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The Elements

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An in-depth look at the elements and how to begin to use them in magical practices.

There are four classical elements. These are Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Now, it is important not to confuse these with the actual physical elements, of which there are many. Rather, these are forces that work in conjunction to produce creation, manifest and unmanifest. There is also a fifth element, that being Spirit, but discussion about it will be at another time.

These four elements represent the basic attributes given by man to his surroundings. They are based on tactical sensations. When a physical object is touched, there are many sensations. For example, is it painful, flexible, solid, wet, hot, etc.? In discussing the elements we draw upon the sensations of temperature (hot or cold) and moisture (wet or dry). These are fundamental to the understanding of the elements. Simply put, the forces of temperature and moisture interplay to form the forces of each element. So, Earth is said to be the combination of dry and cold, Water is wet and cold, Air is wet and hot, and fire is dry and hot. These give a basic idea to the attributes of each element.

There is considerable talk in occult circles to ?being a particular element?. This, of course, is pure hogwash. All of the four elements are present in the makeup of everything in creation, and the human creature is no exception. Part of the training of any novice magician is the fundamental awareness of and balancing of the elemental forces in the body and the psyche. How could someone be expected to direct elemental forces if they are out of balance within said person? Surely balance must be attained before even the simplest of magical processes can be attempted.

In the traditional training, the first element that is worked with is Earth. Now, keeping in mind that the physical earth is not the element we can look at its qualities to gain insight about the elemental energy of Earth. The physical earth, of course, is dense. It is solid, rigid, and stable. It is generally unmoving, tectonic forces withstanding. So, we can say that the elemental Earth is solid and dense. It is stable, sure and firm. There is little or no motion with elemental Earth. Just like the physical earth, elemental Earth is necessary to have life. Trees grow in the earth, animals live within it and upon it. Even the great oceans rest on the earth. With elemental earth, the energies of it feel heavy, stable, and rigid. It is the foundation. It is something you can count on. Earth focuses on the physical reality. It can be nurturing and supportive. However, it can also be immovable, unyielding and unchangeable. Unbalanced Earth can be lethargic, focused on physical pleasure and materialistic.

The next element that a student is made aware of is Air. Air on the physical world is fast moving. Try to grab hold of a hand full of air. You?ll wind up empty handed, until you open your hand and the air just drifts back in. Elemental Air is active, just like the physical air. It blows here an there, always changing. It is adaptable, and fills everywhere there is a space. Physical air is essential to our communication. Without it, we would not have speech. Sounds are simply vibrations in the air that react with our inner ear and are interpreted as sounds. Air is essential for life. Just as animals breathe oxygen, plants breathe carbon dioxide creating a cycle of life. It can keep you cool in with a summer breeze, or destroy everything in its path like a tornado. Soft or hard, air is always moving. Air can carry water, dirt and even fire. Elemental Air has the same qualities. Air is naturally considered hot, since it is active, and wet, since it contains water vapor. Air is the element of communication and therefore of intellect as well. We must communicate to learn from each other. Air is also a healer. Wounds need to breathe to keep from going stagnant, and to allow oxygen to heal the body. Too much air, however, can make you spacey or air-headed. It can cause you to over think things, make rash decisions and act with only your interests in mind.

The third element studied is that of Water. Physical water is fluid. You would think of water as active. It flows through pipes and rivers, and the waves of the ocean are constantly moving. But that is not the case. Water is passive. It seeks out the lowest point it can find, and stays there. Left to its own forces, water will not move. The flow of water is simply water trying to get to the lowest point, but watch out if you are in its way. Water can tear things down, erode and destroy. But it, like all the elements, is also necessary for life. Elemental Water is passive and wet. It will flow where it needs to, and just like a supple stream or a raging waterfall, elemental Water can be creative or destructive. With such powers it is considered the element of the emotions. Often it is considered the element of love, which is its positive qualities, but it is often forgotten that greed, lust, envy and anger are emotions too. Water out of balance can result in negative emotions or out of balance positive emotions, such as being overly caring or protective of someone.

