”Colour and Healing” is dedicated to Hugh Leon Sprinck in gratitude for his helpful collaboration.
What is colour? Nothing less than the substance of the soul. Just as the substances of the body are mineral, water, air and warmth, so the substance of the soul is colour.
Normal perception can reveal this in the extremes of the emotions of sadness and joys and the many shades between are clearly indicated in our language, e„g. “rose-coloured spectacles”, “jaundiced view”, “looking black”, “seeing red”, etc.
No one who recognises the reality of soul can fail to recognise the connection between colour and the inner life of soul,, To clairvoyant perception, it reveals itself in the colours of the aura. In our souls we are colour.
Colour is to the soul almost as great a necessity as air is to the body. Our bodies breathe in air, and without air they die; similarly the soul breathes in colour, and without it, the soul sickens.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING COLOUR
If I were gifted with a knowledge sufficient to compass every subject on earth, and if an angel guided my pen to write wisely and well, I would think no subject more worthy than this one, the subject of Colour. For this is no small and unimportant matter, but a great matter and one of the utmost importance, and in the following pages I shall try to show how and why this is so.
To do this I may be obliged to make many apparent detours, in order to approach from many different viewpoints, some of which may seem at first to have very little to do with the subject in hand, yet if the reader will have patience with me, we may discover together that a right understanding of colour is central to most of the problems of sickness and healing, both individual and social in our world to-day.
OUR SICK WORLD CAN BE HEALED
Evidence that our world is sick is not far to seek. A visitor from another planet would find it strange perhaps to see so many nations and individuals hard at work devising and constructing weapons which, if put to serious use, could probably destroy our planet. This might appear to him as convincing evidence of the will towards suicide of the human race.
Hardly less evident would be the instances of individual retreat from life. Too many lives seem to be dominated by fear in one or another form; fear of life, fear of poverty, fear of love, fear of emotion, fear of inferiority to others, fear of illness, fear of death. Prom childhood to the grave our pathways seem beset with fears leading to various kinds of escape from life, ranging from the simple one of daydreams to hysteria, neurosis and the taking of drugs, to drink, sexual excesses, mental breakdown, to actual suicide.
Sickness of mind seems to be sometimes due to a prior sickness of body, and the bodily sickness in turn due to social ills over which the individual has little control. Sometimes the sickness seems due to sheer mental and Spiritual bewilderment.
Our world has become so very clever yet its cleverness does not seem to help us to live any more wisely, nor any more satisfactorily than we did before we developed such cleverness. True, we have many physical aids to achieve a a comfortable existence. But what do these serve, if the will to live is diminishing? The most dangerous moment in sickness is when the patient has no will to recover. Likewise in human affairs.
HAVE WE A PHILOSOPHY
A doctor treating a young man on the edge of a mental breakdown said to his patient, “What you lack is a philosophy”. How many of the men and women of our modern world have a real philosophy that will serve them in times of stress?
We are obviously entering no easy times. From the beginning of this century life has become ever faster, and has developed ever more strain and stress, which shows no likelihood of easing. Quite the contrary. Our forbears would have found life in this century difficult to bear, but they would have brought to it a lively religious faith, a belief in a Divine all-ruling Providence Who would somehow look after them. We are not so secure.
Throughout all the Christian centuries until our own, religion was a powerful aid to men in coming to terms with their life-tasks. But what has Christianity become for a vast number of our contemporaries? Not a powerful aid certainly; more often a last resource, when nothing else offers. Christianity has declined into meaning morality only to many minds, perhaps a moral ideal, but also an ideal that seems hardly realizable.
Such an ideal may come to our aid in a crisis calling for decisions. But in the steady pressure of events directed not by men’s faith but by men’s reason, we are forced into compromise again and again till we weaken, and lose our certainty of judgment. Human thought faces a mighty rift between the reasoned thought due to our everyday sense experience, and the deeper not-reasoned confidence most men have in some other world of soul and spirit. Because we have no clear thoughts to justify our irrational confidence, that confidence can be readily shaken – an illness, a friend’s death, a reverse in our fortunes – all kinds of shocks may be sufficient to make us unsure.
And what kind of philosophy can we form for ourselves, when, living between two spheres of being, only one of them seems wholly real, whilst the other erupts into our life’s experience in all the irrational elements of human behaviour, or in the psychic experience of mediums and of other clairvoyant persons, in hypnotism, and in everyone’s experience of occasional intensely significant dreams.
These two worlds of experience exist side by side in our thinking, but are apparently unrelated. Some modern thinkers have attempted to relate them.
Sir Winston Churchill once related how as a youth at Oxford he was puzzled by the problem of these two kinds of knowledge of which he was well aware, one for which one struggled through logical thought, and another which appeared more directly in consciousness without the intermediary of logical thinking. The Battle of Britain showed both the one and the other in action in him, with the results which the world knows, and history will never forget.
But not all thinkers can live so freely between the two. Some recognize both but try to keep them, as it were, in separate pockets, as the truths of science, and the truths of faith. Some deny them an equal verity, and so suppress one or the other. Most of us live in an uneasy uncertainty between these two worlds of experience. For nothing can be more certain than that we are all born. Out of what? And it is equally certain that we shall all die. Into where? The hardiest Agnostic has no answers which extend beyond the span of one short human life; science has no answers; and the rosy dream of eternal bliss pictured by faith fails in this age to be entirely convincing.
BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE
What then is to bridge the gap between faith and knowledge, between inner and outer knowing? Without a bridge between these two we can form no practical working philosophy for the guiding of life. So the problem is vital.
Knowledge in our day has come generally to mean scientific knowledge. This again, since the fifteenth century has come to mean knowledge of the structure of the physical universe, in terms of number, weight and measure, and of the relations of its parts. In this sense, the modern physicist may be compared with a horse wearing blinkers to avoid the temptation to look right or left and so be led away from the pursuit of his objective. The objective for the physical sciences seems to be a mathematical understanding of a mechanical universe, and of how it works.
This concept of the universe presented by modern physics is peculiar, in that it does not in the least correspond with anything which we can see or observe for ourselves through our senses. We live in a world full of colour, of singing birds, of music, of the rippling of running waters and the majestic beauty of natural phenomena, of mountains and meadows, of oceans and skies. But this, according to science, may all be an illusion.
The senses respond characteristically to an electrical stimulus. Applied to eye, ear or tongue, the same stimulus excites impressions of colour, sound and taste. How then can scientific knowledge be based on our subjective sense impressions?
The physicist therefore has thought up a universe which is free of the unreliable evidence of our senses. It is colourless, soundless, and empty of beauty. It appears also to be rather meaningless, spawning life in an aimless kind of way. This colourless universe consists of vibrations, whose speed can be measured, which cause in us this or that sensation of colour, sound or taste; it has also mathematical relationships which can be measured. It is free of all illusions; or is it?
We continue to believe that we see a blue sky, and a green earth, and rejoice in them.
Opposed to this, faith gives us a world of soul and spirit, where not quantities reign, but qualities; the qualities of truth, beauty and goodness. In this world of qualities, where colour, sound and moral inspiration are basic, we believe, not as physicists, but as whole human beings.
What then creates this cleavage in our human thinking? It exists everywhere between all the branches of outer knowledge, and the certainties of inner experience without which life would be meaningless.
THE NEED FOR A DEEPER KNOWLEDGE OF COLOUR
Colour focuses this problem. Left out for so long as a ‘secondary’ quality in the physicist’s picture of the universe, it is demanding increasing attention as psychology, Chromotherapy and new discoveries in art, make a deeper knowledge of colour essential.
Various books on colour have appeared of recent years written usually from one or other of two widely differing points of view. Both are concerned with colour in relation to healing, the one interpreting colour more from the physicist’s viewpoint, the other more from old Eastern knowledge of colours, or from some kind of clairvoyance. Any connection which is created between these two kinds of approach is generally empirical. Colour is effective in healing… How and why has still to be ascertained.
The reason for this dual approach is not far to seek. It exists in our present forms of thinking. If we look only for physical explanations, we shall find what we are seeking for; if we look only for spiritual ones, we shall find these also. But does this mean a duality in the universe of spiritual and material? Or does it only mean a duality in our thinking?
