This is the fourth in the series of five essays my Deekshithar friend and I wrote in the last years of the previous century. It speaks about what we can learn from the ancient knowledge systems about cosmology. And here specifically about Breath, key to Cosmos. The knowledge of which has been encoded and preserved in one of the great sacred temples of India, the Shri Sabhanayaka or Nataraja temple in Tamil, Nadu. This temple is known as the Akasha Kshetra, the Field of Akasha, one of the Mahabhuta Sthalas or Element Temples.
In this article we share our thinking on the biological mechanism of Breathing as the essential key to the processes of Creation and Dissolution that underlie the existence of our Cosmos. This material was the result of some ten years of researching, discussing, and meditating on the subject. Together with the other articles in this series, this essay was shared on a website created for Raja Deekshithar by one of his students around 2000. One international hotshot found it and used our work as the basis of a series of bestsellers, promoting the idea of Akasha as the Unfied Field Theory, or the Toe, the Theory of Everything. Writing the books my Deekshithar and I could not, due to lack of resources. How am I sure? He refers to the Deekshithar’s website as a resource in his first book.
He did a good work promoting the idea, but he never came to the root, to Tillai-Chidambaram. To the Dancing Lord and the Ananda Tandava. So he missed the essence.
The other essays are:
Factual Orientation and Feeling Orientation
Akasha Gamanam, passage through space
The Art of Vedic Healing
The breath. So inconspicuous and so vital. We breathe all the time and hardly notice it. It is the first thing we do when we are born. And it is what we can do least without.
Breathing seems a relatively simple physical activity. The action of the up and down movement of the diaphragm and the rib cage generates in and outflow of air. Up and down and in and out. Oxygen-rich air flows in and carbon-dioxide-rich air flows out. The inversion of motion allows for the transformation to take place. This is what is obvious in the human system. When we look into the details, we realize it is not that simple.
As we breathe in our lungs filled with the gasses that constitute our atmosphere. From this mixture, we absorb the oxygen into our bloodstream which distributes it to every part of our body. In the cells this oxygen is used for the process is of metabolism. The chemical process that keeps us going is the reaction of organic molecules, and especially the carbon atoms in them, with this oxygen. This is the oxidation that releases the energy that keeps us alive and warm. It is the fire within us. The burning that does not destroy, but creates life. What we breathe out is carbon dioxide. Our respiration cycle can be outlined in the following diagram.
In the lungs, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. Oxygen-rich blood is transported to the heart, which pumps it to all the cells of the body. There the chemical reaction takes place where the oxygen combines with the carbon of the organic compounds from our food. This combustion generates the energy and heat that we need for living.
Once again we encounter inversion and transformation. The bloodstream is pumped around the body into cycles, to and from the lungs, and to and from the cells. And two transformations take place, one in the lungs and one in the cells. The heart functions as the generator, sustaining the cycle.
Inversion and Transformation
This cycle within the human system is in its turn one half of a larger cycle of inversion and transformation which takes place between the animals and plants. The carbon dioxide that we breathe out is produced through the metabolic burning inside the cell. This waste product becomes the basis of the process that takes place at the opposite end of the cycle. When the green chlorophyll in the cells of plants catches the energy particles of light, carbon dioxide and water are synthesized into organic compounds. This is called photo synthesis. Here the waste product is oxygen.
As we breathe in and out we are enabling our life process is to take place, transforming oxygen and food into energy and heat. And when the plant breeze it transforms carbon dioxide and water with the help of energy into oxygen and organic compounds. The organic substances produced by the plant become our food. Which is in its turn used in the combustion process which takes place in our cells. And what is produced as our waste is in its turn the food used by the plants. These two interwoven cycles have turned our planet into a blue gem that travels into the cosmic ocean of space.
The process is known as the carbon cycle. It involves several successive phases of inversion and transformation. Together the two cycles of breath give us a life. The most precious and most mysterious phenomenon of the universe. It has taken billions of years to evolve, and it has eventually led to the emergence of consciousness in us, humans. A diagram of the store process is interacting looks like this
Ancient seers introduced in spiritual practice a system, yoga, which awakens human consciousness and opens the gateway to its next stage of evolution. In yoga, much importance and attention are given to the breath. It is considered to be much more than a simple physical action. Breath is the transport of the subtle life energy called prana. Breath and prana are the companions of the soul. Both are necessary to sustain life. They connect the individual being to the Absolute Being of the cosmos.
