The Lüscher Color Test

December 22nd, 2010

The eight color cards of Max Lüscher‘s Quick Color Test, from his 1969 The Lüscher Color Test.

“In the beginning man’s life was dictated by two factors beyond his control: night and day, darkness and light. Night brought about an environment in which action had to cease, so man repaired to his cave, wrapped himself in his furs and went to sleep, or else he climbed a tree and made himself as comfortable as he could while awaiting the coming of dawn. Day brought an environment in which action was possible, so he set forth once more to replenish his store and forage or hunt for his food. Night brought passivity, quiescence and a general slowing down of metabolic and glandular activity; day brought with it the possibility of action, an increase in the metabolic rate and greater glandular secretion, thus providing him with both energy and incentive. The colors associated with these two environments are the dark-blue of the night sky and the bright yellow of daylight.

“Dark-blue is therefore the color of quiet and passivity, bright yellow the color of hope and activity, but because these colors represent the night and day environments, they are factors which control man rather than elements he can control; they are therefore described as ‘heteronomous’ colors—that is, colors which regulate from outside. Night (dark-blue) compelled activity to cease and enforced quiescence; day (bright yellow) allowed activity to take place but did not compel it.

“To primitive man, activity as a rule took one of two forms—either he was hunting and attacking, or he was being hunted and defending himself against attack: activity directed towards conquest and acquisition or activity directed towards self-preservation. The outgoing actions of attack and conquest are universally represented by the color red; self-preservation by its complement, green.

“Since his actions, whether of attack (red) or defense (green) were at least under his control, these factors and colors are described as ‘autonomous,’ or self-regulating. On the other hand, attack being an acquisitive and outgoing action is considered to be ‘active,’ while defense, being concerned only with self-preservation, is considered to be ‘passive'” (p11-12).

The four basic colors of the Eight-color Panel of the Quick Test.

These four colors—blue, yellow, red, and green—“are ‘psychological primaries’ and constitute what are called the four ‘basic colors’ of the test. In the Eight-color Panel of the Quick Test there are… four more. These ‘auxiliary colors’ are: violet, which is a mixture of red and blue; brown, which is a mixture of yellow-red and black; a neutral gray, containing no color at all and therefore free from any affective influence, while its intensity places it halfway between light and dark so that it gives rise to no anabolic nor catabolic effect—it is psychologically and physiologically neutral; and finally, black, which is a denial of color altogether” (p19).

The four auxiliary colors of the Eight-color Panel of the Quick Test.

“In the Lüscher Color Test, the ‘structure’ of a color is constant; it is defined as the ‘objective meaning’ of that color and remains the same for everyone—dark-blue, for instance, means ‘peace and quiet’ regardless of whether one likes or dislikes it. The ‘function,’ on the other hand, is the ‘subjective attitude towards the color’ and it is this which varies from person to person, and it is the ‘function’ on which the test interpretations are based. One person may like a particular color, another may find the same color boring, a third may be indifferent to it, while a fourth may find it definitely distasteful.

“In the test the person being tested (or testing himself) selects the colors in descending order of preference; the color he likes best and places in the first position is thus the one for which he has the greatest sympathy; that which he chooses last and places in the eighth position is the one for which he has the greatest antipathy (or least sympathy). By observing where in the row a color occurs, we can determine what ‘function’ the particular color represents, since the subjective attitude towards the various colors varies from greatest to least sympathy” (p20).

“Bearing in mind that it is necessary to group color selections correctly [as described in the book]… the following attitudes or ‘functions’ can be generally established… [The 1st position] represents a ‘turning towards’… [and] shows the essential method, the modus operandi, of the person choosing it, the means by which he turns to or adopts to enable him to achieve his objective. For example, with dark-blue in this position the modus operandi would be ‘calmness’… [The 2nd position] shows what the objective actually is. With dark-blue in this position, for instance, the goal for which he is striving is ‘peace and quiet’… [The 3rd & 4th positions] show the ‘actual state of affairs,’ the situation in which he actually feels himself to be, or the manner in which his existing circumstances require him to act. Dark-blue in these positions would show that he feels he is in a peaceful situation or in one in which it necessary for him to act calmly… [The 5th & 6th positions] show that [the colors’] special qualities are neither being rejected, nor are they especially appropriate to the existing state of affairs, but are being held in reserve… Dark-blue in one of these positions shows that ‘peace’ has been suspended… [The 7th & 8th positions] represent a ‘turning away from.’ Colors which are rejected as unsympathetic represent a particular need which there is some special reason for inhibiting, since not to do so would be disadvantageous… With dark-blue in one of these positions, for example, the need for peace has to remain unsatisfied because—due to unfavorable circumstances—every relaxation, every surrender, every attempt to bring about closer more harmonious relationships would have unsatisfactory consequences” (p21-22).

Lüscher’s text further explains the choice and meaning of the eight colors of the test and the structural meanings of their pairwise combinations, and gives interpretation tables for all functional groupings of the colors in all possible positions, describing their associated anxieties, compensations, conflicts, and prognoses.

An Aspect of Divine Energy

December 11th, 2010

A ca. 1970s painting by Sam Francis reproduced in his collection of writings, Saturated Blue (n.p.).

Writes Francis:

Color may extend forever
expand forever
drift forever
stand still forever
as time may stand
still extend expand
and drift forever
and is indefinite relationship

forever is a limit
for space and time
color represents an aspect of divine energy
and in human terms
is measured in relation to desire