The Colour of Magic
When we think about colour, it feels natural to imagine it as just the representation of a particular wavelength of light, but then, on such a basis, ‘magenta’ turns out not to be a colour at all!
It does not have a wavelength and we can find no trace of it on the visible spectrum.
This ‘pinky-purple’ sensation is the brain’s way of making sense when assailed by the two visible extremes in tandem; Red, the lowest frequency together with blue, the highest. We bridge nature’s gap, bending the spectrum around so these two polarities can come together inside our brain. The line becomes a circle, like a snake biting its own tail.
In the tantric system the ‘crown chakra’ is ascribed the colour purple. It marks a liminal point. The threshold between the individual and the cosmos.
For the two ends to meet, the body must become a circuit; The ‘low’ meeting the ‘high’ and returning to reinvigorate the process.
The writer, Philip K Dick, had a strange encounter with an ‘information rich’, pink beam of light that he claims mesmerized him. He came to believe that the beam was intelligent and that it imparted wisdom and clairvoyance. This event heralded a phase of creative disturbance and strange hallucinations.
“I experienced an invasion of my mind by a transcendentally rational mind, as if I had been insane all my life and suddenly I had become sane,” Dick told Charles Platt.
He later incorporated this experience into his novel ‘VALIS’.
As part of the story, the main protagonist ‘Horselover Fat’, (The Greek ‘Philippos’ means ‘friend of horses’ and ‘Fat’ is the meaning of the German word ‘Dick’) also experiences this ‘pink beam’.
“God, he told us, had fired a beam of pink light directly at him, at his head, his eyes; Fat had been temporarily blinded and his head had ached for days. It was easy, he said, to describe the beam of pink light; it’s exactly what you get as a phosphene after-image when a flashbulb has gone off in your face. Fat was spiritually haunted by that colour. Sometimes it showed up on a TV screen. He lived for that light, that one particular colour.”
PKD later mused about ‘VALIS’ (Vast, Active, Living Intelligence System) in his ‘Exegesis’ :
He described VALIS as one node of an artificial satellite network originating from the star Sirius in the Canis Major constellation. According to Dick, the Earth satellite used “pink laser beams” to transfer information and project holograms on Earth and to facilitate communication between an extraterrestrial species and humanity. He claimed that VALIS used “disinhibiting stimuli” to communicate, using symbols to trigger recollection of intrinsic knowledge through the loss of amnesia, achieving gnosis.
Jimi Hendrix was an avid sci-fi reader. One of his favourite books was ‘Night of Light’ by Philip Jose Farmer. It is thought this was one of the main inspirations for his song ‘Purple Haze’.
The story is set on a distant world in orbit around a binary star and once every seven years it is bathed in a bizarre purplish radiance that rearranges physical reality. Most of the planet’s inhabitants choose to sleep for the entire two-week period of radiance, often using a special medicine to do so. Only mystics, newcomers, and devotees to the planet’s strange religion are willing to stay awake and endure the two weeks of brilliance, where things materialize out of thin air, people undergo unpredictable changes, and many actually die.
When Hendrix was asked how he wrote his songs, he responded, “I dream a lot and I put my dreams down as songs.”
The outline of ‘Night of light’ really resonates with a vivid dream I had as a 7 or 8 year old; One that I still remember now quite distinctly. I was playing in the back garden with a friend, when he suddenly told me I had to freeze and remain stock still. He told me that a mysterious satellite was about to begin its scan across the planet. I remember wondering to myself at the strangeness of not having heard of this before and concluding that it mustn’t happen very often. I realised we had to stay perfectly still or something terrible would happen. A weird shining object was travelling across the sky. (in relation to my childhood home it would have been moving North-West to West). In the dream, my mother, obviously unaware of the event, opened the door to call out to us. I watched as the ‘beam’ hit her. Her face aged and crusted over in an instant and then the dream ended.
In his autobiographical “Confessions”, Aleister Crowley wrote about a night he spent in the Great Pyramid.
“Looking about me, I saw that the King’s Chamber was glowing with a soft light which I immediately recognized as the astral light. I have been accustomed to describe the colour as ultra-violet, from its resemblance to those rays in the spectrum — — which I happen to be able to distinguish. The range varies, but it is quite noticeably beyond that visible to the normal human eye. The colour is not unlike that of an arc lamp; it is definitely less coloured than the light of a mercury lamp. If I had to affix a conventional label, I should probably say pale lilac. But the quality of the light is much more striking than the colour. Here the word phosphorescence occurs to the mind.”
The Brittish occultist Kenneth Grant based a lot of his magical workings on an area he called ‘the Mauve zone’
He saw it as the source of all human creativity, imagination, fascination, and obsession. In us, it is represented by a zone that exists between the dream state and deeper, dreamless sleep.
He imagined this to be a dangerous, double edged ‘place’. The source of artistic impulses and also contact with demonic forces.
He believed that too much focus on ‘the Mauve zone’, even when channelling creative forces can lead to instability and bring about disastrous consequences.