International Conference

Evolving Science 2021

From Living Thinking to Living with Nature –
Approaches, Challenges and Perspectives of a
Sustainable Science

Autumn Conference of the Natural Science
Section at the Goetheanum
7 - 10 October 2021

Dear Friends of the Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum!

The Research Institute at the Goetheanum has been working on the spiritual extension of the natural sciences for 100 years now. The research methods and objects have undergone quite a metamorphosis during this time – from image-creating methods to depicting the temporal form of the plant, from the applications of morphology for finding remedies to characterizing genetically modified plants, from a new optics of images to the presentation of Goethe’s inverse spectrum. An overview with examples will be presented at the beginning of the conference.

Identity Inwards

On the first and second day, the human-forming potential of Goethe‘s approach to science – as an educational path – will be addressed. In addition to the original concern of making visible the forces at work in the living, there is the awareness that scientists – following Goethe’s approach – must transform themselves into methodological instruments, because the interior of nature – its laws – can only appear in the human being. Only when I know the part I play in what appears before me can I adequately connect the world of senses with the world of thought in cognition. Conversely, the world of senses and the thought content experienced in it are the basis for forming the certainty of knowledge in a scientifically founded anthroposophy.

Identity Outwards

Goetheanism demands that the object of research be experienced in its comprehensive context. This includes the historically developed scientific research community. Our work rests on the shoulders of our predecessors. Every approach that broadens our perspective enriches the picture of the whole. This view leads to a pluralism in science, which is the focus of the second evening. A look at the history of science shows that no result remains valid outside its defined context. When results are directly translated into socially relevant action, a problematic generalization can take place.


The crisis of the earth is also the crisis of mankind – the ecological crisis and the current pandemic are like two sides of the same coin. The third day will focus on the science of interrelationships. Evo-Devo, microbiology and ecology demand and promote a contextual and procedural way of thinking, such as the one Goethe postulated for the knowledge of living things. The contributions on Sunday illuminate the connection between our mental “deeds” and the processes in nature. A creative will and a wealth of mental concepts make abundance and diversity of life possible. From this point of view, a Goethean science of nature is not a “luxury good” but a “life insurance” for the common future of earth and man, and at the same time it is a source for individual spiritual self-development.


  • As with “Evolving Science 2015 / 2018”, there will be spaces for project presentations and workshops, which can be registered up until September 15  here.
  • The conference will be bilingual in German and English.
  • If participation is not possible for financial reasons, please do not hesitate to contact us:

We look forward to your participation!

Johannes Kühl, Susanna Kümmell, Matthias Rang, Ruth Richter, Carolin Schürer, Meinhard Simon, Johannes Wirz & Mara Born

(subject to change)

Hasok Chang

Hans Rausing Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Degrees from Caltech and Stanford; teacher at University College London. Author of “Is Water H2O? Evidence, Realism and Pluralism” (2012), and “Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress” (2004). Co-founder of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP), and the Committee for Integrated History and Philosophy of Science.


Scientific Pluralism and Complementary Science

Modern science has developed in a monist direction, with a presumption that there is one single truth about any given subject matter, and one best method for finding that truth. Moreover, there is a strong tendency to demand that all scientists should agree to the methodology and fundamental beliefs that are currently considered to be the best. Due to such tendencies many plausible avenues of inquiry are blocked, even if they were once considered legitimate and may be considered promising again in the future. Due to this monism, there are many scientific questions that are neglected by scientists, and I argue that historians and philosophers of science can take up such questions in a mode of work that I call “complementary science.” Many scholars who have preserved and promoted Goethe’s approach to science can be seen as practitioners of complementary science. more

Zoom Live Keynote Speech

Charles Eisenstein

Speaker, essayist and author of 5 books, including «Sacred Economics» and «The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible». Working area spans themes of technology, politics, money, ecology, the indigenous, healing, and philosophy, described in terms of a transition in civilization’s defining mythologies. Degree in Mathematics & Philosophy from Yale University; ten years Chinese translator in Taiwan. Four sons, lives in Rhode Island, USA.

