church on complete liberality andfreedom of thought and belief, such a stance is entirely consistent with “the esoterictradition of the mystery schools in the Christian revelation” (Hall 2000:50). Manly P Hall hadthis to say about the Gnostics (referring to them in a very general sense, being very muchaware that there were numerous competing Gnostic sects formerly in existence): They had no interest in an ecclesiastical system, for they realized that no man can be saved by addicting himself to a theology. The value lay in the soul experience.The emphasis placed by the Liberal Catholic Church on what Hall referred to as “soulexperience” has meant that, for the most part, there has been little or no interest to datewithin the ranks of the Liberal Catholic Church in developing a distinctive theology of itsown (cf Parry (1965b); Burton [1971] 2008; Oliveira 2006). The emphasis in some quartershas been on “teaching”, whilst retaining in varying degrees Christian language and thoughtforms, just plain Theosophy (with the latter being rather narrowly defined, at least by some“conservative” Theosophical members of the Church, as that “archaic system of esotericwisdom in the keeping of the brotherhood of adepts”, complete with belief in the AscendedMasters, their teachings, and so forth).104The present writer seeks to encourage an intermediate position, eschewing any need forsystematic or dogmatic theology of any kind but seeking to promote, as the EasternChristian churches have done so well, what has been described as a “theologicalanthropology” in which the human being is seen as a “fundamental unity of body and souland should be understood as an ‘embodied soul’ or an ‘ensoulded body’” (Smith 2006:xi),with the ultimate aim of our earthly existence being theosis (deification) as a result of aprogressive divinization or unfoldment of our innate spiritual gifts and divine nature. OurStatement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine is, in the opinion of the present writer, asufficient statement of theology when understood and interpreted in light of the Platonic andNeoplatonic traditions in early Christianity.104 That is, “Theosophy as understood by Adyar” (Tillett 2005:Online). 41
  • Developments in theology such as process theology, predicate theology and enactmenttheology are to be applauded because they are consistent with the above mentionedtraditions and do not “compartmentalize the spiritual from the theological” (Smith 2006:x) asso much of Western (as opposed to eastern) Christianity has done over the centuries withits Aristotelian and Augustinian foundations. We need to present and promote our Churchas being a non-ethnic bound Eastern-leaning Western Christian Church in the Catholic,Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions. We have more in common with Eastern Christianchurches, and certain other Eastern-leaning Western Christian churches (for example, theMaronite Catholic Church105) than we realize or care to admit. Vladimir Lossky, in his bookThe Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (1976), stresses the importance of notseparating the spiritual from the theological, and of the importance of living one’s theology(1976:8-9): We must live the dogma expressing a revealed truth, which appears to us as an unfathomable mystery, in such a fashion that instead of assimilating the mystery to our mode of understanding, we should, on the contrary, look for a profound change, an inner transformation of spirit, enabling us to experience it mystically. Far from being mutually opposed, theology and mysticism support and complete each other. If the mystical experience is a personal working out of the content of the common faith, theology is an expression, for the profit of all, of that which can be experienced by everyone. Outside the truth kept by the whole Church personal experience would be deprived of all certainty, of all objectivity. It would be a mingling of truth and falsehood, of reality and illusion: “mysticism” in the bad sense of the world. On the other hand, the teaching of the Church would have no hold on souls if it did not in some degree express an inner experience of truth, granted in different measure to each of the faithful. There is, therefore, no Christian mysticism without theology; but, above all, there is no theology without mysticism.A Christian, but not a Theosophical ChurchWhen it is written that “the scriptures, creeds and traditions of the Church as the means bywhich the teachings of Christ have been handed down to us ... partake of the nature of atheosophy”, as opposed to a theology, it is the submission of the present writer that Liberal105 The Maronite Catholic Church is an Eastern-leaning Western Christian Church in the Catholic traditionwhich, although it has its own patriarch and its own distinctive rite (the “Maronite Rite”, in Syriac Aramaic), isotherwise in full communion with the Catholic Church centred in Rome under the authority of His Holiness thePope. The Maronite tradition predates the Roman, tracing its lineage to the very church that St Peter and StPaul founded in Antioch before they went to Rome: see Acts 11:19-26. The disciples were first called Christiansin Antioch: see Acts 11:26. The Church of Antioch (now known as the Antiochian Orthodox Church, althoughthere are other churches with similar names) is the most ancient church after that of Jerusalem. St Maro (Maron/Maroun) (350-410 CE), who later became the patriarch of the Maronites, was one of the early AntiochianChristians in North Syria. The Maronite Rite came to Lebanon directly from the Church of Antioch. See,generally, Abraham (1931) and The Maronite Rite: Questions on the Maronites ([August] 1978). 42
  • Catholic teachings and writings can be best understood against a backdrop of the Platonicand Neoplatonic traditions in Christianity as expounded by a number of the early andprominent Church Fathers, “the Platonic and Neoplatonic ... being those most closelyattuned to the Wisdom Tradition”.106 That is where we should look if we wish to discover andrecover the “lost Gnosis” to which Bishop Pigott referred.Theosophy may have been the means by which the Liberal Catholic Church came intobeing, and arguably the inspiration, at least in part, for its coming into being, but it is notTheosophy that underpins and provides a theological foundation for the Church being achurch, and a Christian one at that, but the very roots of Christianity itself as expressed bythose Christians whose theology was rooted in Platonism and Neoplatonism. We are talkingabout what the German church historian and liberal theologian Harnack described as “theacute Hellenization of Christianity”.107 Harnack labelled that phenomenon Gnosticism, butmore recent students of Gnosticism, whilst not doubting for one moment the phenomenonwhich Harnack described, say that he was wrong in labelling it Gnosticism: see, eg,Churton (2005:5).Now, the present writer is not purporting to assert that the Wisdom Tradition began with thePlatonists and the Neoplatonists, and with what Harnack referred to as “the acuteHellenization of Christianity”, because that is simply not the case. However, what is beingasserted is that “from among the various schools of Christian thought, the Platonic andNeoplatonic are those most closely attuned to the Wisdom Tradition”.108 As the AmericanLiberal Catholic priest Donald K Burda pointed out: From my study of the original mystical roots of the Church, I concluded that the [Liberal Catholic Church’s] approach was closer aligned to the traditions held so dear by the Fathers of the Church: traditions based on Truth, and not on superstition.109Accordingly, as a Church which holds itself out to the world as being a “Christian” church, itis incumbent upon us to look closely at what the Christian Platonists and Neoplatonists had106 See Sections 6 (Scripture) and 10 (Philosophical Background), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles &Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006), passim.107 Harnack (1908), quoted in Jonas (1958:36).108 See Section 10 (Philosophical Background), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9thed (London: St Alban Press, 2006).109 “Fr Burda Ordained”, 207 Ubique, 21 June 1980, p 18. 43
  • to say about Christianity, whilst resisting both the attempt to construct any form of rigidtheology and all that is contrary to the teachings and spirit of Jesus Christ. As van derLeeuw points out, the writings of Irenaeus show that “already in the second century theessentials of Christ’s teaching were obscured by dogmatic non-essentials, belief in whichChrist Himself never demanded of any man” (1927a:64). So much of the “Paganism” of so-called traditional or conventional Christianity, such as the doctrine of vicarious atonement(in terms of penal substitution and the like), and the idea that Jesus is purportedly the onlyway to God the Father, comes not from Jesus himself, nor from Judaism, but from Greco-Roman mystery religion,110 but not the sort of mystery religion that is worth preserving.Indeed, Liberal Catholic Bishop Lawrence W Burt (1945a:1) had good reason to speak, ashe often did, of “false theology”, saying: To demand of educated people belief in many of the Articles of Faith, places upon them the choice either of honest rejection, or of acceptance with mental reservation. The latter choice is the highway to hypocrisy and self-deception.111Burt (1945a:1) went on to refer, disapprovingly, to such traditional Christian doctrines as theabove mentioned doctrine of vicarious atonement112 - a doctrine “which blasphemes God theLoving Father ... outrages all sense of justice, and represents all mankind as creatures ofiniquity” - the doctrine of the Deity of Jesus, “which doctrine places an unbridgeable gulfbetween Our Lord and ourselves, and was refuted by Christ Himself”, 113 the dogma of physicalresurrection (“merely a contradiction in words”), 114 and the supposed infallibility of Scripture.Elsewhere (Burt 1960) the late bishop also made it clear that there “is no place in LiberalCatholic teaching” for various other traditional Christian doctrines such as “Original Sin ...Salvation by Faith, Eternal Punishment, and all that such dogmas imply”. In the view of thepresent writer, Burt’s attacks on traditional Christianity remain as fresh and as valid today,110 The doctrine of vicarious atonement, as traditionally understood and expounded, has more in common withMithraism, with its baptism in the blood of bulls, than it does with Judaism. The latter had notions of bloodsacrifice, but did not endorse human sacrifice, and the idea that God could become man, or that man couldbecome God, are totally foreign to Judaism.111 Emphasis in the original.112 Burt (1945a:9) notes that the doctrine of vicarious atonement was “unknown to the first century Christianity”.Corelli (1966:423), after referring to a “world [that] goes to church and asks a Divinity to save its soul”, goes onto write of the “blasphemy of sham religion [which] has insulted the majesty of the Creator more than any otherform of sin, and He has answered it by His Supreme Silence”.113 Thus, Jesus is reported to have said, among other things, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye aregods?”(Jn 10:34; cf Ps 82:6); “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (Jn 5:19); “Ican of mine own self do nothing” (Jn 5:30); “I am in my Father: and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20).114 The present writer is in full accord with what then the American Liberal Catholic priest (and later bishop)Charles Hampton wrote is his book Reincarnation: A Christian Doctrine (1925), namely that the resurrection ofJesus was “a mystical resurrection, consistent with a mystic birth of Christ within the heart” (1925:25). 44
  • even more so, than they did when he first delivered his address some 60 or more years ago.Sadly, the “defensive theology” espoused by traditional Christianity has “done so much toestrange thinking [people] from the Church” (van der Leeuw 1927a:70).As mentioned above, the Liberal Catholic Church is a Christian church, in the sense of beingtrue to the teaching and spirit of Christ Jesus, and that has been acknowledged by prominentLiberal Catholic bishops who were also leading Theosophists (see, eg, Burt 1960). However,any talk of it being, or of its having been founded as, a “Theosophical Church” must be firmlyrejected. As van Driel (in preface, Leadbeater [1902] 2007:Online) points out: This new body [namely, the Liberal Catholic Church] was not a Theosophical church, but rather one where the Catholic understanding of the Christian faith was combined with the Wisdom Tradition in complete freedom of conscience and belief.An editorial in Theosophy in Australasia in 1918 stated: Actually the Old Catholic Church and the Theosophical Society are entirely unconnected. The Theosophical Society as such has no more interest in the Old Catholic Church than in the Anglican, Roman, or Greek Churches.115This view is supported by numerous utterances from successive international presidents of theTheosophical Society. By way of example, the then international president of the TheosophicalSociety C Jinarājadāsa, in a letter dated 5 November 1951 to the editor of The CanadianTheosophist, made it clear that “there is no Theosophical Church” and further that “there neverhas been any affiliation between the Theosophical Society and the Liberal Catholic Church”.116With the greatest of respect to those who have viewed it differently over the years, the wholeidea of a “theosophical church” is oxymoronic, for Theosophy is not a religion, or at least itdoes not ordinarily claim to be one. Thus, Blavatsky (1950 10:163) writes: … Theosophy is not a Religion, we say, but RELIGION itself, the one bond of unity, which is so-universal and all-embracing that no man, as no speck – from gods and mortals down to animals, the blade of grass and atom – can be outside of its light.The only senses in which the Liberal Catholic Church can be said in any truthful andmeaningful way to be a “theosophical” church are as follows:115 Theosophy in Australasia, April 1918, as cited in Rumble (1958:565).116 See <>. 45
  • • The Liberal Catholic Church is a church which seeks to preserve and promulgate the Divine Wisdom (the “Divine Mysteries”) in an otherwise Christian context and tradition and continuing Christian revelation. Thus, the American Liberal Catholic Bishop William H Pitkin, in his “supplementary notes” to Bishop Wedgwoods history of the beginnings of the Liberal Catholic Church (see Wedgwood 1938) writes: [The Liberal Catholic Church] was to be a theosophical church in the true meaning of that word - Divine Wisdom. And since Divine Wisdom is unlimited it can never be the exclusive possession of any individual or any organisation. It is ever to be sought for, but ever receding. "Veil after veil will lift, but there must be veil upon veil behind." This Church was to be a church of and for "seekers for the Light" of Divine Wisdom; therefore it must be a church of religious and philosophic freedom so to speak, whether the seeker belongs to any school of philosophy or to none, to any Christian denomination or none, to any religion or none. • The Liberal Catholic Church “brings Theosophy into Christianity”,117 and it cannot be denied that Theosophy that was highly significant in inspiring the church’s Founding Bishops to bring about what they hoped would turn out to be a “regeneration of Christianity”118 (see Brandt nd [but c1965]:Online).The theosophy that we speak of, when we refer to the “teachings” of the Liberal CatholicChurch are those teachings … [which] may be said to partake of the nature of a theosophy. Theosophy (Greek for “divine wisdom”) differs from theology in emphasising the importance of each individual’s quest for spiritual understanding based upon personal experience (gnosis or sophia) as opposed to dogmatic imposition of particular interpretations of scripture, which may be limited by man’s knowledge of the world at any one time.119In an article entitled “The World’s Most Precious Gift”, published in 1960 in what was then theofficial organ of the Liberal Catholic Church in the Province of Australia, 120 A H Brown had thisto say about what may be called “Liberal Catholic Christianity”: Christianity therefore is not merely a study of Scriptures, but the discovery and practical application of the truth of Christ’s teaching concerning the Kingdom of God within man [cf Lk 17:21]. The birth and unfoldment of man’s Inmost Self – “Christ in117 See “C W Leadbeater - A Self-illumined Man by Some of His Pupils”, in Hodson and van Thiel (nd [butc1965]: Online).118 Emphasis added.119 See Section 10 (Philosophical Background), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9thed (London: St Alban Press, 2006), passim.120 See 11:8 Provincial News, September 1960. 46
  • you the hope of glory” [Col 1:27] – can be achieved only by one’s own self-disciplined efforts – no one can do this for us.121In short, the Liberal Catholic Church “occupies a very distinct position among the Churches inthe Christian world” (Oliveira 2007b:207). Further, whilst Christian mystics have been a vitalpart of Christianity right from its earliest origins, the Liberal Catholic Church is one of the fewchurches who seek to give expression to the mission of both St Paul and Jesus as purveyorsof the Ancient Wisdom. Paul described our mission and raison dêtre in the most practical,,yet mystical terms as follows (see Col 2:2 [Amplified Bible]): (For my concern is) that their hearts may be braced (comforted, cheered and encouraged) as they are knit together in love, that they may come to have all the abounding wealth and blessings of assured conviction of understanding, and that they may become progressively more intimately acquainted with, and may know more definitely and accurately and thoroughly, that mystic secret of God (which is) Christ. the Anointed One.122The Platonic and Neoplatonic Traditions and Roots of ChristianityVan der Leeuw wrote (1927a:61) that “[e]very great movement begins with inspiration andends in dogma”. Regrettably, Christianity is no exception.Although Christianity began its life as a Jewish sect it cannot be stressed enough thatseveral of its key “building block” Christian concepts such as Christ as the Logos, and eventhe Doctrine of the Holy Trinity itself, came not from Judaism nor from Gnosticism, let alonefrom any one or more of the many different competing Gnostic sects, as is often (wrongly)asserted, but from mainstream Greek philosophy.123 Indeed, the whole concept of theLogos, as well as the concept of the Trinity in its more Christian form at least, 124 are of121 Emphasis in the original.122 Emphasis added.123 There were many fundamental differences between the Gnostics and the Alexandrians. For example,Gnostics saw no need for faith whereas Clement and other Alexandrians regarded knowledge (gnosis) as beingthe result and perfection of faith, the latter having primacy as a “first principle” for the foundation of knowledge.124 Insofar as the Trinity is concerned, although notions of a divine trinity, triplicity or triad can be found in manyother religions, its most immediate and temporal connection with what became mainstream Christianity was viaGreek philosophical thinking. The history and source of the Christian Doctrine of the Holy Trinity are not to befound in Christian revelation but in Platonic philosophy. Indeed, the very language of the doctrine comes fromclassical Greek philosophy. It was Origen who set out on a doctrinal basis the Holy Trinity based upon standardMiddle Platonic triadic emanation schemas. The word, as opposed to the concept, of the Trinity was actuallycreated by the Christian apologist Tertullian (c160-220 CE) as a shorthand expression to refer to what he sawas the triune nature of the Godhead as expressed in the Bible. It was not until “the last quadrant of the 4thcentury ... that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma One God in three Persons becamethoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought”: The New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 14, p 295. 47
  • Greek philosophical origin,125 and their incorporation into mainstream Christianity is verymuch associated with the so-named Alexandrian School of Theology. Sadly, certain otherideas, that still form the backbone of conventional, traditional Christianity, such as thedoctrine of vicarious atonement, also came not from Judaism but from Greco-Romanmystery religion but were unfortunately carnalized and literalized by those sections of theChurch which would in time become dominant to such an extent that the original religiousunderstanding and significance became almost unrecognisable in the process. As regardsthe influence of Greco-Roman mystery religion, the prominent Baptist minister and civilrights activist, the late Martin Luther King, Jr, in his study of the influence of the Greco-Roman mystery religions, especially Mithraism, upon Christianity, wrote (1949-50:Online): The Greco-Roman world in which the early church developed was one of diverse religions. The conditions of that era made it possible for these religions to sweep like a tidal wave over the ancient world. The people of that age were eager and zealous in their search for religious experience. The existence of this atmosphere was vitally important in the development and eventual triumph of Christianity. These many religions, known as Mystery-Religions, were not alike in every respect: to draw this conclusion would lead to a gratuitous and erroneous supposition. They covered an enormous range, and manifested a great diversity in character and outlook, "from Orphism to Gnosticism, from the orgies of the Cabira to the fervours of the Hermetic contemplative." [Angus, The Mystery Religions and Christianity, p vii.] However it is to be noticed that these Mysteries possessed many fundamental likenesses; (1) All held that the initiate shared in symbolic (sacramental) fashion the experiences of the god. (2) All had secret rites for the initiated. (3) All offered mystical cleansing from sin. (4) All promised a happy future life for the faithful. [Enslin, Christian Beginnings, pp 187, 188.] It is not at all surprising in view of the wide and growing influence of these religions that when the disciples in Antioch and elsewhere preached a crucified and risen Jesus they should be regarded as the heralds of another mystery religion, and that Jesus himself should be taken for the divine Lord of the cult through whose death and resurrection salvation was to be had. That there were striking similarities between the developing church and these religions cannot be denied. Even Christian apologist had to admit that fact. ... There can hardly be any gainsaying of the fact that Christianity was greatly influenced by the Mystery religions, both from a ritual and a doctrinal angle. This125 Even the idea of the immortality of the human soul was not derived by the Jews from the Hebrew Bible (the“Old Testament” of the Christian Bible) but rather was taken from Plato. Both the Jewish communities ofantiquity as well as the early Christian churches were deeply influenced by Greek philosophical ideas. The NewTestament of the Christian Bible provides no scriptural basis for belief in an "immortal soul" survivingconsciously after death. The words “immortal soul” are found nowhere in the Bible. The word “immortal” occursonly once in the entire Christian Bible (see 1 Tim 1:17), where it refers specifically to God. Only God hasimmortality. 48
  • does not mean that there was a deliberate copying on the part of Christianity. On the contrary it was generally a natural and unconscious process rather than a deliberate plan of action. Christianity was subject to the same influences from the environment as were the other cults, and it sometimes produced the same reaction.Whatever the origins of the various doctrines and dogmas of what became conventional,traditional, mainstream Christianity - and some of those doctrines and dogmas did arise outof Judaism Christianity – the Christian Church as a whole (unlike the Liberal CatholicChurch) continues to affirm the Jewish roots and flavour of the Gospel stories andteachings and of the Church’s fundamental doctrines and seeks to downplay the influenceof the philosophies and religions of the Greco-Roman world. Like most things in life, thetrue position is much more complex.Professor Samuel Angus, sometime Professor of New Testament and Historical Theology,St Andrew’s College, University of Sydney, and a leading authority on the environment ofearly Christianity and, in particular, the Greco-Roman mystery religions (see, especially,Angus [1925] 1975; 1929; 1931) wrote that ... Greek religion is that of the most cultured people who ever lived on this earth of ours. Religion deals with the ageless quest of the spirit – man’s effort to base his life on some enduring foundation. We must approach the religion of the Greek in the spirit of sympathy. God is the god not of the Jews only, but of the Greeks. Clement of Alexandria said, “There were two revelations of God – one the revelation of Philosophy to the Greeks, and one the revelation of religion among the Hebrews”.126Manly P Hall has written that if, as we Liberal Catholics generally assert to be the case,there is an underlying unity of the true wisdom of the world’s religious traditions andteachings, esoterically understood, then the philosophical basis of what Hall refers to as“the doctrine of religious unity” originates in “the most mature and convincing of Plato’sconclusions” (1945:19). The Athenian-born Plato (c427-347 ECE), who Dean Inge in hisbook Christian Mysticism rightly described as “the father of European Mysticism”, wrote127and spoke of “The One” and “The Good”. Plato saw philosophy as being “a kind of logos[,]and Plato’s notion of logos128 may be analysed in modern terms as ‘the reasonable use ofwords in thinking’” (Urmson and Rée 1989:242). Consistent with his doctrine of generals126 Extracted from notes of Angus’s 1933 lecture on Greek religion, as quoted by Ernest H Vines in Parer(1971:23).127 Hall (1945:78) writes that the “most important and least known” of Plato’s writings are his Five Books onTheology, which, fortunately, were preserved by Proclus of Alexandria, surnamed the Platonic Successor.128 The word Logos refers not only to the expression of the Divine but also to its intelligibility: see Mitchell(2006:66). 49
  • and particulars, with religion being a “general”, and the world’s different religions beingspecialized “particulars”, Plato wrote and spoke of the existence of two different worlds, thefirst (but not in time or origin) being our phenomenal or physical world of visible things.However, there is another world of ideas129 and forms, each of which (the “OnesThemselves”) made manifest in our everyday supposedly material world as things visible, inwhich these ideas and forms are “visible only to the mind itself, or rather not visible butintelligible, grasped only by the pure intellect using bare words” (Urmson and Rée1989:243).So, according to Plato, there is a world of being, in which everything exists, “always is”,“has no becoming” and “does not change” (the world of forms), and there is a world ofbecoming, which “comes to be and passes away, but never really is” (the physical world orcosmos).130 Accordingly, we have such things as Goodness, which is distinct from thingswhich are good in themselves, and Beauty, which is also distinct from things which arebeautiful, and so forth. However, there is only one Goodness, one Beauty, and so forth.This Platonic idealism is found in many parts of our Liberal Catholic Liturgy, but mostespecially in the Act of Faith when we speak of God being “Love and Power and Truth andLight”. Unless there be One which Itself is Beauty, Justice, as well as such other things asLove, Power, Truth and Light, “there would be no sense in calling anything beautiful”(Urmson and Rée 1989:243), just, loving, powerful, true or full of light.From Plato’s theory of forms - that the real world originates in the realm of ideas, that ideasshape and create reality, that what we see as the so-called material world is only a shadowof the real word - these ideas can easily be seen in the writings of Bishop Leadbeater,especially in The Science of the Sacraments, which is essentially a treatise of the power ofthe mind to generate ideas and then translate those ideas into thought forms of greattransformative power.131 Plato’s concept of “The One” also had a powerful impact onChristian metaphysics and mysticism and coalesced perfectly with Jewish monotheism(see, eg, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut 6:4)).129 For Plato the word “idea” meant first visible form and then form in general.130 See Plato’s Timaeus, 28a.131 See also Thought-Forms by Besant and Leadbeater. 50
  • For Plato, human improvement was “the supreme good, toward which all learning shouldactively trend” (Hall 1945:79). We see this emphasis on the need for human improvement inthe services in The Liturgy pertaining to the Holy Orders. Examples include the following,extracted from various services of Holy Orders: • “[Y]ou must learn self-control and acquire additional powers. Instead of allowing your body to direct and enslave you, you should endeavour to live for the soul. Wherefore as a first step you must learn in this grade of cleric to control, and rightly to express yourselves through, the physical body ... “ (The Ordination of Clerics, 359) • “In this order, you learn control of the emotions and passions, as before you learned to master the crude instincts of the physical body. ... If through carelessness or selfishness the emotions have been allowed to become self-centred, it is our duty not to kill them out, but to purify and raise them; to substitute for devotion to our own pleasure devotion to God and humanity; to put aside, as far as may be, affection for self for the affection that gives, caring nothing for any return; not to ask love, but to give love.” (The Ordination of Doorkeepers, 362) • “As you had to learn to purify emotion, so also must your mind be pure. As you learned to perceive the necessity for physical cleanliness, or to throw off with repugnance the lower emotion, so also must you thrust away unworthy thought, remembering that all thought is unworthy that is impure, selfish, mean or base; such, for example, as would seek for flaws instead of gems in thinking of the character or work of another. ... Wherefore as readers it is your duty to train and develop the powers of your mind, to study and fit yourselves that you may help to train and develop the minds of others.” (The Ordination of Readers, 364-365) • “In this grade of exorcist it is your duty by strenuous effort to develop the power of the will and by its exercise to cast out from yourselves the evil spirit of separateness and selfishness. Having learned to control your own evil habits, you will have greater power to help others to cast out the evil from themselves, not only by example but by precept and even by direct action on your part.” (The Ordination of Exorcists, 367) • “From ancient times, also, it has been required of those who enter this order that they strive to acquire certain virtues of character, such as are typified by the vestments delivered unto them. By the amice, control of speech; by the maniple, the love of service or diligence in all good works; by the tunicle, the spirit of joy and gladness, or freedom from care and depression, that is to say, confidence in the good law, which may be interpreted as a recognition of the plan revealed by almighty God for the perfecting of his creation.” (The Ordination of Subdeacons, 378)The above are more than just moral exhortations. In each grade or order grace or spiritualpower is conferred to the extent to which the candidate is open to it and does what isrequired, invoking the help of the One who has, and is, all Power. By such means, personaltransformation, especially in the form of ego deflation at great depth, takes place.Plato’s idealism was dominated not just by the importance of striving for humanimprovement at all levels but also by the “supremacy of the mind ... with the possibility of 51
  • the intellect accomplishing through proper cultivation all that is necessary to the security ofman” (Hall 1945:79). In the opinion of Plato, a philosophic and contemplative life was anecessity in order for there to be any participation in the Divine life. Our Liturgy makes itclear (see, for example, the above excerpts) that more than proper use and control of theintellect is required, and, further, that there is a Mind that is above all human minds of whichour individual minds form but a small part.Plato’s idea that the universe is “the body of a blessed god”, that “the earth itself is aneternal animal crawling endlessly through space, ever living, but ever changing itsappearances” (Hall 1945:78), had a powerful influence on early Christian thinking andundoubtedly played a key role in the development of the Christian notion of the “mysticalbody of Christ” as well as Leadbeater’s understanding of the importance of building a“Eucharistic temple”. Indeed, it is not overstating things to say that the Liberal Catholicunderstanding of the Holy Eucharist being a means by which divine power can bespiritualized and brought to descend to and upon the so-called material world, for thepurpose of quickening and hastening the evolution of not only the congregants but indeedthe inhabitants of the whole world is very Platonic in its philosophical idealism.We can also see Plato’s influence in our Liberal Catholic understanding of the descent ofspirit into matter, and all that ensues thereafter, namely, “the ineffable sacrifice of thy Son,the mystery of his wondrous incarnation and passion, his mighty resurrection and histriumphant ascension” (Liturgy 217). This teaching may have come to our Church mostimmediately from Theosophy but, again, it was Plato who in his writings “set forth thedescent of human souls out of the mystery of the milky way, like seeds falling into thematrix of generation” (Hall 1945:78). The process of involution, according to Plato,proceeds as follows, as described by Hall (1945:78): Arriving within the seminal humidity of the sub-lunary sphere, the souls become intoxicated with the effluvium of matter and take upon themselves bodies, by which process they die out of their spiritual estate in order to be born as physical beings. Thus, birth is truly death; and each man is locked within the sarcophagus of his own body. Here he must remain until he is liberated by the philosophic disciplines.The “progress of human consciousness”, according to Plato, was achieved by two means,writes Hall (1945:79): 52
  • By the first, release from matter was the result of a slow evolutionary process; the human being grew by experience alone, following the difficult course of trial and error. The second, or philosophic approach, was unfoldment through personal effort. The mind was weaned from its attachments to purely physical pursuits by discipline and the study of the sciences, especially geometry. Over the gate of Plato’s academy [Mouseion] in Athens was carved the inscription: “Let no man ignorant of geometry enter here.”132Hall (1945:79) writes of the significance of Plato in these terms: The scope of the Platonic teachings can be estimated from the statement of Jowett, the English translator of the collected works of Plato. This learned, if somewhat mid-Victorian translator said, “The germs of all ideas, even most Christian ones, are to be found in Plato.” Voltaire observed that in pure point of doctrine, Plato should have been the first canonized saint of the Christian Church. Ferrier, in the Institutes of Metaphysics, summed up a considerable learning in this terse statement: “All philosophic truth is Plato rightly defined; all philosophic error is Plato misunderstood.”Plato also developed the idea of a “World-Soul”, the creation of which, according to Platoniccosmology, is as follows (as described by Ferguson 1976:Online): The Divine Craftsman is good and desires all things to be like himself. So he brings order out of chaos and fashions a world-soul; the cosmos is thus a living creature endowed with life and intelligence. The material universe includes fire and earth to make it visible and tangible, and the other elements to give it proportions. The father creates the divine heavenly bodies, the visible gods, and entrusts to them the fashioning of the mortal part of man; he himself creates form what is left over from the creation of the world-soul souls equal in number to the stars.133Now, prior to the Christian era, Athens reigned supreme over Alexandria134 as a centre forthe study of philosophy and higher learning. However, Athens was “too intimatelyassociated with the faded glories of polytheism to dispute with [Alexandria] the supremacy”,writes the United Free Church minister the Rev William Fairweather in his book Origen andGreek Patristic Theology (1901:3). In time, in the earliest centuries of the Christian era,“there flourished in Alexandria many schools of philosophy” (“Fr John” 1963:13):132 Ageometretos medeis eisito (“Let not one destitute of geometry enter my doors"). Plato also wrote, "Theknowledge of which geometry aims is the knowledge of the eternal": Resp, VII, 52. However, it was Plutarch,and not Plato, who wrote, "God geometrizes", and "Plato said God geometrizes continually": see Plutarch,Convivialium disputationum, liber 8,2. “God geometrizes”, said the mystics and occultists in the Middle Ages,partly out of self-protection for fear of persecution which did in fact occur, and partly because what was beingspoken of was otherwise seen to comprise a coherent system of symbols, albeit in the nature of a mystery.133 J Ferguson, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Mysticism and the Mystery Religions, as quoted in “PlatonicDualism”, [Online] viewed 1 May 2009, <>.134 Alexandria, in Egypt, was built by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. 53
  • Amongst them we find the Jewish school (Philo); the Gnostics, the School of the Christian Apologists (Clement of Alexandria and Origen), the Neoplatonic School organized by Plotinus and Porphrey. The early Christian Fathers associated with these Schools aimed mainly at achieving a scientific exposition of the revealed truths of religion, but from the nature of the case they could not fulfil their task of defence against “paganism” with which they were everywhere surrounded without touching on most of the questions that belong to the domain of philosophy. Greek philosophy was never entirely abandoned, and the school of Aristotle, who had been a disciple of Plato, continued to exercise great influence on the minds and deliberations of the early Fathers of the Church.135As Moussa (nd:Online) has pointed out, Alexandria had become, by the middle of theSecond Century CE, “one of the intellectual capitals of the Roman Empire”, in large part asa result of the hard work of the Ptolemies. The city had a large Jewish community, which, inmany ways, paved the way for the growth and developemnt of Christianity in the city. Then,in time, there were a number of Christian communities. Most of the Christians in Alexandriawere native Egyptians who had little or no interest in Greek philosophy andintellectlualizing. There was, however, a smaller, highly educated, community of Christiansin Alexandria who were very familiar with Greek philosophy. When an Alexandrian school ofphilosophy of the Christian kind finally developed, the school that eventuated reflected themysticism found throughout the Middle East and tended to interpret Sacred Scriptureallegorically136 rather than literally – an approach that would later find favour with manyprominent Liberal Catholics, especially Fr Geoffrey Hodson.137 As mentioned elsewhere inthis thesis, the very early Christian church, especially the Church of Antioch, the mostancient church after that of Jerusalem, having been founded by Saints Peter138 and Paulthemselves, was highly mystical in its spirituality, and this was certainly true of theAlexandrian Church Fathers as well. Fairweather has written of some of the more importantfactors that led to Alexandria becoming the important place that it did become for earlyChristianity (1901:2):135 “Fr John” (1963:13).136 See, especially, Gal 4:24 (“Now this is an allegory ...”). Grant and Freedman ([1960] 1993:27) write thatClement and Origen were of the view that “the synoptic provided a literal, historical account of Jesus’s work,while John composed an allegorical version which gave the inward, spiritual meaning of Jesus”. The writers alsonote that “Origen sometimes argued all four gospels were partly historical and partly symbolical” (also at 27).137 See, eg, The Hidden Wisdom in the Holy Bible, vols 1-4 (vols 1-2, 1967; vol 3, 1971; vol 4, 1981) (WheatonIL: Theosophical Publishing House (Quests Books), and The Christ Life from Nativity to Ascension (Wheaton IL:Theosophical Publishing House (Quests Books), 1975). Philo is noted for his allegorical interpretation of theSeptuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). This translation was “made in the first instance for theuse of Greek-speaking Jews living in Alexandria” (A Concise Bible Dictionary, London: Cambridge UniversityPress, nd, p 138).138 St Peter is reputed to have been the first among the Bishops of Antioch, the Church of Antioch itself havingbeen established in, it is generally believed, 33 CE. In 325, at the First Council of Nicea, the bishopric of Antiochwas recognized as a Patriarchate as were those of Rome, Alexandria and Jerusalem. 54
  • Everything combined to mark out Alexandria as the place most likely to take the lead in any great intellectual movement. Many currents of thought met and mingled in this cosmopolitan city, which witnessed not only the first attempts at a scientific theology, but also the simultaneous rise of the last great system of ancient philosophy. As a result of the syncretism of the period, a remarkable spirit of toleration prevailed in the community; the adherents of different cults and creeds lived side by side in mutual goodwill.It was not a Christian but the Hellenized (and more particularly, Alexandrian) Jewishphilosopher Philo, also known as Philo Judaeus as well as Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE - 50CE), a contemporary of Jesus, who is generally credited with having developed theteachings about the Logos in the first century CE. The Jewish Encyclopedia refers to thedistinctive and idiosyncratic manner in which Philo developed the concept of the Logos: This name [Logos], which he borrowed from Greek philosophy, was first used by Heraclitus and then adopted by the Stoics. Philos conception of the Logos is influenced by both of these schools. From Heraclitus he borrowed the conception of the "dividing Logos" (λόγος τομεύς), which calls the various objects into existence by the combination of contrasts ("Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit," § 43 [i. 503]), and from Stoicism, the characterization of the Logos as the active and vivifying power. But Philo borrowed also Platonic elements in designating the Logos as the "idea of ideas" and the "archetypal idea" ("De Migratione Abrahami," § 18 [i. 452]; "De Specialibus Legibus," § 36 [ii. 333]). There are, in addition, Biblical elements: there are Biblical passages in which the word of Yhwh is regarded as a power acting independently and existing by itself, as Isa. lv. 11 (comp. Matt. x. 13; Prov. xxx. 4); these ideas were further developed by later Judaism in the doctrines of the Divine Word creating the world, the divine throne- chariot and its cherub, the divine splendor and its shekinah, and the name of God as well as the names of the angels; and Philo borrowed from all these in elaborating his doctrine of the Logos.139Philo, a Middle Platonist,140 who greatly admired both the Essenes as well as thePythagoreans (but especially the latter),141 is sometimes referred to as having been a139 C H Toy, C Siegfried and J Z Lauterbach, “Philo Judaeus”, in, viewed 12 May 2009,<>. See also Churton (2005:43) who alsorefers to the Stoic background of the Logos. Tatian the Assyrian (c110-180 CE), who was an early Christiantheologian, apologist and writer who had been trained in Greek philosophy and who may have later establisheda school of his own in Mesopotamia, is said by some to have been the first Christian writer to declare that Godcreated matter by the power of the Logos: see Studer (1992). (Tatian took and combined the four Gospels of theNew Testament in his Diatessaron. According to Grant and Freedman ([1960] 1993:27) “he retained the order ofnone of them, though for the Galilean ministry of Jesus he relied primarily on Matthew, and for the story of theCrucifixion, on John”.) As mentioned, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (c535-475 BCE)also spoke of the eternal Logos, by which he meant Godly Wisdom from whom everything received itsexistence.140 Middle Platonism refers to the development of Platonism, or ideas associated with Plato, during the periodfrom roughly 130 BCE up to the late 2nd century CE. Philo was a later Middle Platonist, and perhaps the mostprominent one of the lot. Middle Platonism was followed by Neoplatonism which took shape in the 3 rd centuryCE.141 The ancient Pythagoreans had an evening ritual or mediation in which they would reflect upon their individualacts and omissions of the past day, asking themselves the following three questions: (1) In what I have failed? 55
  • Gnostic, but “although some of the raw material of Gnosticism can be found in Philo, he isnot, except in the vaguest sense, himself a Gnostic” (Chadwick 1967, as quoted in Churton2005:42). There is certainly room for confusion and disputation, for Philo did indeedcombine and synthesize Jewish religious ideas with Greek (both Stoic and Platonic)philosophy in a highly idiosyncratic fashion. Indeed, the Jewish Encyclopedia goes so far asto say that Philo’s God was “not the God of the Old Testament, but the idea of Platodesignated as Θεός, in contrast to matter”:142 Nothing remained, therefore, but to set aside the descriptions of God in the Old Testament by means of allegory. Philo characterizes as a monstrous impiety the anthropomorphism of the Bible, which, according to the literal meaning, ascribes to God hands and feet, eyes and ears, tongue and windpipe ("De Confusione Linguarum," § 27 [i. 425])143Philo, according to Churton (2005:40) wrote polemics against those who taught two gods; at the same time, Philo himself called the Logos (the divine instrument of creation) “a second god,” “archangel,” “Lord,” and “Name.”Nevertheless, Philo, whose “soul [was] athirst for God” and entire aim was to “see God”(Kirk [1934] 1966:21), always described “God as One, or, in Greek terms, as the Monad”(Churton 2005:43), this God being “beyond all being”. This was a truly transcendent Godwhich, according to Philo, was even “beyond the Monad”. According to the JewishEncyclopedia “Philos transcendental conception of the idea of God precluded the Creationas well as any activity of God in the world”.144 This God brought the cosmos into being intwo ways, first, by means of a pure act of the will, and then by means of his Logos (or word)the physical world or cosmos was brought forth. (This idea forms the basis of the thinking ofthose Liberal Catholics of a Theosophical mindset, and others as well, who make adistinction between the God who is Absolute and Beyond Being on the one hand, and the“God or Logos (Word) of the Solar System to which this planet belongs” (Pigott 1925:21) onthe other. This last mentioned God, who is God at least in the fullest sense in which we,with our own limited understanding, can conceive of such a Being, is analogous to whatPlato and the Stoics referred to as the World-Soul (of which the human soul is anemanation). Indeed, Philo also embraced “the Stoic doctrine of the immanence of God”.145(2) What good have I done? (3) What have I not done that I ought to have done?142 Toy, Siegfried and Lauterbach (Online).143 Toy, Siegfried and Lauterbach (Online).144 Toy, Siegfried and Lauterbach (Online).145 Toy, Siegfried and Lauterbach (Online). 56
  • In short, God is both “entirely outside of the world” as well as “the only actual beingtherein”.146Philo was “perhaps the first to see the Platonic Ideas as God’s thoughts” (Churton2005:43). He wrote of redemption in terms of “losing self in something higher”, with “thegoal of spiritual life as being the vision of God” (Churton 2005:46 and 47, respectively),something which was also, in Philo’s words, a “vision of peace”, for God alone is perfectpeace” (see Kirk [1934] 1966:21). This vision of God could be experienced only in momentsof ekstasis (ecstasy). We cannot see God with ordinary physical sight, but only with the“eye of the soul” (Kirk [1934] 1966:22), and that requires a special kind of asceticism, self-mortification and purity of body, mind and spirit: Who, then, shall be the heir? Not that reasoning which remains in the prison of the body according to its own voluntary intentions, but that which is loosened from those bonds and emancipated, and which has advanced beyond the walls, and if it be possible to say so, has itself forsaken itself. "For he," says the scripture, "who shall come out from thee, he shall be thy heir." Therefore if any desire comes upon thee, O soul, to be the inheritor of the good things of God, leave not only thy country, the body, and thy kindred, the outward senses, and thy fathers house, that is speech; but also flee from thyself, and depart out of thyself, like the Corybantes, or those possessed with demons, being driven to frenzy, and inspired by some prophetic inspiration. For while the mind is in a state of enthusiastic inspiration, and while it is no longer mistress of itself, but is agitated and drawn into frenzy by heavenly love, and drawn upwards to that object, truth removing all impediments out of its way, and making everything before it plain, that so it may advance by a level and easy road, its destiny is to become an inheritor of the things of God.147At the same time Philo wrote that the root of sin was the lust to become equal to God. 148 Hesaw the so-called Fall (as it is known in conventional Christianity) as being simply the resultof creation or involution into a lower world, for there was still an “unbroken union with Godin love” with the soul being God’s bride.149 This is very much the Liberal Catholic position.Philo wrote of the importance of silent contemplation and the meditative state, which willbring about not just emotional equanimity but also peace and union with the Divine: When therefore the soul is made manifest in all its sayings and doings, and is made a partaker of the divine nature, the voices of the external senses are reduced to silence, and so likewise are all troublesome and ill-omened sounds, for the objects of sight often speak loudly and invite the sense of sight to themselves; and so do voices invite the sense of hearing; scents invite the smell, and altogether146 Toy, Siegfried and Lauterbach (Online).147 “Who is the Heir of Divine Things?”, Ch 17, 14:68-70, in Yonge (Online).148 “Legum allegoriae”, 149; “De cherubim”, 58-64, in Philo (1973).149 “De posteritate Caini”, 12; “De cherubim”, 42-53, in Philo (1973). 57
  • each varied object of sense invites its appropriate sense. But all these things are put at rest when the mind going forth out of the city of the soul, attributes all its own actions and conceptions to God.150Philo translated the Jewish Scriptures in light of the language and thought forms of anumber of different stands of Greek thought (in particular, Stoic, Platonic andNeopythagorean). In the process, he gave a “spiritual interpretation of the Jewish scripturesand taught his Logos-doctrine which afterwards was to prove such a useful receptacle forthe doctrine about Christ” (van der Leeuw 1927a:67). Philo used the word Logos (which hedescribed as the “Idea of Ideas”) to refer to both the “governing principle of [the] relationbetween transcendent God and lower world” as well as “God’s image” (Churton 2005:43and 44), hence his reference to the “divine man” (cf Moses at the burning bush) beingindwelled by the Logos. To Philo the idea of the Logos was central and had a mysticalpower, for he was in no doubt that “contemplation of and speculation about the works of theLogos [would] reveal secrets” (Churton 2005:45). He also spoke of the “power” of Godmediating between God and the world as “mysteries” and, in various places, as“esoteric”.151Philo had an enormous impact on the thinking and theology of the Christian Greek Fatherswho were shortly to make their own mark in Alexandria. Fairweather writes (1901:3): Philo and his predecessors had to a great extent paved the way for a systematized expression, in terms of Greek philosophy, of the contents of Jewish-Christian tradition. Under the influence of philosophical and Oriental ideas the jagged edges of Judaism had been toned down, and elements of a metaphysical and mystical nature assumed. In the doctrine of the Logos a meeting-point had been found between Jewish monotheism and Gentile philosophy.As mentioned earlier, the concept of the Logos was of great importance to Philo but he didnot actually invent the concept. Insofar as the Doctrine of the Trinity is concerned, althoughnotions of a divine trinity, triplicity or triad can be found in many other religions, its mostimmediate and temporal connection with what became mainstream Christianity was viaGreek philosophical thinking. The history and source of the Doctrine of the Trinity are not tobe found in Christian revelation per se but in Platonic philosophy. Indeed, the very languageof the doctrine comes from classical Greek philosophy. It was Origen (c185-254 CE) who150 “Allegorical Interpretation III”, Ch 4, 14:44, in Yonge (Online).151 “De scrificiis Abelis et Caini”, 60, 131-32; “De Abrahamo”, 122; “De fuga et inventione”, 95; “De cherubim”,48, in Philo (1973). 58
  • set out on a doctrinal basis the Holy Trinity based upon standard Middle Platonic triadicemanation schemas. The word, as opposed to the concept, of the Trinity was actuallycreated by the Christian apologist Tertullian (c160-220 CE) as a shorthand expression toexpress what he saw as the triune nature of the Godhead as expressed in the Bible. It wasnot until “the last quadrant of the 4th century ... that what might be called the definitiveTrinitarian dogma One God in three Persons became thoroughly assimilated into Christianlife and thought”.152Significantly, when polytheism began to displace monotheism in Ancient Greece in about600 BCE, it was the philosophers who objected most vehemently and eloquently to whatthey saw as a distortion, indeed corruption, of the true Ancient Wisdom. For example,Xenophon (570-466 BCE) said: Among gods and people there exists one Most High God, Who does not resemble them either mentally, or externally. He is all sight, all thought, all hearing. He eternally and immovably resides in one place ... With His thought He governs all without difficulty.153The preponderance of historical records supports the view that it was in the 2nd century(c190 CE) that the Christian Church decided to establish what might be called a “ChristianSchool” in the City of Alexandria. “At first it was a school for children only”, but out of thisschool emerged “the famous Catechitical [sic] School [of Alexandria]”,154 also known as the“Alexandrian School of Theology” or simply the “Alexandrian School”. The Church’s aim,both in setting up this School and otherwise, was to demonstrate that “true philosophy ledthe way to Christianity and not to Paganism”.155 Fairweather writes that the “moulding ofChristian theology according to the Greek type is specially identified with the CatecheticalSchool of Alexandria” and that the School arose “out of the necessities of the AlexandrianChurch” itself (1901:8).152 See The New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol 14, p 295.153 As cited in Bishop Alexander (Mileant), trans N and N Semyanko (ed D Shufran), “The One God Worshippedin the Trinity”, viewed 5 April 2009, <>.154 See “Great Theosophists: Ammonius Saccas” (Online).155 See “Great Theosophists: Ammonius Saccas” (Online), quoting from Fr George Stebbing’s The Story of theCatholic Church (1915). However, according to St Jerome, the school “existed as a catechetical school from theApostles’ time”: see “Pantaenus The Alexandrian Philosopher” (Online). 59
  • The first director of, and “the principal exponent of Christianity” (van der Leeuw 1927a:67)in, the Catechetical School of Alexandria156 was, according to Bishop Eusebius, a convertedSicilian-born Stoic named Pantaenus157 (died c212 CE) who, as a result of his travels to andthroughout India, had acquired an understanding of the “doctrines of Indian religiousphilosophy” (van der Leeuw 1927:67) which be brought to Alexandria.158 We are told thatthe “venerable” (Farrar 1886:183) Pantaenus discovered that “true philosophy is found, notin the Porch, but in Nazareth, in Gethsemane, in Gabbatha, in Golgotha; and he set himselfto make it known to the world”.159 Regrettably, “only a few fragments” of his writings remain(Farrar 1886:183). However, there is no doubt that under Pantaenus’ leadership theCatechetical School of Alexandria became quite well-renowned, such that it has been saidthat “[a]ll the learning of Christendom may be traced to this source”.160The Catechetical School was a “Christian school ... honourably distinguished from thepagan schools of the period by making a virtue a subject for practice, and not merely fordefinition and discourse” (Fairweather 1901:11-12). Furthermore, the theology thatemerged from this Alexandrian School of Theology was a “constructive” one as opposed tothe “defensive theology substituted for the living teaching of Christ” (van der Leeuw1927a:66 and 70) that was elsewhere developing in Christianity around about the sametime. Van der Leeuw writes (1927a:66-67): Alexandria has always been one of the most remarkable of the Christian churches; here Egypt, Greece, Israel, Rome and the Orient met, not only in commerce, but also in intellectual and spiritual intercourse. Nowhere did the new faith find a richer ground to develop. ... Naturally the Christian church in Alexandria became with Rome the leading Church of the Christian religion. Here from the earliest days the instruction of members in the Christian doctrine was organised better than anywhere else; here for the first time we find a critical study and arrangement of the Christian scriptures.Fairweather has written (1901:1-1):156 The Catechetical School of Alexandria made special use of the method of teaching known as “Socraticdialogue”, a method designed “for the expulsion of ignorance and error, and for the cultivation of a genuine loveof truth” (Fairweather 1901:11). Socratic dialogue is used to this day as a teaching and learning method in manylaw schools throughout the world, especially in the United States of America.157 Later Saint Pantaenus.158 Pantaenus, with whom Clement of Alexandria became closely associated, first as master and pupilrespectively, and later as colleagues, was the head, if not the actual founder, of the Alexandrian School, whichwas founded in around 190 CE. He may have been the head of the Alexandrian School before he went to India.159 “Pantaenus The Alexandrian Philosopher” (Online). Pantaenus is quoted by Eusebius in Hist Eccl, VI.14.2.160 “Pantaenus The Alexandrian Philosopher” (Online). 60
