History: We’re going to begin as we did in the chakra section with the history of the standard (Hindu) associations of elements to chakras.
Just to review the “typical” associations you’ll see out on the various chakra websites:
The Crown, Third Eye and Throat Chakras = Ether or Spirit or Akasha
Heart Chakra = Air
Solar Plexus Chakra = Fire
Sacral Chakra = Water
Root Chakra = Earth
I always wondered how these connections were established (partly because they didn’t
all make sense to me) so I went out and researched it.
At the core of these associations are how many Eastern philosophies (such as Hindu
and Buddhism) view the elements and how they were formed. “First, there was pure consciousness and from the subtle vibrations of this energy the Ether element was formed. When the Ether element began to move it created Air. Friction between the moving elements of Air and Ether created heat forming the Fire element. When the
Fire element melted and liquefied, it created Water. Finally, some of the Fire
solidified and formed the Earth element.”
If we list these element in the order they were created, and then compare them to the
list of chakra to element associations above, you can see the same
Pure Consciousness (a.k.a. The Nothingness)
(Light – missing from the above description but often associated with the Crown Chakra)
I believe they assigned the elements to the chakras starting with Pure Consciousness
at the top and letting the others simply fall into line. This would make perfect sense because they believe the elements have a descending order from higher vibration to
lower just like the chakras.
In addition, their associations seemed to be heavily focused on the biological processes
of the body. A fact heavily influenced by Ayurveda I’m sure, the Hindu system of health which likens the processes of the body to processes in nature. Just look at the many comments and descriptions of the chakras and elements on the hundreds of
chakra-related websites. Comments like, “The Sacral Chakra contains a lot of fluids.
It contains the reproductive organs, the bladder and the lower digestive system.”
(And thus, the association to water.)
The Question: So I must interject at this point and ask: Why are we associating elements
to a particular chakra because of the organs or biological processes associated with
that chakra? Because the Eastern philosophies do? To me, this concept is missing the
point by only looking at the mundane connections.
When we talk about the chakras or the elements we’re talking about the vibration of
subtle energy. And while the various biological processes in the body may certainly be influenced by the nearest chakra, and healing is one of the purposes of working with
chakra energy, it’s not the physical or biological processes that are at the core of energy work. Working with energy encompasses so much more than the physical.
I guess I can see how some people would link passion and sexuality with water (kind of?), and since in Western philosophy water is usually associated with emotions, I get how that connection might be made. But it doesn’t fit in a nice, neat box for me. In this specific instance the Sacral Chakra is associated with emotions, but the raw, untamed emotions
of youth, not the more refined emotions of compassion, forgiveness and so forth that
we associate with the Heart Chakra (and water).
In the West, the untamed or raw version of anything is typically associated with Fire.
Passion, creativity (as in the spark of creation) and desire are all fire-driven qualities. Wouldn’t water put out the fire of passion and put a damper on drive and determination? Isn’t orange, the color of the Sacral Chakra, associated with fire? Who has seen orange associated with water anywhere? The whole thing just feels like someone is trying to force
a square peg into a round hole and then say “Ta-da!” aren’t these two a perfect fit?”
Another example was this comment about the Heart Chakra and the Air element:
“The Air element is related to the Heart Chakra and is located over the sternum, the
heart and the lungs, which control breath.” They went on to associate the breath with
all of the concepts and emotions we associate with the Heart Chakra.
Okay. I understand that much of Eastern philosophy focuses on breath as the life-force,
and maybe they associate the life-force with the heart? But I still stick to my “square peg
in a round hole” viewpoint if for no other reason than in the West we don’t necessarily
view breath in exactly the same way (unless you’re practicing an Eastern tradition like yoga). It’s simply not part of our cultural paradigm.
In Western belief we tend to associate the life-force with blood and blood is not typically (ever?) associated with Air. I think what the Eastern systems have done is link the Heart Chakra more with the function of the lungs and the physical act of breathing and not
really to the heart. And if you really think about it, isn’t it the diaphragm that controls
the breath (or is supposed to) by contracting to bring air into the lungs and expanding
to push air out of the lungs? And isn’t the diaphragm located in the solar plexus and
not the heart area?
To make matters more confusing, in Western culture we associate Air with mental
processes and the mind. How does that make sense with the Heart Chakra? I realize a common philosophy in many cultures is that the mind rules (or should rule) the human
and that listening to your heart makes a person weak or vulnerable. But this belief couldn’t be further from the truth and is a seriously debilitating idea (don’t get me started!).
Over and over again I saw websites link the elements to physical organs or biological processes located in the area of the particular chakras. And while some didn’t rely as
heavily on the physical associations they still linked the element in ways that are not easily (or naturally) fathomed from a different (Western) cultural perspective.
And let me say as I always do, if these systems work for you that is awesome. I’m not
saying they’re wrong or worse than any other system. I’m just saying this model doesn’t work for ME. It belongs to century-old beliefs from an entirely different culture. As the Tantric Yogis pointed out in the conversation about chakras, we simply cannot understand the belief system that went into the development of the chakras and so somewhere in
the translation, we “got it wrong”. We’re not even practicing it as it was meant to be practiced. So why continue to practice according to someone else’s vision of the
universe if it doesn’t make sense to us?
