Balance has a colour

610 458 Elisabeth Karsten

This blog is dedicated to the perception of balance by Michael Roads. He actually sees it as a color! But first a little digression.

As some of my readers may have noticed, I didn´t write a blog entry in January. My blog had to be put on hold for a few weeks, while I was on a sort of literary rescue mission, taking over the failed translation of Michael Roads ‘ book “Stepping…Between…Realities” into German. The book is now being published according to plan – as it was already announced in the media and as it is keenly awaited by Michael´s fans. Hopefully the quality of the translation now honors the author and his work decently.

In order to meet all deadlines I had to suspend my own writing. Partly because I simply didn´t have the time, partly because I find it rather challenging while I´m working in someone else´s ‘mind garden’ to attend to my ‘own plants’. But in contrast to real plants texts suffer less from being neglected for a while. They emerge when the author is ready…

How Michael Roads perceives the powers of creation

After having been intensely enveloped by Michael´s metaphysical travel accounts, I am even more fascinated by his perception of the powers of creation. He explains it to the readers, I quote from the book: “

“The quality reveals itself in a now familiar way: Chaos—the engine that drives, Order—the stability of structure, and Balance—the place of greatest potential.

Okay, for new readers I will need to explain this. Chaos—the energy that drives, is an energy that I metaphysically experience in hundreds of shades of the colour red. Each shade of red has a different emotional connection with me. However, that emotional language—for this is what it amounts to—has no intellectual translation. I could say that some reds are base, angry, raging, destructive, volatile, while some are loving, caring, calming, connected, creative . . . all this in ever-varying emotional expressions ranging over maybe a thousand different shades of red. It is the same story with the black colour of Order—the stability of structure. For example, a wildfire is all Chaos without order. A rock is all Order without Chaos. Between Chaos and Order there is a tremendous creative torsion. When the torsion between these two energies reaches a perfect dynamic, then I experience the flickering white light of Balance—the expression of greatest potential.”

(‘Stepping…Between…Realities’, p. 76/77)

Beyond any known physical principles

What I find particularly interesting is his perception of colours. For they obviously have nothing to do with our – currently known – optical laws of physics, for the three form giving colours are considered to be orange, green and violet or blue, red and yellow.

But this is less about optically perceptible, physically measurable appearances but about metaphysical principles. As if one could peek into the pots on the stove of creation: some bubbling and others seem extremely cold…and of course all states in between.

And these principles appear to Michael Roads in the colours of black, white and red. However I noticed this magical colour trio in other contexts long before I came in touch with Michael.

For example I always found it interesting that classic card games have either black or red symbols on a white background.

Popular club colours

They of course were highly popular in medieval heraldry which trickles down to our sports clubs and parties to this day.

Sport clubs in all countries often choose these colours. In Germany for instance in the Federal Soccer league the soccer teams of Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt. In the American NBA i.e. the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets.

This combination of colours is unpleasantly known to us by the rather powerful symbolism used in the swastika flag of the German Nazis: a black swastika in a white circle on a red background. There was actually an ‘imperial flag law’ that stated: “The Reich´s colours are black-white-red.”

To this day these are the colours of the National flags of Yemen, Iraq, Egypt and Syria – sharing a common root in the Arab revolutionary flag of 1952. Accordingly they all have the same background: three equally broad horizontal stripes from above to below in red, white and black. These colours belong – together with green, but less so – to the panarabic colours and their symbolism is one specific to the Arab culture. But that as well as the history of flag colours digresses too far from my subject. Suffice it to say that these colours have always been popular colors to express group identity.

Greetings from Snow White

In fairy tales these colours also appear on a regular basis. The story of Snow White according to the Brothers Grimm begins with a wistful queen who is sitting by an ebony window frame sewing on a winter´s day. She accidentally pricks her finger with the needle and while watching three drops of red blood falling into the white snow she thinks: ‘If I only had a child as white as snow, as read as blood and as black as ebony.’ Her wish is granted. She is having a daughter by the name of Snow White. Her skin is white as snow, her hair as black as ebony and her cheeks as red as blood.

But the roots of this fairy tale are of course much older. Actually they may reach as far back as pre-Christian antiquity. According to research it contains left overs of an ancient Venus/Aphroditecults: the three objects by which the mean stepmother intends to please her daughter to death…the girdle, the comb and the apple, are all attributes of the love goddess! And probably the exact colours of those objects was lost in the course of the transmission of the text – but I wouldn´t be surprised if they reflected the magical colour trio. In other words perhaps a black girdle, a white comb and a red pomegranate!

