When recently discussing Frank Mahnke‘s “schemata, the “Color Experience” Pyramid, I found myself sliding uncomfortably, yet seamlessly, from one “level” of the Pyramid to the other…with The Embodiment of Color.
I say uncomfortably, because I felt that some of the levels were so interconnected, as to be nearly inter-changeable. The Pyramid describes six levels upon which we experience the phenomenon of color. I decided to take a closer look at each, starting with its base:”biological reactions to a color stimulus“, our own biology.
Our sensations are generated, and thus emanate, from our senses, our five senses, to be exact, which are experienced through our own bodies. You might say it’s a physical thing. We must then, embody color, just as we experience it. If color is light is energy, I reasoned, in a sense, in a very real sense, we must be made of it. If we are made of energy, made of light, we must be made of color. Are we then walking, talking rainbows? Flowers? Sunsets?
We cannot control our biological reactions to color, as they show, in the words of English psychologist Nicholas Humphry, “….traces of our evolutionary heritage.” From the green pigment of chlorophyll’s role in the necessary process of photosynthesis, to the huge red pouches developed by the male frigate bird during mating season, in nature, and thus in ourselves, color is and always has been a signal between life forms and species that is crucial to our survival. Camouflage, protection, sustenance, warning, sexuality, fertility, all of these and more are signified and communicated through color, and underneath it all still seem to be running us today, both psychologically and biologically.
A neural pathway, aptly called the “energetic portion” of the optic pathway transports light and color stimulation to the master glands which control the production and release of hormones. Whoa! Talk about the Mother lode! We see that color affects our biology, and biological activity, whether we wish it, will it or want it, or not. Blue light, for example, has been used to cure infant jaundice.
Humans have “total color vision”, meaning that we need the total color spectrum for our biological and psychological survival.
Color has always been a significant factor in our evolution and survival as humans, teaching us what is safe and nutritious to eat, how to interpret and adapt to our natural environment, and how to understand and respond to the changing seasons, as our earth rotates around the sun.
Here we come full circle, a full rotation if you will. Light is color, and from the energy of light we see, sense, and take what is needed for our survival, preservation and protection as a species. On this most basic level, the level of our biology, our response to color has nothing to do with what we might term as preference. Our perception of the light-giving radiant energy of the sun, which is color, is linked to our survival, and thus even deeper than any conscious experience, control, effort or emotion could dictate.