Doing Goethean Science
For the past two days, students of the 2015/2016 Masters in Holistic Science course at Schumacher College have been studying phenomenology, particularly as understood and developed by German polymath, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, for the purposes of scientific inquiry. Our study has been supported by an introduction to praxis—each student has been tasked with an apprenticeship to the secret life of a particular plant.
We have been aided in this vast effort by Nature Institute director Craig Holdrege, a veritable expert of Goethean science and a Steiner educator with over two decades of experience, who has been with us this week at Schumacher College.
“If we want to approach a living perception (Anschauung) of nature, we must become as mobile and flexible as nature herself.”
— J.W. von Goethe, 1807
In simple terms, the phenomenological approach refers to a Way of Seeing parts of nature as representative (re-presentative) of hidden, larger wholes, recognizing that these parts are determined largely by context (relationship/situatedness) and morphology (identity/development).
In yet simpler terms, it is the art of looking through space at time.
The most peculiar thing happens when you do this. You begin to recognize that life is time expressing itself through space.
But I digress. I'll save the physics metaphors for another post (I've got a good one about the fractal symbology of toroidal singularities). I'll conclude this short entry with a drawing of my current muse, along with some notes on her secret life.
Day 2. Rubus fruticosus, the common bramble, has decided I should know a bit more about it.
After puzzling over yesterday's observation that Rubus leaves come in variations of either three or five—never four—I discover a part of the bramble in the midst of a transition (fig. 3).
I feel a simple, but nonetheless profound, sense of wonder in this discovery. Truly, it is by being deliberate in our approach, by tolerating uncertainty for extensive lengths of time, that our reward for perceiving the actual life of another Being is so great.
I conclude with an insight: perception is not the same as projection. Perception is the art of 'getting out of the way' in order to see what is; projection is the internal anxiety of ignorance reacting with the performance of seeing.