The Religion of Science

Normally we hear of science as an alternative to religion, an advancement over medieval superstition and magical thinking. In fact, science bears many features of religion. This talk will explore how in its culture, metaphysics, institutions, rituals and construction of knowledge, science is the religion of modern society – and this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, society is changing; so, therefore, must science in all its dimensions. 

Zoom Live Keynote Speech

Vesna Forštnerič Lesjak

Pharmacist and farmer; individual guidance of students for Goethean botany; various research projects of Goethean plant knowledge for pharmacy and medicine. Since 2013 production company for food supplements and cosmetics, foundation and management of the association for further education in natural sciences “Sapientia” and the section for anthroposophical pharmacy and medicine in Slovenia; 2019 takeover of the ecological family farm and Demeter certification.

From the Plant to the Human Being Using the Example of Wild Teasel

We can gradually come to an understanding of the plant being by using a Goethean observation method. We can also observe phenomenologically the course of a particular disease in the three-fold organism of the human being. When we can connect the processes of the plant with complementary processes of a particular disease, a path opens for the discovery of a new remedy. 

Thomas Hardtmuth

Physician, freelance author, long-time lecturer in health sciences and social medicine at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University. Since 1985 medical practice at various hospitals, most recently senior physician for surgery and thoracic surgery at Heidenheim Hospital. Regular lectures, seminars and publications in the field of medical anthroposophical anthropology.


On the Genetic Plasticity of Viruses – Aspects of a Dynamic Microbiology

Over the last 20 years, genome sequencing techniques and our knowledge of genetic lineages and evolutionary pathways have expanded tremendously. Our image of viruses has changed fundamentally during that time. From a systems science perspective, viruses in their entirety represent the mediating medium of global genetic communication among organisms. The genomes of individual organisms are therefore not so much the result of random mutations and their selection, but can be understood as surroundings and context dependent rearrangements of a fundamentally dialogical, integrated, organized system of living things. more

Simone Helmle

Studied horticultural sciences. Doctorate and habilitation in rural sociology. Researcher for many years at the Universities of Munich, Hohenheim and Giessen. Since 2014, head of the Demeter Academy of Demeter e.V. in Germany. Development and management of further training for members of the biodynamic movement. Lives with her family in Stuttgart.


Encountering the Biodynamic Whole: On the Practical Education of Future Demeter Farmers

What concerns people today who decide to convert their farm to Demeter? From this question we will enter into considering the conversion process of a farm with its history, people, development possibilities and the biodynamic foundations to be developed. This opens up another aspect of the educational work with conversion farmers. It is about soil, plants, animals and the cosmos, not just figuratively but also practically. Above all, however, it is about the people themselves, the ones who place themselves in the whole, with their abilities and their potential for action, and in doing so come close to feeling that it may just turn the world and their farm upside down.

Johannes Kühl

Physicist; scientific collaborator at the Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum. 1982–1996 Teacher of physics, chemistry and mathematics at the Waldorf School Stuttgart Uhlandshöhe. 1996–2019 Head of the Natural Science Section. Works on various areas of physics and technology, especially Goethean optics and colour theory, as well as on the didactics of physics.

100 Years Research Institute at the Goetheanum

The Research Institute at the Goetheanum has been working on expanding the spiritual-scientific aspects of the natural sciences for one hundred years. Guenther Wachsmuth and Ehrenfried Pfeiffer founded the Institute under the guidance of Rudolf Steiner, before the actual establishment of the Natural Science Section. Since that time, a multitude of different methods and themes have been worked on, bringing forth experiences which also have significance for the future. This contribution pays tribute to that work.

Matthias Rang

Physicist, research stay in the field of near-field spectroscopy at the University of Washington in Seattle (USA). 2015 PhD at the University of Wuppertal on phenomenological approaches to complementary spectra. Since 2007 scientific collaborator of the Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum and since 2019 co-leader of this Section.


