How often are we misled by a false direction, resulting in great evils, misery and disease. The false idea of instructing man how to breathe is, of all errors, the worst, for it changes his mind in making him believe an error; thereby leading his soul astray and giving false direction to the matter or mind. For instance, we are taught to believe that the air goes into the lungs. This is acknowledged without any questioning, and therefore must be a fact. Now if any person of ordinary intelligence, capable of understanding any kind of mechanical principles, will stop one moment and look at the construction of man's internal organs, he must see that it is impossible for the air to go into the lungs.
Giving the disciples of this belief the advantage of all they claim, it will be seen that if God intended that the air should go into the lungs to purify the blood, he put man to a great deal of trouble to get it there, according to their own explanation. For we are told that the air goes in at the mouth or nose, passes down the windpipe and enters the lungs, purifying the blood, and is then thrown off. According to this route, the air that goes into his nose must first come into the mouth to meet the air in the mouth; after meeting, they find their way down the windpipe. Everyone knows that there is a valve or clapper on the upper end of the windpipe, to prevent anything from going down. This valve is closed all the time, to prevent anything from going down when we eat or drink. Now to suppose that a person is breathing air into the mouth, which passes down the lungs, one must either be ignorant of the effect of the circulation of the atmosphere, or have never thought of the absurdity of such a belief. Just let common sense look, and see how absurd the idea is.
Everyone knows that cold air rushes where the air is warmer, for the warm air is more rarified, and this forms a partial vacuum; and the cold air, according to a natural law of heat and cold, would rush to fill the vacuum. Now as the heat in the brain is warmer than in any other part of the system, the cold air would rush to that place, according to a natural principle. The nose is constructed like a steam chamber, with small holes or apertures for the air to pass through, and pass into a larger chamber; this forms a bulkhead at these apertures, so that the hot air must pass down into the mouth. Now the amount of cold air that can pass down into the lungs is so small, that it is not worth a thought.
Suppose you take a pipe, and warm the stem, and pour cold air into the bowl, will it come out of the stem cold? No. Then leave the bowl open, and see how absurd it is to believe that it will come out cold. It is just as absurd to suppose that the cold air, or any air, goes into the lungs; for if it does not go in cold, it cannot go in hot, because the heat is forcing itself into the mouth, when the mouth is shut, to escape from the lungs.
The process of breathing is a law of science, without the least particle of knowledge; it requires no knowledge. The child knows as much about it when it is first set in motion, as it ever does. If the machine gets out of order, then the will tries to remove the obstruction made by man's wisdom; for the wisdom of man has made obstructions by false reasoning.
We have the power of contracting the muscles of the throat, so that we can hold anything in the mouth, liquid or smoke. A person can hold tobacco smoke in the mouth or force it out of the nose, showing that the passage from the mouth is under the control of the will. So if the will can close the passage in the nose, you see how necessary it is not to give man a false idea about the circulation of the air. For if you make him believe that the air goes into the lungs, it does not make it go there, but you deceive him; and in the act of using his will to induce the air to go into the lungs, he uses a great power of will, which heats up the blood; and this heat closes the apertures in the nose and prevents the natural circulation that would take place, if no such information had ever been taught.
The blood wants good pure air, for in it there is something that sustains life; and God knew what he was about when he made man. He knew that man never would know enough to breath of himself, so he made circulation, according to the laws of heat; leaving man nothing to do but to let nature do its work, and then all will go right. Nature will let cold air go into the nose and then come in contact with the blood, or something else that will take out of the atmosphere what the blood wants; then it will escape to let in more cold air. The blood is fed in this way and carries its food to all parts of the system. Returning with the impurities of the system, it deposits them in the lungs, where they are thrown off. So the lungs act for the blood as the intestines do for the stomach; and the mouth receives the food for the stomach, and the nose receives the air or food for the blood. God, when he set man in motion, did not put food in his mouth, but breath in his nostrils; and man became a living soul.
— May, 1860
P. P. Quimby