September 18, 2013 | Posted in Concepts in Anthroposophic Medicine

The basis of knowing is to observe, to perceive. Based on perceptions, a concept is formed. If a concept is formed without a connection to accurate observations, it could be empty of value.


In medical terms, what is experienced (What hurts? Where? When? In relationship to what?) and observed (tenderness on exam of the right upper abdomen) is like gold.

These facts are the basis for accurate diagnosis. When a person (including a doctor) comes too quickly to a diagnosis (“must be a gall bladder problem”), people can quit thinking and be satisfied with an incorrect conclusion.   See Diagnosis.

The raw data, the experience itself, must be reviewed each time in order to see if we are on the right track.

Experience and observation of that experience are the foundations for accuracy in medicine and in all our thinking.

JW Goethe looked carefully at plants, at the phenomena of their existence. He recorded the details of their shapes, parts of the plants, and developmental stages. From these observations he concluded there is an archetype for all plants. He saw the patterns in his observations that showed a shared structure common to the world of plants. He made careful observations, then applied thinking to determine relationships. The structure common to plants he called the archetype.

In addition, Goethe’s observations gave rise to the concept of metamorphosis, the changes a plant goes through in its life cycle.

Observation is rooted in the phenomena which we can see, touch, taste, hear, smell, as part of our experience.  Thus observation and phenomenology are interchangeable words in this sense.  Phenomenology can be used to describe observation, though it is used in a more complex way in the formal study of philosophy and psychology.

Accurate observation requires awareness of – and a certain mastery of – one’s inner state. That state has been likened to the three vows taken by medieval monks– poverty, chastity, and obedience – applied to the inner world of the observer.

As an observer, I must be poor in thought (no preconceived ideas about what I am observing), chaste in motive (purely to learn, not seeking to influence the experience for my needs), and obedient to the reality I meet (if I thought I would see black, and instead I see red, then I acknowledge and record the presence of ‘red.’)

Observation from an inner state of openness as described above, gives rise to accurate descriptions of an experience.  From accurate descriptions,  clear thinking can be applied to determine relationships and see patterns.  These are important foundations for knowledge in all fields of endeavor.

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Metamorphosis, Evolution in Action, Suchantke, Andreas, Adonis Press, 2011.

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