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4. White

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The true shade of white is opaque, like snow or clouds. You can see no depth nor distance within it. White is the colour which reflects maximum amounts of light and absorbs least. There is no colour with a greater ability to reflect. The light reflected from white surfaces is still almost complete in its numerical light value. Thus it retains a high and undiluted vibrational pattern. It has often been said that white contains the potential for all colours. Remember it was white light which was split into the spectrum colours by Einstein. Certainly if you train more than two colour spotlights into the same place, the colour you see is closer to white than to the colour of any of the spotlights individually.

White produces responses within us related to the purity principle. You will see in the section about Traditions Associated to White, most subjects mentioned are connected to innocence, virginity, cleansing and spirituality. We regard white as an emblem of perfection - the unblemished countenance; the spotless record. We say ‘as pure as the driven snow’ (white and unmarked); ‘whiter than white’ (more perfect than perfect) and so on.

However, there is a certain vulnerability in this colour as well - as if we feel that in being perfect one must also become less well-defended. We use a white flag to surrender, for instance. If some-one is unusually pale we say they are as white as a sheet. So, implicit in the concept of white, is this idea that in order to be innocent and pure, we must also be vulnerable.

In fact, the evidence tends to suggest that an overload of white can be detrimental to the personality, even in those who are fit and well. The coldly clinical aspects of the colour, created by its high vibration, tend to overwhelm and overtire even the most ebullient of personalities.

Psychologically, the colour tends to lift us away from everyday considerations, and into a more spiritual and unfettered area than that to which we are accustomed. Think about the feelings you get when you are the first person to walk across smooth untrodden snow. Even in very familiar surroundings, this simple exercise can take on the dimension of major exploration, a sense of breaking new ground, forging into new territory. There’s something exciting, thrilling even, about this activity.

We tend to feel cleansed and fresh when viewing or wearing white. Because of its high reflectivity, there can often be a certain radiance surrounding a person who wears the colour. Keep your eyes open for somebody around you wearing all-white, particularly on a bright day. You’ll see what I mean. This emanation adds to the other-worldliness of its effect. I cannot help wondering (somewhat cynically perhaps) whether it is for exactly this reason that so many apparently mystical or religious individuals wear only white.

However, people who are exposed to large expanses of the colour for long periods can tend to become disassociated and impractical. Whilst there are certain spiritual vocations where such an effect may be desirable, this response is unlikely to be welcome in ordinary life.

Lighter and darker shades of white:

There are no darker shades of white. Anything which is off-white bears the hint of some other colour and has simply climbed to that colour’s highest potential.

However there is a shade of white which we might associate with a lighter shade. This is like a scintillating radiation of colour. In fact, this shade is rarely seen in the material world, but is reported often in artistic and spiritual accounts of that world which lies just behind this one.

The colour is usually described as a shimmering radiance, usually moving and shifting slightly when observed, and seeming to emanate from within itself somehow. It is most regularly reported by psychics when they are in contact with higher beings or higher forces; those people who are not psychic might see it in dreams sometimes - always in that kind of dream which adds to the sum total of spiritual knowledge; we can see representations of it in the work of artists who try to convey the impression of haloes or glowing lights around certain types of sacred or holy beings.

Film-makers have tried to emulate the effect with blue-white light (the movie ‘Cocoon’ shows a good example of this). There is one specific natural phenomenon which comes close to the reports of the colour that we are trying to comprehend here - lightning, which is intensely white. Check this out for yourself next time you see a thunderstorm.

As you have already gathers, no doubt, this lighter shade of white is more of a light than a colour. When we are exposed to it, we are always stimulated, and often awe-struck. We become aware of the presence of some great power which exists only on the edges of our ordinary lives. This is an ephemeral and demanding influence, which opens out our psychic centres and our perceptions.

Traditional applications of white:

The colour of brides, associated here with the purity and innocence of virginity, and with the death to one kind of life and the birth of another; it is also the colour of mourning in Oriental and Indian cultures, where the soul of the deceased is considered to be striving towards purity and perfection; white is often used in baby garments, again introducing the concept of innocence; as already mentioned, white flags symbolise surrender, and an admission of vulnerability; white is often seen in hospital and laboratory environments, presumably because of its link with cleanliness - it is not a supportive colour to use around sick people however, because its vibratory rate is too fast and demanding for a damaged or diseased body.

Symbolic associations:

White is associated with several of the goddess archetypes - again probably because of the purity principle - and often used in association with other colours to indicate variations on a theme; the white feather of the Egyptian Goddess Maat is a symbol of truth and purity in the ancient ceremony of the judgement of the dead - the heart of the deceased must weigh less than the feather dropped by the goddess onto the scales of judgement, or his soul must return to mortal life for further ‘improvement’.

Druid priests wore white for ceremonies to symbolise their thorough preparation and commitment; priests whose job it was to sacrifice for the gods also wore white.

