Touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing, are the five senses we use in order to perceive the world we live in. Of these five senses, sight is the one we use most. Ninety percent of what we know of the world is through our vision. The National Bureau of Standards estimates that the human eye can see 10 million different colors.
Color vision is not uniquely human, nor did it evolve in isolation. It is the result of a very deep history within a dynamic world of color and light, which began long before our vertebrate ancestors left the oceans some 370 million years ago.
Human beings receive 80 percent of their information from the environment. Color belongs to the environment, and it is therefore a means of information and communication of absolute necessity for the interpretation and understanding of the natural and artificial or architectural, environment. The perception of color in the environment always carries visual, associative, synaesthetic, symbolic, emotional, and physiological effects with it.
To “see” color is a far deeper and more complex process than merely the optical perception of these stimuli and the resulting physiological stimulation of sensory cells in the cerebral cortex. Color stimulation received from the exterior world corresponds with a reaction in the inner world – our psyche. The great Goethe said: “Nothing is within, nothing is outside, because what is within is outside.”
To perceive a color means to “experience” or to become conscious or aware.
The human ability to see a wide range of color and our reaction to color is clearly articulated in Frank Mahnke’s color pyramid.
The pyramid lists six levels of our color experience in an increasingly personalized interpretation.
Color elicits a total response from human beings because the energy produced by the light that carries color effects our body functions and influences our mind and emotion. In 1976, Rikard Kuller demonstrated how color and visual patterning affects not only the cortex but also the entire central nervous system. Color has been shown to alter the level of alpha brain wave activity, which is used in the medical field to measure human alertness. In addition, it has been found that when color is transmitted through the human eye, the brain releases the hormone, hypothalamus, which affects our moods, mental clarity and energy level.
The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
Experiencing color, however, is not limited to our visual comprehension of hues. In a study conducted by Harry Wohlfarth and Catharine Sam of the University of Alberta, they learned that the change in the color environment of 14 severally handicapped and behaviorally disturbed 8-11 year olds resulted in a drop in blood pressure and reduction in aggressive behavior in both blind and sighted children. This passage of the benefits of varying color’s energy is plausible when one considers that color is after all light waves that bounce around and are absorbed by all surfaces.
Further study by Antonio F. Torrice, resulted in his thesis that specific colors impact certain physical systems in the human body.
To understand color vision and perception among modern humans, we must first take a glimpse at the ancient history of vision and the workings of the eye.
An eye fundamentally “sees” by the use of photoreceptors, which convert light into nerve signals. Color vision is due to a certain class of specialized photoreceptors that not only detect light, but also detect and distinguish specific wavelengths of light (colors). These color photoreceptors, often called cones, are attuned to different color wavelengths by way of pigments known as photo pigments. One of the fundamental components of these photo pigments is a type of protein called an opsin, which has the primary role of tuning color photoreceptors to specific wavelengths of light.
In a world where color impinges on our every waking moment life is governed by the radiation of the sun. Color is a gift of evolution, an inherited characteristic for the survival of vegetable and animal life.
The ancient Egyptians have been recorded to have been using color for cures and ailments. They worshipped the sun, knowing that without light there can be no life. They looked at nature and copied it in many aspects of their lives. The floors of their temples were often green – as the grass, which then grew alongside their river, the Nile. Blue was a very important color to the Egyptians too, as the color of the sky. They built temples for healing and used gems (crystals) through which the sunlight shone. They would have different rooms for different colors. We could perhaps relate our present methods of light/light therapy to this ancient practice.
Color is light and light is energy. Scientists have found that actual physiological changes take place in human beings when they are exposed to certain colors. Colors can stimulate, excite, depress, tranquilize, increase appetite and create a feeling of warmth or coolness. This is known as chromodynamics.
From psychological reactions to learned cultural interpretations, human reaction and relationship to color is riddle with complexities. The variety of nuances, however, does not dilute the amazing power of color on humans and its ability to enhance our experience of the learning environment.
Though each type of color-specific photoreceptor can detect a limited range of colors, each is most responsive to a specific wavelength of light, referred to as its absorption maxima. For example, many diurnal butterflies have three types of color photoreceptors: an ultra-short wavelength cone which has a maxima at 360nm (tuned to ultra-violet), a short wavelength cone with a maxima at 440nm (blue-violet), and a long wavelength cone at 588nm (yellow-orange).
Though the maximum for each of these cones is a specific wavelength (color), each cone type can actually detect colors within a range near the maximum (e.g., the yellow-orange cone can detect yellow-greens, yellows, oranges, and some nearby reds).
For most people, one of the first decisions of the day concerns color harmony.
What am I going to wear?
