Copyright (C) 1998 by William Mistele.  All rights reserved. 
Note:  For this essay, I worked with Jvar, a spirit in Leo of the
earthzone who specializes in developing an equilibrium between the
four elements.

Introduction to the Psychology of the Four Elements

The first step in working with a psychology of the four elements
involves creating elemental sensations within ourselves through
force of imagination. The sensation relating to each element has to
be fully felt. Once we can generate a particular sensation in
ourselves by will,  we can then tie that sensation into the basic
qualities of the element.  This approach illuminates many aspects of
the astral body which modern psychology fails to consider. 
   In regard to each of four elements, I refer you to my separate
essays on finding the sylph, gnome, salamander, and undine in
yourself.  Though these articles derive directly from working with
elemental beings, I present the results as meditations which require
that you venture no further than the domain of your own
   Also see my different dialogues with the elemental beings.  For all
their metaphysical explorations, these are not platonic dialogues. 
They take place in a state of trance in which I encounter and wrestle
with the inner core essence of these marvelous spirits of nature.  Yet
though I present these stories as journeys into invisible and magical
realms, the elemental beings embody treasures of spirit and feeling
which are part of our own nature.


We practice seeing and feeling fire.  We evoke the sensation of
intense heat within ourselves.  The basic procedure is to imagine
that our bodies are hollow inside and so able to accumulate any
energy we wish.  When we are done, we imagine that the energy
dissolves again into the universe.  Let us talk about the difficulties
with this concentration exercise. 
   Some individuals will be hesitant to work directly with fire.  This
may be because fire is dangerous.  It can burn you.  
   It may also be that they are uneasy with the idea of developing
their will and power. They may feel it is hard enough keeping one's
desires and impulses in check.  If you develop your power, you
immediately run the risk of abusing that power. Passions out of
control may end up controlling you and causing all sorts of harm to
yourself and others. These concerns are very important and
individuals should listen to their own consciences on these matters. 
    You will recall from Greek mythology that Zeus chained the titan
Prometheus to a mountain crag and had hawks tear out his liver. 
Zeus was mad at Prometheus for giving fire to the human race. 
Each day the titan's liver would regenerate only to be torn out again.
The liver can be seen as representing natural growth and spiritual
consciousness.  In bestowing the gift of fire to humanity,
Prometheus was giving power without the spiritual ability to know
how to use it wisely.  
    One way to work with the element of fire is to review fire in all
the ways it exists in nature, in society, and within ourselves.  Life
was able to appear on our planet because of the heat and light of the
sun.  But it took billions of years for this to occur and the earth had
to have a stable orbit and the right distance from the sun.
    There are many forms of fire which exist in nature.  The volcano
and forest fire are impersonal forces and extremely dangerous to
life.  And yet the fire in the earth moves continents, uplifts
mountains, creates islands, and provides a variety of ecological
habitats.  As civilization has developed, we have learned to use the
wood, coal, coke, oil, and gas fires turning their heat to productive
ends.  Consider the history of technology and both the positive and
negative purposes to which fire has been dedicated.  Fire itself, like
a knife, can be used for healthy or for destructive ends. 
   Consider also the importance of warmth and heat to the human
body.  For the past thirty thousand years, we have managed to
survive ice ages, winters, and freezing environments.  We have
developed clothing, insulation, and various heating systems to keep
us warm.  We have used fire to cook and produce many new kinds
of food.  
   The point is that if you imagine your body filled with fiery flames
and heat you encounter a racial memory of all that fire means. 
When you are evoking fire within yourself through the force of your
imagination, you need to make peace with both its productive and its
destructive aspects.  You have to be comfortable with your ability to
use its power in natural ways which fulfil spiritual purposes. 
    On the other hand, try as they may some individuals will find it
hard to form a sensation of heat through concentration.  They may
visualize a fire in front of them.  They can just as easily see a fire
inside of their bodies.  But nothing happens.  There is no sensation
of heat which accompanies this imagery.
    If, for example, the individual repeatedly places his hands near a
fire, he is still unable to get his nervous system to reproduce the
sensation of heat through concentration.  The problem here is that
the individual's concentration on the mental plane is unable to
produce astral sensations.  The astral body adds feelings of life and
immediacy to the imagery.  When your concentration is effective on
the astral plane, as in a dream, you feel you are really there amid
whatever your visualize. 
    There are any number of ways of resolving this difficulty. 
Basically, the idea is to become the fire.  Make the fire part of
yourself.  Treat fire as an extension of your own aura.  Nourish it. 
Care for it.  Offer it welcome.  Invite fire into yourself so it finds a
home and a place where it can grow strong.
  For example, take some time to imagine you are collecting some
dry leaves and wood so that you can start an open fire out of doors. 
Give your full attention to the match as it ignites and then starts the
dry leaves and wood burning.  Assist the fire by placing small twigs
into the flames so that it can take hold.  Then place a pan of water
over the fire with the intent you are going to bring the water to a
    Assume the role of the fire like a cheerleader who encourages her
team to succeed.  Become the heat which starts small bubbles and
then larger ones to appear in the water until the water finally boils. 
Then imagine this entire visualization has taken place within your
own body.  If in some way you can place emotion into your activity,
then it is easy to full the sensations which occur on the astral plane. 
The heat in the fire then moves from a mental picture to an actual
sensation which is intense enough to feel real.  
    As I have pointed out elsewhere, there are Tibetan yogis who
visualize fire and manage to increase their body temperature by
seventeen degrees.  This is no longer just a perceived sensation. 
Scientists have measured it with a thermometer. 
   The next step is to imagine and believe quite clearly that the
presence of this element within yourself is the same as embodying
will.  In psychological terms, fire radiates urgency, power, and light. 
It is full of conviction and it dissolves fear.  Because of its warmth
and dynamic presence, it gathers others to itself. It offers leadership,
courage, and a zest for living life.
    Consider the affirmation:  "I am a strong and assertive individual. 
I present myself in a clear and convincing way to other people."   It
is possible to form a picture in your mind that you indeed embody
these qualities.  But others may still see you as a whimp.  They may
treat you like you are helpless and ineffective.  
    The reason for this is that you have failed to create an astral
component for this thought form.  Your aura does not radiate any
power or charisma.  The task is to combine the mental affirmation
with an astral sensation which radiates fiery power.  Others will then
immediately feel the warmth of your aura and a source of power
within you which can take charge of any situation.
   Again, there is the other extreme.  Some individuals will find it
easy to produce in themselves the hot, burning sensation of a fire. 
Some individuals with ease can imagine the entire world as one vast
sea of flames and feel that heat extending around them for miles. 
They can do this because they have a natural ability or else they
have a vivid astral imagination.
    But there may be a downside to this.  If they expand the fire
element in their auras, they may lack the ethics, character, and
commitment to use this force wisely.  Sometimes at a red light, an
individual in one car with casually glance at someone in another car. 
The second person may have an astral body full of fire which is
ready to ignite.  The glance is like striking a match.  The encounter
results in violence.  
   In this case, the feeling of power with its urgent need to act and to
dominate the situation produces negative results. The fire has not
been channeled through an alert and clear mind.  Blind emotion has
taken control.  
   Consequently, when the fiery element in the astral body is easily
stimulated, the individual has to spend more time working on the
mental plane.  The purposes for which will and power are to be
used must be carefully reviewed.  The individual has to identity and
commit himself to core values which are persuasive enough to hold
the negative aspects of fire in check.

