The Zodiac in Colour

1998, Beacon Centre

Bruno & Louise Huber were pioneers in the use of colour in astrology. This piece is an extract from Chapter 8 of their book Transformation: Astrology as a Spiritual Path.

The colour spectrum, when laid round the horoscope, gives a picture of personal development very simi­lar to that given by the theory of Age Progression; it also expresses the same life cycle idea. A rainbow spanning the sky may be viewed as a bridge, or heavenly gateway, symbolizing high spiritual advancement. The law of development – of evo­lution even – lies within it.

The rainbow is an impressive natural phenomenon. Most of us have gazed in wonder at this bright arch springing out of nothingness; and we are also familiar with the bands of concentric colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) pro­duced when a light source shines on a glass prism or on a drop of water. Now, the Age Point is comparable to a light source, and radiates like a sun from the central circle of the astrological chart. As it travels through the chart, it “lights up” the planets, signs and houses in many ways. These changes can be symbol­ized by colour, and this is why we work with colour in the chart.

Various attempts were made by astrologers to assign colours to zodiacal signs and planets, but not in connection with the spec­trum until Bruno Huber compared the colour circle with the course of life through the houses…

The Colour Spectrum

Colour spectrum

The spectrum… is the splitting of a beam of white light into various colours. This happens either through the refraction of light in a prism or thrugh diffraction. White sunlight is actually composed of bright colours – the spectral colours. A distinction is made between the three primary colours, red, yellow and blue, and the three secondary colours, orange, green and violet, plus all the inter­mediate shades, as well as the invisible infrared and ultraviolet. The latter lie just beyond the red and violet ends of the spec­trum respectively.

The spectrum can be explained scientifically… The light perceived by the human eye consists of the visible part of the spectrum with wavelengths varying from 4000 (violet) through to 7600 (red) Angstrom units. Since the spectrum is continuous it contains innumerable tints, not just what are popularly known as “the seven colours of the rainbow.” People with good vision can dis­tinguish between 2,000 and 10,000 shades of colour.

Astrological Colours

Colour circle mapped onto chart.

In the Figure a circle of the continuous spectrum is represented inside the zodiac and the houses… The spectrum has been curved round the zodiac in such a way that it begins and ends at 0° Aries (or the ascendant): The colour circle formed in this way can readily be compared with the path of life.

To make it conform to current theory, the spectrum has often been pulled out of shape (a crime perpetrated for a long time in the art world); the underlying assumption being that opposite colours in a colour wheel are bound to be “complementa­ries” giving white or black when mixed. This assumption is not founded in fact, because pure black is virtually non-existent; that is to say, by chopping the spectrum into equal sections, one is never going to obtain the ingredients of pure black. Nearly all mixtures reveal some hue or other, as we see for example in the browns or dark greys.

In our philosophical moments, we have an inveterate ten­dency to think in terms of black and white. The force of our logic compels us to see polar opposites as stark contrasts. This is a human fixation, and has nothing to do with the natural world where things are not simply black or white. On examin­ing the colour circle, we should let nature correct us and begin to allow our ideas to agree with reality.

The Three Primary Colours

The spectrum contains three primary colours that are recog­nized by physics. These are pure red, yellow, and indigo (or deep blue). These three primaries are very important: in the spectrum they blend with one another in varying proportions to give an infinity of intermediate shades. As indicated by the small inner arcs in our horoscope colour circle, red extends more than 180° (in fact for ca. 210°) from Aquarius through the beginning of Virgo, yellow extends even further and traverses eight signs from Taurus through Sagittarius (ca. 240°), and blue, which starts in the lemon-yellow region, extends from Scorpio through Pisces (ca. 150°)…

By the law of analogy, the three primary colours of the spectrum correspond to the three-part division of the horoscope described in [our book] LifeClock. This being so, we are in a position to evaluate the Age Progression colours qualitatively.

  • Red = 1st third = Houses 1-4. Colour of manifestation, purposeful, dynamic movement.
  • Yellow = 2nd third = Houses 5-8. Colour of contact, attitude, urge to make relationships.
  • Blue = 3rd third = Houses 9-12. Colour of retreat, self-orientation, peace, isolation.

