The eleven color properties

Even the extreme and seamless unity that I call inner light still has a structural origin. It is not just a feeling. It is a feeling which arises as life occurs and which is still linked to structure. Thus, the feeling we experience is not an isolated feeling, or a subjective feeling of color. It is the feeling experience of the I, direct experience of that objective structural reality.

The inner light is directly linked to the field of centers. Each color exists as a center and becomes more intense as a result of its intensification by the other centers. At the same time, the whole also becomes more intense, more alive, more unified, through the action of the field. So, like the centers we have examined in other contexts, the centers of color come to life by a bootstrap process in which they work on each other and bring life to one another.

Stated more precisely, subdued brilliance and inner light only occur when certain definite things are happening in the color field. These “things” — and I have identified eleven of them — are very similar to the fifteen geometric properties described in Book 1.

  1. [[ Hierarchy of colors (levels of scale) ]]
  2. [[ Colors create light together (positive space, alternating repetition) ]]
  3. [[ Contrast of dark and light (contrast) ]]
  4. [[ Mutual embedding (deep interlock and ambiguity) ]]
  5. [[ Boundaries and hairlines (boundaries) ]]
  6. [[ Sequence of linked color pairs (gradients and the void) ]]
  7. [[ Families of color (echoes) ]]
  8. [[ Color variation (roughness) ]]
  9. [[ Intensity and clarity of individual colors (strong centers, good shape) ]]
  10. [[ Subdued brilliance (inner calm and not-separateness) ]]
  11. [[ Color depends on geometry (string centers, local symmetries) ]]

As stated, these eleven color properties are similar — though not identical — to the fifteen ways that centers give each other life. In my work with color, I classify them a little differently, and list only the eleven properties that I have identified and found most useful. It is odd that there are eleven, not fifteen, and that the correspondence is not exact. I do not know the reason for it. But I have examined these properties, carefully, for many years, and no matter how hard I try to fit them to the mold of the fifteen, still, obstinately, at least as I have observed them, they remain eleven. They are, I think, the ways that centers of color create and intensify life in one another. And, insofar as the phenomenon of inner light is a direct vision of the I, perhaps they are as close as we may ever come to seeing the ground directly. These properties may even be considered qualities of the ground itself, qualities of the I which is behind all things and all appearance.

What we find out, as we try to create light, and as we work step by step to create inner light in a painting or a building, is that there are no alternatives: we have to use these ways of helping color centers to bring life to each other. In these ways, whatever we do intuitively to make light happen, we find these eleven color properties coming, of necessity, into our work where we are trying to induce the inner light. In the great works of color, by the greatest painters, as in nature, we find these eleven properties again and again. In my experience, these eleven provide the structural backbone of all color unity, of all inner light.

(Pages 173-174)

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