As with fire, you imagine your body is a hollow space and that only
the air element exists within you. You might imagine yourself to be
like a helium balloon so you feel weightless.  You feel yourself float
up into the sky.  The sensation of weightlessness and floating is
    Then you extend your imagination further.  You imagine the
winds are part of your body.  The vacuum into which air flows is
like your lungs exerting a pull as you inhale.  Actually, there is a
rhythmic flow in the winds and the seasons which is like breathing. 
Like a sylph, you probe and search for the harmony underlying air
movements and weather patterns.  
   And finally you become the winds.  If you open your mind and
meditate, you become the trade winds, the north wind, the
hurricane, the thunderstorm, and the tiny gust that twirls the leaves
in your garden.  In meditation, there is no light or energy the mind
can not find and reproduce to some extent within itself.  Becoming
familiar with the sky is just a matter of practice and taking time. 
    The air element can also be overdeveloped within an individual. 
If you make astral contact with the air element or communicate with
sylphs, there is a tendency for the other elements in yourself to be
shoved aside.  This may lead you to a part of yourself which is wild
and restless. It is impersonal, distant, and aloof.  It is not at all
concerned with the worries and responsibilities of human beings.  It
knows itself to be free and so it no longer cares about the demands
of society, personality, or human feeling.  
   An individual with this passive aspect of the air element may be
alert, detached, and balanced within himself.  But he can also be
insensitive to the extent of becoming amoral.  This is not new
information. Psychology talks about psychopaths and authors write
about individuals who have lost their connections to others.  
   However, the phenomenon I am describing derives from an astral
enchantment.  Part of the individual's astral body is no longer
focused on human existence.   The individual perceives the way a
sylph perceives or as the fairies of lore who enchant human beings
to come away with them to the inner planes.  As William Butler
Yeats describes it: 

