Carl Ernst and Patrick D'Silva, "Breathtaking Revelations: The Science of Breath from 'The Fifty Kamarupa Verses' to Hazrat Inayat Khan" (Suluk Press, 2024)


In Breathtaking Revelations: The Science of Breath from the Fifty Kamarupa Verses to Hazrat Inayat Khan (Suluk Press, 2024), Carl W. Ernst and Patrick J. D’Silva explore the intersections of Sufi and yogic breath-based meditation. Ernst and D’Silva offer us here two stunning texts for study. 

The first, an anonymous Persian translation of a 14th century manuscript that introduces us to a variety of divinations, incantations, and much more, as well as a thorough outline of the science of the breath, based on whether it comes out from the left or right nostrils and its significance. This text especially is fascinating for its incantations to yogini devis (or female spirits). 

The second text under consideration is Hazrat Inayat Khan’s The Science of the Breath dictated in English to his student Zohra Williams in the early 20th century. There are numerous similarities across these two texts separated by centuries, especially the focus on breath divination based on left and right nostrils (in this instance associated with jamal and jalali qualities while in the former focused on solar and lunar relations) but also key differences, such as attention to the elements like earth, fire, water etc. in Inayat Khan’s teachings. 

Reading these two texts on breath and its divination side by side brings to focus the long tradition of Sufi engagement with yoga, and the overlaps between Hindu and Muslim spiritual practices amongst Sufis and yogis, especially of magic, sciences and much more. This book will be of interest to practitioners of Sufism as well as those with interest in Sufism, Islam, yoga, Hinduism, and much more.

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Shobhana Xavier

Shobhana Xavier is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Queen’s University. More details about her research and scholarship may be found here. She may be reached at You can follow her on Twitter via @shobhanaxavier.

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