THEOSOPHY, Vol. 53, No. 1, November, 1964
(Pages 13-20; Size: 22K)


"Know, O son of Pritha, that I am Brihaspati (Jupiter), the chief of teachers." 

--The Bhagavad-Gita
WHENCE came the four Elements of ancient times? What are these Elements, whose compound bodies have now been discovered by Chemistry and Physics to contain numberless sub-elements? Four Elements only are generally considered in later antiquity, five admitted only in philosophy. For the body of ether is not fully manifested yet, and its noumenon is still "the Omnipotent Father -- Æther, the synthesis of the rest." Metaphysically and esoterically there is but One Element in nature, at the root of which is Deity. The so-called seven Elements are the garment, the veil of that deity; direct from the essence whereof comes MAN, whether physically, psychically, mentally or spiritually considered. The four Elements were fully characterized by Plato when he said that they were that "which composes and decomposes the compound bodies." The Elements of Plato and Aristotle were the incorporeal principles attached to the four great divisions of our Cosmic World. Esoterically they are the hierarchies of Potencies or Forces, which are classified on a graduated scale of seven, from the ponderable to the imponderable. They are a Septenary, not as an artificial aid to facilitate their comprehension, but in their real Cosmic gradation; from their chemical (or physical) to their purely spiritual composition. Gods, with the ignorant masses -- gods independent and supreme with the fanatics who, intellectual as they often may be, are unable to understand the spirit of the philosophical sentence, in pluribus unum.

Traced to their source, the four Elements are ever one and the same in every country. Whether Egyptian or Pelasgian, Aryan or Semitic, the local god (genius loci) embraced in its unity all Nature; but not especially the four elements any more than one of their creations, such as trees, rivers, mounts or stars. The genius loci -- a very late afterthought of the last sub-races of the fifth root-race, when the primitive and grandiose meaning had become nearly lost -- was ever the representative in his accumulated titles of all his colleagues. It was the god of fire, symbolized by thunder, as Jove or Agni; the god of water, symbolized by the fluvial bull or some sacred river or fountain, as Varuna, Neptune, etc.; the god of air, manifesting in the hurricane and tempest, as Vayu and Indra; and the god or spirit of earth, who appeared in earthquakes, like Pluto, Yama, and so many others. These were the Cosmic gods, ever synthesizing all in one, as found in every cosmogony and mythology. Thus the Greeks had their Dodonean Jupiter who included in himself the four Elements and the four cardinal points, and who was recognized therefore in old Rome under the pantheistic title of Jupiter Mundus, the one mundane God, who is made to swallow all the others in the latest theology -- by the arbitrary decision of his special ministers.

Primitive religion, however, was something more than simple pre-occupation with physical phenomena. Principles, more elevated than moderns know of, "were hidden under the transparent veil of such merely natural divinities as thunder, the winds and rain." With the hermetic philosopher the Elements are FORCES relatively "blind" or "intelligent," according to which of the principles in them he deals with. It required long millenniums before they found themselves, in our age, finally degraded into simple chemical elements. The ancients knew of and could distinguish the corporeal from the incorporeal and spiritual elements in the forces of nature. For let it be remembered that Fire, Water, and Air, or the "Elements of Primary Creation" so called, are not the compound Elements they are on earth -- but noumenal homogeneous Elements, the Spirits thereof. It is worthy of notice that while rejecting as a superstition of Occultism, and religion too, the theory of substantial Beings called Angels, Elementals, etc. -- without of course having ever looked into the philosophy of these incorporeal Entities, or thought over them -- modern chemistry, owing to observation and discovery, should have unconsciously been forced to adopt and recognize the same ratio of progression and order in the evolution of chemical atoms, as Occultism does both for its Dhyanis and Atoms -- analogy being its first law.

