Classical elements typically refer to the concepts in ancient Greece of earth, water, air, fire, and (later) aether, which were proposed to explain the nature and complexity of all matter in terms of simpler substances. Ancient cultures in Babylonia, Japan, Tibet, and India had similar lists, sometimes referring in local languages to "air" as "wind" and the fifth element as "void". The Chinese Wu Xing system lists Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ), though these are described more as energies or transitions rather than as types of material.
These different cultures and even individual philosophers had widely varying explanations concerning their attributes and how they related to observable phenomena as well as cosmology. Sometimes these theories overlapped with mythology and were personified in deities. Some of these interpretations included atomism (the idea of very small, indivisible portions of matter) but other interpretations considered the elements to be divisible into infinitely small pieces without changing their nature.
While the classification of the material world in ancient Indian, Hellenistic Egypt, and ancient Greece into Air, Earth, Fire and Water was more philosophical, during the Islamic Golden Age medieval middle eastern scientists used practical, experimental observation to classify materials. In Europe, the Ancient Greek system of Aristotle evolved slightly into the medieval system, which for the first time in Europe became subject to experimental verification in the 1600s, during the Scientific Revolution.
Modern science does not support the classical elements as the material basis of the physical world. Atomic theory classifies atoms into more than a hundred chemical elements such as oxygen, iron, and mercury. These elements form chemical compounds and mixtures, and under different temperatures and pressures, these substances can adopt different states of matter. The most commonly observed states of solid, liquid, gas, and plasma share many attributes with the classical elements of earth, water, air, and fire, respectively, but these states are due to similar behavior of different types of atoms at similar energy levels, and not due to containing a certain type of atom or a certain type of substance.
In classical thought, the four elements earth, water, air, and fire as proposed by Empedocles frequently occur; Aristotle added a fifth element, aether; it has been called akasha in India and quintessence in Europe.
The concept of the five elements formed a basis of analysis in both Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, particularly in an esoteric context, the four states-of-matter describe matter, and a fifth element describes that which was beyond the material world. Similar lists existed in ancient China, Korea and Japan. In Buddhism the four great elements, to which two others are sometimes added, are not viewed as substances, but as categories of sensory experience.
In Babylonian mythology, the cosmogony called Enûma Eliš, a text written between the 18th and 16th centuries BC, involves four gods that we might see as personified cosmic elements: sea, earth, sky, wind. In other Babylonian texts these phenomena are considered independent of their association with deities, though they are not treated as the component elements of the universe, as later in Empedocles.
The system of five elements are found in Vedas, especially Ayurveda, the pancha mahabhuta, or "five great elements", of Hinduism are bhūmi (earth), ap or jala (water), tejas or agni (fire), marut, vayu or pavan (air or wind) and vyom or shunya (space or zero) or akash (aether or void). They further suggest that all of creation, including the human body, is made up of these five essential elements and that upon death, the human body dissolves into these five elements of nature, thereby balancing the cycle of nature.
The five elements are associated with the five senses, and act as the gross medium for the experience of sensations. The basest element, earth, created using all the other elements, can be perceived by all five senses – (i) hearing, (ii) touch, (iii) sight, (iv) taste, and (v) smell. The next higher element, water, has no odor but can be heard, felt, seen and tasted. Next comes fire, which can be heard, felt and seen. Air can be heard and felt. "Akasha" (aether) is beyond the senses of smell, taste, sight, and touch; it being accessible to the sense of hearing alone.
In the Pali literature, the mahabhuta ("great elements") or catudhatu ("four elements") are earth, water, fire and air. In early Buddhism, the four elements are a basis for understanding suffering and for liberating oneself from suffering. The earliest Buddhist texts explain that the four primary material elements are the sensory qualities solidity, fluidity, temperature, and mobility; their characterization as earth, water, fire, and air, respectively, is declared an abstraction – instead of concentrating on the fact of material existence, one observes how a physical thing is sensed, felt, perceived.
