Spirit binds to element, or, all element has a spirit. When the spirits within the element are subject to the will of another being it is called magic. The science of magic has been a topic of debate for centuries but many scholars have theories. The most popular theory is that of Haradu of the Elven Star Mages who concluded that all spirits that have once been given life have an innate power or station over spirit that never had lived. Likewise, mortal or immortal beings that have life are of a higher station than those that once lived but are now dead, but not yet immortal.
Those learned in or born with one of the disciplines of magic have that power over spirit amplified many times over to the point of persuading the spirits to do their will. How practitioners of each discipline approach and achieve that persuasion is another matter.
“Magic is submitting the spirit of element to one’s will, whether by honor, by petition, or by force.” -Archmage Emris