The subject of elementals has for a long time been of interest to many people, as has the subject of the astral plane.
Elementals, in particular, seem to have been widely misunderstood and misrepresented in many post-Theosophical teachings – and even in some so-called Theosophical teachings of the 20th century, after the time of H.P. Blavatsky and William Quan Judge – so that the average person today thinks of an elemental as being a friendly little entity, generally resembling a human being in appearance, and believes that it is good to try to make contact and communicate with the elementals, also known and referred to as nature spirits.
According to the original teachings of Theosophy, however, this is a highly mistaken and misguided view. The subject of elementals is a highly complex one and most people seem to be unaware of their actual nature, function, and characteristics, not to mention their extremely close connection and involvement with the astral light, which is in effect another name for the astral plane, the psychic atmosphere of our Earth, which surrounds and to a large extent interpenetrates the physical material plane.
There are some very profound and important statements on the topic in the teachings of Theosophy and there are even two booklets available – “Conversations on Occultism” I and II – which deal almost entirely with this topic, largely based on conversations between William Judge and HPB.
In the conversation on “Elementals and Elementaries,” the “Student” says that “an elemental is a centre of force, without intelligence, without moral character or tendencies, but capable of being directed in its movements by human thoughts, which may, consciously or not, give it any form, and to a certain extent intelligence; in its simplest form it is visible as a disturbance in a transparent medium, such as would be produced by a “glass fish, so transparent as to be invisible, swimming through the air of the room,” and leaving behind him a shimmer, such as hot air makes when rising from a stove.”
The “Sage” replies that this is correct, adding that “Some classes of elementals, however, have an intelligence of their own and a character, but they are far beyond our comprehension and ought perhaps to have some other name. That class which has most to do with us answers the above description. They are centres of force or energy which are acted on by us while thinking and in other bodily motions. We also act on them and give them form by a species of thought which we have no register of. … For there is a vast unknown country in each human being which he does not himself understand until he has tried, and then only after many initiations.”
Here we have an important definition which is worth remembering: “They are centres of force or energy which are acted on by us while thinking and in other bodily motions.”
The Student later asks “what determines their movements besides thought,” to which the Sage answers, “Those other classes of thoughts above referred to; certain exhalations of beings; different rates and ratios of vibration among beings; different changes of magnetism caused by present causes or by the moon and the year; different polarities; changes of sound; changes of influences from other minds at a distance.”
In a subsequent conversation – “Forms of Elementals” – the Sage explains, “You should think of them as centres of energy only, that act always in accordance with the laws of the plane of nature to which they belong.”
Let us consider a few further statements…
“In the Astral Light … The elementals are energic centers in it. … The world of the elementals is an important factor in our world and in the course of the student. Each thought as it is involved by a man coalesces instantly with an elemental, and is then beyond the man’s power. It can easily be seen that this process is going on every instant. Therefore, each thought exists as an entity. Its length of life depends on two things: (a) The original force of the person’s will and thought; (b) The power of the elemental which coalesced with it, the latter being determined by the class to which the elemental belongs. This is the case with good and bad thoughts alike, and as the will beneath the generality of wicked thoughts is usually powerful, we can see that the result is very important, because the elemental has no conscience and obtains its constitution and direction from the thought it may from time to time carry. Each human being has his own elementals that partake of his nature and his thoughts.” – William Q. Judge, “An Epitome of Theosophy”
“The elemental sprites … take part in every movement in nature and man all over the globe and around it. … Our every thought stirs up and uses these elementals, and the motion of the wind, the rays of the sun, and the fluids of the body, with the motions of the organs, all do the same thing. These elementals are the nerves of nature, and not a thing can happen or be done in any department of life that does not involve and use the sprites of the elements. By their aid, acting only under law, do our thoughts fly from plane to plane.” – William Q. Judge, “Spiritualism”
“Existing in the sphere of kama loka, as, indeed, also in all parts of the globe and the solar system, are the elementals or nature forces. They are innumerable, and their divisions are almost infinite, as they are, in a sense, the nerves of nature. Each class has its own work just as has every natural element or thing. As fire burns and as water runs down and not up under their general law, so the elementals act under law, but being higher in the scale than gross fire or water their action seems guided by mind. Some of them have a special relation to mental operations and to the action of the astral organs, whether these be joined to a body or not.” – William Q. Judge, “The Ocean of Theosophy” Chapter XII
“The general division into fiery, airy, earthy, and watery is pretty correct, but it will not cover all the classes. There is not a single thing going on about us, no matter what, that elementals are not concerned in, because they constitute a necessary part of nature, just as important as the nerve currents in your body.” – H.P. Blavatsky, “Conversations on Occultism with H.P.B.” in “Conversations on Occultism II”
So from what we’ve read so far we can gather the following main points…
* The elementals are centres of energy in the astral light.
