The attraction one finds in color and in sound makes one
wonder if there is a mystery hidden behind them, if there is
a language of color and sound which could be learned. And the
answer is that the language of color and sound is the language
of the soul, and that it is our outer language which makes us
confused as to the meaning of that inner language. Color and
sound are the language of life. Life expresses itself on all
the different planes of existence in the form of color and sound.
But the outer manifestations of life are so rigid and dense
that the secret of their nature and character is buried underneath.
Why is the world called an illusion by the mystics? Because
the nature of manifestation is such that it envelops its own
secret within itself, and appears in such a rigid form that
the fineness, beauty and mystery of its character are hidden.
Therefore the seekers after the truth of life, the students
of life, are of two opposite kinds. The one wishes to learn
from outward appearance. The other wishes to find out the secret
that is hidden behind it. The one who learns from the external
gets the knowledge from the external, which we call science.
The one who finds out from the within, from what is hidden in
this manifestation, is the mystic. The knowledge he gains is
The first question that arises in the mind of the intelligent
person is: what is it in sound and color that appeals to man?
It is the tone and rhythm of color as well as of sound which
have an influence on the tone and rhythm of our being. Our being
is our capacity for the resonance of tone and rhythm which comes
from sound and color. This capacity enables us to be influenced
by sound and color. Thus some have a liking for a certain color,
others have a liking for another color, and some are attracted
to a certain kind of sound. In singing some are attracted to
a baritone or a bass voice, others to a tenor or soprano. There
are souls to whom the deep sounds of the cello appeal. There
are others who are interested in the sound of the violin. Some
enjoy the sound of the horn and the trombone. And others prefer
the flute. What does this show? It shows that there is a certain
capacity in our hearts, in our beings, and it depends upon that
particular capacity what kind of sound appeals to us.
At the same time it depends upon man's grade of evolution,
his character, his nature, whether he is gross or fine. Also
upon his temperament, whether he has a practical nature or is
dreamy, whether he loves the drama of life or whether he is
absorbed in the ordinary things of life. According to man's
condition, his temperament and his evolution, color and sound
affect him. And the proof of this is that he often changes his
fancy in regard to color. There are times when he takes a fancy
to blue or he craves for yellow or for orange. There are some
who like deep colors, others like light colors. It all depends
on their temperament and their grade of evolution.
Music of every kind appeals to some person. The best or the
worst, somebody likes it. Does one not see how children can
enjoy themselves with a little tin can and a stick? The rhythm
comes within their capacity of enjoyment. Human nature is like
that. It takes in everything, from the highest to the lowest.
It has such a wide capacity that there is nothing left out.
Everything has its place and everything is assimilated by human
nature. At the same time there is action and inaction. It is
not only the grade of evolution that makes man change his fancy
for different colors and tones, but it is also the different
colors and tones that help him in his evolution. And they change
the speed of his evolution.
Very often man gives such great importance to color and tone
that he forgets what is behind them, and that leads him to many
superstitions, fancies and imaginations. Many have fooled simple
people by telling them what color belonged to their souls, or
what note belonged to their lives. Man is always ready to respond
to anything that can puzzle him and confuse his mind. He is
always willing to be fooled. He enjoys it so much when someone
tells him his color is yellow or green, or his note is C, D
or F, that he does not care to find out why. It is like telling
somebody that Wednesday is his day and Thursday some other person's!
In point of fact all days are ours, all colors are ours.
It is man who is the master of all manifestation. It is for
man to use all colors and tones. They are at his disposal, for
him to make the best use of. It would be a great pity if we
were subject to one color or tone. There would be no life in
this; it would be a form of death. The staircase is made for
us to ascend, and not to remain standing on one step. Every
step is our step, if we could only take it.
Coming to the mystical point of view, the first aspect that
makes Intelligence conscious of manifestations is sound. The
next aspect is light (color). The proof of this can be found
in the Bible, as well as in the Vedanta. The Bible says, 'In
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.' And it also
says that first was the Word and then came the Light.
