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The 4 Elements

Tools to understand the theory of the 4 elements, a philosophical vision of the world describing it with water, earth, fire and air

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The 4 Elements -

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The 4 Elements

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The 4 Elements and Associated Concepts

ConceptWaterEarthFireAirWhole
Platonic solidIcosahedronCubeTetrahedronOctahedronDodecahedron
ColorBlue/GrayGreen/OrangeRed/YellowWhile/Cyan
Alchemy Symbol
Qualitycold + wetcold + dryhot + dryhot + wet

Tools to understand the theory of the 4 elements, a philosophical vision of the world describing it with water, earth, fire and air

Answers to Questions

What is the order of the elements?

According to Aristotle: Earth < Water < Air < Fire.

This hierarchy is sometimes represented by a triangle / pyramid having earth as its base and fire as its top.

Who imagined the 4 elements?

The first reference to the four elements is made by the geek philosophy and Empedocles near 460 BC. It refers to four roots: Zeus (fire), Hera (Earth), Aidoneus (air) and Nestis (water).

Today the notion of element often refers to atoms (see Mendeleiv's periodic table).

What is the correspondence with platonic solids?

Plato assimilates Earth to a cube, water to an icosahedron, air to an octahedron and fire to a tetrahedron. There is also the world (the whole) compared to a dodecahedron.

Example: See the names of geometric shapes.

What is the correspondence with colors?

Colors are associated with the elements according to their color in life:

Water: Blue / Gray, Earth: Green, Fire: Red / Yellow, Air: White / Cyan (Sky blue)

What is the correspondence with the 4 directions?

The air is generally associated with the East, the Fire is with the South, the Water is with the West and the Earth is with the North. The reason for this association is uncertain.

What is the 5th element?

In the past, some theoreticians denied the nature of the empty, imagined a fifth element: the ether (or quintessence), above all others, for containing the stars.

What are Buddhism 4 great elements?

1 - pruṭhavī-dhātu - solidity or attraction.

2 - āpa-dhātu - liquidity or relative motion.

3 - teja-dhātu - heat or energy.

4 - vāyu-dhātu - expansion or repulsive forces.

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