Johann Wolfgang Goethe was not only a poet, playwright, novelist, statesman, theatre director, critic, and artist, he was also a scientist. By repeating the light spectrum experiment of Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727), he discovered that the colors were not simply parts of white light. Although the results of Goethe’s experiment leave no room for ambiguity, scientism still clinged to Newton’s wrong conclusions.
Newton understood light as being built out of colours red, green and blue. One makes up light through the experience of adding together colours, out of these basic three. So the summing of light always combines these basic three identities.
Goethe scientifically proved that colours do not originate from fragmented white light. Instead, colours emerge where light and darkness meet. Newton only examined the case of light in front of a background of darkness. At these borders, we find on one side the colours of indigo and purple, and on the other side the colours of red and orange. When these border colours overlap each other, the full colour spectrum emerges, with magenta or green in the middle.
Read more about Goethe and Newton’s approaches here
From Experience Colour Exhibition Stourbridge September 2018
With an inversion of the experiment to have a light surround of a dark centre, the prism experiment of Goethe produces a complementary spectrum of yellow, magenta and cyan.
The complementary spectra represent the two ways of engaging with the world, in which Global Synapses is seeking balance.
In Newton’s spectrum (right hand) the colours add to the darkness, in their separate individual energies. The individual colours are distinguished in their separateness to show an exact picture of what is there. This is the basis of a science of reductionism, where physical elements ( or colour in this case) explains the phenomena (of light) against a background of abstraction (darkness).
In Goethe’s spectrum (left), the colours subtract from the unity of white by taking away energy, as gateways to seeing the whole. The individual colours surrender into showing the contour of the whole, softening light in the relief of difference (as Turner’s painting moves us into specific feeling of joy). The ordered spectrum of colour leads us to the meaning of light. This is the foundation of a science of wholeness, where individuals surrender into the relief of a collective energy as illumination of the whole.
Goethe’s Harmonic Color Wheel shows beautifully that all the colors together originate from both light (Yang) and darkness (Yin).
Goethe proved that both light and darkness are required for the perception of colors. By solely focussing on light and completely ignoring darkness, scientism once again shows its unscientific bias.
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