The Path – January 1887



The subject of my paper is "The Elementals, the Elementary Spirits, and the relation between them and human beings."

I will endeavor to give an outline of some of the teachings of the occult science relative to these beings, their relationship to the universal powers and to us, and our power over them.

In the general statement I shall probably not be able to say anything new to students of the occult forces of nature, except it be in the illustrations I shall bring forth from what I consider new sources, from Leibnitz's Monadology, namely:

In Leibnitz's Monads, I think we may see the very substance of the astral sphere, in which the elementary spirits "wrap themselves," according to a statement in the Kabbala. We may even see more, we may even look upon them as the Elementals themselves.

If Leibnitz's Monads may be considered not only as Elementals, but also the very substance of the astral sphere, and if it be so, that according to the Zohar, "the spirits, when they come down clothe themselves with air, or wrap themselves in elements," then it becomes a subject of the greatest importance to us how or by what means we may influence the astral sphere, or in other words, it becomes very important by what kind of Monads we are surrounded.

As a help to the proper consideration of this momentous question, I shall offer some information regarding the natural auras or objective spheres, that surround us, and also some historic facts regarding the use of aromatic vapors, odors, &c.

Having come so far with my paper, I shall say a few words about our power over the elementals "clothed with air and wrapped in elements," by defining the power of Mind and by describing those — almost unknown — small nerve centres of the human hand, called the Pacinian corpuscles.

I shall only stop to define these two tools, the head and the hand, and leave out, for the present, the third of the human trinity, the heart.

Having defined the power of mind and the hand, I shall come to a close with a few suggestions as to the use of these powers regarding the subject under consideration.

Elementary Spirits are defined in "Isis Unveiled" to be "the disembodied souls. The depraved souls have at some time prior to death separated from themselves their divine spirits, and so lost their chance for immortality. Eliphas Levi and some other Kabbalists make little distinction between elementary spirits who have been men, and those beings which people the elements, and are the blind forces of nature."

The points to mark in this definition are these: (1) Elementary Spirits are disembodied souls; (2) they are disembodied souls of the good, and (3) of the depraved, i.e., of those, in whom the higher principles have never been developed, nor even born into light. They are the shades of those who, by their sins and moral misery, have closed the most interior principles of the constitution of man, and having closed the door against them, have no part in life, but sooner or later become dissolved and disintegrated in the surrounding elements.

In the manifestations common among Spiritualists, these Elementary Spirits play the most prominent parts. The Elementals do not. We shall concern ourselves mainly with the Elementals.

Elementals are defined in "Isis Unveiled" as "the creatures evolved in the four kingdoms of earth, air, fire, and water, and called by the Kabbalists gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines. They may be termed the forces of nature, and will either operate effects as the servile agents of general law, or may be employed by the disembodied spirits — whether pure or impure — and by living adepts of magic and sorcery, to produce desired phenomenal results. Such beings never become men."

They are in popular mythology and folktales called by a great many names, peris, fauns, elves, brownies, pixies, &c., &c.

They are not disembodied human spirits, but distinct Creations. They have their homes in the astral sphere but are found commonly on earth.

The definition already given from "Isis Unveiled" I will amplify by a few lines I have extracted and translated from the various works of Paracelsus:

"All elements have a soul and are living. The inhabitants of the elements are named Saganes (Saganae), i.e., elements. They are not inferior to men; they differ from men by having no immortal soul. They are the powers of Nature, i.e., they are the ones who do that which is usually ascribed to Nature. We may call them beings, but they are not of Adam's kin. They eat and drink such substances as in their element serve for eating and drinking. They are clothed, they marry and multiply themselves. They can not be incarcerated, and die like the animals, having no soul."

"They know all that is going on, and do often reveal it to men, who are able to converse with them. But they are very unreliable, and some are very treacherous. They like children and simple minded persons the best. They avoid drunken and beastly men. They reveal more of their nature to the simple minded and innocent ones than to the learned and arrogant ones. They are rather simple minded themselves."