* The “elemental world” or “world of elementals” is the astral world/astral plane/astral light.
* The elementals are “the nerves of Nature.”
* Every single thought we think becomes joined to an elemental, through which it becomes a living thing in the astral light.
* We each have “our own elementals that partake of [our] nature and [our] thoughts.”
* Elementals are involved in everything, in every department of life.
The term “Nature” is quite frequently used in the Theosophical teachings but its intended meaning is often misunderstood. When HPB, WQJ, and the Masters refer to “Nature” they are using it 99% of the time as a synonym for the entirety of the manifested Universe. They are not speaking particularly of the physical Nature we see around us, in terms of trees, fields, rivers, and so forth. This is included in it, of course, but is only an extremely minor part of what is meant by “Nature” in the philosophical and metaphysical sense.
This is something which has led to the concept of pantheism being extremely misunderstood and misrepresented. True pantheism is not the worship of physical, objective Nature, but rather is the recognition that the Universe and everything in it is one divine whole. The term comes from the Greek words “Pan-Theos,” literally meaning “All-Divine,” “All-Deity,” or “Divinity of Everything.”
In “The Key to Theosophy,” HPB explains that to the perceptions of a true Esotericist or Philosopher the physical objective Nature we see around us is only “an evanescent illusion,” an “aggregate of flitting shadows and finite unrealities.” She continues, “We leave it to the hymn-makers to call the visible sky or heaven, God’s Throne, and our earth of mud His footstool. Our DEITY is neither in a paradise, nor in a particular tree, building, or mountain: it is everywhere, in every atom of the visible as of the invisible Cosmos, in, over, and around every invisible atom and divisible molecule; for IT is the mysterious power of evolution and involution, the omnipresent, omnipotent, and even omniscient creative potentiality.”
So when we are encouraged in the Theosophical literature to become “a co-worker with Nature” and to “help Nature and work on with her,” it is speaking of the whole scheme of things and refers to the proper progressive unfoldment and actualisation of the evolutionary impulse of the Universe, and not saying that we should go and clean out a lake or hug some trees, although of course there is nothing wrong with that!
This explanation may help us to understand more clearly what is actually meant by such terms as “the nerves of Nature” and “nature spirits.” While it’s true that the whole of physical objective Nature is pervaded by elementals of various degrees and sorts, the term “Nature Spirits,” as another name for elementals, really means “universe spirits” or “spirits of the Universe.”
It may be recalled that this latter phrase is the exact term used in “The Secret Doctrine” in describing and defining the Lipikas, who are said to be the Karmic Scribes, who cause every thought, word, action, and movement to become indelibly imprinted on the “tablets” of the astral light, which in one sense can be called the Universal Memory. It is also referred to as the Book of Life, in which there is an automatic record of every deed ever performed.