Also in the popular Russian fairy tale “The beautiful Wassilissa” the colour trio is playing a mysterious role. The heroine is send by her also evil… stepmother into the forest to get fire from the highly dangerous witch Baba Yaga. On her long way there Wassilissa encounters a rider at dawn. Everything about him is white: his face, the clothes, the horse and it´s bridle. At sunrise she meets a red rider and at dusk a black one. All three of them are servants to the Baba Yaga: the light of day, the red sun and the black of night.

The colour symbolism

Generally speaking it could be said, that black symbolizes power, mystery, the feminine, evil, darkness and death, while white represents hope, purity, the masculine, goodness, light and life and red is seen as an allusion to passion, danger, love, energy and blood.

But the colours do have a different status in different cultures. In our western countries brides are dressed white, in China red, we dress black for funerals, the East Indians white.

The ancient ‘medical system of bodily fluids’ called ‘Humorism’ had another tradition of attaching colours to meaning: black was the colour of the melancholic temperament, white the colour of the phlegmatic temperament, red the color of the sanguine temperament and choleric, the forth temperament was attached to the color yellow.

In depth psychology black represents the unknown and shadow sides, the fear of the unknown and the fear of situations of death and/or grief. White represents innocence and purity, also chastity and infertility. Red represents passion, fire and obvious emotions in general.

There is of course far more material on colour symbolism than I can and want to refer to here, especially since my actual focus is the magical threesome of all three colors together. And finally I found one.

From mythology to alchemy

As much as alchemy has always fascinated me – just as much I always failed to really understand the details of it – too multilayered and complex are the many meanings of the many different elements and their effects. So the following description is just an attempt in service of my theory that there is a particular meaning to the colors black, white and red that goes beyond our usual understanding.

As I understand the alchemic lore the three colours represenst three different states in the process of transmutation, which initially included a forth one with the colour yellow. But it´s meaning was neglected over time and perhaps subsumed under the red.

It concerns the transmutation of a certain substance from a lower order to a higher order.

According to alchemy the substance changes colours in the process which in turn received psychological symbolism.

The three stages according to alchemy are:

Nigredo – ‘blackness’ is for a substance to end up in a higher state, it must at first be put back in its primal state – it becomes a black, formless mass and is ‘dead’ and at the end of its old state. Albedo – ‘whiteness’ is achieved either by moving through several colours or directly and then the ultimate state is achieved, rubedo – redness, which reflects the highest quality.

The Swiss founder of depth psychology C.G. Jung interpreted this from a psychological point of view: In darkness, in the shadow lies the hidden potential for a new state of ‘I’, a rebirth. Then there is the state of albedo, when everything is in balance – and according to Jung an ideal state that must be filled with life, with blood – rubedo. He considered the white and red queen and king.

Furthermore Jung offers an extensive interpretation concerning the ‘transmutational’ relationship of therapist and patient that includes many more colors and states.

A conscious dealing with the colours is perhaps more beneficial than we imagine

The three colours apparently express certain states of change – and that offers an entirely new dimension to the fairy tale about Snow White and the reflection of the initiatory steps into the cult of the love goddess. There must have been a knowledge at that time we have lost – except for the alchemists. But subconsciously it accompanied us through the millennia. For to this day this combination of black, white and red has a very special effect on us whether we are aware of it or not.

This raises the question if our relationship to the truths of life would shift if we aligned our perception with the ‘higher reality’ or metaphysical perception of Michael Roads. Then black is the state of stagnation and a high degree of order – black clothing would then not really be conducive to mental and emotional flexibility, even though many artists and intellectuals traditionally like wearing black…and black lingerie is considered particularly sexy. (However there are studies that prove that white underwear is far more beneficial to health).

Furthermore it is even more understandable why doctors and healers like wearing white. Besides the immediate meaning of purity and the symbolic promise of ‘doing good ’ and being a positive authority they should be in balance in order to help their patients to regain theirs. And red finally is the colour of (sometimes necessary) destruction that also allows for movement and growth – and change, whether it´s welcome or not…

As usual it´s a question of measure and the real art is the eternal dynamic dance of the three: black as the colour of order, red as the colour of chaos that enables movement and white as the ideal meeting point/space to set free the highest potential… Isn´t that what we all strive for?