In Christianity, white is worn at all sacramental devotions including baptism, confirmation, first communion, etc. in which the devotee commends his/her soul to God.

In the initiation rites of the Roman god Mithras the candidate was required to bathe in the blood of a white bull before he could be accepted.

The Jewish faith sees white as the epitome of creation - the crown or essential summit.

Buddhism equates white with the highest point as well, by associating it with the White Tara, the peak of perfected womanhood, the mother of Buddha.

In alchemy, white is the symbol of all feminine principle, particular as a white swan.

The American Indian regards the colour as a representation of light and illumination, and certain tribes painted their bodies with white mud, then bathed in local streams to cleanse themselves before battle or before major ceremonies.

White roses symbolise peace (and are sacred to the Egyptian goddess Isis as are white lilies), snowdrops are seen as the first light of Spring, and again white lilies are traditionally associated with funerals - the death connection again.

White doves mean peace; white horses are sacred to goddesses - often virgin goddesses; unicorns are considered to be pure, innocent, wise and loving - and the myth says only a virgin can touch a unicorn; white swans are symbolic of spiritual purity.

White stones in Eastern amulets protect and ward off the evil eye, and bring blessings from the gods; moonstones are considered to increase psychic perception by putting the wearer in touch with lunar forces. White is associated with the Moon by many different cultures.

Romans placed white thorn branches over their doors to impale evil spirits who tried to enter.

Symbolic combinations of white with other colours:

Red with white symbolises death - the pure soul escaping from the physical effect of redness and life. You’ll find that often nurses will split up bunches of red and white flowers.

Red, black and white symbolise the alchemic stages of initiation - red for life as it is when the initiate enters the process; black for the symbolic death which must take place before the acolyte is accepted by the gods; white for the spiritual rebirth which then takes place.

White with green denotes joy and gaiety - purity of spirit with the earthy balance which green introduces, all things in harmony.

Black and white are opposites - contradictions - and are often used together to indicate perfect balance and harmony - as in the Oriental yin-yang symbol.

Uses and applications of white in the environment:

White is best applied with great respect in our living and working environments. A few years ago there was a great trend towards painting almost everything white This tends to imply sterility - cleanliness taken to extremes.

As a general environmental colour, white will tend to be over-stimulant in its effect, unless other colours are used with it. The trend towards hints of colour in white is much more beneficial, allowing far greater range of choice where you want lightness, without the demanding harshness of white alone. As we examine the other colours and shades, we shall be giving more detailed advice about the use of white in the environment.

As a general rule, if you feel you really need bright white in your living environment, break it up with other colours - if the room is an activity room use appropriate bright shades to contrast. If it is to be a restful room, use pastel shades. If you need to create a fairly formal impression, use darker shades (but exercise caution here). And remember, if you find yourself floating away, becoming uncertain or insecure, or having difficulty engaging properly with the practical aspects of your life, it may be that you are living with too much white in your environment.

In the workplace, white tends to be overused, particularly where cleanliness is a major issue. Whilst it creates a bright and sterile atmosphere, this can be extremely demanding when you are exposed to it for long periods. Try to break the colour up with the addition of appropriate complimenting colours if at all possible.

Uses and applications of white in clothing:

Remember that, by and large, clothing tends to affect the viewer more than the wearer. White clothing can be very effective when you want to achieve the dual impression of being approachable and, at the same time, untouchable. It tends to suggest a freshness and purity that will make you seem youthful, energetic, capable and yet reachable all at the same time.

If you have to wear white as part of your work, for instance, avoid making stark statements between the white and any other colour you wear at the same time. To give a coherent impression, you need to consider the overall impression that you want to make. For instance, are you a healer, or medical person? Mix white with pale blue or green. Are you working with food? White with strong pink, or green will stimulate appetite. Is it important to impress your viewer with your hygiene and cleanliness? White alone, or with touches of lemon or dark blue will also impress your competency. Do you need to give the impression of efficiency and accuracy? Mix white with golden yellow. Is this a sports outfit? Try light blue or, if competition is also important, orange or peach. If you tend to wear white a lot at work, or work in a predominantly white environment, try to compensate for this when at home. Don’t make too many strong contrasts - these will tend to confuse and disturb you. Try pastel shades to begin with, and then gently progress to stronger colours.


White is an enormously important influence for all of us. It is the closest possible representation we have of light. By that definition, it is sure that the white principle makes special demands upon us, which should be approached with healthy respect.

You have seen how often it is connected with the life/death/rebirth cycle, and perhaps now you can understand how white represents first principles. It is the clearest colour available to suggest perfection, and must be enjoyed as such. You might also have noticed how the purity principle is extremely important - white is like a symbol for informed innocence. Without purity of spirit, we stand no chance of reaching beyond the material and everyday world. However, like all great powers, white has its detrimental aspects, particularly if overused, and therefore must be carefully applied.

On to 5. Black

Back to 3. Concepts of Light and Colour

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