Several methods are used that employed the breath as the technique for the development of awareness. Breathing exercises also serve for the build-up of spiritual power and energy. This leads to the practitioner eventually on the path of spiritual transformation, the attainment of absolute and unconditioned Consciousness. The first step is for the practitioner to become aware of the breath by listening to the sound of the in and outflow of the air through the nostrils. This generates the sound ‘hamsa’. It is a sacred sound formula or mantra which represents the sound of the breath of the self-existent impersonal spirit or Brahman. The breath of the cosmos.
The next phase is to become aware of the flow of breath through the nostrils. The supple body contains nadis or arteries through which the psychic energy of prana flows. Two of these arteries connect the energy center at the bottom of the spine to the nostrils. On the left side, this nadi is called Ida. The tradition associates it with the moon, coolness, feminine energy, intuition, night, and the right hemisphere of the brain. The artery which opens into the right nostril is called Pingala. It is associated with the sun, heat, masculinity, logic, day, and the left hemisphere of the brain. Practitioner of yoga comes to understand that when the left nostril is more open, it is the Ida energy which is active in the body. And when the right nostril is more open the Pingala is working.
In the following phases, the practitioner learns to synthesize these two energy streams into one. An important technique that is used towards this end, is to activate the several energies in pairs of opposing dualities. The Ida or night energy is activated during the day. And the Pingala or day energy is activated by night. The flow of the two energy streams has its own cycles. The practitioner continuously applies the principle of opposition or inversion. And the final aim and result is the activation of the most important energy flow of the human energy body. The flow of the Kundalini energy through the Sushumna Nadi, which is situated in the subtle body wherein the physical body the spinal column is found. This is called Svara Yoga.
The subtle life energy of breath, prana, is also used by the yogi for the build-up of spiritual or psychic energy. The cosmic life force of prana, which exists in our being through the breath, is understood to consist of the five Prana Vayus or pranic airs. Of these two, the prana or in-breath and the Apana or out-breath have to be reversed in such a way that it will be the Apana that moves up and the prana which moves down. This inversion generates and awakens the psychic energy of the yogi. It induces the Kundalini to flow through the Sushumna Nadi to the top of the head, activating the energy center which is located there. The practice which induces this process is called pranayama, which means the lengthening of the breath.
We have mentioned this kundalini force several times already. For the yogi, this force is a Goddess. It is an important principle and entity for spiritual practice, for the development of psychic powers, and for the attainment of unconditioned consciousness. It’s functioning also offers us a key for the understanding of the functioning of the cosmos, as it is a cosmic principle functioning on the plane of the microcosm.
The awakening and raising of the Kundalini through the Sushumna Nadi can be achieved through several techniques of yogic practice. It is even known to sometimes occur spontaneously, possibly as a result of spiritual practice undertaken in previous lives. This energy is described as a flow of heat through the spinal cord, accompanied by various sounds heard in the inner ear. On its path, it encounters several centers of psychic energy which are situated along the Sushumna Nadi. These are called chakras, or energy wheels, and play an important role in all spiritual development. At its final destination, it unites with an energy node situated at the crown of the human head. This is the fulfillment of the process. This spiritual energy generated through the yogic practice of the individual unites with what can be called divine energy. This pervades the cosmos. Thus the individual consciousness is changed, transformed. This is called Kundalini Yoga.
Ascent and descent
Although the unification of the individual kundalini energy with the divine cosmic energy is the climax of the spiritual practice, it is not the conclusion. Because it is imperative to return the transformed energy to its point of origin, the agency point or chakra at the base of the spine. Not doing so is not only dangerous, but it would also defeat the achievement and purpose of the spiritual practice, which is the building up of spiritual or psychic energy in the subtle body of the practitioner. The returning of the Kundalini energy to its point of origin also requires specific yogic techniques that are acquired through spiritual practice.
The ascent of the Kundalini energy is called Arohana in Sanskrit, and its descent is called Avarohana. This cycle of the ascend, transformation, and consequently descend of energy, process, or force can be shown to be a universal pattern, which has its equivalent in all aspects and planes of the functioning of our cosmos. We are proposing here that it is a primordial pattern of the creation we live in. Reflecting the very essence of the process of cosmos. It may enable us to understand both our cosmos as well as our own being better and on a deeper level.