This is a far reaching question towards answering which we have made little or no progress during the past five centuries. Science has taught us exactness in thinking, but only through limiting our field of observation. The time may be has come for its widening.
In a series of lectures on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (see “The Redemption of Thinking” by Rudolf Steiner. obtainable from New Knowledge Books, London;, Rudolf Steiner showed that the greatest problem which existed for the philosopher in the thirteenth century, exists still for us today: namely, “How is thought made Christ-like?”
After a thorough analysis of the philosophic thought which was there in the inheritance of Aquinas, and of that which our own inheritance contains, he concludes with these significant words:
“As we have been placed in the world, as we axe born into it, we split the world in two. The fact is that we have the world-content, as it were, here with us. Since we came into the world as human beings, we divide the world-content into observation, which appears to us from the outside, and the idea-world which appears to us from the inner soul. The matter is this: I look at the visible world, it is everywhere incomplete. I myself with my whole existence have arisen out of the world, to which the visible world also belongs. Then I look into myself and see just what is lacking in the visible world. I have to join together through my own self, since I have entered the world, what has been separated into two branches. I gain reality by working for it.”
Thus, we are born out of a world of soul and spirit existence into the sense-existence of our physical bodies. In the moment of birth we split our world in two. Henceforward we experience an inner and an outer life, In the inner life of feeling, in sleep and in dreams, we experience the life of soul which is our inheritance from before birth. We experience the spirit in the idea, the element of truth and spiritual reality in our thinking. In the outer world we learn gradually objective perception and objective reasoning.
These two worlds exist for us apparently little related until our human consciousness lifts itself to the requisite spiritual level. To achieve this goal in thinking may become not only a human necessity to become whole man, but also and paramountly, a world-necessity for the healing of western civilization.
SCIENCE, ART AND RELIGION
To achieve this new synthesis there are three ways, those of Science, Art and Religion, or in the individual experience, of Thinking, Peeling, and Willing. We may struggle with the problems of thinking with five centuries of later experience to add to the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. The problems have not diminished. But the weapon of thought itself has become blunted by technology and some stimulus is needed from the side of Art or Religion to lift thinking beyond a mere intellectual cleverness.
We may struggle with the problem of a moral world-order, and arrive at abundant evidence that such is urgently needed. But to achieve it there must be more than a moral revival, there must be a quickening of soul and spirit, through genuine spiritual experience. And where should we experience this, without sacrificing consciousness, other than in the lighting up of thought. Or we may, with Goethe, struggle to achieve a bridge between the inner and outer worlds through the understanding experience of Art, and particularly of Colour. To attempt this, latter is our present intention. Or we may in a renewal of the Sacraments, seek to approach divine certainty through the experience of ritual.
In the end, the three ways may be seen to coalesce, and Science, Art and Religion may become healed from their separateness in the wholeness of spiritual vision.
So in this connection there can be nothing more necessary to our purpose than a deeper understanding of the Rainbow Bridge of Colour, which can unite once again the two worlds of experience in which we have our perpetual life and being.
II. COLOUR QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is colour? What has it to do with healing? These are the questions about which an attempt will be made to find appropriate answers.
The answers should be significant. For whilst colour is becoming increasingly a part of modern consciousness, in art, clothing, interior decoration, and in healing, there are as yet few of us who are quite clearly aware of what colour really is.
This is not surprising since the theory of colour developed by Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century, has been the foundation of our education and thoughts about colour ever since. Through this Newtonian Theory, colour has been relegated to a secondary place in our scientific picture of the universe, whilst in our visual experience it creates the strongest impressions. So we have an anomalous situation.
We live in a coloured world, respond to colours in our emotions, use colours consciously to enhance these emotional responses, and create our own colours and colour moods within our own soul life. We even use colours physically in colour therapy either to work through the soul upon the organs or even directly upon the physical organs themselves.
Yet do we know what colour really is? Though we may heal with coloured rays, the process is largely empirical and not clearly understood. A theory of split-up light, and of vibrations of varying speeds, increasing to unthinkable rates of wave movement does nothing to help us to decorate our houses suitably with colour, nor to paint pictures with coloured pigments. This is a theory which we must and do learn to cheerfully disregard in practice.
Yet without this theory, we may be left stumbling entirely in the dark about colour, guided only by likes and dislikes. We may go forward using feeling alone, as do most painters for their incommunicable colour sense. Or we may, with Turner, take up Goethe’s colour theory, (see Goethe’s “Theory of Colour”), and therein find more satisfying explanations of the phenomena observed, a more accurate examination of the part played by the beholder himself, in his colour impressions.
Or again, we may leave colour aside as something intangible, and only of secondary importance to life, only waking to a faint uneasiness when we hear of an increasing prevalence of colour-blindness in our contemporaries. Not to know anything about colour may also have its dangers.
Yet colour, if it awakes in us lively sense-impressions can work on us strongly. It can become the gateway to new worlds of experience wherein thinking and feeling together play their part. Let me recall a personal experience of this kind, strong enough to remain undimmed in memory over thirty years.
I stood, with others, on a little ridge between two groups of mountains. The sky was filled with wet tawny yellow vapour, as the last rumbling of thunder was dying away to the east, where a brilliant double rainbow arched itself high against the inky background of clouded hills. To the west the red disc of the sun was sinking below a range of mountains. When we turned to the left, there appeared to be a high arc of golden light extending from the sun to the rainbow. We turned to the right, and again, there appeared a similar arc of golden light. We gazed upwards, and the heavens were filled with this mysterious red-gold glow. So far as the eye could see we were as though enclosed in a mighty bowl of golden moving coloured light, which bowl had a double rainbow rim.
It was an experience of awe and splendour. Here were we, insignificant specks in a vast cosmic drama of light and colour, yet in some sense also its creators. For the rainbow appeared just there where it was, the arcs of golden light just there where they were, only for our eyes. For someone else at a distance from ourselves the focus would change according to their position between the sun and the darkness. We were the centre of this appearance. And to left and to right the light took on the form of an arc because our eyes could see it only in that way. We were the centre of all the glory our eyes revealed; tiny beings enveloped in a world of splendour, which nevertheless revolved around us as its centre. What had we as human beings to do with all this magnificence which awoke in us only wonder?
I knew most of the answers as taught in the text-books derived from the Newtonian theories, but they did not satisfy. Colour, we are told, is split-up light, molecules in motion, vibrations of varying speeds ranging from thousands of wave lengths per second, to billions and trillions, in the so-called ether. What had speed to do with the emotional experience of colour?
Further we learn that colour can not be said to have any real objective existence. So and so many wave lengths impacting the eye produce the sensation yellow. Who shall say where yellow exists – in the eye, in the wavelengths, or somewhere else?
Colour is also, we are told, a secondary quality of objects. How it is attached to the objects is unclear. The observer re-acts emotionally to colour but why he does so is also unclear, since all that is established is the speed of the vibrations or waves connected with the phenomena of colours. So we are no nearer to any satisfying answers.
The double rainbows faded and the green wooded hills shone wetly in the splendour of the dying sun. Colour glowed from the luscious green of vegetation to the rose-tinted air, to the green-blue sky, and the scurrying clouds, now crimson. So my questioning on the nature of colour faded with the sunset to the dark night of speculation on which the.stars looked down.
There is a peculiar significance about the asking of questions. Galileo and the swinging lamp, Newton and the falling apple are symptoms of the spirit of enquiry which possesses the man of the fifteenth to the twentieth century for his further evolution. Equally significant is the direction of the enquiry, as also the moment of time, in which a particular question is first asked.
There are instances in ancient mythology which illustrate this point vividly, notably the legend of Parsifal. For failing to ask the right question at a particular moment, Parsifal was thrust out of the Castle of the Graal, and had to wander for seven years acquiring wisdom through bitter experience before he was again allowed to enter.
After his period of trial, by asking the right question, he acquired the power heal the wounded king, Amfortas, and to become himself ruler of the Castle. The legend has grown out of an ancient wisdom concerning the spiritual evolution of man. The picture it contains could be equally applied to our own times.
