Recently, I heard a short radio program that explained how Isaac Newton determined a seven-color rainbow. The seven-color spectrum is primary in defining rainbows today, at least in the West. Apparently, he felt pressure to name seven colors to match a seven note musical scale. Hearing this confirmed what I already know and explore in my work – that the way we define color is arbitrary and our perception of color is highly relative and culturally determined. I laughed a loud laugh when the host detailed the manner in which Newton defined the rainbow spectrum that has been digested societally as an absolute, static, scientific truth. It was a laugh that sparkled with seventy-three colors in it, of all hues, depths, and tones.
Have you ever seen more than seven colors in the rainbow? Or do you only see seven colors because seven colors were named to you? Can we see what we do not name, or do we need to name something in order to see it? What if the naming of a thing conjures it into existence? What if there are many, many, many colors in-between the seven named colors, and infinite numbers of colors on the outer edges of our limited visible spectrum? Physics and theology both tell us that this is the case. If you check in with your deeper knowing, you will sense this as Truth.
What if there are other equally valuable spectrums that we do not see or choose not to see because they do not fit our view of what is reasonable and defined as true? Would holding such infinite possibilities be so destabilizing? This giving in to a comfortable sense of knowing limits our seeing.
Here is an image pulled from the web of o bang saek – the traditional Korean color spectrum.
You will notice that it holds two colors that the Western paradigm defines as non-colors – black and white. I am in conversation with friend and art writer Sharon Mizota on the cultural aspects of color, and she pointed out that black and white are not opposites on this spectrum. Yellow is centered. Red and blue are not converse, and neither are primary. In my mind's eye, other colors are inferred.
I was excited to discover this Korean color spectrum, as it at once disrupted a Western paradigm that feels limited…incomplete, and IT CENTERS YELLOW. If I had to name a favorite color, it would be yellow. When I was very young, I did name yellow as my favorite color. Yellow is highly dimensional, yet its vibrancy simultaneously attracts and repulses. It has (through the Western lense) become the color that people are taught to see one-dimensionally and paradoxically at the same time. It is the color of the sun and concurrently used on traffic signs and caution tape. Yellow has as much depth, variation, and specificity as other colors on the color wheel, however it is not typically given as much space, and hence is typically less seen in its fullness. Literally, it is given less space on the color wheel by being under-seen.
I propose this is a choice in limited seeing.
These are the explorations I encounter in my journey with color, and ones that I sense hold much larger Truths than can be named in verbal language. This is an exploration, not a belief to be convinced of, and is changing as I explore. A Truth is absolute, and also vibrating. It is not static, as no absolutes are. Liminal, vibrating, wholly alive and metamorphosizing Truth is demonstrated by the relativity of color.
What does this mean for our development of sight, of vision, or seeing beyond what we think and believe to be firmly known? Our spectrum is limited by our imagination and ability to name and see. This is the downfall of being highly verbal beings. We can reach beyond this limitation through training that I call developing ColorSight. After a lifetime of intensely seeing and swimming in color, I can see more color. I sense and see the vibration in-between the colors and can distinguish un-nameable hues singing a song that is a quiet, vibrational hum. It is an unraveling and a detangling and a holding and containment all at once. ColorSight is external and internal, it is of our mind’s eye and held in the kinetic space of the body. It bursts in your heart space and spills into the physical world. It rests in our SouLumen, where the light within meets the light without. This is the space I explore in my work and I am attempting to give verbal articulation to in these writings, although they will certainly fall short and I will laugh a loud laugh with one hundred and seven colors in it when I think of all the things that didn’t fit into and cannot be articulated in this inadequate post. I invite you to look closely at a rainbow the next time one emerges, and it will all make sense.