Mazdaznan Health & Breath Culture (First 6 Exercises)
By Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish
Illustrated & appended by Ian Whittlesea
Design by Joseph Pochodzaj
Published by Open Editions & Stanley Picker Gallery (Kingston University)

Cover text:

This book explores the intimate relationship between Mazdaznan, Johannes Itten and the Vorkurs (Preliminary or Foundation Course) at the Bauhaus, Weimar. It is 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.

At the start of the morning I brought my classes to mental and physical readiness for intensive work through relaxing, breathing, and concentrating exercises. The training of the body as an instrument of the mind is of the greatest importance for creative man.
–– Johannes Itten

Founded by the extraordinary Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha’nish in Chicago at the start of the 20th century Mazdaznan was a religion and way of life. Dr. Ha’nish is claimed to have been variously a genius, a shepherd, a typesetter, a magician and a fraud, as well as friend and inspiration to a bewildering variety of figures including Karl Marx, Haeckel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, H.G. Wells, Annie Besant and J. H. Kellogg. It is said that Edison named the first lightbulb Mazda in his honour and that Henry Ford attributed the dawn of the motor-age to Ha’nish’s influence.

Mazdaznan’s vegetarian diet, magnetic and electric sexual exchanges, breathing exercises and glandular theories were taken to Europe by its early disciples, flourishing in Switzerland, Germany and England between the wars. The Swiss artist and teacher Johannes Itten was a devout Mazdaznan and its exercises were an essential part of his courses at the Bauhaus.

Health & Breath Culture has been newly illustrated by Ian Whittlesea with drawings of current Foundation students demonstrating the exercises. It is followed by a selection of found texts and images that go some way to explaining the beliefs and history of Mazdaznan.


The project also generated a group of photographs showing Kingston University Foundation Students performing the exercises described in Mazdaznan Health & Breath Culture.

With thanks to Christian Breidlid, Ezzidin Alwan & Helen McCathie for their
photographic assistance and to Rosie Brunning, Ivan Robirosa, Joey Phinn,
Annabelle Syms, Harry Edwards, Amelia Butlin, Olivia Wills, Sophie Flanagan,
Robert Hawkins, Ailis Brennan, Hamish Pearch, Jessica Dyer, Ruby Law,
Molly Maher, Harvin Alert, Sophie Ray & Nettle Grellier who took part in the
workshop to practice Mazdaznan exercises.

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