I'm reading The Well of Light by R. J. Stewart right now (amongst other things). He makes an interesting point when he argues that the categorization of elemental spirits into Earth, Air, fire, and Water (and spirit) isn't necessarily accurate. He points out the following:
If we think about Elementals as small components of 'pure' Air, Fire, Water, and Earth with some sort of limited consciousness, we are making them too abstract and too small...they are large conglomerate beings of one primary Element, but with the other three also present...elementals are perceived and encountered during a gathering of forces into undeniable, visible, tangible patterns: the forest fire, the volcanic interruption, the tornado, and the earthquake.
My own experience with the primary elementals has always been a recognition that to one degree or another the elements are interacting with each other. Think of a cloud in the sky. Sure there's Air, but there's also Water. But even leaving out the periodic table (which is a scientific analysis of the physical elements), I've never really been satisfied with the four or five elemental approach to magic. In the Strategic Sorcery course, Jason also discusses the elementals from the perspective of the five core elements and his approach to the elements is reminiscent of my early delving into hermeticism right down to the kings of the elementals. I've worked with them in the way Jason describes and I've also experienced them the way R. J. describes. In fact, my experience of elementals shifted to how R. J. describes them after my the working I did when I was eighteen where I exchanged some of my life essence for the life essence of the elemental spirits. And reading R. J.'s description made me appreciate that distinction he makes.
But as I said above, even the four or five elemental model never really worked. When I first started doing the elemental balancing work I realized that drawing on a traditional model for the elements was very limiting. An elemental force such as Gravity wasn't included, nor sound, nor even emotional forces that I'd consider elemental such as love or emptiness. So I started including them because I liked the concept of elemental spirits and could certainly attest to my own experiences with them, but I felt that there were more out there than what was readily available. I still hold to this perspective, so that even though I am working with Fire this year, I could just as easily be working with Gravity another year and find that it has much to offer from a spiritual perspective as what fire offers.
What do you think? Do you stick to a traditional perspective on elementals, or have you tried my approach and worked with an elemental that wasn't traditional?