The Buddha's teaching regarding the four elements is to be understood as the base of all observation of real sensations rather than as a philosophy. The four properties are cohesion (water), solidity or inertia (earth), expansion or vibration (air) and heat or energy content (fire). He promulgated a categorization of mind and matter as composed of eight types of "kalapas" of which the four elements are primary and a secondary group of four are color, smell, taste, and nutriment which are derivative from the four primaries.
Just as a skilled butcher or his apprentice, having killed a cow, would sit at a crossroads cutting it up into pieces, the monk contemplates this very body – however it stands, however it is disposed – in terms of properties: 'In this body there is the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the wind property.'
The Chinese had a somewhat different series of elements, namely Fire, Earth, Metal (literally gold), Water and Wood, which were understood as different types of energy in a state of constant interaction and flux with one another, rather than the Western notion of different kinds of material.
Although it is usually translated as "element", the Chinese word xing literally means something like "changing states of being", "permutations" or "metamorphoses of being". In fact Sinologists cannot agree on any single translation. The Chinese elements were seen as ever changing and moving – one translation of wu xing is simply "the five changes".
The Wu Xing are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device for systems with five stages; hence the preferred translation of "movements", "phases" or "steps" over "elements."
In the bagua, metal is associated with the divination figure 兌 Duì (☱, the lake or marsh: 澤/泽 zé) and with 乾 Qián (☰, the sky or heavens: 天 tiān). Wood is associated with 巽 Xùn (☴, the wind: 風/风 fēng) and with 震 Zhèn (☳, the arousing/thunder: 雷 léi). In view of the durability of meteoric iron, metal came to be associated with the aether, which is sometimes conflated with Stoic pneuma, as both terms originally referred to air (the former being higher, brighter, more fiery or celestial and the latter being merely warmer, and thus vital or biogenetic). In Taoism, qi functions similarly to pneuma in a prime matter (a basic principle of energetic transformation) that accounts for both biological and inanimate phenomena.
In Chinese philosophy the universe consists of heaven and earth. The five major planets are associated with and even named after the elements: Jupiter 木星 is Wood (木), Mars 火星 is Fire (火), Saturn 土星 is Earth (土), Venus 金星 is Metal (金), and Mercury 水星 is Water (水). Also, the Moon represents Yin (陰), and the Sun 太陽 represents Yang (陽). Yin, Yang, and the five elements are associated with themes in the I Ching, the oldest of Chinese classical texts which describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy. The five elements also play an important part in Chinese astrology and the Chinese form of geomancy known as Feng shui.
The doctrine of five phases describes two cycles of balance, a generating or creation (生, shēng) cycle and an overcoming or destruction (克/剋, kè) cycle of interactions between the phases.
There are also two cycles of imbalance, an overacting cycle (cheng) and an insulting cycle (wu).
|Aristotelian elements and qualities|
The ancient Greek belief in five basic elements, these being earth (γῆ ge), water (ὕδωρ hudor), air (ἀήρ aer), fire (πῦρ pur) and aether (αἰθήρ aither), dates from pre-Socratic times and persisted throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, deeply influencing European thought and culture. These five elements are sometimes associated with the five platonic solids.
Sicilian philosopher Empedocles (ca. 450 BC) proved (at least to his satisfaction) that air was a separate substance by observing that a bucket inverted in water did not become filled with water, a pocket of air remaining trapped inside. Prior to Empedocles, Greek philosophers had debated which substance was the primordial element from which everything else was made; Heraclitus championed fire, Thales supported water, and Anaximenes plumped for air. Anaximander argued that the primordial substance was not any of the known substances, but could be transformed into them, and they into each other. Empedocles was the first to propose four elements, fire, earth, air, and water. He called them the four "roots" (ῥιζώματα, rhizōmata).