"There are more women among them than men, and a congregation of women is called a Venus-mount. The fable told about Tannhauser is no mere tale, it is true."

Thus far, we have, perhaps, no difficulty in following Paracelsus, but when we read further into his revelations, our common sense fails to comprehend the mysteries laid open. Yet, I will say for myself, that though I can not comprehend it, I can readily apprehend such a state of things as that described in the following words:

"They can come to us and mix with our society. They can bear us children; but such children do not belong to them, they belong to us. We may bring these elemental wives to us by faith, pure thinking and our image-making powers. When they enter our sphere of existence and copulate with us, they appear, on account of their strange manners, like gods."

"Those that live in the water are called Nymphs or Undines, those in the air Sylphs, those of the earth Pygmies or Gnomes, those of the fire Salamanders. Nymphs or Undines look much like human beings, the others differ more or less."

"It is particularly the Undines or Nymphs that unite with men. When an Undine marries a man, both she and her child become souls."

From the Kabbala we can draw many statements corroborating the testimony of Paracelsus. In fact all the most valuable teachings we possess, relative to Elementals, as far as they are printed and given to the public, are derived from the Kabbala. According to it all activity, all events, in History and in Nature, are in the hands of spirits, either Elementals or Elementary. We find them as ministering everywhere, from the Zodiac down to the smallest worm. We find them mentioned by name, those of the sphere of the Shechina as well as those presiding over the four elements.

In Jalkut Chadash it is stated: "There is not a thing in the world, not the least herb, over which is not set a spirit."

The Kabbalistic work Berith Menucha (by Abraham, a son of Isaac, a Jew from Granada), their names are given:

The spirit that presides over fire is named Jehuel, and under him range seven other spirits. Prince Michael is set over water, and under him rule seven other spirits. Jechiel rules over the wild animals and these rule under him. Anpiel rules over the birds and two princes rule beside him. Hariel controls the cattle and besides him three spirits. Samniel rules the creatures of earth and water and Mesannahel the worms. Deliel together with three princes command the fishes; Ruchiel and three others, the winds; Gabriel, the thunder; Nariel, the hailstorm; Maktuniel, the rocks and Alpiel the fruitful trees, while Saroel, the unfruitful. Sandolfon governs men.

These names are important, as you know, for they are the key to the respective powers of each of these spirits.

As stated in "Isis Unveiled," Eliphas Levi and other Kabbalists make no or very little distinction between Elementals and Elementary Spirits. This cannot be right by Levi to do. There are essential differences. The Elementals never become men, nor were they ever men. The Elementary spirits as defined by Levi resemble very much such spirits as those we are familiar with in ordinary spiritism. I shall in this paper only give them a passing notice and speak about the Elementals mainly.

From the definition already given, it is evident that the Elementals exist in a great variety of forms, some are mere forces of nature, pure abstract beings; others have some kind of body, at least, when we speak of gnomes, sylphs, undines, &c., we represent them in figures more or less human.

In the Kabbala and other Jewish secret books and traditions, the Elementals are represented as a middle race of beings, which, by a general name, the Jews called Schedim (the male Ruchin and the female Lilin). They are really the lowest and the dregs of the spiritual orders. They are divided into four classes: (1) Those of Fire; these cannot be seen with the eye; they mean to do good, and often help men. They understand the Thora and have communion with the angelic world. They are masters of many of nature's secrets.

It was these beings which Solomon employed, according to Mohammedan traditions, in erecting the temple. We are told, (1) that "the male genii to erect various public buildings, among others also, the temple. The female genii he obliged to cook, to bake, to wash, to weave, to spin, to carry water, and to perform other domestic labors. The stuffs they produced Solomon distributed among the poor."

Much curious information can be had from these Mohammedam traditions. Solomon, we are told, once asked an Elemental, who appeared to him in the form of a fish, as to how many there were of that kind, and received the following reply: "There are of my species alone, seventy thousand kinds, the least of which is so large that thou would appear in its body like a grain of sand in the wilderness."