All the examples so far described in this article followed the same pattern of inversion and transformation. The first phase is the rising of the energy or flow, which we will call Arohana, after the Sanskrit term. At the end of the rising, at the apex or climax, a transformation is accomplished. After which the transformed substance or energy must be returned to its point of origin; only then will the process have its required or intended outcome. And in the interaction of the process, we see further inversions and transformations take place. Going up becomes going down, going down becomes going up. Food becomes waste and waste becomes food. This process of Arohana and Avarohana, inversion and transformation, generates energy. We have seen it function on the basic biological plane of breathing as well as on the subtle plane of spiritual practice. The energy generated is both gross physical energy as well as non-material, subtle psychic energy.
How does this observation reflect on our understanding of the functioning of the cosmos? The technological developments over the past centuries, from the invention of the telescope onward, have led to a great increase in factual knowledge concerning the universe. This has in its turn led to the formulation and acceptance of what is known as the Standard Model of the creation of the universe. The universe is thought to have come into existence some 12 to 15 billion
years ago from a super dense and infinitely small singularity, pin-point of primordial energy substance. This singularity exploded, the energy substance expanded and cooled, leading first to the formation of particles and atoms. Continued expansion eventually led to the formation of suns, galaxies, and solar systems. And to life, and us, conscious human beings.
Careful observation of the universe suggests it is still expanding. This compels us to ask the question of whether it will go on expanding forever? Whether at some point it will stop expanding and become static? Or whether eventually, the expansion will revert to a contraction and a return to the state of singularity? The answer to this question lies in our understanding of the interaction of the forces that function in the universe. It is thought that if enough mass exists the gravitational force would eventually reverse expansion into contraction. At the same time calculations seem to indicate that most of the mass in the universe cannot be detected. This leaves the answer in doubt from a scientific point of view.
The Vedic perspective
We are proposing to look for an answer to the eventual fate of the universe in ancient Vedic doctrine. This is an unconventional and radical approach. But I hope that the results will convince the readers of its wisdom and relevance. And bear witness to the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors.
Creation is called shrishti or sarga in Sanskrit. Both words come from the root ‘srij’. Which carries the meaning of letting go or letting fly, hurl, emit, utter, to create. The creation originates from the Bindu, a drop or a point, understood as a manifestation of the divine cosmic female energy called Shakti. By the impact of spirit or Purusha, the manifestation of the divine cosmic male energy called Shiva, this Bindu expands into the creation. The creation is cyclic. Expansion alternates with contraction and dissolution. Periods of existence alternate with periods of non-existence. The phase of existence is likened to the human breath. The exhalation is identified with the phase of creation and expansion. The inhalation represents the contraction and dissolution.
It is important to note here that the exhalation is considered to be arohana. Whereas the inhalation is Avarohana. Where the universe is given existence through the exhalation, the process of Arohana, human life is made possible by the inhalation, the process of Avarohana. We see here another inversion. This time between the universe, the macro-cosmos, and the human being, the micro-cosmos.
Earlier in this article, we have mentioned that the sound of the human breath generates the mantra ‘hamsa’. The exhalation makes the sound ‘ham’ and the inhalation makes the sound ‘sa’. This word literally means gander or goose. It is the mythical bird of the cosmos which, when offered milk mixed with water, will extract the milk and leave the water behind.
It represents the primordial Self-existent independent spirit, the World Soul, that which is called Brahman in the Veda. As the yogi listens to the sound of the breath ‘hamsahamsahamsa’ the transformation that is realized through the yogic practice will transform this mantra into its inversion ‘sohamsohamsoham’. This is the contraction of ‘sa’, this, and ‘ham’, I. The meaning is ‘this I am’. Through the transformation and inversion, the identity of the macro cosmos and microcosmos is brought about and realized.
We may now go on to make conclusions and projections from the described processes and their patterns. It has become clear that obvious parallels and connections exist between cosmological, biological, and psychological-spiritual processes. Involving cyclic patterns of ascent and descent or expansion and contraction. Resulting in inversion and transformation. It may even be proposed that the inversion itself constitutes a transformation. And the transformation
can in some cases be said to constitute an inversion. These processes have been seen to generate creation, life, and realized consciousness.
I will now show that this same pattern exists in many other aspects of the functioning of the cosmos. Studying and observing these patterns carefully reveals so many of the secrets of creation to us. That this was well known to our ancestors in a long-forgotten period of human civilization can easily be confirmed through a few examples of human ritual traditions and spiritual practices from several parts of the world.