Plato seems to have been the first to use the term "element (στοιχεῖον, stoicheion)" in reference to air, fire, earth, and water. The ancient Greek word for element, stoicheion (from stoicheo, "to line up") meant "smallest division (of a sun-dial), a syllable", as the composing unit of an alphabet it could denote a letter and the smallest unit from which a word is formed. A similar alphabetic metaphor may be the origin of the equivalent Latin word elementum (from which the English word comes), possibly based on the names of the letters 'l', 'm', and 'n', though the validity of this idea is debated.
A classic diagram has one square inscribed in the other, with the corners of one being the classical elements, and the corners of the other being the properties. The opposite corner is the opposite of these properties, "hot – cold" and "dry – wet".
Aristotle added a fifth element, aether, as the quintessence, reasoning that whereas fire, earth, air, and water were earthly and corruptible, since no changes had been perceived in the heavenly regions, the stars cannot be made out of any of the four elements but must be made of a different, unchangeable, heavenly substance.
A text written in Egypt in Hellenistic or Roman times called the Kore Kosmou ("Virgin of the World") ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus (associated with the Egyptian god Thoth), names the four elements fire, water, air, and earth. As described in this book:
And Isis answer made: Of living things, my son, some are made friends with fire, and some with water, some with air, and some with earth, and some with two or three of these, and some with all. And, on the contrary, again some are made enemies of fire, and some of water, some of earth, and some of air, and some of two of them, and some of three, and some of all. For instance, son, the locust and all flies flee fire; the eagle and the hawk and all high-flying birds flee water; fish, air and earth; the snake avoids the open air. Whereas snakes and all creeping things love earth; all swimming things love water; winged things, air, of which they are the citizens; while those that fly still higher love the fire and have the habitat near it. Not that some of the animals as well do not love fire; for instance salamanders, for they even have their homes in it. It is because one or another of the elements doth form their bodies' outer envelope. Each soul, accordingly, while it is in its body is weighted and constricted by these four.
According to Galen, these elements were used by Hippocrates in describing the human body with an association with the four humours: yellow bile (fire), black bile (earth), blood (air), and phlegm (water). Medical care was primarily about helping the patient stay in or return to his/her own personal natural balanced state.
The Neoplatonic philosopher Proclus rejected Aristotle's theory relating the elements to the sensible qualities hot, cold, wet, and dry. He maintained that each of the elements has three properties. Fire is sharp, subtle, and mobile while its opposite, earth, is blunt, dense, and immobile; they are joined by the intermediate elements, air and water, in the following fashion:
In Bön or ancient Tibetan philosophy, the five elemental processes of earth, water, fire, air and space are the essential materials of all existent phenomena or aggregates. The elemental processes form the basis of the calendar, astrology, medicine, psychology and are the foundation of the spiritual traditions of shamanism, tantra and Dzogchen.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche states that
physical properties are assigned to the elements: earth is solidity; water is cohesion; fire is temperature; air is motion; and space is the spatial dimension that accommodates the other four active elements. In addition, the elements are correlated to different emotions, temperaments, directions, colors, tastes, body types, illnesses, thinking styles, and character. From the five elements arise the five senses and the five fields of sensory experience; the five negative emotions and the five wisdoms; and the five extensions of the body. They are the five primary pranas or vital energies. They are the constituents of every physical, sensual, mental, and spiritual phenomenon.
The names of the elements are analogous to categorised experiential sensations of the natural world. The names are symbolic and key to their inherent qualities and/or modes of action by analogy. In Bön the elemental processes are fundamental metaphors for working with external, internal and secret energetic forces. All five elemental processes in their essential purity are inherent in the mindstream and link the trikaya and are aspects of primordial energy. As Herbert V. Günther states:
Thus, bearing in mind that thought struggles incessantly against the treachery of language and that what we observe and describe is the observer himself, we may nonetheless proceed to investigate the successive phases in our becoming human beings. Throughout these phases, the experience (das Erlebnis) of ourselves as an intensity (imaged and felt as a "god", lha) setting up its own spatiality (imaged and felt as a "house" khang) is present in various intensities of illumination that occur within ourselves as a "temple." A corollary of this Erlebnis is its light character manifesting itself in various "frequencies" or colors. This is to say, since we are beings of light we display this light in a multiplicity of nuances.
