[truth can come in surprising packages, and in unlikely places.]
He turned to me after a while and asked me to repeat for the benefit of my host the lines of the Lord's Prayer in the way I had said them to my patients. I did so, rather self-consciously.
"You are English?" my host asked, speaking in English.
"Please say your Lord's Prayer again." He spoke English better than Russian, fairly correctly and with less accent.
I repeated the 'charm'.
"Very, very in-ter-est-ing," he said, staring at me so intently that I turned away. I caught the Lion's eye as he was settling down to chess with the man with the slanting eyes. He nodded at me with a look that seemed to indicate that I should pay particular attention to anything my host said.
We continued to talk in English, and the conversation, which I have good reason to remember, proceeded somewhat as follows. I reconstruct it as best I can from the notes I made at the time.
"Who taught you to say the Lord's Prayer like that?"
"Nobody. It just came into my head."
"Say the whole prayer through in the same manner."
I did so with one or two hesitations.
"You interrupted it. You said the first lines without stopping, but then you took a breath. That's wrong. This is the way your Lord's Prayer was meant to be said. Listen, and watch."
He folded his hands in his lap, fixed his eyes on me, and began to breathe in slowly and deeply, holding his breath a few moments, sitting motionless. It was very quiet in the room. Lev Lvovitch and the other man were engrossed in their game. They seemed already to belong to another world. I felt I was entering a new one.
A low, rich, musical bass note, about G2 below middle C, began to sound in the room, pure and dry amid the muffling hangings. My host had begun to chant the Lord's Prayer. The words came slowly and softly, the syllables flowing evenly and equidistant on the stream of the single note. The consonants just sufficed to articulate the words. From start to finish there was no stop, no hesitation, no halt for breath, no rise or fall in tone; it was one single sound, integral and self-contained, imparting to the prayer a meaning far deeper than the words themselves. The "amen"—pronounced, of course, "ah-meen"—trailed off into inaudibility in a way that merged the fading musical note with the ensuing silence. Chanted slowly in a single breath it seemed to last a very long time.
I was spellbound, and sat waiting in expectation. The sound of the chanted note had a singularly penetrating effect. I felt as if it had entered right into me. After a while he said: "You see, though the words have deep meaning they are not the most important thing. It is even doubtful whether the words have been transmitted to us accurately. Versions differ and nuances are introduced by translation. The most important thing about the prayer is that it is a convenient measure of a single trained breath."
I was puzzled. "What has breath to do with it?"
He replied at some length. I can transmit his words only imperfectly: The Lord's Prayer, he said, always referring to it as "your Lord's Prayer," was designed "as a devotional breathing exercise to be chanted on a single even breath." The same was true of other ancient prayers composed in the East in the distant past. Subtle advantages of far-reaching value, he said, are derived from the vibrations caused by correct incantation, polarized mentally by the words of the prayers. To intone them as they were intended to be intoned equal attention must be devoted to the three elements: the breath, the sound, and the words. In the modern religion of the West, which has degenerated into hopeless institutional formalism, the words are mistaken for the whole thing. "I have been in many churches in England and America," said my mysterious host, "and always heard the congregation mumble the Lord's Prayer all together in a scrambled grunt as if the mere muttered repetition of the formula were all that is required.(1) Have you read your scriptures?"
I told him the Bible had been rammed down my throat as a child, and consequently I had at times been on the verge of hating it.
"It is better to hate than to be indifferent," he replied. "It means you may come to love it when you understand it rightly."
"My father was a parson," I explained.
"Ah, you had a bad start. One does not expect divines to understand the Bible. They cling to the text. You will find that though Jesus dictated openly the words of his model prayer, when he wanted to show how they were to be uttered—the more important part of the matter—he took a few chosen disciples apart into a desert place and gave them special instruction. That was never recorded."
"It cannot be recorded. It is an individual matter. However alike in appearance, we are all constructed more or less differently from each other. It is closely concerned with how a man breathes, and no two persons breathe exactly alike. Each disciple had first to be taught how to breathe, and then to find the note and the tone peculiar to him on which to intone with best effect."
"But doesn't nature teach us how to breathe?" I argued.
He replied to the effect that nature, of course, compels us to breathe, breathing is that by which we live, but we habitually perform the function in a limited way, without studying it, merely enough to keep soul and body together. Even singers and athletes only study breathing to suit their particular activities. "We also crawl on all fours, make noises, and perform many actions without special instruction, but to walk, to speak, to sing we have to learn. Yet nobody thinks of teaching children how to breathe—nobody, that is, outside certain limited circles. A technique attaches to everything before it can be done to best advantage, and this is especially true of the breath of life, though singularly few people seem to realize it." http://www.gurdjieff-legacy.org/40articles/ozay.htm