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a fairy, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Again, psychologists such as Carl Jung have written about a circle of
enchantment which holds human beings in enthrallment.  The
individual is haunted and possessed by what is unfilled in the past,
by the unmet needs of childhood and family.  He does not see the
actual situations he enters and other human beings as they are but
only a distorted reflection, an illusion seen from afar.  Giving and
receiving, bonding, and intimacy are twisted and bent because the
heart is incomplete. 
   But the enchantment of air is slightly different.  The individual has
an over abundance of the air element which lacks positive
expression.  There is nothing a matter with having a sylph's
heightened awareness.  The Dalai Lama's weather controller
possesses this as did ancient druids. 
    The sylph's sensitivity can take the form of a detachment which
blends freedom with a delight in pure perception. It is a thrilling
experience as are hang gliding and parasailing.  It is easy when you
feel this relaxed and free to say to yourself, "I am not a human
being.  The life within me is altogether different that from what
others feel and see."  When we are at play or entertained, we may
temporarily feel the same thing.  We give ourselves permission to
forget about the rest of  life for the duration. 
     But this suspending of daily demands, besides being a way to
recharge ourselves, has a productive side.  An altered state of
perception enables us to see the world in new ways. The challenge is
to share this with others.  
    The poet does this.  He perceive the delicate fragility and the
hidden beauty shining within each moment.  When he writes or
speaks, he is sufficiently distant that he can savor pure feelings.  But
he knows these feelings can only be expressed, found and met,
within the details and specific experiences of our lives.  Each poem
is a steppingstone leading across the stream separating humanity
from the realms of fairy and the astral plane. 
    The artist does this.  He says, "Behold my art.  It is a creation of
my imagination.  Its images are a mirror capturing the light I see
reflected in life."  And musicians do this when the music is just
right.  They are no longer aware of themselves.  The notes carry
them along.  The song takes on its own life and they are within both
the human plane and another domain. 
    Too much airy substance in the soul tempts us all to let go and
forget our ties to others.  Legend tells us of a race which could not
longer compete with human beings and so retreated from our world
to become a race of fairies.  But even to these we might now say,
"Return again and dwell among us.  Share with us the things you
see and know that we too might behold the beauty of the world
around us."  The remedy is not to retreat into detachment and a
realm of inner peace but to create new ways of sharing heart to
    And finally there is the basic problem of developing astral
sensitivity. Many individuals see no further than the activities of
their daily lives.  The consequence is that their emotional life is
limited in scope.  In fact, most religions guide their practitioners into
a few sets of sacred experiences which are charged with astral
energy.  Conversion, devotion, rapture, and commitment are
controlled and channeled in acceptable ways.  Other profound
emotional experiences are labeled taboo and placed off limits or else
are ignored and considered to be irrelevant.
   But if you look at a cloud it is constantly changing.  If you focus
on a feeling within you and give it enough space to move, it will
continuously transform.  Feelings are like the waters of the earth. 
They run in underground streams.  They are in the lakes, the seas,
the clouds, the rivers, the rain, and the ice caps.  
   A sylph is aware of every aspect of a changing cloud and yet the
sylph remains detached.  To work with the air element is to have
both inner balance and a sensitivity to every nuance and aspect of
feelings.  Developing this sensitivity is something which psychology
shares in common with magick.  Elsewhere I write about the method
of focusing which bridges the gap between transpersonal psychology
and magical practice.  


To develop the sensation of water which is cold and wet, imagine
you are swimming and diving in a stream, river, lake, or ocean.  It is
possible to extend your meditations along these lines until the
sensations of water become quite strong.  At some point along the
way, imagine yourself becoming the water surrounding your body. 
Feel the swimmer and the diver moving through your space.  And
again feel the coldness of water within your body as if your body is
hollow inside. 
    In my various stories about my encounters with the undines, I go
into detailed descriptions about their specific astral natures.  The
four I describe are all loving, receptive, sensitive, empathic, healing,
and nurturing.  Also, they each have a slightly different way they
communicate the bliss and ecstasy within the water element.  These
undines are very enchanting and possess many magical secrets
relating to the water element. 
    From my experience, undines extend their auras out into the
watery domains surrounding them.  If they wish to create an
atmosphere like a wondrous festival full of dancing and song, the
water is magnetized to express their feeling.  If they wish to
communicate a profound state of oneness and love, again, the water
element becomes a vehicle which carries and amplifies their
   Our task in exploring the psychology of water is to do something
similar.  Once we can clearly produce the sensations of cold water in
and around ourselves, then we imagine that this watery expanse acts
to express our feelings.  Water absorbs, releases, flows and
circulates energy.  In a similar way, our aura encompasses and
revives the life of those with whom we have contact.  It produces a
magical space in which individuals are free to be receptive to each
other and to feel acceptance and love.  
   As with the other elements,  we now combine the energies of the
mental and astral planes.  We need a clear definition and
commitment in our minds to all that water represents in its highest
sense.  Again, the qualities are love, healing, nurturing, sensitivity,
acceptance, clairsentience, serenity, tranquility, purity, and so forth. 
And we need a total and complete conviction that we exist within
and are a part of a magnetic watery field of energy flowing through
us and encompassing ourselves and others as well.  
   Both the mental and astral planes with their different approach to
water must then be united in a natural way.  Part of our success in
this endeavor will arise from our study and appreciation of other
individuals who express feelings and ideals of love in their
personalities.  And part of our work will involve recognizing the
great variety of sensations and ways in which water exists in the
world of nature.  Again, I have given examples through poems and
stories of ways the undines have sought to deepen my understanding
of the environment and element of water in which they live. 
Ultimately, their domain and their range of activities are also our