“Probably in the whole field of Theosophic study there is nothing so interesting as the astral light. … Through a knowledge of its properties they say that all the wonderful phenomena of the Oriental Yogis are accomplished. It is also claimed that clairvoyance, clairaudience, mediumship, and seership as known to the Western world are possible only through its means. It is the register of our deeds and thoughts, the great picture gallery of the earth, where the seer can always gaze upon any event that has ever happened, as well as those to come. Swimming in it as in a sea are beings of various orders and also the astral remains of deceased men and women. The Rosicrucians and other European mystics called these beings Sylphs, Salamanders, Gnomes, Undines, Elementals: the Hindu calls them Gandharvas or celestial musicians, Yakshas, Rakshasas and many more. The “spooks” of the dead – mistaken by Spiritualists for the individuals who are no more – float in this Akashic substance, and for centuries have been known to the mystical Hindu as Bhuta, another name for devil, or Pisacha, a most horrible devil – neither of them any more than the cast-off soul-body nearest earth, devoid of conscience and powerful only for evil.” – William Q. Judge, “Echoes from the Orient”
“It is incorrect to talk of one place being more full of elementals than another place. We might as well say there is more of space in one spot of space than another. Elementals are everywhere, just as animalculae fill the air; they obey the laws peculiar to themselves, and move on the currents of ether. If now and then they make themselves manifest, it does not hence follow that an additional number have been attracted to the spot, but only that conditions have altered so as to cause some disturbance.” – William Q. Judge, Answer to a question in “The Path” Magazine, Feb 1896
“Every thought is in regard to some thing and produces an image of that thing; the concentration of the Thinker upon the matrix he has created draws into it the lives that swarm in the terrestrial atmosphere, energizes them and gives them direction, according to the motive and desire of the Thinker; this matrix, made a living force, can insidiously impel to action other Thinkers whose natures and desires are similar or who have the seeds of such desires within them, and all this whether the creator of the matrix is conscious of the results or not. “Thought” or more correctly, the ability to think, is the most powerful creative, destructive, preservative or regenerating agent that any beings possess; it acts weakly and strongly, according to the knowledge and power of concentration of the Thinker. In occultism, “thought” is the real plane of action; what we see or perceive physically are merely the effects of thought.” – Robert Crosbie, “Answers to Questions on The Ocean of Theosophy”
The astral light not only records but it also reflects, as the above passage explains. As we said in the article Theosophy on the Sex Problem…
“Thought, desire, and imagination are undoubtedly some of the most powerful forces in existence, not merely on the metaphysical level but also on the everyday physical level. “As a man thinks, so is he,” says Proverbs 23:7 in the Bible. “With our thoughts we create the world,” says the Lord Buddha in the Dhammapada.
“Every thought that a person thinks – as well as every word they speak and every action they perform – becomes indelibly imprinted upon what Theosophy calls the “Astral Light,” which can be described as the psychic atmosphere which closely surrounds and to some extent even interpenetrates this physical plane of existence. Once something has been recorded in the Astral Light, it remains there, and has the potential to be either consciously or unconsciously “picked up” and acted upon by anyone whatsoever, from now unto the far distant future. This is in fact a continually ongoing process and the influence upon modern man of the contents of the Astral Light is tremendous.
“If we believe and accept this, then we can readily see and understand just how dangerous it is for our present and future humanity that the Astral Light is being increasingly filled and permeated, every minute, with every conceivable sort of sexual thought, image, imagination, lust, perversity, and deed.
“We have to understand that we are responsible beings, meaning that each one of us is entirely responsible under Karmic Law for his or her own actions, words, and thoughts. No-one else makes us do what we do. We are all setting causes in motion every moment and for every cause there will eventually be a corresponding effect. Our thoughts, words, and deeds never affect ourselves alone but always have some sort of effect on others too, since we are all part of the whole and there is no real separation between any of us.
“Now is the time to ask ourselves… What type of images have we been imprinting onto the Astral Light? What type of thoughts have we been thinking? Have we been guarding and mastering our mind and senses or just letting them run wild and loose?”