Do you not see that God sends down from the clouds water, then brings forth with it fruits of different kinds (or colors). And from the sky and the clouds (He sends down) fast-moving waves, white and red, of different colors, and others intensely black.
Each man has a favorite color, which suits vibrations of his body (natural resonance); also all creatures vibrate in an amazing and precise system. Scientists studied the phenomenon of color difference and its effect in world of plants, insects and animal.
Indeed, colors have its psychological effect, each color has its private frequency, and this frequency affects our eyes. When we see a color, the frequency of that color is transferred through the eye into brain and affects brain cells.
Colors have an effect on our personality and we can analyze personality of people if we know their favorite colors. In fact there is no documented scientific study about effect of color on human but only notices by scientists. God says And whatsoever He has created for you on the earth of varying colors [and qualities from vegetation and fruits (botanical life) and from animals (zoological life)] Verily! In this is a sign for people who remember.)(Sûrat An-Nahl- verse 13).
Most fascinating are the choices we make, both subconsciously and consciously, to use color to impact each other and reflect our internal states. Whether in the micro-sense with the choice of an article of clothing, or the macro-sense where cultures on the whole embrace color trends at the scale of decades, color is a signifier of our motives and deepest feelings.
Almost everyone is affected by color. And, no two people have exactly the same reaction to a particular color, though there are certain generalities. Our personal and cultural associations affect our experience of color.
According to Color in Healthcare Environments: A Critical Review of the Research Literature, color choice “is linked to psychological, visual, aesthetic, and technical aspects of human-made environments.” Therefore, we tend to choose colors based on geography, culture, and user characteristics. This color study was funded by the Coalition for Health Environments Research (CHER, now known as The Center for Health Design [CHD] CHER) in 2002-2003, and written by Ruth Brent Tofle, PhD; Benyamin Schwarz, PhD; So-Yeon Yoon, MA; and Andrea Max-Royale, MEDes.
Color is one of the fundamental elements of our existence, and defines our world in such deep ways that its effects are nearly imperceptible. It intersects the worlds of art, psychology, culture, and more, creating meaning and influencing behavior every step of the way.
Occurrences of colors in nature are universal and timeless. For example, the fact that green is the color of vegetation and that blue is the color of the sky and water has been a reality since the dawn of humanity. These color associations are common to all people. Therefore, this symbolism is both timeless and universal.
The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
Color may generate another level of meaning in the mind. This symbolism arises from cultural and contemporary contexts. As such, it is not universal and may be unrelated to its natural associations. For example, green’s associations with nature communicate growth, fruitfulness, freshness and ecology. On the other hand, green may also be symbolic of good luck, seasickness, money and greed — all of which have nothing to do with green plants. These associations arise from a complex assortment of sources.
The Sanskrit word for wheel is “Chakra.” According to the ancient people of India, Egypt and China, colors could be used to heal both physical and emotional problems. The tradition of “chromotherapy,” thought to originate from the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda, is based on the belief that the body consists of seven chakras, or wheels. The seven chakras correspond to the energy of the seven colors of the rainbow, and the energy of the chakras enables them to flow evenly, completing the cycle of life. For good health, both emotional and physical, the chakras need to run smoothly to run the inner machinery of the human body.
The seven visible colors of sunlight are violet, indigo, green, blue, yellow, orange and red. When a ray of the sun passes through a prism, these seven colors are visible.
The seven colors of the rainbow improve balance and healing in the mind and body. This form of therapy also works in conjunction with hydrotherapy and aromatherapy to enhance the healing effect.
Ayurveda is an ancient form of medicine associated with color therapy practiced in India for years. It uses the energies inherent in the colors of the spectrum to restore balance within the individual. Those who practice color therapy relate the seven colors of the spectrum to specific areas of the body known as the chakras. In ancient Egypt, “Egyptians designed special healing temples which captured and split the sun’s rays into its component colors creating light-bathing rooms used by Egyptian physicians.”
In ancient Egypt, color was an integral part of the substance and being of everything in life. The color of something was a clue to the substance or heart of the matter. When it was said that one could not know the color of the gods, it meant that they themselves were unknowable, and could never be completely understood. In art, colors were clues to the nature of the beings depicted in the work. For instance, when Amon was portrayed with blue skin, it alluded to his cosmic aspect. Osiris’ green skin was a reference to his power over vegetation and to his own resurrection.
Of course, not every use of color in Egyptian art was symbolic. When overlapping objects, such as when portraying a row of oxen, the colors of each animal are alternated so as to differentiate each individual beast. Apart from these practical considerations though, it is safe to say that the Egyptian use of color in their art was largely symbolic.
The Egyptian artist had at his disposal six colors, including black and white. These colors were generated largely from mineral compounds and thus retain their vibrancy over the millennia.
