Cosmos Café [2021-06-10]: The Wholeness of Nature 7

Session Introduction

This is the seventh and final planned session encompassing a collective reading of Bortoft’s book. This session’s reading covers roughly the last quarter of Part III “Understanding Goethe’s Way of Science”. The focus of this third essay thus far has been what Bortoft calls “the organizing idea” as a determiner of perception. In this reading, the emphasis is on, in addition to a brief look at the unity of the organism, seeing comprehensively and the possibility of new science of nature.

It is easy to misunderstand what Goethe is trying to tell us. What he continually emphasizes, however, is an active way of seeing, not a passive one. To see dynamically is to shift one’s attention from what is seen to what is appearing; to see the coming-into-being of the phenomenon, not the phenomenon as end product. The same sense faculties are in play, but the difference lies in how they are being employed. The consequence is to start thinking with the organism, not just thinking about it.

Seeing comprehensively is a way of understanding the phenomenon with which one is engaged. It is about seeing the relationships between the parts that constitute the whole, but not relationships we identify by eliminating differences and searching for commonalities, but rather relationships that are intrinsic to and inherent in the phenomenon itself. It is a matter of recognizing what belongs together. Analytical science aims at explaining the phenomenon, most often in terms of things other than the phenomenon itself; that is, the mechanisms which apparently cause the phenomenon to be as we find it. Understanding, by contrast, aims at answering the “why” question, and this can be achieved only in terms of the phenomenon itself. What is more, the fundamental characteristic of this understanding is, analogous to language, the co-presence of sensory manifestation and non-sensory meaning.

The whole of Goethe’s effort as well as Bortoft’s presentation of it has been to provide us with an alternative to the analytic way of perceiving and explaining nature. This alternative should not be understood as an exclusive option, but rather as a complementary enhancement to that way. The scientific way is but one way of approaching reality, and in some areas it provides fruitful and productive results. What it lacks, however, is the possibility of understanding reality in a deeper and thereby more meaningful way. “Such a science clearly could perform the same cultural function as analytical science, which would mean in this case being instrumental in the cultivation of a holistic mode of consciousness” (p. 330).

Reading / Watching / Listening

  • Bortoft, Henri (1996) The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way Toward a Science of Conscious Participation in Nature. (Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Press), III. Understanding Goethe’s Way of Science, the last subsection of Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapter 7 (pp. 275-330).

  • (Alternately: Bortoft, Henri (1996) The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way of Science. Edinburgh: Floris Books, 6th printing 2018.)

  • Bortoft Reading Schedule_The Wholeness of Nature, v22.pdf (82.6 KB)

Seed Questions

  • How convincing have you found Bortoft’s overall argumentation? Have you been successful in your own attempts to reproduce the experiences of which he speaks in relation to the perception of phenomena?

  • Was Bortoft’s emphasis on the contrast between “explaining” and “understanding” helpful to you in coming to terms with Goethe’s approach to science? Do you think this is an effective contrast to draw? If so, why; if not, how would you go about clarifying the difference in approach to current mainstream science?

  • What do you believe are the particular strengths (weaknesses) to Goethe’s way of science? In which regards are you (still) critical of the approach, and why? Do you think, overall, that such an approach is worth developing? Why (or why not)?

Context, Backstory, and Related topics


Outside-Inside Touching the Bubble of Perception,
What has Goethe’s Dynamic Way of Seeing Touched?
Are We Less Fearful of the Wonder,Vulnerability & Creativity-Beauty?
I for one am very Grateful,Less Anxious,& Open to the Unknown Possibilities.


It’s almost time for our get-together. Last time we talked of reading a bit of Faust to kick it off. Is that still the plan? If so, what exactly should we “prepare”? (I’d like to take a look at it before trying to sight-read it aloud.) (And, @MarcoMasi, I am willing to read whichever role you’d prefer not to; I have no personal preference.)


I’ve changed my mind, Ed, about that experiment. I don’t think we should use the last Goethe session for an experiential practice that would take much more time to set up than we have in this last session. Rather than doing the experiment half ass, I prefer to postpone it for another day, a day when the weather is milder and a shared attentional capacity can be more of an open focus. I will be glad to explain why I wanted to do this and what my procedure would have been in speaking these two texts in tandem ( the German and English) and what could have been learned by their vocalization in a resonant space. I’m interested in contacting the field and creating a feedback loop but this takes a delicate balance and that balance is one of our many unexplored transphysical senses that flat screens inhibit. It’s time to wind down. And look forward to the summation of this Bortoft study.


I FEEL the Vibe John!!!


Sounds reasonable, so it certainly works for me.

Whenever you think the time is ripe, feel free to bring it up again and we can move forward then.


I am glad you said this, John, since I am not feeling ready either. I have been getting acquainted with both David Luke’s and Walter Kaufmann’s translations of Faust, however, I had to return my copy of Jarrell’s to the library and haven’t been able to get it back yet.

Luke makes the case that a modern translation really should rhyme, as well as approximate other key criteria; but I am not yet convinced by his effort. Kaufumann may have a wider sense of humor, which gives him an edge.

Translation provides a keen prism for exploring the nature of language, so I hope we pick up this thread in the future. Moreover, I feel at ease taking our time, and, whatever we do, doing it full-ass. Goethe sure as hell did on both counts.

I am also still working on finalizing a date when Ben Williams can join us to talk about Abhinavagupta. We are looking at a Thursday in July. The finale of Bortoft, and other questions (I am particularly drawn to themes in education, or Bildung), should give us plenty to work with in the meantime. See y’all on Thursday!


There is no absolute frame of reference. I am moving much, much faster than most people, as I spend most of my time, registering the effects of a near consensus reality that most people are not aware of. Birds and small animals I have noticed are aware of these quick tempo-rhythms. The time is out of joint.

So, I am cutting back on my participation in these threads as asynchronous writing is not good for my mental health. I have to close down a lot of open loops or I end up in psychic vertigo.

My intention for the reading was not to compare translations, a task beyond my expertise. I was interested in exploring the non consensus reality that is underneath different languages systems and how we can touch this difference with our minds, through the use of the voice. A little bird told me about this.

It is like two trees seen above ground have a clear boundary and can be held as separate by an observer but below the ground a root system in the dark is operating that entangles these separated trees from above. The two separated trees above could be labeled English and German.

Examining the root structure of different language systems can be done using clean language. I was wondering how this could shape the content of Goethe’s Way but feel no confidence anymore that this can happen. Timing is everything. And what is an option in one frame of reference is taken off the table in the next framework. Going, going, gone. Your option just became a lost cause. Something like that.

At any rate, I would like to deliver/receive messages in a live zoom call and release my need to makes sense in these threads, which have proved to be disorienting, and are not always secure. Thanks for your understanding. I am currently working with Sean Esborn-Hargens course UFOs and getting a fresh perspective on how more effective meta-communiques from the field might occur. Experiencers like myself have lots of issues with the consensus reality. I’m working on this.

Carry on, good people, with your business and desires. All manner of thing shall be well.