This is Part II of a two part series, “Colors in Freemasonry.” Part I can be found here.
Freemasonry is a system of age-old knowledge handed down primarily through the language of symbolism, and a part of the vocabulary of symbolism that is most significant is that of color. Color saturates our entire experience, and can be quite easy to take for granted, or simply see as a case of happenstance. This or that object simply “happens” to be this or that color, and while it certainly has aesthetic effects, this is more or less the scope of it’s significance.
Yet anyone who has spent time learning the language of symbolism, whether in the context of Masonry, the interpretation of dreams, or analysis of art and fiction will know that color carries enormous symbolic significance. To dream of a blue boat can be quite different in meaning than to dream of a red boat, and the same principle applies to any dream symbol and it’s color. As a body of knowledge communicated in the same language of symbol as dreams, the arts, or religious mythology, color in the Masonic Lodge is likewise an essential layer of meaning for the Initiate.
So, what do the various colors mean in the language of symbolism in general, and to Masons specifically?
The color of grass, trees, moss, and the myriad forms of verdant plant life. It’s impossible not to associate green with peace, happiness, and the thriving of life, due to it’s association with plants, grasses, and forests.
Throughout our evolution, the green places have been those with food and other valuable resources, and where green was lacking was also desolate and harsh landscapes. In the chakra system, the green chakra represents unconditional love, growth, and balance, as it is the central chakra along the spine, corresponding to the spiritual heart.
In Masonry, because of its association with the evergreen trees of the North, green represents immortality, and thus all that is immortal, truth, divinity, and the soul. The emerald tablet of Thoth is also worth noting, as well as various Egyptian deities whose blood was said to be green, and finally, the sacred green acacia plant.
The color of sky, air, ocean, sapphire, and ice. Blue is the color which is in many ways the opposite of red, representing the calm of the ocean, the expansiveness of the clear sky, and that which transcends the physical. Depictions of ghosts, spirits, or other non-physical beings are often blue, perhaps because of the rarity of the color’s appearance in the actual physical world.
Other than the ocean and sky, which are themselves transcendental, only certain flowers, feathers, and eyes display the color blue. The blue chakra is associated with connection to the divine, creativity, and inner tranquility, corresponding to the throat.
Blue is perhaps the most significant color to Masonry, representing the first three degrees, known as the Blue Lodge, which at one point was the entirety of Freemasonry, and is shared by all Masons, regardless of further degrees they attained. Blue was regarded as special and sacred by many cultures from around the world, including the Egyptians, and Masonry likewise regards it. In various places it was associated with divine wisdom, perfection, purity, and immortality.
Color of spiritual vision and royalty. Even rarer in nature than blue, indigo only appears in certain feathers, flowers, or minerals, and so has an even greater mystique about it. Some shades of indigo seem almost not made for human eyes to see, and have a glow-like appearance. Indigo is said to be the color of the inner eye, spiritual vision, psychic capabilities, and royalty. In the chakra system, indigo and violet are separated, with indigo being the third eye, the center of spiritual intuition and extrasensory perception, and violet being the direct connection to God or the higher self.
In Masonry, indigo/purple can be seen historically as a symbol of royalty and power, as at one point it was extremely valuable in trade, and worn by royalty in Europe. It has also been suggested that Indigo may have been the mysterious color of the ancient Hebrew priests’ robes, referred to as techelet. It can also be seen as representing the merger of the lower self, represented by red, with the higher spiritual self, represented by blue. Masons also use violet in particular to represent mourning, a tradition adopted from the ancient Chinese.
Color of light, purity, innocence, and the merging of all colors together. White is worn by brides, is the color of the blank canvas, and is the color of raw unfiltered light itself. White contains all colors in perfect balance, and gives whatever light it meets perfectly, absorbing none for itself. It’s also connected to cleanliness, as it shows any impurity clearly, thus giving a house the “white glove treatment.”
White calls to mind a sort of wholeness, the completion of all colors added together and balanced, or conversely, the wholeness from which colors may be created, by darkening the white canvas’s purity with some shading.
White is prevalent in the Masonic Lodge as a symbol of Light, as well as purity in some respects, and Masonic regalia, particularly in Universal Freemasonry, is largely white. Here, again, as with black, white’s role in the checkerboard floor pattern of the mosaic pavement is worthy of consideration.