Goethean Science and Art- Seminars (Beholding the Heart of Nature)

The Programme

The course Beholding the Heart of Nature, beginning in April 2016, is a schooling path based on Goethe’s science, developed by Rudolf Steiner, and carried forward in Dornach, Switzerland (in the Natural Science Section) and all over the world. The course follows the year at Pishwanton through the cycle of the zodiac, through plant observation, landscape study, animal and human observation, accompanied by art, movement, music and physical activity appropriate to the time of year. In this way we learn to listen to what the year of the earth as a great living being has to tell us, leading to a deeper understanding of nature and through this, of the self.

The Teachers

Dr Margaret Colquhoun

Dr Margaretimg_BeholdinHeart_1 Colquhoun is a biologist with a long experience in the teaching of Goethean Science. Holding a degree from the University of Edinburgh, Dr Colquhoun is one of the leading teachers for Goethean Science and Art in the English speaking world.

Margaret Shillan

img_GoetheanScience_2Margaret has taught in a Steiner School and at Emerson College, where she founded the Visual Arts Year and taught painting and drawing. She has travelled widely and given courses in many countries, and her own work has been inspired by her travels. But it is poetry, mythology and nature that have been her greatest inspiration

Paul Matthews

th (1)Paul is the author of two inspirational books on the creative process, Sing Me the Creation  and  Words in Place (Hawthorn Press). The Ground that Love Seeks and Slippery Characters (Five Seasons Press) are gatherings of his poetry. Paul has taught for many years at Emerson in Sussex. For more details of what he does please visit his website. 

Axel Ewald

A Ewald 1Axel is an environmental artist and Social Sculpture practitioner based in Israel. In the early 1990’s  Axel collaborated with Margaret Colquhoun in developing a series of courses combining Goethean observation with artistic creation, in founding the Life Science Trust and in running the first landscape observation and environmental design workshops at Pishwanton Wood.

Charlie Lawrie of Duns (Conversational Contribution to the “Beholding the Heart of Nature”)

13848728975_26d25c82bc_kGoing round the circle of world-view- points as foreseen by Goethe in 1811, and demonstrated by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in 1914, in his lecture series concerning “The Human and the Cosmic Thought”. Charles Lawrie is an Edinburgh-born, life long research student of Goethe and Rudolf Steiner.


Dates for 4 Intensive Seminars:

  • 15th-23rd October 2015.
  • 15th-22nd January 2016.
  • 14th -22nd April 2016.
  • 14th -22nd July 2016.
  • 13th -21st  October 2016.
  • January 2017 (Dates to be confirmed).

Venue: Pishwanton Wood, a place to learn Goethean Science in the English speaking world in the College for Goetheanism.

Cost: Find the tariffs in the booklet available in our website.

Accommodation: We offer our own accommodation at reduced rates for course participants (See the programme and brochure below).



Booking the course 

Please fill the form below if you would like to enrol in any of our courses. Alternatively you can print the last page of the Programme Booklet and send it to us by post. Many thanks.

Quince Cottage (East Lothian)
Quince Cottage (East Lothian)


  • In a shared room, £45 per night (breakfast and dinner included).
  • £10 Single room supplement.

Payment Information for Direct Debit/ Bank Transfer

Life Science Seminar c/o Bank of Scotland, Haddington, UK.

Account n: 00559396

Sort Code: 80-08-23



April 2015   Human Study 

The Plant as Teacher, Beholding the Heart of Nature

Plants show their vitality in spring. This time of the year is when new growth, buds, blossoms and flowers come out in many different plants and trees. In the zodiac this is the time of Aries, a sign, which is characterized by heat, fire and initiative. By following the process of careful observation and representing our perceptions in technical and artistic ways, we understand that, as Goethe pointed out, the metamorphosis of the plant connects with our own growth as living beings.