  • The Greek patristic theology was the result of the application of the specific methods of Greek philosophy to the new material supplied by the Christian history, with the view of constructing a reasoned theory of God and the universe. As such it was “the last characteristic creation of the Greek genius.” In the New Testament God is represented from a religious point of view; but for the Greek mind, which conceived God metaphysically as abstract Being, a scientific theology was indispensable. The facts of Christianity had to be so interpreted as to yield a conception of God which would at once conserve His unity, and yet admit of His organic connection with man as Lord and Saviour. Naturally this result was reached only through a process of development.It has been mentioned already that, early in the Christian era, the Jewish philosopher Philoemphasised the mystical quality of our relationship with the Divine, the latter being seen byPhilo to be “supra-rational” in nature and which can only be contacted and experiencedthrough and in moments of ekstasis (ecstasy). As such, he was a forerunner ofNeoplatonism, which otherwise took shape in the 3rd Century CE, and which will be thesubject of more detailed consideration later in this chapter of this thesis. Philo himself had adirect and very profound influence upon both the Athenian-born Clement of Alexandria 161(c150-215 CE), a convert to Christianity from paganism 162 who would in time succeedPantaenus as the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria,163 and his pupil andprotégé Origen of Alexandria (c185-254 CE), each of whom were late Second CenturyGreek Fathers of the early Christian Church, with the latter (Origen) undoubtedly being oneof the greatest of all Christian theologians.164 Fairweather writes (1901:13): In the great work of winning the Greek world for Christianity, Clement was the immediate precursor of Origen, the forerunner without whom Origen, as we know him, could not have been.161 Titus Flavius Clemens, but known as Clement of Alexandria (cf Clement of Rome).162 Fairweather (1901:12) writes that Clement’s own studies in religion led him to “forsake paganism andembrace Christianity”.163 Clement, who studied under Pantaenus, was also a pupil of Tatian the Assyrian. He was a convert toChristianity.164 Alexander, later bishop of Jerusalem, was also a pupil of Clement at the Catechetical School. Other notableAlexandrian theologians include Saint Cyril of Alexandria (c378-444), a Doctor of the Church and once “Pope ofAlexandria” when that city was at the height of its influence and power in the Roman Empire, and SaintAthanasius of Alexandria (c293-373) (one of four great Doctors of the Eastern Church). Mention should also bemade of Athenagoras (c133-190), an Athenian philosopher who converted to Christianity and became animportant Christian apologist and who almost certainly had some connection with the catechetical school inAlexandria (although he was probably never its head, as has been claimed by some writers). Cyril taught thatthere was “one (mia) nature of the incarnate Logos” (mia fusij tou qeou Logou sesarkwmenh). Sadly, Cyril’sorganized campaign of attacks, some extremely violent in nature, on those whom he saw as dissenters orheretics ultimately “brought an end to the teaching of Greek philosophy in Alexandria” (Bushby 2004:263). Asregards the teaching of philosophy in Athens, that came to an end as a result of an edict of the EmperorJustinian “who prohibited its teaching and caused all schools closed” (Bushby 2004:263). 61
  • Clement of Alexandria, himself a student of and successor to Saint Pantaenus, was highlyknowledgeable in both Greek165 and Egyptian philosophy which led him to conclude that“truth could be found even in the heathen systems”.166 For Clement, philosophy was “nowork of darkness, but in each of its forms a ray of light from the Logos, and thereforebelonging of right to the Christian” (Fairweather 1901:14). Clement “combined in himself thenobility of Greek culture with the depth of Christian faith” (van der Leeuw 1927a:67-68), andwas largely responsible for developing what can only be described as an eclectic form of“Christian Platonism”.167 Although “no systematic theologian in the modern sense, Clementmay be said to have laid the foundation of a true scientific dogmatic” (Fairweather 1901:24).Van der Leeuw writes (1927a:68): He considered Greek philosophy and Jewish law to be the paedagogus meant to lead man to Christ, and believed that the Logos directed and inspired the philosophy of Greece until He could be fully manifested in Christ. Thus Christianity was shown as the natural and necessary consummation of Greek and Jewish culture ...As mentioned earlier, the Christians in Alexandria were not all of one mind and accord. Themajority of Christians in the city, those who were Egyptian-born and bred, had little or nointerest in Greek philosophy. Then there was a smaller group of Christians who were very“Greek”, and espcially Platonic, in their philosophising. Clement sought to expound a“middle way” between the views of these two different groups of Christians. Fairweatherhas spoken of how Clement was able to successfully combine the best of Greek philosophywith the revealed wisdom from the Hebrew Bible and the prophets culminating in Jesus’incarnation (1901:86-87): The true goal of the Greek philosophy, as well as of the revealed wisdom proclaimed by the prophets, was the incarnation of Jesus, which focussed [sic] all previous self-communications of the Eternal Reason. A knowledge essentially devoid of error is thus guaranteed to us. ... Clement held that a man’s life is likely to be virtuous in proportion to his knowledge of the truth. ... By the union of the divine and human natures in His own person, Christ has become the source of the new life of humanity.165 Clement saw much of value in Platonic metaphysics, Stoic ethics and Aristotelian logic (Chadwick [1967]1993:97).166 See “Great Theosophists: Ammonius Saccas” (Online).167 Clement himself admitted to being an eclectic: see his Stromata, I:37. See Hoyland (1928) for an inter-relationship between Platonism and Christianity; the otherwise scholarly study is, however, marred by apraeparatio evangelica style of approach, that is, seeing Plato’s views and teachings as a preparation for asimilar expression of teaching in the Gospels purportedly proclaimed by Jesus himself. 62
  • Fairweather has also written of how Clement saw philosophy as the divine precursor toChristianity (1901:15): What philosophers of all schools had been aiming at was also the aim of Christianity, viz a nobler life. The difference, according to Clement, was this: while the ancient philosophers had been unable to get more than glimpses of the truth, it was left to Christianity to make known in Christ the perfect truth.Clement’s writings, which display his “profound indebtedness to Middle Platonism” (Churton2005:117), perhaps best exemplify what our own Bishop Frank Pigott had in mind when hewrote of the “lost gnosis” in his book The Parting of The Ways (1925:35), for, as Churtonhas pointed out (2005:115): [Clement] was not declared to be a heretic, and his works have therefore survived in the orthodox circles. Of all the extant writings of the first centuries of the Christian era, it may be that those of Clement conform most closely to what Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons might have called the gnosis “truly so-called.”Clement, who attained the rank of presbyter in the Church of Alexandria (Fairweather1901:13), is famous for having written, “There is one river of truth, but many streams fallinto it from this side and that.”168 Bishop Pigott (1934:Online) has written concerningClement’s statement: Judaism is one such tributary; Hellenism is another; the genius of the Latins has also poured in in very large measure; and more recently the Nordic races, chiefly but not wholly through Protestantism, have added their special contribution. And now there comes another tributary bearing the ancient wisdom of the East. It is as yet but a trickle but it may be destined to flow in greater and greater fullness. Charles Leadbeater is mainly responsible for that.Clement was “a Christian who [also] called himself a Gnostic”, indeed a “self-confessedGnostic” (Churton 2005:115 and 117, respectively). He saw himself as a “true Gnostic”.Indeed, he spoke, quite unashamedly, of the Christian being a “Gnostic”, whilst making itclear that he was referring not to any of the various schools and sects which were active inthe 2nd century and which called themselves “gnostic” but rather to that true or“ecclesiastical gnosis” (Farrar 1886:185) which the Apostle Paul referred to as “myknowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph 3:4).169 Clement railed against what he labeled168 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, I:5.169 Clement especially opposed those Gnostics who taught that the material world or the created order was aliento and from Almighty God. 63
  • “the Apostlic orthodoxy” and “the evangelical canon” (Farrar 1886:185) which, in his view,had perverted and corrupted the true religion and teachings of Jesus.R F Horton, in his book The Mystical Quest of Christ, writes (1923:9) that, insofar asClement was concerned What was revealed in Christ was the utmost that we could know; and the additions made by the Gnostic systems were fictitious.As a Gnostic Christian whose “inquiring spirit caused him ... to travel through many lands insearch of the most distinguished Christian teachers” (Fairweather 1901:12-13), Clementaffirmed that “the true wisdom or gnosis was that inner illumination to which the trueChristian could attain if he lived the life of purity and love which our Lord had taught” (vander Leeuw 1927a:69). He believed that there were differences in knowledge (gnosis)between Christians. The more enlightened ones were those who had methodically devotedthemselves to living a highly moral life, along Platonic lines, in their acquisition of a deeperknowledge and understanding of the Divine. Clement’s aim was “to bring his students to astate of spiritual vision, not as a single experience so much as a dynamic, growingmovement, of which this life on earth formed only a part” (Churton 2005:117). Fairweatherwrites (1901:15): As the world must needs go through several stages preparatory to the coming of Christ, so must a man advance by degrees from faith (πιστις) to love, and from love to knowledge (γνῶσις), to the position of a perfect Christian.Faith was thus only the first step toward gnosis, for, according to Clement, the Christian“must advance from faith to knowledge by the path of simple obedience and rectitude”(Fairweather 1901:31). In his Stromateis Clement has this to say about faith and gnosis: Faith then is a compendious knowledge of the essentials, but gnosis is a sure and firm demonstration of the things received through faith, being itself built up by the Lord’s teaching on the foundation of the faith, and carrying us on to unshaken conviction and scientific certainty. ... [T]here seems to me to be a first kind of saving change from heathenism to faith, a second from faith to gnosis; and this latter, as it passes on into love, begins at once to establish a mutual friendship between that which knows and that which is known. And perhaps he who has arrived at this stage has already attained equality with the angels. At any rate, after he has reached the final ascent in the flesh, he still continues to advance, as is fit, and press on through the holy Hebdomad [the seven planetary spheres] into the father’s house, to that which is indeed the Lords abode, being 64
  • destined there to be, as it were, a light standing and abiding forever, absolutely secure from all vicissitude.170The reference to “the holy Hebdomad [the seven planetary spheres]” is significant, as weare familiar with the “seven days of creation”, the “seven rays”, the “seven mighty spiritsbefore the throne” (cf Rev 1:4), and so forth. Hodson in his book The Seven HumanTemperaments writes (1952:2): The One becomes Two or androgyne. These Two interact to produce the Third Aspect of the threefold manifested Logos. These Three in turn unite in all their possible combinations to produce seven groups of three. In three of these groups, one of the three predominates; in three others, two predominate and in the seventh, all are equally manifest. Since divine consciousness is focused and active in each of these Emanations, they are regarded as finite Beings or "Persons". From the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, the Seven emerge, who are known in Christian Cosmogony as the Seven Mighty Spirits before the Throne, in Judaism as the Seven Sephiroth and in Theosophy as the Seven Planetary Logoi, each the Logos of a Scheme of seven Chains of globes.171All of this is beautifully captured in the Ascription in the Liberal Catholic Church’s service ofBenediction of the Most Holy Sacrament (see Liturgy 262): To the most holy and adorable Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one God; to Christ our Lord, the only wise counsellor, the Prince of peace; to the seven mighty spirits before the throne; and to the glorious assembly of just men made perfect, the Watchers, the Saints, the Holy Ones, be praise unceasing from every living creature; and honour, might and glory, henceforth and for evermore.Not only did Clement take from Greek philosophy the concept of the Logos, he “divinised” itsuch that both the Son and the Holy Spirit were also “first-born powers and first created”. Inthat regard, Clement distinguished the so-called Son-Logos from the Logos itself. Thus, theLiberal Catholic/Theosophical understanding of Christ as the World Teacher, expressinghimself through, among others, the person and personality of Jesus, has its origins andfinds early expression in Clement. Churton (2005:117) writes: Clement saw Christ the Logos as the implicate, unifying factor of all the projected archetypes. This also meant that Clement saw all religions as being the sacred expressions of the divine archetypes, while the divine Logos-Christ, present (if unseen) in all, united the All.170 Stromata, VII.171 In cosmic numerology or “sacred geometry” the number “seven” represents such things as fullness, individualcompleteness (the number “twelve” representing corporate completeness), the perfection of the human soul,and grace. It is considered to be the “divine number” and thus the most spiritual of all numbers. 65
  • In the writings and teachings of Clement, God “is manifested through the Son, by whosegrace as Logos He has in some degree been known to the nobler spirits of every age andcountry” (Fairweather 1901:26). These ideas are reflected in various parts (for example, inthe “Prayers of Intent” and in “The Commemoration of the Saints”) of the Service of theHoly Eucharist in The Liturgy (217 and 219; 235 and 237) Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, we thy humble servants, bearing in mind the ineffable sacrifice of thy Son, the mystery of his wondrous incarnation, [his blessed passion,] his mighty resurrection, and his triumphant ascension, do here make before thy divine majesty the memorial which our Lord hath willed us to make … … And we join with them in worship before thy great white throne, whence flow all love and light and blessing through all the worlds which thou hast made.For Clement the Christian gospel was “the highest revelation of the Logos, who has givenindication of his presence wherever men rise above the level of the beasts and of theuncivilised savage” (Fairweather 1901:24). “The eternal Word has appeared as man inorder to become our Teacher and Saviour” (Fairweather 1901:29).Clement, like Liberal Catholics, had a high vision of humankind, and its innate divinity andpotential. His philosophy and theological system recognised the reality of sin, but there wasno place for any Calvinistic-type sin-sodden view of our innate total depravity or the like.Thus, Clement rejected and denied the doctrine of “original sin” - something the Jews havealways repudiated as well - but he was still nevertheless of the view that “fallen man [was]powerless to restore himself to good” (Fairweather 1901:29). We needed the help of Christto achieve that. Having said that, Clement was very much a Universalist, being a firmbeliever in the doctrine of apocatastasis. He would have had no difficulties at all in agreeingwith that part of the Liberal Catholic Act of Faith that states that “all his sons shall one dayreach his feet, however far they stray” (Liturgy 210; 229). Any “punishments” meted out byGod were, according to Clement, “saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion”.172Fairweather writes (1901:33): … Clement held that after death perfect blessedness will be reached through a further process of further development, accepted the Pauline doctrine of a glorified172 See Stromata, VII, 2; Pedagogue, I, 8. Quoted in Hanson (1899), ch 9. See also “Apocacatastasis”, NewSchaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol 1, [Online] viewed 9 April 2009, <>. 66
  • resurrection body, and allowed the possibility of repentance and reformation until the last day, when probation would cease.173God was thus not an angry, vengeful god that needed to be appeased. It was simply a caseof our impurity which needed “to be overcome, so that unity with the Divine may beattained” (van der Leeuw 1927a:70). We “wander from the path which leads torighteousness” (Confiteor, Liturgy 204; 224) out of ignorance of who and what we really are.All of this was, for Clement, part and parcel of the Christian doctrines of creation andredemption.Clement saw Jesus, not so much as Saviour, but as Way-Shower and Exemplar, with theway being one of self-sacrifice and selfless self-giving. Only by such means could one beinitiated into the “Mysteries of the Kingdom of God”. Clement spoke of those Mysteries inthese terms: But the Mysteries are delivered mystically, that what is spoken may be in the mouth of the speaker; rather not in his voice, but in his understanding. "God gave to the Church, some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." The writing of these memoranda of mine, I well know, is weak when compared with that spirit, full of grace, which I was privileged to hear. But it will be an image to recall the archetype to him who was struck with the Thyrsus.174Van der Leeuw writes (1927a:70) that Clement understood Christ’s self-giving as being aliving allegory175 of the need for our own crucifixion of our egos: The message which Christ brought to man was not that life meant a crucifixion, but that through the crucifixion of our earthly self the spirit within could attain to the new birth.As regards the nature of the “mysteries” that Clement saw as his duty and responsibility toexpound, Clement’s approach was very much in the esoteric tradition which was followedby Jesus himself who said, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, butfor those outside everything is in parables” (Mk 4:11). Thus, Fairweather writes (1901:19):173 See Stromata, VII, 2, 16.174 Stromata, 1, 1. Online version: viewed 28 April 2009, <>.175 Fairweather writes (1901:18 fn 1) that, according to Clement, “Scripture [had] even a fourfold sense – theliteral, the mystic, the moral, and the prophetic”. See Stromata, 1, 28. 67
  • Founding on Col 1:25 ff, Clement holds that hidden mysteries received by the apostles from the Lord had been handed down in direct succession until those who possessed the tradition of the blessed doctrine “came by God’s will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds (Strom I 1, vi 8). These Christian mysteries were not disclosed to the general body of the pupils attending the Catechetical School ... They had the fundamental dogmas of the Church expounded to them, but not the abstruser speculations about “the being of God, the origin of the world, the last things, the relation of reason to revelation, of philosophy to Christianity, of faith to knowledge,” which were reserved for the enlightened.176In Clement’s system of theology, salvation did not depend upon any notions of vicariousatonement or propitiation or expiation as traditionally understood by conventional,mainstream Christianity. Fairweather writes (1901:30) that: When all is said … there is no doubt that, in the general view of Clement, salvation hangs not upon Christ’s finished work as a sacrificial victim for the sins of men, but merely upon the fact of a spiritual transformation wrought in us by the Word as the world’s Instructor.The Christian life therefore becomes one of imitating God, especially Christ Jesus. ForClement, that is the basis of Christian morality and ethics. Fairweather writes (1901:32): This is the one great principle running through his often very detailed treatment of Christian ethics. By the aid of the incarnate Word we are enabled to become imitators of God.We find this idea reflected in the Service of the Holy Eucharist in The Liturgy (221; 239): Under the veil of earthly things now have we communion with our Lord Jesus Christ; soon with open face shall we behold him and, rejoicing in his glory, be made like unto him. Then shall his true disciples be brought by him with exceeding joy before the presence of his Fathers glory.Fairweather (1901:26) writes that one of the “merits” of Clement is that “he grasps so firmlythe doctrine of the Trinity”, and then goes to on to describe the God in whom Clementbelieved (1901:26): God is inexpressible, having neither parts, qualities, nor relations. “He is formless and nameless, though we sometimes give Him titles which are not to be taken in their proper sense,- the One, the Good, Intelligence or Existence, or Father, or God, or Creator, or Lord” (Strom v 12). This idea of God whom he further speaks of176 Col 1:25-30 reads as follows: “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which isgiven to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and fromgenerations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of theglory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warningevery man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” 68
  • as the great “depth” or “abyss,” would hardly be distinguishable from the abstraction of Philo and the Alexandrian Platonists, were it not for the qualifying declaration that to the Son of God there is nothing incomprehensible. God is therefore not absolutely, but only relatively, incomprehensible.”Thus, according to Clement, although the Father was essentially unknowable, the Son “asthe mood or consciousness of the Father may become the object of knowledge”(Fairweather 1901:27).177 Clement also wrote of the “essential unity” between the God andthe Father and God the Son. Further, there was also the Holy Spirit, for Clement wrote, “Omystic marvel, the universal Father is one, and One the universal Word, and the Holy Spiritis one and the same everywhere.”178Churton refers to Clement’s “system” of thought and teaching as being “one of the earliestformulations of a type of Neoplatonism” (2005:117), the latter being “a partly gnosticizedform of Platonic tradition” (2005:417). Neoplatonism, which “took for its religious ideal thedirect apprehension of the divine essence” (Fairweather 1901:23), will shortly be the subjectof separate consideration. As for Clement, he may or may not have been a self-confessedGnostic Christian, but even the modern day Gnostic scholars are quick to point out that heavoided the excesses and extravagances of much of the thinking of early Gnostics sects,refusing, for example, “the temptation of some Gnostics to sunder the whole within adynamic of precosmic conflict” (Churton 2005:117).Clement was, above all, a believer in reason and intellectual freedom, something ofimmense importance to Liberal Catholics. Fairweather writes (1901:16-17): Clement further maintained that, in order to be a full-grown Christian manhood, practical piety must be combined with intellectual freedom. There must, he held, be scope for reason as well as for faith, for knowledge as well as for love. This led him to attach less importance to mere historical facts than to the underlying ideas. The letter of revelation he brought under the judgment of reason. But not so as to make reason independent of faith, which he declared to be as necessary for spiritual as breath for physical life.Regrettably, but not surprisingly, Clement’s eclecticism met with some opposition, and in203 CE he was deposed as head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria and replaced byhis pupil Origen.177 Clement referred to God the Son as the “Name, Energy, Face, etc, of God” (Fairweather 1901:27).178 Paedogogus I, 6. 69
  • Origen, “the great teacher of the Greek Church” (Fairweather 1901:viii), indeed the greatestearly Christian theologian and church father, and one who was extremely well-versed inGreek philosophy, succeeded Clement as head of the Alexandrian School of Theology. Hewas a prolific writer on Christian teachings who “valued dogma [but] abjured dogmatism”(Fairweather 1901:1x). Among his various writings, De Principiis, Origen’s treatise ofsystematic theology, was “the first constructive theology the [Christian] Church had yetproduced” (van der Leeuw 1927a:77). It is no wonder that even John Cardinal Newmancould say of Origen, “I love the name of Origen.” 179 F W Farrar, in his Brompton Lecturescompiled and published with the title History of Interpretation, also paid high tribute to thesignificance of Origen as a Christian theologian and philosopher (1886:188): Like the influence of Socrates in Greek philosophy, so the influence of Origen in Church history is the watershed of multitudes of different steams of thought.Origen, like Clement and others of the early Christian era in the Platonic and Neoplatonictradition, believed in the essential oneness of all life and, in particular, “the indestructibleunity of God and all spiritual essence” (Fairweather 1901:96). Origen never doubted thatthe word of God was “the sole source of absolute certitude, and the sole repository ofessential truth” (Fairweather 1901: ix-x), and that the Gospel was “the power of God untosalvation to every one that believeth” (Rom 1:16), but he “attache[d] the greatest value to ascientific conception of Christianity ... [h]ence the union in him of the Platonic philosopherwith the orthodox traditionalist” (Fairweather 1901:89). According to Origen, all Christiandoctrine had to be subjected to the light of reason and not simply accepted on faith at facevalue. Fairweather writes (1901:89): As the revelation of the highest reason, Christianity must lend itself to elucidation by the science of reasoning, and, in fact, it admits of being stated in clear dogmatic propositions.Such an approach to the construction, interpretation and application of Christian doctrineand dogma has been a cornerstone of Liberal Catholic writing and thought throughout theyears. For example, Parry and Rivett ([1969] 1985:3) write: The [Liberal Catholic] Church’s official attitude is simply to bestow the fullness of all those teachings and sacraments that may broaden the understanding, whilst allowing the right to non-literal and unprejudiced interpretation of doctrine and scripture, and the right to be open-minded.179 Newman, as cited in Fairweather (1901:v). 70
  • Origen affirmed and expounded both the transcendence of God as the one eternal Essenceand the immanence of God in the whole of creation, with the latter being revealed in Christ.We see the influence of this thinking in various parts of The Liturgy, but perhaps nevermore beautifully than in this portion of the Service of the Holy Eucharist (see Liturgy 218;236): All these things do we ask, O Father, in the name and through the mediation of thy most blessed Son, for we acknowledge and confess with our hearts and lips that + + by him were all things made, yea, all things both in heaven and earth; ++ with him as the indwelling life do all things exist, and ++ in him as the transcendent glory all things live and move and have their being:Fairweather sums up Origen’s position on the matter with these words (1901:96): We live and move and have our being in God because by His power and reason He fills and holds together all the diversity of the world. The task to which Origen addresses himself resembles in certain respects that attempted by the Neoplatonists; for him as for them the problem is how to establish the organic unity of God and the world, and counteract the dualism of Oriental theosophies.180Not surprisingly, Origen, like Clement, was also a firm believer in Christian Universalism, 181the pre-existence of the human soul182 (with the latter, the human soul, being seen to be a“mirror” of the Deity), and the final salvation of all human beings, but this should come asno surprise to students of the history of the early Church. John Wesley Hanson, thescholarly author of Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During ItsFirst Five-Hundred Years ([1899] Online), has written this about the Early ChristianChurch’s almost universal belief in “universal salvation”: Universal Restitution was the faith of the early Christians for at least the First Five Hundred Years of the Christian Era. ...180 Cf Acts 17:28 (“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets havesaid, For we are also his offspring”). The reference to the One in whom we live and move and have our being is,according to several scholars, “based on an earlier saying of Epimenides of Knossos (6th century BC[E])” (Note,The New American Bible [Fireside Study Edition/Catholic]). Epimenides of Knossos was a Greek seer,philosopher and poet. The saying “For we are also his offspring” comes from Aratus of Soli, a 3rd century BCEpoet from Cilicia (Note, The New American Bible). Aratus (c315 BCE/310 BCE-240 BCE) was a Greek didacticpoet. In this and other verses of his writings the Apostle Paul displays his intimate familiarity with Greek writingsand teachings. Also of interest is that Mithraism came to the West when Cilician pirates were settled in Greecein the first century BCE. One of the major cities in Cilicia was Tarsus from which Paul came some 180 yearsafter the Cilician pirates had been resettled. Paul was demonstrably familiar with Greco-Roman mystery religionand his concept of the indwelling cosmic Christ often bears little resemblance to or connection with the historicalJesus.181 See De Principiis, II, x:3, 4.I, I; Against Celsus, iv, 13; VIII. Lxxii. Quoted in Hanson (1899), ch 10.182 "In the temporal world which is seen, all beings are arranged according to their merits. Their place has beendetermined by their conduct" (De Principiis 3.3.5). 71
  • The surviving writings of the Christian Fathers, of the first four or five centuries of the Christian Era, abound in evidences of the prevalence of the doctrine of universal salvation during those years.183Thus, Origen believed that although “the created spirit in the exercise of its own free willshall fall away from God, it must still return to being in him”. These are sentiments, indeeddeep convictions that receive eloquent expression in The Liturgy of the Liberal CatholicChurch (see, especially, the Confiteor and the Act of Faith). Fairweather writes (1901:96)that the “ultimate deification of humanity is a leading idea in the Greek theology”, somethingwhich is reflected in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. For example, Our Lordhimself affirmed, “Is is not written in your law, I said ye are gods” (Jn 10:34; cf Ps 82:6).184Van der Leeuw (1927a:80) points out that Origen - just like Jesus himself who spoke inparables to the masses but to his “inner group” revealed “the secret of the Kingdom of God”(see Mk 4:11) - in his various lectures and writings gave “teachings such as the majoritycould understand” but it was “only in the company of a small group of closer disciples thathe could expound the deeper doctrines and be understood”. Origen, like Clement, spokeand wrote of his belief in the “mysteries of Jesus”, participation in those mysteries, and of“the wisdom hidden in a mystery”.185 In several passages of Contra Celsum, Origen’sfamous refutation of Celsus’ attack on Christianity, Origen makes it clear that he “not onlybelieved in the existence of the Christian mysteries ... he knew and spoke of them with theauthority of one who had been initiated into them” (van der Leeuw 1927a:85). One suchpassage from Contra Celsum is as follows: ... whoever is pure not only from defilement, but from what are regarded as lesser transgressions, let him be boldly initiated in the mysteries of Jesus, which properly are made known only to the holy and pure. ... The initiated of Celsus accordingly says, “Let him whose soul is conscious of no evil come.” But he who acts as initiator, according to the precepts of Jesus, will say to those who have been purified in heart, “He whose soul has, for a long time, been conscious of no evil, and especially since he yielded himself to the healing of the world, let such an one hear the doctrines which were spoken in private by Jesus to His genuine disciples.” ... [Celsus] does not know the difference between inviting the wicked to be healed, and initiating those already purified into the sacred mysteries!186183 See <http://www.tentmakerorg/books/Prevailing.html> (viewed 9 April 2009). See also Stetson (2008).184 One of T S Eliots most memorable poems "East Coker" begins with the words, "In my beginning is my end",and concludes with the words, "In my end is my beginning" (see M Roberts (ed), The Faber Book of ModernVerse, London: Faber and Faber, 1960, pp 126, 133) – in all, a most apt poetic expression of the positionexpounded by both early Greek Patristic thought and Liberal Catholic theology.185 Contra Celsum, III, 61.186 Contra Celsum, III, 60. See also Contra Celsum, III, 59, 61 and 62. 72
  • Fairweather, in his book Origen and Greek Patristic Theology, writes (1901:70): According to Origen, the Spirit’s chief object in Scripture is to communicate ineffable mysteries regarding the affairs of men, ie souls inhabiting bodies. [De principiis iv 11.] But, passing forthwith into the region of the transcendent, he remarks that among those matters which relate to souls we must rank as primary the doctrines bearing upon God and His only-begotten Son, namely, “of whose nature He is, and in what manner He is the Son of God, and what are the causes of His descending even to the assumption of human flesh, and of complete humanity: and what also is the operation of this Son, and upon whom and when exercised.”The Alexandrian theologians were also eminent philosophers, believing that philosophy was“of divine origin” (Philip 1998:Online). In particular, as has already been pointed out on anumber of occasions, the Alexandrian School of Theology had a special focus on bothChristian and pagan (Greek) writings,187 and Alexandria itself (which was in its heyday oneof the intellectual capitals of the Roman Empire) also had more than a passingacquaintance with Buddhism,188 which itself had an influence upon Greek thought.189 Insofaras Origen’s system of theology was concerned, his “philosophy of revelation accounts forthe Gnostic and Neoplatonic features mixed up with it” (Fairweather 1901:87).Origen, who was “speculative to the verge of audacity” (Fairweather 1901:ix), and “evenmore of an idealistic philosopher than Plato himself” (Fairweather 1901:87), gave us a “key”which, if used wisely and intelligently, enables us to find the “lost gnosis”, the truetheosophia, or what Besant ([1909] 1984:60) referred to as “the wisdom underlying allreligions when they are stripped of accretions and superstitions ... teachings [that] aid theunfoldment of the latent spiritual nature in the human being, without dependence or fear”.The key is this – every religion, according to Origen, has a body, a soul, and a spirit. Vander Leeuw describes it this way (1927:82-83): Origen’s conception of the Scriptures was that they could be interpreted in three different ways, the first according to the letter or the body of the Scriptures, the second according to the soul, giving the allegorical meaning of the different passages, and the third according to the spirit, giving the esoteric interpretation.187 Clement, in particular, was extremely well versed in the writings and teachings of persons such as Marcion,Plato, Aristotle and Socrates as well as the works of many “gnostic” scholars.188 Buddhist gravestones from the Ptolemaic period have been found in Alexandria.189 Clement of Alexandria wrote concerning the Buddha, Buddhism, and the influence of Buddhism on Greekthought in his Stromata (Miscellanies), Book 1, Chapter 15, at a time when there already were in existence (andhad been for some time) several active Buddhist communities in the Hellenistic world. Indeed, there appears tohave been more than a little syncretism between Buddhism and Greek philosophical thought. Many of theancient Greek philosophers (eg Hegesias of Cyrene, who lived c300 BCE) appear to have been attracted toBuddhist asceticism and teachings. 73
  • Origen found the scriptural basis for his tripartite method of interpretation in the HebrewBible, relevantly, among other parts of the Tanakh, in Proverbs 22:20-21: Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?190When one applies this key to the sacred scriptures of the world’s great religions one findsthat, when they are interpreted literally, they are for the most part at odds with each other,and largely, if not entirely, irreconcilable. Thus, a passage of scripture such as “Jesus saithunto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”(Jn 14:6) leads Christian fundamentalists to say things such as, “God has spoken his finalword in Jesus Christ”, and “If Christianity is right, all other religions are wrong”. 191 The result– a truly horrible state of affairs which has resulted in thousands of years of acrimony,needless division, wars, inquisitions, heresy trials, witch hunts, martyrdoms, executions,and so forth.Now, when one starts to interpret scriptures allegorically,192 that produces a vastimprovement, and we start to see enormous similarities between the world’s various sacredscriptures. However, the allegorical method of interpretation has its limitations and involvesa lot more subjectivity and intuitive guesswork than its proponents care to admit, andsuffers from an unavoidable ex post facto and somewhat mechanical superimposition of analready adopted system of metaphysical or esoteric belief systemThe third method of interpretation - the “spiritual” one - leads one to conclude that, despitethe many obvious differences in the contents of the world’s religions, there is, if one ishonest enough to admit it, some underlying common message, namely that all life is one,190 Fairweather writes (1901:74 fn 2) that the word translated (in the KJV and the RV) “excellent things” literallymeans “three” or “in triple form” and is so rendered by the Greek Septuagint (τρισσως) and the Vulgate(tripliciter), “perhaps with the idea of repetition to emphasise the truth”. In any event, Origen used Prov 22:20 assupport for his threefold interpretation of sacred scripture.191 In logic, a statement of the last mentioned kind is not an argument at all, but only what is known as a“conditional statement”, as it does not state the premises necessary to support its conclusion. In short, it is afallacy.192 Although Origen was certainly not the first to expound the allegorical method of interpretation, he wascertainly “the first who attempted to give it a scientific basis” (Fairweather 1901:73). According to Origen, thefunction of allegorism was to “discover, exhibit, and expound the deeper sense of Scripture” (Fairweather1901:76). 74
  • that the One becomes the many so that the many may know themselves to be one, that weall come from God (whether we care to use that word or not to describe the Sacred or theHoly and the Ineffable One), that we belong to God, and live, move and have our being inGod, and are godlike in nature, and are each on our way back to God, that as we sow, soshall we reap, that what belongs to us by right of consciousness can never be lost, and soforth. All of this is affirmed and embraced by the Liberal Catholic Church and is givenabundant expression in The Liturgy. Origen expressed it this way: Since then Scripture itself also consists as it were of a visible body, and of the soul in it that is perceived and understood, and of the spirit which is according to the patterns and shadow of the heavenly things - come, let us call on Him who made for Scripture body and soul and spirit, a body for them that came before us, a soul for us, and a spirit for them that in the age to come shall inherit life eternal, and shall attain to the heavenly and true things of the law; and so let us for the present search not the letter but the soul. And if we are able, we shall ascend also to the spirit, in our account of the sacrifices whereof we have just read.193For Origen, the Scriptures were “a mine of speculative truths” even though he “neverdepart[ed] from the position that the Bible is the sole guide to those higher truths which,however they may vary as regards the form of their presentation, remain always the samein substance” (Fairweather 1901:71). Nevertheless, there was indeed a divine purpose asrespects “the concealment of spiritual truths under cover of some narrative of visible thingsor human deeds, or of the written legislation” (Fairweather 1901:71), for although “the letterof Scripture is capable of edifying ‘the multitude,’ who cannot investigate the mysteries …[t]he great instrument for discovering and interpreting the deeper mysteries underlying theletter of Scripture is the allegorical method” (Fairweather 1901:71, 73).Origen also shared Clement’s views on the interrelationship, but also the contradistinction,between faith and gnosis. Fairweather has this to say about Origen’s views on this matter(1901:94-95): Faith Origen views as a whole-hearted belief manifesting itself in a ready obedience. While accepting the doctrine of justification by faith alone, he holds that the faith which does not influence conduct is dead. A living faith cannot consist in sin, but changes the whole walk and conversation. ... ... Faith … gradually develops into knowledge, and the life of faith advances with every increase in the number of doctrinal propositions the truth of which is recognised.193 Origen, In Lev Hom, V. 75
  • Although the “mystic element [was] not predominant” in Origen, it was “certainly present”(Fairweather 1901:93). Thus, Origen, consistent with his mystical understanding of theLogos (which, according to Clement, is always actively working in the responsive humansoul, ever revealing new spiritual truths to the disciple on the path), placed little weight orsignificance upon “the Crucified One” (that is, Jesus Christ) except as a divine teacher andspecial manifestation of the Logos. Fairweather writes (1901:91): To the perfect, Christ is nothing more than the manifestation of the Logos who has been from eternity with the Father, and whose activity has also been eternal. It is not as the Crucified One, but merely as a divine teacher that He is of consequence to the wise. “He was sent indeed as a physician to sinners, but as a teacher of divine mysteries to those who are already pure, and who sin no more.” (Contra Celsum, iii 63).Fairweather has written of the importance of these early Church Fathers (1901:4): The special task, then, to which the Christian theologians of Alexandria addressed themselves, was that of harmonising the apostolic tradition concerning Christ with the theological conclusions of the Jewish-Alexandrian philosophers – a task which necessarily involved considerable modification of absolute statement on the one side or the other.Thus, the early Greek Fathers of the Church saw Christianity as embodying all that wasgood and noble in Greek philosophy and pagan religion. Indeed, they went further than that,stating that whatever “elements of truth” were contained in the former reached theircompletion or had their culmination in Christian doctrine. Fairweather writes (1901:92) ofthe hybrid or heterodox nature of at least certain elements of Origen’s system of theology:194 The moral and religious ideal set forth in the system of Origen is one which has its roots partly in Neoplatonic mysticism and partly in Holy Scripture.Fairweather sums up Origen’s views and contribution to Christian thought with these words(1901:93): For him the ideal to be sought by the human spirit is “the state without sorrow, the state of insensibility to all evils, of order and peace – but peace in God.” The way to attain this is through self-knowledge, repression of the sensuous, and due cultivation of “the meditative hour”: but in all this he sees nothing inconsistent with the most active endeavours to promote the kingdom of God.194 Elsewhere in his book Origen and Greek Patristic Theology Fairweather refers to what he regards asOrigen’s “essentially heterodox [theological] system” (1901:97) in which Origen incorporated “so manyphilosophical doctrines with those of Scripture, [so as] to weave them into one heterodox system” (1901:94). 76
  • Archdeacon F W Farrar, who certainly did not approve of Origen’s “version” of Christianity,nevertheless could not, and did not, deny the immense impact Origen had on the earlyChurch. Farrar writes (1886:201): The influence of Origen was wide and deep [(fn 1:) Gieseler says that “his exegetical writings were the model and source for all succeeding Greek commentators” (i. 232); he might have added, and for most Latin ones also], and all the more so because he did not expand and systematise in the Christian Church, as Philo had done in the Jewish, the principles which [were] at work in the writings of [other Church] Fathers.Over time, the religious and mystical philosophy later known as Neoplatonism195 evolved.The term is problematic and controversial in that several of those most intimatelyassociated with this school of philosophy, especially the Egyptian-born Plotinus (204-270CE) and Porphyrey (c234-c305 CE), would have seen themselves as being Platonists, andcan still be seen to this day to have been Platonists,196 notwithstanding that as time went bythe movement increasingly became a synthesis of not only a number of distinct schools ofGreek thought and philosophy (in particular, Platonism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism andPythagoreanism)197 but also esoteric elements from such places as Egypt and India. Itwould later become the foundation and backbone of Christian mysticism, and otherwise hada profound influence upon early Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius.198 Also, several notable early Christian philosophers (for example, Justin andAthenagoras) wrote unashamedly of the connections between Christianity on the one handand Platonism and Neoplatonism on the other.199Neoplatonism built upon many of the foundations already laid down by Platonism itself,especially the core idea that “Man originally by the power of the Divine Image within himcould control all Nature, but gradually lost this power through his own fault” (Corelli1966:421) (cf the traditional Christian doctrine of the Fall). For the Neoplatonist, the humanmind was a noble thing - indeed the very throne of the Godhead Itself. The emphasis wasnot on our “total depravity” but on our high calling and innate potential as the image and195 The term Neoplatonism (neuplatonisch in German) was first coined by a German historian.196 This was certainly the view of the eminent Thomas Taylor who was the first to translate the works of Plotinusinto English (see Mead (1914)) as well as that of the classical scholar John D Turner.197 Despite what the German philosopher, scholar and literary critic Friedrich Schlegel wrote, albeit in relation tothe question of “universals” (see Benn 1 1882:283), namely, “Every man is born either a Platonist or anAristotelian”, there has always been synthesisation and syncretisation.198 Neoplatonism also had an influence upon Islamic and Jewish thinkers.199 Christian Gnostics, such as Valentinus, did likewise, albeit highly selectively. 77
  • very likeness of God. Alexandrian Christology may be said to have begun with Origen, whobelieved not only in the pre-existence and multiple ages of the human soul200 but, moreimportantly, in an eternal, as opposed to a once-only in time, generation of the Son, theLogos, by means of which God communicates Itself from and throughout all eternity. 201 Itwas also Origen who wrote the decisive and seminal text of Christian Neoplatonism knownas De Principiis (On First Principles).Neoplatonism, as a religious philosophy, is a special form of idealistic monism,202 assertingthat all reality is ultimately mental, that the physical world is produced by the mind, and thatwe experience the physical world through the medium of ideas … and not directly.Neoplatonism has been described as being “the basic philosophy of Plato with specialemphasis upon its mystical content” (Hall 1945:27) – in other words, Platonic mysticism.203As such, Neoplatonism postulates one infinite and primeval Source of Being, which is thesource of all life as well as absolute causality, and the only real existence in which all thingssubsist and have their being. Unity is reality, not just the underlying reality behind allappearances of diversity. Indeed, according to Neoplatonists, diversity is an illusion in anyevent. The “key” to all Neoplatonic thinking is, firstly, that all life is one, and secondly, thatgood is co-eternal with unity (Hall 1945:40). This understanding of life needs to beexperienced, not just intellectually, but at the deepest levels of one’s being.200 Belief in the pre-existence of the soul was “not peculiar to Pythagoras and Plato, but was also current in theEast, and may well have been suggested to Origen by certain Jewish apocrypha in which there was a largeadmixture of Oriental ideas” (Fairweather 1901:87-88). As to whether or not Origen actually believed inreincarnation, the evidence from Origens own extant works (see, eg, his Commentaries on Jn 6:7 [229 CE] andMt 10:20 [248 CE]: see “Reincarnation” [Online]) tends to suggest that Origen did not actually believe inreincarnation per se or not at least as the doctrine was generally understood. A local synod (not being anecumenical council as such) condemned Origen’s teachings on pre-existence of the soul held in 543 CE. Whatwas subsequently condemned at the Second Council of Constantinople held in 553 CE - an ecumenical councilwhich was not primarily concerned with the issue of reincarnation but with an issue known as “The ThreeChapters” - was not Origen’s supposed belief in reincarnation but the actions of certain Origenists (namelyEvagrius and the Isochrists) who had redefined and reformulated (and thereby distorted) Origens originalChristology so that it came to read like a defence of reincarnation. We may never know what Origen’s preciseviews actually were on the matter of reincarnation. For example, in Contra Celsum it is unclear whether Origenis asserting his own personal association with Plato’s belief in transmigration of souls (reincarnation) or simplyreferring to Celsus as having made such an association. See also Weatherhead (1957:4, fn 1) who refers to,among other material, certain statements contained in an article written by the Liberal Catholic priest G NDrinkwater that had been published in an issue of The Liberal Catholic. See, generally, Hampton (1925) andCooper (1927).201 The Alexandrian School of Theology also laid the foundations for the development of Christian humanism.202 The Liberal Catholic philosophical orientation is highly monistic in nature. Tettemer ([1951] 1974:252)describes monism in these terms: “I could no longer see how the source of all things, Being, Itself, could createanything outside itself, as the dualism of Christianity teaches; for outside Itself there could be only non-being, ornothing.”203 Neoplatonists drew inspiration from, and meditated upon, not just the writings of Plato but also the teachingsof Pythagoras. 78
  • Neoplatonists placed a special emphasis on “the attainment of the state of enlightenment”,meaning “the individual attainment of the philosophic state” (Hall 1945:37 and 38) such thatthe “eternal prisoner”, our spirit long buried in the tomb or sepulchre of matter or substance- the very essence of Life Incarnate - can rise to perfected glory by means of an ongoingprocess of purification, knowledge and service to others. The Neoplatonists were alsoUniversalists, affirming not only their belief in the “oneness of life - God’s life and ours -[which] is distinctly an Eastern teaching” (Pigott 1934:Online) but also embracing the viewthat whilst the One ever seeks perfect Self-conscious expression by becoming and takingthe form of the many, the many (indeed, all) will eventually find their way back to the OneSource of Being. This is beautifully reflected in the Act of Faith of the Liberal CatholicChurch (see Liturgy 210, 229): We believe that God is love and power and truth and light; that perfect justice rules the world; that all his sons shall one day reach his feet, however far they stray. We hold the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man; we know that we do serve him best when best we serve our brother man. So shall his blessing rest on us + and peace for evermore. Amen.Such optimism, especially as regards the idealistic manner in which God is described,together with the notions of the perfectibility of all human beings, and the idea that perfectjustice rules the word, are very Platonic, and that Platonism carried through to theNeoplatonism of the 3rd century and, many centuries later, in the revival of Neoplatonismthat occurred, first during the Renaissance,204 and later in the 19th century, re-manifestingitself, especially in the United States of America, in such movements as Transcendentalism,New Thought, Christian Science, Theosophy and other metaphysical movements, but notunfortunately in mainstream conventional Christianity. Manly P Hall writes thatNeoplatonism was “too broad and profound a system of philosophy to gain generalacceptance” (1945:18). This is not at all surprising, for, as Fairweather points out (1901:23),the Neoplatonists “borrowed whatever appeared to them good from every possible source”.Fairweather goes on to say (1901:23): They contemplated nothing less than the introduction of a universal religion, constructed on principles so broad that the wise of all the earth could adhere to it. It was their aim to set matters right between philosophy and theology, between doctrine and life, and to satisfy the needs of the soul on a scale to which Christianity could make no pretension.204 During this period Greek and Arabic Neoplatonic texts were acquired, translated and disseminated, resultingin a revival of interest in the philosophy. 79
  • H P Blavatsky supports the view that the “Ancient Wisdom” entered Christianity in aprominent way by means of Neoplatonism. She writes (1879:Online): There were Theosophists before the Christian era, notwithstanding that the Christian writers ascribe the development of the Eclectic theosophical system to the early part of the third century of their Era. Diogenes Laertius traces Theosophy to an epoch antedating the dynasty of the Ptolemies; and names as its founder an Egyptian Hierophant called Pot-Amun, the name being Coptic and signifying a priest consecrated to Amun, the god of Wisdom. But history shows it revived by Ammonius Saccas, the founder of the Neoplatonic School. It was the aim and purpose of Ammonius to reconcile all sects, peoples and nations under one common faith -- a belief in one Supreme Eternal, Unknown, and Unnamed Power, governing the Universe by immutable and eternal laws.Ammonius Saccas,205 who was referred to immediately above by Madame Blavatsky, wasan Alexandrian-born philosopher and “Philalethian, lover of truth”,206 who “received his earlyeducation in the children’s school which preceded the Catechitical [sic] School”, 207 and who“never committed anything to writing”.208 Hall writes that Ammonius’ convictions were “thedirect result of internal inspiration rather than formal study and disputation” (1945:179).Perhaps most importantly, he was the teacher for some eleven years of Plotinus,209 towhom “the work of recording the Neoplatonic teachings was taken up”.210 Although manywriters (and not just Blavatsky) refer to Ammonius Saccas as having been the founder ofNeoplatonism, it is Plotinus who is generally credited with having been the principal founder(in the sense of his having been the developer and perfector) of Neoplatonism, 211 indeed“the greatest exponent of Neoplatonism” (von Krusenstierna 1977:28), although it is clearthat Ammonius Saccas was the biggest single influence on Plotinus in terms of thedevelopment of his philosophy of Neoplatonism.Plotinus was also associated with the Alexandrian School of Theology. His system ofmetaphysics and cosmology was quite complex involving three hypostases, namely the205 Also known as Ammonius of the Sack, he died between 240 and 245 CE. He was the first person to use theterm “theosophy” (von Krusenstierna 1977:28).206 See “Great Theosophists: Ammonius Saccas” (Online).207 See “Great Theosophists: Ammonius Saccas” (Online). Many assert that Ammonius Saccas was largely self-taught.208 See “Great Theosophists: Plotinus” (Online).209 Origen was another pupil or “disciple” of Ammonius Saccas.210 See “Great Theosophists: Plotinus” (Online). It is said that Saccas started the Neoplatonic School inAlexandria in 193 CE: See “Great Theosophists: Ammonius Saccas” (Online).211 Others, such as Proclus, also played an important role in developing and perfecting the teachings ofAmmonius Saccas. 80
  • One, the Intelligence or Mind (Nous),212 and the Soul – a veritable trinity of sorts, in whichthe Intelligence (cf the Son, in the Christian religion) derives and acknowledges its source inand from the One, as a result of the self-reflection of the latter. The relationship has beendescribed as being as follows (Moore 2008:Online): The Intelligence may be understood as the storehouse of potential being(s), but only if every potential being is also recognized as an eternal and unchangeable thought in the Divine Mind (Nous). ... The being of the Intelligence is its thought, and the thought of the Intelligence is Being.In Christian terms, God thinks but one thought, and that thought is God’s Son. RomanCatholic archbishop Fulton J Sheen, after referring to Plato’s question, “If there is only oneGod, what does He think about, for if He is an intelligent being He must think ofsomething?”, gave this as an answer in his book The Divine Romance: God does not think one thought, or one word, one minute and another the next. Thoughts are not born to die, and do not die to be reborn, in the mind of God. All is present to Him at once. In Him there is only one Word. He has no need of another. That Thought or Word is infinite and equal to Himself, hence a Person unique and absolute, first-born of the spirit of God; a Word which tells what God is, a Word from which all human words have been derived, and of which created things are but merely the broken syllables or letters; a Word which is the source of all the wisdom in the world.213The wording and the thought forms employed by Fulton Sheen in many of his writings214show the influence of Platonic and Neoplatonic thought on Christian thought – even withinmainsteam Christianity.Plotinus was not a traditional theist nor a pantheist, and is probably best referred to as apanentheist. He described the path of spiritual realization as a “flight of the alone to theAlone” (Mehta [1955] 1957:12). As for the human soul itself, Plotinus saw it as beingcomprised of two parts, namely a higher or divine part, which by its very nature isunchangeable and eternal (cf the notion of “the Self”), and a lower part being the seat of the212 Plotinus also refers to the Intelligence as Being, God (theos), as well as the Demiurge (the latter being amore “Gnostic” concept).213 Sheen (1930:Online), viewed 5 May 2009, <>.214 See also Three to Get Married (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1951), in which Sheen writes(1951:Online): “The Trinity is the answer to the questions of Plato. If there is only one God, what does He thinkabout? He thinks an eternal thought: His Eternal Word, or Son. If there is only one God, whom does He love?He loves His Son, and that mutual love is the Holy Spirit.” What Sheen is either unable or unwilling toacknowledge are the Greek roots of the Trinity, although he does state, rather patronisingly, that “The greatphilosopher [viz Plato] was fumbling about for the mystery of the Trinity ... [but] it was Jesus Christ, the Son ofGod, Who revealed to us the inmost life of God”. 81
