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Author Topic: Non-Classical Elements?  (Read 5614 times)
Katefox
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« Topic Start: June 21, 2011, 12:42:07 pm »

I'm working on putting together a spiritual practice for myself.  I don't currently have any Deities, being unsure what makes up the Divine.  And so, I've struck upon the idea of using the Elements as a way of connecting and appreciating the world around me, and Divinity.  The Classical Elements make a nice metaphor in my mind for the physical world, so they seem like a good place to start.  But I have a quandary.  I feel like there should be six Elements, instead of four, but I haven't the foggiest idea what to call the other two.

My reasoning is that the Classical Elements map onto two dimensional space (in my mind, as an equal-armed cross, fire vs water, intersecting earth vs air), but everything is in three dimensional space, so there should be a third axis, two more Elements.  And magically, it seems more logical to cast a sphere rather than a circle.  At first I thought to use Light and Darkness, or Shadow as the other two, but Darkness is really only the absence of Light, not another Element in itself.  Does this reasoning make sense to anyone else, or is it just me?  The only place I've been able to find reference to more than four or five Elements is in fantasy fiction and role-playing games, not entirely helpful, and I wonder if anyone knows of any real life systems that use more Elements that I might be able to draw inspiration from?

(I'm also hoping to goodness, I've put this topic in the right place.  I wasn't entirely sure where it should go.)
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« Reply #1: June 21, 2011, 12:48:19 pm »

I'm working on putting together a spiritual practice for myself.  I don't currently have any Deities, being unsure what makes up the Divine.  And so, I've struck upon the idea of using the Elements as a way of connecting and appreciating the world around me, and Divinity.  The Classical Elements make a nice metaphor in my mind for the physical world, so they seem like a good place to start.  But I have a quandary.  I feel like there should be six Elements, instead of four, but I haven't the foggiest idea what to call the other two.

My reasoning is that the Classical Elements map onto two dimensional space (in my mind, as an equal-armed cross, fire vs water, intersecting earth vs air), but everything is in three dimensional space, so there should be a third axis, two more Elements.  And magically, it seems more logical to cast a sphere rather than a circle.  At first I thought to use Light and Darkness, or Shadow as the other two, but Darkness is really only the absence of Light, not another Element in itself.  Does this reasoning make sense to anyone else, or is it just me?  The only place I've been able to find reference to more than four or five Elements is in fantasy fiction and role-playing games, not entirely helpful, and I wonder if anyone knows of any real life systems that use more Elements that I might be able to draw inspiration from?

(I'm also hoping to goodness, I've put this topic in the right place.  I wasn't entirely sure where it should go.)

I'm not sure if it's a Wicca symbol or something else, but there's a pentacle with Earth, Fire, Air, Water and Spirit for the points. I don't think there's much more you can add to it.
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« Reply #2: June 21, 2011, 12:53:22 pm »


Chinese system has five, and only two overlap I believe.

You could also include Time as an element.
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« Reply #3: June 21, 2011, 01:51:07 pm »

My reasoning is that the Classical Elements map onto two dimensional space (in my mind, as an equal-armed cross, fire vs water, intersecting earth vs air), but everything is in three dimensional space, so there should be a third axis, two more Elements.  And magically, it seems more logical to cast a sphere rather than a circle. 

To me, what you're describing sounds a lot like some New Age re-workings of a "Medicine Wheel," putting in the four directions/elements and then adding Above and Below.

The four "classic" elements are a loose description of the four states of matter - solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Does thinking of it in that way help? You could use Light and Gravity as the other points, or you could even use Shadow if you thought of it in terms of matter which we can't see - neutrinos and whatnot.
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« Reply #4: June 21, 2011, 02:02:46 pm »

I'm not sure if it's a Wicca symbol or something else, but there's a pentacle with Earth, Fire, Air, Water and Spirit for the points. I don't think there's much more you can add to it.

I find this an interesting question, since I've just begun to include the elements more into my practice.

