FIRE, WATER, WIND & STONE
by Serge Kahili King
For a very long time, in many places, the four elements of Fire, Water, Wind and
Stone have been considered as forming the basic structure of Nature and life
itself, in both natural and esoteric ways.
My interpretation is somewhat different. I see them as representing the four basic
elements of health.
Fire is active. In terms of health, it represents activity, a necessary characteristic of health and
healing. Animals, which includes humans, are “designed” to need activity in order to stay alive. In a
healthy human being, activity is constant. Externally, the skin, the eyes (when open), the nose, the ears,
and sometimes the mouth, are constantly interacting actively with the environment. Internally, the organs
are actively doing what they are supposed to do, the blood is constantly going where it is supposed to go,
the muscles are moving what has to be moved... in short, activity is essential to health. When the fire in a
person—or in a part of a person—is too low, problems can occur that may lead to illness, and if the fire
goes out, life ends for that person in that body. Actually, it seems like the fire will eventually go out
for every person, but not at the same time or in the same way. If the fire is too high in a person, however,
problems can occur that may lead to illness that results in the fire going out just the same. Fire is vital,
but it needs to be managed, by the individual in terms of activity, and with the help of external resources
like food and, when necessary, physical intervention.
Water is fluid. Not just a fluid, but fluid by nature. Even the most still water is in constant motion,
which means that even water needs fire. Curiously, in the external world water s used to put out fires, but
in the inner world of the individual, water is necessary to keep the individual’s fire going. It’s something
like the grease in a machine that needs a way to keep all its parts operating smoothly together. Water
doesn’t create fire in the individual, but the fire will go out quickly without the water. Too little water
leads to dehydration and a breakdown in parts of the body, as well as a breakdown in thinking and feeling.
On the other hand, too much water does the same thing, so water intake also requires management.
Wind is air in movement. Almost every living creature on Earth needs air to live, even fish underwater,
because air contributes to the creation of fire, externally as well as internally. It’s because of the
oxygen, of course. Air alone won’t do it, though. The air has to be moving. It has to be, in fact, wind.
Breathing is not just the taking in of air. Inhaling doesn’t work without exhaling. Shallow breathing lowers
the amount of oxygen a person has to stoke the inner fire. This can happen as a result of stress in the
body, but it can also become a habit if one doesn’t pay attention. Many physical and mental problems can
occur due to shallow breathing alone. Many of them can be healed by deeper breathing. As with water and fire
itself, serious conditions can result from what is called “overbreathing” or hyperventilation. Inhaling too
much can cause you to expel too much carbon dioxide, which interferes with the flow of blood to the brain.
At the same time, this type of breathing can lower the oxygen in your cells, which lowers your fire level,
and affects your body and your mind. So breathing requires management.
How does Stone fit into this, you might ask. Stone doesn’t move by itself. In some cultures, including
Hawaiian, it’s a metaphor for being dead. In my interpretation, however, I use Stone to represent Rest.
Stones really do move, but usually verry slowwly. Activity is fine, but it needs a break. Not a complete
break, naturally, or there wouldn’t be any point, but a short break at least. Humans generally take this
break in the form of sleep or inactivity (meaning very little). Think of a wave. A wave moves, but it
doesn’t just have a crest, it also has a trough. That’s were it relaxes for a bit before rising up again.
Human beings need movement to be healthy, but it has to be done in a way that allows for high activity as
well as low activity. Rest is a vital part of health and healing. It helps the mind and the body to recover
from “cresting” and get ready for more activity. Not surprisingly, too little rest results in breakdown, and
too much rest also results in breakdown. Rest, like Fire, Water and Wind, needs management.