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The four alchemical elements are Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Traditionally the elements are thought of as representing physical substances, and the discussion can end there, but in the larger consideration of Philosophical Alchemy, there is an entirely different category of thought.
Additional recommended knowledge
The elements of Philosophical Alchemy
Here the elements as listed become abstractions of their type. The name "Elemental" means or implies irreducibility,* and this set of Elements are therefore a kind of building block out of which more complex components are formed.
The first clue as to their Philosophical Alchemical use come from their inclusion in Astrological Symbology, where there are three of each element in the twelve basic Signs, for example Fire Cardinal, Fire Fixed, and Fire Mutable form the Signs Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, with the attributes of a combination of the pair. The second term, called Qualities, are likewise repeated across the matrix of four Elements. Thus there is a primitive (though not in the derogatory sense) kind of psychology made out of irreducible variables.
The fundamental understanding of Philosophical Alchemy is that everything must be composed of higher and different kinds of abstractions from building blocks like these. In fact these building blocks in part. This is similar to the general law of discovery called Occham's Razor. The specifics center the Elements as they appear here not with physical material, but with principles that might be centered about Newtonian Physics, with the establishment of "fundaments of nature" that are constants at this level, but variables elsewhere in a very simple "Mathematics of the Creation." Those constants are well known and established: Force and Counter-force, Inertia and Potential. Those are the abstractions of (in order) Fire - Water, Earth - Air. Thus there are logical dynamics of pairs already in these four basic elements.
The grand master of this kind of logic was a mathematician and investigator of the extraordinary from the early part of the 20th century, Pietre Ouspensky (P. D. Ouspensky), whose second masterful treatice, A New Model of the Universe, established a logical and mathematical commonality, matrix, or link between similarly esoteric and occultic or supernatural or philosophical | early psychological systems, from the symbology of Astrology, that of the Tarot, and the practice of Kabbalah (or Gematria), not to mention magic.
Aristotle is the earlier master with his treatice Meta-Physics (After Nature).
The attribution of this logic to Plato is however oddly mischaracterizing Plato, although the science school of Neo-Platonism, which was contemporary with Christian philosophy and probably generative of it, was Aristotelian logic taken to a higher level yet. The platonic concept of forms is not really the same as the al;chemical concept of elements.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Alchemical_elements". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|