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The Tip of the Iceberg

An International Centre for Ecological Studies

Holistic Science MSc 2001/2002, module:
Introduction to Holistic Science

The Tip of the Iceberg:
Goethe’s Aphorisms on the theory of Nature and Science.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe and the
Emergence of Holistic Science
by Daniel Wahl


My familiarity, as a German, with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the renewed confrontation with his works during the Masters of Holistic Science programme at Schumacher College have given me the opportunity to explore yet another facet of his fascinating, multi-talented personality.

Although already in high regard for his literary achievements, the full extent of Goethe’s significance in the history of culture may not yet have been realized. In many ways, his works seem still to be gaining in influence. In particular with regard to his work as a scientist, he surprises with astonishing foresight and continues to provide deep inspiration to the emerging discipline of holistic science.

To give you a perspective from within the German cultural background: Goethe is most highly regarded for his work as a poet and his scientific writings are less well known. He is to German literature and culture, what Shakespeare is to the English, Cervantes is to the Spanish and Montaigne is to the French, linguistic, cultural identity.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the movement of anthroposophy and initiator of the popular alternative education system, was deeply influenced by Goethe and so was Carl Gustav Jung. Steiner wrote in his book on Goethean Science: “Goethe’s world-historic significance lies, indeed, precisely in the fact that his art flows directly from the primal source of all existence, that there is nothing illusory or subjective about it, that, on the contrary, his art appears as the herald of that lawfulness that the poet has grasped by listening to the world spirit within the depth of nature’s working. At this level art becomes the interpreter of the mysteries of the world just as science is also, in a different sense”(Steiner, 1988).

I decided to attempt my own translation of Goethe’s collected ‘aphorisms on the theory of nature and science”, after comparing some of the translations offered by Naydler with the German original and realizing that he not only translated them rather freely, but that there were also a lot of aphorisms that to my knowledge have so far not been translated into English.

I have refrained from regrouping the aphorisms according to subject areas and maintained the original numbering and order found in the edition published by Recalm, which formed the basis of my translations. To my knowledge this edition presents the entire body of Goethe’s writings on the natural sciences and the aphorisms it contains were written by Goethe as aphorisms and have not been taken out of their context.

In my translation, I have attempted to stay as close to the literal meaning of Goethe’s sentences as possible and this may occasionally result in the need to re-read an aphorism once or twice, when unusual word order or word use obscure easy access to its meaning. I deliberately made this decision in order to preserve Goethe’s intent and to avoid unnecessarily interpretive translation on my part.

In general it can be said of aphorisms, that they loose in clarity what they gain in brevity. Nevertheless, they can be powerful instruments in conveying deeper insights on a level, which transcends the purely rational and stimulates intuitive understanding. I therefore urge the reader to ‘meditate’ over the deeper meaning they may attempt to convey, rather than to react with dismissing my translation, should an aphorism remain slightly cryptic at first contact. I should stress that the same approach is required of the German reader of the original aphorisms.

After every translated aphorism, I briefly comment on the association it invoked in me. I am fully aware that these associations are coloured by my own background and are subjective interpretations, as I realize the impossibility of ‘objective analysis’. The translations and my comments on them make up the main part of this essay.

I will discuss Goethe’s influence on the newly emerging discipline of holistic science and investigate to what extent Goethe’s way of seeing the world is central to the emerging new paradigm, which will hopefully constitute the basis for a more holistic worldview in which science and art reconnect to be imbedded in an ethical and aesthetic framework.

I will briefly review some of the evidence which links Goethe to the ancient traditions of Alchemy and Hermetic Science and discuss to what extend Goethe may be regarded as a conduit for this ancient knowledge from before the scientific revolution to the present day and whether these ancient disciplines may still be of significance in the attempt to formulate a new holistic worldview.

In their participatory nature, through their focus on the process of ‘coming-into-being’ and the interconnectedness of all phenomena and through their emphasis of embodied sensory experience, these ancient traditions and Goethe’s development of their insights may point the way towards incorporating the achievements of 300 years of Reductionist science into the wider framework of a holistic science that re-unites the arts and the sciences, re-introduces a focus on qualities over quantities, moves from control to participation and provides a basis for a new ethical way of engaging with nature.

Translated Aphorisms on the Theory of Nature and Science

“(1) Everything, which we invent, discover and in a higher sense name, is the meaningful execution and proof of the existence of an original sense of truth, which quietly long formed, leads immediately, with lightning speed, to a fruitful insight. It is a revelation, which develops from the interior according to the exterior and allows humans to glimpse their similarity with god. It is a synthesis of the world and of spirit-mind (Geist), which conveys the most soulful reassurance of the eternal harmony of existence.”

The German word Geist has two meanings in this context. It refers at the same time to humanity’s mental and spiritual capacity to create meaning. I believe Goethe refers to humanities creative potential in this aphorism. We create the world we live in, as we are making sense of and assign meaning to it. The word spirit-mind tries to express our capacity for meaningful intuitive insight rather than for purely analytical reason.

“(2) The mistake of weak spirit-minds is, that in reflection they move immediately from the single case to the general; whereby one can only find the general in the entirety (of the whole).”

This aphorism refers to one of the central criticisms Goethe extended towards the Reductionist tendencies in science. Henri Bortoft expressed Goethe’s focus on the multitude of phenomena, through the phrase “multiplicity in unity”, as opposed to “unity in multiplicity”(Bortoft, 1996). The former is possibility, including all differences and remaining all encompassing as we shift from one phenomenon to the next; the latter tries to generalize what many phenomena have in common and thereby excludes differences. It is the latter approach, which Goethe calls a mistake.

“(3) The Metaphysics of the appearance arises out of the biggest like out of the smallest and can only be brought to our attention by the use of artificial means. The specific lies in the middle, attuned to the senses which I rely on, therefore I bless the gifted from the depth of my heart, who brings these far regions closer to me.”

I interpret the above as a reference to the Hermetic principle of as above so below and the relationship between micro- and macrocosmos. It stresses how the human observer of phenomena has to rely on her senses, which seem to be attuned towards an intermediate level of scale, between the microscopic and the macroscopic, which we can only explore by artificial means. Goethe calls everything, which is beyond the direct sensory experience of the human being ‘metaphysics’, a view that is in stark contrast to the world of modern biology and physics.

“(4) The general and the specific are one; the specific is the general arising under varying conditions.”

Rather than drawing generalisations, which exclude the diversity of the specific, Goethe saw each individual phenomenon as an expression of the general under certain circumstances.

“(5) What is the general?

- the single case.

What is the specific?

- a million cases.”

Each phenomenon contains the general. The multitude of phenomena is the specific.

