UK publisher of esoteric thought and radical spirituality

Symbolic Colours

The three languages of colours, divine, consecrated, and profane, classify in Europe the three estates of society, the clergy, the nobles, and the people. The large glass windows of Christian churches, like the paintings of Egypt, have a double signification, the apparent and the hidden; the one is for the uninitiated, the other applies itself to the mystic creeds. The theocratic era lasted to the renaissance; at this epoch symbolic expression is extinct; the divine language of colours is forgotten, painting becomes an art and is no longer a science.

An extraordinary treatise on the hidden symbolism of colour.

Containing many references scarcely known today concerning both symbolism and ancient uses of colour, it presents the reader with a unique insight and understanding of another time, a time more concerned with spiritual verities than with the rewards of a life dedicated to materialism and sound-byte scholarship.

Portal’s work, utilised by Eliphas Levi in his studies of the Kabbalah, was translated by W.S. Inman, RIBA, a London based architect, active in the first half of the 19th century, for Mr. Weales Quarterly Papers on Architecture. It was later issued in 1845 as an edition of one hundred printed and bound copies. Inman recognised the importance of Portal’s book on colour symbolism and produced his translation for the benefit of the architects and artists who were working on the many churches being built or restored in the Gothic Revival style of the early Victorian period. Moreover, Portal also demonstrates throughout this extraordinary work a profound familiarity with the esoteric teachings discreetly transmitted from generation to generation in the schools of initiation that have existed in one form or another throughout the history of civilisation. It is also apparent that he is concerned neither with the scientific application nor with the philosophical understanding of colour, rather, it is clear that his primary concern is with the symbolism of colour employed by the learned of previous generations; about which he is evidently as well, or better informed, than any of his generation.

Portal has gathered together many historical references concerning the symbolism of colour and in doing so has preserved a unique insight and understanding of another time, a time more concerned with spiritual verities than with the rewards of a life dedicated to materialism. His is a voice that reminds us that we are not merely sons or daughters of monkeys but spiritual beings with a higher purpose and destiny than we currently realise, and if his objective in writing this book is to remind us of that fact, then he has been eminently successful, and his foresight and effort deserves our gratitude.

Born into a minor noble family from the Languedoc, the Baron Frederic de Portal could trace their ancestry back to the early medieval period. His ancestors were active during the wars of the Albigensian Crusade, although they seem to have opposed the French for local patriotic reasons rather than for their beliefs. But dissent did run in their blood and with the coming of the Reformation they embraced the Protestant faith, although after the collapse of the Huguenot cause some of the family fled to England. Frédéric’s branch, however, remained in South-Western France and, as a Jurist, historian and author; he became, perhaps, the most distinguished head of his family. He wrote one other book on symbolism, but it is for Des Couleurs Symboliques(1837) – which was utilised by Eliphas Lévi in his studies of the Kabbalah – that he is deservedly best known.

Excerpts
“Colours had the same signification amongst all nations of remotest antiquity; this conformity indicates a common origin, which extends to the earliest state of humanity, and develops its highest energies in the religion of Persia; the dualism of light and darkness presents, in effect, the two types of colours which become the symbols of two principles, benevolence and malevolence. The ancients admitted but two primitive colours, white and black, whence all others were derived; the divinities of Paganism were likewise emanations of the good and evil principle.” [p. 5]

“The three languages of colours, divine, consecrated, and profane, classify in Europe the three estates of society, the clergy, the nobles, and the people. The large glass windows of Christian churches, like the paintings of Egypt, have a double signification, the apparent and the hidden; the one is for the uninitiated, the other applies itself to the mystic creeds. The theocratic era lasted to the renaissance; at this epoch symbolic expression is extinct; the divine language of colours is forgotten, painting becomes an art and is no longer a science.” [p.15]

“According to symbolism, two principles produce all colour, light and darkness. Light is represented by white and darkness by black; but light does not exist but by fire, the symbol of which is red. Setting out from this basis, symbolism admits two primitive colours, red, and white. Black was considered as the negation of colours and attributed to the spirit of darkness; red is the symbol of divine love; white the symbol of divine wisdom. From these two attributes of God, love and wisdom, the creation of the universe emanates. Secondary colours represent different combinations of the two principles. Yellow emanates from red and white; it is the symbol of the revelation of the love and of the wisdom of God. Blue emanates likewise from red and white; it indicates divine wisdom manifested by life, by the Spirit or the breath of God [air, azure], it is the symbol of the Spirit of Truth. [John, xvi. 13.] Green is formed by the union of yellow and blue, it indicates the manifestation of love and wisdom in action; it was the symbol of charity, and of the regeneration of the soul by works.” [p. 19-20]

“Painters of the middle ages likewise attribute an infernal signification to red colour; numerous applications are extant in miniature and large church windows. Blazonry preserves its double signification. The gules, or red, in coats of arms, denotes in spiritual virtues, ardent love towards God and one’s neighbour; in mundane virtues, valour and energy; in vice, cruelty, wrath, murder, and carnage; of the four elements, fire; in the complexions of men, the choleric; in precious stones, the ruby. It represents the day of judgement, because it is believed that the world will be consumed by fire. Red, like white, was also a mortuary colour, and appears to have been equally consecrated to good and to evil, to the celestial as to the infernal deities.

The priests and priestesses of Eleusis pronounced their imprecations against Alcibiades upstanding and turning to the west, and shaking their purple robes. In sacrificing to the Eumenides, it was obligatory to wear robes of this colour. Wrought wool, tinted purple, ought likewise to be used in the sacrifices preparatory to the mysteries. The couches of the initiated, during the celebration of the festival of Ceres, were bound round by narrow fillets of the same colour. Homer gives to the dead the epithet, purpurea; and Artemidorus says that purple colour is assigned to death.

Those who have lived piously ought to live in Elysium, in fields enamelled with purple roses. The ancients strewed on the tombs flowers of purple and saffron. All these customs were allegorical, and related to the future life; for the initiated were considered as having passed through the state of death, whence arose the conformity of several ceremonies of initiation with those which were used in sepulchres and funereal sacrifices.” [p.74-75]

Symbolic Colours is without doubt an extraordinary book!

ISBN: 978-0-9558415-5-2
171 pages, 5 x b/w ills & diagrams
Price: £12.50
https://imagier.co.uk/product/symbolic-colours-by-baron-frederic-de-portal/?v=79cba1185463

[wp_social_sharing social_options=’facebook,twitter,googleplus’ twitter_username=’allan01202430′ facebook_text=’Share on Facebook’ twitter_text=’Share on Twitter’ googleplus_text=’Share on Google+’ icon_order=’f,t,g,l,p,x,r’ show_icons=’1′ before_button_text=” text_position=” social_image=”]

Share Post:

Stay Connected

More Updates

The Pilgrimage

The Rose Priory Dialogues was a new and interesting challenge for me, and I must say, whether it is judged