Colors and Causes

January 10, 2022


Color is the fourth class of sensible things, having many intricate varieties. It:

  • is a flame which emanates from every body
  • has particles corresponding to the sense of sight.

Of the particles coming from other bodies which fall upon the sight, some are smaller and some are larger, and some are equal to the parts of the sight itself.

Those which are equal are imperceptible, and we call them transparent.

The larger produce contraction, the smaller dilation, in the sight, exercising a power akin to that of hot and cold bodies on the flesh, or of astringent bodies on the tongue, or of those heating bodies which we termed pungent.

White and black are similar effects of contraction and dilation in another sphere, and for this reason have a different appearance.

Wherefore, we ought to term white that which dilates the visual ray, and the opposite of this is black.

There is also a swifter motion of a different sort of fire which strikes and dilates the ray of sight until it reaches the eyes, forcing a way through their passages and melting them, and eliciting from them a union of fire and water which we call tears, being itself an opposite fire which comes to them from an opposite direction—the inner fire flashes forth like lightning, and the outer finds a way in and is extinguished in the moisture, and all sorts of colours are generated by the mixture.

This affection is called dazzling, produced by bright and flashing objects.

There is another sort of fire which is intermediate. It reaches and mingles with the moisture of the eye without flashing. In this, the fire mingling with the ray of the moisture, produces a red colour.

A bright hue mingled with red and white gives the colour called auburn (Greek).

The law of proportion, however, according to which the several colours are formed, even if a man knew he would be foolish in telling, for he could not give any necessary reason, nor indeed any tolerable or probable explanation of them.

Red, when mingled with black and white, becomes purple. But it becomes umber (Greek) when the colours are burnt as well as mingled and the black is more thoroughly mixed with them.

Flame-colour (Greek) is produced by a union of auburn and dun (Greek), and dun by an admixture of black and white; pale yellow (Greek), by an admixture of white and auburn.

White and bright meeting, and falling upon a full black, become dark blue (Greek), and when dark blue mingles with white, a light blue (Greek) colour is formed, as flame-colour with black makes leek green (Greek).

It is easy to see how and by what mixtures the colours derived from these are made according to the rules of probability.

Only God knows and has the power to combine many things into one and again resolve the one into many.

These are the elements, thus of necessity then subsisting, which the creator of the fairest and best of created things associated with himself, when he made the self-sufficing and most perfect God, using the necessary causes as his ministers in the accomplishment of his work, but himself contriving the good in all his creations.


We can distinguish 2 sorts of causes:

  1. Divine
  2. Necessary

We can seek:

  • the divine in all things
  • the necessary only for the sake of the divine

Without the connection between the necessary and divine causes, we cannot apprehend the divine causes.