Finally, there is the element of Fire. It goes without saying that physical fire is hot and dry. Fire is volatile, and can go from a simple candle flame to a roaring house fire almost instantly. Fire is what separated man from the animals. It is believed that man first started to develop intelligence and language when he began to cook his food. Fire keeps us warm and safe. Most would think of fire as destructive, but it prepares our food, it lights our world, and helps to create everything around us. If the fire that is the Sun ever went out, we would soon die. So too is the elemental Fire. It is the expression of activity. In its natural state it is action without control. It represents raw energy. It is also desire in the sense of the motivating force behind doing something. It is willpower. Elemental Fire is what sets everything in motion. It is the longing to accomplish something, the drive to begin the work, and the energy to see it through. But, when not checked, it can be obsessive, violent and destructive.

So, what does all this mean to the magician? Well, there are many things that the elements can do. You can work with elementals, which are beings of a pure element, create elemental talismans for specific purposes, program artificially created elemental beings to complete tasks, and many other things. However, for now, you need to balance the elemental energies. This is the first step to being able to use elemental energies, but it is also one of the first steps in spiritual growth. After learning to feel and manipulate energy, balancing the elements is the most important thing you can do in your journey. It is not a process to be rushed. Specific exercises and meditations will be coming in future lessons.

While you will not be using it yet, it is good to know where you are working towards. So, I have included some examples of situations that you would use elemental energies for.

Earth: Grounding and centering; finances; living arrangements; job stability.

Air: Communication; negotiations; school; studying; travel; healing.

Water: Dealing with emotions such as grief; love; relationships; making peace.

Fire: Beginnings, commitment to see something through; new ventures; guidance, especially spiritual.

This is obviously by no means a completed list. There are many, many more uses. This is just meant as an example.

The elements are found throughout ceremonial magic. With regard to the Kabalah and the Tree of Life, the four physical elements can be found in Malkuth, which is why the most common image of Malkuth is one with four colors in it. With the concept of the three Pillars, the active pillar is Fire, the passive is Water, the middle is Air, and Earth is in Malkuth. With the archetypal energies, Kether is Air, Chokmah is Fire, Binah is Water and Malkuth is Earth. Applied to the four worlds, Atziluth is Fire, Briah is Water, Yetzirah is Air and Assiah is Earth. In some Kabalistic theory, there is a Tree in each of the Worlds, so there would be a ?Fire of Fire?, ?Water of Fire?, and so on.

In the Tarot, Wands are Fire, Daggers (or Swords) are Air, Cups are Water and Pentacles, or disks, are Earth. The ten numbered cards of each suit correspond to the Tree of Life in each World. Kings are Fire, Queens are Water, Prince (or Knights) are Air and Princess? (or Page) are Earth. This introduces again the concept of ?Fire of Water? and the sub-elemental energies.

In Astrology, the signs are broken down into four Triplicies, one for each element. Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are Fire. Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are Earth, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are Air and Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are Water. This order is slightly different from the order of the elements on the physical level, but that is a topic to be discussed later. In each triplicity, there is a Cardinal sign, a Kerubic sign and a Mutable sign. The Cardinal sign is the representation of Fire, since it shows the elemental force becoming active and making that motion all it can be. The Kerubic sign is Air, showing the Archetypal energy of the element. The Mutable sign is Water, showing the changeable quality for the elemental power. The Earth representation is found within each of us, made physical within man. The Cardinal Signs are also connected to the Four Holy Creatures of the Kabala, and to the letters of the Tetragrammaton, which are Fire, Water, Air and Earth respectively.

The Elemental energies are also found in alchemy, the energy of the planets, Enochian magic, and in essence all works in the Western Mystery traditions. As you can see, it is important to become familiar with them and fully understand their workings. This explains the vast amount of time spent in organizations such as the Golden Dawn balancing the elements within the student. This process takes about three years to complete. When the process is complete, not only should the student have a strong understanding of the Elements, their energies and their influences, but should also have a strong energetic connection to each, be able to feel the subtle differences in the energetic vibrations and be able to direct the flow of the elemental energies.

