COLORS >> Qualities of Affections

colors-jwp_500_348 The light which proceeds from the Lord pure, homogeneous, and apparently simple in quality is received variously by the angels; no two are in exactly the same degree and  quality of wisdom and, therefore, no two are in light of precisely the same degree and color. From the very light about an angel another angel perceives instantly the quality of the wisdom and intelligence within him. The angels, also, can discourse together, expressing their thoughts with the utmost fullness and distinctness, merely by variations of light and color; the meaning of which is instantly perceived.

If we were in the spiritual world, and were to receive flowers of beautiful colors—crimson, scarlet, white, yellow, and blue, with variations and mixtures of them—from the affection that flowed in as we looked at them we should know instantly the correspondence and origin of the colors. The same affection flows in as we look at them here, and produces the pleasant glow of heart which makes us love the colors; but we are too obtuse to perceive the quality of the affections.  Still, if we attend to the correspondence as Swedenborg teaches it to us, we shall find many things from reason and from our own perceptions to confirm it.

Swedenborg says that there are two general colors, red and white, and that “the other colors, as green, yellow, blue, and many more are composed of them,” modified by black (Apocalypse Revealed #915). This is evidently true of many colors; but we are in the habit of thinking of yellow and blue as pure, simple colors. Yellow is, however, white warmed by a red which is inseparable from it. Why it is inseparable we shall see presently. A decided blue is made by the mixture of white and black; or, better, by a thin layer of white over a black ground, as in black onyx.  This seems to be the cause of the blueness of wood smoke. Seen against the sky, it is of a dirty white color; but against a background of dark green and shadow, it is blue. Not very beautiful blues are made in this way by our pigments; yet there seems to be no other color needed to produce them, only a more perfect blending of these.

Crimson, scarlet, and yellow are warm colors; white and blue are cool colors. We call red “warm,” from a perception that it is from fire, and that it is expressive of some glowing affection. And we call blue “cool” from its association with water and the sky, and from a perception of quiet purity and absence of passion in it. And this is as far as we usually go in our discrimination of colors. Swedenborg says that the warmest red, the pure crimson of the finest rubies, is the color of that deepest human love—love to the Lord. This is the deepest and warmest love because it is nearest to Him Who is the Sun of the Heavens, and the Source of all heavenly heat and love; and when such love is presented to the sight in heaven it is through the ruby color.  It is this color that Swedenborg means by purple, which he always says represents “celestial love,” or love to the Lord (Arcana Coelestia #9467;True Christian Religion #216).

They who love the Lord, love also what is from Him in one another. Therefore from love to the Lord proceeds mutual love (Arcana Coelestia #9468), less deep and warm, perhaps, but more evident to the senses; and when this love is represented by light, it appears of a scarlet hue; a color less deeply red but brighter than the ruby (Apocalypse Revealed #725). When this same love desires to put itself forth in good works for the neighbor from the Lord, it gathers to itself still more of light and presents itself in the color of the brightest part of the spectrum, golden yellow.  It is because this is the color of uses done from love to the Lord that fields of ripening grain, especially wheat, which represents duties done from the Lord, are yellow; oranges, also, which represent the wisdom of conjugial love; and gold of which the streets of the Holy City, that is the ways of life for those who know and love the Lord, are made; and the oil of olives, which are the fruits of those who love to perceive the merciful goodness of the Lord. And now we see why the red cannot be separated from the white in yellow. It is because it is the color of works done, in which love and wisdom are inseparably united. Therefore also, when angels are in discourse concerning conjugial love, a golden light plays about them (Conjugial Love #75), which they say is from the heat of their sun united with its light; and some in the world of spirits, when they are in meditation concerning conjugial love, see golden rain falling from heaven (Conjugial Love #155, 208).  White light is light with the warmth left out.

It corresponds to wisdom in states in which the love within it is not felt. It is the light of the moon, or of states of faith in which the Lord’s love is not perceived. It is the light reflected from silver, from the diamond, from clouds, and from snow, which represent respectively various forms of pure truth (True Christian Religion #216). It is also the general color of light, not discriminated into colors; and is the light of those who are in general truths (Apocalypse Revealed #566).

