Re: Air, Fire, Earth, and Water

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Tue Feb 27 2001 - 10:20:52 MST

From: Harvey Newstrom <>:

>I'm don't think our brains have a preference for these four elements.
>The Ayurveda system has three elements. The Chinese had five
>elements. The Greek had four and later five elements. Some American
>Indian systems had six elements. There does not seem to be a
>universal tie with the four elements that you list.

Yes, perhaps a bit 'out there' .... (please remember that I'm from
wacky California)

I admit that it's easily possible that my head was performing a
snazzy filter: once I saw "Air, Fire, Earth, and Water" in
a few New-Agey areas, then I began to 'see' it everywhere.

If you are curious though, put those words through a few Web search
engines, and see the volume of things that comes out. Areas from astrology
to Greek history to music and poetry to magick to ... I did that after
I found these references in some of my books at home. Then I came to what
I thought was a plausible explanation regarding how the mind
categorizes some kinds of topics and Metaphors in Lakoff's book
( _Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things_)

>These four classification of everything in the universe down to four
>types of matter seems to be more reality-based than psychology-based.

OK, but remember what Lakoff said: that some kinds of categorization
has a physical basis that all humans can recognize
( "The image-schematic structure of bodily experience is, we hypothesize,
the same for all human beings.")
so it might be a natural and intuitive way to perceive our world.

Thank you also for your really nice description, in those
two paragraphs, of the Golden Dawn, and your conclusion:

>Instead of seeing all
>of these ancient systems as confirming a single coherent system, I
>see our modern understanding of all these systems as being derived
>from a single primary source of consolidation, e.g. the Golden Dawn.
>Although these different systems seem to be independent-minded, they
>all derive from a consistent "canonization" of standard doctrines,
>much as the Catholic Church standardized their dogmatic beliefs into
>a consistent whole.

I had never heard of the Golden Dawn before. What you wrote makes
sense to me.

Now shifting the topic to what I wrote at the end of my original msg:

>And the religious practices in these systems focus on the individual
>being 'complete' by building from the 'inside', and not depending on
>outside agents.

Wouldn't it be nice if we can encourage folks _not_ to seek authorities
outside of themselves for when they have those times that they
want comfort from "God/Allah/etc" ? Even though the systems that
I listed are mystical, there are elements of value one can extract
from them, to help build inner worlds. For example, what I found
appealing about the Ayurveda system, is that it gives guidelines for
balancing one's life- I tend to be in my head all of the time, and
sometimes it's hard to recognize that I have to give it a rest
and go for a walk or play music or do something to exercise the other
parts of my very human life.

Samantha has written here a number of times that we all (or many people)
have a yearnings for a deeper, richer comforting inner world (I'm paraphrasing
her _alot_, it may not be right), and this is where religion fills that
need for many people.

Two doors down from me is a church. There are many around, so nothing
special about this particular church. The church bells ring every hour,
on the hour, for 24 hours a day. Religion in this country plays a much
more prominent role than the cultures that I grew up in. For many
people here it's a source of comfort, and they honestly like it.

Occassionally, or more than occassionally, I have my moments of despair
here. This last week it was about spending two days trying to understand
where some sine and cosine terms came from in my advisor's colleague's
code. My advisor was on travel, and after many of pieces of paper where I
had drawn stupid little triangles trying to figure out the angles, and
two days of giving myself a headache about it, I wrote the fellow who
wrote the code an email. His answer was a quick phrase, that actually
didn't help me at all, so then I really felt like an idiot, and I lose my
courage to ask anyone else. I can bear to look like an idiot to my
advisor's colleagues not more than once, you see. So I stared at
my toes, stared at the celing, waiting for the waves of despair to
pass, and I think about the church two doors down. And so it occurred
to me that *these* kinds of moments are those that people go to church
for. If I walked in those doors,then I sincerely doubt that God will show
me where thet sine and cosine terms came from, but at least the
surroundings would provide a comfort and relief.

No, I didn't go into that church, but I can say that I understand
a little bit better about folks' religious tendencies, and it is
pretty hard sometimes to go inward rather than outward to find
that relief.


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the
future of the human race." -- H. G. Wells

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