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The Philosophy of Natural Magic, by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, L. W. de Laurence ed. [1913], at


Of the Four Elements, Their Qualities, and Mutual Mixtions.

There are four Elements, and original grounds of all corporeal things—Fire, Earth, Water, Air—of which all elemented inferior bodies are compounded; not by way of heaping them up together; but by transmutation and union; and when they are destroyed they are resolved into Elements. For there is none of the sensible Elements that is pure, but they are more or less mixed, and apt to be changed one into the other: Even as Earth becoming dirty, and being dissolved, becomes Water, and the same being made thick and hard, becometh Earth again; but being evaporated through heat, passeth into Air, and that being kindled, passeth into Fire; and this being extinguished, returns back again into Air; but being cooled again after its burning, becomes Earth, or Stone, or Sulphur, and this is manifested by Lightning. Plato also was of that opinion, that Earth was wholly changeable, and that the rest of the Elements are changed, as into this, so into one another successively. But it is the opinion of the subtler sort of Philosophers, that Earth is not changed, but relented and mixed with other Elements, which do dissolve it, and that it returns back into itself again. * Now, every one of the Elements hath two specifical qualities—the former whereof it

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retains as proper to itself; in the other, as a mean, it agrees with that which comes next after it. For Fire is hot and dry, the Earth dry and cold, the Water cold and moist, the Air moist and hot. * And so after this manner the Elements, according to two contrary qualities, are contrary one to the other, as Fire to Water, and Earth to Air. Moreover, the Elements are upon another account opposite one to the other: For some are heavy, as Earth and Water, and others are light, as Air and Fire. Wherefore the Stoics called the former passives, but the latter actives. And yet once again, Plato distinguisheth them after another manner, and assigns to every one of them three qualities, viz., to the Fire brightness, thinness and motion, but to the Earth darkness, thickness and quietness. And according to these qualities the Elements of Fire and Earth are contrary. But the other Elements borrow their qualities from these, so that the Air receives two qualities of the Fire, thinness and motion, and one of the Earth, viz., darkness. In like manner Water receives two qualities of the Earth, darkness and thickness, and one of Fire, viz., motion. But Fire is twice more thin than Air, thrice more movable, and four times more bright; and the Air is twice more bright, thrice more thin, and four times more movable than Water. Wherefore Water is twice more bright than Earth, thrice more thin, and four times more movable.  As therefore the Fire is to the Air,

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so Air is to the Water, and Water to the Earth; and again, as the Earth is to the Water, so is the Water to the Air, and the Air to the Fire. And this is the root and foundation of all bodies, natures, virtues and wonderful works; and he which shall know these qualities of the Elements, and their mixtions, shall easily bring to pass such things that are wonderful, and astonishing, and shall be perfect in Magic.


42:* Agrippa teaches here and in the chapter following that matter, or substance, however much its elementary forms may change, is eternal, thus denying the dogma that God "created" all things "out of nothing."

43:* Tabularly stated:





Fire is

… hot



Earth is

… dry



Water is

… cold



Air is

… moist



As to these qualities—Fire is contrary to Water, and Earth to Air. This exposition of the "qualities" astrologers should note, for while the books give the same matter the "proper" and "mean" qualities are not given.

43:† The unity of the contrasts between the four elements is here shown.

Next: Chapter IV. Of a Three-Fold Consideration of the Elements