The subtle breath of the spirit
Dr. Diego Frigoli*
In the process of knowing what we call 'the world', it is necessary to distinguish between the apperception of it through the observation and the sensoriality of the speech, and the more complete and total attitude defined by the ancients as 'agnition' (from the Latin “agnoscere”, to recognise).
The latter term refers to a faculty of the soul that transcends pure reason - whose path as semiologists know, winds its way through the didactic exercise of the rules of dialectics - to rise to a dimension of intellect, which according to the ancient scholastics, is that part of the spirit capable of grasping the supreme principles of life.
If with reason the psyche becomes aware of the reality of the world, with the intellect, the very experience of knowledge is at the centre of the being. In the first case, the more or less technical language structures the inextricable network of its own verification; in the second case, the word ceases to exist as such and emerges that activity of the psyche known as intuition, based on the analogy and the symbol as an aesthetic experience of the equivalence between Man and the world.
In the symbol, Man's psyche agitated by the multidimensionality of the underlying meanings to the extreme limit of the ramification of possible concepts, opens up, thanks to the shaking of the emotions evoked, to vague but deep sounds, undefined but exhorting images of a vegetating soul movement, of fluctuating thoughts consciously open to oneirism.
This dynamic contemplation offered by the symbol and the analogy thus determines a sort of "sweet exchange" between the ancestral energies of the dreamer and the primary energies of the cosmos. So that what exists no longer appears to hatch from reason, but blurred and diffusely hinted at by an "absent" gaze, free from the known and open to the unknown.
In this intermediate perspective of consciousness, which Bachelard calls "auroral", things lose their definite sense to take on an imaginary typological dimension, but no less real and concrete than the world dominated by our bodily senses.
According to him, in order to hear "the beings of endless space, it is necessary to silence the noises of the earth". In other words, it is necessary to put all scientific and mythological erudition in brackets to allow the "genius" hidden in each of us, to speak. So that its creative language can mould the images evoked according to a more or less artistic aesthetic game, capable in any case of generating a real harmonia mundi, a subjective reflection of the contemplation of the cosmos.
This is why in such a symbolic perspective, which claims to investigate what exists according to the values of the imaginary, the psyche of the one who undertakes the task of research must first question itself on how to make reason silent and mute the word, to bring out in the centre of it, what it wants to become.
The relationship with the subtle elements
The greater is the force with which this task imposes, the more the research is oriented towards the evocation of primordial images. They are settled as archetypal nuclei in the roots of an organ of the body and in the 'fantasies' conceived by its cells, and here we come to the lung, the rhythmic bellows of the thorax inextricably linked to the heart and blood in supplying the body with sufficient oxygen to be distributed to the cells. If the heart refers to the theme of the rhythmic and pulsating "centre" and by analogy to the cosmic rhythm, if the blood corresponds to the "liquid" vehicle that ensures life, with air the lung refers to a "subtle" dimension of matter, not known except in respect to a "sublimation" of the telluric forces of the terrestrial body.
In other words, a certain amount of imagination is required to see in the element 'earth' and therefore in the body that represents it with its instincts, needs and concrete necessities, the primary aspect of an archetypal project of creation, destined to reveal itself in the other more subtle elements, such as 'water', 'air' and 'fire'.
An elusive and mobile world
It is even more necessary to sublimate the psyche in order to know the 'secret' that allows the element 'earth' - static and motionless in its atomic rigidity, bound to a crystalline lattice preordained in its structure - to experience that liquid mobility that gives the element 'water' the prerogative of assuming the form of the container in which it is enclosed.
If we use the analogy, as regards Man and his conscience, we should hypothesize a psyche that has escaped the inevitability of instinctual needs (the terrestrial dimension of it) to rise to an ideal state of mobility. That goes beyond its own egoic prerogatives, beyond the certainties of identity, beyond personal affections, to exist only as a tangible but elusive 'element', mobile and adaptable to all that it can contain.
I cannot grasp the water as I do for the earth, because it would inexorably slip through my fingers. In order to know it, I must experience a new dimension of the soul, symbolised by the 'cupped hand', the open hand. At that point, the water inexorably fills the void I have created, filling it with as much as I have been able to determine.
Perhaps in this mental attitude lies the secret of many mystics, who empty their 'heart' of personal ego existence, creating an individual void that is filled instantly by a 'liquid' capacity of the soul, capable of experiencing a new way of existing in the world: love. But if with the knowledge of the 'liquidity' of water the psyche experiences the absolute capacity to fill what is new, making it homogeneous with itself and smoothing out every edge or roughness by compensating for it with an opposite attitude, through the element 'air' the psyche becomes even volatile, imponderable, without body.
“Ispirazione” and “inspirazione”
(The translation of both Italian terms in English is “inspiration” respectively meaning the quality or state of being inspired, and the act of drawing in, specifically the drawing of air into the lungs). If before, in “liquidity”, the psychic life could unfold through a succession of soft images adhering to the concept represented in a limpid and silvery way such as to develop from verse to verse a discourse that becomes less and less individual being made homogeneous with the generated collective feeling, so much so as to make the reader say that what the poet feels is what each one of us feels, with the "aerial" dimension the psyche experiences the possibility of being transformed into something vague and luminous which goes beyond the common experience rising to the very life of the soul.