Fire, Air, Water, and Earth were but the visible garb, the symbols of the informing, invisible Souls or Spirits, the Cosmic gods to whom worship was offered by the ignorant, and simple respectful recognition by the wiser. In their turn the phenomenal subdivisions of the noumenal Elements were informed by the Elementals, so called, the "Nature Spirits" of lower grades. "Ethereal fire is the emanation of a KABIR (Dhyan Chohan) proper; the aerial is but the union (correlation) of the former with terrestrial fire, and its guidance and application on our earthly plane belongs to a Kabir of a lesser dignity" -- an Elemental perhaps, as an Occultist would call it. The same may also be said of every Cosmic Element. The reader is reminded that, without the smallest shadow of superstition, one may believe in the dual nature of every object on Earth -- in the spiritual and the material, the visible and the invisible nature; that every Element is dual in its nature.

Thus The Secret Doctrine teaches that the very first group of "Rupa Angels" or those Elements which developed form, is quaternary, an element being added to each in descending order. So also are the atoms, adopting the phraseology of chemistry -- monatomic, diatomic, and tetratomic, progressing downwards. Placed on parallel lines in a diagram with Atoms, the Natures of those Beings would be seen to correspond in their downward scale of progression to composite elements in a mathematically identical manner, as to analogy. This refers of course only to the diagrams made by the Occultists. For were the scale of Angelic Beings to be placed on parallel lines with the scale of the chemical atoms, they would of course be found to differ. For these have, as correspondents on the Astral plane, only the four lower orders -- the three higher principles in the atom, or rather molecule or chemical element, being perceptible only to the initiated Dangma's eye -- i.e., to that of the Adept.

Belief in the "Four Maharajas" (lit., Great Kings of the Elements) -- the Regents of the Four cardinal points -- was universal and is now that of the Christians, who call them, after St. Augustine, "Angelic Virtues" and "Spirits" when enumerated by themselves, and "Devils" when named by Pagans. But where is the difference between the Pagans and Christians in this case? Following Plato, Aristotle explained that the term was understood only as meaning the incorporeal principles placed at the four great divisions of our Cosmical world to supervise them. Thus no more than the Christians did, do they adore and worship the Elements and the cardinal (imaginary) points, but the "gods" that ruled these respectively.

The four great Kings of the Dhyan Chohans (Maharajas) are the Devas who preside, each over one of the four cardinal points. They are the Regents or angels who rule over the cosmical forces of North, South, East and West; Forces each having a distinct occult property. These BEINGS (hierarchies, incorporealities) are also connected with Karma, as the latter needs physical and material agents to carry out her decrees, such as the four kinds of Winds, for instance, professedly admitted by science to have their respective evil and beneficent influences upon the health of mankind and every living thing. There is occult philosophy in the Roman Catholic doctrine which traces the various public calamities, such as epidemics of disease, wars, and so on, to the invisible "Messengers" from North and West.

He who believes in the words and teachings of St. Paul has no right to pick out from the latter those sentences only that he chooses to accept, to the rejection of others. And St. Paul teaches most undeniably the existence of Cosmic gods and their presence among us. Paganism preached a dual and simultaneous evolution ages before the advent of that Roman Church. Exoteric phraseology has changed little with respect to divine hierarchies since the most palmy days of Paganism, or "Idolatry." Names alone have changed, along with claims which have now become false pretenses. For when Plato put in the mouth of the Highest Principle -- "Father Æther" or Jupiter -- these words, for instance: "The gods of the gods of whom I am the maker as I am the father of all their works"; he knew the spirit of this sentence as fully, we suspect, as St. Paul did when saying: "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there be gods many and lords many," ... etc. (I Cor. 8:5). Both knew the sense and meaning of what they put forward in such guarded terms.

The Evangelical zoölatry -- the Bull, the Eagle, the Lion, and the Angel (the Cherub, or Seraph, the fiery-winged Serpent) is as much pagan as that of the Egyptians or the Chaldeans. These four animals are in reality the symbols of the four Elements, and of the four lower principles in man. They correspond likewise physically and materially to the four constellations that form the suite or cortege, so to speak, of the Solar God, and occupy during the winter solstice the four cardinal points of the zodiacal circle -- Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. And what were some of the alleged Pagan "superstitions"? Hesiod believed, for instance, that "the winds were the sons of the giant Typhoeus," who were chained and unchained at will by Æolus, and the polytheistic Greeks accepted it along with Hesiod. While the Hellenes were taught that Æolus tied and untied the winds, the Jews believed as fervently that their Lord God, "with smoke coming out of his nostrils and fire out of his mouth, rode upon a cherub and did fly; and was seen upon the wings of the wind" (II Sam. 22: 9, 11). The expressions of the two nations are either both figures of speech, or both superstitions. We think they are neither; but only arise from a keen sense of oneness with Nature, and a perception of the mysterious and intelligent behind every natural phenomenon, which the moderns no longer possess.

