The poet Goethe was actually one of the first pioneers of the sciences of complexity and emergence. He found a dynamic participatory way of seeing nature, documented in his study on the metamorphosis of plants. He was one of the first to explore what a non-reductionist and vision-logic imaginative level of archetypal thinking can be, seeing a unitive evolutionary archetypal process at work in nature, and in perceiving and thinking about nature, or in other words a gestalt way of seeing the whole.
Applying Goethean Science or a gestalt mode of inquiry is essential to better grasping the order of process and dynamic complexity of the natural world ..
"If the scientist is too bigoted to feel himself into the sensibility and the living values of the artist, he will propose only dead structures." - Jacob Bronowski
“The holistic paradigm, Gaia, deep ecology, and new alchemy all have a hidden ancestor: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.” - John Barnes
“In Goethe's method, "how" to look is the key. We must switch our attention away from the verbal-intellectual mind and into "seeing." This way of seeing is active, not passive. We plunge into seeing the qualities of the phenomenon. This takes us away from the uniformity imposed on nature by the intellectual mind and we experience the non-uniformity, richness and diversity of the world.
In this way we arrive at the simplest case, the "pure phenomenon," the part that contains the authentic whole. This is the aim of the first stage of Goethe's method. What is particular in our normal way of seeing becomes universal in the intuitive mode. Goethe described the pure phenomenon as " an instance worth a thousand, bearing all within itself." The classic example is found in Goethe's observation that "all is leaf." For the rational mind, the leaf is just one part of the plant along with the petals and stamens. These parts are regarded as essentially separate and independent of each other. But with the switch to the intuitive mode of consciousness the leaf is understood in a universal sense as an "omnipotential form," rather than as a particular physical leaf.
The process of active seeing is deepened in Goethe's subsequent stages, in "exact sensorial imagination," or guided imagery. We visualize the phenomenon in imagination. This is sensory and concrete, not abstract, attention is withdrawn further from the verbal, and consciousness is restructured into an "organ of holistic perception." The purpose of this stage is to realize an element of the phenomenon not given to sense experience.
This is the law, the organization or unity of the phenomenon. The intuitive understanding of the leaf, the one single organ, allows us to grasp the continuity of form of the plant. We can visualize the "coming into being " of the plant, its metamorphic sequence.
With a reversal of perception, the universal is not a generalization abstracted from the particular; it is perceived as "shining in the particular." We see not an assemblage of parts, an analytical snapshot; we see the intensive depth of the plant, another dimension in which "it shows itself as itself.””
“Who would study and describe the living starts
By driving the spirit out of its parts:
In the palm of his hand he holds all the sections,
Lacks nothing, except the spirit’s connections.”
- Goethe, Faust