Alchemical Cycle Logo Master's Thesis:
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


Just as an understanding of the nature of the Water element reveals that it is what allows for the Earth element to become what it is, so too an understanding of the Air element shows us how the Water element is an elaboration of what occurs in the Air element.  In this case, the Air element represents the invisible playing field within which all the prior relations made in Water consciousness occur.  It is the recognition of the underlying polarity that implicitly accompanies every change.  The shifting occurring in Water happens within the context of wider tensions at work in a multitude of polarities.  Change isn’t random or even simply local; every change from one state to another implies a whole infinity of potential states which are not explicit in the actual shift, but which can be elaborated through work with the Air element.  A consciousness that sensitizes itself to the Air element can thus form connections and relations between radically different experiences, times, or qualities.  This can result in expressions that seem random from a Water or especially an Earth perspective, but have potential value for an Air consciousness, which recognizes that asking “What if?” and “Why?” opens the playing field considerably.  For Air, nothing is out of bounds; all experiences are respected as potential sources of meaning.

A Water consciousness is quite malleable, but can only be molded gradually into radically new shapes.  An Air consciousness is completely versatile, able to shift from one aspect to another without the need for supporting facts or processes.  This ability for consciousness to reconfigure itself is one that depends highly upon circumstance – an Air consciousness can, because it has the capacity to engage with any possibility, become vacuous and devoid of its own content, relying instead picking up on queues from the surroundings.  The primary quality of a consciousness that is in Air shows up not just in its ability to take on any form or content, but in its actual tendency to do so.  It is like being in the midst of a brainstorm – whatever an Air consciousness encounters is immediately taken up – until the next thing is encountered.  This allows for rapid change, but often such changes won’t last or be effective as they lack the coherency provided by the self-connection of the Water realm, and can be apt to dump supposedly established Earth facts for other contradictory facts without much notice.  Indeed, it is possible for consciousness in an Air state to hold something to be both true and not true without much difficulty – in fact it can be quite natural for an Air consciousness to immediately point out the opposite of any postulate put forward, for the sake of ‘seeing all sides’, regardless of the consequences.  The logic of Air generates polarities in order to try and make the invisible visible; this can be a great source of creative potentiality while also being a great source of rubbish – and an Air consciousness might swing from one end to the other many times around a single fact.

Yet within this tendency is a polarity that brings out a completely different aspect of Air.  The lack of intrinsic form when consciousness is in an Air state can be made into its most useful capacity.  When taken up consciously, work with the Air state can lead to a profound inner silence, in which our normal self-dialogue is quieted.  This opens up a whole new ‘inner space’ that is most often filled with every sensation, thought, emotion, and experience that comes to us – mostly unbidden.  But this inner, Air space can become a phenomenon in its own right, in which it takes on the quality of a profound listening that is more sensitive to potential meaning than was previously possible.  The lack of self-engendered (or forced) meaning in the Air state can become an experimental testing ground for the appearance of what otherwise would be drowned out in the course of daily events.  An air consciousness lets the nature of the other elements shine through, so that it can sometimes seem invisible or be hard to notice, but it is always present in every experience as the capacity to let go.  Letting go of an experience is required for all new experience, as our attention must have a way of freeing itself from what presently occupies it in order to be receptive to what is not already present for it – i.e. everything else!  In this way, Air is responsible for our capacity to forget, to be inwardly silent.  If done consciously, this can be made into a capacity that can be willfully applied as a technique for approaching the more coherent and all-encompassing meaning of the Fire element.  This can be done through practices such as thinking through sequences of experience backwards, by conscious forgetting or putting away of persistent experiences, and by inserting pauses into thinking processes that would normally flow from point to point without cease.  In fact these Air moments are naturally built into consciousness in the process of sleep, in which our consciousness goes through a necessary period away from the incessant input from the body and its sensory organs.  Every night our consciousness is pulled into an Air state upon sleep, but it is when we work with the Air element directly that its fruits can be best nurtured.

Top | Next: Chapter 4: The Theory of the Elements: The Elements in Relation: Being-in-Fire

© 2008 Seth Miller | Site: Spirit Alchemy Design |
Site map | Search this site