For the Castle, symbolizing the head of contains his human intelligence, in which all sorts of questions arise at different levels, with differing aims. We have asked more questions in the last five centuries about the phenomena of the earth, than were asked in that direction in the preceding millenium. None the less we have by no means exhausted the questions which may be asked.
Through not asking the right questions now about colour, mankind may find itself thrust out of its Castle of the Graal. For colour is the earthly key to a portal of the worlds of soul and spirit, of which modern man knows so little.
NEWTON’S COLOUR THEORY
Prior to the seventeenth century, colour was considered to be directly created through refraction by the sunlight. In 1766, Newton made his discovery by his use of a prism, that all the colours exist already in Solar light, and can be separated from one another through refraction. This concept persists in the textbooks to our day.
Without using any prism it is easy to convince oneself of this theory by a familiar experience. We put a tumbler of water on to a white tablecloth where sunlight can catch the top Of the glass and by refraction reflect on to the cloth, and we notice the rainbow colours appear. Colour is split-up light, we explain to ourselves.
Yet the colour only appears on the edge of the light where there is shade. not in the centre where the light is the strongest. If it is all contained in the strong solar rays, why does colour cling to the shadowed edges?
Another experiment we can make easily is to look through a prism, if we have one. If not, through a bit of glass from an old chandelier from a second-hand shop. With the prism at the right angle, e.g. level and horizontal to the eyes, we look at a sheet of white paper. First we see only whiteness. Then colour – at the edges of the paper! Yellow, orange, red is above, and green-blue, blue, and violet below. They are just like the colours of the rainbow, but the green is missing, and there is a wide space of whiteness between. The colours again appear only where the whiteness meets the darkness beyond the paper.
Let us go a little further, and put a brushful of black watercolour paint on to the white paper. Look again through the prism. Colour leaps into view: yellow, turquoise, peach-blossom, magenta, violet. The most-brilliant ones appear just where the darkness is strongest. It almost seems as though we could just as legitimately say that colour is split-up darkness. But what then of Newton’s theory? Let us ask the physicists.
Professor Eddington answers this question for us. In a chapter entitled ‘Discovery or Manufacture’, in his ‘Philosophy of Physical Science’, (“Philosophy of Physical Science”, Prof. Arthur Eddington – Cambridge University Press), he suggests that the direction of the thinking of the scientist may influence the results of his experiments. In relation to the colours in the solar rays, and the theory arising from Newton’s experiments, he says:
“The mistake was not in saying that a green component already exists in the sunlight, for that is, at any rate, a legitimate form of thinking, but in claiming that we could decide experimentally between two equally permissible forms of description. And by our oversight, it happened that the form of description we condemned was rather more natural and appropriate than the one we undertook to defend.”
This puts the matter very moderately. Goethe felt much more strongly about it when he remarked to Eckermann:
“An error in thinking can lead centuries astray.”
GOETHE’S THEORY OF COLOUR
As Goethe gave the first importance to his Colour Theory, and much time and thought to exposing Newton’s error, as he thought, in this field, we can hardly doubt that he had this particular error in mind. Goethe could well understand that the way we put our questions influences the form of answer we obtain. He believed that Newton and his followers had erred because they put the question wrongly and not this question alone, but many more, whose effects are experienced to our day.
The idea which was held by thinkers before Newton was that the light creates the colours by refraction. This seems consistent with our experience of colour as the most fluctuating and impermanent of all phenomena our senses perceive. Colour comes into being in the flowers, flourishes, and fades. It plays over the earth and heavens in the sunset and sunrise; it glows transiently in the rainbow. Except in the metals, it has always the character of impermanence.
Newton reflected the spirit of his time when he looked for colours as something permanently contained in the light, e.g. encased in every ray of sunlight. To him, colour was not part of a process of creation, but each colour was an already existent entity -a permanent reality
Goethe saw colours arising through a process of lightening and darkening: the darkness of infinite space seen through the light-filled air creates the blueness, likewise the darkness of distant mountains; whilst light struggling through a darkening medium, of clouds, dust or fog, creates the ragged orange of the storm, the yellow of a street lamp, the deep red of sunset. He saw the creating of colour as a living process, not a separating out of something pre-existing, but an active interplay of light and darkness, continually creative.
These three distinct concepts of colour seem to be related to the times in which they were thought.
When men thought of the universe, as the work of a Divine Creator, the concept of colour and beauty as a continuous revealing of the creative process, was a natural one.
When the marvellous discoveries of physical science seemed to be showing material causes for everything it was easy to form the concept of colour as a material something imprisoned in sunlight, and from thence to be separated out.
Goethe, however, was ahead of his time in discovering his idea of colours created by lightening and darkening. He knew, from inner awareness, that the colours had a spiritual significance which was being overlooked. He believed that the questions of the physicists were all being put in a way biased towards materialism and that many such errors would result. His view of colours was only one of the many scientific concepts in which Goethe in the nineteenth century was a forerunner of Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual science in the twentieth.
What then is the way to put the question about colour in our own times?
We do not really believe any longer in the theory of the split-up rays of light. Neither, if we understand Prof. Eddington rightly, do the physicists. He describes how a demonstration of the theory might be staged to convince an incredulous ‘ spiritualist’, and how it would fail, “Yet”, he writes, “I think it not unlikely that even an expert might fall into this trap today – such is the glamour of a historic experiment. He really knows better; but one does not always recall one’s knowledge when it is wanted. “
It may be inconvenient for the physicist to frame his questions in a new way. Goethe’s form of questioning was only understood by the rarest souls amongst his contemporaries, and is only now beginning to awaken general interest. But humanity cannot wait for the physicists. We need to know the truth about colour, for colour goes far beyond physical science.
THE REALITY OF DARKNESS
One difficulty we have immediately to face. If colour is created by an active interworking of light and darkness, we can no longer regard darkness as a nullity. Darkness must itself be an active force.
For Goethe, as a Rosicrucian, this was no unthinkable proposition. But to his contemporaries, as to many Western thinkers of today, it seemed nonsense. Darkness is thought to be only absence of light.
It is, of course, peculiarly Western thought -which denies reality to darkness. To Eastern philosophies, Tin and Yang, Ahura Mazdao and Ahriman, had equal and polar reality.
We shall try, in a later chapter to show how the reality of Darkness as an active force may be justified even in our own experience. Darkness can be active spiritually in the souls of living men. Since Hitler few will deny this. We have lost our nineteenth century equanimity about soul-darkness, and the active power of evils
In such ways the understanding of colour leads on of itself towards a healing reconciliation between the two worlds in which man functions, the world of sense phenomena and the worlds of soul and spirit. For if Darkness is active, so also is Light. The Light of the World illumines the conscious human spirit.
Just as an unbalance in the human being to either side, the physical or the spiritual, a leaning too much to either sphere of experience, can precipitate illness, so an equilibrium maintained in the soul between the two spheres equates the poise of health.
Because colour is perceptible to the outer senses and also to the inner senses it is a borderland reality, true and perceptible in both worlds, therefore invaluable for the healing of both soul and body.
To reach to clear perception of colour in an inward way necessitates a way of self development for which our age is ready but yet unaccustomed to pursue.
To realize the intimate connection between physical sight and the inner activity of the soul is yet another step in consciousness.
Further still is the realizing of colour as an active power in healing, not alone in the physical treatments of Colour Therapy but in a more psychological and spiritual way, as direct tonic, or curative treatment of the stresses of the soul.
The way to such development is open to the man of today. The condition of the world about us cries out for a spiritual science, an initiation knowledge, of which a true experience of the nature of colour may well become a first and most significant step.
III. COLOUR IN EVERYDAY LIFE
If we put out of our minds all theories or preconceptions of vibrations, wave-lengths and the like in connection with colour, what do we know of colour through the evidence of our own physical senses?
Let us give a. simple example of how colour speaks in ordinary life.
THE EFFECT OF GREEN AND RED
I travel by car along a country road through leafy woods clothed in the pale shimmering green of spring. There is a light rustling sound of wind among the branches, a light radiance in the opening buds, and the greenness conveys a feeling of cool contentment and promise of new life. On the road ahead of us is a red country ‘bus, flaunting its utility. By the roadside we meet first a red post-box, and later a telephone kiosk, both drawing attention to themselves through their redness. Then we spy two ladies crossing the road clad in crimson coats, and a child wearing a beret of flaming vermillion. These also do not wish to pass unnoticed.