 Jordi Albacete

Untitled1I am the Marketing and Communications Officer at the Pishwanton Project. I’m an environmental journalist; my work always aims to raise awareness among people in making sustainable choices. I lived for few years among poor peasants in West Africa and Latin America, supporting them to grow their own food. Engagement with nature is at the heart of everything I do.

At the beginning of April 2015, I participated in the course Beholding the Heart of Nature, a series of seminars that follow the cycle of the year at Pishwanton Wood through the seasons via plant, animal and human observation and landscape study.

This was the first seminar of the cycle starting in Aries and is based on the study of plants (the last one of these seminars will be in January 2016, focusing on Human Study). We had the good luck to experience the unfolding of plants in the spring of the year. This was absolutely marvelous and made it possible to make the most of this course.

Engaging with Plants

To come together with nature requires openness, being alert, and leaving the ordinary man aside. This is not easy in our distracting high technological societies. To reconnect with ourselves in the outside world we need to balance rhythm, observation, expression and meditation appropriately. The course Beholding the Heart of Nature helps us to make this balance.

Growth has rhythm. This is something that all cultures have preserved in their folklore. In the course, before starting our daily routine, we sang everyday to be in tune with the tempo of plant development.Untitled2

Observation is a complex process and requires a great deal of openness of mind as well as of heart. One of the first activities we did was drawing daffodils. We drew them in their natural setting. By watching the details of their anatomy, and discussing them in pairs, we entered into a process of deep observation. We made three paintings: the first one capturing their mood, the second drawn by memory (trying to remember the plant without looking at it), and the third one, a more accurate detailed representation of the plant. As a result we learnt how to be more alert and receptive not only with the daffodil itself but also with its surrounding. Christel Mattheeuws, another participant of the course said “drawing is not only creating form but also movement. This became evident when I had to draw my plant with closed eyes”.

Untitled3Expression of plants often requires a careful attention to its origins. As Goethe noted through precise observation of the flowering plants and trees we understand that this is only a part of the manifestation of the dynamic principles followed by the life of the plant. To engage with the expression of the plant in this way we drew a chestnut bud, which was about to open, everyday of the course at the same time. We used a concertina booklet, drawing the bud each day in a different page. So, at the end we literally unfold the growth process of the bud in our booklets and can experience it as a breathing process within ourselves.

Meditation is always challenging and often is the result of careful observation. During the course we each had to choose a plant as a project. We made our selection from memory after a silent walk. We needed to recognise which plant touched our hearts. I chose an old willow. A little shoot was coming up from it. The old tree was chopped to make an entrance to a fence. Crossing a small bridge over a stream I saw a willow and I felt captivated by it. Untitled4I saw the defiant shoots and their strength, I experienced how well connected it was to the river flow. In the following days I discovered what the willow was about to teach me. The power of resilience is in the roots of the plant, and expresses itself with the flow of the water. In fact, the flow of life is a continuous power of resilience. Christel chose Gorse, which became an excursion in the unknown depths of herself.

Goethean Science and Art

The course ‘Beholding the Heart of Nature’ is a schooling path based on Goethe’s scientific work (1749-1832), later developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), and carried out in Dornach, Switzerland (in the Natural Science Section of the Goetheanum and all over the world). The special relevance in the British Isles is the relationship between art and science as in the Hibernian Mysteries of the past.

One of the key aspects that I think makes Goethean Science so unique is its wholistic approach of teaching. The physical, intellectual and emotional dimensions are well balanced by combining science and art, practical and meditative work. This harmonises the head, the hands and heart of every student. This in turn, results in an understanding and trust of one’s intuition and the confidence to act responsibly in the world.

Everyday we read extracts from the book Nature’s Open Secret by Rudolf Steiner, which was the first introduction to Goethe’s scientific work. In a different book, by Steiner, Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, lecture 2, I paid attention to one simple quote that I believe it summarises the purpose of the Pishwanton Project: “Today no less than in ancient times, we are in need of knowledge that can really enter into the inner workings of nature”.

One evening Charlie Lawrie, a poet and translator of Johan Wolfgang Goethe, performed different poems of the German writer and scientist. In his verses we learnt the importance of the metamorphosis of plants the seasons and their lives and the inspiration that we gain from them.

Aries Mood

Untitled5Throughout the course we needed to feel the mood of Aries. At this time of the year nature pushes upwards sprouting and producing flowers. For humans and animals, this energy is concentrated on the upper head and contains the heat of the fire.

We paid attention to how the mood of Aries manifested itself in nature. By looking closely at how it was expressed. The first day of the course, we did a silent walk to capture the mood of Aries by observing a specific place that was special to our hearts. We expressed with colours the mood that we felt for that place on little pieces of paper. Then recreating the map of the walk, we located these little drawings in the exact places where we felt touched. Once we had the map we tried to reconnect these drawings with the Aries mood we had felt in the walk. We learnt through this activity how each individual has different perceptions to represent the moods of the landscape. We observed how life and death are interwoven.

Untitled6The strong energy of Aries can be felt in physical work. Just hammering a post can bring about this feeling. You just need to bend the knees and feel the energy coming upwards from the soil. Putting all that energy in a single and clear stroke of the hammer. Then you feel how the mood of Aries comes from the land in this upward and downward movement. Similarly, in the morning exercises, Christel said, “By expressing a blossoming tree or flower in physical movements my mind expanded”.

Untitled7In conclusion, personally I felt really privileged to have experienced the course Beholding the Heart of Nature. Having lived quite close to nature for few years this meant I recalled not only my memories and feelings, but also most importantly my understanding of life. It is often curious how life works. I beheld the heart of nature once few years ago. I was mountaineering in the French Pyrenees with a friend of mine. One day we were walking when an intense fog captured the mountain. We couldn’t see even a metre forward. At some point we decided to stop and camp by the shore of a lake that we couldn’t see. The following morning when we got up, we saw a heart shaped lake. For many years now I think that it was the mirror of nature.

The next course in Beholding the Heart of Nature will take place the 16th to 24th of July. It will use the same process as described above to connect to the heart of a chosen landscape, we will rebuild Goethe’s journey of science, do group exercises in the morning and with our own chosen landscapes in the afternoon, alongside guided excursions and an explanation of local geology.

 The course after this will deal with animals in the landscape and their relationship to humans in October and then in 2016, January we will study the human being, embryology and nutrition.

July 2015 Landscape Study

What is landscape? Is it the plants of a place, the underlying rocks, the social history, the weather or a combination of all these.

A few of the pictures show some of the results of the individual projects, presentations and of our outing to Gullane in the middle of the week.

Beholding the Heart of Nature 2






In this block course we studied something of the geological history of Pishwanton and the surrounding area and how landscape comes about.


Beholding the Heart of Nature








Each person chose a place of their own choice, which touched them in some way.

Montse PW10








People went deep inside themselves and amazing revelation appeared as each journeyed outward in the glorious sun filled landscape.



October 2015 Animal Study 

Where do the animals come from?

What is their relationship to us?

Oken said: “There is only one animal”

All the other groups of animals are modifications expanded of one or other human organ system.

This 9 day course at Pishwanton dwelled intensely on these thoughts. We studied texts from Rudolf Steiner on the on recent origins of different groups of animals in evolution and then painted our experiences of this the next day – Ancient Saturn on Saturday Sun on Sunday. Moon on Monday and then lacked at the 4 beasts of the Apocalypse on Tuesday, the earth day. Parallel to this we studied the human skeleton, both inside and out with ourselves and find very real relationships to the main groups of higher animals – birds, rodents, carnivores, ungulates.  Each person studied an animal of their choice in the afternoon that became a research project for the week presented on the last day.

A few pictures illustrate this journey – also of our outing, herd of Chillinghan wild cattle in Northumberland.


The next and final course in these series will be in January 2016 on the human being, embryology, nutrition and Goethe’s colour theory.

If you would like to book or need further information, please contact LST …