What is color? It is an aspect of light. We read in the Vedanta,
that the first aspect of the Creator, the source from which
the whole creation was made, was sound. In the Quran
it is said, 'The first command was 'Be,' and it became.'
In explaining the process of creation all the mystics and
prophets and great thinkers of the world, at all periods of
history, have given the first place to sound. And the scientist
of today says the same. He will speak of rays, atoms, electrons.
And after going through all the different atoms of substance
he arrives at something he calls movement. Movement is vibration.
It is only the effect of movement which we call sound. Movement
speaks and we call speech sound when it is audible. When it
is not audible, it is because there is no sufficient capacity.
But the cause of sound is movement. And movement is always there.
This shows that the existence of the movement does not depend
Color also is movement. And its capacity makes color concrete
to our vision. At the same time, although we may call a color
green or red or yellow, every color is different to each person.
In fine shades of color people do not see alike because the
capacity is different in each of them. The tone is according
to the capacity. In other words tones or colors have not got
different values, but to us they become different when we sense
them or feel them. In relation to us they are different.
The conception of the five elements, which the mystics have
always had, cannot be explained in scientific terms, because
the mystics have their own peculiar meaning. Although the elements
may be called earth, water, fire, air and ether, this must not
be taken literally. Their nature and character, according to
the mystics, are different. But, as words are few, one cannot
give other names to these elements, although in Sanskrit we
have distinctive words for them. 'Ether' is not ether in the
scientific sense. It is capacity. 'Water' is not water as we
understand it in everyday language. It is liquidity. 'Fire'
is understood differently. It means glow or heat, dryness, radiance,
all that is living. All of these words suggest something more
than is ordinarily meant by them.
The working of these five elements is distinguished by different
colors and sounds. The five elements are represented by sound.
In the musical scales or ragas of India and China, the raga
of five notes is considered the most appealing. And my own experience
is that the scale of five notes is much more appealing than
the scale of seven notes. The scale of seven notes lacks some
vital influence which the scale of five notes possesses.
There is a relation between sound and color. In reality they
are one. They are two aspects of life. Life and light are one.
Life is light and light is life, and so color is sound and sound
color. Only, when sound is color it is most visible and least
audible, and when color is sound it is most audible and least
visible. One can find the unity of color and sound by studying
and practicing the science of breath. When one hears something
one's first tendency is to open one's eyes, to try to see the
color of it. That is not the way to see it, although color is
a language. The very life which is audible is visible also.
But where? It is visible on the inner plane. The mistake is
that man looks for it on the outer plane. When he hears music
he wants to see the color before him. Every activity of the
outer world is a kind of reaction; in other words a shadow of
the activity which is behind it and which we do not see. And
there is a difference in time. An activity which may have taken
place twelve hours earlier is now visible in color on the outer
plane. This is also the explanation of the effect of dreams
on life. Of something that one has seen in a dream at night,
one may perhaps see the effect in the morning, or even a week
later. This shows that there is some activity which takes place
behind the scenes. And it is reflected on the outer life according
to how the activities of the outer life are directed.
This is the reason why a seer or mystic is very often able
to know beforehand his own condition and the condition of others,
what is coming or what has passed, or what is going on at a
distance. For he knows the language of sound and color. And
now the question is, on which plane does he know the language
of sound and color? In what way does it manifest to him? One
cannot restrict it by a certain law, yet at the same time it
follows a certain law. And where does he see it? He sees it
in his breath.
Therefore the whole culture of spiritual development is based
upon the science of breath. What made the Yogis, the mystics,
able to see happenings of the past, present and future? Some
law behind creation. A certain working of the mechanism, which
is a finer mechanism. And how can it be seen? By opening one's
vision to one's self.
According to the mystics there are five capacities of one's
being, which may be called five Akashas. The one capacity
which everybody knows and is conscious of is what may be called
the receptacle of food, the body. And the other which is more
or less recognized is the receptacle of the sense, which resides
in the sense. And the third capacity is a world in itself, where
one is conscious of the finer forces of life, which are working
within oneself. They can convey to one a sense of the past,
present and future, for the reason that they are clear to one's
vision. One sees them.