Interest in the physical nature of color developed in Ancient world alongside the concept of the elements — air, fire, water, and earth. These fundamental constituents of the universe were associated with the qualities of coldness, heat, wetness and dryness, and also with four humors or bodily fluids — choler or yellow bile, blood (red), phlegm (white), and melancholy or black bile.
These were thought to arise in four organs — the spleen, heart, liver, and brain — and to determine emotional and physical disposition. Health involved the proper balance of these humors, and disease would result if their mixture were in an unbalanced proportion. Color was intrinsic to healing, which involved restoring the balance.
By the end of the Classical period in Greece, these principles were included in the scientific framework that was to remain largely unchanged in the West until the Middle Ages. In the first century A.D., Aurelius Cornelius Celsus followed the doctrines established by Pythagoras and Hippocrates and included the use of colored ointments, plasters, and flowers in several treatises on medicine.
However, with the coming of Christianity, all that was pagan was exorcised, including the healing practices of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The progress of medicine throughout Europe was effectively halted while those who clung to traditional principles and practices of healing were persecuted. The ancient healing arts, preserved by secret oral tradition passed on to the initiates, thus became hidden or “occult”.
It was an Arab physician and disciple of Aristotle, Avicenna (980-circa 1037), who advanced the art of healing. In his Canon of Medicine he made clear the vital importance of color in both diagnosis and treatment. Avicenna noted that color was an observable symptom of disease, and developed a chart, which related color to temperament and the physical condition of the body.
He used color in treatment — insisting that red moved the blood, blue or white cooled it, and yellow reduced pain and inflammation — prescribing potions of red flowers to cure blood disorders, and yellow flowers and morning sunlight to cure disorders of the biliary system.
Avicenna wrote also of the possible dangers of color in treatment, observing that a person with a nosebleed, for example, should not gaze at things of a brilliant red color or be exposed to red light because this would stimulate the sanguineous humor, whereas blue would soothe it and reduce blood flow.
The Renaissance saw a resurgence in the art of healing in Europe. One of the most renowned healers of the period was Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), known as Paracelsus.
Paracelsus regarded light and color as essential for good health and used them extensively in treatment.
However, after the Middle Ages Paracelsus and other alchemists lost their prestige when mysticism and magic were overtaken by rationalism and science. By the eighteenth century, “enlightenment” had taken on a new meaning. It was the name given to a philosophical movement that stressed the importance of reason and the critical appraisal of existing ideas. Reason dictated that all knowledge had to be certain and evident; anything about which there could be doubt was rejected.
As a result the divine gradually disappeared from the scientific worldview.
By the nineteenth century, the emphasis in science was exclusively on the material rather than the spiritual. As medicine came under the umbrella of science it, too, focused on the material physical body, ignoring the mind and spirit. With the advent of physical medicine, and such treatments as surgery and antiseptics, interest in healing with color declined. It didn’t resurface until the nineteenth century, and then not in Europe but North America.
In 1876, Augustus Pleasanton published Blue and Sun Lights, in which he reported his findings on the effects of color in plants, animals, and humans. He claimed that the quality, yield, and size of grapes could be significantly increased if they were grown in greenhouses made with alternating blue and transparent panes of glass. He also reported having cured certain diseases and increased fertility, as well as the rate of physical maturation in animals, by exposing them to blue light. In addition, Pleasanton maintained that blue light was effective in treating human disease and pain. His work gained supporters but was dismissed by the medical establishment as unscientific.
However, in 1877 a distinguished physician named Dr. Seth Pancoast published Blue and Red Lights, in which he, too, advocated the use of color in healing.
Edwin Babbit’s The Principles of Light and Color was published in 1878; the second edition, published in 1896, attracted worldwide attention. Babbit advanced a comprehensive theory of healing with color. He identified the color red as a stimulant, notably of blood and to a lesser extent to the nerves; yellow and orange as nerve stimulants; blue and violet as soothing to all systems and with anti-inflammatory properties. Accordingly, Babbit prescribed red for paralysis, consumption, physical exhaustion, and chronic rheumatism; yellow as a laxative, emetic and purgative, and for bronchial difficulties; and blue for inflammatory conditions, sciatica, meningitis, nervous headache, irritability, and sunstroke.
Babbit developed various devices, including a special cabinet called the Thermolume, which used colored glass and natural light to produce colored light; and the Chromo Disk, a funnel-shaped device fitted with special color filters that could localize light onto various parts of the body.
Babbit established the correspondence between colors and minerals, which he used as an addition to treatment with colored light, and developed elixirs by irradiating water with sunlight filtered through colored lenses. He claimed that this “potentized” water retained the energy of the vital elements within the particular color filter used, and that it had remarkable healing power. Solar tinctures of this kind are still made and used today by many color therapists.