Windows and Mirrors – Metamorphoses of a Principle of Nature

Just as the surface of a lake or the sea is on the one hand a transparent “window” into the water space and on the other hand a “mirror” to the surroundings, our earth’s atmosphere is also a window to the cosmos but at the same time opaque to some spectral ranges and a mirror to still others. At first, transmission, reflection and absorption seem to be only “optical” phenomena of nature. However, this contribution tries to show how these phenomena enable us to characterize the Earth’s atmosphere as a “shell” that on the one hand, like a window, connects us to the cosmos, but on the other hand, like a mirror, separates us from it, forming an interior space and protecting the earth from harmful influences. more

Ruth Richter

Gardener, 1989–1999 Training in plant morphology in the study year of the Natural Science Section and in research projects with Jochen Bockemühl. Since then research assistant at the Research Institute at the Goetheanum. 2009–2014 Studies in philosophy of science, history of science and philosophy at the universities of Bern and Basel. Since 2015 editor of the journal “Elemente der Naturwissenschaft”.

Goethe’s Phenomenology

The paradox of perception is that it assures us of the certainty of a common world which, however, is only available to each of us in the form of a world ‘for me’. Phenomenology is dedicated to this philosophical problem in contrast to Goethe, who barely reflected on it but lived its consequences. One of them is his methodological postulate to make the mode of being of the object under investigation one’s own through repeated practice, taking its appearance as an expression of the whole. With his dynamic morphology of plants, Jochen Bockemühl expanded Goethe’s scientific approach in line with Steiner’s epistemological interpretation. In addition to devotion to the phenomena, he initiated a culture of reflecting on one’s own participation in creating them. more

Johannes Wirz

PhD in molecular genetics, projects on the ecology of butterflies and the enhancement of their habitats, on strengthening the health of honey bees and on “non-target effects” of genetic modifications on cultivated plants at the Research Institute at the Goetheanum. Additionally, since 2014, staff member of the Fischermühle teaching and experimental apiary, Mellifera e.V.; seminars on Goethean natural science, anthroposophy, beekeeping according to nature and current developments in biology. Since 2019 co-leader of the Natural Science Section at the Goetheanum.

Diversity Saves Climate

settlement construction and the use of highly intensive agricultural methods are the main reasons for the climate crisis, which goes hand in hand with the loss of biodiversity. The reduction of climate-damaging emissions is an important goal that can only be achieved globally. However, efforts to preserve and maintain biodiversity are equally important and these always start at the local level. Diversity is not only important ecologically but socially and culturally. It always adds value to relationships – ecologically, socially, culturally and spiritually. Biodiversity is not a technological challenge: it is enabled by people and communities, and also by traditional and ecological land use practices.

Axel Ziemke

Diploma studies in biochemistry and doctoral studies in philosophy at the Martin Luther University in Halle, postdoctoral researcher at the Research Training Group Cognition, Brain, Neuronal Networks at the Ruhr University in Bochum, collaborator at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Advanced Training at the University of Klagenfurt, teacher of biology, chemistry, philosophy and drama at the Rudolf Steiner School in Remscheid; freelance author with interests in evolution, brain research, philosophy of mind, political philosophy.

From Goethe to Evo-Devo

Long before Darwin, Goethe, in his work on the theory of metamorphosis, sought to understand the diversity of plant and animal formations as the variability of their ontogeny. Evolutionary developmental biology today overcomes a neo-Darwinian fixation on the variability and selection of individual traits or genes by reconstructing phylogenesis as the evolution of ontogenetic development. Moreover, many aspects of Goethe's insights can be confirmed by this research and deepened in a reductionist sense. This lecture demonstrates the complementarity of these two perspectives using selected examples.

The project presentations are held in the language of the publication – without translation.

1. Kerstin Behnke

Studienrätin für Mathematik und Physik am Montessori Campus Berlin Köpenick, Kuratorin der Montessori-Stiftung Berlin, Atemtherapeutin, Bewusstseinstrainerin, Goethe-Begeisterte.

Atem ist Leben II

Der Atem ist eines unserer feinstofflichen Mittel, um sowohl unsere Intuition als auch unsere Kundalini-Energie zu wecken. R. Steiner kannte und nutzte dieses alte Wissen der indigenen Völker, das ich aus meinen Atem-Ausbildungen kenne, denn es ist letztlich - wie so häufig - alles dasselbe Akasha-Wissen. In der Verbindung zur Natur und zum eigenen Herzens- und Atemraum wird unser höheres Selbstgefühl und Mitgefühl über Meditationen und einen tiefen, verbundenen Atem aktiviert.

