G O E T H E A N O B S E R V A T I O N
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German philosopher, scientist, statesman, artist, poet, writer, playwright, in short, a universal genius.
Born: 28 August 1749 in Frankfurt/Main
Died: 22 March 1832 in Weimar
He devised the Evolutionary System of all Plant Developments, which he established in 1790 as the Metamorphosis of Plants.
All plant parts can be traced back to a single basic element, the leaf developing out of the node. The concept is of the Primeval Plant, (“Urpflanze” in German). The mature plant derives from a step by step transformation, and its diversity is explained by various modifications of the metamorphosis. No matter whether a plant brings forth shoots, flowers or fruits, it is always the same elements which fulfill the laws of nature in accordance with diverse purpose and with frequent changes of form. The very element that has extended from the stalk as a leaf and adopted a great variety of forms, contracts as the calyx, re-expands as the petals, and contracts into reproductive organs so as to expand for a last time as the fruit.
Nature study – Goethe’s observations
What is universal to every single plant? Here we come to the concept of the primeval plant (Urpflanze). In each case of plant observation, we find the following four characteristics:
1. The Law of Expansion and Contraction. This has to be arrived at by making very minute observation of the object, because each stage in the development of the plant is either a contraction or an expansion and it is important for the observer to know which is which.
2. Enhancement. This is the development in the form of sepals, petals or leaves at different levels.
3. Metamorphosis. For instance, when the petals of a flower wilt and fall off, the fruit begins to form, as if the flower would turn inside out to form the fruit.
4. Each part is the picture of the whole. For example, the shape of the individual leaf can often be similar to the shape of the whole tree.
In Goethean observation we prepare our thinking to assist our observation. “Our sense perception without thinking is blind”. Knowledge is perception combined with the concept. (Erkenntnis ist Wahrnehmung und Begriff). We exercise the strategy of empathy. What is intuition? I stand within the observed object – the object and the self/situation is one. Is there a way to read the book of nature, without instruments? How do we make our thinking more objective? Take one object in nature and observe it.
1. First of all, just look. Take the object as a given fact – PHYSICAL
2. Now bring in the rhythmical process in your observation: open your eyes and look intently at the object, then close your eyes and visualize it, again open your eyes and look, then close your eyes and visualize, open, close, open, close, there is a rhythmical process in your observation – ETHERIC
3. Now fix the image in your consciousness, as it is, without prejudice. Try to make a drawing of it out of your memory and then compare the drawing with the actual object. When you observe and draw an object in nature, your hand draws what your eye follows and you internalize the object – ASTRAL
4. Now you decide whether or not to let this image enter your heart, a responsible and conscious decision, an encounter. What is the result of this encounter (an inner encounter, an inner dialogue) – I/EGO/SELF
5. We prepare ourselves that this encounter really becomes a meeting of beings, that the object really speaks to us (subject) while we become silent, receptive and sensitive listeners – SPIRIT SELF
6. We realize that we can love everything which we understand – LIFE SPIRIT
7. Finally, we learn to live with the other and to serve, to give back in service – SPIRIT MAN
8. To delve still deeper in the object, we may now ask, how is the plant in relation (as an indicator) to the four elements. The plant can reveal its faculties, is it a “complete” plant with root, shoot, leaves, flowers, fruit, or is something missing?
9. What is the interaction between the earth and the sun, between the plant and the
10. Mineral, Plant, Animal, Human: what is specific for each?