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Spiritual concepts

Levels and layers correspondences

There are numerous names and thus symbol systems that correspond to the basic levels described in the Levels and Layers section.

Basic correspondences

The use of colours can be confusing as colours are also used for the Planets, however, here the colour symbolism is well used and consistent.  Interestingly enough, patterns are also used and can be found in many Mesoamerican buildings as well as the architecture of Romanesque churches.

Generic name

Colours

Vowels

Pattern

Tarot

Continents

Aether

White

A

 

  [Antarctica]

Fire

Red [and orange]

E

 

Wands

Africa

Air

Yellow

I

 

 

Swords

Asia

Water

Blue

O

 

 

Cups

America

Earth

Green

Violet and

Indigo

U

Disks Europe

Cultural and religious correspondences

General

Sumerians

Babylonian

Greek

Hindu

Buddhism

Kabbalah

Shinto

Earth

 

Earth

Earth

Prithvi/Bhumi

Earth

Assiah

Chi

Water

Enki

Apsu

Water

Ap/Jala

Water

Briah

Sui

Air

Enlil

Air

Aer

Vayu/Pavan

Air

Yetzirah

Fu

Fire

 

Fire

Fire

Agni/Tejas

Fire

Atziluth

Ka

Aether

Anu

 

Aether

Akasha

 

 

Ku

 Sumerians - When the Sumerians settled in Mesopotamia in about 3,200 BC they brought their gods with them. Each god represented a ‘level’. At the time three were recognised

  • Anu – the most powerful creator god [aether]
  • Enlil – Lord of the air [air]
  • Enki – Lord of the waters [water]

All were placed on the terraces of the Ziggurat of Nippur

Babylonian - The Enûma Eliš is the Babylonian creation myth and is one of the most important sources for understanding the Babylonian worldview. The ancient Mesopotamians believed that the world/universe was a circular disc [the element Earth] on which floated the element of Water - apsu. The sky [Air] was a disk above the earth, with the heavens of the gods [Fire] ‘above’. So far as can be deduced from clues in the Bible, the ancient Hebrew geography was identical with that of the Babylonians. It is the creation of this world which Enûma Eliš and Genesis 1 describe.

 

Greek - The Greek Classical Elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Aether) date from pre-Socratic times and persisted throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, deeply influencing European thought and culture. Anaximenes of Miletus (c. 585 BC–c. 525 BC) was a Greek Pre-Socratic philosopher. He believed that “air” (Greek aer, which translated is closer to mist or breath) is the most basic element.“Air” or vapour or mist is the source of all that exists (the arche). Everything is “air” at different degrees of density, and under the influence of heat, which expands, and of cold, which contracts its volume, it gives rise to the several phases of existence. The process is gradual, and takes place in two directions. Heat produces “rarefaction”, cold produces “condensation”. According to Anaximenes, the ultimate result of rarefaction was “fire”. Thus although the starting point for Anaximenes was a different analogous substance, the end result he was trying to convey was the same.

Empedocles held that there are four elements, from which things are derived, Earth, Water, Fire and Air. Some added a fifth element, the Aether, from which the heavens were derived. Socrates accepted that list, as seen from Plato's Timaeus, which identified the five elements with the Platonic solids. Earth was associated with the cube, air with the octahedron, water with the icosahedron, fire with the tetrahedron and the heavens with the dodecahedron.
Plato used the analogy extensively

Hinduism - The concept of essentially the same five elements were similarly found in ancient India, where they formed a basis of analysis in both Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, particularly in an esoteric context, earth, water air and fire describe systems that are closely related to matter [they aren’t matter but in effect are very closely tied in with it], the fifth element [aether] is then used to describe that which was entirely beyond the material world. The air or wind element is called Vayu/Pavan, Water is acalled Ap/Jala, Aether is called Akasha, Fire is called Agni/Tejas and Earth Prithvi/Bhumi.

 

Buddhism - In Buddhism the four great elements, to which two others are sometimes added, are not viewed as substances, but as categories of sensory experience. And this of course is key to the understanding of the elements because that is exactly what they are. The Four Elements are referenced in:

  • Kevaddha Sutta
  • Mahasatipatthana Sutta
  • Satipatthana Sutta
  • Chabbisodhana Sutta
  • Bahudhatuka Sutta
  • Kayagatasati Sutta
  • Anathapindikovada Sutta
  • Catudhatu-vaggo
  • Saddhammapatirupaka Sutta
  • Bija Sutta
  • Asivisa Sutta
  • Kimsuka Sutta
  • Dutiya-mittamacca Sutta
  • various brief Samyutta Nikaya discourses entitled, "Dhatu Sutta"
  • Tittha Sutta
  • Nivesaka Sutta
  • Rahula Sutta

In addition, the Visuddhimagga XI.27ff has an extensive discussion of the Four Elements.

Japanese (Godai) - The Japanese five elements are, in ascending order of power, chi or tsuchi, sui or mizu, ho, ka or hi, fū or kaze, and kū. Chi (sometimes ji) or tsuchi, meaning "Earth", represents the hard, solid objects of the world. This is a separate concept from the energy-force, pronounced in Chinese as qì (or di) and in Japanese as ki. Sui or mizu, means "Water", Ka or hi, means "Fire", Fū or kaze, meaning "Wind" or air, Kū is equivalent to aether although translated it means ‘void. Kū is of particular importance as the highest of the elements. In martial arts, and in mythical tales where the fighting discipline is blended with spiritualism, the warrior may invoke the power of the ‘Void’ to connect to the quintessential creative energy of the world. A warrior properly attuned to the Void can sense his surrounding and act without thinking, and without using his physical senses. The Japanese frequently incorporate the 5 elements in their temple structures. Many pagodas in Japan are of the Gojū-no-Tō style, meaning they have five tiers or levels. Each tier represents one of the elements, beginning with chi ("earth") at the bottom, and ending with kū ("void" or "sky") at the top.

 

China - The Chinese took the basic understanding of the elements and the principles of heating and cooling and developed much of their philosophy of thought and healing on it. Yin and Yang have many meanings at different levels in the Chinese cosmological system, but in general the Yin Qi is the principle behind cold and cooling and the Yang Qi is the principle behind heating and warmth.

In fact, the two cultures that have never dismissed the concept are the Chinese and Japanese. The Chinese medical system, still uses the concept of energy – Qi - ‘cooling’ or ‘heating’ . Qi is widely accepted within this domain and it is worth noting that the modern [as opposed to the more ancient] Chinese character of Qi conveys this very concept.

Observations

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