To me, the energy of the chakras, the energy of the elements as they relate to the philosophical (i.e., the deeper meaning, not the physical properties) and the entire human energy field is about subtle energy (the vibration of energy) and in Western metaphysics
we associate this type of energy with conceptual ideas and metaphors and not really with physical objects (unless it’s a secondary association).
With that, let’s move on!
AWS Chakra and Element Associations: So let’s delve into the elemental associations I use. As with the chakra system, I do not employ Hindu or Eastern connections.
So that you may have an idea of where I acquired the associations I use, let me share a
little about my background. I have studied and practiced a wide variety of nature-oriented spiritual paths for decades including Shamanism and Native American traditions (I do
have ancestry), and so much of what I understand about the elements come from these channels. The beliefs and rituals I learned offer a rich and meaningful connection to the world around me and to all other beings and everything takes on deeper meaning and significance. Since many of these practices originated in European and Native American traditions, most of us in the West are familiar with them even if we don’t realize it.
They “fit” within the context of the various Western belief systems we were raised with
(as well as science) and so we can grasp them and relate to them in a more natural way.
In other words, they make sense to us.
Earth: As you can see from the picture, the element of Earth is associated with
the Root Chakra. Weirdly, this seems to be in agreement across many chakra systems.
Earth is tactile and unpretentious. It creates the foundation from which all life can grow
and develop and directly supports and nurtures the members of the plant kingdom.
Earth is grounded, stable, orderly, supportive and fertile. The earth element covers the material aspects of life including work, business, trade, property, money and other
material possessions. The positive aspects of Earth include manifestation, endurance, sincerity, patience and prosperity. Earth has to do with what we make of our outer surroundings – how we create it, shape it, transform it and grow it.
The negative aspects of Earth include being possessive, greedy and overly materialistic, over-indulgence, apathy, stubbornness, not effectively managing one’s finances,
pessimism, unreliability and deceit. A good way to counteract these negative aspects
is to spend time in nature and ground oneself (literally take your shoes off and stand on
the ground) and reconnect with that which is truly important.
In connecting with this element, pay attention to your physical health, exercise, eat
sensibly (lots of fruits and vegetables), manage your finances wisely and be circumspect with your money, plant a garden or grow some indoor plants, and regularly walk in nature.
Healing modalities include good nutrition, exercise, massage, dry brushing, yoga, relaxation, and rest.
Fire: The element of Fire is associated with the Sacral Chakra. If you’ve ever heard the
idiom, “A fire in the belly”, it means “The emotional stamina and vigor, passion, or inner drive to achieve something, to take action, etc.”, “Passion and determination”, and
“A strong desire or drive to achieve something”. The idiom most likely comes from
Great Britain and has been around for hundreds of years. How fitting it is situated with
the Sacral Chakra.
Fire is hot, wild, unpredictable, and energetic. It can help us to cook food or mold tools,
but it can also be destructive like a devastating forest fire. The element of fire is symbolic
of passion, enthusiasm, movement, and sexuality. It is associated with primal energy, spirituality, determination, strength, creative ty, ambition and action, original thought
and the seeds through which life springs forth (i.e., the spark of creation).
The negative aspects of Fire include illusion, egotistical behavior, and impulsiveness,
a lack of direction or purpose, intolerance, irritability or feeling meaningless.
In connecting to this element, pay attention to your repertoire of activities, to the amount
of time you allot to work and to play, to the quality of your alone time, to the nature of
your interactions with others, and to your behavioral health.
Healing modalities include play, exercise, time management, life restructuring, breaking destructive or outmoded habits, career development, positive behavioral change,
and goal setting and achievement.
Air: The element of Air is associated with the Solar Plexus Chakra.
Air is generally thought of as elusive and unseen, especially in its moments of stillness.
But close your eyes and it becomes a gentle breeze and at other times it can be a fierce
wind. It is powerful yet refreshing and clearing. Symbolically, the air element relates to knowledge, personal power, will (The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action), and change. It is associated with cheerfulness, diligence, inspiration, joy and optimism. Air characteristics are centered on the mind and the intellect and so mirror your thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. Air symbolizes the fine balance between intelligence and power and how these two elements can be used for good or evil.
The negative aspects of Air include judgement, a lack of compassion, ruthlessness, self-sabotaging behaviors, boredom, and contempt.
In connecting to this element, pay attention to your thought processes, to your ability to reason, to your attitudes, and to your mental health.
Healing modalities include positive self-talk, affirmations, journal writing, education, and mindfulness practices.
Water: The element of Water is associated with the Heart Chakra.
Water is fluid, agile and ‘in the flow' but in its more aggressive form can also be powerful
and formative. It can be soft and gentle, like waves lapping against the shore, or it can be fierce and even forceful, like a raging river, cleansing and purifying everything in its wake.
