Life Elements: Transform Your Life With Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

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Traditionally, there is a hierarchy among the elements ranging from the most spiritual and rarefied to the least spiritual and most material. This hierarchy determines the placement of elements around the pentagram.

Starting with spirit, the highest element, we descend to fire, then follow the lines of the pentagram over to air, across to water, and down to earth, the lowest and most material of the elements. The final line between earth and spirit completes the geometric shape.

The issue of a pentagram being point-up or point-down only gained relevance in the 19th-century and has everything to do with the arrangement of elements. A point-up pentagram came to symbolize spirit ruling over the four physical elements, while a point-down pentagram symbolized spirit being subsumed by matter or descending into matter. Since then, some have simplified those associations to represent good and evil.

This is generally not the position of those who commonly work with point-down pentagrams, and is often not the position of those associating themselves with point-up pentagrams either. The colors used here are those associated with each element by the Golden Dawn. These associations are commonly borrowed by other groups as well. Ceremonial occult systems traditionally depend on systems of correspondences: collections of items that are all associated in some way with the desired goal.

While the types of correspondences are nearly endless, associations between elements, seasons, time of day, elements, moon phases, and directions have become fairly standardized in the West. These are frequently the basis for additional correspondences. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn codified some of these correspondences in the 19th-century. Most notable here are the cardinal directions. To the south are the warmer climates, and thus is associated with fire. The Atlantic Ocean lies to the west. The north is cold and formidable, a land of the earth but sometimes not a lot else.

Occultists practicing in America or elsewhere sometimes do not find these correspondences to work. Cycles are important facets of many occult systems. Looking at daily, monthly, and yearly natural cycles, we find periods of growth and dying, of fullness and barrenness. Fire is associated with strength, activity, blood, and life-force. It is also seen as highly purifying and protective, consuming impurities and driving back the darkness.

Fire is traditionally seen as the most rarefied and spiritual of the physical elements because of its masculine properties which were superior to female properties. Air is the element of intelligence, creativity, and beginnings. Largely intangible and without permanent form, air is an active, masculine element, superior to the more material elements of water and earth.

Water is the element of emotion and the unconscious, as opposed to the conscious intellectualism of air. Water is one of two elements that have a physical existence that can interact with all of the physical senses. Water is still considered less material and thus superior to earth because it possesses more motion and activity than earth. Earth is the element of stability, groundedness, fertility, materiality, potential, and stillness.

Various systems may associate planets, tools, and so forth to it, but such correspondences are far less standardized than those of the other four elements. The element of spirit goes by several names. The most common are spirit, ether or aether, and quintessence, which is Latin for " fifth element. There is also no standard symbol for spirit, although circles are common. Eight-spoked wheels and spirals are also sometimes used to represent spirit. Spirit is a bridge between the physical and the spiritual.

In cosmological models, the spirit is the transitory material between the physical and celestial realms.

Within the microcosm, the spirit is the bridge between body and soul. Share Flipboard Email. Weathering then slowly leaches nutrients from the mountains into the oceans. Maybe more surprisingly, Large and his colleagues also found that these elements were low in abundance during more recent periods — and that these periods coincided with mass extinctions.

These nutrient-poor periods happened when phosphorus and trace elements were being consumed by the Earth faster than they could be replenished, Large said.

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Consider the case of carbon dioxide. A planet with too much carbon dioxide could end up like Venus, a planetary blast furnace. Plate activity on Earth has helped to regulate the level of carbon dioxide over the eons. The same weathering that pulls nutrients from mountaintops down into the oceans also helps to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Rain brings both carbonic acid and calcium from dissolved rocks into the ocean.

Carbon dioxide also dissolves directly into the ocean, where it combines with the carbonic acid and dissolved calcium to make limestone, which falls to the ocean floor. Eventually, over unimaginable eons, the sequestered carbon dioxide is swallowed by the mantle. The Alaska Range continues to grow today as a result of plate tectonics.

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Mount Denali, visible in the middle of this photograph, rises at a rate of one-half millimeter per year. Plate tectonics might even be responsible for another atmospheric ingredient, and arguably the most important: oxygen. A full 2 billion years before the Cambrian explosion, back in the Archean eon, Earth had hardly any of the air we breathe now.

Algae had begun to use photosynthesis to produce oxygen, but much of that oxygen was consumed by iron-rich rocks that used the oxygen to make rust. According to research published in , plate tectonics then initiated a two-step process that led to higher oxygen levels. Then over the next billion years — from 2.

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The extra carbon dioxide would have aided algae, which then could make even more oxygen — enough to eventually spark the Cambrian explosion. Plate tectonics may also have given life an evolutionary boost. Robert Stern , a geologist at the University of Texas, Dallas, thinks plate tectonics arose sometime in the Neoproterozoic era , between 1 billion and million years ago.

And, Stern argues, this would have had major consequences for life. Once you get life, you can really make it evolve fast by breaking up continents and continental shelves and moving them to different latitudes and recombining them. Stern has also argued that plate tectonics might be necessary for the evolution of advanced species. He reasons that dry land on continents is necessary for species to evolve the limbs and hands that allow them to grasp and manipulate objects, and that a planet with oceans, continents and plate tectonics maximizes opportunities for speciation and natural selection.

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I think we did. Stern imagines a far future in which orbiting telescopes can determine which exoplanets are rocky, and which ones have plate tectonics. Emissaries to distant star systems should aim for the ones without plate tectonics first, he said, the better to avoid spoiling the evolution of complex life on another world.

Earth formed about 4.


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Picture a lava lamp. Through convection, vertical motion was happening even on the early Earth. As the planet began to cool, plates could more readily couple with the mantle below, causing the planet to transition into an era of plate tectonics. Some researchers think an intrusion might have gotten things moving.

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In , Maruyama and colleagues argued that asteroids would have delivered water along with their impact energy , weakening rocks and enabling plate movement to start. Its own cooling process may have broken the lid into pieces, like a cake baked in a too-hot oven.

Three billion years ago, Earth may have had short-lived plate tectonic activity in some regions , but it was not widespread yet. Eventually, cooler areas of crust would have been pulled downward, weakening the surrounding crust. As this happened repeatedly, the weak areas would have gradually degraded into plate boundaries. Eventually, they would have formed full tectonic plates driven by subduction, according to a paper in Nature by David Bercovici of Yale University and Yanick Ricard of the University of Lyon in France.

According to these theories, plate tectonics may have started and stopped several times before picking up momentum about 3 billion years ago. Some geologists take this as a recording of the gradual onset and spread of tectonic plates throughout the planet. Ultimately, the problem is that we have one sample. We have one planet that looks like Earth, one place with water and a slipping and sliding outer crust, one place teeming with life.

Take Enceladus, a frozen moon of Saturn that is venting material into space from strange-looking fractures in its global ice crust. Or Venus, a planet that seems to have been resurfaced million years ago but has no plates that we can discern. Valles Marineris on Mars is a canyon that extends 3, kilometers long and reaches a depth of 8 kilometers. The InSight Mars lander , which launched in May and is scheduled to arrive on November 26, will help settle the debate.

While the origins of plate tectonics remain a subject for debate, geologists can agree that at some point, the gears will stop grinding. As a planet ages, it may evolve from a hot, stagnant world to a warm, tectonically active one, and finally to a cold, stagnant one again in its later years. We know planets can grow quiet as they cool down; many geologists think this is what happened to Mars, which cooled off faster than Earth because it is so much smaller. Earth will eventually cool down enough for plate tectonics to wane, and for the planet to settle down into a stagnant-lid state once more.

New supercontinents will rise and fall before this happens, but at some point, earthquakes will cease.

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