In addition, the balancing of the Elemental energies also has a psychological effect. It helps to remove energetic blockages, emotional imbalances and negative, limiting beliefs. All of these are things that can prevent the proper flow of spiritual energy. What is more, they are often the source of severe problems for the student. When spiritual energy is run through these blockages, imbalances and beliefs, it empowers them just as it does our positive beliefs. An energized, powerful negative belief or emotional imbalance can cause severe problems for the unprepared student. Depression, hostility, phobias, narcissism, megalomania and psychotic behavior are just some of the dangers. Many an occultist has been brought low by their unresolved issues.

Many magical teachers recommend psychotherapy to their students prior to taking up magical studies to help eliminate these possible dangers. A good hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner can do the same work, probably in less time. It is possible to balance them out yourself if you clearly recognize where the issues are. Many times our own faults are the most difficult to see. Teachers, who have been down the path you are looking at taking, are one of the best resources for this work. A solitary student, without someone to watch out for him or to help identify and remove issues will almost certainly be in for a rough ride. In these cases, following a prescribed method of study is essential. The modern concept of ?everything is ok, nothing can hurt you? is probably the most dangerous concept that has ever been introduced to occult practitioners.

Magical acts use many different tools to access energies. In this study we use three to learn to touch and connect to the elemental powers. These three tools are feelings, symbols and colors. When these are combined properly they send the information to the subconscious mind corresponding to the appropriate elemental vibration. This energy is then accessed and directed by the subconscious, by means of directions placed into the mind by symbolism, sounds and actions. These all combine to form the ritual work of elemental magic.

To begin with, you must have the correct correspondences for each element. For these correspondences, we must look deeper into the elemental energies and what makes them up. First, the elements can be classified as either active or passive. We will call this the elements force. Active energies are mobile, working to accomplish something and energetic. Passive energies are at rest, nurturing rather than directing, and manifest. Another quality that elemental energies may have is raw or refined. Raw energy is energy that is carrying out its force in an uncontrolled, undirected manner. It is acting naturally rather than in a focused manner. Refined energy is directed to a specific purpose. It is the energy in the completed processes. Let?s call this the elements direction.

As noted earlier, each element has a combination of qualities consisting of either heat or cold, and dry or moist. Each of these is something we can relate to. We have all felt a dry day with low humidity verses a rainy day with high humidity. Also, we have felt warm in summer and cold in winter. Because we know these sensations, we can use them to focus on the proper element. Remembering these feelings sends a message to the subconscious about the energy we wish to access.

The symbol of the elements is the triangle. The triangle is manipulated differently for each element depending on that elements force, direction and qualities. Active force elements use a triangle pointed up. Passive force elements use a triangle pointed downward. This combination of active and passive, two triangles pointing in opposite directions and one superimposed on the other, create the symbol of the hexagram. The triangle is further manipulated by placing a horizontal line across its center. A raw direction of elemental energy uses a triangle without a line as its symbol, while a refined direction is indicated by the line superimposed on the triangle. This shows that the force of the energy has been changed, focused and made manageable.

Color is a very important to communication to the subconscious. By using the proper color we can manipulate the energies and feelings a person has. There is a reason why few bedrooms are painted bright red. Rather, soft colors are used to create a restful state. This effect is magnified during altered states of consciousness and ritual work. Each element has a color that is traditionally assigned to it within the Western Mystery tradition. Other traditions use slightly different colorings at times. Fire is obviously red, the color of flame. Obviously flame can be different colors depending on the material being burnt. However, red is generally understood to be hot, such as the heating elements in an oven. Water is blue, the color of clear lakes and oceans. Air is yellow, as obviously you can not see air, but you can see the light of the sun shining through it, which is yellow from our point of view. Earth actually has the most freedom in its color, since most earth tones are acceptable. Olive, russet, citrine and black are the most common.

