The metaphysical basis of the doctrine of elementals is essential to understanding the relationship of man to the world. Both Man and Nature are composed of a complex congeries of elemental entities endowed with character and perceptible form by continuous streams of ideation originating in Universal Mind. Virtually everything perceived by man, virtually every faculty of action, is such an aggregate of elementals. All the various modes and modulations of active and passive intelligence in man exist and subsist within these fields of elementals, and no aspect of human life is comprehensible without some grasp of elemental existence. Sensation, for example, which is ordinarily thought of in a purely external way, has another side to it when seen from the standpoint of the immortal soul, and this involves the intimate presence of hosts of elementals composing the very organs of sensation and mind.
The entire quest for enlightenment and self-conscious immortality cannot be understood without careful examination of the relationship of human beings to elementals. It is necessary to know where elementals reside and how their inherent modes of activity relate to the different principles in man. Sometimes people who speculate about the hidden side of Nature and human life, either inspired by folklore or a dabbling in the occult, develop a fascination with elementals and inadequately theorize about them. Usually they do not see any significance to elementals beyond their connection with the prana principle; this, however, is grossly inadequate and unhelpful, if not downright dangerous, particularly when coupled with lower yogic practices or mediumistic tendencies.
An authentic approach to the doctrine of elementals must be motivated by a desire to regenerate oneself on behalf of all. Both wisdom and compassion are needed if one would master the ways in which a human being may work upon elementals and also be acted upon by them. In practice, this is an extremely intimate and detailed enquiry involving all the most basic activities of daily life. The real nature of home and possessions, of eating and sleeping, and of every other aspect of life is bound up with elementals. Naturally, this includes questions of physical and psychological disease and health, with all the fads and fancies, popular and private, that accompany them. Problems of drugs and depression, along with the other ailments of the age for which there are no available remedies, are bound up with the interactions of the human and elemental worlds. No amount of mechanistic manipulation by doctors, therapists, specialists or religious counsellors will be of any avail in curing these ills of individuals and society; all ignore the fundamental nature of human malaise.
Real human welfare and well-being proceed from within without, beginning in the mind and heart and enacted through responsibility in thought and speech before they are reflected in outward action. The collective regeneration of society, therefore, depends upon the efforts of individuals to regenerate themselves fundamentally – first at the level of their basic self-consciousness, and later in relation to their vestures. Working outward from what one thinks of oneself, this regeneration must involve existing elementals in one's own being and will have definite effects upon everything with which one has contact and relationship. One must do this without falling into increasing self-obsession. One must sustain a universal motive. Merely building a fortress around one's own virtue is incompatible with teaching elementals and giving them the sort of beneficial impress that makes them a healing force in society. To avoid this moralistic delusion and still carry out the work of self-regeneration, one must insert the effort to overcome one's own sins and failings into the most universal context of human suffering. One must feel one's own pain as inseparable from the pain of every atom, every elemental and every human being involved in the collective human pilgrimage. Instead of hiding in fear or withdrawing from it, one must remain sensitive to that universal pain and so become as wide awake as Buddha.
Metaphysically, the doctrine of elementals encompasses the wide range of devas and devatas, gods and demigods, on seven different planes of differentiated cosmic substance. Extending far beyond medieval lore about gnomes, sylphs, salamanders and undines, the true teaching of elementals begins with the root processes by which thought impresses matter with form through fohat. Much of this teaching is secret, but any aspirant seeking aid in the acquisition of self-mastery will find considerable help in the sacred texts of all the authentic spiritual traditions of the world. These, however, must be approached from the standpoint of the philosophy of perfectibility and the science of spirituality, with no quarter given to blind superstition and stale dogmatism. At the most fundamental philosophical level, the doctrine of elementals is indeed magical and mystical, but this magic is noetic and akashic. It has nothing to do with the morass of grey psychic practices that pass for magic among pseudo-occultists. Instead, one must begin with meditation upon the abstract Point and the Zero Principle. (See Hermes, February 1986.) Without a firmer grasp of principles and without a true mental confrontation with fundamental ideas, it is impossible to understand and use the teaching of elementals for the benefit of the world. Without these rigorous basics, one can only fall prey to secondary and tertiary emanations and so become coiled in nefarious practices and sorcery.