We are further told, that Solomon, by means of a certain stone, "had dominion over the kingdom of spirits, which is much greater than that of man and beasts, and fills up the whole space between the earth and heaven. Part of these spirits believe in the only God, but others are unbelieving. Some adore the fire; continually others the sun; others, again, the different stars; and many of them even water. The first hover round the pious, to preserve them from evil and sin; but the latter seek in every possible manner to torment and to seduce them, which they do the more easily, since they render themselves invisible, or assume any form they please. Solomon desired to see the genii in their original form. An angel rushed like a column of fire through the air, and soon returned with a host of demons and genii, whose appalling appearance filled Solomon, in spite of his dominion over them, with horror. He had no idea that there were such misshapen and frightful beings in the world. He saw human heads on the necks of horses, with asses' feet; the wings of eagles on the dromedary's back; and the horns of the gazelle on the head of the peacock. Astonished at this singular union, he prayed the angel to explain it to him: "This is the consequence," replied the angel, "of their wicked lives and their shameless intercourse with men, beasts and birds; for their desires know no bounds; and the more they multiply, the more they degenerate."

(2) The second group consists of those of Fire and Air; they are lower in order than the former, those of Fire, but they are good and wise. They are also invisible. They inhabit, like the former, the upper regions.

(3) The third group consists of those of Fire, Air and Water, they are sometimes visible to our senses.

(4) The fourth class is also made of Fire, Air and Water, but have besides an element of Earth in their constitution. They may be fully seen by human eyes.

This class and those of the third are of a wicked disposition and deceive men, and are glad to do us harm. They have no moral sense at all. Some of them live in the waters, some in the mountains and deserts, and some in filthy places. Some of them are hideous to look upon, and are said to be met with even in open daylight.

The two first classes mentioned stand bodily next to men and are very dangerous. They possess extraordinary powers, standing, as they do, between the visible and the invisible worlds. They have some knowledge of the future and are particularly wise in regard to natural things. Some of these have in the time past been worshipped as gods and national deities. The Kabbala is quite emphatic in warnings against them, saying that they are untrustworthy because "their natural affinities are towards the lower realms of existence, rather than the higher."

All these elementals, whatever class they belong to are subject to dissolution. Their lives are not centred on an eternal principle. They die — and that is the end of them.

It is also worthy of notice that there is a close parallel between the teachings of the Kabbala on this point with that of the Vishnu Parana regarding the composition of the descending order of emanations. According to the Kabbala, as we have just heard, the Elementals of the first order were pure Fire, those of the next were Fire plus Air, those of the next Fire, Air, and Water, while those of the lowest order consisted of Fire, Air, Water plus Earth. Each of them as they live on a lower plane add a new element to their constitution. The same law is found in the groupings of the elements according to the Vishnu Purana. The purest one is Ether and has only one property, sound. The next is Air which to sound adds touch; the next is Fire, which to sound and touch adds colour; the next is Water, which to the three former adds a fourth, taste; the last is Earth, which to all the former adds smell, thus possessing five properties.

The harmony in the teachings of these two authorities, resting as they do on so different a basis is an additional argument for the truths of their teachings on the main subject.

Thus far I have been speaking of Elementals in the commonly accepted sense. But, it appears to me that there is another order of beings which also may be called Elementals, though perhaps in another sense.

I mean the ten Sephiroth.

The Kabbala teaches that the En-Soph (the One without end, the Boundless) is present in the Sephiroth or "intelligences," by means of which creation is effected.

These Sephiroth, these "intelligences" or spheres, as they also have been called, these spiritual substances are emanations from the En-Soph in which they existed from all eternity. They are emanations, not creations. A creation implies diminution of strength, but an emanation does not, hence the ten Sephiroth form among themselves, and with the En-Soph, a strict unity. They are in fact only differing from the En-Soph in the same way as light differs from its source, the fire. They are boundless on one side of their being, but finite manifestations on the other. They are both infinite and finite.

