I try to understand the "fabric" of the ArM universe.
We have four elements : earth, water, air and fire. These constitute matter :metals, liquids, gaz, ... and to some extend energy : combustion, heat, light, lightenning, ... (if we uses matter and energy in a modern sense). RoP:M even says that pure elements can bring a sort of magical life in the form of elementals. We also have the supposed fifth element Ether.
On other side we obviously have a spiritual substance (the one affected by mentem) on wich all kinds of spirits (demons, angels, daimons, ghosts, ...) are based on. Some of them can have physical bodies. Angels (angelic mantle) can force their spirituel substance into a kind of solid matter and build a body from it. Demons (demonic coagulation) build their bodies from "environment" matter (I supposed it is so a mix of the four elements)
Faeries (if I've read RoP:F well) are made of Glamour, another different material substance, specific to them.
So here is my question(s) :
What are mundane livings creatures (humans, animal, vegetal) made of ? Is it of non pure combinaisons of the four elements (adding spiritual substance for human) or is it something else ? What is carrying the "life spark" ? Is there different flavors of this "living element": vegetal, animal and human (as the different hermetic forms) ?
For the long answer to your question: read chapters 3 and 4 of Art & Academe!
For a shorter, and hopefully accurate, answer: living creatures are made of the four elements and, in addition, three "faculties or spirits that infuse the body". These are the natural faculty, the sensitive faculty, and the vital faculty. The natural faculty nourishes the creature, the sensitive faculty allows perception and reaction to the outside world (plants are lacking in this), and the vital faculty animates the creature with life.
In humans at least, the natural faculty is derived from digested food in the liver. It is divided into four humours, corresponding to the four elements: blood (air), choler (fire), melancholy (earth), and phlegm (water). The natural faculty could thus be said to still be composed of the four elements (it can be affected by Hermetic magic, for example).
However, the vital faculty seems to be a qualitatively different substance, even though it is concocted (in the heart) from the combination of natural faculty and inhaled air. For example, Hermetic magic cannot affect the vital faculty. (To complete the picture, the sensitive faculty is concocted in the brain from the combination of natural faculty and the species that are gathered by the sensory organs.)
In addition, as you say, rational beings (such as humans) possess a soul, which provides reason and intellect.
Thank you for your enlightning answer ! I've just (re)read these A&A chapters more seriously.
To sum up, if I understand well, we have the fundamental constituants in the ArM universe :
- Four elements : Earth, Water, Air and Fire constituing mundane matter and, optionnally, a fifth of celestial origin : Ether - Three life faculties : Natural, Sensitive and Vital. The presence of the latter transforming mundane matter into living tissues. - A spiritual substance (aka the soul), providing Reason and Intellect. - A faeric substance : Glamour. - Four species, acting as sensitive information carriers.
My character's view is that living magics are better than the dead magics that are the elements, that terram auram aquam and Ignem are for the base mages that go about the easy way by toying with that that has no life to resist it, I have enemized myself with several mages in my short life by expression of these views. Somehow, flambeau take exempt at being analogued with childs playing with burning oil (I meant to antagonize that guy in that place, this seemed a good way to do it properly, how it came to be is another story).
The rest are the real arts, those that are intended to be magicked and are noble, alive and pure.
This however does not work proper for someone with mercurian magic who did not look at the list of rituals before selection virtues and flaws (I am weak in all the elements, guess where ritual magic matters...)
I count five species - Taste, Touch, Smell, Hearing, Vision (or Flavour, Texture, Scent, Sound, and Spectacle, to use the Targets for Sensory Magic)
Otherwise, a very good summary. There was an in-period classification (I think this is from the Dragmaticon, but could be wrong) which went like this. I hope I represent this correctly; each time the contents of the world are split into two catergories:
Adding matter separates the immaterial from the material. Adding the vital and natural faculties separate the animate from the inanimate. Adding the senstive faculty separates the plants from sensitive creatures, and adding reason separates humans from animals.
There may be a category of things in Mythic Europe that live (i.e. have the vital faculty) but do not grow or reproduce (i.e. lack the natural faculty) but this was not considered in medieval Europe. Some magical creatures might fall into this category, for example
So do I, but HoH:S seems to say olfactory and gustative are the same specie (p61).
I gonna have a look at the Dragmaticon Philosophiae, a book I didn't know.
I have to tell you that , thanks to Ars Magica (specially 5thEd) and this forum, I found interest in Aristote and Medieval physics/metaphysicsto my great astonishment. As a physicist, I discovered that I know almost nothing about the historic roots of my science (well, when it was not a science yet . Doing this through rpg is fun ! I also have great interest in formal systems. Maybe it's why I tried to sum up these basics contituants of ArM universe (an attempt to the ArM "Unified theory of fields") and to understand their interactions. I understand this approach may not fit with everybody tastes, so thank again for your answers.
Sorry that my diagram didn't turn out quite right - it looks fine in the edit field, but removes all the excess spaces when viewed.
What it should be is a series of divisions. The first distinction is made between Immaterial and Material. The Material is divided into the Inanimate and the Animate. The Animate is divided into the Insensitive and the Sensitive. And the Sensitive is divided into the Irrational and the Rational.