A secure beginning can be found in the recognition that a fully self-conscious sevenfold being is unique. Such a being is the crown of creation, the full embodiment of the macrocosm in the microcosm. In a very specific sense man is, at the essential core of his being, a pure and immaculate crystallized ray of light-energy. This light ultimately represents the radiation of universal self-consciousness, the light that brings together all the gods and all the hierarchies. It goes beyond all colours and numbers to the one clear white light, the secondless light hidden in the divine darkness and silence. Thus man is one with the rootless root of the cosmos, a differentiated being compounded of every conceivable element in every one of the kingdoms of Nature. All the seven kingdoms are in a human being. This, of course, involves not only the physical body, but a series of vestures or upadhis on several different planes. In all the vestures of the human being, there is not a single element of any of the kingdoms of Nature, or any of the elemental forces, that is not already present.
This complexity in human nature, spanning the unmanifest and the manifest, is the basis of the paradox that man is both the potential crown of creation and its curse. In the whole of creation, sevenfold man is the unique possessor of the pristine light which precedes, differentiates and integrates, but also transcends, the entire spectrum of colours, sounds, forces, energies and vibrations. At the very core, man is deific and divine. Yet this does not make man sublime or spiritual in a way that stones and animals are not, for the deific breath and the divine afflatus of the One Life is everywhere and in everything. What is crucial about Man is that he is the possessor of self-consciousness through the gift of the Manasas and Agnishvatta Pitris, a particular class of the highest gods involving the second and third of the four classes below the first. Man is thus able to synthesize and transcend all the elementals.
Since man at the core possesses a thread of self-consciousness antedating embodied life, man is the integrator of all life. This is, in a sense, what contemporary astronomy and cosmology have come to recognize in studying the hosts of stars and galaxies. They have begun to speak of an anthropic principle in Nature. This is not to be confused with the outdated and parochial notion of an anthropocentric universe. Rather, it is the recognition that one cannot understand life, even at the level of physical chemistry, or in reference to primordial matter on distant planets, without seeing it as part of a vast chain that must ultimately culminate in what we call the human being. Naturally, what is called "human" on this earth is not necessarily the only possible mode of human being. There could be examples of other, vastly more developed, types of human being on other planets. Indeed, when one takes into account the possible variations in consciousness connected with the possible modes of human existence, there could be human beings existing not only on other planets, but on other planes of matter, perhaps even now invisibly present on this earth.
To say that man is the microcosm of the macrocosm, whilst having the power of integration that accommodates the maximum diversity of elements throughout Nature, means that man is in fact a cosmos. Whilst that cosmos is deific at the core, it is also so vast that it would be hardly surprising if, at some stage, that cosmos were mostly chaotic. Man is a victim of his inability to master this cosmic complexity within himself. This task demands so high a degree of dignity, integrity, fidelity and control rooted in self-conscious awareness that most people flee at the mere thought of it. They would rather go to sleep or forget about it, exchanging their human prerogative for daydreams, contributing tamasic elementals to hapless rocks and stones. Hence the paradox of the human condition. When man resigns from the difficult work of self-mastery, he abandons his essential place in Nature. The illustrious Pico della Mirandola called man the pivot of Nature. This idea, sadly neglected or falsely interpreted since then, was central to the seven-century cycle of the Theosophical Movement initiated by Tsong-Kha-Pa in Tibet. That cycle has now returned to its original point, and the future unfoldment of spiritual humanity rests upon the restoration of the true dignity of man.
If man, who is the pivot of Nature, abdicates his role, he becomes a curse upon creation, more hellish and demonic than anything that exists in the external realms of Nature, or anything depicted by Hieronymus Bosch and the tankas of Tibet. Even the most ghastly tales of goblins, monsters, giants and fiends cannot compare with the actual evil that can exist within a human being. Certainly, one will never find anything in visible and invisible Nature that outdoes the terrifying evil of which human beings are capable. This does not, however, make man into a weak, miserable worm; it makes him into a depraved being, damned of human evolution, and a veritable devil. Deific at the core, man inhabits a cosmos which all too easily becomes a chaos. The most appalling aspects of the demonic side of man have to do with the larger story of lost continents and vanished races, eras when spiritual powers were deliberately misused. Every time a failed human being becomes an elementary, he becomes, as a disembodied entity, an agent responsible for more harm on earth than anything else that exists. This is an invisible but real and terrifying fact of modern civilization, involving all the victims of wars and all the bitter, frustrated victims of accidents, murders, executions and suicides.