  • personality (the “false self”, if you like, comprising the various “I’s” and “me’s” that give theappearance of being the real person but which have no real existence in and of themselveswhatever). Plotinus’ concept of the One, which is entirely self-sufficient and omnipresent,from which everything else emanates and has its being, is very “eastern”, and finds muchexpression in and throughout the Liberal Catholic Liturgy. For example, in the service of theHoly Eucharist, we find the following beautiful passage in the Prayer of Consecration(Liturgy 215): … [W]e lift our hearts in adoration to thee, O God the Son, who art consubstantial and coeternal with the Father, who, abiding unchangeable within thyself, didst nevertheless in the mystery of thy boundless love and thine eternal sacrifice send forth thine own divine life into the universe and thus didst offer thyself as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, dying in very truth that we may live. Omnipotent, all-pervading, by that self-same sacrifice thou dost continually uphold all creation, resting not by night or day, working evermore through that most august hierarchy of thy glorious saints, who live but to do thy will as perfect servants of thy wondrous power, to whom we ever offer heartfelt love and reverence.All of the notable persons referred to above who were associated in one way or anotherwith the Alexandrian School of Theology were not content simply to believe. They wanted toknow. That should be our aim, both individually and as a Church, today. Despite censure,hostility and charges of heresy and so forth, much of the mysticism of the AlexandrianSchool, being part of what Besant ([1931] 2002) has referred to as an otherwise unbrokenand continuous “Universal Wisdom Tradition”,215 along with other associated ideas andconcepts such as theosis (or “divinisation”), finding the “Hidden God” in our very own lives,and “waking up to mystery”, were absorbed into some forms and expressions of Christianthinking, and can be found to this day in Christian churches such as the Maronite CatholicChurch, the Antiochian Orthodox Church216 - even though those two churches have theirorigins in the Church of Antioch - and the Liberal Catholic Church. All these churches lay215 The Wisdom Tradition (or the so-called “Ancient Wisdom”) can be traced in, inter alia, the Upanishads, thewritings of Lao-tze, The Book of the Dead of ancient Egypt, the Kabbalah, various Gnostic writings, thePythagorean, Platonic and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy (and, as regards the latter, especially Dionysiusthe Areopagite, also known and more correctly referred to as Pseudo-Dionysius), Plotinus, the Rosicrucians, theKnights Templar, Freemasonry, Scandinavian and Celtic folklore, the great Christian mystics such as MeisterEckhart, St John of the Cross and Mother Julian of Norwith, Hawaiian Huna, Native American spirituality, Maoritraditions, Australian Aboriginal dreamtime stories, and so forth.216 The Antiochian Orthodox Church (also known as The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East) isone of the five churches that comprised the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church before the East-WestSchism (the “Great Schism”). Over time, the rise in power of the See of Constantinople, and later Rome itself,reduced the importance of the Church of Antioch, and much that was mystical in Christianity (in particular, earlyChristianity) was lost as a result. 82
  • special emphasis on the idea that the Son of God became man so that we might becomeGod. This is a very Eastern perspective. Regrettably, mainstream traditional Christianityhas, for the most part, moved in an altogether different direction. As the American LiberalCatholic Bishop John M Tettemer ([1951] 1974:211) writes: It is interesting to speculate on what would have been the development of Christianity if the Arabs had not brought Aristotle to the Western World in the ninth century, and if the Platonism of Augustine, or even the Neoplatonism of Plotinus, had become the prevailing philosophy in Europe, during that period in which the Church’s doctrines were to receive their final form.217Sadly, as Hall (1945:172) pointed out: Neoplatonism could not compete successfully with the rising tides of Christian Aristotelianism, therefore it never became a popular school of thought. For some reason, the negative emotions and attitudes come easier to men than do the more constructive impulses. It is easier to dislike than to like, and we are far more likely to distrust than to trust. We hope for the best, but we prepare always for the worst. We talk of the brotherhood of man, but develop elaborate systems to prove the inequality of nations and the perfidy of individuals. We talk of the fatherhood of God, and then preach of the gentile and the constant menace of heathenism. In business there is much mouthing of such words as ethics, cooperation, and fair- play, but ceaseless practice of ruthless competition.The literalist Christians in the Roman and later Protestant traditions ultimately won out. Theregrettable history of the Christian Church, at least in its so-called more traditional andconventional forms, is one of increasing dogma, control and dependency. Creativity,autonomy and freedom of belief on the part of the individual were progressivelydiscouraged. Dissent was not tolerated. Even the use of violence was justifiable if itassisted in maintaining orthodoxy. For the most part Christian theology was systematizedalong Aristotelian, as opposed to Platonic or Neoplatonic, lines, which was the “best” way toachieve the desired result – uniformity, consistency, fidelity to the “one true faith” ... andobedience … especially the latter. All of this is the very antithesis of Platonism andNeoplatonism. Max Freedom Long, in What Jesus Taught in Secret, expressed it this way(1983:113): Christianity, once its basic pattern had been rather completely set, by about 400 [CE], became fixed, and, in a static condition, droned on and on through the Dark Ages.Douglas Lockhart in his book Jesus the Heretic explains how Christianity “borrowed” fromGreek philosophical thought and Gnosticism much of its doctrinal and ethical teaching,217 Re-Quest edition of I Was a Monk. 83
  • before proceeding to literalise and carnalize it to the point of absurdity, thereby totallydistorting the religion of Jesus, that is, the religion which he taught and by which he lived hislife. Lockhart writes (1997:264): The Church Fathers tell us that the doctrines of the Gnostics had their foundations in Plato and Pythagoras, Aristotle and Heraclitus, and in the mysteries and initiations of the surrounding nations – in fact, in just about everything but Christ. So was there no actual connection with Christianity? Was Gnosticism just a parasitical body attached limpet-like to the body of the Faithful? Well, not quite. As we have seen from our survey of Paul’s interaction with the Samaritan gnosis, and the evolution of his Christology in alignment with religious ideas from Samaria and Arabia, the Christology eventually borrowed from Paul by the emerging orthodoxy at Rome was replete with Gnostic images and conceptions which they timorously interpreted back into absurd literalisms ... When merged with the heavily camouflaged history surrounding Jesus’ life and teachings found in the gospels, this muddle took on stupendous proportions and began to turn into the topsy-turvy theological nightmare modern thinkers are still trying to make sense of. Having popped Jesus physically into the sky, orthodoxy got rid of the primary influence on Paul’s conception of the “mystic Christ”, ended up believing its own manufactured propaganda virtually by accident, and then made it anathema for anyone to disagree with this cutely concocted system of compulsory beliefs. And it really can’t be argued that all of this was done in innocence – that is academic foot-shuffling.218The Liberal Catholic Church, as already mentioned, formally and proudly identifies itself,from among the various schools of Christian thought, with the Platonic and Neoplatonic “asbeing those most closely attuned to the Wisdom Tradition”219 which, as a Christian church,the Liberal Catholic Church believes represents all that is true, valuable and original inChristianity. Thus, the Liberal Catholic Church is therefore committed to preserving andpromulgating the truths contained in the Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophical andtheological traditions. It would not be overstating the point to assert that most LiberalCatholics see subsequent theological developments (in particular, the theological writings of218 Emphasis in the original. Evidence of Paul’s panentheistic and cosmic Christology can be found ininnumerable New Testament verses including but not limited to the following: “In Christ were created all things inheaven and on earth everything visible and everything invisible.... Before anything was created, he existed, andhe holds all things in unity” (Col 1:15-17); “In him we live, and move, and have our being.... ‘We are hisoffspring’” (Acts 17:28); “For from him, and through him and to him are all things” (Rom 8:36); “There is one Godwho is father of all, over all, through all and within all” (Eph 4:6). See also the complementary Johannine versionof Christological panentheism: “Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light thatdarkness could not overpower” (Jn 1:2-5); “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5); “God is love,and anyone who lives in love, lives in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16).219 Section 10 (Philosophical Background), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006). Neoplatonism, in its theology, is panentheistic. Plotinus taught that there wasan ineffable transcendent God (The One) of which subsequent realities were emanations. From the Oneemanates the Divine Mind (Nous) the Cosmic Soul (Psyche), and the World (Cosmos), in contradistinction tomany Gnostic sects which held the inverse idea of panentheism. For them, matter was evil and ultimatelyflawed, and thus not part of God. This resulted in a dualistic nature of the universe, seen most clearly, andrigidly, in the teachings of Manichaeism. (Saint Augustine of Hippo passed through stages of Platonicphilosophy and Manichaen theology before embracing Catholic Christianity at the age of 32.) 84
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas - a person who was fundamentally an Aristotelian in philosophy –and whose writings laid the foundation for the development of Catholic Christianity in ahighly restrictive and regulative manner)220 in what may be termed mainstream or traditionalChristianity as constituting an aberration, indeed a corruption, of Christ’s original teachingsand principles. As one writer on early Christian history puts it: It’s rather odd, then, that a movement which likely started as a mystery religion would eventually reject all of its own “mystical” content, and go after other faiths, based on that rejection. This is one of many paradoxes that surround the origins of Christianity. Unfortunately, later Christians destroyed many records of the period, so we may never know precisely why this happened. The reason for Christianity’s victory is both obvious and simple: Politics. It so happened that it became popular among the intelligentsia of the eastern imperial cities — especially in places such as Antioch, Alexandria, Nicaea, Carthage, etc. These cities had managed to ride out the turbulence of the first three centuries of the Empire. Roman Emperors, beginning with Constantine, needed the support of the eastern cities, if they were to make the Empire work. So Constantine, in 313, declared tolerance for Christianity, making it safe to be a Christian. Later Emperors added even more favours to the young religion (with the exception of Julian “the Apostate” who made an abortive attempt to make Mithras the state religion of Rome). Once they had Imperial favour, Christians began ruthlessly stamping out all other religions. In other words, they did to others what had been done to them for nearly three centuries! They coerced conversions, and destroyed texts and monuments which were sacred to other religions.221At this juncture, it is appropriate to mention Nestorius (386-c451) who was Archbishop ofConstantinople from 428-431 CE. He was a disciple of the School of Antioch222 which wasopposed to two so-called heresies, Arianism223 and Apollinarianism.224 However, Nestorius220 Even though the Protestant Reformation broke with the natural law theology of St Thomas Aquinas, whichhad been the ruling legal and moral ideology of Catholic Europe for many centuries, and replaced it with what isknown in law as legal positivism (which should not be confused with the philosophy known as “logicalpositivism”), the Protestant reformers remained Aristotelians for the most part in their basic theologicalorientation, despite their opposition to and fundamental break with Rome.221 See “Christianity and the ‘Mystery Religions’” (Online).222 As previously mentioned, the Church of Antioch was the most ancient Christian church after that ofJerusalem.223 Arianism, being the belief attributed to Arius (c256-336 CE), held that the divine Jesus (God the Son) was notco-eternal with, but was otherwise created by, God the Father. The schismatic belief, which had also beenopposed by Athanasius, was condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.224 Also known as Apollinarism, this belief held that Christ had a human body and a human “living principle”, buthis divine nature (the Divine Logos) had taken the place of and otherwise supplied the functions of his nous(“thinking principle”, soul, mind, “higher self”). Such a belief is monophysite in nature, but not exclusively so.Monophysitism, an Eastern Orthodox schismatic belief condemned by the Council of Chalcedon held in 451 CE,contended that Jesus had only one completely fused nature, which was divine, as opposed to two natures, onehuman and the other divine. Monophysitism is not to be confused with Monothelitism, another Christologicaldoctrine and schismatic belief which was officially condemned at the Third Council of Constantinople in 680-681CE, that some say nevertheless developed from the monophysite position, that affirmed that Jesus had two 85
  • is best remembered for a so-called heresy and Eastern Orthodox schismatic belief namedhim, namely Nestorianism, even though it now seems that he probably never personallyheld the actual belief.Nestorianism, which had its roots in the Antiochene tradition, affirmed that Jesus had two(that is, dual) natures such that there was the human Jesus, as well as the divine Jesus,with both of these natures being real and of equal importance, but each totally independentof the other – in effect, tantamount to two persons living in the same body.225 At first glance,it would seem that the Christology 226 of the Liberal Catholic Church is Nestorian in nature,what with its traditional emphasis on Jesus the man on the one hand, and the Living Christor World Teacher overshadowing and otherwise expressing himself through the personalityof Jesus on the other.However, Nestorius refused to admit the existence of two Christs or two Sons, asserting, ashe often did, the union of the prosopon227 (person), and, upon a careful analysis of theTreatise of Heracleides228 makes it clear that, if anything, his actual views were notnatures but only “one will”. Maronites have been accused (wrongly, it would seem) of having once heldMonothelitism. If anything, the Christology of Maronites tended to be Miaphysite, holding firm to the teachingand wording of Cyril of Alexandria - who spoke of “one (mia) nature of the incarnate Logos” (mia fusij tou qeouLogou sesarkwmenh) - but taking the view that this one nature had both a divine character and a humancharacter whilst retaining all of the characteristics of both of those natures. Miaphysitism (also known ashenophysitism) has, for centuries, been the basic Christology of the communion of Christian Churches known asthe Oriental Orthodox Churches (also known as the Old Oriental Churches or the Non-Chalcedonian (Orthodox)Chuches). Those Churches include the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the IndianOrthodox Church, and the Coptic Orthodox Church – but not the Antiochian Orthodox Church (although thelatter is in communion with the Syriac Orthodox Church). In recent years, there have been a number ofimportant agreed statements between representatives of the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches onvarious matters including Christology: see, eg, Middle Eastern Oriental Orthodox Common Declaration (2001),[Online version] viewed 14 April 2009, <>.225 Nestorianism, which also affirmed that Mary was the mother of the human Jesus (Christotokos) but not theMother of God (Theotokos), was officially rejected at the First Council of Ephesus held in 431 CE, whichofficially declared that Jesus, although divine as well as human, was still only one person. The above mentionedCouncil of Chalcedon held in 451 CE officially declared that Jesus had two complete natures, one human andthe other divine.226 To the extent, that is, to which it truly can be said that the Liberal Catholic Church has a definite Christology.See, in particular, Sections 3 (Overall Perspective) and 10 (Philosophical Background), [Final Draft] Statementof Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006). All teachings of the Liberal Catholic“may be said to partake of the nature of a theosophy ... [which] differs from theology in emphasising theimportance of each individual’s quest for spiritual understanding based upon personal experience (gnosis orsophia) as opposed to dogmatic imposition of particular interpretations of scripture, which may be limited byman’s knowledge of the world at any one time”: Section 10 (Philosophical Background).227 Nestorius used the word prosopon in two different but otherwise intertwined senses: first, to refer to theexternal appearance of a person or thing, and secondly, in the sense in which we use the word “person”” as adistinct, individual natural person, with the end result being that there can be no separation of the name of aperson from the actual person himself or herself.228 Also known as the Bazaar of Heracleides, this 16th century text was discovered in 1895. 86
  • Nestorian as such (as that term has come to be understood and applied, for the most partperjoratively by mainstream Christianity) but were otherwise very similar to those held bymany Christians in various traditions, especially Eastern and liberal ones, over the years.Nestorius said of Christ, “the same one is twofold”, thus affirming his belief in a union of theDivine Logos (God the Word) and the human nature or manhood (usia) of Jesus ofNazareth. These two natures - the usia of God and that of Jesus - were said by Nestorius tobe “alien to each other” but otherwise formed a union in the one prosopon of Jesus Christ.This was no ordinary union of prosopa, and ought not to be described or viewed as such,but rather a communication idiomatum (a transfer of attributes) in which the Logos becamethe prosopon of Jesus Christ’s human nature - a view that is not dissimilar to the earlyLiberal Catholic teaching of Christ, admittedly as the World Teacher, uniting himself withJesus”. Early Liberal Catholics and Theosophists who held this view of Christ (eg Besantand Leadbeater) believed this union or overshadowing took place at the time of Jesus’baptism. Nestorius was of the view that the union, giving rise to the God-Man, took place atand from the moment of conception,229 with Mary subsequently giving birth to the incarnateChrist as opposed to the Divine Logos which existed even before Mary and all other humanbeings were conceived or born ... indeed, before time itself. Such a view is not theNestorianism that was declared schismatic, even heretical. Nestorius was correct –humanity and divinity are inseparable, such that Jesus, the embodiment of the power ofsuffering love, was at his most divine when he was at his most human, living, as he did, alife of selfless self-sacrifice – a life which reached its culmination and fulfillment in his deathon the Cross. Hence, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).230Traditional Christians present a picture of early Christianity as being one of order, organizationand, for the most part, uniformity of doctrine and teaching, whilst acknowledging, of course,that there were some sects and cults that tried, in vain, to present “alternative” but otherwiseheretical forms of Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we now know thatthere were competing and discordant forms of Christianity, with their own respectivejurisdictions, schools and doctrinal authorities, during the first few centuries of the ChristianChurch. Even The Catholic Encyclopedia quotes sources that make it clear that, for no less229 See Anastos (1993:202-206), quoting from the Treatise of Heracleides.230 On the other hand, a Nestorian would take the view that Jesus’ sacrificial, suffering love “an act of Jesus inhis humanity but not in his deity” (Grenz, Guretzhi and Nordling [1999] 2000:86). 87
  • than the first three centuries of its existence, “the primitive church had no organization ... norhad [the clergy] a special title”.231 The Roman Catholic Church continues to assert its right tohave been the church formed by the Lord Jesus Christ himself when he reportedly spokethose oft-cited words, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I willbuild my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).232 However,the New Testament scriptures do not give any sort of supremacy to Rome. For example, atthe Apostolic Council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15:1-29) it was James, who is “appropriatelyconsidered the first bishop of Jerusalem, the mother church [of all Christendom]” (Kushiner1986:Online),233 was the presiding elder.The First Council of Nicea held in 325 CE sanctioned the primacy of three dioceses, namelyAlexandria, Antioch and Rome. The bishop of Rome did not assume the title of Pope, atleast in the sense in which that title is used and understood today, until toward the end ofthe 4th century (more precisely in 384 CE).234 The Roman diocese would later gainprominence and preeminence for a number of reasons discussion of which goes beyondthe scope and purpose of this present thesis. However, it is sufficient, for present purposes,to simply state that the early Christian churches in Asia Minor did not accept either theprimacy of Rome or the supremacy of the Roman bishops.So, what went wrong with the Christian Church, a collection of churches none of which is infull communion with all other churches, which for the most part has regrettably repudiatedits roots and carnalized the teachings of its founders? Lockhart sums it up as follows(1997:352-353): Circumstances favoured the growth of a predominantly Hellenistic viewpoint within the late first-century and early second-century Church, and this viewpoint eventually overcame the old Nazarene vision of Jesus as Jewish Messiah through231 See Van Hove (1907:Online).232 Knight (1960:180; Online) writes: “The post-Pauline author of Eph 2: 20 is well aware that the Church did notbegin with Peter. This we see in the following statement, ‘We are built upon the foundation of the apostles andprophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief comer stone’” (cf Liturgy 224). Knight makes the point that“neither Apostolic Succession [in the Roman Catholic sense] nor Protestant individualism [in the form of one’sprofession of faith in Christ] is to be discerned in the answer which our Lord gave to Peter” (1960:178; Online).The “rock” on which the Christian Church rests is, according to Knight, “the faithfulness of God, the reliability,the rocklike trustworthiness of God, onto which Peter steps, as when he was sinking in the Lake of Galilee”(1960:178; Online).233 Clement of Alexandria himself wrote that James the Just, as he was known, was chosen as bishop ofJerusalem: see Kushiner (1986:Online).234 There is historical evidence to show that the title “Pope” had been applied (albeit with a differentunderstanding from that generally held today) to bishops of Rome even in the 2nd century CE, but that was alsothe case with respect to the bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria who were also called “Pope”. 88
  • an astute use of Paul’s Christological vision. Now the idea of Paul’s vision being usurped and made bend to orthodoxy’s utilitarian purposes will not be accepted by Christian apologists – in fact it will be cried down as a rank misinterpretation of those events which led to the formation of the Catholic Church. ... With the benefit of a false continuity set up between Nazarene, Petrine and Pauline viewpoints, the Catholic Church has been able to legitimize all of its historical moves since roughly the end of the first century.W R Inge, sometime Dean of St Pauls, London, wrote, “To become a popular religion, it isonly necessary for a superstition to enslave a philosophy.”235 Right at the very beginning ofthe Liberal Catholic Church, when it became known as such, Annie Besant wrote that the newchurch “has in it the essence of the divine teaching for the people, freed from some of theincongruities which have grown around the teaching of Christ and His message transmittedby His disciples" and "should be at the very heart of the teaching that the Christ will give"(Besant, as cited in Norton 1990:14-15). Leaving aside for the moment the last mentionedreference to what was then and later referred to as “the expected Coming” (which did noteventuate in the way some had imagined it would), Dr Besant’s words, sensibly construed,remain appropriate for us today. The challenge for the Liberal Catholic Church in today’s worldis to present the true message transmitted to Jesus’ disciples without the distortions andcorruptions in theology, and the rewriting of Church history, that have occurred over the past2,000 or so years.235 W R Inge, Outspoken Essays, 2nd ser, II:iii, “The Idea of Progress”. 89
  • CHAPTER 3 EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH TRADITION Christ in the Liberal Catholic TraditionIntroductionThe Liberal Catholic priest Charles B Hankin (1945:17) has written of both the function of alltrue religion and our “dual task” in life: In our life we have a dual task. One is the inner development of ourselves – our spiritual, mental and moral growth, to which Christ referred when He said: “Be ye perfect.” [cf Mt 5:48] The other is that turning of our powers outwards into a relationship with all others. Those two tasks can neither be separated nor avoided – both are essentially our duty.Now, “The Liberal Catholic Church exists to forward Christ’s work in the world.”236All very well, but who or what is this “Christ”?237Liberal Catholic priest Raymond J Blanch wrote (1971:72): Christianity is a cult of the Second Person of the Trinity. The approach to the Father is made through the Son: “No man cometh to the Father except by Me.”238Consistent with its Platonic and Neoplatonic roots and its esoteric and metaphysicalapproach to the interpretation, construction and application of Sacred Scripture, the word“Christ” can mean any one or more of the following Persons, Beings, Principles orpropositions in the Liberal Catholic tradition, all of which may be seen as manifestations ofthe Godhead “through a process of emanations in a successive diversity of being whilemaintaining its unity” (“The God Beyond God”:Online): • the “Historical Jesus”239236 Section 1 (Introduction), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed (London: StAlban Press, 2006).237 The word "Christ", from the Greek, means Lord or king, and was used long before the birth of Jesus. InHebrew the word "Christ" is translated to mean "Messiah" (referring to the “anointed one” [of God], or Godidentified as the perfect human being).238 See Jn 14:6.239 Mention should also be made of what may be termed a “Mythical Jesus” in the context of the“demythologizing”” treatment by Rudolf Bultmann (1956) and others of the New Testaments accounts of Jesus’life and teachings. 90
  • • the “Historical Christ” • the “Mythic (or “Pagan”) Christ” • the “Cosmic Christ” • the “Mystic Christ” • the “Anonymous Christ”.Those mentioned in the list are certainly not mutually exclusive. Indeed, many overlap andcoalesce. Most importantly, all of the above are essentially one, as all life is one. Each ofthe above will be considered in turn, both in this chapter of the thesis and in the nextchapter as well relating to The Liturgy. At the outset, it is perhaps sufficient for presentpurposes to say that, consistent with metaphysical and esoteric approaches to Christianitygenerally, the Liberal Catholic Church has a very mystical concept of Christ, which refersprimarily to the Divine Sonship of every person, at least in potentiality, and, when embodiedin a person who is very much aware of and otherwise in tune with their Divine Sonship, theembodiment of that Christ, who is not so much a person or principle but a UniversalPresence ... indeed, the universal image of God (Itself an ineffable Mystery) present in allhuman beings as well as in all created things.There is also what is known as the “Eucharistic Lord” whose Real Presence in theSacrament of the Altar and in the service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will alsobe considered in Chapter 3 of this thesis.Finally, there is the “Christ of Personal Encounter and Experience”, which will be thesubject of Chapter 5 of this thesis.The Holy TrinityHowever, at the outset, before proceeding to examine the different senses in which “Christ”is used and understood in Liberal Catholic thought and tradition, and in its Liturgy, somemention needs to be made of the fact that the Liberal Catholic Church is a “Trinitarian”church in that it believes that God (the Logos,240 the ground of all being, indeed “Being”240 Mitchell (2006:66) writes: “Creative expression and intelligibility come together, in God, in the Holy Spirit,through Christ, the Word of God.” Mitchell also notes that Logos “means not only the ‘expression’ of God butalso the ‘intelligibility’ of God”. 91
  • Itself, and “Mystery Present” (Ebner 1976:13)) manifests Itself in the universe as a trinity ortriplicity (the Logoi) – in traditional Christian terms, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (or HolyGhost), being, respectively, the First, Second and Third Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Godin Three Persons - Blessed Trinity.241 As respects the word “God”, Wedgwood(1928b:Online) wrote: We are so full of theosophical speculations, or reactions to prejudices which have come from childhood, that the word “God” is not real to us; it is often only an intellectual theory. We talk about “the Logos”, because we do not like saying “God”. Try to realize that we are living in a great sea of light which responds to every action of ours. That is the Divine Life and the laws of Nature are the manifestations of the Divine Will in the Universe.In many (especially early) Liberal Catholic writings, at least those written from a fairlyexplicit or at times even implicit Theosophical perspective, the word “God” is used in twodifferent but interconnected senses. First, there is the unknowable God, the Absolute One,the Being (indeed, Being-Itself) beyond all notions of traditional theism that the notedProtestant theologian Paul Tillich referred to as the “God above God” (1952:190) or the“God beyond God” – that is, pure “Absolute Divine Essence, as understood in the easterntraditions” (Platt 1982:122). Then there are the “various Solar Logoi (Solar Gods) each ofwhom is in charge of a different solar system” (Platt 1982:122). As regards our ownparticular solar system, God, in traditional Liberal Catholic thought, teaching and writing,has been referred to as the “God or Logos (Word) of the Solar System to which this planet[Earth] belongs” (Pigott [1925] 1927:21). This Solar God calls into existence our solarsystem, and “manifests in His universe as a Trinity, called in the Christian religion Father,Son and Holy Spirit”.242 This God of whom we now speak is “less” than the Absolute but isstill “nevertheless so great that He is to us God in the fullest sense of that mysterious word”(Pigott [1925] 1927:21).241 Christianity is certainly not unique in asserting the existence of a Holy Trinity. For example, in Hinduism thereis what is known as the Brahmanical triad, Brahma being the first member of that triad, Vishnu the second, andShiva the third. Brahma is traditionally accepted as the creator of the entire universe, Vishnu its preserver, andShiva its maintainer. In Mahayana Buddhism we find what is known as the “three bodies of the Buddha” (thetrikaya), namely, the dharmakaya, the body of ultimate reality, the sambhogakaya, the body of joy, and thenirmanakaya, the Buddha’s conditioned, human body of flesh and blood. Similar triads or triplicities can also befound in most pagan religions, especially the old Greco-Roman mystery religions. In Theosophy, the Logoi(three in number) correspond to the three Persons of the Trinity in both Christianity and Hinduism:Krusenstierna, in Hodson (1977: 59).242 See numbered para 2, “Summary of Doctrine”, in [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary ofDoctrine, 9th ed (London: St Alban Press, 2006). 92
  • The present writer, a Christian from a non-Theosophical background but who is otherwise aproud member of the Theosophical Society,243 who vigorously and unashamedly supportsthe status of the Liberal Catholic Church as a Christian church, accepts all of theviewpoints expressed above as working hypotheses and on the basis of spiritual intuition,but favours the composite description - note, description, not definition - of God offered bythe late Liberal Catholic Bishop (and sometime Presiding Bishop) Eric S Taylor in hispublication The Liberal Catholic Church: What Is It? (1966:18), provided the “God”described is understood as being not the God of traditional theism (the latter being, in theview of the present writer, a totally outmoded, even discredited, notion): [God] is transcendent and immanent, the highest self in each, yet not divided into fragments, but in omnibus totis.As regards the Doctrine of the Trinity, whilst the Liberal Catholic Church prides itself onbeing a “Trinitarian church”, the fact remains that, throughout much of its relatively shorthistory in its modern, liberal reincarnated form, “the trinitarian principles of the AthanasianCreed [have been] accepted in the light of theosophical teaching” (Platt 1982:123). Inaddition, the Liberal Catholic Church has never construed the Doctrine of the Trinity in amanner that would require or even endorse belief in the man Jesus as God in any uniqueand exclusive sense: see, eg, Burt (1945a:9). To that extent, and in certain other respectsthat are not relevant for present purposes, the Liberal Catholic Church’s trinitarian positionis not dissimilar to the tradition Unitarian Christian understanding of Jesus which makes adistinction between the “divinity” and the “deity” of Jesus, accepting the former but not thelatter, as we are all gods in the making and inherently divine in nature.Liberally and esoterically interpreted, but otherwise in the light of a continuing Christianrevelation (albeit a progressive one), the doctrine of “three co-equal and co-eternal persons243 The present writer is in total accord with the three stated objectives of the Theosophical Society, and affirmsthe belief that there is a common and universal “wisdom underlying all religions when they are stripped ofaccretions and superstitions ... teachings [that] aid the unfoldment of the latent spiritual nature in the humanbeing, without dependence or fear” (Besant’s definition of Theosophy, in Besant [1909] 1984:60), but does notsee himself as a Theosophist per se, at least not in the sense of being a believer in or exponent of “Theosophyas understood by Adyar” (Tillett 2005:Online). 93
  • [or hypostates] in one God”244 can be interpreted, described and applied in a variety of waysand in different senses, including but not limited to the following: • the Father245 – God “above” us, “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph 4:6); the principle of generation (the source of all life); Absolute Being (the essential constituent or substance of all relative life); the Absolute, the One, the Tao, the “Unknowable Godhead, the Father of all, only [approachable] through the humanly knowable Christ” (Rivett 2008c:85);246 “the ‘God above God’ …the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt” (Tillich 1952:190); the “individual Monad, from Whom we derive our existence” (Wedgwood: 1976b:3);247 Mystery, indeed Absolute Mystery, “seen of none” (Liturgy 260); That which “never was not, and never will not be” (Nurbakhsh 1982:101); the Eternal Spiritual Will, being the immense, absolute vastness and ultimate indestructibility of cosmic fullness and unity beyond our ordinary, limited notions of time and space (or, perhaps more correctly these days, “spacetime”), and dwelling outside our otherwise perceptible world; the Cosmic Logos in its First Aspect, being the progenitor of countless universes (not just this present one) and myriads of suns and planets that continue to issue forth into manifestation, but which ever remains in all of its pristine fullness and essential unity; the living principle of evolution and law; Beingness,248 or Life, in the sense of the very “livingness” of Life itself (as opposed to some vague New Age notion of some supposed separate and independent “life force” in addition to “life” itself);244 Dutch Theosophist and Liberal Catholic priest E Francis Udny (1927:36) refers to what he describes as “holyFour, the Three and the One – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, and the One God (Lordof Hosts) who is within and above even Them, as He is in various degrees in every one of the Hosts, theinnumerable individual lives which are evolving in His system”. This “Lord of Hosts” is the inconceivable, andotherwise unknowable, God beyond God (cf Paul Tillich), the indescribable Ultimate in both transcendence andimmanence – Being-Itself, or Life IT-self. Pope John Paul II (2005:9) referred to God, as the Ground of Being, asthat “fully self-sufficient Being (Ens subsistens) ... the necessary ground of every ens non subsistens, ensparticipatum, that is, of all created beings, including man”.245 The material listed as relating to “God the Father” also includes references, variously described, to the moreTheosophical concept of Absolute Divine Essence, the Unknowable Godhead or “God above God” which is saidto manifest in the universe as the three Solar Logoi (Father and Son and Holy Spirit, in the Christian religion).246 In the Gnostic tradition God is not only inconceivable but also incapable of being known directly, hence theneed to approach God through that which is otherwise “humanly knowable” (namely, the Son). In sometraditions of Buddhism Mahavairocana (the “Great Shining One”) - in Japanese, Dainichi Nyorai (the "Great SunBuddha" ) - referring to the Great Buddha of Heaven, who does not manifest on earth, but from whom all otherBuddhas emanate, may be said to correspond to the Christian concept of God the Father.247 Thus, Wedgwood (1928:160) writes that “it is not very clear how the aspect of the Father works because thatstage lies so far beyond us that little stress has been laid upon it in conventional Christian teaching”.248 Tettemer ([1951] 1974:159) makes the point that if God, as he asserts, is beingness, then “everything, toexist, must participate in His nature; otherwise it would be outside of being, or nonbeing, nothing. Therefore acontingent or created being could not exist, and dualism, which is fundamental to Christianity, [is] false.” 94
  • • the Son – God “with” us; the term of generation (the Word “made flesh”, the illumined person, “Christ in [us], the hope of glory”), “manifesting the Father’s plan in time and space, and making the Father known to his Creation” (Rivett [c1994] 2007:205);249 the “only begotten Son”; “God the Son, Who makes the heaven His throne and the earth His footstool” (Udny 1927:4); the Cosmic Logos in its Second Aspect breathing (or sounding) forth Divine Life into the universe; Spirit descended into and crucified on the cross of matter, with all things being created by this Christ, ensouling and constituting the indwelling life of all that is, whose work is “to preserve” (Wedgwood 1928:160); “our Lord Jesus Christ ... the beginning, the source of everything” (Parry [1971] 2007:155); the Consciousness [or “Christ- Consciousness”] in which “we live and move and have our being” (cf Acts 17:28); Love; Wisdom (Sophia);250 the Universe itself251 brought into being by the creative interface and interaction of God the Father and the Mother of God (the Great Depth); the Universal Saviour (including but not limited to those special epiphanies, eg World Teachers, the Holy Ones, the Saints, etc, who have descend into incarnation at various times throughout human history in order to help us forward on our way); Love, in the sense of the “self-givingness” of Life to Itself in order to perpetuate Itself; Wisdom; and • the Holy Spirit – God “in” us; the manifestation of generation (the life giver and inspirer); the Cosmic Logos in its Third Aspect, being the whole Spirit of God moving through all that is as all things, whose special work is “to sanctify us” (Wedgwood 1928:160); Creative Intelligence; Action, or the active principle; Wisdom made manifest, as well as “the mutual love which unites the Father and the Son” and “the manifestation of their Love” (Rivett [c1994] 2007:206).Hall (2000:51) sums it all up in these words: In the Gnostic system, wisdom was the second Logos which came forth out of the eternal will which is the first Logos. Will emanates wisdom, and wisdom in turn, engenders action of the active principle. Action is the third Logos called the Holy Ghost, represented by a dove beating the air with its wings.249 Emphasis in the original.250 Rivett ([c1994] 2007:205-206) notes that although the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is sometimesspoken of in terms of Wisdom or even Sophia, “usually it is the Third Person, the Holy Spirit of God, that isconsidered as God’s Wisdom made manifest, and also as God in action within his Creation”.251 Burt (1945b:2) wrote that “this universe is the Word, or God Immanent, by it God is revealed to us andthrough us” [emphasis in the original]. 95
  • Now, as regards the Trinity, Wedgwood (1928:160) has written, “[as] man is made in theimage of God, as God Himself is a triplicity of Persons so also that triplicity is reflected inman”. Thus, microcosmically, the Holy Trinity can be construed as referring to the spirit,soul and body of each human being,252 as well as a description of the creative processthrough which all manifestation takes place, including human thought (thus, mind, idea andexpression; thinker, thought and act; conscious, unconscious and super-conscious;consciousness, desire and expectancy; spirit, soul and body; life, truth and love; and soforth). In the words of Wedgwood (1928:160), “Man has therefore within himself the powerof knowing these three aspects of the Deity”.One can go even further, metaphysically. For example, as there is only One, everyone of usis “begotten” of the Only One (cf Jn 3:16). As Murphy (1971:27; [1972] Online) points out,one’s “only begotten son”, spiritually speaking, is one’s desire. Realization of one’s desire(eg one’s desire for for health, wisdom or knowledge of spiritual things), “the solution toyour problem or salvation, [is] the God-Presence within” as well as “your saviour” (Murphy1971:27).253Having said all of the above, “there is but one life – the Life of God which maintains allthings” by virtue of which “we are all dependent on one another” (Wedgwood 1928:5), andfurther “the whole of life is interdependent, linked together in one chain of being”(Wedgwood 1976b:16-17), but, for all that, God is and remains a mystery in the true senseand meaning of the word. Thus, Rahner (1974:105-106) writes: [T]here is, and there can be, only one single absolute mystery in the strictest sense of the term, namely God himself and in relation to him all those aspects under which man with his finite knowledge are specified in the same manner by this character of the mysterium.252 Mathews (1981:23) notes that the ancient Greeks first spoke of man as a microcosm of the macrocosm, thelatter being the universe (that is, all that is). He goes on to say: “This was their way of saying man is made in theimage of God.” Mathews then turns his attention to the Hebrew Scriptures, saying (again, on p 23), “In GenesisElohim refers to macrocosmic powers shaping the cosmic and telluric environment in which man finally appearsas the crown, the essence, of all that has gone before.”253 G R S Mead held a similar view, revealing in many of his published articles the “inner meaning” of the phrase“the Alone-begotten Son of God”: see Goodrick-Clarke (2005). 96
  • Seely Beggiani,254 a chorbishop of the Maronite Catholic Church, the divine liturgy255 ofwhich, due to the early Eastern Christian status of the Maronite Church, has a beautiful“mystical” quality and flavour to it that at times is very close to The Liturgy of the LiberalCatholic Church, writes (Beggiani 1991:13): God as God is always mystery. The idea of mystery is not defined by saying that we are dealing with things that are beyond our human or intellectual understanding. As the Holy One and Creator, God is mysterious reality itself. He is beyond space and time.256Beggiani (1991:13) refers to the spiritual teaching of St Ephrem, a Syrian theologian of the4th century, whose theology “can be summarized by the two themes of God as mystery andthe call to become like God (this latter concept of Eastern theology was later to call [sic]‘divinization’)”.257As regards the notion of God as Mystery, our own Bishop Wedgwood would concur, for hewrote (1928:160): ... [I]t is not very clear how the aspect of the Father works because that stage lies so far beyond us that little stress has been laid upon it in conventional Christian thinking.That is the true, inner meaning of the words of Sacred Scripture, “No one knows the Fatherexcept the Son” (Mt 11:27).The Historical JesusThere are some who say that the person Jesus of Nazareth never existed.258 Indeed,outside the synoptic gospels, what very few references there are to Jesus do not establish254 Seely Beggiani is the rector of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary, and a professor at the CatholicUniversity of America, both of which are located in Washington DC. He is a world authority on early Christianity.255 The Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Church (see Beggiani:1998), also called the “Service of the HolyMysteries”, belongs to the Antiochene Tradition and is a West Syro-Antiochene Rite.256 This is very much the Maronite Catholic position regarding the Deity. Maronites see God as being a mystery,indeed “Absolute Mystery”, whose inner life is beyond our limited understanding and knowledge. Thus, as is thecase with the Liberal Catholic Church, anthropomorphic and anthropopassionate notions of God (other thanGod as Love, etc) are for the most part eschewed. Similar to Liberal Catholics, Maronite Catholics seek, throughtheir distinctive liturgy and otherwise, mystical union with God by means of God’s Self-revelation. Also, being anAntiochian Syriac church, the Maronite Catholic Church, consistent with the Antiochian school of theology (cf themysticism of the Alexandrian school of theology, and Liberal Catholicism), stresses the humanity of the Son ofGod, and our need to be united to God, in all of His mysteriousness, through Jesus’ humanity: see Beggiani2008:Online. The essence of both Maronite and Liberal Catholic spirituality is that the Mystery made known inChrist is none other than our own very participation in the Divine Life.257 Or Theosis.258 See, eg, Wells (1988 and 1992) and Doherty (1999). 97
  • his historicity. Indeed, there is not so much as one single piece of demonstrably authenticevidence (whether archaeological, forensic or documentary), and certainly not even onedemonstrably authentic piece of writing written as history within the first 100 years of theChristian era, that shows that the person referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, and called theChrist, was ever alive. There is some dubious material attesting to the fact that certainpeople apparently believed that there once was a man named Jesus who was killed andwho was worshipped by some people as some sort of god … but none that he was alive.259Nevertheless, what limited historical and evidential material there is has led some veryeminent classical scholars and historians of the likes of Michael Grant (1977) to concludethat it is more probable than not that Jesus did actually exist. The Rev James Peter, in hishelpful book Finding the Historical Jesus, has written (1965:25): To deny the existence of Jesus involves discounting a considerable amount of evidence which suggests that he did exist ... .260The eminent classical scholar and historian Michael Grant mentioned above, who wascertainly no Christian apologist, in his book Jesus writes (1977:199-200): [The] skeptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth. In ancient times, this extreme view was named the heresy of docetism (seeming) because it maintained that Jesus never came into the world “in the flesh”, but only seemed to; and it was given some encouragement by Paul’s lack of interest in his fleshly existence. Subsequently, from the eighteenth century onwards, there have been attempts to insist that Jesus did not even “seem” to exist, and that all tales of his appearance upon the earth were pure fiction. In particular, his story was compared to the pagan mythologies inventing fictitious dying and rising gods. ... More convincing refutations of the Christ-myth hypothesis can be derived from an appeal to method. In the first place, Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of the deaths and rebirths of mythical gods seems so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit. But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned. ... To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has “again and again been259 There were over 40 well-known historians (both Jewish and pagan) writing at the time of Jesus or within acentury thereafter. Apart from two highly dubious, indeed forged or interpolated passages in Josephus and twovery brief and highly disputed passages in the works of two Roman writers (namely, Pliny the Younger andTacitus; Suetonius appears to be referring to somebody else altogether), none of those historians made anymention of Jesus at all.260 Peter, on p 25, in fn 3, lists a number of scholarly publications that contain notable treatments of the evidenceavailable, as at 1965, for the existence of Jesus. 98
  • answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars”. In recent years “no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus” – or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.261A N Wilson expresses a similar view (1992:89): The realistic details [about Jesus’ life] are too many, and too old, for me to be able to accept that they were all invented by some unsung novelistic genius of the first century of our era; though they are so heavily outweighed by improbable stories, and so soaked in “teaching” that I fully sympathise with any reader who has hitherto supposed that it was impossible to find a “real” Jesus amid so much religion and folklore.Wilson is right about the “improbable stories” and the like. Clearly, there is a massiveamount of legendary or mythological material which has been superimposed upon whatlittle we know of the historical Jesus: see, eg, Besant ([1901] 1914); Heline (1950); Frekeand Gandy (1999); Harpur (2004).262 Edge ([1943] 1997:Online) writes that the “Jesus of theGospels is a character, partly fictitious, partly symbolic, built around some actualpersonality, whose identity is buried among a confusion of historical and traditionalmaterials”. Besant ([1901] 1914:111), in her seminal book Esoteric Christianity, writes: The occult records partly endorse the story told in the Gospels, and partly do not endorse it; they show us the life, and thus enable us to disentangle it from the myths which are intertwined therewith.Leaving aside what may or may not constitute the “occult records”,263 and what theysupposedly contain, perhaps the greatest support for the assertion that Jesus of Nazarethwas a real person comes, as Grant (1977) and others have pointed out, from the NewTestament Gospels themselves, despite “all those discrepancies between one Gospel andanother” (Grant 1977:200), and the fact that the Gospels represent the faith of the believingChurch (or, at least, the faith of some in the Church that would ultimately become what iselsewhere referred to in this thesis as the “traditional Church”, with their members being261 Endnotes omitted.262 The study of comparative religion shows that certain key events in the “Jesus story” already existed innumerous religions prior to the alleged time of Jesus. Krishna, the crucified Hindu saviour, supposedly rosefrom the dead and ascended bodily into heaven. Buddha supposedly ascended bodily to the celestial regions.We also have Lao-Kiun, Zoroaster, Horus, and Aesculapius, the Son of God, the saviour, who after being put todeath supposedly rose from the dead as well, Orpheus, Bacchus, Osiris, Dionysus, Apollo, Hercules, Adonis,Ormuzd, Mithras, Indra, Oedipus, and Quetzalcoatle, the Mexican crucified saviour, who after being put todeath, also rose from the dead. Finally, and most importantly, there is Mithras, the Persian saviour and sun-god.263 See also Hodson (1977). Bishop F W Pigott wrote, “Occult research may quite easily be faulty ...” (foreword,Hodson 1930:ix). 99
  • referred to as “traditional Christians”). Thus, Bell (1936:89), in writing about the parables ofJesus, referred to their “logical consistency which equals that of a natural law”, noting alsothat Jesus never contradicted himself, and even the great scientist and forthright rationalistViscount Haldane (1934:72) wrote: Personally, I am not one of those who find it probable that Jesus is a mainly mythical figure. A large number of his sayings seem to me to cohere as expressions of a definite and quite human character, which could hardly have been invented by disciples who wished to prove his divinity.264Clift (1982:108) makes the point that Jung, in his last major work MysteriumConiunctionis,265 wrote that ... while he [Jung] did not doubt the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth, he did want to point out that the figure of the Son of Man and of Christ the Redeemer had archetypal antecedents.Siimilarly, Hodson (1977:3) writes that the Jesus of the Gospels is “a blend of the realpersonage and allegorical personifications of Arhats, their missions and advancement toadeptship”. The present author prefers to embrace what the Dutch Theosophist and LiberalCatholic priest E Francis Udny (1927:4) had to say about the matter in his little book A Helpto Worship in the Liberal Catholic Church, namely, that we must “remember that our Lordwalked as a man among men, and never claimed to be other than human (however muchholier than other men He may have been)”. The French philosopher and Catholic apologistJean Guitton, in his 1955 book The Problem of Jesus: A Free-Thinker’s Diary, wrote of thedifficulties inherent in the critical and mythical approaches to New Testament studies sooften expounded as the “way forward” by New Agers and esotericists. At the end of the day,wrote Guitton, approaches of those kinds are totally inadequate to explain the “magnitudeof the spiritual upheaval which overthrew two earlier religions (Judaism and paganism) andconquered the world so suddenly, so profoundly, and so permanently”. Events in time andspace can have a dual character. Thus, Guitton writes of the historical as well as themetahistorical when it comes to such events as the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus.264 However, the form criticism of The Jesus Seminar does not attest to the historicity and veracity of everypurported utterance as recorded in the gospels (indeed, far from it): see Funk (1996) and Miller (1992); cfBarnett (2009).265 Jung, The Collected Works of C G Jung, ed Sir Herbert Read, et al, trans R F C Hull (2nd ed rev, BollingenSeries XX, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), XIV, p 124. 100
  • The metahistorical is grounded in the historical. The “mystery of Jesus” is grounded inJesus’ “personality” that so transformed the world.266In more recent times, our own Dr Arthur Mowle has referred to “this man Jesus” as “ahistorical character who seemed to have allowed his own Christ potential to become fullyauthenticated” (Mowle 2007:183). Corelli (1966:13) writes that Jesus came to teach us ourtrue position in the scale of the great Creative and Progressive Purpose”, the latter referringto the immortality of “the imperishable Spirit”.267 All this the present writer accepts andenthusiastically embraces.In the absence, or at least paucity, of historical material pertaining to Jesus’ life, hundredsof books have been written that seek to “fill in the gaps”, so to speak. Was Jesus a“completely Gnostic Essene who sought to liberate degraded Hebraism of the time and itsself-seeking priests by spreading the light of pure Gnosticism throughout the land includingthe attainment of Adeptship and beyond” (Hodson 1977:1)?268 Was Jesus the “Teacher ofRighteousness” of the Qumram community? Hodson (1977:3) is “inclined to doubt theidentification”. Thiering (1992) thinks the reference is to John the Baptist as opposed toJesus, but does it really matter? Did Jesus spend his so-called “missing years” (that is, theperiod between the ages of 12 and 30) in India, or alternatively, did Jesus escape fromdeath on the Cross and then travel to and live in India, studying Hinduism and Buddhismthere, before dying and being buried in a tomb in Kashmir?269 Was Celsus correct when heapparently asserted that “Jesus was the illegitimate son of a certain Panthera, and, again,that he had been a servant in Egypt, not when a child, as according to the New Testament,but when he was grown, and that he learned there the secret arts”? 270 In short, are we266 See also Angus (1934a) who, in his Jesus in the Lives of Men, writes of the incredible transformative andongoing power and wonder of Jesus’ personality – something that transcends both myth and our finite, limitedand almost certainly invalid notions of the supposed existence of a two-dimensional world.267 The scholarship of theologian and Biblical historian Barbara Thiering (see Thiering 1992, 1995 and 1998),although highly controversial (see, eg, Barnett 2009) and at times overly speculative, does provide more than alittle support for the view held by early Liberal Catholics and others interested in the Ancient Wisdom that Jesuswas certainly aware of the Ancient mysteries and may even have been initiated into them.268 See also Thiering (1992), who has also expressed the view that Jesus was the leader of a radical faction ofEssene priests. The Essenes (whom some scholars consider were the forerunners of Christianity) were anascetic and quite esoteric Jewish sect from the 2nd century BCE onwards. It is said that their deep esotericismwas “possibly derived from Buddhist sources” (Krusenstierna, in Hodson 1977:59). There were certainlyBuddhist communities in the Hellenistic world and in the region of the Holy Land from early times, and a certainsyncretism did develop, especially as respects Greek thought and philosophy, but less so Hebrew thought.269 See “Did Jesus Visit India?” (2007:Online).270 Cf Origen, Contra Celsum, i. 9, § 7, as described by R Gottheil and S Krauss, “Celsus”, in The JewishEncyclopedia, [Online version] viewed 14 April 2009, <>. Unfortunately, Celsus’ writings were destroyed early in the 5th century either by or 101