Is there something like an opposite to spirit, or something that complements it? I'd feel that shadow would be a good addition, because I associate spirit with light and whiteness, so that would make a nice pair - darkness and light.
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« Reply #5: June 21, 2011, 02:25:52 pm »

I find this an interesting question, since I've just begun to include the elements more into my practice.

Is there something like an opposite to spirit, or something that complements it? I'd feel that shadow would be a good addition, because I associate spirit with light and whiteness, so that would make a nice pair - darkness and light.

spirit to me can also be shadow,neither total dark nor total light right?
like smokiness.
anyway,I was going to suggest,what someone else hinted at,the Chinese elements include metals I believe.
so you could have earth air fire water metal and spirit (spark of life,chi whatever)
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« Reply #6: June 21, 2011, 03:10:49 pm »

spirit to me can also be shadow,neither total dark nor total light right?
like smokiness.
anyway,I was going to suggest,what someone else hinted at,the Chinese elements include metals I believe.
so you could have earth air fire water metal and spirit (spark of life,chi whatever)

The classical Chinese elements are Fire (red, south, summer), Metal (white, west, autumn), Water (black, north, winter), Wood (bluegreen, east, spring), and Earth (yellow, center, late summer/early autumn, because it's a different season system, too).  Sometimes a sixth state, Void, is added, for certain purposes, and qi is expressed in all of them, but differently.  They all make good sense given the landscape of China--for instance, the high white mountains to the west, where metal is mined, are where the sun sets and warmth ends, hence the association of white with death and autumn.  The icy north into Xiongnu country, where winter begins and the rainstorms sweep down, has cold dark rivers running through it--water that's not blue but black at the bottom.  East, toward the Pacific, is the fertile floodplain and coast where things grow best, forests and crops alike.  (In classical Chinese, "blue" and "green" aren't separate colors, but shades of the same color, the same as we rarely distinguish between purple and indigo in vernacular English.  Colors are neat!  Russian has two different colors where English just has "blue," sort of like English separates "red" and "pink."  But.  Those easterly floodplains are definitely all bluegreen.)  And so on.

It's a system with its own interactions and patterns that doesn't really map well onto the Aristotelian air-water-earth-fire-(spirit) system, unfortunately.  Even the concepts associated with, say, Water, are different from the concepts associated with the element Water in the Western system.  I know I was raised to some degree with both, having been brought up in an occult system that happened in the Philippines where Spaniards and Chinese people ended up mixing, and have had to find ways to harmonize them, but they're really not the same.  I'm always tripped up when I do rituals with Wiccans and they call out the directions, and I'm like, "But--but--why isn't Water north again?  Wait I thought West was--oh you guys don't do Metal--I--I'm going to be quiet now."
« Last Edit: June 21, 2011, 03:14:53 pm by Psychopomp Valentine, Reason: just fixing typos! » Logged
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« Reply #7: June 21, 2011, 03:17:10 pm »

I'm working on putting together a spiritual practice for myself.  I don't currently have any Deities, being unsure what makes up the Divine.  And so, I've struck upon the idea of using the Elements as a way of connecting and appreciating the world around me, and Divinity.  The Classical Elements make a nice metaphor in my mind for the physical world, so they seem like a good place to start.  But I have a quandary.  I feel like there should be six Elements, instead of four, but I haven't the foggiest idea what to call the other two.

I generally use Above/Below or Ether/Void (Ether being roughly equivalent to Spirit, and Void being roughly equivalent to 'space of endless possibility and potential, but there's nothing actually *there*')

That said, in my practice, they're called differently: they're part of our circle cast process, but they do not, for example, have specific entities (such as the guardians of the quarters) who are called for them.

Reclaiming rituals I've been a guest at sometimes call Ancestors and Descendants (in a general sense, not bloodline specific, sort of 'where we come from/build on' and 'what those after us come from/build on'), or sometimes Spirit and Time.
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« Reply #8: June 21, 2011, 03:58:58 pm »

To me, what you're describing sounds a lot like some New Age re-workings of a "Medicine Wheel," putting in the four directions/elements and then adding Above and Below.
Really?  That's entirely accidental.  I've heard the term "Medicine Wheel" before, without really knowing what it is, but I've only just looked it up, now, because of your comment.  I guess I am describing a three-dimension "Medicine Wheel" structure.  Huh.

