From Respiration to Fleshpiration

A Merleau-Pontian Journey into Respiratory Philosophy and Respiratory Religion with Jesus, St. Paul, Claudel, and Merleau-Ponty


  • Petri Berndtson



Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Claudel, Jesus, St. Paul, respiration, flesh, “fleshpiration”


In this article, I introduce a new word, the neologism “fleshpiration.” It is a word or a name in which I intertwine “flesh” and “spirit” or “spiration.” This new word is inspired by the thinking of Jesus, St. Paul, Paul Claudel, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The interpretative starting point of my article is taken from Claudel, who states: “the spirit is respiration.” With Claudel’s idea, which has its roots in the etymological analysis of pneuma and spiritus, I interpret the spirit (pneuma) of Jesus and St. Paul to mean respiration in the first place. Within this respiratory interpretative context, I suggest that both Jesus and St. Paul emphasised the essentiality of breathing in their religious thinking. For St. Paul, life according to the flesh and life according to the Spirit as life according to the Respiration are opposite lifestyles. Within the context of Merleau-Ponty, it can be said that St. Paul’s dichotomy between the flesh and the Spirit can be challenged and surpassed. For Merleau-Ponty, the flesh and the Spirit can be intertwined in a paradoxical manner. Within this framework of paradoxical thinking, it becomes possible to discover this new word “fleshpiration” and initially claim that it names a new respiratory beginning for philosophy and religion.


Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.

Augustine, St. The Works of Saint Augustine: On Christian Belief. Edited by Boniface Ramsey. Translated by Edmund Hill. New York: New City Press, 2005.

Bachelard, Gaston. L’Air et les Songes: Essai sur l’imagination du mouvement. Paris: Librairie José Corti, 1943.

Barbaras, Renaud. The Being of the Phenomenon: Merleau-Ponty’s Ontology. Translated by Ted Toadvine and Leonard Lawlor. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Berndtson, Petri. “Aerial and Respiratory Atmospheres of Avicenna’s Flying Person.” Poligrafi 26, no. 103/104 (2021): 131–151.

Berndtson, Petri. “Cultivating a Respiratory and Aerial Culture of Hospitality.” In Borders and Debordering: Topologies, Praxes, Hospitableness, edited by Tomaž Grušovnik, Eduardo Mendieta, and Lenart Škof, 165–180. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2018.

Berndtson, Petri. “Phenomenological Ontology of Breathing: The Phenomenologico-Ontological Interpretation of the Barbaric Conviction of We Breathe Air and a New Philosophical Principle of Silence of Breath, Abyss of Air.” PhD diss., University of Jyväskylä, 2018.

Berndtson, Petri. Phenomenological Ontology of Breathing: The Respiratory Primacy of Being. London and New York: Routledge, 2023.

Berndtson, Petri. “The Temple of the Holy Breath as the Place of Conspiracy Between the Respiratory Body and the Space of Open Air.” In Art and Common Space, edited by Anne-Karin Furunes, Simon Harvey, and Maaretta Jaukkuri, 39–47. Trondheim: NTNU, 2013.

Bohát, Róbert. “‘My Soul Knoweth Right Well’: the Biblical Definition of Soul (Heb. ‘nefes,’ Gr. ‘psyche’) and the Epistemology of Embodied Cognition – an Ancient Source of a Modern Concept?” In The Soul in the Axiosphere from an Intercultural Perspective, vol. 1, edited by Joanna Jurewicz, Ewa Maslowska, and Dorota Pazio-Wlazlowska, 164‒204. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2020.

Casey, Edward S. The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998.

Casey, Edward S. The World on Edge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.

Cavarero, Adriana. For More Than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression. Translated by Paul Kottman. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Claudel, Paul. Commentaires et exégèses. Paris: Gallimard, 1962.

Derrida, Jacques. Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Edwards, Denis. Breath of Life: A Theology of the Creator Spirit. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2004.

Edwards, Denis. Human Experience of God. New York and Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1983.

Franck, Didier. Nietzsche and the Shadow of God. Translated by Bettina Bergo and Philippe Farah. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2012.

Gelpi, Donald. The Divine Mother: A Trinitarian Theology of the Holy Spirit. Lanham: University Press of America, 1984.

The Greek New Testament: Produced at Tyndale House Cambridge (THGNT). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Hamrick, William S., and Jan Van der Veken. Nature and Logos: A Whiteheadian Key to Merleau-Ponty’s Fundamental Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011.

Heidegger, Martin. Heraklit. 1. Der Anfang des abendländischen Denkens. 2. Logik. Heraklits Lehre vom Logos. Gesamtausgabe 55. Edited by Manfred S. Frings. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann GmbH, 1979.

Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Palmer Lake: Biblica, 2011.

Hue, Bernard. Rêve et réalité dans Le Soulier de satin. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2005.

