By Nigel Hamilton, PhD © 2013
The experience of vivid colours in lucid dreams can make a lasting impression upon the dreamer, often serving as a reminder of the significance of the dream itself. Whilst the form or container that the colour appears in has a meaning, be it an object, a person‘s skin colour for example or clothing or even in a landscape, it is the colour that carries the vibration or feeling quality of what comes through to the dreamer. Usually, the experience feels like a numinous one, one that either awakens or transforms our consciousness.
Several spiritual traditions have been aware of the significance of such vivid, colourful experiences and have tracked how and when they appear in the aspirant‘s non-lucid dreams. The experience of the colours in lucid dreams manifests in a similar manner. This article gives an overview of the phenomenon of light and colour in lucid dreams from a Sufi perspective.
Vivid, luminescent colours mirror the awakening of our consciousness to the subtle energy centres within our ‘subtle light bodies‘ that are co-extensive with and which penetrate our physical body. The subtle centres awaken in a sequence starting from the base of the spine, culminating in the opening of the most subtle, the crown centre. In lucidity, as each energy centre opens, the dreamer becomes aware of a vivid, luminescent colour, a new subtle energy, emerging consciously into the psyche.
Notably, as each subtle centre opens, its colour begins to predominate, the colour itself becoming the central or most significant image in the lucid dreams. Of course other colours may be present too, but one notices the ‘shift‘ in the emphasis of the key colours as the inner process of transformation unfolds. The predominating colour (associated with the centre that is opening and coming into consciousness) integrates into the dream‘s central image as a way of ‘incarnating or coagulating‘ the qualities the colour impresses upon the dreamer‘s psyche.
Secondly, once a centre has opened, its colour does not disappear or get ‘quickly absorbed‘ in the dream background as the successive higher centres open up. Instead, it is incorporated into a cumulative sequence of enriched, vivid and luminescent colours that appear in the lucid dream state, i.e. the dreams become increasingly colourful with increasing frequency and intensity of light and colour luminosity.
In the Sufi tradition, the first colour that emerges is associated with the centre at the base of the spine and is a relatively colourless grey. This colour represents the energy of the earth‘s magnetism in the body. The Sufis regard it as a vibrating pattern that molds the form of the physical body. Historically it is associated with Adam, the mold of the human being. The Oriental Vedantic traditions designate a bright red for this centre, signifying the aggressive, passionate feelings aroused by this energy. In dreams (and waking life) we are likely to recognise this via an angry bright red face or in the red-browns of an earthy landscape.
The 2nd colour is an earthy yellow, associated with the opening of the centre just below the belly button – this yellow is not to be confused with the colour gold, as the earthy yellow images the centre of our desires and appetites. In a lucid dream it may appear in a door, the colour of a room or building, or as clothing we are wearing etc. The Yogis designate red or a red-orange to portray the creative and passionate sexual nature of this energy.
Dark Red Wine or Red-Purple
The 3rd colour in the Sufi tradition is a dark red wine or red-purple colour, associated with the human feeling heart (the Qalb), located spatially on the left side of the breast, next to the physical heart. In the early stages of conscious awakening, the concrete rational mind still dominates over the heart, cutting us off from our deeper inner soul wisdom, our intuition, our capacity to enter into the realms of nature, the psyches and souls of other people. The central images or landscapes in our lucid dreams that hold these passionate feelings (e.g. mad, sad, glad, or bad) often give off this colour.
Of course variations can occur, such as orange or orange-yellow signifying a similar energy. When the Qalb is connected to the central heart centre located at the centre of the breast (the Sirr), its colour changes to a healthy red-pink showing the warmth and loving nature of the soul. The Vedantic tradition does not concern itself with the subtle centres at either side of the Heart Centre. Such images teach us much about our psychological state.
Once we have integrated our feelings and become more self-aware psychologically, the 4th colour, white, starts to predominate in the dream imagery when the Ruh, the subtle centre on the right side of the breast opens. To the Sufi‘s, this indicates the opening of the dreamer‘s consciousness to a more expansive and transpersonal awareness.
The Yogis speak of white light in dreams, and the Buddhists refer to the stage of the ‘White Mind‘ in which the dreamer experiences a blinding white light. However, unlike the Sufis, neither of these traditions associate this phenomenon with a particular subtle centre, although it clearly involves at least a partial opening of the ‘3rd eye‘, the centre between the eyebrows.
Whilst white, for example, white snow is a common dream image at this stage, it is the experience of the intensity of brilliant light, e.g. ‘balls of light‘ that impresses the dreamer, changing their consciousness in the lucid dream to a more cosmic quality. This quality enables the dreamer to maintain an aspect of witness-consciousness in waking life and marks a movement towards a more ‘soulful‘ orientation within the dreamer‘s psyche.
