Breath is a strange thing, by simply breathing certain ways I have been able to induce changes in consciousness that can best be described as “out of body” – this seems to be an old trick.
I see references to breath control in Muslim Sufi works (Ala al-Dawla Simnani’s techniques for example, or the Naqshbandi technique of Hosh dar dam which cultivates an inner awareness and stillness during breath) and some practices of Shia Irfanis seem to use it to support visionary exercises. In the West Julius Evola and the Ur Group’s “Introduction to Magic” advocates some suspiciously similar breath techniques to cultivate an awareness of the body’s subtle aspects and to promote a certain… dislocation of consciousness during the liminal stage between sleep and wakefulness.
I also stumbled on something similar in Robert Moss’s books on dreaming and some of Robert Bruce’s books. What is going on here?
Is this useful or is it simply just idle boinging around chasing psychological will-o-wisps?
I suspect it is a bit of both. Obviously cultivated breath produces certain physiological effects. But it also seems to produce some psychological effects that are quite powerful and, though Western science does not accept the matter, I believe there are effects of a subtle non-physical, but non-spiritual, nature as well.
Effects – one could speculate – operative on degrees of reality which Chinese alchemists, Muslim Sufis, and neo-Platonic Hermetic thinkers, all seem to have thought of as intermediary liminal aspects behind physical reality. The best analogy I can say is that if the physical tangible world is skin, these techniques properly learned and cultivate.
Were they right? Who knows. The observation is interesting all the same. Breathe in certain ways long enough and you will experience inward experiences as interesting, or more so, than anything you can experience with chemical hallucinogens.
Improperly learned, and experimented with, there may be the possibility of being easily led to a disorderly state, of extreme disharmony akin to insanity. Which, interestingly enough, is what happens often with improper use of hallucinogenic drugs. Dependency of fantasy states and a dislocation from reality. Bad trip flashbacks, you know the score.
Basic technique, stripped down to its essentials, focus on some phrase or object. For example, a part of your body, or a meaningful phrase. And while drifting into a reverie, “watch” the leading edge of your breath, feel it come in, and feel it come out, do this for a while gently with your eyes closed. Soon you will begin to see things, record what you see. Pay it not attention or importance but just record it for the sake of “gee this is interesting”.
This is the hypnagogic phase, of your sleep cycle. You will soon find it more interesting than watching TV.
Soon other things will occur if you persist in this. Record it. Compare notes with others… I’m not going to give out any surprises. Try it for yourself.
In either case none of this is “spiritual” in any sense of the word – certain switches are being tripped in the brain. Certain perceptions obtained. Whether these perceptions have an objective status in reality (and I think, to a real degree, they do) or not, none of this concerns – remotely – what one could consider as “spiritual”