Personality: An Elemental Perspective

The Elemental Method postulates the existence of eight distinct forms of grace (elemental types). Every individual has an essence which expresses one of these forms of grace. The Elemental Method identifies Earth (Embodiment), Air (Inspiration), Fire (Assertiveness) and Water (Receptivity) as requisite ingredients to any healthy moment of personality functioning. Earth and Air function as polar opposities, as do Fire and Water. Each person, in their essence, is dominant in one polar aspect from each of these two pairs. Significantly, however, within each individual one of the two dominant aspects is more dominant than the other. Thus there are eight individual elemental types established: 1) Earth-Fire, 2) Earth-Water, 3) Water-Earth, 4) Water-Air, 5) Air-Water, 6) Air-Fire, 7) Fire-Air, 8) Fire-Earth.

Before explaining the Elemental Method, I believe it is only fair that it initially be asked to justify its potential relevance. To that end, I will note that what the Elemental Method can accomplish for the person who knows it, not as information, but as a natural way of relating to ‘other’, is to perceive an essential fairly stable grace in opening to people, pets, and places.

An elemental type is considered of no use, and is in fact seen harmful, at least potentially if not inevitably, when it’s being perceived as a mere intellectual act. The value in perceiving the elemental type in ‘other’ is to more fully receive the other, so that the grace of the other is experienced by the perceiver. This way of knowing ‘other’ is not intellectual in nature; rather it is spiritual-emotional, primarily.

So, then, the Elemental Method is being offered primarily as an empathic tool. Importantly, empathy can be directed toward self as well as other, and the Elemental Method can be beneficial for both of these uses. It is hypothesized that persons of any particular elemental type may share in their valuations of each of the eight types. Putting it more simply, persons with the same elemental type may see things in fairly similar ways.

Each person, animal, or place is viewed as being imbued with a particular form of grace. It is quite difficult, if not impossible, to describe grace of ‘other’ as experience by the perceiver. What does it mean, after all, to experience the grace of another?

Perceiving grace in an ‘other’ is different than perceiving grace in oneself. It requires a willingness to be intimate emotionally with a person, animal or place. Perceiving grace in oneself requires an immanent relationship with the Divine. Perceiving grace in an ‘other’ requires us to see the other’s immanent relationship with the Divine.

The Elemental Method posits that there are eight primary modes of relating with the Divine, each distinct and palpable. I employ the term ‘primary mode’ to reflect the fact that there are many ways that members of any one elemental type might distinguish themselves from some and truly all members of their own elemental type, in aspects beside their elemental type.

These eight primary modes of relating with the Divine have been given names by me. Names, it is often said, come through us, rather than from us. For some reason the names Earth, Air, Fire and Water came to me with a great clarity in 1995 while I was comparing my experience of the energies of different people. Once I had some rudimentary names in place to distinguish Air energy from Earth energy and to distinguish Fire energy from Water energy, I could apply makeshift names to label my energetic impressions of others (early on, ‘other’ was mostly people and occasionally places).
This rudimentary system generated four elemental dominance groupings. At some point, I realized that within any elemental dominance grouping the primary variation between group members was the degree to which one aspect within the elemental dominance grouping overshadowed the second elemental aspect in that grouping. And so a conception of elemental type emerged that reflected this dominance polarity within each of the four elemental dominance groupings.

This led to my creating hyphenated names for each of the eight elemental types, with the first name for each elemental type identifying the dominant elemental aspect within an elemental dominance grouping and the second name for each elemental type (the name after the hyphen) reflecting the less dominant but still noteworthy second element within an elemental dominance grouping. And so the eight elemental types were named (in no special order); Earth-Fire, Earth-Water, Water-Earth, Water-Air, Air-Water, Air-Fire, Fire-Air and Fire-Earth. I have found it generally useful to represent the eight elemental types on x-y coordinates as follows:

What the graph can also accomplish is help introduce the concept of ‘elemental opposites’. Every elemental type has an elemental opposite. For example, for the Air-Water type the opposite type is Earth-Fire. Elemental opposites are often chosen by persons in Western culture as partners for their primary relationships, as far as I can see.

Earlier I noted that “perceiving grace in an ‘other’ requires us to see the other’s immanent relationship with the Divine” and “requires a willingness to be intimate emotionally with a person, animal or place.” These two factors above can not always be seen to be present when a person encounters ‘other’. Often, encounters with ‘other’ are unempathic and are thereby absent of the emotional intimacy requisite to witnessing the other’s immanent relationship with the Divine. Even when a person is empathic towards the ‘other’ their empathy may not be broad enough in scope to allow the perceiving empathic person to see the other’s immanent relationship with the Divine. And futhermore, even if the empathic perceiver notes the other’s immanent relationship with the Divine, that perception may be insufficient to recognize the specific elemental nature of that other’s immanent relationship to the Divine.

Importantly, I am not in any way establishing a new criterion for empathy. Empathy without the experiential receiving of the other’s particular elemental type of grace can, as I see it, be very helpful for the other (and for the perceiver, inevitably, as well). I am merely pointing out that the experiential appreciation of the elemental type of an ‘other’ can be distinct from other forms of empathy, even those where the perceiver notes the other’s immanent relationship to the Divine. It should be said that empathic appreciation of an other’s elemental type is sufficient but not necessary for the encounter of perceiver and other to be constructive.

At some point in my development of the Elemental Method, as early as 1998, I began to recognize the value of multiple sets of terminology for the representation of the Elemental Method in different arenas. And so the archetypes of Air, Fire, Water and Earth became secondarily represented as Inspiration, Assertiveness, Receptivity and Embodiment, respectively. Most recently, I have added a tertairy representation of Air, Fire, Water and Earth as Spirit, Mind, Heart and Body, respectively. The latter representation seems to best serve laypersons, whereas the second representation seems to best serve academic psychology, a field enormously reluctant, as I see it, to dwell in the archetypel realm. Since words can not really be replaced without losing some of their meaning, as I see it, all non-archetypal representation of the Elemental Method lose something in their translations away from the more primal, less-differentiated original terms.
If places have elemental types, as I claim, and if elemental types affect us, as I have claimed, then where we choose to live, work, shop and spend our leisure time has great potential significance. Other factors being equal, the elemental type of the places we spend our time can enhance or disturb our lives. I have often noticed with fascination how the architectural styles of different communities reflect an implicit incorporation of elemental type, as I see it. We may feel most enhanced being in places which have our own elemental type!

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