The Philosophy and Meaning of Color

The Philosophy and Meaning of Color

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From ancient time color has its own meaning. We could go little further and say that the philosophy of color has deeper secret meaning that affects human life according to the color. What you read here is not my own article but it is from the secret teaching of ages.

“Light,” writes Edwin D. Babbitt, “reveals the glories of the external world and yet is the most glorious of them all. It gives beauty, reveals beauty and is itself most beautiful. It is the analyzer, the truth-teller and the exposer of shams, for it shows things as they are. Its infinite streams measure off the universe and flow into our telescopes from stars which are quintillions of miles distant. On the other hand it descends to objects inconceivably small, and reveals through the microscope objects fifty millions of times less than can be seen by the naked eye. Like all other fine forces, its movement is wonderfully soft, yet penetrating and powerful. Without its vivifying influence, vegetable, animal, and human life must immediately perish from the earth, and general ruin take place. We shall do well, then, to consider this potential and beautiful principle of light and its component colors, for the more deeply we penetrate into its inner laws, the more will it present itself as a marvelous storehouse of power to vitalize, heal, refine, and delight mankind.”

Since light is the basic physical manifestation of life, bathing all creation in its radiance, it is highly important to realize, in part at least, the subtle nature of this divine substance. That which is called light is actually a rate of vibration causing certain reactions upon the optic nerve. Few realize how they are walled in by the limitations of the sense perceptions. Not only is there a great deal more to light than anyone has ever seen but there are also unknown forms of light which no optical equipment will ever register. There are unnumbered colors which cannot be seen, as well as sounds which cannot be heard, odors which cannot be smelt, flavors which cannot be tasted, and substances which cannot be felt. Man is thus surrounded by a supersensible universe of which he knows nothing because the centers of sense perception within himself have not been developed sufficiently to respond to the subtler rates of vibration of which that  universe is composed.

Among both civilized and savage peoples color has been accepted as a natural language in which to couch their religious and philosophical doctrines. The ancient city of Ecbatana as described by Herodotus, its seven walls colored according to the seven planets, revealed the knowledge of this subject possessed by the Persian Magi. The famous zikkurat or astronomical tower of the god Nebo at Borsippa ascended in seven great steps or stages, each step being painted in the key color of one of the planetary bodies. (See Lenormant’s Chaldean Magic.) It is thus evident that the Babylonians were familiar with the concept of the spectrum in its relation to the seven Creative Gods or Powers. In India, one of the Mogul emperors caused a fountain to be made with seven levels.

The water pouring down the sides through specially arranged channels changed color as it descended, passing sequentially through all shades of the spectrum. In Tibet, color is employed by the native artists to express various moods. L. Austine Waddell, writing of Northern Buddhist art, notes that in Tibetan mythology “White and yellow complexions usually typify mild moods, while the red, blue, and black belong to fierce forms, though sometimes light blue, as indicating the sky, means merely celestial.

Generally the gods are pictured white, goblins red, and devils black, like their European relative.” (See The Buddhism of Tibet.) In Meno, Plato, speaking through Socrates, describes color as “an effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and sensible.” In Theætetus he discourses more at length on the subject thus: “Let us carry out the principle which has just been affirmed, that nothing is self-existent, and then we shall see that every color, white, black, and every other color, arises out of the eye meeting the appropriate motion, and that what we term the substance of each color is neither the active nor the passive element, but something which passes between them, and is peculiar to each percipient; are you certain that the several colors appear to every animal–say a dog–as they appear to you?”

In the Pythagorean tetractys–the supreme symbol of universal forces and processes–are set forth the theories of the Greeks concerning color and music. The first three dots represent the threefold White Light, which is the Godhead containing potentially all sound and color. The remaining seven dots are the colors of the spectrum and the notes of
the musical scale. The colors and tones are the active creative powers which, emanating from the First Cause, establish the universe. The seven are divided into two groups, one containing three powers and the other four a relationship also shown in the tetractys. The higher group–that of three–becomes the spiritual nature of the created universe; the lower group–that of four–manifests as the irrational sphere, or inferior world.

