Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The meaning of 'quintessential'

I roughly knew the meaning of the word because I had heard it being used rather often. Today, I hit something interesting when I decided to look it up in

Quintessential element is the fifth essential (quint for five) element of universe, which is ether. The other four are air, earth, water and fire.

What surprises me is the fact that the same set of objects are quoted in Indian text as the panchbhoota, or the five elements. It's not a trivial co-incidence again, if at all a co-incidence.

Anyone has any idea regarding the origins of this idea of elements in both latin and sanskrit scriptures?


Shipra Agrawal said...

Not just latin and sanskrit, chinese philpsophy also seems to have a concept of five elements (although their five elements is a little different with wood and metal being two of them) and japanese too with exactly same set of five elements as in sanskrit. I will not be surprised, if the concepts did not exactly originate from the same place (may be influenced by each other in some untraceable ways), there are many examples of such basic concepts which evolved almost independently in various parts of the world but are remarkably similar. Has to do with the fact the after all we are all humans, wired in pretty much the same way.

Shipra Agrawal said...

You might also want to look at Chetan's unbelievable comment about origins of word "Serendipity"