  • expecting too much at this late stage in our search for the historical Jesus?271 The presentwriter will contend in the final chapter of this thesis that we can, even today, discover thereal Jesus if we are prepared to focus with honesty and single-mindedness of purpose onwhat was Jesus’ demonstrably distinct teaching, namely his unique version andunderstanding of the “Kingdom of God”, and then proceed in faith to follow him on a dailybasis. In the opinion of the present writer, James Peter is right when he says (1965:208): It is as a man in history that he shows himself unique, and it is thus that he is seen by the historian. This uniqueness of a person truly human is what enables the historian to say of him that he is divine. If it is objected that to be divine is to be beyond history, or to be something that no historian has the capacity to recognize, the reply is that such a line of argument would make it impossible for us to recognize any action on the part of God or indeed to say anything about him at all.There is another sense in which the expression, the “Historical Jesus”, can be used, andthat is in contradistinction to the Jesus that emerges from the pages of the so-calledGnostic Gospels (the Nag Hammadi Library).272 Thus, Pagels ([1979] 1988:19) speaks interms of “the ‘living Jesus’ [who] speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin andrepentance, like the Jesus of the New Testament”. She goes on to say: Instead of coming to save us from sin, he comes as a guide who opens access to spiritual understanding. But when the disciple attains enlightenment, Jesus no longer serves as his spiritual master: the two have become equal – even identical.Bultmann (1956) sought to “demythologize” the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life andteachings altogether. He wrote of a “Mythical Jesus”, in contradistinction to the “HistoricalJesus”, interpreting to a great extent the life, death and supposed resurrection of Jesus interms of the “Gnostic redeemer myth”, that is, a divine personage sent down from thecelestial world, veiled in earthly form, for the purpose of bring redemption to humanity as awhole.273 Thus, without in any way calling into doubt the historicity of the “Historical Jesus”,otherwise on the express instructions of St Augustine (see Bushby 2004:55). However, in the 19th century,much, if not the majority, of Celsus’ written diatribe against Christianity, The True Word (also known as TheTrue Discourse and The True Doctrine), had been reconstructed by various scholars (eg Jackman, Keim andMuth): see Gottheil and Krauss (above) and Bushby (2004:55).271 Cf Schweitzer ([1911] 2005). One cannot hope to find any support for Christianity in the Dead Sea Scrolls asthey comprise only a copy of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) and some Jewish apocryphal writings. There are noexpress references to Jesus in the scrolls.272 See Robinson (1988).273 Certainly, one can find evidence of the Gnostic redeemer myth in such passages of the New Testament asJohn 1:1-18 (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The samewas in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that wasmade ...”) and Phil 2:6-11 (“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: Butmade himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of 102
  • various mythical images are said, at least by some theologians and other scholars in thetradition of Bultmann, to have been attached to the person of Jesus of Nazareth mainly inthe form of the Gnostic redeemer myth: see Dart ([1976] 1988:38-42).However, the search for the historical Jesus continues to this day,274 despite the fact thatmany Liberal Catholics place little or no significance on the historical Jesus, with some evenasserting that it matters not one iota whether Jesus ever existed as a real person. Why is itso important - assuming that it is, for the moment - that we base our faith on a real person,in this case, the historical Jesus? Sometime Liberal Catholic priest and Theosophist BrianParry expressed it well when he wrote (1966:7): Jesus Christ is truly human. He had hands and feet, a heart, feelings and thoughts like ours. He knew hunger and happiness, rest and labour, heat and cold, a mother’s love. He was not free from temptation. He was no stranger to suffering and death. His eyes, the eyes of a man, saw the same things that our eyes see. He saw the same things and yet we all know that there is something different about the way He saw them. If His eyes saw the same things we see, He in Himself interpreted them differently. And so to pray that the eyes of Christ may be opened in us means not only that we may see the world that he saw, but also, that we might see it as He saw it. What is the “different” quality that shines out of every page of the Gospel? It is so simple, so obvious, that it is usually overlooked. The simple fact is that Jesus saw things and people as they are, whereas we see them through the eyes of self. Our lives are self-centred, His was open to the world. We see things in terms of our own needs, whilst He saw them as they are in themselves. Why could He see things and persons as they are while we cannot? What quality of character did He possess which we lack? Remember it is of no value if we think of Him as God as though this were the explanation. If it is, then He is of no use to us. We cannot follow a God, we can only follow a man. We must look for some human capacity which we can share. Surely that capacity is love. God is love, He said. The life of Jesus was the complete life of love. Surely this is the special quality. Jesus was one with His loving Father and one with all men.275the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: Thatat the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under theearth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”). Asregards the Gospel of John, Thiering (1998), using the Dead Sea Scrolls pesher method of interpretation,concludes that Jesus, assisted by his Gentile friend Philip, was the real author of that Gospel.274 Shorto (1997), for example, writes of the need to deconstruct, and then reconstruct, the Gospel stories aboutJesus of Nazareth aided by the additional knowledge we have acquired over time, and especially in more recentyears, from both science and history. Shorto (1997:137) writes that “we find meaning [relevantly, as regards thesignificance of Jesus] by associating the present with the past”.275 Emphasis added. 103
  • That much is, or at least ought to be, clear ... even to Liberal Catholics, but was Jesus morethan what has been described above (assuming that be possible, which is most doubtful).Was Jesus of Nazareth the long-awaited Jewish Messiah? The answer to that questionmust be ... No! As Douglas Lockhart, the author of such best-sellers as Jesus the Hereticand The Dark Side of God, has pointed out (1997:31): Rudolf Bultmann, a theologian who more than anyone else has assisted with the process of dymythologizing the New Testament, pronounced many years ago that Jesus did not consider himself to be the Messiah of Israel. ... Since then Churchmen of all types have taken to agreeing with Bultmann ... and a survey of Christian literature seems to suggest that Bultmann is right and the evangelists quite mistaken.276Not only is it the better view that Jesus did not consider himself to be the Messiah, hesimply did not meet the requirements for the role. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his book The RealMessiah? makes it clear that the Jewish Messiah is to be “a human being born naturally tohusband and wife” ([1985] 2002:52). Further, this Messiah would not “be a god, nor a manborn of supernatural or virgin birth, as the Christians claim” (also at 52). The Jews neverexpected that any person other than a being distinct from and inferior to God - in otherwords, a mere man, albeit a strong and wise leader and teacher - was to be their Messiah.Any talk of the Messiah being even the “son of God”, a demi-god, God-like or anythingother than a mere man born naturally, and not supernaturally, is totally unacceptable andunbiblical.277 The very idea that God could or would take on human form is contrary toJewish scripture and thinking to this very day. The Jews have always believed in a non-corporeal God. Further, the Jews assert that God cannot become man, and man cannotbecome God.278There were many other expectations attached to the Jewish Messiah – expectations thatare to occur during the lifetime of the Messiah but which, during Jesus’ short lifetime onearth, were not fulfilled (and, in some cases, did not need to be fulfilled). For example, the276 Nevertheless, there are those who hold the view that Jesus was the Messiah: see, eg, Barnett (2009. As aseparate issue, the present writer is in favour of “remythologizing”, not “demythologizing”, the New Testament.Be that as it may, Bultmann was undoubtedly right in what he said about Jesus being, or holding himself out tobe, the Jewish Messiah. As many Jewish and even Christian theologians have pointed out, Jesus simply did notmeet any of the “requirements” or expectations for the role of Messiah.277 See Dt 18:15; cf Jn 1:45.278 See Num 23:19 (“God is not a mortal that He should lie, nor a man, that He should change His mind”). TheTalmud also makes it clear that “If a man clams to be G-d, he is a liar!”. See Yerushalmi, Taanis 2:1 (91); cfMoreh Nevuchim 3:15. 104
  • Jewish Messiah is expected to “return the Jews to their land”,279 “rebuild the Temple inJerusalem”280 and “redeem Israel” from exile and servitude (Kaplan [1985] 2002:53).281When Jesus was alive here on earth, the Jews were still in their holy land then namedPalestine (albeit under Roman occupation), the Holy Temple was still standing in Jerusalemand had not been destroyed, and there was no need for redemption, as that concept isunderstood in Jewish faith and tradition. Further, the Hebrew Bible states that the Messiahwill usher in an era of world peace, bringing to an end all hatred, oppression, suffering anddisease,282 and spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite allhumanity as one in harmony and perfect peace as “all the nations in the world unite toacknowledge and worship the one true G-d” (Kaplan [1985] 2002:53) at the Temple inJerusalem.283Evangelical Christians say that all of these promises, and many others as well purportedlycontained in the Bible, will be fulfilled by Jesus when he comes again. However, there aretwo problems with that. First, as already mentioned, the Hebrew Bible makes it clear thatthe Messiah will complete his mission in his first attempt, something Jesus failed to do. 284Even Jesus himself acknowledged that the various promises and expectations concerningthe Messiah would be realized during Jesus’ own generation, for he said, “Truthfully I sayunto you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done” (Mk 13:30).Secondly, the Hebrew Bible also makes it clear that the kingdom of the Jewish Messiah willbe very much an earthly and physical one - that is “one of this world” - whereas Jesus madeit unambiguously clear that his kingdom was “not of this world” (see Jn 18:36).Yes, the very fact that Jesus was totally unsuccessful in redeeming the Jews politically285meant that early Christians could no longer look upon that as the task of the Messiah. Hisredemption had to be given a new meaning. Thus, the early Christians began to teach thatJesus’ mission was not to redeem humanity from political oppression but to redeem it fromspiritual evil. However, there was still the problem that Jesus was dead. Worse still, he hadbeen so ignominiously executed. How could that happen to the supposed Messiah, who,279 See Is 43:5-6.280 See Ez 37:26-28.281 The latter is said by Orthodox Jews to be the “first task of the Messiah” (Kaplan [1985] 2002:28).282 See Is 2:4.283 See Zec 14:9; Is 11:9; Is 45; Zafania 3.284 After the death of Jesus the Jews would go into exile, the Temple in Jerusalem was completely destroyed,and even Jerusalem itself was laid to waste.285 Lockhart (1997:265) refers to the “ultimate failure of [Jesus’] Messianic Mission”. 105
  • according to the Hebrew Bible would usher in a new era of world peace, unity and harmony,and, as already mentioned, Jesus’ untimely demise prevented him from fulfilling the variousthings expected by Jews of the Messiah. In order to get around that problem, and ensurethat Jesus could be acknowledged as the long-awaited Messiah, the early Christians - well,at least some of them - redefined and expanded the Messiah’s mission, and in the processselectively borrowed, where necessary, from pagan myths such as the myth of the dyingand rising God. Further, many early Christians proclaimed Jesus would return to the worldagain in a “second coming”.286 (Of course, as already mentioned, the Messiah spoken of inthe Hebrew Bible was supposed to achieve all of his objectives in one “coming”, but thatwas conveniently glossed over by the early Church which first began as an unusual sectwithin Judaism itself.)As Lockhart says (1997:31): ... [T]oo close a scrutiny of Jesus in the role of the Jewish Messiah unravels the Church’s compulsory Christ of faith – the Christ of faith argued into existence by Bultmann as an alternative to the elusive Jesus of history.Turning now to another question, was Jesus of Nazareth God in the traditional theisticsense as understood by orthodox Jews and many others? Well, Jesus never said that hehimself was God. Indeed, he virtually denied that he was God when he exclaimed, “Whycallest thou me Good? There is none good but one, that is God” (Mt 19:17; see also Mk10:18.). He did not claim to be all-powerful (that is, omnipotent), for he said, “I can of mineown self do nothing” (Jn 5:30). He did not claim to have knowledge of all things (that is, beomniscient), for he said, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angelswhich are in heaven, neither the Son, but my Father only” (Mt 24:36, Mk 13:32). He is alsosaid in the Scriptures to have been “tempted of the devil” (Mt 4:1), but God cannot betempted with evil (see Ja 1:13). He prayed to God (see, eg, Mt 17:5, 27:46; Lk 6:16; Jn17:5), which would be a most strange thing to do if he were God in a unique and exclusivesense.Traditional, conservative Christians point to Jesus’ purported utterance, “I and my Fatherare one” (Jn 10:30) as support for their assertion that Jesus was, and expressly claimed tobe, God. However, assuming for the moment that Jesus did, in fact, say those wordsattributed to him in John 10:30, the verse must, like all portions of sacred scripture, be seen286 See Heb 9:29; Pt 3. 106
  • in its total context. Admittedly the Jews did indeed infer that Jesus was purportedly claimingto be God (see Jn 10:31), but Jesus quickly rephrased his statement with the term "Godsson", whilst referring to the Jewish scriptures to elucidate the true meaning of that term: seeJn 10:34-36.287 Thus, Jesus certainly was not claiming to be God in any unique or exclusivesense – something that is of immense importance to Liberal Catholics and other liberalChristians. Indeed, Jesus never claimed anything for himself that he did not also claim forthose who were prepared to follow him. His prayer was this: “that they all may be one; asthou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (Jn 17:21). Jesuswas saying, “The father is in me, and I am in the father”, which is a wonderfullypanentheistic view of God. (Similarly, Jesus is also reported to have said, “I am in myFather: and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14;20).)Is Jesus God’s “only begotten son” (cf Jn 3:16), as traditional, conventional Christiansassert? Those who believe that have simply literalized and carnalized a myth. The goodnews according to the Ancient Wisdom - the “lost Gnosis”, if you like - is that we are allbegotten of the Only One. There is Only One, and everybody is the only begotten son: seeMurphy (1971:27). In short, Jesus is represented by the New Testament writers to be asdistinct a being from God the Father as one man is distinct from another. “It is written inyour law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one who bear witness of myself, andthe Father that sent me beareth witness of me” (Jn 8:17, 18).The most that can be claimed from the Bible, weighing everything in the balance, is thatJesus was the “Son of God” - a very human title in any event - but not the Supreme orAlmighty God. However, when we read the New Testament Gospels we find that the titlemost used by Jesus - indeed over 60 times - to describe himself was “Son of Man”. Thosewords do not imply that Jesus was claiming to be either God in any unique or exclusivesense or the long-awaited for Messiah. Interestingly, that title (“Son of Man”) was used onlyby Jesus himself. Our Lord never really explained the precise meaning of the title, but itappears to be linked with what Jesus saw as his mission in life (namely, the proclamation ofthe Kingdom of God as a past, present and future reality), and that Jesus saw himself as a287 In Jewish literature and sacred scripture the term “Son of God” was a purely human title and did not refer to adivine figure: see, eg, Ps 2: 7 (“You are my son, today I have begotten you”). The king (eg Solomon) is God’sfirst-born: see Ps 89:27. Angels, Israelites in general, righteous people, and, in the New Testament, Christianscan all be spoken of as sons of God, and can address God as Father. 107
  • representative human being through whom God was acting in an important but by nomeans unique way to make the Kingdom of God a reality in our world.So, how did Jesus see his mission? To die for our sins, as a ransom for many, as assertedby conventional Christians? No, that was not the message of Jesus. True, Mark 10:45says, “The Son of Man came … to give his life a ransom for many”, but Higher Criticism andthe more recent form criticism undertaken by The Jesus Seminar288 make it unambiguouslyclear that those words come from Mark or the editor. Indeed, the words recorded in Mark10:45 occur in a portion of Mark 10 (namely, verses 41-45) which is known to be a duplicateof another portion of Mark’s Gospel (viz Mk 9:33-35) in which the “ransom” idea is totallyabsent. In fact, there is no reference to Jesus’ martyrdom at all. What we are dealing withhere is an interpolation representing, not an actual teaching or utterance of Jesus but thefaith of certain believers in the early church. As for Jesus’ supposed utterance as recordedin Matthew 26:28 (“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many forthe remission of sins”), the last mentioned words (“for the remission of sins”) are, as criticalcommentators such as Dr Vincent Taylor have pointed out, a comment added by theevangelist and not authentic. In any event, both of these supposed and highly dubiousutterances of Jesus (namely, Mk 10:45 and Mt 26:28) are incongruent to the whole tenorand thrust of Jesus’ teachings. They are hyper-Paulinistic editorial additions to support alater theological interpretation of Jesus’ death. Critical investigation of the documentsconfirms that.289Furthermore, the whole notion of Jesus’ death as a blood sacrifice is unbiblical.290 In theJewish scriptures, blood atonement was only one method prescribed for the forgiveness ofsins,291 and even then only for “a small category of transgressions” (Kaplan [1985] 2002:70).The main way was pure repentance unto God, through words of prayer.292 The conventionalChristian ideas of blood sacrifice owe more to pagan mystery religions such as Mithraismthan to Judaism.288 See Funk (1996a) and Funk, Hover and The Jesus Seminar (1996b); cf Barnett (2009).289 See Angus (1934b:7-11) and Weatherhead (1965:69).290 Cf Heb 9:22. The whole idea of a person repenting on behalf of another person is totally foreign to Judaism.The communal sacrifices referred to in the Torah were for the sake of a whole community that had erred in itsways, and were not for the remission of sins of individuals. Further, human sacrifice (whether for the supposedpurpose of the remission of sins, salvation or any other purpose) has no place in Judaism: see Jer 32:35; cf Gen22:1-24 (the “Binding of Isaac”).291 See, eg, Lv 17:11.292 See, eg, Ez 33:11, 33:19; Jer 36:3, Hos 14:3. 108
  • Was Jesus the “Suffering Servant” referred to in Isaiah 53:3-5?293 Much has been written onthat matter, both from Jewish and Christian perspectives. Although it is not the preferredinterpretation in Judaism, the passage may be a reference to the long-awaited Messiah or aMessianic era. If so, the passage cannot be read and construed as a reference to Jesus forthe reasons previously given, namely, that Jesus simply failed to meet the requirementsand description of the Messiah as set forth in the Hebrew Bible. More likely, the passagemay be a reference to the Prophet Isaiah himself, but it is even more likely still that thepassage is referring to the entire Jewish people over time.Who, then, was Jesus? The New Testament tells us that Jesus of Nazareth was “a manapproved of God” (Acts 2:22) who preached what is described in the New Testament as the“gospel of God”. For example, in Mark 1:14 we read that Jesus came into Galilee“preaching the gospel of God” - note, not the so-called “gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ”,but the “gospel of God”. Whatever this gospel is, Jesus urged all who would listen to him toexperience it, embrace it, and live it. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom ofGod is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15; cf Mt 4:17, 10:7; Lk 4:43). Thisis the answer to those Christian evangelists who assert that there was no Christian gospel(the so-called “gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ”) until after Jesus had died and supposedlyrose from the dead. Ironically, the gospel that so many traditional Christians proclaim is notthe “gospel of God” proclaimed by Jesus himself.American Episcopalian (Anglican) priest Everett L Fullam described Christianity as“Christian living, resurrection living”, that is, “living according to priority – the priority ofseeking first the kingdom of God” (as quoted in Slosser 1979:74). Fullam describes thisconcept of “resurrection living” in these terms (again, Slosser 1979:74): St Paul describes it in these words … “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” [Col 3:1-2] … A new goal, a new objective. If you be raised with Christ, then seek those things which are above. That’s St Paul’s way of saying what Jesus said in the Sermon on293 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were ourfaces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried oursorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for ourtransgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with hisstripes we are healed.” 109
  • the Mount; “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; all these things shall be added unto you.” [Mt 6:33]294“Resurrected living” is not something supposedly supernatural that is to happen at sometime in the future, whether at the moment of our death or otherwise. The resurrected livingwhich Paul is here expounding, and of which Jesus spoke, is something in the here-and-now. Thus, Paul speaks of our having been “raised with Christ”. As for Jesus, he “equatesthe coming of the kingdom with doing the will of God” (Fullam, as quoted in Slosser1979:74-75). Fullam goes on to say (again, Slosser 1979:75): Experiencing the kingdom of God is doing the will of God. Jesus said, concerning himself, “I have not come to do what I desire,” He said; “I do only such things as I am directed by the Father.” And you will find that one of the characteristics of the new life experience, the new life walked in, will be a desire to live our lives according to the will of God. His purpose for us will become supremely important. His plan for our life will be our quest and discovery. The accomplishing of the good works that he has prepared for us to walk in [Eph 2:10] will become the magnificent obsession of all who experience the resurrection.295The late Dr Robert Killam, an outstanding Unitarian Universalist leader in his day, had thisto say about the continuing relevance of Jesus (Killam, as quoted in Marshall 1970:155): Jesus’ life was not bound by the time, the country, or the community in which it was lived, for he knew and lived by the truths that are valid always and everywhere. Although men have thought to excuse their own dismal failures by calling him visionary and impractical, they have known in their hearts that it was they who were impractical, for everything they have touched has turned to ashes. It is true that Jesus knew nothing of modern conditions of life. He never saw a factory or heard its clatter. He never listened to a radio or watched television or rode in an automobile. He never visited a hospital or worked in a scientific laboratory. But these are only the gadgets of life! Life itself Jesus knew. Birth and death, work and wages, sickness and despair, poverty and blessings and hardships that make up life are not new to us. They were not new in his day. They have been present in every age. Every human goodness and evil, dream and failure which we know he also knew. He spoke to a world like ours. Despite our unwillingness to pay the price of discipleship, we believe in him, not because he was God, but because he was man, at man’s best.For all Christians - and that includes, and must include, Liberal Catholics - Jesus is God ina form we can understand and with whom we can readily identify, because he shared our294 Emphasis in the original.295 Emphasis in the original. 110
  • common humanity. His divinity lies in his complete and total humanity – humanity at its verybest. Not only was the “basic message of Jesus ... that nothing can destroy love” (Mowle2009:125), he fully demonstrated the truth of that proposition in his life and death and in hisongoing spiritual presence among us. This is what we mean when we speak of Jesus Christbeing “our foundation” and “our chief corner stone” (Liturgy 224). Dr Harry EmersonFosdick, in a sermon entitled “The Peril of Worshipping Jesus”, published in a volume ofsermons by Fosdick entitled The Hope of the World, writes of what it truly means to speakof Jesus being divine (1933:126-127): ... I believe in the divinity of Jesus with all my faculties if we can come to an understanding about what we mean by divinity. Are you willing to start with John’s idea of divinity in the New Testament: “God is love” [1 Jn 4:8]? That is divinity – love. Divinity is not something supernatural that ever and again invades the natural order in a crashing miracle. Divinity is not in some remote heaven, seated on a throne. Divinity is love. Here and now it shines through the highest spiritual experiences we know. Wherever goodness, beauty, truth, love are – there is the Divine. And the divinity of Jesus is the divinity of his spiritual life.296Leslie D Weatherhead, a former president of the Methodist Conference of Great Britain, inhis book The Transforming Friendship wrote that the essence of Jesus’ divinity was that he“always revealed His Father ... always lived to show men what God was like” ([1928]1930:41). Weatherhead refers to what Jesus, in his life of total self-giving, reveals to us,and offers us, and that is “the companionship and friendliness of God” ([1928] 1930:41).Weatherhead then goes on to write ([1928] 1930:51): Christianity began ... in a vivid, tremendous, transforming experience of the friendship of Jesus. It could never have continued unless the friendship had been sustained; unless those who had never seen Him could yet enter into the fellowship and become sure of Him also. There is no greater need in our time than ... to make Jesus real to men; to invite them into that transforming fellowship which cannot be proved save by personal experience, but which, when realized, brings men that glorious exhilaration, that sense of ineffable peace, and that escape from all bondage which are promised in the New Testament.For the present writer, the “real presence” of the historical Jesus lies in the power of hispersonality, as experienced as an ever-present inner reality in our consciousness, and inhis ability to enrich our lives accordingly. Professor Samuel Angus in his book Jesus in theLives of Men writes of “the peerless greatness and unique place of Jesus, so that mencontinue to find the way of life through him, and learn to interpret their lives in the light and296 Emphasis in the original. 111
  • by the standard of his life” (1934a:53) before going on to describe the transformative powerof Jesus’ personality (1934a:66-67): It was expedient for Christianity that Jesus should go away, in order that the Spirit, with which the early Christians identified his living person, should come. It was expedient that he should surmount the limitations of an earthly life in order that he might abide forever as a universal Presence. It was expedient that his history should be lifted out of Galilee and Judea in order that those who had not seen him with the eyes of sense, nor touched him sensibly, should everlastingly behold his glory. In the feebler glories of the interpenetration of our own personalities by other personalities we have analogies – but not an explanation – of the power inherent in Jesus’ personality to impress itself upon his followers. The divine “Idea” of Jesus’ life has mysteriously, but none the less truly, entered into countless lives, bestowing power and bringing uplift.Scottish professor James M Stalker, an eminent preacher,297 writer and academic ofyesteryear, whose impact upon theological thinking was perhaps greatest in the UnitedStates of America than anywhere else including his homeland, wrote powerfully of the needto recognize the historicity of Jesus Christ in order for there to be any ongoing relationshipwith him and mystical sharing in his life. For example, Stalker, in his book The Life of JesusChrist, writes ([1880] 1891:139): No life ends even for this world when the body by which it has for a little been made visible disappears from the face of the earth. It enters into the stream of the ever- swelling life of mankind, and continues to act there with its whole force for evermore. Indeed, the true magnitude of a human being can often only be measured by what this after-life shows him to have been. So it was with Christ. The modest narrative of the Gospels scarcely prepares us for the outburst of creative force which issued from His life when it appeared to have ended. His influence on the modern world is the evidence of how great He was; for there must have been in the cause as there is in the effect. It has overspread the life of man and caused it to blossom with the vigour of a spiritual spring. It has absorbed into itself all other influences, as a mighty river, pouring along the centre of a continent, receives tributaries from a hundred hills. And its quality has been even more exceptional than its quantity.Now, Stalker was for the most part an evangelical, yet what is set out above, excerpted as itis from one of his most influential books, could easily have been written by a LiberalCatholic, unless that Liberal Catholic be one whose though forms are very much rooted in“Theosophy as understood by Adyar”.298 Stalker goes on to write of Jesus ([1880]1891:139-140):297 Stalker served for a number of years as a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.298 See Tillett (2005:Online). 112
  • But the most important evidence of what He was, is to be found neither in the general history of modern civilization nor in the public history of the visible Church, but in the experiences of the succession of genuine believers, who with linked hands stretch back to touch Him through the Christian generations. The experience of myriads of souls, redeemed by Him from themselves and from the world, proves that history was cut in twain by the appearance of a Regenerator, who was not a mere link in the chain of common men, but One whom the race could not from its own resources have produced – the perfect Type, the Man of men. ...299For Liberal Catholics, that is a vision of Jesus with which we should be able to identify, withboth intellectual honesty and at emotional depth – redemption, or regeneration, in the formof being made free from ourselves and from the world, so that we can both find, and lose,ourselves in a greater and wider reality that is timeless and infinite, ultimate and ineffable.Identification with both the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith can lead us to a spiritualregeneration aided and assisted by the vicarious spirituality of the Man from Galilee whowas able to say, with complete honesty and humility, “I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:30),but this can only occur in the manner referred to above to the extent to which we openourselves and are otherwise responsive to the outpoured life of Jesus present both in therace consciousness and, mystically, in the depths of our own spiritual lives as part of thePresence, indeed Omnipresence, of God-life. Thus, David Torkington in his book TheMystic300 writes of making contact with Jesus in his “resurrection life” in which you “can nolonger see Jesus as you used to because you are within Him and are being fitted into Himmore perfectly in your prayer than ever before” ([1995] 1999:78). After all, did not Jesussay, “the Father is in me, and I in him” (Jn 10:38), and “I am in my Father: and you in me,and I in you” (Jn 14:20), before going on to pray to the Father, “that they all may be one; asthou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (Jn 17:21)? In short,not only is the “fullness of God’s life ... to be found and experienced in the full humanity ofJesus” (Torkington [1995] 1999:78), mystically we experience that Oneness with the Fatherthrough our encounter with Jesus who, as an integral part of God’s Omnipresence, is onewith us in and through the power of consciousness, prayer and the sacraments.Esoterically, Jesus may be seen to represent the disciple, that is, the earnest seeker afterTruth, the person on the Path (see, eg, van Alphen (2000:Online)) as well as a “humanIncarnation of Divine Thought, an outcome and expression of the ‘Word’ or Law of God”299 Emphasis added. Stalker ([1880] 1891:140) goes on to write of further testimony, or evidence, if you prefer,of the ongoing presence of Jesus in the lives of humans in the form of the “experience of myriads of minds,rendered blessed by the vision of a God who to the eye purified by the Word of Christ is so completely Light thatin Him there is no darkness at all”.300 Part of a trilogy of books on prayer, the others being The Hermit and The Prophet. 113
  • (Corelli 1966:13). Ann K Elliott in her book Higher Ground (2000-2003:Ch 1:Online) writesthat “the main events in the life of Christ fit onto such a framework [one for the transmissionof sacred teachings] and correspond remarkably to the archetypal themes of other religionsconcerning the transformation of consciousness”. Elliott quotes Carl Jung who wrote (seeStein 1999:170): Christ’s life is a prototype of individuation and hence cannot be imitated: one can only live one’s own life totally in the same way [Christ lived his and] with all the consequences this entails.Jung referred to “the high drama of the life of Christ and how it is being re-enacted in theindividual soul” as “the Christian archetype” (Elliott 2000-2003:Ch 1:Online), somethingwhich is highly reminiscent of, and extremely indebted to, Plato’s “archetypal ideas”. ForPlato, the archetypes constituted “the intangible substrate of all that is tangible” (Tarnas1991:12). Plato’s theory of archetypes helps us to appreciate, interpret and apply to ourown lives the life of Jesus, and the key events in that life. Thus, G F Maine, in theintroduction to his anthology book The Life and Teachings of the Master, writes(1953:17-18): The passion-story, which is fundamental to all the gospels, presents five main episodes in the Life of Christ, and these correspond to successive stages of soul- development in the individual. (1) The Birth: The birth of Christ in the heart of the disciple; the awakening to a realisation of his own spiritual nature. (2) The Baptism: self-dedication to the service of the Master. (3) The Transfiguration: conscious realization of the Divine indwelling. (4) The Passion and Death-Resurrection: The sacrifice and death of all that pertains to the separated self-hood; complete self- surrender to the eternal reality of Love. (5) The Ascension: union, or at-one-ment, with the Divine. Thus the beginning of the mystic drama, the birth of the soul into the human kingdom by way of the gate of generation, becomes an ordered progression which ends with the ascent of the soul to the kingdom of the spirit and its union with the source of Light.301The present writer does not eschew this esoteric approach. Indeed, he embraces it withenthusiasm, and with the deep conviction that the so-called “Jesus story” is, at a very deeplevel known to as by spiritual intuition, “symbolic of what [we] are about, too” (Mowle2009:124). However, without the historical Jesus, and its story, we have no real way ofconceptualizing just what the words used in the Gospels to depict and describe the so-called “Life of Christ” actually mean. Jesus authenticates, actualizes and makes real and301 Italics in the original. 114
  • possible for us what is otherwise not only inscrutable but unattainable. This important fact -so often overlooked or even openly repudiated by Liberal Catholics - has been expresslyacknowledged by Bishop Leadbeater himself (1965:1): The life of Christ is the prototype of the life of everyone of His followers. We too must pass through those stages, those steps, those initiations through which Christ passed. We must suffer with Him all the sorrow and the pain of Easter week, a veritable crucifixion of all that seems to man worth having; but he who endures to the end, he who passes through that test as he should, for him the glory of Easter is to be revealed, and he will gain the victory which makes him more than man, which raises him to the level of the Christ Spirit.More recently, Mowle (2007:183), after alluding to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, refersto this “Jesus the Christ [who] occupies places that one day all humanity will share”.Weatherhead wrote that Jesus’ divinity “was not endowed but achieved by his moralreactions so that he climbed to an eminence of character which the word ‘human’ was notbig enough to describe” (1930:260). So it is, or can be, for us as well. Weatherhead is notalone. Roman Catholic priest Andrew M Greeley (1971) sees Jesus as the archetypalhuman and way-shower (“our pattern and perfect ensample” [Liturgy 365]) such that we tooshould be bringing ransom to captives (those in bondage to self) and hope, faith and love toother people just as Jesus did in his earthly life. Liberal Catholic priest Claude Thompsonexpressed it well when he wrote (1962:9): Christ, from what may be called the general esoteric view that many of us take, was, as an historical person, the result of that spiritual evolution mentioned, that had raised him to the point where his immanent and inherent divinity was so fully manifest that he was able to say – “I and my Father are One” [Jn 10:30] and “No man cometh unto the Father but by me,” [Jn 14:6] and “Me” is that inherent divinity shared by all men. Only through their own divinity can they reach God.Jesus, more than any other person who has ever lived, lived his life in consciouscommunion with that inner light which is our “God centre”. The Liturgy, in the Service for theOrdination of Acolytes, also states (Liturgy 370): In many forms of religious faith light has been taken as a symbol of deity – the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world [cf Jn 1:9]. That light is universal, but it also dwells in the heart of man. It is our duty to see that light in everyone, however dimly it may burn, however veiled and darkened it may appear to our ordinary perception.There is a further, quite metaphysical and allegorical, sense in which the word “Jesus” canand has been used, and that is the sense already mentioned in the context of the Holy 115
  • Trinity, namely, that one’s “son”, spiritually speaking, is one’s genuine desire for somethinggood (that is, godly or godlike). Thus, Murphy ([1972] Online) writes: The Jesus of the Bible has more than one meaning. The word Joshua is identical with the name Jesus. Joshua (Jesus) means “God is Savior,” “God is Deliverer.” When you read the Bible, look upon Jesus as Taylor said, “illumined reason or your knowledge of God.” It also means realization of your desire, the solution to your problem or salvation, the God-Presence within. Jesus symbolizes the cornerstone rejected, but which is most essential in building the temple of God-consciousness. The realization of our desire saves us from any predicament in the world; therefore, that is our savior. Our own consciousness or conviction saves us. “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”In the next section of this chapter, which relates to what is sometimes referred to as the“Historical Christ”, the combination of “Jesus” and “Christ” will be considered in the light ofLiberal Catholic teaching and understanding. It is sufficient, for present purposes, to saythat, faithful to the Ancient Wisdom, the Liberal Catholic Church does not affirm that Jesuswas in any sense uniquely and exclusively God, unlike “orthodox Christians [who] believethat Jesus is Lord and Son of God in a unique way” (Pagels [1979] 1988:19). However,many Liberal Catholics, including the present writer, would agree with the American RomanCatholic priest Andrew M Greeley (1971) who wrote that a Christian is one who says “yes”to the invitation of Jesus to follow him and to love unconditionally, that the underlying realityof life and the entire universe is love,302 and that what is required of us human beings issimply to open ourselves up to that love so that it can flow into us and through us and out ofus to all around us.The Historical ChristThe Theosophist Henry T Edge, in his book The Universal Mystery-Language and ItsInterpretation, has written ([1943] 1997:Online): Though every man is an incarnation of divinity, there are some who are so in a special sense. These are men who have progressed in their individual evolution to a point beyond that reached by the average humanity of their time, and who come to the world in times of spiritual darkness to teach the truths of the ancient wisdom. Such teachers are the world’s Christs; and we find them in the religions of India, Egypt, ancient America, and elsewhere, accounts similar in essentials to the Gospel narratives.302 See 1 Jn 4:8 (“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”). 116
  • In Liberal Catholic teaching and esoteric thought and writing generally, the “HistoricalChrist” is not necessarily, or even ordinarily, equivalent in meaning or intent to the“Historical Jesus” (the latter referring to the so-called “Christ of the Churches”, astraditionally understood). Van Alphen (2002:Online) writes that when one combines Jesuswith Christ, there are two distinct but interrelated meanings.First, there is a reference to “Christ as the World Teacher”,303 that is, “the World Teacherexpressing himself through the personality of his beloved disciple, Jesus” (van Alphen2002:Online): Physically seen, one sees Jesus, but the one expressing himself through that body is Christ, the World Teacher, thus Jesus Christ.304Secondly, there is a reference to the human personality “under full sway of the soul” (vanAlphen 2002:Online), or, if you like, the World Teacher expressing Himself through thepersonality of the disciple on the path, for we are “all Christs in the making” (Heline1950:33).305 (In the section of this chapter relating to the “Cosmic Christ”, the expression“Jesus Christ our Lord” will be discussed.)As to the first meaning, Besant ([1901] 1914:113-4) in her Esoteric Christianity wrote that,Jesus’ “superhuman purity and devotion” fitted “[him], the disciple, to become the temple ofa loftier Power, of a mighty, indwelling Presence”:303 The Christ has been variousl;y referred to as the World Teacher, the Bodhisattva, and the Lord Maitreya.304 The Liberal Catholic Church, undeniably, was formed at least in substantial part to help prepare for thecoming of the supposed World Teacher, and to make itself available for use by the World Teacher, relevantly,as a special means by which the World Teacher would help the world when He came. In the words of C WLeadbeater, “At any rate, it is there for Him if He wishes to use it ... [the Church] putting itself wholly into Hishands as an instrument to be used at His will”: see Theosophy in Australia, March 1917. Bishop Leadbeater’sformer secretary, the late Harold Morton, himself a former leading Australian Theosophist and former LiberalCatholic priest who had become disenchanted with both institutions as early as 1944 and almost certainlyearlier, apparently expressed his opinion to the late J M Prentice (himself an eminent Australian Theosophist) in1962 that - according to “detailed notes” purportedly taken by Prentice of the alleged conversation - Leadbeaterhad intended using Annie Besant as the means of proclaiming himself (Leadbeater) as the vehicle for the WorldTeacher but that was not possible because of Leadbeater’s “tarnished reputation” so Leadbeater “had to seekout a suitable subject, whom he could dominate”: see Tillett (2004). Assuming for the moment that Morton didhold the view that he supposedly expressed to Prentice, that is not evidence that Bishop Leadbeater saw thingsthe same way. It has also been written that one Hubert Van Hook (1895-1984), who would later become aChicago lawyer, had been considered by Leadbeater as a candidate for the role for which Krishnamurti waseventually chosen: see Faig (2006:13).305 In the Ancient Mysteries a probationer or neophyte was often referred to as a “Chrestos” [Greek for “good”] -interestingly, Osiris was called Chrestos - whereas an initiate was called a “Christos” [Greek for “anointed”].(The inscription “Chrestos” is visible on a Mithras relief in the Vatican.) A certain syncretism is known to havetaken place with these two words, further complicated by the use of other words such as the Latin words“Chestus” and “Christus”, the former being a mutilated form for the latter. Originally a title, the term Christos was“later attached to Jesus” (Krusenstierna, in Hodson 1977:58) but has also been used throughout the years torefer to a Great Being (eg the World Teacher, the Lord Maitreya, the Bodhisattva, or simply “the Christ”). 117
  • The time had come for one of those Divine manifestations which from age to age are made for the helping of humanity, when a new impulse is needed to quicken the spiritual evolution of mankind, when a new civilisation is about to dawn. ... A mighty "Son of God" was to take flesh upon earth, a supreme Teacher, "full of grace and truth" — [Jn 1:14] One in whom the Divine Wisdom abode in fullest measure, who was verily "the Word" incarnate, Light and Life in outpouring richness, a very Fountain of the Waters of Life. Lord of Compassion and of Wisdom — such was His name — and from His dwelling in the Secret Places He came forth into the world of men. For Him was needed an earthly tabernacle, a human form, the body of a man, and who so fit to yield his body in glad and willing service to One before whom Angels and men bow down in lowliest reverence, as this Hebrew of the Hebrews, this purest and noblest of "the Perfect", whose spotless body and stainless mind offered the best that humanity could bring? The man Jesus yielded himself a willing sacrifice, "offered himself without spot" to the Lord of Love, who took unto Himself that pure form as tabernacle, and dwelt therein for three years of mortal life.Besant is referring to the Lord Maitreya306 whom she and others believed hadovershadowed Jesus of Nazareth after his baptism and at various times up until hiscrucifixion (or stoning to death, according to Leadbeater) in the sense that Jesus’ body andperson were temporarily used as a vehicle for the Lord Maitreya, hence the variousexpressions “Christ our Lord”, “Christ as the World Teacher”, “The Christ”, “the Lord Christ”,and so forth, referred to by Leadbeater and others (see, eg, Udney 1927) as theRepresentative of the Son of God upon earth.307 Both Besant and Leadbeater would soonhave much to say about what they expected would be another coming of the World Teacherwho, so they and certain others (but by no means all, or even most) in the Theosophicalmovement believed, would soon revisit the world publicly, overshadowing and speakingthrough the vehicle of one Jiddu Krishnamurti. The ill-fated Order of the Star of the Sea,formed to help usher in that great expected event, ended on 2 August 1929 whenKrishnamurti publicly repudiated the role that seemingly had been imposed upon him byothers.308306 Also known and referred to as the “Living Christ” (at least in traditional Liberal Catholic thought and in somequarters of esoteric Christianity), the Lord of Love, the alleged head (“Bodhisattva”) of the occult hierarchy, whosupposedly held the office of World Teacher until, it is said, he assumed the office of the Buddha on 1 January1956. According to the teaching held by some Theosophists Jesus of Nazareth and the Master Kuthumi jointlyassumed the office of the Lord Maitreya. Many Buddhists also believe in the coming Lord Maitreya Buddha - thenext and, according to some, the “final” Buddha - the Lord Gautama Buddha being the “Teacher of the Past”.307 Some esoteric writers (see, eg, Heline 1950:30) have used the expression the “Planetary Christ” to refer to“the highest Initiate of the archangelic Host” who, it is said, ensouled the body and person of Jesus during the 3-year period of his public ministry. Heline (1950:37) uses the expression “Cosmic Christ” to refer to the One whoinspired all religions (cf the “World Teacher” of Besant and Leadbeater). Regrettably, the use of differentterminology by different writers does not assist at all in understanding.308 See Vernon ([2000] 2002) and Ellis-Jones (2006). 118
  • Leadbeater, in particular, wrote and spoke of the “World Teacher” - an entity or Beingotherwise referred to as “our blessed Lord” by Udny [1927:2]) - being, in sacred mystery, aspecial epiphany of the Logos in its second aspect (the “eternal Christ” or “Cosmic Christ”),the latter being a matter to be further considered below. Liberal Catholic priest Udny(1927:44) succinctly described what he and others (in particular, Leadbeater and Besant)saw as the special role and mission of the World Teacher, namely, to ever offer Himself tothat altar on high “as a Channel for the life of the Second Person [of the Blessed Trinity] …[as] an ‘eternal High Priest,’ the true Officiant in all the sacraments administered by Hispriests”.Santucci (in foreword, Schüller 1997:Online), after referring to a number of authoritativesources, writes that “the doctrine of the ‘Christ as the World Teacher uniting himself withJesus at the baptism’”, as developed and expounded by Besant ([1901] 1914) andLeadbeater (1983), can be seen as a departure or deviation from the original teachings of HP Blavatsky, to which many Theosophists did not, and presumably still not, subscribe, andwhich did not necessarily, if at all, form part of “traditional” mainstream Theosophicalteaching.The present writer is reverentially agnostic regarding the “World Teacher” idea, preferring tointerpret it allegorically and spiritually in a manner not inconsistent with Liberal Catholic,Theosophical and New Thought exegesis on other matters (cf Hodson 1925, 1967-81, and1975; Grove [1925] 1962; Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (1931); Addington [1969] 1996).Thus, the “World Teacher” may be said to symbolise and represent, or be a shorthandexpression and personification of, the ancient wisdom or “lost gnosis” that is at the heart ofall the major religions and mythologies 309 - that is, “the wisdom underlying all religions whenthey are stripped of accretions and superstitions ... teachings [that] aid the unfoldment ofthe latent spiritual nature in the human being, without dependence or fear” (Besant [1909]1984:60). For the present writer, the “World Teaching” (the essence of which is that there isOne Being, One ever-evolving, ever-changing but otherwise indestructible Life or absoluteReality manifesting Itself as the “many”, in all things and as all things, as a triplicity of Life,Truth and Love in which we live and move and have our being on a boundless plane in an309 The Ancient Wisdom is ordinarily regarded as being not only the essence of all religion, esotericallyinterpreted, but the eternal source from which all such religions have emanated, hence the notion (especiallyheld by Leadbeater) that the World Teacher was a special epiphany of the Logos in its second aspect (“theSon”). 119
  • otherwise eternal universe, being one of a number of such universes over endless time) ismore important than any notion of “World Teacher”. As Krishnamurti often said in hiswritings, speeches and talks, it’s the teaching that matters, not the teacher. Such a viewfinds some support in the writings of our own Bishop Wedgwood, who wrote (1928:161): One of the titles sometimes given to the Second Person of the Godhead is “World Teacher”. Most people would say that teaching is the passing on of knowledge, and would connect it with the intellectual nature of man which comes under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit. But a difficulty sometimes arises from a misunderstanding of the teacher’s task. It is not to lay facts before the pupil but to encourage him to exercise his own faculties in order to grasp fundamental realities by his own efforts; the true teacher will quicken initiative and enterprise in the student in order that he may learn to use his own powers and comes to see things for himself.The Mythic (or Pagan) ChristIn almost all of the world’s religions one finds fairly similar myths of creation,310 the flood,and so forth. Then there is the myth of the dying and rising god, which is common to anumber of religions and religious philosophies. These archetypal myths and commonmotifs, although not in themselves necessarily, it at all, historical, are nevertheless “poeticexpressions of … transcendental seeing” (Campbell 1973:31). Tom Harpur (2004:17) haswritten: As [Joseph] Campbell repeatedly made clear in his many books and in the interviews with [Bill] Moyers, the deepest truths about life, the soul, personal meaning, our place in the universe, our struggle to evolve to higher levels of insight and understanding, and particularly the mystery we call God can be described only by means of a story (mythos) or a ritual drama. The myth itself is fictional, but the timeless truth it expresses is not. As Campbell puts it, “Myth is what never was, yet always is.”History and myth often coalesce into what Campbell (1973:26) refers to as “themes of theimagination”, but care must be exercised here. As Smart (1992:15) points out: … These stories often are called myths. The term may be a bit misleading, for in the context of the modern study of religion there is no implication that a myth is false.310 As Suzuki (1997:185) has pointed out, “Creation stories create, or re-create, the world human beings live in,shape what we see and suggest the rules by which we should live. Unbelievably numerous and diverse, thesetales of the Beginning of Everything are considered by the peoples that live by them the most sacred of all thestories, the origin of all the others.” 120
  • Besant ([1901] 1914:131), in Esoteric Christianity, refers to a “Christ” whom she describesas being “the Mythic Christ, the Christ of the solar myths or legends, these myths being thepictorial forms in which certain profound truths were given to the world”.311 She goes on towrite ([1901] 1914:134): The Solar Myth … is a story which primarily representing the activity of the Logos, or Word, in the kosmos, secondarily embodies the life of one who is an incarnation of the Logos, or is one of His ambassadors. The Hero of the myth is usually represented as a God, or Demi-God, and his life, as will be understood by what has been said above, must be outlined by the course of the Sun, as the shadow of the Logos. The part of the course lived out during the human life is that which falls between the winter solstice and the reaching of the zenith in summer. The Hero is born at the winter solstice, dies at the spring equinox, and, conquering death, rises into mid-heaven.Besant, after referring to a number of pagan “dying and rising gods” and solar mythmanifestations, religions and festivals, concludes ([1901] 1914:144): Hence, when the Master Christ [that is, Christ as the World Teacher] became the Christ of the Mysteries, the legends of the older Heroes of those Mysteries gathered round Him, and the stories were again recited with the latest divine Teacher as the representative of the Logos in the Sun. Then the festival of His nativity became the immemorial date when the Sun was born of the Virgin, when the midnight sky was filled with the rejoicing hosts of the celestials, and Very early, very early, Christ was born.Those traditional Christians who assert that all that is written about Jesus in the NewTestament is historical and non-mythological - on the ground that myths of the kind referredto above take a considerable amount of time to develop - seem blind to the fact that, prior tothe time of Jesus, there already was in existence not only a Solar myth but also the myth ofthe dying and rising god. These myths were readily available to be quickly engrafted uponthe life, passion and death of the man Jesus of Nazareth “crucified in space”: see, eg,Harpur (2004). The famous American mythographer Joseph Campbell tended to construeall religions, not just Christianity (as ordinarily understood by traditional Christians), as“misunderstood mythologies” (Campbell 1986; see also Adler 1990:58-9), and saw theprincipal function of mythology as well as ritual as the “supply [of] the symbols that carry thehuman spirit forward, in counteraction to those other constant human fantasies that tend totie it back” (Campbell [1949] 1990:11).311 The expression “Solar Logos” is often used in Theosophical literature, as well as in other esoteric writings, torefer to the Deity in its manifestation as the relevant Logos of a particular Solar System. 121
