This post is about pairs of opposites and how to apply this information to your life. The system is based on the elements and has a long history in many medical and philosophical traditions throughout the world. It exists in indigenous cultures such as Mayan medicine, in ancient Egyptian and later Greek writings, in Ayurvedic and Chinese treatises, and in Western European medicine until displaced in the 17th century by a very powerful cabinet minister named Jean-Baptiste Colbert who served under Louis XIV. Throughout time, the language and interpretation has varied somewhat as have the descriptions and understanding. I have spent many years modernizing the terminology and explanations so as to restore rationality and the ability to benefit from the knowledge.
In the astrological as well as Native American systems, there are four elements: fire, earth, air, and water. The Ayurvedic system uses ether as the fifth element and differentiates the elements according to vibration so that the fastest and most complex, ether, creates the matrix for containing the architecture of the manifest realm. Creation is perceived as an interaction between Purush and Prakriti which translate more or less properly into Spirit and Matter. Nothing is sustainable without the coordination and cooperation of the Divine Feminine with the Divine Masculine.
The masculine is considered as causal and ideational. The Creator has a thought or vision that is projected so it is radiatory and interacts with a receptive energy which is feminine and magnetic. This sets the stage and all appearances are maintained by the ability to harmonize the two Divine energies within each creation.
The sequence of vibration of the elements is thus ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Ether corresponds more or less to the etheric body which many people can see as an ultraviolet band around the physical body, usually only a centimeter or two in width but once in a while extraordinarily large. This is a function of prana and vitality, and a larger etheric body will tend to make the physical body both stronger and more flexible.
The air element is also invisible so it is observed by interpretation, meaning if we see something moving, we know air is present, that whether a leaf is blowing in the wind or a plane is flying in the sky. In the body, air is necessary for all functions involving movement, including respiration, circulation, muscle contraction and relaxation, evacuation of the bladder and intestines, and any motion. It is characterized as light, dry, and cold.
The fire element is the only element that is hot so it antidotes the cold of the other elements and is therefore an ally in the effort to stay in balance and a danger when lacking boundaries and control. It is related to chemicals, such as the digestive secretions and to all transformations such as separation of vital nutrients from waste. The nutrients will be absorbed and used to regenerate tissue and the waste will be eliminated.
The water element is the only element that is moist and is responsible for lubrication and elasticity as well as protective coatings of structures such as the inside of blood vessels and the lipid membranes of erythrocytes. Without moisture, tissues are dry, brittle, and often painful. The main characteristics of water are moisture, cold, and heaviness.
The earth element is the most dense and also the heaviest. It gives strength and endurance and is found predominantly in the bones, teeth, cartilage, nails, and hair. It contains many minerals and is heavy, cold, and dry.
Pairs of Opposites
This system is actually so simple that I have seen three-year olds who can apply this accurately in every day situations. The simplest would perhaps be, “My mouth is dry. I want something to drink.” However, one boy I knew very well used to say, “My mama is vata deranged; she needs some hot soup.” Honestly, very small children can learn this because the system is perfectly logical and simple to apply.
What we saw in the first section is that each element has three main characteristics that are polarities: hot-cold, wet-dry, light-heavy. There are actually many more polarities but these are starters. Each needs to meet the Goldilocks test until the balance is “just right”. The main tendencies are more or less determined from the constitutional type which is established at birth and quite easy to determine from the horoscope. However, seasons and life style affect the basic balance. For example, the monsoon season obviously tends to be wet so conditions tortured by dryness may improve but those characterized by excess moisture such as mucus accumulation and bloating will get worse. Likewise, using a fan or air conditioner may feel calming to a fiery person and highly disturbing to an airy one.
Interestingly, Nature loves balance so we instinctively draw to us the parts that are in ourselves weak. Families are often built on this foundation which means that the parents may often disagree but the children will be exposed to all the elements along with their conflicts and need for harmony. When we are frustrated by the tug-of-war, it may help to remember that balance will solve a lot of problems. It also helps if we open ourselves to the possibility that there are often several perspectives and we may like one more than another; but we learn by giving an ear to other points of view. Differences may or may not change our opinions or preferences, but they can help us to understand what is important to other people.
As noted, the air element is characterized by lightness, dryness, and coldness. The lightness is best brought into balance by earth. Lightness itself is highly changeable, inconsistent, and often distracted and fretful. Earth corrects this by concentration, strong rhythms and schedules, orderliness, and systematic attention to what is important. This may include prioritization, scheduling, and discipline or sticking to routines without excessive indulgence in multi-tasking. These are life style adjustments that can ease the nervous tension that befalls air types.
On the dietary front, avoidance of foods that are dry is advisable, meaning popcorn and countless other snack foods that are eaten cold and often while on the move, should be minimal or completely avoided, at least during stressful cycles of life. Foods that are lubricating are best. They can be a little demulcent, oily, and warm, like a mildly seasoned hot soup. For breakfast, one can have cinnamon oatmeal instead of toast.