A ritual tradition that can easily be recognized to fit in the same pattern is the trance of the shaman. The word shaman is the name for the healers and spiritual leaders of Siberian tribes. But it is now used for persons who perform similar functions within tribal communities all over the world. Shamans are initiated individuals who are knowledgeable in the ritual and spiritual traditions of their tribe. The rituals they perform and the means they use to heal people are remarkably similar all over the world. When a problem is presented to the shaman he or she will perform rituals that induce a state of trance. In this state, the shaman travels to the other world, to heaven, where spiritual beings live. The shaman looks to them for answers and for help with the solving of the problem or the healing of the disease.
After sojourning for some time in the other world the shaman must return to our own world and come out of the trance. In the context of this article, it is interesting to point out that in ancient Sanskrit we find the verb-root ‘sham’ which means ‘to exert one’s self, especially in performing ritual acts’. This verb-root gives rise to the word ‘shama’ which means the alleviation or cure of disease.
Another clear example of inversion and transformation is found in the most ancient continuous spiritual tradition known to humanity, the Veda. The Vedic doctrine centers on the performance of yajña. This is the ritual of fire sacrifice. The tradition knows many different forms and variations of this ritual which may astound and confuse the outsider, but one basic pattern forms its nucleus. And this pattern is also the key to its understanding. During the ritual, the performer is said to ascend to heaven, to the other world, where attainment takes place which involves a transformation of the performer. Subsequently, he has to descend, return to the world of physical existence. Not doing so would lead to certain death.
The ascent is called Arohana and the descent is called Avarohana. The vehicles of ascent are the mantras, the sacred sound formulas, and the ritual actions. It also involves sacred substances like Soma and Agni. Soma represents the moon and the sacred waters. Agni is the sacred fire. The return of the performer to the world of physical existence will lead to the production and transfer of the spiritual energy from other, subtle, dimensions into our world of matter. The release of this energy will have a beneficent effect on the environment, on the other participants, and on any specific area for which the ritual may have been performed.
Another ancient tradition that follows and fits in the same pattern is alchemy. It is of course generally known that the alchemists’ aim was the transformation of base metals into gold. What is less well known is that the process undertaken involved both ascent and descent as well as inversion. When we observe the many alchemical illustrations we immediately recognize the concepts and processes which are also found in yogic practice. In the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, the primal text of Western alchemy it is said
“It is truth; truth without lies; certain truths that that which is above is like that which is below:
And that which is below is like that which is above to accomplish the miracles of one thing.”
“In its great wisdom it ascends gently from Earth to Heaven.
Again it descends to earth. Then unites in itself the force from Things Above
To the force of Things Below …
THUS WAS THE WORLD CREATED.”
Once again we encounter the inversion of above and below, as well as the ascent and descent. From this synthesis, a spiritual potency is born, and a transformation takes place. Finally, the text states that this is the way creation unfolds.
When we study the traditions of western alchemy we find many similarities to the practices and doctrines of yoga, yajña, as well as Indian alchemy, which is called Siddha. Hermes’ Wand clearly reflects the pictures of the three main Nadis, Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. The substances used and their meaning, the symbols, the spiritual doctrine, all show a strong connection between the practices in East and West. Not only does this point to possible historical or other connections. It also shows that these ancient sciences are rooted in reality. Human beings would not develop their sciences along such similar lines if it all originated from imagination and superstition. We are far too creative for such parallels to occur accidentally.
Now we turn to a complex pattern of connections between breath, spiritual practice, and cosmos which is even more intriguing and intricate than the patterns illustrated so far. This pattern is established through numbers that relate to both sacred time and sacred space.
In a time period of one day a human being performs 21600 breaths, it is stated by the doctrine of yoga. And the human energy body is built up of 72000 Nadis or energy flows. At first sight, these seem to be random numbers, but they are not. They are the proof of the great depth of knowledge and understanding of the human being and the creation we live in known to our ancestors. As well as the proof that their spiritual practice, now banished to the fringes of society as mysticism, has its roots in a rational and scientific understanding of human consciousness and its abilities.
Western and Vedic time calculation have obviously descended from the same origin, but have each taken a slightly different form. In the West, a day is divided into 24 hours of 60 minutes, which each contain 60 seconds. Vedic time is measured with the day containing 60 nadika, each containing 60 vinadi. This calculates into 3600 vinadi in a day. One vinadi, therefore, is the equivalent of 24 seconds. The common root which is indicated in this outcome is sacred geometry. Both time divisions, the Western and the Vedic are established on the division of the circle into 360 degrees of 60 minutes each.
