a taster of the magic of the elements

We recently had some really wonderful hand readings from our friend Brent, who is also deeply interested in the elements work connected with Tammo de Jongh/Anelog and Richard Gardner. It was fantastic to have such in depth conversations with such a perceptive reader, especially one with whom you share an interest in an inspirational work. You can find Brent’s website here, his 500 Hand Project is really interesting, and I am so looking forward to seeing more of this stuff. I can confirm that this kind of hand work is potentially life changing.

Between this and contact I have had with another of my readers (Steve) who has shown great enthusiasm for Richard Gardner’s work, I wanted to put out just a little something about Tammo’s elements work, which was a key part of what Richard applied himself to.

In about 1971 Tammo published a booklet called “the magic circle of the soul – the 12 aspects of the mind”, with hand drawn illustrations and calligraphic lettering. I remember finding a copy at a bookshop in Victoria in maybe 1975, as a school boy on my lunch break. The whole of this work is based upon the traditional elements of earth, air, water and fire, their combinations and their reflections in art, psychology, love and human types. It is a relatively early expression of the study that Tammo was working on, which he had started with Barry Slater (a mathematician) and Kenneth Carter (a historian) following an awakening journey that Tammo undertook in 1956, and which Tammo (later called Anelog) continued for the rest of his life with Brother Sebastien and Herewood Gabriel at the “Green Monastery” in Kentish Town. In “The Magic Circle” Tammo mentions Freud, Horney, Jung and Gurdjieff as being influences on this study, which at this time he refers to as “cosmology”, though I think in later years it gets referred to as “natural psychology”.

As with Richard Gardner, the impression you get is far from a dry or theoretical study, in fact it is anything but, for it seeks to be a living understanding that a person must participate in to grasp. The elements cannot be a theoretical study, for they make up our experience and colour and shape our consciousness. A theoretical study of the elements would be like a book about water, as compared to finding yourself immersed in the sea. Both Richard and Tammo wrote books (though Tammo also painted and drew and made things like puppets and masks), and both worked to communicate something that could not be experienced in writing alone.

I would like to just talk a little about one idea from the book here, and that is the order of the elements in a person (if you want to see what I have written about the elements before, you can find that here), which affect so much for a person. By “order of the elements”, I mean the preponderance and relative strengths of them within an individual, 1st being the strongest, to 4th being the weakest or least preponderant.

1st element is strongest, and it dominates the essential nature of a person.

2nd element is next strongest, but it is repressed or denied (I found this quite fascinating).

3rd element is not our essential nature, but comes to dominate our personality.

4th element is the least preponderant, but crucially shows how we reach fulfillment or realization. This last is very important for a person’s relationship orientation amongst other things, and at the time The Magic Circle was written Tammo was classing “types” as feminine (for earth and water 4th) and masculine (for air and fire 4th), while emphasizing that this had no necessary relation to the physical sex of the person. Later I believe he came up with original terms to describe the types, without resorting to the terms “masculine” or “feminine” (which I thought was very intelligent and consistent with something not being dependent on maleness or femaleness).

As an example, I am earth 1st, fire 2nd, air 3rd and water 4th. There isn’t an easy way of ascertaining your balance (though in my case it follows my astrological chart fairly well), as you have to examine and observe your life and experience, though Brent Bruning is finding correlations with the hands, and did so with both Phil and myself. So I can say that I have at least some confirmation of what my elemental order seems to be.

I am actually very earthy. It’s not something I think of as myself especially, but it is right there, slap bang in the middle of things. I am essentially sloppy and accepting, sensual and settled. I’m stable and grounded in the way that usually gets you dismissed by “terribly psychic” people and flashy intellectuals alike, as kinda dull. But that’s ok, I can watch paint dry and be happy if it’s warm, there’s food, and no demands made of me, or there’s a handsome man in the room.

My second element of fire is …….. complicated. I’d say it’s my shadow element. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, there are times when it has been central to my sense of a search for meaning, but biographically it has been a hard one to integrate, even if it was creative and eventful when it did get activated. It is my sense of personal lack though, that big, heroic, shining, adventurous, dominating, “fuck you” energy, that creative spark that the world quite rightly pays to see. I have actualized an amount of it after all this time, but I’ve had to get it by accepting that sometimes hell fire needs to do the job, so hell yes. And it’s funny, because it is my second strongest element, but that is how this stuff works, 2nd place is the last thing you get, but not because it isn’t there in you somewhere.*

3rd place, air, yeah. I am not an essentially verbal person at all, but I learnt, and then I ran with it. Air isn’t all comfortable, it’s a little too easy to get carried away with, too easy for me period, and personality is right. I do appreciate the element, but I also appreciate that it isn’t really me, nor what I most love. But its virtues are real even if its pitfalls are too. I can do air really well, but it’s kinda “so what?”.

4th place element is like your key (and it occurs to me that in some ways it’s a bit like the North Node in astrology). It’s the element you start off the weakest in, but because it holds that key to your fulfillment it is also a big deal for you, and you actually have a great potential to develop it in a way which is really valuable and transformative. This element is likely to be very positive for you. With me it is water, and the world of water (mysticism, love, imagination, enchantment, dream, feeling) was something I valued from early on, yearned for, but felt myself to be excluded from. I longed to be it, but felt I wasn’t really. The blessing in 4th place element’s tail is that its fulfilling potential for you actually does give you a place, and a special place, in that element’s world. There’s a karmic feel to this. The doors are actually unlocked. You just have to walk through them, and when you do, you’ll be amazed. Over the years I’ve actually developed a lot of water, and it even shows up in my hands. And the other thing that is accurate for me about Tammo’s scheme is that I end up as a “feminine” type, and though the language at this stage of Tammo’s writing is binary gender conditioned, I understand what he means, and he’s quite right. You need to take it out of the “biological gender” context (and ultimately away from the psychological “ghost” of biological gender, if you get what I mean), but I believe there is an important perception there.

Tammo’s work also combined elements in pairs, and illustrated them as archetypes, such as people are familiar with from Jungian psychology; eg the wise old man, the mother, the child, the divine fool, the warrior etc. You can see Tammo’s original paintings of the archetypes here, and Herewood Gabriel’s updated versions here. In terms of his elemental psychology he termed 1st and 2nd element as the essential self, 3rd and 4th as the personal self, 1st and 3rd as the usual self, and 2nd and 4th as the shadow self. The archetypes give a flavour of the character of the elemental combinations.

Tammo and his co-workers did refine and move on from the work expressed in “the magic circle of the soul”, but I hope you have found this interesting or helpful.

mo-tammo* Note 29th November 2013: if my own experience is anything to go by, second element is also a highly transformative element for a person, as it carries some of the quality of integrating “the shadow” with it, but it is very different in quality from 4th element, which a person needs and can benefit profoundly from exploring. 2nd element does not need developing, and may resist being developed, but it will need to be made conscious for someone to express their full potential. At least that is my impression.



  1. Pingback: the chemistry of union | Summer Thunder

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