by Kamran Rifat
A look at the general and popular concepts regarding the four elements.
|It would not be difficult for any of us to gauge that our life revolves around numbers. From the day one till the last breath we just cannot get away from the number syndrome. As soon as a baby is born the first number is the date and time of birth and the last one is the date and time of the death including the age. What happens in between that may vary from person to person but one thing is similar for almost all the people - the phase of education. After that although the perspective for everyone gets different with respect to the numbers but it does not abandon any one of us.
The numerology is the science based on the calculations of number in a particular pattern. According to numerologists there are nine unique archetypes corresponding to nine cycles of development – the numbers 1 through 9. These numbers are called core numbers or digital root numbers. All the other compound numbers are the product or combination of these core numbers. The numerologists make prediction using the knowledge of these numbers and their meanings. Every number has unique trait and characteristics. Based on the date of birth the numerologists suggest the life path number ranging from 1 to 9.
Based on the study of numerologists and the data so available, the number four denotes solid foundation, grounded and stable: strongly associated with stability. The people having number four are grounded about most things in life but they often take this stability too seriously and can be rigid and repressive. They are usually not open to change. Apart from the people, the number four is important in all other aspects of life as well. Like for a project the number four is ideal in order to maintain balance and avoid any faltering and it must achieve that to limit the influence it is working with. Besides that the number four takes the ideas expressed by the number three and adds a self-imposed limitation, creating a stable and enduring foundation. The Four teaches us to realize, accept and solve the problems of daily life. Interestingly, the Chinese philosophy considers this stability unlucky and referred to this quality of number Four people as suffering and punishment on this earth before death. On the other hand, Four symbolize loyalty, persistence and calmness. Generally speaking, the number Four is the symbol of life on earth, its problems, sufferings, tests, joys and triumphs.
Apart from the numerologists the importance of the number Four is evident from the fact that there are four seasons spanning over the calendar year: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Not many countries around the world enjoys all these four seasons, the Asian subcontinent countries are blessed in this respect. It is a general observation that there are four stages of age or human development: childhood, youth, maturity and old age. All of these are physical stages, mental growth stages vary from person to person – some grow old at a very tender age whilst some prefer to be counted among youth even in the old age. Interestingly, a person can only sleep in four sideways i.e. right, left, facing upwards and facing downwards. It is hard to imagine life without the four cardinal directions/regions East, South, West and North. Establishing a touch point would have been difficult without them. It is believed that there are four dimensions of personality: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic.
Just imagine if there was just one part of the day or night, then what sort of life we would all have – unimaginable, right. For the ease of the people a whole day has been divided in to four parts: night, morning, afternoon and evening. There are four rocky planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The Four giant gas planets in the solar system are: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The matter has four basic states: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. An interesting fact that I have noticed, after reading on the internet of course, that the fourth finger of the human hand (the ring finger on the left hand) moves when the little finger (pinky) moves. I am trying it just now, try it and you will be amazed at this small unnoticeable fact.
Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, expounded a table of judgments involving four three way alternatives, in regard to quantity, quality, relation and modality. American philosopher, Paul Weiss built a system involving four modes of being: actualities, ideality or possibility (pure normative form), existence (the dynamic field), God (unity). Another American philosopher, Richard McKeon outlined four classes (each with four sub classes) of modes of philosophical inquiries: methods of being (being), modes of thought (that which is), modes of fact (existence) and modes of simplicity (experience). C. G. Jung has described four psychological functions, namely intuition, thinking, feeling and sensation. According to him, these are the four aspects of psychological orientation, beyond which nothing fundamental remains to be said. In order to orient ourselves we must have:
“a function which ascertains that something is there (sensation); a second function which states whether it suits us or not, whether we wish to accept it or not (feeling); a third function which established what it is (thinking); a fourth function indicates where it came from and where it is going (intuition).”
