Often without our being aware that we are doing so, we gradually build up a list of the characteristics of each element by which we have learnt to recognise them. These are like our own aide-mémoires, our short-cuts which lead us to an element. It is worth our while to think a little more about this, as we often follow along what to us is a well-trodden route towards an element without being aware we are doing it, and, more importantly, without checking at intervals to see whether our responses have become stereotyped and no longer reflect the great diversity with which the elements manifest themselves. We should always, as it were, at intervals do a stock take, and throw out any worn-out clichés about an element which have passed their sell-by date.
None of the descriptions by which I attempt to define the elements can be absolutely clear-cut, any more than the distinctions between one element and another can ever be clearly defined. Like the colours of the rainbow, the elements meld into one another at their edges, so that they will share, faintly, some of each other’s characteristics. Though faint, these similarities can nonetheless confuse us, some more than others, I find, and explain the difficulties we all have in distinguishing between the characteristics of different elements. My own greatest confusion has always come from the differences between Earth and Fire, and my least from those between Metal and Water, with the similarities I perceive between other pairings falling somewhere between these two. Other people will find it difficult to distinguish between other elements.
Each of us should remain aware of where our own particular difficulties in differentiating between the elements lie, and use them as warning signals along the path to a diagnosis.