Life and Existence: Elementary, My Dear Watson?

Aristotle influenced map of the classical elements and their properties

    Facebook sometimes brings me some really interesting blog fodder. In the past few days, I’ve managed to re-connect with some good friends, one of them being a former classmate of mine from high school. It seems that these days, she listens to a lot of New Age, “Earth Mother” oriented material, including a particular piece that through mantra, makes reference to the classic four elements of existence; Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

     Now, I know that I usually tend to stick to current events and other “day-to-day” topics here in my blog, and I also tend towards the more pragmatic in my observations. At this point, you might be asking, “Okay, so why all the talk about mystical elements?” Well, I’ll tell you…

     In ancient times, the four “elements” named above were thought to be the basis of all things that exist, with a fifth element added, “Aether” attributed to things beyond the physical, explainable world. This system of elements originates from Babylonian mythos, and can be found in most ancient cultures, including (but not limited to) Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Indian and Tibetan.

     Now, let’s bring this into the more modern and scientific. We know that there are four basic states of matter; solid, liquid, gas and plasma. When matter is converted from one state to another, there is also a conversion of energy from one type to another. For instance, when wood is burned. Wood exists in a solid state, with a certain amount of stored potential energy. When ignited, that potential energy is converted to thermal energy (heat), light and a lessened amount of potential energy left in the ashes. (That’s the best way I can explain it, and one of you fine young readers with a background in science and physics can feel free to check my science on this.) If we try drawing a parallel between the four classical elements and the four basic states of matter, we might arrive at something like this:

  • Earth = Solid
  • Water = Liquid
  • Air = Gas
  • Fire = Plasma

     What I’m saying if I’m saying anything, and I may be all wet here (even though I don’t think so), is that ever since ancient Babylonian times, civilizations have had some basic understanding of the make-up of the physical world that we live in. The unfortunate thing that has happened (and keeps happening even today) is that, in the process of trying to understand how these different basic aspects interact with each other (the exchange of energies!), cultures have built belief systems and religions around what they could NOT grasp or explain, thereby elevating these otherwise “elemental” aspects to a more mystical, venerated level. Now, I know that there are many more flavors, nuances and topics, such as Alchemy, that I could go into as a follow-on to this, but I’ll leave those for another time.

     I tend to believe that a little bit of basic truth can be found in all things, when one clears away the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates over time, and that this is definitely one of those cases. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s an inkling of a deeper truth…

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.” (Yoda, “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”)

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One comment on “Life and Existence: Elementary, My Dear Watson?

  1. truelibertarian says:

    It’s as if god began as a science that couldn’t be explained, and was perverted beyond its original intent.

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