Re-Cognition: The Re-Cognition of our Connection to Nature Through Goethe’s Way of Seeing

Emma Kidd

Emma Kidd

I am delighted to be able to publish the following dissertation by Emma Kidd.


The re-cognition of our connection to Nature through Goethe’s way of seeing


A dissertation presented on the hypothesis that through the practice of Goethean science there emerges a holistic way of seeing – a relational whole person cognition which I have defined as ‘re-cognition’. I am going to follow Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in showing the way to re-cognition of a world which has been divided into a separated knowledge. I have applied a qualitative, holistic approach to my research, designing and using a ‘Goethean’ style questionnaire to investigate the experiences of people who have practiced Goethean science. From the descriptions of participant’s experience, and my own, consensus emerges; the way of seeing which develops challenges this separated knowledge; inspiring and reinvigorating a sense of wonder with the world, and re-connection to nature. I conclude that the consensus shows us that the re-cognition of the world which is achieved through this holistic way of seeing is fundamental for any attempt at ‘Sustainability’ and that it will bring us back into connection with our current environmental issues. In re-cognizing the wholeness of nature, we are re-cognizing the nature of wholeness and what it truly means to be whole, and part of a whole, on this earth.

I am excited to be able to publish Emma’s dissertation, as she provides an extremely comprehensive explanation of Goethe’s way of seeing.  This is something which I introduce to people in my Integral Thinking workshops and lectures.  This way of seeing, as Emma explains, is an important element in re-connecting with nature.

I am going to follow Goethe in showing the way to re-cognition of a world which has been divided into a separated knowledge. The idea of ‘re-cognition’ will form a fundamental part of this dissertation. My definition of the term is one of a relational whole person cognition or perception – a relational way of ‘see-ing’ that is not only cognizing the world in a different, more holistic, way but in a way which what is ‘seen’ appears familiar, a deep recognition and understanding, as if waking up to something that we, as adults and as a human race, have long seemingly ago forgotten. Re-cognition allows for a ‘re-membering’2 of the wholeness of nature and the nature of wholeness within ourselves and our societies. I also believe that the approach of re-cognition will bring us back into connection with our current environmental issues.

Like myself, Emma undertook her MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College, in Devon.  Schumacher College have a very unique way of teaching, and living at the college is an integral part of the experience.  On the MSc, we are taught not just logical and rational academic knowledge, but we are also taught to “see” and know the world using not just our thinking faculties, but our sensory, feeling and intuitive faculties as well.

The foundation of the MSc is the philosophy of Henri Bortoft, author of the book “Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way of Science” and who teaches the first week of the course.  Henri was Emma’s supervisor for her dissertation, and she ably provides great insights and explanations for both Henri’s philosophy relating to phenomenology, and also his ability to teach us Goethe’s way of seeing.  Henri teaches us not to analyse wholeness, but to encounter wholeness:

The difference between see-ing and seeing is that the former is receptive, engaging with what is ‘seen’ and the latter is passive, as if one knows what is seen. This engaged, open way of see-ing is intrinsic to the development of a receptive, holistic mode of consciousness – necessary for one to understand the world in a relational, not separate, way. As Henri Bortoft suggests, if we were re-educated in the receptive, rather than active (analytical), mode of consciousness, which only know separation, “our encounter with wholeness would be considerably different and we would see many new things about our world.” , and I believe that the Goethean way of seeing is one way to approach this.

Therefore the MSc is a huge journey, a pilgrimage as we battle to move away from being lost in abstract thinking, to having a far more deeper and intuitive relationship with the natural world in which we are embedded, and not separate from.  Emma describes this journey in the following way:

I have experienced some of the immense potential that I believe a Goethean way of seeing can lead one towards. Recognizing oneself through the re-cognition of life, of nature, led me to an understanding of my relationship in be-ing a part of a whole that I could never have imagined actually existing, that I could not ‘see’, before entering into this ‘new’ way of seeing. The reverence for nature that this led me to in a soft, unimposing way felt like I had journeyed upstream with the process of life itself to a whole re-cognition, almost transcending the notion of ‘self’ into a transitory process of feeling ‘at one with’ all.

This has implications for the way in which we take issues relating to sustainability.  Many practitioners of sustainability recognise that their efforts have not had the impact they may have wished for.  Emma suggests that what is needed is not just ideas relating to sustainable solutions, but in parallel we need this new relationship with nature (or perhaps re-connect with a relationship with nature that we once had, but then lost).

This felt like the necessary connection with wholeness needed for a co-evolution with nature, that our current attempt at ‘sustainability’ is hinting at but unable to grasp, or ‘see’, through the mode of seeing which dominates in Western culture today. If I could transcend the western cultural imposition of separation to nature through whole re-cognition which came into being guided by the practice of a Goethean way of seeing, then maybe this could also be a possibility for other people to experience. I could ‘see’ this as a dynamic process to potentially bridge the notion of separation within my culture through its unique expression developed within individuals.

Emma’s dissertation is very much about the transition of consciousness.  I am focussing my own efforts on transition in the business world, and what I try to point out to those who are seeking new ways to be creative and innovative in organisations is that they too need to undertake this pilgrimage.  For it is not possible simply to transfer logical, rational and symbolic knowledge to people if they are to achieve this goal.  Emma describes this transformation in her own words:

I now feel that there will be an organic transformation of consciousness but as with any organic gestation period it can not go at any pace other than its own, you can not force or cajole people into a new way of seeing. The process and dynamic transformation of the way of seeing itself must be respected, and find its own, organic, way to grow. I now feel that it grows through people not from them. It can not be taught but it can be put into practice, facilitated by the people whom it grows through. Like an invisible vine it embraces its host, extending itself over, above, through, becoming one. You can not just chop off one of its tendrils, place it on another person and hope that it will stick, it must find it own way, its own grounds for relation with that person, and together they must develop their own form. Those who have experienced and been inspired by this way of seeing must take it on their own journey, allowing the way of seeing and the one who is seeing to co-evolve and metamorphose through their own unique, creative potential.

Download the dissertation

Please note that you will need to rotate the document in Adobe Acrobat once you have downloaded it.

Emma’s website:

One response to “Re-Cognition: The Re-Cognition of our Connection to Nature Through Goethe’s Way of Seeing

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Emma Kidd – First Steps to Seeing | Transition Consciousness·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s