This gives the following information on the elements:

Fire: Power: Active; Direction: Raw; Qualities: Heat and Dry; Symbol: Triangle; Color: Red

Water: Power: Passive; Direction: Raw; Qualities: Cold and Moist; Symbol: Inverted Triangle; Color: Blue

Air: Power: Active; Direction: Refined; Qualities: Heat and Moist; Symbol: Triangle with horizontal line; Color: Yellow

Earth: Power: Passive; Direction: Refined; Qualities: Cold and Dry; Symbol: Inverted Triangle with horizontal line; Colors: Olive, Russet, Citrine, Black

Finally, it is important to have some knowledge of the alternate names of the elements. These come from different cultures and languages. Within the Western Mystery traditions, Egyptian, Hebrew, Latin and Greek are the most common. Having these names of the elements will be of great value to you when establishing your connection to the elements themselves. You may not want to bring up the elemental energies each time you ask for a glass of water or say that you are going to get a breath of fresh air. These names are:

Earth: Ta (Egyptian), Aretz (Hebrew), Terra (Latin), Ge (Greek)

Air: Nef (Egyptian), Ruach (Hebrew), Aer (Latin), Aer (Greek)

Water: Mu (Egyptian), Maim (Hebrew), Aqua (Latin), Hydor (Greek)

Fire: Ash or Ish (Egyptian), Asch (Hebrew), Ignis (Latin), Pyr (Greek)

With this simple chart and these names we can begin to create the connection to the elemental energies. There are several steps to completing this process. It is not a quick process that you can do in a week, or simply by reading this work. It is something that may take months, maybe even years to complete. The results you attain will depend on the amount of work and effort you put into the process. If you half work at them, decide you have mastered them in just a few weeks, and rush the process, you can expect the same half successes, fleeting results and incomplete growth in your spiritual growth.

Now, before you rush into the element that you want most, a word of caution: there is an order that should be followed when learning the elements. It has been followed for years and with good reason. Attempting to work with the elements out of order can result in an imbalance of the energies that are within you. For example, if you are working with fire, and do not have the experience with water to control it, you may develop rage, uncontrolled anger and become prone to fits of violence. Water without the buoyant quality of air may result in depression, emotional outburst or uncontrolled obsession. Air without the grounding qualities of earth may result in the inability to focus, becoming absent minded or flighty. Earth, when out of balance, can cause laziness, stagnantation and lack of motivation. However, the other elements all contain a quality of motion that earth does not, so there is a system of checks and balances in studying the elements. The negative qualities of earth are easiest to overcome. What is important is that you do not stop in the middle. Keep going all the way through.

When meditating on and studying each element, you will be confronted with both the positive and the negative attributes of the element. You are expected to find the balance, so that you are focused on the positive aspects but are not too care free. Remember that (using fire as an example) there are times to be determined and creative, but there is also a time to be aggressive. Balance is the key to working with the elements. What is more, you may be confronted with feelings about yourself and others, your self-worth may be brought into question, the beliefs and ideals that you hold may be challenged. You are expected to work through these, evaluate them and yourself, discard what you do not need or what limits you, and remove blocks to your continued spiritual growth. These challenges, and others, are what you can expect to face.

The rewards are as great as the challenges.

Begin with the element of Earth. Get a blank piece of paper and draw the symbol of the element. It should take up most of the sheet of paper and be bold enough to be easily seen. Draw the symbol in the appropriate color. For Earth, choose one of the four that best resonates with you. Don?t try to put all four colors into it at this time. As you are drawing this, think of the meaning of the symbol, the qualities of Earth, and maybe go back and reread the paragraph on Earth from the beginning of this section. This will help empower the symbol in the subconscious.

Next, focus on the qualities of the element. Close your eyes and remember a time that you felt cold. As cold as you can ever remember feeling. Maybe it was a cold winter night. Whatever that memory is for you, recall it. Now, focus less on the memory and more on the feeling of cold. Feel the lack of heat on your skin, see the steam of your breath, hear the clarity and crispness in the air that comes with the cold. Completely experience cold. Then make that feeling even stronger. Double it. When you have this, say to yourself out loud ?This is what cold feels like?. Then, set that feeling aside for a moment.

