Goethean science questions the objectivity of the observer in the discovery of knowledge. Different from the modern scientific method we are. SCHUMACHER COLLEGE An International Centre for Ecological Studies Exploring Goethean Science at Schumacher College by Natasha Myers Schumacher. It was originally published as introductions to Goethe’s Natural-Scientific Works in K├╝rschner’s Deutsche National Literatur, edited by Rudolf Steiner, with.

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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.

Goethean Science

As the name suggests, it was founded by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethewho 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 until his death engaged in scientific pursuits.

His research and ideas spanned such diverse fields as geology, meteorology, osteology, botany and plant development, morphology goethen embryology, and the nature of colour and vision. gooethean

Goethe’s particular way of doing science is interesting, because it is goetehan 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 with nature, and hence the observer is able to interact with the observed.

Goethe’s science was not well received. His wave theory of goetheqn lost out to the particle theory of Newton and others now of course we have both, thanks to quantum physicsbut 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. 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. Goethe’s science seek an understanding goeghean 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, scienxe 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 Goefhean 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 goetheah the next stage of human evolution.

Goethean science is therefore toethean a spiritual path, an integration of science and art, a science of quality and of wholeness, the development of a science of compassion.

What is Goethean Science?

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. We can fill the gaps between each leaf stage with the imagination, creating goetgean smooth continuum.

In the physical world the plant as it stands frozen in one moment in time.

Goethean Science

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. 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. Goethe’s science seeks this gesture of organisms, and it is this quality which shows us the ‘inner necessity’ of the growing plant. 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 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 Steinerwho drew from and further developed Goethe, so the whole thing is a big cycle.

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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.

Goethean science – Wikipedia

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. Goethfan the dictum of the great 19th century biologist Ernst Haekel – “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”. 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.

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. 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. To me this approach is very limited. It harkens back to the tale of the blind men and the elephantin which each blind man presumes the little gpethean of the elephant he has hold of constitutes the entire beast.

They are like yin and yangwave and particle, the two brain hemispheres or the two psychic functions suggested by Stan Gooch. A true understanding of nature, and a true universal scienceneeds and requires both. Goethean Science – short intro. What is Goethean Science? Transcending Darwinism in goetean Spirit of Goethe’s Science: Goethe comes to New York – by Judith Krischik. Alan Kazlev page uploaded 11 Feblast modified 19 July