Goethean Observation - The Josephine Porter Institute

Goethean Observation

As Goethe says, “If we want to approach a living perception (Anschauung) of nature, we must become as mobile and flexible as nature herself.” 

This is to say, if we are to look at a plant and try to see what it means within the context of natural creation, we must look without scales on our eyes. We must set aside personal prejudices and allow the plant to be what it is and not wish for it to be anything else. In a word, we must approach something with love embracing it for what it already is. 

As Dag Hammarskjold says, "For all that has been—Thanks! To all that shall be—Yes!" This must be applied even to the smallest plant, if we are to appreciate the plant in its fullness. Goethean observation is not anti-scientific at all, but is about developing the inner capacity to make the intuitive heart connections, without which statistical science is sterile. If we only have statistics but no imagination to "connect the dots" we might as well be looking at gibberish. This inner capacity requires a suspension of prejudice and dwelling in love. If, we Malebranche, we can affirm that "attention is the natural prayer of the soul" then Goethean observation is a kind of prayer, a wish to get to know the who at work behind every phenomenon, the artist behind the artwork. When we apply this universally, we approach the "sacrament of the present moment" of which Jean Pierre de Caussade writes in Self-Abandonment

If, as Goethe says, "A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart" then what we carry in our hearts when we approach phenomena will determine what we find in the world. As such, a mood of love will help us see the value in even outwardly distasteful things. Diffuse gratitude will help us develop a relationship with the world, and even, I dare say, with manure. 

Back to blog

Subscribe to our Emails