The Elements

On how we carry the whole World within us.

Over our heads, Heaven. All around us, the Sea. And then the Earth under our feet. In the centre, the Fire, the Waters, the Tree of all Worlds.

Trying to superimpose to this basic diagram the four Aristotelian elements, with or without the addition of the fifth element of the “Spirit”, works as well or as badly as if we did the same with the Egyptian, Taoist or Hindu models. This does not invalidate the interesting work around the concepts of Earth, Water, Air and Fire in various modern earth spiritualities.

The concept that the ancient Irish called dúile comprises the various concrete forms as the human essence manifests itself in the world of corporeality. And to the extent that they find mirrors, corresponding traits in the natural world outside, to the extent that stones are the bones of the landscape or blood forms seas within us, to the extent that trees have skin and, like the sun, our face shines towards the world, our dúile are in fact the elements that build reality — our very own, because it is by importing the world into our innermost being that we come to understand it.

If Nature is, in its many manifestations and voices, the one true teacher, it is through the senses that it effects our initiation. They are the bridge between our inner life and the Invincible Life of the world; pass the terminology, they are the sacraments that lead to the Deep Life. Something amazing happens when we contemplate this initiatory character of our body once it assumes its priestly role and everything that happens, everything we experience, pleasure and pain, gets transformed into tools of Art. Suddenly everything becomes sacred; and then it is no longer sacred only what seems beautiful and harmless to us, but above all that which we cannot control. Because we possess nothing: we are beggars before the indomitable Chaos, and under this light, we already carry everything we need.

Now that we have these priestly bodies on loan, all that is left is for us to journey through all Three Realms, shapeshifting whenever circumstances lead us to descend into the abyss of the waters, to fly through the heavens of thought, or to plunge our hands into the ground until we kindle the Fire that will one day bear us into a new existence. It has been said this is how the bard Taliesin gained consciousness of Awen after being long pursued by the goddess Cerridwen. An idea which, within the transformative power of stories, turns out to be comforting. After all, if Deep Life is indeed pursuing us, we will not be able to escape from it indefinitely.