“(6) Already today the masters of the natural sciences declare the necessity for monographic treatise and show thereby interest in the specifics. Yet this is impossible without a method, which reveals an interest in the whole in its entirety. Once this is achieved, there truly is no need to feel one’s way through a million specific cases.”

This is a clear example of how Goethe, 200 years ago, called for a holistic approach to the natural world. Bortoft describes Goethe’s Urphänomen, the primal phenomenon, as follows: “In a moment of intuitive perception, the universal is seen within the particular, so that the particular is seen as a living manifestation of the universal…the primal phenomenon is an example of the whole which is present in the part”(Bortoft, 1996).

“(7) The basic quality of the living unity is: to divide itself, to unite itself, to flow into the general, to remain in the specific, to transform itself, to specify itself and, like the living may make itself obvious under a thousand different circumstances, to break forth and to vanish, to solidify and to melt, to freeze and to flow, to expand and to contract. Since all of these effects occur in the same time-moment simultaneously, all and everything can happen at the same time. Arising and expiring, creating and destroying, in the same sense and the same way; therefore the specific, which is occurring, appears always as a picture and analogy of the general.”

The scope of this aphorism is breathtaking. It describes the dynamical processes of the profoundly interconnected unity of life. It addresses the seeming paradox of how nature is simultaneously a multitude and a singularity and shows Goethe’s awareness that time is nothing but an auxiliary concept expressing the eternal now. He seems to have intuitively grasped some of the insights, which were later to emerge from 20th century physics. Cottrell calls this the ‘mother-ground’ and writes: “When this living thinking is experienced, the boundaries between past, present, and future are transcended and the participating mind penetrates through the zero-point of time and space into the pregnant point of the Mother-ground of existence, a moment that as life-filled eternity is a seed of future worlds…” (Cottrell, 1998).

“(8) If the whole of existence is an endless dividing and uniting, it follows, that humans in their beholding of this uncanny condition, will also sometimes divide, sometimes unite.”

What comes to mind is the current division between holists and reductionists, the mental gestalt-switch between seeing the whole simply as the sum of its parts thus explaining it at the level of theses parts and seeing the emergent whole as more than the sum of its parts and seeking explanations at the level of the dynamical emergence of properties, which manifest in the self-organizing whole.

“(9) In the research of nature there is a need for a ‘categorical imperative’ just as much as in morality; one only has to remember, that this constitutes the beginning and not the end.”

Paraphrasing Kant’s categorical imperative, as the moral necessity to act in a way that one would wish everybody else to act too, were they in the same situation, this aphorism could refer to science as a consensus forming activity in which a group of investigators first agrees on the methodology and angle of approach to the phenomena they will take and then tries to reach an explanatory consensus through making sense of the observed. On the other hand I am tempted to see it also as a reminder, that scientists have a moral responsibility for their research.

“(10) The highest would be: to realize that everything factual is already theory. The blue of the sky is revealed through the basic law of ‘chromatics’. One should never search behind the phenomena; they, in themselves, are the teachings.”

Bortoft writes: “Goethe could be described correctly as a phenomenologist of nature, since his approach to knowledge was to let the phenomenon become fully visible without imposing subjective mental constructs…”(Bortoft, 1996). This way of science necessitates the participation of the observer in the phenomena, thereby gaining intuitive insights about the phenomena and thus understanding them, rather than reducing them to generalizing explanations.

“(11) There is a lot of certainty in the sciences, as long as you don’t let the exceptions confuse you and you know to honour the problems.”

Goethe saw exceptions and problems as particularly important in understanding the primal phenomena. Modern Science seems to avoid them and put them aside.

“(12) Everything living forms an atmosphere around itself.”

On the one hand, Goethe implies a living planet and could thus be regarded as an early proponent of a Gaian understanding and on the other hand he shows insight into the area of subtle fields and auras, described in detail in various Asian traditions and mysticism. Scientific investigation into these phenomena has been undertaken mainly in the East and particularly in Russia.

“(13) Nature fills all spaces in her productivity without boundary. If we only observe our planet alone: everything, which we call evil or unhappy is a result of Nature not being able to bestow space and, even less, continued existence to everything which arises.”

Personally, I think this resonates with the Buddhist concept of the co-dependent arising of the duality between life and death. Existence in a forever changing universe is only eternal at the level of the dynamically changing whole. Goethe seems to have thought beyond the boundaries of Earth in his attempt to understand nature.

“(14) Everything which arises is looking for space and wants continued existence; therefore it will displace something else from its place and shorten its existence.”

I would regard this as an expression Goethe’s awareness of the intricate interconnectedness of Nature and his dynamic understanding of living form.

“(15) The living has the gift to comfort itself after the most diverse conditions of external influences and yet it does not surrender a certain achieved and fine-tuned self-reliance.”

This makes me think about the what Lovelock’s Gaia theory describes as the tight coupling between life and its environment in a way that allows for the emergence of a self-regulating system which maintains environmental conditions in a range that promotes life’s continued existence.

“(16) One should be aware of the easy excitability of all beings, how the slightest change of a condition, every gust of air, immediately manifests polarities among bodies which really lie dormant in all of them.”

To anybody who has even only had an introduction to Chaos theory, this statement must cause associations with the notion of ‘sensitivity to initial conditions’ of complex systems and how at each bifurcation, they can potentially change the future of the entire system. The popular metaphor of the butterfly flapping its wings and causing a hurricane elsewhere comes to mind.

“(17) Tension is the seemingly indifferent condition of an energetic, engaged being, in total readiness to manifest, differentiate and polarize itself.”

In my own attempt to make sense of this aphorism I think of Goethe’s description of tension, as referring to the creative potential behind the dynamic self-organisation of life, which manifests in the emergence of the multitude of living forms.

“(18) Everything existing is an analogy of all that exists; therefore existence seems to us at the same time separate and interconnected. If one follows the analogy too far, everything falls together as identical, and if one avoids the analogy, everything scatters into the infinite. The observation stagnates in both cases, either as super-alive, or as deadened.”

Again Goethe seems to express the Hermetic principle of the microcosmos being a mirror of the macrocosmos and at the same time clearly expresses the pitfalls of a dualist perception of the world. It emphasizes the need for a dynamical holism, which focuses on the whole, the parts and their interaction and emergence simultaneously. Henri Bortoft called these extremes the “unity of the living source” or the “dynamical unity of self-difference” and the “unity of the dead end” or the “static unity of self-sameness” (Bortoft, 2001).

“(19) Reason (Vernunft) is dependent on the becoming, understanding (Verstand) is dependent on what became. The former does not worry: What for? The latter does not ask: Where from? The former enjoys the process of developing; the latter tries to hold on to all of it, so it may be of use.”

Naydler defines the German words Vernunft as “higher intuitive and synthesizing insight” and Verstand as “ordinary analytical understanding” (Naydler,1996). Goethe’s science is attempting to make the process of ‘coming into being’ of all phenomena intelligible through deep insight. Modern science, on the other hand, is engaged in a purely rational quest for understanding in order to control and predict nature. The main aim is to invent more commercially useful application, which are often far from insight full.

“(20) It is an innate attribute of humans, and deeply entwined with their nature: that for them the immediate doesn’t suffice to gain insight; where in fact every appearance, which we become aware of, is the immediate in that very instance and we can demand of it that it will reveal itself, if we enter deeply into it.”

This again refers to the necessity for focusing on the phenomena at hand in Goethe’s way of doing science. In making sense of nature in his way, we have to use the full range of our sensorial capacities and our intuition to enter deeply into the phenomenon.

“(21) Yet, this humans will not learn, as it is against their nature; therefore even the educated, once they have recognized something true in its place and context, can’t refrain from connecting it, not only to the closest, but also to the far and furthest. Out of this, then, arises error over error. The closest phenomenon is connected with the distant only in the sense that all is related to a few great laws, which manifest themselves everywhere.”

Goethe warns here to be aware that abstracting things from their place and context and making inductive inferences can lead to a whole chain of errors. To Goethe the manifestation of a few great laws was more related to the emergence of the diversity of phenomena out the dynamical process that connects everything, than to a mathematical or physical formula that describes the entire universe, the discovery of which still remains the proclaimed goal of many scientists today.

“(22) Newton holds such respect as a mathematician, that his most unskilled error; namely, that the clear, pure, eternally unperturbed light is supposed to be made up of dark lights, has persevered until today; and it is the mathematicians, who still defend this absurdity and, like the simplest listener, repeat it in words which make it hard to think.”

One of the deep insights Goethe gained from his study of colour and his frustration with Newton’s influence on the scientific understanding of it, led him to conclude: “The history of science is science itself”(Bortoft, 1996)

“(23) The Newtonian experiment, which is the basis of the conventional theory of colour, is complicated in many ways, it connects the following conditions.

So the ghost can appear, we need:

First — a prism of glass

Second — three sided

Third — small

Fourth — a window shutter

Fifth — an opening inside it

Sixth — it has to be small

Seventh — an image of the sun, entering

Eighth — from a certain distance

Ninth — hitting the prism from a certain direction

Tenth — projecting itself onto a wall

Eleventh — which is at a certain distance behind the prism

If one takes away conditions, three, six and eleven, if one makes the opening large, taking a large prism, and holding it close to the wall, the beloved spectrum will and cannot appear.”

“For Goethe, the single experiment has little value in isolation from other experiments, and should never be taken as proof of an hypothesis: it simply creates the conditions under which a certain set of phenomena arise, which should than be connected with a host of other phenomena produced under other conditions”(Naydler, 1996). Modern research science has a lot to learn from this understanding. Bortoft (1996) emphasiezes that rather than conflicting with each other, Goethe’s and Newton’s theories of colour simply represent very distinct approaches to the phenomenon of colour. “For Goethe was primarily interested in a phenomenological theory of color that was holistic and accounted for the qualities of color experience, as well as being based on a systematic set of experiments and observations (Goodwin, 1999).

“(24) One speaks secretively of an important experiment, which one will use to support the theory; I know it quite well and can present it too: the entire trick consists of adding more conditions to the ones above, an thereby to increase the hocus-pocus even further.”

The scientific myth of the existence of an ‘objective reality’ is only paralleled by the myth that in so called ‘empirical science’ researchers proceed from the observations made during experiments to scientific theories. It is the preconceived, and culturally and historically influenced ideas of scientists that lead them to hypothesize and then to design experiments, which produce outcomes in support of their intended arguments. This may lead to valid results, but will always only allow for a limited, inter-subjective view of a particular aspect of the universe we live in.

“(25) Sciences as a whole remove themselves more and more from life and only return to it via detours.”

The way the ‘selfish gene’ fraction of neo-Darwinism reduces life to nothing but the genetic code and disregards the organism, as well as the degradation of our global eco-system by the technologies made possible by modern science, shows how much truth and foresight this statement of Goethe contains.

“(26) Really the sciences are compendia of life; they bring the exterior and interior experiences into the general, into a connection.”

True science is the communal activity of establishing a consensus regarding the internal process of making sense of observations of the exterior and thus attempts the integration of mind and matter. In the words of Brian Goodwin: “We don’t explain things away in science. We get closer to the mystery… .If it’s a romantic view of science, so be it. It’d be a dull world without it”(Lewin, 1993).

“(27) I never allowed myself to use induction, whenever somebody else tried to use it against me, I knew how to refuse this instantly.”

This statement shows a strong agreement with Hume’s postulate that one cannot infer a generality from any of its instances. Goethe refused the ‘unity in multiplicity’ approach to nature and stressed the importance of understanding the diversity of the individual phenomena. Brotoft called this focus ‘multiplicity in unity’(Bortoft, 1996).

“(28) Communication by analogies I regard as useful as well as pleasant; the analogous case doesn’t want to insist nor to prove, it opposes another case without connecting to it. Many analogous cases don’t combine in a single front, they are like good company, always more stimulating than giving.”

This also refers to the idea of ‘multiplicity in unity’. Goethe wants to understand Nature by getting more familiar with the diversity of phenomena and drawing analogies between them rather than by abstracting a unifying law from them, which merely reduces the world to an imagined ‘unity in multiplicity’.

“(29) To err means to be in a state in which it seems as if the truth is not true; to discover the error for oneself and others means to invent backward.”

This statement captures a lot of the rigidity of scientific paradigms, preventing truly groundbreaking new insights from being easily accepted. As the researches in a given field have already created their ‘reality’ of whatever phenomenon they may be studying, a fundamental change of assumptions or metaphor of description will simply not correspond with this reality and even a true insight, which conflicts with it, will be disregarded. Becoming aware of an error often may necessitate a re-invention, a creation of an alternate reality.

“(30) Authority: Without it humans cannot exist, and yet it delivers as many errors as it delivers truths; it eternalises in the individual what should pass individually; it refuses and lets pass what should be grasped; and it is the main cause why humanity is standing still.”

One of the most interesting areas of research for historians of science in the 21st century will most likely be the way in which the authoritative institutions of 20th century science, like the peer-review of the journal Nature and the various governmental and industrial funding bodies have repeatedly stopped research which was actually advancing our understanding of nature in profound ways.

