Skip to content

New Website on Phenomenology

January 4, 2011

A new online resource on Phenomenology was created recently by Tom van Gelder, a former teacher for many years at the biodynamic agricultural school Warmonderhof in the Netherlands. Information and exercises can be found on the website, not only on phenomenology, but also on observing and the twelve senses. There is also information on the threefoldness of man and mammals, and some downloadable booklets.

The English site is a part of a larger Dutch site. More pages will be translated in the future. The contents of the site, especially the exercises, were created in cooperation with students at Warmonderhof. To see the English section, visit

An except from the site on the four elements is provided below:

The Four Elements

Imagine you’re taking a walk in the forest on a day in spring. The weather is fine: the sky is blue with the odd cloud, there is a light breeze, everything feels very pleasant. You smell the fresh perfumes of the awakening greenery. As you look around you, you see trees, shrubs and herbs. You see the tree trunks, the various hues of green and the light filtering through the leaves. Now and then you hear leaves rustling. You notice the yellow dandelion flowers and the tender pink blossoms of wild cherry trees. You hear the gay songs of all sorts of birds. A squirrel dashes up a tree. There is a puddle on the path. You pass a bench and a sign saying ‘No admittance’. You meet other people, who are walking their dogs. It’s nice and warm in the sun, but still slightly cold in the shade. You get to a bridge and see the water flow. Not all of it flows at the same speed: it is faster in the middle of the brook than along the banks. There are eddies in the stream. The water hits a rock that’s lying in it and flows around it, appearing to stand still just behind the rock.

All of these things and events can be classified in various ways. You could distinguish between living and lifeless objects, between man-made and natural objects, between plants and animals, between higher and lower plants, between mammals, birds and reptiles, between growing organisms and dying organisms, etc. What classification you use depends on the way you observe. One of the many ways to observe is that based on the four elements, a classification of nature that was already used by the ancient Greeks. In the above example, you can distinguish all four elements: earth, water (or liquid), air and fire (or warmth).

You see solid objects, which are called earth, including the trees, the bridge, the plants, the animals and the people, the bench and the no admittance sign. You also see flowing, eddying and standing water. You feel the movement of the air and see its blue colour. You feel the temperature, that is, the cold and the warmth.

Earth: the solid element

The word earth refers to the solid element and includes everything that has a solid shape. All lifeless and living solid objects in nature and all man-made objects belong to the solid element. Thus, rocks, stones, the soil, ice, plants, trees, animals, human beings, cars, machines, houses, books, etc. all belong to the element called earth.

What do these objects have in common?

  • They have a fixed form. You can grasp them.
  • They have clearly defined boundaries. You can’t move through these objects and if you try to do so, you bump into them. You can establish their boundaries.
  • You can’t look into them. You’re looking at their exterior; your senses hit a barrier. And since you can’t look inside, the interior remains hidden. Even if you open up a solid object, you’ll still be looking at a new ‘exterior’.

Concepts relating to the earth element include solidness, boundaries and impenetrability.

As you hit the objects belonging to the earth element (either literally or metaphorically as your senses encounter them) you become aware that things exist outside yourself. You become aware of the objects as well as of yourself.

Read the entire discussion of the four elements, and peruse the site, here….

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: