Don’t Google it… Goethe it!

by Margaret Colquhoun

The Natural gifts, naturally inherited knowledge, traditional medicines and so on that have been passed down from ancient times are all losing their value. We need to acquire new knowledge in order to be able to enter into all the inter-relationships of these things. Humanity has only two choices: either to start once again, in every field of endeavour, to learn from the whole of nature, from the relationships within the whole cosmos, or to allow both nature and human life to degenerate and die off. There is no other choice. Today, no less than in ancient times, we are in need of knowledge that can really enter into the inner workings of nature”.                                                                                           Rudolf Steiner in Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture lecture 2, 1924

(Published in the Spring Issue of New View magazine)

This is a very strong statement. What can we do, especially in this age of speed, communication, the Internet, mobile phone and such limited real time in most people’s lives, to find the inner peace and circumstances to truly connect to nature, let alone work out what to do and how to do it within her?

Sometimes, if we are forced by illness, handicap, or other circumstances to stop our normal busy life and take stock, revelations and new enlightened insights can spring forth in odd moments.  We suddenly see what to do, how to solve a problem, how to be different. But is there a way to transform ourselves such that these rare moments of light-filled revelation become more regularly experienced?     img_PishwantonWood_2

J.W. v. Goethe’s path to “Knowing the Being of Things” was through a path of self-development – a journey of allowing oneself to grow an “intuitive intellect” – something Kant, in his day, said was not possible for the human being to attain!  But Goethe did it! He developed the capacity to hold back all preconceived judgements of the world and to pose his questions directly to the factual phenomena – what are you truly, you beautiful flower? how do you grow and develop, and what is the true nature of your Being? This approach allows one the possibility of beholding the heart or soul/spiritual essence of an aspect of the world, of reconnecting to lost knowledge which was a common ‘knowing’, ‘being with’ and ‘doing’ for our ancestors long ago.  What an antithesis this approach is to that of accessing a plethora of phenomenal facts by ‘Googling it’ on the Internet. Indeed, we could perhaps say that it is preferable to ‘Goethe it’ on the ‘ether-net’ . What would then result would be a knowledge far deeper and more profound, revealed in oneself out of a new connection to Nature.

I think it is only through giving ourselves the space and time to be so open in front of a plant, an animal, a landscape, or the stars that from out of the encounter with Nature itself Grace can give us the moment in which to hear Nature speak. This ‘seeing in beholding’ is heard inside oneself …

Could this be a right response to what Rudolf Steiner meant when he spoke the words quoted above? To do this we have to let go of all our ‘normal’ ways of seeing, knowing and doing. We have to be prepared to sacrifice all we have previously known about something and step off the ’safe’ ground of our held belief and trust ourselves and our senses in a way we might never have believed possible. Then we might  arrive at the ‘self-evident truth’ offered by our fellow inhabitants of the planet – the plants, animals, rocks, mountains seas and rivers.

Goethe maintained :

the human being, to the extent that he  makes use of his  sound senses, is the finest instrument is the greatest and most exact physical apparatus that can exist”.

In allowing ourselves to become the “finest instrument” we can, in Goethe’s words, truly become Friends of the Earth”.

The Life Science Trust at Pishwanton Wood, Lothian, Scotland, runs the North European Centre for Goethean Science and Art where the landscape is being encountered and transformed according to the above approach and where, within the core educational programme Beholding the Heart of Nature”, we endeavour to practice Goethe’s journey into all four kingdoms of Nature throughout each year. In so doing we offer participants the tools for transformation in their own walk of life, whatever it may be.

Margaret Colquhoun (1947-2017) was a Goethean scientist.


  1. 1. Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture lecture 2, 1924, Rudolf Steiner, Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association 1993.

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