Let the scholars and etymologists tell us with the determinism of their research that the terms "anima" and "anemos" recall the primordial breath of divine creation! But if we want to experience the hidden meaning in depth of what existed within us, when we swore to love with "our whole soul" and "to our last breath", let us be guided by Bachelard's imagination. He claims: "If one pronounces the word 'soul' in all its aerial fullness, in the spirit of imaginary life, in the time it takes to tune the word with the breath, one will realise that it takes on its exact sonorous value only at the end of the breath. In order to express the word 'soul' from the depths of the imagination, the breath must exhaust all its reserve of breath. This is one of the rare words that exhausts an exhalation. The essentially aerial imagination will always place it at the end of the sentence. In the imaginary life of the breath, our soul is always our last breath. A piece of soul that reunites with the universal soul”.
Wonderful words, which only a philosopher-poet could derive from his own “ispirazione” (or “inspirazione”? Just a curious play on words, or something more?). If what we call “ispirazione”, on a closer inspection, is a subtle “inspirazione”, an immediate question arises: what is “inspirato” and from which symbolic lung?
Let us turn again to Bachelard and, as he advises us, let us lend an ear, a dreamy ear, tuned to this essentially aerial intuition, in order to find on the thread of the breath, even before having thought about it, the sense contained in the imaginary theme. In a state of dreamy inebriation, we try to give substance to the aerial imagination to the point of making it cosmic, to make that similarity of sound speak beyond the value of casual assonance, so that the archetypal nucleus hidden in the Italian words "ispirazione” and “inspirazione”, can reveal the primary respiratory exercise capable of expressing a function of universal life.
The cosmic breath of Brahama
The words “inspirazione” and “ispirazione” differ from each other by the internal presence of the consonant "n", the one that expresses the night as well as the birth, that is the passage of the consciousness from the blackness of the germination to the brightness of the manifest life. In relation to the act of breathing, if with the inspiration I absorb the aerial cosmos making it mine for a moment, with the exhalation I die to the individual life and re-enter with the exhaled air in the great sea of the whole from which I come from.
In fact every cosmic breath as the Hindu myths narrate, expresses a creation of the cosmos and a subsequent re-absorption by Brahama, according to a cycle that takes place over thousands of years. If the human respiratory rhythm is a symbol of the great cosmic rhythm because it occurs cyclically, totally, without interruption, within it, it is possible to find an indefinite, punctual, almost imperceptible moment, in which the expansive movement of inspiration, inhalation, passes almost instantaneously into the concentrative movement of exhalation. In such a moment of passage of the respiratory phases, if the meditator's consciousness could make that moment of transformation of rhythm its own, it would consciously grasp the experience of the birth of thought, of ideas, of the creative aspects of our being.
Two poles confront each other
In other words, by letting the consciousness "rest" in meditation on the symbolic "n", the moment of passage from the uroboric blackness of the unconscious to the manifest light of the now awakened consciousness, we would witness in our psyche the inspirational moment, as a microcosmic aspect of a subtle breath with macrocosmic value. It also happens when in the articulation of these words, with the consciousness attentive to the movements needed to pronounce them, we are surprised to notice that in the word "inspirazione", the tongue joins imperceptibly to the posterior part of the incisors, building an energetic "bridge" between the "hard" matter of the incisors and the softer, fleshly matter of the tongue, while with the word "ispirazione" the tongue remains suspended in the void, swinging on the hissing "s" that comes out of the narrow and barely half-closed lips.
In the "inspirazione” there must be a contact between two opposite poles, the "hard" of the dental enamel and the "soft" of the flesh, while in the "ispirazione" what must be found in the void of the mouth cavity, is the middle point destined to manifest itself as the "s" hissing of an ancestral breath.
The creative breath of inspiration
If we relate on a psychological level, what we mentioned earlier becomes illuminating. In the “ispirazione mentale” (the mind inspiration), the psyche is nourished by a contact of opposite poles, the "hard" individual "matter" with the "soft" and "tender" of the supersensible energies, in a continuous chord destined to nourish the psyche itself. In the inspiration “inspirazione”, the psyche must find the midpoint, the centre of the ancestral void in order to draw upon the creative breath. When this happens, albeit by chance, then the psyche for a moment participates in the life of cosmic generation, and experiencing that inspirational reality swells and stretches in a subtle movement, which in thought manifests itself as intuition and in speech as the winged breath of a poem that has become itself beyond all rhetorical reason.
Bachelard G., The psychoanalysis of air, Red Edizioni, Milan 2007
Frigoli D. , The language of the soul, Magi editions, Milan 2016
Frigoli D., La fisica dell'anima. Riflessioni ecobiopsicologiche in psicoterapia, Paolo Emilio Persiani, Bologna, 2013.
Frigoli D. L'alchimia dell'anima, Edizioni Magi, Milan 2017
Jung C.G., Man and his Symbols, Tea editions, Milan 2007
Dr. Diego Frigoli - Founder and promoter of the ecobiopsychological thought. Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Director of the ANEB Institute – School of Specialization in Psychotherapy. Innovator in the study of the imaginary focusing on the symbol in relation to its dynamics between the individual and the collective knowledge.
Translated by Dr.ssa Federica Scaturin - Student at the Istituto ANEB, Psychobiological of Well-Being Counselor, Expert in Positive Psychology and Potential Coaching, European Certified Naturopath, Transgenerational Iridologist. Degree in Psychology.