The blue of the sky is produced by the blending of the white light reflected by the atmosphere with the black which would be the color of the sky were there no air. It is said that the air itself is slightly blue. If this be so, no doubt it adds to the beauty of the color of the sky, which would, however, be blue if the air were entirely white. Blackness represents the want of spiritual light, that is a state of utter spiritual ignorance, such as is the state of every man before regeneration begins, and such as every spiritual man knows and confesses his own state to be without illumination from the Lord. But when that confession of darkness is illumined by the light of wisdom from the Lord, it presents itself to view in the heavens as a sky blue color; which color therefore represents a state of spiritual enlightenment, and of affection for pure truth.

This beautiful blue appears in nature chiefly in the sky, and in large bodies of water which reflect the blue of the sky. Both the air and the water correspond to purifying truth which teaches what is right and wrong, good and evil; the water representing such truth concerning works, and the air concerning thoughts and feelings.

When this truth is applied to our relation to the Lord, with the effort to do justice to the Lord from the fire of love to Him, there appears another beautiful color which Swedenborg calls “hyacinthine blue,” that is, blue permeated with ruby red, and which he explains as the color of truth from love to the Lord (Arcana Coelestia #9466; True Christian Religion #220).

The many purples that are composed of shades of blue and red combined are to be understood in the same way, as the colors of intelligent love of truth from various kinds of warm affection, according to the quality of the red.

Green is composed of blue combined with yellow. It is the general color of foliage, prevailing everywhere in nature, all over the surface of the earth. Now, blue is the color of the love of truth, and yellow is the color of good works, which are spiritual grains and fruits. Green, therefore, represents the love of truth for the sake of uses. And what are green leaves? The leaves are the part of a plant that receives thewater drawn up by the roots, with the nourishment it contains, and exposes it to the air and sunlight, throwing out what is superfluous, and absorbing from both air and sunshine elements which it combines with the sap to make the substance of wood and fruit, which it returns to the tree. The leaves correspond evidently to the faculty of perceiving truth for the sake of use, and of course are green in color.

 Now, then, let us return to the spectrum, remembering that the spectrum shows the elements of the sunbeam in the order in which they are turned from their direct course by all transparent substances of suitable form. And first we have invisible rays of heat, least of all bent from the direct line in which the sun sends them; an image and outbirth of the Lord’s love affecting insensibly, yet being the life of, the inmost part of the human spirit. We may not be wrong in thinking that we have here a correspondence of the reception of the Lord in those unconscious inmosts of human minds, which taken together compose what Swedenborg calls “the heaven of human internals” (Arcana Coelestia #1999). The crimson red comes first to view; the color of first consciousness of the Lord’s love, and of love for Him in turn. The red, brightening through various shades, gives place to yellow; as love to the Lord, gathering its appropriate wisdom, leads to uses from the Lord. A little more deflected we see the green; an obscurer perception of truth, yet still for the sake of doing good. Then the clear, cool blue of affection for spiritual truth, deepening according to the diminishing intelligence of the recipients through darker blues. And, closing the visible spectrum, we have a deep violet, in the blush of which there is an assurance that truth from the Lord both begins and ends in love. And, finally, we have the so-called chemical rays, extending beyond the rays of light and of heat, with power to affect the order and arrangement of particles corresponding to the power of the Divine truth to keep in order and to arrange for uses beings that have no consciousness of receiving life from the Lord.

As, therefore, the sunbeam is a representative and ultimate form of the Divine love and wisdom, continually forming and vivifying the souls of men with their own goodness and truth, so the rainbow, which is the natural form of the spectrum, is a representative and ultimate form of the varied reception of that love and wisdom by men. It is called “a token of the covenant between God and men”; for it is a natural representative of the communication of heavenly goodness and truth by the Lord and the reception of them by men; and this communication and reception are the two parts of the covenant by virtue of which men are saved and enjoy eternal life (Apocalypse Explained #595).