“(31) In the expansion of knowledge, from time to time it is necessary to reorganize. The reorganisation occurs mostly according to new maxims, but remains always provisory.”

One wonders, if Thomas Kuhn was aware of this statement of Goethe when he sat down to write about the structure of scientific revolutions and the process of a scientific paradigm shift.

“(32) Our mistake is that we doubt the certain and want to fix the uncertain. My maxim in natural science is: to fix the certain and to keep an eye on the uncertain.”

On the one hand “certain” in this case could refer to our sensorial perception of the phenomena around us and the “uncertain” to the abstract laws of searching for unity in multiplicity. On the other hand, I am tempted to read into it that Goethe intuitively understood the ultimate complexity and resulting unpredictability of nature and advocated a scientific focus on individual phenomena because of this insight.

“(33) The Germans, and they are not alone, have the gift of making the sciences inaccessible.”

Excess scientific jargon and the encryption of scientific results into a dry language of technical terms, statistical significance and complex graphs seems to have become an integral part of scientific etiquette, to a point where one could almost suspect that scientists want to protect their work from the scrutiny of individuals outside their community.

“(34) Yet, doesn’t colour really belong intrinsically to the face?”

I have to admit that this aphorism had me puzzling over it’s meaning for a while. Goethe believed that colour was created by the interplay between light and dark, thus I assume he might have answered this question with a negation.

“(35) I don’t hold anything against the belief of being able to feel colour; its own properties would only be enforced by it.

Goethe’s ‘making oneself identical with the phenomenon’ allows for an intuitive perception of its qualities from the insight out. This non-rationalizable, subjective approach to understanding the phenomenon can allow for deep insight into the primal phenomenon.

“(36) You can even taste colour. Blue seems alkaline, yellow-red tastes sour. All manifestations of the essentialities are related.”

This aphorism relates to the one above, but also has an alchemical quality to it. The German historian and philosopher of science Helmut Gebelein describes in his detailed study of alchemy that Goethe was profoundly influenced by this age-old tradition. He quotes letters from Goethe containing statements like: “What I tried to conceal most was my mystical, kabbalistic chemistry and what was related to it…” and “Chemistry is still my secret lover…” (Gebelein, 2000).

“(37) Everything that is in the subject is in the object and even something more. Everything, which is in the object, is in the subject and even something more. We are borne or lost in a two-fold way. To allow the object its ‘more’ means to do with out our subjective ‘more’. To elevate the subject with its ‘more’ means not to fully recognize that ‘more’.”

I have translated the above aphorism as literal as possible to not change any of its meaning. To me Goethe is talking about the boundary between the self and the world and all the dualisms that arise form it. Arne Naess’ notion of the expanded, ecological self comes to mind. Subject and object merge as the self is expanded to include everything, yet in our diversity of subjective experiences of this expanded self we are able to behold the beauty of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

“(38) In observing nature in the large and in the small, I always have asked the question: Is it the object, or is it myself, which expresses itself here? In the same way I regard predecessors and collaborators.”

While Goethe regarded our direct sensory experience of phenomena as the foundation of understanding nature, he was keenly aware of how important the question of epistemology is in scrutinizing our observations. The direct view of the phenomenon can be obscured by the way we know and are making sense of what we are seeing.

“(39) Every human sees the ready and regulated, formed, fully realised world only as an element, from which he attempts to create a particular world, which is adjusted to him. Industrious people grasp after it without doubts and try to get on with it in whatever way; others complain about it, some even doubt its existence. Whoever feels permeated by this basic truth, would not argue with anybody, but would regard the way of imagining of the other person, like his own way, as one phenomenon. After all, we experience almost daily that one person might easily think what another is entirely unable to think, particularly not in cases, which influence blessing and grief in any way, but in cases which are entirely ambivalent to us.”

In this aphorism lies a possible foundation for a new ethics of human co-existence. Recognizing the way we co-create the world we live in, we could begin to honour each other’s truths and to cherish the multiplicity and diversity of existing truths. Every act of observation creates a blind spot. Only by co-operatively engaging in sharing our truths with each other can we hope to ‘get closer to the mystery’ and begin to give up our need for control, surrendering to a participatory co-existence with the diversity of living forms.

“(40) Theories are usually premature conclusions of an impatient understanding, which wants to get rid of the phenomena and seeks to replace them therefore with pictures, expressions, often even just with words. One intuits, one even sees, that this can only be of help; but doesn’t passion and solidarity love this kind of help? And with good reason, since they are so dependent on them.”

This is another rather cryptic aphorism. It made me think about how many revolutions and wars have been fought on the basis of certain theories about the world and how there almost seems to be a human need to subscribe to some kind of ideology. We have a need to make sense of the world around us and all our behaviour is based in one way or another on how we are making sense of the world we live in, our culture, language, art and science.

“(41) We either blame our circumstances on god or on the devil, and we are mistaken either way: the riddle lies within ourselves. We are creatures of two worlds. It is the same with colours; one looks for them in the light, one looks for them in outer space and yet seems unable to find them precisely where they are at home.”

Again a deep insight into what today would be the field of cognitive psychology becomes apparent. Goethe was obviously puzzled by the co-arising of mind and matter, of our ‘exterior’ and ‘interior’ worlds. In the words of Maturana and Varela: “every act of knowing brings forth a world… All doing is knowing and all knowing is doing”(Maturana & Varela, 1992).

“(42) One even claims obediently: The phenomenon is a result without basis, an effect without cause. It is difficult for humans to discover basis and cause, because they are so simple, that they hide out of sight.”

The evolution of the diversity of living organisms as a result of natural selection on the effects of random mutations, as neo-Darwinists postulate it, could be regarded as a “result without a basis, an effect without cause.” It is the intricacy of our own participation in this dynamic process of emergence of our universe, which makes it so hard for humans to discover the basis and the cause.

“(43) No phenomenon explains itself according to and out of itself; only many together overseen, ordered in methodical fashion, deliver at last something, which could pass as theory.”

Naydler writes about Goethe’s methodology, that in order to find the connection between the phenomena one should conduct a series of experiments “in which these phenomena, viewed from a multitude of different aspects and manifesting under varying conditions, are able to reveal an underlying connectedness. The inner unity of the series of experiments can then be experienced: as it were, a single experience in many diverse aspects”(Naydler, 1996).

“(44) Considers the problems of Aristotle, one is amazed by his gift of realisation and by how many things the Greeks had eyes for. They only committed the mistake of drawing premature conclusions, since they moved from the phenomenon immediately to its explanation, which resulted in unrelated, theoretical expressions. This is on the other hand, the general mistake, which is still committed today.”