An artist painting the woods would seize on the vermillion beret or the crimson coats as a touch of contrasting colour to enliven the green. He would probably prefer either to the red ‘bus or the red telephone box, unless he were a modem cubist painter. But he would not choose the ladies primarily for their personal charms, but for the enlivenment of a landscape through figures and for the way in which red enlivens green.
In such ways the painter lives into the the language of colour, as a matter of the technique of his profession. We all do something similar, but a little less consciously. And not all painters are very colour conscious.
If we look on green, abundant as in the green fields in spring time, we can feel two things – there is life, and also a certain innocent tranquility. The tranquility belongs to the green. A green meadow, a green tree, or leafy forest, green coloured walls in interior decoration, or green silk hangings or dresses.
HOW WE REACT TO YELLOW
Quite different feelings are invoked if the green is shot through with yellow different again if we have yellow itself, the bright yellow of spring daffodils or the golden yellow of a ripened cornfield, the flaming yellow of gorse, the pale yellow of a primrose bank or the yellow radiance of sunset. There is*an enhancement of life in the yellow, a joyousness-where the green leaves us tranquil, yellow shines like light itself. It would be difficult, to sustain a melancholy mood in a room coloured yellow. Either the mood would succumb to the yellow and we should become gradually more cheerful or, hugging the melancholy, we might feel inclined to leave the room – for the glow of yellow is consistently cheerful.
HOW BLUE AFFECTS US
Quite different again is the experience of the colour blue which we gain through our senses. Blue sky or blue sea or blue distance-all give a sense of spaciousness, something which draws us out of ourselves into a larger world. At its most intense, the blue of a summer midday sky gives us a feeling of dark immensity over-reaching all pettiness.
Blue gives us the tranquility of greatness, transcending small anxiety in an embracing peace. In its lighter hues, with white in it, blue has a gentle sportive cheerfulness, less active than the yellow.
These are all sensations we can have in looking at the colours, for which no theory is heeded, only direct experience.
The colours convey themselves to us, too, with a kind of inner gesture. Yellow shines towards us, much as children experience it when they hold a yellow buttercup under one another’s chins. It reflects like light, whilst blue has a constant elusiveness, a kind of mystery of withdrawal, it always moves further away so that one can never quite catch up with it. Whether it is the blue distance or the elusiveness of a bluebell wood, the blueness has a movement of withdrawal.
Red rushes at us like a fury, or flames sombrely or burns fiercely or with a fiery warmth, or glows with grandeur and power. It attacks rather than withdraws.
Thus each of the colours has some character of movement, but the movements are only qualities of the colour, not the colours themselves. The moods and movement of the colours give us the feeling that these have a direct effect upon us – they lure us out or drive us back or bring us to inner stability.
There is nothing in the wave-theory that explains such feelings. These are movements of a different kind, experienced qualitatively. They cannot be numbered or measured but are none the less real. We know this, through experience.
If one pursues this qualitative mode of thinking one can soon come to the idea that colour tells us something of the nature of a being, as the colour of a person’s skin can tell us whether he is well or ill, or the colour of the leaves on a tree tell us the progress of the seasons. We accept the information given by the colour, perhaps without conscious reflection.
No amount of reflection would bring us to the idea that what we experience qualitatively is merely an increase or decrease in the speed of vibrations or wavelengths. This quantitative mode of thinking lies outside the contents of the sense perceptions.
Goethe’s approach to knowledge was qualitative; his belief was that we should trust the senses as our means of knowledge and not depart from them into speculative theories.
Yet even on the path of qualitative thinking we still must go further if we are to find out what colour really is.
ARE DREAMS COLOURED?
Another much more brilliant colour world opens for us when we fall asleep, and again not all people are conscious of it. One often hears or reads discussions about whether dreams are coloured. Some people, even some painters, assert that dreams are in monochrome, like a photograph.
In such a way might the physical world appear colourless to a colour-blind person. Such people are fortunately not sufficiently numerous at present to make us doubt the reality of colour in the outer world. It could come, but it has not reached that point yet. But we can lose the colours of the inner world. In this sphere we are more colour conscious as children than in later years.
I remember dreaming as a child of three great tawny yellow lions, in a sandy reddish desert, against a brilliant blue sky. Nothing could shake my certainty thereafter that dreams are coloured, until in later life this awareness of colour in dreams, awoke again. Yet our faculty for perceiving colours the moment our eyes are closed, dies, if it is not cherished.
The converse is also true. My students often tell me that their painting lessons start them dreaming in colour. It is not a new faculty of course, for we all dream in colour. We only fail to remember it clearly enough. One student, who remembers having very clear colour experiences on the -threshold of sleep as a child, lost these for very many years, and was delighted when they lighted up again through her work with me in painting.
Does this matter? It does matter because, waking or sleeping, colour is the life of the soul. Our consciousness functions in two different spheres. But we are not two different beings, nor living in two separated worlds. Blindness to colour brings a dullness into the whole inner life, including the sleep life, for colour is the bridge we may most readily cross, from day waking consciousness to the consciousness at present hidden from us, behind sleep and death.
Parallel to this, our senses wake up, and everything around us lights up in colour, when we begin to pay attention to colour in our waking hours.
If we could carry this awareness further to spiritual seership, we could be aware of a transformed and glowing world, scintillating and radiant in every leaf and flower. What we normally see is dulled by our own rather dull senses.
One might then expect that all painters would dream m colour. That very many do is evident through modern sur-realist painters cultivating dream-consciousness as their inspiration. But the quality of their sleep or dream experience is influenced by the subjects they give attention to in waking life, be it form, colour, pattern, or dark and light.
The outer senses meet the inner, and what we take into the experiences of sleep is a kind of mesh of images mirrored into our consciousness through the day’s, and behind that through our life’s experiences. What we have experienced depends on how much the inner senses were awake..
The inner senses enliven the outer, and where one individual sees only a red post-box to remind him to post his letters, another sees how a red spot on the green background gives life to the greenness, a third sees how red rushes out from the greenness and almost attacks one with its insistence.
Similarly, the dream-life of different individuals of a like sensibility may be prosaic and colourless, dramatic and colourful, or imaginative, vivid and significant.
The two kinds of experience of sleep and waking are only one and the same individual’s life in its two aspects, and many a painter has not wholly escaped the darkened consciousness of his times, in seeing “objects in space” blankly as pattern and form, rather than qualitatively, in colour and significance.
RUDOLF STEINER’S TEACHING ON COLOUR
The moods and movements of colour as described are not merely subjective impressions. Anyone can experience the same, if they approach colour in an unprejudiced way.
These impressions tell us something of the objective nature of colour, but to approach a qualitative science as Goethe tried to do we must bring the objective perception to the point of perceiving general laws. For this we may turn to Rudolf Steiner’s lectures on Colour, (“Colour”, by Rudolf Steiner, Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., London).
These lectures were in a sense only the beginning of such a science. Yet since all Goethe*s studies on the nature of colour were a foundation for Rudolf Steiner’s further investigations, this beginning was an important piece of work. To give the contents of these lectures briefly is hardly possible, and it is only through working with the thoughts given in a practical way that the psychologist, painter or physicist can understand and appreciate them.
For whilst Goethe, working from an inner certainty of vision, tried to build up a physical science which included the eye which sees, and the various forms of colour appearance, both subjective and objective, Rudolf Steiner carried the study further still.
Having a clear perception of the soul world of colour, he showed the way to such an understanding of colour, through feelings, in what we may term the waking day life of the soul.
Feelings have to be raised above the personal to the level of the super-personal to objective general truths.
Can this be done? Rudolf Steiner said it can and must, if we are to understand colour. Those of us who work as artists with his indications, find them both true and helpful. But much more needs to be done in this direction.
Dr. Steiner indicated how we can come to a closer understanding of colours and how to use them. He distinguished first between the colours in the sense of two kinds – lustre and image (glanz und bild), or the radiant active colours, and the colours that are not active in themselves but hold a given form. Thus red, blue and yellow are active lustre colours green, peach-blossom, white and black are image colours.
