chapter  1
The Realism and Symbolism of Colours in Shiite Cosmology
Pages 54

Various aspects of the phenomenon of colour have been discussed in both Islamic philosophy and theosophy. Several years ago, I myself was able to make a study of it, taking as my guide one of the greatest masters of Iranian spirituality: the fourteenth-century ‘Alāuddawlah Simnānī. I was thereby led to the heart of a physiology of the subtle body, whose every centre is both defined as a “prophet of your being”, and characterized by a colour, an aura, visionary perception of which reveals to the mystic the degree of his advancement upon the spiritual Way.*1

There is, moreover, a long Hermetic tradition in Islam, whose testimony makes one ask what perception of colour and colour phenomena it was that enabled alchemists to interpret them in the way they did. Thus, with regard to both subtle physiology and alchemy, one is faced with a question which is essentially one of phenomenology: in what does the phenomenon of colour consist for our authors? How is one to understand correctly what they say about it, when their interpretation seeks to “preserve its appear­ ance”, that is, to explain it in accordance with what they perceive?