But you may ask, 'How can someone find out the condition
of another?' It is not because he knows more about others, for
a person is made to know most about himself. But many are unconscious
of the third receptacle, that of life. The one who is conscious
of this receptacle of life is able to empty the capacity he
has and make it possible for the life of another person to reflect
upon it. He does it by focusing his mind upon the life of another,
and by that he discovers that past, present and future. Only
he has to put the camera in the right place.
It is exactly like photography. The plate is there. It is
clear because its own capacity is empty. And the black cloth
which the photographer puts over the camera and over his own
head is concentration. When man has mastered concentration,
he becomes the photographer. He can focus all the light upon
one spot. It is all scientific when we understand it in this
way. It only becomes a puzzle when it is put before us as a
mystery. Everything is a mystery when we do not know it. When
we know it everything is simple. The true seekers after truth
are lovers of simplicity. The right road is simple, clear, distinct.
There is nothing vague about it. And the more one follows this
path of the mystery of life, the more life is revealed to one.
Life begins to express its secret, its nature. What is required
of man is an honest following of life's law. Nothing in this
world is more important than the knowledge of human nature and
the study of human life, and this study lies in the study of
self. It is the study of self which is really the study of God.
Both from the point of view of the Sufi and that of all mystics,
the original state of the whole creation is vibration, and vibration
manifests in two forms, or stages. In its original condition
vibration is inaudible and invisible, but in its first stage
towards manifestation it becomes audible, and in its next step
In its audible stage it is called Nada in Vedantic
terms - a word which means sound - or Nada Brahma which
represents: Sound the Creator, Sound the creative Spirit. The
next stage is called Jata Nada - a word which means light.
It is the different degrees of that light and their comparison
with one another which give rise to the various colors. Colors
are only the different shades of light; compared with one another
they are colors, but in reality the light makes all colors.
This is shown by the light of the sun which has no particular
color of its own, but the light of which plants partake manifests
in the colors of their flowers. These colors seem to be the
colors of flowers, vegetables and leaves, whereas in reality
they are the colors of the sun.
In the case of souls we may also realize that the manifestation
of such a variety among them is an illusion too. One forgets
that all the various faces and endless forms of human beings
belong to one Spirit and are the manifestations of that one
Spirit. When one begins to understand the theory of color and
sound, one can begin to understand that too. For instance, what
is sound? The different notes are the various degrees of breath:
human breath, or the echo coming from a vessel, an instrument,
or a bell, for that also is breath the breath of human beings
as well as the breath of objects. From the one breath many sounds
manifest; so that takes one back again to the idea of unity.
All this variety of colors and forms and sounds proceeds from
one single source.
Associated with this there is the question of the mysticism
of number. This is the idea of rhythm. Every movement must have
its rhythm. There cannot be movement without rhythm. By rhythm
we imagine the intervals of time, such as hour or minute, or
in music crochet (quarter note), quaver (eighth note), semibreve
(whole note). All these arise from our habit of dividing time
into rhythm. We do this because our life itself depends on rhythm.
The beating of the pulse, of the heart, in the head - all show
The science of numbers comes from the science of rhythm.
A certain number comes to denote a certain duration of time;
every action or movement requires a certain time and has a corresponding
effect. Every effect which is produced by color, sound or number
depends upon their harmonious or inharmonious effect. If the
sound is not harmonious, it has not a desirable effect upon
us; if a color is not harmonious it also has an undesirable
effect. This shows that it is not the particular number or sound
which gives the desirable effect, but the harmony. That is why
a knowledge of the effect of sound, color or number is insufficient
without a development of a sense of harmony in oneself, so that
one can understand the harmonious effect of these things.
The mystics have seen five Tattwas, or elements, working
behind both the sound and the rhythm, although musicians consider
seven notes in a scale. The original scale known to the mystics
had five numbers, and there were five kinds of scales among
the ancient people, with five different classes of rhythm. They
took five colors to represent the five elements.
