Goethe’s science method throws forward to Thoreau
The start of Goethean Holistic Science book, revised
Why not start here?
Goethe’s way of science, is a simple solution to the one-sided, over-rational, left-hemisphere-only, Dr. Frankenstein science, currently dragging SpaceShip Earth down into a destructive whirpool.
Incidentally, Goethe’s science provides the missing theory to make all holistic health and healing more credible and understandable.
Goethe was born in 1749. Before he suggested his way of way of science, he studied Alchemy. In all old versions of Alchemy, the experimenter was included in each experiment; no experiment was separate from the experimenter. Both the physical materials worked with AND THE EXPERIMENTER were expected to undergo change.
What happened? Given the need for:
- equipment flasks,
- the toxicity of many experiments,
- needed leisure time,
- needed literacy in one in more written languages,
the self-development benefits of alchemy were accessible to very few males. Goethe concluded Alchemy was unworkable, far too advanced, for humanity as a whole, to benefit.
Q: Did alchemy use the scientific method?
A: Many alchemists during the Renaissance Era conducted controlled experiments and used trial and error. They isolated substances from compounds, discovered new qualities in substances, explored how they reacted with each other; and, how they changed under new conditions.
Alchemists invented experimental techniques (distillation, for example) and laboratory tools (funnels, flasks, cupels, etc.) still used by chemists today. They were also the first to isolate certain metals we now know as elements, including antimony, arsenic and zinc. Alchemists laid the groundwork for many chemical processes, such as the refining of ores, the production of gunpowder, the manufacture of glass and ceramics, leather tanning, and the production of inks, dyes, and paints.
Aware of Alchemy’s shortcomings, Goethe was the next to propose balancing the experimenter with the experiment; how, each experiment is TWO-sided not one-sided.
Goethe’s science throws forward to Thoreau
An easy way for us in 2022 to understand Goethe’s way of science is he wanted all science to be more like Thoreau’s experiment at Walden Pond. One sets himself a task. One throws himself into it, body and soul, pays whatever price in physical labor is required — AND — keeps a journal of how each experiment changes you. At the end, you share you uncoveries and insights in a form accessible to many, usually in writing. Goethe was also open to poems, plays and novels as the media for sharing.
One-sided “hard” science
The above contrasts significantly with “hard” science. In the history of science, as hard scientists write it, the “over-subjectivity” in Alchemy was a “problem.”
In this alternative science history, this problem was “fixed” by Galileo: Galileo’s one-sided experiments with mass and velocity. Middle school children recognize Galileo’s rolling and dropping of metal balls as formal science experiments. Galileo also kept copious hand-drawn notebooks; yet, hard scientists don’t care much for these. They only see their own reflection in the tidy rolling and dropping of metal balls which leaves the experimenter 100% OUT of the experiment.
As the twig is bent, so grows the branch. After Galileo, a string of Enlightenment scientists performed one-sided experiments, eliminating the experimenter from the experiment. After WWII science writers, often funded by Big $cience corporations kept presenting this one-sided way of doing science — and no other way. Until 2014 when we began to re-discover Goethe’s way.
The above also makes clear the conflict, friction and aggravation between “hard” scientists and holistic innovators since the 1960s. All the things holistic-humanistic thinkers dislike about “hard” science and technology arise from its dictum the experimenter must be left OUT of each experiment; persons doing the experiment must be eliminated. This includes leaving OUT feelings and values, all subjective thinking-feeling, morals and ethics. These must be invalidated and eradicated. Dr. Frankenstein commands it.
Consider also how Robert Louis Stevenson’s dream which became “The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” embodies the fear “hard” scientists have of allowing the subjective to enter their way of experimenting.
Goethe was our first modern holistic thinker
He throws forward to the holistic-humanistic thinkers of the Human Potential Movement, 1955–1985, the compost from which holistic healthcare and Energy Medicine sprouted.
Goethe incorporated and emphasized the modern capacity for rational, objective, numerical thinking and analysis. He placed this capacity alongside, and in equal partnership with, right-brain poetic and artistic intelligences; including, our capacity to observe, until a “gestalt” reveals itself in Nature.
Rudolf Steiner a century later recognized Goethe’s synthesis as a solution to the one-sided, rigid, restrictive narrowness of left-brain-only, one-eyed “hard” science.
To paraphrase Goethe, he says, only two-sided experiments honor the human experience and our growth potential as “citizens of eternity” (Dostoevsky).
Chapter 19 features a dialogue between a one-sided and a two-sided experimenter. The one-sided experimenter says, “I only care about what I can see thru my measuring devices. When I’ve collected all my data points, I labor to uncover the mathematical logic inherent in how the little bits are changing.”
The two-sided experimenter replies, “Creation and Nature mirror to me my immortal-eternal soul. Every waking day, I look into this mirror to see myself more clearly. Every phenomena in Creation expresses something of Nature. I learn about myself by studying Nature. As I penetrate further into natural phenomena, I gain strength to encompass more of the depth and height of the fruitful possibilities of myself, my community, and my nation.
Future generations will likely be taught this way
- Science is the art of asking questions; and, using experiments to refine your question,
- What questions do you live with? About Nature? About others? About your own psyche?
- Experiment, immerse yourself in observation and learning. What gestalts emerge for you?
- Perform only two-sided experiments. Keep track of what you think, feel and how your study and observations change you,
- If you find left-brain rational-numerical analysis overwhelming your own internal processing — take a break. Re-establish a 50–50 balance between you and your experimental subjects,
- Goethe’s two-sided experimental method is one of few insurances again becoming a mad scientist or a paid lackey of corporate-military agendas.
Where Mad Scientists come from
One-sided experiments are guaranteed to produce fanatical behavior. One-sided experimental science produces “mad scientists.” What do Mad Scientists do? They make their experiment more important than who they are; and, how they as a person are developing personally, morally, ethically spiritually and artistically.
In this the Mad Scientist is brother to Captain Ahab, who makes his obsession killing a particular whale, more important than life itself and the life of the men on his ship he is responsible for.
Holistic health and healing is already Goethean
I submit holistic health, self-healing and advanced modes of Energy Medicine have been doing primarily Goethean two-sided experiments since the 1970s. We simply did not yet recognize this gestalt.
Two-sided experiments are the most effective and interesting experiments you can do. Don’t believe me? Take a look at standout examples of science Main Lesson books in Waldorf middle and high schools, see Images.Google.com.
Two-sided experiments are the most effective way to apply the holistic paradigm to human health and wellness.
ONE-sided experiments are the most most effective way to gather and apply health information to cattle, pigs, chickens, crops and soil.
Two-sided experiments are crucial for personal-spiritual growing. Why? Because the human being is two-sided, plays Two Games. Each of us is balancing between an Inner Game of Life and an Outer Game of Life.
The harmonizing of left and right brain hemisphere intelligences, is a kind of useful simplified cartoon of this aim, “whole-brainedness.”
PS: Another angle on the Goethe-Thoreau connection was uncovered by Christina Root of Saint Michael’s College in an 18 page paper, “Thoreau’s Practice of Goethe’s Phenomenology” (2005)
References re Alchemy