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Biology studies

“The committee for this Academic Week [March 6-11, 1922] has requested that each day I give an introduction to the topic that will be discussed later from a scholarly perspective during the course of the same day. This decision was based on the view, perhaps, that the various branches of science and of life could be enriched by the perspective of anthroposophy . . . anthroposophy represents a viewpoint that (at least for me, if I may make this personal remark) is based on Goethe’s understanding of nature. Anthroposophy is established on the foundation of a phenomenological understanding of nature . . . reading is the goal of looking at phenomena, In other words, what I see as the essence of natural laws is already in the phenomena, in the same way that the meaning I discover when I read a word is already in the letters . . . We simply submerge ourselves in the phenomena and then, in the essence of natural laws, the essence of thoughts is given to us, coming directly from the phenomena. This is why Goethe remarked naively: ‘Then I see my ideas,’ (which were actually natural laws, in nature) “with my eyes’ . . . I demonstrated already in the 1880s that we should metamorphose the concepts that we apply to inorganic nature, and in that way adapt them to organic nature.”

Rudolf Steiner, Reimagining Academic Studies, SteinerBooks, 2015, pp.1-13.


“The typus plays the same role in the organic world as natural law does in the inorganic . . .

. . . A law governs the phenomenon as something standing over it; the typus flows into the individual living being; it identifies itself with it . . .

. . . The [typus] determines only the lawfulness of its own parts. It does not point, like a natural law, beyond itself. . .

. . . Every single organism is the development of the typus into a particular form. Every organism is an individuality that governs and determines itself from a centre. It is a self-enclosed whole, which in inorganic nature is only the case with the cosmos. . .”

Rudolf Steiner, The Science of Knowing: Outline of an Epistemology Implicit in the Goethean World View (1886), Mercury Press, 1988, pp.92-100.



Rudolf Steiner, several years before the end of his life, was involved in a course of study mainly for university students who sought a connection with anthroposophy. In order to explain how the biological sciences would best be taught in a university context, he refers back to his Goethe studies and the very beginning of his work as a writer. Even today these early Goethean studies are groundbreaking but little understood. So when he refers yto enriching academic studies with anthroposophy he means founding them in the methodology of Goethean science. This is our challenge today, in a new university in Australia.

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