The Egyptian Postures
Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha’nish

The Egyptian Postures is a guide to the most advanced Mazdaznan exercises that Johannes Itten taught his students at the Bauhaus. Often performed while singing or humming the postures were intended to activate glands and re-channel internal energies, stirring the blood in ways that contributed to the perpetual evolution of humanity. They were also said to induce auto-illumination, the participant’s body generating an intense light from within. 

This edition of Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha’nish’s original instructions has been newly edited and illustrated by Ian Whittlesea with images of actor Ery Nzaramba demonstrating the postures and an in-depth essay by Pádraic E. Moore that explores the relationships between esoteric movements, their racial theories and early modernism's embrace and eventual dismissal of the occult, Mazdaznan and Itten.

ISBN 9780993372858
144 Pages
Casebound in gold cloth with red foil and red page edges
Colour endpapers
Black & white text, with twelve photographs and 31 line drawings
Printed in Europe by SYL Barcelona
Edition of 1000 copies
Published by The Everyday Press, London


From the introduction:

My interest in Mazdaznan began with a photograph. It was widely reproduced in publications about the Bauhaus and generally titled Morning exercises on the roof of the Itten School but I had never found a satisfactory explanation of just what the young people in white coats were doing on that rooftop. After a little work, and a fortuitous purchase on eBay of a book from the 1930s, I learnt that it showed Johannes Itten and his students practicing not just any morning exercises but very specifically Mazdaznan breathing exercises. It was a discovery that inspired my book Mazdaznan Health & Breath Culture.

That book, like this, explores the intimate relationship between Johannes Itten, Mazdaznan and the Bauhaus. Itten was a renowned colour theorist, artist and teacher who was among the first faculty of the newly formed Bauhaus from 1919 until he resigned as director of the Vorkurs (preliminary course) in 1923, his position made untenable by a conflict between his mysticism and director Walter Gropius's move towards an active engagement with mass production. Itten's departure has been seen by some as the triumph of the rational, epitomised by Gropius and his machine-age aesthetic, and by others as emblematic of the rupture between modernism and its roots, with the associated dismissal of the conscious body as a denial of transcendence, sensuality and occult energy.

Itten was a devout Mazdaznan, a follower of the self-named Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish and his Chicago-based global religion. Ha'nish advocated a strict vegetarian diet, breath control, tantric sexual techniques and a form of pseudo-yoga as a means of self-realisation. Many of Itten's students converted to Mazdaznan and together they practiced the breathing exercises at the centre of Ha'nish's teachings.

My first book on Mazdaznan was based on the assumption that Itten would only have taught the simplest exercises to his students. Just after that book was published I came across a second photograph, clearly taken at the same time as the first, and titled Relaxation exercises on the roof of the Itten School. The same group of students are shown assisting each other into a variety of positions taken from the most advanced Mazdaznan exercises. These were The Egyptian Postures, a series of bending, stretching and posing movements that Ha'nish claimed to be directly descended from those used by the Pharaohs. They were often performed while singing or humming and were intended to activate glands and re-channel internal energies, stirring the blood in ways that contributed to the perpetual evolution of humanity. It was also said that the postures could result in auto-illumination, the participant's body generating light from within visible to any onlooker.

I described Mazdaznan Health & Breath Culture as 'a practical guide to performing the exercises that Itten taught at the Bauhaus and a celebration of a moment of mysticism at the heart of modernism' and while the same could be said of The Egyptian Postures, it also explores the much more difficult questions of why modernism's early adherents felt it necessary to banish the esoteric and occult from their midst. My drawings of the postures and photographs of the finger exercises are an attempt at clarity. They seek to honour Ha'nish's instructions that the postures are timeless and need no special clothes or apparatus, and to provide an alternative to the often difficult to follow illustrations that are printed in many Mazdaznan publications.

I am indebted to Pádraic E. Moore, whose essay insightfully and sensitively unpicks some of the conflicts of Itten's time at the Bauhaus and deals unflinchingly with Mazdaznan's adherence to theories of race evolution. I am also grateful to Ery Nzaramba for a brief but essential discussion of the politics of history, as well as his exemplary demonstration of The Egyptian Postures.

Ian Whittlesea

































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