People often say: 'This color is lucky and that one is unlucky.
This number is lucky and that one is unlucky'. But it is not
the particular color or number in itself, it is the harmony
of the situation which is lucky or unlucky: in what relation
do that particular number and color stand to you, to your life's
affairs, your own constitution, your stage of evolution. If
they stand in harmony with your life then they are harmonious
and lucky. If not, they are inharmonious and unlucky. This does
not mean that a particular color is inharmonious; it is just
how it stands in your life that decides whether it is harmonious
So it is with sounds. But the power of sound is greater than
the power of color. Why is this? It is because sound arises
from the depth of one's being, and because sound can also touch
the depth of one's being. The mantra yoga of the Hindus is based
on this principle. The Sufi term for this is Zikr: that
is the use of words for the unfoldment of the soul. But it is
not merely for bringing about any desired result that words
can be used in Zikr. People often make the mistake of
using the word without any spiritual idea behind it, simply
for the attainment of some magical power. The Sufis of all ages
have warned against this mistake, and have constantly taught
that there is only one object worth striving for, the essential
object of life, namely God. It is only when the science of words
is being used for the attainment of truth, that is: for the
attainment of God, that it is being used in the right manner.
To use it for any other purpose whatever, is just like paying
out pearls to buy pebbles.
We must remember the teaching of Christ, how he says: 'Render
to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things
that belong to God'. In other words, give to the world what
belongs to the world, and give to God what belongs to God, namely:
love, worship, reverence, devotion, trust, confidence. All those
are due to God, so give them to God. That which belongs to the
world is: wealth, money, service, sympathy, kindness, tolerance,
forgiveness. All these are due to the world, so give them to
the world. We only make a mistake when we give to the world
what is for God, and when we do for God what belongs to the
world; for instance, when a man flatters another man, and when
man depends upon a human being instead of depending upon God.
All those things which belong to God and are due to God we fail
to give Him, and give them to man instead.
When all things which we gain are used for a selfish purpose,
we at once become confronted with difficulties, troubles and
disappointments. That is why the same mystical science may be
used as a means of attaining God, or may be abused by turning
it into a way called black magic. It is not that there is something
special called black magic, or that there is something else
called white magic; magic is all one and the same. It is how
we use it that makes the difference; it is the use of it which
makes it right or wrong, good or bad.
A question may be asked regarding the mysticism of color
and sound: Can we get our individual color or note? The answer
is that in the first place it is not a matter of our own color
being good for us. It is whether a number or color is in harmony
with us or not that makes it good or not. In the second place,
at every moment of our life our evolution changes. A person
who was a thief yesterday is not a thief today. So also a given
number or color belonging to us at one moment does not belong
to us at another moment; it changes every moment. Therefore,
to restrict oneself to a certain number or color is like tying
one's feet with a chain, so that no more progress can take place.
In the third place, were we to settle upon a particular number
or color, we might induce a tendency to superstition in our
nature, and this we must always avoid. We would always be thinking:
What is the number of the house we are going to live in? What
is the color of the room I shall occupy? What is the color of
the dress? And so on! What would it be then if the person was
obliged to live in that particular house, or was obliged to
occupy that room in the hotel? If the number was inharmonious,
he would think everything would go wrong while staying there!
While it is always well to learn everything one can, it is
not good to give in to superstition. Otherwise it would be better
never to have known such things at all. The whole aim of the
Sufi is to reach to reality, and anything savoring of superstition
should be avoided. What is color after all? It is an illusion.
What is number? It is an illusion. What are forms? They are
illusions too. It is interesting to a certain extent to know
about these things and to distinguish them. It gives a certain
knowledge. But since these are all illusions, how can it be
worthwhile to give oneself absolutely to them and to neglect
the unfolding of the self, besides at the same time neglecting
the search for the reality, the only aim of the soul? Therefore
all other knowledge and all other pursuits should be given a
secondary place. Our main pursuit must be after Truth, believing
as we do that in the Truth there is God.