The element of water is symbolic of fluidity, the more refined or mature feelings and
emotions such as compassion and forgiveness, emotional intuition, dreaming, healing, flowing, and cleansing. Water deals with the emotional level of consciousness and is associated with love, relationships and connections. Water indicates that you are thinking
with your heart rather than your head and thus reflects your spontaneous responses based
on your deep-seated beliefs. Water is also linked to creativity (especially with regards
to the arts), romanticism, fantasy and imagination.
The negative aspects of water include being overly emotional or completely disengaged
and dispassionate, having unrealistic expectations and fantasizing about what could be.
There may be repressed emotions, an inability to truly express oneself and a lack of creativity.
In connecting with this element, pay attention to your feelings about yourself and about others, to the levels of intimacy and trust in your relationships, and to your emotional health.
Healing modalities include guided imagery and meditation, active listening, expressing feelings in honest and open ways, giving comfort and being comforted, singing, dancing, drawing, and other forms of artistic expression.
Spirit or Ether (also spelled Aether): The element of Ether is associated with the remaining “higher” chakras; the Throat Chakra, the Third Eye Chakra, and the Crown Chakra.
Ether has been described as the 5th element from which all the other elements derive (Although technically, it was named and considered the first or original element). Ether
is transcendent yet present in all things, and does not exist apart from anything else.
It is invisible, but essential for connection and balance between all other elements.
Also unlike the four “earthly” elements, Ether is said to exist throughout the entire universe
as well as on other planes, not just in the physical one. Aristotle told us that Ether is the
soul for the spiritual force that exists in the cosmos and early Greeks thought Ether was
the air that the gods breathed. Einstein described Ether as the mysterious space between
all objects; the glue of the universe if you will, or “The Force” of Star Wars fame
(my parallels). Some mystics have experienced Ether as a bridge between the physical
body and the soul, while others say it is the soul; the spark of eternal or divine life within
each human. When we communicate with those compassionate beings from the other
side, such as Spirit Guides, Angels, and so forth, it is said that we are communicating via
the element of Ether. It is that which connects all that is.
Since Ether is nonphysical, it is difficult to come up with a list of characteristics for it. It is,
by its very essence, the no-thing. However, I will do my best to present a usable list of concepts that will assist you in developing this presence within you.
Ether is the stillness, the emptiness; it simply is. When we practice stillness and the art of
just being, we increase this elemental energy (I use the words elemental and energy loosely here) within us. Ether is potential, illumination, revelation, and One-ness. The vehicle or quality of Ether is sound. Sound brings form out of the nothingness, drawing it out so it descends into the denser states of matter. The voice (via the Throat Chakra) manifests or creates (and can destroy) through sound. Ether is also the means by which we access the Akashic records as well as communicate with compassionate higher beings.
To connect with this element, make space in your day. Turn the radio off while driving,
put the cell phone down when speaking and eating with others (be present there with them) and for longer periods as you can, de-clutter your home of all the material “stuff” you have collected (mistakenly believing it will make you happy or fulfill you).
Healing modalities include meditation, yoga (not just the exercise), spiritual practices
meant to connect to the energy of “all there is”, acts of selflessness (doing for others with
no ulterior motive), periodic short-term fasting (under the guidance of a medical
professional ONLY), and toning (see You Tube for examples).
Platonic Solids Element Associations: In keeping with my statements about the roots of Western culture, I wanted to present information from ancient Greek philosophy and
science. This information forms much of the foundation of what we in the West know and believe about science and philosophy today. Plato and his contemporaries, as well as
many scientists since then had the following view or belief about the elements.
For those who may not be familiar, let’s start with a definition of what a Platonic solid is.
In three-dimensional space, a Platonic solid is a regular, convex polyhedron. It is
constructed of congruent (identical in shape and size), regular (all angles equal and all
sides equal), polygonal faces with the same number of faces meeting at each vertex.
Put another way, these five definite shapes constitute the only perfectly symmetrical arrangements of a set of (non-planar) points in space with every angle and side length
There are only five solids that meet these criteria:
The Cube – 6 faces
The Tetrahedron – 4 faces
The Octahedron – 8 faces
The Icosahedron – 20 faces
The Dodecahedron – 12 faces
The Platonic solids are prominent in the philosophy of Plato, their namesake, though he
did not discover them. Plato associated each of the four classical elements (earth, air,
water, and fire) with a regular solid.
Earth was associated with the Cube,
Air with the Octahedron,
Water with the Icosahedron, and
Fire with the Tetrahedron.
Ether (Aether or Quintessence) with the Dodecahedron*
*Of the fifth element, Ether, Plato commented, “God used this solid for the whole universe, embroidering figures on it" and associated it with the Dodecahedron (which is considered
the most mysterious and complicated of the solids).
In the world of crystals, Platonic solids can and often do play an important role, especially
in areas like healing or gridding. In fact, some crystals grow naturally in some of these
shapes (e.g., fluorite, pyrite, garnets, etc.) while others have an internal structure similar to these shapes, even if we don't observe it in the crystal's external shape.
We introduced the Platonic solids and their associations with the various chakras (and thus, their elemental associations as well) on the "Chakras: Meanings & Symbols" page.
And we’ll talk a bit more about these shapes in the section on sacred geometry.
But I wanted to make the chakra/shape/element connection here where I felt it would
make a bit more sense.