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The Healing Power of Colour

by Ann Lloyd(more info)

listed in colour therapy, originally published in issue 12 - May 1996

The History of Colour Therapy

Man could not but have been aware of colour from his very outset. It was around him everywhere. Everything in nature was coloured. These colours were not random: they repeated themselves, and clearly had significance. Furthermore, he could see that the light of the sun was responsible for colour in the life-forms around him, and for filling the sky with colour in the form of the rainbow.

He began to use colours to symbolise the patterns and functions of his life.  The elements – earth, air, metal, fire, wood, water – had their colours, as did the directions – north, east, south, west (and, for some, the centre), and the temperaments - hot, dry, cold and damp. Early in his evolution man realised that the world was powered by unseen forces – the gods and spirits of the Earth, and the powers that invigorated the elements and the distant stars and planets – and that they, too, had their colours. It would not have taken an enormous thought-leap to conclude that colour was having a profound effect on his life, and that his health and well-being were strongly colour-related.

In Ancient Times

Early Mankind was very preoccupied with deities; everything, it was believed, was the work of the gods – or else of evil spirits.  The connection of colour with health was thus much concerned with pleasing or appeasing the gods through, for instance, wearing coloured amulets or the use of colour in ceremonies. (The colours worn by shamans and witch-doctors today play an important role in their work.)

In his early observations on colour and health, Man noticed that various diseases were associated with particular colours, and instinctively determined which was the colour needed to heal the disease.  Plants, flowers and minerals of the chosen colour were put to use; for instance, poxes, fevers and bleeding were treated with red; jaundice with yellow. 

The great Ancient Civilisations – of Egypt, China, Persia, Greece, Rome, etc. – began to formulate and document their philosophies of science and healing, although these philosophies, too, were largely ‘ordained’ by the gods.  Archaeologists have discovered that certain Egyptian temples, and also those in the Greek city of Heliopolis – the City of the Sun – were constructed so that, as the sunlight entered the building, its rays split into the colours of the spectrum, and individual colours were ‘conducted’ into different rooms. Individuals could then sit or lie in the relevant room and bathe in the colour that their state of health required.

Egyptian healers, furthermore, recommended the wearing of colour to assist with physical and mental diseases, and prescribed water that had been solarised with colour. Solarisation (transmitting colour – e.g. through coloured glass – to water by means of sunlight) was a practice found in many parts of the ancient world: China, India, South America, etc. The use of gems and crystals as a mode of healing with pure colour hues was also in use thousands of years ago.

In addition to all their discoveries based on their rapport with nature and their mystical commune with the gods, these Ancient Civilisations produced the first men of medicine. According to mystic tradition, the father of alchemy was Hermes, an Egyptian who was believed to be both mortal and divine, and who was equally renowned in Greece and Rome.  His ‘teachings’ later found their way to Islam and to the early Christians. Colour, particularly black, white, gold and red, and herbs were vital to alchemy’s transformation of minerals and herbs into divine medicines that could cure the ailments (physical and spiritual) of Mankind.

Early Colour Sages

Hippocrates (460?-370BC) was the father of the modern medical diagnostic technique; nevertheless, his writings clearly show that he believed colour to be the bridge between Man’s inner and outer worlds, and between Man’s Spirit and the Divine Spirit.  Aurelius Celsius (AD 14?), a physician and medical writer, based his medicines on the flower-colours of the plants he used, and he also experimented with the effects of different-coloured plasters on wounds. 

The Middle Ages produced the Arabian Avicenna (980-1037). He wrote a famous Canon of Medicine which made constant references to colour. For Paracelsus (1493-1541), colour and light were essential to life. Furthermore, he saw Man as more than just a physical being; he had an etheric body (which was also his glandular system), an astral body (connected with the nervous system), an ego (linked to the blood vessels) and a Higher Self.

The Dawn of Modern Enlightenment

Particularly notable in the 19th century was Dr Edwin Babbitt, who astounded the medical world with his Principles of Light and Colour. Babbitt explored in detail the different colours and their effects on people. Babbitt developed the Termolume, a colour-filled cabinet in which a person could sit for treatments, and a device called the Chromo Disk which resembled a person in outline and size, and which was fitted with a number of coloured filters whereby coloured light could be directed to different parts of the body. He also revived the ancient skills of ‘solar (solarised) tinctures’.

