Going beyond our lore and ideas of archetypes, when we hear the term ―element,‖ most of us probably think of something akin to idea of a building block. Or, if you have a science background, perhaps you think of sodium and oxygen and other ―elements‖ of the periodic table – which are considered – once again – the building blocks of nature.
But, like our fairies, gods, and demons, when the Five Elements are described as forces or energies in Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, they are considered more dynamic. A great macrobiotic master, Michio Kushi, explains that this term ―element‖ really implies something moving, something dynamic; something that is always in transformation – a flow from one state into another that can be identified, but never isolated. It is like asking the question, is light a wave or a particle? The answer is, it depends on how you are looking at it. In the systems of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda elements are described as identifiable states of being, of manifestation, along the spectrum from…
- conception (known as the Ether, Space, Tree, or Wood Element) to
- gestation (known as the Fire element) to
- solidification (known as the Earth element) to
- maturation (known as the Metal or Air) to
- dissolution (known as the Water element)
Which in turn brings us around to conception again. If we take these ideas of Conception, Gestation, Solidification, Maturation, and Dissolution, we can look at anything and everything we do. Let‘s take an idea that we come up with. We conceive of an idea, which we then gestate by pondering and thinking it over. As the idea becomes clear, more solid in our minds, it gets to the point where it is mature enough to be expressed and it is dispersed or dissolved into space where other people then get to think about it and the cycle goes. There is an orderliness in every aspect of nature that can be explained in terms of these Five Elements; the way they flow into one another, the way they support each other, even the way they may inhibit or destroy one another.