Inner alchemy archives - Four Elements

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Date: Wed, 25 Jun 1997
From: Richard Roberts

To McGun.

You inquired about more symbols for the four elements. Some earlier
philosophers spoke of a fifth element called ether, spirit, or the soul of
In my first tarot book *Tarot& You*(1970) before the collaboration
w/Campbell, I equated the four elements, and their representations in the
four suits, w/Jung's four functions in order to make a Tarot reading a
viable psychological tool rather than an exercise in medieval fortune telling.
In a new book,*Spiritual Knowing: Alternative Epistemic Perspectives,* Dr.
Kenneth Fletcher, a professor of psychiatry at UMASS, has an article,
"Divination: Pathway to Intuition" in which he demonstrates how the "purpose
of divination is to give voice to intuitive knowledge." Dr. Fletcher does so
in part by presenting one of the many readings with various spreads which I
gave in the book. My innovation was not to "tell" what each card "meant,"
but to have one free-associate w/the card, and thereby arrive at a meaning
for themselves. This was heresy to Tarot readers who fancyed themselves
beings of exalted consciousness, but who made a living off others with this
special pleading.
However, my readings came close to being psychoanalyses, and startled not
only those being "read," but myself as well. For the most part, they needed
to integrate unconscious elements into consciousness, and I developed The
Jungian Spread to facilitate this. 22 cards are laid out, corresponding to
the 22 Major arcana, and the first two have pre-birth, unconscious
equivalents to the Jungian archetypes. Key 1, The Magician, = the animus in
a woman's unconscious, and the shadow in a man's unc.Key 2, The hIGH
PRIESTESS = THE ANIMA IN A MAN'S UNC. and the shadow in a woman's unc. Key
3, The Empress = The Mother. Key 4, the Emperor= The Father. These formative
factors have a great deal to do w/determining one's character and the
following stations in one's life are largely an outgrowth of these factors.
For example, the quest for Mr. or Miss right seems to involve most of one's
energies through the first half of life, and beyond if we don't grow up!
Uncannily, I could describe this archetype from the card in its place, and
how one's loves were but variations on that card.Thusly I dragged Tarot
kicking and screaming into the 20th century.
More tomorrow night on the elements if i have time.

Regards to all,

Richard Roberts

Date: Wed, 25 Jun 97

You could do worse than look into Crowley's 'Liber 777', published by Weiser
as '777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley' (Samuel Weiser,
1973, etc.)... Written before the confusion of Tzaddi not being the Star, and
since the material was largely whipped from Mathers (although Crowley's stamp
is undeniable), it can be considered a fairly reliable sourcebook for anything
occidental although the extreme oriental stuff is ... ahem! ... off the mark.


Date: Sun, 29 Jun 1997
From: MGunDi

To Richard Roberts,

Is there a German version of your Book ?
The Problem is if the words derive from the Latin version I can easyly
understand, but if they arent similar in German or Latin as in English I can
merely guess what they mean, this makes this E-Mailgroup especially
interesting, because I lern the English words but on the other hand i might
not understand everything, so do not be angry !
thanx again - M

Date: Tue, 01 Jul 1997
From: Richard Roberts

>From: MGunDi
>Is there a German version of your Book ?

No, there is no German version; however, it contains children's classics,
and I have placed a dictionary of two pages at the end of each chapter of
more difficult words, so that the book can be read by English speaking
children from about the age of seven on up. Of course most of them do have
Latin roots. The artist in England who illustrated the book has about an
hundred copies for sale, which would save you considerably on shipping
costs. Here in the U.S. I have about 1800 copies.

Best regards,

Richard Roberts

Date: Sun, 22 Jun 1997
From: MGun

Hi !
First I want to say hello to this group because I am new in here.

2nd I want to ask if anybody could tell me more Symbols for the 4+1 Elements

Elem. Earth Fire Air Water Spirit/Void

Weapon Coin/Plate Staff Sword/Arrow Grail ??Sigilum??

Archangel Uriel Raphael Raphael Gabriel ????????

Asian/Japan. Chi Ka Fu Sui Ku


From: Bill Brainard
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 97

For Water: See Madness and Civilization, Foucault, the ship of fools.
For fire see Don Giovanni, Mozart, and "the immediate stages of the
erotic by Kierkegaard. See also Sennet's Earth and Stone for symbolic
representation of fire and earth. One of the great disseminators of the
four elements was the 7c. encyclopedist Isidorus of Seville, the
Etymologiarum. See also a dissertation on the transformation of their
qualities by R. Taylor Scott, Duke U. Available from University
Microfilms, unpublished. Scott is a brilliant lecturer on the four elements
in antiquity which he argues have been transformed in the modern
sensibility to music, eroticism and madness. What we are missing today
is the most fundamental of all earth.