The elementals – which, let us remember, are not miniature human beings sitting around on toadstools in enchanted forests but centres of energy and force in the astral light – are vitally involved in all of this.
In the chapter titled “Elementals – Karma” in “Conversations on Occultism I” the Sage, using the term “elemental world” as a synonym for “astral light,” tells the Student that there is thus “a very important” connection between the Karma of Humanity and the Elemental World. The latter “has become a strong factor in the Karma of the human race.” Being “unconscious, automatic, and photographic” – “unconscious force” – it automatically records and is imprinted with “all the actions and thoughts and desires of men” and then reflects them back upon humanity at large. So, “being unconscious and only acting according to the natural laws of its being, the elemental world is a powerful factor in the workings of Karma.”
This is why in “The Voice of the Silence” the spiritual aspirant is told, “If thou would’st not be slain by them, then must thou harmless make thy own creations, the children of thy thoughts, unseen, impalpable, that swarm round humankind, the progeny and heirs to man and his terrestrial spoils.”
The Sage remarks that “If men saw the dreadful pictures imprinted there and constantly throwing down upon us their suggestions to repeat the same acts or thoughts, a millennium might soon drawn near. The astral light is, in this sense, the same as a photographer’s negative plate, and we are the sensitive paper underneath, on which is being printed the picture. We can see two sorts of pictures for each act. One is the act itself, and the other is the picture of the thoughts and feelings animating those engaged in it. You can therefore see that you may be responsible for many more dreadful pictures than you had supposed. For actions of a simple outward appearance have behind them, very often, the worst of thoughts or desires.”
We should understand that although our thoughts have such a profound, serious, and prolonged effect, we are not actually communicating directly with the elementals via our thoughts. In “Laws Governing Elementals,” the Sage says, “Your thoughts do not reach them. They do not hear or see you …” This does not invalidate or contradict any of what we have already said but it is merely a reminder that elementals are not personal or individually intelligent entities (with the exception of certain unmentioned higher classes which “are far beyond our comprehension” anyway) but are “energic centres” which respond to human thought only in a blind and automatic sense.
Perhaps the four most important points that are found regarding elementals in “The Secret Doctrine” by H.P. Blavatsky are the following…
* They are communicated with, and commanded by, the vibrations of sounds and colours, but such knowledge and details are kept secret amongst the Initiates and Adepts, for the sake of mankind’s own safety. (Vol. 1, p. 514)
* They will all enter the Human Kingdom, albeit at some very distant point in evolution. (Vol. 1, p. 277)
* They are what inform the phenomenal elements but the actual Elements themselves are something noumenal and unseen. (Vol. 1, p. 461)
* “As man is composed of all the Great Elements: Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Ether – the ELEMENTALS which belong respectively to these Elements feel attracted to man by reason of their co-essence. That element which predominates in a certain constitution will be the ruling element throughout life. For instance, if man has a preponderance of the Earthy, gnomic element, the gnomes will lead him towards assimilating metals – money and wealth, and so on.” (Vol. 1, p. 294)
Traditionally, fire elementals have been called Salamanders, air elementals have been called Sylphs (described by WQJ as “the elementals of the airy kingdom – the most powerful and malignant”), water elementals have been called Undines, and earth elementals have been called Gnomes or sometimes both Gnomes and Fairies.
When HPB says that “the gnomes will lead him towards assimilating metals – money and wealth, and so on,” we are bound to misunderstand and misinterpret this if we think of it in terms of a fairytale-type gnome leading a man to a pile of money somewhere. Anthropomorphic conceptions severely distort our understanding of elementals, just as they distort our understanding of Deity, the ONE Infinite Divine Life. It may take repeated effort for some of us to get such childish imaginations out of our mind but we must do so if we are serious about gaining a true and accurate comprehension of such things.
