|The first excerpt represents the element of Air. It speaks of mental influences and the process of thought, and is drawn from The Atheist's Mass by Honore de Balzac:
the individual, to determine the very time, the hour, the minute
when an operation should be performed, making due allowance for
atmospheric conditions and peculiarities of individual
temperament. To proceed thus, hand in hand with nature, had he
then studied the constant assimilation by living beings, of the
elements contained in the atmosphere, or yielded by the earth to
man who absorbs them, deriving from them a particular expression
of life? Did he work it all out by the power of deduction and
analogy, to which we owe the genius of Cuvier? Be this as it may,
this man was in all the secrets of the human frame; he knew it in
the past and in the future, emphasizing the present.
|The second excerpt represents the element of Fire. It speaks of emotional influences and base passions, and is drawn from Edingburgh Picturesque Notes by Robert Louis Stevenson:
rounding in the labours of the day.
WINTER AND NEW YEAR.
THE Scotch dialect is singularly rich in terms of
reproach against the winter wind. SNELL, BLAE, NIRLY,
and SCOWTHERING, are four of these significant vocables;
they are all words that carry a shiver with them; and for
my part, as I see them aligned before me on the page, I
am persuaded that a big wind comes tearing over the Firth
from Burntisland and the northern hills; I think I can
hear it howl in the chimney, and as I set my face
|The third excerpt represents the element of Water. It speaks of pure spiritual influences and feelings of love, and is drawn from The Art of War by Sun Tzu:
11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an
engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and
a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he
will be obliged to relieve.
[Tu Mu says: "If the enemy is the invading party, we can
cut his line of communications and occupy the roads by which he
will have to return; if we are the invaders, we may direct our
attack against the sovereign himself." It is clear that Sun Tzu,
unlike certain generals in the late Boer war, was no believer in
12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy
The Art of War
|The fourth excerpt represents the element of Earth. It speaks of physical influences and the impact of the unseen on the visible world, and is drawn from Theaetetus by Plato:
or may not be a 'gracious aid' to thought; but it cannot be got rid of.
The other figure of the enclosure is also remarkable as affording the first
hint of universal all-pervading ideas,--a notion further carried out in the
Sophist. This is implied in the birds, some in flocks, some solitary,
which fly about anywhere and everywhere. Plato discards both figures, as
not really solving the question which to us appears so simple: 'How do we
make mistakes?' The failure of the enquiry seems to show that we should
return to knowledge, and begin with that; and we may afterwards proceed,
with a better hope of success, to the examination of opinion.
But is true opinion really distinct from knowledge? The difference between
these he seeks to establish by an argument, which to us appears singular