Chromotherapy, the practice of healing with color, emerged
in the nineteenth century as the object of scientific speculation
and research, out of which various practitioners created new
forms of alternative healing. Modern color healing combined
occult thought about color with scientific investigations of the
physical properties of light and behavioral psychologists’
studies of human reactions to various colors.
Early Beginnings
Augustus James Pleasanton is usually credited with beginning
the contemporary enthusiasm for color healing by initiating
what became known as the ‘‘blue glass craze.’’ Pleasanton
claimed that in experiments on grape vines in his laboratory,
he had been able to increase the production of grapes by alternating
clear sunlight with blue-filtered light. News of his findings
led many to purchase blue panes of glass under which they
took sunbaths, seemingly oblivious to the denunciations of
many of Pleasanton’s scientific colleagues. Pleasanton’s work
led to the first formal studies of chromotherapy in the 1870s,
which led to the publication of Blue and Red Light; or, Light and
Its Rays as Medicine (1877) by Dr. S. Pancoast.
By far the most important of the early chromotherapists,
however, was Edwin Dwight Babbitt. As early as 1876 he had
announced his explorations of the means of atoms interacting
with ‘‘etheric’’ forces to produce the effects of heat, light, and
electricity. He further claimed in his 1878 book, The Principles
of Light and Color, that color directly affected humans. He suggested
a method by which people could make practical use of
his claims—water should be charged by putting it in a colored
bottle and then placing the bottle in strong sunlight. Babbitt
produced no hard data to back up his claims, and they were
soon forgotten by most. Among the few who took them seriously
was a young Indian scientist-inventor, Dinshah Pestanji
Ghadiali (1873–1966).
Twentieth-Century Chromotherapy
As a young physician in India, Ghadiali tested the chromotherapy
ideas on patients with seemingly great success.
Shortly before World War I he migrated to the United States
and became a citizen. He aligned himself with the emerging
community of naturopathic physicians and worked on developing
chromotherapy into a usable form of alternative therapy.
In 1920 he announced his perfection of ‘‘Spectro-Chrome therapy,’’
which he envisioned as an attuned color wave healing science.
Meanwhile he worked on a degree in naturopathy and in
1924 he purchased land in Malaga, New Jersey, to open his institute.
Ghadiali worked quietly in Malaga through the 1920s, but
in 1931, the government, which had been developing ways to
combat what it considered medical quacks, moved against
Ghadiali for fraud and tried to have his citizenship revoked (a
real possibility under recently passed anti-Asian immigration
laws). Ghadiali was at the time completing his magus opus, the
three-volume Spectro-Chrome Metry Encyclopedia, which appeared
in 1933. After almost a decade in resolving his legal
problems, some of which swirled around attempts to market a
color healing device, Ghadiali settled into a private practice,
which he continued until his death in 1966. His son has continued
his work at Malaga, but has emphasized vegetarianism
rather than color therapy. Ghadiali’s color healing was picked
up by fellow Indian-American N. S. Hanoka of Miami, Florida.
While Ghadiali was trying to perfect a scientific perspective
on color healing, Theosophist Ivah Bergh Whitten picked up
Christos Experience Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
on the occult speculations on color of Annie Besant and
Charles W. Leadbeater. Whitten experienced a personal crisis
following the death of her husband in 1907. While recovering
from a nervous breakdown she was contacted by someone she
later spoke of as an Elder Brother, a member of the Great
White Brotherhood. He offered her a choice, death or a life as
a lightbearer to the world. She chose the latter, soon recovered
from her illness, and became an active and avid Theosophist.
Eventually she became a lecturer for the Theosophical Society
on her chosen topic, the occult meaning of color. As a result of
her travels, study groups formed to examine her ideas. In the
late 1920s these groups organized AMICA (the Amica Master
Institute of Color Awareness).
Whitten began to publish her findings in the 1930s, beginning
with a booklet, What Color Means to You (1932), soon followed
by The Initial Course in Colour Awareness. She developed
the theosophical perspective on color by which the highest
white light is broken into the seven colors (rays) of the light
spectrum. Each ray symbolizes a set of human characteristics
over which a particular ascended master presides. The seven
colors also correspond to various other universal structures,
such as the seven subtle spiritual centers of the body, the
chakras. Ultimately, this set of correspondences became the
basis of an occult color healing system. Whitten was quite aware
of Ghadiali, and she praised his healing devices. She also developed
a form of healing meditation during which a person
imagines breathing in a specific color.
