First, to cut through much of the confusion with something similar: Air is attributed exclusively to the Middle Pillar as the neutral, equilibrating idea between the spiraling serpents of fire and water. It's all rather Caduceus-like. But that's why Kether, Tifereth, Y'sod, and the upper-middle aspect of Mal'khooth are attributed to Air.
As for some of your specific questions, the broadest answer is that the ideas people have of the elements are a bit simplistic - and that's if you only consider them "horizontally," i.e., on the same plane, rather than "vertically," or in terms of the Worlds.
Considering them vertically, it gets even more interesting: You can't break Air and Water down as, say, intellect and emotion because the real distinction is Y'tziyrah vs. B'riyah. In that sense, you might say Air (Y'tziyrah) is intellect
while Water (B'riyah) is mind
There are other layers of understanding that I don't know how to pass along (as more than short blurbs) except by having someone pass through rites of initiation. I promise you that those who have passed through the Y'sod and Hod rites and degrees of Temple of Thelema get it, but not in a way that I can spell out. But here are a couple of ideas that might help: People err when they think of intellect as a force (probably because of historic ownership of the turf mostly by men). Intellect, though, is a form
- a containment - a set of patterns through which mind moves. When you have sufficient experience with ways of witnessing the movements of mind and patterning the structure of intellect, you'll probably see this quite easily. Our intellect isn't at all who we are, it's the way we have structured the pathways of movement of who we are.
In part, my answer is to keep struggling with this, and that, until you have direct experience of these elements as alchemists know them, you aren't likely to get final answers. But the wrestling with uncertainty is useful,
bdc wrote:Yesod as "the deep" of the subconscious and reactive emotion would seem to suit Water more
Would it? Are you sure about that? In nature, what is more volatile, moving, shifting, altering and adapting at the slightest resistance or change of circumstances: Air or water?
Hod as intellect would a more fitting sphere for the Sword / Air.
Yes, it would, if intellect were a force. But it's not. It's form.
(I just had an idea: Stop thinking of sword. Start thinking of dagger. This may make no difference, or it may free your mind from some barnacles that come from thinking of a big ol' hulking sword.)
I've considered Air maybe suiting reactive emotion in terms of "blowing all round the place" like wind, and the Cup suiting intellect in terms of "form" (that which holds "content")
See? There ya go! I didn't have to answer. You got it.
but even with this in mind, it still feels in many ways that Air/Sword is tied with intellect and the Cup with emotion.
See my notes above on the vertical distribution and, in general, try breaking "intellect" and "emotion" into a larger list of faculties. Try to distinguish, say, five separate faculties from each of those two terms, and then look at those 10 faculties individually - within yourself and others - to see how they operate and function.