The classical Chinese elements are Fire (red, south, summer), Metal (white, west, autumn), Water (black, north, winter), Wood (bluegreen, east, spring), and Earth (yellow, center, late summer/early autumn, because it's a different season system, too).  Sometimes a sixth state, Void, is added, for certain purposes, and qi is expressed in all of them, but differently. 
...

It's a system with its own interactions and patterns that doesn't really map well onto the Aristotelian air-water-earth-fire-(spirit) system, unfortunately.  Even the concepts associated with, say, Water, are different from the concepts associated with the element Water in the Western system.
Thank you for the information.  That's quite interesting.  And it confirms what I already figured, that the Chinese Elements don't really map to the Western ones.  At the least, I don't think I know nearly enough about the Chinese Elements to use them effectively in ritual, or start adding to them.
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« Reply #9: June 21, 2011, 05:32:53 pm »


In Feri there are seven directions, and thus, seven "elements": North (earth), South (fire), East (air), West (water), Above (the heavens), Below (under the earth, including the core of the world), and Centre (which is where you, and spirit, reside). You can check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feri_Tradition for a pretty basic outline on the tradition. Really good books on practice are Evolutionary Witchcraft by T. Thorn Coyle, and The White Wand by Anaar.
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« Reply #10: June 21, 2011, 11:06:48 pm »

The four "classic" elements are a loose description of the four states of matter - solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Does thinking of it in that way help? You could use Light and Gravity as the other points, or you could even use Shadow if you thought of it in terms of matter which we can't see - neutrinos and whatnot.
I was just discussing my quandary of Elements with my boyfriend, who actually isn't magically inclined in the slightest, but his immediate response was that one of the other two should be gravity, being as it is, a force fundamental to holding matter together.  After some further discussion, we came up with the idea of Chaos and Order being the other two Elements, associating with quantum mechanics and gravity, respectively, much as you suggest the four Classical Elements associate with the four states of matter.  I'm actually rather pleased with this notion, because it solves my quandary quite neatly.  Granted Chaos and Order are more intangible than the other four Elements, but they still keep the symmetry of being equal and opposite.  Now it remains to find representations for Chaos and Order in ritual, something I am going to have a further think on, given they are rather more intangible than the other four Elements.
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« Reply #11: June 22, 2011, 04:37:52 am »

I was just discussing my quandary of Elements with my boyfriend, who actually isn't magically inclined in the slightest, but his immediate response was that one of the other two should be gravity, being as it is, a force fundamental to holding matter together.  After some further discussion, we came up with the idea of Chaos and Order being the other two Elements, associating with quantum mechanics and gravity, respectively, much as you suggest the four Classical Elements associate with the four states of matter.  I'm actually rather pleased with this notion, because it solves my quandary quite neatly.  Granted Chaos and Order are more intangible than the other four Elements, but they still keep the symmetry of being equal and opposite.  Now it remains to find representations for Chaos and Order in ritual, something I am going to have a further think on, given they are rather more intangible than the other four Elements.

chaos in science is awesome as it relates to life,I always read it with this feeling of well yes,duh!

everything tends towards chaos,like a kitchen in the home of family of teenaged triplets.
resistance is futile,as my science teacher used to say.
that and "nature abhors a vacume."
entropy and such.
order takes more energy to make happen and keep in line,chaos by it's nature just creates it's own energy and feeds off energy( ie feeds off the energy generated in trying to maintain order.)
I stop now.
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« Reply #12: June 27, 2011, 01:03:33 am »

I'm working on putting together a spiritual practice for myself.  I don't currently have any Deities, being unsure what makes up the Divine.  And so, I've struck upon the idea of using the Elements as a way of connecting and appreciating the world around me, and Divinity.  The Classical Elements make a nice metaphor in my mind for the physical world, so they seem like a good place to start.  But I have a quandary.  I feel like there should be six Elements, instead of four, but I haven't the foggiest idea what to call the other two.

