The Idol of Breath
Breath and breathing have become a focus in our culture due to the invasion of alternative healing, the intense focus on health, and the influence of Eastern practices, especially meditation (guided, visualization, guided imagery, etc.). The use of apps on phones has only increased the information and promotion of these ideas.
Ironically, God has made man so that we breathe automatically and do not have to usually think about it. But Eastern religions and the New Age view breath as a way to reach altered states and also to spiritually cleanse one’s self. Prana (Hinduism), chi (Taoism), vital force (New Age), and other terms refer to a force that is often viewed as entwined with or manipulated by one’s breathing. With the expansion of New Age pseudoscience, there are many sources promoting practices having to do with breath, including in the church.
Since the word for spirit in Hebrew and Greek also can mean breath, there is a lot misleading and deceptive information, such as saying that breathing in and out is saying the word for God “Yahweh.” Keep in mind that context and usage determine meaning, and that because a word means one thing in one passage, it does not necessarily mean the same thing in another. Do research, use lexicons and commentaries, and any other good resources.
I am often asked about breath prayers, breathing exercises done for spiritual reasons, saying “Yahweh” is like breathing, and related issues.
The Breath of Life
The “breath of life” which is found in the New Testament only one time (Revelation 11:11), is a metaphor or picture of God giving life. It is used only for man and what God calls “living creatures,” which are animals. It is not used for plants, trees, rivers, rocks, etc. It emphasizes God as Creator and the source of life for creatures who breathe.
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
“So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life.” Genesis 7:15
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And by the breath of His mouth all their host.” Psalm 33:6
The Psalm 33 verse quoted above is a parallelism. The second line is saying the same thing as the first, just using different words. The point of it is that God is the Creator of everything. It is poetic metaphor/imagery. From a CANA article on Chi/qi Therapies:
The Bible tells us that God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7; Job 27:3), that all living creatures have the “breath of life” (Genesis 1:30, 2:7, 6:17, 7:22; Psalm 104:29), and that God’s breath caused the universe (Job 33:4, 37:10; Psalm 33:6), but this breath is not a force or energy. The “breath” of God is an expression describing God’s power to create and sustain life; in fact, the Hebrew words used here are also translated as “life” or “spirit.” Man and animals breathe (are alive) because God has given them life.
God’s power to create is not man’s power nor does it belong to the universe, and God’s power is not a force to manipulate or channel, for healing or anything else. Man does not have the right to access God when he desires and to appropriate a power that he believes is God or is from God, or to appropriate a power that is from the “universe.” When efforts are made to do this, a power may be channeled, but it is not from God. In fact, the attempt to channel or manipulate such a force is the underpinning of sorcery.
Such a power is a counterfeit power or force from a personal intelligence that is evil and wants to deceive and destroy. Jesus described this personal source of evil in one place as a “thief” – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
I do not contest that what men call qi exists. Rather, I assert that it is not what those who believe in it say it is. It is not from God and, in the long run, it is not beneficial no matter the temporary effect, but rather, it is destructive. — From CANA article on Chi Therapies
God does not have lungs or breath because he is spirit. So God does not breathe and cannot have a literal breath. There is no actual God’s breath in existence, but all who have life as living beings (men and creatures) were given that life by God.
Some believe that God’s breath imbues creation, a view found in panentheism (creation is contained in God and God is contained in creation but also transcends it). This would mean God is intermingling with creation, and a fallen creation at that (see Genesis 3:17-18, Romans 8:22). It would also mean that God has organic breath and is not spirit. But God is spirit (John 4:24).
There is no “vibrational frequency” that Is God or his breath, and the “Aum” (or “Om”) sound is from Hinduism, considered to be the sacred sound of the universe. The word “Shalom” is not connected to any Hindu word.
The concepts of chi (qi, ki), Hindu prana (as in pranayama, the breathing in Yoga), the vital force (Vitalism), life force, energy (as used in the New Age and pseudo-science), which are found throughout “alternative healing,” are all pagan attempts to counterfeit God because breath is often equated with divinity itself, or to wield God’s power.
But God’s power is unquantifiable; unable to be accessed; unable to be replicated; unable to be summoned, controlled, manipulated, or channeled (for healing or for any reason); and is not part of creation.
Therefore, to seek any use of chi or the other named forces, whether for healing, martial arts, or occult magic, or to seek healing or any method based on those concepts, is to reject God for who he is, and is a form of occultism that opens the door for deception and even danger.
To equate chi with God’s breath or to believe that his breath is in creation is misunderstanding Scripture and worse, misunderstanding who God is.
Addendum: From Net Bible on John 20:22:
The use of the Greek verb breathed on (ἐμφυσάω, emfusaw) to describe the action of Jesus here recalls Gen 2:7 in the LXX [note from CANA: the LXX stands for the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by early Christians], where “the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” This time, however, it is Jessu who is breathing the breath-Spirit of eternal life, life from above, into his disciples (cf. 3:3-10). Furthermore there is the imagery of Ezek 37:1-14, the prophecy concerning the resurrection of the dry bones: In 37:9 the Son of Man is told to prophesy to the “wind-breath-Spirit” to come and breathe on the corpses, so that they will live again. In 37:14 the Lord promised, “I will put my Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you in your own land.” In terms of uimate fulfillment the passage in Ezek 37 looks at the regeneration of Israel immediately prior to the establishment of the messianic kingdom. The author saw in what Jesus did for the disciples at this point a partial and symbolic fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, much as Peter made use of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 in his sermon on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:17-21. What then did Jesus do for the disciples in John 20:22? It appears that in light of the symbolism of the new creation present here, as well as the regeneration symbolism from the Ezek 37 passage, that Jesus at this point breathed into the disciples the breath of eternal life. This was in the form of the Holy Spirit, who was to indwell them. It is instructive to look again at 7:38-39, which states, “Just as the scripture says, ‘Out from within him will flow rivers of living water.’ (Now he said this about the Spirit whom those who believed in him were going to receive; for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”)
But now in 20:22 Jesus was glorified, so the Spirit could be given. Had the disciples not believed in Jesus before? It seems clear that they had, since their belief is repeatedly affirmed, beginning with 2:11. But it also seems clear that even on the eve of the crucifixion, they did not understand the necessity of the cross (16:31-33). And even after the crucifixion, the disciples had not realized that there was going to be a resurrection (20:9). Ultimate recognition of who Jesus was appears to have come to them only after the postresurrection appearances (note the response of Thomas, who was not present at this incident, in v. 28). Finally, what is the relation of this incident in 20:22 to the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2? It appears best to view these as two separate events which have two somewhat different purposes. This was the giving of life itself, which flowed out from within (cf. 7:38-39). The giving of power would occur later, on the day of Pentecost – power to witness and carry out the mission the disciples had been given. (It is important to remember that in the historical unfolding of God’s program for the church, these events occurred in a chronological sequence which, after the church has been established, is not repeatable today.) — From the NET Bible