An Attraction for Life

Attraction and Man
Epiphany 9

Earth surely has an effect on man, or at least that was the early thinking. Water also must have been paramount since it was essential for every living thing. Air likewise was part of the creation that led to man and then, one of his first greatest inventions, fire, was felt to lend enormous influence. However, and yes, there was an “however”, why did these things not hold the same attractions for each and every being? What was it about mankind that made these elements hold such different attractions? What made man such a mixture of so many different things?

These questions puzzled early man and Hippocrates decided to answer them. Called the Theory of Four Humors, he compared the four basic elements of earth, water, air, and fire to four conditions of being – cold, hot, moist and dry. Living from 460-370 BCE, Hippocrates would have defined “humor” with the archaic meaning of bodily fluid rather than the contemporary one meaning state of mind. Thus, the theory revolved around four bodily fluids – blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. It was felt that these influenced the human body and its psychological emotions.

A teenager when Hippocrates died, Aristotle identified the four basic elements as building blocks of the universe. It was believed that the interactions of these four humors explained the differences of gender, age, emotions, and disposition. Then in the second century Roman physician and philosopher Galen proposed that the four temperaments of Hippocrates day led to a desired balance within the human body. The influences of these humors changed with the seasons, the time of day, and one’s life span. Heat encouraged activity while cold discouraged it.

The four humors were divided into four categories. Melancholy was cold and dry and the result of black bile and most influential in old age. Phlegmatic was the result of phlegm or cold and moist conditions and often resulted in a calm temperament. Choleric was the influence of yellow bile and led to an angry mood while sanguine was influenced by blood and indicated by a cheerful disposition. While writings from Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt indicate similar thoughts, it was the bright idea of Hippocrates to develop the idea that body fluids can affect physical well-being. Later scientists expanded his theories and extended them to having an influence on behaviors and even personality traits.

Today we have psychological theories suggesting there are four basic personality types, similar to the Theory of Humors developed by Hippocrates. The sanguine type is pleasure-seeking and sociable; Choleric types are ambitious and leaders; melancholic types are analytical and quiet; phlegmatic people are relaxed and peaceful. Actually, most of us are a combination or mixture of these types.

Of course, talking about sorting out temperament types often leads to a lack of agreement. From the four basic types of Hippocrates came the Keirsey Temperament Sorter which led to sixteen types of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The fact is, though, that we all are a unique combination of many things which have varying influences on our beings and our temperaments. Often, though, we fail to realize the epiphany of choice. We retain the negative rather than choosing to eliminate it for the positive. The fact is clear that we all have all four body fluid types within our beings. We might be genetically predisposed to certain things but we alone decide our lifestyles and reactions. By choosing to act rather than simply react, we can have an epiphany of abundance in our own lives and improve our well-being.

The attraction for living is ours for the taking. To quote Sarah Ban Breathnach: ““Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.”

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