Revised: August 2019 The colors alchemists use to illuminate their various picture-symbols are every bit as important as the scenes they depict. While the sages tell us that nothing should be taken from their writings in the literal sense, it is also true that nothing is arbitrary in a genuine alchemical manuscript. All the colors are adopted from the ‘Queen Scale’ of colors attributed to the Briatic Tree of Life. This may be slightly confusing to a beginner in all this symbolic language. As commonly represented, when we view the Tree of Life in color the spheres are painted in the ‘Queen Scale’ of colors attributed to the Qabalistic World of Briah. The paths connecting the spheres, however, are assigned a color scheme called the ‘King Scale’ representing the World of Atziluth. These feminine and masculine color schemes hint the blending of forces and potencies of both genders into one illustration. In The Secret Symbols, translated by Dr. Franz Hartmann, the primary colors are illustrated in Part I, plate three, titled ‘The Mystery of The Number Three.’ The principles, Mercury, Sulphur and Salt, are illustrated by three seven-pointed stars sub-titled The Root of All Metals. The Mercury star is colored yellow, the Sulphur star red, and the Salt star blue. These are also the colors of three of the elements, Air, Fire and Water respectively, and they are the primary pigments of the color wheel. The other colors for the seven planetary metals and twelve zodiacal signs are derived from these root pigments. The three spread into seven planetary metals and the seven chakras are illustrated in alchemical manuscripts as:
Yellow to Mercury and the Sahasrara Chakra;
Blue to the Moon and Ajna Chakra;
Red to Mars and the Svadishthana Chakra;
Green (yellow and blue) to Venus and the Vishudda Chakra;
Orange (yellow and red) to the Sun and Anahata Chakra;
Violet (red and blue) to Jupiter and the Manipura Chakra;
Indigo (blue and black) to Saturn and Muladhara Chakra.
These seven hues blend again with each other and/or with the primaries to develop the zodiac colors in western alchemy, as:
These same colors are assigned the twenty-two paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Atziluth. White represents Spirit, while Black is given to Earth or Matter. Blending any two colors of opposite signs in the zodiac will render Gray, the color of Wisdom, and symbolizing balance and harmony, or the union of opposing forces within oneself.
Since the Art of Spiritual Alchemy is the Chemistry of Consciousness the colors enumerated above are associated and simpatico with the planetary and zodiacal zones within the alchemist's own physiology. Colors resonate vibrations of light energy rooted in sound. The vibrations are picked by the human organism subconsciously. When we ponder the many colored alchemical paintings and pictographs subtle suggestions are being absorbed by our subconscious mind. What we actually see when we perceive any color are light waves rooted in sound vibrations. Change the frequency of sound and a different color appears.
An excellent example of color suggestion is this. Consider the Caduceus of Hermes. Long has it been the symbolic representation from both East and West of the central nervous system entwined about the spinal column. The principal colors of this icon in most texts are Yellow for the central nerve current, Shushumna, the central staff of the icon. The two serpents entwined about the staff are colored Red for the right nerve current Surya (Pingala), and White for the left nerve current, Rayi (Ida). These are equivalent to the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley of Jehoshaphat in the Western Tradition. The three currents compose the Serpent Power, Kundalini.
Now compare this with the Major Tarot Key, Strength. Attached to this key is the Hebrew letter Teth (ט) meaning Serpent, and indicative of Kundalini. Notice that the predominate colors in the picture are Yellow, Red and White. We may study all the elements of the key and its associated suggestions with conscious attention, but subconsciously we are noticing these color proportions, and these colors are also the colors of the Kundalini glyph, the Caduceus of Hermes. We are subconsciously ‘drinking in’ this subliminal and incorporating its poignancy into our waking consciousness. The long term effect is the gentle stimulation of the potent Serpent Power that will be raised when the total consciousness of the aspirant is ready.
Now, compare the predominant colors on The Magician Tarot key; once again, the Yellow, Red and White. The symbolism is presented more obviously with this key in that before the Magician stand a crop of Roses (Surya, Pingala) and Lilies (Rayi, Ida). The Magician himself has the Serpent biting its tail for a belt. The two keys are aimed pointedly toward preparation for the raising of Kundalini, albeit subconsciously.
Consider now the spheres on the Tree of Life. And notice the colors assigned to the planets (chakras) in the above color scheme. Notice Mercury is assigned Yellow, while the Sun is assigned Orange. However, with the spheres on the Tree of Life, the eighth, Hod, assigned the Sphere of Mercury, is tinted Yellow. And the sixth, Tiphareth, assigned the Sphere of the Sun, is appointed the color Orange. These are in direct opposition to each other. There is direct Qabalistic reason for this seeming opposition. Qabalists teach that the solar current which enters the many bodies of the human organism at the back and at the approximate level of the heart’s force center, is the Life-power which eventually expresses itself as our self-conscious energy. Our intellectual apparatus is actually a solar force. They are virtually equal but with very different functions. Our separative egos (symbolized by the Sun astrologically) are mainly expressed through our self-conscious intellectualism. When we become sufficiently mature and evolved our enlightenment will come from the Sun and will be powerfully felt by our exalted intellect. We then realize beyond any doubt that the two are actually the One Life.
Another two spheres on the Tree are also in seeming opposition. This is the color difference between four, Gedulah, the Sphere of Jupiter, and colored ‘blue’, while the ninth, Yesod, Sphere of the Moon, is tinted ‘violet’. There is another direct purpose for this. See if you can intuit why that might be. If you have difficulty, email me.
The original artists and designers of the earlier packs were fully aware of the suggested potency of color. Gilded manuscripts are packed with these color hints, and all the important points within the various illustrations of genuine alchemists agree with each other. Readers familiar with the Golden Dawn material recognize this color scheme in the Rose Cross emblem. This mutual scheme is another example of the symbiotic relationship between Hermetic Alchemy and Qabalistic Magic. The color schemes of western Astrology, Hermetic Alchemy, Qabalah, and Tarot all agree with each other. Qabalists suggest careful attention to all the colors of alchemical illustrations and paintings in the libraries and museums of Europe, should the opportunity to view them present itself.