Fire, Water, Air, and Earth in Hermetic Science
A lesson from "Granny Rainbow’s
Magical School of Ageless Wisdom"
Latin, elementum: first principle.
When something is called elemental, it means that thing
is simple and basic. An elementary school provides the fundamental knowledge upon which further education is built. When you
are in your element, your situation is aligned with your essential nature. Modern science presents us with the Table of Elements,
which are substances that are complete unto themselves, not mixed with anything else; the known physical world is made of
these 110 basic building blocks.
|The Four Elements, engraving by Giordano Bruno
Hermetic Science recognizes four elements. Unlike modern (exoteric/outer) science, which acknowledges only
physical elements, the very ancient Hermetic (esoteric/inner/occult) Wisdom Tradition – also known as Ageless Wisdom
or the Universal Cabala – teaches that the elements include the much broader concepts of spirit, soul, mind, and body.
is like Fire: full of life, light, and consciousness. Fire symbolizes energy, desire, will, and the creative
urge. Fire is yang, assertive, outgoing, hot. Fire is that “gleam in Daddy’s eye” and his spark of life
called sperm. Fire rules the outer world, as the Sun rules the day, or as the light in a projector creates a seemingly-real
movie. In Tarot, the suit of Wands represents the fire element.
Soul is of Water: reflecting the fire/light
of spirit as the great Ocean
reflects the Sun. Water symbolizes psyche, feelings, intuition, and emotion. Water is always
changing, flowing into whatever shape it is poured, permeating and sustaining all life. Water is yin, receptive, turned inward,
cold. Water is the amniotic fluid in the womb, where new life is developed and nurtured. Water rules the inner world, as the
Moon rules the night. In Tarot, the suit of Cups represents water.
Mind is like Air: an invisible
matrix with which we are constantly
interacting. Air symbolizes thought, choice, decision, and all intellectual activity.
Air is in the space between things, where we perceive a seeming separation of parts within the Whole. Air is the element that
separates the baby from its mother at birth. In Tarot, the suit of Swords represents air. Swords are instruments of separation.
Everything that exists is cut out of the “cookie dough” of the Prima Materia, or First Matter. We do the “cutting”
with our thinking, defining, and choosing.
Body is of the Earth: a beautiful and sacred physical expression
of spirit’s original creative urge. Earth symbolizes all things physical, as well as finances, resources, values, and
all expressions of Nature, including our beloved Planet Earth. The earth element contains/embodies fire, water, and air. In
Tarot, the suit of Pentacles (coins) represents earth.
Earth is connected to our senses, which perceive things as solid,
even when we know everything is really light (atomic energy). This is the Magic of Life that creates something out of nothing
and makes it appear real when it is actually a light show. Here on Planet Earth we have the baby itself, the darling product
of a miraculous process of manifestation. According to Ageless Wisdom, all things are fashioned by the same process. Earth
is what we call “reality,” but if we ignore the greater “Reality” of the big picture, we miss the
Not surprisingly, Hermetic philosophy names Fire the Divine Father, and Water
the Divine Mother. These are the “Big Two” of spiritual occultism, the yang and yin we see pictured in the Tai
Chi symbol, where they are shown equal in size and shape, dancing/embracing inside a circle. The circle symbolizes the super
conscious Whole that contains everything. Father is associated with self-conscious awareness and the left brain. Mother is
subconsciousness and the right brain. In the Tai Chi symbol, each half contains the “seed of the opposite,” reminding
us that the right brain controls the left side of the body, and vice-versa.
Neither Father nor Mother come first; both
exist simultaneously, infinitely, and eternally. Father is listed first because assertiveness is the nature of the yang force.
The Mother’s yin force forever seeks to support and respond to her other half. Every human being, and indeed everything
in the Cosmos, arises from a combination of these forces.
Air is called the Divine Son and Earth
is the Divine Daughter. Obviously, they are mixtures of the Divine Father and Mother. Air is warm, more yang than yin. Earth
is cool, more yin than yang. The whole Divine Family is diagrammed on the Tree of Life and symbolized in the Tetragrammaton,
Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh, the “Name of Four Letters” that encodes all the wisdom of the Cabala.
In rituals of High Magic, Fire is associated with the south and Archangel Michael. Water governs the west
and Archangel Gabriel. Air is connected to the east and Archangel Raphael. Earth represents the north and Archangel Auriel.
most important thing to grasp about the elements is that they all exist in each individual person. They are operating constantly
together to create our experience of life. One way to tune into these mighty powers is to observe the actual fire, water,
air and earth within and around us. We are the Creator, the Creatrix, the Creative Process, and the Creation of our own life.
We are astounding, magical beings! May we awaken to the truth and power of these elements, with which we are blessed beyond
A) Ask yourself what element
is uppermost at moments in your daily
experience. For example, name the primary element in the following:
dreaming, shopping, racing. See how the elements work together.
B) The Tai Chi symbol contains two equal black and
white shapes. Which is yang and which is yin?
C) To stay in touch with elemental magic, you can chant to yourself this
old Pagan song. Have fun!
“Earth my body, Water my blood, Air my breath, and Fire my spirit!”
Arisa Victor is co-author, along with Jason Lotterhand of "The Thursday Night Tarot: Talks on the Wisdom of the
Major Arcana" and solo author of "High School Astrology: A Textbook of Ageless Wisdom". Arisa teaches metaphysics
for all ages, but her role as teacher of metaphysics to children as "Granny Rainbow" is especially dear to