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Goethe, drawings of budding, flowering and branching stems, 1886-7

Joseph Beuys, 7000 Oaks, 1982. Sculptural land art project (planting 7000  trees paired with four foot high basalt columns) for Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany.

Vincent van Gogh, Man Stooping with Spade, 1882.

Statue depicting Shiva dancing as Natajara

NATURE (10 or more weeks)


Are organisms nothing more than complicated mechanisms? Is there a practice which allows us to understand living things in a respectfully living way? What is the science of the wholeness of nature?


This unit cultivates the “exact imagination” as an organ of cognition, through an investigation of the living form of plants, animals and the human being. This form of research is related to the artistic/scientific practice originally associated with the German poet and natural scientist J. W. von Goethe; we learn to re-enact nature’s creative processes through imaginative participation.


This participatory/imaginative exploration of the living forms of nature includes:


  • an overview of the laws of the organic realm as distinct from physical/mechanistic laws; Goethe’s science of the wholeness of living form

  • the language of organic form; polarity and intensification – two central aspects of Goethean science

  • metamorphosis in colours, plants and the human form; growth and transformation experienced with exact imagination

  • creative process in art and nature; further development of imaginative perception in the understanding of creative principles in the growth of plants; the creative “dialogue” between plant and environment

  • creative process in the animal realm; imaginatively perceiving the animal kingdom as the “spread out” threefold human form


SOCIETY (10 or more weeks)


How can we develop the imaginative thinking necessary to properly understand Rudolf Steiner's picture of the threefold social order? What does it mean to transform natural forces into social forces?


This unit of the course cultivates “exact imagination” to gain insight into the living forms and processes of the social organism. The thinking skills cultivated in Nature unit concerning polarity, metamorphosis and intensification are brought to another level in order to understand the realities around us in the social sphere. Such enlivened thinking gives a picture of the social organism as having an archetypal threefold structure – the economic, the political-rights and the cultural-spiritual spheres.


Our participatory/imaginative exploration of the social organism includes:


  • the archetypal threefold social structure and its relationship with Communism and Capitalism; the background to the contemporary social question in the ideals of the French Revolution – liberty, equality, fraternity.

  • the evolution of the threefold social order and the emancipation of the three spheres. 

  • the nature of capital as creative potential; the fundamental social law of work and the economic cycle

  • the question of governance in the threefold social order and the nature of economic associations

  • social art and the “social sculpture” of Joseph Beuys; education for freedom and creativity.


ECONOMICS (10 or more weeks)

This unit intensifies the use of imaginative intelligence to understand one sphere of the threefold social order - the economic life. The Goethean way of observing phenomena like work and price, together with a way of "economic listening" which has been called generative conversation, create the potential for a transformed economic social life based on true fraternity - care and love for each other.

Our participatory/imaginative exploration of economic forms and processes takes in:

  • creating true economic fraternity through caring relationships and "generative conversation" with  others in economic association

  • the freeing of work from the wage nexus, and ways of cultivating true vocation

  • the principle of association rather the company principle as the basis of the new economic order

  • how "true price" is determined in economic association and how it transforms the entire threefold social order

  • how the awakened associative economy transforms the principles and structure of business ownership.

SELF (10 or more weeks)


What is the self? What are the inspirations and processes that have underlain and motivated the development of human consciousness? This unit further develops the method of exact imagination already explored in the previous two units. 


When the “eye of the imagination” illuminates events and stages in the unfoldment of the human identity, we can gain insight into our self. The use of the artistic/imaginative faculty in historical study is not familiar today. This is the ability to re-enact humanity’s development through imaginative participation, so that key events (in this case works of visual art, architecture and poetry) are understood as “symptoms” of hidden principles or forces at work in the human biography.


Our participatory/imaginative exploration of human evolution in Western civilisation* takes in:

  • the question of self understanding; the imaginative study of human history; stages in the evolution of consciousness

  • the mythological/magical worldview, embracing the Australian Aboriginal and ancient Indian worlds; true identity (the self) realised in the Dreaming or absorption into the transcendental divine

  • the ancient Persian, Chaldean and Egyptian worlds, in which the human individuality became more autonomous, more established within the laws of physical existence; the meaning of vocation in the ancient world

  • the Greco-Roman worlds, when the evolution of consciousness gave rise to great confidence in the independent powers of mind and freedom from the gods

  • the modern period – the Renaissance, Romanticism to the present and beyond; the significance of human individualisation through nihilism in which traditional meanings are abandoned; out of the “abyss” of nihilism came the inspiration to find a new basis for civilisation; freedom of self and the moral imagination


*Each world civilisation has had its own form of development, each with a unique significance within the human civilising process as a whole. Part of the uniqueness of Western civilisation lies in the individualising process and its accompanying economic, political-rights and science-technological achievements which are now essential elements of global civilisation.

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