Goethe expresses his admiration for Aristotle’s insights, yet at the same time points out that even the ancient Greeks already had the habit of drawing premature conclusions via inductive inferences.

“(45) Whoever has a phenomenon in front of his eyes, often thinks beyond it; who only hears stories about the phenomenon, is not thinking about the phenomenon at all.”

This aphorism again emphasizes the primacy of the experienced phenomena in Goethe’s approach to nature and his keen awareness of the human tendency to make inductive inferences.

“(46) One informs oneself around the phenomenon, taking it in as precisely as possible and exploring how far one can get with insight into and application of it, and one should leave the problems aside. The physicists act in the opposite way: they approach the problem straight ahead and thereby entangle themselves in so many difficulties, that finally the view beyond it disappears.”

Although Goethe stresses elsewhere that examining the exceptions and problems often reveals deeper insight into the primal phenomenon, he emphasized here that one should first approach the phenomenon as comprehensively as possible, without immediately focussing on the problems, which may arise or on how to ‘prove’ premature theories by clever experimental design

“(47)Whenever we direct attention to a phenomenon, other people probably see what we see; whenever we express, describe, pronounce a phenomenon, we are translating it into our human language. The difficulties and insufficiencies, which threaten us due to this translation are obvious. Real terminology, fits to a restricted and isolated phenomenon, and ends up being used for the next. Finally the no longer fitting continues to be used.”

The insufficiencies of language in adequately conveying and preserving an intended meaning have been investigated in detail during the last century. Long before that Goethe wrote: “We are insufficiently aware that a language is, in fact, merely symbolic, merely figurative, never a direct expression of the objective world, but rather a reflection of it”(Naydler, 1996).

“(48) Urphänomen (primal phenomenon): ideal-real-symbolic-identical. Ideal, perceivable as the ultimate; real, as perceived; symbolic, since it understands all cases; identical, with all cases.

Empiricism: boundary-less multiplication of itself. Desperation due to comprehensiveness.”

For Goethe, it is necessary to investigate the empirically observable as extensively as possible under varying conditions. It is only after one has done so, that a glimpse of the primal phenomena, the archetypal phenomenon, as a symbol of all cases, as an all-encompassing analogy becomes possible.

“(49) The immediate awareness of primal phenomena induces a state of awe, we feel our insufficiency; only when they are brought alive by the eternal play of empiricism do they delight us.”

The experience of the primal phenomenon independent of our preconceived ideas is a direct experience without the attempt to impose meaning onto it and it thus induces a state of awe in us, as meaning arises directly from the phenomenon. It is in drawing analogies between what has been conveyed by such a deep experience with other empirical observations that we may become aware of the insight we have gained.

“(50) Magnetism is a primal phenomenon, which one is allowed to pronounce only, to have explained it. It thus becomes a symbol for all that remains, for which we need not seek for words nor names.”

This statement leaves me without being able to make sense of it. I suspect it has a historical context that I am not aware of and may express Goethe’s attitude to the work of William Gilbert or Newton on the subject of magnetism.

“(51) Whenever I finally calm down at the primal phenomenon, it is really nothing more than resignation; yet a big difference remains, whether to resign at the restrictions of humanity or within the hypothetical restrictions of my daft individual.”

Goethe’s understatement regarding his own intellectual capacities makes his point here even more clearly. We will never be able to fully understand nature due to its complexity, nevertheless we can continue our attempt to remove veil after veil from our eyes and distinguish between our true limitations and the one’s we have imposed on ourselves.

“(52) The appearances are not disconnected from the observer, to the contrary, they are engulfed by and intertwined with the individuality of the observer.”

Yet again, one wonders whether familiarity with the writings of Goethe may have inspired Heisenberg to introduce this insight into 20th century physics. Goethe’s deep insight into epistemology and the natural world is simply astonishing and of almost prophetic foresight, considering he lived in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

“(53) Humans in themselves, in so far as they are employing their healthy senses, are the most powerful and most precise physical instruments that exist; and it is precisely the biggest demise of the new physics, that one has separated the experiments from the human being and merely tries to understand nature through what artificial instruments show, thus limiting what she can accomplish in an attempt to prove it.”

Goethe regarded humans as an integral part of Nature and their senses as precise modes of making sense of it. He criticizes the “new physics” for disregarding the sensory capacities of the human observer and warns that our technological research methods exclude what lies beyond the detect-ability of our instruments.

“(54) The same is true for calculations. — A lot of things are true, which cannot be calculated, similarly many things are not pursuable up to the decisive experiment.”

Goethe wrote: “It is generally agreed that, while mathematics in itself can be treated purely and give assured results, it runs into constant danger when it gets into the terrain of sense-experience.” This is precisely why modern science postulates an ‘objective reality’ and displaces the qualitative with its focus on quantities. This shift in focus banished subjective experience and qualities form science and thus created the moral free space that made the ‘progress’ of modern science and technology possible

“(55) Precisely for this reason humans are in such high standing, that the inexpressible is expressed in them. What is one string and all the mechanical division of it, compared to the ear of the musician, one could even say, what are the elemental appearances of nature herself compared to a human being, who seems to have to tame and modify them all, in order to be able to assimilate them to some degree.”

Human beings have the potential to create worlds full of meaning and it is by engaging with the diversity of other humans and the more than human world that we may one day play an important part in the universe becoming conscious of itself. As we make distinctions within a complex whole, we attempt to express the inexpressible.

“(56) Every thinking person, who looks at her calendar, or looks at his watch, will remember where these things come from. Ideas and love: even if one lets them act respectfully in time and space, one becomes aware that they reach far beyond into what belongs to everything and without which they themselves could neither do nor affect anything.”

“The idea is the guideline and love is the driving power in Goethean ethics”(Steiner, 1988). Two hundred years later the cognitive scientists, Maturana and Varela write: “Love is a biological dynamic with deep roots. It is an emotion that defines in the organism a dynamic structural pattern, a stepping stone to interactions that may lead us to operational coherence of social life,” and conclude that “we have only the world that we bring forth with others, and only love helps us bring it forth”(Maturana & Varela, 1992)

“(57) Humans have to hold on to the belief that the incomprehensible is comprehensible, otherwise they would not continue to explore.”

Goethe clearly understood what Frank Herbert expressed as follows: “Deep in the human consciousness there is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense, but the true universe is always one step beyond logic”(Herbert, 1972). Due to its complexity, nature is fundamentally unpredictable!

“(58) Comprehensible is every particularity, which is applicable in any way. In this way the incomprehensible can become useful.”