In the conversation on “Forms of Elementals,” the Sage emphasises that “Elementals have no form. … they have not even a shadowy, vague, astral form such as is commonly ascribed to ghosts. They have no distinct personal form in which to reveal themselves. … The shape given to or assumed by any elemental is always subjective in its origin. It is produced by the person who sees, and who, in order to be more sensible of the elemental’s presence, has unconsciously given it a form. Or it may be due to a collective impression on many individuals, resulting in the assumption of a definite shape which is the result of the combined impressions. … the elementals live in and through all objects, as well as beyond the earth’s atmosphere.”
So the so-called gnome is in fact but a centre of astral energy which relates specifically to certain aspects of the terrestrial or material element and its corresponding Principle in the human constitution.
Earlier we saw that it was stated that “Each human being has his own elementals that partake of his nature and his thoughts.” Elementals are sometimes referred to in Theosophy as “lives,” as in the quote from Robert Crosbie. Referring to our own elementals, William Judge has said, “If there is any point strongly made in occultism it is that we are a compound of lives, that every part of us is so made, and hence it follows that our lower nature is made of these lives. There is no vacuum in the universe void of a life. But while this is so, these lives, in so far as they go to make up man, are not to be considered as separate beings from himself whom he can “educate,” as inferred in the question, from a position as man which is apart from them. They exist in him, and as he lives and thinks so he impresses on them his thoughts and acts, and as they are leaving him every moment of time it follows that a stream of these lives of many grades and sorts is continually being projected from him into space and forming his own karma.” (“Forum Answers”)
Again: “as he lives and thinks so he impresses on them [i.e. his own elementals] his thoughts and acts, and as they are leaving him every moment of time it follows that a stream of these lives of many grades and sorts is continually being projected from him into space and forming his own karma.”
As the Sage told the Student, “the elemental world is a powerful factor in the workings of Karma.” We are so extremely responsible and it is high time for us to take responsibility for ourselves and to begin living our lives consciously and harmlessly.
Elsewhere, the Sage explains that “Every person has about him a fluid, or plane, or sphere, or energy, whichever you please to call it, in which are constantly found elementals that partake of his nature. That is, they are tinted with his colour and impressed by his character.” This sphere of energy surrounding the individual is also described by the Sage as our “astral sphere” in which our thoughts become engraved like images. It is also spoken of as “the portion of the astral light belonging to each of us with its elementals.”
A great depth of information is hidden or concealed within just those few phrases and those who think and reflect carefully upon them may learn much about the nature of the Human Aura, for this is what is being referred to here. In the second volume of “The Secret Doctrine” it is taught that the Aura is an egg-shaped sphere which surrounds the astral body. HPB further reveals, in the “Theosophical Glossary,” that it is “a psychic effluvium,” “a subtle invisible essence or fluid that emanates from human and animal bodies and even things.” She says that the Aura is affected and altered by both the mind and the body and that it is both an “Electro-Vital” Aura and “Electro-Mental” Aura at one and the same time.
WQJ says something quite interesting in one of his earliest articles, “The Moral Law of Compensation,” when he informs us that “The ancients taught that the astral light – Akasha – is projected from the eyes, the thumbs and the palms of the hands. Now as the elementals exist in the astral light, they will be able to see only through those avenues of human organism which are used by the astral light in travelling from the person. The eyes are the most convenient. So when this person directs his glance on any thing or person, the astral light goes out in that glance and through it those elementals see that which he looks upon.”
Some of our readers may be asking, “Is this “astral light” the same thing as Akasha? The things that are said about it make it sound the same as the Akashic Records.”
Generally speaking, Theosophy does not use the term “Akashic Records.” Neither HPB, W.Q. Judge, or the Masters, ever used it in their writings. The term was invented later, by others, and is now most frequently used in the New Age Movement, where the whole concept and reality behind it is distorted, misunderstood, and trivialised, the same thing happening to almost anything the New Agers get their hands on.
