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A Paper presented to Felkin College on 25th August 2006
By V.W.Fra Dennis F.G. Whittle VI

Element of Life and Soul

Breathing air into the lungs is the first action after birth - and death comes with the final breath_ Since air is life, it has been identified with man's soul or spiritual essence in mane religions. Learning to control breathing is therefore the basis of many Eastern paths to spiritual enlightenment.


The First Man, according to the book of Genesis, was fashioned from earth by the hand of God, who then breathed life into him through his nose - a process imagined by some commentators as being like the blowing up of a bladder. God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and a living being". This connection between breath and the source of life is found in many religions and myths.

In a legend of the Australian aborigines, for instance, the god Pundjel fashioned two male figures from a mixture of clay and bark- After smoothing their bodies by a series of magical passes encompassing them front head to foot. he then lay upon them - each in turn - and blew into their mouths, their nostrils and their navels. After some time they came to life and moved about

Similarly a commentator on the Koran says that the body of Adam was originally a clay figure which took 40 years to dry, after which God endowed it with the breath of life. The name Adam is a Hebrew word possibly coming from a root which means 'red' and so connected with the red clay of the first roan 's body. The red colour further connected it with blood. the -water of life, in the sense that without blood a man dies.

According to Satumius and Basilides [who taught at Antioch and Alexandria respectively in the second century AD], the first man was made by seven evil angels, led by the god of the Jews. who said 'Come, let us make man after our image ". They fashioned a being of enormous proportions but it could only crawl along the ground until the good supreme Creator himself endowed it with air, the divine spirit or soul. In other words, it needed to be impregnated with pneuma (in Greek ) or prang (in Sanskrit] - terms which refer not to mere breath but to life-giving vital air or 'spirit". Only after this could the crawling creature stand upright and become truly man.

The identity of breath and soul is established in early mythologies of widely separated peoples. In Fiji. for instance, people suffering from bronchitis or asthma were considered to run the risk of losing their souls. A magician was employed to capture the sick man's-butterfly ' [as his wavering breath was called] and secure it firmly to the body again . This he did with spells and conjurations. Also in Fiji, when the canoe of a chief was launched , a number of men were sacrificed so that their souls [or breath] might supply a wind of good luck for the sails of the craft. In ancient times the breath of the dying was believed to re-enter the living. The Algonquins [Ottawa Indians] buried their dead children in frequented places so that the souls might re-enter future mothers there. A similar idea is at the root of a