The elemental system used in Medieval alchemy was developed primarily by the Arab alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān (Geber). His system consisted of the four classical elements of air, earth, fire, and water, in addition to two philosophical elements: sulphur, characterizing the principle of combustibility, "the stone which burns"; and mercury, characterizing the principle of metallic properties. They were seen by early alchemists as idealized expressions of irreducibile components of the universe and are of larger consideration within philosophical alchemy.
The three metallic principles—sulphur to flammability or combustion, mercury to volatility and stability, and salt to solidity—became the tria prima of the Swiss alchemist Paracelsus. He reasoned that Aristotle’s four element theory appeared in bodies as three principles. Paracelsus saw these principles as fundamental and justified them by recourse to the description of how wood burns in fire. Mercury included the cohesive principle, so that when it left in smoke the wood fell apart. Smoke described the volatility (the mercurial principle), the heat-giving flames described flammability (sulphur), and the remnant ash described solidity (salt).
Japanese traditions use a set of elements called the 五大 (godai, literally "five great"). These five are earth, water, fire, wind/air, and void. These came from Indian Vastu shastra philosophy and Buddhist beliefs; in addition, the classical Chinese elements (五行, wu xing) are also prominent in Japanese culture, especially to the influential Neo-Confucianists during the medieval Edo period.
Western astrology uses the four classical elements in connection with astrological charts and horoscopes. The twelve signs of the zodiac are divided into the four elements: Fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn, Air signs are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius, and Water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
The Aristotelian tradition and medieval alchemy eventually gave rise to modern scientific theories and new taxonomies. By the time of Antoine Lavoisier, for example, a list of elements would no longer refer to classical elements. Some modern scientists see a parallel between the classical elements and the four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and weakly ionized plasma.
Modern science recognizes classes of elementary particles which have no substructure (or rather, particles that are not made of other particles) and composite particles having substructure (particles made of other particles).
The Dutch historian of science Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis writes, the theory of the classical elements "was bound to exercise a really harmful influence. As is now clear, Aristotle, by adopting this theory as the basis of his interpretation of nature and by never losing faith in it, took a course which promised few opportunities and many dangers for science." 
Empedocles (495–435 BC) proposed that the world was made of earth, water, air, and fire, which may correspond to solid, liquid, gas, and weakly ionized plasma. Surprisingly, this idea may catch the essence.
In philosophy, the concept of The Absolute, also known as Brahman, The (Unconditioned) Ultimate, The Wholly Other, The Supreme Being, The Absolute/Ultimate Reality, and other names, is the thing, being, entity, power, force, reality, presence, law, principle, etc. that possesses maximal ontological status, existential ranking, existential greatness, or existentiality. In layman's terms, this is the one that is, in one way or another, the greatest, truest, or most real being.
There are many conceptions of The Absolute in various fields and subjects, such as philosophy, religion, spiritual traditions, mathematics, and even natural science. The nature of these conceptions can range from "merely" encompassing all physical existence, nature, or reality, to being completely unconditioned existentially, transcending all concepts, notions, and types, kinds, and categories of being.
The Absolute is often thought of as causing to come into being manifestations that interact with lower or lesser forms of being. This is either done passively, through emanations, or actively, through avatars and incarnations. These existential manifestations, which themselves can possess transcendent attributes, only contain minuscule or infinitesimal portions of the true essence of The Absolute.
The term itself was not in use in ancient or medieval philosophy, but closely related to the description of God as Actus purus (Pure Actuality) in scholasticism. It was introduced in modern philosophy, notably by Hegel, for "the sum of all being, actual and potential".