2. Peer Schilperoord

Botaniker, Buchautor, Verfasser der Schriftenreihe «Kulturpflanzen in der Schweiz» zur Geschichte und Vielfalt der Kulturpflanzen.


Alles ist Spross

Goethes Hypothese «Alles ist Blatt» ist zu einem Dogma verkommen. Das typische Blatt gliedert sich in Spreite, Stiel und Blattgrund. Diese Definition reist das Blatt aus dem Zusammenhang heraus aus dem es hervorgeht. Die inneren Bedingungen für die Bildung von Blattformen sind für den verholzenden, für den krautigen Spross und für die Blüte sehr verschieden. Die aktuelle morphologische Typisierung des Blattes ist atomistisch geprägt, die dynamische Perspektive fehlt.

3. Victor Morrow

BSc. Mechanical Engineering (Belfast and Edinburgh); Waldorf Teacher Training (Edinburgh); Telehandler driver presently working in the construction industry

Recovering the Hidden Content of World History

Rudolf Steiner said in his lecture cycle “The Search for the New Isis, the Divine Sophia”, that: “we must approach luciferic science and seek there the coffin of Isis”. A simple theory will be outlined showing that certain natural-scientific endeavours of the first third of the 20th century have been overlooked, and that out of Anthroposophy they can be seen in a new light in their true significance, themselves illumining Earth’s deeper past extending to the Lemurian epoch.

4. Ingrid Hartmann

Physikerin. Tätigkeit auf dem Gebiet der Biophysik, der Quantenphysik, Elektrotechnik, Pädagogik.

Weitere Themen: Naturwissenschaft und Religion, Rauschen, Lebendiges Denken.

Rauschen und die experimentelle Methode

Die Aufgabe einer Wissenschaft des Lebendigen kann in der Findung von Indikatoren, die Leben anzeigen, gesehen werden. Rauschen wird als Grenzphänomen, als Träger und Vermittler von Information betrachtet. Durch eine prozesshafte Experimentiertechnik ist es möglich Rauschen zu integrieren, in einen Dialog mit der Natur zu treten. Rauschen wird als experimentelle Methode vorgestellt, als Indikator zur Beschreibung der Lebenskräfte-Situation. Die Bedeutung der Rolle des Denkens wird hervorgehoben.

5. Maria Olga Kokornaczyk

PhD, working at the Society for Cancer Research /Arlesheim, involved into research on the phenomenon of autoorganization of matter applied in medical areas (diagnostics, pharmaceutics, homeopathy).

Picture-forming Diagnostic Tests: A Review

We reviewed, systemized, and categorized diagnostic tests based on pattern formation in drying body fluids. Literature in different languages was included; publications where the patterns did not represent the main test outcome, or animal studies with artificially induced target conditions were excluded. In total, we identified six methods applied on 20 different body fluids. We continue the project by performing a meta-analysis of picture forming methods applied for the diagnosis of cancer.

6. Lin Bautze

Studies in Global Change Management (M.Sc.) and Environmental and Resource Management (B.Sc.). Since April 2019 with the Section for Agriculture. Project Manager of the Living Farms research project.

Living Farms: The Impact of the Individual

Our world is facing severe challenges, such as climate change, soil degradation and biodiversity loss. On the other hand, powerful and healthy solutions exist and can be implemented throught the world. The project Living Farms shows how individuals have achieved great things by establishing biodynamic places, which are healthy for humans, environment and our global system. During the presentation, the individual strategies and lessons learnt are shared with the audience.

7. Bas Pedroli & Sonja Schürger

Bas Pedroli ist Senior Wissenschaftler an der Wageningen University & Research (Alterra) und ausserordentlicher Professor an der Wageningen University (Land Use Planning Group) und promovierte in physischer Geographie / Landschaftsökologie.

Sonja Schürger hat Biologie mit dem Schwerpunkt Ökologie studiert, ist ausgebildete Waldorfpädagogin für die Oberstufe und Gartentherapeutin. Tätig in der Weiterbildung in goetheanistischer Naturerfahrung, sowie in Praxisprojekten zur authentischen Entwicklung und Pflege von Landschaften.