If Jupiter, the "chief Daemon of the Pagan Greeks" hurled his deadly thunderbolts and lightnings at those who excited his wrath, so did the Lord God of Abraham and Jacob. We find in II Samuel, that "the Lord thundered from heaven and the most High uttered his voice, and he sent out arrows (thunderbolts) and scattered them (Saul's armies) with lightning, and discomforted them" (22: 14-15). Do they not say that their "God is a consuming fire" (Deut. 4: 24) who appeared generally as Fire and "encompassed by fire"; and did not Elijah seek for him (the Lord) in the "great strong wind, and in the earthquake"? Do not the Christians repeat the same after them? Do they not, moreover, sacrifice to this day to the same "God of Wind and Water?" They do, because special prayers for rain, dry weather, trade-winds and the calming of storms on the seas exist to this hour in the prayer-books of the three Christian churches; and the several hundred sects of the Protestant religion offer them to their God upon every threat of calamity. The fact that they are no more answered by Jehovah, than they were probably by Jupiter Pluvius, does not alter the fact of these prayers being addressed to the Power of Powers supposed to rule over the Elements, or of these Powers being identical in Paganism and Christianity. Or have we to believe that such prayers are crass idolatry and absurd "superstition" only when addressed by a Pagan to his idol, and that the same superstition is suddenly transformed into praiseworthy piety and religion whenever the name of the celestial addressee is changed? The above is not a defense of Pagan gods, nor is it an attack on the Christian deity, nor does it mean belief in either. The writer is quite impartial and rejects the testimony in favor of either, neither praying to nor believing in nor dreading any such "personal" and anthropomorphic God.

At any rate good Christians, and especially Biblical Protestants, ought to show more reverence for the four Elements, if they would show any for Moses. For the Bible manifests the consideration and mystic significance in which they were held by the Hebrew Lawgiver, on every page of the Pentateuch. The tent which contained the Holy of Holies "was a Cosmic Symbol, sacred in one of its meanings to the Elements, the four cardinal points, and Ether." Josephus shows it built in white, the colour of Ether. And this explains why in the Egyptian and the Hebrew temples, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, a gigantic curtain, supported by five pillars, separated the sanctum sanctorum (now represented by the altar in Christian churches) wherein the priests alone were permitted to enter, from the part accessible to the profane. By its four colours the curtain symbolized the four principle Elements, and signified the knowledge of the divine that the five senses of men can enable them to acquire with the help of the four Elements. The whole was an allegorical symbol. It is through the four high Rulers over the four points and Elements that our five senses may become cognizant of the hidden truths of Nature; and not at all, as Clemens would have it, that it is the elements per se that furnished the Pagans with divine Knowledge or the knowledge of God.

The square form of the Tabernacle meant just the same thing as it still means, to this day, in the exoteric worship of the Chinese and Tibetans -- the four cardinal points signifying that which the four sides of the pyramids, obelisks, and other such square erections mean. Josephus takes care to explain the whole thing. He declares that the Tabernacle pillars are the same as those raised at Tyre to the four Elements, which were placed on pedestals whose four angles faced the four cardinal points: adding that "the angles of the pedestals had equally the four figures of the Zodiac" on them, which represented the same orientation. The idea may be traced in the Zoroastrian caves, in the rock-cut temples of India, as in all the sacred square buildings of antiquity that have survived to this day.

