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6. Red

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Red is the single most dynamic colour in the spectrum. It imbues a sense of warmth, vitality and urgency. From this energy come all of our most immediate and basic feelings. It may be described as the colour of instinctive reaction. There is no room for thought, for reason, nor for rationalisation in the colour. Its major functions are to BE and to ACT. There is great depth of emotion, intensity, strength and rashness here.

We obviously equate red with fire, since we see it in flames and in glowing embers. Heat and its companion, warmth, are basic necessary comforts in our lives. Since these needs are both conveyed by red, we see it as a colour which is associated with basic necessities.

This association becomes even more obvious when we think of red as the colour of lifeblood. We have an automatic, immediate, response to anything which is coloured red, because we link it, in a subliminal fashion, to our own physical state. In fact, study of the vibration of the colour shows it to be quite dense as compared with the violet end of the spectrum. So on a vibrationery level red is most clearly associated with physical existence.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the colour is much in evidence at the physical and material end of the scale of human response. Red stimulates sexual energy and desire, generates energy where there is currently depletion, it motivates action, and is always dynamic in effect (for better or worse!)

Because of this influence, you will realise that red is a very immediate and urgent force, demanding attention at this very minute, brooking no delay at all. It can therefore lead to recklessness, lack of forethought, even erratic, angry and random behaviour.

It is red power which allows us to release adrenaline into our bloodstream when we are under sudden pressure; it enables us to react without thinking at moments of crisis; and it gives us the ability to experience the intensity of sensation available to inhabitants of a human body. Whenever we feel deeply, whether we are feeling pain or ecstasy, passion or fury, we are ‘being’ red.

It is also the colour of heroism - as you might well imagine. Most truly courageous acts are powered by the energy inherent in this colour. Red is often associated with war and battle, not only for its connection with blood, but also for the courage which is one of its finer points.

However, there is a distinctly negative side to the colour as well. Because of its association with the most instinctive of our passions, red motivates acts of anger, vengeance and lust. Violence is also usually coloured red. Large doses of the colour can irritate beyond measure, eventually leading to mental imbalance in particularly sensitive subjects. It is an extremely pervasive colour, always demanding to be noticed, often setting our alarm bells ringing and our hackles rising.

This is because it makes us deeply aware of our physical environment, centring our attention acutely on our immediate environment. For this precise reason, the colour is regularly used to draw attention to warning signs - roadsigns are ringed or edged in red in most countries these days; warnings labels and information are often printed in red - and so are final warnings on unpaid bills! Red immediately alerts us to impending danger or threat, activating our response mechanisms and preparing us to respond.

People with auric sight often report red flashes in the aura of an angry person, and we say we ‘see red’ when we’re angry. But we also send red roses to declare our ardent and passionate love for some-one, and we wear red, often with black, to signal our sexual interests.

So red is immediate, stimulating, and very much concerned with experience for experience’ sake. When we are red we are ardent, or angry, or aroused, or hot. Whatever we’re feeling, that feeling is the most important thing that is happening to us at that particular moment. There is no room for reason or caution. There is nothing save the experience.

Lighter shades of red:

From deepest rose through to palest pink we see the urgent red energy gradually modified by the innocence and purity of white. The closer you get to palest pink the more contained becomes the explosive pressure of the influence.

Rose pink is a rich and powerful neighbour to the red energy, invigorating and empowering in the same way that red does, but without the potentially dangerous elements of total urgency and ‘nowness’. There is pause for thought as soon as you move away from true red, which is a brilliant and commanding colour. Rose has begun to lift towards the totality of white; there is still warmth and power, but with the lessening of the immediacy, irritability and rashness begin to fade too.

The paler shades of pink - salmon through to baby pink - are much concerned with the notion of romantic love. Here the immediate physical ardency of red has given way to a less sexual and more spiritual type of emotion. This is still effervescent and exciting, but somehow less concerned with the idea of personal gratification, and more concerned with development and steady growth.

However it must be said that too much pale pink can produce a tendency to live in a romantic dream world, which has very little to do with the realities of everyday life. Whilst red allows for the automatic operation of the Will, pink can disseminate effective and decisive action into dreams that will never be realised.

In the same way that red stimulates energy levels, pink builds into the system basic strength and stamina. It can bring re-assurance where before there was uncertainty, and it can help to lift depressed individuals out of their own personal darkness and up toward light. So next time you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, go rooting through your wardrobe for something richly pink. Not only will it lift your spirits but it will invite open friendly contact with others.