Buchpräsentation: Landschaft – eine innere Entdeckungsreise

Lebendige Landschaften sind die Grundlage für die biologische Vielfalt, fruchtbare Böden, sauberes Wasser und ein ausgeglichenes Klima. Viele Menschen schätzen die erholsame, gesundende und anregende Wirkung eines Aufenthalts in der Natur.  Doch eine vielfältige, regionaltypische Kulturlandschaft kann heute nur entstehen, wenn sich Menschen bewusst mit ihrer Umgebung verbinden und daraus verantwortlich tätig werden. Dieser Band zeigt Wege auf, wie jeder einzelne etwas dazu beitragen kann. Das bewusste Miterleben der Naturphänomene führt auch zu einem Erkennen der eigenen Impulse und öffnet uns für eine tiefere Begegnung mit den anderen Menschen.

Sonja Schürger wird die Entstehung des Buches erläutern. Danach ist eine kritische Besprechung angedacht (Vortragender angefragt). Es ist eine musikalische Umrahmung eingeplant.

8. Young Sook Kim

Waldorf educator, Researcher at the Science Walden Center, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea.

Turning human waste into digital currency?

Science Walden is a community of scientist-artists who wish to tackle difficult challenges our society faces using a currency everyone can access. Our goal is to create a platform and facilitate discussion by generating new values from human waste, our basic human denominator. We are working on developing eco-friendly toilets that convert feces into digital currency with which people can engage each other and the world. Users can provide and receive a diversity of goods and services and more.

9. Carolin Schürer

Physikerin (M.Sc.), wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin an der Naturwissenschaftlichen Sektion seit Oktober 2020, Eurythmie-Studentin, intensive Beschäftigung mit der Philosophie der Freiheit.

Gehirnphysiologie und Willensfreiheit

Das im Gehirn messbare Bereitschaftspotential (BP) vor selbst-initiierten Bewegungen tritt ~ 1 Sek. vor der Entscheidung auf. Diese Beobachtung von B. Libet führte zu der Annahme, dass das BP mit unbewusster Entscheidungsvorbereitung zusammenhängt und wurde z.T. als empirischer Beweis gegen die Möglichkeit des freien Willens gewertet. Um das mentale Korrelat des BP und den Freiheitsbezug zu erforschen haben wir den ursprünglichen Versuch vielseitig variiert – methodisch inspiriert durch Goethe.

10. Inga Hense

Professorin im Bereich Meeresbiologie/Klimaforschung sowie kommissarische, wissenschaftliche Leiterin des botanischen Gartens an der Universität Hamburg.

Die Lebensphasen und -übergänge von Gaia

Gaia, die Mutter Erde, erlebt tagtäglich einen «Wandel im Kleinen». Darüberhinaus haben auch Umbrüche und ausgedehnte Ruhe- und Wachstumsphasen die Erdentwicklung geprägt. Während wir den kleinen Wandel in uns integriert haben, tun wir uns schwer mit Klimaänderungen umzugehen. Wie können wir von Gaia lernen und die Erdentwicklung begleiten während wir uns weiterentwickeln?

11. Siegward Elsas

Neurologe/Neurowissenschaftler, postdoc UC Berkeley, San Francisco. Bis 2010 Ass.Prof. Oregon Health Science University, ab 2012 Neurologe Klinik Arlesheim; Uni- Seminare zu Hirnfunktion/Meditation.

Wärme als geistig-physische Brücke in der Organik

In Fortsetzung des Wärmekurses kann bei der menschlichen Bewegung Wärme als eine Brücke gefunden werden, die eine physische Manifestation von geistigen Impulsen als «Wille» auch bis in Substanzvorgänge hinein ermöglicht. «Wille» braucht auch eine seelische Wärme, und eine erweiterte Thermodynamik fern von dem dem abgestorbenen Mineralischen entsprechenden Gleichgewicht kann uns durch ihre Unvorhersagbarkeit diesen Übergang auch physikalisch verständlich machen.

12. Ueli Steiger

(Elektroingenieur und Physiklehrer) ist Mitbegründer der Initiative Natur- und Kulturraum Dornach-Arlesheim. Der Verein setzt sich ein für einen respektvollen und rechtmässigen Umgang mit dem ökologisch wertvollen Gebiet am Schwinbach mit seinem landschaftlich und architektonisch einmaligen Kulturgut.