To a certain extent, this aphorism allows an insight into why mechanistic and Reductionist science has been so successful. In reducing the complexity to, what appeared as manageable and predictable sub-systems, we can temporarily create the illusion of being in control of Nature. Unfortunately, the knowledge acquired this was does not automatically equate to wisdom.

“(59) There exists a delicate form of empiricism, which unites in its innermost with the object, making itself identical with it and thus becoming theory itself. Yet, this amplification of mental-spiritual capacity belongs to a highly educated time.”

Occasionally Goethe surprises with an almost prophetic clairvoyance and, figuratively speaking casts a stone far into the future. He seems to have foreseen the developments that led to our present attempt to define a dynamical, process related, holistic science, which acknowledges the complexity and ultimate unpredictability of Nature and focuses on the participatory engagement with the phenomena in order to “get closer to the mystery” of the emergence of new forms and properties out of the dynamical interactions within a continuously transforming, complex universe.

“(60) The one who with insight, declares himself limited, is closest to being all-encompassing.”

An individual human being will always only be able to experience and engage with a limited portion of the universe, in focussing on one thing we have to neglect another by implication. Thus, only by collectively engaging in the process of creating meaning together and preserving the multiplicity of individual truths and our cultural diversity, can we become conscious of our intricate connectedness with each other and the rest of the universe. An individual, who is aware of personal limitations, yet able to engage with the world in a way that the boundaries between the self and the world dissolve is close to “being all-encompassing.”

“(61) The most beautiful kind of luck for thinking humans is to have explored the explorable and to quietly revere the inexplorable.”

Reverence and awe for life seem to be at one and the same time the cause and the effect of human existence in balance with themselves, each other and with nature. To participate in and explore the magnificent diversity of expressions of living forms, as what Aldo Leopold called ‘plain members of the biotic community’, is the kind of luck that Goethe speaks of here.

“(62) Poetry points at the riddles of nature and tries to solve them through pictures. Philosophy points at the secrets of understanding and tries to solve them through words. Mysticism points at the riddles of nature and at understanding, seeking to solve them through words and pictures.”

The reader should be reminded that I used the world ‘understanding’ here to translate the German word Vernunft, which implies “higher intuitive and synthesizing insight” (Naydler, 1996). The ‘marriage’ of art and science, science and spirituality, body and mind, mind and matter, reason and intuition is what Goethe tried to participate in and embody during his lifetime. It is a mystical ‘marriage’, akin to the marriage of Sun and Moon, the ‘chemical wedding’ of alchemy. “By bringing the universal male and female principles together in a Chemical Wedding the alchemist is trying to recover the original unity of the world” (Marshall, 2001). I believe that Goethe was deeply engaged in this process and the mysticism expressed through words and pictures he refers to can be found in the symbolic pictures and writings of the alchemical tradition. Gebelein writes: “An expansion of science seems to be necessary, an expansion which re-attributes meaning to qualities. In such a science the boundaries between science and mysticism would dissolve. The unification of these perceived opposites has always been the intention of alchemy” (Gebelein, 2000).

“(63) Whoever wants to deny nature as the divine organ, may just as well deny all revelation.”

To regard nature as the divine organ and human consciousness along with the diversity of meaningful worlds within it, as the divine beholding the divine, is the mystical revelation of embodied wholeness. Goethe wrote:

“When the healthy nature of man works as a whole, when he feels himself in the world as though in a great, beautiful, worthy, and precious whole, when his harmonious sense of well-being imparts to him a pure, free delight, then the universe, if it could experience itself, would, as having achieved its goal, exults with joy and marvels at the pinnacle of its own becoming and being”(Steiner, 1988).


Goethe and the Emergence of Holistic Science

The Masters in Holistic Science Programme is an attempt to define a new academic discipline – Holistic Science. In a sense, it is defined by attempting to understand nature at the level of the whole, focusing on the various emergent properties arising out of the dynamical interaction of the ‘parts’ it consists of. Holistic science emphasizes that the whole is more than simply the sum of its parts. Everything is contained in this dynamically emergent whole. This overcomes the separation of the observer and the observed, the scientist and so-called ‘objective reality’. The illusory and fictitious existence of which has formed the assumptive basis for the kind of science that is dominating Western civilisation and more recently our entire planet.

Reductionist science attempts explanations of the whole on the basis of further and further examinations of it’s constituent parts, in the firm belief that the whole is nothing but the sum of its parts and that if you can explain the functioning of each part or simply know the smallest parts you can infer everything you ever wanted to know about the functioning of the whole. It’s main aim is to be able to make more and more precise predictions about how Nature works and control her as much as possible. In this attempt to predict and control modern science and the science-technology-industry complex it helped create, has alienated humanity from Nature and severely upset the way our species integrates into the ‘community of life’.

In our attempt to explore together with our teachers and friends, as well as with each other, the meaning of the words holistic science we covered a lot of the diverse ground from which, during the last century, conventional science, at its most innovative, and therefore often not un-challenged, has begun to approach the conceptual boundaries of Reductionist science. The syllabus for the Masters in Holistic Science includes topics such as: Chaos theory, Gaia theory and Complexity theory. The common theme is a focus on emergent properties, self-organisation and self-regulation in complex, interconnected systems, which are regarded as fundamentally unpredictable, yet can be made intelligible. In the philosophy of science we look at epistemology, hermeneutics, phenomenology, multiplicity of truth and the co-emergence of the self and the world, as well as the historical shift in world-view, which occurred during the ‘scientific revolution’. Furthermore, there is a strong emphasis on qualities alongside the common quantitative approach and on the participatory nature of this new way of science.

Translating Goethe’ s aphorisms on the theory of nature and science, made me appreciate the depth of inner connection with Nature Goethe must have achieved. His focus on the phenomena allowed him to make statements which two hundred years later still have the ability to convey ‘cutting edge’ insights. More than once, the analogies between Goethe’s statements and the research results and recent theories in the areas of science reviewed within the MSc programme are so striking, that one can only marvel at how profound Goethe’s insights as poet-artist-scientist must have been (see aphorisms 6, 14, 18, 52, 53, 59 and 61).

The aphorisms are like a kaleidoscopic image of Goethe’s understanding – his higher, intuitive and synthesizing insight. To a certain extent they can be read as a syllabus for a course in holistic science, relating to each and every subject we have covered. Goethe anticipated Heisenberg and Kuhn, spoke of the excitability of all beings and the related sensitivity to initial conditions as now found in chaos theory. He emphasized that the phenomena occur in consciousness and that we are creative agents of the world we perceive, thus anticipating Maturana and Varela. His understanding of the relationship between the living and the non-living has a quality which could be regarded as a Gaian insight.

