Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Four Elements

The tradition of the four elements in spirituality, philosophy and physics dates back for countless centuries.   They are Air, Fire, Water and Earth.  Some traditions include the 5th element of the Spirit.   The four elements are symbolic of many things including the cardinal directions, North South East and West.  We are going to primarily focus on the four elements and we are going to look at them in the Pagan/Wiccan and Christian traditions.

DISCLAIMER:  I’m sitting here at my favorite restaurant & bar.  I am almost at the end of my delicious drink (Southern Comfort & Cranberry Juice) and I still have hours of blogging  left to do.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask everyone to get along and stick around to the end of the post.  In my perfect world Witches and Christians sit together discussing thoughts and ideas while sharing a bag of Smartfood White Cheddar popcorn.   It’s going to be interesting for all parties involved and give everyone lots of new ideas to contemplate.  Now I know not everybody reading this blog borders on feistiness, but we can get emotional when we talk about beliefs that are important to us.  That is okay as long as we love and respect each other.  

To my born again brothers and sisters who may be reading this and take issue with Christians having a drink every now and then, let’s save that for a different CONTROVERSY!  ;)

Here we go.

The four elements are essential to pagan traditions and rituals.  Each of these elements represent different aspects of life.  Here is a limited list of examples of what they can represent. 

Air:  Mind, intellect, thinking, travel, the breath of life.

Fire:  Illumination, enlightenment, strength, passion, will, creation, purifying, transformation.

Water:  Emotions, feeling, love, healing, clarity, empathy, sorrow, peace.

Earth:  Stability, order, tangibleness, money, home, prosperity, beginnings and endings.

For the most part, I think as Christians the concept of the four elements does not enter our minds.  If it does, we may not explore it because we fear entering into a topic goes against our beliefs.

What if  the four elements are as fundamental to Christianity as they are to Paganism?   What if a complete understanding of Air, Fire, Water and Earth and how they all tie together is a vital part of our faith? 

I think they are essential and here’s why.

Genesis 2:7
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.

Job 33:4
The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Revelations 11:11 
Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire.

Deuteronomy 4:23-24
Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you.  For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Jeremiah 2:13
“For My people have committed two evils:  They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 17:13
O Lord the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. “Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth, Because they have forsaken the Lord the fountain of living waters.”

John 4:10
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 62:7
In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God.

John 15:5 Jesus speaking
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing"

Each of these elements are a specific aspect of God.  Air, Fire, Water and Earth are all magnificent characteristics of Jehovah, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  These are just a few examples.  There are many more stretching throughout the bible, from beginning to end, but there’s even more to it than that.  Okay wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Let's take a moment to note that all of these elements are present in Jesus.  Check this out: 

Colossians 2:8-10
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

So what is this all about? 

The four elements represent a longing for a connection.

In paganism Air and Fire are male elements and can be represented by the sword and wand.  Water and Earth are female elements, represented by a chalice and a pentacle or shield.

In Christianity it's very different.  Who is Jesus?  In scripture He is described as the Bread of Life and we can actually partake of Him, the body of blood of Christ, during communion.  He is also The Tree of Life and through Him we have the fruit of Spirit.  The male and female elements are still very important though.  Jesus is the bridgegroom and the church is the bride.
Revelation 19:7-9
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Air, Fire Water and Earth are all embodied in Christ, the bridegroom and all the elements are part of the church, the bride of Christ too.  So you have the bridegroom and the bride, the male and the female if you will, each complete and containing all four elements.    

Here's a few examples of the church receiving and literally living in these four elements of God.

Air:  John 20:21-22 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Fire: Luke 3:16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Water: John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Earth:  Matthew 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

There are many scriptures where more than one element comes together at the same time.  For example God appeared to Moses as the burning bush (Earth & Fire).  But probably the most dramatic example of the four elements in scripture is in Ezekiel chapter 1.  

Not only does it include all four elements (and the fifth), but it also includes the bridegroom, the bride and all four cardinal directions.   This chapter in the bible is Ezekiel's vision of God.  It's mysterious, full of typology and is terrifying.

