THE Chinese artist Shakaku, living in the fifth century of our era, laid down six canons of art, of which the first and most important principle concerned itself with ” The Life-Movement of the Spirit through the Rhythm of Things.” It is this ” Life-Movement of the Spirit ” that I shall now endeavor to make clear to you, disclosing the subtle bonds of rhythmic influence that connect every human being with the vast spaces of the Universe, and open to him its illimitable resources, if he but use them aright.
The broad and general divisions of influence throughout the Kosmos are positive and negative, and all life upon the earth reflects these in all of its component parts, whatsoever their diversity and complexity. Every human being is an electric battery with the regulation of ” poles ” and development of power under his own control. The physical organism is an exquisitely adjusted system of electrical and magnetic activities, every positive having its receptive negative, and every negative its corresponding positive; and the harmonious inter-action of these establishes the key-note of the individual rhythm.
But mark this well. The perfect balance of these electrical life-forces can be maintained only through deep rhythmic breathing of the purest air; and I shall harp upon this string till no reader can ever forget it for a moment. Be not content with letting some one else breathe fresh air, laboring under the iniquitous delusion that you are too delicate, ” too sensitive to cold,” to bear it; but insist upon having it yourself by day and by night. Not till you do this can you begin to manifest the real power, mental as well as physical, which is your natural inheritance. The want of fresh air is the father of all colds and most lung troubles, and the increased awakening to this truth is a most hopeful sign of the day.
During the winter of 1905-6, one of the largest hospitals in New York adopted the plan of caring for all pneumonia patients on the roof in the open air, canvas awnings to screen from the wind being the only shelter. Every patient so treated recovered! During the two succeeding winters, this treatment has been greatly extended, and with unvarying success.
At the risk of tiresome iteration, I must again state that human beings do not normally breathe through both nostrils at the same time; and the breathing exercises already advised are not an arrogant effort to change the natural order of this life-function, but a scientific attempt to restore it. Nor are they new inventions or devices originating in the Occident. The knowledge of correct rhythmic breathing and of the exercises in alternate breathing which purify the nerves, restore the disturbed balance of the life-current, and preserve the harmony necessary for health, is the common heritage of the East Indian people. Down through the ages it has come to them; and the practice of breathing exercises precedes their daily devotions,.
The continued flowing of both positive and negative breath-currents simultaneously marks extreme physical disturbance, a nullifying of life-force, and the Tantrists believed it an indication of approaching death, showing the breaking up of the physical entity.
An ocean of solar Prâna surrounds the great orb of day, and it is the particular state of its Tattvic matter which sustains and keeps in its orderly rhythmic movements the whole solar system. As the vibrations of the solar Prâna approach the earth they are arrested by a broad band of Akâsha which gives birth to the terrestrial Vâyu. This forms a blue sphere about the earth limiting its movements. No explanation for this is given, but following the Tattvic law the natural inference is that the extent of the earth atmosphere is limited by the conjunction of the solar and terrestrial currents, an Akâsha always emerging from such chemical affinity, as when two Tattvas meet and mingle; and from this Akâsha is naturally evolved the Pâyu forming our atmosphere, the color of which makes the cloudless sky blue.
This is all the result of Tattvic energy; and we must now grasp the sense of that subtle something which binds the Tattvas together and directs their activities, ever carrying them onward, and never arrested by them. This is the spiritual essence, sustaining life from moment to moment, always pouring out from the great Central Dynamo under Divine guidance, and borne to us on the solar rays. No Akâsha nor Pâyu can arrest it since they are but forms of its ceaseless energy; therefore, these rays, bearing the gift of life to earth organisms, are merely refracted by these media and pass onward to exercise their organizing influence through terrestrial Prâna, a modification of the solar state.
The positive and negative streams of the life-current as they flow about our terrestrial sphere receive their direction that is, are controlled in their course by the aspects which the sun, the moon, and the earth present to one another. In considering terrestrial life, the first division of these positive and negative influences is that of the sea-sons, reckoning the six months when the sun is North of the equator as summer, during which the positive solar current flows from the North Pole to the South, and the negative in the opposite direction. When the sun sinks southward below the equator in the early autumn, the negative current sets in from the North Pole, and the positive cur-rent flows from the South.
