Myths of the Archetype of Spirit (life-breath)

The archetype of Spirit (life-breath) is explored in the following myths.


The Chinese “Chi” (or Qi) is an expression of the Archetype of Spirit and like Spirit literally translates as “breath”. It is a key energy in Chinese medicine and body arts such Tai Chi. The following myth explores its role in creation.

When Heaven and Earth were yet unformed, all was ascending and flying, diving and delving. Thus it was called the Grand Inception. The Grand Inception produced the Nebulous Void. The Nebulous Void produced space-time, space-time produced the original chi. A boundary divided the original chi. That which was pure and bright spread out to form Heaven; that which was heavy and turbid congealed to form Earth. It is easy for that which is pure and subtle to converge but difficult for the heavy and turbid to congeal. Therefore, Heaven was completed first; Earth was fixed afterward. The conjoined essences of Heaven and Earth produced yin and yang. The essences of yin and yang caused the four seasons. The scattered essences of the four seasons created the myriad things. The hot chi of accumulated yang produced fire; the essence of fiery chi became the sun. The cold chi of accumulated yin produced water; the essence of watery chi became the moon. The overflowing chi of the essences of the sun and the moon made the stars and planets. To Heaven belong the sun, moon, stars, and planets; to Earth belong waters and floods, dust and soil.

The Huainanzi , 139 BCE


p10From the Israelite scriptures comes this account of the role of Ruah (breath) in creation. Ruah is translated into the Greek as Pneuma and English as Spirit.

Genesis 2:4-7
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that God made the earth and the heavens,  when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground;   but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground—   then God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.



 In Hinduism the word for life-breath is prana and this myth of the centrality of Spirit comes from the Upanishads

Once the five Senses, Hearing, Sight, Smell, Taste and Touch were sitting around, they talked about all the things they could do. The Senses were somewhat boastful about their abilities and importance and they claimed to be the rulers of the body. Look at us, for we are remarkably special, they claimed! There is no way the body survives without us, they boasted.

Each sense, in turn, showed off its abilities. Hearing filled the space with music that breathed emotion and passion that stirred the soul. Sight matched the music with a breathtaking splendor of swirling, magical forms in exquisite shades of colors. Smell, in a puff of breath, perfumed the expanse with heavenly aromas. Taste, not to be outdone, exhaled out a cornucopia of mouthwatering flavors. Touch made the whole body vibrant with each and every breath, tingling with soft warmth and delicious coolness. They all lavished praise for one other. It was quite a show.

Prana quietly breathed in and out, watching this awesome spectacle. It was simply there, present. With the in-breath, it observed the Senses; with the out-breath, it observed the Senses. After letting the Senses go on for a while, Prana said, “None of you reigns supreme in the body.” No one was listening. The Senses had no time or awareness of anything else. They were completely blind to everything beyond themselves and certainly had no sight of Prana. Prana tried again. The Senses, in their total self absorption, had no attention to spare for Prana. Angered, Prana left.

As Prana left, the sounds, colors, fragrances, tastes, physical sensations, and the mind, all faded and disappeared. The Senses ceased to exist. The Senses had no idea of what happened. As Prana returned, they found themselves and knew that they were. Prana left and the Senses were no longer there. The Senses were suddenly vulnerable and scared.

Prana reappeared and suddenly they were aware of Prana. Like a light switch, they were turned on and off by this vital energy over which they had no control, but the energy had total control over them. With this awareness came the instant realization that they existed because of Prana and that this vital energy was far more powerful than them. They did not rule the body at all in any way. Prana did.

As they bow down in respect, Prana told them, “Dividing myself five times and spreading out in the body, I change my form and create the Senses from myself and thus give life in the body.”

The Chandogya Upanisad