  • Take Mithraism, for example. Mithras, the Persian saviour and sun-god, who went aroundthe countryside, teaching, healing and the sick, and casting out devils; Mithras, who had 12disciples, and who held a last supper; Mithras, who was killed, buried in a rock tomb, andsupposedly rose from the dead three days later, before finally ascending into heaven.Sound familiar? A religion was founded in his honour in the 6th century BCE, well before thesupposed advent of Jesus Christ. Its distinguishing outward feature was baptism in thesacrificial blood of bulls. However, Mithras, whose supposed birth was also celebrated onthe 25th of December, was a truly fictional character.The learned Professor Samuel Angus, in his celebrated works such as The MysteryReligions, and more recently other scholars such as Hyam Maccoby (1986) and AndrewWelburn ([1991] 2004), have demonstrated that Christianity was largely the creation ofSaint Paul, synthesizing and syncretising certain key elements of Judaism with many otherpagan belief systems, primarily Greco-Roman mystery religions and, especially,Mithraism.312 As to the latter, before the 5th century CE, when the Christian Church finallydeclared Mithraism heretical, the two religions coexisted and were undoubtedly influentialupon each other.313 Many ancient Roman churches today still contain well-preservedmithraeums in their vaulted burial crypts, and some mithraeums can be viewed to this dayin and around London.Yes, the motif of a crucified saviour, and the concomitant myth of the dying and rising god,were already extant prior to the alleged time of Jesus. It is also interesting to notesomething that Cooper (1996:38) has pointed out in his fascinating book Mithras: ... Mithraism came to the West when Cilician pirates were settled in Greece in the first century BCE. One of the major cities in Cilicia was Tarsus. Paul of Tarsus came from Tarsus some 180 years after the Cilician pirates had been resettled. He may well have been influenced by the sacerdotal currents of the area.314The tragedy is that so-called traditional or orthodox Christianity has grossly distorted andcarnalized Paul’s Neoplatonic ideas about the indwelling Christ and engrafted and projected312 Certainly, his New Testament writings (see, eg, Rom 8:2-11 and 29, 1 Cor 2:6-7, 2 Cor 12:1-4, Phil 1:21, Gal2:20, Col 1:26-27 and 2:2) give much credence to that assumption.313 The 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, in its article on Mithras, after referring to the many analogiesbetween Mithraism and Christianity, states, “At their root lay a common Eastern origin rather than anyborrowing.”314 Indeed, it is quite reasonable to assume that St Paul (whom Elaine Pagels (1979) has called “the GnosticPaul”) would have been familiar with the distinguishing features of Mithraism. Being the learned man that hewas, it is almost certain he would have known a fair bit about Mithraism. 122
  • the gnosis of Paul’s mystery religion teachings upon the man Jesus, deifying him in theprocess such that Jesus came to be regarded as God in a unique and exclusive sense. Theirony is that, if Jesus be God in a unique and exclusive sense, how could we ever hope tofollow him?The Cosmic ChristThe present writer has chosen to use the expression “Cosmic Christ” to refer to “God theSon”, that is, the Logos (or Word) in its second aspect, the Second Person of the Most HolyTrinity, that, through various rays from Itself, breathes forth life into the entire universe, itsvarious planets (including but not limited to this planet Earth), in fact, all that is, ever-offering Itself as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,315 dying in very truth thatwe might live” (Prayer of Consecration, Holy Eucharist), and constituting the indwelling lifeof all that is, being the Word “made flesh” as Christ, the Son. This “Logos of our SolarSystem” (Pigott 1925:17), this “Solar Deity, or Logos, [which] ‘breathes forth His own divinelife into His universe,’ even down to the physical plane” (Udny 1927:2), is the very Self-Givingness of Life Itself – Life giving of Itself to Itself in order to perpetuate Itself. It is thevery essence, heart and soul of Love … and it is divine (cf 1 Jn 4:8). Lutyens (1926:88)writes: It is this stupendous truth which is at the root of all religions, which lies behind the symbolism of every Sacrament. The Eternal Sacrifice; God sacrificing Himself to Himself; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world [cf Rev 13:8]; the body of Osiris slain and scattered; the Lost Word – all these are symbols of the great primeval truth of creation, the supreme Sacrifice of the Logos, Who has freely offered Himself as the ensouling Life of matter, cribbed, cabined, and confined in form, for only through form could an objective Universe come into being. Manifestation is sacrifice; every form that exists is a symbol of the supreme Oblation, God giving Himself to His world that it might live, holding Himself imprisoned in that form while time shall last.Indeed, it is the “living Christ” as we, members of Christ’s Mystical Body, “strive to servetogether as a vehicle of the eternal Christ” (Parry and Rivett [1969] 1985:5). Leadbeatermakes the point, in several of his writings (see, eg, 1983) that the World Teacher (or“Historic Christ”), was, in sacred mystery, a very real and special epiphany. Rivett makes animportant linkage with Jesus, when he writes (2008c:85):315 Cf Rev 13:8. See also Liturgy (215). 123
  • Jesus the fullness of this Cosmic Christ was (and is) manifest, and that he has shown us that the Christ is indeed our indwelling life. We can, I think, see that the Christ-in-us, our individual Divine Centre, is our I AM consciousness.316Hall (2000:28) makes the point that the early Christian Church “regarded Deity as outside ofcreation” whereas the Gnostics and various pagan groups took the view that the universewas the “body of God through which spiritual power manifested as a constant impulsetoward unfoldment and growth”. The latter is very much the Liberal Catholic position. Thus,Wedgwood (1928e:Online), in writing of the various references in the Gloria in Excelsis inthe Holy Eucharist to the Second Aspect of the Logos, the Lord Christ, “alone-born of theFather”, writes that those words mean that “there is One Life, which is the Father’s life”, andthen immediately goes on to make reference to the next set of words in the Gloria, “O LordGod, Indwelling Light”. The Cosmic Christ is the same “life and light which dwells within thehuman heart” (Wedgwood 1928e:Online), that is, the Mystic Christ. It is our mysticalconnection to other human beings – the “pattern that connects” (Fox 1998).Burt (1960:np) makes the point that the expression “Jesus Christ our Lord” (and,presumably, the expression “the Lord Jesus Christ” and other like combinations) embracesthree distinct ideas: First, it refers to the disciple Jesus, second to the great Teacher, the Master Christ, and third, the Second Person of the ever Blessed Trinity.The Mystic ChristBesant ([1901] 1914:146), in Esoteric Christianity, writes that “The Christ of the Solar Mythwas the Christ of the Mysteries, and we find the secret of the mythic in the mystic Christ.”The Mystic Christ, or the “Christ within”, is the “Christ in [us], the hope of glory”317 (Col 1:27),a very special and highly individualistic (yet otherwise common to all) manifestation of theCosmic Christ or Universal Spirit within each of us, indwelling as our potential perfection butotherwise living undeveloped in our human spirits, that nevertheless is ever seeking first,progressive unfoldment, and then perfect expression in our daily lives: see Rivett 2008c:85.Corelli (1966:14) writes:316 Emphasis in the original. See “The Mystic Christ”, below.317 Burt (1960a:np) refers to this teaching of St Paul (see, in full, Col 2:25-27) as Paul’s “most valuablecontribution to Christian thought”. 124
  • The whole life and so-called “death” of Christ was and is a great symbolic lesson to mankind of the infinite power of THAT within us which we call SOUL, … capable of exhaustless energy and of readjustment to varying circumstances. Life is all Life. There is no such thing as Death in its composition, – and the intelligent comprehension of its endless ways and methods of change and expression, is the Secret of the Universe.Another way of referring to this Christ is the incarnation and presence of God in us as us,for “we are all Christs in the making” (Bidwell, quoted in McGarry 1966:17).The late Bishop L W Burt (1960:np) referred to this Christ as “The God Within”, also noting thatJesus himself affirmed, when charged with blasphemy, “Is is not written in your law, I saidye are gods” (Jn 10:34; cf Ps 82:6). 318 Burt also wrote that St Paul affirmed not only theproposition of “God-with-us” but also “God-in-us”, which, as Burt pointed out, emphasized“man’s unity with the Divine”. He goes on to write (1960:np): ... In the earliest form of Christianity there is that definite teaching of “God-in-us,” and this thought comes naturally to St Paul and colours all his writings. The most marvelous event that the universe offered to St Paul was the revelation that God exists not only with-us, but that God also exists in-us.319We make contact with this Mystic Christ - which then becomes a truly living reality withinour lives, and not just some metaphysical principle of the God-man - when we discover orotherwise awaken by spiritual intuition to our own divine selfhood, which is the Logos of thesoul, and become conscious of the presence of God with us and in us and of our essentialoneness with all life. This is the true “second” or “new” birth. Van Alphen (2002:Online)describes this Christ as being “the soul, or immanent Christ principle”, that is, the all-sustaining truth of our being. As the Gnostics, or at least some of them, pointed out, “self-knowledge is knowledge of God; the self and the divine are identical” (Pagels [1979]1988:19).In esoteric thought and teaching, Jesus Christ represents a very special, individualexpression of this Christ idea or principle. In words attributed to Jesus (Jn 10:30; 17:21): I and [my] Father are one. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us … .318 See also 1 Jn 4:4 (“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is inyou, than he that is in the world”).319 [Emphasis in the original. 125
  • Our evolutionary task and journey is made possible through the presence and activity withineach one of us of the Mystic Christ. As Lutyens (1926:89) puts it: The Spirit crucified in man that he might live, man dying in form that he might release the life, the Wine poured forth, the Body broken, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Hill of Golgotha – these are but stages on the pathway of the Cross, at the end of which is the glory of the Resurrection, the ineffable brightness of the Father’s glory.The Anonymous ChristThe present writer, in an article entitled “The Anonymous Christ” (Ellis-Jones 2008a) andpublished in Communion, has written this about the Christ who is sometimes referred to asthe “Anonymous Christ” (2008a:33): ... the Personality of Jesus, through whom the Living Christ expresses Itself, can be experienced as a living presence; for he comes to us, and visits us, in our home and in our community. Yes: the Christ comes to us through an idea, a word we hear, and a person who is suffering or joyful. We meet this Christ in our interactions with others. Everyone we meet, everyone we serve, is in the image of Jesus. Roman Catholics understand this so much better than Protestants. Yes, the Anonymous Christ, as it is known, comes to us in so many ways, and we fail to recognize that Jesus’ incarnation, the very manifestation and Self-expression of the Living Christ, continues all the time, in us and in other people.320The primary, but by no means the only, Biblical basis for this special manifestation or Self-expression of Christ can be found in Matthew 25: 33-40.321 Leadbeater himself, in an articleoriginally published in The Adyar Bulletin (1911:Online), wrote insightfully of thisAnonymous Christ, whilst making pointed reference to the salient part of the abovementioned verses from Matthew’s gospel: ... In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew will be found a striking account, said to have been given by the Christ Himself, of what is commonly called the day of Judgment, when all men are to be brought before Him and their final destiny is to be decided according to the answer which they are able to give to His questions. Remember that, according to the theory, the Christ Himself is to be the judge on that occasion, and therefore He can make no mistake as to the procedure. What then are the questions upon the answers to which the future of these men is to depend? From what one hears of modern Christianity one would expect that the first question would be: “Do you believe in Me?” and the second one: “Do you attend Church regularly?” The Christ, however, unaccountably forgets to ask either of these questions. He asks: “Did you feed the hungry, did you give320 See also Ellis-Jones (2008c).321 The Gospel Reading for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity in The Liturgy: see “The Anonymous Christ” (Ellis-Jones 2008a). 126
  • drink to the thirsty, did you clothe the naked, did you visit those who were sick and in prison?” That is to say, “were you ordinarily kind and charitable in you relations to your fellow-men?” And it is according to the answers to those questions that the destiny of the man is decided....Leadbeater also wrote in the same article that “on this subject the teaching of the Christianscripture is exactly the same as that of Theosophy” (1911:Online). When we live selflesslyfor others, crucifying our “little selves” (our “victory ... over the lower nature”, inLeadbeater’s words) for the sake of the one true Self, the ground of our being, indeed allBeing, we not only encounter the Anonymous Christ, we also share our saving experienceof that Christ with those with whom we come into contact.In an attempt to bring all of this into some sort of coherent whole, one can do no better thanquote from Bishop Wedgwood (1928d:Online): In our Church we have the Christ within us, but you have also special intensification of the power of the Christ without us which can awaken and draw out into fuller expression the power of the Christ within us. 127
  • CHAPTER 4 EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH LIBERAL CATHOLIC EXPRESSION Christ in the Liberal Catholic LiturgyThe Liberal Catholic LiturgyThe English word “liturgy” comes from the Classical Greek word λειτουργία (leitourgia), whichmeans “public work”.322 When we refer to a “liturgy” of any particular church we aregenerally referring to the written text (in the form of, say, a missal, congregational prayerbook or other divine liturgy book) accompanied, supported and given effect to by thevarious rituals, ceremonial, traditions, rites, practices and formulae that are ordinarily andregularly observed and followed by the church in question as part of their corporate act oracts of public worship. The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about the etymology,interpretation and, perhaps more importantly, application of the Greek word for liturgy: Liturgy (leitourgia) is a Greek composite word meaning originally a public duty, a service to the state undertaken by a citizen. Its elements are leitos (from leos = laos, people) meaning public, and ergo (obsolete in the present stem, used in future erxo, etc.), to do. From this we have leitourgos, "a man who performs a public duty", "a public servant", often used as equivalent to the Roman lictor; then leitourgeo, "to do such a duty", leitourgema, its performance, and leitourgia, the public duty itself.323James Ingall Wedgwood was an outstanding liturgist.324 Of that there is no doubt.Bishop Wedgwood has written of the singular importance of liturgy as a means and vehicle forpersonal and collective transformation (1976b:147): One of the great advantages of Church training, rightly understood, is that it develops this ability to modify our consciousness as we wish in response to the demand of the Liturgy with its constant flow of key-ideas and in the fellowship of the other members of the Lord’s mystical body.322 The term is frequently used in the Greek text of the New Testament: see, eg, Acts 13:2.323 See A Fortescue, "Liturgy", in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 9 (New York: Robert Appleton Company,1910) [Online version] viewed 9 April 2009, from New Advent: <>.324 Merriam-Webster Online defines a “liturgist” as “one who adheres to, compiles, or leads a liturgy” as well as“a specialist in liturgics”: see <> (viewed 9 April 2009). 128
  • It is generally acknowledged that Bishop James I Wedgwood was the principal author of TheLiturgy According to the Use of the Liberal Catholic Church. In his tribute to BishopLeadbeater on the latter’s passing, Wedgwood wrote the truth when he said: The writing and compilation of the Liturgy was mostly done by myself.325However, there is enough anecdotal and other material to conclude that, as Bishop E JamesBurton wrote in his short biography of Wedgwood (see Wedgwood 1976b:x), “the task ofrevising the Liturgy”326 occupied both Bishops Leadbeater and Wedgwood “for [some] threeyears”.327 Burton makes it clear that the “superb language” was “the work of Wedgwood”, andthat is undeniably the case. Wedgwood had a profound interest in church liturgy and ritual perse, whereas some writers in recent times (see, eg, Ellwood 1995:320) have even gone so faras to state that C W Leadbeater’s main interest was more a case of his “having becomepersuaded that Theosophy needed a liturgical expression”. However, there is no doubt thatBishop Leadbeater did assist on the Collects, and also selected, either alone or in associationwith Bishop Wedgwood, the Psalms, canticles, and the various Epistle and Gospel readingsfor each week as well as those for use on other special occasions.It is said by some that Bishop Wedgwood stated that The Liturgy “owes its lineage” to TheDivine Liturgy of Saint Chrysostom328 and is “not a modification of the Roman Mass” but“rather takes more of its wording and flow and energies” from one of the liturgies that is stillin use in the Byzantine Orthodox Church.329 Now, what Wedgwood did have to sayconcerning this matter is relevantly as follows (1928a:Online): Isnt the Liberal Catholic Church merely another "reformation" of the Roman Catholic Church?325 From “Bishop Leadbeater Remembered”, The Liberal Catholic, April 1934; [Online extracts] viewed 8 April2009, <>.326 Emphasis added.327 The work of revising the Liturgy was completed by June 1919. A full edition of The Liturgy According to theUse of the Liberal Catholic Church was published on St Albans Day that year.328 This Divine Liturgy, which follows the traditions of the city of Constantinople where the early church father,and one of the four great Greek doctors of the Christian Church, St John Chrysostom (c347–407) served asarchbishop/patriarch, is the primary worship service of the Eastern Orthodox Church. St Maro (Maron/Maroun),patriarch and patron saint of the Maronites, was a friend of St John Chrysostom; Maroun’s pupils took theChristian faith from Syria to Lebanon and then to the Holy Land, Egypt, Cyprus and other countries in theregion. Syriac Christianity is a most early Christian tradition.329 See “Liturgy of St John Chrysostom: The Basis of the Liberal Catholic Liturgy”, in “Liturgy”, The GlobalLibrary: The Old Catholic Church (website), [Online] viewed 17 March 2009,<>. 129
  • No! The question does not therefore arise whether there is to be any parallel reformation of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Liberal Catholic Liturgy is in this general sense a reformation of the Liturgy of St Chrysostom.330Dr John Chryssavgis, a Greek Orthodox priest, official and academic, in an article entitled“The Lima Statement and The Holy Eucharist: An Orthodox Perspective” and published inthe October 1991 issue of The Australasian Catholic Record, has made reference to TheDivine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, as well as that of St Basil, in the context of the notionof the Holy Eucharist and Christ’s so-called “propitiatory sacrifice”. Chryssavgis writes(1991:444): The phrase “propitiatory sacrifice” which is adopted from Roman Catholic theology may be understood by the Orthodox only in the sense of the Greek adjective hilasterios, saving and redemptive. The sacrifice must be seen as a self-oblation of freedom and love for the world and not as an obligation, a need to satisfy a “Father in heaven” – it is pleasing to Him not because He needs a sacrifice from us but because “the one who offers and is offered” (cf both The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and that of St Basil) is glorified by this gift when it is accepted. [Irenaeus, Against Heresies IV, 18, 1.] The blood shed on the Cross may only be interpreted in terms of the love of the martyrs and saints of the Lord.331This Greek Orthodox understanding of propitiation, coming as it does from a tradition ofphilosophical and theological thought very much akin to Christian theosophy and thusLiberal Catholic thought, should readily find favour with many, if not most, Liberal Catholicswho long ago turned their backs on traditional notions of vicarious atonement andassociated ideas such as expiation and propitiation. When propitiation, and sacrifice, arespoken of and understood in terms of Self-giving and Self-oblation, and freedom and love,and even redemption, the idea of the Eucharist, indeed all worship, as a sacrifice becomesmuch more intelligible and sensible. This Greek Orthodox understanding finds expression invarious parts of The Liturgy, particular in the Service of the Holy Eucharist. Examplesinclude but are not limited to the following: We adore thee, O God, who art the source of all life and goodness, and with true and thankful hearts we offer unto thee this token of thine own life-giving gifts bestowed upon us, thou who art the giver of all. (Liturgy 211; 230)330 Emphasis in the original. When one reads The Divine Liturgy According to St John Chrysostom (Wedgwood1982) one finds in that Divine Liturgy many passages that are identical or otherwise very similar to those in TheLiturgy (of the Liberal Catholic Christ), especially those sections dealing with such matters as the Consecration,Elevation and Fraction of the Sacred Host.331 Emphasis in the original. 130
  • Uniting in this joyful sacrifice with thy holy church throughout the ages, we lift our hearts in adoration to thee, O God the Son, who art consubstantial and coeternal with the Father, who, abiding unchangeable within thyself, didst nevertheless in the mystery of thy boundless love and thine eternal sacrifice send forth thine own divine life into the universe and thus didst offer thyself as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, dying in very truth that we may live. (Liturgy 215) Thou, O most dear and holy Lord, hast in thine ineffable wisdom ordained for us this blessed sacrament of thy love, that in it we may not only commemorate in symbol thine eternal oblation, but verily take part in it and perpetuate thereby within the limitations of time and space, which veil our earthly eyes from the excess of thy glory, the enduring sacrifice by which the world is nourished and sustained. (Liturgy 215)It would appear that the starting point for the creation (or “revision”) of what was to becomeThe Liturgy began with an existing liturgy (namely, that of the Old Roman Catholic Churchin Great Britain) which was basically an English translation of the Dutch Old Catholic Missalcompiled by Archbishop A H Mathew. In a letter, dated 5 September 1916, from Leadbeaterto Annie Besant, Leadbeater described the task as being one of “reconstruction of theCatholic Ritual” with the aim of producing a new liturgy which would be “the only onecombining the power of the ancient Church with a true Theosophical expression of the realrelation between GOD and man"332 (quoted in Jinarājadāsa 1952:5). Tillett ([1986]2008:Online) writes: The Liberal Catholic rite, which emerged over the year which followed, was based in part on Roman Catholic and Anglican sources, and was influenced by the elaborate ceremonial of the Catholic Apostolic Church (the so-called "Irvingites") and Archbishop Mathews liturgy. The ceremonial, as distinct from the liturgical text, was based on J D H Dales translation of Baldeschis Ceremonial According to the Roman Rite, in addition to the standard work on the Roman Rite, Adrian Fortescues The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described which had replaced Baldeschi. They were also influenced by the standard Anglo-Catholic ceremonial text, Ritual Notes.333Thus, it would appear that what is now The Liturgy is a syncretization and revison, indeed areconstruction or “reformation”, of a number of different liturgies, including those of theRoman (Latin) rite, the Old Catholic Church rite, and the rite of the Church of England(through its Book of Common Prayer), and the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom.Bishop Leadbeater, in The Science of the Sacraments, writes ([1920/1929/1967]1967:133-134):332 Emphasis in the original.333 See Ch 17, Charles Webster Leadbeater, 1854-1934: A Biographical Study by Gregory Tillett ( PhD Thesis,The University of Sydney, Sydney, 1986), [2008 Online version published at] viewed 18 March2009, <>, endnotes omitted. 131
  • The Liturgy of the Eastern Church has a delightful feeling which is refreshingly different from our Western Liturgies, but is rather odd and very vague—not at all clear in outline or idea. The thought-form behind the Anglican Prayer Book is largely spoiled by being so broken up by the numberless different usages and divisions in that branch of the Church. … The atmosphere of many of its compartments makes one feel somehow rather straight-laced; but its great beauty of language and quite dignified sense of reserve combine to sound a note of stately beauty and spiritual refinement. The body of thought behind our own Liturgy is conspicuous by reason of its amazingly brilliant colours. … This act of grace is made possible only by the fact that we have cut out all depressing or falsely humiliating passages from our Liturgy. … Another factor is that we are slightly in touch with the Roman Liturgy-form, and this helps in producing this effect of mellowness and prevents our own Liturgy-form from becoming too hard and glittering. Having to some extent followed the beautiful language of the Anglican Prayer Book, our thought form is not without a touch of its chaste refinement.The end result334 is similar to that which was achieved by the Maronite Catholic Church, inits Divine Liturgy, that is, the exact kind of a liturgy that one would expect from an Eastern-leaning Western Christian Church in the Catholic tradition. The only difference, insofar asthe Liberal Catholic Church is concerned, is that its historical roots lie more firmly in theWestern Christian Church than is the case with the Maronite Church. However, bothchurches have drawn heavily upon the ideas, writings and teachings of the early EasternChurch Fathers whose thinking was much more mystical than those Church Fathers whowould later gain ascendancy in Rome. Sadly, the bulk of the traditional Christian Church, inboth its Roman Catholic and multifarious Protestant manifestations, has beenpredominantly a Western leaning church ever since the “conversion of the Roman Empirein the fourth century and the evangelization of Europe beginning in the seventh century”(Rohr and Martos 1989:4), not to mention the events of the Protestant Reformation in the16th and 17th centuries.Be that as it may, the Liberal Catholic Church expressly acknowledges what some moreprogressive Roman Catholic Christian theologians such as Rohr and Martos alsoacknowledge to be a fact, namely that the Catholic tradition is “a religious tradition with bothEastern and Western cultural elements” and that, as an Eastern tradition, “Christianity is awisdom tradition” (Rohr and Martos 1989:4). What makes the Liberal Catholic Church veryspecial is the emphasis it gives as a church in its Liturgy to that Eastern wisdom traditionwhilst also retaining much of the language, thought forms and teaching of the Western334 Known as either the Liberal Catholic Rite or the Liberal Rite. 132
  • tradition. This is, in the opinion of the present writer, altogether appropriate, given that thereal Jesus was a man of the East who belongs as much to Asia as to the West.Insofar as the Liberal Catholic Church is concerned, David Revill, in his biography of theeminent composer John Cage, writes of Cage’s interest, at one point in Cage’s life, in theLiberal Catholic Church and of his attending services at St Alban’s Liberal Catholic Pro-Cathedral in the Hollywood Hills.335 Revill (1992:31-32) offers a most apt description of thedistinctive flavour, idiosyncrasy and yet wonderful “balance”, if that be the right word, of theLiturgy and services of the Liberal Catholic Church: The Liberal Catholic observance was a kaleidoscope of the most theatrical elements of the principal Occidental and Oriental rituals.In a similar vein, but somewhat dismissively and altogether inadequately, Ellwood(1995:320) has described The Liturgy as being “a liturgy and ceremonial of Catholic typebut with concessions to Theosophical concepts”.336 However, former Archbishop ofCanterbury (1961-74), the late Lord Michael Ramsey, when he was the Anglican Bishop ofDurham (in the years 1952-56), was just one of many mainstream traditional Christians whoover the years have paid tribute to Bishop Wedgwood for “the excellence of the phrasing aslanguage of liturgy and worship” (Burton, in Wedgwood 1976b:x). Dr Ramsey made specialmention of the Prayer of Consecration in the Longer Form of the Service of the HolyEucharist, referring to its “great logical aptness ... [its] language and acts in time – modelsand a rite and a ceremony disclosing the eternal ... appropriate to adoration and mysteryand worship, what the prayer calls heartfelt love and reverence” (Burton, in Wedgwood1976b:xi).As E James Burton has pointed out in his short biography of the principal author of TheLiturgy, “Bishop Wedgwood was the source, fons et origo” (Burton, in Wedgwood 1976b:xi).Wedgwood himself has written (1929:52): A liturgy has to be carefully compiled by people who know to a reasonable extent what they are doing. The liturgy of the church in which I am privileged to work has335 Revill (1992:32) refers to the opposition from Cage’s family to his (Cage’s) involvement in and enthusiasm forthe Liberal Catholic Church. Revill writes that Cage discussed the matter with the priest, the Reverend [sic]Tettemer, who dissuaded Cage from deciding in favour of the Church, reportedly saying to Cage: “There aremany religions. You have only one mother and father.” (As a sidelight, the former Spanish Mission Adobe styleSt Alban’s Liberal Catholic Church in Los Angeles, after some remodeling, is now a Russian Orthodox Church.)336 Worse still, the Australian Roman Catholic apologist and radio broadcaster of yesteryear, Dr Leslie Rumble,once described the Liberal Catholic Service of the Holy Eucharist as “a Theosophical travesty of The Mass”. 133
  • been carefully revised, so as to exclude a number of features that we feel to be defective in the older liturgies and to present difficulty to sincerely-minded worshippers. We have cut out petitions for temporal benefits, and all passages which indicate fear of God, of His wrath and of everlasting hell; all expressions of servile and cringing self-abasement, appeals for mercy, imprecations of the heathen and cursings, and the naïve attempts that one sometimes finds to bargain with the Almighty. The evil of all this is patent to anyone who pauses to look at it.Wedgwood was very much aware of the power of words to create reality ... or, at least, aspecial kind of reality. He wrote (1929:51-52): Words ... are a kind of currency by means of which we exchange thought with one another. ...A word, therefore, is a symbol of thought. It is related to a thought or an emotion, which is to be regarded as its ensouling life. People can use language quite casually and express through it very little of the substratum or “substance” of life. On the other hand, words can be made the vehicle of strong and rich emotion and thought. We can go further still in our ideas ... If a man’s consciousness be sufficiently developed and attuned ... language may be so wielded as to release a great downflow of spiritual power. It is in this attitude that we should approach a liturgy. The words themselves, if properly chosen, are “Words of Power”; they unlock the entry to this universal reservoir of power. Moreover, behind such a liturgy is the accumulated development of centuries. As the leading key-ideas are brought before a congregation, the collective thought of the people can work wonders, and a liturgy becomes a marvelous instrument of self-expression.The SacramentsWedgwood (1928d:Online) has written of the importance of the sacraments: The Church is a purifying influence. Your thought is carried up to a higher level, so you become more responsive to spiritual influences. The inspiration of our service is the power through the Sacraments, working with the angels, that tends to induce higher modes of consciousness time after time, and familiarizes you with those higher modes of consciousness.337The Liberal Catholic Church, in the Catholic tradition, is a sacramental church, and affirmsthe reality of what is known as “sacramental grace”. Now, it is written in Sacred Scripture: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.338337 Emphasis added.338 Eph 2:8. Grace works first, even as regards the decision to follow Christ. We are touched by God’s grace andin its workings in various ways, including the acts of others, sickness and other afflictions. 134
  • For those in the Catholic339 tradition, the primary, but by no means exclusive, 340 means ofgrace (indeed, what is referred to as “sanctifying grace”, something that will be the subjectof further discussion below) is though the “sacraments”, but what exactly is a “sacrament”?A sacrament341 is defined in Hexhams Concise Dictionary of Religion342 as "a rite in whichGod is uniquely active". More helpfully, Saint Augustine defined a sacrament as "a visiblesign of an invisible reality". Similarly, the Council of Trent defined “sacrament” as “a visiblesign of invisible grace instituted for our justification” (Broderick 1944:142), whilst theAnglican Book of Common Prayer (1662) defines a sacrament as being "an outward andvisible sign of an inward and invisible grace",343 and that definition is reproduced in theStatement of Principles and Summary of Doctrine of the Liberal Catholic Church.344 Eachsacrament has “three essentials … sensible [that is, outward or visible] sign, divineinstitution and the power of giving grace” (Shepherd 1977:16).Wedgwood (1928:6) agrees with those who assert that all life is sacramental, but only “inthe sense that all physical activities are a vehicle through which the spiritual element in manmay be expressed”. With the utmost respect to Bishop Wedgwood, all of life is sacramentalin a very real sense because nothing is separated from the Omnipresence andOmnipotence of God, and everything has the potential for revealing the Presence of Godwho is present in all things, as all things, as the indwelling Light of Christ. However, in theChristian tradition, an ecclesiastical sacrament was instituted by Christ (Wedgwood1928:6), and thus is a means by which Christ’s Presence and Power can be made manifest339 The present writer uses the word “Catholic” to embrace all those non-Protestant liturgical and sacramentalChristian churches the majority of which assert, justifiably or otherwise, that their respective episcopates can betraced back to the earliest apostles and consider themselves part of a catholic (that is, universal) body ofChristian believers.340 It goes almost without saying that Liberal Catholics, along with other Catholic (and even Protestant)Christians, acknowledge that God’s grace is also procurable by means of such spiritual practices as one’s ownprayers, meditations and internal aspirations as well as Lectio Divina (“holy reading”), quite apart from thecommunal use of ceremonial and the sacraments.341 Croucher (nd:Online) writes: “The word comes from the Latin sacramentum, the term used for the coin givento a soldier to signify his oath of loyalty when recruited to serve the Emperor. His allegiance was to Caesar aslord. In the Christian sacraments, we pledge our loyalty to Christ: Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9)” [italics added].342 See Irving Hexhams Concise Dictionary of Religion, 2nd ed (Vancouver: Regent College Press, 1999),Definition of "Sacrament", [Online] viewed 10 March 2009,<>.343 Besant ([1901] 1914:283) refers to the “outward and visible sign” as being a “pictorial allegory”. Wedgwood(1928:6), noting that “the sacrament is the ‘means by which we receive’ the grace”, goes on to say that thegrace comes through the outward and visible sign of the sacrament, hence, again, the notion of a “living”symbol.344 See Section 4 (The Sacraments), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006). 135
  • in the lives of its recipients, for it has been rightly said that we can know God only as Godchooses to reveal and give of Itself. Thus, Wedgwood (1928:6) notes: The Church reserves the word “sacrament” for certain special rites in which the power of Christ is directly operative. Those rites are so wonderful to those who understand anything about them, that we should be careful to safeguard the word.For the Liberal Catholic, the sacraments are an integral part of “the mysteries of God" (1Cor 4:1), and the Ancient Wisdom itself. Even The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges themore esoteric nature and meaning of a sacrament: Taking the word "sacrament" in its broadest sense, as the sign of something sacred and hidden (the Greek word is "mystery"), we can say that the whole world is a vast sacramental system, in that material things are unto men the signs of things spiritual and sacred, even of the Divinity. … The Fathers saw something mysterious and inexplicable in the sacraments.345In simple terms, grace is power - interior, spiritual power - in the form of “a gift by our Lordof His own perfect life in order that our lives may be transformed and be made like unto His”(Raynes 1961:75). In other words, grace is God’s outpouring of love and blessing in Christcommunicated to us, which enables us to progress on our soul journey and enhances ourspiritual evolution. Sanctifying grace, in the Liberal Catholic tradition, is the divinelyproduced power, as well as the resultant state or quality of the human soul, by means ofwhich we are enabled to enter into “that larger consciousness … merging [our] ownseparate personal consciousness into the larger consciousness … for getting into touchwith the Divine consciousness” (Wedgwood 1928c:Online). Such grace uplifts the soul andbrings us into contact with “higher things” (see Tettemer [1951] 1974). Here, we are talkingabout nothing less than that God-Power that is expressed both in the form of the provisionof the descent into matter of the Cosmic Christ, the Son, and in the appropriation of the“merits” of that Son’s eternal sacrifice by means of our own internal awakening by spiritualintuition to our own divine selfhood or over-self.346 This grace is God’s gift to the Church.Sometime Liberal Catholic priest and Theosophist Brian Parry has written that thesacraments are “the means whereby Jesus Christ, through His Church, protects, guides345 See Kennedy (1912:Online).346 Protestants (other than some Anglicans) ordinarily reject the notion of sacramental grace. See, eg, M Dix:"To sacraments considered merely as outward forms, pictorial representations or symbolic acts, there isgenerally no objection" (The Sacramental System Considered as the Extension of the Incarnation, New York:Longmans, [1893] 1902), p 16. 136
  • and sustains His people” (1962:7). The old evangelical acronym, “GRACE” (“God’s Richesat Christ’s Expense”), when esoterically understood, is still quite apt. A sacrament is a free,undeserved sacrificial gift347 from the Living Christ whose nature it is to give of Itself toothers so they might have Life, and have it more abundantly (cf Jn 10:10), therebyquickening the spiritual evolution of all who are responsive to the Son’s (especially Jesus’)outpoured life. In short, grace is the gift of God Himself, not just a gift from God. Such graceis available to everyone who is prepared to accept it, “open” it, and “use” it. Vicariousspirituality, one might call it, as opposed to vicarious atonement.348 The latter has no placewhatsoever in Liberal Catholic thought and teaching, whereas the former (Jesus’spirituality) can be “a tremendous, incalculable impetus to spiritual and other growth”(Blanch 1971:15). Indeed, Jesus’ whole life was one of sacrificial self-giving, and he therebyperformed “a work of unique and incalculable value to the race, and is therefore justlyentitled the Saviour of the world” (Fox 1934:15). Still, each one of us must still “work out our[own] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), although help is available from others,both visible and invisible.The services of the Liberal Catholic Church, in particular, the services of the HolyEucharist349 and the Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, are powerful vehicles for thereception of this kind of sanctifying grace, liberally interpreted. Thus, Wedgwood(1928e:Online) writes that … few people, I am afraid, have a realization of God as a living power, and I do not think there is any better way of getting that experience than through the services of the Church. There you have a way of getting that living realization.Wedgwood (1976b:12-13) also stresses the special benefits that flow from the sacramentsespecially:347 See Section 4 (The Sacraments), [Final Draft] Statement of Principles & Summary of Doctrine, 9th ed(London: St Alban Press, 2006): “... the grace given unto us is a free gift of grace and is not proportionateremuneration for any personal effort on our part.”348 The “moral influence of the atonement” (cf Peter Abailard) is, in the view of the present writer, the only theoryof the atonement (“at-one-ment”) that does not offend against common sense and Sacred Scripture. Jesus’suffering can be redemptive to the extent that it leads us to moral and spiritual transformation as a result of adeep contemplative recognition that Jesus’ unwarranted suffering and death were the result of “the evil spirit ofseparateness and selfishness” (see Liturgy 367) on the part of persons who, if we be truly honest withourselves, were not all that different from ourselves. When we take responsibility for our part in crucifying thegood in others and failing to crucify the evil in ourselves, we are reconciled to God.349 From the Greek eucharistia, meaning “thankfulness”, as representing thanksgiving. The English wordEucharist is simply “the Anglicized form of the Greek word meaning thanksgiving” (Shepherd 1977:16). See alsoWedgwood (1929:67). 137
  • When you add to this the blessing of Our Lord that flows through the sacraments and all the spiritual help from other sources, it will be realised how magnificent this outpouring may be. The quality of thought and emotion is so much more elevated than the ordinary thinking and feeling of the outer world, that with its greater potency and having a clear and uninterrupted field of action, it really can do much to melt away the hatred and distrust and unhappiness all too prevalent in the world. That is the attitude in which we in this Church work. …In short, a sacrament, in the Liberal Catholic tradition and Liturgy, is a “living symbol” 350 –what H P Blavatsky referred to as “concretized truth” – in that it not only “symbolizes”,“represents” or “stands for” something else (the “inner reality”), it actually is instrumental inbringing about that reality and, in very truth, is that reality; hence, the reference in thePrayer of Consecration to “this blessed sacrament of thy love, that in it we may not onlycommemorate in symbol that thine eternal oblation, but verily take part in it” (Liturgy 215),and the subsequent reference at the time of Holy Communion to “a living memorial andpledge of thy marvellous love for mankind” (Liturgy 220; 237). Being a living symbol, asacrament “effects what it symbolizes” (Broderick 1944:142), that is, it both represents andconfers grace or spiritual power to the recipient. In the words of Parry (1960): The Sacraments of the Church exist that man may have more abundant life [cf Jn 10:10] – not merely exist; so that men may be aided to the continual vision of the wonder of living, the joy, the beauty and the challenge of life, of being fully alive fulfilling a divine purpose.And what of “faith” … and “salvation” (cf Eph 2:8)?Faith requires both belief351 and trust352 – things of the mind or consciousness that gobeyond the intellectual and denotes a wholehearted commitment to the spiritual, asopposed to the material, and to the One Eternal Reality that is in all things as all things, aswell as such other things as renunciation, self-surrender, letting go, handing over, an350 Wedgwood (1929:73) points out that the Greek word sumbolon (“throwing together”) “means really acorrespondence between a noumenon and a phenomenon, between a reality in the higher archetypal world andits outer physical expression here”. He goes on to point out that symbol and figure “came later to acquire thesense of denying the very reality they originally affirmed”. Hence, in the Service of the Lord’s Supper (or HolyCommunion) as ordinarily celebrated in a Nonconformist Church (eg a Baptist Church) the bread and the wine(the latter ordinarily just plain non-alcoholic dark grape juice) only “represent” the body and blood of JesusChrist. They are mere “elements” conferring no grace or having any saving efficacy in themselves. Even theword “symbol” seems inappropriate to refer to these outward and visible “elements”. (In recent years, however,some Baptist denominations have started to move away from a “theology of the elements” toward what hasbeen called a “theology of enactment” emphasizing the incarnation of Christ within the ecclesial body or church(the so-called “priesthood of all believers”): see, eg, White (2007).)351 Belief involves, among other things, acceptance of the Truth, Oneness and Omnipresence of God.352 Trust, which has been described as “belief activated”, involves, among other things, leaning one’s wholeweight and resting on the promises and principles contained in Sacred Scripture and as otherwise revealed tous by the Holy Ones, World Teachers, relying also on our own spiritual intuition. 138
  • openness to the Truth, a calm acceptance of what is, and a willingness to change ... nomatter what. In short, faith involves a “believing on”, a “coming to”, a “receiving”, and a“standing firm” and “holding fast” to the eternal verities of the Ancient Wisdom. MaroniteChorbishop Seely Beggiani (2008:Online) writes: Religious faith is the conviction that all of reality, despite the many aspects of life that seem to go wrong, is radically good and has an ultimate purpose.As regards salvation, the word itself comes from the same Latin root as the word salve, andrefers to a healthy kind of wholeness and oneness.353 As Liberal Catholics we do notbelieve that we are saved by Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross. It is what that bloodrepresents that saves us – the power of suffering love and that eternal self-sacrifice of LifeItself in the form of Life’s Self-givingness to Itself as well as our givingness of ourselves insacrificial love to others (cf “the glad pouring out of our lives in sacrifice” in the Service ofSolemn Benediction). Liberal Catholics don’t talk much about sin, but it should beremembered that the word sin has an “I” in the middle. The essence of sin is selfishness, 354self-absorption and self-centredness - an attempt to gain some supposed good to which weare not entitled in justice and consciousness - and we all need to be relieved of thebondage of self (“the evil of separateness and selfishness” (Liturgy 367)). That is whatsalvation is all about, with the aim of recovering all humanity, indeed all created things, toGod, thus “proving” God’s love.The sacraments are a powerful means of grace, and thus of salvation. However, as formerLiberal Catholic priest (and later auxiliary bishop) Edmund W Sheehan ([1925] 1977:39)has written: The reception of the sacraments is not necessary to “salvation.” ... ...The sacraments are among the aids offered to men by the Christ, and their purpose is materially to hasten the unfoldment of their divine nature and thus save men many unnecessary and painful footsteps; to aid all men more quickly to reach their destiny – the peace, the power, the love and the bliss of conscious union with God.353 Salvation, in its root, simply means health (salus).354 The present writer recalls his late father often recounting that the Australian-born Anglican cleric Francis O(Frank) Hulme-Moir AO (1910-1979) would, whenever questioned, define sin in those terms (viz “The essenceof sin is selfishness”), especially (and relevantly for the writer’s father) when Hulme-Moir was involved inchaplaincy work with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during World War II whilst serving in the Middle East,among other places. Hulme-Moir would later become a much loved and respected Anglican bishop (including abishop to the armed forces), a chaplain to the police force, chaplain-general to the Australian army, and amember of the Parole Board of New South Wales. 139
  • The sacraments also remind us of the great fact that the Absolute One is andalways has been Being Itself, even before there was time and space, and hasnever been absent at any point in time and space since then. Thus, Croucher(nd:Online) writes: The sacraments presuppose that God has met us in history and that this meeting calls us to regular recollection and re-enactment in order to experience Gods real presence in our midst. The grace of God is offered to us in and through these sacraments in a way that we cannot grasp by our own moral efforts.The Holy EucharistAs Fr Geoffrey Hodson points out (1977:4): The Master Jesus did not originate the Holy Eucharist. Actually, he repeated in suitably modified form a very ancient rite appertaining to both the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries, having himself participated therein during his passage through both of them.355Hodson goes on to write (1977:8) that what became the Christian Sacrament of the HolyEucharist or the Mass “developed out of not only the Essene but also the Egyptian andChaldean Mysteries”.356Whatever be its origins, the Holy Eucharist, also known as the Mass, and in some Christiandenominations the Lord’s Supper (albeit in a theologically different form), was an integralpart of all Christian worship from the very beginning.357 An American Episcopalian(Anglican) priest Everett L Fullam has expressed it this way (as quoted in Slosser1979:93-94): Now it is true that right from the days of the apostles the worship of the Christians centered in the Lord’s Supper ... And this was basically the only form of worship that they had for the first nearly sixteen hundred years of the Christian faith. After the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation, another kind of worship came into being that is characteristic of many Protestant communions. But what goes on in an average Protestant church on a Sunday morning would not be recognized for355 See also Thiering (1992).356 This is supported by the comprehensive and meticulous research of Doane ([1882] 1985) contained inChapter 30 of his book Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions. Doane also refers to Indian, Parseee,Greek, Persian (particularly as regards Mithraism), ancient Mexican, African and many other parallels as well.357 See, eg, Acts 2:42 (“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking ofbread, and in prayers”). See also Lk 24:35 (“And they told what things were done in the way, and how he wasknown of them in breaking of bread”). 140
  • the first thousand years or so in the Christian church as a service of Christian worship.The Holy Eucharist is first and foremost a “sacrament of ... love” (Liturgy 215), indeed the“heritage of holiest love bequeathed by our Lord” (Wedgwood 1929:72). One RomanCatholic writer, who was in Holy Orders, has referred to this Sacrament as one which OurLord when about to depart out of this world to the Father, instituted, in which he, as it were, exhausted the riches of his love towards man, making a memorial of his wondrous works. This, the sacrament of the altar, therefore, is the sacrament of love, which he institutes in person out of love to us, to which he invites us by love, and the end of which is the union of love.358The Holy Eucharist has been described as “the most solemn of all the Christiansacraments” (Hoeller 1989a:Online) which brings “a special intensification of [Christ’s]Presence, in other words a greater immediacy, for our helping and spiritual awakening anda great outpouring of spiritual power” (Wedgwood 1929:74).Without doubt, the Holy Eucharist is “the central Sacrament in the Catholic tradition”(Oliveira 2007b:207). Bishop Leadbeater, in The Science of the Sacraments(1919/1924/1942/1967/1983] 1983:1), writes in almost rapturous tones of the enormoussignificance and importance of the Holy Eucharist: Unquestionably the greatest of the many aids which Christ has provided for His people is the Sacrament of the Eucharist, commonly called the Mass — the most beautiful, the most wonderful, the most uplifting of the Christian ceremonies. It benefits not only the individual, as do the other Sacraments, but the entire congregation; it is of use not once only, like Baptism or Confirmation, but is intended for the helping of every churchman all his life long; and in addition to that, it affects the whole neighbourhood surrounding the church in which it is celebrated.The Sacrament359 of the Holy Eucharist, or the Mass,360 is “an action – ‘do this’” (Dix358 Meditations and Considerations for a Retreat of One Day in Each Month (compiled from the Writings of theFathers of Jesus, by a Religious), Dublin: M H Gill and Son Ltd, [c1921] 1960, p 48.359 As regards the divine institution of the sacrament (one of the three essentials of any sacrament) the LiberalCatholic priest T W Shepherd (1977:16) acknowledges that this sacrament was instituted by “Christ at the LastSupper when he said: ‘Take, eat, this is my body … Take, drink, this is my blood … .”360 The term “Mass”, from the Latin missa, etymologically refers to either a “service”, a “sacrifice”, or a “feast”.The Latin words Ite, missa est can mean “Go. It (that is, the sacrifice) is sent” or “Go. You are dismissed”, withthe “you” referring to either the Angels or, as used in other places, the catechumens). As respects the referenceto the Mass being a “feast”, we have the Old English word messe, hence the “supper” of the Lord. However, asWedgwood ([1928] 1984) correctly points out, the derivation of the word is “a matter of some dispute”. See alsoWedgwood (1929:67) on the derivation of the expression. 141
  • 1945:238),361 being not only “a daily repetition of the sacrifice of the Christ” (Leadbeater[1913] 1954:177) but “a magnificent exercise in yoga for developing self-consciousnessat ... higher levels of being” as well as a means of “sending out of spiritual power into theworld” (Wedgwood 1928d:Online) to which Bishop Leadbeater has also referred.Symbolically, the Eucharist, albeit a “mystery” (Mowle 2007:182), is a “summary”, indramatic form, of the whole of the Gospels, namely, the awakening to “the recognition ofthe One Life” within all persons and things (Wedgwood 1928c:Online), the climax of whichis that “the faithful are made one with God and each other by receiving the body and bloodof Christ under the earthly forms of bread and wine” (Hoeller 1989a:Online). The wholeservice of the Liberal Catholic Mass is a sacred mystery drama, something that the late FrFrank Haines, an Australian Liberal Catholic priest who was a wonderful mentor and greatinspiration to the present writer, used to refer to as “the sublimest myth known to man”,involving, among other things, “depth experience and Mystery Present and genuine self-love and practical concern for neighbour” (Ebner 1976: 161).As Wedgwood (1929:68) rightly points out, “The service of the Holy Eucharist takes theform of a ritual-drama.” That is its form. The purpose of the Holy Eucharist is, according toBishops Leadbeater ([1913] 1954; [1920/1929/1967] 1967; 1983) and Wedgwood (1928;1928d; 1928e; 1928f) and certain others (especially Mowle 2007) expressly referred tobelow is essentially sevenfold:362 1. The Eucharist, with its historical background in the Ancient Mysteries as a cultic ritual of initiation, is a “living symbol”, object lesson, acted parable, mystical dramatization, “representative sacrifice” and a real life “passion play”, so to speak, in the form of a perpetuation, an actualisation (a “making present” in the Eternal Now, as well as “the actualisation of the Church in the time and space of this age and this world”363 (Chryssavgis 1991:441)), a “repossession” or “re-presentation” – in short, an extension in terms of time and space (or “spacetime”), as opposed to a mere repetition,364 of the essential sacrificial nature and character of “God as a living361 Emphasis added.362 Having said that, and what is to follow, the present writer is acutely aware of his own limitations andinadequacies. As Raynes (1961:67) has pointed out, “The fullness of this sacrament defeats the greatesttheologian to explain in detail.”363 Emphasis in the original. Chryssavgis (1991) expounds the Greek Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist –an understanding and approach very similar to that held and adopted by Liberal Catholics generally.364 Wedgwood (1929:68) writes: “It [the Service of the Holy Eucharist] is no more then a question of repetition ofthe sacrifice, of re-accomplishment of the sacrifice of the Cross, but rather of constant re-presentation in termsof time and space of that primal sacrifice out of time and space to which the world and all created life owes its 142
  • power” (Wedgwood 1928e:Online), and, more particularly, a “showing forth” before God the Father of “the infinite power of THAT within us which we call SOUL” 365 (Corelli 1966:14) in the form of: a. both: i. the ongoing descent from Spirit into matter,366 incarnation and cosmic, eternal sacrifice (that is, the continued pouring down of the Divine life) of the Second Person or Aspect of the Blessed Trinity - “Our Lord” - bringing the universe into existence, sustaining it on an ongoing basis, but ever remaining as an ineffable and inexhaustible Holy Presence beyond the earthly limits of time and space,367 and ii. its ultimate reascent from matter into Spirit (a “return of all creation to Christ who is the King and Lord of the Universe” (Sheen 1961:xviii)),368 thus making possible the progressive divinisation of the world - a world of soul-making that otherwise exists for the making and training of souls369 - to the extent to which we individually and collectively “identify [ourselves] with that great Sacrifice of the Second Person or Aspect of the Trinity” (Wedgwood 1928d:Online), and b. the sacrifice of the World Teacher (Himself a special epiphany or manifestation of the Second Person or Aspect of the Blessed Trinity) in descending into incarnation to assist in our ongoing spiritual growth andexistence.”365 Emphasis in the original.366 This view of the Fall, and the Incarnation, has been shared by some notable Christians who were not LiberalCatholics. See, eg, R J Campbell (1907). Campbell was a Nonconformist preacher in London. In his book TheNew Theology he saw the Biblical doctrine of the Fall as an allegory of the descent of God’s life into the finiterealm. Campbell also believed that, whilst there was a distinction between humanity and divinity, all people havewithin themselves the God-given potential to “be as Christ”, that is, to be “partakers of the spirit of Christ”.367 Thus, we read in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ (10:42), “I established this universe with one fragment of Myself, and Iremain.”368 Mathews (1981:62) writes: “The Apocalypse envisages the passing away of the heavens as well as the earthand sea to make way for a renewed universe.” See also Hagger (1993), an exponent of philosophical, religiousand cosmological Universalism, who asserts that Light is the universal energy that manifests Itself into and asthe universe and also guides and directs both our spiritual unfoldment as well as our ultimate destiny and that ofthe universe itself. Bishop James Burton, in a superadded footnote in Shepherd (1977:16) writes: “The cosmicsignificance of the Eucharist is made very clear in the Orthodox and other Eastern Liturgies.”369 Corelli (1966:14) refers to “the infinite power of THAT within us which we call SOUL … [which is] capable ofexhaustless energy and of readjustment to varying conditions” [emphasis in the original]. 143
