The Five Elements and Their Attributes

The rishis perceived that in the beginning the world existed in an unmanifested state of Consciousness, avyakta— meaning unmanifest. From that state the subtle vibrations of the cosmic, soundless sound Aum manifested. From the subtle vibration of Aum came the Ether or Space elem ent. This ethereal element then began to m ove and through its subtle movements created the

Air element, which is Ether in action. The movement of Air produced friction and through friction heat was generated. Particles of this heat combined to form intense light and from this light the Fire element emerged. Thus, Ether produced Air and it was Air that further manifested into Fire. The heat of Fire dissolved and liquefied certain ethereal elements, forming Water that then solidified to form the molecules of Earth. In this way, Ether manifested into the four elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. From Earth, all physical bodies for organic living beings were created, including both the plant and animal kingdoms. Earth was also the origin of all inorganic substances that comprise the mineral kingdom. Thus, out of the womb of the Five Elements all matter was born. The five basic elements exist in all matter.

Water provides the classic exam ple: the solid state of water, ice, is a manifestation of the Earth principle. Latent heat (Fire) in the ice liquifies it, revealing the Water principle. Eventually water turns into steam, expressing the Air principle. The steam disappears into Ether or Space. Thus the five basic elements— Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth— are all present in one substance. All five originated from the energy within Cosmic Consciousness and all five are present in all matter in the universe. Thus, energy and matter are one.

Man is a microcosm of the universe and, therefore, the five basic elements present in all matter also exist within each individual. In the human body, many spaces are aspects of the Ether or Space elem ent. The spaces in the mouth, nose, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, abdom en, thorax,
capillaries, and tissues are all examples of Space.

Air is the element of movement. All movements involve Air as an element, because it alone moves everything. Any time there is motion, it means Air is present. The nature of the elements themselves determines the nature of physiology. Within the human body, Air is present in the pulsations of the
heart and the expansion and contraction of the lungs. Under a microscope, even a single cell can be seen to move. Response to a stimulus is the m ovem ent of afferent and efferent nerve impulses, which are sensory and motor movements respectively. Movements of the nervous system are also governed by the Air principle present in the body. The third element is Fire. The source of Fire and light in the solar system is the sun. In the human body, the source of Fire is metabolism. Fire works in the digestive system as well as in the gray matter o f the brain, where Fire manifests as intelligence. Fire also activates the retina to perceive light.

Therefore, body temperature, digestion, thinking processes, and vision are all functions of bodily Fire. All metabolism and enzyme systems are controlled by this element. Water, the fourth element, manifests in the body as the secretions of digestive juices, in the mucous membranes and in
plasma and cytoplasm. Water is vital for the functioning of all the systems of the body. For example, dehydration resulting from diarrhea and vomiting must be treated immediately to protect the patient’s life. Earth, the fifth element, is also present in the microcosm of the human being. Life is possible on this planet because the Earth holds all living and non-living substances to its solid surface. In the body, all solid structures are derived from Earth.

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