Now, repeat the same thing, only using the quality of dryness. Recall a time where you were particularly dry. A day with very low humidity, or maybe the experience of a dry sauna. As before, focus on the dryness and how it makes you feel. Maybe you can feel your skin drying out, or maybe you see an arid region, or hear the cracking of dry piece of wood. Whatever you associate with dryness is right for you. Now double that feeling. Make it even stronger. Then, say aloud ?This is what dryness feels like?.

Once this is drawn it is time to begin the process of touching the elemental energies. Begin by performing the LBRP. This will create an area free from influences that may confuse or distract you. Then begin meditation and enter into alpha state. Once there, open your eyes and focus on the elemental symbol. See it clearly, so that you can reproduce the design and color in your mind. As you do so, think of the qualities of the element. Bring up those feelings of cold and dry. Re-experience the qualities as you did earlier. Keep seeing the symbol of Earth clearly as you feel the qualities. Finally, while holding this image and these feelings, say the name for the element that you will use aloud. When you do so, lock the symbol, feeling and name into your mind. You can feel it and hear it lock into place. See it there, a set spot in your mind that is associated with that element.

Now repeat the following statement and follow the instructions in the parenthesis: ?The element of Earth is now locked within my mind to the name _____. (When you say the name, mentally touch the part of your mind that is connected to the element. When you do feel the qualities and see the symbol in your mind.) Whenever I desire to access the elemental qualities of Earth, I can mentally or aloud say the name _____ (Touch it mentally again.) and I will be connected and in tune with the element of Earth.? Finally, vibrate the name you have chosen for the element.

Once you have done this, take a few minutes and perform the fourfold breath. Just relax and let your mind return to a more normal state. Perform the LBRP again to clear the temple and record all of your feelings and experiences in your journal.

This is the first of the exercises to touch the elements. You should do this daily for the first week, and then once a week while you are doing this basic work with the element. After doing this daily for a week, you should be able to clearly connect to the element of Earth.

Next, you need to experience Earth. There is a simple way to do this. Earth is actually one of the easiest to experience. For this you will want to be wearing as little cloths as possible. No, don?t go running around naked! Silly. A swimsuit is ideal. Obviously this is weather permitting. Find yourself a clear patch of ground. A beach or somewhere sandy would be great. Sit down on it. Notice how it feels. It may not feel cold at first, especially if it is very sunny. But sit there and it will start to cool off under you. Feel the dirt or sand. It is possible that it could be damp. Remember, every physical thing is a combination of the elemental forces. Nothing will be pure Earth.

Let yourself connect to Earth. Seek out the qualities of dryness and cold within it. Notice how it feels. Try to make as much contact with the ground as you can. If you can cover yourself with it, even better. Just make sure no one comes over with a bucket of water. Feel that Earth energy. Allow it to move through you. Really connect to it. Maintain contact for as long as you can. Repeat this several times until you can draw upon that feeling of Earth at any time.

Finally, you need to begin to work with Earth. Perform the LBRP, and then connect to Earth and bring that Earth energy into you. Imagine an empty box in front of you made out of a clear material. Make it as real as possible. Actually see it in your mind. Then, fill it with Earth energy. When it is full, close the lid. Practice making this as real as possible so that you can see it in your mind, feel it when you touch it, and identify the qualities of it. When you have finished examining it, remove the lid, empty the contents and allow it to return to where they came from. Then perform the LBRP to clear the area.

Once you have gone through this process of connecting to the energies of Earth and you feel a good, solid connection to it, move on to the next element of Air. Do not move on if you do not feel comfortable with it. Repeat the process again until you do. When you do move on, go through the same process with the new element, changing the name where appropriate. When it gets to feeling air, you could maybe use a mesh hammock to hang in. Repeat once you feel comfortable with Air, move on to Water and then Fire. Remember, you can?t breathe underwater, and fire burns. So use caution when working with these.

When you have completed this process you should be comfortable with each of the elements. Remember to continue to work and practice with them.

This article was contributed by
This article was contributed by Higher Magicks.
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