Revised: August 2019
The alchemists’ Elemental Air in the West is the exact equivalent to Vayu (see VAYU TATTVA) of eastern philosophies. Aer is the Latin form summing to 22 by Latin Cabala Simplex. Twenty-two in western traditions has long been the number representing the full circle. It is the number of the Tarot’s Major Arcana; to each a Hebrew letter is assigned. Together they reveal the full round of creation in both the macrocosmic and microcosmic worlds. Vayu Tattva of the Hindus takes a blue-green circle as its symbol. Similarly Vayu is the first emanation to exude from primal Akasha, which takes the shape of an indigo egg in eastern teachings. We are shown Qabalistically that Kether, the Crown, is the first outpouring of AIN SUPh AUR, whose symbol is the '0,' Kether is called the Root of Air in Aesch Mezareph, The Purifying Fire, an alchemical/cabalistic treatise written originally in Hebrew. This is one of the few alchemical works in that tongue since the bulk of Hebrew/Chaldean Alchemy is found in the Old Testament. Thomas Vaughan wrote of Alchemical Air:
"I should amaze the reader if I did relate the several offices of this body, but it is the Magician's back door, and none but friends come in at it. I shall speak nothing more - only this I would have you know: the Air is ‘the envelope of the life of our sensitive spirit,’ our animal oil, the fuel of the vital, sensual fire, without which we cannot subsist a minute."1
Elemental air in both traditions is the first expression, or band of sub-light, from AIN SUPh AUR and Akasha. Everything increasingly dense comes from it in the order of evolution. Vayu and Air are assigned the function Touch in the evolution of the senses. From this we may conclude that the finer attunement of the senses following are developed as a result of the right method of breath control. Only those in loving quest for union with the Higher Life develop the necessary breath control in meditation practices which heighten the other senses. Such ones are the ‘friends’ in Vaughan's quotation. An anonymous sage (Thomas Vaughan also, I believe) wrote of the ‘Air of the Sages’ in An Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King:
"Our Air, like the air of the firmament, divides the waters; and as the waters under the firmament are visible to us mortals, while we are unable to see the waters above the firmament, so in "our work" we see the extra central mineral waters, but are unable to see those which, though hidden within, nevertheless have a real existence."2
The 'mineral waters hidden within' is the Great Salt Sea, AIN SUPh AUR. It has 'a real existence'. Only those persisting with meditation eventually come to discover that great ocean of liquid light. Air, or breath control, is key to successful meditation. Note the use 'our air' and 'our work', and that 'our air' is intended as something inner which the author compares to the world’s atmosphere, outside us. The 'extra central mineral waters', on the outside, is the entire manifest universe we sense as coagulated AIN SUPh AUR in its ‘extra’ (extreme outer) expression as physical substance. The blue disk symbol of Vayu Tattva represents the aura surrounding planet earth, seen both from the surface and from outer space. That atmosphere acts as protector for body-earth has been general knowledge for centuries. It 'divides the waters' as mentioned in the quotation, preventing most asteroids and meteors from penetration by fiery friction and our oxygen from escaping by blanket effect.
What may not be so apparent is that alchemical air also serves as a transporter for something much more subtle, Alchemical Fire or Prana. Alchemical Air or Prana is a mixture of the hot/dry qualities of fire with the cold/moist qualities of water, but the fire predominates over water. Consider this quotation from the Turba Philososphorum, The First Dictum:
“Do you not observe that the Sun when it rises in the heaven overcomes the air by its heat, and that the warmth penetrates from the upper to the lower parts of the air?...But the Sun is kept in check by the air, which thus conquers because it unites the heat of the Sun to its own heat, and the humidity of water to its own humidity. Have you not remarked how tenuous water is drawn up into the air by the action of the heat of the Sun, which thus helps the water against itself? If the water did not nourish the air by such tenuous moisture, assuredly the Sun would overcome the air. The fire, therefore, extracts moisture from the water, by means of which the air conquers the fire itself….The air, which is warm and moist, joins these together by its concording (sic) medium; between the humidity of the water and the heat of fire the air is thus placed to establish peace….For the heat of the Sun extracts something tenuous out of the air, which also becomes spirit and life to all creatures.”
If you can. Please read and re-read the First and Second Dicta in the Turba Philosophorum. We see here that Vaughn’s quotation above: '...the Air is ‘the envelope of the life of our sensitive spirit,’ our animal oil, the fuel of the vital, sensual fire, without which we cannot subsist a minute', agrees entirely with the Turba.