It is not too difficult to follow him when he defines green as the image of life, peach-blossom (e.g. human flesh colour) as the image of soul, white as the image of the spirit, and black as the image of the lifeless. These definitions correspond with ordinary human feeling. But to carry these definitions further, as he does, is more difficult to follow, and for this we must turn to the lectures themselves.
In such ways we may come to objective laws of colour which experience can support. But through the images of life, soul, spirit and death we also come to the borderland of what the physical senses perceive. Beyond that borderland the rainbow hues of colour still beckon us on.
Is the real nature of colour beyond the senses’ perceiving, or is it a call to awaken the senses to a more lively perceiving? Are we come to the point where colour is a gateway of the spirit, where the spirit through enlivened perceptions and thinking can cross the borders of the two worlds split apart at our birth?
If this is so, it will surely be comprehensible why Goethe, poet, philosopher, statesman and scientist, should, at the end of his life, say these words to Eckerman (see “Conversations with Goethe by Eckerman”, Dent):
“As for what I have done as a poet, I take no pride in it whatever. Excellent poets have lived at the same time with myself, poets more excellent have lived before me, and others will come after me. But that in my country I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult Science of colours – of that, I say, I am not a little proud, and here I have a consciousness of superiority to many.”
IV. COLOUR, HEALING AND HEALTH
Colour is created by the light, irradiating the darkness.
Every night and every morning the mantling darkness meets the light, and the earth is transformed in a glory of colour. Every morning and every night, the light of the spiritual world meets and touches the fringe of our earthly darkened consciousness. The migrant soul is filled with colour, in dream, or in waking pictures.
Sickness nearly always betokens, in some sense, a rift between the earthly personality and his spiritual sources, between the incarnated soul and his discarnate spirit.
Many grave illnesses are preceded by severe depression; for example, an acute physical illness such as cancer, or an acute mental illness, of suicidal or homicidal nature.
In such illness there may be a kind of psychic darkness, experienced not only by the sufferers themselves, but even by the persons around them also. I can testify to this out of my own experience in healing, and I believe many people who have worked with mental patients will be able to support this statement. Something like a cloud of darkness, bringing acute depression, attacks one. The healer must be aware enough to confront it, otherwise he too could be overcome.
Many examples of this are too harrowing to relate. I have one patgient in mind however who recovered, so far as I know, completely. A young man, he said to me once, despairingly: “The world is growing grey for me. I long for colour, and can find no colour anywhere.”
Apparently then he was in fairly good physical health, and I was puzzled. Actually, he was on the edge of a complete mental breakdown, which happened a month or two later.
MAN IS THREEFOLD
Just as we, as souls, live always in colour, between light and darkness, so do we also live, in feeling, between thought and will. AB we are air-beings, when in our breathing, we inhale and exhale rhythmically, so are we Light-beings, when the thinking we are unfolding is living in the light, yet do not know it, because we live within it.
In his lecture on ‘Thought and Will’, in the collection of lectures entitled ‘Colour, (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Go., London), Rudolf Steiner explains this contrast at some length. Thinking is living in the light, whilst Will is unconscious. Thus man can understand himself only if he takes himself as a seed of futurity, enclosed in the past, in the light aura of thought, “…Light shines out of the past; darkness leads into the future…” In Will is revealed finally the continually beginning, the continually germinating world.”
A healthy balance of thinking and will is maintained through feeling. In a like way, the balance is maintained physically between the head system and the metabolic or limb system, through the rhythmic interplay of blood circulation and breathing.
It requires a lively and imaginative power of thinking to enter into this concept of health as a mobile balance, between opposite kinds of forces. Yet it throws great light on the complex nature of the human being, (see “The Human Soul in Sleeping, Dreaming and Waking”, F.W. Zeylmans van Emmichoven, M.D., New Knowledge Books).
Our head and nerve-senses system is continually destroying nerve substance as we achieve consciousness. So the present age is nervy. Too much activity in the head nature in early life, may result in thin spidery limbs; in later life, it may cause Sclerosis-in thinking, it may produce an intellect without imagination and without feeling. For these conditions art in education is corrective.”
The metabolic activity is continually upbuilding substance. If this becomes excessive it can produce corpulence, sluggish thinking and sometimes false growths, tumours etc. A helpful corrective is to arouse enthusiasm in exercising the creative faculties in the arts.
A peculiar illness which occurs through an unbalance between the digestive and head nature, is called migraine. If we were clairvoyant we might lie down after a heavy lunch and see colours. The digestive system creates colours. This is a fact which might profitably be studied by the Sur-Realists.
In migraine, one is suffering from the digestive activity extending upwards into the head, and a symptom may be to see lights, or colours moving rhythmically in a blinding brilliance, which symptom often precedes sickness and headache. This illness is not generally well understood. My own impression is that it can be caused by meditation made too soon after a meal, so that forces are drawn too strongly into the head. I find that a strongly willed meditation on one colour can banish the irregular many-coloured symptoms and avoid headache, if taken in time. Also there is a medicine which helps to restore balance between head and metabolism.
Polarities of head and metabolism are balanced in health by the rhythmic system of blood and breath in the “middle-man”. Because this system should be healer of the other two, illnesses which affect the breathing, such as asthma, or hysteria, are difficult to heal. These can be helped most through the arts; through colour, music, rhythmic movement and rhythmic occupations such as weaving in colours, or through rhythmic speech or breathing.
The soul has always to find and keep its balance between all these polarities; between head system and metabolism, between thinking and will, between light and darkness, between past and future. In all these, health is not a static, but a mobile condition of balance.
The soul that can not find and keep its balance between all these polarities, finds illness instead; and out of illness may win the new consciousness that helps to re-establish its balance in health.
ILLNESS CAN BE A BLESSING
Illness is not necessarily a misfortune; it can be a great blessing. For through illness we may find ourselves able to take time to survey the whole of life and to realize more of its meaning and aims.
Whereas the person who always enjoys ‘rude health’ may enjoy his body so much that he forgets the beginnings and ends of life; rather as a small boy, running an errand for his mother, may enjoy the diversions of the way so much that he forgets what he started out for. We are all rather like children in this respect; and illness may serve to remind us of our spiritual origin, otherwise too frequently forgotten.
The conflict between thinking and will, between light and darkness is familiar enough to us all. “For what I would, that do I not, but what I hate, that do I.” The struggle between all these is the Ego’s effort for spiritual self-realization.
In black darkness we can do nothing. Darkness is hostile even to life. But light transforms darkness. In light life thrives and lifts itself up to its highest manifestation, in the consciousness of man.
How then do the colours bring healing?
The whole living world radiates colour. Though it is true a pale plant may be grown in a near dark cellar, its life will then be as frail as its colour. From the splendour of tropical flowers to the rosy blossom of an infant’s cheek, the living world glows in colour endlessly. The colours fade in sickness and death, as the plant-world dies into carbon, or coal-blackness.
Colour can be stimulated within a living being, either from outside, or from inside Colour healing which involves the use of coloured lamps, is principally concerned with treatments from outside. Other means we may now consider are concerned more with awakening an inner consciousness of colour.
In the early part of this century Rudolf Steiner foretold that Colour Therapy would play a great part in the coming times. We are now seeing it used in different ways in Colour Treatments. Of these perhaps the most widely known are those which use coloured lamps for treatment of the patient externally through the skin, either directly on to affected parts, or through so called “colour baths” where the patient is immersed in a space filled with and surrounded by one colour.
Most of this work is in a stage of immaturity which does not court publicity, but many beneficial results are claimed for healing inflammatory conditions, and treating sensitive conditions not responsive to other medical treatments. Rudolf Steiner distinguished two kinds of colour treatment, one which acts directly upon the organs, and one which acts more through the organs of consciousness. The latter is the means generally employed in the clinics and curative homes which have developed out of the indications he gives. Here again, the treatments through colour are in process of development, and only a few indications can be given, though those interested could follow these up at the institutions mentioned, (Rudolf Steiner Camphill Children’s Homes, Aberdeen; Arlesheim Clinic, Switzerland).
COLOUR AND THE EYES
The use of colour naturally plays a considerable part in the treatment of the eyes.