These two great divisions of time, and of influence upon earth life, are called by the Hindus the day and night of the Devas (or ” a Daiva day and night “). The Tantrists further divide the month into ” a Pitrya day and night ” according to the moon’s phases; the light half of the month (moonlight nights) being positive, or day, to the dark half which is its negative or night. Thus, you see, the positive current upon the physical plane of life, the sun-breath is always reckoned as the day time of life; and the negative, as the night time. The positive is the period of activity; the negative of the receptive brooding and preparation, by rest, for further activity.
Of supreme importance, however, to earth life is this: As the earth turns upon her own axis while moving round the great life-orb, other, more dominant and powerful, and more constantly alternating influences than the North and South currents are developed in terrestrial Prima. These are the day and night currents controlled by the rising and the setting of the sun.
Solar force is centered in the East, and the lunar, or sun-shadow, in the West; and with the rising of the sun every foot of the earth’s surface as it comes under the influence of the solar rays receives the positive life-current which streams west-ward along these rays. At the same time the lunar, or negative, current flows eastward; and with the setting of the sun the daily direction of these currents is exactly reversed. The sweep of this solar- current of Prâna westward, being much stronger than the Polar currents, deflects the Northern current in the same direction ; and the lunar current has a corresponding effect upon the negative current from the South, carrying it eastward.
This is doubtless the reason that the needle of a compass and a magnet never point exactly to the poles, being deflected east of the North Pole and West of the South.
The quiescent moment at dawn and in the twilight marks the Sushumnâ (Soo-shum-nah), or conjunction of the two currents, when Akâsha prevails in the Prâna. It is for this reason that the Hindu so scrupulously takes his breathing exercises and meditates during these two periods, believing the influences of Nature to be especially favorable.
During the day the earth is negative, having yielded her positive radiations to the lunar current moon-breath – of the brooding night. Dawn thus finds her in the condition to be receptively grateful for the invigorating rays of the positive or solar vibrations. But there are high-tides and low-tides of this influence according to the direction of the solar rays; and every particle of organic life upon the earth’s teeming surface is subjected further to the influence of minor currents from the moon as she passes from one constellation to another in her eccentric orbit.
This varying strength of the solar and lunar currents causes momentary changes in terrestrial Prâna which are reflected in our bodies. It is an ebb and flow, as it were; a forward and backward movement; and it is this Great Breath of the Uni-verse that gives the impulse to organic breathing. With its on-rush we inhale, and the current of Prâna is sent to the farthest ends of the gross vessels the nerve and blood channels of the physique. The succeeding moment imparts the backward impulse and with the receding flow of the vital current, exhalation takes place.
The throbbing of the heart, its expansion the diastole and contraction the systole cor-respond with the flow of Prâna. But the rapidity of these inward and outward forward and back-ward movements of Prâna varies in different organisms. The influences which establish this individuality, inseparably associated with the correspondencies between the macrocosm and the microcosm, are the subject of the next chapter.
The laws governing the flow of solar Prâna to the earth and round about it apply equally to all the planets and constellations, but with this difference: the states of Tattvic matter in and about every such center are variously modified and every planet has a dominating Tattva, just as Prithivi is pre-eminent upon Mother Earth. It is this radical difference of Tattvic activity which makes all conjectures upon the possibilities of life upon the other planets absolutely futile, till minds can grasp the conception of other planes of life life maintained by subtler vibrations, or, in terms of modern science, different chemical affinities with totally changed nervous systems and physical structure.
The need of the hour is to better understand these earth bodies of ours, these vehicles intended to facilitate the soul’s activities; to recognize that they are always in the making, and that influences undreamed of by the materialist are ever active in the making. Life is a matter of moment to moment, of unceasing change. Thought is the great dynamic power which determines the nature of the vibrations we draw to us. Directed by a soul-governed will we can make them as harmonious and favorable as needs require. And the deeper, fuller, and slower we breathe, the more do we facilitate these natural operations, upon the perfection of which depends the physical well-being.
Spend no breath in. denying evil, but steadfastly affirm health!