All of the above have been extracted from the daily life experience and from the study of the philosophers but it does not end here. The importance of the figure of four is being reiterated by the religion Islam and without a doubt it holds substance. First thing first, there are four Holy Books: Torah also known as Old Testament, Bible (Gospel), The Book of David (Psalms) and the Holy Quran. Four out of 124,000 Prophets are classified as Messengers namely Moosa (A.S), Daud (A.S) known as David, Essa (A.S) commonly recognized as Jesus and Muhammad (PBUH). The count of Arch Angels is also four: Jibraeel, Mekaeel, Izraeel and Israfeel. The four sacred months of the Islamic calendar are Muharram ul Haram, Rajab, Dhul al-Qidah and Dhul al-Hajjah. There are four Sunni Schools namely Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki and Hanbali.
Around 450 BC, the Greek philosopher Empedocles wrote that the world was comprised of four things: earth, air, fire and water. Plato referred to them as the four elements. These were not elements in the modern sense, but rather essences that gave everything their physical properties. The idea that everything was made of these fundamental elements had a deep influence on early Western Science. The four elements were also connected to the four humors proposed by the Hippocrates and they formed the basis of Western medicine until 1800s. The four humors are identified as blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. The four elements of Paganism are also the four elements of life earth, air, water and fire. The four elements are important to our very existence and they should be honored and respected for that.
These four elements are not only imperative for the existence of every living being but they are a key figure in astrology as well. We all are very much interested to know our astrological signs based on our birth dates and the personality traits, behavior and qualities of each astrological sign are all based on the study of these four elements. In fact the personality study dates back at least to the ancient Greeks, whose four elements were not only the fundamental substances of matter, but also the raw material of human nature. The idea of the elements as determinants of behavior was actually an outgrowth of the theory of the four essential body fluids, or humors, proposed by the Hippocrates.
These four basic elements: Air, Earth, Fire and Water, about which the Modern Science now believes that they do not cover the definition of elements, are the essential part of all the creations of the universe. The existence of the total material world is because of these elements. Each of these Four elements have three physical properties. The following paragraphs describe the general, popular and common qualities associated with these four elements.
Air is the mental or intellectual element. Air conceives the world of idea, thought and abstract representation. It relates to the sanguine temperament. Air is defined by terms such as communication, movement, relating and social outreaching, reason, logic, idea, versatility, changeability, words and language. Air people prove to be impersonal and flexible, intent on relating yet may be reluctant to probe deeply into emotional or heavy matters.
Take a deep breath into your heart, and let it out. As you breathe in, take a moment to ponder the mystery of this ocean of air we live in. Breathing is the first and foremost function of all the living creatures and in doing this very necessary and compulsory activity human beings breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. The trees for example exhale oxygen in the morning and carbon dioxide in the evening. The primary reason why so much stress is given to the morning walk is because of the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air which is conducive for our body. Human beings use oxygen to extract energy from the food and breathe out carbon dioxide, which is a waste product.
Try holding your breath for a few second and you will know what difference air makes in your lives. The few who does that have trained themselves specifically for this purpose, otherwise it is not possible. Air is also a clearing power. As you breathe in, the air comes in to your body and does the clearing job and when you breathe out it sweeps away everything old, stinking and musty, bringing freshness and sweetness not only in the physical and nonphysical realms, but also in figurative sense. This breathing and exhaling is also an excellent exercise for the lungs rather it confirms that the lungs are functioning fine. If there is some problem in them then you will definitely face difficulty in breathing. The cleaning is not only done through breathing but it is also being done by way of sneezing. As you sneeze the mechanism associated with the nose is being sanitized.
There are suggestions that the element of Air is also associated with music. The primary reason for this insertion is the very fact that sound is transmitted through sound waves. And Air provides the songs, the wind rustling in the trees, of all the song birds, of flutes and whistles and of our own voices raised in song. Air is the element of that first creative urge to create beautiful sounds.
