Center's Element - Ether or Spirit
Center has the most subtle of the 5 gross elements, which make up the material world as we know it. The element is ether which is also called spirit.

The Sanskrit word for this is akasa. Indeed, the existence of the root of this word is the same as in akashic records and similar terms.

This writing is almost exclusively pure Samkhyin thought. As one definition of Samkhya is "enumeration", there are a lot of lists, numbers, and categories for things.
What is ether or spirit?
The place for ether is between, among, throughout. It is all pervading. Within Samkhya, whereas the elements are defined as atoms (although, in a scientific sense, fire is an ACTION of atomic particles, not a particle in and of itself), ether cannot be so defined. In terms of atomic physics, it would be the subatomic forces that cause cohesion of atoms. Ether cannot be directly perceived, but its effects are everywhere. It may also be considered energy as that overlaps with matter.

For instance, let's use the wall in front of me as an example of a "form". I can see it, touch it, and perhaps smell and taste it. I won't try either of those last two though. I can push against it and it does not move. I cannot look through it. It has a form, a color, a texture. It is a "real" object. Yet, if I were to look at it through an electron microscope, I would see an entirely different image. I would see mostly empty space between molecules and atoms, and within atoms themselves. It would no longer appear solid at all. If I were to look at it on a subatomic level, this "solid wall" would be nothing but pure energy. All of those ways of looking at the object are equally true. The question is at what level are you perceiving them?

Formed things clearly have this element ether within and throughout it. This includes all forms. Mundane things of the world you perceive, animal, vegetable, mineral, natural, man-made, organic, inorganic, beliefs of all sorts which include a real or imagined set of objects and entities, and all deities Who are perceived as having a name, attributes, and any sort of form all follow this same pattern.

Formless things have even more of the element ether than do the formed. Yet, the formless things are harder to point out in any way. The vastness of space, a formless deity such as the Tao, Nirguna Brahman, Great Spirit, or Shiva as worshipped through His lingam are all formless, and simultaneously assume all forms.

Note that it IS true that Shiva as worshipped through His lingam is completely formless. It may be difficult to see how Shiva when worshipped through His organ of generation is formless. As a lingam is formed, there are many things wrapped around a hollow center. That CENTER is where It is - it is a tiny bit of NOTHING formed, but where EVERYTHING exists.

The sense, or subtle element associated with the gross element ether is sound. Certainly, sound can be perceived and measured. Hearing a sound does not require any direct contact with whatever it is that is being heard. Yet, sound does not exist within a vacuum.

Sound though, is what ultimately drives everything. The universe was created through a big bang, or a sound. Thus, sound may be manipulated to create any effect so desired. This can be done scientifically. It can be done through mantra, or through magick words, or invocations, or whatever else.

In a cosmology sense, the element ether or spirit can be likened to Panentheistic beliefs. That is, the Gods are everywhere and throughout, but nothing in particular is God. This is highly oversimplified, of course, but the whole concept of ether is similar to this cosmological idea.

In another sense, this ether or spirit can also be thought of as the One Deitity of Monism. Hence, the correspondences to "big-G" Gods such as Brahman, the Tao, Great Spirit, etc.
In fact, these elements can be broken up into 9 categories, or Dravyas. These can be enumerated as:
  1. earth
  2. water
  3. fire
  4. air
  5. ether
  6. time
  7. direction
  8. soul
  9. mind
Of course, the first 4 are the physical elements. The last 5 are the imperceptible substances. Some are measurable with (current) scientific equipment. Some are matters of belief. These are enumerated from most gross to most subtle. Earth is the most gross of these categories, and mind is the most subtle.

Clearly, time and direction are perceptible with instruments such as clocks and compasses. A compass though, does not work properly when near one of the earth's poles or near a strong magnetic field. Within modern physics, time is considered a dimension just as width and depth. It may or may not be a constant, although it appears to be under normal circumstances. Theories of what happened around the time of the big bang or in close proximity to a black hole have time being anything but a constant, and certainly not as we perceive it!

Soul is a matter of belief. Yet, the individual spirit of a person is certainly perceptible. Everyone has their own experiences, beliefs, opinions, ways of thinking and reacting, and so forth. No two people are alike. Yet, for the purposes of this writing, the term "soul" is that of the Sanskrit word jiva or "individual soul". This is in contrast to the Atman, Who is the One, soul of Advaita Vedanta. Advaita simply means "Non-dual".

"Mind" is perceptable. Manas, or mind as used here, is primarily the emotional aspects of mind, as opposed to the intellect.

Note also that the second 4 of these are all-pervading whereas the 4 gross elements and mind exist in "atomic" form.
Mind is the 9th of the Dravyas. Thus, it is the most subtle. It is the most difficult to prove, measure, qualify, or quantify. This is the inner mind, or that which modern psychology calls the conscious and unconscious mind are both Dravya manas. Mind, or the consciousness of the mind, is the single most important to us. Without it, there would be no observer, and no witness. The Dravya mind though, is the "effect" on our innermost self of a subtle mind, the Bhaava-Manas, which is the "cause". Bhaava-Manas is believed by some to contain the karma of the individual soul, or jiva who incarnates. By others, it is still believed to contain the program of dharma, or duties which one has or will have in this lifetime.

Bhaava-Manas, or the subtle mind, can be reached by Purusa alone. The only way the individual can effect the subtle mind is through having Kaivalya, Divine Liberation, and accessing Purusa that way, to "witness" Purusa witnessing the subtle mind, and thus having an effect. Part of the "liberation" of Kaivalya is to have the ability to observe the Bhaava-Manas, to work out what it needs to, to refrain from putting anything "new" in it which is unwanted, and to thus use the time of jiva mukti, or being liberated while still alive, to ensure that one will neither have to return to this earth, and to ensure a "good" afterlife, however that is defined by that individual.
Copyright 2004 by Elizabeth Harper
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