``` --| Goethe on Newton's Theory of Colours |----- Newton surmised that when we see a colour spectrum emerge from a prism, it is due to 'the splitting of light into its component colours'. If this were the case, then in the photograph below, there should be a spectrum with GREEN in the middle. Yet, since the aperature through which the light is shining is large, we get no such spectrum, we only get colour at the edges. In an attempt to isolate the phenomena, Newton decided to narrow the aperature which results in the spectrum we are now familiar with, and which he used as a basis for his Optiks. What Newton failed to do, was to take a look through the prism. If you actually do this, the white areas do not split into a rainbow of colour as might be expected -- you only see colour at the edges of objects. (Photograph: March 2000, St. Catharines, JRP) When light shines through a prism, we are simply projecting a picture whose aperature has edges -- there is darkness outside this circular patch, and relatively light within it. We notice that it is at the edges between the light and dark areas where Colours first make their appearance. When the aperature is sufficiently small so that the edges meet in the middle to form the green -- only then can you see a continous spectrum. A wider aperature brings us to the primal phenomenon -- a reddish/yellow on some edges, and a bluish/cyan on the others. The continuous spectrum with green in the middle arises only where the (blue-cyan and yellow-red) edges come close enough to overlap. We no longer see the original phenomenon when we make so small a circle that the colours extend inward from the edges to overlap in the middle to form what is called a 'continuous spectrum', while with the larger circle, the colours formed at the edges stay as they are. Thus, this is the primal phenomenon -- that Colours arise at the borders where Light and Dark work together, and the Spectrum is a secondary, compound phenomenon. --| Light as Polar to Darkness |--- For Goethe, light is 'the simplest most undivided most homogenous being that we know. Confronting it is the darkness.' (Letter to Jacobi) Natural science sees darkness as a complete nothingness. According to this view, the light which streams into a dark space has no resistance from the darkness to overcome. Goethe pictures to himself that light and darkness relate to each other like the north and south poles of a magnet. The darkness can weaken the light in its working power. Conversely, the light can limit the energy of the darkness. In both cases colour arises. Yellow is a light which has been dampened by darkness; Blue is a darkness weakened by the light. (RS-Goethe's World View) --| The Arising of Colour |--- Friends, avoid the darkened chamber, where one pinches off the light, which must bow in lamentation while distortions mock our sight. Over-credulous believers through the years there've been enough; In the noggins of your teachers reign illusions, specter-stuff. (Goethe) In the 1780's a number of statements as to the way colours arise came to Goethe's notice. Of the prismatic phenomena, it was commonly held by physicists that when you let colourless light go through a prism the colourless light is split up. For in some such way the phenomena were interpreted. If we let a cylinder of colourless light impinge on the screen, it shows a colourless picture. Putting a prism in the way of the cylinder of light, we get the sequence of colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue - light blue and dark blue, - violet. The physicists explain it thus - the colourless light already contains the seven colours within itself - and when we make the light go through the prism, the prism really does no more than to fan out and separate what is already there in the light, - the seven colours, into which it is thus analyzed. A look through the prism shows that we do not see the light in seven colours. The only place you can see any colour is at some edge or border-line. If we let light pass through the space of the room, we get a white circle on a screen. Put a prism in the way, and the cylinder of light is diverted, (Figure IIc), but what appears is not the series of seven colours at all, only a reddish colour at the lower edge, passing over into yellow, and at the upper edge a blue passing over into greenish shades. In the middle it stays white. Goethe now said to himself: It is not that the light is split up or that anything is separated out of the light as such. In point of fact, I am projecting a picture, - simply an image of this circular aperture. The aperture has edges, and where the colours occur the reason is not that they are drawn out of the light, as though the light had been split up into them. It is because this picture which I am projecting - the picture as such - has edges. Here too the fact is that where light adjoins dark, colours appear at the edges. It is none other than that. For there is darkness outside this circular patch of light, while it is relatively light within it. The colours therefore, to begin with, make their appearance purely and simply as phenomena at the border between light and dark. This is the original, the primary phenomenon. We are no longer seeing the original phenomenon when by reducing the circle in size we get a continuous sequence of colours. The latter phenomenon only arises when we take so small a circle that the colours extend inward from the edges to the middle. They then overlap in the middle and form what we call a continuous spectrum, while with the larger circle the colours formed at the edges stay as they are. This is the primal phenomenon. Colours arise at the borders, where light and dark flow together. Subsequent to this, Goethe's went on to make more exact observations which further call this 'splitting up of the light' by a prism into question: - Begin with a circular slit from which Light shines through a PRISM. - Light is deflected upwards. - The projection is not an exact circle, but rather elongated. - The upper portion is edged with Blue. - The lower portion is edged with Red. - Taking into account the observation that Light passing through any medium is dimmed. In this case, there is a dimming of light within the prism. - Therefore, we have to do not only with the cone of light that is here bent and deflected, but also with this new factor - the dimming of the light brought about by matter. - Into the space beyond the prism not only the light is shining, but there shines in, there rays into the light the quality of dimness that is in the prism. - This dimming is deflected upward in the same direction as the light. - Here then we are dealing with the interaction of two things: i) the brightly shining light, itself deflected, ii) then the sending into it of the darkening effect that is poured into this shining light. Only the dimming and darkening effect is here deflected in the same direction as the light. - The Outcome is that in the upward region the bright light is infused and irradiated with dimness, and by this means the dark or bluish colours are produced. - Downwards, the light outdoes and overwhelms the darkness and there arise the yellow shades of colour. - Simply through the fact that the prism on the one hand deflects the full bright cone of light and on the other hand also deflects the dimming of it, we have the two kinds of entry of the dimming or darkening into the light. We have an interplay of dark and light, not getting mixed to give a grey but remaining mutually independent in their activity. - The material prism plays an essential part in the arising of the colours. For it is through the prism that it happens, namely that on the one hand the dimming is deflected in the same direction as the cone of light, while on the other hand, because the prism lets its darkness ray there too, this that rays on and the light that is deflected cut across each other. For that is how the deflection works down here. Downward, the darkness and the light are interacting in a different way than upward. Colours therefore arise where dark and light work together. --| Skyward |--- Should your glance on mornings lovely Lift to drink the heaven's blue Or when sun, vieled by sirocco, Royal red sinks out of view - Give to Nature praise and honour. Blithe of heart and sound of eye, Knowing for the world of colour Where its broad foundations lie. (Goethe) --| References |--- * Rudolf Steiner Ph.D, Scientific Lecture Course on Light, GA 299. 2nd Lecture - Stuttgart, 24th December 1919. http://wn.elib.com/Steiner/Lectures/LightCrse/19191224p01.html Newton and Goethe on Colour Goethe's Colour Triangle Borderlands Archives Kyoto Colour ``` ``` Submit an Article Posted: March 27, 2001 Updated: December 19, 2011 ```