Ayurveda and the Essenes believed that everything in this universe is made up of combinations of the Five Great Elements or building blocks. This includes the human being which also acquires a soul or spirit. These Five Elements are known as: Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Ether. It should be understood; we derive from and are expressions of an un-manifest and undifferentiated Creative Principle, which is One. These Five Elements are to be understood in a material sense as well as a subtle sense.
Earth represents the solid state of matter. It manifests stability, permanence and rigidity. In our body, the parts such as bones, teeth, cells and tissue are manifestations of the Earth. Earth is considered a stable substance.
By Earth we are to understand not only the terrain of our planet or the iron in our red blood cells and spleen, but also the quality of steadfastness of mind, strength of one?s moral fiber, one's slow and quiet undeterred advancement towards a goal, and the resistance to the manifestations of others.
Water characterizes change and represents the liquid state. Water is necessary for the survival of all living things. A large part of the human body is made up of water. Our blood, lymph, and other fluids move between our cells and through our vessels, bringing energy, and carrying away wastes, regulating temperature, bringing disease fighters, and carrying hormonal information from one area to another.
By Water we mean to imply the cohesive aspects of reality which flows into and holds things together, perfectly and simply witnessed in the ubiquitous H20 molecule. And the other Elements too were intended by the ancient physicians to communicate the essential universal principle inherent in a particular Element.
Fire is the power to transform solids into liquids, to gas, and back again. In other words, it possesses power to transform the state of any substance. Within our bodies, the fire or energy binds the atoms together. It also converts food to fat (stored energy) and muscle. Fire transforms food into energy. It creates the impulses of nervous reactions, our feelings, and even our thought processes. Fire is considered a form without substance.
By Fire we mean the universal force in nature that produces heat and radiates light; it is our passion to pursue despite obstacles and delays; it is what burns away the cloak of ignorance and allows the Truth to shine with brilliance. Fire removes doubt from the mother-substance of human heart and replaces it with joy.
Air is the gaseous form of matter, which is mobile and dynamic. Within the body, air (oxygen) is the basis for all energy transfer reactions. It is a key Element required for Fire to burn. Air is existence without form.
By Air we mean the transparent, rarefied, kinetic force which sets the universe in motion; it moves the blood through the vessels, wastes from the body, thoughts through the mind; it moves the birds to warmer climates in winter, it moves the planets around their suns.
Ether is the space in which everything happens. It is the field that is simultaneously the source of all matter and the space in which it exists. Ether is only the distances, which separate matter. The chief characteristic of Ether is sound. Here sound represents the entire spectrum of vibration.
By Ether we mean the subtlest of all Elements which are everywhere and touch everything; in the mind it is the vessel which receives all impressions, in the heart space accepts love; space is receptivity and non-resistance to what is true.
Every substance in our world is made up of these five substances. All substances can be classified according to their predominant element. For example, a mountain is predominantly made up of Earth Element. A mountain also contains Air, Fire, Water and Ether. But these Elements are very small compared to the Earth. Ayurveda defines a human as the assemblage of the five great Elements plus the "immaterial self".
Thus these Five Subtle Elements form the basis for all things found in the material creation, from a grain of sand to the complex physiology of every human being. Balancing these Elements in just the right way for each unique individual is the key to maintaining health and treating disease should it arise, whether it is physical, mental, or spiritual.