In Part One, we looked at the subtle meaning of the word ‘elements’, and how spiritual paths like Yoga and the Western Mystery Tradition (WMT) view them as essential components of our being.
If these energy states are the foundations of our conscious existence, why do they not arrange themselves in a harmonic way? The answers lie in knowing which part of us has been given control of our daily lives. In terms of Yoga, this ‘decider’ is viewed as a kind of ‘information body’; one that also carries a Karmic burden from our past.
Psychology views it as the personality – an accumulation of responses to the largely survival and emotionally-based challenges by which we learn to protect our ‘selves’ in the world. Both point to the inescapable fact that we need to ‘transcend’ the personality and wrestle with its fears and desires, if we are to make true spiritual progress. Our effort, plus the struggle, creates a third condition, in which we may make real change to our-selves.
This is not to diminish psychology. The ‘ascent of life’ in the form of efficient organic responses, carries forward the potential of more effective and integrative consciousness, by which matter becomes increasingly aware of its environment and itself…
Yoga’s approach is powerful, because it gets to the core of the issue: our everyday selves are based upon accumulated, reactive information. We overlay this with what we believe to be ‘right’. This is not reactive, but is for the good of the greater whole.
As in previous posts, the nature and force of our intention is vital. We hinted, last time, that there is a direct relationship between intention and the elements. This will be explored in the form of a practical exercise, in what follows.
Psychology dedicates itself to the restoration of the stable personality – the ‘self’, allowing those who have been damaged to resume their normal functioning in the world. Generally, psychology is not concerned with the spiritual, though there are notable exceptions, such as the work of Carl Jung, who well understood the elements and their place in the scheme of human consciousness.
Yoga has an intrinsic understanding of the Elements as the key to the foundation of the human. The energy centres that ascend up the spine – much like the WMT’s Middle Pillar on the Tree of Life – include the elements. I’ve appended a diagram of the Chakras to illustrate their positions:
Yoga’s temple is the body; with its interpenetrating layers. It is one of the finest conceptions of ‘divinity in matter’. In the West, we are less attuned to these ideas, and seem to respond more readily to a symbolic journey.
The WMT offers the basis of an interesting alternative to the yogic approach. This utilises the directions of space to represent the elements and their ‘signatures’.
We imagine ourselves to be in a cubic glass container (with no ceiling) whose walls are perfectly formed and glowing (within the material of the glass) with the mixed energies of the four elements. As such, they are not arranged in an orderly way, and are less able to serve us.
Designate one of the walls of the glass cube to be the East, the start of our rotation of the elements. Face this direction.
You can choose your own colour or pattern attributions if you wish, or adopt these: Pale yellow for the East; bright gold for the South; dark blue for the West and a rich and fertile earthy-brown for the North.
Extend your hands upwards over your head and and join them so that fingers 2-4 are intertwined and folded. Your first (index) fingers are aligned, raised and pressed together, and the thumbs crossed over each other, as in the photo below.
Your hands in this position form a potent symbol of INTENTION. By moving the balanced and locked fingers together, we are actively harmonising of opposites to produce a new, and higher, creation.
Now bring your raised hands down to point to the glass wall in front of you – the East. Look into the chaotic and swirling colours within the glass wall. Within your mind (or out loud if you can) speak your Intention that they resolve and assume their rightful energy. Then see in your living image the restoration of the pale yellow colour, flowing with peace and loving energy, but, above all, intelligence. At the same time feel a link between this cleansing and the energy within your heart chakra. Feel the same colour developing, there.
With the colour and the intelligence of the symbolic East wall of your cube established, let its light energise you and restore a great peace to your body.
We are now going to take this sense of intelligence, order and rightness around the other three directions of the compass and, at the same time, move vertically along the chakras.
To begin this, take a final look at the restored and orderly East face, with your hands still pointed there. Then raise your joined arms and rotate your body one cube face clockwise to face the South. As you make the rotation, be aware of a descent of the intelligence of the heart (and East) to the level of the navel.
Facing the South, take a breath to establish your Intention, then lower your arms and hands to point at the South face, issuing your command to order and rightness and extending the controlling intelligence and discrimination. See the swirling colours resolve to a beautiful gold, then feel the warmth of the overhead sun burning away any negative emotions you may have. Simply be with the sun, and let it feed you with the warmth of its power and rightness.
When this feeling is established, let the energy of the wall be reflected in your navel, slowly, but be conscious of the control coming from the heart centre, directed downwards. Raise your arms again, and, as you turn, visualise the descent of the sun energy, wrapped in the intelligence of the heart, to the level of the West face, linked with the Water element and centred at the root of the genitals. Feel the cleansing and cooling Water element wash away the disorderly colours of the West face. Feel and see the blue water wrapped in the gold of the sun, and, in turn, the pale yellow Intelligence of the heart.
Make the third turn to face the North in the same way. Link the North face with the basal chakra in the muscles of the anus. Apply an internal tension to this part of the body, seeing the colours of the North resolve into the rich and fertile earth colour, taking its place like a seed, embedded in the other colours.
Now make the final turn, but keep the hands raised while moving the accumulated energies up the spine to a place between the heart centre and the throat. Raise your head to ‘look to the heavens’. Gaze on your joined hands with their living symbol of Intention. Then gaze beyond them and offer the energies to the direction of your Higher Self, only. Feel you whole spine tingling with the harmonious joy of your being, with its elemental energies restored and balanced.
In next week’s final post in this series, we will describe one or two powerful refinements to this exercise of the Elements. If you have been able to practice this, you will gain additional focus and energy from these…
Other posts in this series:
[Recent posts related to intention and attention:
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.