Colour treatments are more potent if contrast re-actions are used. For example, red and blue may be used to correct short or long sight by a rhythmic succession of contrasting experiences of first one colour, then the other, ending with the one most needed.
Blue lures the vision outwards, and so helps short sight; red drives us back into ourselves so can help to correct long sight. Activity m the eye can be increased by a rhythmic and balanced alternation.
The use of colour is not confined to treatments of the eyes. It is still more potent m affecting consciousness. In the Curative Homes of the Camphill Community colour is used in combination with music to affect the disordered or undeveloped soul condition of what are generally called “defective” children, e.g. children in need of special care.
The use of moving coloured shadows thrown on to a screen, in a room coloured appropriate!^ and filled with string-music, can have a wonderfully healing effect on spastic children and others suffering from the nervous conditions’ of our age, if it is used with an adequate artistry. One needs to become an artist in healing to use such methods effectively.
THE USE OF RED AND BLUE
Colours can be used to heal illness of either the upper or the lower organism, through concentrating the effects of red, or blue; through, for example, making one room entirely red in walls and furnishings, and another entirely blue, and letting the patient experience the rooms alternately.
The isolated effect of one room or the other is less significant than the contrasting re-actions through the rhythm changing. Blue walls deflect functional activity from the head to the rest of the organism. In a completely red room the effect is reversed.
Rudolf Steiner gave indications such as these, as to how colour may be used effectively in restoring a healthy balance in functional activities.
Experiences in colour therapy show that colour plays a part in our wellbeing, even in the physical organism.
Psychological treatments also reveal that a patient’s illness may often be shown through his paintings, both in his choice of colours and of forms – in other words his illness reveals itself in his soul. The self which forms the mirror for our life’s experience may get clouded or dull and the colours it reflects may take on a greyish hue.
Alternate red and blue treatments will not do much here, for the patient has now to take in hand the enlivening of his own soul life, through his own efforts, and to do so, there can be few things more helpful than painting, used not in a diagnostic, but a curative, and ultimately an artistic way.
For the first step in healing is the inner effort of the self to hold itself erect in its environment. Through an awakened sense of colour, one begins to awaken to the world around us in a new way.
The soul lives and rejoices in colour. With awakened perception of the world around us we begin to respond livingly to the life around us revealed in a coloured world. Colour speaks to us, and our soul’s response is a renewed joy in living.
Through painting, and all its aesthetic laws of colour harmony, balance, etc., we learn to balance ourselves. Through creating out of colour, we discover the inner creativity in ourselves; through discriminating selection and imagination, we learn to draw upon our sensed observations our balanced judgement, and the limitless wealth of images which the world beyond dream supplies, and find, out of our own sources, we are creators.
In the physical space-world to which we have been rather closely tied during the past five or six centuries, painters have placed things side by side, or behind or before each other conforming to the laws of space, where certainly two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same moment. Perspective has ordered these spatial arrangements for us by making the near things larger and the far things smaller, and so on.
But the soul sphere, behind the dream and behind the artist’s imaginative faculty, has no such limitation; one object can appear out of another, like the Genie out of Aladdin’s Lamp.
Colours are transparent and weave through each other like a luminous coloured smoke. Forms are not static, but in a constant process of change. Life weaves through everywhere, soul gleams through every colour. Spirit speaks through colour, movement, light.
Through colour exercises we can establish a healthy and harmonious balance in the soul.
Taking flowing water-colours, and making them flow freely on the paper as sunshine flows freely through the air, we do not at first need to think of depicting anything, but only of living into the mood and movements of the individual colours. So to spread outwards with the yellow and to feel a condensing and drawing together in the’ blue, can be like a soul exercise in inbreathing and outbreathing.
One can make pictures of moonlight or twilight, and find images out of the colours; or one can just paint for the enjoyment of the colours themselves.
It is effective because the soul’s life is lived in colour, and it is good to remember now and then, in the hurly-burly of existence, that we each are possessors of a living soul.
We may paint with all the colours eventually, but at first it is best to take them singly as a means of entering more deeply into their individual characters.
Each colour shades off into two others; e.g. Yellow to greenish and orange-yellow, blue to purple and green blue; and so on. Each colour has its own character, e.g, orange gives courage, green gives tranquility and balance, and so on. Each one provides a voyage of discovery in its many tones and nuances.
Or again one may stimulate each by the use of complementary or contrasting colours. A pair of complementary colours are a colour drama.
To find the complementary, one has only to paint a bright spot of colour on a white paper, gaze at it for say, twenty seconds, then transfer the gaze to another uncoloured paper, till the eye conjures up the appropriate complementary.
One can use colours in other ways than painting, without resort to a ‘treatment’-coloured lights, coloured reading lamps or coloured hangings may help. I have one friend who found it impossible to sleep under an orange coloured eiderdown, but slept peacefully under a blue one. In regard to these things one must learn to use one’s own discrimination.
Fainting however has one great advantage. It builds independence in us. We are alone with ourselves and the colours. Nothing happens’ until we can take courage and begin.
We reveal our own emptiness or are astonished at the creative imagination we discover unexpectedly in ourselves. Either way it can be a wonderful path of self-discovery, and what is negative soon becomes positive, if we persist.
COLOUR AND THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS
The individuality is the key, the one true Self finding its way between all the colour varieties of temperament – sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic or choleric.
The sanguine temperament flits gaily like a butterfly from colour to colour, as from occupation to occupation in life, its illness is restlessness and indetermination.
The melancholic temperament enjoys sympathising with fellow-sufferers, and descends deeply into blue and violet.
The phlegmatic pursues an undisturbed slow course through life and his colours may be muddy and undistinguished, but not that nor anything else troubles him overmuch.
The choleric seethes with energy, and rejoices in fiery red colours, unless, as sometimes happens, his temperament goes too far even for himself to contend with.
For example, a lady who attended one of my lectures, stood up at the end and complained of my saying that colours were of spiritual origin. “Look at Red!” she declared. “How can one say Red has a spiritual origin? I loathe Red” One felt, from her tone, that to her, Red had something of the character of original sin.
I looked at the lady, and understood her trouble immediately. She was choleric to the verge of illness – absolutely bursting with redness, and this outburst was characteristic. She could not stand any more of red in her vicinity.
Paradoxically, in the treatments of the Rudolf Steiner Curative Homes for Children in Need of Special Care, an intensely choleric child is dressed in red, with the purpose of exciting an opposite condition inwardly, by the re-action of the complementary colour, green or blue, to develop tranquility.
In adults the colours seem to work differently. The soul seems to strive towards the colours it longs to acquire, but has not yet achieved, in its own aura.
The colour of clothing used to be a reflection of the aura. For a long time now at has been what fashion prescribes for us Coming generations will feel again for the’ colours which reflect the changing aura through life. We can all do this to some extent already.
Colours are the enliveners of both our inner world, and our outer world. They are objective realities, and individual necessities.
We can not indicate a colour prescription for individual ills, for no two souls are alike, but with a few such indications as have been given, the individual can find his own colour. The finding will also be healing for this will in itself be an individual spiritual deed.
Whenever we forget that we are primarily spiritual beings, we may easily let the affairs of everyday life overwhelm us with anxieties; we may fritter energy in over activity, in meaningless occupations, or get depressed because we are not achieving any spectacular success in any chosen direction. Disasters in the earthly life may overwhelm us.
At such times, when it is essential to realise the inner life of spirit, we may find it most difficult to sleep. As sleep is everyone’s way into the life of the spiritual worlds, there is no better means of healing than first to re-establish the rhythm of sleep.
Colour therapists recommend a dark-blue lamp at the bedside to induce sleep. But if one takes instead the way of meditation, then one must know how to meditate.
For meditation is intended to enhance consciousness, so that one can retain a certain awareness in that condition of sleep in which we normally have no awareness at all. For this kind of inner control and development of higher faculties we should refer to Rudolf Steiner*s books “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds” and “An Outline of Occult Science”, (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., London, Anthroposphic Press, New York). Otherwise an attempt to meditate without guidance, might achieve the opposite effect from that intended.
