Alchemical Cycle Logo Master's Thesis:
The Elements as an Archetype of Transformation:
An Exploration of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

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Chapter 6 – Into the World: Dialogue and the Elemental Cycle

Basic Theory of Elemental Dialogue

Fire Communication: Dialogue

The highest form of communication can be called dialogue.  Earth communication corresponds to a completely objectifying consciousness, where any received content simply becomes a ‘that’, a fact, to be manipulated, dodged, ignored, and so forth.  It does not take the other party into account at all, except as another fact to be assimilated.  Water communication corresponds to an Imaginative consciousness, in which we form inner pictures of the movements of the other’s speech, but these pictures are still heavily tinged with our own personal associations and assumptions.  Air communication corresponds to Inspirative consciousness, in which, through silencing our own expressive tendencies, we create an inner space in which the gesture of the other can speak, in a spiritual sense by breathing into our own soul something of itself.  In Fire communication, this process takes on the form of the even more unitive process of Intuition, where it is possible to have the experience that the normal duality separating ‘me’ from ‘you’ is burned away, so that I feel as if something essential of you is living inside me, and vice versa.  This may sound strange, but it is rather more as if both parties have the experience of a spiritual comingling outside of themselves, filling the space between each other.

In Fire dialogue, we can have the feeling that, in truth, we are not alone, and that a higher principle has, as it were, come down to take part in the exchange, filling it with something completely beyond what any individual is capable of bringing, but only because of the work done by the participants.  We could say: the state of the will in dialogue is transformed into one in which it becomes a conscientious mediator between the individual will and the group will.  In this sense, a true dialogue transcends every individual while bringing each individual along a transformative ride.  Indeed, having the experience of dialogue is almost always transformative, providing a foundation for an understanding that leads directly to action.  This is quite unlike the Air experience of conversation, which can leave people ‘up in the air’ and confused about what to do among all the myriad perspectives and possibilities presented, let alone the Water experience of discussion, in which one or the other parties dominates the action with a forceful ‘either you’re in or you’re out’ perspective.

In dialogue, silence and speaking are coincident, and the spoken and unspoken are equally apparent, because the meaning of an exchange is no longer bound to the actual uttered words.  In Earth, meaning is absolute, independent of the speaker.  In Water, meaning arises from the personal trail of connections and associations of the individual, who defends, justifies, and pushes for its acceptance with great attachment.  In Air, each individual’s meaning is allowed to live together with all the other’s meanings simultaneously, but is still experienced personally through oscillation between active and passive roles.  In Fire, meaning cannot be attributed to any individual, but seems to be spontaneously generated out of the combined will of the group (or pair) as a whole.   In this way it has the characteristic of being quite objective, but objective not in the Earth way of pure-otherness.  Rather, the objectivity of dialogue is one that, as with Goethe’s ‘subjective-objective’, dissolves the boundary between inner and outer, so that the meaning is both ‘mine’ and ‘not-mine’ equally; it is simply what it is. 

Even though it is consciously recognized that the meaning-occurrence in dialogue is completely dependent upon what each individual brings, at the same time it is recognized that what each person brings is not merely personal, but has something of an archetypal character that is quite beyond what any individual’s experience can contain.  While these are the elements which lift the meaning out of the purely personal realm, this is not to say that a dialogue experience is not personal.  The situation is quite the opposite: in dialogue the shared meaning between the members illuminates the personal in light of the universal, simultaneously including and transforming the personal in a larger picture that keeps all that is essential from the personal realm while burning away all that is inessential, so that we feel that everything that needed to be included actually is – nothing feels left out or in need of completion.

Elements and CommunicationNeedless to say – and this is true for every element – there are an infinite number of ways in which each element can manifest, even while expressing only their own natures; this is another way of understanding what it means to be an archetype.  By becoming sensitive to the archetypes at work in the elements, we can learn to recognize the variety of their manifestations in all types of communication.  This opens up a methodology by which we can consciously work to shift the energies present in communication to a higher level, according to the cyclic nature of the elemental cycle.

For healthy Fire communication, the task of the speaker is to authentically speak on behalf of the higher workings of the will of the group, allowing it to develop and transform through their individual consciousness.  The task of the hearer in Fire communication is to be completely open to the potentially transformative intuitions that may arise, and to be ready to become a speaker if so called.

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