In a long-forgotten era of human civilization, the circle understood as the primordial sacred form, has been divided into 360 degrees. Each degree having 60 minutes. And one minute in its turn divided into 60 seconds. A complimentary division was made by dividing the 360 degrees of the circle into 12 compartments of 30 degrees each. These are now associated with the 12 signs of the zodiac. When we multiply 360 with 60 we arrive at the number 21600. It is significant to note that one minute of arc is called ‘asu’ or breath in Sanskrit. This is equivalent to 4 seconds of sidereal time according to the Western system.
When we divide the 21600 breaths against the 3600 vinadis, we arrive at the number six, indicating the number of breaths taken in 24 seconds. According to yoga we take one breath, that is one in- and one exhalation every four seconds, or twelve in- and exhalations in a vinadi. Just watch your own breath when you are at rest and breathing normally. You will find this is an approximately realistic observation of the human breath. It is an average of course but a reasonable and rational one.
Now we have to turn our attention to the number 72000. Once again the connections are not immediately obvious. But 72 is 36 multiplied by 2. The 360 degrees of the circle, when multiplied by 2 give an outcome of 720. The 3600 vinadis in a day need to be multiplied by 20 to give 72000. Although we can make all kinds of arithmetical manipulations which will make it clear there is some kind of connection between the two sets of numbers, we have to look elsewhere for an explanation.
The Hall of Consciousness
One of the most ancient and most celebrated sacred places on our planet is the temple of Lord Shiva Nataraja in the south Indian city of Chidambaram. Here Lord Shiva dances His Dance of Creation and Dissolution. The Dance of Cosmos. The hereditary priesthood which has been the guardian of the Lord and His temple since the time of its origins follows the Vedic pattern of ritual and worship. The sanctum in which the Lord is performing His Cosmic Dance is called the Chit Sabha, the Hall of Consciousness. It is a wooden structure that differs in its shape from all other sanctums found in Indian temples. And its corbelled-shaped roof has been covered with golden tiles from the time of its consecration. It consists of 21600 tiles representing the human breaths, and these are held together by 72000 nails, representing the nadis of the human energy body.
The priesthood of the temple forms a hereditary community which is ruled by a system of democracy. Every 20 days the general meeting takes place in which every initiated priest has a vote. When one day is divided into 3600 vinadis, a period of 20 days has 72000 vinadis. And during this time the human body makes 21600 X 20 = 432000 breaths. This is the number of years in the present cosmic cycle called the Kali Yuga.
We have now entered into the field of cosmology, transported by the numbers 21600 and 72000, connected to the spiritual practice of yoga. And connected to the calculation of sacred time as well as sacred space through their connection to the geometry of the circle. These connections can be explained as man-made. The choice of the number 360 and its permutations can be related to the 365 days of the solar year. The other connections follow from the arithmetic characteristics of the number 360. It could all still be dismissed as ‘accidental’. But the astronomical and cosmological relationship cannot be challenged or ignored as accidental.
Due to a slight wobble of the earth’s axis, the orientation of solstices and equinoxes, the four points that divide the solar year into four equal parts, shift relative to the fixed stars of the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the circle on the celestial sphere which represents the annual path of the sun relative to the stars. Ancient astronomy has divided the circle of the ecliptic into 360 degrees. The 360 degrees in their turn have been divided into 12 equal parts of 30 degrees each, forming the signs of the zodiac. The process of the shifting of the solstice points relative to the fixed stars is called precession.
On an annual basis, the shift is negligible. It takes 72 solar years, or one human lifetime, for the solstice to shift 1 degree relative to the fixed stars. And it takes 2160 years for the shift to proceed through one sign of the zodiac. The total cycle of precession through the whole circle of the zodiac takes 25920 solar years. This is called the Great Year. Generally accepted academic views on human evolution and history preclude the possibility that our prehistoric ancestors could have possessed the knowledge of this process of precession. The facts from yoga and from the temple of Lord Nataraja show that they did.