Rose pink has a special function in human development and perception, in that it enables us to clarify our experiences and assimilate them into a through and comprehensive understanding of the patterns in our own behaviour. Because the white element modifies the immediacy of red energy, it becomes possible to stand back and view feelings somewhat more objectively, without losing touch with ourselves.

In this way it becomes possible to achieve a balanced and compassionate viewpoint not only of our own behaviour, but of the behaviour of others, as well. Rose-pink is the ‘higher analogue’ of red energy, that is, it is the true colour with a strong dose of evolution thrown in!

Of course, rose-pink has lost little of red’s ardency, so it maintains the gregarious and sharing nature of red. Rose accentuates the need to be with people, and the will to establish common ground by which to better understand. In this way, almost by accident, rose becomes a teacher of all who are influenced by it.

A dedicated study of this particular colour, and its effects upon your personality will yield rewards in terms of your expansive attitude toward other people, your sense of unity and togetherness, and your effective assessment of shared experience. Rose leads to a more generalised view of yourself as an integral part of the Universe, then helps you to find ways of expressing what you have learned in a fashion both accessible and easy to understand. It is a colour to encourage creative pursuits, and exploration of self and others.

So rose pink contains a vital ingredient to human development, particularly if you feel the need to work with other people. This colour enables our team-spirit, developing our ability to share personal, professional and philosophical experience with others, thereby harnessing vibrant red energy into a rather more manageable animal.

However, you must not forget that pink in excess can lead to disassociation, and that it must be evenly balanced by other colours, so as to level out the influences around you.

Darker Shades of Red:

This range of tones covers the whole group of colours from scarlet to deepest maroon. The lightest shades of the group are stimulating, strong and rich - crimson can be a useful colour with which to create the impression of warmth and wealth. As the shades darken, so the immediate demands of true red are overlaid by the impression of material opulence, regality and plushness. Instead of red’s ‘doing’ influence, we seem now to be experiencing the results of ‘having’ and ‘having done successfully’.

These colours are regularly used in association with royalty, regality and traditional states of grandeur. We find them in banks, in grand function rooms, in majestic furnishings and so on. Red velvet almost automatically invokes thoughts of richness.

There is coherence to this slight shift of emphasis. Red is about physical life, whilst its darker tones concern themselves with material life - an off-shoot of the physical. One reason for materiality is that we are here, and we want to be comfortable!

So the darker reds are more concerned with the recognition of materiality, and most particularly with material rewards, than are its true cousins. We associate with these shades established wealth, security and riches.

We must therefore regard these deeper tones as the true shade moderated (and perhaps dampened) by experience. It should, however, be noted that darker reds have few directly spiritual links. In these tones we see direct relation to material and physical life.

Traditional Applications of Red:

We have already mentioned some of these in the earlier text, but for ease of reference we will repeat them here. Red is used to edge warning signs, and to print final notices - both are warnings that action is required. The colour is also used for danger signals, and for most information signs which indicate hazards - again, action is required. ‘Stop’ signals at traffic lights are red, because we react to red like an order given. From phrases such as ‘red rag to a bull’ and ‘to see red’ we learn that rage is red (red-hot sometimes).

Red is also used to indicate blood, and sometimes bloodshed - poppies in the killing fields of Flanders, for instance, and Remembrance day silk poppies. This link to blood - and therefore life - leads us to red’s connection with passionate love, and sexuality (we make life via sex) - red roses declare intimate and powerful loving feelings; sexy underwear often has red incorporated into its design; and we explode into a shower of red hearts for Valentine’s Day - which is meant to be a day on which we celebrate love, and lovers. The lights outside houses of ‘ill-repute- were red (and still are in places like Holland) indicating the free-flow of sexual energies in such establishments.

In both Chinese and Indian cultures, red is a traditional colour for the bride’s clothes, and is used extensively in the decoration of a room in which a Chinese marriage is to take place.

Traditional Applications of Lighter Shades of red:

Pink roses indicate the presence of romantic (as against intimate sexual) love. The pattern follows through on the Valentine cards I mentioned earlier. In a way this particular use of pink seems to diminish it somewhat rather than engaging its own independent properties.