The term has since also been adopted in perennial philosophy.Aether (classical element)
According to ancient and medieval science, aether (Ancient Greek: αἰθήρ, aither), also spelled æther or ether and also called quintessence, is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. The concept of aether was used in several theories to explain several natural phenomena, such as the traveling of light and gravity. In the late 19th century, physicists postulated that aether permeated all throughout space, providing a medium through which light could travel in a vacuum, but evidence for the presence of such a medium was not found in the Michelson–Morley experiment, and this result has been interpreted as meaning that no such luminiferous aether exists.Air (classical element)
Air is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and in Western alchemy.Aither
Aither may refer to:
Aether (classical element), the material supposed to fill the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere
Aether (mythology), the personification of the "upper sky", space and heaven, in Greek mythologyBhumi
Bhumi can mean:
Bhūmi, Hindu goddess of the earth
also, earth as a classical element in Hindu tradition
Bhumi (Buddhism), the ten stages a Bodhisattva advances through in the path to become a Buddha
Bhumi (organization), a Chennai-based youth volunteer non-profit organization
Bangabhumi, a separatist movement to create a Hindu country using southwestern Bangladesh, envisioned by Banga SenaEarth (classical element)
Earth is one of the classical elements, in some systems numbering four along with air, fire, and water.Electrocardiophone
An electrocardiophone and cardiophone is a musical instrument or diagnostic tool which uses heart waves (measured in the same way as an ECG) to generate or modulate sounds.
James Fung, Ariel Garten, and Steve Mann (~2003) have created a wide variety of underwater biophone systems that use physiological signals to control different musical variables in an intricate way, as well as to actually generate sounds, including underwater ECG and EEG concerts.The electrocardiophone is a quintephone in the sense that it creates sound from the "5th classical element" (i.e. from beyond the world of matter).Electroencephalophone
An electroencephalophone or encephalophone is an experimental musical instrument and diagnostic tool which uses brain waves (measured in the same way as an EEG) to generate or modulate sounds.
Dr. R. Furth, a mathematical physicist, and Dr. E.A. Bevers, a physiologist, invented the encephalophone in the early 1940s at the University of Edinburgh. The cross between an electroencephalograph (EEG) and sonar technology, it was meant to be a way for ordinary physicians to diagnose neuropathologies.One was designed by Erkki Kurenniemi, a Finnish electronic musician and artificial intelligence researcher, in the 1973. In the summer of 1968 Kurenniemi visited an electroacoustic music conference organized by Teatro Comunale in Florence, Italy. During the conference Kurenniemi was introduced to Manford L. Eaton’s ideas of biofeedback as a source of musical or composition material. Two of Kurenniemi’s instruments - Dimi-S and Dimi-T - are loosely based on these ideas.
In the 1970s, David Rosenboom and Richard Teitelbaum used EEG based devices to enable performers to create sound and music with their brain waves.
Eduardo Reck Miranda is currently (~2004) involved in research which uses neural networks and brain interfaces to create music.
James Fung, Ariel Garten, and Steve Mann (~2003) have created brainwave systems to control different musical variables in an interactive way, including underwater brainwave concerts.The electroencephalophone is a quintephone in the sense that it creates sound from the "5th classical element" (i.e. from beyond the world of matter).Etheric body
The etheric body, ether-body, æther body, a name given by neo-Theosophy to a vital body or subtle body propounded in esoteric philosophies as the first or lowest layer in the "human energy field" or aura. It is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body, to sustain it and connect it with "higher" bodies.
The English term "etheric" in this context seems to derive from the Theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky, but its use was formalised by C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant due to the elimination of Hindu terminology from the system of seven planes and bodies. (Adyar School of Theosophy).
The term gained some general popularity after the 1914-18 war, Walter John Kilner having adopted it for a layer of the "human atmosphere" which, as he claimed in a popular book, could be rendered visible to the naked eye by means of certain exercises.The classical element Aether of Platonic and Aristotlean physics continued in Victorian scientific proposals of a Luminiferous ether as well as the cognate chemical substance ether. According to Theosophists and Alice Bailey the etheric body inhabits an etheric plane which corresponds to the four higher subplanes of the physical plane. The intended reference is therefore to some extremely rarefied matter, analogous in usage to the word "spirit" (originally "breath"). In selecting it as the term for a clearly defined concept in an Indian-derived metaphysical system, the Theosophists aligned it with ideas such as the prana-maya-kosha (sheath made of prana, subtle breath or life-force) of Vedantic thought.