Bericht zum aktuellen Stand des geschädigten Naturschutzgebietes Schwinbach-Aue 

Mit Führung auf dem betroffenen Gelände beim Glashaus.

The workshops are held in the language of the publication – without translation.

1. Willem Daub

BaSc in physics, 25 years in Waldorf Schools, Phenomenology at the Glashaus. MA in Philosophy of Science, 30 years giving courses in Obs One's Thinking (PhilOfFreedom), leading into meditation.

Observing One's Thinking & Cognitive Phenomenology

Observing One's Thinking (PhilOfFreedom, Bernardo Gut, Teichmann, Strube) enables one to observe thought movements, the lowest level of living thinking and imagination. The method is universal, but in university contexts (cognitive phenomenology) I select different concepts than with students of elementary or spiritual beings, experiencing the phenomenal contrast in thought movements of, for example, water beings or water spirits.

2. Jessie Delage

Ethnologist and anthropologist, has been studying the human body and movement from experience for over 30 years. Therapist and trainer in Bothmer gymnastics and Gerda Alexander Eutony.

Approaching the Human Body Through Self Experience

The practice of Bothmer gymnastics and Gerda Alexander eutony will allow us to make useful observations of the law of gravity and the law of righting in the human being. Exercises and exchanges based on experience.

3. Kees Veenman

Studied physics in Utrecht. Member of the Sektionskollegium, Dornach. The phenomenological and spiritual study of colours is central. He published a book about colour meditation in Amsterdam 2015.

The Rainbow as a Bridge to the Beings of Colour

In his Principles Steiner describes the descent of man from being to revelation to efficacy to work. In our time man learns to ascend in the opposite direction. Tanis Helliwel stated that everyone can access nature spirits through a specific group of them. For me these are the beings of colour. The rainbow is central in this workshop. Through experiments we approach the phenomenon (the Work), through meditative exercises the Efficacy and eventually something of the Revelation of these Beings.

4. Benjamin Bembé

Biologe und Waldorflehrer. Mitarbeiter am Institut für Evolutionsbiologie und Morphologie an der Uni Witten/Herdecke. Das Thema ist Teil des Projektes «Gestaltbildung im Lebendigen».

Zur Gestaltbiologie der «Südkontinente»

Ausgehend von der Gestaltbiologie der (Säuge)tiere und der Vegetation, wollen wir auf die drei «Südkontinente» – genauer: auf die drei Tropenregionen unserer Erde – blicken. Dabei kann man grosse Regelmässigkeit in Form einer «globalen Dreigliederung» finden. Bei der Arbeitsform handelt es sich nicht um fertige Vorträge, sondern um einen Werkstattbericht und ein gemeinsames Herantasten an die Phänomene. Näheres dazu finden Sie hier.

5. Ruth Mandera

Goetheanistische Botanikerin, mit einer Vorliebe für Gestalten und ihre Verwandlung.

Forschungsschwerpunkte: Heilpflanzen, Bildschaffende Methoden und Didaktik des Unterrichtens.

Das Blattverwandlungsspiel

Gelingt es mir, aus einem Haufen von Spielkärtchen, auf denen Blätter gedruckt sind, die Blätter zusammenzusuchen, die eine Blütenpflanze nacheinander bildet? Welche Gesetzmässigkeiten sind zu erkennen? Ein spielerischer Umgang mit der Vielfalt von Formen - für Gruppen oder Einzelpersonen.

6. Graham Kennish

Graham Kennish is a Waldorf science teacher and trainer of 45 years and a BACP Accredited counsellor, working also for 12 years in Goethean Psychology, in workshops and individual sessions.

A Goethean approach to Psychology

In Goethean Psychology, the artistic medium is the human body itself, using gesture. The observer follows an imaginative perception of their own bodily gesture to observe archetypal patterns common to all human soul life. As in the Goethean observation of a plant, principles of the soul life can be imaginatively observed, clothed in personal particulars, just as the principles of plant development are clothed as primrose or buttercup.