Mastery of the elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) is one of the different types of Spiritual Power or siddhis outlined in the Vibhuti Pada (Book III) of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There was once a Renaissance alchemist named Paracelsus who believed that each of the four primary elements known to the ancients (earth, water, fire, and air) consisted of a subtle, vaporous principle and a gross corporeal substance. Nevertheless, the subtle, vaporous principle was unknown to man because his undeveloped senses were incapable of functioning beyond the limitations of the grosser elements. Although the Hindus would agree to Paracelsus, they had taken this further by diving deeper into the subtle nature of these elements while at the same time having a fifth one called Ether.
Allow me to explain…
The Panca Bhutas is a concept in Hindu philosophy which is the five subtle conditions of material energy. They are called by the names of the five concrete elements of ancient thought: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. All objects are said to be created by the amalgamation of these five subtle conditions of matter, which are nowhere to be found in their purity in the gross material world.
1. Earth – in Sanskrit is called Prithvi. The lower essential nature of Earth is fixed and immobile; the higher, mysterious, mobile, and virtual. It is the earth-principle creating habitations of physical form for the soul; the material energy in the state of cohesion called earth or the solid state; and the physical consciousness.
2. Water - in Sanskrit is called Jala. It is the liquid condition of material being. Water consists of a dense fluid and a potential essence of a fluidic nature.
3. Fire - in Sanskrit is called Agni. Fire is the igneous, radiant and electric energy which is visible and invisible, discernible and indiscernible - a spiritual, ethereal flame manifesting through a material, substantial flame.
4. Air - in Sanskrit is called Vayu. Air is twofold in nature - tangible atmosphere and an intangible, volatile substratum which may be termed spiritual air. It is the gaseous condition of material being of which the special property is contact between force and force, a contact that is the basis of all material relations.
5. Ether - in Sanskrit is called Akasa. In physics, Ether is considered to be the medium through which light propagates. In ancient thought, it is the ever-present spiritual energy inherent in all parts of the universe and is the medium through which the powers of higher worlds act on the material plane.
The Gross, Subtle, and Causal Principles
The general term elements have been applied to the Gross Principle of the five elements I mentioned above. Even so, it took thousands of years before they found themselves, in our cultured age, finally degraded into simple chemical elements like Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Helium, etc. What Patanjali refers to in his sutra deals not only with the Gross, but also the Subtle and Causal Principles described below.
Gross Principle – This is called Shtula in Sanskrit. The Gross Principle pertains to the physical being or the material world. It is extracted from a subtle plane so as to be perceptible to the physical senses. Our modern scientific instruments are only effective within the boundaries of the gross, material plane.
Subtle Principle – This is called Sukshma in Sanskrit. The Subtle Principle is non-material or not belonging to the physical world perceived by the outer mind and senses. It relates to the subliminal parts of our being or the supraphysical planes of existence between the physical plane and the spiritual plane.
Causal Principle – This is called Karana in Sanskrit. The Causal Principle supports and secretly guides the confused activities of Mind, Life and Body. It ensures and compels the right arrangement of the Universe which to the undeveloped mind appears chaotic, but in truth is exactly the opposite. The Universe is intelligent and has an intention because if it didn't, then it surely is an aweful waste of time to be here.
Take note that the Subtle and Causal principles of these elements are not observable and experimentally testable by the yoga of the west, which we call science. To study these principles, you’ll need to use the science of the east called yoga.
Now to understand how the great yogis are able to attain this ability, let's turn to Sutra 45 of the Vibhuti Pada.
"Mastery over the Panca-Bhutas by performing Samyama on their gross, constant, subtle, all-pervading and functional states."
— I.K. Taimni, The Science Of Yoga
"By observing the aspects of matter - gross, subtle, intrinsic, relational, purposive - with perfect discipline, one masters the elements."
— Chip Hartranft, The Yoga-Sûtra of Patañjali
"Mastery of the elements comes from perfectly concentrated Meditation on their five forms: the gross, the elemental, the subtle, the inherent, the purposive."
— Charles Johnston, The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali: The Book of the Spiritual Man
Attaining Mastery Of The Elements
Mastery of the elements earth, water, fire, air, and space can be attained by performing Samyama Meditation on each of the corresponding energy centers of the Panca-Bhutas:
1. Earth (Prithvi) - Root Chakra
2. Water (Jala) - Sacral Chakra
3. Fire (Agni) - Solar Plexus Chakra
4. Air (Vayu) - Heart Chakra
5. Ether (Akasa) - Throat Chakra
The next sutras (46-47 & 49) mention that once this siddhi or spiritual power is attained, these three are also developed:
1. Making The Body Atomically Small, Indestructible, Perfect
2. Perfection Of The Body In Beauty, Strength, And Brilliance
3. Quickness Of The Mind (Instantaneous Cognition)
It is said that all the forces of nature can be brought under the control of the person who discovers the laws which determine the action of these forces. These laws are embedded in different layers, i.e. gross, subtle, and causal. The 7 Chakras are said to be the gateways through which the superphysical consciousness expresses its power over the forces in the different planes of existence, which includes the physical world. Therefore, anyone who can come in contact with this consciousness can gain knowledge of these laws. This siddhi, however, is not an easy thing to attain, and perhaps the method described above is something only highly advanced yogis can perform.
|Vision Of The Light Of The Universal Mind||Making The Body Atomically Small, Indestructible, Perfect|