By Craig Holdrege and Seth Jordan, The Nature Institute
It’s not hard to see the destructive tendencies at work in the world. Our experience becomes ever more fragmented, and our social relationships polarized. We’ve become almost completely disconnected from the natural world. These aren’t new developments, but they are intensifying as our lives become increasingly mediated by devices. And as we are inundated with too much information, we also lose a sense of orientation. We witness untruthfulness and strife. But the longing for truth—to encounter real presences and experience deeper connectedness—also grows.
At The Nature Institute we’ve found that the heightened experience of nature can counter these tendencies—can provide grounding and orientation. This “heightened experience of nature” means engaging much more fully in our embodied sensory experience. It also means waking up to how our habitual concepts and ideas prevent us from having a truthful, grounded relation to the world. The pathway through the senses to the spiritual was trail-blazed at the beginning of the 20th century by Rudolf Steiner, but it has unfortunately been rarely tread. Walking it for ourselves becomes increasingly urgent in our age of information and abstraction.
We have developed this work through courses, workshops, publications, and talks for almost 20 years now. From conversations and evaluations, we know the work has been valuable to participants—that they’ve experienced new ways of perceiving and understanding the world that matter to them. They’ve become more conscious of their own relation as knowers and doers in the world. They’ve left feeling enlivened, and the work continues to inspire them.
But we also see that more is needed. Modern habits of abstract thought are deeply entrenched. The view that the world is something “out there,” separate from our subjective “in here,” is not easily overcome. People can be serious about spiritual and holistic perspectives, but still frequently fall back into abstractions and static perspectives.
So our question has been: How can we help individuals develop practices that are deeply transformational so that the experience of the world as dynamic and relational becomes an active presence in their day-to-day lives and professional work?
As a significant step forward we have conceived of a new year-long foundation course in Goethean science. For participants who attend the program and want to continue the work with further guidance, we plan to offer a second year with more individualized work which could be followed by a research fellowship.
The approach we offer is experience-based and reflective. It is scientific since it is a conscious and rigorous pathway based on experience. At the same time, it is all-human since it involves the fullness of our human capacities and is concerned with the healthy transformation of humanity in service of world needs.