THERE are five quite distinct elements to human experience. In broad terms we can define them as consciousness, will, feeling, thought, and sensation; and they are distinct even though they interact. The degree to which we are able to distinguish between them gives an indication of our level of integration as functioning human beings.
Words and Experience
It must be pointed out that an intellectual comprehension of the words being used does not necessarily imply a grasp of the underlying principles. The words are not the experience. Test this, pinch your arm. Is the sensation of the pinch the same thing as the word or concept? It obviously is not; the word is just the name, the label we apply to the sensation in order to be able to verbally communicate the experience without making the person we are communicating with physically re-experience the pinch.
The Five Elements
The five elements of human experience have been known by different names at different times in different cultures. The Christian religion for instance terms them God (consciousness), Spirit (will), Soul (feeling), Mind (thought), and Body (sensation); whereas Astrology and Occultism call them Æther, Fire, Water, Air and Earth.
The Five Are Really One
Whilst we will treat the elements as though they are different substances, they are in fact ultimately a single substance. They are phase shifts of the One Real Substance. For example, in the same way that water can exist as steam or water or ice in the material universe, each being the same substance but a different phase of that substance; so can the One Real Substance (God) manifest in Its five separate phases of Ether, Fire, Water, Air and Earth.
In order to clarify and discuss the five Elements in more detail it is necessary to introduce ideas concerning the nature and existence of humanity that might at first appear a little strange and somewhat esoteric. If, however, you keep an open mind you will see that once accepted these basic premises permit the construction of a very powerful and internally logical means of describing the human creature and the way in which we function.
The Five Universes
Wholism, as outlined in the Principles page, teaches that the Whole (God), manifests Itself by unfolding as five quite distinct but interpenetrating and interacting Universes. It teaches that human beings have a presence in each of these five unfolded Universes of Creation. We experience them as consciousness, will, feeling, thought, and sensation by use of our attributes of Cious, Spirit, Soul, Mind, and Body. These attributes are the elements of being which make us human. Each is built from the substance of the particular Universe in which it exists. Thus there is a Universe composed of what we call Ether atoms, one of Fire atoms, one of Water atoms, one of Air atoms and one of Earth atoms. This last being the physical world we detect using our senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing.
Now the Earth Universe contains the physical elements of ether, fire, water, and air, but it does not contain the Universal Substances Ether, Fire, Water, and Air. They exist only in their own particular Universes.
Our Five Bodies
Wholism teaches that we humans have an Ether Body composed of Ether atoms, a Fire Body composed of Fire atoms, a Water Body composed of Water atoms, an Air Body composed of Air atoms, and an Earth Body composed of Earth or physical atoms. Alternatively we can call these bodies the Cious, the Spirit, the Soul, the Mind, and the Body; or name them as being the experiences of consciousness, will, feeling, thought, and sensation.
The Ether Universe
The Element of Ether expresses itself in human terms as consciousness. Science originally used the word ether to describe a hypothethical medium which was supposed to fill all space and support the propagation of electromagnetic radiation.
The Final Mystery
Ether is the substance that underlies everything, and since we use it as our means of perception it is the final mystery the nature of which cannot be understood or described because there is nothing lying outside of it which can be used to provide a reference for comparison. Whilst there are different levels of consciousness which we are able to discuss, it remains a truism that we either have consciousness and are aware we exist, or we do not, and we are not.
The Fire Universe
The Element of Fire expresses itself in human terms as Spirit. It is a radiant energy which is excitable and enthusiastic. Its light brings colour and brightness into our lives and it exemplifies high spirits, great faith in life, enthusiasm, unending strength and direct honesty. Its expression varies from the intense white heat that is found at the centre of a star, a heat which transforms any engulfed substance, to that of the gentle flame which warms, cheers and guides the traveller home on a cold dark night. It is related to will power, creativity, freedom of expression, and direct positive action. It dislikes containment and will eventually either burn through to freedom and destroy its captor or else be itself snuffed out. It is the energy we use to reach out and influence others, and the degree to which we can manipulate it indicates our power as individuals.
The Water Universe
The Element of Water expresses itself in human terms as Soul, or feeling. Feeling can range from the compulsive passions of hate and jealousy through to the all encompassing acceptance and love of creation. Water has no shape or form of its own, but rather flows and changes in a manner dictated by external forces. It can exist in three states, as a solid, a liquid, or a gas; and these states can be used to indicate the variation that occurs within our feeling nature.
We talk for instance of receiving the cold shoulder, or of there being an icy silence. A moment later the atmosphere can thaw, and we perhaps feel warmth and acceptance flowing from those who were previously distainful. Another change, and we experience the surging energy of anger being directed at us for some reason, and we too, perhaps start to boil. These variations can sometimes happen within seconds, and we might become confused about just what we are feeling and why. This is especially the case if we do not understand that feelings like water are by their very nature passive and receptive until moved by an external force, and that when flowing feely they monitor not only our own, but also the energy states of the people and objects about us.
