The breath of God

The idea of the breath of God is sometimes seen as the life force, the spirit of God that led to creation and to all creatures. In the Hebrew Scriptures we read that God formed us from dust and breathed into Adam the breath of life so that he became alive. Breath is what unites all living things and is the environment in which we stay alive. The spirit is ‘ruah’ and ‘pneuma’ a current of air, breath or breeze. John 3 ‘The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

In Carl Jung’s memoir he describes one of his journeys in Africa where he visited with the Elgonyi in Kenya where the sun is worshipped from the mountains at the moment of rising as at that moment the sun was God and an offering was made by spitting or blowing vigorously on the hands before holding them up to the sun.

‘If the gift was spittle, it was the … personal mana, the power of healing, magic and life. If it was breath, then it was roho – Arabic, ruch, Hebrew, ruach Greek, pneuma – wind and spirit. The act was therefore saying: I offer to God my living soul. It was a wordless, acted-out prayer which might equally well be rendered: “Lord into thy hands I commend my spirit”.’

Jung’s commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower, refers to the Chinese alchemical metaphors of ‘diamond body’ or ‘holy fruit’ which refer to the purified, incorruptible breath-body or spirit-body sought by Taoist adepts in their search for spiritual immortality.  For Jung this also covered an essential quest for all humanity of special relevance in the second half of life; at this stage of life the goal of spiritual existence, is the birth of a “spirit body” or “breath body” which ensures the continuity of detached consciousness.” Jung was attracted to yoga but thought that Christianity might develop its own form of yoga in line with the traditions of the west; perhaps to some extent this has happened but I think that Jung would see now in the contemporary west how generally alienated we are from the breath-body or spirit-body; we have lost touch with the breath as Sandra Sabatini puts it: ‘We have moved so far away from ourselves that we have completely forgotten our closest friend’. She sees the possibility of healing through the transition from hectic, uneven breathing to a smooth, round rhythmic one; this happens’ gradually and slowly but once the healing process begins, it takes you by the hand naturally and leads the way.’ And this is the breath of God.