It has been stated that the whole world is like a gigantic tree full of branches and leaves, the root of which is the spiritual world of the Sephiroth; or it is like an immense sea, which is constantly filled by a spring everlastingly gushing forth its streams. That which thus has been said about the world applies equally to the Sephiroth. They are like trees rooted in the En-Soph, but blossoming and bearing fruit in the world. They are open within but closed without. Though they partake of the divine nature, they are on the outer side the garments of the Most High. This their outer side is their bodily form, and it is with this we may come in contact.

It is almost blasphemy to call the outer side of the Sephiroth bodily — for body is to us something very low. Let us, therefore, beware of attaching anything low or mean to Body, when we speak of the Sephiroth. Let us bow down and revere, for we are in the presence of the Holy, even when we in thought rise to the bodily form of the Sephiroth.

The Sephiroth, through the divine power immanent in them, uphold the World. They are the Elemental Forces of the World. Through them flows all Power and all Mercy. Yea, the En-Soph is revealed through the Sephiroth, and becomes incarnate in them. It is stated in the Kabbala that the En-Soph, through various Sephiroth, became incarnate in Abraham as love, in Isaac as power, in Jacob as beauty, in Moses as firmness, in Aaron as splendor, in Joseph as foundation, etc.

The soul, notwithstanding its connection with the body, if it remain uncontaminated and pure, is able to ascend to the Kingdom of the Sephiroth and to "command them". But great mysteries surround the secrets connected with this power, and but few have they been who have been pious enough and strong enough to be admitted.

That the Sephiroth are powers, "Elementals," and not individual beings is evident from their division into three groups, intelligence, animation and matter.

Each of the three groups is again subdivided, the first into (1) the Crown or the inscrutable Height, (2) the creative Wisdom, (3) the conceiving Intellect. The result of the combination of the latter two: the creative Wisdom and the conceiving Intellect, is in the Kabbala called knowledge (= Logos), which certainly shows these three Sephiroph to be spiritual substances, rather than individualities according to the common acceptation of the term. But it is not enough that we escape the mistakes which we would fall into if we regarded the Sephiroth as individualities, we must also beware of regarding them as mere abstractions, which the terms wisdom and intellect might lead us into. We shall never arrive at the truth, much less the power of associating with these celestials, until we return to the simplicity and fearlessness of the primitive ages, when men mixed freely with the gods, and the gods descended among men and guided them in truth and holiness.

The first group of the Sephiroth rests in so sublime an atmosphere and so near the Deity, that we can know nothing of their nature or activity.

The second group of the Sephiroth exercises its power over the moral world, and consists of (1) infinite Grace, (2) divine Justice, and (3) Beauty, which is the connecting link between Grace and Justice.

Here again we have to do neither with mere moral states nor with abstractions, but with embodiments of living and moving realities. Human eyes can, however, neither see them, nor can human hands touch them, for they are far removed from them, existing as they do on another plane of existence. Yet, he who keeps his virtue, and who knows the key to the chain of existences, can bring them out from their own realm and into his own and cause them to act.

The third group of the Sephiroth stands in relation to Matter in the same way as the other two stand to the Mind and the Heart, and may be called Elementals par excellence. They are called Firmness, Splendor, primary Foundation and Kingdom. —

I now wish to engage your attention by describing to you Leibnitz's Monads. His monads have all the characteristics of Elementals, at the same time, that they seem to be purely physical molecules. But this very duplicity is an argument for my theory, that Leibnitz's monad is a faithful definition of an Elemental. If it should be proved that they are not Elementals, and I doubt that that can be proved, they will at least serve as illustrations as to what an Elemental is.

Leibnitz (2) formulates his conception of substance in direct opposition to Spinozism. To Spinoza substance is dead and inactive, but to Leibnitz's penetrating powers of mind everything is living activity and active energy. In holding this view he comes infinitely nearer the Orient than any other thinker of his day or after him. His discovery that an active energy forms the essence of substance is a principle that places him in direct relationship to the seers of the East.