Goethe’s approach to nature is deeply participatory. The observer engages with the phenomena to a point where he confers all of his attention to the phenomenon and the phenomenon ‘reveals’ itself to him. The observer participates in the phenomenon and with his full range of sensory capabilities engages with the qualities of the phenomenon. Goethe’s way of seeing, thus, informs us in our attempt to define holistic science in a profound way. In a conversation with Lewin on the science of complexity, Brian Goodwin commented: “Ours is a science of qualities not of quantities and is therefore a Goethean science”(Lewin 1993).

“In Goethe’s vision, nature permeates everything, including the human mind and imagination. Hence nature’s truth does not exist as something independent or objective, but is revealed in the very act of human cognition”(Tarnas, 1991). Richard Tarnas in his book The Passion of the Western Mind argues that Goethe was the first to develop an epistemological perspective that was radically different form the Cartesian-Kantian epistemological position, which has been “the dominant paradigm of the modern mind”.

The basis of this new epistemology was the “fundamental conviction that the relation of the human mind to the world was ultimately not dualistic but participatory…. In this view, the essential reality of nature is not separate, self-contained and complete in itself, so that the human mind can examine it ‘objectively’ and register it from without. Rather, nature’s unfolding truth emerges only with the active participation of the human mind. Nature’s reality is not merely phenomenal, nor is it independent and objective; rather, it is something that comes into being through the very act of human cognition. Nature becomes intelligible to itself through the human mind” (Tarnas, 1991).

In a recent talk at Schumacher College, Henri Bortoft put this very clearly: “For Goethe the phenomenon is not an object. Imagination becomes the means for investigating the phenomenon itself and not what goes on behind the phenomenon, like in atomism. The phenomenon ceases to be an object standing over and against consciousness and the phenomenon begins to appear in consciousness, instead of appearing to it.” He argued that the existing “ontological gulf” between science and its object is a fundamental prerequisite of Reductionist science, as it allows for a science of measuring and experimenting, in which an “object appears to consciousness, it does not appear in consciousness” (Bortoft, 2001). I would add that it is precisely this ‘ontological gulf’, which enables the moral and ethical detachment with which modern science continues to evade responsibility for its participation in bringing about the current environmental, social and economic crisis, we observe worldwide.

Bortoft quotes Ernst Kassirer, who said: “The mathematical approach strives to make things calculable, Goethe on the other hand, strives to make the phenomenon visible.” Bortoft continued: “The phenomenon is actually like an iceberg. You begin with what is merely the tip and in this case you have to raise the rest up into consciousness by this (Goethe’s) way of working. The phenomenon becomes more and more visible” (Bortoft, 2001). To him, Goethe’s main achievement lies not in specific discoveries that he made, but in Goethe’s whole way of seeing. Just as the phenomenon, at first glance, only reveals the ‘tip of the iceberg’, so Goethe’s works and their significance seem to continue to reveal new insights, as we begin to pay them more attention.

Goethe saw the individual as an abstraction of the dynamical movement of the whole. In dynamical wholeness, there is only one organ, manifesting itself in different forms. Goethe’s unity is “the unity of the living source, the dynamical unity of self-difference. It’s all one organ, differently. The differences are within the unity and that’s what I have called multiplicity in unity and not unity in multiplicity. … The notion of the dynamical unity of self-difference is a kind of manifestation of unity. The unity, in which something manifests itself, following through the coming into being”(Bortoft, 2001). Holistic science attempts to get closer to the mystery of the dynamical emergence of the diversity of living forms within the unity of the continuously manifesting whole.

Goethe as a conduit of alchemical and hermetical insight

During his stay at Schumacher College, Henri Bortoft pointed out that Dennis Closack in his book Seeking Spirit Vision managed to penetrate the language of alchemy in connection with Goethean methodology and shows that the two can be brought together (Bortoft, 2001). Considering the research of Gebelein on Goethe’s involvement in alchemy, which I have mentioned above, this does not come as a surprise.

Jung always regarded his “work on alchemy as a sign of” his “inner relationship to Goethe. Goethe’s secret was that he was in the grip of that process of archetypal transformation, which has gone on through the centuries. He regarded his Faust as an opus magnum or divinum “(Jung, 1961).“It was from the spirit of alchemy that Goethe wrought the figure of the ‘superman’ Faust…”(Jung, 1967)

My mother brought me up on Goethe’s poems and since my teens has described my curiosity and need for a meaningful world as a ‘Faustian quest’. As Alan Cottrell pointed out, the knowledge that Faust sought was a “deeper knowledge than the Reductionist methodologies of academic thought could yield” (Cottrell, 1998). It was this experience, which lead me to abandon the path leading to a career in zoology and years later come to Schumacher College. Faust expresses his quest for understanding and insight as follows:

“That I may detect the inmost force

Which binds the world, and guides its course;

Its germs, productive powers explore,

And rummage in empty words no more!”

(Faust I, Goethe)

The story of Faust warns humanity of the fatal caveat which lies on the path to understanding Nature. This caveat is the appropriation of science to manipulate rather than to revere Nature. It is the caveat of focussing on quantities and the measurable only, thereby entering a moral free space and sidelining life’s true mysteries. Cottrell points out that the use of the word “germs” or “seeds”, most likely “refers to the living spiritual essence of nature”, a concept Goethe was exposed to through his studies of the alchemical works of Paracelsus; and that “Faust’s knowledge of the world shall be alive — not divorced from the realm of value or from the moral domain” (Cottrell, 1998).

Like Goethe’s Faust in his attempt to understand the mysteries of nature, after years of searching, was lead astray by the temptations of the powers of manipulation offered by Mephistopheles, so has humanity been lead astray in creating a meaningless, ‘objective reality’, where life is but the product of natural selection on random genetic mutations within organisms that continuously have to compete for their survival within a mechanistic and quantitative universe, which is slowly dying the death of maximum entropy.

As Heitler puts it: “…the last thing we wish is to declare war against a ‘diabolic science’. Yet, a great task lies before us, the size of which is still incomprehensible: we must see that we do not sign away our souls to a monomaniacal belief in progress through science and technology. We are already on the way, and such a belief could well cost more than just a drop of blood. If we wish to survive and remain human, we must resist the temptation of this one-sided ‘progress’. (Heitler, 1998).

Goethe was fully aware of where the purely quantitative and mechanistic approach to nature would lead us. He saw the danger of the un-conscious way in which humanity has handled the responsibility and power, made possible by the ‘magic’ of technology. He foresaw the creative potential and the dangers of a moral and value free science. It is precisely the misuse of humanity’s enormous creative potential that Faust is meant to warn us of, through his own example, which leads him to lament:

“Not yet have I my liberty made good:

If I could banish Magic’s fell creations,

And totally unlearn the incantations,

Stood I, O Nature! Man alone in thee,

Then were it worth one’s while a man to be!”