I can hear some of you thinking "Wow, I have to check that out later!"  If you're like me you have great intentions, but will never get to it.  Okay, let's just read it.  It's not that long and I'll even read it with you.  Keep an eye out for the elements!

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.

Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. 

Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.

10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. 12 And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.

13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright, and out of the fire went lightning. 14 And the living creatures ran back and forth, in appearance like a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 17 When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. 18 As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. 19 When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

 21 When those went, these went; when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22 The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads. 23 And under the firmament their wings spread out straight, one toward another. Each one had two which covered one side, and each one had two which covered the other side of the body. 24 When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army; and when they stood still, they let down their wings. 25 A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads; whenever they stood, they let down their wings.

26 And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.

Paganism understands that the four elements are fundamental to life and spirituality.  As Christians we would not view or use these elements in the same manner, but are we aware of them in our spiritual life.  Do we see how vital they are?  Why would God use examples of the four elements repeatedly in scripture? 

If just one of these;  Air, Fire, Water or Earth were missing from our physical environment we would cease to exist, we would die.  Think about how each one individually is important to life itself.  

  • We need air to breath
  •  We could never survive without the explosive fire of the sun or the ways our bodies and the earth use the energy of fire
  • Water and the Earth are our necessities

Many times in scripture God uses nature to teach us and this topic is no different.  We would physically die without the four elements in our natural realm.  Are we spiritually dead if we are not filled with these four elements of God? 
  • His Breath of Life
  • The Fire of the Holy Spirit
  • Living Waters
  • Our foundation built upon the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ

I think this topic can be challenging to both Pagans and Christians.  I hope understanding The Four Elements, how they are essential to life and how they represent our longing for a connection to God, brings a richness to our spiritual lives.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article on CONTROVERSY!  No matter what your beliefs, all comments are welcome and encouraged! 

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  1. I love this post especially because I feel like the only way this will all work out is if we open an interfaith discussion based on love not differences. Now id like to point something out, remember the band Earth Wind and Fire? No? That's because without Water their musical aptitude was incomplete and therefore their songs were lacking and forgettable. Just thought id point that out. Happy blogging Heather, you're doing a wonderful job.

    1. Yeah, Earth, Wind & who??? LOL, that was about the funniest thing I've heard today. Thank you and I agree. Faith is not something that should be fought over.

    2. Hey now! I LOVELOVELOVE Earth Wind and Fire and I'm only 27! Their songs were neither lacking nor forgettable! I maybe living in a Boogie Wonderland but still.. Heather, I was reading your post and looking for the controversy but I see that it is down here in the comments! lol.

      I enjoyed reading your post and really liked the way you brought it all together. While the thought of SoCo still makes me cringe after all these years (the first alcohol I ever got sick on), I would happily sip a gin & tonic and discuss with you all the reasons why faith is such a silly thing to fight over.

    3. Lady Whimsy, you are hilarious!

      If you ever come to Tucson I will take you up on having drinks and we can get our conversation on ;)

      Well, I think we do need to have Boogie Woogie in our lives so we don't go bonkers, lol. I may need to get mine on right now.

  2. How incredibly astute! And as a pagan, I commend you on your thorough research. The elements are about life and connection - that's what paganism is all about, a connection to the nature that nurtures us. I very much enjoyed this article, and would def sit and have a SoCo with you in that world where we meet as one :) I think many religions can learn from each other.

    1. Hi! I'm a Heather Marie also :) Thanks so much for checking this out. I hope you subscribed so that I get to hear more from you. I completely agree with learning from each other. So if you get to Arizona let me know and we will definitely hook up with some soco and GREAT conversation! All the best.

  3. Hi Heather, I think this blog is an excelent insight to our beliefs, As I am a Baptist Christian from the UK, I find it queit uplifting to read such cleverly researched litrature on this blog, Thank you so much and keep blogging , Love from Paul Burns x

    1. Hi Paul! Thanks for taking the time to read and I wish you big successes in MUSIC! Hope you subscribed so I can hear more from you. Oh, these next few topics I have lined up are going to be interesting to say the least. Loves back!