This fact, that the chief points of Leibnitz's philosophy are derived from this conception of an active energy forming the essence of substance, places it at once in our confidence.

From Leibnitz's Monadology I translate the following paragraphs:

§1. "The Monad is a simple substance, entering into those which are compound; simple, that is to say, without parts."

§2. "Monads are the veritable Atoms of Nature, in one word, the elements of things."

When Leibnitz speaks of atoms it must not be understood that he is a materialist. He is far from it. Indeed, his system has been called a spiritualistic atomistic. Atoms and Elements to him are Substance not Matter. They are centres of force or better "spiritual beings, whose very nature it is to act." These elementary particles are vital forces, not acting mechanically, but from an internal principle. They are incorporeal or spiritual units, inaccessible to all change from without, but only subject to internal movement. They are indestructible by any external force. Leibnitz's monads differ from atoms in the following particulars, which are very important for us to remember, otherwise we shall not be able to see the difference between Elementals and mere matter.

Atoms are not distinguished from each other, they are qualitatively alike, but one monad differs from every other monad, qualitatively; and every one is a peculiar world to itself. Not so with the atoms; they are absolutely alike quantitatively and qualitatively and possess no individuality of their own. Again, the atoms of materialistic philosophy can be considered as extended and divisible, while the monads are mere "metaphysical points" and indivisible. Finally, and this is a point where these monads of Leibnitz closely resemble the Elementals of mystic philosophy, these monads are representative beings. Every monad reflects every other. Every monad is a living mirror of the universe, within its own sphere. And mark this, for upon it depends the power possessed by these monads, and upon it depends the work they can do for us: in mirroring the world, the monads are not mere passive reflective agents, but spontaneously self-active; they produce the images spontaneously, as the soul does a dream. In every monad, therefore, the adept may read everything, even the future. Every monad — or elemental — is a looking-glass that can speak.

The monads may from one point of view be called force, from another matter. To occult science force and matter are only two sides of the same substance.

Such a doctrine is of course much objected to by people of the modern age, who pretend to possess very fine analytical powers, and yet are unable to conceive of matter under any other conditions than those cognizable by our coarse senses.

Those who have intellectual difficulties in seeing that Brahm is everything and everything is Brahm must take this doctrine on faith for awhile. A little earnest practice will lead them to see that truth is not attained through reflection, but through immediate intuition.

If we should desire to look upon these monads as matter, I know of no better comparison than with that which has been called Matter in a Fourth state or condition, a condition as far removed from the state of gas as a gas is from a liquid.

If we should desire to look upon these monads as force, I know of no better comparison than with that which Faraday called "Radiant Matter" and which by Crooke's experiments has been shown to be so much like mere force, or matter completely divested of all the characteristics of bodies that its physical properties have been so modified that it has changed nature and appears under the form of force.

In §8 of the Monadology Leibnitz declares that "The Monads have qualities — otherwise they would not even be entities." The qualities attributed to them make them appear very much like living rational beings. I am disposed to look upon them as upon those little beings represented by Raphael, as heads resting upon a pair of wings: pure intelligence, or spirits who have not yet attained to bodily life. If they have not a thinking soul, they are at least forces that resemble life. Continuing, Leibnitz (§11) says: "We might give the name of Perfection (Entelechies) to all monads inasmuch as there is in them a certain Completeness or Perfection. There is a sufficiency which makes them the sources of their own internal actions, and, as it were, incorporeal automata." Says Leibnitz: (§19) "If we choose to give the name of soul to all that has perceptions and desires, in the general sense which I have just indicated, all simple substances or monads may be called souls."

You see these infinitesimal beings are regarded by the great philosopher very much like intelligent existences; and yet they are very far removed from our conceptions of soul-life and existence. They are like the Elemental of the Kabbala: they never become men.

