In our Research Institute, we develop and deepen the scientific aspect of Section work of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum. It is a collaboration of the Natural Science Section and the Agriculture Section. We are open to co-operation with other Sections.
We are convinced that active research, methodologically based on anthroposophy, is essential properly to deal with the issues of our time and the challenges that arise in the various fields of anthroposophical endeavour. In our view, this research is an essential part of the remit of the Goetheanum and its Sections. The Goetheanum is a place that is unique in the scope of its interdisciplinary potential and in the worldwide origins of its visitors.
Following on from Goethe’s scientific work and Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual scientific work, recent decades have seen a steady development and testing of phenomenological methods. We are nevertheless continuing our efforts to redevelop our research methods and adapt them to the object of research, i.e. to discover the method of approach that is appropriate in each case.
This seeming contradiction of developing a method for an object before we have studied it is characteristic of our way of working. Science, as a process, requires a constant movement back and forth, a kind of "breathing", between scientific investigation and re-examining its methods. The concept is brought to the phenomenon as a kind of "courting" (Werbung, an expression coined in this context by Hermann Poppelbaum), and the open question is: will the phenomenon accept it? Thus the scientist is taught by the "object".
This approach can introduce several ways of looking at the matter. In the sense of "cognitive holism" (McClamrock 1989, Caruana 2000, Leiber 2008), our experiential approaches integrate analysis, idea- or phenomena-orientated phenomenology and practical meditation "into the whole". This kind of research is not confined to reading the literature, but depends on observation and experiment. Our method is immanent in that the full significance of our results is understood only through their concrete relationship to the human being. "Wholeness" arises in the human being, and yet also belongs to the object of study.
The Research Institute concentrates on basic research. We connect current research issues and the way we tackle them to anthroposophy. This approach is usually not possible in other institutes because of the nature of their remits. We aim not so much at a direct application of our results, or at producing scientific evidence for statements made by anthroposophists, but rather at a specific understanding of the real essence of the subject, combining the approaches to nature and to anthroposophy, so as to be able to do justice to a scientific consciousness.
Depending on the research projects in hand, we work with other institutions and uni- versities (currently Potsdam University, Leuphana University, Lüneburg, and Humboldt University, Berlin), which have access to additional experimental resources. Our results are intended to help the further development of fields of anthroposophical activity as well as contribute to scientific culture in general.
We currently offer the following possibilities for education: a week’s extension course in anthroposophy for farmers; a summer university course on the study of the living world, and we also supervise individual students at the Goetheanum who are doing science research projects.
We are considering various additions to our educational programme, for example weekend seminars for students or weekend courses for lay people interested in anthro- posophy and science.
In addition to our educational opportunities per se, for a wider public we also organise science conferences, exhibitions, seminars and a weekly colloquium.
The leadership of the Institute currently comprises: Jean-Michael Florin, Ueli Hurter (both in the Agriculture Section), Johannes Kühl (leader of the Science Section) and Johannes Wirz (co-ordinator). They represent the Institute jointly or individually by arrangement.
Through regular meetings and colloquia, the tenured staff of the Institute help share responsibility for running the Institute.