During the 1930s, British Theosophist Roland T. Hunt
emerged as Whitten’s leading student. While he studied Whitten’s
writings, he was also becoming aware of the new psychological
findings about the effects of color on human behavior.
These were combined in his 1940 text, The Seven Keys to Colour
Healing. Hunt moved to California following World War II and
became the head of AMICA. He wrote a number of books before
passing the work to Paola Hugh and the Fleur de Lys
Foundation in Tacoma, Washington.
Concurrent with but independent of Hunt was the activity
of Rosicrucian Corine Heline, the founder of the New Age
Bible and Philosophy Center in Santa Monica, California. In
1943 she wrote Healing and Regeneration through Color. Heline,
in the astrological tradition of her teacher Max Heindel of the
Rosicrucian Fellowship, saw colors related to astrological
signs. She also believed that illnesses affecting specific parts of
the body had correspondences to astrological signs. Traditionally,
for example, diseases of the head were related to Aries.
Color treatment should be given in conjunction with astrological
analysis. Light, she suggested, also stimulated glands.
Glands serve as connecting points between the physical body
and the invisible mental and causal bodies (which many occultists
believe each individual possesses). Stimulating the glands
with light (either visible or imagined) can lead to the glands secreting
healing substances.
During the 1970s, color therapy entered the New Age and
holistic health movements through the work of health journalist
Linda Clark. Her 1975 The Ancient Art of Color Therapy became
the first of a series of books to reintroduce the topic to
a more mainstream audience after it had been pushed to the
edge of the occult community in the 1960s.
Evaluating Color Therapy
Contemporary color therapy is grounded in scientific research
on light and psychological findings on the beneficial effects
of color. Such research has, for example, been widely utilized
in the design of public institutions, possibly the most
famous instance being the banishing of black boards in schools
in favor of green boards. It is also widely known that sunlight,
in moderate doses, stimulates the production of vitamin D by
the body, that colored rooms can assist the healing of some psychological
disorders, and the rights colors in offices can stimulate
Physicists have explained light as part of a spectrum of electromagnetic
energy. Each part of the spectrum manifests as radiation
that vibrates at a specific rate. Visible light appears
somewhere toward the center of the spectrum. On one side of
the spectrum are cosmic rays, gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet,
and on the other side are infrared, electricity, radio, and
television. Light is thus a form of radiant energy, and human
beings can be seen as living systems that absorb and radiate energy.
Many psychics and occultists claim that the body radiates
energy just outside of the visible light spectrum, which surrounds
the body as an aura. Some people claim the ability to
see this radiation, or aura, and interpret its meaning.
While many advocate the beneficial effects of sunbaths,
chromotherapists go far beyond to a sophisticated analysis of
the application and use of very specific colors on specific parts
of the body. Such color may be received by sitting in a spotlight
shining a colored beam on the body. Alternatively, through
meditation, a particular color can be imagined either to shine
upon the body or be taken into the body through breaths.
Color therapy has also been associated with crystals, which also
come in a variety of colors, and some have hypothesized that
crystals of varying colors radiate different healing energies.
The most common explanation of the healing power of color
relates to stimulating the glandular system is some way.
It should be noted that a variety of attempts to verify the
healing effects of color as hypothesized by color therapists has
proved unsuccessful. Thus, the sale of machines that can radiate
specific beams of color for healing purposes is against the
law and can lead to an arrest for fraud. To date, most of the effects
with color healing can be attributed to other causes.
Amber, Reuben. Color Therapy. New York ASI Publishers,
Clark, Linda. The Ancient Art of Color Therapy. Old Greenwich,
Conn. Devin-Adair, 1975.
Ghadiali, Dinshah P. Spectro-Chrome Metry Encyclopedia. 3
vols. Malaga, N.J. Spectro-Chrome Institute, 1933.
Heline, Corine. Healing and Regeneration through Color. Santa
Barbara, Calif. J. F. Rowney Press, 1943.
Hunt, Roland. The Seven Keys to Colour Healing. Ashington,
England C. W. Daniel, 1954.
Whitten, Ivah Bergh. What Color Means to You. Ashington,
England C. W. Daniel, 1932.

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