Franklin Merrell-Wolff on Deep Breathing and Bliss

By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness

This is a part The Teachers Speak, a series of articles on the Culture of Awareness.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff was a philosopher who, after experiencing a spiritual awakening in 1936, became dedicated to jnana yoga and the theologian Shankara.

He gave detailed accounts of his experiences with a higher consciousness, and he referred to the bliss which frequently surrounded him as ambrosia. I’m interested in his writings because he shared his experiences with no bias and no underlying need to convince the reader.

He simply wanted to document his journey for the sake of helping others, and he probably knew that one day, more people would awaken spiritually and would benefit from reading his experiences. He had plenty of insight to share, and he shared it for everyone who would eventually seek enlightenment.

Here, he shares one of his experiences in a deep and ‘delightful’ state of contemplation.

“One day, after the evening meal and while still sitting at the table, I found that, by gradual transition, I had passed into a very delightful state of contemplation. … My breath had changed, but not in the sense of stopping or becoming extremely slow or rapid. It was, perhaps, just a little slower than normal.

“The notable change was in a subtle quality associated with the air breathed. Over and above the physical phases of the air there seemed to be an impalpable substance of indescribable sweetness which, in turn, was associated with a general sense of well-being, embracing even the physical man.

“It was like happiness or joy, but these words are inadequate. It was of a very gentle quality, yet far transcended the value of any of the more familiar forms of happiness.” (1)

He also sheds light on the value of breathing in meditation, telling us that the outbreath is ‘the true ambrosia’.

“Introspective analysis revealed the fact that the elixir-like quality was most marked during the exhalation, thus indicating that it was not derived from the surrounding air.

“Further, the exhaled breath was not simply air expelled into the outer atmosphere, but seemed to penetrate down through the whole organism like a gentle caress, leaving throughout a quiet sense of delight. It seemed to me like a nectar. Since that time I have learned that it is the true Ambrosia.” (2)

The outbreath – the true ambrosia – makes way for the subsequent illumination.

“[The true Ambrosia] seems to have had a vital part in clearing the way for the Illumination that came later.” (3)

I’ve read that breathing deeply enhances meditation, and sometimes, I breathe deeply while I read over these articles. It allows me to meditate while I work and puts me in a clearer, less-mind centered state, and I can then imbue the work with a higher vibration. Who wouldn’t enjoy meditating while they work?

I can reach out to all of my brothers and sisters in the spiritual community by sharing love and good vibes while I write, and breathing deeply is a great way to do it. I never realized how helpful it really is, but it provides a potent source of meditative bliss that enhances creativity and expands consciousness.

Franklin shares another wonderful experience he had with ambrosia (or bliss).

“I felt the Ambrosia-like quality in the breath with the purifying benediction that it casts over the whole personality, even including the physical body.

“I found myself above the universe, not in the sense of being above space, time, and causality. My karma seemed to drop away from me as an individual responsibility. I felt intangibly, yet wonderfully, free. I sustained this universe and was not bound by it.” (4)

The current stops when we’re focused on mental or physical action, and it also tires out the body.

“Consciousness focused in action, whether intellectual or physical, stops the Current. The presence of some people affects It adversely, while that of others does not.

“The effect on the body is interesting. The after-effect of this surprisingly gentle Current, with all its exquisite delight, is a feeling of intangible tiredness in the body, somewhat like that which would be experienced after a period of protracted pain. Physical effort is difficult.

“The reason for this seems to be evident. One effect of the Current is clearly purifying, and this action upon the matter of the body is something of an ordeal. There is no emotional nor intellectual discomfort, save that without the Current the world seems barren.” (5)

Some people are immediately aware of the current, while others remain in the dark.

“I am studying the effect of the Current upon others. Sherifa is immediately responsive to It and recognizes Its presence, at times even before I do. It will grip an audience, but those who have heretofore given recognition to a consciousness of substantially lower quality do not seem to be aware of the Ambrosia. Perhaps it is too subtle.” (6)

Life is empty and joyless without the elixir (or, again, what I call love and bliss).

“Life without the Elixir has become more empty than it was before the Current was first experienced. Mere external affairs utterly fail to hold my interest.

“The conditions of town life seem definitely adverse to holding consciousness within the Current of Bliss. Driving an automobile in traffic is particularly inimical. The reason seems quite clearly to be that under these conditions it is much more difficult to hold the inner concentration unbroken.

