Goethean Science

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Goethean Science

Postby quioxte » Mon May 30, 2005 2:09 am

I'm on a Steiner kick lately, so has anyone heard of... <br><br><br>Goethean Science<br><br><!--EZCODE AUTOLINK START--><a href="http://www.kheper.net/metamorphosis/Goethean.html">www.kheper.net/metamorpho...thean.html</a><!--EZCODE AUTOLINK END--><br><br>Goethean science is an approach to knowing the world, that serves as an intuitive or "right brain" (so to speak) complement to the traditional rationalistic "left brain" science.<br><br>As the name suggests, it was founded by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), who was in turn influenced by earlier philosophers like Spinoza and Leibniz. Although Goethe was best known as a poet and playwright, he actually spent many years (from 1777 until his death) engaged in scientific pursuits. His research and ideas spanned such diverse fields as geology, meteorology, osteology, botany and plant development, morphology and embryology, and the nature of colour and vision.<br><br>Goethe's particular way of doing science is interesting, because it is was opposite the mechanistic and reductionistic paradigms of his contemporaries such as Newton and Laplace. Fundamental to Goethe's approach to science was his insistence that the scientist is not a passive observer of an external universe, but rather engaged in a reciprocal, participatory relationship<br>with nature, and hence the observer is able to interact with the observed.<br><br>Goethe's science was not well received. His wave theory of light lost out to the particle theory of Newton and others (now of course we have both, thanks to quantum physics, but that is only after along dark journey through reductionistic materialism). There were botanists who used his work on plants, and his theory of colour later gained respect in the fields of psychology and visual arts. But the most active and enthusiastic exponent of his work was Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, who in the first few decades of the 20th century combined Goethe’s science with Rosicrucianism and Blavatskyian Theosophy. Some of Steiner's successors have further developed this stream of neo-Goethean thought, and today the Anthroposophical movement is the most active and creative exponent of Goethe’s science. They even have a "Goetheanum" (designed by Steiner) in Switzerland.<br>Goethe's Spiritual Science<br><br>Goethe's science seek an understanding of processes by delving into the phenomenon experientially. It requires stepping outside of theory and common place preconceptions and actively engaging the full range of human abilities, senses and imagination, in perceiving the real world. Any phenomena, for example, rocks, plants, animals or humans - any relationships between things or social relations, or the nature of form and function, can be explored using Goethe's method of approaching phenomena. The approach bears similarities to the phenomenology of Husserl and his successors. However, it is in its practical use that the approach to phenomena has the potential to change the way we, for example, interact with the land, teach science or develop our human potential. Goethe spoke of opening up or growing new 'organs of perception' which would expand our understandings of the world into an integrated whole (this is an idea that Steiner developed into "supersensible perception" and which he saw as the next stage of human evolution).<br><!--EZCODE IMAGE START--><img src="http://www.kheper.net/metamorphosis/leaves.gif" style="border:0;"/><!--EZCODE IMAGE END--><br>Goethean science is therefore also a spiritual path, an integration of science and art, a science of quality and of wholeness, the development of a science of compassion.<br>An example of Goethean Metamorphosis - The Leaf Sequence<br><br>The most well-known example of Goethean science is observation of the leaf types of plants, demonstrating a new intuitive way of understanding plant development. This takes a number of different leaf morphotypes and puts them in a sequence, revealing a hidden pattern of morphogenesis. The following is a series of growth stages in a leaf.<br>leaves<br>Leaf sequence of a musk mallow, from the book New Eyes for Plants, by Margaret Colquhoun and Axel Ewald<br><br>©, reproduced from Exploring Goethean Science at Schumacher College<br><br>We can fill the gaps between each leaf stage with the imagination, creating a smooth continuum. In the physical world the plant as it stands frozen in one moment in time. But mental visualisation enables the linking of these disjointed "frames" (the different morphotypes) into a smooth continuous metamorphosis from one form to another. In this way the movement of plant growth can be experienced in the imagination. One can intuitively and non-invasively come to an understanding of how the plant grows. Goethe called this way of seeing "exact sensorial fantasy"; an active process of merging ourselves with the phenomenon. This experience reveals a unique "gesture", a movement characteristic of the plant, telling us 'who' it is as it dances its way into being. In theosophical/New Age parlance one could say we are attuning to the "deva" of the plant. Goethe's science seeks this gesture of organisms, and it is this quality which shows us the 'inner necessity' of the growing plant.<br><br><br>My own meditations<br><br>I have to admit this whole Goethean approach interests me, mainly because long before I found out about Goethe's methodology I was doing exactly the same thing regarding the phylogenetic external link evolution of life. I would meditate on a life-form, living or extinct, and become aware of it evolving and metamorphosing through various species and evolutionary stages, the whole thing being a single dynamic continuum, what I called the "time organism" because it's movement (change) is through time rather than space. My original inspiration for this was actually something I read in Trevor Ravenscroft's Spear of Destiny - Ravenscroft was in influenced by Steiner, who drew from and further developed Goethe, so the whole thing is a big cycle.<br><br>Now, Goethe is talking about ontogeny or metamorphosis within growth (in his day the idea of biological evolution was not really known or accepted). Whereas what I meditated on was phylogeny - the evolution of the lineage. Yet there need be no incompatibility here. Ontogeny, the development of the individual organism, and phylogeny, the history of the race as a whole, are two sides of the same process, which repeats itself fractally on every level. Hence the dictum of the great 19th century biologist Ernst Haekel - "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". e.g. the embryo passes through all the evolutionary stages of its racial history. So the human embryo and fetus for example pass through a stage where it actually grows gill slits, and where it has a tail. Modern research has shown that things are not so simple, and Haekel actually committed the most heinous crime a scientist could do - he falsified some of his results (he has not been the only one to do so). But I feel that the principle of what he proposed still sands, even if things are not so obvious on the reductionistic mundane level.<br>Goethean and Conventional Science<br><br>Goethean and Conventional Science sit uncomfortably with each other. Conventional Science would see Goethean science as no more than a historical oddity, long since disproved. Goetheans have the same either/or attitude. Since they are right, conventional science must be wrong. This is the annoying polemical attitude Poppelbaum takes in his otherwise fascinating study in Goethean-Anthroposophical zoosophy, A New Zoology. The idea is that the Goethean does not need to superimpose a rationalistic or reductionistic explanatory mechanism over top of the observed phenomenon, but rather simply takes the intuitive imaginative experience at face value.<br><br>To me this approach is very limited. It harkens back to the tale of the blind men and the elephant, in which each blind man presumes the little bit of the elephant he has hold of constitutes the entire beast. There is really no contradiction between Goethean/Anthroposophical and Conventional Science. The Goethean position pertains to the etheric and the inner physical level, the conventional scientific to the material/mundane and the external physical. They are like yin and yang, wave and particle, the two brain hemispheres or the two psychic functions suggested by Stan Gooch. A true understanding of nature, and a true universal science, needs and requires both.<br><!--EZCODE IMAGE START--><img src="http://www.kheper.net/metamorphosis/leaves.gif" style="border:0;"/><!--EZCODE IMAGE END--> <p></p><i></i>
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We are all the blind men

