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First Mansion - TO BREATHE

If we search for a symbol fit to characterize and forcefully to suggest in terms of outer activity the primordial essence of pure being, we shall find none better suited than the ancient and immemorial symbol of the breath. To breathe: such is the first action of individualized being. To breathe is to be independent and, relatively at least, self-sufficient, complete — alive. To breathe is to inhale the whole world, to open oneself to air that has coursed through myriads of lungs, that the sun has kissed, the earth has scented, the stars have blessed. To breathe is to declare, tragically yet with passionate fervor: I am. The song of the breath is the song of the "I am". Stop breathing and very soon the song is ended. For a few minutes life goes on; but, the individual — the "I am" — having withdrawn, having refused to contact the whole living world through the magical performance of breathing, the body loses its significance and disintegrates; it has been rendered useless, meaningless.

Breath is the first mansion: the mansion of the "I am". In it, human life celebrates its individual selfhood. Thus in old India, the land of pure and spiritual individual selfhood, where the Self — Atman, the absolute Breath — was the only true divinity, the act of breathing was regarded as most sacred. Spiritual development was there a matter of reaching the Self, of becoming identified with the Self that is changeless, formless, conditionless, absolute.

To the Self many paths were seen to lead; but somewhere on every path a moment came when the traveler had to meet the Breath; when man had to cease breathing as an animal — instinctively — and to begin breathing as a man — deliberately. From this moment, man began to act as a master of the life-force. He began to operate at a higher level of individual selfhood, establishing slowly his own rhythm of being, his own valuations, his own universe.

The first type of breathing is the instinctive, animal type. It is racial, natural, unconscious, automatic. It is safe, but superficial. It refers to the collective, to the mass, to the earth — to the first birth. It is controlled in the human body by the autonomous nervous system, balanced by the complementary action of the expanding, accelerating sympathetic, and of the contracting, retarding para-sympathetic groups of nerves.

The second type of breathing is deliberate, mental. It is based on the development of the individual, which it furthers for weal or for woe. It is conscious, deliberate, deep. It carries the seed of great danger — of illness and insanity. It is based on a law of polarization and of operative wholeness which belongs to the world of mind, the realm of formation and of mastery — for good or for ill. It is the true breath of air — the song of the second birth. It is controlled by the cerebro-spinal nerves, by the axis of individual selfhood: the spine — the "pillar of fire", the living symbol of the potentially immortal "I".

The third type of breathing is hard to understand, for it belongs to the realm of spirit and of light. It is superconscious, ecstatic, high. It is the solar breath — of which very little can be said, save that it gives light to the soul and immortality to the individual who fully partakes of it. The old Hindu books deal in veiled utterances with the mystery of it. It is the mystery of the third birth, under the many forms which it may take throughout the evolutionary cycles of collective mankind.

Following this analogy of the breath, so vital and fundamental for an understanding of essential being, one may say likewise that there are three types of "I am", three types of individual selfhood. They can be correlated, at least symbolically, to the three types of breathing and to the three births.

The first type is the instinctive, animal-like ego which is rooted in the blood. It is the integrative power of the body. It correlates through the blood-stream all organic functions, and its rhythm may be known from that of the heart-beats. It is born of the fact of organic living. It is the result of the fact that the body is an organic whole capable of maintaining itself in a condition of at least relative health; this, largely through the operation of the muscular system, to which the heart organically belongs. Being rooted in the blood, it is indissolubly bound to the tribal whole; to a family, an ancestry, a tradition, a tribal system, a tribal religion — and to a certain geographical location: "my country". It is the earth-born ego, who, childlike, proclaims "I am!" — with adequate muscular gestures, whether it be of sex or speech.

It is; and in order to continue to be and to grow in stature, it owns. My country, my family, my wife, my home, my possessions — mine! Because this earth-born ego owns and must own in order to expand; because expansion in the realm of earth-substance necessarily means to have more of anything which can be owned; and because as every ego naturally and instinctively desires to expand, these wills to expand must of necessity come into conflict — then, there must be craving, violence, hatred, war. Thus the possessive ego becomes the passional and imperialistic ego; the feudal lord dominating his possessions, surrounded by fear and hatred, fighting a losing fight against the inevitable death. He that is of the blood must perish by the blood. All deaths are due either to congestion or poisoning of the blood-stream, or else to the exhaustion of the muscular and glandular systems which maintain the organism as an operative whole. The ego that is born of the dust must return to the dust. Such is the old mansion for men who belong to the old — to the order that is rooted in the blood. And alas! while humanity as a whole is striving to refocus its elite at a higher level, nevertheless the man of the mass is still completely centered around this ego born of blood and muscles.

At the higher level, reached through the portals of the "second birth" — portals opened by the Buddha and the Christ for the first time in a collective and planetary way — the "I am" establishes itself upon another foundation. It is reborn of air and of tone. It becomes itself a foundation. It creates its own universe as an individual, a bestower of significance upon all physical facts of the earth. It separates itself from the earth, as the perfume separates itself from the flower to flow upon the waves of air; as the tone separates itself from the throbbing bell to wing its way through the countryside.

