Today, while making an offering to Apollo, he (if you’ll forgive the pun) shed some light on a bit of mathetic practice. I’m still dusting off some of the tools and prayers I was working on, but he’s given me some ideas to work with. While he’s still pretty stoic and detached in his approach to me, he’s generously helped me begin the process of refining and applying some of the things in mathesis I’ve been wanting to develop. Of this, in addition to the usual daily mathetic stuff I would be doing, he’s given me a breathing exercise to do. I don’t know if you’ve seen this one particular GIF around the Internet recently, but it suddenly popped in my mind when I asked him what should be done.
So, I took that idea, hashed it out a bit with Apollo, and applied it. It fills a need I wasn’t aware I needed, but it makes complete sense in retrospect, especially with some ideas I’ve gotten from the late Neoplatonic philosopher and theurgist Iamblichus as of late.
Before we get into the exercise, though, let’s go over a bit of geometry. We all know the Tetractys, right? We all know the Tetractys.
One of the many mathematical interpretations of the Tetractys is that it can represent the first four dimensions of geometry, starting with with the zeroth dimension:
- A single point, with neither length nor breadth nor depth. No measure, only location.
- Two points, forming a straight line segment with length. With a line segment, we can identify an infinite line extending in two directions: forward and backward.
- Three points, defining a triangle with length and breadth, together known as area. With a triangle, we can identify an infinite area (a plane) extending in four directions: forward and backward, left and right.
- Four points, defining a tetrahedron with length and breadth and depth, together known as volume. With a tetrahedron, we can identify an infinite volume (a space) extending in six directions: forward and backward, left and right, up and down.
Dion Fortune in her Mystical Qabalah (chap. 28, para. 25) says as much, in more sephirotic terms:
The point is assigned to Kether;
the line to Chokmah;
the two-dimensional plane to Binah;
consequently the three-dimensional solid naturally falls to Chesed.
We can see this using the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life by dividing it up into four groups of points: one (Kether), two (Chokmah and Binah), three (Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth), and four (Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malkuth). Such a diagram illustrates this idea of emanation in both a geometric way as well as a qabbalistic way.
In a Hermetic, Neoplatonic, Iamblichian, Pythagorean, or whatever sense, the Monad (a.k.a. Kether, the Source, whatever) is the fundamental principle that defines and underlies everything that exists. (Whether it’s a distinct entity/non-entity/process is something of a debate in the blogosphere and I don’t presume to get into it here.) Looking at the Tetractys, the Monad is the first step in the process of manifestation: from the Monad comes the Dyad, from the Dyad the Triad, and from the Triad the Tetrad. The Tetrad is what gives us body and form, but it comes from a higher principle, and that principle comes from a higher one, and so forth. If we really want to bring change from above down to here, we have to give it form in some sense, or we have to align some part of our being with the process of bringing power from the Source to us.
However, although four points identifies the minimal solid there can exist, we are far more than just four points. Yes, we are a combination of fire and air and water and earth, but not in equal measures, nor in a regular fashion. Our bodies are animal, but our spirit partakes in something of the Divine; in order to better make our lives and bodies more appropriate to interacting with the divine, we should try to induce a slightly different body in ourselves that makes ourselves more divine. For the Neoplatonic Iamblichus, this is the form of the sphere, the most ideal solid there can be, and the body of the heavenly entities. A sphere is not a tetrahedron, but they are both bodies. We don’t want to be content with a tetrahedron, as we’re already far too complex to abide in it, but we want to get to a sphere. In one sense, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is nothing, after having gone and passed through the point, line, and shape in order to get a form; in another, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is the most daunting thing of all, as we go from one point to two to three to four is one thing, but to go from four to an infinite number of points is daunting, to say the least.
In addition to all this, it’s known that part of the theurgic practices of Iamblichus involved a process of “light” and filling oneself up with it, which we can also see in other theurgic rituals, like that of the Mithras Liturgy from PGM IV.475-834. In that, we find the following:
Draw in breath from the rays [of the Sun], drawing up 3 times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in midair. You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things. For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies…
…So stand still and at once draw breath from the divine into yourself, while you look intently…
The whole Mithras Liturgy is a spiritual astral travel-type of initiation, where one ascends into the heavens and deals directly with the gods and guards of heaven. However, important to this ritual is an act of ritualized breathing, where one breathes in rays of light or the breath of the divine, and in doing so changes or alters one’s nature or consciousness. This is also similar to the Howl of Orpheus rite I found a bit ago, with its own special type of breathing and bellowing. Breathing in divine light is not just the light of a particular planet or a star or fire, but to breathe in the light of the Divine itself, that of the Monad, the fundamental essence that undergirds all things that exist.
So, let’s put this all together into a coherent ritual, shall we?
- While sitting or standing, breathe out completely, from the head to the toes, completely exhaling all breath from the lungs. Make a popping sound to expel all breath once the normal exhale is done.
- Breathe in deeply from the toes to the head, picturing a point of Light in your heart. Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely, this time with a hissing sound towards the end. Maintain the point of Light in your heart as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
- Breathe in deeply, picturing the point of Light in your heart splitting into two points, one at the crown of your head and one at the soles of your feet, connected by a line of Light rising from the feet, through the spine, to the head. Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound. Maintain the line of Light in your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
- Breathe in deeply, picturing the line of Light extending by another point from its middle into a triangle that envelops your body, aligned side-to-side through your body, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head. Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound. Maintain the triangle of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
- Breathe in deeply, picturing the triangle of Light extending by another point from its center into a tetrahedron, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head, completely enveloping you inside. Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound. Maintain the tetrahedron of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
- Breathe in deeply, maintaining the pyramid of Light around you, as you hold the breath, exhale completely, and hold your lungs empty several times. Silently call out to the Divine Source until you can form some sort of connection, until you can sense the Source of the Light that has been forming within and around you this whole time. Repeat this step until you have sensed it and formed a connection with it, then continue.
- With the lungs completely empty, breathe in deeply, but this time, breathe in the Light from the Source. As you do so, picture the pyramid around you swelling up slowly, bulging at its sides, until it becomes the shape of a perfect sphere that completely surrounds you. Repeat this step until you can form a stable, perfect sphere of Light.
- Once you’ve formed a stable sphere of Light that surrounds you completely, let your image of yourself dissolve and merge into the sphere, becoming one with it, letting the sphere become your entire body. Maintain this mental state as a form of meditation as long as desired.
- When finished with the meditative sphere of Light, let the image of your body form from the Light within the sphere, maintaining the boundary of the sphere around you as a shield or shell. Exhale slowly with another popping sound to finish.