From the Calmness of Spirit to the Appetites of Soul
Yellow. Colours convey meaning. They can be a matter of life and death. Best to not drive through a red traffic light at a busy intersection. Best to not eat meat that has turned green. The colour of one’s skin or eyes can alert doctors to illness. And even God decided that a display of colours in the sky was the best way to make His presence and promise known after Noah finished sailing about. There is a dispute as to how many colours a human eye can differentiate. The general view is: at least a million. Yellow is the most visible.
After black and white, as the first two colours named in every language, red is the third colour acknowledged. Together, these three colours express and define functional consciousness. Yellow is the fourth colour to be named in anthropological studies on language. Some languages stop there. The ancient Greeks had no word for blue, even though the lived with sea and sky, and the Tsonga people, in the North East of South Africa, have no word for green, even though they live in variegated bushveld.
Yellow has a whole slew of quite contrary meanings. Yellow bellied cowards, Canaries inform on others, says mythology. Jealousy is referred to as yellow and the ‘yellow press’ means cheap and nasty. A yellow flag is the international sign for a dangerous disease. And then, spring flowers, gorse and broom, part of the botany of how language and letters came into being; sunlight, honey, lemons, and, of course, precious gold.
We are interested in something else. In Alchemy, the process of transforming consciousness starts with the black, the unconscious nigredo stage, moves to white reflective albedo, which leads to the red, the rubedo, the awakened gold and the elixir of life. At least that’s the way the story has been told for the past few hundred years. But in traditional texts going back thousands of years, there is another stage that, after the 16th century, alchemists, Rosicrucians and Jungians chose to ignore. Between the white and the red, is the citrinitas, the yellowing of silver into gold.
Why was this ignored? What does it mean? And why is it essential that we embrace the life-restoring fourth element, and restore it back into the otherwise sterile and heady three?
This PanTimes, we continue with the examination of the experience of feeling destitute, from last week’s talk. To understand why authentic suffering occurs after we have already committed ourselves to living soulfully, we will need to get close to the sulphurous stink of yellow.