My reasoning is that the Classical Elements map onto two dimensional space (in my mind, as an equal-armed cross, fire vs water, intersecting earth vs air), but everything is in three dimensional space, so there should be a third axis, two more Elements.  And magically, it seems more logical to cast a sphere rather than a circle.  At first I thought to use Light and Darkness, or Shadow as the other two, but Darkness is really only the absence of Light, not another Element in itself.  Does this reasoning make sense to anyone else, or is it just me?  The only place I've been able to find reference to more than four or five Elements is in fantasy fiction and role-playing games, not entirely helpful, and I wonder if anyone knows of any real life systems that use more Elements that I might be able to draw inspiration from?

I understand, I think, what you're saying.  I look to nature and mathematics alot and I, like you, am trying to move two-dimensional ideas into three (or more).

I don't know if I'm allowed to insert jpegs into the posts to help illustrate my thoughts, which would help, but I'll try to explain without the visuals!

Picture the four elements in your cross, but also connect them with a square around the outside (or diamond, depending on perspective).  You are at the center of the cross at the mid-point.  Now the camera which is directly above, seeing the square (four elements) and the point in the center (you) tilts.  Now what it's seeing is a three-dimensional octahedron.  What looked like one center point (you) was actually three points all lined up.

Now you can interpret what that means.  Your three selves; light, self, dark; God, you, Satan; however this type of trinity works into your gnosis.

Just a thought.  The octahedron shows up in nature alot and is one of the Platonic solids, so you might find some insights there.  I've spent some time moving Pythagoras' opposites into three dimensions, so I think I understand what you're trying to do.

But I may just be sounding like a complete loon!  Smiley

Best~

EJay
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« Reply #13: June 27, 2011, 03:33:30 am »

The four "classic" elements are a loose description of the four states of matter - solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.
I took it as earth = solid, water = liquid, air = gas and fire being the agent of transformation from one state into the other.
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« Reply #14: June 28, 2011, 11:25:11 pm »

I understand, I think, what you're saying.  I look to nature and mathematics alot and I, like you, am trying to move two-dimensional ideas into three (or more).

I don't know if I'm allowed to insert jpegs into the posts to help illustrate my thoughts, which would help, but I'll try to explain without the visuals!

Picture the four elements in your cross, but also connect them with a square around the outside (or diamond, depending on perspective).  You are at the center of the cross at the mid-point.  Now the camera which is directly above, seeing the square (four elements) and the point in the center (you) tilts.  Now what it's seeing is a three-dimensional octahedron.  What looked like one center point (you) was actually three points all lined up.

Now you can interpret what that means.  Your three selves; light, self, dark; God, you, Satan; however this type of trinity works into your gnosis.

Just a thought.  The octahedron shows up in nature alot and is one of the Platonic solids, so you might find some insights there.  I've spent some time moving Pythagoras' opposites into three dimensions, so I think I understand what you're trying to do.

But I may just be sounding like a complete loon!  Smiley
That's an interesting way of doing it.  Though the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of them all being rooted in the physical world.  I like the idea of standing in the centre of the circle (or sphere, in this case), and having it represent the world around you, the self surrounded by the world.  Spirit/life/self is at the point where all the Elements meet (if we're drawing lines from each of them into the centre of the sphere), and kind of like a...shadow Element?  Acts like it's own Element but is borne of all the other Elements coming together.  Umm, I'm thinking this out as I go along, so I'm not sure how much sense I'm making.

I took it as earth = solid, water = liquid, air = gas and fire being the agent of transformation from one state into the other.
On the other hand, plasma is a surprisingly important state of matter, if you think about it.  The sun is a giant ball of plasma without which the Earth would be barren, lifeless, and cold.
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