Postby Project Willow » Mon May 30, 2005 6:43 am

feeling up the elephant as the human mind is not capable of containing and synthesizing all that there is to know which we already have discovered, let alone what has yet to be discovered. It's impossible. It's one of the causes of our current situation.<br><br>Subtleties of language fail me at the moment, but I hope you get my point.<br><br>A somewhat meaningful aside, it was brought to my attention by a care giver, that whatever I was meant to be, in spite of what may have been done to me, was inviolate, it is creation (enter spiritual context of your choice here) and so only shows the arrogance of those who would denigrate or harm me, rather than it being a refection of the nature of my being. The example used was that of a leaf. But then, this example does not address the peculiar aspects/needs of social animals. Nevertheless, I found it powerful.<br><br>I should not write here late at night, after being at the bar.<br><br>We suffer as a culture in the underdevelopment and under-appreciation of right brain holistic, perceptive (shall I add psychic?) functioning/wisdom. A prime example of which is my inability to translate into words what I am thinking right now. <p></p><i></i>
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Goethean Metamorphosis reminds me of ...

Postby bindare » Mon May 30, 2005 4:21 pm

... Polya's wonderful little book on problem solving, especially the part dealing with "devising a plan" (Part II below) where our current knowledge/understanding is morphed in-to/over-to the unknown problem. Here is a very short summary, i wish i could do it justice with proper type-setting: <br> <br> G. Polya, How to Solve It <br><br>I: UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM <br>You have to understand the problem. <br>* What is the unknown? What are the data? What is the condition? Is it possible to satisfy the condition? Is the condition sufficient to determine the unknown? Or is it insufficient? Or redundant? Or contradictory? <br>* Draw a figure. Introduce suitable notation. Separate the various parts of the condition. Can you write them down?<br> <br>II: DEVISING A PLAN <br>* Find the connection between the data and the unknown. You may be obliged to consider auxiliary problems if an immediate connection cannot be found. You should obtain eventually a plan of the solution. <br>* Have you seen it before? Or have you seen the same problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related problem? Do you know a theorem that could be useful? <br>* Look at the unknown! And try to think of a familiar problem having the same or a similar unknown. <br>* Here is a problem related to yours and solved before --- Could you use it? Could you use its result? Could you use its method? Should you introduce some auxiliary element in order to make its use possible? <br>* Could you restate the problem? Could you restate it still differently? Go back to definitions. <br>* If you cannot solve the proposed problem try to solve first some related problem. Could you imagine a more accessible related problem? A more general problem? A more special problem? An analogous problem? * Could you solve a part of the problem? Keep only a part of the condition, drop the other part; how far is the unknown then determined, how can it vary? <br>* Could you derive something useful from the data? Could you think of other data appropriate to determine the unknown? Could you change the unknown or data, or both if necessary, so that the new unknown and the new data are nearer to each other? <br>* Did you use all the data? Did you use the whole condition? Have you taken into account all essential notions involved in the problem? <br><br>III: CARRYING OUT THE PLAN <br>Carry out your plan. <br>* Carrying out your plan of the solution, check each step. <br>* Can you see clearly that the step is correct?<br>* Can you prove that it is correct? <br><br>IV: Looking Back <br>Examine the solution obtained. <br>* Can you check the result? Can you check the argument? <br>* Can you derive the solution differently? Can you see it at a glance? <br>* Can you use the result, or the method, for some other problem? <br> <p></p><i></i>
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Postby Peg C » Tue May 31, 2005 3:04 am

This IS amazing. I just posted, without having read this, a speculation on ongoing human evolution. <p></p><i></i>
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Postby Peg C » Tue May 31, 2005 3:15 am

Project Willow -<br><br>"Knowing" might be a simpler and less traumatic process than you think. Trusting in compass-like instincts may save us from infinite despair, simply through the recognition that the impulses exist. I don't know about your horrors, but I know the possibility of them. <p></p><i></i>
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