In the heavens rainbows appear, not always with a regular series of colors as in ours, sometimes of one color only, and the color corresponding with the affection of the angels present (Arcana Coelestia #1042). In the highest heaven there appear rainbows of a beautiful ruby color, because the angels there are in love to the Lord, and in full perception of His love; in the middle heaven of brilliant blue, because the angels of itare in the delig ht of receiving wisdom from the Lord; and in the lowest heaven of emerald green with angels who are in the love of good but in obscure perception of truth, or of white, with those who are in general or common spiritual truth (Apocalypse Revealed #232, 566; Apocalypse Explained #269).

In the natural world our particular states are not represented around us. We are not here toenjoy the full development of any state of goodness or truth, but to choose, among all possible states of good or evil, that which we will make our own. The natural objects of this world are,therefore, representatives of all spiritual states presented in a general form; and we choose among them those that we like. If our tastes are natural and simple—not artificial or hypocritical—we are delighted with the things that agree with our spiritual states; they open the senses and the natural mind to the inflow of the affections which delight our souls; and these flow down then into the sense as into open vessels, with gentle thrills of pleasure. This is the cause of our interior delight in the bright colors of flowers, in the beauty of the rainbow, in the blue sky and brilliant clouds, and especially of our restful, expansive satisfaction in the warm, creative light of the returning spring. An innocent, peaceful delight flows into all these things from heaven; and the affections from which it comes are the heavenly things to which the natural correspond.


0083a The representative character of colors has been known for many ages, having come down from the Most Ancient Church, although obscured by the materialism of modern ages. In remote antiquity, there was a language of colors, illustrated in flowers, precious stones, etc. In the Koran, Mahomet says, "The colors which the earth displays to our eyes, are manifest signs, for those who think." In later times, we find a language of colors in heraldry.

But the correspondence of colors is an exact, science. Colors are modifications of heat and light, as shown upon objects of different capacities for absorbing and reflecting the sunshine, or other source of light; and so colors correspond to modifications, or variations, of the spiritual life which comes to men, according to their capacity to receive it. Practically, colors represent variations of the spiritual rays of love and wisdom, as they are received by men.


The primary color is red, from the heat of the sun. And this is modified by white, from the light of the sun. And red and white are often called the primary colors. Primarily, all colors are modifications of red ; or, in a secondary sense, modifications of red and white, or mixed with black, or darkness. Red, from the fire of the sun, corresponds to love. There are many varieties of red, as crimson, scarlet, etc., and there are many tints and shades of each kind of red. These represent the many varieties of love, in men of different characters. A proper amount of redness of the countenance indicates vigorous health, as opposed to the paleness of feeble conditions. And a vigorous love, actuating a man, gives a red color to his face, as opposed to the paleness of indifference. In Paradise Lost, Milton speaks of "celestial rosy red, love's proper hue." And we speak of a loving heart as warmhearted. And warmth indicates the red color of the fire of love.

But, as all good things are subject to abuse and corruption by evil men, so, while, in a good sense, red represents regenerate love, love to the Lord, yet, in a perverted sense, it represents self-love in evil men, represented, for instance, by the harshly red countenance of anger. And we see similar things represented in the sun-set, where a lovely red sky foretells fair weather for the morrow, and also represents the mental fair weather of a regenerate state of love to the Lord; while a dark, hard, repulsive red in the sky betokens a heavy storm, and also represents a stormy mental condition, under the influence of self-love. These things are so plain that there is a general perception that red is the color nf love , with its affections and passions. And, as love is the life of man, his central principle, we must expect to find frequent mention of red in the Scriptures; for the Scriptures were given to men to teach them, and to guide them into regenerate life.

Blue, purple and scarlet [red] are often mentioned together, in regard to the garments, curtains, etc., of the Israelites. Kings' robes were made of red cloth. Speaking of strong soldiers, Nahum says, (ii. 3), "The shield of his mighty men is made red ; the valiant men are in scarlet." The coverings of the Jewish tabernacle were rams' skins, dyed red. In Zechariah, and in the Revelation, there are several cases in which men are mentioned as riding on red horses. In a perverted sense, the woman who represented the corrupted church rode on a scarlet beast. And, in the Revelation, an evil beast, representing infernal conditions in the hearts of men, is said to be a "great red dragon."