All meditation must begin with an emptying of oneself from all outer sense impressions, with the exception of the one chosen for the meditation. Take the colour blue. It is difficult to exclude unwanted thoughts and impressions, so to begin with one may use a memory picture. Remember as strongly as possible a blue sky, perhaps a night sky filled with stars. Or a blue sky over the sea where the blue is reflected in a myriad lapping waves, moving rhythmically. Or picture a blue cloak, and imagine oneself wrapped in it, so that the blue garment envelops eyes and ears.
There are two elements; the one the separating of oneself from unwanted thoughts, by holding one selected thought in the forefront of consciousness; the other the Blue. which has the character of lifting one’s consciousness beyond earthly concerns to the awareness of the greater world which we experience in sleep. Insomnia is an earth-bound condition.
I remember a patient who suffered from sleeplessness, and told me that she had been dreaming that she was trying to get into the wrong house. This was an excellent illustration of what we all tend to do when we try to carry the concerns of waking life with us into sleep, instead of preparing ourselves, through thought, prayer, or meditation for the spiritual worlds we enter through sleep. To lift oneself to the immensity of the blue vault of heaven, in picture, can be a good preparation.
In a lecture by Rudolf Steiner in London, now printed as a booklet entitled “Man as a Picture of the Living Spirit” (Anthroposophical Publishing Go., London), he gave a meditation which can lead us to some understanding of what is behind sleep. He referred to this meditation as one which reaches out to the true “I”.
The meditation is as follows:-
I gaze into the Darkness.
In it there arises Light –
Who is this Light in the Darkness?
It is I myself in my reality.
This reality of the “I”
Does not enter into my earthly life.
I am but a picture of it.
But I shall find it again
When with good will for the Spirit
I shall have passed through the Gate of Death.
“Entering ever and again into a meditative saying of this kind”, said Rudolf Steiner, “we can confront the Darkness. We realize that here on Earth we are only a picture of our true Being, that our true Being never comes down into the earthly life. Yet in the midst of the Darkness, through our good will towards the Spirit, a Light can dawn upon us, of which we may in truth confess: This Light am I myself in my reality.“
V. HOW TO USE COLOURS
Our world is beginning to re-discover colour.
After the drabness and sobriety of the 19th century, especially after the last decade of the twentieth, men awakened to a thirst for colour, in textiles, clothing, furnishing, advertising and illustrating as though in reaction to the bleak materialism of the preceding century, and to its aftermath in the horrors of war.
This path of discovery which was in a sense opened by Turner in the middle of the 19th century, has revealed itself in art, but not only amongst professional artists. Many brilliant amateurs have discovered that colour is an unending field of delight and discovery and are turning to painting for their own joy and satisfaction in middle and later years.
Amongst these one of the most notable, of course, is Sir Winston Churchill, who has enjoyed his terms out of office in the Nation’s affairs with great satisfaction in the study of painting. His delight in the colours is expressed characteristically:
“I cannot pretend to be impartial about the colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor brown ones. When I get to Heaven, I mean to spend a considerable time of the first million years in painting and so get to the bottom of the subject. But then I shall require a still gayer palette than I get here below. I expect orange and vermillion will be the darkest dullest colours upon it and beyond them there will be a whole range of wonderful new colours which will delight the celestial eye.”
With his genius for language, Sir Winston has chosen the right word. Only the ‘celestial eye’ should be recognised as a possession, not simply in the years after death, but here and now.
If we would but learn to use it! Where man has adventured other men may follow, and in so doing, discover something of the illuminating power of this celestial eye. G.W. Russell (“A.E.”) has termed it “The Candle of Vision”; (“The Candle of Vision”, by G-.W. Russell (“A.E.”) obtainable at 6/6’ postpaid from New Knowledge Books, 28 Dean Road, London, N.W.2), it is in fact the eye of the spirit possessed in germ by us all.
A friend once came to see me in a depressed state of mind. She wore a dress whose utilitarian drabness revealed her inward condition.
Life had become a round of perpetual “duties”, whose performance gave small satisfaction to herself Or to anyone else, but to which she was enchained by family conventions of behaviour. She felt it all foreign to her own real self, but had practically given up the struggle to assert herself, and was following a path of self-abnegation in a listless sort of way, which it seemed clear to me would only lead to illness.
I persuaded her to paint out of colour and followed this up by getting her to introduce colour into her garments. By the end of a couple of weeks she went home again in a greatly enlivened state of mind and the problems which had seemed insoluble were found to have partial solutions. She was able to satisfy her family’s demands on her and still have opportunity for a creative and colourful life of her own.
This is one only of many examples, of such cases of the revivifying effect of an enhanced awareness of Colour.
The impact of the nineteenth century on our own times is perhaps felt most severely in the kind of education most of us have had, which has concentrated on developing the intellect at the expense of those higher creative facilities which can only be awakened and trained through the arts.
This is a deprivation which can hardly be overcome in one generation, since the teachers of the present generation still suffer from the utilitarian aims of their predecessors.
But it can gradually be overcome by many individual awakenings. The impulse to such awakening comes frequently out of illness, the cause of which it would hardly be too much to say is a starved soul-life due to our mis-education in respect of the arts.
BECOMING MORE ALIVE TO COLOUR
What everyone can do for himself to correct this condition is to become more alive to colour in his own immediate environment, both in nature and in the environment created by man of interior decoration, lighting, etc., and in his own clothing.
There are signs that men are awakening to the drabness of their city and business clothing. American men have revolted at the uniforms of utility and already wear colours that would seem daring in Britain. The Continent is more colourful in the surviving influence of peasant dress than our industrial population manages to be. But there are signs that men are beginning to resist the uniform sobriety which has been the outward and visible sign of their subjection to the task of making money, and are beginning to demand not only comfort but also some cheerful notes of colour in their clothing.
These instincts of revolt should be encouraged, for the age of drabness in clothing has been only a comparatively short one, which, if one studies the period, was almost equally drab in every other idea. It was the age in which Agnosticism flourished; an age in which the satisfactions of the material world were apparently sufficient to make the question of a future existence of no particular moment; it was an age in which men, women and children could be sacrificed on the Altar of Mammon, re-named Human progress.
It is certainly not without significance that co-incident with these ideals the business man has spread the blight of industrial smoke over the country-side and the drab uniform of servitude on his own person. It is a condition which is fortunately changing through many individual revolts.
As regards environmental conditions, the problem is rather more difficult. Our streets and houses may be painted more gaily; that change is coming, if not already here. But the problems of interior decoration are more intimately concerned with the soul-life of the individuals who spend their time inside the dwellings or work-places and here what is needed is a greater awareness of how colour speaks, below consciousness, to us all, so that colours can be chosen wisely.
PAINTING OUT OF COLOUR
There is one field in which every man is his own lord and master and that is in the field of his own creative activity. He may never have learned in the art-schools, nor in the ordinary schools, to draw and to paint, but that is no great hindrance.
We can learn with great .joy and satisfaction to live with and create out of a sea of flowing colours. Anyone can do this.
All we need is courage, a pot of water and some brushes and tubes and then a sheet of white paper on which to begin to arrange this world of our own in which the colours shall flow, in which to do consciously in waking life what everyone of us does in sleep, e.g. to find the power of the creative self who lives in us behind our normal consciousness. It is not a plunge into a mystical heaven nor into a subconscious world of our own personal imaginings. But it is an honest effort to lift up into full consciousness that inner noble life of feeling and artistic sensibility which, as human beings, we all share and which only the dust of a century of materialism has overlaid. The sheet of white paper becomes for the time being the field of creative activity, into which we mirror each our own soul’s feelings and creative imagining.
What a plunge! Everyone shrinks back and says, “Oh, but I am not at all gifted; I do not know how to begin.” This is really a shocking admission for it is an indictment of our whole culture.
Everyone knew how to paint when he was a little child. Every little child paints joyously still – why did we leave it with our childhood? Because we were led to believe that it did not matter very much. Machines and motorcars drove out the colours.
But colours belong to the world from which we came, by which we live, and to which we shall return. The little ones know it because they have only recently left that world. We have so estranged ourselves that now we hardly dare enter. It is another world of experience but one that we need, most urgently, now!