We can hardly read much concerning Air in alchemical writings without considering Fire in the same thought. Even the symbols for the two elements from both East and West are similar: the upward pointed triangles for fire and the same, with a bar through it, for air. Thomas Vaughan states that air is the 'fuel for the vital, sensual fire'.
Let us follow the Root of Air from Kether down the Tree of Life. Aleph, the first of Three Mother Letters, is attributed the element Air. Called ‘Life-Breath’ and ‘Ox of Solar Fire,’ the names suggest Air being a burden bearer, as in ‘the wind carries it in its belly’ from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. What is the wind carrying? Prana, the fire of the Life-Breath. The eleventh path to which Aleph is assigned is titled the Scintillating Intelligence, so assigned in the Thirty-two Paths of Wisdom, a treatise usually attached to the Sepher Yetzirah. Beginning in Kether, the Root of Air breathes forth the Breath of Life into Chokmah, the Root of Fire. Air is therefore the medium bearing chiah, the Life-force, corroborating with the Eastern teaching which states that prana, evolved form Air (Vayu) is the fiery root of all energy, all force and all motion (Chokmah). This primal motion expands the Fire throughout the Boundless, AIN SUPh. Fire evolves from Air, as the East teaches that Tejas evolves from Vayu. Qabalists recognize that Air originates in the Primal Cause. Divine Soul is one name given Binah, Understanding, the third sphere and mode of the Triune One-God. 'Divine Soul' is נשמה, neshamah, in Hebrew, from the root נשם, nesham, meaning 'inhalation, breath'. Air, the Life-Breath, is intrinsic within our Divine Soul, Who in turn, breathes forth influence into the sixth sphere, Tiphareth, the Seat of Ruach, through the path of letter Zain and assigned the zodiacal sign Gemini, a mutable air sign. Air carries the Life-Breath from the Divine Soul into the One Ego, the Christ Consciousness. This is instantaneous with the Air moving into Chokmah from Kether.
The Son, Tiphareth, is established by Life-Breath from Binah the instant AMA becomes AIMA from the fiery influence of Chokmah. Fire and Air again are blended in the Son through the cardinal air sign, Libra, beginning in the fifth sphere, Geburah, Severity. This sphere, Qabalists tell us, is the seat of the fiery Will-Force, which is above, yet a portion of, the Son in Tiphareth. The pseudo, separative will we ‘feel’ to be ours personally is actually that of the Higher, One-Ego deep within. Our will is actually the Will of God through His Son, the Christ Consciousness. When this is misinterpreted it creates all manner of havoc for our personality lives. We then erroneously assume to believe the will-force stems from us rather than through us, and attach expectations of selfish results to our efforts, hence the usually painful outcomes. Eventually, right breath control before and during meditation, automatically restores the true source of power as coming through us. The Green Lion loses its roar and loosens its grip in the false, separate will. The purifying Air through Zain restores discrimination with keener intuitions from the Divine Soul, and builds faith by an influx from Lamed. We eventually come to surrender utterly to both, and begin receiving instructions from the higher states of consciousness within us. We learn that the Godhead wishes for us exactly what we ourselves have always wanted in the first place, that is our root want. Original desires are God's desires seated in the seventh sphere, Netzach, Victory. These true desires flow into the Vital Soul (Yesod) from Netzach, influenced by the path of Tzaddi.
That influence is Meditation, allocated to the path of Tzaddi, titled the Natural Intelligence. The natural flow of alchemical air through intellect is meditation. It allows us to see our true desires clearly. The crystalline images are impressed upon the Vital Soul, our Foundation in this physical world, and are manifested eventually as the circumstances in our lives. Vital Soul in Hebrew is נפש, nephesh, also translated as 'Breath,' like Neshamah, the Divine Soul. The two are actually one. Our immediate, subconscious self is the same essential nature as our Divine Higher Soul, Anima Mundi. That essential nature is Alchemical Air, which Vaughan said earlier, is 'the envelope of the life of our sensitive spirit'.
Practice breathing exercises before your meditation periods. Breathe in, then pause. Breathe out, then pause again. With each ‘in’, ‘pause’, ‘out’, ‘pause’, make a count. Begin with 3, 4, or 5 counts for each. Expand the count over time.
Please refer to the definitions of all Hebrew letters mentioned above, and those of AMA, AIMA and ANIMA MUNDI.
1 Vaughan, Thomas, Anthroposophia Theomagica. Edmonds, WA: Sure Fire Press, 1986, pg. 14.
2 Anonymous, Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1984, pg. 10.