Four Bodies: The Elements

The zodiac is comprised of a simple circle divided into twelve equal sections. We can divide the number twelve by two, giving us the duality of the zodiac: masculine and feminine. We can also divide twelve equally by three, giving us the triplicity of the zodiac: cardinal, fixed, and mutable. And we can divide twelve equally by four, giving us the quadruplicity of the zodiac: fire, earth, air, and water. When we divide twelve into two groups, we get six masculine and six feminine signs. But we can also view the zodiac as six poles, or six oppositions, three of which are masculine and three are feminine.




Let’s begin with the quadruplicity of the zodiac, also known as the four elements. When we divide the zodiac into four groups, we get three of each element. We begin with Aries (fire), then Taurus (earth), Gemini (air), and Cancer (water). The same sequence of elements repeats with Leo (fire), Virgo (earth), Libra (air), and Scorpio (water). And then again with Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and finally Pisces (fire, earth, air, and water). Though the elements are distributed equally around the zodiac, we also divide the cycle into four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Each season is comprised of three signs, the first being cardinal, then fixed, and finally mutable. Spring begins with Aries (cardinal), then Taurus (fixed), and Gemini (mutable). The same sequence repeats in summer with Cancer, Leo, and Virgo, in autumn with Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius, and in Winter with Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. The seasons are defined by the fixed sign at their peak, the fire sign Leo being the epitome of summer, for example. Spring features the fixed earth sign Taurus, autumn features the fixed water sign Scorpio, and winter features the fixed air sign Aquarius.

Fixed signs are unmoving, uncompromising, and unlikely to concede. But they’re always followed by mutable signs, which are moveable, changeable, and looking for a new direction. Cardinal signs are equally open to change but with a particular direction in mind. Each season is ushered in with a cardinal sign, firmly established with a fixed sign and ready to move on with a mutable sign. These are like mini-cycles, each one building, peaking, and resolving into the next. The zodiac as a whole follows this order as it builds to a peak, only to resolve and begin another cycle.

Aries: Cardinal-Fire
Taurus: Fixed-Earth
Gemini: Mutable-Air

Cancer: Cardinal-Water
Leo: Fixed-Fire
Virgo: Mutable-Earth

Libra: Cardinal-Air
Scorpio: Fixed-Water
Sag: Mutable-Fire

Cap: Cardinal-Earth
Aquarius: Fixed-Air
Pisces: Mutable-Water

We can also include the duality of the zodiac, but because the elements are gendered, it can be somewhat redundant. All fire and air signs are masculine, and all earth and water signs are feminine. Therefore, we simply apply masculine and feminine qualities to the elements. For example, when we speak of Gemini as an air sign, we know that all air signs are masculine. But we can also attribute a masculine quality to fixed signs and a feminine quality to mutable signs. Therefore Capricorn, a feminine earth sign, is commonly associated with a paternal role. This correlation is beginning to fade as the Aquarian age approaches.

The triplicity of the zodiac is relatively self-explanatory—both in how it derives from the seasons and how it applies to behavior and character. We can expect those with many fixed signs to be somewhat stubborn and a bit self-centered. And those with many mutable signs are likely to be agreeable and easy-going but not very self-assertive. People with many cardinal signs might be great leaders or possibly just control freaks constantly pressuring others to go along with their plans. The seasons seem to cycle through a process of lead, follow, or get out of the way. And we tend to combine these qualities together, sometimes getting in our own way.

The Elements





Though the zodiac begins with Aries in a raw burst of fire, we’ll start our journey with the element of earth. Earth represents our physical bodies and our physical terrain: the earth plane. The objective world is obvious, apparent, and evident. We have a physical body, and wherever we go, there we are. This objectivity makes our physical bodies and the physical plane the perfect model for the more abstract elements. We cannot see our intellectual bodies, but we know they’re there because we use them to think. Neither can we see our emotional bodies, but we can feel them moving beneath the surface. Our spiritual bodies are perhaps the most subtle and difficult to grasp.

Just as sure as we have a physical body on a physical landscape, we have an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual body, each with its own landscape to explore. We learn very early that our physical world is full of dangers and that our physical bodies can be hurt or even crushed. But each of our four bodies promises pleasure and threatens pain. We later learn that our hearts can be crushed when we first begin to fall in love. We find many obstacles and opponents on these four landscapes as we explore the terrain. But we also find partners that we can work with to build up structure in each of these domains.

Strength and Beauty

There is more to being strong than physical strength. It’s possible to be physically strong but weak in mind, heart, and spirit. The same is true for aesthetic beauty, which is often only skin deep. Strength and beauty can manifest in each of our four bodies independently. Though it’s possible to have it all and be the complete package, most of us are a bit lopsided. We learn from experience that physical beauty is very attractive, but that looks can be deceiving. When we look beyond a person’s appearance, we may discover their inner beauty and strength of character. Everyone has strength and beauty if we take the time to see it. I keep telling myself this.

We often subordinate the pleasure of the physical body to that of the mind, the heart, and especially the spirit. Our bodies, it seems, respond like animals to the slightest impulses. And we share so many needs and desires with the animal kingdom that it’s hard not to feel ashamed of our more primal urges. But each of our bodies responds to the same impulses in their own way. We indulge our intellectual appetites with information, our emotional appetites with drama, and our spiritual appetites with thanks and praises. One may secretly admire an other’s aesthetic beauty, while the other is secretly admiring their beautiful mind. Or they may envy one another, not realizing that they, too, were enviable.  

Insecure x 4

I’m about to reveal your darkest secret and then multiply it by a factor of four. I know your secret because I share the same secret. In fact, everybody suffers from the same condition: Insecurity. We all have a physical body, and we’re relatively aware of our mortality. We may be rugged and durable, but only to a point. So, we learn to watch for hazards and avoid accidents and injuries on our path. Not just with our physical bodies, but with each of our four bodies. This gives us four distinct types of insecurity: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. We may not want to be insecure, but it comes with the package. When we have something, we have something to lose.

No person is weak on all fronts, and physical strength isn’t always balanced with mental, emotional, or spiritual strength. The same is true for physical beauty, which often rings shallow when we get a glimpse behind the physical mask. It’s not just a humbling lesson for those with great physical strength and beauty. We must all strive for a balance of strength in each of our four bodies. Any form of imbalance in these areas sets out the challenges we face in this life. It is no better to be of genius ilk and lack compassion or spiritual integrity. Nor would we want to be particularly empathetic without sufficient mental faculties to distinguish between a worthy charity and a lost cause. We may not achieve perfect balance in one lifetime, but we can be present in each of our four bodies.

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