The Four Elements: Water, Air, Fire and Soil
HILDEGARD VON BINGEN, about 900 years ago:
Original Text, German:
„Im Menschen sind Feuer, Luft, Wasser und Erde, und aus ihnen besteht er. Vom Feuer hat er die Wärme, von der Luft den Atem, vom Wasser das Blut und von der Erde den Körper. Dem Feuer verdankt er das Sehen, der Luft das Hören, dem Wasser die Bewegung und der Erde seinen Gang.“
Scientific meaning translated into English:
“Any human being’s body consists of Fire, Air, Water and Soil, they have always been present inside every individual. Fire supplies heat to him, Air enables his respiration, his blood is composed of Water and his physical body thanks to Soil. His eyes’ vision is a result of Fire, his hearing capacity enabled by Air, his moves are possible through Water and his ability to walk is thanks to Soil.”
What is man made of? What is our origin? What is the origin of universe? Is there a beginning, is there an end? Is there a creator? What are the basic principles of nature?
Hildegard von Bingen needs four elements only to come closer to an answer to all these questions. Today, in the age of “modern” natural sciences, her view seems outdated. As science has proven, though, things are by far more complex, and certain biochemical phenomena cannot simply be reduced to four elements. Nevertheless, basically von Bingen´s view holds true up until today. The most ancient question of mankind has remained:
What is our world made of? Are there constant phenomena? Anything eternal possible? Maybe a single principle that can be traced through everything that exists?
Fire, Water, Soil, Air
This is what Hildegard von Bingen based her teaching on back in the 12th century: an all-encompassing knowledge of man and nature. However, the idea goes back to much earlier times even. The concept finds its origin in ancient Greece, based upon a theory of the early pre-Socratic philosophy.
As early as in the sixth and fifth century before our time, Greek philosophy was already concerned – in an effort to understand the world – with the question of what is the primordial cause of life. Are there any primordial principles that remain valid always and forever, despite all changes?
Empedocles, a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher living in Sicily, finally spoke of fire, water, soil and air. He considered these four elements to exist eternally and to be unchangeable in themselves. Mixed differently, they can represent the entire living world. These four elements are the fabric the world and nature is made of.
The later Greek philosophers had developed this thesis much further. Plato considered the elements to be necessary for any living beings to perceive nature, Aristotle assigned them properties and sensual qualities: Fire is dry and warm, Soil is dry and cold, Air is moist and warm, and finally Water is moist and cold. The elements can bond biochemically to form new substances. This is how the four elements doctrine developed its dynamics.
„Four generating substances are contained in the eternal universe.
Two of them are heavy, and it constantly pushes them down because their weight weighs them down: the two are soil and water.
Just as many lack gravity; they strive, because nothing presses them, in the height: the air and the fire which is purer than air.
But although they are spatially separated, nevertheless they become everything, and everything decays into them.“
(From the „Metamorphoses“ of Ovid)
It is, in fact, a fallacy to believe that we can address each and any aspect of our environment without considering the whole, because no aspect of the ecosystem functions in isolation. There is no stand-alone solution in nature. Life is a single complex phenomenon, all of which is happening simultaneously and in harmony. In many ways, Soil is the underlying platform upon which life sparks and blossoms. If we take care of and also fix degraded soil, if so necessary, we have a good chance of fixing the whole.
Throughout the previous year up until now, we have largely reflected upon the element of “Water”, one of the most precious resources donated to us by our planet Earth. We even took a look beyond the borders of our planet and highlighted the current findings of the NASA and ESA Planet Mars Missions:
Today´s Blog Post is dedicated to another one of the four elements, which is of equal importance to our existence and survival:
The Element “Soil”
Most of us are familiar with words and concepts such as Climate Change, Carbon Emissions, Air Pollution and Water Scarcity, but only very few have focused attention on soil.
Therefore, today, we wish to spotlight the importance of soil and also the alarming threat of soil extinction. As the Indian Visionary, Philosopher and Scientist Sadhguru has said repeatedly at several international platforms: „Soil is our life, our very body. And if we forsake soil, in many ways, we forsake the planet.”
