On the Plane of Self Consciousness IV
Much more modern than the birth of the intellect was that of the colour sense. We have the authority of Max Mueller for the statement that: " It is well known that the distinction of colour is of late date; that Xenophanes knew of three colours of the rainbow only-purple, red and yellow; that even Aristotle spoke of the tricolored rainbow; and that Democritus knew of no more than four colours- black, white, red and yellow."
Geiger points out that it can be proved by examination of language that as late in the life of the race as the time of the primitive Aryans, perhaps not more than fifteen or twenty thousand years ago, man was only conscious of, only perceived one colour. That is to say, he did not distinguish any difference in tint between the blue sky, the green trees and grass, the brown or gray earth, and the golden and purple clouds of sunrise and sunset. So Pictet finds no names of colours in primitive Indo European speech. And Max Mueller finds no Sanscrit root whose meanings has any reference to colour. At a later period, but still before the time of the oldest literary compositions now extant, the colour sense was so far developed beyond this primitive condition that red and black were recognized as distinct.
Still later, at the time when the bulk of the Reg Veda was composed, red, yellow and black were recognized as three seperate shades , but these three included all colours that man at that age was capable of appreciating. Still later white was added to the list and then green; but throughout the Rig Veda, the Zend Avesta, the Homeric poems and the Bible the colour of the sky is not once mentioned, therefore apparently, was not recognized.
For the omission can hardly be attributed to accident; the ten thousand lines of the Rig Veda are largely occupied with descriptions of the sky, and all its features-sun, moon, stars, clouds, lightning, sunrise and sunset-are mentioned hundreds of times. So also the Zend Avesta, to the writers of which light and fire, both terrestrial and heavenly, are sacred objects, could hardly have omitted by chance all mention of the blue sky. In the Bible the sky and heavens are mentioned more than four hundred and thirty times, and still no mention is made of the colour of the former.
In no part of the world is the blue of the sky more intense than in Greece and Asia Minor, where the Homeric poems were composed. It is possible to conceive that a poet 9or the poets) who saw this as we see it now could write the forty-eight long books of the Illiad and Odyssey and never once either mention or refer to it? But where is it possible to believe that all the poets of the Rig Veda, Zend Avesta, Iliad, Odyssey and Bible could have omitted the mention of the blue colour of the sky by mere accident, etymology would step in and assure us that four thousand years ago, or, perhaps three, blue was unknown, for at that time the subsequent name for blue were all merged in the names for black.
The English word blue and the German blau descend from a word that meant black. The Chinese hi-u-an, which now means sky-blue, formerly meant black. The word nil, which now in persian and Arabic means blue, is derived from the name Nile, that is, the black river, of which same word the Latin Niger is a form. It does not seem possible that at the time when men recognized only two colours, which they called red and black, these appeared for them as red and black appear to us-though just what the sensations were which they so named cannot of course be now ascertained.
Under the name red it seems they included with that colour white, yellow and all intermediate tints; while under the name black they seem to have included all shades of blue and green. As the sensations red and black came into existence by the division of an original unital colour sensation, so in the process of time these divided. First red divided into red-yellow, then that red into red-white. Black divided into black-green, then black again into black-blue, and during the last twenty-five hundred years these six (or rather these four-red, yellow, green blue) have split up into the enormous number of shades of colour which are now recognized and named. The annexed diagram shows at a glance the order i8n which the spectrum colours became visible to man.
It can be shown in an entirely independent manner that if the colour sense did come into existence as here supposed the successive order in which colours are said (following ancient documents and etymology) to have been recognized by man is actually the order in which they must have been recognized and the scientific facts now about to be adduced must be admitted to be remarkably confirmatory of the above conclusions, while being drawn from sources entirely separate and distinct.
The solar or other light rays that excite vision are named red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. These rays differ the one from the other in the length and amplitude of the waves which compose them, and both the length and amplitude of the waves diminish in the order in which the names have just been given. But the force or energy of a light wave-that is to say, its power of exciting vision, is proportional to the square of its amplitude and especially.
Reference: Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in The Evolution of The Human Mind: Richard Maurice Bucke
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