“To steer a way through the outer confusion requires objective concentration. I, at least, cannot yet move through these conditions with safety by giving only peripheral attention to them. Perhaps it may be possible to establish the correlation so that it will hold under these adverse conditions, but the demand upon the vital strength is severe.” (7)

After experiencing a rich, colorful and blissful state of consciousness, earthly demands that bring our attention away from it are probably unbearable. I haven’t had any powerful spiritual experiences so I couldn’t tell you what normal life is like afterward, but I’d imagine the difference is staggering.

Anyone would chase enlightenment after an eye-opening experience, and I’m sure it’s challenging to keep a foot in both worlds. It’s probably easy to lose your grip on physical reality if you’re rooted more in the spiritual, and balancing the two can be difficult and tiring.

In a quote I enjoy, Franklin writes that creative discovery deepens our consciousness.

“The moment of creative discovery is the crucial one. There is then a deepening of consciousness, a sort of retreat of the relative world, in a subtle sense, and then the quality of Bliss flows over the personality. From a profound level thought is stimulated, or, perhaps more correctly, felt.” (8)

This is one of many reasons spiritual people engage in some form of creative work.

Since it requires us to rely on what we have within, it illuminates our connection with the Most High (which can only be found within) and deepens our spiritual awareness. It gives us access to a steady stream of inspiration and bliss, and the more we come to the well, the more we’ll receive.

Franklin writes again that life becomes empty without the current.

“Without the Current the objective world is like a desert in the invidious sense of the term. How is it possible for humanity to be so attached to this outer life? Yesterday I deliberately turned Inward and invoked the Current with the accompanying deepening of Consciousness, but in this case in a modified form. Always there is the gentle Joy.” (9)

He shares another insightful experience with the current, which manifested in pure silence.

“At this very moment I am again within the Current which, also, is Myself. Speaking from the standpoint of the individual conscioiusness I shall write of It, as much as I can convey in words.

“I had been doing a little manual work and, at the moment, was stopping and looking at some gravel that had been carried from a distant valley. While doing so I sank into a brooding state and seemed to retreat to a distance where there was a profound, palpable, and pregnant Silence.

“I attended to This as to a Voice and received the value of a Communion. There were no words, no ideas, not any other form, yet, one might say, It was the very essence of Sound or Meaning. It was utterly satisfactory and filling.

“It was the very Power that makes all things to become clear. Again there flowed the Current of gentle Joy that penetrates through and through.” (10)

He analyzes the ‘Current of Joy’ and its effects upon the individual, writing that it’s the highest form of enjoyment.

“I shall attempt an analysis of this Current of Joy as it affects the outer consciousness including the physiological man. To the sensuous consciousness It appears as of the nature of a fluid, for there is a sense of ‘flowing through.’ It penetrates all tensions with the effect of physical release.

“Spots that are not so well feel both rested and stronger. All over and through and through there is a quality that may well be described as physiological happiness. The organism feels no craving for sensuous distraction in order to find enjoyment.

“The external life of the individual could appear highly ascetic and austere to others, but all the while it would be profoundly happy. … I wish, by every means possible, to make the point clear that in the Current lies the highest possible value which, from the relative standpoint, we call enjoyment.” (11)

I haven’t felt what Franklin describes, but I do feel the current in smaller ways. I feel it when I write, make music and meditate, and I might feel it in stronger doses if I meditate more.

As Franklin wrote, you feel totally at ease in this state. There’s no pain, no difficulty, no desire; just pure existence. It’s the greatest healing force we can tap into, and it’s available for everyone.

We just have to uncover it, and I’m grateful to have writing, music and meditation because they illuminate it for me every day. The day will come when we all discover true spiritual bliss, and for the time being, we can continue to open our inner channel and share what we learn with others.

I’ll always recommend meditation, but creativity is also a great way to keep the channel open.

No matter how you do it, remember to tap into the current often and record your experiences if necessary. It’ll heal what’s hurt and replenish what’s missing, and it’ll inspire you to get back out there and share the secret to bliss and rejuvenation with the world.


  1. Pathways through to Space. A Personal Record of Transformation in Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973, 2.
  2. Loc. Cit.
  3. Ibid., 3.
  4. Ibid., 5.
  5. Ibid., 6.
  6. Loc. Cit.
  7. Ibid., 6-7.
  8. Loc. Cit.
  9. Ibid., 15.
  10. Ibid., 20.
  11. Ibid, 20-1.

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