Erwin McManus & the Five Elements

By Discernment Group -

Posted November 18, 2006

See A review of The Barbarian Way by Erwin Raphael McManus









Erwin McManus is an emerging church leader, author of The Unstoppable Force, and lead pastor and self-professed “cultural architect” of the Mosaic church in Los Angeles. He believes that the church needs to shape a cultural movement, an apostolic ethos. To create this apostolic ethos he has reinvigorated the five elements that come from ancient pagan spirituality.

The website depicts these five elements.

WIND: Commission: Mission is why the church exists: People matter most.
WATER: Community: Love is the context for all mission: Love permeates everything.
WOOD: Connection: Structure must always submit to spirit: Passion fuels action.
FIRE: Communion: Relevance to culture is not optional: Relevance communicates truth.
EARTH: Character: Creativity is a natural result of spirituality. Character creates change.

On its face there is very little that is Christian about these five categories other than a few scattered biblical words. But McManus carries a mystique and awe about him as one of the vanguards of the emerging new face of the church, so this little “eccentricity” of the five elements is considered a new marketing gimmick for cutting edge neo-evangelicalism. But there is much more to it than that.

A description of the five elements can be found in the Dictionary of All Scriptures & Myths
(The Julian Press, Inc., 1960). This is a very esoteric dictionary, difficult to understand. The five elements are said to be symbols of the “five manifested planes of nature in grades of spirit-matter.”

“'The world may in a certain sense be considered as composed and compacted out of five other worlds; for example, the one is of earth, the other of water, the third of fire; the fourth of air; the fifth element some call heaven, some light, others aether.’"– PLUTARCH, On the E at Delphi, &XI.

"Homer was the first to divide the world into five portions. The three intermediate he has assigned to the three gods; the two extremes, Olympus and Earth, whereof the one is the boundary of things below, the other of things above, he has left common to all and unallotted to any.” –
Ibid., & XIII.

"Olympus, Heaven, Light, and Aether stand as symbols of the highest plan, atma. Buddhi (fire), mind (air), astral (water), physical (earth). The 'three Gods' are Hera (buddhi), Hermes (mind), and Hades (astral).…

“…From the time Yin and Yang united and the five elements were intermingled in the centre of the universe….” –
KIDD, China, p. 167. (pp. 245-247)

These five elements form the foundation of a worldview that is unquestionably pagan. It is interesting to note that this pagan worldview can be found not only in ancient Greek culture but also in the eastern religions.[See The Medicine Wheel]

This raises some questions. Is McManus using these five elements in a Christian or a pagan sense? In order to answer this question, each element will be examined along with a few pertinent definitions that may shed light on the theological meanings behind the use of these terms by McManus.

Also known as AIR, AETHER (ether) has to do with the mental plane or atmosphere, energy. A spiritual mind is said to be a “higher mind.” WIND is said to be “the Divine power” that “energises the mental vehicle of the soul”
(p. 815-816).

The Dictionary also says, “At their highest significance these conjoined symbols stand for Matter and Spirit,” (p. 36), and a cross-reference goes to “Heaven and Earth” definitions, in which are found Yin/Yang (male/female) principles from the occult. (p. 346) The pagan religions – not unlike the teachings emanating from the New Apostolic Reformation – believe that the divide between heaven and earth can be bridged by man’s evolutionary process, which pertains to man's divinity, perfection, and immortality
(p. 397-398):

"The Divine purpose in manifestation is to involve all things in matter, that they may return again by evolution after having accomplished the end for which they existed, namely, the growth and exaltation of the myriad souls of humanity." (p. 399)

McManus says that WATER is “community.” This definition of water is not found in the Bible, but it can be found in cross-cultural ancient and modern pagan writings and, significantly, in occult-inspired symbolic renderings of traditional Bible passages (p. 803-806). WATER is defined as “unity, absence of parts, comprehensiveness….” Jesus’ act of turning water into wine is, for example, misrepresented as a “transmutation of the lower mental plane into the higher spiritual condition of the soul;” i.e., a transformation from human to divine. This is one of the chief ideas conveyed by the Yin/Yang principle. The Dictionary explains
(p. 831):

"The rhythm of the Great Breath produced the duality of Spirit and Matter, the active and receptive states of being. This primal duality is variously named in the sacred scriptures. Spirit and matter unite in forming the five planes (elements) of the Cosmos…. On each of the planes there is a Life (yang) and Form (yin) element, or active and passive aspects; and the Divine Life (Li) pervades all things."

“Heaven represents the male (Yang) principle and earth the corresponding (Yin) female principle, on which two principles the whole of existence depends.” –
ALLEN, Chinese Poetry, Pref. 27.

“Yang and Yin signify ‘light and darkness, perfection and imperfection, manifestation and obscurity, good and evil, the source of existence and the cause of decay.’ …The superior of these powers, by whatever name it is distinguished, rules in heaven and controls celestial objects, while the inferior which is female, governs on earth and directs terrestrial things.”—
KIDD, China, pp. 137-8.