If we conceive of fire as will, air as intelligence and clarity of mind,
and water as love and affection, what then shall we make of the
element of earth?  In way can earth represent the integration and
strength of consciousness?  
     The granite boulder is stable.  It retains its shape, its form and
mass, and only very gradually changes. The precious stone is harder
and more enduring and yet its structure permits the energy of light
to pass through it.  Ice is water in a solid form.  Its molecules though
fixed cover a wider expanse so that it floats.  Air is in water and
water is in the volcanic magma as it explodes.  As the heat is
released, the flowing lava turns to stone. 
   Plants grow on the rich nutrients of volcanic islands.  Topsoil
develops and then forests.  The land mass provides an environment
where life can flourish.
    Consciousness integrates the different aspects of ourselves. It is
the enduring and stable landscape where our soul and spirit
accomplish their tasks.  Consciousness sets priorities, identifies
values, and applies its resources and time to productive ends.  There
are conflicts between values, goals, desires, and different
individuals.  Consciousness uses the understanding of air, the will of
fire, and the empathy of water to arrive at practical and satisfying
   The main sensations we are after with the earth element are
weight and density.  You imagine yourself as a little more heavy. 
Like a tree, you are rooted in the ground.  Like a boulder,  you are
solid and easily resist external influence.  Increasing your sense of
weight and being grounded are part of the arts of Aikido and also
Tai Chi Chuan. 
    With the right piece of rock, there is a sense of time being
suspended.  You remember the past.  Your endure for ages.  Even
the far future feels near at hand.  The earth element has a stronger
continuity. Past, present, and future form a continuum.   The events
of life occur along a time line.  You do not have to rush anywhere. 
You just use the present moment in the best way you can.
   I place my hand on a standing stone five thousand years old. 
There is nothing fancy about this stone circle.  It seems quite casual
like an afterthought the way it is set down at the end of a cow
pasture on Mull Island, Scotland.  But I think to myself that all the
events of human history from the Egyptian pyramids to the present
unfolded while these stone have stood here and waited. 
   Consciousness can take the events of our lives and give them
order and definition.  It can say, "This relationship and that event
are important to me.  They always will be.  These ideals I live for--
they are what give my life purpose.  You see, amid all the changes--
the accidents, the failures, and the wrong turns--there is a core set of
values within myself which I uphold and experiences which I
     Fire is tenacious but earth is persevering.  Water offers love and
support, sweet intimacy and pleasure.  But earth builds and provides
those things which satisfy our deepest desires. The air element likes
to think and to reason.  It offers clarity so vast that the thought
process is lost in the illumination.  But the earth element knows in its
heart that it is alive and participates in those purposes which endure
through all ages of time. 
    Earth cuts to the bottom line. It is not distracted by the urgency
and rapacious hunger of fire and all the issues surrounding the
maintenance of power.  It is not so easily distracted by the
enchantments, romance, and passions of love.  And though it too
seeks and reaches for peaks of understanding and illumination, it
does not fly off content to be detached or aloof.
   Earth stays focused on the concrete and practical ways we can
materialize our ideals and operate in an effective manner in
accordance with our core values.  It leaves behind a legacy.  It
provides a foundation upon which future generations will build. 
And if this sounds too abstract, then we can apply the same to our
own lives.  In each stage of our life, we act with integrity and
accomplish our basic tasks.  Then we are able to move forward and
succeed with what comes next. 
    In summary, this is only a tiny introduction to the psychology of
the four elements.  I have not discussed here the ecstasies of the
four elements.  And there are the four divine attributes relating to
different elements--omnipotence, enlightenment, omnipresence or
all-encompassing love, and immortality. 
     I have suggested elsewhere that the twelve signs of the zodiac
and astrology also provide insight into the four elements.  An
important step in this area will be identifying for each of the twelve
signs of the zodiac its corresponding elemental sensation.  Then that
rich set of symbols and interpretations can be integrated into the
psychology of the elements. To do this will require a shamanistic
approach to the symbols which characterize the zodiac signs.

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