Colour is what the visual sense assigns to specific, differentiated ranges of electromagnetic energy in the visible spectrum. There are, therefore, in the entire spectrum more colours than the human eye sees under normal visual conditions and in normal stages of consciousness. This is why the extremes of visibility: indigo, blackness or ultra-violet darkness, and near infra-red fire-glow, or brilliance, symbolize realities beyond ordinary perception. Red, yellow, blue; orange, green, purple; white, brown and black are basic colours. Grey, tan, mauve, olive, aquamarine, flaxen, rose and pink are among lighter hues of these. Among the more brilliant shades the reds predominate with scarlet, vermilion, carmine, crimson, cerise, etc. The brighter colours also include those symbolized by the metallic-named gold, silver, bronze, copper, platinum, and steel; and jewel-named pearl, coral, ruby, emerald, amethyst and sapphire. Other natural symbol colour names derive from the woods; ebony, mahogony chestnut, hazel; the fruits; cherry, lemon, peach, plum, the plants: lavender, heliotrope; the fur, sable, and the fish, salmon. Colour or light conditions that also appear in symbolism include such terms as sombre, livid; dark, bright; clear, murky; intense, diffused; warm, cold, etc; and also shadowy, chiaroscuro, dappled, dusky, mottled, blotched, dingy, variegated, striped, streaked, chequered, flecked, speckled, stippled, dotted, parti-coloured, piebald, marbled, veined and barred. Polychromatic, Kaleidoscopic and tessellated, are also colour symbolism terms. Related to all the foregoing are such conditions as shining, varnished, glazed, polished, glossy, blazing, shimmery, scintillating, flashing, coruscating and dazzling.
Attempts at colour symbolism anciently began by using the quality of colour of a thing as its symbol: gold colour for real gold, blood-red for blood; green for most leaves and plants, or for grasses, etc. Also the planets appeared with distinctive colours: Mars, reddish; Saturn, pale yellow; Venus coppery, hence also associated with green verdigris, the two colours therefore suitable for its dual aspects as Morning Star and Evening Star; Jupiter (as rain causing), blush; Sun, fiery gold-red or orange; and Moon, quicksilvery, silvery or white. Since, according to ancient religions' astro-theology, these planet-gods ruled all terrestrial affairs, these matters could be symbolized by the colour of the ruling planet. It was thought that there were colour correspondences, such as between the green grains and grasses and Venus, the 'green' Evening Star; between gold metal and the golden Sun; between bloodshed in battle and red Mars; between Shining water, or cattle-milk (or cheese) and the Moon; etc. From this it was a short step to say that fighting and fighters could be associated with red; herding and herders, with green; water-bearers and milk maids with silver or white. Another step in generalization or abstraction provided such ideas as red symbolizes fighting, therefore aggression, therefore the instincts. Green, then, symbolizes collection (harvesting grain, or herding in the pastures) or cultivation, hence acquired skills, culture, or the noos or intellect. Blue signifies rain and precipitation, therefore heaven-to-earth descent, or spirit. Modern colour symbology employs scientific knowledge of colour, that is, of white light being broken into primary and intermediate colours, and of colour mixing. The metaphor of colour is therefore based often on the position of the colour on the spectrum (horizontally); its degree of more or less brightness (vertically); or its resolution or analysis into component colours. Once blue and yellow are assigned symbolic values, green may be assigned to the outcome of combining blue and yellow, for example. All these considerations explain in good part the confusion within and between cultures as to the symbolic meanings colours bear. The assignment of particular colours to be worn as clothing to distinguish economic and social castes and classes still exists. In some Northern countries, for example, a white or light single-coloured shirt is required for male office workers while very expensive shirts affordable usually only by executives, may be striped, or otherwise evidence more colour. The reverse is true for females. Colourful blouses are often suitable for clerical personnel, but supervisors and managers are expected to dress like male clericals. Factory and construction workers, labourers and miners have been characterized by dark colours or by 'blue collars'. Some professions and roles require specific colours: black for judges, executioners, undertakers and bridegrooms, for example; white for angels, cooks, bakers and brides. Although various religious traditions point to ultimate single colours to represent the final alleged stage of human potential there is no general consensus, reasoning on arbitrary systems of symbolic correspondences, or by accepting revelations, as to which colour represents the pinnacle of mystical, other-worldly achievement. It may be, however, that the highest form of personal development for individuals, in the context of the global society that has emerged in people's awareness, could be symbolized by those conditions of colour which may be called polychrome or rainbow. The universality of the appeal of the musician who called the children to follow him was aptly symbolized by his being called, the Pied Piper. Another universal figure is the Pilgrim-Matto dressed in his bright parti-coloured harlequinade who introduces the procession of the Tarot archetypes. In such symbolism of 'all'-colours there may be the deeper symbolism that 'all'-colours are simply a representation of white light, or the integral reality that co-exists with the reality of coloured differentiation; and that if one of the colours is missing there may be no white light.<
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a unique, experimental research work of the Union of International Associations. It is currently published as a searchable online platform with profiles of world problems, action strategies, and human values that are interlinked in novel and innovative ways. These connections are based on a range of relationships such as broader and narrower scope, aggravation, relatedness and more. By concentrating on these links and relationships, the Encyclopedia is uniquely positioned to bring focus to the complex and expansive sphere of global issues and their interconnected nature.
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