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A Treatise on White Magic - Rule Four - The Science of the Breath
The Science of the Breath

Now we come to the significant words in Rule IV. "The man breathes deeply." This is a phrase covering many aspects of rhythmic living. It is the magical formula for the science of pranayama. It covers the art of the creative life. It sweeps a man into tune with the pulsating life of God Himself, and this through detachment and reorientation.

It is notably interesting as a demonstration of the succinctness and inclusiveness of occult phrases as in Rule IV. The art of breathing is dealt with in three phases, and these I commend to each of you for the most careful consideration.

There is first the aspect of Inhalation. "The man breathes deeply." From the very depths of his being he draws the breath. In the process of phenomenal living, he draws the very breath of life from the soul. This is the first stage. In the process of detaching himself from phenomenal living, he draws from the depths of his being and experiences the life, that it may be rendered again back to the source from whence it came. In the occult life of the disciple, as he develops a new and subtler use of his response apparatus, he practices the science of the breath, and discovers that through deep [150] breathing (including the three stages of the deep, middle, and top breath) he can bring into activity, in the world of esoteric experiences, his vital body with its force centers. Thus the three aspects of "deep breathing" cover the entire soul experience, and the relationship to the three types of breath, touched upon above, can be worked out by the interested aspirant.

Next we read "he concentrates his forces." Here we have the stage indicated which can be called retention of the breath. It is a holding of all the forces of the life steadily in the place of silence, and when this can be done with ease and with forgetfulness of process through familiarity and experience, then the man can see and hear and know in a realm other than the phenomenal world. In the higher sense this is the stage of contemplation, that "lull between two activities" as it has been so aptly called. The soul, the breath, the life has withdrawn out of the three worlds, and in the "secret place of the most high" is at rest and at peace, contemplating the beatific vision. In the life of the active disciple it produces those interludes which every disciple knows, when (through detachment and the capacity to withdraw) he is held by nothing in the world of form. As he is but wrestling toward perfection and has not yet attained, these interludes of silence, withdrawingness, and of detachment are frequently difficult and dark. All is silence and he stands appalled by the unknown, and by the apparently empty stillness in which he finds himself. This is called, in advanced cases, "the dark night of the soul " - the moment before the dawn, the hour before the light streams forth.

In the science of Pranayama it is the moment following upon inhalation wherein all the forces of the body have (through the medium of the breath) been carried upward to the head and concentrated there, prior to the stage of breathing forth. This moment of retention, when [151] properly carried forward, produces an interlude of intense concentration and it is in this moment that the aspirant must seize opportunity. Herein lies a hint.

Then comes the process of exhalation. We read in Rule IV "he drives the thought-form from him." This is ever the result of the final stage of the science of the breath. The form, vitalized by the one who breathes in correct rhythm, is sent forth to do its work and fulfil its mission. Study this idea with care, for it holds the secret of creative work.

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