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January 01, 2016

The Fifth Element

Tags: Ether, Five Elements, Fifth Element, Moderm Shaman, Lao Tzu, Shamanism

Consider a clay pot. It starts from minerals found in the earth. Mixed with water it becomes a malleable substance that can be shaped into a form. Bake it in a fire, stoked by the winds of the bellows, and you temper that object, giving it a strength that can hold up under use. Just as this pot is born of the four basic Elements of Creation, Earth, Water, Fire and Wind, so too are we. But as every alchemist and shaman knows, there is a fifth element at play as well.

From the beginning of time, cultures have broken Nature down into its basic constituents in an effort to better thrive on Planet Earth. Ancients alchemists recognized that there is a visible world constructed of four basic elements. Each one has a different  temperament. Water, for example, has the uncanny ability to shift forms. It can move from solid ice, to a liquid, and finally to gaseous steam. Fire, alternatively, has the properties of transmutation. It consumes entire forests, for example, making way for new growth. From the subtle flap of a tiny butterfly wing powerful Winds arise, and of course there is the Earth element, giving us the basis of all structure and form. The fifth element, Ether, they say, is more elusive. It is the consciousness between atoms, the very fabric of the sky.

In 1881 two men, Michelson and Morley, attempted to measure a material called “aether” that holds the earth, sun, moon and the stars in suspension. They argued that it should be measurable as the earth drags through it. While their logic was solid, the limits of their instrumentation failed them, and their proposition became lost in the annals of science. In 1987 the question of an ether was revisited and the experiments done again with more advanced technology. This time the measurements proved a solid basis for the ether theory.

Strangely, in our culture, we have distilled the fifth element out from Nature, creating two distinct paths: Religion and Science. Organized Religions have taken the Creative Force and humanized it, putting it on a throne to be worshiped and obeyed, while Science has focused on extracting the mechanics of Nature, to put it to use, while denying any intelligence behind it. This chasm leaves us running amok with technologies that make life easier, but destroying the planet that supports us, all the while while praying to  God for help.

Fortunately, if we look to the ancients, we can find our way back to an integrated world view. The Shamanic way says the fifth element lies within the other four and cannot be separated out. As Lao Tzu, the Taoist philosopher, said, “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want… We work with being but non-being is what we use.” In altered states of consciousness many people meet the substance of this “emptiness” as it truly exists, as neon patterns of intelligent geometry endlessly repeating itself. Interestingly, much of the shamanic art inspired by plant medicines portrays the same patterns physicists find as the basis of all creation.

Countless wars have been fought in the name of a God. Most religions argue about the nature of the pot, while science keeps trying to create a better one. Shamans remind us  to practice being in alignment with what is inside the pot, and using it to create with responsibly, and ethically. The fifth element is accessible to everyone, it is one of the five elements of Nature. Instead of training people to place value on the pots, we need to train them how to use what is inside them, effectively. This is the journey of the Modern Shaman, but let it be inspiration for us all.


Christina Allen’s work as an Intuitive, Healer, Teacher and Founder and Director of the Austin Shamanic Center, combines a strong science background (BA Physics, MS Neuroscience) with decades of applied ancient spiritual wisdom (Master Yogi, Reiki Master, and profound Shamanic Healing based on Q’ero Indian traditions of Peru). Learn more about making private appointments, and upcoming classes, at or (512) 391 9829.

© Austin All Natural, January, 2016

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