  • evolution, such sacrifice being understood as “a self-oblation of freedom and love for the world and not as an obligation, a need to satisfy a ‘Father in heaven’”370 (Chryssavgis 1991: 444), and c. the essential oneness, wholeness, unity, indivisibility and ultimate indestructibility of all life, and all that is, symbolically represented by, and fully but microcosmically concentrated in, the Sacred Host (Itself a living symbol of the All-ness of Life, in the very real sense that all of life can be said to be present within the confines of this otherwise very little wafer of bread, itself a miniature of the “Eternal Now”),371 and d. the “Divine Life coming into manifestation” (Wedgwood 1928d:Online) with the breaking of the Sacred Host, “since the outflow of force evoked by the consecration has a special and intimate connection with that department of nature which is the expression of that divine Aspect [namely, the Second Aspect of the Deity]” (Leadbeater [1913] 1954:531-532), that we might “become partakers in the divine nature” (see 2 Pt 1:4). 2. The Eucharist is a celebration, re-presentation, living and perpetual memorial and commemoration372 of both the life and the final drama of the passion, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus of Nazareth373 (“and of the benefits which we receive thereby” (Raynes 1961:62)), who, it is said by some at least, was overshadowed by the World Teacher over a three-year period, who otherwise gave his life that we might awaken to our spiritual heritage and birthright, that is, the full awareness of God’s indwelling Spirit within us, and whose “wholesome presence by370 Emphasis in the original.371 One is reminded of the words of William Blake (from “Auguries of Innocence”): “To see a world in a grain ofsand/And a heaven in a wild flower,/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour.” The circularshape of the wafer is itself illuminating. As previously mentioned, in the ancient occult tradition metaphysics wasoften spoken of as sacred geometry or simply geometry. The circle, a most ancient and universal symbol,represents, among other things, life that has no beginning and no end (cf the Gnostic concept of a “worldserpent”, in the form of a circle, eating its own tail), eternity, infinity, Heaven, the universe, the cosmos,perfection, purity, God, Spirit (or Force), Ultimate Oneness, the cycle of existence (human and otherwise) andassociated notions of karma and reincarnation. More relevantly, especially in the context of the Holy Eucharist(cf the circular shape of the Sacred Host), the circle, being unbroken in nature, also represents a “sacred place”.372 See, especially, 1 Cor 11:24.373 Corelli (1966:14) writes concerning Jesus: “His real LIFE was not injured or affected by the agony on theCross, or by His three days’ entombment; the one was a torture to His physical frame … the other was the mererest and silence necessary for what is called the ‘miracle’ of the Resurrection, but which was simply the naturalrising of the same Body, the atoms of which were re-invested and made immortal by the imperishable Spiritwhich owned and held them in being” [emphasis in the original]. 144
  • means of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist sustains those who remain faithfully on pilgrimage” (Mowle 2007:183). Maloney (1990), a Roman Catholic, refers to the Eucharist as the presence of Jesus to the broken (in the words of Walker 1991:458). The present writer often uses the phrase “vicarious spirituality” to describe the inestimable benefits that can be derived from a complete identification with, and surrender to, what may be termed the Way of Jesus, or the “Higher Life”. This is not to be confused with any traditional notions of expiatory or propitiatory374 vicarious atonement or sacrifice.375 In the Christian tradition, the service of the Eucharist also commemorates the sending of the Holy Spirit, by which the benefits of Christ’s sacrificial love - his whole life was one of self-giving and sacrificial love - are made available to believers.376 Maloney refers to the Eucharist as reflecting the practice of Jesus in his life (in the words of Walker 1991:458). Wedgwood himself ([1928] 1984:41; 2009:23) wrote that “the holy bread” was Jesus’ “vehicle or instrument through which His Life and blessing are communicated to us”, and that “Jesus speaks of a mystical sustenance through which His followers draw their spiritual life from Him, even as He lives by the Father who sent Him” ([1928] 1984:39; 2009:22). Wedgwood thus makes it clear that the species of bread and wine become “vehicles for the Lord’s life, and in that way he is received mystically” (Shepherd 1977:16). 3. The Eucharist is a service of thanksgiving, taking the form of a sacrifice on our part and a means of showing the thanks,377 praise, worship and devotion due to the Lord Christ by the Church for the work of creation and world redemption (the latter referring to a return to “the path which leads to righteousness”; cf The Confiteor). Thus, in lifting our consciousness, we are consecrated and transformed378 and later,374 Cf Canons of the Council of Trent, Sess XXII, cap i-ix: “a propitiatory sacrifice, which may be offered for theliving and the dead, for sin, punishment, satisfaction and other needs”. See Chryssavgis (1991) for a GreekOrthodox perspective which is much closer to Liberal Catholic thought and teaching.375 Byron (1991), writing from a Roman catholic perspective, expounds an almost unconventional view that theuse of the word “sacrifice” in relationship to Jesus’ death is, or at least ought to be, used “analogously ormetaphorically of the death of Jesus, not literally” (in the words of Walker 1991:460).376 See, especially, Mt 26:28.377 See, especially, Mk 14:23. In the traditional Jewish meal, thanksgiving was offered for the redemption ofIsrael. In the Eucharist, just as Jesus gave thanks and praise for the redemption of the whole world, so we, inour service of the Eucharist, offer thanks on behalf of the whole world in gratitude for its ongoing redemptionaccording to God’s cosmic plan.378 Cf the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation. We Liberal Catholics place greater emphasis on theneed for our own transformation or transubstantiation whilst still affirming the Real Presence of Our Lord in theBlessed Sacrament. As Wedgwood has written (1929:74): “Christ’s Life is in everybody, but is certainly moremanifest and more expressed through some people than through others. The degree of presence depends onthe object which expresses it.” 145
  • in the actual partaking of communion, we “finally merge [our] thought of the Second and Third into the First Aspect of the Trinity” (Wedgwood 1928e:Online), that is, we come to directly experience Being in all of Its phases of absolute as well as relative existence (“Ultimate Reality”). 4. The Eucharist is a communal sacred meal such that, through the Eucharist, “in a purely spiritual sense, all believers - dead, living, and yet to be - are united as one in the body of Christ (also known as the Church)” (Wilson, with Slattery 1984:132). Wilson, a Christian psychiatrist, rightly refers to the Eucharist as a means by which all believers, including those who have died, partake in a “mystical communion” (again at p 132). In the Eucharist we partake not only of God and communicate with Him, but also with our brothers, that is, “all those who accompany Him, with all those who are incorporated in Him, [indeed] with all mankind” (Evely [1963] 1967:70). As Rohr and Martos (1989:72-73) write: The broader symbolism of the Eucharist is the Body of Christ, understood not just in Communion but through Communion. We do not receive the sacramental bread and wine alone. We receive it at a sacred meal with others. We all partake of one sacrament, one Body of Christ, and in doing so we signify that we are willing to be one Body of Christ. As St Augustine said centuries ago, the Eucharist invites us all to become what we eat. The connectedness of the Eucharist is also therefore our connectedness with one another. We are not alone. We are not isolated individuals. We are not in competition with each other but in communion with each other. ... 5. The Eucharist is a means or mode by which we, the faithful, can derive grace - a “tremendous radiation of power through the service of the Church (Wedgwood 1928c:Online) - and thus: a. mystically receive Christ, according to the extent to which the Christ is awakened in each, in the form of a communal meal in the nature of a sacred banquet (also bearing in mind that the “greatest means of spiritual aid and physical healing is … in the Holy Communion” (Leadbeater 1919:Online)), and b. affirm and celebrate not only our communion379 with both Christ and each other but also our essential oneness in Christ, and379 See, especially, 1 Cor 10:16-17. 146
  • c. “awaken [a] real passion for peace and brotherhood” (Wedgwood 1928c:Online), and d. look forward to our ultimate attainment of Christhood in the form of full and conscious communion with God the Father, the Absolute - indeed, there is, especially in our Liberal Catholic service of the Eucharist, a showing forth and anticipation of the final unity of all things in Christ (“wondrous and mystic communion with thee” (Liturgy 220, 237-238)).380 As we “eat the bread” and “drink the cup” (the “sacred mysteries of thy Body and Blood” (Liturgy 220)), which offerings of bread and wine have since become “the channel or vehicles of Christ’s Presence” (Wedgwood 1929:72), thereby being spiritually nourished in this mystical sharing of new life, we not only “enter into the Holy Presence of God Himself” (Wicks 1968:14) we thereby participate 381 in what, in traditional Christian terms, is referred to as death to sin and resurrection to new life. In other words, we die to “self” and are resurrected, so to speak,382 into newness of Life and Power to go out into the world and do the work of Christ more efficaciously. Part of the purpose of the Sacrament of the Altar is “to strengthen us, so that we can live our lives according to His divine commandment of love” (Wicks 1968:14). 6. The Eucharist is the greatest of all works that we can do for our fellow human beings, by providing help and stimulus to them in the form of a special outpouring of love and spiritual force and blessing generated by and through our positive thoughts and ideas (“the perfect devotion and sacrifice of our minds and hearts to thee” (Liturgy 217)). As Wedgwood has written, this is “the only way to bring about permanent peace” (1928c:Online), through “the sending out of spiritual power into the world” (1928d:Online). By means of our self-giving and outpouring of sacrificial love for the world, we offer ourselves a living sacrifice that it may be taken up into the one “enduring sacrifice by which the world is nourished and sustained” (Liturgy380 The English Anglo-Catholic churchman and hymnist John Keble wrote these beautiful lines: “Till in the oceanof thy love/we lose ourselves in heaven above.”381 See, especially, 1 Cor 10:16.382 Leadbeater, in The Inner Side of Christian Festivals, referred to every stage of one’s spiritual progress anddevelopment as being “very truly a resurrection”. 147
  • 215).383 In this way, we become “co-worker[s] with [Our Lord], in helping to bring peace and harmony to all the peoples of our world” (Wicks 1968:14). 7. Microcosmically (for each of us is a miniature copy of the universe),384 the Eucharist is a mystery drama and pictorial representation of the human soul, which comes forth from God, and which labours and struggles in time and space, in exile from its eternal home, in its pilgrimage and on its way to its ultimate re-union with the divine source from which it came. As previously mentioned, the Eucharist re-enacts the descent from Spirit into matter and its eventual reascent from matter into Spirit again. In short, we come from God, we belong to God, we are part of God’s Self- Expression, and we are on our way back to God. God is - we are. Each one of us, according to Leadbeater, is a living battery of spiritual energy, having been made by God the Son an eternal being in the image of God.Leadbeater (1983) also reminds us that the Holy Eucharist is a pictorial, but otherwiseliving, representation of both the Blessed Trinity and the Lord Christ Himself. As regards theEucharist signifying the Blessed Trinity: • the Sacred Host represents God the Father, the Deity whole and indivisible, the Universal Spirit, • the Wine represents God the Son, whose Divine Llife is poured down into the Chalice of material form, and • the Water represents God the Holy Spirit, brooding over the face of the waters (cf the Eternal Mother of God/Chaos/the Great Depth/the Waters of Space).When the Universal Spirit, in its creative aspect as the Holy Spirit, “unites” with the EternalMother, Christ the Son in the form of the universe is brought into being. Blanch (1971:81),after referring to that portion of the service of the Holy Eucharist in The Liturgy shortly afterThe Commemoration of the Saints in which the priest prays that “by this action, ordainedfrom of old, thy ++ strength, thy ++ peace and thy ++ blessing ... may be spread abroad383 In traditional Christian terms, the participants offer themselves to Jesus so that their living sacrifice may betaken up into his own sacrifice, and be used by him in the service of the world: see Rom 12; Heb 9:24, 10:19-25;Col 1:24; 1 Pt 2:4-5.384 Hodson (1977:26) writes: “Spiritually and materially, every Host is as a microcosm of the Macrocosm.Blessed indeed is every recipient.” 148
  • upon thy world” (Liturgy 219, 237), says that the foregoing references are to the threepersons of the Holy Trinity: ... “Thy strength” is of the Father, “Thy peace” is of the Son and “Thy blessing” is of the Holy Ghost.As regard the Eucharist signifying the Lord Christ: • the Sacred Host represents the essential oneness of the Son and the Father, with Christ the Son resting within the bosom of the Father, • the Wine represents the indwelling presence and manifestation of Christ the Son in matter in Its positive or male form, and • the Water also represents the indwelling presence and manifestation of Christ the Son in matter in Its negative or female form.Under the outward signs of bread and wine (conjointly “the sign which represents andconfers grace as they represent earthly food and also signify the grace which supports andnourishes the soul” (Shepherd 1977:16)) we have the Real Presence of what is sometimesreferred to as the “Eucharistic Lord”. Wedgwood (1928:151), referring to the RealPresence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, said this (in a sermon delivered in Sydneyon 22 April 1927 on the subject of “The Holy Eucharist”): It is, of course, quite true that everything is God and that His life expresses itself through every form in the universe, but what we have here is a special intensification of that presence. He is more directly with us, more directly expressed through the consecrated Bread and Wine, than through those ordinary manifestations called bread and wine. It is in that sense that there is the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.Roman Catholic priest Harry Morrissey (2004:176) refers to the Real Presence in the Massas being a “mystery of faith”. He goes on to say (at 176-177): The Church has taken her lead from St Thomas Aquinas in using the word “substance” to express what the English Bishops call “inner reality”. “Substance” is a metaphysical term from Greek philosophy. It is not what we mean by our word “substantial.” That would mean physical concreteness. This is about a deeper reality of “being,” and about that becoming the “being” of a people.385385 In a similar vein, Wedgwood (1976b:129) refers to “the substance – SUB STANS, that which stands beneathor behind that bread and wine”, noting that “a body is that which is a vehicle of life or consciousness or power,that which expresses the life” [emphasis in the original]. 149
  • Thus, Wedgwood (1976b:129) writes: Our physical bodies are the instruments that we use in this physical world for expressing ourselves, and so also in this Sacrament the Bread is the Body of Christ in the sense that the life and the blessing of Christ pour through that Bread as their vehicle on the physical plane.At the risk of sounding trite, the “Eucharistic Lord” is as real a presence of the Lord as onecould ever hope to encounter. Thus, Blanch (1971:69), after referring to the Consecrationand the moments shortly thereafter in the service of the Holy Eucharist, writes: ... And let us remember, if we would go further in our thought and conception of the Christ as we think of Him and know Him to some extent that is with us at the moment – it is more than that, as we sing in the second verse of the “Adeste Fidelis”, it is the Presence of “God of God, Light of Light,” that divine aspect of Himself which is “Very God of Very God.” And here His “Presence we devoutly hail.” ... It is perhaps not possible for us to appreciate this as it really is. We can have only some approximation of an idea about His Presence, But we should always strive for a better idea, a deeper understanding, a wider experience. This Christ is spiritually present, but also actually present, as present as we are ourselves – for the time being in a sense even One of ourselves, but always infinitely greater, to give us the incalculable stimulus of His presence.386The ongoing presence of the Eucharistic Lord in the Sacred Host distinguishes theSacrament of the Altar from all of the other sacraments for the reason that the sacrament“does not cease to be when the action which produces it ceases … [it] has a permanentexistence” (Shepherd 1977:17).We have further symbolism, once again in a living sense, in that the Bread (cf flesh) may besaid to represent our terrestrial, mortal life, whilst the Wine (cf blood) signifies our spirituallife. Conjointly, both represent or signify our lower and higher natures respectively, and, asLeadbeater used to say, make for “an outpost of [the Lord’s] consciousness”. Finally, asLiberal Catholic priest Blanch (1971:81) points out, the Chalice represents the human soul.Roman Catholic Archbishop Fulton J Sheen, in his inimitably beautiful manner of writing,has written (1961:xvii-xix): We must not think of the offering of the bread and wine as independent of ourselves; rather the bread and wine are symbols of our presence on the altar. ... ...386 Emphasis in the original. 150
  • We are, therefore, present at each and every Mass under the appearance of bread and wine; we are not passive spectators, as we might be in watching a spectacle in a theatre, but we are co-offering Christ’s sacrifice to the Heavenly Father. ... We who are assisting in the Mass, together with all creation, offer ourselves as bruised grain and crushed grapes that we may die to that which is lower to become one with the tremendous Lover. ... ... Bread and wine are withdrawn from profane use and dedicated to God; so we, who are symbolized by the bread and wine, offer ourselves to be made sacred and holy. ...The Liturgy (232) uses these beautiful words: We lay before thee, O Lord, these thy creatures of bread and wine, ++ [linking them spiritually with ourselves and] praying thee to receive through them our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; for here we offer and present unto thee ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a holy and continual sacrifice unto thee. May our strength be spent in thy service and our love poured forth upon thy people, thou who livest for ever and ever.In summary, one can do no better than to quote from Leadbeater’s book The Hidden Sideof Things ([1913] 1954:177): The idea of the service may be said to be a double one: to receive and distribute the great outpouring of spiritual force, and to gather up the devotion of the people, and offer it before the throne of God.Wedgwood (1928b:Online) has written: … Remember it is Christ who is working through the Eucharist, not you yourself; He is working at the altar through His celebrant. There is also another way in which way can look at it. There is the Christ in you who is working through you as you go through the Mass, and if you think of that as you do the Mass, it will be an enormous help. You have always the duality, the two aspects of Christ the Victim and Christ the Priest. Christ is the High-Priest who offers the Sacrifice, and also the Victim who is sacrificed.In what sense is Christ both “Victim” and “Priest”? In the words of Bishop Wedgwood again(1928:151): ... [T]he mystical teaching is that Christ is Himself the Victim and the Priest. This is the transcendence of God and also His immanence. He is above His world transcendent and is therefore the Priest – the one who offers the sacrifice. He is also immanent in the universe; His life is poured down into matter and he is therefore the Victim who is offered.387387 See Joad (1951), who makes a strong case for what he, in his book The Recovery of Belief, refers to as hisChristian “Transcendence-Immanence” theory of the universe. Like the present writer, the British philosopher 151
  • One of the major aims or objectives of sacramental worship is to assist in one’s spiritualgrowth and development, as well as that of others, indeed (especially, but by no meansexclusively, in the Liberal Catholic tradition) the whole universe. Thus, Wedgwood(1928c:Online) writes that the service of the Holy Eucharist is, among other things, a meanswhereby we can be carried “out of the prison of the separated consciousness into thatlarger consciousness in which we come to sense the One Life”. He goes on to write: There is nothing, I think, really more important than the gaining of this recognition of the One Life, which is the recognition of brotherhood. You can make excuses for people, but you can never understand people really until you realize that oneness of consciousness in the divine Life. The antagonism that we feel comes, not from the life, but from the bodies we have brought up from the past lives.As mentioned above, the service of the Holy Eucharist is a powerful vehicle not only forpersonal development and self-transformation but also for healing. As Leadbeater(1919:Online) has written: The greatest means of spiritual aid and physical healing is now given to the patient in the Holy Communion. No greater help both for body and soul can be offered than this, for with the reception of the Sacred Host the human body becomes for a few hours a veritable shrine, radiating the glowing love and power of the Christ.The Eucharist affirms, celebrates, offers and creates a vision and pictorial representation ofwhat is otherwise a fact – that is, an occurrence in space and time388 – but a special kind offact that goes beyond our own limited, finite notions of space and time, a miniature of the“Eternal Now”. This is the fact ... this special fact (see Rohr and Martos 1989:72): The wisdom of connectedness is most powerfully symbolized in the Eucharist, the central sacrament of the Catholic faith. If we understand the Eucharist rightly, we understand that we are not alone. God is with us in the Eucharist, and we need only to open ourselves up to God’s presence to experience it in the prayers and Scripture readings of the Mass, and especially in Communion.The Historical Jesusand broadcaster C E M Joad was an objectivist when it came to moral values, the most outstanding of which, inJoad’s view, were Truth, Goodness and Beauty. He saw these as being modes or manifestations of God’s Self-revelation of his nature, and proceeded to conclude that this revelation must be regarded as being that of both atranscendent and an immanent Divine Being, “which, though it manifests, is itself other than, the beingmanifested”.388 Cf Anderson (1962:14). 152
  • In the two versions (namely, the Longer Form and the Shorter Form) of the Holy Eucharistcontained in The Liturgy one finds the following express references to “Jesus”: • “... And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets: Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone” (in The Canticle, Shorter Form only [Liturgy 224]) • “We believe ... in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the alone-born Son of God ...” (in The Creed, in both the Longer and Shorter Forms [Liturgy 209, 229]) • “O Lord Jesu Christ, who didst say to thine apostles: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you’, regard not our weakness, but the faith of thy church and grant her that peace and unity which are agreeable to thy holy will and commandment” (in The Salutation of Peace, Longer Form only [Liturgy 220]) • “Under the veil of earthly things, now have we communion with our Lord Jesus Christ; soon with open face shall we behold him, and rejoicing in his glory, be made like unto him. Then shall his true disciples be brought by him with exceeding joy before the presence of his Father’s glory” (in the Prayer after Communion, in both the Longer and Shorter Forms [Liturgy 221, 239]).There are other implied references in the two versions of The Holy Eucharist contained inThe Liturgy to Jesus, such as the following: • “Who the day before he suffered took bread into his holy and venerable hands, and with his eyes lifted up to heaven unto thee, God, his almighty Father, giving thanks to thee, he ++ blessed, brake and gave it to his disciples … In like manner, after he had supped, taking also this noble chalice into his holy and venerable hands … As oft as ye shall do these things ye shall do them in remembrance of me” (in the Prayer of Consecration [Liturgy 216, 234]) • “… as thou, O Lord Christ, wast made known to thy disciples in the breaking of bread …” (in The Commemoration of the Saints [Liturgy 219, 237]).In each instance referred to above, the reference to “Jesus” is qualified or even substitutedby the addition or insertion, as the case may be, of one or more other words traditionally 153
  • associated with the name and person of Jesus, as in “Jesus Christ”, the “Lord, JesusChrist”, “O Lord Christ”, “thy Son” or something very similar. What does one make of this?It is the view of the present writer that it only becomes possible to fully understand andinterpret the above mentioned references to Jesus when regard is hard to the true meaningof the other super-added words – a matter discussed elsewhere throughout this thesis. It issufficient, for present purposes, to simply note that, metaphysically, the word “Jesus” hasoften been used to refer not so much to the historical Jesus of Nazareth but to “[t]he I inman, the self, the directive power, raised to divine understanding and power – the I AMidentity ... God’s idea of man in expression”.389 Thus, van Alphen (2002:Online) writes that“Jesus means literally ‘the good man’ and ... stands for the personality of every humanbeing who treads the path of purification”.Elsewhere in this thesis the combination of “Jesus” and “Christ”, as well as the reference tothe “Lord Jesus Christ”, are considered. One point should be made at this importantjuncture: The Liturgy sometimes uses the words “the Lord” in some places to refer to Godthe Father, in other places to mean “God the Son (or Christ)”, and in others to refer to both,even in the same collect or other sentence.390However, we Liberal Catholics can learn much from the writings of some of the progressiveRoman Catholic thinkers of today, especially those open to inspiration from religioustraditions other than their own, including non-Christian ones. For example, Rohr and Martos(1989:9) have this to say about the sacramentality of Jesus himself, and his presence in theChurch community: Because Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God, Jesus is the fundamental sacrament of God. He is the greatest sign of God’s love and presence and activity in the world. The sacramentality of Jesus did not end with the ascension, however. It continues in the Church which, since the days of St Paul, has been called the Body of Christ. The Church as the whole People of God under the headship of Christ incarnates the divine presence in creation, similar to the way that Jesus did this as a single individual. The Church is basically a sacrament of God in the world.There are no express references to “Jesus”, as such, in the Service of Benediction of theMost Holy Sacrament contained in The Liturgy, but there are, in that Service, a number of389 “Jesus”, in Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, p 345.390 See, eg, The Collects in the Service of Prime (“O Lord, our Heavenly Father ... through Christ our Lord”; “OLord Christ ...”; “Teach us, O Lord, ... through Christ our Lord”). 154
  • allusions to the esoteric and mythic nature and “inner meaning” of the Jesus story. Thoseallusions are also the subject of separate treatment in other parts of this thesis.The Historical ChristIn the services of the Holy Eucharist in The Liturgy one finds a number of references to the“Historical Christ”, perhaps the more significant ones being the following: … who spake by the Prophets … [Liturgy 210, 230] Here do we give unto thee, O Lord, most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in the holy Lady Mary our heavenly Mother and in all thy glorious saints from the beginning of the world, who have been the choice vessels of thy grace and a shining light unto many generations. [Liturgy 219, 237] And we join with them in worship before thy great white throne, whence flow all love and light and blessing through all the worlds which thou hast made. [Liturgy 219, 237] May the Holy Ones, whose pupils you aspire to become, show you the light you seek, give you the strong aid of their compassion and their wisdom. [Liturgy 222, 239-240]The Mythic (or Pagan) ChristIn the services of the Holy Eucharist in The Liturgy one finds a couple of references to whathas been referred to as the “Mythic (or Pagan) Christ”, but they can equally be construed asreferences to the “Cosmic Christ”: … the ineffable sacrifice of thy Son, the mystery of his wondrous incarnation, [his blessed passion,] his mighty resurrection, and his triumphant ascension … [Liturgy 217] Unto thee, O perfect one, the Lord and lover of men, do we commend our life and hope. For thou art the heavenly bread, the life of the whole world; Thou art in all places and endurest all things, the treasury of endless good and the well of infinite compassion. [Liturgy 220, 238] 155
  • The Cosmic ChristIn the services of the Holy Eucharist in The Liturgy one finds a number of most uplifting,inherently transformative references to what has been referred to as the “Cosmic Christ”,perhaps the more significant ones being the following: O Lord Christ, alone-born of the Father; O Lord God, indwelling light, Son of the Father, whose wisdom mightily and sweetly ordereth all things, pour forth thy love; thou whose strength upholdeth and sustaineth all creation, receive our prayer; thou whose beauty shineth through the whole universe, unveil thy glory. [Liturgy 206, 226] Uniting in this joyful sacrifice with thy holy Church throughout the ages, we lift our hearts in adoration to thee, O God the Son, who art consubstantial and coeternal with the Father, who, abiding unchangeable within thyself, didst nevertheless in the mystery of thy boundless love and thine eternal sacrifice send forth thine own divine life into the universe and thus didst offer thyself as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,391 dying in very truth that we may live. [Liturgy 215] All these things do we ask, O Father, in the Name and through the mediation of thy most blessed Son, for we acknowledge and confess with our hearts and lips that ++ by him were all things made, yea, all things both in heaven and earth; ++ with him as the indwelling life do all things exist, and ++ in him as the transcendent glory all things live and move and have their being: [Liturgy 218, 236] For thou art the heavenly bread, the life of the whole world; thou art in all places and endurest all things, the treasury of endless good and the well of infinite compassion. [Liturgy 220, 238] ... we pray that thou wouldst command thy holy angel to bear our oblation to thine altar on high, there to be offered by him who, as the eternal high priest, for ever offers himself as the eternal sacrifice. [Liturgy 217, 235]The Mystic ChristIn the services of the Holy Eucharist in The Liturgy one finds a number of references to theindwelling Presence, Power and essential Mystery of God/Christ known as the “MysticChrist”, perhaps the more significant ones being the following: Teach us, O Lord, to see thy life in all [men and in all] the peoples of thine earth … [Liturgy 207, 227]391 Cf Rev 13:8. 156
  • … praying thee, O Lord, that we may evermore abide in Christ and he in us. [Liturgy 211, 230] Thee we adore, O hidden splendour, thee, Who in thy sacrament dost deign to be; We worship thee beneath this earthly veil, And here thy presence we devoutly hail. [Liturgy 216, 234] … with him as the indwelling life do all things exist … [Liturgy 218]Roman Catholic priest Fr Louis Evely, in his book We Are All Brothers, writes beautifully ofthe experience of the Mystic Christ ([1963] 1967:91): If you are not dead and risen again, you know nothing of Christ. Before undertaking any apostolate, you will have to kill yourself. How can you bring to others a message of resurrection if you are not dead?The Anonymous ChristAs mentioned previously in this thesis, Christ, although not a person as such, isnevertheless present in all human beings, indeed in all created things, and it is a veryspecial part of the Ancient Wisdom that the Liberal Catholic Church has a most importantresponsibility among Christian churches to maintain, teach, promulgate and practise thetrue gnosis, an important part of which is recognising the Christ in all others. This is themeaning of the Sanskrit phrase Namaste,392 which is a combination of the two Sanskritwords, namah and te, meaning, "I bow to that (divinity) inherent in you". In mystic oresoteric Christianity, the equivalent expression is, “The Christ in me salutes the Christ inyou”.In the services of the Holy Eucharist in The Liturgy one finds a couple of references to whathas been referred to as the “Anonymous Christ”, perhaps the more significant ones beingthe following: … we know that we do serve him best when best we serve our brother man … [Liturgy 210, 229] May the Lord enkindle within us the fire of his love and the flame of everlasting charity. [Liturgy 211, 231]392 Also Namaskar and Namaskaram. 157
  • And as he hath ordained that the heavenly sacrifice shall be mirrored here on earth through the ministry of mortal men, to the end that thy holy people may be knit more closely into fellowship with thee … [Liturgy 217] We who have been refreshed with Thy heavenly gifts do pray Thee, O Lord, that Thy grace may be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that it may continually be made manifest in our lives; through Christ our Lord. [Liturgy 222, 239]On the altar - itself a living symbol of our hearts, minds and will - we offer ourselves (“…weoffer and present unto thee ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a holy and continualsacrifice unto thee …” (Liturgy 212, 232)), under the forms of bread and wine, sacrificingand crucifying our lower selves so as to be consecrated for the service of the Lord, andthereby transformed and changed not only in likeness but also in substance (that is,spiritually “transubstantiated”) such that we become one with the Other, the Absolute, theUniversal Spirit within each and every one of us … “so may thy many children knowthemselves to be one in thee, even as thou art one with the father” (Liturgy 219, 237).In the words of Jung (1955:317): The dichotomy of God into divinity and humanity and his return to himself in the sacrificial act hold out the comforting doctrine that in mans own darkness there is hidden a light that shall once again return to its source, and that this light actually wanted to descend into the darkness in order to deliver the Enchained One who languishes there, and lead him to light everlasting.Finally, the Eucharist looks forward to that day when each of us will come “face to face”with the Almighty Father, the Source and Essence of All: Under the veil of earthly things now have we communion with our Lord Jesus Christ; soon with open face shall we behold Him, and, rejoicing in His glory, be made like unto Him. Then shall His true disciples be brought by Him with exceeding joy before the presence of His Fathers glory. [Liturgy 222, 240]The Benediction of the Most Holy SacramentThis “comparatively modern” (Wedgwood 1976b:137) devotional393 service - for that isprobably how it is best described - began in the 13th century. In terms of its relationship tothe service of the Holy Eucharist, or the Mass, the service of Solemn Benediction has beendescribed as follows:393 Wedgwood writes (1976b:145) writes: “Worship means of [sic] giving of ‘worth-ship’ to God. Devotion means‘to vow oneself away from’.” 158
  • It is an extension of that very brief section of the mass [sic] when, just before Communion, special devotion is addressed to Jesus present on the altar under the outward signs of bread and wine. The Mass, however, is addressed to God the Father and it would overturn the nature of the Eucharistic action to give the Mass over to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.394In our Liturgy, as opposed to that of the Roman rite, one thinks especially of the followingpassages (see Liturgy 216, 234; 220, 238): Thee we adore, O hidden splendour, thee, Who in thy sacrament dost deign to be; We worship thee beneath this earthly veil And here thy presence we devoutly hail. ... Unto thee, O perfect one, the Lord and lover of men, do we commend our life and hope. For thou art the heavenly bread, the life of the whole world; thou art in all places and endurest all things, the treasury of endless good and the well of infinite compassion.According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there are “traces of two distinct elements” inthe Benediction service:395 There is of course in the first place the direct veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, which appears in the exposition, blessing, “Tantum ergo”, etc. But besides this we note the almost invariable presence of what at first seems an incongruent element, that of the litany of Loreto, or of popular hymns in honor of Our Lady. Tracing our present service back to its origin we find that these two features are derived from different sources. The idea of exposing the Blessed Sacrament for veneration in a monstrance appears to have been first evolved at the end of the thirteenth or the beginning of the fourteenth century. ... ... Turning now to our second element, we find that from the beginning of the thirteenth century, a custom prevailed among the confraternities and guilds which were established at that period in great numbers, of singing canticles in the evening of the day before a statue of Our Lady. ... Now it seems certain that our present Benediction service has resulted from the general adoption of this evening singing of canticles before the statue of Our Lady, enhanced as it often came to be in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, which was employed at first only as an adjunct to lend it additional solemnity. ...396394 “What is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament?” [Online] viewed 13 March 2009,<>. Bishop Wedgwood has alsoconfirmed that the service of Solemn Benediction is “really an extension of the Eucharist” (1976b:137).395 See Thurston (1907:Online). 159
  • As mentioned previously, there are no express references to “Jesus”, as such, inthe Service of Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament contained in The Liturgy, butthere are, in that Service, a number of allusions to the esoteric and mythic natureand “inner meaning” of the Jesus story, hence such references to “O Saving Victim”(in O Salutaris Hostia) and “Priest and Victim” (in the Litany).Our Liturgy informs us that, in the Service of Benediction of the Most HolySacrament, we receive “the blessing of Christ himself through the most holysacrament” (Liturgy 256). This would appear to be a composite, holistic reference towhat elsewhere in this thesis has been referred to as the Cosmic Christ, the MysticChrist, and, most importantly, the Eucharistic Lord.The service of Benediction contains a number of allusions to both the Cosmic Christand the Mystic Christ (very much inextricably bound together), the most significantones, at least in the opinion of the present writer, being the following, which havebeen extracted from both O Salutaris Hostia and the Litany (see Liturgy 256,258-259): O Saving Victim, opening wide The gate of heaven to man below, Our foes press in from every side; Thine aid supply, thy strength bestow. All praise and thanks to thee ascend For evermore, blest One in Three; O grant us life that shall not end In our true native land with thee. ... Thou, whose wisdom all things planned, Held by whose almighty hand All things in their order stand, We, thy church, adore thee. Thou, whose life and strength pervade Whatsoever thou has made, All-preserver, strong to aid, We, thy church, adore thee. ... Priest and victim, whom of old Type and prophecy foretold, Thee incarnate we behold;396 Wedgwood has written (1976b:138) of the “intensification of the devotional stage” of the service ofBenediction in the Middle Ages, which later took the form of “a reaction against Protestantism, which challengedthe doctrine of the objective Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist at the time of the Reformation and onwards”. 160
  • Son of God, we hail thee. ...Insofar as the Litany is concerned, Wedgwood has written of the Power of the Written andSpoken Word as a means and vehicle of heightening and expanding one’s consciousness(1976b:132): Various ideas are placed before the people; different conceptions are brought before their minds. Everything is done that can be done to rouse and enkindle the fire of their devotion, in order that every person in the congregation in some way or another, through one sentiment or another that is expressed, may have this devotion stirred and enflamed, and so may gain the full benefit of this quickening Life that is outpoured upon us, the blessing from the Christ Himself.The service of Benediction contains a most beautiful all-encompassing allusion to theEucharistic Lord and, beyond that, to both the Cosmic Christ and the Mystic Christ in thefollowing prayer that is said immediately before the Ascription to the Holy Trinity (seeLiturgy 261-262): O God, who in the wonderful sacrament of the altar hast left us a living memorial of thine eternal sacrifice; grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mystery of thy Body and Blood that we may ever perceive within ourselves the power of thine indwelling life, and thus, by the glad pouring out of our lives in sacrifice, may know ourselves to be one in thee and through thee with all that lives; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God throughout all ages of ages.Wedgwood (1976b:132) writes of the intent and import of the service of Benediction in thefollowing terms: Various sentiments are expressed in the course of the Litany, sometimes it is one aspect of the Blessed Trinity, sometimes another aspect is invoked. Various ideas are placed before the people; different conceptions are brought before their minds. Everything is done that can be done to rouse and enkindle in the fire of their devotion, in order that every person in the congregation in some way or another, through one sentiment or another that is expressed, may have his devotion stirred and enflamed and so may gain the full benefit of this quickening Life that is outpoured upon us, the blessing from the Christ Himself.Wedgwood has also written that, “in the service of Benediction we approach the livingPresence of the Christ” (1976b:134). Once one accepts the idea that all of life if sacred,holy or divine, then there should be no difficulty in understanding the nature of the “RealPresence” as an objective fact as well as an ineffable mystery. To quote Wedgwood again(1976b:139): 161
  • There is nothing crass or degrading in the idea of the Real Presence if matter is exalted and sanctified as the vehicle of spirit. Does not the Divine Life slumber even in the mineral?Of even greater significance is that “where the Blessed Sacrament is the centre of theworship, at the Holy Eucharist and at Benediction, [one] is dealing with the influence of theSecond Person of the Blessed Trinity brought down through the direct and personalizedchannel of our Blessed Lord, the especial manifestation or epiphany of that Person”(Wedgwood 1976b:144). However, at the risk of sounding crass or even selfish about thematter, one may well enquire as to the “purpose” of this service of Benediction, leavingaside for the moment the very nature of the service itself, which is one of “devotion”.Wedgwood has written (1976b:146-147): [The service of Benediction] rehearses before us a number of different attributes of our Lord, and it brings before us certain qualities of character through which we are to fashion ourselves into His adorable likeness. There is no limit to the possibilities that here open out before us.The service of Benediction leaves many lasting impressions, perhaps the most significantbeing, in the words of Brooks ([1924] 1977:Online), the following: • “Substance is God and ... form is Substance in manifestation; hence, form is declared incorruptible because by nature it is perfect.” • “God is being rediscovered ... [W]e see omnipresent Spirit manifesting in an infinite variety of forms. We believe in the perfection of the manifest because God is everywhere.” • “As the misconception, dualism, passes, and the true conception of One Presence and Power takes its place, the unity of all life is being revealed as well as the perfect nature of all God manifestation – and there is no other.”397The Service of HealingTo varying degrees, we are all broken, damaged people in need of healing, and it isdemonstrably clear from even the most cursory reading of Holy Scripture that God’s idealwill for us is perfect health. To borrow a cliché from Alcoholics Anonymous, the Church is,or at least ought to be, a “clinic of calm”, and, even more importantly, a place where broken,damaged but otherwise ordinary people can find solace, comfort, healing and strength. Oneof the major functions of any religion, but most especially Christianity in the form of Liberal397 See “The Mystery of Healing”, <> (viewed 2 April 2009). 162
  • Catholicism, is healing. Leslie Weatherhead, a Protestant minister who wrote manyscholarly works on the healing ministry of the Church, has written (1951:50): To separate religion and healing as though they never had any vital relationship is to make nonsense of most of the healing acts of Jesus Christ.Leadbeater (1919:Online) has written: The purpose of the Service of Healing is twofold; first, to bring spiritual upliftment to those who are in sore need thereof; second, to give some relief, when possible, to those who are suffering, from various physical ills.The Coming of the Kingdom of God – the major theme, as we have seen, of the teachingsof Christ Jesus398 – was characterised first and foremost by the healing ministry of theMaster himself, whose healings were motivated by compassion, at least according to theSynoptic Gospels.399 The late William Weston, a moderate High Church Anglican whobelieved very much in the healing ministry of the Church, once wrote (1976:5): The ministry to the sick was an essential part of Jesus Christ’s work. He told his followers that whoever believed in him would do the works which he did, and greater works would the believer do, because he was going to his Father [Jn 14:12].400Weston also points out there is “a great deal of evidence to show that the Healing Ministry[of the Church] was continued in the early centuries of the life of the Church” (1976:9), andthe Apostle Paul lists healing as one of the charismatic gifts. 401 Unfortunately, problemsbegan to emerge with the healing ministry of the early Church, even as recorded in the NewTestament. The writer of Luke’s Gospel says, “A dispute arose among them which of themwas the greatest” (Lk 9:46). This lack of both self-sacrifice and humility on the part of thedisciples resulted in their inability to heal the boy who had epilepsy (see Lk 9:37-41). Jesussuccessfully intervened, healed the boy, and proceeded to rebuke the disciples for their398 Martin (1960:19) writes that “in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, healing the sick plays a part of primaryimportance”.399 John’s Gospel construes the underlying object or purpose of Jesus’ healings as being “signs” ofthe Coming of the Kingdom, and as a means by which “the works of God [may] be made manifest”:see, eg, Jn 9:1-3.400 In his 1995 book Jesus the Healer Stevan Davies, a professor of religious studies, “translates” thespiritual terminology and thought forms of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ healings into today’slanguage of psychology, the result being a de-supernaturalised and altogether credible portrayal of aman whose unbroken communion with the “Christ within” enabled him to be a means by which otherswho came into contact with him could find healing.401 See 1 Cor 12:9, 28, 30. 163
  • lack of faith (see Lk 9:42-43). Weston goes on to write that it is the duty of all Christianbelievers “to enable the Living Christ to continue his works through their ministry of prayerand service” (1976:51).Dr Norman Vincent Peale402 (see Peale and Blanton 1955:236) has written that “[t]hetendency of the Christian religion has been to ignore its healing element”. However, thehealing ministry has always played an important role in the life, teaching and practice of theLiberal Catholic Church, and the challenge for us is to keep that ministry not only going butalso growing just as the Master intended.Roman Catholic priest and author Richard McAlear ([1999] 2005:3) writes that the healingministry of the Christian Church is “a dramatic proclamation of Christ’s living presence inthe world today ... a real experience of His love”. To that extent, the Service of Healing hasmuch in common with both the Holy Eucharist and Solemn Benediction. Christ is at work, ina very real and objective way, not only as the Power and Presence that effects the healing,the means by which such healing takes place, but also the very embodiment within us asthe innate potentiality for the healing to take place in the first place – that is, to remove thestate of dis-ease caused so often by “sickness in the mind” (negative thoughts andemotions, and so forth) and thus restore body, mind and soul to the state of wellness andease which is our birthright and God-given potentiality.403Dr Norman Vincent Peale often wrote and spoke of the need for there to be a “shift inemphasis from self to non-self” (see, eg, [1965] 1966:196)404 for there to be any hope ofspiritual and emotional growth and development, let alone healing of body, mind, soul andspirit. Douglas Lockhart has written that “what we need is a resurrection of the self to theself, a resurrection through the senses so that we can unhook ourselves from conscious402 Peale was one of the first persons – if not the very first – to combine depth psychology withreligion. In 1937 Peale established a religio-psychiatric clinic with the Freudian psychiatrist Dr SmileyBlanton in the basement of Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. It was America’s firstservice combining religion and psychiatry for the sake of mental health. The clinic subsequently grewto an operation with more than 20 psychiatrists and psychologically-trained ministers of religion, andin 1951 became known as the American Foundation for Religion and Psychiatry. In 1972 theFoundation merged with the Academy of Religion and Mental Health to form the Institutes of Religionand Health. The organization is today known as the Blanton-Peale Institute.403 Healing in the New Testament is of two kinds: “physical” (see, eg, Mt 4:24, 10:8; Lk 5:17; Jn 4:47) and“spiritual” (see, eg, Heb 12:13). However, at the risk of stating the obvious, the two are often inextricablyinterrelated.404 World’s Work (British) edition (1966). 164
  • distraction and learn, slowly, the difference between having, and not having, a will”(2006:10:Online) and that “[t]o lose the limited self is to ‘wake up’; it is to transcend the selfthat sleeps and acquires real will” (2006:11:Online). Peale speaks in terms of a shift ofemphasis from self to non-self. Lockhart speaks in terms of a resurrection of the self to theself. Despite the difference in language, both are articulating the same fundamental spiritualtruth. Now, on the subject of divine healing Dr Peale writes (1957:283): One way that Christ heals is by restoring spiritual harmony, both within and without the personality. And harmony is so vital to well-being that it cannot be over-stressed. Harmony has a powerful influence in establishing health which may have been undermined by vindictive [or other negative] attitudes.In a similar vein, Weatherhead has written (1951:317-318): In such a unity [of body, mind and soul] there cannot be disease at any point, at any level of being, without the whole personality being to some extent affected.Traditional Christians attribute sickness and disease to the Fall (Original Sin). Interestingly,Jews do not believe in the Doctrine of Original Sin and other associated beliefs such as theso-called Total Depravity of Man. Jews quite rightly accuse Christians, especiallyfundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, of applying non-Jewish exegeticaltechniques of Bible meaning and textual analysis to the Hebrew Bible as opposed to usingthe exegetical techniques that have been approved, endorsed and used by rabbis forhundreds and hundreds of years. It is therefore no surprise at all that so many traditionalChristians make strange claims for the “Old Testament” that do not stand up to any form ofclose or even cursory scrutiny by informed rabbis and Jewish scholars. Fortunately, theLiberal Catholic Church is more enlightened in this and many other respects, rejecting allnotions of total depravity and original sin, and instead seeing “sickness [as] a matter ofkarma” (Wedgwood 1976b:155).405 Indeed, Jesus himself, when asked who had sinned thathad supposedly resulted in the blindness of the man born blind, declared, “Neither hath thisman sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (Jn9:3).406 For Jesus, healing was a special manifestation of the salvific Power and Presenceof God and His divine plan working itself out in individual lives.407405 Emphasis in the original.406 See also Jn 11:4. Lazarus’s sickness was to be “not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of Godmight be glorified thereby.” If we suffer, it is so that God may be glorified through our lives: see 1 Pet 4:14.407 As previously mentioned, salvation, in its root, simply means health (salus). As regards salvation, the worditself comes from the same Latin root as the word salve, and refers to a healthy kind of wholeness and oneness. 165
  • All healing, by whatever means, is ultimately spiritual (that is, non-physical) in nature.Further, all “healing comes from the Most High” (Sir 38:2).408 The present writer has foundin Church services and in meetings of Twelve Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymousand Narcotics Anonymous the most incredible results of the healing Power of the Writtenand Spoken Word - what may be termed the “Healing Christ” - but this Christ appears to besimply a special manifestation of Christ Jesus and the “other Christs” elsewhere referred toin this thesis, all of whom are ultimately One and Indivisible.It should also be kept in mind that healing - the ideal intention and active will of God for all -takes various forms (for example, physical healing, mental healing, emotional healing,spiritual healing, as well as reconciliation in the form of re-establishing broken relationshipsbetween ourselves and others or God), but the overall aim is always the same …wholenesss in body, mind and spirit.409 According to Scripture, suffering has severalreported purposes, such as to perfect, to establish, to strengthen, and to settle: But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.410God always answers our prayers and request for healing,411 but not necessarily in the waywe think is best for us. Thus, even where there is no physical healing as such, and evenwhen the most painful form of dying ultimately eventuates, the ability to accept, with calmequanimity and a spirit of godliness, the inevitability of one’s sometimes imminent andotherwise inevitable death, to make the necessary adjustments such that one gains thepower to live, with comfort,412 with the problem and even use it creatively for the greaterglory of God, and thus to not only endure but actually transcend circumstances that would408 See also Ps 103:2-3 (“Bless the Lord, O my soul, ... who heals all your diseases”); Jer 17:14 (“Heal me, OLord, and I shall be healed”). Parry (1960) writes: “Necessarily we must realize that all healing which truly healsmay be classified as spiritual healing. It does not matter whether health results from a surgeon’s skill,physician’s care, the ministry of intercession, or anointing with holy oil. All healing which truly heals, or makeswhole, can be called spiritual.”409 See, eg, 1 Thess 5:23 (“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit andsoul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”). Insofar as heath andholiness are concerned, see Acts 9:34: “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.” As Dr Peale would often point out inhis writings, sermons and addresses, the three things - heath, wholeness and holiness - have a common originand, at the deepest level, a common meaning.410 1 Pet 5:10.411 See Ps 34:4 (“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”).412 See, eg. 2 Cor 1:4 (“... who comforts us in all our affliction ...”). 166
