Elements of nature or “Classical elements” typically refers to the concepts in Ancient Greece, Egypt, Babylonia, Japan, Tibet, and India to explain the nature and complexity of all matter using four or five simple substances/elements. Earth, water, air, fire, and aether.
The ancient Greek belief in five basic elements, these being earth, water, air, fire and aether, dates from pre-Socratic times (pre-470 bc) and persisted throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, deeply influencing European thought and culture.
In India the system of five elements is found in Vedas, especially Ayurveda, the pancha mahabhuta, or “five great elements”, of Hinduism are bhumi (earth), jala (water), agni (fire), pavan (air or wind), vyom or akash (aetheror void). They believe that all of creation, including the human body, is made up of these five essential elements and that upon death, the human body dissolves into these five elements of nature, thereby balancing the cycle of nature.
Five Elements Theory first appeared during the Period 770–476 BC. It became widespread: mostly used in Chinese medicine, philosophy, fengshui, fortune-telling, and martial arts. Five Elements Theory is a Chinese philosophy used to describe interactions and relationships between things. The five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — are believed to be the fundamental elements of everything in the universe between which interactions occur.
In Bön or ancient Tibetan philosophy, the five elemental processes of earth, water, fire, air and space are the essential materials of all existent phenomena or aggregates. The elemental processes form the basis of the calendar, astrology, medicine, psychology and are the foundation of the spiritual traditions of shamanism, tantra and Dzogchen.
Japanese traditions use a set of elements called the godai (五大). These five are earth, water, fire, wind/air, and void. These came from Indian Vastu shastra philosophy and Buddhist beliefs; in addition, the classical Chinese elements (五行, wu xing) are also prominent in Japanese culture.
Even though diverse chemical properties of earth were systematically examined and analyzed and eventually reduced to the Periodic Table of Atomic Elements, the ancients five elements of nature are regarded as fundamental in some cultures and are used for medicine, fortune telling and traditional worships and prayers of deity. The Periodic table did not displace the significance of “elements of nature”.
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