For uncountable millennia, life on earth has been sustained by a thin layer of fertile soil on the earth’s crust. Next to water, soil is a basis for life on our Planet Earth. Since life is impossible without water, and soil alike, we should always be aware of the following important facts: the more we waste and pollute the water resources and the soil of our planet, the closer we drive the fragile balance of the natural forces to unevitable final collapse. Our carelessness is progressively busy to destroy the biodiversity of all living beings, and, as a consequence, global pollution has already reached a threatening peak where the natural purification forces are overcharged. Neither do we need a scientific diploma, nor a business degree to understand the simple fact that we should put an immediate end to follow this road of destruction. As a matter of fact, since we have proceeded so far up until now, we do jeopardise the existence of mankind, and, of course, that of all carbon-based beings on our planet.
Magic Of Soil
But…, What Exactly is Soil and What does it do?
Soil basically consists of minerals, rocks dust, clay, sand and organic matter. Soil is the basis of our lives, the platform of a sparkling nature and biodiversity. Unfortunately, agriculture, deforestation, and other factors have degraded and eroded the topsoil at alarming rates. Globally, a 52% of the agricultural land is already degraded. It is obvious and visible throughout every continent that our planet is suffering a severe crisis. Should soil degradation continue at the current rates, this would mean the end of any life known to us.
Almost every major ecological crisis, to some degree or form whatsoever, is always a consequence or symptom of a degradation of soil. Similarly, almost every environmental or environment-related pain point can be addressed by creating healthy soil.
According to a UN Report, The World´s Farms stretched to a breaking Point “Almost 10% of the 8 billion people on Earth are already undernourished with 3 billion lacking healthy diets, and the land and water resources farmers rely on stressed to “a breaking point”.”
“And, by 2050, there will be 2 billion people more to feed…”, warns a report recently published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Up until now, farmers have been able to boost not only agricultural productivity, but also the yield by irrigating more land and applying heavier doses of fertilisers and pesticides. However, the report emphasises that these practices are not sustainable: They have eroded and degraded soil while polluting and depleting water supplies and also shrinking the world’s forests.
Meanwhile, major Media Outlets worldwide are paying attention to the importance of soil. For your further interest we recommend an article, recently published by The Guardian, London:
One of India’s best-known spiritual leaders is embarking on a 100-day motorbike journey from London to India to raise awareness of one of nature’s most undervalued resources.
Sadhguru, or Jaggi Vasudev, is setting off on Monday on a 30,000 km (18,600-mile) trip through Europe and the Middle East in an effort to “save soil”, meeting celebrities, environmentalists and influencers in dozens of countries along the way.
CONSCIOUS PLANET, an Initiative by Sadhguru
“Conscious Planet is an effort to raise human consciousness and bring a sense of inclusiveness such that multifarious activities of our societies move into a conscious mode. An effort to align human activity to be supportive of nature and all life on our planet. Our work is towards creating a planet where a large number of Human Beings act consciously, governments are elected consciously, where ecological issues become election issues in the world.”
“Creating a Conscious Planet is possible only by raising human consciousness. It is important for all – particularly leaders whose decisions affect millions of lives – to be conscious and inclusive.”
Yogi, Mystic and Visionary, Sadhguru is one of the most influential people of our times. An Enlightened Master of enormous capability, he has undertaken some gargantuan challenges, work that has been as far-reaching as it has been varied.
All his efforts, however, have always been towards just one goal:
Raising Human Consciousness
Over the past four decades, Sadhguru has offered the technologies of well-being to millions of people across the world through his foundations, which are supported by over 16 million volunteers in 300 cities worldwide. Sadhguru has been conferred with three presidential awards among which are the Padma Vibhushan for distinguished service to the Nation and India’s highest environmental award, the Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, in 2010.
Over the years, Sadhguru has launched an impressive number of ecological initiatives, such as the “Rally for Rivers” addressing the urgent need to revitalise Indian Rivers.
These initiatives have been recognised globally as game-changers for establishing a blueprint for economic development that is ecologically sustainable. Sadhguru has been invited by various UN and international agencies to discuss global solutions to the world’s ecological issues.