(Faust II, Goethe)

Goethe expressed all his insight as poet-artist-scientist in telling the story of Faust. In Faust he describes “the supreme archetype and avatar of Western man. …The history of Western civilisation is ultimately, the history of humanity’s aspiration to Faust-hood” (Baigent & Leigh, 1997). It is important to realize at this point that in Goethe’s Faust, unlike in the earlier version by Christopher Marlowe, the protagonist is redeemed after he realizes his mistake and sides with Nature and against Mephistopheles, as he says:

“In this, thy Nothing, may I find my ALL!”

(Faust II, Goethe)

To a certain extent, Goethe himself had a lot in common with his Faust, both were alchemists. Similarly, there is a connection between Newton and Goethe. Newton was also deeply influenced by the alchemical tradition. Gebelein writes: “ At the beginning of the age of natural science stands the confrontation with alchemy and important principles of modern natural sciences are in fact derived from the principles of alchemy and the Hermetic philosophy…. Newton wanted to add a reference to the ‘prisca sapientia’ to his Principia. He knew well what importance Hermetic philosophy had for his own work. It was only later and partially through Newton himself, that this knowledge was marginalized” (Gebelein, 2000).

The prisca sapientia Gebelein refers to, is the wisdom of the ancients, which up until the scientific revolution had been regarded as superior. It is the age-old knowledge of alchemy, astrology and hermetic science, which seems to have its roots in or even before the times of ancient Egypt. Newton drew on this knowledge extensively and in the mindset of the emerging mechanistic worldview, with its quantitative focus, sided with Mephistopheles and accepted the Cartesian mind-body split. Goethe on the other hand stayed true to the tradition of alchemy, which “refuses to separate the mind from the body; indeed, it seeks the embodiment of the spirit, and the spiritualization of the body”(Marshall, 2001).

Alchemy is always self-realisation through participation in Nature.It is thus not fully reproducible or reducible to mathematics only. It is through the process of participation that the scientist immediately has to assume responsibility for his or her actions and thus moral and aesthetical issues are an intrinsic part of this kind of science.

Maybe it is not the point whether Newton or Goethe was right or wrong, but the point is to reconcile these two different angles of scientific investigation. This reconciliation may create something new and may lead to a form of science, which reconciles humanity with Nature. Since both make use of Hermetic philosophy, it may not be so difficult after all to achieve this reconciliation via alchemy. Fundamental changes are necessary and this will be a time consuming and complex process. The new science will certainly not be alchemy. There is no way back. Nevertheless in our attempt to define a holistic science we have a lot to learn from the alchemical tradition (Gebelein, 2000).

“It is impossible to tell what exactly the new emerging holistic science will be like, but so much is certain: It will have to be a science which integrates the still divided fields of morality, ethics and aesthetics and it will have to be a humanistic science at best, otherwise humanity will cease to exist” (Gebelein, 2000).


The work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has had and will continue to have a profound influence on the emergence of a participatory worldview, which is in its essence holistic. It has provided us with an early example of a new epistemology, which transcends the Cartesian mind-body split and opens us up to understanding the material world around us as it continues to dynamically transform and manifest within consciousness. This way of seeing incorporates the quantitative and mechanistic worldview of Reductionist science into a holistic framework of a participatory science of qualities.

Historically Goethe stands as a conduit of ancient hermetic and alchemical insights from the time of the Renaissance magi into our trans-modern time. His aphorisms on the theory of nature and science are echoed by the emerging holistic science and his opus magnum, Faust, stands as a warning to humanity.

Each one of us is left with the task of embodying the central lesson of Goethe’s holistic, alchemical science: ultimately holistic science is about holistic living. It is in this process of individual, personal transformation that we may bring about the global transformation, which will end the current global, environmental, social and economical crisis. Goethe was an alchemist and his fruitful creative life bears witness to just how deeply he was committed to the process of his personal transformation. A truly holistic science cannot be separated from the society it serves.

“The time will come when intelligent students will have disregarded mechanistic and atomistic conceptions altogether in favour of viewing all the phenomena in terms of dynamic and chemical processes, thus making the divine life in Nature more and more manifest” (Goethe)

“The things of heaven and earth contain such wealth of value that only the organs of all beings jointly encompass it.” (Goethe)


Baigent, M.& Leigh, R. (1997) The Elixir and the Stone Viking, Penguin, UK

Bortoft, Henry (1996), The Wholeness of Nature — Goethe’s Way of Science, Floris Books, Edinburgh

Bortoft, Henry (2001), lectures given to the MSc in Holistic Science & public lecture titled: Consciousness in Science at Schumacher College, in October 2001

Cottrell, Alan (1998), The Resurrection of Thinking and the Redemption of Faust — Goethe’s New Scientific Attitude, chapter 11 of “Goethe’s way of Science”, edit. by David Seamon and Arthur Zajonc, S.U.N.Y Press

Gebelein, Helmut (2000), Alchemie, Diederichs Gelbe Reihe, Sonderausgabe 2000, first published in 1991, Hugendubel Verlag, Munich

Goodwin, Brian (1999), From Control to Participation via a Science of Qualities, ReVision
Vol. 21 No. 4

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (1999), Schriften zur Naturwissenschaft, Reclam, Germany Heitler, Walter (1998), Goethean Science, chapter 3 of “Goethe’s way of Science”, edit. by David Seamon and Arthur Zajonc, S.U.N.Y Press

Herbert, Frank (1972), Dune, Heynes Publ. N.Y.

Jung, Carl Gustav (1967), Alchemical Studies- The Collected Works Vol. 13, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London

Jung, Carl Gustav (1961), Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Random House

Lewin, Roger (1993), Complexity — Life at the edge of chaos, Phoenix Paperback

Marshall, Peter (2001), Philosopher’s Stone — the wedding of alchemy and ecology,
Resurgence No. 207, July/August 2001

Maturana, H.R. & Varela, F.J. (1992), The Tree of Knowledge — The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, Shambhala, Boston & London

Naydler, Jeremy (1996), Goethe on Science — An Anthology of Goethe’s scientific writings,
Floris Books, Edinburgh

Steiner, Rudolf (publ. 1992), Goethe’s World View, first edition published in 1985, Mercury Press, N.Y.

Steiner, Rudolf (1988), Goethean Science, transl. by William Lindeman, Mercury Press, N.Y.

Tarnas, Richard (1991), The Passion of the Western Mind, Ballentine Books, New York

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