Why is it just those 4 elements when there are tons more? I’m talking about the 118 elements in total.
They’re not the same, they’re all compounds anyway, and not even part of the periodic table of elements in chemistry. Completely different thing.
Because the Persian four elements theory is about the spiritual make up of reality, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the physical periodic table of chemistry, as Eva said above.
It is not the only theory, but it is the most popular because it influenced a lot of later thought, particularly that of Ayurveda and Greek, upon which most modern science is built. The Chinese theory of the elements is composed of Fire, Wood, Metal, Water, and Earth.
That’s because these four “elements” are actually symbols for elements of Nature and human nature. Earth and fire symbolize matter and energy, and water and air symbolize time and space. In human nature, Earth also symbolizes the physical body, fire is for the visceral passions, air is for the intellect, and water is for the artistic and psychic talents. In classic Wiccan (Witchcraft) Pagan rituals, these are also attached to the basic four directions – the “wind’s four quarters”-- and the four seasons, including the solstices and equinoxes. This symbology provides a psychic reference-map which is very useful for ceremonial workings. It’s a small enough number that the mid-brain (which is the source of psychic ability) can easily comprehend it, but varied enough to apply to any situation.
Depends on the system. Some use 5 elements; the four you mentioned + spirit. Some use the elements of wood and metal. I think lightning is an element in one system, though I could be talking out of my butt. Some consider the four elements to be really only 2, with earth an aspect of water and air an aspect of fire.
Chemistry has “elements”, in the form of atoms. Many element systems have 5 or 6. Not just 4.
European: fire, water, air, earth, spirit/chaos
Chinese: fire, water, metal, wood, earth
Tibetan and Hindu: fire, water, earth, air, space
Buddhist: the Tibetian system + the 6th element of consciousness
Japanese: fire, water, earth, wind, void/aether