More on the spectrum of the will and its translumination by consciousness

One fruit of Goethe’s comparatively unknown scientific work was to develop a phenomenological colour-theory. Goethe’s colour-theory reveals the familiar 7-toned rainbow to be an emergent phenomenon following the marriage a “cool” spectrum with a “warm” one. This is easy to verify in practice provided one has access to a prism and a source of incident light. It can easily be observed that green, the bridge between chromatic warmth and coolness, only appears when the prism is arranged such that the edges of the two spectra are made to coincide. Both of these spectra are border phenomena in that light is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for their appearance. Instead, shadow is also necessary. Thus, both the warm and the cool spectra appear on the threshold at which light and shadow meet. Light crossing into shadow, or lightened darkness generates blue, indigo, and violet—the “cool” spectrum. Where shadow crosses into light, or light is darkened, the warm spectrum appears as yellow, orange, and red. Thus, the familiar rainbow is actually a synthesis of two different spectra in the form of a polarity: 3 +3 = 7. Green is the “+” in the above equation. It is the inflection point between cool and warm.

One way that Rudolf Steiner elaborated Goethe’s work on colour-theory was to show how the visible colour spectrum may be experienced as a ring, not only diagrammatically, but manifestly. Just as green appears where yellow meets blue, so an octavus quod joins red with violet. This connection is phenomenologically intuitive, since in the transition from indigo to violet, a clear element of the light spectrum can be felt to emerge from the deeps of blue. For lack of a better term, let us call this eighth tone “magenta.” 

I have presented this rough sketch of Goethe & Steiner’s colour-theory in order to explore what light it might shed on the evolution of the will, as it was outlined in an earlier inquiry. At that time, the electromagnetic theory of colour was employed as an analogy to show how the will develops through integration of consciousness into its function. The analogy also helped to disclose metamorphoses of will that might otherwise go unrecognised as such. These included “force” or “natural laws,” on the one hand, and “thinking,” or “ideation” on the other. The spectrum of the will’s evolution spans from instinct to resolution. Thus the 7-tones are as follows: instinct, drive, desire, motive, intention, wish, resolution. Given the insights of Goethe and Steiner, we can reorganise the 7 tones into two groups of three with a connecting link. Thus we may find instinct, drive, and desire on one hand and intention, wish, and resolution on the other. I will say a few words about each group and also their relation.

It may be noticed that the first group is an expression of the “darkened light” principle. Moving from instinct to drive to desire is analogous to the transformation of red to orange to yellow. It is an expression of light being less and less occulted by a turbid medium. The sequence of colours in the sunrise spells out this phenomenon. Analogously, consciousness gradually dawns in the will in the transition from instinct to drive to desire. Motive can be seen as the daybreak because it is at this stage that self-awareness first crests the will’s horizon. Just as green emerges from the union of the warm spectrum with the cool one, so motive represents the permeation of will with wakefulness. 

Whereas in the first group outlined above, consciousness is “dragged down” or “sunken” in will, in the second group, which corresponds to the “cool spectrum,” the will is “drawn up” into consciousness. Intention, wish, and resolution present increasing degrees of translumination of the will with wakefulness. A resolution, for example, represents an impulse for action whose origin is entirely conceptual or ideal. The deed is born from a resolution to perform it. It is something of an antipode to an instinct, which can be conceptually apprehended only after it has already occurred.

Now that we have briefly articulated some key tenets of the analogy above, a question remains as to whether the rainbow of the will can be reversed and bent into a crown. In other words, does the magenta of the Goethe-Steiner colour-theory appear somewhere in its will analogue. Let us again revisit the boundaries from the visible spectrum as it was conceived in the last exploration. On the yonder side of one threshold was placed mere force or laws of physics, which is to say, will without consciousness. Beyond the other boundary was to be found pure thought, or ideality without manifestation. Can these two domains be overlaid in a manner analogous to the way in which red and violet, the outer boundaries of the familiar rainbow when it is reversed into a halo, may join to produce magenta?

I believe they can. Magenta may represent perception, which is the necessary correlate to all acts of will. This is certain because no act of will would be possible without any knowledge of the context in which that act is to be performed. I will try to show how perception can be seen as the diametric counterpart of motive just as magenta stands in the same antipodal relation to green on colour-wheel. In will as motive, action and idea move as a piece. If action comes first, the will is operating as desire, drive, or instinct. If idea comes first, the will is operating as intention, wish, or resolution. Perception is the inverse of motive because the former describes the process of bringing together action and idea while the latter describes their process of their separation. Motive evolves into (1) an outer fact and (2) an inner understanding and memory of its reason. Perception represents the inverse of this process in that force (received via the senses) is conjoined with an idea that renders it intelligible. “Making salt,” it could be called, if physics is compared to sodium and ideality to chlorine. Returning to the 3 + 3 = 7 equation, it can now be “dynamized” such that its meaning depends on moving through it. Read from right to left, it symbolises the process of will, or the alchemical sulphur process. Interpreted from left to right, it describes the process of perception which is the alchemical salt process.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Charles says:

    Good writing. Are you familiar with Arthur Zajonc.


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