If this is metaphysically true, however frightening, it is important to understand what will stimulate and give incentive and motive to a human being to rediscover divinity and dignity. What will strengthen a person, so that he will not abdicate responsibility? First of all, he must relinquish one of the greatest fictions besetting contemporary human beings: the Cartesian belief in an abyss between mind and matter. Brahma Vidya teaches that spirit is sublimated matter and matter is condensed spirit. There is no point in space where there is not a spark of universal spirit, and there is not a set of particles derived from primordial substance which is not alive with divine intelligence. The seeming gap between mind and matter is an illusion created by the sensorium. In one sense, this illusion is the cost of physical incarnation: human beings are imprisoned, and indeed self-entombed, in a body, according to the old Orphic and Platonic accounts. To some degree, this is an inevitable result of taking birth in a limited body, even though the best available in natural evolution. Nonetheless, it is not required by the programme of Nature that human beings become so inextricably caught up in the sensorium that they succumb to a fragmentation of themselves and the world. It is not necessary that their minds become so cluttered with nouns that they forget verbs, and lose through language all sense of their spiritual vitality. This corruption of thought through language has led most human beings to create a false sense of identity which is actually a dominant elemental. This offspring of pseudoself-consciousness is made up of the lower four elements – earth, air, fire and water, both gross and astral – and it goes by the name of Mr. X or Ms. Y. The tragedy is that the souls who have conjured these elementals out of their identification with the sensorium mistake them for their own real natures, and confuse the elemental apparitions created by other souls for real human beings.
It is difficult for souls to wake up from this collectively reinforced delusion and recognize these elemental projections for what they are. It is especially hard at this time, when people have nothing but a fugitive sense of clinging to a personality and when the once-compelling names and forms of the past mean so little. The elementals people mistake for themselves know only one law and one language – that of survival at any cost and of self before all else. When one adds to this the competitiveness and callousness of modern society, one gets an elemental of truly monstrous proportions. No amount of external makeup will hide the hideousness of that elemental. It is part of the humbug of our time that behind the so-called "beautiful people" lie some of the ugliest specimens of inhumanity and pseudo-humanity that have ever walked this earth. Most cities and centres of modern "civilization" really amount to central places for manufacturing and cloning these monstrous elementals.
Such an elemental form, as Buddha taught, is ultimately a composite entity that must be broken up. It has no enduring existence but belongs to the false, parasitic and derivative "I". Only by denying a sense of "I" to this elemental can one release the true sense of "I-am-I" consciousness in the universal light, at the same time releasing these elementals from the torture of bondage to the delusions and modes of selfishness. Even though human beings may torture elementals for a while, they cannot do so indefinitely. In the long run, they are stronger and more powerful than their captor, who is actually the weak pseudo-man or pseudo-"I", full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. Such a nature lacks the strength of genuine human thought. It is inherently cowardly, unable to do anything against the elementals; the elementals will get their revenge over a period of time. All elementals are themselves specialized completely within one or other of the elements. This fact, which could work to the advantage of the higher sovereign spirit in man as the integrator of all the elements, becomes the exact opposite in the case of the delusive ego struggling for self-perpetuation. Such a being falls prey to a pathetic and impotent enslavement to elementals that are more intelligent, precise and concentrated than itself. Because these elementals are pure in their fiery, watery, airy or earthy nature, they have an integrity of action that cannot be diverted for long by the twisted deceptions of the false ego. They will eventually wreak their revenge for having been misappropriated on behalf of separative delusions through one form or another of ill health, mental sickness or depression.
Whilst the insecure will fixate on this predicament merely as it applies to them, the rectification of wrongs involving the elemental kingdoms is actually an enormous process encompassing the globe. At this time, owing to the Avataric impulse, all the hosts of elementals have been immensely stirred up and hastened in precipitating their revenge on their torturers. The object is to get these people off the face of the earth, so that there will no longer be such a preponderance of selfish beings. This may be the only alternative to nuclear annihilation if the earth is to be repopulated by real human beings, beings who know how to breathe gratefully just for the privilege of the air. This is an extraordinary time, calling for the reversal of long ages of degradation of the idea of Man and the freeing of Nature from an intolerable regime of domination by selfishness. Put in Christian terms, this means the reversal of the corrupt doctrines of original sin and vicarious atonement, which have obscured the true teaching of Jesus about the perfectibility of man. To understand this reversing process, one has to bring in the invisible world of devils and demons, the idea of a personal god and much else. This is a much older story than the brief history of Christianity and it has happened to every religion.
