The Elemental Mind
Article ID: 10899
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,225
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Author: Cael SpiritHawk
Posted: June 25th. 2006
Times Viewed: 4,136
When most of us think of the Alchemical Elements, we think of the four physical ones arranged in a circle, balanced, Earth to Air, Fire to Water. If we include Spirit in this model, it transcends direction, and exists above, below, and around the circle of the four. It is its own balance, positive to negative.
In addition to the balanced-wheel model, the Elements can be looked at as a continuum, a spectrum that lies along the axis of material and physical presence.
At the one end of the spectrum, we have Earth. It is solid and slow to change. It does not flow except under extreme force. It is heavy, and carries momentum well.
Next in line we have Water, which is fluid, but still very heavy. It is quick to change, but will settle and rest in a container unless something perturbs it. It carries force and momentum nearly as well as Earth does, as anyone who has ever tried to stand still in the surf at the beach can attest.
Moving on, we have Air, which is even more fluid than water, and carries less force and less momentum. It can still affect things physically, but there must be a lot of it and it must be moving quickly to affect anything with any significant weight.
The last of the physical Elements is Fire, and it is actually a transition Element, one that begins to bridge the gap between the physical and energetic realms. It has no appreciable mass, it’s infinitely fluid, and its effects on the world are more energy-related than physical.
On the end of the spectrum opposite Earth, we have Spirit. It has no mass, no physical presence at all, and transcends mere fluidity by instead being everywhere already. It does not affect the physical world in the same sense that the other elements do; rather, it works in the realms of mind and thought.
It is interesting that the elements in the physical world around us interact in a hierarchical way that mirrors this continuum of mass and fluidity.
The Earth itself is massive, heavy, and changes only slowly, and even the enormous geological forces inside it only change the face of the planet at a rate than can be measured in centuries and millennia. Wind and sun, for the most part, do not significantly affect the changing face of the Earth in geological terms. The only Element that does that is Water.
If Earth’s primary characteristic is solidity and persistence, Water’s is unending perseverance. Anyone who has traveled to the Grand Canyon, or seen the ice-sculpted fjords of northern Europe, knows that while the process may take a very long time, not even the solidity of Earth can withstand the constant wearing and shaping of moving Water.
Water, on the other hand, is affected most by the two elements adjacent to it on the spectrum: Earth and Air. For even though the river carves the hard stone into a valley, the valley guides the river and shapes its path as well. The Air above the river and the sea picks the Water up, and carries it around the world, and drops it to flow once again down the channels carved in the living rock.
Finally, the Air itself moves in accordance with the force of the embodiment of elemental Fire: the sun. It is the sun’s radiant heat that makes some air warm and some air cold, thus causing some to rise and some to fall, to make the wind blow, which carries the water to the dry places, the water that falls on those places and shapes them anew.
Behind all of this is the universal Spirit, that transcends all of this, and watches all of this, both with the knowledge of the creator for the created, and with the innocent joy of the child seeing it all happen for the first time; Spirit is young and old, creator and created, observer and observed.
Just as the Elements exist upon a continuum, the human mind operates in ways that mirror and emulate the elements.
At the most static end of the spectrum, analogous to Earth, we find Knowledge. When we know something, it is locked in our minds, unchanging. Years can go by, and yet we still know things that we knew when we were children.
One step along, analogous to Water, is Thought. Our thoughts are more fluid than our knowledge, but unless they’re stimulated, they become stagnant and settle into patterns, just as water settles into a ditch. Over time, our thinking shapes our knowledge as a river shapes a valley, by carrying away things we thought we knew but which have proven false, and by depositing truths that we have discovered and wish to keep. But as the valley guides the river, so our collection of knowledge directs our thoughts as well; we tend to follow channels through our minds, and think in the same way we did yesterday, and it is as difficult to change the way we think as it is to change the course of a river.
Analogous to Air is Imagination. Imagination picks up bits of thought and carries them to places where they’ve never been before. Imagination is far more fluid and unbounded than rational thought, and by its very nature is immune to stagnation; like Air, it will fill what space it is given. When an imaginative gust carries a thought to a new place on the landscape of knowledge, a new path can begin to form, and a new valley can be carved. As the walls of the Grand Canyon reflect the beauty of stone buried for millennia, the knowledge that is revealed when thoughts are carried to new places by imagination reflect the depth of our years of learning, and it is here that wisdom is found.
Our imagination is moved by the final elemental mind-state, Emotion; Analogous to Fire, emotions bridge the gap between the physical realm and the spiritual. Emotions cannot be quantified or measured or written down without translation; they are ephemeral, as Fire is. When our emotions are positive, our imagination is stimulated, just as the wind moves most when the sun shines down. When our emotions are negative, our imagination is torpid; there is no weather on a sunless world.
Through and around and above and below all of this is our spirit, the part of us that makes us us. It is neither knowledge, nor thought, nor imagination, nor emotion, but it touches and affects all of them and, in turn, is affected itself.
Use this. Use your Spirit to pay attention to the other Elements within you. Notice how emotion affects your imagination, and how imagination affects your way of thinking, and how, over time, your thoughts affect the knowledge and wisdom you carry.
Just as the world is a system of interacting and hierarchical layers, our minds are also. Understanding what the parts are and how they interact is the first step in shaping our futures.
Copyright: Copyright (C) 2006 Paladin Sage
Location: Manassas, Virginia
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