The philosopher and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe produced, in 1840, Farbenlehre, a definitive work on colour and how it affects our lives and actions through our feelings.

Work with ultraviolet light was developed by Niels Finsen, a Dane who, among other ‘firsts’, established a light institute for the treatment of tuberculosis, and who, in 1893, was awarded a Nobel Prize for his successful treatment of tuberculosis of the skin. The discovery of X-rays followed shortly afterwards (in 1895), which proved that light (and therefore colour) could fully permeate the body.

Colour Moves into the 20th Century

The turn of the 20th century saw the flowering of a new crop of great light/colour pioneers Dinsah P Ghadiali (born 1873, and always known as Dinsah) moved to America from India in 1908. He had an impressive background in chemistry, physics, mathematics and the study of electricity. He was very profoundly influenced by Babbitt’s work and went on to put years of research into developing his own healing system, which he called Spectro-Chrome.  Dinsah’s experiments showed him that colours could penetrate all the cells and glands of the body, and that it activated and revitalised the body’s immune system, thereby enabling it to heal itself.

Dr Harry Riley Spitler, a physician, was also impressed by the work of Babbitt,  but his interest lay in how the brain reacted to colour, and how these reactions affected the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine glands. After conducting years of experiments, he developed (1927-30) Syntonics, a therapeutic tool which applied light therapy by way of the eyes. He believed that the eyes were the most rapid means of reaching the brain, and that this was the quickest way of accessing a person’s whole body, bringing it into balance – and, at the same time, improving the eyesight. Spitler was, to his thinking, using colour indirectly, for, although he used colour filters, he was concerned with the power factor of the filter – its frequency, rather than its colour ‘name’.

Rudolph Steiner, a philosopher and educationalist, amplified Goethe’s theories of colour’s effects on humans – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Steiner believed that people are composed of numerous inter-relationships; between their different constituents (the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the ego), between their various systems (nerve-sense, rhythmic and metabolic) and between themselves and nature. Steiner taught that these relationships could be kept in balance through music, colour and rhythm. The expression of these life-enhancing forces figured prominently in his educational work and his system of anthroposophical  medicine.

The Human Energy Field

The concept of the aura and the chakras has been inherited from India where it forms an integral part of the Hindu religion. This has taught us that human beings have an energy field – or aura – that extends far beyond the physical body.  It spans out in a series of layers. These layers deal with our physical energy, and also our emotional, mental and spiritual energy. The body itself has various energy centres, or chakras, within it. These relate to different parts of the physical body, and also to the different layers of the aura.

This belief system shows us that there is no dichotomy of mind, body and soul; they are all part of the one totality of Man’s being, and the linking energy force between every part of ourselves, and between ourselves and the Universal whole, is the life-force energy variously described as prana, chi, orgone etc. This is a vibratory frequency. It is from the visible spectrum – light – of this cosmic energy field that Man (and indeed, every life form) draws his sustenance. In other words, Man is an embodiment of light – and the colours of which light is composed.

When each of the person’s chakras is ‘running’ smoothly and spinning at its appropriate rate, then that person is in a true state of balance and harmony. The chakras also correlate with the sites of the major endocrine glands. Furthermore, they correspond to various parts of the body, to particular states of consciousness, to the different layers of the aura, and to particular colour vibrations. When the relevant colour vibration is applied to the relevant ‘chakra band’ of the body it will assist in rectifying any physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances that are connected to that energy centre.

Feeling ‘Off Colour’

We are all aware of the language of colour, to some extent.  We know, for instance, that if someone is ‘seeing red’ they are angry.  Red is the colour of energy; of activity, excitement, passion. But every aspect of life has its downside – its negative polarity – and red can swing into anger, frustration and aggression. It is also a splendid re-energising colour for the body, improving circulation and activating all underactive bodily systems and functions. We also speak of ‘feeling blue’. Blue is a wonderfully calming and soothing colour – the colour of peace. It is very helping for soothing mind and body; it can help relieve inflammations, burns, headaches, sore throats – and many other kinds of pain. However, if a person gets too ‘blue’, it can mean that they have become too passive, too apathetic and too introverted – all of which can lead to depression.

Colour Therapies

Rebalancing through colour can be achieved in a variety of ways. Some colour healers work with light, using lamps and colour filters. The patient is exposed to the relevant coloured ray for a certain period of time, alternating with the administration of the ‘complementary’ colour.