To come into line with the forward movement of spiritual humanity, individuals must bring about in themselves a fundamental transformation of mind. Through an irreversible metanoia, they must calmly and surely overcome the dichotomy between mind and matter, rooting their consciousness in that which is beyond all differentiation. That is why meditation is no longer a luxury, but has become a necessity for survival. Simply recognizing this, however, does not mean that it will be easy or that it will work. If the only meditation one knows is on one's lower self – the elemental – how can one expect that elemental to forget itself? That is impossible. For such beings it is not merely difficult to meditate; it is actually to ask for too much too soon in cases that are too far gone. But even though they seem to be many, they are still a microscopic minority of the whole of the human family. They are powerful because their poisonous pollution can spread fast and wide, weakening lukewarm, irresolute people in the middle who are not really doing any thinking. They can fool themselves for a while, fudging the issue of choice and responsibility, but they are eventually going to be sucked into the vortex of the times and go one way or the other.
All of this should be understood as following from the metaphysical basis of the doctrine of elementals. It is a crucial, if painful, part of its practical application to the psychological and meta-psychological life of incarnated human souls. Yet there is much more to the teaching of elementals than its application to the lower principles of human nature. Elementals, at the highest level, are the most etheric, divine elements that exist. They are sparks of divine flame. This is a part of the secret teachings that is only comprehensible through initiation. Yet one can understand theoretically that the Sons of Agni, the divine flame, are the highest beings in evolution, and that they released myriads of sparks of fiery intelligence which then, pari passu with the differentiation of primordial substance, became the elemental world of Nature. This process included the creation of a kind of elemental prototype of the human being, but one that will not consolidate or become self-conscious by itself. This must await the descent of the Manasas. Still other elementals remain permanently in the rarefied realm of akasha, higher than the ether, let alone the lower astral light. It is these hosts that Shelley intimated in his poetry. They are invulnerable, all-powerful and omnipresent.
Elementals reach out to the highest aspects of existence, which is why it is extremely misleading to link elementals merely to one principle, such as prana, in sevenfold man. All life-energy works through all life-atoms; there is, therefore, a life-current existing in human nature which may be called prana. It is a sort of sum-total or quantum of life-energy within the metabolic system of the human body or, more correctly, within the astral body. It flows in that body like a fluidic current, and one might say that the elementals participate actively in it, as if swimming in an ocean of pranic life-energy. This is where they get their life. They are repeatedly refreshed by it, especially during sleep, and this is how they regenerate themselves. Nonetheless, the elementals belong to each and every one of the human principles except the atman.
Only if one understands this can one appreciate the enormous breadth of the doctrine of elementals. At the highest end, it includes what are called the gods in exoteric theologies, hosts of the finest beings in existence, though they are not self-conscious human beings. If they were self-conscious human beings in a previous manvantara, they have gone beyond that and only have a collective function, like that ascribed to the dhyani buddhas and archangels. At the same time, elementals include the three kingdoms below the mineral kingdom. Paracelsus gave, perhaps, the best summation of the metaphysics of elementals and their connection with man when he said, "Man lives in the exterior elements, and the Elementals live in the interior elements." Through the mind turning outward, man becomes fragmented and abdicates his throne. Becoming totally caught up in the external details of life, man is living, so to speak, outside his own true home. In this sense he is an exile. His body is no longer his temple, for he has cast himself out of it. In truth all the elementals live within that temple, in the interior elements.
Looked at in this way, elementals may be seen to be close to the essential aspects of a human being, in every one of the senses, on every plane and in every vesture. The human mind has its own elementals, which one may call mental elementals if one likes, though in fact they are airy elementals. On the physical plane, man has mostly earthy elementals. Within each principle, there are further subdivisions, so that there are earthy-fire elementals, airy-fire elementals and so on. Even this traditional language of the elements is awkward and misleading at best, since the true meanings of these divisions and subdivisions cannot be correlated with merely visual data, much less with the ever-changing atomic language of modern science. Whatever the linguistic problem, however, there should be no difficulty in seeing that one is really speaking of a vast, shoreless, boundless etheric field populated by billions of elementals. This is the true population of the cosmos, far more numerous than human beings or any other organic beings in any of the kingdoms of Nature. This being so, there is no way that one can even begin to understand human life apart from elementals. All daily activities of human life thus take on a fresh colouration and vitality, a magical potency involved with invisible, interior kingdoms. Every thought, every breath, every feeling and especially every word is filled with magic. Every instant, one either blesses or curses, elevates or degrades, hosts of elementals; every moment, one either sinks downward towards the demonic or soars upward towards the company and presence of the Blessed.
Hermes, April 1987