The question has been asked: Just what are the Three Elemental Kingdoms and have they any special relation to the Cosmic Elements of the Ancients?
Elemental Kingdoms, as all the others are, are aggregates or groups of evolving monads; whereas the so-called elements of the ancients, or the principles, were so phrased by them to describe more what we today would call the seven principles or elements of the universe, as a man has seven principles or elements. It is their way of describing it. The Hindus have the same way, only in that case the Sanskrit name is tattvas: prithivi-tattva, apas-tattva, vayu-tattva, taijasa-tattva, akasa-tattva, and so forth.
Now then, these groups or aggregates of monads, each group being a kingdom, or in their Rounds what we call a Life-wave — each such group of monads, which means all groups, live in and work through these tattvas or cosmic elements, which the Greeks and Romans called Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Some, like the Pythagoreans, said there was a fifth, Aether, but actually in the occult schools the teaching was that there were seven, of which only four were popularly known, and the Pythagoreans and some others in Europe openly declared the existence of a fifth. The Greek aether or the Pythagoreans aether properly understood, was what the Hindus meant when they said akasa.
Thus then, these cosmic elements are the different stuffs of the universe, the different substances out of which the universe is builded. We can call them the various prakritis of the universe although of course each one of these different names has its own sub-line of thought connected with it. They are therefore not absolutely interchangeable. Consequently, the cosmic elements or these prakritis belong to all the kingdoms because all the kingdoms, as I have just stated, are living in and working through them.
What is the origin of these cosmic elements? They are the essence-stuffs or substances out of which grow the more developed planes of the universe. There being thus seven or twelve cosmic elements, when manvantara opens these seven cosmic elements begin from the top and unroll downwards, each one going down in its serial order, and each one giving birth to its first or essential stuff, its most spiritual aspects so to speak; and this last, its most spiritual aspect, is just what is meant by these cosmic elements. Then each such cosmic element as it unrolls on its own plane before it gives birth to the cosmic elements beneath it, unrolls from itself all its own seven sub-planes, or sub-cosmic elements, so that each such cosmic element contains in itself all the other cosmic elements, but in less degree. Thus the water cosmic element, to use Greek phrasing, has as its swabhava the water-element, but it likewise contains within itself the fire-element, the air-element, the earth-element, etc.
The kingdoms are aggregates or families or groups of monads. The cosmic elements are the essential stuffs in which they live and move and have their being and evolve.
Now then, one final thought will connect everything up, I hope. Spirit in its sevenfold aspects is the root of all these cosmic elements, or prakritis. Just as all the prakritis unroll from mulaprakriti which is the veil of Brahman or pure cosmic Spirit, so do all the cosmic elements unroll from the primal substantial veil around cosmic Spirit, corresponding to mulaprakriti. Thus out of Spirit comes everything, all the cosmic elements; and out of spirit likewise proceed the classes or families or groups or aggregates of monads forming the different kingdoms, from the Dhyani-chohans down to the elementals. And lastly, when we examine and penetrate to the very ultimate nature or stuff of the cosmic elements, we can see that every cosmic element is really a vast aggregate or group of monads or consciousness-centers not yet aroused into activity, and which are therefore dormant. It is just like all the earth around us, which, representing the lowest of the cosmic elements on this plane, is nevertheless composed of simply innumerable multitudes of dormant monads which have not yet awakened to begin their evolutionary journeys and develop into self-conscious gods. Or again, as the flesh of a man is composed of molecules, these of atoms, and these of life-atoms, or life-points, which are the effect on this plane of monads on their own plane.
It is of course understood that a monad never leaves its own plane; so when we say that the earth-element is composed of concreted or dormant monads, we do not mean the spiritual monads themselves; we mean the life-atoms, each life-atom being the representative of a monad on this cosmic plane.
What relation, then, have the three elemental kingdoms, kingdoms of the elementals, to the cosmic elements? Now in the first place, I will say that this phrase "three elemental kingdoms" is an easy and graphic way of saying the seven kingdoms of the elementals, or the seven sub-kingdoms of the generalized kingdom of elementals; just as in a man we often generalize his constitution by saying spirit, soul, body, knowing all the time that the constitution is divisible into seven parts.
The three kingdoms of elementals in their first or original appearance in manifested manvantara, spring forth from the stuffs of the original cosmic elements; and therefore these baby-entities, which are as it were ensouling parts of life-atoms, are called elementals. This is the original and if you wish highest kingdom of the elementals, not highest here in the sense of evolution, but highest in schematic diagram. The so-called lower kingdoms of elementals are lower merely because they are farther from the spiritual part or nature of the cosmic elements, but being more evolved in that sense they stand higher. So that the lowest class of elementals, which is beneath the minerals, actually is the most evolved of all the elemental kingdoms. But they have not yet even reached the point where they can be classed as minerals or pass into the mineral kingdom.
Now the reason why there are really seven elemental sub-kingdoms, is because each such elemental kingdom springs from its own particular cosmic element. As there are seven cosmic elements, each cosmic element gives birth to its own elemental kingdom. Thus when all these elemental kingdoms are classed together, we say seven elemental kingdoms, each one such coming from its own different cosmic element.
As a final thought, it is to be noted that in occult or esoteric phraseology, the elementals are so called because whatever their class and whatever the cosmic elements or tattva from which each elemental class springs, it springs directly from this tattva or cosmic element without intermediary. Thus, the elementals are, as it were, the denizens or inhabitants of the cosmic elements, because they spring forth immediately and without intermediary from the latter.
To those who are not more or less adept with Theosophical studies, it is important to point out that the elementals are not elementaries, this last term being adopted from medieval European quasi-occult or semi-occult Schools, such as the Fire-Philosophers. An elementary is a denizen of the astral light, and is, briefly speaking, the reliquiae or semi-conscious astral remnant of what was once an evil man on earth. In other words, and more briefly, an elementary is the semi-conscious kama-rupa or in the worst case almost wholly conscious kama-rupa, of what was when he lived on earth, a gross and evil man. These elementaries in the astral light are slowly decaying, but still filled with all the evil, gross, and often malignant impulses and proclivities, tendencies, and biases, that the said evil man showed when he was imbodied in flesh.