Blue represents the truth, on the intellectual side of our nature, as distinguished from red, which represents our affectional side. And we find blue very often mentioned in the Scriptures, in connection with clothing, and with the cloths and curtains for the tabernacle, the altar, etc. Great men and women, and kings, were clothed in blue, red and purple, and fine linen [white]. And gold was often added to these colors; Some parts of the official garments of the priests were blue.

Combined colors, mixed of several colors, represent various states of mind, under combinations of influence, exerted by different spiritual principles. As a mixed color partakes more of fed, it corresponds more to love and goodness ; but as it partakes more of blue, it corresponds more to truth.


Purple, which is red and blue mixed, represents wisdom, which is love; and truth conjoined,' a state of mind and of life in which the man knows the truth, and loves goodness, and obeys the truth in a good practical life. And a beautiful purple is the most beautiful, of all colors, representing the most beautiful of all human mental conditions. Purple is often mentioned in the Bible, in connection with the clothing of kings, priests, and rich men, and other prominent persons, and in the curtains, etc., of the tabernacle.

The perversion of wisdom into folly, with evil men, is represented by cases in which purple is abused; as when the evil soldiers mocked Jesus, and "platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head ; and they put on Him a purple robe, and said, Plail, King of the Jews !" (John xix. 2, 3.)


Yellow represents natural good ; or, in the perverted sense, natural good perverted into evil, by sin. When yellow is bright and beautiful, it is good ; but when it is dull, harsh and repulsive, it represents evil on the natural plane. We observe such differences in yellow, in sun-sets. Sometimes the yellow is clear, and inclined towards bright red, or golden-colored; but, in other cases, the yellow is dull, heavy, hard and ugly. In this latter case, it jDortends stormy weather. In Psalms Ixviii. 13, it is said to regenerating men-, "Though ye have lain among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold ;" i. e., although, on the natural plane of life, the regenerating man may have been in errors of doctrines, and in disorderly action, yet, by repentance and obedience, and in faith, he may be led
into spiritual truth and goodness. Yellow is used in a bad sense, in connection with the yellow and diseased condition noticed in the plague of leprosy.


Green is a mixture of blue and yellow, representing the conjunction of truth with natural good. And this combination will give life to the mind, because there will be right instruction, by means of the truth, and right conduct, by means of the natural goodness. And so green represents a living ahd progressing condition, as the green tree is distinguished from the dead tree. Green, like yellow, refers especially to life on the natural plane, on which growth of character is to be made, by basing the interior good principle upon exterior good conduct. And, when a man is in this condition, he may properly say of the Lord, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." (Ps. xxiii.
2.) "I am like a green olive-tree, in the house of God : I trust in the mercy of God, for ever and ever." (Ps. lii. 8.)

Green is used in a bad sense, when Jesus, speaking of evil men, said, "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke xxiii. 31.) If men do evil in the beginnings of life, andwhen they should be active in progressing in goodness, it must be even worse with them, when they confirm themselves in stich evil, and fix their character in evil.


Technically, white-and black are not colors ; but white is the reflection of all the rays of light, and black is the absorption of all. But white and black are intimately associated with the colors : and the different tints of colors are produced by mixing the color with white; and the different shades are produced by combining the color with black. And so we cannot clearly understand colors, except in connection with white and black. And white and black have their representative significations.

White, which is especially clean and unspotted, represents purity, and righteousness, which is living by right principles. Thus white refers especially to the practical life; and it represents the practical holiness lived according to the ' Divine truth. White somewhat resembles the color of silver, and of moonlight, both of which represent the conditions formed by truths ; while red somewhat resembles gold and sunheat, both of which repres'ent conditions of love and its affections.

Clean white garments represent the state of purity in the truths which should clothe our minds. And so we find that, in the Scriptures, white is. often used to express and represent purity. Daniel saw "the Ancient of Days, . . . whose garment was white as snow." (Dan. vii. 9.) The manna, with which Jehovah fed Israel in the wilderness, was white. (Exod. xvi. 31.) In Israel, the judges rode on white asses. (Judges y'. 10.) The angel who led Daniel through the experiences of his vision, speaking of the regeneration of some in the church, said, "Many shall be purified, and made white." (Dan. xii. 10.) And David prays, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Ps. li. 7.) And, in the Revelation, the Lord said of those who were regenerating, "They shall walk with Me, in white, for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment." (Rev. iii. 4, 5.) And these overcame evil, and attained purity of character and of life. And among artists there seems to be a common impulse to paint angels in white garments, in harmony with their purity of character.

