Harmony Of The Elements: Celtic Thought

20170302-harmony-of-the-elements-celtic-thoughtAs we’re in the season of spring, the main element of our focus of this time is air. But, that’s not to ignore the other three elements – and apologies to those that hold to three elements in total (as I’m a ‘four element’ man in the main, though maybe in actuality I’m a ‘five element’ man, with the fifth being of a different order, but that’s for another time).

And, just for a few minutes, as I’ve had more opportunity to travel by bus recently – blessed be the #72 bus route – and marvel at the joined-up service in London, my thoughts were led to think of harmony, and especially about the harmony of the elements. Their connectedness.

For some time I’ve fallen into the habit of ‘dealing’ with the elements individually as the wheel turned and one season led into another, and missed out, I think. It’s easy to do. So, here’s a few thoughts about the presence and balance of the elements as it occurred to me journeying around London, today.

Of course, acceptance of elements within everything goes back a long way and permeates many cultures. Empedocles, the Greek philosopher, scientist and healer of the fifth century BC, believed that all matter is comprised of four elements: earth, air, fire and water. And, this was a common belief, upheld by ancient Celts, Druids and others, and (depending how you perceive things and the circumstances) by latter-day ones, too, and poets and story-tellers, also.

I can do no better than include, here, the words of Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, who currently lives in the Dordogne region of the south of France, who wrote:

‘If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.

Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.

If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper.

When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist. ‘ Thích Nhất Hạnh

In that example, Thích Nhất Hạnh writes that in a sheet of paper, a newspaper that we might read on the way home from work, that their is a cloud ‘in’ the paper. And, also, their is the presence of the elements of: earth (in the form of paper from trees of the earth),  air (as trees ‘breathed’ that in), water (in the form of rain which fell from the sky and fed the trees), and fire (because it was the sun whose light and heat nourished the tree to grow tall and strong).

All elements are present in ‘things’, but maybe depending on the item, and/or circumstance, and/or our perception at the time, one comes to the fore. There is, therefore, a wonderful balance and equality (even an equality of deference at times) between the elements. All present. All working together. All in harmony. What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Harmony Of The Elements: Celtic Thought

  1. Pingback: Spring Not Spring – Reluctant Mysticism

  2. Perhaps as with most things, we need symbols. Words are symbols of thought; put on paper or on line. To often we begin to form our own thoughts, perhaps to not let one person speak for us. Reminds one of how we like our god. No big G? No. But again well written and God can use words to do all. Thank you Tadhag- lent is here.

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  3. Thank you for your comments, Stephen. Always welcome. Symbols are important, ritual too (especially to me). I often like to think of symbols, words, liturgy, ritual and liturgy as metaphors, representations of what we cannot see, touch or feel for the time being in a substantial way, and yet can draw close, and be included, and encounter, nevertheless.

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  4. We can also see how devastating an imbalance of the elements can be eg in drought or flood. And if we extend the analogy to human psychology, how important it is to keep checking that we too are ‘in balance’. The month of the Spring Equinox/Lent a good time to do this I guess!

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