Husserl, Edmund. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Translated by David Carr. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970.

Irigaray, Luce. Between East and West: From Singularity to Community. Translated by Stephen Pluháček. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Irigaray, Luce. The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger. Translated by Mary Beth Mader. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999

Irigaray, Luce. Why Different? A Culture of Two Subjects: Interviews with Luce Irigaray. Translated by Camille Collins. New York: Semiotext(e), 2000.

Johnson, Galen A. The Retrieval of the Beautiful: Thinking Through Merleau-Ponty’s Aesthetics. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2010.

Kaushik, Rajiv. Art and Institution: Aesthetics in the Late Works of Merleau-Ponty. London and New York: Continuum, 2011.

Kearney, Richard. Anatheism: Returning to God After God. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

Lawlor, Leonard. Early Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Bloomington and Indianapolis: India University Press, 2012.

Lawlor, Leonard. The Implications of Immanence: Toward a New Concept of Life. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006.

Leloup, Jean-Yves, trans. L’Évangile de Jean. Paris: Albin Michel, 2013.

Levine, Etan. Heaven and Earth, Law and Love. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2000.

Levison, John R. The Spirit in First-Century Judaism. Boston and Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002.

Luoto, Miika. “Approaching the Untouchable: From Husserl to Merleau-Ponty.” In Figures of Touch: Sense, Technics, Body, edited by Mika Elo and Miika Luoto, 91–119. Talinna: Academy of Fine Art, 2018.

Madison, Gary Brent. The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty: A Search for the Limits of Consciousness. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1981.

Mazis, Glen. Merleau-Ponty and the Face of the World: Silence, Ethics, Imagination, and Poetic Ontology. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2016.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Éloge de la philosophie et autres essais. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1953 and 1960.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “Eye and Mind.” In The Merleau-Ponty Reader, edited and translated by Ted Toadvine and Leonard Lawlor, 351–378. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology: Including Texts by Edmund Husserl. Translated by Leonard Lawlor and Bettina Bergo. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2002.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. In Praise of Philosophy and Other Essays. Translated by John Wild and James Edie. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Institution and Passivity: Course Notes from the Collège de France (1954–1955). Translated by Leonard Lawloe and Heath Massey. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2010.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. La Nature: Notes Cours du Collège de France. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1995.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Le visible et l’invisible. Paris: Gallimard, 1964.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. L’Œil et l’Esprit. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1964.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Merleau-Ponty Reader. Edited by Ted Toadvine and Leonard Lawlor. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Nature: Course Notes from the Collège de France. Translated by Robert Vallier. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2003.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Donald A. Landes. London and New York: Routledge, 2012.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Possibility of Philosophy: Course Notes from the Collège de France, 1959–1961. Translated by Keith Whitmoyer. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2022.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Sense and the Non-Sense. Translated by Hubert L. Dreyfus and Patricia Allen Dreyfus. Northwestern University Press, 1964.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Texts and Dialogues: On Philosophy, Politics, and Culture. Edited by Hugh J. Silverman and James Barry. Amherst: Humanity Books, 1992.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Visible and the Invisible. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968.

Moncrief, William Glen. Soul: Or the Hebrew Word Nephesh and the Greek Word Psuchen. Edinburgh: William Laing, 1864.

New Testament: Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT).

Peters, F. E. Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon. New York: New York University Press, 1967.

Rahner, Karl. The Mystical Way in Everyday Life. Translated by Annemarie S. Kidder. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2010.

Rizo-Patron, Eileen. “Introduction: Bachelard’s Living Philosophical Legacy.” In Adventures in Phenomenology: Gaston Bachelard, edited by Eileen Rizo-Patron with Edward S. Casey and Jason M. Wirth, 1–16. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2017.

Saint Aubert (de), Emmanuel. Du lien des êtres aux éléments de l’être: Merleau-Ponty au tournant des années 1945–1951. France: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2004.

Saint Aubert (de), Emmanuel. “La ‘Co-nassaince’: Merleau-Ponty et Claudel.” In Merleau-Ponty aux frontiers de l’invisible, edited by Marie Cariou, Renaud Barbaras, and Etienne Bimbenet, 249–278. Milan: Associazione Culturale Mimesis, 2003.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology. Translated by Hazel E. Barnes. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992.

Tibbs, Clint. Religious Experience of Pneuma: Communication with the Spirit World in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2012.

Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Wolff, Hans Walter. Anthropology of the Old Testament. Translated by Margaret Kohl. Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1974.




How to Cite

Berndtson, Petri. 2023. “From Respiration to Fleshpiration: A Merleau-Pontian Journey into Respiratory Philosophy and Respiratory Religion With Jesus, St. Paul, Claudel, and Merleau-Ponty”. Poligrafi 28 (111/112):31-72.