Psychological Effect of Colours

The psychological effect of colours, or colour psychology, is a field that has already gathered a great deal of interesting data. The subjective meaning of colour was appreciated by Goethe many years ago; and he wrote at length against the rather matter-of-fact physics of Newton, who was the first to make a detailed scientific investigation of light and colour. Ostwald and Müller can be regarded as modern creators of the colour wheel, which still has an appreciable number of devotees in the art world and may be seen in the complementary colour wheels illustrated by Itten and Grob. Following the Pythagorean tradition, Kaiser linked colour with mathematical and musical studies, while the painter Kandinsky was enabled by his artistic sensitivity to produce one of the most psychologically valuable contributions to colour theory that have so far appeared. Finally, the psycholo­gist Lüscher developed a colour test that seems to be appreci­ated more by the public than by professionals. It is fairly well known that colours can affect people’s moods. For example, green has a calming influence, red rouses one to be active and enterprising, yellow imparts a sense of warmth and a desire to make contacts. Dull and faded colours easily lead to depression and melancholy. Lively colours help to make work a pleasure, but colours that are too glaring break concentration. Findings like these have been utilized to some extent by physicians and teachers, but most of all by industrial psychologists. For instance, a person whose favourite colour is yellow will not look at life in the same way as a person who prefers red or blue. Lovers of red are thrusting and egocentric, and often ruthless (1st third); lovers of yellow are intensely contact-oriented and therefore dependent on their environment (2nd third); lovers of blue are fairly passive, upward looking and spiritually minded. These are fundamentally different attitudes to life, and it might be a good idea to consider the effects of the three primary colours in more detail.

The Three Primary Colours

  • Red strives to develop and to spread beyond its natural bor­ders. It represents a love of life, the survival instinct common to us all even in childhood. This will is a primary urge, an inherent activity; and psychologically it is embodied in a dynamic restlessness that continually presses forward, although occasionally it amounts to nothing more than movement for movement’s sake.
  • Yellow is the chief colour in our solar system, because we have a yellow sun. It is the contact colour and is important to us as social beings. As a contact colour, yellow induces people to approach each other to give or ask favours; under its influence, they agree with one another, grow attached, and form alliances. In other words, relationships of all kinds are the province of yellow. Such relationships can be based on practi­cal considerations, or on personal affinity, as in erotic or pla­tonic friendships. Yellow can signify harmonious companion­ship with give and take, but also exploitation and endless demands. Yellow is our most important colour as it is the contact colour, and without contact human beings cannot live. “No man is an island,” and, after a while, seclusion becomes unpleasant and even unbearable. We are social animals and the urge signified by yellow is remarkably strong in us. The move toward community life, toward union with You, toward synthesis and oneness, is mysteriously connected with our yel­low sun.
  • Blue is diametrically opposed to red in quality. Whereas red – to some extent – binds us to the earth, blue lifts us from the earth and removes us from mundane existence. We feel some­thing of what space travellers must feel as they watch our planet vanish. As it recedes, so does everything gross and earthbound. We return to the self. Breaking free from the material, we enter another and spiritual dimension. So transcendental blue corre­sponds to retiringness: we want to be on our own, to be left in peace, to enjoy solitude, to distance ourselves from the world and the things of the world.

It seems that each one of us has “three people” inside him or her. The first simply desires to live (red), the second seeks encounters (yellow), and the third returns to itself (blue). How­ever, we must not forget the secondary colours, which have their own significance in Age Progression.

The Three Secondary Colours

These arise from the three primaries.

  • Orange = red and yellow. Penetra­tion, extroverted contact-making, erotic, aggressive.
  • Green = yellow and blue. Desire for protection, self-control, reserve.
  • Violet = blue and red. Transcen­dence, dreams, unreality, innocence.

These tints are a mixture of two primary colours… Many other tints in the spectrum arise through a propor­tioned mixture of two primaries…

The Colour Circle as a Life Clock

The experimental meaning of the colours follows their distribu­tion by the light spectrum through the house system. As we know, people in the same age group have much in common with regard to attitude towards life, basic interests, and problems; they are coloured the same, so to speak. On examining the colour circle, we observe an interesting correspondence between the qualities of the colours and the course of life through the twelve houses. Our sequence of experiences in terms of colour is very much the same as our sequence of experiences in terms of the movement of the Age Point through the house system.

Because, as the old adage says, the microcosm is like the macrocosm, the pattern of our lives must mimic that of the cosmos and of the spectrum. The zodiac belongs to the reality of the cosmos, the spectrum belongs to the reality of light, and the house system belongs to the reality of our lives. In the colour circle, these three realities are welded into a functional whole. We exist within this circle. We grow, mature and die in it; and our self expression is governed by its colour changes. In the course of life we pass from pure red through more and more yellowy reds, pure yellow, various greens, blue, violet and finally purple.