A Sixth Sense
Feelings are a sixth sense which tells us what other people are actually doing with their energies at levels deeper than those of superficial appearance or statement of intent.
The Air Universe
The Element of Air expressess itself in human terms as Mind, or thought. It is extremely nebulous and unlike Water exists in only one form, although its density can vary. Thus, the rarified formulations of mathematics and philosophy which have little or no contact with material reality can be compared to the air exisiting at the edges of planet Earth's atmosphere, whereas thoughts connected with day to day physical life are similar to the dense air found at sea level. Ideas are like the wind in that they move through the Air Universe and adjust and realign its substance. These movements make its reality detectable since without them it would to all intents and purposes have no existance.
Our mind is made of Air substance and it is the instrument we use to monitor these breezes, our mind's degree of refinement indicates how sensitive we are to the subtleties of concept.
The Earth Universe
The Element of Earth expresses itself in human terms as the solid world of physical form and sensation we detect about us by using our five basic senses. Many people claim that it is the only world that has a true reality. It is a fact that those who lose contact with it for whatever reason seem to enter strange regions and become incapable of discovering a place where they can rest with peaceful self assurance. We call this loss of centredness in Earth, schitzophrenia, psychosis, or mania depending upon the Universe in which the unfortunate lost and rootless one is drifting.
Earth is associated with touch, sight, smell, sound, and taste; and all things linked to theses sensations. It also behaves in a limiting, controlling fashion in that it resists sudden change through its quality of inertia. This quality can be considered to provide steadiness, caution and persistance, or obstructiveness, stupidity and pigheadedness depending on your viewpoint.
Now whilst many people believe that they are just their physical bodies; and Descartes in saying "I think, therefore, I am", apparently believed he was his thoughts; in reality, consciousness itself is the element which provides essential being. Thus Descartes should have said " I am conscious, therefore, I am". Without consciousness we have no awareness of ourselves or of the rest of existence, and therefore, no individual being. Within the terms of our model we each have a body of consciousness which exists in the Universe of Ether and which is built from atoms of that substance.
At first sight it might appear that the part of total consciousness which we will term the identity consciousness (IC) is all that we are. Now the IC is the awareness of the moment which we are currently exist in, and that moment encompasses our perception of the now, whether that perception lies in the current now, in our memory of a previous now, or in our imaginings of what a future now might be.
The IC, however, is not a permanently fixed factor, but fluctuates in size and content. When you are asleep it withdraws from the Earth or physical plane and you lose awareness of your body. Those able to maintain an identity beyond the physical can, in the dream state, realise they are dreaming and consciously manipulate their dreams. However, to all intents and purposes the rest of us effectively die each night when we go to bed and are resurrected each morning when we wake up.
Growth in the IC occurs as the various aspects of the individual's being, mentioned previously, are integrated.
Another way to look at one's Identity Consciousness is to consider it to be one viewpoint that the Whole has of Itself, ie it is a part of the Whole which perceives itself as being a separate entity viewing the rest of Itself from a totally unique standpoint.
Your Spirit is that element of you which exists entirely in the Universe of Fire. It is built of atoms of that substance and it provides you with that essence which science terms life. Without spirit there is no organising principle in operation to hold together the sub categories of your being which are discussed below under the headings soul, mind, and body. Your spirit is your life energy and it expresses as enthusiasm, vitality, vigour, courage and creativity. It supplies your will power and is related to freedom of expression and direct positive action. It is the inner fire which drives you, and when consciousness expresses through it, it becomes your individual identity or ego.
Your soul is that element of you which exists entirely in the Universe of Water. It is built of atoms of that substance and provides you with your sensitivity. Without sensitivity you are unable to feel the impact that your actions have upon the wider world around you.
Your soul is your feeling nature and is in essence passive and receptive. It supplies not only your ability to feel the pleasure or pain caused by the interraction between your inner, and outer environments, but also mediates how you distinguish between the two. Such discrimination helps you to preserve the integrity of your organism by causing you to flee pain and be attracted by pleasure. Feeling, by assisting you to determine what is you and what is other, permits you to separate your individual ego identity from the larger environment.
Your Mind is that element of you which exists entirely in the Universe of Air. It is built of atoms of that substance and provides you with your ability to understand. Without understanding you cannot comprehend or order the data you receive. Your mind is your basic concept forming instrument. It provides you with your ability to think and rationalise and also, through the process of definition, helps you stabilise your identity.
Your Body is the element of you which exists entirely in the Universe of Earth. It is built of atoms of that substance; i.e. carbon, hydrogen, oxygen etc. and it provides you with your ability to react to physical sensation. Without sensation you are unable to locate yourself in time or space. Your body is your basic experience generating mechanism. It supplies not only your ability to see, touch, smell, hear, and taste, but also provides the opportunity for the concrete manifestation of your identity.