W. Brainard AIA

Date: Wed, 25 Jun 1997
From Richard Roberts

Continuing on with the four elements: In the Chinese philosophy, I believe
there are not four but six elements, perhaps more, including wood and metal.
Those of us in our forum who are literary or artistic are aware that our own
alchemical transformations have gone hand in hand with the creation of a
Great Work. Often this process involves the *hierosgamos* with one's animus
or anima, whereby the archetype inspires the conscious mind to new
dimensions of creativity. In Alchemy this "sacrd marriage" is depicted by a
six-pointed star, consisting of fiery and watery trines in union, which
Jungians have also seen as a meld of masculine and fem., and conscious and

This became the structure for a two volume fantasy I wrote called *The
Wind&the Wizard* The six points are six books, commencing with *The Wind
and the Willows* and ending with *The Marvelous Land of Oz*, wherein the
Wizard is revealed not as a bumbling charlatan but as an evolved
time-traveller. Indeed, he posesses the Emerald Tablet and works some
wonderful magic with it.

The story line is a young boy, destined to bring to the world new models of
space/time in physics, has found himself initially in a book,*The Wind and
the Willows*
with which he is familiar and in which he now influences the action. In
Storyland he is given an education commensurate with the influence he is to
have on his 20th century world if he is able to return to his own time. Each
one of the six books into which he ventures is represented by an element:
Willows, earth; The Water-Babies,water; Peter Pan, air; Robin Hood, wood;
Sherlock Holmes, metal; and Oz, fire. And on his journey the boy learns more
and more of life and the universe from three feminine and three masculine
teachers: Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby, Wendy, Maid Marion, Merlin, Sir Arthur
Conan-Doyle, and the Wizard. The initiation in higher consciousness which
the boy experienced was simultaneously mirrored in my own life. As Yeats
said, "How to tell the dancer from the dance?"

This was seven years ago, and subsequently the four elements continued to be
a preoccupation, for I recognized that in the resolution of opposites which
the elements represented lay psychic wholeness. At the center of the four
elements, where they all come together, a quintessential, spiritual, fifth
element is created, "the soul of things." I recall Alan Watts 30 years ago
speaking to me of how Christ was this fifth, spiritual element because on
the cross of the four directions of matter, He was the spiritual resolution
or salvation from the cross of matter which "crucifies" all men.Joseph
Campbell had a similar creative preoccupation with Perceval, later Parzifal,
the knight who succeeds where others fail because he pierces thru the middle.

Once one begins to mine the heritage of the four elements, other symbolic
associations may be found with "fourness." Each element has an equivalent
direction, color, and tribe, in connection with Native-american mythology,
and the four Elemental Ages of 2,000 years each on earth. In turn each of
these has a sacred symbol and animal. Eg:
"My chant was of the first element-- Air-- of the four incantations brought
back from Heaven by wovoka for the ghost dance. Air, or Gemini, was the
first of the four elemental ages, from six to four thousand B.C. During that
time the People were descending from the North, from Canada and Alaska. the
Cheyenne are the tribe of the North, and the talisman for their resurrection
is the sacred medicine arrow, adorned with feathers from the sacred bird of
the element air, the eagle."(*Save the Whales*)

And so our inner alchemy makes gold of the pairs of opposites that beset us.

Date: Sun, 29 Jun 1997
From: MGunD

Richard Roberts wrote:

>He was the spiritual resolution or salvation from the cross of matter

There is the Idea that all four elemental weapons were at Golgatha :
The Earth the Hill as a Plate
The Cross as Stick and Staff of Fire
The Grail as Water
And The Lance of the Soldier as a Sword ...

Jesus had a kind of Crown wich is also a Symbol of the Magus ...
I think this is at least interesting even it it may lead to nothing ...

>Continuing on with the four elements: In the Chinese philosophy, I believe
> there are not four but six elements, perhaps more, including wood and metal.

They are wood, fire , earth , metal and water, at least this is what i have
read !
This means wood and metal are added Air/Wind is "left out".


Date: Mon, 30 Jun 1997
From: Patrick S. Dunn

> From: MGunD
> There is the Idea that all four elemental weapons were at Golgatha :
> The Earth the Hill as a Plate
> The Cross as Stick and Staff of Fire
> The Grail as Water
> And The Lance of the Soldier as a Sword ...
> Jesus had a kind of Crown wich is also a Symbol of the Magus ...
> I think this is at least interesting even it it may lead to nothing ...

What about the storm that occured right after his passing? Maybe that
could register as wind/air?