Chromopaths then sprang up throughout the country and Britain, developing extensive color prescriptions for every conceivable ailment. By the end of the nineteenth century, red light was used to prevent scars from forming in cases of smallpox, and startling cures were later reported among tuberculosis patients exposed to sunlight and ultraviolet rays. Nevertheless, the medical profession remained skeptical of claims made about healing with color.
Although there are no absolutes, there are logical sources for the range of complex and sometimes contradictory psychological/cultural meanings of colors.
We all have natural reactions to color—a clear blue sky can make you feel more peaceful; a bunch of daffodils, more optimistic. So it’s no surprise that the colors in your home can have an impact on your mood, too. Red, for instance, tends to be stimulating, and blue, calming, says color researcher Nancy J. Stone, PhD, a professor of psychology at Creighton University. How pure and bright a shade is can come into play, too, as well as personal associations with the color. Living in an age of alternative therapies, holistic remedies and a newer, more enlightened view of nutrition, we seek to heal ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We strive to keep our bodies and psyches in balance. Color can be a powerful provider of guidance and insight that helps us achieve that balance.
Everything is made up of electromagnetic energy vibrating at different frequencies that correspond to sound, light and color. We are drawn to the colors needed to create balance in our lives, the goal in all healing. Colors attract … certain clothing and accessories, colors in our homes, and even the foods we eat.
The entire creation is nothing but a play of energy. All the objects, and the events that are happening, are nothing but the conversion of one energy into other, resulting in the creation of something new.
All of us are able to perceive the world as a unified whole because there is a complex interaction between the senses in the brain, or the thinking goes. Ordinarily, these interconnections are not explicitly experienced, but in the brains of synesthetes, “those connections are ‘unmasked’ and can enter conscious awareness,” said Megan Steven, a neuroscientist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. – The aura is the electromagnetic field that surrounds the human body (Human Energy Field-HEF) and every organism and object in the Universe.
The Human Energy Field as a collection of electro – magnetic energies of varying densities that permeate through and emit or exit from the physical body of a living person. These particles of energy are suspended around the healthy human body in an oval shaped field. This “auric egg” emits out from the body approximately 2-3 feet (1 meter on average) on all sides. It extends above the head and below the feet into the ground.
According to Dr. Luscher, the ethical norms and the human personality correspond to different colors; but there is another tradition that claims each of our body parts have a color; to whose energy the part responds. Never heard of such a thing? Well, it’s no surprise, considering that the concept is centuries old; and is only resurfacing in the recent years.
To formulate a better understanding of color’s impact, one must first form a basic understanding of Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. According to Jung, all of us are born with a basic psyche that can later be differentiated based upon personal experience. This basic psyche reflects the evolutionary traits that have helped humans to survive throughout history. For example, an infant has a pre-disposed affinity for two dark spots next to each other, an image that equals their visual interpretation of a human face. This affinity for the shapes is not learned, but preprogrammed into the collective unconscious of all human children.
Our body absorbs color energy through the vibration color gives off. All organs, body systems, and functions are connected to main energy centers.
Through color we receive all the energies we need to maintain a health body, mind, and soul. The National Institute of Mental Health has done studies showing that our mental health, behavior, and general efficiency in life depends to a great extent on normal color balance. When something goes wrong, or is out of balance, we can strengthen our energy centers through the conscious use of color.
Whether we are aware of it or not, color affects our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. Today we are re-discovering the immense importance of color in our everyday lives, once again it is being recognized and understood for its profound and transformational properties.
Our ancestors knew much of color and its use in healing and today we are re-discovering the health benefits of natural daylight. Our bodies are dependant on light and operate as a prism, when sun shines onto our body the ‘white’ light creates the rainbow colors which fragment equally into the seven main chakras or energy centers the body, these are our ‘batteries’.
It is very easy to take for granted the importance that color has in our lives but everyday descriptions like red with anger, feeling blue and green with envy illustrate how absolutely color affects us and how deeply ingrained into our lives it is.
Just as we are programmed to identify with the human face, our body has a basic interpretation and reaction to certain colors. As proven in recent medical studies, however, the psychological reaction to color does not preclude the basic biological reaction that stems from human evolution.
Whether proven by science or inspired by spiritual quest, encouraged by the power of suggestion or the result of deeply imbedded memories, there is no question that color’s effects are imprinted indelibly within the human psyche and spirit. What makes human beings different?
The capacity to transcend our biological roots and the biological processes that affect your survival, this is one reason that make humans unique beings. Our self perception and our belief in the human soul and its importance in our life enable us to go beyond what biology has endowed on us, we go beyond feeding, survival and reproduction as we desire for something deeper, more meaningful and more purposeful.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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