In the Western world baby girls used often to be dressed in pink, presumably to indicate their soft, domesticated natures, but this seems to be becoming less popular as time goes by - a triumph for equality perhaps?

Traditional Applications of Darker Shades of Red:

This colour denotes richness and opulence, and is often seen in buildings whose purpose is to pleasure, or to provide leadership and rulership - palaces, places of government, etc.

The colour commands a certain authority, particularly when you wear it, hence its regular use in robes of state, and of high office. It’s amazing how heightened this effect is when the fabric or material used is plush in itself - like velvet, for instance. Imagine, for instance, green velvet, and compare its effect against red velvet; you can probably see the ‘rich’ effect more strongly in the deep red.

Symbolic Associations:

Red denotes blood, war and death. Conversely, it also indicates life and vitality. Alchemically, the colour indicates the male principle. The Egyptian culture also identified red with the male principle, but interestingly enough, they also used the colour to indicate evil!

Oriental and Native American cultures associate red, along with yellow and orange, with the powers of fire, the sun and with all solar principles.

Quabbalistically, red corresponds with power, severity, discrimination and force - for better or worse. It is associated primarily with the Sephirah of Geburah, though (as is always true with this system) it has relevance to other spheres on different levels.

The Christian church associate the colour with martyrdom, suffering, religious zeal (which may, of course, lead to martyrdom) and the blood of Christ. Saint’s Days are marked out on Christian calendars in red, hence the saying ‘red-letter days’. Almost all of the candles burned before (but not on) Christian altars are either red, or in red containers, to mark Christ’s sacrifice for mankind. The notable exception here is the particular altar in a church which contains the Host - the candle burned here is usually blue, or in a blue container.

Both Greek and Roman cultures used red to indicate the male principle, and Roman gods were often painted with red faces to show their power, strength and virility. Specifically in the Roman culture there is a strong association with blood, and life and death again.

Hindu culture regards red as the active force again (though not necessarily, this time, a male force) and here red is equated with the power of creation.

The colour has been widely used by different cultures in connection with fertility rites, and rites of passage into adulthood. In our own culture a female’s menstrual blood was taken as a symbol of her womanhood, whilst many African and Native American painted both their young men and women to indicate the assumption of maturity.

Astrologically the colour is associated with Mars, the planet which brings activity, challenge, conflict, courage and often, sudden change.

Symbolic and Traditional Combinations:

Some of these have already been noted in the chapters on black and white.Red and white indicates death, or, from the Christian point of view, the Devil. Red and black are generally associated with sexuality.

Red, black and white are seen as the three stages of alchemic initiation - sometimes with the addition of green as a final stage. Red and yellow (or gold) are the traditional marital colours of Egypt, and this same combination is sometimes used by the Chinese to write charms against evil spirits, employing the forces of fire and wind.

Applications of red:

Red is a highly stimulating colour, and should therefore be used with moderation in home decor. Too much of the colour will tend to aggravate irritability and annoyance. It can also, in some circumstances induce exhaustion in vulnerable individuals. It can, however be used with great effect to highlight muted shades in areas where there is a fair amount of activity.

In small doses, and in combination with other, less demanding, colours it can be useful in living rooms and dens. It needs to be used with great caution in kitchens, since it stimulates activity without due caution, and can therefore lead to accidents. And too much red used in a dining area will tend to lead to bouts of indigestion. Though red induces feelings of hunger etc. there is an urgency to fulfil such needs that is not conducive to the digestive process. Perhaps now you understand why so many fast-food restaurants use red so copiously - the colour makes us hungry NOW!

Red can be used to good effect in the working environment, since it drives up physical energy levels. However, again here it is crucially important that it is only used in splashes, against more neutral backgrounds. Of course it should be avoided entirely wherever heavy or dangerous machinery is operated.

Red should never be the predominate colour in a decor design, because its stimulating qualities are very powerful and will eventually lead to problems.

In clothing red is very useful. Apart from its ability to communicate sexual messages from one person to another, it has an enlivening effect on those who wear it, and those who look at them.

Beware, though, the unpredictable reactions the colour will generate if it is viewed by somebody who is already tense. In this situation, it’s quite likely that red will tend to provoke angry responses. Wear red when you are fatigued, or needing large amounts of energy.

Avoid it when you expect confrontation (because it could well aggravate conflict in your viewer), when you are irritable yourself, or after illness - the red energy is too strong for a convalescing system, whether yours or somebody else’s.