In a curious way, fire is the usually the most difficult element for the majority of people. It is extinguished by all the other elements. A little air helps fire to ignite and burn brightly; but too much blows out the flames. Water dowses fire and extinguishes it. Earth suffocates fire. The elements all need each other but they rarely approach situations in the same way. Fire is the most independent but also the most loyal. The independence can be easily misunderstood, often to the point of failing to recognize the loyalty.
Fire is adventurous and risk-taking but also intuitive and can make decisions in a flash, often triggering complex reactions from others. Fire therefore tends to like other fiery types; but it, too, needs balance so will draw in the other elements and struggle with the differences. It truly needs the other elements. Heat is catabolic so without cold, the metabolism will be too fast, and the individual will self-destruct. The lightness is ideational, not as changeable as air nor as flexible. It is quick and decisive, not fickle and scattered.
Fiery foods are either sour or spicy. The sour taste comes from acids such as the acetic acid of vinegar or various acids in fruits like citrus, ascorbic, and malic acids. Sauerkraut has lactic acid and yoghurt has lactic and acetic acids. This is illustrative and not intended to cover the myriad of acids found in each food, but simply to make clear that what makes these particular foods easy to digest is that they contain acids. Some fire types cannot tolerate large amounts of these foods, but they help those with low fire. Likewise, some spices aggravate fire, but they aid the digestive process for others. Fire is often balanced best by liquids that contain vital nutrients. They also need more alkaloids and these are found in most vegetables, especially the leafy green ones. These will have a bitter taste that ranges from mildly bitter to seriously bitter herbs. These are liver cleansing and help to detoxify the body.
The water element is moist so it can consume some foods that are astringent. These contain tannins. This includes legumes and black tea as well as a few fruits and nuts like persimmons and cashews. In general, these have some diuretic actions but they also contain valuable nutrients. You can guesstimate the amount of tannins present by whether or not your mouth puckers up. For example, an unripe persimmon has a very high tannin content but as the fruit ripens, the level of tannins diminishes. It does not disappear completely, but it is lessened considerably. Chocolate has tannins, but the value is compromised by adding sweeteners which, of course, aggravate the water element. Red wine also has tannins. Tannins are drying and are used extensively in the leather and printing industries. Where food is concerned, a small amount is useful for some people and contraindicated for others. For instance, tannins would aggravate some symptoms of excess air.
Water types can also use spices in their cooking. They may or may not like spices, but the spices will help digestion and reduce bloating and fermentation caused by food staying too long in the digestive system.
Water in the right amount is relaxing, nurturing and regenerating. It is very important for growth, for fertility, and for longevity. Socially, water tends to define itself by roles. You can listen to a conversation and how, for example, an air type refers to people by name and water by role: my son, my husband, my sister, my nephew, my boss. You never know the name of anyone unless you interrupt to ask. In a similar way, water types do not have the same need for mutual interests as either the fire or air types. They need to feel secure in their roles but doing a large number of projects together is not as important, but the dependability of the relationships is very important.
The earth element is the most stable but also the least progressive. There are exceptions such as those who carefully analyze trends and then develop or invest in the future. Earth is constructive, realistic, and grounded. It knows what is feasible and practical, when the timing is right, and how to build a strong foundation to support goals and security. Being purposeful, earth is sometimes not very flexible, but, all other things equal, earth goes by the book and is predictable. Physiologically, earth tends to be resistant to infectious type diseases but prone to diseases characterized by density and/or blockages. Hence, it benefits from periodic fasting, cleansing, and use of lubricating and stimulating foods and therapies that help to overcome stagnation. Earth types should rigorously avoid foods that are not fresh, and they should not save leftovers for later reheating and consumption. Such foods are lacking prana so should not really be eaten by anyone, but they are especially contraindicated for those with a lot of earth element energies. My leftovers go to my dog so consider following suit!
Since earth is basically heavy, hard to digest foods must be prepared very skillfully or they will take too long to digest. This means that foods that are stimulating will have more long-term health benefits than foods that are stabilizing. Beans, for example, are notoriously hard to digest. They must therefore be cooked with spices and usually for a long time. Some ghee or high quality oil can be added once served. Otherwise, fruits and juices will be much easier to assimilate though perhaps not as tantalizing. Earth types should also avoid foods that are old, dead, or stored a long time.
The elements are each associated with a sense and chakra as well as with many psychological and sociological leanings. So, Part II will continue where this leaves off. In the meantime, I want people to know that there is a flash sale of my own product line. The code is June and can be used on most of my sites, but bioethikaoils.com and bioethikainternational.com are the easiest sites to use. The sale ends tomorrow at midnight.
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2021
First posted to subscribers on 3 June 2021