We produce causes, and these awaken the corresponding Powers in the sidereal World; which Powers are magnetically and irresistibly attracted to and react upon, those who produce these causes, whether such persons be practically evil-doers or simply thinkers who brood mischief. At the same time the four great Kings of the elements are the four living creatures "who have the likeness of a man" of Ezekiel's visions, called by the translators of the Bible, Cherubim and Seraphim, etc., and by the Occultists the "Winged Globes," the "Fiery Wheels," and in the Hindu Pantheon by a number of different names. All these Gandharvas, the "Sweet Songsters," the Asuras, Kinnaras, and Nagas, are the allegorical descriptions of the "four Maharajas."

The succession of primary aspects of Nature with which the succession of Rounds of Earth's evolution is concerned, has to do with the development of the Elements (in the occult sense) -- Fire, Air, Water, Earth. If Nature is the "Ever-becoming" on the manifested plane, then those Elements are to be regarded in the same light: they have to evolve, progress, and increase to the Manvantaric end. The Elements, whether simple or compound, could not have remained the same since the commencement of the evolution of our earth chain. Everything in the Universe progresses steadily in the Great Cycle, while incessantly going up and down in the smaller cycles. Nature is never stationary during the Manvantara, and it is ever becoming, not simply being; and mineral, vegetable and human life are always adapting their organisms to the then reigning Elements; therefore those Elements at the beginning of the Manvantara were fitted for them then, as they are now for the life of present humanity.

The first Round, we are taught, developed but one Element (Fire), and a nature and humanity in what may be called one aspect of Nature -- called by some, very unscientifically, though it may be so de facto -- "One-dimensional Space." The second Round brought forth and developed two Elements. Matter in the second Round may be figuratively referred to as two-dimensional. Then the centres of consciousness (destined to develop into humanity as we know it) of the third Round arrived at a perception of the third Element -- Water. Those of the fourth have added earth as a state of matter to their stock as well as the three other Elements in their present transformation. None of the so-called elements were, in the three preceding rounds, as they are now. For all we know, FIRE may have been pure Akasha, the first matter of the Magnum Opus of the Creators and "Builders"; AIR, simply Nitrogen, "the breath of the Supporters of the Heavenly Dome," as the Mahometan mystics call it; WATER, that primordial fluid which was required, according to Moses, to make a living soul with.

In esoteric philosophy every physical particle corresponds to and depends on its higher noumenon -- the Being to whose essence it belongs. And as above so below, the Spiritual evolves from the Divine, the psycho-mental from the Spiritual -- the whole animate and (seemingly) inanimate Nature evolving on parallel lines, and drawing its attributes from above as well as from below. The ancients knew these Powers so well that, while concealing their true natures under various allegories, for the benefit (or to the detriment) of the uneducated, they never departed from the multiple object in view, while inverting them. They contrived to throw a thick veil over the nucleus of truth concealed by the symbol, but they ever tried to preserve the latter as a record for future generations, sufficiently transparent to allow their wise men to discern that truth behind the fabulous form of the glyph or allegory. They are accused of superstition and credulity, those ancient sages. And this by those very nations which, learned in all the modern arts and sciences, cultured and wise in their generation, accept to this day as their one living and infinite God, the anthropomorphic "Jehovah" of the Jews.

Man is composed of all the Great Elements: Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Ether -- the Elementals which belong respectively to these Elements feel attracted to man by reason of their co-essence. That element which predominates in a certain constitution will be the ruling element throughout life. "At the moment when each of us receives life and being he is taken in charge by the genii (Elementals) who preside over births, and who are classed below the astral Powers" (Superhuman astral Spirits), says Hermes. "All these Genii ('Gods' or Dhyanis too, not only the genii or 'guided forces') preside over mundane affairs, they shake and overthrow the constitution of States and of individuals. They imprint their likeness on our Souls, they are present in our nerves, our marrow, our veins, our arteries, and our very brain substance."

The physical forces are all biological in their essence, seeing that they intermingle with and often merge into those Forces which we have named intellectual and moral -- the first being the vehicles, so to say, the upadhi of the second. Why should man, possessed as he is of every kind of force -- magnetic, sympathetic, antipathetic, nervous, dynamical, occult, mechanical, mental -- be the only exception in Nature? Why cannot even the Elements have their vehicles in what we call the physical forces? And why, above all, should such beliefs be called "superstitions," along with the religions of old?

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