The Word Foundation
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Copyright 1906 by H. W. PERCIVAL


In speaking of elementals a friend asks: What is the exact meaning of the term elementals, used in so many connections by theosophists and occultists?

An elemental is an entity below the stage of man; the body of an elemental is composed of one of the four elements. Hence the word elemental, meaning of or belonging to the elements. The mediaeval philosophers known as the Rosicrucians divided the elements into four classes, relating each class to one of the four elements treated of by them as earth, water, air, and fire. Of course it is to be remembered that these elements are not the same as our gross elements. Earth, for instance, is not what we see around us, but the primal element on which our solid earth is based. The Rosicrucian’s named the elementals of the earth, gnomes; those of the water, undines; those of the, air, sylphs; and those of the fire, salamanders. Whenever a portion of one of the elements is given direction by an intense thought of a human being, this thought takes its form in the element characteristic of its nature and appears as an entity separate from the element, but whose body is of that element. Those elementals which are not created by human thought in this period of evolution assumed their being, due to the impressions in a former period of evolution. The creation of an elemental is due to the mind, human or universal. The elementals known as earth elementals are in themselves of seven classes, and are those which live in caverns and mountains, in mines and all the places of the earth. They are the builders of the earth with its minerals and metals. The undines live in springs, rivers, seas, and in the moisture of the air, but it takes a combination of water, air and fire elementals to produce rain. In general it takes a combination of two or more classes of elementals to produce any natural phenomenon. So crystals are formed by a combination of earth, air, water, and fire elementals. So it is with precious stones. The sylphs live in the air, in trees, in the flowers of the fields, in shrubs, and in all the vegetable kingdom. The salamanders are of the fire. A flame comes into existence through the presence of a salamander. Fire makes a salamander visible. When there is a flame we see one part of the salamander. The fire elementals are the most immaterial. These four combine with each other in producing fires, storms, floods, and earthquakes.


What is meant by the ‘human elemental’? Is there any difference between it and the lower mind?

The human elemental is that entity with which man associated when he first incarnated and with which he associates with each incarnation at the building up of his body. It persists through all the incarnations of the mind until it, through long association with the mind, receives the spark or ray of self consciousness. It is then no longer the human elemental, but the lower mind. From the human elemental comes the linga sharira. The human elemental is what is in Madame Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” called the “bharishad pitri,” or “lunar ancestor,” whereas man, the Ego, is of the agnishwatta pitri, of solar lineage, the son of the Sun.


Is there an elemental controlling the desires, another controlling the vital forces, another controlling the bodily functions, or does the human elemental control all these?

The human elemental controls all these. The linga sharira is the automaton which carries out the desires of the human elemental. The bharishad pitri does not die with the death of the body, as does the linga sharira. The linga sharira, its child, is produced from it for each incarnation. The bharishad is as the mother which is worked on by the reincarnating mind or Ego, and from this action is produced the linga sharira. The human elemental controls all the functions mentioned in the question, but each function is carried out by a separate elemental. The elemental of each organ of the body knows and controls only the lives which go to make up that organ, and perform its function, but knows nothing of any function of any other organ, but the human elemental sees that all of these functions are performed and related to each other harmoniously. All involuntary actions of the body such as breathing, digesting, perspiring, all are controlled by the human elemental. This is the buddhic function in the physical body of the human elemental. In the Editorial on “Consciousness,” The Word, Vol. I, page 293, it is said: “The fifth state of matter is the human mind or I-am-I. In the course of innumerable ages, the indestructible atom which guided other atoms into the mineral, through the vegetable, and up to the animal, at last attains the high state of matter in which is reflected the one Consciousness. Being an individual entity and having the reflection of Consciousness within, it thinks and speaks of itself as I, because I is the symbol of the One. The human entity has under its guidance an organized animal body. The animal entity impels each of its organs to perform a particular function. The entity of each organ directs each of its cells to do a certain work. The life of each cell guides each of its molecules to growth. The design of each molecule confines each of its atoms into an orderly form, and Consciousness impresses each atom with the purpose of becoming self-conscious. Atoms, molecules, cells, organs, and animal, are all under the direction of the mind—the self-conscious state of matter—the function of which is thought. But the mind does not attain self-consciousness, which is its complete development, until it has subdued and controlled all desires and impressions received through the senses, and centered all thought on Consciousness as reflected in itself.” The bharishad is the thread soul of the body just as the agnishwatta pitri is the thread soul of the mind. “Is there an elemental controlling the desires?” No. The kama rupa bears a similar relation to the Ego as does the linga sharira to the human elemental. Only whereas the linga sharira is the automaton of the body, the kama rupa is the automaton of the turbulent desires which move the world. The world’s desires move the kama rupa. Every passing elemental strikes into the kama rupa. So the linga sharira is moved and moves the body according to the impulses or commands of the human elemental, the kama rupa, or the Ego.


Does the same elemental control both the conscious acts and the unconscious functions of the body?

There is no such thing as an unconscious function or act. For though the human being may not be conscious of the functions or acts of its body, the presiding elemental of the organ or function certainly is conscious, else it could not function. The same elemental does not always perform all the functions or acts of the body. As for instance, the human elemental presides over the body as a whole though it may not be conscious of the separate and individual action of a red blood corpuscle.


Are elementals in general evolving entities, and will they all or any of them in the course of evolution become men?

The answer is yes to both questions. The body of man is the school house for all elementals. In the body of man all classes of all elementals receive their lessons and instruction; and the body of man is the great university from which all elementals graduate according to their degrees. The human elemental takes the degree of self-consciousness and in its turn then, as the Ego, presides over another elemental which becomes human, and all the lower elementals, even as the Ego in the body now does.

A Friend [H. W. Percival]