The “Akasha” and the “Astral Light” are not exactly synonymous terms. Akasha is something far greater and infinitely more important than is realised by most people who casually use the word. “The Secret Doctrine” teaches that “Akasha can be defined in a few words: it is the universal Soul, the Matrix of the Universe, the “Mysterium Magnum” from which all that exists is born by separation or differentiation. It is the cause of existence; it fills all the infinite Space; is Space itself, in one sense, in both its Sixth and Seventh principles.” (Vol. 2, p. 511)
In “Isis Unveiled,” the very first book by HPB, the Akasha is defined as the source of all life, the reservoir of all energy, and the motion behind every change of matter. HPB later maintains in “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge” that the Akasha “is the eternal divine consciousness” and that it is unconditioned, undifferentiated, and infinite. There can obviously only ever be one Infinite and so the article The One Eternal Thing demonstrates that Akasha, Mulaprakriti, Brahman, Parabrahm, and Svabhavat are actually all synonymous terms for the One Divine Absolute Reality, the Supreme Ultimate Principle which is the Causeless Cause and the Rootless Root of all.
The astral light, then, is a lower manifestation of Akasha. There is an “upper, divine astral light” and also a “lower, material astral light.” The upper divine astral light is the realm of cosmic archetypes, whilst the lower astral light has been described as the “lower dregs” of Akasha. It is this which we have been discussing in the present article, for it is this with which humanity is currently most directly concerned.
Maybe we should look at what HPB says in the entry for “Astral Light” in the “Theosophical Glossary”: “The invisible region that surrounds our globe, as it does every other, and corresponding as the second Principle of Kosmos (the third being Life, of which it is the vehicle) to the Linga Sharira or the Astral Double in man. A subtle Essence visible only to a clairvoyant eye, and the lowest but one (viz., the earth), of the Seven Akashic or Kosmic Principles. Eliphas Levi calls it the great Serpent and the Dragon from which radiates on Humanity every evil influence. This is so; but why not add that the Astral Light gives out nothing but what it has received; that it is the great terrestrial crucible, in which the vile emanations of the earth (moral and physical) upon which the Astral Light is fed, are all converted into their subtlest essence, and radiated back intensified, thus becoming epidemics – moral, psychic and physical. Finally, the Astral Light is the same as the Sidereal Light of Paracelsus and other Hermetic philosophers.”
“Hence, while it [i.e. Akasha] is the universal Cause in its unmanifested unity and infinity, the Astral light becomes, with regard to Mankind, simply the effects of the causes produced by men in their sinful lives. It is not its bright denizens – whether they are called Spirits of Light or Darkness – that produce Good or Evil, but mankind itself that determines the unavoidable action and reaction in the great magic agent. … Humanity, in its units, can overpower and master its effects; but only by the holiness of their lives and by producing good causes. … the Astral Light, the manifested effects of the two who are one, guided and attracted by ourselves, is the Karma of humanity.” – H.P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 512, 513
We have said a lot in this article and it is best now to bring it to a close. The knowledge that Theosophy offers and provides regarding the twin topics of elementals and the astral light is of tremendous importance and deserves frequently repeated study, as has hopefully been shown here. The Master K.H. has spoken of the elementals as “nature forces” and this is how we should think of them…as “the nerves of nature”…remembering what Nature actually means in its greater and higher sense.
Now is the time to purge, purify, refine, elevate, and spiritualise our entire being, from within without. There is no-one stopping us but ourselves.
~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~
SOME RELATED ARTICLES: Questions about Karma, A Right Understanding of Karma, A Right Understanding of Reincarnation, The Sevenfold Nature of Man, The Skandhas, Mysteries of the Astral Body, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, Golden Keys to The Secret Doctrine, The Seven Planes, The Yoga of Purity, Practical Theosophy, Beware of the Star Rishis, Who was William Quan Judge?, Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, The Seven Hierarchies, and How to successfully study the Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky.