A few things I would like to point out that I'll be using in all of my entries for different entities is that it comes from a "traditional western ceremonial magick" point of view. However I think you'll find that if you really look at what is presented you'll find that it fits different phenomena very well.
This is due to the fact that magicians have had a very long time at encountering various "spiritual beings" & have had time to classify them according to abilities, manner of appearing, different modes of action, etc.
It should also be pointed out that a half way decent magician will not look to the paranormal before s/he has exhausted all normal possible reasons for whatever the occurence is. Enough preliminaries I'll get on with elementals.
I'll start with giving the stock meaning for what an elemental is.
An elemental is semi intellegent being who is composed entirely of one of the philisophical elements which are:Fire,Water,Air,&Earth.
They have a sort of group mind, or oversoul if you will called "The Elemetal King". The elementals of fire are called salamanders, the elementals of water are called undines, the elementals of air are called sylphs, & the elementals of earth are called gnomes. There are also slightly different names for them depending on what medieval source you look at. For example gnomes are sometimes called goblins, After the elemental King Ghob.
These other names are not important at this time and the Elemetal King names are also irrelevant to the topic as we are only discussing what they are and not how to contact them.
Essentially elementals are a certain type of nature spirit & they are the very reason that matter can be interacted with at all. For example Sylphs are the reason that matter can change to a state of gas as opposed to a solid. THEY ARE NOT THE GASEOUS SUBSTANCE THEMSELVES!
Elementals exist in what is commonly called the astral plane and are a type of semi intellegent force/substance just barely beyond the material threshold.
Since are consciousness is native to the material plane, we cannot possibly know everything there is to know about these beings. This applies to other spiritual beings as well & to make matters worse, the farther from the material plane a being exists, the more difficult it is to know with certainty exactly how it operates, thinks, etc.
We do know this, elementals are the regulators of the physical world in all it's basic functions. As another example they regulate things like the natural process of erosion & evaporation.
For the most part elementals do not have a free will of their own and operate like a computer program. They perform a certain function to the exclusivety of anything else. However I said for the most part. What I mean is that due to interactions with human beings they can achieve a semblance of free will & if it's continued long enough can become as sentient as human beings. There is one major differance though. They do not have a sense of right & wrong or any other moral ethics with wich to judge their actions by.
Basicly this means that because an elemental is mono polar (one element), they are unable to achieve a level of cognition that allows them to evaluate their actions.
Humans on the other hand are composed of four elements & it seems that this is what is needed (along with the fifth element spirit) to achieve a sense of what the outcome of our actions might be from a right or wrong perspective.
It has even been theorized that we as humans as well as other animals and plants, are nothing more than extremely advanced elementals. So you could even say that elementals are prototype souls for living breathing creatures.
What can an elemental do when it interacts with humanity on a personal level? The answer is actually very simple. Remember, they are creatures of the astral plane. The astral plane is the blueprint for material reality, as well as the plane of mental images, emotions, memory, willpower as it relates to the physical condition, & last but not least, it is the source of the physical lifeforce the causes us to exist at this level. In short an elemental can effect all of these things.
They can heal you, they can kill you, they can know all your thoughts and desires, they can sense what you have done in life, what you will probably do in the future & they can know all of this the moment they come into contact with you!
Any being that exists at the astral level can do the same thing to a lesser or greater extent. Including humans that know how.
For the most part they can control astral forces greater than any living human except for a very small handful of magicians who are both blessed with the skill & understanding to manipulate those forces & who are spiritually advanced enough to utilize them.
Then the human has a slight advantage because we consist of five elements & have a wider variety of levels to interact from instead of having only one element to use.
I say slight advantage because we still exist at a material level & still cannot fully understand the intricacies of the astral level of being. If on the other hand we could understand the fullness of the astral realm, a single elemental would be no match for a human in any sense.
Because of there closeness to the physical world they can if they choose ( or I should say if they can choose), actually move physical objects.
Some elementals have learned through interaction with man that all they have to do to get what they want is to simply take it. We are of course talking about an elemental who has become sentient in the human sense in this case. Because they have no moral values, they wind up many times being malicious. Draining a persons life force like a vampire in order to feed off of them for greater power or simply because they like the way we "taste".
Another tactic a malicious elemental will use is taking possesion of a human astral corpse in order to terrorize the living to get those energies given off during times when we are afraid.
It should also be mentioned that not all sentient elementals will do this if they have advanced far enough up the spiritual evolutionary ladder. Apparently they have learned at this point to have a certain sense of moral character & will choose to purposely avoid these things.
In a certain sense, we as human beings are like their bigger brothers & sisters. In fact we have a certain obligation to them to ensure that they develop along proper spirtual lines in order to evolve. We too evolve by doing this as well as being kind to our fellow man. In fact they learn from how we interact with each other.
So in closing elementals as a whole and even malicious elementals are not "evil", for they are ammoral. They are simply natures way of controlling the physical universe.
Thank you for your questions. I actually prefer responding to one person at a time because these types of things often evoke many questions.
Any way I'll try to answer each in order.
1.) Even though these beings control the physical processes that we call the elements, they do not necessarily appear as a patch of fire, or blob of water, etc. They are merely an intellegent control system for those processes
2.) An air elemental could be percieved by a human in the right circumstances. Like during astral travel, certain states of meditation, etc.
3.) There classical shapes are semi humanoid. As an example a gnome appears a a very short man with bushy hair, bushy beard, a loin cloth and perhaps a hammer. Though they won't necessarily appear like this. Much depends on your view of what they are supposed to look like. Remember they are creatures of the astral and they can take whatever form they want.
4.) I've never encountered one on the astral, however I did encounter one while in the physical.
|Some elementals have learned through interaction with man that all they have to do to get what they want is to simply take it.|
6.)As per answer #4 yes I've encountered one on the physical plane. It was a gnome and it woke me from a deep sleep to just run across my floor and disappear into the wall. My assumption is that I felt it's presence come across the threshold of my aura & since I instinctively knew there was an astral intruder I awoke with a snap. I should mention that I was fully awake when I saw it.
7.) As to the "number" of different classes of evolved & unevolved elementals, there is no way to give a ratio. There is evidence to suggest that all categories exist in quantity.
8.) I have communicated with the elementals around the house where I used to live. Basicly I had been living back at home for a short period of time and I was preparing to move out again. But I had noticed that either some elemental or some other spiritual being was "hanging" around the house. I went out at night when everyone was a sleep and faced the woods where I felt the presence the strongest & commanded them to leave my ailing mother alone so as not to frighten her. They backed off and I never felt the presence in the house again.
I want to make a note to reply #8. I said I "commanded" them. I don't want to give you the wrong impression. When a magician commands something it isn't by sheer force. It's by spiritual authority. In other words I had moved up in the spiritual ranks high enough to do this. Much as a captain doesn't have more strength than the men he commands but instead has the authority to order them.
I hope this has answered your questions
Once again my freind, you have very good questions!
1.)Your assumption about the etheric plane being the realm of lower class beings is fairly accurate. The reason for this is that the etheric plane is at a level where both the living come into start to come into being in the material world, & where the dead immediately go after life is extinguished. There are all manner of beings here at this level as well as all the other ones. It is a literal ocean of life.
2.)Elementals under normal circumstances wouldn't try to heal or hurt anything else because they are so busy performing their other functions. That being said they would do so at the behest of a magician who is controlling one. The how is equally simple. Since they exist at an astral level ( the level where the physical is given a blueprint for existence). Wait I was going to answer your question but I think I have given you enough to figure it out for yourself! See if you can, if you can't I'll answer. Strain that brain shamus.
3.) Your analogy to the bears is close enough for government work but it is still a little different. To answer the next part of your question elememtals leave us alone for the most part & once again they are far to busy attending to the needs of the physical universe to bother with us.
Generaly speaking the only time they really interact with us on a personal level is when there is extremely high emotions in our lives or when someone is effectively performing magick. So yes they tend to leave us alone.
4.) To the question about where the word gnome came from, I'm not sure. I probably have the info around here somewhere & I'll try to find out for you. You were however correct about gnomes being used to find treasure. That is a dangerous undertaking from what I understand.
5.) The salamander became associated with fire when people would burn old rotten would and the little creatures would scury out to prevent from being burned up. People naturaly assumed that because they came out of the fire that they were immune to it.
If I have been unclear about anything please let me know. Better yet try to figure it out first from the information that's here, & then if you can't figure it out let me know. You can figure out quite a bit from what I've already posted. Actually this would be good for anyone who would have questions.
I'm not trying to avoid answering by the way. I just think you'll learn more by doing it this way.