How does something get made? How does an idea or impulse get to the point of creation? If you clearly examine the process, you will find it goes through five stages.
First is some sort of impulse. Call it intuition, guidance, inspiration, an idea. Anything on that level is very unformed, yet it has the seeds, carries the germ of further development. At this stage there is nothing formed so much as it is an inclination towards form. This is Ether.
In the next stage the idea or impulse begins to take form. It is considered a bit, yet still is very nebulous. It starts to gather some substance around it, and begins to be discernible. This is Air.
Here it gets infused with some life and energy. It carries and quickens the forming impulse. It gives impetus to go further. This is Fire.
In the next stage more solid formation continues. The idea takes form yet is still fluid, forming, becoming less transparent and more dense. Adjustments and modifications are made as it begins and continues to interact with the potentials and capacities, and intentions of depth. This is Water.
Finally it takes solid form. It comes into being in the deeper level - the physical world. This is Earth.
This pattern plays itself out in all levels. Thus we see from the highest and finest reality and stage, through subsequent denser levels - or worlds, heavens, realities - whatever they are called, the same pattern of densification takes place. It is then mirrored through each next dense stage until finally it ends in the physical world.
The pattern of movement toward densification takes place through an orderly progression through forms with the impetus and life of attention and breath. It is this we call the movement through and with the elements of creation.
Each element, at whatever level or stage, is relatively solid to something existing or connecting to that level. So, like a sieve which allows finer and finer material to be collected or let through, one who has an instrument fine enough or coarse enough to have the same relative solidity as the object or level will be able both to perceive and affect that object or level.
Here we have a key to creation on and through multiple levels. Each level has form, pattern, structure, energy, life. It is only by connecting to the substance that makes up that level that it can be affected, and for it to be changed or developed, growing into the next form. It is thus very reasonable that for one to perceive and affect any level, one must be attuned to it and harmonize with it. Here is where we find one in relative solidity.
The keys of connection and attunement are found in breath, heart, and mind. When they are focused upon and in harmony with any given state, they can then act upon it. One perceives the form, pattern, energy, substance, within that level or state and can relate to it using the tools that are relatively solid to it. Those tools are mind, intention, breath, visualization, and feeling. To create in forms of metal, or concrete, or wood, one would have to use a tool that is relatively as solid and has the capacity and form to interact with it. This tool might not be the correct one to use to have an effect - either desired or accidental - with something lighter or less dense, say water or air. But like a filter taking our impurities, when the "holes" are small enough then the coarseness of water or air can be molded or formed in the shape desired or needed.
It is like working with ice, water, steam, and air. Each has moisture. Yet to affect the water present, one must be able to perceive, connect to, and interact on that level with the appropriate tool.
So too in the mind and being which has ever-refining strata similar to air, steam, water, and ice. Here we find the world of forms: the physical, psychic, energy, mind, and soul. It is here also that we find that thought is capable of working up to a point in the denser mesh of mind, but too coarse and solid to progress beyond that. It is here also that we find the refining of heart and breath raising awareness - perception, consciousness - to higher levels. Each one then reflects in the adjacent level below in density or is reflected from the higher level above it.
It is here we find the principle "as above, so below" in action. It is here also that we find the answer to prayer - how it works and how high it can reach. In both cases there is the need for consistency to attain a result. That is why focus, or concentration is needed.
So it is that when we deliberately seek to explore, experience, or affect a certain level we must have a consistent connection and intention that is perceived and relatively solid to that level or sphere. Then, when we move denser and denser, toward manifestation in subsequently denser stages, we must adjust both our actions and methods, or tools, to adequately interact with that level. This is also why prayer is misunderstood. There needs to be a continuity of intention and action on all levels.
This is part of the mystery of creation and how the world can be affected through the heart, breath, attention, and intention of one being working in awareness of and harmony with the elements of creation.
Two approaches to the daily practice of maintaining harmony through the element breaths:
1. "The daily practice of maintaining harmony through the elemental breaths is imperative. The glorification of Allah is used daily as one searches for the Light in all forms, in all Beings. This recognition of the Divine attributes in the kingdoms about us strenthens perception. Practice the seeing of beauty with nature meditation. What is that except discovering the beauty within ourselves in the outer blade of grass, in the outer tree or bush, of discovering that our breath indeed depends on the exhalation of the vegetable kingdom. If the trees weren't exhaling we wouldn't be inhaling oxygen very long and vice versa. They too depend on us. We are one - we are not separate. Strengthen the universal attitude that we belong to every kingdom, that we belong to every mode in the creativity of the universe, the rhythms of the universe, the rhythms of the plants. We are all interrelated between the ray, the angelic, the jinn and the earth plane and all the elements that live within it." Murshida Vera Corda
2. "Purification of the Physical Body, which is accomplished in 5 different ways: By earth, water, fire, air and ether. Each element requires in the first place its own element for purification and then the element approximate to it in the sale of ascent: water purifies earth, while fire purifies both water and earth, air purifies all four. For all things made of earth, although they are cleansed by water, yet if earth or some kind of powder could be used, being their own substance they would be more effectively cleansed. Water is always purified when mixed with a greater quality of its own element. The scientists also clean it of all impurities by the help of fire, its nearer element. Water, once warmed and again cooled, is considered to be sufficiently pure to be given to sick people (i.e. distilled water). It removes all impurities. Fire is purified by fire; this can be proved by the fact that dim fire is kindled by a brighter and more intense fire as well as by its nearer element, the air, which draws it up by its power, all appertaining to earth, water and fire are kept fresh and pure by the air, in the absence of which they decay. The purifier of air is air, for no matter how bad the air of the closed room may be, as soon as the windows are opened the fresh air at once purifies it. Air is also purified by its nearer element, the ether that is as vast as space. Naturally the air of the town is less pure than that of the country. All the properties of earth, water, fire and air have their existence and expansion and purification in the ether. In the absence of water, earth can serve to clean the palms of the hands and soles of the feet by striking them against it and this absorbs all impurities. It has been proven scientifically that pure earth is a good disinfectant." Inayat Khan