Another effective way of administering colour light is to affix coloured filters to torches, and shine these colours on relevant acupuncture points. However, this method follows the Chinese system of colour rather than the Hindu system (although there are many subtle correlations).

Some healers work ‘mentally’ visualising the colours they wish to use, and transmitting them to the patient. This can be done both when they are with the patient and as absent healing.

Many therapies with other names are nevertheless working with colour. Much of the healing power of gems and crystals is described in terms of colour, and the properties of aromatherapy oils, flower remedies and herbal treatments also reflect the colours of the plants they were created from.

Aura-Soma Colour Therapy

The colour therapy with which I mostly work – Aura-Soma – combines many energies of other therapies. It was ‘received’ in 1984 by Vicky Wall, a chiropodist with extensive training in pharmacology, shortly after she lost her sight. In a guided meditation she was instructed to create bottles of beautiful jewel-like colours. Each of the bottles contain two fractions: the top half of the bottle contains essential oils, and these sit on a mixture of herbal extracts in spring water. Both halves contain crystal energies.  When the bottle is shaken, these liquids mix to form an emulsion which is applied to the skin so that the colours (and the plant and mineral energies) flow into the body and through to the relevant chakra.

Vicky Wall described Aura-Soma as a ‘non-intrusive, self-selective  soul therapy’.  The client/patient chooses their own four bottles (from a current range of over 90).  their choice reflects back to them their own deep inner understanding of their soul path, mission and purpose, and the challenges and obstacles they have chosen for themselves to learn from in this lifetime. In this way, the choice of bottles indicate the colours/oils that will be most helpful in alleviating any symptoms. Far more important, however, is the insight they provide for the client as to why that physical symptom or emotional problem is appearing in their lives, and how they can come to reach the point where they no longer need it.

Colour in our Lives  

Aura-Soma is also a marvellous teaching tool. By assisting with the interpretation of a person’s choice of four dual-coloured bottles, the therapist is helping the client to empower themselves by reconnecting with the language of colour. In this way, people can see that colour is a healing tool which is freely available to them at every moment of every day.

We can wear colour, eat and drink colour, breathe colour, meditate on it and surround ourselves with it in our homes.  We can become fully aware of what colours we are (we all have our own particular colour rhythm, our colour ‘fingerprint’), and what colours we need.

Society is beginning to understand much more consciously colour’s enormous influence. Advertising and marketing already make extensive use of it, but the ‘establishment’ is now beginning to realise that, for example, the colour of the walls in schools, prisons and hospitals is important.  Every minute of every day, colour is having an effect. We can choose to make that effect one of positive health.

Some examples of work with Aura-Soma

An Aura-Soma consultation involves looking at all the implications of a client’s choice of four bottles, so the examples presented here are necessarily simplified.

1. Sonia’s main reason for seeking help was that a painful life-pattern was repeating itself: a relationship that seemed to have begun well has quickly run out of steam.  The bottle that concerns the challenges she has set for herself is B3; Green over Blue.  This is the bottle for balancing the heart chakra. We discover that her pattern is to try so hard to please that she (and her partner) lose sight of who she is. She applied the oil daily around her chest and noticed that she was beginning to express (blue – the throat/communication chakra) her feelings (green – the heart/feelings centre) far more firmly and clearly. At the same time, she found that her recurrent chest infection (very symbolic of her blocked feelings) also cleared.

2. Gillian arrived looking very stressed.  The bottle that revealed the obstacles she had created for herself was B5: Yellow over Red. A normally very funny person, (the orange of the mixed up red and yellow), all her humour had deserted her. She was anxious (yellow) about everything: her job, her abilities, her mortgage (red relates to survival issues). Nothing she did seemed to make any difference (red can also be about stuck patterns). On top of this she was having very heavy periods and a lot of pain around her coccyx (both symptoms of the body’s red zone). She took away bottle B5 to use. This is Aura-Soma’s Base Chakra bottle; it combines the red energy of the Root Chakra with the wisdom (yellow) to use that energy well. 
She found that she kept ‘forgetting’ things that she usually worried about, that many things were beginning to shift, that the spine and period pains were lessening – and that she could once again see the absurdity of life.

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About Ann Lloyd

Ann Lloyd is a fully trained Aura-Soma practitioner and teacher of the Aura-Soma training programme. She is a registered healer, and also writes books and articles on subjects as diverse as cinema, stress and sound. She is based in Hampstead in London.

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