White is sometimes used in a bad sense, to represent the impurity which makes the paleness of death, rather than the vigorous color of life. In the apocalyptic vision, while Jesus was represented as riding on a white horse, Deafh was riding on a pale horse, in the whiteness of deadness.


Black, or darkness without light, represents ignorance, which is without the light of truth. And this ignorance is of two kinds, either mere ignorance of truth, from lack of opportunity to learn the truth,- or wilful ignorance, which prefers falsity, and does not seek the truth. All persons begin life in innocent ignorance, in both natural and spiritual things. And, during their ignorant condition, they are more or less in the belief of false ideas. But the Divine Providence always supplies, to every mind, opportunities to learn the truth. And he who uses his opportunities with a good purpose gradually outgrows his ignorance, and is led into a knowledge of truth.

In the symbolism of the Scriptures, this state of comparatively innocent ignorance is represented by a shining black, which has some capacity to reflect hght. But the state of wilful falsity, in which the "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil," (John iii. 19), is represented by the dead black, dull and cold. It is said of heaven, "There shall be no night there;" (Rev. xxi. 25), no darkness of ignorance nor falsity. Shining black represents the darkness of the mere letter of the Divine Word, in contrast with the clear sun-light of its spiritual meaning. And some of those men who were seen to be riding on black horses, represented such as had an understanding of the letter of the Scriptures, but without an understanding of the inward and spiritual sense. And when men's minds are in great ignorance of spiritual principles, it is said, representatively, that the heavens are black, above men; (Jer. iv. 28), "and the sun became black as sack-cloth of hair." (Rev. vi. 12.) And of the degenerate Nazarites, who became grossly ignorant of triith, it is said, "Her Nazarites were purer than snow; they were whiter than milk; they were more ruddy in body than rubies; . . . [but now] their visage is blacker than a coal." (Lam. iv. 7, 8.) And in common conversation, we often say that a man "looked black," when we mean that he was angry, and not in the light of truth.


Gray, which is a mixture of white and black, represents a condition of mind in which there is some knowledge of truth, but mixed with some ignorance, which does not allow the truth full influence in the thought. The darker the gray is, the more it represents a, state of ignorance.

But, in the Scriptures, gray is generally used in connection with the hair, in old age. And here the point of remark is not the mere whiteness or grayness of the hair, in itself, but the old age of the person, of which the white or gray hair is an accompanying condition. And, as old age, in a good sense, represents large progress in regeneration, so the term gray-haired does not indicate ignorance, but, rather the wisdom to which an old man has attained.

But, at times, gray hair represents the last conditions of decline, in the church, when the church is in the ultimates of the external "man ; that is, in mere forms of outward worship, from which all spiritual life has died out, under the influence of false principles. "The sword without, and the terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling, also, with the man of gray hairs." (Deut. xxxii. 25.)


Spotted, or speckled, meaning of different colors, partly light and partly dark, represents a mixed state of mind, partly in the knowledge of truth, and partly in the darkness of ignorance. And this condition represents a mental state in which the different ideas of the mind do not blend into a general state of thought, but remain in their distinctness, opposed to each other. Of this condition it is said, in Jer. xii. 9, "Mine heritage is, unto Me, as a speckled bird; the birds roiind about are against her." Birds represent our thoughts. The speckled bird represents a state of mind in which' both truth and falsity exist, in opposition. And this condition could not be agreeable to the other mental birds, or thoughts.


In his permanent home, in the spiritual world, every man is surrounded by the things which correspond to the ruling-state of his mind, his character. The colors and forms which he sees, and the sounds which he hears, are in harmony with his own principles. In the heavens the colors are of great splendor and brilliancy, and in perfect harmony. But, to each individual, the greater or less brightness will reflect his own present state of affection and thought. "Come, now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah ! though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa. i. 18.)

Author: Edward Craig Mitchell From Scripture Symbolism 1904

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