As a special footnote, you might like to know that insurance company statistics, when proportionately adjusted, indicate that more red cars are involved in accidents than any other colour - it’s hard to know whether this is indicative of the type of driver who chooses a red car, or the effect that the colour of the car has on other drivers!

For clothing, red and white seems to move away from most of the doom-laden symbolic effect, becoming fresh and vital. Red and orange is rich and vibrant (though a touch stimulating). Red and green can work very well for making strong impact on a situation, because each colour has a clearly defined energy - and the green tends to still troubled nerves. Red and yellow are again, bright strong statements, giving a cheerful and happy overall impression, but being still quite demanding. Red with blue is surprisingly formal, particularly when the blue is a dark shade. Red with purple is striking and regal, but can also be quite intimidating.

Applications of lighter shades of red:

All shades of pink have a variety of uses in the home environment. Because of the gentle, yet stimulating flow of energy that is available from the deeper shades of pink, this tone can be used to good effect all over the house. The lighter tints tend to have a more ‘fluffy’ overall effect which is very helpful in some situations, but can tend to disassociate you entirely if used in excess.

Pinks are welcoming tones, great for entrance halls, or, in combination with other colours, in the living room. Bedrooms are also a good choice for pinks, particularly the more intense shades - especially when worked with deeper shades of red.

The working environment is a little more tricky. When we’re at work, we don’t want to encourage disassociation with reality, so pale pinks should be avoided here, unless carefully blended with colours which counteract the floaty effects. The only exception to this would be those environments which intend to remove their occupants from the outer environment - like hairdressers, places of entertainment, therapy areas, beauty parlours and so on. We do need to bear in mind, though, that whilst the client may want to drift away, it wouldn’t do for the hairdresser/therapist/beautician (or whoever) to do so. The only way to deal with this is to introduce counter-active colours in staff-only areas.

Much the same rule of thumb applies to the wearing of pink. Never forget that pink tends to emphasise the romantic elements of human nature. It conveys a sweet and somewhat lightweight image that could be perfect for a romantic interlude, but entirely unsupportive when applying for a job, or attempting to impress the bank manager.

Rose tones and deep pinks are good when mixed with pale grey, where grey’s neutrality earth’s pink’s floatiness. It also works well with black, where it conveys as sense of warmth, combined with mysterious strength. Pale pink and green suggests gentleness, balance and freshness - plus the special vibrancy of Spring blossoms. Pink and white is open and approachable (though strong pinks have a tendency to evoke thoughts of sticks of rock!). Pink and pale blue can be dangerously ‘fluffy’, and whilst peaceful and enjoyable, can also lead to disassociation or under-estimation. Pink and pale brown is soft, creative and earthy. Pink and golden yellow is warming and inspiring.

Applications of darker shades of red:

Darker shades of red are often applied in home decor, with plush, opulent results. If you like your home to be your palace, then use maroons and crimsons, preferably in rich fabrics, to suggest warmth, stability, security and an overall sense of well-being.

Workplaces which benefit most from this colour are those which are concerned with matters of finance, investment and material management. Places in which people expect to feel cosseted and celebrated also can make marked use of the colour.

Clothing in these darker tones conveys the same sense of wealthy confidence as do the furnishings. Crimson or maroon is a good colour to present to the bank manager (then he thinks you have the drive and successful nature to pay back the overdraft); however, use the colours subtly - a tie, or scarf, rather than a whole outfit. When using a large amount of the deep reds, off-set its effect with cream or beige.

Deep red and black is very dramatic, and quite mysterious. Deep red and white has reduced but still apparent connotations of the death/blood syndrome which need to be carefully considered. Deep red and purple is regal and commanding, but can tend to be quite off-putting for more reserved people. Deep red and brown can be earthy, and yet still quite rich and re-assuring. Deep red and green clash somewhat - the energies are probably too practically based. Maroon and grey conveys a sense of detached self-reliance, but can also come across as somewhat heavy. Dark red and gold can be either compelling or repulsive, depending on the shades chosen.

Summary:

Red is the colour of life-blood, of fire and of immediacy. It conveys energy, urgency, ardency - and all of the opposite emotions that those qualities suggest. I have heard red called a base colour. Whilst it does relate to the Base chakra, it is not base in the negative sense of the word. I hope you now regard it as one of the touchstones of human life. It is closely related to physical existence....as are we!!

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