Date: Mon, 30 Jun 97 20:47:47 UT

Concerning the 'Chinese Elements', these are actually the 'stations of change'
(wu hsing)... According to Fung Yu-lan ('A Short History of Chinese
Philosophy', Macmillan 1948), 'hsing' "...means 'to do', or 'to act', so the
term Wu Hsing literally translated would mean the Five Activities or Five
Agents. They are also known as the Wu Te, which means the Five Powers...

In the Book of History, Part V, Bk 4, known as the 'Great Norm', (20th. c.
BCE), we find: "The first is named Water; the second, Fire; the third, Wood;
the fourth, Metal; the fifth, Soil or Earth. The nature of Water is to moisten
and descend; of Fire, to flame and ascend; of Wood, to be crooked and
straighten; of metal, to yield and be modified; of Earth, to provide for
sowing and reaping."
This very early interpretation went through several (fairly subtle)
transformations, linking, for example with the eight trigrams to create the
basis for the so-called Yin-yang School out of which arose such phenomena as
the I Ching and much of Chinese social, strategic, martial, scientific,
alchemical and religious theory and practice...

In the inner practices of T'ai Chi Ch'an, for example, Fire is controlled
outward energy; Water, receiving and sinking; Wood is rooting and penetrating;
Metal, contracting and separating; while Earth is the central component of
stability, balance, and self-control.

There is a rather lovely and very simple short T'ai Chi form that illustrates

On the views of Liu I-ming and others of the Complete Reality School where
these processes have become totally internalised and are now working on a
universal plane, have a look into Chang Po-tuan's 'Chin tan ssu pai tzu'
(translated by Cleary as the 'Inner Teachings of Taoism', Shambhala, 1986),
especially Part II.

With love,

Date: Tue, 1 Jul 97
From: Stuart Nettleton

M wrote:

> Jesus had a kind of Crown which is also a Symbol of the Magus ...
> I think this is at least interesting even it it may lead to nothing ...

The Sufis and other Persian Mysteries groups often refer to the gaining of
wisdom as making a crown of gold or a golden head.


Date: Tue, 8 Jul 1997
From: Arlene Kahn

Dear Mike,

I was interested in your discussion of the 'Chinese Elements.' You mentioned
the Book of History, Part V, Bk 4, where the elements are described: the
ascending nature of fire, descending nature of water, etc. You also
mentioned that there is a lovely and very simple short T'ai Chi form that
illustrates this. I have a friend who is a Tai Chi master and I asked him
about it but he knew of no such form. Are you referring to a specific form,
or the general T'ai Chi form in which these elements are included? Thanks,
it sounds interesting and I'd like to be able to tell him so I can see it

Arlene Kahn

Date: Wed, 9 Jul 97 09:00:48 UT


Thank you for your friendly letter.
The form I mentioned (and which I teach)( unfortunately in France) came to me
via a pupil of Al Huang's (Al Chung-liang Huang)...
Al's is not a form I usually use by any means (my own teachers have been Yang
Zhen-duo and his chief pupil in Paris, Raymonde Helies, as well as two
teachers from the Shaghai School of Yang-style T'ai Chi Ch'uan, and I'm quite
a traditionalist), but, when it comes to T'ai Chi related Ch'i Kong or - if
you prefer the new spellings - taiji quan and qigong, I prefer those relating
directly to the Complete Reality School of Taoism from which T'ai Chi itself
stems and thus TEACH only two such forms: this one (if I can find it, and if
you like, please send me your address and I'll send you a copy of a
hand-drawn, hand-written description) and the static movements (!) of the
so-called Pa Tuan Chin, or 'Eight Pieces of Silk', both of which fulfil that
particular criterion.
For completion's (and that alone) sake let me also add that I have been
practising T'ai Chi Ch'uan now for some 23-24-odd years, and that I also teach
the Yang T'ai Chi long form, three short Yang forms, one of which is Master
Yang's personal demonstration form, and Yang-style T'ai Chi Chian (taiji jian)
or two-edged sword.

Much love, and thanks again for your letter.

From:Turiyan gold
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 1997

In kung fu, five elements are often mentioned. This goes back to taoist
alchemy. Air is one of the elements.

Turiyan gold

Date: Tue, 26 Aug 1997
From: mike dickman


You say
>In kung fu, five elements are often mentioned. This goes back to taoist
>alchemy. Air is one of the elements.

Although not technically precise it is true that of the two trigrams
representing WOOD (viz., JEN, 'the arousing' and SUN, 'the gentle and
penetrating')(to perpetuate Wilhelm's appellations), the second, although
properly really referring to the gentle penetrating power of roots and
branches, is also ascribed to 'wind', possibly because of the fact that the
respiratory tract and its activity ('gentle penetration') are similar in
form and in nature.
However, technically, there is no air 'element' in the wu xing.