Further proof is found in the ancient Sanskrit treatise on astronomy called the Surya Siddhanta. This text gives the formula which calculates the rate of precession as 54 seconds of arc a year. Modern calculations set the figure at 50 seconds of arc, which results in a shift of 1° in 71.6 years. This adds up to a complete cycle of 25776 years. Comparing this with the numbers relating to precession as given in yoga and temple architecture it must be recognized that the ancients did actually possess unexpectedly precise knowledge of this astronomical process.
The International Connection
But it was not only the ancient Vedic civilization that possessed this detailed knowledge. The same numbers come back again and again in mythologies and in ancient teachings the world over, in all branches of ancient humanity. In ancient Egypt in the myth of Osiris. In the Hebrew Cabbala, the Mayan calendar, Chinese traditions. The list is much longer, but not relevant for our present argument.
Not only did the ancient yogis know and understand precession. They connected and integrated this understanding in a meaningful way in their doctrine and practice. Not as an accident or even as just an attempt to store and preserve ancient knowledge. But because human breath is truly connected and involved in the realization and evolution of human consciousness. And at the same time, there exists a real relationship between these two processes and the astronomic and cosmic processes our earth is subjected to. Thus we have to conclude there must somehow be an intentional connection between these three
seemingly unrelated processes. Academic science may argue that this connection between breath and precession, and their relationship through yogic doctrine is man-made and accidental. I don’t think this argument can hold up against the facts. Or against the complexity of the pattern we have uncovered and described. This gives me the confidence to say that yogic doctrine and practice have their origins in the facts and realities of human existence and consciousness. And in the reality of cosmic processes and their interactions with us, human beings.
We have discovered that ancient doctrine unveils a connection between breath, spiritual practice, and cosmic processes. The cyclic movement of up and down, creating inversion, with the transformation at the turning point and climax of the process, and the release of energy at its completion, was understood by our ancestors to be the basic principle behind all creation and existence.
The breath is its occurrence on the simplest plane. Just in and out, up and down, with the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide. The carbon cycle which sustains life on this planet is more complicated but belongs in essence still to the plane of the micro-cosmos. And the alternation of day and night comes next and belongs together with the cycle of the phases of the moon and the cycle of the year to the macro cosmos. The year is also divided into two equal periods, by the alternating movement of the sun towards the north and the south. On the next level, we encounter the Great Year. And finally the cycle of creation and dissolution of the universe itself.
We propose that all these related phenomena can be understood through the application of a mathematical model. And that this mathematical model can in its turn throw further light on the cycles of inversion and transformation that seem to govern and direct our existence. To what purpose? We will see!
Möbius and the twist
This mathematical model is the Möbius Strip. Take an elongated strip of paper, let’s say 50 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide. Turn it once, 180°, and glue the two ends together. What you have created is called a Möbius Strip, after the German mathematician August Möbius (1790- 1868) who invented it. It is a one-sided continuous surface, an infinite plane. When you draw a line along its length, starting anywhere you like, you eventually return to the point of origin, after proceeding through two full circles of 360°, making 720°. Somewhere along the infinite plane of the strip, the 180° twist which generates the infinity occurs, whether we are aware of it or not. From there we proceed to the place of origin where a line meets with its own beginning.
Why would we believe that the Möbius Strip is the mathematical model that represents not only human breath and the carbon cycle, but also the cycle of precession and of creation and dissolution of the universe? And why do we think this is also the mathematical concept behind yogic practice? Because it not only accurately represents and describes all the different phenomena we have mentioned in this article. But also because a Möbius Strip is an integral part of the architecture of the sanctum of the Dancing Shiva in the Chidambaram temple.
Between the outer and inner walls of the sanctum lies a corridor constructed of granite. It can only be entered from inside the sanctum and is therefore only accessible to the priests. Its entrance is situated in the southwestern corner. From there it circles the sanctum, making an almost full circle. It has only one entrance. The priest circumambulating through this corridor must proceed till the end keeping the sanctum on his right. There he makes a turn of 180°, and
returns to the place of origin, once again circumambulating the sanctum, this time keeping it on his left side.
This architectural Möbius Strip is called the Pranava Prakara, which means the courtyard of the sacred sound syllable OM. The OM is the primordial vibration of the cosmos. It relates directly to the Great Breath of creation. And remember that within the embrace of the structure the Dancing Lord dances His Dance of Creation and Dissolution. And that the sanctum as a whole is called the Hall of Consciousness.
From Sabha to Physics
Is the universe a cosmic Möbius Strip? It may sound preposterous at first sight but wait and listen.