In popular use it is often confounded with the related concept of the astral body as for example in the term astral projection - the early Theosophists had called it the "astral double". Others prefer to speak of the "lower and higher astral".Fire (classical element)
Fire has been an important part of all cultures and religions from pre-history to modern day and was vital to the development of civilization. It has been regarded in many different contexts throughout history, but especially as a metaphysical constant of the world.Five elements (Japanese philosophy)
The five elements philosophy in Japanese Buddhism and Hinduism, godai (五大, lit. "five great"), is derived from Buddhist beliefs. It is perhaps best known in the Western world for its use in Miyamoto Musashi's famous text Gorin-no-sho (The Book of Five Rings), in which he explains different aspects of swordsmanship by assigning each aspect to an element.List of discredited substances
This page is a list of substances or materials generally considered discredited.
A substance can be discredited in one of three ways:
It was widely believed to exist at one time but no longer is. Such substances are often part of an obsolete scientific theory.
It was once believed to have drastically different properties from those accepted now. It was widely claimed and believed to possess significant properties that are no longer attributed to it.
It is currently believed to exist as part of a theory that has not met the theoretical and experimental requirements of mainstream science. In particular, such a theory must be predictive.Metal (Wu Xing)
Metal (Chinese: 金; pinyin: jīn), the fourth phase of the Chinese philosophy of Wu Xing, is the decline of the matter, or the matter's decline stage. Metal is yin in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting. It is associated with the autumn, the west, old age, the planet Venus, the color white, dry weather, and the White Tiger (Bai Hu) in Four Symbols. The archetypal metals are silver and gold.Outline of alchemy
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to alchemy:
Alchemy – A philosophical tradition recognized as protoscience, that includes the application of Hermetic principles, and practices related to mythology, religion, and spirituality.Pentacle
A pentacle (also spelled and pronounced as pantacle in Thelema, following Aleister Crowley, though that spelling ultimately derived from Eliphas Levi) is a talisman that is used in magical evocation, and is usually made of parchment, paper, or metal (although it can be of other materials), upon which a magical design is drawn. Protective symbols may also be included (sometimes on the reverse), a common one being the six-point form of the Seal of Solomon. Pentacles may be pieces of parchment or cloth that are sewn to the chest of one's garment, or they may be flat objects that hang down from one's neck in front of one's torso, or they may be flat objects that are placed flat upon the ground or upon an altar. Pentacles are almost always shaped as disks or flat circles.
Many varieties of pentacle can be found in the grimoire called the Key of Solomon. In the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a pentacle is placed within the triangle of evocation. Pentacles are also used in the neopagan magical religion called Wicca, alongside other magical tools. In the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Wicca, pentacles symbolize the classical element earth. In the 1909 Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck (the pentacles of which were designed by Arthur Edward Waite), and subsequent tarot decks that are based upon it, and in Wicca, pentacles prominently incorporate a pentagram in their design. This form of pentacle is formed upon a disk which may be used either upon an altar or as a sacred space of its own.Water (classical element)
Water is one of the elements in ancient Greek philosophy, in the Asian Indian system Panchamahabhuta, and in the Chinese cosmological and physiological system Wu Xing. In contemporary esoteric traditions, it is commonly associated with the qualities of emotion and intuition.Wood (Wu Xing)
In Chinese philosophy, wood (Chinese: 木; pinyin: mù), sometimes translated as Tree, is the growing of the matter, or the matter's growing stage. Wood is the first phase of Wu Xing. Wood is the most yang in character of the Five elements. It stands for springtime, the east, the planet Jupiter, the color green, windy weather, and the Azure Dragon (Qing Long) in Four Symbols.
The color blue also represents wood.