The psychological qualities associated with Air are distributed in two categories, balance and imbalance. When the Air is balanced, there is clarity, creativity, diligence, flexibility, joy and optimism. Whilst, the imbalance in the Air results in: arrogance, boastfulness, dishonesty, emotional coldness, frivolity, paranoia and slyness.
Air has no smell of its own but it carries with it all the greatest and the worst aromas. Without these aromas the Air can’t be smelt because it is odorless. It is us who make an effort either to cleanse the Air or to make it aromatic by way of perfumes and scents like lavender, lemongrass, rose water and pine. We grow flowers and plants for the same purpose, the scents of the flowers can be felt the most during the spring season when they are all blooming. Think for a moment about how the scent can affect your mood and your state of mind. How does the memory of cinnamon make you feel? Perhaps you remember the sweet dishes your mother makes or the aroma of a perfectly made barbeque, it makes you feel loved and nurtured. And roses, late summer evenings, romantic interludes, lavender and your grandmother’s house; these all gives you the sense of age, joy and cleanliness.
It is the element of “reality”, in the sense of what we perceive as the physical pane of existence. It is about sensing, the senses as the apparatus through which we experience the external world. Earth is a grounding substance, enduring and high in density. Earth people come across as rooted, sensual and earthy, with a pragmatic and result-oriented approach to life. Earth relates to the ‘Melancholic’ temperament, representing matter, construction, everyday affairs, form, common sense, security, organization, persistence and business. And the material aspect of Earth is fertility.
The element Earth means matter, the material substance, low in vibration, heavy, manifested in many shapes and colors and various consistency. So the element Earth not only shows in minerals, like stones, crystals but also in woods, metals, soil, dust, flesh and blood, hair, vegetable substance and many more. It is the part of the material bodies of all living beings on the planet, and of the material body and substance of our planet, but more than that, also of the material substance of all the other celestial bodies throughout the universe.
Earth has the cleaning power, because the microorganisms of the soil are transforming dead organic material and poisonous substances into fertile humous soil, which will bring forth new life and new nourishment. The sand also has the cleaning power. During picnic in natural surroundings, you may have washed your dirty hands with sand and noticed that they became very clean.
Earth is solid, yet it is steadily in motion, the movements are however slow but are able enough to overrun you with unleashed, formative power. No human can escape its movements and even when they seem to have lost control, the Earth provides the solid ground and stability.
Earth has a very important role to play in our lives, look around and see all the beautiful trees, plants, various crops, add to this the minerals that the Earth has like gold, silver, calcium, aluminum, arsenic, boron, bromine, cadmium, carbon, chlorine, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, germanium, hydrogen, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, sulfur, tin, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, zinc, coal and etc. All of them exist because of Earth and part of our existence is because of these resources. It is the Earth which helps us nourish our minds and body. The herbs extracted from the Earth help us in healing and the crystals add to the beauty.
The most immediate and traditionally masculine of the elements, fire is about reaching out and making a direct impact on the world. It desires intimate and authentic experience. Fire relates to the choleric temperament, representing enthusiasm, spirit, passion, will, activity, expression, purity, extroversion, creativity, force, the ideal. There is vitality and often an obsession quality to every expression of the self.
The element Fire has the highest vibrations and power to transform, while other elements only have the clearing and cleaning powers. Physically, fire is sun, flame and blaze; the physical fire transforms by burning material stuff, changing the material stuff in to gas by raising the heat and leaving the minerals as ashes. The principle of element Fire is: Light, energy, male principle, life, intuition, dynamic purposeful action, and purposeful power. The sun stands for radiating light and unconditional giving of the creative energy, warmth and material life.
The Fire burns, devours, destruct and prepare the ground for new life. It is the light of transformation and power. No matter how much a man think he is capable of and is willing to control Fire, it is nothing but an illusion.
