I have been asked by quite a few people to explain what the words choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine and melancholic mean. This is no easy task to do briefly but I will try to give some of the most basic images related to the Mappa Mundi. In the old Pythagorean works the entire universe is said to be revolving around a universal center of etheric fiery pneuma (The old Greek word pneuma and the Sanskrit word prana have similar roots). Due to the complimentary actions of attraction and aversion different concentrations of this primordial pneuma produced heat (fire), gases (air), fluids (water) and solids (earth), which are called the four root elements. It is a mixture of these elements that produced the galaxies, solar systems, planets and moons as well as all life on Earth Mother Gaia.
In the human organism the fire and air make up what the ancient Greeks called the vital force (pneuma zotikon). Due to the innate heat of the fire element stored in the heart, the outer air is drawn deeply into the lungs to cool the body. These complimentary opposites produce the energy cycle of the vital force that is circulated through the arteries (fire) and the nervous system (air). The water and earth element make up the natural force (pneuma physikon) which rules from its seat in the liver, the transformation of food (earth) and drink (water).
The combination of the vital force and the natural force distills the essences of the four elements which become the four humours of the body, the bile (earth), phlegm (water), blood (fire) and atrabile (air).The essence which is left over is distilled into the psychic force (pneuma psychikon) which is stored in the pineal gland and nourishes the spirit (Anima). The bilious humour is made up predominately of the dry earthy element but has a secondary part of fiery heat. The phlegmatic humour is made up predominately of the moist water element but has a secondary part of cool air. The hot sanguine blood humour is made up predominately of the fire element but has a secondary part of moist water. The atrabilious humour is made up predominately of the cold air element but has a secondary part of the dry earth element.
Each innate constitution has a different mixture of the four elements and four humours. When there is a predominance of the bilious humour this makes the dry and hot choleric temperament. A predominance of the phlegmatic humour makes the moist and cold phlegmatic temperament. A predominance of the sanguine blood humor makes the hot and moist sanguine temperament. A predominance of the atrabile makes the cold and dry melancholic temperament. Each of these four temperaments is associated with its own sphere of influence in the constitution. The choleric temperament is associated with the liver, gall bladder, digestive and eliminative systems; the phlegmatic temperament is associated with the brain fluids, lymph and genito-urinary system; the sanguine temperament relates to the heart, blood and arteries; and the melancholic temperament is associated with the nerves, lungs and spleen. This is why the choleric type is sometimes called the liver or gastric type; the phlegmatic is called the lymphatic or venous type; the sanguine is called the heart or blood type; and the melancholic is called the nervous or lung type.
Each of the four types are associated with certain emotions and body types. The choleric temperament (earth) usually has a warm, dry, rectangular or square body, tight connective tissue, yellowish complexion, and are practical and rational, yet prone to anger, irritability, and impatience. The phlegmatic temperament (water) usually has chilly, watery, round or oval body with a white complexion, lax soft tissue, and are sympathetic and sensitive, yet prone to fearfulness, tearfulness, and sadness. The sanguine temperament (fire) usually has a hot, moist, triangular or barrel chested body, muscular or fleshy tissue, a red complexion, and are optimistic and joyful, yet prone to pride, passion, and cruelty. The nervous melancholic temperament (air) usually has a cool, dry, thin, body with pipe stem bones, little flesh, a gray, ashy complexion, and are intelligent and sophisticated, yet prone to be pensiveness, restlessness or depression. With these correspondences in mind please look at the Mappa Mundi below and allow the images to take hold of your subconscious mind where they may draw on information from the collective unconscious.
The astrologers out there should have no trouble relating the temperaments to the four cardinal elements. Unfortunately, most medical astrology books that use the temperaments follow the Aristotelian-Galanic relationships rather than the Pythagorean-Hippocratic system. This is why most books based on the middle age version have the wrong elemental qualities and zodiacal rulerships. This corruption is found in most modern books that deal with the subject. Not only did Galen record the Pythagorean elements wrong, he also changed the ancient law of Likes Cure Likes to Opposites Cure Opposites. Only a study of the ancient pre-Socratic texts reveal the mistakes made by the Scholastic schools. As destiny would have it the homeopaths (Reeves, Norland and myself) have all fallen into the correct early version! I did my research independently of these two sources. A few years ago I saw a Tibetan Mandala like version of the mappa mundi from Misha Norland and was very happy to see we have agreed on the elements, humours and temperament. I presume this is the same tradition as Jeremy uses.
I hope this short introduction gives one and all a better idea of the four temperaments. You will see the words choleric/bilious; phlegmatic/pituitous; sanguine/blood; and melancholic/nervous written in Hering's Guiding Symptoms, Allen's Keynotes, and many other of the old books on Homeopathy. If one can keep the Mappa Mundi in one's mind they will have a much better idea of what the old masters of Homeopathy were talking about when they spoke of Nux Vomica being well suited to the choleric temperament; Pulsatilla being suited to the phlegmatic temperament; Phosphorus being well suited to the sanguine temperament; or Arsenicum being well suited to the nervous temperament. Good luck in all your studies.
Your sincerely, David