In the Mysteries the seven Logi, or Creative Lords, are shown as streams of force issuing from the mouth of the Eternal One. This signifies the spectrum being extracted from the white light of the Supreme Deity. The seven Creators, or Fabricators, of the inferior spheres were called by the Jews the Elohim. By the Egyptians they were referred to as the Builders (sometimes as the Governors) and are depicted with great knives in their hands with which they carved the universe from its primordial substance. Worship of the planets is based upon their acceptation as the cosmic embodiments of the seven creative attributes of God. The Lords of the planets were described as dwelling within the body of the sun, for the true nature of the sun, being analogous to the white light, contains the
seeds of all the tone and color potencies which it manifests.

There are numerous arbitrary arrangements setting forth the mutual relationships of the planets, the colors, and the musical notes. The most satisfactory system is that based upon the law of the octave. The sense of hearing has a much wider scope than that of sight, for whereas the ear can register from nine to eleven octaves of sound the eye is restricted to the cognition of but seven fundamental color tones, or one tone short of the octave.

Red, when posited as the lowest color tone in the scale of chromatics, thus corresponds to do, the first note of the musical scale. Continuing the analogy, orange corresponds to re,  yellow to mi, green to fa, blue to sol, indigo to la, and violet to si (ti). The eighth color tone necessary to complete the scale should be the higher octave of red, the first color tone. The accuracy of the above arrangement is attested by two striking facts: (1) the three fundamental notes of the musical scale–the first, the third, and the fifth–correspond with the three primary colors–red, yellow, and blue; (2) the seventh, and least perfect, note of the musical scale corresponds with purple, the least perfect tone of the color scale.
In The Principles of Light and Color, Edwin D. Babbitt confirms the correspondence of the color and musical scales: “As C is at the bottom of the musical scale and made with the coarsest waves of air, so is red at the bottom of the chromatic scale and made with the coarsest waves of luminous ether. As the musical note B [the seventh note of the scale] requires 45 vibrations of air every time the note C at the lower end of the scale requires 24, or but little over half as many, so does extreme violet require about 300 trillions of vibrations of ether in a second, while extreme red requires only about 450 trillions, which also are but little more than half as many. When one musical octave is finished another one commences and progresses with just twice as many vibrations as were used in the first octave, and so the same notes are repeated on a finer scale. In the same way when the scale of colors visible to the ordinary eye is completed in the violet, another octave of finer invisible colors, with just twice as many vibrations, will commence and progress on precisely the same law.” When the colors are related to the twelve signs of the zodiac, they are arranged as the spokes of a wheel.

To Aries is assigned pure red; to Taurus, red-orange; to Gemini, pure
orange; to Cancer, orange-yellow; to Leo, pure yellow; to Virgo, yellow-green; to Libra, pure green; to Scorpio, green-blue; to Sagittarius, pure blue; to Capricorn, blue-violet; to Aquarius, pure violet; and to Pisces, violet-red. In expounding the Eastern system of esoteric philosophy, H. P, Blavatsky relates the colors to the septenary constitution of man and the seven states of matter as follows:

Violet Chaya,                               or Etheric Double                                           Ether
Indigo                                          Higher Manas, or Spiritual Intelligence      Critical State called Air
Blue                                             Auric Envelope                                                  Steam or Vapor
Green                                          Lower Manas, or Animal Soul                       Critical State
Yellow                                         Buddhi, or Spiritual Soul                                Water
Orange                                        Prana, or Life Principle                                   Critical State
Red                                              Kama Rupa, or Seat of Animal Life               Ice

This arrangement of the colors of the spectrum and the musical notes of the octave
necessitates a different grouping of the planets in order to preserve their proper tone and
color analogies. Thus do becomes Mars; re, the sun; mi, Mercury; fa, Saturn; sol, Jupiter;
la, Venus; si (ti) the moon. (See The E. S. Instructions.)

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