Most of us think that being able to get up from bed and do whatever we do for living is as good as having energy. But it takes energy to propel us out of the bed and into clothes and into our cars. It takes energy to propel those cars; it takes energy to make the building we work in, to run the computers, to heat the water in order to make tea or coffee. It’s the warmth of the sun which is captured in the molecules of caffeic acid that gives us that sense of energy.
Movement is one of the themes of Fire; we often raise energy by dancing, running, and walking etc. This energy also pulls people together, moving in the same rhythm, creating a movement of bodies and movement of energy in harmony. In the same respect, sex and passion are definitely associated with Fire.
Fire heals by getting things moving. It can help one overcome the feeling of apathy, the heaviness of depression or the distant coldness of the intellectualization. It also heals by transforming one form of energy to another. Fire also corresponds to the Will, the force within us that is continuously helping us in selecting goals and making an effort to realize them, and dealing with the obstacles and challenges we may face in achieving that goal. Fire is also about fears and overcoming them.
Water is a unifying substance with less clear boundaries than the other forms, and can seem irrational to others. A strong influence of water suggests an internal, introspective dimension to everything, seldom satisfied with surface appearance. It relates to the phlegmatic temperament. The embracing nature of water leads the mind to sensitivity and healing, and to limitless sphere of depth and mystery, imagination, inspiration and intuitive sensing.
Water is a cleaning power. Water is unconditional love, flowing and streaming. A fish (in connection with water) means: fertility, the soul level, the subconscious level. There are flower symbols being connected with water: the lotus flower, growing in the water, stands for the feelings, especially for love; it is similar with the rose – the rose stands for emotions, but also for perception, cognition, purity, clarity, wisdom and truth.
Water is vital for the existence of life in the universe. Without water there is no concept of existence of any life. Water itself is the basis for innumerous forms of life, plants, trees, crops etc. cannot survive without water. It is water which supports a child while it is developing in the uterus of the mother and it is the same water that is the primary reason for his survival. Mankind can live without food but it is hard to assume living without water. We are all surrounded by water and it is one of the main constituents in our bodies – 90% according to medical sciences. It pumps the blood through the kidney, which regulates the balance of water and electrolytes in the body. It creates the intercellular and extracellular fluids, the brew in which the electrolytes, nutrients and the enzymes are able to carry on the functions of life. Human being can survive for forty days without eating any kind of food stuff but it cannot live without water for more than seven days.
Two third portion of the world is water in the shape of seas, rivers, lakes and canals. Water has a major role in keeping this world intact with the help of the five seas. It is being used to make medicines, food, to operate mills and in the present age to make electricity by means of dams.
Animals and mankind clean themselves by using water. Animals use their tongue and their watery saliva for this purpose while mankind uses water to bathe and to wash clothes, cars and their places of living. For the last couple of centuries they have been using huge amount of water for the production of their factories, letting the waste flow back into the rivers, streams and oceans. Water not only cleanses the outer part of the body but it also cleans the inner parts as well and the process of urination is the prime example of it. Water also helps in the process of digestion in the form of saliva which mixes with the food on its way to the stomach through mouth. It also lubricates the eyes and it is a continuous process, if this doesn’t happen then the eyes will suffer. Through sweat water do away the clogs in the pores of the skin which again is very necessary for the human body. Water is also the medium that all your body's chemical reactions take place in, and water of course is made up of oxygen and hydrogen atoms.
Take a glass of water and put some drops of food coloring in it and see how things move in water. The food coloring will swirl in tendrils to mix with the water. The few drops becomes a pattern of interlaces swirls in no time and then after a few minutes the whole area will be colored. After a few hours the whole glass will be a uniform color. This shows how anything placed in water will eventually come into contact with everything else in the body of water. If our lives are colorful, it is only because of water. All the colors are made from water and the same is used to color various types of clothing and prints.
Note: Some of the content has been taken as reference from the following sources.
The Four Elements by Teresa Port
Astrology and the Four Elements by Charlie Higgins