  4. What immediately come to mind are the faces of a man,a lion,an ox,and an eagle, Which I am sure is familiar to everyone on any side of the discussion. The second thought is Jung and his axes of thought---feeling against intuition--sensation. I am sure that this can be seen as the glimmering of the idea that the truth is one.

    1. Ishtarmuz,

      Thank you for taking the time to read this and for sharing your point of view. I am not familiar with Jung and his axes of thought. I appreciate you mentioning that and I will look it up.

      Have a wonderful day.

  5. seems like you would enjoy Joseph Campbel's teachings (if you don't already
    ). he sought the commonality in all the would religions and myths. the "force" in star wars terms ;)

    1. Hitoast,

      Okay, don't get me started on this Star Wars theme. You're talking to a real nerd here. I'm going to date myself by telling you that after seeing Star Wars in the theater NUMEROUS times, I just couldn't get enough. I was obsessed to say the least. You couldn't even buy a movie to watch at home because, well no one had VCRs. I proceeded to sneak in my battery operated tape recorder and my tapes into the theater where I sat and recorded the entire movie (with the exception of a few seconds when I flipped the tape over). I got a lot of use out of those tapes.

      I actually have not read anything by Joseph Campbell, but thank you for mentioning him. I will have to look that up. What I find really interesting is why they have such common themes.

      Thank you for visiting and for your comment. I hope to hear more from you on topics!

  6. This was a beautiful post. I am a Pagan and I also believe adamately that there is no reason for Christians and Pagans to bicker because the two religions are very similar. This post reafirms my belief that this can be a achieved.

    As a Pagan, yes, we do hold the elements very highly. It is the culmination of the God and Goddess working together to make all that we see and our own self. The spirit inside is what the God has made, he rules our soul when it leaves the realm of the Goddess.
    It is interesting to see so many scripture describing the elements as such a necessary entity in life, almost as if Christianity is simply Paganism without the Goddess.

    Of course the use of the elements is a bit different in Paganism than in Christianity, I do believe that many Christians are actually using them today. Take Holy Water, for example. In Paganism we make holy water by mixing the elements of water and spirit. This is the same way Christians make it, they pray over the water and have faith that it's basic elemental properties have changed divinely.

    A great example of the Christian use of earth is the ashes from Palm Sunday. These ashes, of course symbolize one's mortality, that all things can come to an end, but God can save your soul. This is earth put on the physical body to bring forth a change.

    The element, fire can be seen by, like you said, the Holy Spirit. Within the Pentecostal sect of Christianity, they take this on very strongly found in Act 2:36-38. It begins by saying, "And there came upon them cloven tongues like as of fire." This is stating that the spirit is ushering them to make a loud cry to the Lord in unknown, but holy tongue. There are a few Pagan sects that actually do this also, they call it "dead langauge" or the "fire language." simply put it is the release of emotional energy, for Lythia Pagans, a small sect in the Arkansas River Valley of the U.S.A, this practice comes easy to them. It does not take hours of practice or tears, they simply meditate on the fire element and they speak. It is rumored that they can actually speak to one another using this fire/spiritual energy.

    The Air element is still summoned by many Christians also. This can be seen by their use of the voice. The outward sigh of a song brings forth energy around them, they exalt their God, and thus brings his power down to reign over them. This is the movement of the air element. When Pagans have gatherings singing and drums are a huge part of the ritual, because it is calling on the inner air element and mixes with the air around us.

    Perhaps if everyone takes a step back and looks at their practice, no one is really as different as we are taught to believe. :)

    Thank you so much for this post, I will be show many of my friends and peers.

  7. Excellent work.Other than Jewish Nationalism,the Bible is basically Judaized paganism and astro-theology.There is much to be revealed by looking at the Bible from a pagan point of view. Keep blogging.

  8. This study was an excellent way to reveal how God, in infinite wisdom, created tangible elements that could be observed in our natural state to help us relate to Him, whom is too Holy to be fully comprehended due to our mortal limitations! It proves how short we come in simply adoring the elements of this creation and not pressing in to truly know the Eternal Excellent Being who is above all things. What revelation....ALL things in the heavens and the earth indeed point to God the Father, Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit!!