AWAKENING THE EYE OF THE IMAGINATION
To think what is living we need a living form of thinking. Two centuries ago the German poet and scientist J. W. von Goethe commented that such an engaged, delicate, imaginative thinking belongs to a highly evolved age.* On all sides the challenge still today is to learn to rightfully, respectfully understand the beings of nature and the human being. Society, too, is something living and evolving and so must be understood imaginatively. The quest for a true life science leads us from nature to society, with all its problems and its great creative challenges.
A living thinking is a thinking of the whole human being, not just a “head” thinking, an intellect. We understand the living wholeness of nature and society through a thinking which is itself whole, a marriage of the scientific and the artistic. In a true science of the living world the life of feelings and the creative will become highly differentiated organs of cognition. To think life is to awaken the eye of the imagination.
". . . a spiritual contemplation of nature will provide means for the kind of training in thought which, among other things, makes it possible to comprehend the social organism".
Rudolf Steiner, The Renewal of the Social Organism
Goethe's colour circle (his own illustration)
Goethe created the foundations of a new life science, a science of conscious participation in living form. Working from those beginnings the philosopher and artist Rudolf Steiner forged a scientific path to the spirit. "Our civilisation has lost the spirit; its thinking encompasses only material things. Such thoughts can only be understood, not experienced".** What is a thought which can be experienced? The answer to that question has implications for the renewal of education, of medicine, of economics, of agriculture – for the renewal of society as a living threefold wholeness.
The first unit of the course is called Nature; it explores the fundamentals of Goethe's way of science – polarity, intensification, metamorphosis, exact sensory imagination – through engaging imaginatively with plant, animal, colour and human phenomena. At every point artistic insight enlivens scientific perception.
This is followed by Society which is a study of the threefold social organism, Steiner’s picture of social renewal for the modern age. Through a developed Goethean thinking this unit explores the ideals of the threefold social structure and its stages of development, the nature of capital and labour, the associative economy, the evolution of money and social sculpture, creativity and its education.
The extension unit is Self, which develops cognitive imagination at a higher level, looking at the growth and development of Western civilisation understood through key works of art. Here we are dealing with the evolution of human consciousness.
No special skills - either scientific or artistic - are required to undertake this course. The only thing needed is the will to look beyond the status quo and an interest in cultivating the imaginative, participatory form of life science which could become a powerful force for social renewal in our time.
Please note that there is a special version of the Nature unit for teachers.
* Goethe: " . . .This enhancement of our mental powers belongs to a highly evolved age", Scientific Studies, (trans. D Miller), Princeton University Press, 1995, p.307.
** Rudolf Steiner, Youth and the Etheric Heart, Steiner Books, Great Barrington, 2007, p.91.
"Goethe’s intention was to allow the forces inherent in outer objects to come alive in his conceptions of them. This approach to knowledge aspires to an extremely intimate sharing of experience with outer living things".
Rudolf Steiner, Freedom of Thought and Societal Forces