  • otherwise hold us back and even destroy us spiritually,413 is not only a gift from God (as aspecial form of blessing) but is also a form of divine healing in its own right: see Clebsch(1974). As Bishop Leadbeater has written (1919:Online): If a patient is not restored to health even after repeated attempts it must not be thought that the Holy Spirit cannot heal; it may be that there are circumstances and factors, not known to us, which may prevent or hinder the desired results. The Priest will do his best to help the patient; the patient will do his best to prepare himself to be helped; what will come of it is in higher hands than ours - in the hands of Christ the Healer and the King.Theosophist and former Liberal Catholic priest Brian Parry (1960) writes: Ill-health is a condition where the individual is not able to express his innate possibilities through his body, mind, and emotions – his personality. This definition applies to most types of sickness or disability, whether they are inherited, organic or functional, or whether it is emotional sickness; all such disorders are barriers to the abundant life which surrounds each individual [cf Jn 10:10]. The Church aims at eliminating those barriers, at helping the patient to restore the free expression of his possibilities.Similarly, Nona L Brooks, cofounder of Divine Science, wrote in her book Mysteries (seeBrooks [1924] 1977:Online) that healing was “not a physical process but, spiritualrealization” and that health was “not a condition of physical well-being only but therealization of a state of wholeness in the individual”.414 She also writes that healing is “theturning from the belief in disease to the realization of God’s Presence and Perfect Activity”.There are so many “Christian” books that have been written on the subject of healing. Manypromulgate the totally unbiblical view, for example, that if one is not, say, physically healed,it is because of a lack or deficiency of faith on the part of the person who is sick, as well asseveral other unbiblical and unscientific ideas. Bishop Wedgwood, in his ever-insightfulway, has articulated the need for a certain healthy skepticism on the whole subject ofspiritual or divine healing (without, in any way, doubting that there is such a phenomenon,and that we need to be a “healing church” in the fullest sense as was the very earliestchurch). Wedgwood has written (1976b:154) of the need to exercise “sane and clearthinking on this subject of healing”. For example, even The Liturgy itself expressly413 See, eg, Ps 41:3 (“The Lord sustains him on his sickbed ...”); Ps 55:22 (“Cast your burden on the Lord, andhe will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved”); 2 Cor 4:8-9 (“We are afflicted in every way,but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but notdestroyed”).414 Online version: see <> (viewed 2 April 2009). 167
  • recognizes that it is not always God’s will for everybody to enjoy perfect health, whether atall times or otherwise, because of such things as ignorance on our part, a lack ofknowledge of the natural laws relating to health and wellbeing, the errors of others, so-called “acts of God”, lack of faith, unwillingness to surrender, and so forth. Thus, we read inthat part of A Service of Healing known as “The Unction” (see Liturgy 129): O Lord, who hast given unto man bodily health and vigour wherewith to serve thee, we pray thee to free thy servants from their sickness (or imperfections or weakness) [so far as may be expedient for them], and by the might of ++ thy blessing to restore unto them full health, both outwardly in their bodies and inwardly in their souls; through Christ our Lord.415Just as God is Mystery, so is illness, pain and suffering, and God never answers thequestion “Why?”, because the person who asks such a question doesn’t want an answer,only an argument, for any answer would only lead to another question, “But why not ...?”Perfect health is not always achievable, for it is part of the Mystery of God that God is ableto weave suffering into the divine plan for the world.416 As the Apostle Paul wrote (2 Cor12:9): And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.A Service of Healing in The Liturgy makes it clear that healing comes from “Christ the Sonof God”. It is the latter who is called upon to “pour down his healing power” (Liturgy 330)upon the person or persons who have come forward for healing. Who or what is this “Christthe Son of God”? In the view of the present writer, it is a composite reference to all thevarious senses in which the word “Christ” is understood in the Liberal Catholic Church andits Liturgy, but most especially is it a reference to the Person and Power of Christ Jesuswho, in the introduction to the Service of Healing in The Liturgy, is referred to as “Christhimself [who] had to apply his treatment twice in the case of the man born blind” (Liturgy324). This is clearly a reference to a specific incident that is recorded in the Gospels.417415 Emphasis added.416 Christian psychiatrist William P Wilson writes (Wilson, with Slattery 1984:94-95) that the service of the HolyEucharist, “properly understood, is also a powerful tool for bringing about both spiritual renewal and healing”.Wilson (at p 132) refers to the views of Ken McAll, a British psychiatrist, who explains that through the Eucharista Christian believer “not only shares in Christ’s death and resurrection” but also finds himself or herself in“mystical communion with all believers (also known as saints), including those who have died”. Thus, throughthe Eucharist “the chasm between heaven and earth is bridged”, which can greatly assist in the grieving processamong other things.417 See Mk 8:22-26. 168
  • Now, although the healing takes place in “the name of our Lord Christ” - the word “name” insacred scripture refers to the essential nature or character of a person or thing418 - theassistance, that is, the “help” of the “holy Archangel Raphael” is also invoked in the Service.That does not in any way detract from the fact that it is Christ who is “the Healer and theKing” (Liturgy 324). Invoking the help of Saint Raphael, one of the “seven mighty spiritsbefore the throne”, is quite appropriate in a service of divine healing as the word “Raphael”(Standard Hebrew ‫“[ רפאל‬rapha”]) means “God has healed”, “God heals”, as well as “God,please heal”, and is also often translated to mean physician.419 Bishop Leadbeater in TheMasters and the Path writes ([1925] 1969:Online): We all stand always in the presence of the Solar Logos, for in His system there is no place where He is not, and all that is, is part of Him. But in a very special sense [the] Seven Spirits are part of Him, manifestations of Him, almost qualities of His – centres in Him through which His Power flows out. ... Raphael signifies “The Healing Power of God,” and He is associated with the Sun, which is the great health-giver for us on the physical plane. ...In short, although the holy Archangel Raphael has a special closeness and affinity withhealing and is, along with all the “glorious saints from the beginning of the world”, a “choicevessel” of Our Lord’s grace and “a shining light unto many generations” (cf Liturgy 219;237), being ever committed only to do the Will of God, it is the Lord Christ himself whoheals and whose wondrous healing power is sought to be made manifest in the Service.Liberal Catholic priest Raymond J Blanch (1963:7) writes: The source of all strength and health is God within us, about us, above us. In the Healing Service of our church we try to pour in from above us some of its strength and health that is spiritual, mental, emotional and physical – so that we may live and work to the greater glory of God in His World which is about us.418 See “name”, in Fillmore ([1959] 1981: 137).419 In Tob12:15 Raphael identifies himself as “one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (cf Rev 8:2).Raphael may have healed Tobias’ blindness, bound the demon that previously had slain seven husbands ofSarah on her wedding nights, and brought Tobias and Sarah together, but, as the name itself makes clear, it isstill God doing the healing. In any event, the reference to the “seven, who stand before God” (cf the “sevenmighty spirits before the throne”) is a reference to the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints toGod. Raphael also features in the 2nd century Jewish Book of Enoch, in which God commands Raphael to healthe earth and bind the demon Azazel. In Jewish lore Raphael is also credited with healing Abraham of the painof circumcision and is one of the three angels who visited him and his wife Sarah (see Gen 18). Perhaps moreimportantly, many Biblical commentators identify Raphael as the otherwise unnamed “angel who went down at acertain season into the pool [at Bethesda], and troubled the water” such that “whosoever then first after thetroubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had” (Jn 5:4). Note the reference tobeing made “whole” as Raphael is traditionally associated not just with assisting in healing per se but withbringing about wholeness of body, mind and spirit. 169
  • The Service of Healing also enunciates some very important spiritual propositions orprinciples concerning divine healing.First, in all aspects of healing, including the manner, mode and extent of healing, God isentirely sovereign, and it is God’s sovereignty (as opposed to faith) that determineshealth:420 O Lord, who hast given unto man bodily health and vigour wherewith to serve thee, we pray thee to free thy servants from their sickness (or imperfections or weakness) [so far as may be expedient for them], and by the might of ++ thy blessing to restore unto them full health, both outwardly in their bodies and inwardly in their souls; through Christ our Lord. [Liturgy 329]Secondly, healing is an integral part of God’s plan of renewal,421 re-creation,422 restoration423and redemption, ultimately in the form referred to in Acts 3:21 as the “restitution of allthings” or the “restoration of all” (apokatastasis panton) – the revelation of a new worldorder and its very nature: Our outward lips confess the name All other names above; Love only knoweth whence it came, And comprehendeth love. We need not climb the heavenly steeps To bring the Lord Christ down; Alike within the lowest deeps Is he, of heaven the crown. [Liturgy 326]Thirdly, healing must be sought from the “Infinite Power”424 God (whether through theChurch or otherwise) and from the deepest reaches of the soul, with all that is required byway of faith,425 at least initially, being a genuine desire on the part of the sufferer to seekhealing (“Let him call ...”: Ja 5:14):426420 On some occasions Jesus healed “as many as touched him” (Mt 14:35, 36). On other occasions he healed allthe sick in his presence: see, eg, Mt 9:35. On other occasions he healed only some, or only one person: see,eg, Mt 10:46-52, 20:29-34. On one reported occasion it appears Jesus did not heal anybody: see Lk 5:16.421 See, eg, Eph 4:23 (“... be renewed in the spirit of your minds”).422 As Dr Peale often would say, “God is not only the Creator, He is also the Re-creator”.423 In the New Testament, the two main words used for healing are therapeuō and iaomai, both of which conveythe idea of restoration. The word therapeuō is used some 10 times to refer to the miracles of Jesus.424 Peale, in Peale and Blanton (1955:234).425 See Mt 9:22: “... your faith has made you well.”426 Emphasis added. See also Mt 17:20: “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I sayunto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonderplace; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” In most of the recorded instances ofhealings by Jesus, there was an implicit demand for faith to be exercised by the sufferer: see, eg, Mt 9:29; Mk 170
  • Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him .... And the prayer of faith shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up ... The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. [see Ja 5:14-16; Liturgy 327-328] Christ the Son of God pour down his healing power upon thee, and enfold thee in the light of his love. [Liturgy 330] We need not climb the heavenly steeps To bring the Lord Christ down; Alike within the lowest deeps Is he, of heaven the crown. But warm, sweet, tender even yet A present help is he; And faith has still its Olivet, And love its Galilee. [Liturgy 326-327]Fourthly, healing is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without completely surrenderingone’s life to God, that is, placing oneself, “body, mind, and spirit, in the direction of the flowof God’s power” (Peale, in Peale and Blanton 1955:239). See, in that regard, the Confiteor(especially, “.. our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in thee”) and the VeniCreator (especially, “Far let us drive our tempting foe”) in The Liturgy (326 and 328,respectively).Fifthly, healing is impossible without the forgiveness of sins and other wrongdoings, forforgiveness and healing are inextricably interrelated, and mental and spiritual health are thefoundations of physical heath.427 See, in that regard, the Confiteor and the Absolution428 inThe Liturgy (325-326).5:34, 10:52; Lk 17:19. (However, there are some recorded exceptions: see, eg, Mk 2:5,11; Jn 5:19). Martin(1960:25) writes that whilst “faith in the Son of God” on the part of the sufferer is a “regular element” in Divinehealing, this faith may “manifest itself as a consequence of healing rather than as a preliminary condition”. Faithper se does not determine health, but is used by the Divine One as a means of manifesting God’s sovereigntyand glory through human lives yielded to God, for “this is the victory that overcometh the word, even our faith”(1Jn 5:4).427 See, eg, Lk 5:17-26, where friends of a paralysed man lowered him through the tiles of the roof. When Jesussaw their faith, and after making clear his conferred authority to forgive sins, said. “Friend, your sins areforgiven”. As for what is now known as psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), the Bible has a lot to say about thematter: see, eg, Prov 14:30 (“A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot”); Prov17:22 (“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones”); Prov 23:7 (“For as hethinketh in his heart, so is he ...”); Job 3:25 (“For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befallsme.”)428 Bishop Wedgwood writes (1976b:161): “Absolution is a straightening out of kinds in the higher nature, whichobstruct the direct flow of the Divine Life.” 171
  • Sixthly, healing must be prayed for,429 as prayer “constitutes the basis of the healingministry in the Church” (Martin 1960:35) and prayer “really works miracles when our faith isactive” (Peale, in Peale and Blanton 1955:236): Come, thou Creator Spirit blest,/And in our souls take up thy rest;/Come with thy grace and heavenly aid,/To fill the hearts which thou hast made. (Liturgy 328)Seventhly, healing must be worked for, but healing must never be sought simply for thesake of healing, for its aim is “the glorification of God” (Martin 1960:42): Far let us drive our tempting foe./And thine abiding peace bestow;/So shall we not, with thee for guide,/Turn from the path of life aside. (Liturgy 328)Eighthly, healing must be anticipated and expected with assurance and confidence,430 withthe knowledge that healing “provides the means for [us] to discover that [we] are lackingsomething of capital importance” (Martin 1960:62): O Lord, who hast given unto man bodily health and vigour wherewith to serve thee, we pray thee to free thy servants from their sickness (or imperfections or weakness) [so far as may be expedient for them], and by the might of ++ thy blessing to restore unto them full health, both outwardly in their bodies and inwardly in their souls; through Christ our Lord. (Liturgy 329)Ninthly, healing must be nurtured by a grateful, humble, forgiving and contrite heart, and is“one of the most effective means of glorifying God in the presence of His Son, our Lord”(Martin 1960:42): Unto Gods gracious love and protection we commit you; the Lord ++ bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you his peace, now and for evermore. (Liturgy 331)The present writer has found, in attending healing services conducted by Churches ofvarious denominations (including but not limited to “High Church” and “Low Church”Anglican, Roman Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Liberal Catholic and Pentecostal) that healingis most likely to occur when there is a rather unique, but altogether genuine and heartfelt,desire for healing, on the one hand, combined in equal measure and sincerity with awillingness to submit to whatever may be the Will of God, that is, a willingness or429 See, eg, Sir 38:9 (“My son, when you are sick do not be negligent, but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you”;Ja 5:15 (“... the prayer of faith will save the sick man ...”; Jn 16:24 (“... ask, and you will receive ..”.430 See, eg, Mk 11:24 (“...whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will”). See also Job22:28 (“You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you ...”). 172
  • preparedness to relinquish oneself or the other person for whom healing is sought to God -”praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out”. 431 In short, as Martin(1960:63) points out, “sickness is, in the hands of God, a means of astonishing efficacy toattract souls to Him”.Peale (1938:64-65), after referring to the Gospel account of the healing of the man atBethesda, who had laid helplessly by the pool, utterly defeated, for some 38 years, wasasked by Christ Jesus, the Supreme Healer, “Do you really want to be healed?” Too often,we cling to our illness or disability. Take, for example, the alcoholic. He or she will never getbetter until the person makes a decision that they want to get better.432 Peale goes on towrite (1938:65): At last he [the man at Bethesda] was revealed to himself. For the first time in his life he really wanted with all his heart to be healed, and when, in tones of ringing authority, Jesus said, “All right, if you really want to be healed, you don’t need anybody to put you in the water; stand to your feet like a man and walk,” the man stood up radiant in his new-found strength. So we who need strength from God and want it after a fashion must decide whether we really want it badly enough to take it. How glorious to realize that if we really want the great things God can give us and tell him so, meaning it with all our hearts, we shall hear him say, “Arise and walk away from every crippling, unhappy thing which has deprived you of spiritual power”! Today, wherever you are reading this book, Christ draws near and puts to you the question, “Do you really want to be healed of your difficulty? Do you really want to be better?”So great is the power of change, that if one really wants change, including change at a verydeep level, and seeks first the Kingdom of God, forsaking everything else (meaning, amongother things, letting go of all negative thoughts and emotions, especially such things asanger and resentment including but not limited to anger at God or Christ,433 which block,431 Excerpted from Step 11, “The Twelve Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous (New York: Alcoholics AnonymousWorld Services, Inc).432 The so-called Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, appropriately entitled Alcoholics Anonymous, makes itperfectly clear: “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it ...”:Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd ed (new and rev) (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc, 1976), p 58[emphasis added].433 “Roman Catholic priest and author McAlear ([1999] 2005:61) writes that forgiveness is the key that unlocksthe depth of the mystery of Jesus”. He also writes (at p 71): “To forgive God is to allow Him His Mystery. It is toembrace the cross in trusting surrender with Jesus. It is to move beyond the limitations of human understanding,allowing the immensity of God’s wisdom to prevail.” Most Liberal Catholics would read and construe thereferences to “Jesus” as being, for the most part, references to what has been called “the Healing Christ”, butmany, if not most, Liberal Catholics, would embrace the basic thrust of what McAlear has written, and means,namely that, when we forgive God when things do not happen as we wanted them to, we allow God to be Godand we accept whatever happens as being God’s will, whether in an active or passive sense or otherwise. Asmetaphysicians have said for years, “Whatever we resist, persists”, and “Whatever is, is best ... because that iswhat is”. 173
  • indeed prevent, the flow of healing, and repenting of all wrongdoing), healing will indeedcome ... in one form or another.Bernard Martin’s seminal book The Healing Ministry in the Church (1960), which is widelyregarded as being one of the best Biblically centred studies of the Healing Ministry of theChristian Church, has had a great impact on the present writer. Martin, a pastor of theReformed Church in Geneva who also worked at a psychiatric clinic in that city for manyyears, writes (1960:122): It has been well said that a healing Church is a healed Church. This is more than a publicity slogan. It expresses with admirable consciousness this fundamental principle: A Living Church is a Church conscious of the supreme reason for her existence; the Lord has need of her for healing the world. She prays and acts to achieve that end because she believes in it.Finally, as Christ Jesus pointed out, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole worldand loses his soul? (Mk 8:36). Insofar as the ministry of healing is concerned, the healing ofthe soul is paramount. Martin has written (1960:21) that the “will of God being the salvationof the human being, physical healing is [only] one of its constituent elements”. Further, asthe late Anglican priest William Weston has written (1976:51): The words of Christ for us today are the same, and the power freely offered is the power which was available then, the power of the Holy Spirit. Today we are called to use the power and make the Church living and glorious, acting on the word of Our Lord in his prayer to his Father. “As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world – that the world may believe that you have sent me” [Jn 17:18-21].Dr Weatherhead has written these powerful words about the Christian quest for healing andthe true “aim” of Christianity (1951:398): We insist that the aim of Christianity is the reconciliation of the soul with God, through Christ’s grace and man’s penitence. If healing of mind and body follows, well and good. But God is an end, not a means. To use religion as a useful treatment because other treatments have failed; to “try Christianity” because our holidays, surgical operations, ointments, drugs and massage have failed, is to so misunderstand Christianity as to become incapable of “using” it. What is used, if this misconception is held, is not Christianity at all, but a false, even if specious, substitute; not the real thing, but a sham. 174
  • CHAPTER 5 EXPERIENCING THE CHRIST THROUGH ENCOUNTER The Christ of the Author’s Personal Encounter and Experience and the Future of the Liberal Catholic ChurchIn this chapter,434 I wish to set forth an account of my own personal encounter with andexperience of Christ both within the context of the Liberal Catholic Church and otherwise. (Iwill use the first person in this chapter, as I think that what I have to say will come acrossmore forcefully that way.)After spending some time expressing, as best as I can, what Dr Mowle kindly suggested, asa working description, the “Christ of personal encounter and experience”, I then intend tooffer some suggestions as to what I respectfully submit we, as a church, need to do, andnot do, if the Liberal Catholic Church is to survive, particularly in Australia, using, at least inpart, my own experience of Christ and the views of certain others whom I believe to be ofvalue.The Christ of my own Personal Encounter and ExperienceI call myself a Christian because I am committed to what has been referred to as the “Wayof Jesus” (which, for me, constitutes what others sometimes refer to as the “Higher Path”). Iwas reared a Baptist, and later was conformed in the ultra-conservative Anglican Dioceseof Sydney. For many years, I laboured under what I now see was a delusion – of a non-clinical kind – namely, that Christianity was religion about Jesus Christ,435 who died to save434 Some of the material contained in this chapter was the subject of an address delivered at the SydneyUnitarian Church, Sydney NSW, on 21 December 2008: see Ellis-Jones (2008c). See also Ellis-Jones (2009b),which is an adapted and abridged version of the above mentioned address.435 Some more recent scholars (see, eg, Bütz 2005; cf Welburn [1991] 2004) have challenged the dominanttraditional position (particularly among evangelical Christians such as Barnett and Wright) that asserts the“Jewishness” of both the Gospel accounts and the Apostle Paul’s theology and rejects the views of proponentsof the “History of Religions” Movement of yesteryear (eg the New Testament scholar Samuel Angus ([1925]1975; 1929; 1931) and the classical scholar Gilbert Murray (1940)), both of whom wrote of the influence ofpagan Greco-Roman mystery religions upon early Christianity, and, in the case of Gilbert Murray, upon Jewishmonotheism as well. Bütz, in The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity (2005), makes aconvincing case for the proposition that James, the brother of Jesus, and his associates did not believe in theDeity of Jesus, thus repudiating the notion that even Jesus’ own family, let alone all of his first followers,affirmed what has since become one of the key, if not the most important, doctrines of traditional mainstream 175
  • me from my sins so that I might gain eternal life. 436 However, in my young adulthood Ibegan to read books by more liberal Christian theologians, and a whole new world openedup for me. In the early 1980s I discovered the Liberal Catholic Church (although I had heardof it much earlier, as a result of my regular presence in Sydney’s Adyar Bookshop) andabout another decade later I became associated with the Unitarian Church as well. By now,I was a fully fledged religious liberal, but still very much in the Christian tradition.Ernest H Vines was a prominent Australian liberal Presbyterian minister of yesteryear, aformer Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales,and a former student, “disciple”, and fearless and tireless defender of the teachings andtheology of Dr Samuel Angus, the world-renowned authority on Christianity and the mysteryreligions. The writings of both of these two famous Presbyterians have had a great impacton the development and content of my theology. Vines wrote in his book Gems of the East(1970:91): Christianity is the religion of Jesus Christ, the religion which He taught and by which He Himself lived. Its great purpose is the Kingdom of God, that is the rule of God in your heart and mine and in the hearts of all men. Jesus taught us to seek first this Kingdom. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33). He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10): By constant preaching and in many parables he taught the nature of this Kingdom. It is the rule of God in man’s hearts and is revealed in our loving service to fellow men. Or this phrase, “Kingdom of God”, may refer at times to the community of those over whom God rules and who acknowledge God as their ruler. This special purpose set before us by Jesus embraces all truth, beauty and goodness. We welcome as part of the Christian truth all that is true in Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and the Baha’i faith. …To that, I say, “Amen”. We can talk all we like about the Cosmic Christ, the Mythic Christ,the World Teacher, and so forth - and there is much of truth and value and worthy ofretention and preservation in all of that - but, at the end of the day, Christianity, properlyunderstood, interpreted and applied, must surely be the religion of Jesus Christ, the religionwhich he taught, and by which he lived.437 That does not make me a fundamentalist or evenan evangelical of any kind, and I am certainly not advocating that the Liberal CatholicChristianity.436 I have since learned that all of life is eternal, that there is “only one Eternal Life and that is [Christ] Himself”(Raynes 1961:64).437 Having said that, whilst we must be careful to avoid a religion about Jesus in the way most traditionalchurches have done, Angus (1934a:4) was undoubtedly correct when he wrote: “The early Christians weresupremely right in having not only a gospel of Jesus but a gospel about Jesus” [emphasis in the original]. Theimportant thing is that the latter must not be antipathetic to the former, otherwise our religion is something otherthan Christianity. 176
  • Church go down that path, for to do so would, in my opinion, be a complete perversion ofwhat Jesus actually taught. However, unless we truly believe that “Jesus Christ himself [is]the chief corner-stone”438 of our religion and of the spiritual temple each of us is building inour respective hearts, minds and souls, then I think we are doomed as a church. Dr Mowlehas written (2007:183): Jesus the man literally became that which all mankind is called to embrace when individually appropriate: becoming one with all that is, i.e. the Father.I am a liberal Christian because I do not believe that Jesus was, or ever claimed to be, Godin any exclusive or unique sense to be god. Divine, yes, but not God in any exclusive orunique sense. I believe in the Divinity of Jesus, but not the supposed Deity of Jesus.439 As Isee it, the essential message of Jesus of Nazareth is this – we are all divine. Jesus himselfaffirmed, “Is it not written in your law, I said ye are gods” (Jn 10:34; cf Ps 82:6). I am also aliberal Christian because I reject many other so-called orthodox Christian doctrines such asvicarious atonement (at least as traditionally understood), the total depravity of humankind,belief in the bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus, belief in the virgin birth (again, literallyinterpreted), other so-called “supernatural” miracles440 generally, Biblical infallibility andinerrancy, and so on.Nevertheless, I truly believe that Jesus is much more than a teacher, moral exemplar andway-shower. Although one can seek and find the Divine in various places, sources andpersons (for example, in nature, in the world’s various sacred scriptures, in corporateworship, prayer and meditation, and so forth), I fundamentally and primarily encounter theDivine through and in the person of Jesus, whose Divine personality abides in each of us asour potential perfection. In that sense, for me at least, Jesus is a unique personage, my“Lord”, because he reveals in a very special and preeminent way - more so than other HolyOnes whose lives I have studied in some depth over the years - both the nature andessence of the Divine Life which is love (cf 1 Jn 4:8) and the nature of my manifoldimperfections and shortcomings. If God is Love, and one’s experience of God is primarily438 Emphasis added.439 Burt (1960a) makes the valid point that the belief that Jesus was God places “an unbridgeable gulf …between Christ and mankind”.440 Dr Norman Vincent Peale, in Peale and Blanton (1955:235) defines a miracle as “a phenomenon notexplainable by existing natural law”, as opposed to an alleged phenomenon that supposedly violates somenatural law (cf David Hume’s fallacy). Peale’s definition makes sense, and is consistent with both LiberalCatholic and Theosophical thought on the matter, provided the reference to “existing natural law” is understoodas referring to “presently known” natural laws. 177
  • mediated to us through others, then Jesus is God in a form that I can understand and relateto. Not exclusively or exhaustively or uniquely God, but God nevertheless, as we are all partof God’s Self-Expression in varying degrees of manifestation, expression and development.In short, “Jesus is the fundamental sacrament of God” (Rohr and Martos 1989:8).What about the idea of Jesus as “Saviour”? Well, certainly not in the sense of Jesus dyingfor our sins on the Cross at Calvary, because on the basis of my prayerful reading of theBible Jesus did not think that his death was in any way necessary to secure ourforgiveness.441 What is the evidence and authority for such an assertion? The authority ofJesus himself. One need only read the Lord’s Prayer, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son,among other portions of Scripture, in order to conclude that once we are truly sorrow forany wrong that we have done, and reverently and humbly turn to the Light of Truth, then oursins are forgiven. Karma can be seen to be no more than the unwanted, but otherwisenecessary effects of unlearned lessons - in the words of Geoffrey Hodson, “karmaproducing transgressions” resulting from “deficiencies of character” (Hodson 1930:54-55).Once we have learned the lesson, and moved on, the karma dissipates. I have alreadymentioned that each one of us must “work out our [own] salvation with fear and trembling”(Phil 2:12), although help is available from others, both visible and invisible, and thatincludes Jesus.Now, having said all that, there is a very real sense in which Jesus “saves”. If one is lost ina very dark and heavily wooded forest (in this case, a forest of largely self-imposedselfishness, self-absorption, self-obsession, loveless behaviour and a state of profoundseparation from others and from one’s true Self), and someone, in this case Jesus, canprovide a means of escape and show you the way out of the forest - this state of spiritualdarkness - and bring you back into the light of day, then that person may rightly be referredto as one’s saviour, metaphorically or otherwise,442 but we must still make the decision, and441 True, Mk 10:45 says, “The Son of Man came … to give his life a ransom for many”, but Higher Criticismmakes it clear that those words come from Mark or the editor. Indeed, the words occur in a portion of Mk10:41-45 which is known as a duplicate of another portion (viz Mk 9:33-35) in which the “ransom” idea is whollyabsent. In fact, there is no reference to Jesus’ martyrdom at all. The obvious interpolation represents not ateaching of Jesus but the faith of the church. As for Mt 26:28 (“For this is my blood of the new testament, whichis shed for many for the remission of sins”), the last mentioned words (“for the remission of sins”) are, as criticalcommentators such as Dr Vincent Taylor have pointed out, a comment added by the evangelist andunauthentic.442 This is a way of recognizing the redemptive power of the Cross (see Clebsch 1974) whilst eschewingaltogether, as we must, crude and otherwise unacceptable notions of expiatory and propitiatory sacrifice. 178
  • put in the effort, to leave the forest. No one else - not even Jesus – can do that for us.Sometime Australian Liberal Catholic priest and Theosophist Brian Parry expressed it wellwhen he wrote (1962:7): As St Paul wrote to Timothy – “Christ Jesus came to save sinners” Saved, it should be noted, not from hell but from sin itself.443Yes, the “sin” which, as mentioned previously, has an “I” in the middle, the essence ofwhich is selfishness, self-absorption and self-centredness. I am not talking about salvationby blood or any form of expiatory or propitiatory sacrifice. I am talking about “vicariousspirituality” whereby the Holy Ones - not just Jesus - are able “to show [us] the light [we]seek, give [us] the strong aid of their compassion and their wisdom” (from the First RayBenediction, Liturgy 222, 240). By means of their expanded consciousness, they are able toperpetually stimulate all who genuinely seek their spiritual energy and self-giving and enterinto their spiritual sphere of influence, such that we are freed “from our old Adamic, sinfulself, into the freedom of a ‘life hid with Christ in God’” (Parry 1962:7).For me, Jesus’ spiritual potency and energy - derived from his self-giving and overcoming -are part of the life of the race and are also a living symbol and allegory of that cosmic Self-giving by which the whole world is nourished, sustained and maintained. What Jesus, inparticular, and other Holy Ones have done is to establish a consciousness of Spirit, whetherin the form of an “oversoul” or otherwise, into which all committed followers may enter andbe nourished and strengthened. As Mowle (2007:183) has rightly pointed out, some (I think,too many) Liberal Catholics think that it is “through our own striving alone that we’ll arrive atthe ‘kingdom’ of full consciousness”.444 In the words of Samuel Angus (see Dougan1971:13-14): By the glory of His incarnation and through the power of His indissoluble life He has brought, and continues to bring, many sons to the glory of their divine sonship, that He may be the First-born among the many brothers whom He is not ashamed to call brothers.True, the historical Jesus and the Christ (or various Christs) of faith coalesce in a mannerthat makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to separate them, but perhaps that it is a443 Cf 1 Tim 1:15 (“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world tosave sinners; of whom I am chief”).444 Emphasis added. 179
  • good thing. If anything, it adds credence to the historicity of Jesus. As Shorto (1997:123)points out: We may see an echo here [in the Gospel accounts of the turning of water into wine] of how the Jesus Christ legend, as it grew and gained momentum, consumed stories associated with older deities, resulting in the pastiche of wondrous deeds found in the New Testament. But this is not a simple dismissal of the significance of this miracle. The more one reads the gospels with critical but searching eyes, the more one becomes convinced of the depth of layers they contain: not just historical layers, but layers of symbolism and fecund devotion. If the John tradition appropriated this miracle from the Dionysus cult, it also wove and rewove it into a fabric rich with shaded meanings. ... Thanks to Jesus, the party can begin all over again. Water and wine – the source of life and the source of intoxication, of organic ecstasy – were vital symbols for the earliest Christians, as evidenced by the fact that they became incorporated into the Christian liturgy, along with other root symbols: bread, blood.I mentioned above the notion of “salvation” – a concept which is an anathema to many, ifnot most, Liberal Catholics, but it need not be so.445 Salvation, in the proper Biblical sense,is a past, present and future reality, all at the same time. Saint Paul writes (see 1 Cor15:1-2): Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.First, we were saved by the power of the written and spoken Word of God (and, for LiberalCatholics, that includes the Ancient Wisdom), which is the very impress of Christ’s Spiritwithin us as that “still, small voice” - a past reality.Next, we are in the process of being saved - a present reality - for so long as we standfirmly in faith and remain part of Christ’s Mystical Body the Church, and the sacramentsplay a vital part here for they keep us in touch not only with Christ Jesus of history but themystical indwelling God-Presence within each of us.446 That is part of the reason why I am aliberal Christian in the Catholic sacramental tradition. We may be travellers on the path toeternity, but in our present earthly state we are otherwise bound in time and space, so how445 Wedgwood (1976b:15) uses the word “Salvation” but immediately offers the following alternative expressions:“Nirvana, Liberation, Fulfilment – whatever word one likes to use.”446 In Zen Buddhism the state of one’s awareness and realization of one’s true spiritual nature (“the Self”, orUltimate Reality) is called kensho or satori (meaning “seeing into one’s True Nature” or discovering “Big Mindand Big Heart”). 180
  • else can we ever hope to make contact with what is a Mystery except through our senses?In that regard, Croucher (nd:Online) writes, every so insightfully: The sacraments are external realities that first touch our senses. Through the messages that reach and get through our senses Christ “speaks” and “touches” the depths of our being …Finally, we will be saved - a future reality – if we hold fast to the reality of the Omnipresenceand Omnipotence of God (the “real presence” of Christ not only in the sacraments but in allof life) and never forget the lessons we have been privileged and honoured to learn. Thisknowledge, or gnosis, is a free and unearned gift from God Itself, and is revealed mostsupremely and preeminently in the person of Jesus but also in the lives of all the Holy Oneswho have descended into incarnation to help us on our journey to our eternal home.The sacraments of the Church make all of this real to us, in the Eternal Now, beyond thelimited confines of time and space. Wedgwood (1976b:17) writes: This is the truth which lies behind the old theological idea of the “free gift of grace”. Because of this unity of life, the Elder Brothers of the race can pour out upon us blessing altogether surpassing in measure that which we can earn or merit for ourselves. It is through this law that Our Lord, as the “first among many brethren”, can give us His Divine Life through the Sacraments that He instituted for this purpose.Croucher (nd:Online) also makes this important point: The presence of Christ in the ordinary events of our lives and his presence in the sacraments are not in opposition to each other. In the sacraments we celebrate in a special ritual way the love of Christ we experience in our lives. In turn, these celebrations help us become more aware of the presence of Christ in all our human experiences...For me, participation in and reception of the sacraments (especially the Holy Eucharist), inaddition to other non-liturgical forms of spiritual practice, provides opportunities to not onlyaffirm in some intellectual sense but also directly experience what the late Bishop Burt, inhis Provincial News article entitled “Is Jesus God?”, referred to as “the Immanence of Godin all, that Christ shares the One Divine-life with all mankind, that He differs from man not innature, but only in degree of development” (1960a).Although I was brought up, first as a Baptist, and then in my University undergraduate yearsas a Sydney Anglican, to reject all notions of “Real Presence”, “Transubstantiation”, and the 181
  • like, and to treat the bread and the wine on the Communion Table - there was no altar,heaven forbid – as mere “elements” (and not even true symbols) of the Body and Blood ofJesus, it is now the case that, since my first association with the Liberal Catholic Church,my present and ongoing encounter with the Eucharistic Lord is one that is palpably real tome. The Lord that I encounter in the consecrated Host is not only the Jesus of both mychildhood and my adulthood mediated by means of the creative power of the Spirit of Life,revealed knowledge as well as imaginative mystic reflection, but also the indwelling Christwho created all things, is in all things as all things, and whose very Real Presence in and tome is “nearer to me than hands and feet, indwelling in my very heart” (Raynes 1961:67). Inthe consecrated wafer is all of life – past, present and future – and that includes the manwho once walked this earth known as Jesus of Nazareth as well as the indwelling Presenceand “substance” of all persons and all created things. In and by means of the Eucharist, Ifeel an intuitive connectedness, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, with all of life. Tothis wonderful, mysterious Self-revelation and experience of Life Itself – a veritable“microcosm of the Macrocosm” (Hodson 1977:26), I can only say, with deep humility andthankfulness, “... My LORD and my God” (cf Jn 20:28).Jesus’ followers were originally known as “people of the way”. Jesus, in his vision of theAnonymous Christ (see Mt 25:34-40) offers us, as a Church and as individuals, both avision and a challenge. The call to follow Jesus is not a call to worship Jesus. He neversought nor wanted that. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the distinguished American Baptistminister, author and academic, wrote (1933:118 [SCM edition]): The world has tried in two ways to get rid of Jesus: first, by crucifying him, and second, by worshipping him. The first did not succeed. It required more than a cross to stop the influence of that transcendent character. ... The world, therefore, foiled in its first attempt to be rid of Jesus by crucifying him, turned to the second, far more subtle and fatal way of disposing of great spiritual leadership – it worshipped him.No, Jesus did not seek our worship. The Way of Jesus is a call to follow – that is, to followJesus’ path, to live as he lived, and to serve others as he did. Fosdick wrote that a Christianis one who answers Jesus’ two-worded appeal, “Follow me”. Thus, it is written: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.447447 1 Pet 2:21. 182
  • The Presbyterian theologian Samuel Angus, referred to previously, described a Christian asa person who is inwardly and whose life is moulded after that of Jesus. Roman Catholicpriest Harry Morrissey (2004:63-64) has written of the need to rediscover the divinity ofJesus in and through his humanity: Speak of Jesus as a man like us making our human discoveries, and it will be classed as heretical denial of his divinity [sic]. The tragedy does not lie in our being accused like that, but that our fellow Christians have been left in ignorance of the very dynamic of the Christian Mystery! ... Yet the wonder of faith, located deep in the Mystery of the Incarnation, can only emerge for us within this very human Jesus with all his mortal limits. The energy we are to find in the Mystery of God lies with bringing together as one two seeming opposites, without diminishing the path of truth on either side ... .Morrissey then goes on (2004:64) to refer to the respective notions of immanence andtranscendence on the one hand, and humanity and divinity on the other.Vines (1970:93) wrote that “[t]he Cross of Jesus has ever been a magnet to draw men toHim, and self-sacrifice ever stands in the centre of the Christian life”. It is in that sense onlythat the Cross saves, when we, in self-sacrifice, take up our own cross on a daily basis andwalk the path that leads to righteousness (see Ellis-Jones 2009). The power to live such alife comes directly from the Spirit of God, through faith in God (cf Mk 11:22). The method bywhich we live such a life is ... love (see Vines 1970:93), for it is written (see Mk 12:30-31): And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.I am also reminded of something else that Dr Angus wrote, which is contained in hiswonderful book Jesus in the Lives of Men (1934a:98-99): Jesus is not accredited to us today by his miracles, or by a virgin birth, or by a resurrection from an underworld, or by a reanimation of his body from the grave, or by fulfillment of prophecies; he is accredited by his long train of conquests over the loyalties of men, and chiefly by the immediate, intimate and inevitable appeal made by him to everything that is best and God-like in each of us, and by his ability to “make men fall in love with him”, and “to win the world to his fair sanctities”.Liberal Catholics have traditionally had a strong aversion to the crucifix, which, up to apoint, is perfectly understandable given the association of the crucifix with the traditional 183
  • Christian notion of vicarious atonement – a notion that Liberal Catholics, along with otherreligious liberals such as Unitarians, have rightly condemned as “a perverse and perniciouscorruption and distortion of true Christianity if ever there was one” (Ellis-Jones2008c:Online).Thus, Leadbeater [1920/1929/1967] 1967:129), after referring to Origen as “the mostbrilliant and learned of all the ecclesiastical Fathers”, quotes from Dean Inge’s classic textChristian Mysticism in which Inge writes that Origen taught that “the Gnostic or sage nolonger needs the crucified Christ”. I respectfully disagree. As Leslie Weatherhead pointedout in a sermon entitled “The Power of the Crucified and Risen Christ” (see Weatherhead1953:187), the Cross on which Jesus died is ... the symbol of the greatest energy the universe knows – the divine love which suffers, but never bullies; which knocks, but never burgles; which waits, but never breaks down our resistance; and goes on loving and goes on loving until frankly there is nothing else you can do but surrender to it. It is overwhelming, never tiring, and utterly convincing. It expresses the highest values humanity knows.448The Very Rev Dr Ronald Rivett, a former Vicar-General of the Liberal Catholic Church inAustralia, and someone who does not share the traditional Liberal Catholic aversion to theCrucifix (provided its true meaning is properly understood and articulated), has written ofthis Power of the Crucified and Risen Christ in the following terms (see Rivett [nd]2008c:83): We have to remember that even in history – especially in history – Jesus was not dragged screaming to his crucifixion. He said quite clearly that he was laying down his life of his own free will. So what we see on the Cross is what Jesus wants us to see - a man filled with God, giving the totality of himself in sacrifice to a greater and higher good, as a matter of utter necessity. We see there, on the Cross, self- offering and self-emptying personified. We see a complete rejection of self- concern. And we perceive above all the motivation for all this – a wholly pure, selfless and universal love, which is indeed God’s love fully manifest. Jesus is saying to us from the Cross: “This is the self-giving I want you all to attain. Only in this way can you awaken to new, full, timeless or eternal Life, in the Presence of the Father’s glory. So take up your cross, and follow me.” But this symbol of his Crucifixion implies rather an infinite degree of self-giving, and need not be taken as a recommended harsh mode of suffering. There is no need for us to be nailed to a cross! Crucifixion is not a stereotype of self-renunciation or self-forgetfulness, but an extreme example of it: a potent symbol that has been strong enough to stand the test of time, and to have sufficient dramatic impact on our consciousness, waken us out of complacency, and spur us to emulation. We448 See also Ellis-Jones (2008b). 184
  • humans invariably need a shock to get us moving! We have to be shown Truth larger than life. Gentle persuasion would seem to be a waste of time!449Baptist pastor John Piper in his book The Passion of Jesus Christ spoke, not dissimilarly,about what it means to follow Jesus and to undergo crucifixion (2004:94-95): In a sense, the Calvary road is where everyone meets Jesus. It’s true that he has already walked the road, and died, and risen, and now reigns in heaven until he comes again. But when Christ meets a person today, it is always on the Calvary road – on the way to the cross. Every time he meets someone on the Calvary road he says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When Christ went to the cross, his aim was to call a great band of believers after him. The reason for this is not that Jesus must die again today, but that we must. When he bids us take up our cross, he means come and die. ... “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).There is another sense in which the symbolic power of the Crucifix appeals to me, and itwas never more beautifully and powerfully expressed than in a sermon delivered by one ofthe greatest American Unitarian ministers of all time, A Powell Davies, who was for manyyears the pastor of All Souls Church in Washington DC and the author of many scholarlytexts (see, eg, Davies 1956a and 1956b). The Rev Dr Davies wrote (1946:Online): And if we turn to the New Testament we have to remember that Christianity began, after all, not only with a life, beautifully lived, but with a certain man nailed to a cross. A man who cried that his God had forsaken him, yet somehow knew that he was not forsaken. As I have often said, I have no use, myself, for the conventional Protestant cross, that shiny brass thing with no man on it. In that respect at any rate, the Catholics did better: they left the man on the cross. I could never accept a Catholic creed but I have known for years that the crucifix, a cross with a man on it, was at the real heart of Christianity and an ultimate authentic symbol. What it is trying to say to the world is that faith is not to be had cheaply; that if we will not reckon with the tragic we shall never know the deeper essence of religion; and I think it is also saying that not even God can take mankind off its cross until a world is made that does not crucify the true, the just and the loving; a world that does not stone its prophets and resist the living God whose spirit burns in what they say.Now, that is a mature vision of the Cross (indeed the Catholic cross, or crucifix), coming asit does from a religious liberal in a church that, even in 1946, was very much a post-Christian one. Yes, there on the Cross, Jesus was utterly defenceless and vulnerablebeyond belief. It seemed as if he did not even have the protection of God Himself: “My God,my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).450449 Emphasis in the original. Rivett is, of course, right. Jesus gave up his life voluntarily, as his ultimate act ofsacrificial self-giving, consistent with the way he lived his entire life. From a cosmic or more esoteric point ofview, Wedgwood is also correct when he states (1929:68) that the sacrifice of Christ, the Second Person of theBlessed Trinity, was “an act of self-oblation, made voluntarily”. 185
  • As already mentioned, Jesus preached the Kingdom of God (referred to in Matthew’sgospel as the “Kingdom of Heaven”).451 Just like the concept of salvation itself, the Kingdomof God is a past, present and future reality, all at the same time, and whereas the Jews ofJesus’ day were expecting the coming of the Kingdom, it was an earthly kingdom they wereexpecting. Jesus, however, speaks of an altogether different type of kingdom – namely, aspiritual or heavenly one. The Kingdom of God is a multi-faceted concept embracing all ofthe following: • the mighty “tide” of God’s Life and the indwelling presence of God in every part of our being, and in all created things, • the rule, sovereignty and reign of God in our hearts, minds and souls, as the indwelling reality of ourselves, but most importantly as revealed in self-sacrifice and loving service to others, • the community of those over whom God rules and who acknowledge God as their ruler, • the most intimate and inmost state of consciousness and interior awareness within us (the “secret place of the most High”: Ps 91:1)452 in which we are aware of, and can know, feel and “touch” (that is, experience), the Presence, Power and Love of God, together with an inner, spiritual assurance of our union with the Divine, manifesting itself in equanimity, poise, dignity, truthfulness, absolute honesty, deliberateness and a lack of precipitancy, • that which is our highest good and most valuable treasure (cf Mt 13:45-46: the “pearl of great price”), manifesting itself as a state of being quickened in spirit,450 This notion of the “ultimate defencelessness” of Jesus on the Cross was a major theme in the writings of thesometime Lutheran pastor and neo-orthodox (but otherwise quasi-liberal) theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.451 The phrase “Kingdom of God” does not appear in the Hebrew Holy Scriptures (the “Old Testament” of theChristian Bible). The writer of Matthew’s gospel had in mind a Jewish audience and readership, hence hisapparent reluctance to use the name of “God”. Additionally, the Jews were expecting an entirely different kind ofkingdom.452 Holmes (1956), referring to the “secret place of the most High”, would always make it clear that this “place”was not a location but “a state of thought, an interior awareness, a spiritual faith”. 186
  • • eternal life,453 not so much in the sense of ever-enduring or never-ending life (or “life after death”, the latter being a most unbiblical concept) but life entered in the present and otherwise lived at a very deep and meaningful level, that is, the kind of life that Jesus and other Holy Ones have lived throughout the centuries as well as the godly knowledge and the godly wisdom that flows from such a life (cf Jn 10:10: “... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”; Jn 17:3: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God …”), and • an ideal state of both human society and the church, both being progressively transformed to a higher and better level, manifested especially by healings of various kinds and at various levels.454The Kingdom of God is a past reality because it has been in preparation - and beenprepared for us - from the very foundation of the world (“the kingdom prepared for you fromthe foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34)) in the form of … the Oneness That spans the fathomless deeps of space And the measureless eons of time, Binding them together in act, As we do in thought. … … the unity Of all that is, The uniformity of all that moves, The rhythm of all things And the nature of their interaction.455So wrote Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. The greatAmerican Unitarian minister of yesteryear Robert T Weston expressed it beautifully whenhe wrote: There is a living web that runs through us To all the universe Linking us each with each and through all life453 The expression “eternal life” is used frequently in the Gospel of John to refer to what is otherwise referred to,described and known as the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” in the Synoptic Gospels.454 See also Murphy (1997) and the writings of Ken Wilber on the subject of transpersonal psychology.455 Excerpted from “God the Life of Nature” (by Mordecai M Kaplan) in Liebman (1946:170). 187
  • On to distant stars.456The Kingdom of God is also a present reality. And what did Jesus say about the Kingdom ofGod? Well, many things, but perhaps his greatest pronouncement on the Kingdom is this,“… the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21).457 This is the true “good news” of theChristian gospel. Not coincidentally, it is also the essence of the Ancient Wisdom that lies atthe heart of all religion, properly construed.As a present reality, Jesus revealed that the Kingdom of God was already present in hisown life. Jesus formed a community that strove, in steadfast service, to be a living model ofGod’s reign. Liberal Catholic priest Raymond J Blanch (1971:89), in referring to what isknown as the “First Ray Benediction”, writes this about the particular benediction: It assumes the Kingdom of God as existing now; it assumes that the members of that Kingdom, the “Holy Ones”, the Communion of Saints, assist those who have made themselves ready to enter into the lower ranks of that kingdom. ...458The Kingdom of God is also a future reality: ... The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.459We accept the Kingdom of God (the “good news” of the Christian gospel), and help to makeit a future reality as well, by building it here on earth – a kingdom that will develop and growto maturity with Jesus as the Great Exemplar, inspiring us all to believe that God is love (1Jn 4:8) and to follow his example, which we do when we give life to others. 460 Yes, “Thykingdom come” (Mt 6:10), and we need to pray and affirm that because - and I includemyself in this - not yet are all of us, or perhaps any of us, ruled by God in every thought,456 Excerpted from “The Web of Life” (by Robert T Weston) in Montgomery (2001). For the full meditation, “TheWeb of Life”, see <>(viewed 19 March 2009).457 See also Mt 11:12; Lk 16:16. In Lk 17:21 the Greek word entos is used. Jesus used that word on only oneother reported occasion (see Mt 23:36). The “better” view, despite differences in various versions of the Bible, isthat Jesus was referring to a kingdom that was “within” us, as opposed to one that was either “in the midst of” usor “among” us.458 Speaking personally, I have one some problem with Blanch’s choice of words, namely, his reference to “thelower ranks of [the] Kingdom”, preferring the view that all are equal in the eyes of the Lord, and in the Kingdomof God, notwithstanding that there is much that we can learn, and still have to learn, from those Holy Ones whohave gone before us.459 Rev 11:15. See also Rev 19:11-16 as well as Acts 3:21 (the time of universal restoration).460 Holmes (1956) writes that we may “”enter in and possess this kingdom of good if we have the will to do so”,but first “we must have faith that such a kingdom exists”. 188