Psychiatrists have discovered that by a process of ‘doodling’, or of letting hand and eye take their own path freely in black and white, or its equivalent in drawing and painting, they can encourage their patients to a kind of private confessional of their subconscious longings and desires. This can be helpful in diagnosis.
An inspector of education, in trying to discover the roots of a certain uneasiness she felt about present-day education, inspected herself, and came to the interesting discovery that there is hidden in us a creator who, given opportunity, is able to speak to us through the forms of art. In a book entitled intriguingly “On Not Knowing How to Paint”, J. Field described her adventures in discovering this unsuspected creator in herself and how free paintings produced pictures of significance, not only of import for her own self-realisation, but sometimes prophetic of future events, even of world events. Thus free painting became for her a path of investigation of unknown forces and of a spiritual awareness hidden in the depths of the soul.
Something similar is indicated in J.D. Dunne’s “Experiment with Time” New Knowledge Books, London. Here he recounts dreams where the future is forecast accurately twenty years before the event. These studies suggest that space-consciousness has been replaced by time-consciousness in the experience of dream.
There are many further implications in this, of course, which we will not at this moment draw. (For further implications of this discovery see “Goethe’s Conception of the World”, Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophical Publishing Co., London). Only the indication that within us, every one of us, is a hidden Creator and knower, who saves us from many foolish actions in moments of crisis, by a sudden ‘hunch* but whom we effectively neglect in the larger part of our waking life in the pursuit of activities of seemingly more, but actually much less, importance for a full human life.
In “On not being able to paint” (from New-Knowledge Books, 28 Dean Road, London N.W.2), J. Field stressed the hunger for she knew not what, which beset all her early artistic studies. Art, as it was taught in the Art Schools did not satisfy. She could sketch a charming landscape hut reviewed it without satisfaction. Less than the thing seen, it also did not satisfy that creator urge in her which was seeking satisfaction. Whilst the first incompetent free painting which showed to her something unique and peculiar to her own inner striving being was satisfying in its uniqueness and at the same time enticed her with its inadequacy to further and greater efforts. By these means a path was open, of which no man could tell the end, a path of self-discovery towards new world-discovery.
Modern Sur-realist Art takes sometimes this direction but the results show it has some dangers. The colour world is the world of soul and there is a duality in the soul which reveals itself – as Goethe puts it:
“Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,
And each withdraws from, and repels, its brother.
One with tenacious organs holds in love
And clinging lust the world in its embraces:
The other strongly sweeps, this dust above,
Into the high ancestral spaces.
Not all revelation comes from above and painting that is swamped by the organic symbolism of dreams or the colours created by digestive activity may be interesting but can hardly be called art. This is the danger of the Freudian element in free painting, which can only be overcome by spiritual training and a growing awareness.
If one takes the path of objective colour study, something else enters from the outset. This world of colour is no private domain, filled with the demons or devas of the subconscious. Colour is that soul-element which we carry within us which rejoices with the coloured world around us.
We are living both in our own most lively creative power and in closest contact with the soul of Nature when we rejoice in and create out of colours. We steep our senses in the blue of the heavens, the green of the earth, the scarlet, yellow, magenta and violet of the flowers; the crimson glory of the sunset. The universe speaks to us through its colours. We breathe them in through the senses. It is an in-breathing which brings life to the soul.
But there is also an out-breathing. The soul rejoices in colour and creates out of its own coloured world. We become painters, painting out of colour, whether of the visible world or of the invisible world – it matters little. As painters we must weave between these spheres just as in ordinary life we sleep and wake and carry our dreams into earthly creating.
So, from the visible world we draw forth the ideas which its forms reveal, not imitating but creating, whilst from the worlds invisible in which we experience behind sleep, we bring forth longing to unite this world of colour with our daily life in forms of beauty.
The soul-world, which was lost from sight at birth, begins to draw nearer to our consciousness. This is no subjective fantasy. Poets, mystics, and artists from all time have known this ‘many coloured world’. To awaken to it in our own consciousness is to bring strength, certainty and healing into the whole of life, for therein we all are rooted. (See “The Human Soul in Sleeping, Dreaming and Waking”, P. W. Zeylmans van Emmichoven, M.D., New Knowledge Books, London)t
How should one start then to paint out of colour? If one paints a landscape, does one merely imitate the landscape in front of one, or does one paint one’s idea of the landscape?
Is one a better painter if one paints every twig and blade of grass before one in realistic detail, as Euskin would have us do, or if one paints a Nocturne in Blue like Whistler, or draws a bull-fight like Picasso, full of whirling forms, bits of horse, bits of ball, bits of human forms in turbulent struggle. The nineteenth century loved Naturalism and the 20th century seems to be striving to get at man’s inner responses to the outer world. If one has seen a bull-fight, Picasso’s drawings give a lively sense of the turmoil of feelings it excites. It is the “idea” of a bull-fight -not the bull-fight itself. Turner did something similar with his landscapes. In his early years he made clever and exact representations, frequently nearly monochrome. At the end of his life he painted them as colour and idea.
What then, if we, starting with colour, as the subject of the painting, let it grow into expression of an idea? It may sound fantastic but there is a reality behind it, the reality of the “many-coloured world”.
We belong to two worlds in our experience of waking and sleeping; in birth and in death we are as much at home in the one as in the other because it is only in our present stage of consciousness that they are two. In reality both worlds are one, “As we are born into it, we split our world in two”. Prom then onward “observation comes to us from the outside; the idea-world appears to us from the inner soul.” “I look at the visible world; it is everywhere incomplete. I myself with my whole existence have arisen out of the world to which the visible world also belongs. Then I look into myself and see just what is lacking in the visible world. I have to join together through my own self what has been separated into two branches. I gain reality by working for it.”
The artist works or plays between the visible world and the ‘many-coloured world’ -the world of the ideas seen by the inner eye. He is not deserting the visible world. He may be interpreting it, in terms of his inner experience, e.g. Picasso’s bull-fights, or he may be shedding the glory of the ‘many-coloured world’ over our ordinary work-a-day one. But the seed of his imaginative creating is his own. It exists neither in the one world nor the other. It is a new creation coming into being. For the seed of the universe is the creative spirit of Man. In man is the Christ-seed of a new Creation.
Knowing this creative spirit exists in we can trustfully take the path through colour.
We learn to know the colours one by one -to radiate with yellow, to condense into form with blue, to glow with the warmth of red. We live with the movements of the colours -breathing outward with yellow, drawing inward with blue. We become pedantic with green and courageous with orange and vital with red.
But there is no short cut to discovery of the creator within us. We have each to discover it through our own effort and colour is only one of the many paths to the spirit.
A ROAD TO THE SPIRIT
The painter builds the bridge of colour and beauty through the power of the inner eye. The scientist builds his bridges by an intellectual and spiritual penetration to the secrets of physical substance and forms; the priest builds bridges through the sacraments.
They all are bridges, or should be, across the Great Divide – the abyss that was created at birth, and which will be extinguished at death. In reality, however, there is no Divide, it exists only in our present day consciousness.
“We gain reality by working for it.” A high goal needs long and patient working. The way to achieve this goal is set forth in Rudolf Steiner’s many books and lectures and especially in “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds”. (Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co., London, and Anthroposophic Press, New York. See also “Hygiene of the Soul”, New Knowledge Books, London).
It is the way of training by which man lifts his self-consciousness to world consciousness, his ego-life to the Christ-life, his body and soul to wholeness. It is a path through knowing, to wisdom, and through sensibility and compassion, to Love. It leads to full conscious awareness of the worlds of soul and spirit, which we otherwise enter only in shadowed consciousness at death.
Thus the path brings us to its end. Not all can build the bridges, but all can pass over them when built.
The third eye – the eye of the seer – perceives what one day all men will again perceive – the worlds of soul and spirit. Joy comes into us – joy, strength, certainty, and the power of healing. For to know our source is to clear the mirror of Self from all illusions, from all vanities, from all weakness.
It is to open the way for the great Sun-Spirit of Healing, the Christ, to let his Light shine in us, so that this shining Light may turn the darkness into colour, to lead us forward to the creating of a new heaven and a new earth — Now indeed, we are seeing “as in a glass darkly, but then we shall see face to face.”