Over the past two decades or so the scientific community has been developing ideas along similar lines. Physicists now believe elementary particles are tiny, one-dimensional vibrating strings, either formed as Möbius Strips or as Klein Bottles, which are Möbius Strips with more than one dimension. Every type of particle represents a particular variation of vibration of the one primordial string. And that is what the physicists are looking for now. The one all connecting Super String.
In addition to this, science has been collecting data that points to these strings being the vibrations of a membrane that would be the basic constituent of the whole cosmos. Where the universe that we experience is only a small slice of this cosmic membrane. Would it be inconceivable to propose that this membrane takes the form of a Möbius Strip? Possibly with more than one dimension, as seems to be indicated by the mathematical calculations of modern cosmologists. Geometrical space, as well as time, would be two essential constituents of this membrane.
If this were indeed the case both modern and ancient cosmologies fall into one place. Apparent contradictions disappear and many confusing statements from doctrine turn out to be scientifically valid. The alternation of phases of creation and dissolution, of existence and non-existence. And if we would consider the possibility that this cosmic Möbius Strip might be twisted and curled up like a spring, somewhat like a string of DNA, the cosmic cycles of Kalpas and Yugas of the tradition are shown to be relevant descriptions of the physical reality. Understanding the cosmos as a vibrating membrane in the form of a Möbius Strip would solve an infinite number of questions and riddles which have plagued the scientific effort to understand the universe over the past century.
It would for instance do away with the problem of how an expanding universe could be transformed into a contracting universe. For science, the answer to this question lies at the moment in the issue of the available amount of matter generating the required gravitational pull to make a contraction possible. If the measured expansion is the effect of the Space-Time constituent of the cosmic membrane, we can visualize the universe eventually contracting without any reversal of force taking effect, purely through the effect of the nature of the cosmic membrane.
Visualizing the Cosmic Möbius Strip: life&consciousness
Visioning the cosmos as a multidimensional Möbius Membrane can also show us the answer to the emergence of life and consciousness. When, instead of drawing one line across the length of the strip we draw two lines, one at either edge and in two colors, they will turn out to become each other’s counterparts. For some time now science has recognized that the universe functions on the physical level through entropy. Entropy means disorder. The energy available in the universe ‘flows’ from higher to lower forms, and is utilized towards the physical functioning of the universe in the process. This means that at some point the energy of the universe would become so degenerated it would stop functioning.
But there is another process that is moving in the opposite direction, towards a more complicated and better organization. This is the process called life. Seen against the background of the Möbius Strip model of the universe it becomes evident and rational. The two lines we have drawn can be thought of as matter and consciousness. Moving both opposite, parallel and, although separated by a thin layer of paper, together.
The Möbius Strip and its two lines enable us to visualize the cosmic process of life and consciousness developing through inert matter. Vedic doctrine considers life as well as consciousness an integral part of the cosmic process. Science thought for a long time that life and consciousness were accidental outcomes of a random process of evolution. But the past two decades have brought many discoveries which make this idea untenable. Many recently discovered cosmological constants point to the likelihood of life and consciousness being an integral part of our universe.
Matter and Spirit through Time and Space
Ancient cosmology teaches that matter and spirit are the two primordial constituents of the cosmos. And that each becomes involved with the other. Spirit ‘descending’ into matter. And ‘matter’ ascending through spirit. They are as it were the two faces of the one-dimensional infinite plane of the cosmic Möbius Strip. Progressing along its two rotations. Inverting and transforming the one into the other. Both through time and through space.
If the inversion between matter and spirit takes place all along the duration of the universe, where do we find the point of transformation? And where the place of origin, where the process must return to, in order for the generated energy to be released? I would suggest that the point of origin is likely to be the instant of the Big Bang. The beginning of the expansion where the singularity begins the transformation towards becoming the universe. This is the exhalation, the
arohana of the cosmos.
Somewhere the matter-dominated universe will reach its apex and become transformed into consciousness or spirit-dominated universe. The ongoing passage through time will now have become the inhalation, the avarohana, the descent into the point of origin. It is also the passing through the second circumambulation on the ‘other’ side of the Möbius Strip. Eventually, the universe’s passage through time results in its return to the point of origin. Here the realized energy of consciousness is released in the consecutive Big Crunch, which is the mirror of the Big Bang. And which IS the Big Bang, but as seen from the other side of the lens or mirror of inversion and transformation.
