Atziluth is the World of Archetypes and Divine consciousness. It corresponds to the element of Fire, and the First letter of the Hebrew four-letter Name of God: Yod. In Tarot it is represented by the Kings (as might be expected) and the suit of Wands.
The colour scales for the Tree of Life shown on these pages were developed in the 1880s by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (or as some say, The [Esoteric] Order of the Golden Dawn in the Outer). Samuel MacGregor Mathers and Moina Mathers seem to be the most likely originators. However, because members of a certain grade were required to reproduce their own Tree(s) properly coloured, several variations (broadly in agreement) developed, including colour scales used by Florence Farr that made their way to New Zealand via Dr. Robert Felkin and became part of the work carried out there between the early 1900s and the late 1970s.
In the mid 1960s, these Golden Dawn colour scales were adopted by the Servants of the Light School of Occult Science, a modern Western Mystery School, as part of their teachings. This is where I encountered them as a student and especially valued the interactive Tree of Life on the website with all the colours and scales provided with a click. Following completion of the main course, additional explorations regarding circulations of colour in specific ways led to further investigations and research resulting in this website.
To be clear, the Golden Dawn colour scales are not the only presentation or interpretation of the colour the Tree. For instance, see the page on Colour in Medieval Jewish Kabbalah or the work of William G. Gray or the Arum Solis for a start. Even so, GD scales will be main focus here. Although in no way exhaustive or definitive, these pages hopefully will provide a deeper look at these colour choices and the stories around them.
“The Natural Essence of Colour”:
What is the ‘King Scale’?
The colours of the Paths and the Sephiroth form a mutal balance and harmony on the Tree. Colours are Forces, the Signatures of the Forces; and the Child of the children of the Forces art thou. And therefore about the Throne of the Mighty One is a Rainbow of Glory, and at His Feet is the Crystal Sea. But there are many other attributions of colour also, seeing that the respective rays meet and blend with each other…” (excerpted from the Golden Dawn’s Hodos Chamelionis, The Book of the Path of the Chameleon, which provides some historical and esoteric background for the Golden Dawn colour scales).
As poetic as those words are, the main thing the Hodos Chamelionis has to say about the King Scale is that its colours are ‘masculine’ and ‘active’. Much more attention is given to the derivation of ‘feminine’ and ‘passive’ Queen Scale. (We’ll just let the historical, gender-based terminology pass for the moment).
A closely related GD creation is a coloured version of the Tree of Life, the Minitum Mundum diagram, the Small Universe. Nick Farrell, author and editor of the Hermetic Journal, provides some very relevant information: “In the Minitum Mundum [Samuel MacGregor] Mathers based his colour associations on ‘The Rainbow Scale of Colours,’ which is an observed effect of colour when white light is passed through a prism. In Nature this occurs when sunlight is refracted through suspended water droplets resulting in a rainbow effect. In the same manner in which a rainbow is observed as being stretched above the Earth, Mathers envisioned the Paths leading from Malkuth to the Higher…” (The King Over the Water, p. 201)
Personally, the single sentence I’ve read that has made the most sense in terms of understanding the King Scale is this one: “The colors of the King Scale are derived from the natural essence of colour and should be transparent, like the colours seen in stained glass windows.” (from Colouring the Classic Golden Dawn Tarot by Richard Dudschus and David Sledzinski)
Then, from the Lecture on the Four Scales of Colour in the Whare Ra papers the Light is again emphasised: “…Of the King Scale it is more difficult to speak, for it belongs to the region of pure light, the source of all colour and music. To that region only the Initiate has access, and that which he receives is in the nature of light and life.”