Standard dictionaries render Ether as "the upper regions of space; the clear sky; the heavens." Ether is from the Latin, aether, and the same definition prevails as "upper air; the atmosphere." These interpretations clearly conjoin Ether with the Air element. However, the Latin aether is derived from the Greek root, αιθήρ, aither, and translates as 'ether, aether, quintessence,' but its root means ‘to glow, to burn,’ which places Ether with the element Fire. This is at once interesting for the genuine alchemist in that the number for the Greek aither sums up to 128, that of aqua perpetua, 'permanent water,' the term used consistently throughout the Turba Philosophorum for the Prima Materia, the First Matter. Alchemists and Qabalists alike understand that when describing the First Matter, AIN SUPH AUR, the ideas behind 'water' and 'fire' are inseparable. The apparent confusion seems to persist when we investigate The Book of Formation, except for the genuine artist who has actually seen the fiery essence. True scholarship is difficult with the Sepher Yetzirah, however, to quote Mr. Phineas Mordell, one of its commentators:
"No Hebrew book has been so tampered with as the Sepher Yetzirah. As early as the 10th century there existed several versions of it, varying in length and in arrangement."1
From the same author in the same text, concerning aether or ether:
"From a Pythagorean point of view the fifth element "aether" like infinity is only another name for vacuum. Therefore, aether also is logically identical with zero. Now "modern physics following Einstein asserts that...since the 'aether' as a substance obstinately evades all our attempts at observing it, and all phenomena occur as if it did not exist, the word 'aether' lacks physical meaning, and therefore aether does not exist" (M. Schlick, Space and Time, p.12). 'Since we are free to use words at pleasure there is no objection to using the word 'aether' in the future to represent the vacuum...we must be very cautious, however, not to picture it as matter.' (ibid p. 20)."2
The 1877 translation of Sepher Yetzirah by Rev. Dr. Isidor Kalisch, reprinted and commented upon by A.M.O.R.C., headquartered in San Jose, CA, reveals:
"Fire or ether emanated from the water. He established it by the throne of glory, etc."3
The footnote to the paragraph reads:
"According to the author, the space and six dimensions emanated from the ether."4
Ten years later, in 1887, the same section was again footnoted and commented upon by Dr. W.W. Westcott in his translation of Sepher Yetzirah:
"Note the order in which the primordial elements were first produced. First, Spirit (query Akasa, Ether) then Air, Vayu; then Water, Apas, and lastly from the Water He formed Fire."5
Now, if we look up Air and Ether in a Hebrew dictionary, we find אויר, ahvir, for both. This totals to 217 by gematria and equals בהיר, baheer, meaning 'bright,' which brings the fiery element back into it. Confusion and misconceptions do dissipate, finally, when we realize that all that has been said concerning it thus far is true and accurate. Ether or Aether is the Fiery Life-Breath that contains all the elements, the Quintessence, or Ain Suph Aur. Various scholars argue that there are not five separate elements. There are only four differing modes of just one element wherein the other four are contained. I can find no justifiable reason for intellectual hair-splitting over whether there are four or five distinctively separate elements. Alchemists from both East and West repeatedly remind us that this Art consists in the knowledge of One Thing. I have come to understand Ether or Aether to be THAT between the smallest particles of the fluid substance, a fiery essence within a Universal Ocean of Living Mind Matter, whose particulate floats or swims in a 'no-space'.
In esoteric writings Ether or Aether is equivalent to Pneuma of the Greeks, Akasha of the Hindus, and the Quintessence of the European Alchemists. Latin Cabala Simplex serves to point us in some thoughtful directions, however. Aether, totaling 53, is equivalent to the Hebrew, אבן, ahben, and meaning 'stone'. Both share that number with חמה, chamah, 'sun', our physical day star. The very essence, the 'stuff' of which our sun is composed, is the fiery essence of AB, the Father, Chokmah and Wisdom. It is the FIRE of Desirous Life, the Virgin Sulphur, coagulated as suns and stars in our physical heavens. Hebrew Qabalists assign the term מסלות, masloth, to Chokmah. Masloth means 'Sphere of the Zodiac' or 'Sphere of the Fixed Stars.'
Conscious knowledge and awareness concerning the movements, the inner and outer influences and their effects in our solar system and in human consciousness constitutes 'Wisdom' according to Qabalists. The Wise also tells us that Wisdom is the knowledge of Cosmic Fire, the root of which is assigned to the second sphere, Chokmah. All physical substance is a coagulation of the Fiery Aethers, compacted and cooled. The physical world is the 'House of Eden,' the Hebrew of which, is בית עדן, beth-eden, and sums to 536, that of Masloth. The spelling of 'garden' in Genesis is גן, gan, and totals 53, as Aether, Stone, and Sun above. The Ether, seen around our physical planet from outer space as a living, shimmering, thin wisp of bluish-white light, is the aura of the World Soul, Anima Mundi. It is a luminiferous Aether, a vital caloric, the electro-magnetic azoth.
Various Bible translations name this auric region of our planet 'the firmament, the expanse, the vault, and the heavens.' The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is רקיע, rakiya, which translates simply as 'sky.' It separates the Universal Waters (AIN SUPh AUR) under the 'expanse' from the Waters above it. Each of us also emanates an etheric light as an aura. As the living world's aura protects its planet-body by disintegrating meteors entering our atmosphere in a fiery breath, so do our auras protect us from thought forms and other radiations from entering our personal sphere of consciousness. Without the Fiery-Life within and about us from AB, our Father, we and the world would perish. Summing up, we may say that Ether has a distinctive two-fold meaning. The term Ether, in alchemy, designates primarily the etheric Life-Breath called Prana in Sanskrit and Ruach in Hebrew. Secondly, it stands for the atmospheric air called Vayu in Sanskrit, and Avir in Hebrew. In Alchemy, Fire and Air are virtually inseparable. These form the Universal Agent. Equally are Earth and Water unified, forming the Universal Patient. In conjunction with ETHER, ponder ALEPH, RUACH, PRANA and VAYU TATTWA.
1 Mordell, Phineas, The Origin of Letters and Numbers According to the Sefer Yetzirah. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1975 ed., pg. 5.
2 Ibid., pg. 70.
3 Kalisch, Rev. Dr. Isidor, Sephirah Yezirah. New York: L. H. Frank & Co., 1978 ed., pg. 18.
4 Ibid., pg. 52.
5 Westcott, William Wynn, Sepher Yetzirah. Trans. by Westcott. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1975 ed., pg.36.