  • word and deed. In The Problem of Christianity the American objective idealist philosopherJosiah Royce461 ([1913] 2001) saw the main “office” (his word) or function of religion asbeing “the creation on earth of the Beloved Community”. The Kingdom of God, in afuturistic sense, also refers to those “vast cosmic cycles” (Fosdick 1929a: 555) in whichLife, otherwise indestructible but always in a state of change, forever manifests Itself in oneform or another … ever onward, Godward and upward.The Kingdom of God – a past reality, a present reality … and a future reality. The LiberalCatholic Church began as an adventist church. It believed that the Kingdom of God, in theform of a return of the World Teacher, was again about to manifest Itself in a very specialway, just as had happened previously with Jesus. “The Coming has gone wrong”, BishopLeadbeater is quoted as having said privately (see Tillett 1982:230). Perhaps not, for in avery real and eternal sense the Kingdom, or the Coming, is an event which is alwaysmanifesting itself on earth.Further, the Kingdom is not synonymous with any particular church or other organization. Ifanything, despite the purported words of Jesus (“... thou art Peter, and upon this rock I willbuild my church ...” (Mt 16:18)), I truly believe that Jesus came first and foremost toproclaim the coming of a Kingdom as opposed to forming a church. Nevertheless, I amfirmly of the view that the task of the extension and fulfillment of the Kingdom of God (andthe brotherhood/sisterhood of all humanity – the “Beloved Community”)462 is the first, andmost important, purpose of our Church. Indeed, if we are doing our “work” right as LiberalCatholic Christians, we should start to see evidence of the manifestation of the Kingdom inour Church life as well as in our own individual lives.In short, the Kingdom of God has always been, is now, but is also not as yet.463So, for me, Jesus, the preeminent harbinger and apologist for the Kingdom of God, existsnot just as a historical person but as a living presence and power that is an integral part ofmy consciousness, my intellect, my emotions and my will. Even more importantly, he461 Josiah Royce (1855-1916) was the author of many highly regarded published works, perhaps the mostimportant ones being The Religious Aspects of Philosophy, The World and the Individual and The Problem ofChristianity.462 Martin Luther King Jr used the expression, the “Beloved Community”, a lot in his speeches and writings.Possibly the earliest use of the expression was in the writings of Josiah Royce.463 As regards the Kingdom of God simultaneously being both present and future, see Mt 25:34, 1 Cor 15:50, 2Ti 4:18, and 2 Pet 1:10-11. 189
  • becomes really present to me in the sacraments of the Liberal Catholic Church464 as well asin the power of the written words of Sacred Scripture. Building upon the Ancient Wisdomwhich our Church must forever retain and promote, Jesus is a living symbol of theperfectibility of each one of us as well as the promise of our ultimate redemption – theembodiment and affirmation that all things and all people will eventually be restored to God,or their Source, or Original Essence. This is referred to in the Bible, in Acts 3:21, as the“restitution of all things”, or the “restoration of all” (apokatastasis panton). Jesus affirmedour innate divinity, our innate perfectibility, and our ultimate oneness with the One who isLife Itself. He affirmed that we are, or at least ought to be, the light of the world. He neverclaimed anything for himself that he did not also claim for those who were his followers.Jesus Christ is “the chief corner-stone” of my Christian faith and practice, and, as part of thevery Consciousness of Life which is God Himself, Jesus is objectively real to me, not onlyas part of my own consciousness and as a “Real Objective Presence” in the services of theChurch, especially those of the Holy Eucharist and Solemn Benediction, but also by meansof what Roman Catholic priest Christopher Kiesling has referred to as “imaginativereflection”: Although all men do not experience Jesus Christ as his disciples did, he is accessible to men’s experience ever since he lived. He can be experienced imaginatively. Imaginative experience of Jesus results from a combination of (1) the witness borne to Jesus in the Gospels by those who directly experienced him, (2) imaginative reflection on Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, together with acceptance of him as a real and living person whose influence one sincerely wishes to feel in one’s life, and (3) the guidance and enlightenment of the Spirit of God.Cynics and skeptics may say this is no better than having an “imaginary friend”, but there isa real difference. Imaginary friends are just that – imaginary. In the case of the man Jesus, Iam more than comfortably satisfied that he did, in fact, exist and that, through theimmortality of the human spirit, still exists. Weatherhead, in his seminal book TheTransforming Friendship, wrote, “I think the essence of the matter might be stated by sayingthat Christianity is the acceptance of the gift of friendship of Jesus” ([1928] 1930:25).Further, as the title of Weatherhead’s book indicates, this friendship is transformative innature – “a fact which we symbolize in the Hoy Communion, for in communion with Jesus464 Wedgwood (1976b:16) rhetorically asks the question, “Why do we celebrate the Holy Eucharist?”, beforeimmediately providing this answer: “We do so because Our Lord himself said to His apostles and theirsuccessors: ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’” (See Lk 22:19.) 190
  • our very souls feed on His nature as our bodies feed on bread” ([1928] 1930:95). However,we must still be careful with what Kiesling has referred to as “imaginative reflection”, for, asis written (by one “L J B” [sic]) in the foreword to Wedgwood’s helpful little book Meditationfor Beginners (1961:8): But it must be a real Master who is sought, not a personal idea of Him. It has been said: “Man makes God after his own image”. This can be applied equally to the Master. Yet both God and Masters exist in Their own right, and it is these self- existent Beings we should try to find, not merely our own wishful idea of Them. …Although God is not a Person - for if He were he would be finite and therefore not God - thephilosophy and movement of Personalism (also known as “Boston Personalism”), that wereassociated with and led by the theologian and philosopher Borden Parker Bowne (seeBowne 1887) at Boston University in the early 20th century,465 and which emphasized theperson as the fundamental category for explaining reality, even going so far as to assertthat only persons were real and enduring in the ontological sense and had both value andfree will, provide a means by which we can appropriate, both mystically and by way ofimitation of character,466 the Personhood of Jesus, filling us with a “high endeavour” andmaking us ever “mindful of [his] indwelling presence” (Liturgy 220, 238). As a sidelight, thegreat rationalist and skeptic J B S Haldane, of Cambridge University, England, alsoregarded “personality [as] the great central fact of the universe” (Haldane, cited in Fosdick1929b:52). Fosdick himself wrote (1929a:555): If one thing more than another seems to fly in the face of appearances, it is the statement that personality is the primary and victorious element in this universe. … Take it or leave it, that is what Christianity is about. That is its guiding star and dynamic faith. Personality, the most valuable thing in the universe, revealing the real nature of the creative power and the ultimate meaning of creation, the only eternal element in a world of change, the only thing worth investing everything in, and in terms of service to which all else must be judged – that is the essential Christian creed. …Anglican priest William Weston (1976:13) expressed it well when he wrote:465 Some famous theological students and graduates of Boston University, whose theological school wasrenowned for its religious liberalism, who were influenced to varying degrees by Personalism include the Rev DrNorman Vincent Peale and the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The late Pope John Paul II, who did not attendBoston University, and who was otherwise much more conservative in his theology than Peale and King, wasnevertheless also influenced to some extent by Personalism.466 Cf Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (New York: Pocket Library, 1954). 191
  • In these days we have to find Jesus as he is revealed in the New Testament and see him as God in all the glory and humility of his complete humanity.The Future of the Liberal Catholic ChurchBishop F W Pigott, a former Presiding Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church, oncedescribed the Church as being a “Divine society ... a body corporate which is ensouled bythe life of the Lord Himself ... [and] an apparatus, a piece of intricate mechanism, by meansof which grace or spiritual benediction is brought from on high and distributed far and wide”(foreword, Hodson 1930:vii).The age in which we now live has been variously described philosophically andecclesiastically as being Post-Denominationalist, Post-Modernist and Post-Christian,among other things, and there is truth in all of that. It is my respectful opinion andsubmission that there are basically two important things the Liberal Catholic Church needsto do in order to survive, especially in Australia. Those two things are as follows: 1. We need to rediscover, or perhaps discover for the first time, the true Jesus, and the true meaning of the Kingdom of God, without simply being another liberal Christian Church. 2. We need to remain a mystical, sacramental and healing Christian church in the Catholic tradition, but in a way which not only provides a vehicle for the continuance and promulgation of the Ancient Wisdom or gnosis but which more fully takes into account and synthesizes such matters as the “new physics”, psychology and other disciplines and techniques such as transpersonal psychology.467I will deal with each in turn.First, as I see it, the Liberal Catholic Church needs to rediscover, or perhaps discover forthe first time, the true Jesus. For too long, we have simply dismissed him by either doubtingor otherwise questioning the relevancy of his very historicity468 or simply rejecting what isotherwise a caricature of the real Jesus who believed that we are all little gods, not just467 See Wilber (1996 and 1998) and Murphy (1997).468 See Mowle (2007:182-184). 192
  • gods in the making, that nothing is impossible to us if we believe, and that we are notmiserable sinners (for he never called anyone a sinner). As Mowle (2007:184) has rightlypointed out, “we Liberal Catholics [need to] have another look at the Jesus story, in the lightof some of the more recent work coming from the investigations of modern early-Churchscholars”. In that regard, although I reject their conservative evangelicalism, one cannotdispute the depth of scholarship of persons such as N T Wright, the Anglican Bishop ofDurham, and Paul Barnett, the former Anglican Bishop of North Sydney, whose seminalwritings on early Christianity are probably unknown to most Liberal Catholics.It is one thing to “move within the orbit of Christianity” - as the Liberal Catholic Church hasalways claimed to do - it is something else altogether to follow Jesus and promulgate hisreal message and teaching. At the risk of repeating myself, we ought not to be becomeChristian fundamentalists or evangelicals, nor should we be just another liberal ChristianChurch that is solely or primarily committed to matters such as socio-economic and politicalchange.469 No, we must remain a sacramental, mystical and healing church in the CatholicChristian tradition that is nevertheless ever-open to the wisdom and inspiration from otherreligions, in particular, the Ancient Wisdom which, I believe, Jesus espoused, albeit at timesin different words and thought forms. Rivett ([nd] 2008c) writes: Jesus, being one with his Father through self-renunciation, contained the fullness of the Divine Consciousness, and so of course commanded the Father’s authority and power amongst mankind. .. … Jesus the fullness of [the] Cosmic Christ was (and is) manifest, and that he has shown us that that Christ is indeed our own indwelling life.As Mowle (2007:182) has written, we, as Liberal Catholics, every time we celebrate theHoly Eucharist, “confront in no uncertain way a Jesus who at one time truly shared in ourcollective humanity, as well as proving that its limitations could be surpassed”. I suspectthat most Liberal Catholics have little or no understanding of, or any real desire tounderstand, the enormous import and implications of Dr Mowle’s words.Douglas Lockhart has written of the “lost secret”, “lost heart” and “lost truth” of Christianity.Lockhart says that this “lost heart” is “not something to be believed, but something to beexperienced”, and that the “lost truth” is not so much lost as “merely mislaid”469 Sadly, this has happened to the Unitarian Universalist denomination in the United States of America and to alarge extent to much of the Uniting Church in Australia. 193
  • (2006:5:Online). After stating that Jesus’ mind “wasn’t centred on God ... it was centred inGod” (2006:5:Online),470 and that “what [we] need to search for first is not God, or Jesus,but [oneself]” (2006:6:Online), Lockhart goes on to write about, among other things, theneed for a proper appreciation of Jesus’ unique understanding of the Kingdom of God andfor the ability or willingness to get to the heart of the Christian message. Both of thosethings will require that we repudiate most, if not all, of the Christian Church’s traditionalinterpretation of the New Testament story. Lockhart writes (2006:7:Online): Weve been hoodwinked. With regard to our spiritual education we have been led away from our depths and furnished with a surface-bound vision carrying the long- term capacity to do us more harm than good. Approaching God via this vision, we end up in the arms of a Jewish Messiah reconstituted as God, and blissfully while away the years inside a propositional dream. We dream that Jesus is literally Gods presence on earth. We dream that we will live for all eternity in his august presence if we can accept the Church’s interpretation of the New Testament story. And we dream that the whole universe has been created with this in mind - it is God’s will that we accept this story from the first century as the only viable explanation for our being on this planet. This is a sad, sad misreading of a great spiritual truth; it is a proposition that has backfired on the Church and caused endless, useless suffering for many millions of human beings. For it is not the New Testament story that matters. It is not whether Jesus had a virgin birth, a precocious childhood, could walk on water or still a storm with upraised hand that matters. Or whether he raised a man from the dead or could read peoples minds. It is, as Jesus never tired of saying, the “Kingdom of God’ that matters. Why? Because the Kingdom of God signals the presence of God on earth. The presence of God is the point, the whole point and nothing but the point of the Jesus story. Hell, by definition, is whatever it is for very reason that the presence of God is missing; heaven is the exact opposite. Hell on earth, in turn, is due to the fact that our fundamental presence as human beings is generally missing. We are the potential carriers of God’s presence, not in the sense of some external force erupting within us (that would equal possession and diminished responsibility), but in the sense that our presence, when consciously established and sustained, turns out to be the presence of God. Our crucifixion of Christ is therefore a metaphor for our not being properly awake and aware, properly conscious, properly available in our full humanness; it has nothing whatever to do with a vicarious sacrifice. We are, as St Paul says, crucified in Christ Jesus, not through identification with Jesus, but with the world at large. The outside has become the inside. And so Jesus statement "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" is not some oblique reference to the idea that God has been unwittingly crucified in the person of the Son; it is a simply [sic], straightforward observation that his tormentors were in a state of submerged consciousness. It wasnt knowledge they lacked, it was “being” they lacked.470 Emphasis in the original. 194
  • All we really need to know about Jesus and what is, or at least ought to be, our vision andchallenge as Christians and as a Christian Church, can be found in one verse of the Bible,namely, Luke 9:11, which reads: When the crowds learned [where Jesus was], they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing.Four things are referred to in this verse from Luke’s Gospel which, in my view, collectivelydescribe what is meant by the “Way of Jesus”. The first thing is “following Jesus” in thesense I’ve already described. The second thing is that we must welcome people - all people- and that is why we erect no barriers around our altars. The third thing is that we mustpromulgate the good news of the Kingdom of God as a past, present and future reality. Thefinal thing is that we are there to provide opportunities for people to be healed by the Powerof the Healing Christ “so far as may be expedient for them” (Liturgy 329). Elsewhere I havewritten (see Ellis-Jones 2008c:Online): ... [O]ur task here, in this Church of ours, is to provide opportunities for healing, particularly through the power of the written and spoken word. We come here as broken, damaged people in need of healing. The healing words of Jesus and other enlightened teachers, thinkers and writers, as well as the healing power of music, have the power to change lives. Yes, the Anonymous Christ is present here in all who come for healing of body, mind and soul. Jesus rightly saw healing as the sign of the Kingdom of God coming upon us. As a church, we exist to point to the Kingdom of God - sensibly and properly interpreted - preach that kingdom, and help to bring into visible manifestation, in this dangerous, broken, and very sick world of ours, the marvelous works of that kingdom.The second thing we must do in order to survive and hopefully grow as a Church is this -we need to remain a mystical and sacramental Christian church in the Catholic tradition in away which not only provides a vehicle for the continuance and promulgation of the AncientWisdom or gnosis but which also more fully takes into account and synthesizes suchmatters as the “new physics”, psychology and other disciplines and techniques such astranspersonal psychology.If the Liberal Catholic Church persists in the belief (I would call it, with respect, a delusionalbeit of a non-clinical kind), held especially by some of its older members and adherents,that it is either or both of a “Theosophical Church” or a “Gnostic Church”, then I fear theChurch will not long survive, for there are so many other groups and organizations,including but not limited to the Theosophical Society itself, that are doing a much better job 195
  • at promulgating ideas and belief systems of those kinds that we have ever done or couldever hope to do. I have already tried to dispel the myth that the Liberal Catholic Church is aTheosophical Church. As to its being a “Gnostic Church” (as opposed to a Christian Churchwith a special emphasis on what has rightly been referred to and is known as the AncientWisdom) Mowle (2007:183) has made reference to something Andrew Welburn (1991:11)wrote in his book The Beginnings of Christianity, and I think what Welburn wrote is worthreproducing here: ... [T]he writings of the Gnostics pose in the most direct and challenging way the question of Christianity’s relation to the esoteric teaching of the Mysteries. At the same time, they illustrate once more the dangers which an esoteric connection could constitute to the integrity of the Christian Mystery itself. For it certainly seems to be true of many of the Gnostics that in their pursuit of esoteric enlightenment they lost their inner grip upon some of the central truths of Christian teaching, particularly on the subject of the earthly work and historical ministry of the Christ.However, we need to be very careful here. Whilst we must eschew the excesses anddistortions of Gnosticism per se, unless we remain a mystical church in the Christian sensewe run the terrible risk, as Blanch (1971:16) points out, of taking literally the purportedsayings and teachings of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and others.471 Blanch gives, as anexample, the doctrine of vicarious atonement – a wonderful myth that has otherwise beencarnalized, and thus distorted in its meaning, by the traditional Christian churches – andgoes on to say (1971:16): Mystical statements, which imply a higher and deeper interpretation of the words used, readily understood by mystics and metaphysicians, are always liable to be misunderstood by literally and worldly-minded people, who through the centuries so often have taken over the instruction of the people. So much so that misconceptions of Paul’s teachings – the “Vicarious Atonement”, for instance, have become almost the main principles of orthodox teaching. Whereas it is clearly stated that “Whatsoever a man soweth that also shall he reap” [Gal 6:7]. So that in some cases absolutely illogical and unacceptable doctrines have been established as a basis for Christian belief and theology.The late Bishop Lawrence W Burt (1960a), after referring to the Apostle Paul as “the mostardent follower and greatest advocate of Jesus … [one] who loved Jesus supremely” - nowthere’s a challenge for us as Liberal Catholics, especially coming as it does from one whowas both a regionary bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church and a leading Australian471 If the findings and conclusions of The Jesus Seminar are even only partly correct, it is very hard to be surejust what Jesus said on any given matter. Of the 500 or more “sayings” attributed to Jesus in the NewTestament Gospels, only about 90 can be said to be sayings of the kind Jesus “undoubtedly” or “probably”(more likely the latter in the case of most of the 90) said: see Funk (1996a and 1996b); cf Barnett (2009). 196
  • Theosophist (and, with no disrespect intended, a very “conservative” one at that) - thensets forth, much more eloquently than I could ever hope to do, what is, or at least ought tobe, the essence of true Liberal Catholicism, as a Christian, sacramental and mysticalchurch, and it is this: … In the earliest form of Christianity there is that definite teaching of “God-in-us,” and this thought comes naturally to St Paul and colours all his writings. The most marvelous event that the universe offered to St Paul was the revelation that God exists not only with-us, but that God also exists in-us. That is St Paul’s most valuable contribution to Christian thought, expressed in the words: “The word of God; even the mystery which has 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.” [Col 2:25-27]472It is not just the Apostle Paul who presents us with this wonderful teaching regarding theIndwelling Christ which found full expression in Jesus of Nazareth, for, as Parrinder ([1976]1995:142) has pointed out, “Christ [Jesus] is both the partner of mystical union and theprototype of union with the Father”. This is especially true when it comes to the sacraments,especially the Sacrament of the Altar, where, through the Power of the written and spokenword, and the Spirit of Life Itself indwelling matter that has been consecrated in the name ofthe Most Holy One, his perfected consciousness is made available to us.473 We should alsoremain a sacramental Church in the Catholic tradition, not only because of the intrinsicvalue and beauty of the sacraments, and the fact that they were Divinely instituted, but alsobecause, as has already been mentioned elsewhere in this thesis, we human beings, in ourpresent earthly state, are so bound in time and space that there would not appear to be anybetter way - both for ourselves and for our world - to make contact with what is, and alwayswill be, a Mystery except to the extent perceived through our senses.Unfortunately, so much of our Liberal Catholic literature is so very 19th century (or, at best,early 20th century) in origin, content and thought form. We speak of a “Hidden Dweller in thehuman spirit”, “the veil of earthly things”, and the like - all of which are so very real - but weremain bound in time and space to a very large extent to the language and thought forms472 Emphasis in the original.473 Parrinder ([1976] 1995:142) refers to the essence and thrust of the Gospel teaching as being “theimmanental presence of God, but personified in Christ [Jesus]”. 197
  • and religious idealism of a bygone era. We can learn much from the transpersonalpsychologists and the so-called “new scientists”.There are two systems of thought, belief and practice that, I believe, can be used to assistus in re-inventing ourselves as Liberal Catholics – one is enactment theology, and the othertranspersonal psychology. Elements of each of these two systems of belief and practice arealready to be found in the language and thought forms of The Liturgy, so we do not have totravel far to find them. However, by expressly acknowledging their existence, and byconsciously applying the “apparatus” each system provides as well as their underlyingprinciples, we can “put new wine into new bottles, [so that] both are preserved” (cf Mt 9:17).First, there is what is known as enactment theology.Enactment theology,474 one of several forms of radical theology, has much that is worthy ofconsideration, and sits quite comfortably with panentheistic views of God held by manyLiberal Catholics. Indeed, enactment theology is inherently panentheistic in nature,asserting that God is not separate from us, that our supreme responsibility is to help bringGod into existence, so to speak, so that God can emerge, be enacted, and be called intobeing, not only in our liturgy, ritual and ceremonies, but also in our day-to-day relationshipswith other people. Enactment theologians see the Church as being present wherever Godis being formed among people in the world. The God of enactment theology may not beomnipotent or omniscient in any traditional theistic sense, but it is still a God that is “withus”, “in us”, and “other than us”, in the fullest sense of those words – in other words, a Godthat is still both transcendent and immanent whilst also being transpersonal and relational innature, effect and consequence. The God of enactment theology is not a person, and doesnot otherwise act in persona. Rather, God lives in and manifests in each and every one ofus on a daily basis, and is as great or as small as we choose to make this God, whether onan individual or a collective basis. Mordecai Kaplan describes this God as being “theProcess by which the universe produces persons, and persons are the process by whichGod is manifest in the individual” (1956:103). Kaplan also wrote this (1956:87):474 This form of theology is associated with the Roman Catholic theologian Richard Grigg, Professor of ReligiousStudies at the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, USA. See Grigg (1995 and 2000). See alsoBumbaugh (2000). However, the foundations of enactment theology can be seen in the theology and writings ofRabbi Mordecai M Kaplan (see, especially, Kaplan 1937, 1956, 1958, and 1962) where God is spoken of asbeing, among other things, the Power that makes for truth, goodness, freedom, justice, love, and so forth, suchthat whenever we display these qualities, we are manifesting the Presence of God. 198
  • It matters very little how we conceive God, as long as we so believe in God that belief in Him makes a tremendous difference in our lives.The God of enactment theology is immanent in the sense that it is the very ground of ourbeing, and represents the best to which we can aspire, as well as transcendent in that thespecial qualities or attributes that we ordinarily associate with God (for example, Goodness,Love, Power, Truth and Light) can be seen to be derived from a power other thanourselves, the power being the very primeval power of Being Itself, with God being arelation enacted and brought into existence by us in and through the power of Being Itself -Life, in all of its fullness - in which we live and move and have our being. This is the Godthat we speak about when we “work” the Liturgy, and, through the power of the written andspoken word, we bring into manifestation not only the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”but also the God of that “still small voice” that is “not in the wind ... not in the earthquake ...[and] not in the fire” (cf 1 Kings 19:11-12). It is also the God that Jesus spoke of in theparable of the growing seed: And [Jesus] said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.475Our Liturgy recognizes our role, especially on a collective or collegiate basis, for doing allthat we can to take the Presence and Power of God and call it into being or enactment.Thus, we are exhorted to “lay the foundation of our temple” (Liturgy 224), to “see [God’s] lifein all the peoples of thine earth” (Liturgy 207, 227), and, having “built a temple for thedistribution of Christ’s power ... [to] prepare a channel for its reception” (Liturgy 231) so that“our strength [may] be spent in thy service and our love poured forth upon thy people”(Liturgy 232). Many years ago, Bishop Lawrence W Burt wrote of the mystery drama that isconstantly being enacted in our respective lives (Burt 1946:1): The mystery drama of the Gospel story which tells of the suffering, the cross, the passion, the betrayal, the death and resurrection in the life of Jesus is an allegorical presentation of the conflict of man’s personal self as it is finally475 Mk 4:26-32. 199
  • conquered and purified of the great illusion of separateness that it may become a worthy shrine of the resurrected impersonal self.Secondly, there is the whole field of transpersonal psychology (and, when its principles areapplied to spirituality, what is known as transpersonal spirituality).Transpersonal psychology (see, especially, the writings of the American philosopher,psychologist and mystic Ken Wilber (1996; 1998; 2006)) speaks in terms of a hierarchicalsequence of stages through which human consciousness progresses. When applied to thesubject-matter of religion (that is, organized spirituality), the earliest stage of religion is thatof “magic religion”,476 with the next stage being “mythic religion”,477 followed by “scientificreligion”,478 “rational-individuated religion”479 and, finally, what has been referred to as“transpersonal spirituality”.480 The Australian Roman Catholic priest and psychologistDesmond Murphy (1997) has applied Wilber’s paradigm to the Church and to Christianity inhis seminal book A Return to Spirit: After the Mythic Church.Regrettably, too much Liberal Catholic thinking and literature - and, dare I say it, liturgy -remains in something of a time warp wherein “magical religion” and “mythic religion” tend topredominate. “Scientific religion” is not the answer, indeed all too often science, and notreligion, is the problem, unless it be the science of persons such as Paul Davies (seeDavies 1992) and, more recently, the French theoretical physicist and philosopher ofscience Bernard d’Espagnat (see d’Espagnat 2006), the 2009 Templeton Prize Laureate,481who, having gone beyond classical physics and quantum mechanics, has written of a“hypercosmic God” in the form of “a ‘veiled reality’ that science does not describe but only476 Magic religion involves the use of repetitive rites, chants and incantations that are designed to appease orotherwise win favour with something perceived to be divine, sacred or holy.477 Mythic religion places much greater emphasis on the needs and aspirations of the individual, but tends to beritualistic and legalistic.478 Scientific religion began with Deism (God as the “disinterested watchmaker”) and gained ascendancy withDarwinism. In many places, the pursuit of science has become a secular religion in its own right.479 Popa (2009:Online) writes: “The process of individuation refers to the accomplishment of the Self in Jungianunderstanding. A process of conjunction of the contraries, of union between conscious and unconscious, inshort of unification of the being. This process is not restricted to moral integration - it also involves emotionalintegration.”480 “Transpersonal spirituality”, in brief, refers to a mystical form of spirituality, based upon the principles oftranspersonal psychology, in which the ultimate “goal” (for want of a better word) is the disappearance ordissolution of the self (as opposed to “the Self”).481 The Templeton Prize, first established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton (1912-2008), “honors a living personwho has made an exceptional contribution to affirming lifes spiritual dimension, whether through insight,discovery, or practical works”: <> (viewed 20 March 2009). 200
  • glimpses uncertainly”.482 Even our Church’s otherwise enlightened concept of the “MysticChrist” is, I suspect, largely unintelligible to an increasingly secular and unchurched world,as is the bulk of our Liturgy. As long ago as 1964 a Dutch Liberal Catholic bishop, H MBrandt, wrote (1964:1): Christian terminology and ideas were formulated in the middle ages, a time with a totally different outlook on life, a different conception of the universe, and so they are often meaningless to the modern mind.Yes, and even more so today, some 45 years later.Old-style “TS” Theosophy is not, with respect, the answer either. J J Van der Leeuw(1930:Online) rightly takes Theosophy (in the forms of both “the archane system of esotericwisdom in the keeping of the brotherhood of adepts” and the system of doctrines putforward in TS literature and lectures) to task for being based on outmoded and discreditednotions of the nature of the universe (eg the supposed dualism of “gross matter outside anda world of subtle spirit within”) and for its extremely “idealistic world-view as against thematerialistic”. Quantum mechanics, and the “new physics” generally, have changed ourunderstanding of human consciousness and reality to such an extent that, as the lateChristian philosopher Jean Guitton (author of such works as The Problem of Jesus: A Free-Thinker’s Diary) and others have pointed out, we have every good reason to discard foreverthe once sacrosanct distinction between so-called “matter” and so-called “spirit” – adistinction which many traditional Theosophists nevertheless still seek to preserve to thisday, but which has become increasingly untenable in light of advances in scientific thoughtand discovery: The fundamental distinction between matter and spirit has been changed deeply and in a non-reversible way. Hence a new philosophical concept which we have called “metarealism”; for the first time, we have made materialism compatible with spiritualism, we have reconciled realism and idealism.483Another distinction that needs to be discarded as a result of the “new physics” is thematerialistic so-called distinction between time and space. As Paul Davies in his book Godand the New Physics has pointed out (Davies, as quoted in Wosmek 1988:43):482 See A Gefter, “Concept of ‘hypercosmic God’ wins Templeton Prize”, New Scientist, 16 March 2009, [Online]viewed 20 March 2009, <>.483 I and G Bogdanov, Dieu et la Science: Vers un Métaréalisme (Paris: Gresset, 1991), as cited in Léna(nd:165; Online). Old-fashioned materialism, with its assertion that everything is matter, is arguably untenable inthe light of advances in science. 201
  • The physicist ... does not regard time as a sequence of events which happen. Instead, all of past and future are simply there, and time extends in either direction from any given moment in much the same way as space stretches away from any particular place. In fact, the comparison is more than an analogy, for space and time become inextricably interwoven in the theory of relativity, united into what physicists call spacetime.484This has enormous implications for our understanding of the presence of Jesus and otherHoly Ones who, in the consciousness of the Eternal Now, are ever-present to guide, sustainand inspire us. They are not just figures from the past, nor even archetypal figures, but realbeings who are with us in spacetime right now as Life is Consciousness.In recent years there have also been great advances in psychology and psycho-spiritualitythat provide us with useful “tools” with which to see our Liturgy and our role as a Churchand as individuals in a refreshingly new light. For example, in “transpersonal spirituality”,the emphasis is not on words - even beautifully composed and well-structured words suchas those contained in The Liturgy to which we tend to be far too attached and wedded moreoften than not - nor on the intellect, thoughts or feelings, for all of these things are passingillusions and creations (if that be the right word) of the “false self” or our ego.The emphasis in transpersonal spirituality is on knowledge and wisdom gained by means ofdirect experience and spiritual intuition, and the concomitant transpersonal sharing, inunconditional love, of ourselves with others in our communal religion and liturgy – a sharingof our own respective realisations of who and what we are, namely, transpersonal selvesbeyond persons who have bodies, persons who think thoughts, and persons who feelfeelings – that is, persons who have transcendental needs that go beyond time and spaceand which can only be met in the Eternal Now when we are in a state of innerintercommunion after we have already come to know the Self as one,485 and moved on fromthere … in a state of “choiceless awareness” (cf Krishnamurti) that transcends, andultimately eliminates the need for, all labels, categories, myths and symbols. That will provevery hard, if not impossible, for many Liberal Catholics … and I include myself in that. Theformer Theosophist and Liberal Catholic priest J J van der Leeuw had, I think, an epiphany484 Emphasis in the original.485 Cf The First Ray Benediction. In transpersonal psychology and spirituality this Self is often referred to as the“Transcendental Self”. The present writer finds that expression far too limiting, as the Self referred to mustsurely be both transcendent and immanent. Corelli (1966:422), referring to “the Soul which knows itself to beeternal”, writes: “To its Being there can be no end – therefore it never ages and never dies.” 202
  • when he became convinced that Krishnamurti was right, stating that “there is no ‘merging inthe absolute,’ if such a thing were possible” but only “the actual common experience of theactual present moment at the actual place where man finds himself” (1930:Online).Realization, not revelation, is what is needed.We are thus talking about something transpersonal and meta-realistic, that is, something“that exists beyond and, as the synthesis of all personalities - is defined and yet indefinable… at the same time, both the question and the answer known but unspeakable … theUnion of the Seeker, the Sought-For and the Act of seeking”. 486 Wilber (1996; 1998; 2006)refers to the “transpersonal realm” consisting of four great dimensions or categories whichcan be applied to both psychological and spiritual development: 1. The realm of mystical experience in which one discovers the existence of one’s “true” or “real” self (“the Self”). 2. The realm of ideas, images, symbols, myths, archetypes and dreams (including deity figures). 3. The realm of “deep spirituality” (cf “depth psychology”)487 where all such ideas, images, symbols, myths, archetypes and dreams (including deity figures) disappear, in order that we may be left “alone” with the Infinite Divine One. 4. The realm where all categories, including the very notion of the Self Itself, disappear or dissolve.The last mentioned realm is said to constitute the ultimate mystical experience. Perhaps weLiberal Catholics, along with other mystics of Christian and non-Christian traditions, haveplaced far too much emphasis on the first and second realms mentioned above. Certainly,more is required than both an intellectual and an intuitive acceptance of the existence of theSelf.488 As elsewhere mentioned in this thesis, the Dutch Theosophist and Liberal Catholicpriest of yesteryear, E Francis Udny (1927:36), referred to that which transcended even486 “Psychosis … forsaken by god” (excerpted from website), [ Online] viewed 20 March2009, <>.487 The psychiatrist Dr Smiley Blanton, who worked closely with the minister of religion Dr Norman VincentPeale, was a pioneer in depth psychology. Blanton had this to say about Peale (see Gordon 1955:25): “Dr Pealeis a great pioneer. He was one of the first men – if not the first – to combine the new science of human behaviorknown as depth psychology with the discipline of religion.” Both men often expressed the view that Godpresided in the unconscious mind, in terms of which so much of our behaviour can be explained.488 For many Liberal Catholics it is only the so-called “Holy Ones” who, after many supposed incarnations, cometo “know the [S]elf as one”. We may need to reconsider that notion. 203
  • God Himself. Udny called it, perhaps unhelpfully, the “Lord of Hosts”, but what he wasreferring to was the inconceivable and otherwise unknowable transpersonal God beyondGod, the indescribable Ultimate in both transcendence and immanence – Being-Itself, orLife IT-self. In the words of one anonymous writer (see Aguilar [nd]:43): GOD AND I I walked with God, God walked with me. But which was God, and which was me? And thus I found, the Truth profound, I live in God, God lives with me.However, are we Liberal Catholics ready to “embrace” the final two dimensions orcategories of the transpersonal realm in Wilber’s list? Speaking personally, I am not surethat we are at all up to it, for it would mean the effective end of ritual, liturgy,sacramentalism, our healing ministry, and the like. For what it’s worth, my own personalview is that, provided we do not treat these things as crystallized, immutable, untouchablethings-in-themselves (as opposed to “living symbols” in the sense previously explained)without which there can be no spiritual growth, salvation or sense of oneness with the OneIndwelling Infinite Life, then we can and should allow some flexibility and forbearance in ourpractices.We are not bound to follow the advice of Wilber or any “guru” for that matter. However, thetime may well come when we may see the need to fully embrace what Krishnamurti saidway back on 2 August 1929, namely that “Truth is a pathless land, and you cannotapproach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect” (Vernon [2000]2002:181]. I well recall something that the late Liberal Catholic Bishop ChristopherBannister said in a homily delivered at the Liberal Catholic Church of Saint Francis, inGordon, New South Wales, in 1987. He said words in or to the effect of the following: We are living in a dark age of fundamentalism, and we have to face the fact that organizations such as our church – the Liberal Catholic Church – may well disappear altogether. It may happen more quickly than we think.More recently, another Liberal Catholic Bishop, Pedro Oliveira, has written about the futureof our Church in more optimistic, but still quite guarded, terms (2007b:209-210): 204
  • As Our Lord taught, there is no renewal without death. “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” [Jn 12:24] St Paul preached the very same truth when he said: “I die every day!” [1 Cor 15:31] Self-centredness slowly but surely kills the life of the Spirit. Our Church as a liturgical community can grow and prosper, attract new members, new vocations, if those who are primarily responsible for it – its clergy – grow in selflessness, attention, compassion and unreserved giving.489At the end of the day, whatever be the future of the Liberal Catholic Church and otherliberal churches, we must never forget that God - the Absolute - has not left us withoutwitness, and is continuously revealed to us in many ways. As the Apostle Paul wrote (seeRom 1:20): For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.Similarly, in the Tao Tê Ching Lao Tzu said:490 Without going out of door One can know the whole world; Without peeping out of the window One can see the Tao [Way] of heaven. The further one travels The less one knows. Therefore the Sage knows everything without travelling; He names everything without seeing it; He accomplishes everything without doing it.We must never lose sight of the mystical, for God is Mystery. The strength of the LiberalCatholic Church is its celebration of all the mystery of life. This is also its weakness, whenmystery becomes a “thing-in-itself” and the be-all and end-all, veiled in Liturgy from whicheven the Godhead Itself can’t escape, when “vague emotion … usurp[s] the place in[religion] of clear and reasoned thinking” (Wedgwood 1976b:150). No, may we ever remaina mystical church, in the true sense of the word, for the mystical approach to realityultimately makes more sense than the so-called rational alternative. That much I havelearned from personal experience. Mysticism is a vital part of the Christian heritage, andwe, as Liberal Catholics, have a special mission to keep alight the flame of Mystery.Indeed, despite the efforts of so many who would like it to be otherwise, the Christian489 With respect to Bishop Pedro, there is no hope for our Church if the laity do not also “grow in selflessness,attention, compassion and unreserved giving”.490 Tao Tê Ching, by Lao Tzu, new trans by Ch`u Ta-Kao (London: Unwin Books, [1937] 1972), Ch 47, p 62. 205
  • Church was founded as a mystical church, mystery being the very core and spiritualessence of Christian spirituality. Indeed, I believe that true Christian mysticism, rooted inthe essential Oneness of the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, is the only means bywhich we “may so pass through things temporal as never to lose sight of the things eternaland may ever live in the service of Christ our holy Lord” (Liturgy 140).491 Elsewhere I havewritten (2007:1:Online): Mysticism is not essentially about "mystical experiences” – experiences come and go - but is focused on the lasting experience of God, leading to the transformation of the believer into a transforming union with God. “In him we live, and move, and have our being .... We are his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Jesus proclaimed, "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30) showing the world what the union of God and man can be. It is also written, “There is one God who is father of all, over all, through all and within all” (Eph 4:6).Ken Wilber (1996:42-43), in his usual insightful and forthright way, has written: Are the mystics and sages insane? Because they all tell variations on the same story, dont they? The story of awakening one morning and discovering you are one with the All, in a timeless and eternal and infinite fashion. Yes, maybe they are crazy, these divine fools. Maybe they are mumbling idiots in the face of the Abyss. Maybe they need a nice, understanding therapist. Yes, Im sure that would help. But then, I wonder. Maybe the evolutionary sequence really is from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit, each transcending and including, each with a greater depth and greater consciousness and wider embrace. And in the highest reaches of evolution, maybe, just maybe, an individuals consciousness does indeed touch infinity—a total embrace of the entire Kosmos—a Kosmic consciousness that is Spirit awakened to its own true nature. Its at least plausible. And tell me: is that story, sung by mystics and sages the world over, any crazier than the scientific materialism story, which is that the entire sequence is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing? Listen very carefully: just which of those two stories actually sounds totally insane?In Chapter 4 of this thesis I listed, as one of the key purposes of the Holy Eucharist, “theprogressive divinisation of the world”. This is no mere Theosophical teaching, but the innermeaning of all true religion, properly and mystically construed and applied. Thus, theApostle Paul writes (see Rom 8:29 [The Amplified Bible]): For those whom He foreknew – of whom He was aware and loved beforehand – He also destined from the beginning (foreordaining them) to be moulded into the image of His Son (and share inwardly His likeness), that He might become the first- born among many brethren.In an article entitled “The Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge” (2007a) I made the pointthat there are three important distinctions to be kept in mind:491 Excerpted from the Collect for The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. 206
  • • the distinction between worldly knowledge and worldly wisdom, • the distinction between worldly wisdom and godly wisdom, and • the distinction between godly knowledge and godly wisdom.As respects the last mentioned distinction, namely the distinction between godly knowledgeand godly wisdom, I had this to say in my article: Both are gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Cor 12). Godly knowledge is, of course, more than just intellectual or spiritual illumination. It also involves and confers practical insight into and an in-depth understanding of situations and spiritual issues. Godly wisdom refers to the spiritual ability to make godly choices in our life, to perceive life and truth from a spiritual perspective, to make decisions according to God’s will and then apply that wisdom to specific situations, and to give reliable guidance to others on such matters. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and philosopher Will Durant once wrote, “Ideally, wisdom is total perspective - seeing an object, event, or idea in all its pertinent relationships.” Krishnamurti said as much, all the time, when he spoke of the importance of seeing things as they really are - life as it really is - without judgment, without condemnation, without any interpretation, explanation or mediation of any kind - choiceless awareness, he called it. That, to me, is godly wisdom, although Krishnamurti would not have referred to it as such.At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, if the Liberal Catholic Church is to survive,especially in Australia, it needs both “godly knowledge” and “godly wisdom” … as well as afair bit of common sense.We also need to familiarise ourselves with some of the more recent thinking in the RomanCatholic Church on the nature of the sacramental priesthood: see, for example, Gleeson(1993). In many ways, we Liberal Catholics are still locked into the Alter Christus view of therole of the priest – that I, that the priest is another Christ (however we may construe theword “Christ”).492 Now, there is and hopefully always will be a special place for the conceptof Alter Christus in any church in the Catholic tradition, particularly in relation to theadministration of the Sacraments, but we also need to balance the sacerdotal role of thepriest in persona Christi with that of the priest in persona Ecclesiae, as the RomanCatholics have been largely successful in doing since Vatican II: see D Coffey (in Gleeson1993:80). For the most part, a priest is, and should be seen to be, “the duly commissionedminister of the church, its official representative” (Coffey, in Gleeson 1993:80), the firstamong equals, so to speak. As a church, albeit one in the Catholic sacramental tradition,492 R Laird Harris writes: “First century Christianity had no priests. The New Testament nowhere uses the wordto describe a leader in Christian service.” See Boettner (1962:50). It was in the 3 rd century CE that we find thebeginnings of a sacerdotal priesthood in Christianity. 207
  • we have lost sight of the Biblical (and not just Protestant) doctrine of the “priesthood of allbelievers”.493 In the words of the 1973 Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commissionreport Ministry and Ordination: The goal of the ordained ministry is to serve the priesthood of all the faithful.494Gleeson (1993:ix) has written of the “decisive shift in the Catholic understanding ofordained ministry [that occurred] during the latter half of the twentieth century”: No longer is the priest elevated as a more or less isolated mediator between God and the Christian people. Rather, the ordained priest finds his identity within the community of the church, enabling the church to be and become more truly itself.495In a letter to Catholic priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday 1991, His Holiness PopeJohn Paul II expressed a more conservative but otherwise conciliatory approach to thematter: ... Another grace of the synod [Synod of Bishops, October 1990] was a new maturity in the way of looking at priestly service in the Church: a maturity which keeps pace with the times in which our mission is being carried out. This maturity finds expression in a more profound interpretation of the very essence of the sacramental priesthood, and thus also of the personal life of each and every priest, that is to say, of each priests participation in the saving mystery of Christ: "Sacerdos alter Christus". This is an expression which indicates how necessary it is that Christ be the starting point for interpreting the reality of the priesthood. Only in this way can we do full justice to the truth about the priest, who, having been "chosen from among men, is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God" (Heb 5:1). The human dimension of priestly service, in order to be fully authentic, must be rooted in God. Indeed, in every way that this service is "on behalf of men", it is also "in relation to God": it serves the manifold richness of this relationship. Without an effort to respond fully to that "anointing with the Spirit of the Lord" which establishes him in the ministerial priesthood, the priest cannot fulfill the expectations that people —the Church and the world—rightly place in him ...496Sadly, we Liberal Catholics are perhaps at our most conservative and sacerdotal when itcomes to our understanding of the priesthood. Part of the problem is that some moreTheosophically minded members of the Church have a shaman or Brahman-like priestlyclass view of the role and powers of the priest – a view that, with respect, is quite non-493 See, eg, 1 Pet 2:5 (“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer upspiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”). Individual Christians are also a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet2:9) and “children of God” (1 Pet 1:3, 23; Gal 3:26) through faith in Jesus Christ.494 See Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (1982:33).495 Emphasis in the original.496 Quoted in “Alter Christus? Sure They Are”, [Online] viewed 2 June 2009,<>. 208
  • Christian. We expect too much of our priests, and fail to recognise the role of the laity in thetask of serving the world. Without in any way wishing to downgrade the significance of thepriesthood it is submitted that what F F Bruce wrote (1964:407) on the nature of theChristian religion has important implications for how we ought to see the role of thepriesthood, and that is in terms of the priest leading by way of example in the same manneras did Jesus of Nazareth: Christianity is sacrificial through and through; it is founded on the one self-offering of Christ, and the offering of His peoples praise and property, of their service and their lives, is caught up into the perfection of His acceptable sacrifice, and is accepted in Him.True, we must never minimise the role and special functions of the priest, and the mannerin which the priest is set apart (or, better still, sent forth) for the performance of certaindesignated priestly functions, but we need to remember that all who are “on the path”constitute a holy and royal priesthood (cf 1 Pet 2:5, 9) who, with the clergy, are jointly andseverally responsible for the work of the Church, that work which our first Presiding BishopJames Wedgwood referred to as both a service “rendered to the world in which we live” anda service “rendered to God because we are privileged in being able to co-operate with Him,and to take our share in His work of pouring out strength and blessing upon the world”(1929:59). Yes, our first presiding bishop had the vision and foresight to recognise that all thefaithful are co-creators with God and in that sense priests of the Most High through faith in ourMaster Christ, the one High Priest. O that we might recapture the splendour and the reality ofthat vision! We all have become too worldly - this worldly, that is – and, as Saint Francis ofAssisi reportedly said, “Don’t change the world. Change worlds.” 497 All Liberal Catholics,whether laity or those in holy orders, need to follow the advice of Saint Francis, as well as thatrecorded by the Apostle Paul, namely, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saiththe Lord” (2 Cor 6:17).498What does the Liberal Catholic Church have to offer to those who want to find a way ofbeing spiritual in today’s world but who are still prepared to express their spirituality, at leastin part, in a churchlike manner, albeit in a Christian Church that has all of the distinguishingfeatures and characteristics that have been referred to elsewhere in this thesis? May Isuggest the following, which is not intended to be an exhaustive list of what our Church has497 Quoted in Ellis-Jones (2008d:50).498 Cf Rev 18:4. 209
  • to offer or now offers (for in many respects I think we are currently missing the mark, sosome of what is mentioned below are more in the nature of ideals): • a welcoming community for people of all beliefs, and of none, that was founded by people who had the courage to challenge dogma and outmoded interpretations of so-called Christian orthodoxy • a home and sanctuary for those who need rest and who seek comfort, blessing and transformation • a church which believes in the sacredness, oneness and ultimate indestructibility of the same stream of life in which we all live and move and have our being • a church where people can “receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken ... and [can] worship God ... with reverence and awe”499 in a shared liturgy – something that is not possible in churches that place entertainment above the need for there to be awe and reverence in the presence of the Divine • a church which believes that Christianity is not a system of doctrines and dogmas but a means by which we can come into conscious awareness of our oneness with the Divine and thereby achieve our full God-given innate potential • a church which, although Christian and Catholic in orientation, draws upon religions and spiritual traditions other than Christianity, and which erects no barriers around its altars • a church which seeks to preserve and teach “the wisdom underlying all religions when they are stripped of accretions and superstitions ... teachings [that] aid the unfoldment of the latent spiritual nature in the human being, without dependence or fear”500 a church which seeks to keep abreast with, and otherwise embrace, developments in science, philosophy and psychology to the extent to which they honour the totality of human experience499 See Heb 12:28.500 See Besant ([1909] 1984:60). 210
  • • a church which believes in religious freedom, reason and tolerance, and therefore affirms that each person should be guided by their own heart, conscience and spiritual intuition in shaping their respective spiritual beliefs • a church which believes that we are responsible not just for ourselves but for the world in which we live.I finished my article entitled “The Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge” (2007a), and I willfinish this thesis, with these words: I leave you with this. What the Bible, indeed all sacred scripture, makes clear is that a vital, living and evolving relationship with the One that is all Life and Power and Truth is the starting point, the path, and the endpoint, in the search for true, godly wisdom. May our faith “not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:5). 211
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