Thought Forms And Colours
( Originally Published 1921 )
EFFORTS have been made by clairvoyants to set down the form and colour of thought and emotion, and even to represent the soul itself in terms of colour; and an illustrated book upon the subject, has been published. From a sympathetic review of the book we learn that " black indicates hatred and malice.
Red of all shades shows anger—brutal anger is shown by flashes of lurid red from dark brown colours, while ' noble indignation ' is a vivid scarlet. Clear brown denotes avarice, while dull grey-brown shows selfishness. Deep heavy grey denotes depression, and livid pale grey shows fear. . . . Grey-green denotes deceit ; and brownish-green, usually flecked with scarlet, jealousy. Green is always the colour of adaptability : in the undeveloped man this expresses itself as deceit ; at a later stage it becomes a desire to be all things to all men, even if only for popularity ; and finally, in the developed man we have a wonderful luminous green denoting the highest sympathy. Affection shows itself in all shades of crimson and rose : when discoloured by brown and grey we find the affection is of a selfish, grasping nature ; but pure pale rose denotes the highest unselfish love," etc. (Bibby's Annual, 192o). Coloured examples are given of forms generated by two persons " animated by an affectionate interest in an injured person " and a deep sympathy for his pain, and we notice that the colours in both are identical, though the outlines are very dissimilar. The one over whom the vague cloud floats is thinking " Poor fellow, how sad," while the other is already rushing forward to help. Der Groff.
The one is a dreamer of acute sensibilities, while the other is a man of action. Other examples were given in an earlier annual (1917) of " thought forms "; one of Love and Peace, Protection and Benediction " sent forth by one who has the power and has earned the right to bless ,"—rather like a yellow sun with pink wings.
A " Thought Form of watchful Jealousy " is like a single sharply pointed and curved cow's-horn, a ' Thought Form of Self Renunciation " is a pale blue flower-like shape, and " Anger directed against a person who had inflicted a deep injury on the one who sent it forth " is a simple vermilion spike. " The diagrams shown are not mere imaginings of what should take place, but are actual examples seen by clairvoyants and reproduced as carefully and accurately as possible . .. our imaginations must help us to understand something of the original from the representation of it we have before us." Interesting as these may be from the psychologist's point of view, their lack of recognisable relation to general experience renders them negligible as symbols, since, no matter how accurate they may be, in the absence of the verbal description, they succeed in carrying no more spiritual information to the ordinary spectator than is to be obtained from the freshly laid palette of a painter.
Emotional Significance of Colour
It is astonishing the lengths to which the literary argument may carry an enthusiast ; and an Art Editor once told the writer that the reason why red or crimson was the finest and noblest colour was that this was the colour chosen by the Creator for the Life-blood of Man, and that he derived this idea from Ruskin. That blood is never seen until a wound is made—that the appearance of the veins through the skin in health is blue—that brandy will call up more of its royal redness than the maiden's blush—and that until it is actually shed it may be any colour, since colour is imperceptible except by light ; that it may, in fact, be sea-green until its issue so far as any aesthetic considerations have to do with the matter ; that a butcher's shop should be the most gorgeous sight in the world except the slaughter-house, the operating theatre and the battle-field, where life blood is to be seen at its reddest and best ; and that sensitive persons faint at the sight of it should be final so far as that argument goes. Red (or crimson) is a gorgeous colour, but it is associated at least as much with sunset as with sunrise ; and with the dying leaf as with the dying gladiator. It is a lovely colour in itself, and these arguments are absurd either in praise or blame of it. Argument might be maintained on the score that the most beautiful reds we have are vegetable dyes—the madders—but crimson lake certainly is derived from some sort of beetle. Such considerations are merely fanciful. Splendid crimsons are derived from gas-tar. That certain colours have certain physiological effects is true, that certain forms of light affect microbes for their good or ill is a scientific fact. A blue room has been entered of so vicious a quality that a definite physical antagonism was felt, as though vitality was being sucked out and absorbed. In the same place the red of another room exerted a pressure as stifling as a bolster. It is possible that the same taste would have chosen some yellow equivalent in viciousness to the sinister red and the blue. These sensations were entirely physical ; the colours had no significance, but were simple distemper wall papers without pattern : they were simply villainous colour. Since colour is capable of this physiological effect even without conveying any associated idea, it is obvious that its most powerful appeal will be made more to the senses than to the reason, and will have an emotional rather than an intellectual significance. It is an attribute of form, and cannot take its place. If a child is given a book of outlines and a colour box, it may entertain itself and us by painting a cow purple with pink spots ; yet the cow will remain a cow, just as the chameleon was only endeavouring to become a genius of its kind, a super-chameleon, though it burst in the attempt when it tried to match its surroundings by turning tartan.
The Michael Angelo in the National Gallery, where the flatly prepared underpainting of the flesh is so interestingly shown, is more genial in its unfinished than in its completed parts. The unfinished children are much more entertaining in emerald green without being in the least decadent. But then the outline is secure. A crow is not less a crow, nor a stoat less a stoat when albinism takes place ; they are in essence the same. A pink and white Zulu with flaxen hair is conceivable as being essentially Zulu : but no amount of burnt cork will make a negro of a Dane.
Mr. G. F. Watts laid out in conversation the theory that anyone could learn to draw ; but that colour was a gift with which you had to be born. Yet there is a simple science of colour, more simple perhaps than of line. It is possible to state if the main scheme is green, that a note either of blue or of yellow will harmonize with it : and so on throughout the primary and secondary colours. That if contrast rather than harmony is called for, scarlet or green, or orange or blue, yellow or purple will give the most violent oppositions—and that suavity will be obtained by the division of opposing notes of colour by the interposition either of a secondary that contains them both, or of a tertiary. It is reducible much more to a mathematical formula than is line. Simple as this may sound, the combinations of colour are infinite, since the proportions of mixture are infinitely variable, but the full value of even its emotion-compelling properties can only be gained from its association with form.
Blake expressed himself with vigour on this subject, and his remarks are quoted elsewhere.