The Use of the Science of the Breath
There has been a great deal of nonsense talked and taught about the science of the breath. Many groups give a great deal of dangerous instruction anent breathing – dangerous because it is based on book knowledge and its exponents have never practiced it extensively themselves, and dangerous because many groups simply exploit the unready, usually for commercial gain. Fortunately for the mass of aspirants, the information and the instruction given are both feeble, inaccurate and frequently innocuous, though there are many cases of significantly bad reaction; fortunately, also, the purpose of the average aspirant is so weak that he is incapable of persistent, daily, unchanging compliance with the requirements and fails to render that application which would be the guarantee of a dubious success; hence, in these cases, no danger exists. Many occult groups exploit the subject in order to build up mystery and to hold out inducements to the unwary, or give their adherents something to do and thus gain kudos for themselves as learned and well trained occultists. Anyone can teach breathing exercises. It is largely a matter of periodic inbreathing and exhalation, timed and spaced according to the wish of the teacher. Where there is persistence in effort, results will be achieved and these will usually be undesirable because the average teacher emphasizes the technique of the breath and not the ideas which – upon the energy which that breath engenders – should take form in the life of the disciple.
The entire science of the breath is built around the use of the Sacred Word, the OM. The use of the Word is intended to be confined to those aspirants who are earnestly pledged to tread the Way, but it has been passed on and its use enjoined by many unscrupulous teachers, particularly those swamis who come from India, pose as Holy Men and get the silly women of the occident into their clutches. The Word is then used with no spiritual intent but simply as a sound which, carried on the breath, produces psychic results which indicate to the gullible their deep spirituality. The trouble is that breathing is inevitably related to the OM, but the effects are dependent upon motive and inner fixed intention. The oriental, unless he has attained the fourth or fifth initiation, has no true understanding of the occidental or of his mechanism and equipment which, as the result of a civilization and a mode of living, differs widely from that of the oriental. In the East, the problem of the teacher or Guru is to take negatively polarized people and make them positive. In the West, the races are as a whole positive in attitude and need no such training as is rightly given to the oriental. What exactly do I mean when I make this statement? I mean that in the East, the will factor (the quality of the first aspect) is absent. The oriental, particularly the inhabitant of India, lacks will, dynamic incentive and the ability to exert that inner pressure upon himself which will produce definite results. That is why that particular civilization is so unadaptable to modern civilization, and that is why the people of India make so little progress along the lines of regulated municipal and national life, and why they are so behind the times as far as modern civilized living is concerned. Generalizing, the occidental is positive and needs the directive force of the soul and can produce it with very little teaching. In the Aryan race, a fusion is today taking place between the will aspect, the mind and the brain. This is not so in the Orient. It will be so later.
The only factor which makes the breath effective is the thought, the intent and the purpose which lie behind it. In this statement, you have the clue to dynamic useful breathing exercises. Unless there is a clear appreciation of purpose, unless the disciple knows just what he is doing as he practices esoteric breathing, and unless the significance of the words “energy follows thought” is understood, breathing exercises are sheer waste of time and can be dangerous. From this it can be gathered that only when there is an alliance between breathing and thinking will results be possible.
Behind this lies a third and even more important factor – the WILL. Therefore, the only person who can safely and usefully practice breathing exercises is the man whose will is active – his spiritual will and, therefore, the will of the Spiritual Triad. Any disciple who is in process of building the antahkarana can begin to use, with care, directed breathing exercises. But, in the last analysis, it is only the initiates of the third degree and who are coming under monadic influence who can properly and successfully employ this form of life direction and reach effective results. This is fundamentally true. However, a beginning has to be made and to this effort all true disciples are invited.
If all the implications in the above paragraph are considered, it will be apparent that the disciple has to establish – as a preliminary step – a direct relation between his brain, his mind and the will aspect of the Spiritual Triad; in other words, the negative receptor of thought (the brain), the agent of the will (the mind), and the Triad itself, have to be brought into contact with each other, via the antahkarana. When such a relation exists or is beginning to be established, then breathing exercises can safely and profitably be attempted. You see, my brother, only the directed will, using the organized rhythmic breath as its agent, can control the centers and produce an ordered purpose in life. Therefore, it is the dominating idea or line of mental activity with which the disciple must be concerned as he performs a breathing exercise. This idea must embody some purpose, some planned activity and some recognized goal before the breath which will engineer or implement it is generated, assembled, sent forth and thus becomes the carrier of power. This has to be done upon the wings of conscious intention, if I may here speak symbolically. I would urge you to read these last sentences with frequency because they concern the Science of the Breath and hold the clue to needed work. This science is primarily and fundamentally concerned with ideas as formulated into clear thought-forms and thus condition the life of the disciple upon etheric levels. From there, they eventually condition his physical plane life.
