Inner light is the color quality which arises as something comes to life, and as it approaches and reveals the I.
In the case of color — and of things which have color — the quality I call wholeness or life elsewhere in these four books is experienced as light. Actually this light is an inner light — a light which is mental and emotional as well as physical — a quality which makes us feel the same as we feel when in the presence of physical light, but more subtle, something which is in the inner substance of a thing.
This light, or inner light, is a form of wholeness which teaches us profoundly. It teaches me to recognize the feeling of wholeness, as it occurs in me. Once I grasp it as light — experienced in the realm of color — I can then recognize it in other things and then, ultimately, apply it to my own work of building as it evolves. Thus, color and light, show me, by example, what the real feeling-unity is like as an experience. It is not until I get this experience, and focus on it clearly as a mental state, that I am able to reproduce it in me, and then use it as a criterion for my work.
By learning to see inner light, we move towards a new understanding of wholeness. As we have seen, the geometric properties play a special role in the creation of inner light. What we have seen, too, is the way that individual geometric properties, geometrically local, have a pervasive effect on the field of vision as a whole. Thus it is the inner light, the connection with the “I”, not merely the geometrical structure, which is affected by the presence of the geometric properties.
The color in nature almost always has inner light. In things made by human beings it is rather more rare and happens, chiefly, when it is made in some almost visionary mode.
We find something even more profound than the geometric wholeness or living structure we have learned to identify. There is now a visible difference in the actual quality of color itself. Especially in the good cases […], the quality lies in the overall color as a whole. In the second group of colored things — the ones with more life — the color is a single thing, field-like, it is more pungent, more touching as a whole, it goes to the heart more strongly.
Whereas the wholeness of geometric things can be understood as a living structure (caused by the field of centers and by the fifteen properties) in the case of color, the life or wholeness comes in a single package. You cannot take it apart. When color is whole we experience the color as a single field, as pure, unbroken unity.
This is the quality which I call “inner light”.
In every case where it occurs, color which has inner light has a special kind of subdued brilliance. It is quiet, very quiet, yet bright at the same time. It is an overall single sensation, not a composition of colors, but a single overall color field — almost like a musical chord — which strikes simultaneously from all parts of the picture at once. It comes from the picture as a whole.
Even seeing inner light may need a little help. In our period (late 20th century, early 21st) it is not so easy to see this subdued brilliance, because we are not used to it. To learn to see it, we must recognize that it is entirely different from the harsher, brighter color we have become used to. We have learned to enjoy bright colors. But we know too little about unitary color, an integrated field-like harmony in which a thing becomes truly one because the colors are perfectly in tune.
Wherever there is inner light we always see two phenomena simultaneously. On the one hand, the overall feeling of the color field is muted. It is not gaudy, or garish. It is calm, soft-toned, subdued. At the same time, the colors are usually quite intense and brilliant; they are not, themselves subdued, or muted, tones of gray with tints of colors.
The combination of these two methods is very surprising: 1) the use of brilliant colors to produce a muted whole or an overall unity so profound that nothing stands out, everything melts together, and yet the actual colors that are used are brilliant; or 2) the actual colors that are used are subdued, but everything together seems extremely brilliant.
On a bright spring day the world seems literally filled with color. Yet, objectively, even on a bright spring day, the colors are extremely pale and muted if we compare them with the paint colors we consider bright — primary red, primary yellow, primary blue. These primary colors which come out of tubes of paint are extremely crude, shouting and harsh compared with the colors we see in nature.
The brilliance, and the intensity of color, is not caused by the saturation of hue, by the crude massive use of primaries. It is caused by the interaction of the colors, by the way that many subtle colors interact to become brilliant and to give off light.