Earlier in this article, we have encountered spiritual practice as the bridge between breath and cosmos. Yoga is the most direct path to develop and evolve the individual human consciousness. Although we encounter doctrine, imagery, and other references to such spiritual practice in the texts of the Veda itself, the earliest and most comprehensive text on yoga is found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Here yoga is explicitly described as a disciplining, training, and
developing of the human mind with the ultimate goal of the attainment of unconditioned consciousness. This in its turn will allow the individual consciousness to become aware of its own nature as counterpart on the micro-cosmic scale of the cosmic consciousness. The individual attains absolute freedom, the power of consciousness becomes established in its own nature. The apparent duality between micro-cosmos and macro-cosmos dissolves.
The practice of yoga is divided into eight phases or limbs. Yama, the practice of moral restraints; Niyama, the practice of observances; Asana, the practice of posture; Pranayama, the practice of regulation of breath; Pratyahara, the practice of abstraction or withdrawal. These five are external practices. The following three stages are internal practices. They are Dharana or concentration; Dhyana or meditation; and Samadhi, or contemplative trance. These three together
are called Samyama.
“The trance modification of the mind is the destruction and rise of all-pointedness and one-pointedness, respectively.”
(Yoga Sutras, III, 11)
The commentator Vyasa notes
“All-pointedness is a characteristic of the mind. One-pointedness is also a characteristic of the mind.
The destruction of one-pointedness is its disappearance. The rise of all-pointedness is its
appearance. The mind puts on both these characteristics. This mind than following along
both these characteristics of the destruction and manifestation which make its very nature, inclines
towards contemplation. This is the trance modification of the mind.”
The ultimate yogic practice can therefore be understood within the pattern of ascent and descent, inversion and transformation. All-pointedness and one-pointedness are each other’s counterparts and inversion at the extremes of the functioning of the mind. And rising and destroying or activation and inactivation, are also each other’s inversion. We can illustrate the process as follows:
One-Pointed & All-Pointed
The simultaneous activation and inactivation of both mind activities can be understood to produce this state of yogic trance. The ultimate transformation of individual consciousness. What happens subsequently to the practitioner? Although the impact on the brain could probably be measured with modern equipment, the impact on consciousness is both difficult to measure and difficult to put into words. It is however possible to imagine it through our intuition. We are after all, all of us in principle capable of achieving it.
Samyama, the simultaneous application of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, is the key to all possible achievements, powers, and knowledge. It is the samadhi or trance which constitutes the transformation. The first two being as it were preparatory to the attainment of the final stage. The transformation of the consciousness of the yogi is attained by mirroring within the framework of the mind the same process which is responsible for the existence of the cosmos as a whole.
The symmetries which exist within our physical being are probably related to all this. Future research may show there is some relation between all-pointedness and the left hemisphere of the brain, and one-pointedness and the right hemisphere, or vice versa. One of the consequences of reaching samadhi may be the complete integration of both hemispheres. We cannot possibly imagine what such an accomplishment might mean for the functioning of the individual. Also, the practice of the respective activation and inactivation of both states can be expected to have far-reaching consequences even on a purely physical level. The description in the Yoga Sutras of the siddhis or attainments of the accomplished yogi reflects this.
Conclusion: the beginning and end are ONE
We have come a long way from the first breath of the newborn baby to the attainments of realized yogis. When we are born on earth our first breath initiates our life. When we follow the journey of life through the realization of our spiritual being, we encounter breath as transport towards experiencing and understanding the connection between consciousness and cosmos. And eventually to the merging of our individual self with the Cosmic Self.
Modern astronomy, physics, and mathematics provide us with the instruments to gain an even wider perspective. Not only is the breath a spiritual transport, but it also gives us the seed which grows into the tree of wisdom. A truly cosmic tree, with its branches reaching every corner of the cosmos as well as every human performance. The ultimate key to these mysteries is the Möbius Strip: Time and space are unified. The beginning and end of the journey are one.
Thank you for visiting
Burland, C.A., The Arts of the Alchemists
Hancock, Graham, Fingerprints of the Gods
Patanjali, Yoga Sutras. Translated and edited by Rama Prasada M.A. in ‘The Sacred Books of the East’.
Smith, Brian K. Reflections on Resemblance, Ritual and Religion.
Tirumular, Tirumantiram. Translated and edited by Dr.B.Natarajan
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