This element is said to be, “A symbol of the astral plane in its aspect of growth, in which the Self begins to manifest.” The Dictionary notes
(p. 824-25) that:

“Aristotle was the first to use the word Matter (in Greek Hyle, wood; in Latin Materia, building stuff), as a term of the schools, to denote the impalpable, invisible substratum of things, in contradistinction from the invisible Form” –
C. BIGG, Neo-Platonism, p. 196.

Is McManus using this term as the occultists do when he refers to structure submitting to spirit? The graphic logo in this element is not only another instance of Yin/Yang, but it also conveys the idea of a leaf. Is this connected to occult dendrology?

Fire, in the occult, is said to be a “spiritual energy” or a “love-energy,” a “passion,” or a “transforming power” for man’s “purification”
(pp. 274-277). For example:

“God is at work now, burning up the evils and wrongs in man, and flooding him with the energies of righteousness and peace. That is the primary fact. The fires of God are burning on and on for the purification of our race.” – Dr. CLIFFORD, Serm., Do not Quench the Spirit.

“Now, the reader cannot fail to have observed that in this Yezidi festival, men, women, and children were ‘purified’ by coming in contact with ‘the sacred element’ of fire. In the rites of Zoroaster, the great Chaldean god, fire occupied precisely the same place. It was laid down as an essential principle in his system that ‘he who approached to fire would receive a light from divinity,’ and that ‘through divine fire, all the stains produced by generation would be purged away.’ Therefore it was that ‘children were made to pass through the fire to Moloch,’ to purge them from original sin, and through this purgation many a helpless babe became a victim to the bloody divinity. Among the Pagan Romans, this purifying by passing through the fire was equally observed; ‘for,’ says Ovid, enforcing the practice, ‘fire purifies both the shepherd and the sheep.’ Among the Hindus, from time immemorial, fire has been worshipped for its purifying efficacy. Thus a worshipper is represented by Colebrooke, according to the sacred books, as addressing the fire: ‘Salutation to thee (O fire!), who dost seize oblations, to thee who dost shine, to thee who dost scintillate, may thy auspicious flame burn our foes; mayest thou, the Purifier, be auspicious unto us.’” –
A. HISLOP, The Two Babylons, p. 120.”

Obviously, the paganists didn't just use "fire" in a symbolic manner!

Fire is not a symbol found in biblical communion. And McManus’ definition for fire seems to parallel the neoevangelical revisionist concept of
ekklesia – communing church with culture. Again, there is an evident Yin/Yang symbol.

According to the Dictionary, “The ‘earth’…signifies the buddhic principle in consciousness” which assists the “growth” of the “lower Self” which awakens the “Higher-mind” of man
(pp. 237-238):

A symbol of the productive buddhic nature as the Divine expression upon the astral and physical planes. Buddhi acting as the moulder of forms and guide of the separated Self to enable it to manifest its true nature in the soul.”

It can be supposed that McManus’ spiritualized character-building would not be too distantly related to this concept. Note that the logo for earth and heaven is sublimally sexual, which is precisely what the Solar-Phallic/Earth Goddess occult doctrine is about.

The Truth:

Now why would a Christian leader use such blatantly occult symbolism? Some possible answers come to mind:

1. Erwin McManus wants to appeal to the hip, young, artsy culture with logos, lingo, terms and symbols that will appeal to their world.

BUT there are testimonies from ex-New Agers such as Warren Smith who warn evangelicals that by mixing occult symbols and terminologies with Christianity they are seriously misleading and possibly outright deceiving spiritual seekers.

2. McManus wants to create a new church language that appeals to the unchurched, to transform the marketing image of a boring old-fashioned Christianity.

BUT these logos with their accompanying definitions appear to have much more in common with the occult, and very little of the Scripture, thus so distorting the intended message that it could be easily confused with the occult.

3. McManus is so “into” fabulous graphic arts that he lost the perspective of communicating the Gospel message.

BUT can we excuse the blatant occult representations on this artwork? Is it possible to justify mingling clearly pagan symbols with biblical Christianity? Isn't this extreme? Or, is "extreme" the hip new marketing model? If so, why use the occult to market the Gospel?

These Scriptures come to mind:

"And the king [Josiah] commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.

"And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

"And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.…

"And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech." (2 Kings 4-6, 10)

© 2006 by Discernment Group

Note added by Berit: Some have requested the page number references to McManus' comments about the five elements. Here they are:


"The first element is wind" - page 166

"The second element is captured in the imagery of water" - page 169

"The third element of an apostolic ethos is wood." We are all part of God's ecological system. This ecostyem is spiritual...." page 171

"The fourth element used in describing apostolic ethos is fire. The apostolic ethos is fueled by incarnation. God shows up!..."  page 176

"The final element for describing an apostolic environment is earth. An apostolicc ethos is fueled by transformation…..” page " page 173


The universal symbol for those five elements (and the four directions) is “quartered circle."

See an example here:

Then read

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The Newest Heresy of the NAR: Orality  | Using CHANGE to facilitate TRANSFORMATION

Wilkinson's Dream For Africa is Shattered | Dominionism and the Rise of Christian Imperialism

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