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The Elements as an Archetype of Transformation:
An Exploration of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

| Table of Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Appendix A | Appendix B | Appendix C | References | Bibliography

Chapter 4 - The Theory of the Elements, cont.

The Elements in Relation


The Earth element is the domain of all the infinite what’s – it is the process of falling out of process.  It is the tendency to resist transformation, to resist modification, interpretation, change, compromise, and the unknown.  It helps us determine the answer to the question “What?” and makes demands on our thinking, often requiring a particular concept or set of concepts, which allow for ‘correct’ understanding.  It is properly only within the Earth realm that truth and falsehood are at home, and here they are mutually exclusive and generally tend towards black and white formulations which are opposed to each other.  We can see that fundamentalism and literalism in all their forms are an expression of what happens when human beings are allied closely with the processes exemplified by the Earth element.

The archetype of the Earth element is at work in us whenever we focus, select, distinguish, separate, determine, isolate, formulate, hold, affirm, complete, restrict, control, or judge.  These activities are a constant part of what it means to be human, and can take on an essentially infinite variety of forms.  Although archetypally emotionless, a certain ‘mood’ is present when we are in an Earth state, or are interacting with some phenomenon that displays predominantly Earth characteristics.  The mood of being in Earth is like standing on a solid rock: “This is how it is”, and seemingly nothing can be done to change what is so manifestly obvious.  We may have the sense of rightness, and feel that we cannot budge because any movement would simply result in a falsehood.  When in an Earth state, it may seem that our job is to try and point out the obvious to those unable to see.  If we do this without the benefit of the lessons provided by the other elements, we will likely fail, as the Earth element’s uncompromising stance does not work well for communicating 17 (for this we must move at least into Water).  If we find ourselves in an Earth state, we may notice that we make statements rather than either listening or asking questions, and our statements may take the form of the listing of facts, or result in detailed explanations which have the effect of overwhelming the other party in technicalities and minutia.

The strength of being-in-Earth is quite central to our everyday lives, however.  It forms a sort of ‘default’ state of consciousness that allows the majority of our attention to be focused on aspects of our experience which are not Earth-like, precisely because we have an assumed background, we could say a point of view, which remains both tentative and yet relatively unquestioned.  In this way, all the facts of all our past experience comprise a basic Earth which is implicit in all further aspects of our consciousness.  We could say that everything – every thought, desire, habit, feeling, etc. that is distinct for consciousnessis Earth.  Luckily, this Earth aspect of our consciousness is itself constantly being revised through new experiences, so it is neither monolithic nor unalterable 18.


17: Back See Chapter 6 for an in-depth discussion on how the elements illuminate human communication.

18: Back Eugene Gendlin’s fascinating work on the sense of implying, the felt bodily sense of meaning, and direct referent formation is an exploration of this aspect of the Earth element.

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