The formulation of the four ethereal elements of fire, water, earth and air is more often than not attributed to the speculative thought of Empedocles of Acragas (492-432bce). It was generally agreed amongst most Pre-Socratic philosophers that these four primary differentiations were the first spawn of a basic substance known as the prima materia that has existed for time immemorial. In scrying the memory bank of philosophical conjecture, we see that the first person to identify ethereal earth as a primary element was the sixth-century thinker Pherecydes of Syros. Both he and Aristotle adhered to a train of thought which placed the element at the exact centre of the heavenly rotations, identifying it as the fecund from which the other three –fire, water and air–miraculously sprung forth. In addition, it was also common piece that everything filtering down into the physical realm would filter through the ethereal element for the conferral of form before it finally materialising. Aristotle reasoned that the ethereal version of earth must be like its physical or material constituent, characterised by the conditions of heaviness, solidity and geometrical or concrete form.
Hence it was likely that earth-laden principles and substances would be orientated by a gravitational tendency to drop towards the navel of the cosmos. Together with water, earth was considered a wholly feminine principle with a receptive and passive personality. Its two fundamental properties were cold and dry, putting it last on a provisional ladder that orders the four elements according to their subtleties, intricacies and material fineness. Ethereal earth is esoterically and symbolically connected to potentiality, the colour white, the concept of life, as well as the cardinal direction of south and the phenomena of heat and electricity. In the alchemical theory of matter and in esotericism, the element is equated with the principle of “salt” and symbolised by an overturned triangle bisected by a horizontal line.