Harmony, Correspondences, and the Natural Order of the Elements is one of the mainstays of any magical system. In the West this is one of the first points of magical philosophy to learn. Along with 6 other principles that have been summarized quite well in the Kybalion, a Neo Hermetic text.
The Kybalion, Harmony and Correspondences
The Kybalion has a great influence on the modern Western Mystery Tradition today. Most systems, in one way or another, teach about the 7 principles outlined in the Kybalion. The principle of correspondences states things in the physical world are a reflection of things in the spiritual world.
The Kybalion also states that there is a harmony and agreement across planes. This last part is very important. Many correspondences in the West are not always in harmony with each other. Many do not agree across planes, let alone systems within the Tradition. The harmony and agreement of correspondences across planes should not use force. But instead should come about in a natural organic manner. There should be harmony of correspondences especially with the natural order of the elements.
Several students over the years have reported an inner turmoil that occurs during meditation when working with the correspondences. Some leave one school for another. Others letting their interest in the Tradition wane completely growing weary of the inconsistencies. This should not be the case with a healthy evolving Tradition.
The Emerald Tablet and Correspondences
One of the most quoted passages of text in the Western Mystery Tradition is “That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for performing the miracle of the One Thing.” from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. This passage is the rationale for the principle of correspondences. Yet most ignore the rest of the text.
Some schools require students to memorize, study and meditate on the Emerald Tablet. Then applied to the individual’s spiritual evolutionary process and the whole of creation. When it becomes a part of your being the world and self become a very different thing. When this occurs a disharmony or inconsistency in a set of correspondences can halt the process of the Emerald Tablet.
Regaining Harmony with the Natural Order of Elements
There is a way however to bring harmony back to the different sets of correspondences. We need only look to the past of the Renaissance up until the late 19th Century. Magicians and Scientists were not at odds with each other during the Renaissance. In many cases their practices and discoveries were in both fields. Alchemy was the system that seemed to form a bridge between both disciplines. Most of it’s correspondences have changed little over the centuries.
One example of someone who acted as a bridge himself is Robert Fludd. He is the one who drew the image used in this blog entry. The practitioners during this time period examined different planes of existence and observed each one as corresponding to another. They were also keen observers of the natural world.
For instance, they saw that elemental air reconciled fire and water and formed an intermediary substance or energy between the two in the Macrocosm, or large universe. In the Micrcosm, the small universe, they saw these same elemental substances reflected in the human physical body. Whose chest took air into the lungs. Converting the fiery solar energy. Then delivering it through the body by the watery fluids of the blood and lymph. This same example is also seen in the Sepher Yetzirah, one of the earliest Qabalistic texts, corresponding with the three mother letters of Aleph, Mem, and Shin.
Alchemy, Harmony and the Elements
The discipline of Alchemy has been practiced across most of the world from the past up to the present. All systems of Alchemy agree that there are at least 4 main elements. The elements are fire, air, water and earth. Many of the systems of alchemy also have a 5th element expressed by several different names. Some terms used to identify it are Spirit, Akasha and Aether.
It is not the purpose of this article to identify which system of alchemy came first. But rather that they have a shared terminology, meaning and correspondence. There are slight variations and unfortunately many have focused on their differences rather than their commonality. The underlying Perennial Philosophy is at the heart of all systems in all lands. Alchemy is one expression of the Perennial Philosophy that has endured at a global level. An excellent Alchemy resource with many primary texts is The Alchemy Website.
Sometimes writers will use the terms “elemental fire”, “philosophical fire” to distinguish it from the everyday use of fire. They will do the same for air, water or earth. This is important as our modern point of view often interprets a term from a different time period too literally. We have forgotten that many terms, mystically had at least 3 levels of meaning. These levels of meaning are termed the literal, the symbolic, and the sacred.
Observation of the Elements in Nature
There are numerous sources to choose from when researching what the different elements correspond to. Most sources agree with one another. It is not what each element corresponds to that is important. But their order of manifestation in the West that should draw some attention.
Examining the diagram above by Robert Fludd, you will see Terra-Earth, Aqua-Water, Aer-Air, and Ignis-Fire. Each layered one upon the other. One way to demonstrate this relationship is to fill a bottle or glass full of water. Then place it in the sun. Gaze at the bottle or glass and observe it. The glass corresponds to the element of earth and then the water with the air over it. Fire by the rays of the Sun. Visiting a large body of water such as a lake or the ocean is also revealing. It is important to use observation and not to place a preconceived bias upon the observation. Trust your Inner Teacher to guide you.
Qabalistic Schools and the Order of Elements
Some Qabalistic schools place Air below Water. This seems to have its origin from a medieval interpretation of the Biblical term Firmament. The order of the elements here is part of Hermeticism and Alchemy. The Please do some research trying to find a different order of the elements in Hermeticism and Alchemy. It will be an interesting experience.
It is hard to track where the difference occurred in the more modern Qabalistic Magical schools. But it seemed to take place about the mid to late 19th century. More on that in a future post. Staying consistent with our observations of nature, we find the following. Fire being above Air, Air being above Water and Water upon the Earth.
This diagram’s basis is the 3 mother letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is part of the Sepher Yetzirah. Although Earth is does not have a correspondence in the Hebrew alphabet it states that Earth is generates Water. This section of the Sepher Yetzirah leads to a re-examination of the Harmony, Correspondences the Natural Order of Elements. As well as their correspondences in relation to the Hermetic Qabalistic system as a whole.
Spirit is missing from the above list but is integral to the Western Mystery Tradition as well. The best explanation one teacher ever gave was that Spirit is what is behind, within and around all things. It is all of them and behind them. Some have attributed Shin to Spirit directly. It is better to say Shin is Fire. Shin is most near to what Spirit represents rather than an equal correspondence. Something to meditate on and explore on your own.
A Starting Point
The Natural Order of Elements is a starting point for a magical system. Applying Harmony, Correspondences and the Natural Order of the Elements we see that one change has a ripple effect. The works referenced above, as well as The Temple of High Magic: Hermeticism Initiations in the Western Mystery Tradition have applied this order of the elements to The 4 Worlds and possibly other areas. It seems these correspondences stop there. The ripple becomes a wave eventually causing a different system to wash ashore.
This is part of the exploration on this site. To go more in more depth with accompanying exercises, meditations and rituals. Keep in mind this isn’t a claim to anything new. But rather just dissolving things and recombining them to form something different and more useful. If something works for you then keep doing it. If it doesn’t then maybe this will guide you in another direction that does.
It is being in a state of Harmony with the Divine and Nature that we become true Instruments of Omneity.