I have no intention here of giving any breathing exercises which disciples or aspirants could use – or, more probably, misuse. Their first responsibility is to become aware of the impulses within themselves which could galvanize the centers into activity and so produce conditions and events upon the physical plane. When these are clear and firmly established in the mind consciousness of the disciple, nothing can then stop their emergence in due time into the light of day. But they must follow an ordered process of gestation and of timed appearance.
When there is true idealism, right thought, plus an understanding of the vehicle of expression and the world of forces into which the idea has to be launched, then the student can safely follow certain scheduled breathing exercises and the second phase or the result of sound rhythmic breathing will appear. This is Inspiration.
Breathing exercises, my brother, have a purely physiological effect when not impelled or motivated by directed thought and when they are not the result of the aspirant attaining and adhering to a point of tension. Steadily, whilst the process of inhalation and exhalation is being carried forward, a clear line of active thinking must be preserved so that the breath (as it is sent out) is qualified and conditioned by some idea. It is here that the average aspirant fails so often. He is usually so intensely preoccupied with the process of directing breathing and so expectant of some phenomenal results, that the living purpose of the breath is forgotten; this is to energize and add quality to the life of the centers through the medium of some projected and presented thought, expressing some sensed and determined idea. Where this background of idealistic thought is lacking, then the results of the breath will be practically nil or – where there are results of any kind under these circumstances – they will be in no way concerned with thought but will be psychic in nature. They can then produce lasting psychic trouble, for the emanating source of the activity is astral and the projected energy goes to centers below the diaphragm, thus feeding the lower nature, enriching and strengthening its astral content and thereby enhancing and deepening glamor. The results can also be physiological, producing the stimulation of the etheric body leading to the strengthening of the physical nature; this often leads to serious results, for the breath is carried to centers which should be in “process of elevation” as it is esoterically called; this increases their physical potency, feeds the physical appetites and makes the task of the aspirant much harder as he seeks to sublimate the lower nature and anchor or focus the life of the centers above the diaphragm or in the head.
Glamor and maya are then increased and for the life in which these exercises are misapplied, the aspirant remains in a static and unprofitable condition. As he breathes in or inhales, he draws the breath from within his own aura, his auric ring-pass-not; he feeds the lower nature and sets up a vicious circle within himself which strengthens day by day until he is completely enmeshed by the glamor and maya which he is constantly establishing and re-establishing. The lower centers are steadily vitalized and become extremely active and the point of tension from which the aspirant then works is found in the personality and is not focused in relation to the soul; the consciousness of the uniqueness of special breathing and the expectancy of phenomenal results bar out all thought, except lower reactions of a kama-manasic nature; emotion is fostered and the power of the astral body is tremendously increased; very frequently also the physiological results are potent and noticeable, such as a great chest development and the muscular strengthening of the diaphragm. Something of this can be seen in the case of operatic singers. Singing, as now taught, is an expression of some of the lower aspects of the breath, and the breathing in the case of the above vocalists produces much breast development, intensifying emotionalism, producing instability in the life expression (which is often referred to as temperament) and keeps the singing aspect entirely astral in nature.
There is a higher and better mode of song, actuated by a difference in the point of tension and involving a breathing process which draws the needed energy upon the breath from sources higher and far more extensive than those normally used; this will produce the inspiration which will involve the whole man and not simply his emotional reaction to the theme of his song and his audience. This will bring into being a new mode and type of singing and of breathing, based on a form of mental breathing which will carry energy and consequent inspiration from sources without the personality aura. The time for this is not yet. My words will be little understood today, but the singing in the next century will be by those who will know how to tap the reservoirs of inspiration by means of a new method and technique in breathing. These techniques and exercises will be taught, to start with, in the new and coming schools of esotericism.
Inspiration is a process of qualifying, vitalizing and stimulating the reaction of the personality – via the centers – to that point of tension where soul control becomes present and apparent. It is the mode whereby energy from the soul can flood the personality life, can sweep through the centers, expelling that which hinders, ridding the aspirant of all remaining glamors and maya, and perfecting an instrument whereby the music of the soul and, later, the musical quality of the Hierarchy can be heard. Forget not that sound permeates all forms; the planet itself has its own note or sound; each minute atom also has its sound; each form can be evoked into music and each human being has his peculiar chord and all chords contribute to the great symphony which the Hierarchy and Humanity are playing, and playing now. Every spiritual group has its own tune (if I may employ so inappropriate a word) and the groups which are in process of collaborating with the Hierarchy make music ceaselessly. This rhythm of sound and this myriad of chords and notes blend with the music of the Hierarchy itself and this is a steadily enriching symphony; as the centuries slip away, all these sounds slowly unite and are resolved into each other until some day the planetary symphony which Sanat Kumara is composing will be completed and our Earth will then make a notable contribution to the great chords of the solar system – and this is a part, intrinsic and real, of the music of the spheres. Then, as the Bible says, ‘the Sons of God, the planetary Logoi, will sing together. This, my brother, will be the result of right breathing, of controlled and organized rhythm, of true pure thought and of the correct relation between all parts of the chorus.
Think out this theme as a meditation exercise and gain inspiration thereby.