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Colours of the Rainbow - 4 spiritual wisdom logo

The Rainbow Ladder

RED - 'OUTWARD GOOD' - this is the colour on the outermost edge of the curve of the rainbow, which, if it is projected onto the clouds below an aeroplane, can be seen as a complete circle. This is the colour with the lowest or outermost meaning - for the east, the colour belonging to the lowest chakra at the base of the spine. This colour relates to what is good and loved at the outward or world level as we first encounter it, to what is loved and desired for oneself. It has the sense of red-blooded vitality with definite sexual overtones - the red sports car, the red lipstick, the gift of red roses, the colours of the bloodstream of our natural physical form. Yet the energy represented by red on its won is wild, unruly and potentially destructive, as in the red of anger and frustrated desire when we say we "see red". This is the red of the battlefield and the bloody-minded, when my 'good' and your 'good' are opposed to one another.

ORANGE - 'MERCY' - Spiritual redness, common to us all, IS part of the rainbow BUT needs to be tempered with an awareness of the needs of others. This forms orange, the colour of hearth and home and the glow of a warm welcome, the colour of the clay that we could be in the Divine Potter's hands. The colour of mercy realises that my brother's or sister's need is as important as my own. This is the colour of compassion and concern, where I am not prepared to go ahead at the expense of someone else. This first rung of the spiritual ladder is a softening of the heart. The story of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus clearly shows this first fundamental, in a story set against the orange colours of the vast Judean desert between Jerusalem and Jericho. If we are to - 'inherit eternal life' - the question at issue when Jesus told this story, there will be mercy in our way of life, expressing the heart's concern for the wellbeing of others.

YELLOW - 'GRACE' - This cooler and brighter colour is of the mind, whereas orange is more of the heart. Swedenborg speaks of a 'sphere of grace' being a 'golden yellow'. Grace changes the way we think, bringing a life-giving sunshine quality to our thoughts. It is the quality in the mind that counsels and promotes kindliness, thawing out hard and brittle thinking, and lifts the mind to a higher viewpoint as though on a hilltop. If we are too proud to change, too arrogant to be wrong, our errors and mistakes, when discovered, will be shattering.  Yellow is the colour of humility. It is also the colour that we associate with the sun, which as the source of the earth's illumination is symbolic of the Divine, the source of the rays that illumine the soul. Swedenborg describes the divine presence of Christ in the realms of spirit as a 'Spiritual Sun'.

GREEN - 'LIFE' - the colour of the living planet, of growth and fruitfulness as opposed to mere existence. It is the colour on the borderline between morality (which we might sum up as a kind of enlightened self interest) and spirituality. For Yoga, green is the colour of the heart chakra, and in Swedenborg's teaching it is the colour representing 'Life', its quality being for him 'the heart' of both spiritual growth and genuine religion. The flowering of our spiritual potential depends upon the way we choose to clothe the aspirations of our souls in our actions, in the activity of daily life. Psalm 1 likens a person to a tree, just as Jesus was later to liken his church to a vine. The good person's 'leaf does not wither' - in other words he or she is evergreen; 'not so the wicked' - inwardly their souls shrivel up and wither away like chaff blown on the wind.

BLUE - 'TRUTH' - As mercy and grace become a way of life so there is an unfolding of the 'Truth' ... but of the heavens and not the earth, and sky and heaven are the same words in Hebrew. This blue kind of truth is as different from scientific truth as flying in a 'plane' is from being a pedestrian. Swedenborg speaks of this colour as "truth transparent from good", truth or wisdom revealed through the experience of life ... of the evergreen life of growing in spiritually directed service to others. This kind of truth often provokes laughter, both for joy and at ourselves at the same time ... What an idiot! But of course, it has got to be like that. Why couldn't I see it before! The truth of revelation comes from above and has the uplifting sense of everything 'coming together'.

INDIGO - 'WISDOM EXPRESSED AS MUTUAL CARE' - Swedenborg used the term 'charity' or 'spiritual charity'. It is the holistic ideal finding fulfilment with no distinction being made between the importance of what is mine and what is yours ... they are one because we are one. This powerful colour is close to the one that follows it in our perception, reaching to the limit of the rainbow. Where mutuality rules and personality serves, the unity of love is enriched and deepened. At this level contrast and variety enhance difference, and diversity is turned into usefulness and charity. An INVERSION OF VALUES has transformed the cause of conflict into the means of peace. For Swedenborg heaven is variety of service in unity of purpose; a state of being, not a place to be.

VIOLET - 'PEACE INNOCENCE and LOVE' - Both indigo and violet are of a regal qulaity and have links with the blues and purples of the Tabernacle or worship tent of the Ancient Israelites. Violet is peace: not just outwardly but inwardly. No doubt, fear, anxiety, - going beyond the absence of tension, trial and temptation to enter the states of peace innocence and love. This colour has links to innocence: a term we normally tend to apply to young children rather than aware adults. Jesus taught that unless we changed and became as little children the joys of heaven would be closed to us. If love that is attuned to the Divine Will rules in our heart and we are wise enough to be innocent of self-seeking then we can be at peace.


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