The individual. How much misunderstanding accompanies this potent word! The idea it represents is difficult for many persons to grasp, because it implies two different operations. The first one implies a separation from the earth, the mother, the family, the tribe — and from the sense of ownership. Through it man has to stand alone, as if without foundations, as if without friends or possessions. It is darkness — for, remark, the first astrological house is below the horizon. It is yet the unseen. It is that which presses upward from the depth; that which separates itself from the depth and the dark — and emerges at the line of awareness: the horizon and the "Ascendant".

Thus the individual is never a static reality. He is a surging upward from the depth — as the tone surges from the hollow of the bell. And as he surges onward, he seems to lose contact with the "mother", the earth, the home — and to become a wanderer and an exile. And it is because he is an exile that he can become the foundation of a new order of life; just as the Pilgrim Fathers became the foundation of a new social order. But in proportion as there is in the exile a sense of clinging to the old ideals and the old possessiveness that is of the blood, in this same proportion does the new order fail to be vitally significant and great.

Because the individual at first becomes an exile and a lonely wanderer, he realizes the need to make a covenant with other exiles; a covenant guaranteeing the rights of each and all on the basis of equality and of individual freedom. This covenant of free men — and no longer of blood-kinsmen bound by the traditions of their ancestral earth — is the foundation of the new order. This new order begins on a Plymouth Rock, for the same reason that Peter — which means "a stone" — was chosen by Jesus as the rock upon which His church was to be built. Such a rock, in the astrological symbolism of the second birth, corresponds to Aries 19 — the point of exaltation of the Sun, in the first zodiacal mansion of the Sun, which becomes the symbol of the wanderer: Man. The number 19 is the number of the Sun, or rather of him who becomes a manifestation, an avatar, of the Sun.

Then the individual, having thus become a separate entity, is ready for the second phase of the process. He joins hands and will with other separate individuals; and on that foundation of covenanted individuals is born the new order, the real democracy, which is — when it exists in reality — a spiritual idea projected into a pattern of organization. This "joining of hands" is deeply symbolical; but it means the establishing of a new order only if each participant has become previously "separate"; only if each individual has proven to himself and to God his own individualhood by the new breath — which is a symbolical way of saying that the individual has become free from bondage to the earth and to the blood, whence comes the sense of passion, of jealousy, of possessiveness and covetousness, and the craving for conquest and ruthless expansion.

Expansion on the earth-plane means violent conquest and the enslavement — physical or moral — of others. But on the plane of air, expansion means the achievement of more inclusive co-operation with others, more inclusive wholeness. No one will fence in the air and say: my air, for myself only to breathe. If one did so, one would sooner or later die suffocated. One cannot possess air and live. Air belongs to all and is breathed by all; and it unifies every living thing, as it courses through the lungs of would-be enemies as well as of entranced lovers.

Thus the individual of the second birth, living on the plane of air, which is that of vitalizing wholeness, finds himself both a unique personality without roots in a binding past, and one creative center joined through unity of purpose and of work with many similar creative centers. Similar, yet each different; graded as to activity and work in a hierarchy of creative deeds, yet all equals in a community of essential being.

On this foundation, which will become the true Aquarian order, a new consciousness develops which in time transcends itself, and reaches to the "third birth", which is of the realm of light. Of this, it is almost useless to speak; for today the great struggle is between earth-values and air-values, the cravings of the blood-self and the purposes of the breathing self. The old mansion says: "I am — and all others shall bow to this, my triumphant cry of selfhood. They shall be my slaves and my reflections." The new mansion calls for new men who know, each and all: I am That — I am the particular being with a particular purpose and destiny, and I will fulfill them. I recognize that each of my companions has his particular purpose and destiny, which I will not only allow him, but help him to fulfill. And this shall be the new nobility of Man, that every individual, whatever his blood, his sex, and his past, shall join hands with other individuals as free human beings, to create and to manifest upon the earth the Glory of the One Individual in whom "we live and move and have our being."

What may lie beyond such a realization can only with the most extreme difficulty be manifested through a present-day human personality. Witness the agonies and the strange aberrations of those mystics who claim to have become identified with God in a universal birth of light. That such a birth is possible, there can be little doubt. But what is being born is so incongruous with the normal basis of earth-conditioned present-day humanity, and it is so nearly impossible to find on our planet, as it is materially constituted today, substances to sustain the being of those who have reached this identification with God, that such an exalted and universal state of being can hardly be substantialized and become harmonious personality.

In the first mansion, being is only an Idea, an archetype, a mere "breath". It is, in terms of consciousness, an intuition, a flash of illumination, a pure, unsubstantiated realization. It has form, but not yet substance. It is the "Son of God" before he has met the "daughters of the earth". It is joy before the crucifixion into the flesh. But the vistas opened to that joyous, heaven-born realization of being will become the incentive beyond the ponderous, groping steps of a more substantial development of personality. Being will operate through all the vicissitudes of becoming; and the courage to go forth and to prove to the universe that quality and that tone which constitute man's innermost individuality will be found by concentrating again and again upon that "original Impulse" which is of God — even if all else be heavy with the refuse of the past and the mire of earth.

This edition copyright © 2008 Michael R. Meyer
All Rights Reserved.

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