Continuing his definitions, he says (§60): "The monads are limited, not in the object, but in the mode of their knowledge of the object." That is the objective would have no power over them, but they themselves have only a limited knowledge of the objectivity, hence also a limited power. But that does not preclude the possibility of their being the means of the greatest influence upon the objective world — in the hands, namely, of an intelligent human being or spirit. "They all", says Leibnitz, "tend (confusedly) to the infinite, to the whole; but they are limited and distinguished by the degrees of distinctness in their perception."

Now I quote (§62) a sentence that reechoes the most beautiful philosophy of the Orient. Leibnitz has seen as distinctly as the old nature worshippers of the early Aryans, that "every monad represents the entire universe." This short sentence is the key to all mystical philosophy and to all magic; it is only second to such sentences as these: "God dwells in all things in His fullness," (Vemana verse), and "The world is the image of God," (Sufi philosophy).

It is a common mistake in the world to believe that God and his truth is only to be found in the Grand, in the Large, in the infinitely large.

In opposition to this, much of our mystical and esoteric philosophy points to the infinitely Small, declaring, that if we can become humble enough to descend to nature's workshop, we shall learn more from the "atoms in space" upon which God let fall a "beam of his glory," than from all the magnificent systems of the learned. Hear what Leibnitz himself says, though he is not a mystic. He ought to have been, for his insight was truly remarkable. He declares (§66) "There is a world of creatures, of living things, of animals, of Perfection of souls, in the minutest portion of matter." (§67) "Every particle of matter may be conceived as a garden of plants, or as a pond full of fishes — all swarming with life!"

Keep this in mind, that I am not talking about atoms of matter, but of atoms of substance, real unities, the first principles in the composition of things. Leibnitz himself, besides calling these corpuscular units Monads, has also called them Metaphysical points, and Scaliger called them seeds of eternity, and a Persian poet has put it very clearly before us, that an atom is not a unit, by saying, "Cleave an atom, and you will find in it a Sun." Here is the kernel of our subject, the substance of an atom in space is the storehouse of the immanent forces to which elementals, and elementary spirits to some extent, have access, and by means of which they work.

This view is fully corroborated by a representative of modern science, Sir John F. W. Herschel, who has approached very near to the teachings of occult science by declaring the presence of mind in atoms. In the Fortnightly Review of 1865, Sir John Herschel stated as follows: "All that has been predicated of Atoms, 'the dear little creatures,' as Hermione said, all their hates and loves, their attractions and repulsions, according to the primary laws of their being, only becomes intelligible when we assume the presence of Mind."

These various definitions of the Monads as given by Leibnitz, answer in many important points exactly to what we find in occult teachings about the Elementals, and I can see no good reason why we should not look upon Leibnitz's Monadology as a work on Elementals.

We are really done with him as far as our subject is concerned, but before dismissing him to turn to other wisdom, permit me to quote a few more passages, though they do not bear directly upon the subjects of monads. He says (§83-86): "Among other differences which distinguish spirits from ordinary souls, there is also this: 'That souls in general are living mirrors, or images of the universe of creatures, but spirits are, furthermore, images of Divinity itself, or of the Author of Nature, capable of cognizing the system of the universe, and of imitating something of it by architectonic experiments, each spirit being, as it were, a little divinity in its own department. — Hence spirits are able to enter into a kind of fellowship with God. — All spirits constitute the City of God — that is to say, the most perfect state possible under the most perfect of monarchs. — The City of God, this truly universal monarchy, is a moral world within the natural; and it is the most exalted and the most divine among the works of God."

(To be continued.)


1. Dr. G. Weil: The Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud. (return to text)

2. Leibnitz was born 1646 at Leipzig, and died 1716. According to Schwegler's Hist. of Phil. he was, next to Aristotle, the most highly gifted scholar that ever lived, and according to F. Papillon ("Nature and Life") modern students in various departments of science and philosophy have verified his ideas and endorsed them to a large extent. (return to text)

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