The 5th colour, a luminescent emerald green, sometimes combined with gold, starts to feature prominently when the heart centre, called the ‘Sirr‘, opens inwardly. Sirr means the ‘Secret of the Heart‘ in that the most hidden or essential aspects of our soul nature are revealed to us.
Similarly the ‘secrets‘ or what Sufis call ‘true knowledge‘ of the nature of creation are revealed. This idea links up with the archetypal images of the green tree that can be the ‘tree of knowledge‘ or more fundamentally, the ‘tree of life‘, the very essence or spirit/life force in us. In response to this colour, the dreamer feels inspired to bring the attributes of this colour into manifestation in their daily life.
The 6th colour, a luminescent dark-blue/purple associated with the opening of the ‘third eye‘ next appears in the dream imagery, typically as a ‘royal purple‘ combined with reds or emerald green, or gold or white. At this point, the consciousness of the lucid dreamer is experienced as being ‘out of life‘, almost ’empty‘.
Many dreams of death and dying come up including the colour black. Apparent Angelic Lights appear as flashes of light accompanied by visions of beautiful heavenly landscapes, grand buildings and halls etc. These lights may give the lucid dreamer a sense that waking physical reality seems only one of many, enabling the dreamer to approach personal concerns with even more detachment and the concerns of others with more openness and compassion.
The 7th colour, black is associated with the crown centre, the most subtle vibration of our psyche. This colour takes the dreamer ‘out ‘of personal consciousness into that of Spirit to experience a blissful state, even a state of oneness, timelessness, and no space or orientation.
The blackness eventually reveals what is hidden – visions of increasingly abstract luminous forms, angelic lights and heavenly visions filled with a luminescent emerald green in the landscapes. Such experiences become increasingly profound until the point is reached in which no duality of consciousness or separateness is experienced.
These experiences typically carry over into the waking state as conscious waking visions. The energy held within this centre inspires the lucid dreamer to dedicate their waking life to the service of the spirit of unity and a more transcendent love. Descriptions by the Sufi mystics regarding the last two centres, Crown and 3rd Eye coincide with the detailed accounts of the Yogis and Buddhists.
The Sufi tradition does not address the throat centre, whereas the Vedantic traditions usually associate the emergence of emerald green and even purple with this centre. For the Sufi, this may be because the experience of the opening of this centre is already incorporated in the opening of the Ruh and the Sirr, in which we become aware of ‘soul consciousness‘.
But then the Sufis say the soul is essentially ‘individualised spirit‘, which becomes evident when the Ruh centre opens. In the Vedantic system, the same is experienced when the throat centre opens – this suggests a correspondence between the two systems regarding the ecstatic experience of ‘spirit‘. In lucid dreaming, the ecstatic experience is encountered whenever we feel deeply impressed by the luminescent lights in the dreams.
The following dream of a long-term psychotherapy client, who had a very negative inner, feminine archetype, illustrates the role colour and light plays in the transformation of the dreamer‘s consciousness:
Lucid Face Dream
Long dream sequence of which I remember nothing, then out of nowhere, there manifests a face filling my vision and my consciousness. As soon as the face arises, I become fully lucid. The face, female, with almond-shaped eyes, appears black and oval in shape. The face has a definition and luminosity to it that is mesmerising, more real somehow than objects we can see with our own eyes.
I am captivated by the shimmering intensity of the face, awestruck really, but I am also startled by the eyes in this face. They are fierce and unyielding, shining with clarity, strongly feminine and ever so present. As suddenly as the face appears it dissolves away into nothingness. I wake up.
The dreamer has a stark awakening to the fact that his inner, feminine nature is not weak and manipulative, as he had experienced with his mother, but instead is beautiful, clear, strong, and supportive. Initially, the blackness signifies the veil of the ‘black light‘, related to the activation of the crown and third eye centre.
In the lucid dream, this energy gets translated into the lucid dreamer‘s consciousness of the black, oval face, and the ‘black light‘ reveals itself through this form, communicating an inner knowledge that transforms the lucid dreamer‘s perception of himself and his attitude towards the feminine, a transformation that carries into his waking life.
In Sufism, the luciddream process is viewed as complete when the colours experienced in the dreams and the qualities they possess are brought, through the dreamer, into the manifold colours of manifestation.
For a more in-depth look at a Sufi perspective on dreams and light, see www.driccpe.org.uk.
Bio: Nigel Hamilton, PhD., is the Director of the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education, a Transpersonal Psychotherapy Training Centre and Clinic in London, where he lectures and practices as a Psychotherapist. He also directs the Dream Research Institute, London, at the CCPE. Dr Hamilton is the UK representative for Sufi Order international. He originally trained as a Physicist, working at the Massachusetts institute of Technology for the use of light in Energy Storage Research. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org