A Finer Division of Energy

One of the fundamental guiding principles of many Neopagan paths, and indeed the Western Hermetic tradition, is the characterisation of all phenomena into the system of the four elements, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Many add a fifth element – Spirit, which combines, centres, and harmonizes the other four. In my own work, I use the four elements to characterise the energetic essence of all phenomena that interest me. Books and lists of elemental correspondences are an important step in learning the craft, learning to recognise the common energetic signatures of phenomena and entities from the different dimensions of existence. For example, an elemental association can be found for herbs, gems, metals, minerals and trees by consulting various sources of traditional lore.
However the division into just four energetic types is too gross a division to account for all the fine differentiations one finds in the world of nature. For example, there are thousands of different herbs in use, and their characters and properties are all unique. In order to begin characterising energies on a finer division, one system that can be employed is the sixteen fold division of energetic movement. This subdivides each element into four aspects, themselves corresponding to the four elements. Thus we have Air of Air, Fire of Air, Water of Air, and Earth of Air. Where as Air as an element corresponds to beginnings, thoughts, communication, the mental realm, and changeability, Air of Air corresponds to the quintessence of Air, the beginnings of thought processes, the conceptions behind planning, the guiding principals, the rules of logic, the very beginning of any enterprise, etc.
Fire of Air is the next stage, corresponding to the action stage of mental endeavour, such as fleshing out a novel once the plot and characters have been defined, talking about plans with others, developing ideas with others, allowing a touch of inspiration into one’s plans. Water of Air is the next stage of the process. It may correspond to getting feedback about one’s plans, it may symbolise the beginnings of emotional attachment to one’s goals and plans, it may correspond to sharing, or the desire to share one’s plans with others, perhaps to gain their support, or admiration. It may symbolise the contribution that the unconscious impulses may make to beginnings and plans, or which may unsettle the mind and cause changeability, or lack of confidence. Earth of Air then corresponds to the process of bedding down, locking in, and making a commitment to the proposed course of action, which prepares us to move onto the element of Fire, which symbolises action.
First is Air of Fire, which symbolises the initial steps, the beginnings, the first testings of action. It may also symbolise actions which are achieved or take their form through mental processes, such as writing letters, creating works of literature, or other mental activities that are themselves acts which affect others. Fire of Fire is the essence of movement and action, enthusiasm and inspiration. Water of Fire represents responsive action, guided and directed by feedback from its environment, or the things upon which the action is directed. Earth of Fire represents habitual action, action that has been locked into place through habit and repetition, or action that is practical in nature, or actions that build over time and repetition to achieve their constructive purpose. Whereas Air of Fire is changeable, Earth of Fire is solid action, and almost impervious to influence.
After Fire in the sun cycle of manifestation, is the element of Water, generally taken to be associated with the harvest, the rewards of action. Also associated with compassion, intuition and the subconscious, and the womb of the great mother. So we might take Air of water to represent the beginnings of the harvest or the rewards, with more still to come. We might also take Air of Water to symbolise intellectual expressions of compassion, or intellectual descriptions of the psyche – such as various forms of psychology and psychotherapy. Indeed any intellectual description or categorisation of intuitive, unconscious, dream or other non-waking realities, could be described as Air of Water. Fire of Water moves us into the active phase of reaping our harvest, and the activity of compassion, intuition, and delving into the greater self in some way. Water of Water, brings to mind the quintessence of Water, of compassion, intuition, the inner life. It is the returning current, and it is the mystery of connection. Earth of Water brings to mind the practical expression of intuition, compassion, and inner development, inner connection with the Great Mother: the habit of openness, the habit of compassion.
The Earth element then takes us through a period of stasis, of breaking apart, of composting to form the substrate for the next cycle of manifestation, the time of digesting experience. So Air of Earth is the intellectual expression of deconstructing one’s experience in order to do something better next time, a conscious reflection on events. Fire of Earth brings to mind a cheerful reflection on how things went, bringing to bear humour on a situation. It is also the active step in decomposition, perhaps symbolised by a wriggling mass of worms turning vegetable scraps into compost. Water of Earth is the final return, the reward of one’s reflection, and the processing of one’s subconscious mind, and of the group mind, below the level of awareness. Earth of Earth, is the final stasis after deconstruction and reflection and intuitive insights have been digested, leading to a stable foundation for a new cycle of manifestation.
Further insight into this division of energy may be gained by considering the court cards of the tarot deck. For example, the Pages represent Air, the Knights Fire, the Queens water, the Kings Earth. So Page of Coins is Air of Earth, Queen of wands is Water of Fire, etc.
This illustration of the four fold division of each of the elements is just one means of further characterising energies, and refining correspondences. We may apply further dimensions of characterisation. For example, we may characterise people physically, emotionally, intellectually and according to personality, each according to the 16 elemental divisions described, which gives approximately 64,000 different characterisations of a person. While every individual is unique, the richness of such a characterisation is sufficient for most purposes!
If you want to play with this system of characterisation, starting with people is reasonable, as people are something everyone has experience with. You might also like to consider dog breeds, birds, flowers, herbs, trees, classical music or motor-cycles – whatever your area of interest is. Select one example a day. For your example, decide first which element to place it in. Then within that element, which division. Consider everything you know about the item. Consider also how you feel about it, what you sense about it, and your perception of its energy.
Be prepared to revise your assessments as you go!
I am sure you will find this a rewarding experience that deepens your relationship with the elemental energies.
In Her Service,