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


What is it to be in Fire?  Whereas the Air state can be characterized by a certain feeling of unknowing, begin-in-Fire is accompanied by a sense that a completeness has been brought to the processes of the lower elements.  An order or logic that can seem as if it comes from outside ourselves presents itself, almost as if we had an additional sense that could perceive the objective nature of the whole phenomenon before our view, but as if from within.   Unlike an Air consciousness, which is usually completely filled by its environment, the work of the Fire consciousness burns away every inessential thought, feeling, or action, leaving only the most subtle – but most real – essence, which has an undeniable inner nature.  The Fire is the crucible in which the dross is annihilated and only the aspects which can stand the heat remain – such aspects are experienced as coherent, objective, and true.  We can have the sense that all that has come before was only leading up to the insight or realization of the whole that we contact in Fire.  In this sense our consciousness is both a crucible and a womb for the birth of a more refined substance, whether this substance take the form of a thought, a feeling, or an action.

In fact, one of the major characteristics of the Fire state is how it is almost incapable of appearing without an accompanying activity – an action, a doing, an impulse of some kind, even if it is ‘merely’ the sudden intake of breath and the expression “A-ha!” along with a quickened pulse and a light in the eye.  Action flows naturally from a consciousness in a Fire state – to such a consciousness they are actually coincident, identical. 

When we have a Fire experience we may begin to recognize an accompanying subtle sense of something both beyond and within our experience, a sense that can be described as the same kind that we have when we are in the presence of another human being – i.e. the sense of the being of the other.  This sense is one that can creep up into consciousness almost without our awareness, but can be indicative of the Fire state.  It is the feeling that our Fiery experience comes to us not just through our own willful effort, but that it is only possible because some other being comes to meet us in our experience; our experience at the Fire level actually constitutes the residue of such a meeting.  In this way we come to experience our own embeddedness as beings of consciousness in a conscious world, and for this reason the question that can expresses this Fire relation is the question “Who?”

 The problem with Fire is that the intense energy behind it is difficult to contain in a necessarily bounded action, which can therefore seem too limited and constraining.  The task of the Fire consciousness then, is to re-acquaint itself with the Earth, to ground itself and find the most effective and appropriate means of acting on the basis of its insight.  The tendency for action can easily result in a complete combustion of the energies that allowed the Fire insight to appear in the first place.  Without engaging with the next step – the creation of a New Earth –  the Fire consciousness can burn itself out and be left in a sort of ‘default’ Earth state that was not prepared through the necessary self-limitation that must follow a Fire experience.

When we enter into a Fire state, we can recognize how the nature the lower elements are actually expressions of the central insight and coherency of the Fire.  The facts of the Earth, the processes of the Water, and the polarities of the Air are all ways in which the whole of the Fire manifests itself, and they are all experienced simultaneously as a single coherency, an interconnected, self-sustaining unity which could not be otherwise than it is.  For everyone that is not in the Fire state, the self-assurance that accompanies a Fire experience is difficult to distinguish from the clinging to facts found in the Earth realm, and the difference is almost impossible to point out unless a similar progression to the Fire insight is made possible.  This can make people in a Fire state seem both like visionaries and crazies. 

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