Goethe on visualizing & visualization

Goethe had a very nuanced idea of visualizing and visualization. His ideas do NOT coincide with Descartes-Newton and modern scientific, post-modern science ideas. Goethe’s ideas are more holistic and remain rather unique in 2018. A published paper lays this out well:

Goethe’s way of observing required one to look into an object, and see behind mere sense impressions and one’s own mere thoughts and feelings about the subject … The missing elements for him were ‘insight into the object’s character; and, the striving of the human spirit’.30

Goethe’s mode of perceiving stretched [across a much wider range of perception, than we find anywhere in modern or post-modern thinking, outside of mystical literature].

Goethe’s mode of perceiving stretched from the phenomenal world into the noumenal realms. This contrasted with the Kantian assertion of the mediation of noumena by sense-impressions.

Goethe’s reaching towards the objective [beyond the five-sensory perceptible] was not strictly Spinozist either.

Goethe’s encounter with the object was first external; and then, internal and imagined. This is in stark contrast to Spinoza’s view of imagination and fantasy as corruptors of true knowledge.

The visualization of Goethe’s … method [of visualizing] thus involved seeing behind the sense object; and then, behind] one’s own intuition; in order to, extend one’s perception into the noumenal world. Then imagining how [the Unconscious Patterns perceived beyond the object and the Patterns outside of one’s own personal intuitions] stretched back across the subject-object boundary into the objective world.

By practice of ‘exact sensorial imagination,’ Goethe, the natural philosopher, perceived the object of his study [on multiple levels and from multiple angles-views].

For example, experimenting with the prism, Goethe integrated all the various aspects of the phenomenon; attempting to, ‘recreate in the wake of ever-creating nature’.32

The goal of his process was to form and interject intermediate capacities for perceiving which could provide the natural philosopher with deeper insights into natural objects and phenomena. Goethe hoped to, and in several fields achieved, facility at employing clouds, geology and color to yield to him insights of their invisible essence and organization.

This depth of insight, this goal, was impossible to achieve by simple five-sensory observation; coupled with, mental contemplation.

In his way, higher order, pattern and lawfulness was firmly anchored into–and discovered within–five-sensory perceptions.

Adapted and revised for clarity from p. 11-12 Between Light and Eye: Goethe’s Science of Colour and the Polar Phenomenology of Nature by Alex Kentsis, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, New York, New York, 10029,

USA. – https://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/0511130.pdf – Found in Cornel library database

Perhaps if Goethe had discussed visualization with the language above, he could have more easily supported his radical ideas about keeping the new field of “science” in his day connected with both Thinking and with Feeling.  I guess this task is up to us now, articulating and promoting a science as if both the Inner and Outer Games of Life were both worth playing.

= = = =
Author, Health Intuitive, Bruce Dickson online:
Holistic Brain Balance intro-start here

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply