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So, this week I figure I’ll talk about the elements. There’s several elemental systems out there, the Euro/Khemetic/Alchemical five, the Greek Four (which are found in the Alchemical Five), the ones found in Asia, and then of course those found in various fictional writings such as Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera (which has six and blends both West and East).
I, primarily, work with what I call the Alchemical Five, which are Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and the Quintessence. I’m by no means an expert on them (mostly because I have a terrible memory and no real recall ability, not because I haven’t studied extensively), but I do try to work with them anyways.
With Alchemy we begin with the basic four: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.
Earth is all that is solid and physical. It is by its cold and dry, and though it sinks, it cannot sink as deeply as water can. Those who draw from earth tend to be grounded, slow moving, and deliberate. On a personal level, I believe Earth to hold Wood and Metal, which is why it has generally confused me as to why those two often get listed as elements. More on that in a moment, however.
Air is next, and where Earth is solid and physical, Air is ethereal and mental, hot and wet. One cannot capture the wind, for as soon as you try, it is gone. Imagination is its domain, the mind whispers with its words. It rises up, but not as highly as fire.
Fire too, is ethereal, but where Air is the mind, Fire is the heart, hot and dry. Passion is the game when dealing with fire, and it burns hotly for love and for hate. It rises higher than all other elements, and through it they are purified and rise above what they are. It is also through fire, that they are destroyed.
Water is last, cold and wet. It sinks deeply, deeper than any other element, the calm steadiness of the ocean or the raging of rapids. Water is also emotion, like fire, but where fire burns, water sooth and heals. If Fire is Lust, the Water is Love. If Fire is Hatred, then Water is Anger. Water is the element best for healing and bringing forth life, but it is also the best at destroying, even better than fire. Earth will shake and swallow, Air will blow away, Fire will burn all to ashes, but water washes away like it never was.
From the union of all four elements comes the Quintessence, or the fifth element. Some call it spirit, some wood, some metal, but almost universally it is called what they feel represents life itself. For me, it is Lightning, the electrical charge that pervades all life, gives it thought and emotion and passion. The Divine Spark, if you will. You can see the quintessence form in the storm, or in a baby’s eyes, in the aura and bio-electrical fields. It can only come when all four are there, and in the right amounts, but when they do…
For decades science sneered at the idea of the four elements, much less the fifth. They said that there were more than four elements and so on. But as we move forwards, science has come to admit that the four elements match up with the “four states of matter” which are solid, gas, plasma, and liquid. I wonder how long before they find the quintessence. As we delve deeper, and find that matter and energy are made up not of separate things, but of the same thing on the smallest level, how long will it be before we once again turn to the five elements way of looking at the universe?