Beginning and End

In the colour circle, we have put the start of life at Aries in the zodiac and at the ascendant in the house system. On the purple edge of the visible spectrum, life starts with the AC, in dimness, before the dawn. The individual emerges from nothingness, from the invisible realm; and on the other side of the AC he or she comes to the end of the journey. Life and death meet one another here. Now, if we try to make the spectrum “bite its own tail,” we find that it does not quite manage it: there is a gap, an area of seeming nonex­istence, separating the beginning (red) from the end (violet). At the junction of the spectral red and violet arises the mixed colour purple, a colour that is not spectral. It is not seen when white light is refracted by a glass prism because the spectrum apparently peters out. In reality the blue end of the spectrum is continued by an ultraviolet band, and the red by a band of infrared, although neither band is visible to us. There is some­thing strangely significant about this, because the gap is like a gateway of incarnation through which the soul steps onto its life-path at red.

At the ascendant life begins, and red is at the beginning too. It signifies our will to live, to manifest ourselves, to succeed, to be someone. The power of self-manifestation and self-assertion lies in red, which persists through to the 5th house. In the 1st house, the self-motivated drive is expansive. Red is a highly active colour, especially when mixed with yellow – which makes it even more intense and dynamic.

Yellow, the contact colour, helps us to make contact with the You, also with whatever objects we encounter. Yellow stands at the You-point in the chart. As yellow comes more into the picture, there is a growing desire to press on in the yellow direction so as to find a You. When there is practically no yellow in the red, for example in the 2nd house, we are still more or less asocial, and refuse or hesitate to have anything to do with a You. Only at puberty does the longing for a You slowly make itself felt (3rd house). Probably we start thinking of ways and means of meeting a partner. Success has to wait until we are properly in the yellow phase. Then we enjoy ardent contact with the You – until the colour blue steals in to cool things off a little.

Blue begins in the 8th house, with the need to break free from mundane affairs in order to be ourselves once more. The blue sector gives us knowledge of what we are like when not shackled by the bonds and obligations of the lower houses; it bestows a freedom and independence that are uniquely an upper house experience. Blue characterizes the phase of with­drawal; perhaps that is why Goethe termed it spiritual. Although not entirely so, it does denote a certain aloofness from the duties and cares of everyday living (11th and 12th houses). It signifies retirement from the world and a turning toward the higher life. Blue is the colour of detachment, self-knowledge and individuation in a loftier context. It is inher­ently restful, and gives us an opportunity to identify with the greater Whole.

Pure blue symbolizes infinity. The night sky verges on pure blue, especially before it is quite dark. If we avoid the horizon when gazing into the night sky, this blue will put us into a mystical frame of mind; in some countries, the twi­light hour is also known as the blue hour (blaue Stunde, l’heure bleu).

Purple

… One of the most intriguing of the secondaries is the colour opposite yellow, namely purple. This colour is not contained in the visible spectrum, which becomes black at its red and violet ends; in fact the blackness contains infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Purple overlaps the ascendant, which symbolizes the start and close of life. There is an underlying logic in this.

The colour purple consists of a fifty-fifty mixture of red and blue. It is a special colour. Who wears purple? Ecclesiastical dignitaries, kings and emperors – in other words, those who are over everyone or who stand apart from everyone. A king is untouchable, beyond the reach of many things affecting ordi­nary mortals; so is a cardinal. Because ordinary human stan­dards do not apply to them, they dress in purple.

Purple and violet (corresponding to the 12th house) are associated with nothingness in colour psychology; violet in drawings or paintings has a zero function, showing something nonexistent or so transparent as to be intangible. Purple might be called an unreal colour, it is not in the spectrum. A more understandable effect of purple is illusion. In the drawings of the mentally ill this colour occurs quite frequently, because these people exist in an illusory and non-existent world. Colour psy­chology regards purple as indicating an unreal state of mind in which the person concerned lives with at least part of his or her being somewhere that is “not of this world,” in a fantasy world. When we find a planet at the zero point of the zodiac (0° Aries), the planet has something of this quality; what it repre­sents is not fully incarnated; part remains “on the other side.”

Spectrum image from Wikimedia Commons, by Phrood
Rainbow picture is over the valley at Conques