Active Absence
"Actors do not stand away from a part as if it were an object. They enter into a part in such a way that they enter into the play. If the play is constructed well, the whole play comes into presence within the parts so that an actor encounters the play through his or her part. But actors do not encounter the play as an object of knowledge over which they can stand like the lines they learn. They encounter the play in their part as an active absence that begins to move them. When this happens, an actor starts to be acted by the play, instead of trying to act the play. The origin of acting becomes the play itself, instead of the actor's subjective "I". The actor no longer imposes himself or herself on the play as if it were an object to be mastered, but he or she listens to the play and allows himself or herself to be moved by it. In this way actors enter into their parts in such a way that the play speaks through them. This is how, their awareness being occupied with the lines to be spoken, they encounter the whole which is the play - not as an object but as an active absence." - Henri Bortoft
The meaning of this paragraph is not limited to actors in the same way that the meaning of a (any) play is not the sum total of the words in the script, a painting to the colors used or education to a lesson plan. There is something meaningful and important here. Any creative activity is like an archeological endeavor - the content is out there relying on us to uncover it.

Added 16th March 2013

Goals for a Science Course

"What is modern scientific consciousness, how did this arise and what part does it have to play in our picture of unfolding human development? How does the development of consciousness relate to the ongoing rise and fall of civilizations and how can this be related to the development of children today? Is it possible to seek an approach to science within education that will enable the students not only to understand the past and present, but prepare them to be active participants in creating a more positive future?

In the afternoon sessions we will focus on the presentation of physical science in the Middle School Years (Grades 6 – 8) but throughout the day we will also explore how foundations and approaches to science are developed in early childhood, lower grades and the “heart of childhood”, and how through biography, history, art and drama science teaching can be extended through all areas of the integrated Waldorf Curriculum.

There may be more questions arising than answers given, but this is a rich and exciting topic for exploration and there are great treasures to be found!"

Henri Bortoft

"We have, for the most part, given up thinking of science as an autonomous activity which stands outside of history, or indeed outside of any human social context, pursuing its own absolute, contextless way of acquiring pure knowledge. In fact, we have now begun to recognize that this view of science itself arose within a particular cultural-historical context, and that it is an expression of a style of thinking which has its own validity but does not have access to "ultimate reality." We can now recognize, for example, that the fact that modern physics is true - which it certainly is - does not mean that it is fundamental. Hence it cannot be a foundation upon which everything else, human beings included, depends. Recognizing that the foundations of science are cultural-historical does not affect the truth of science, but it does put a different perspective on the fundamentalist claims made on behalf of science by some of its self-appointed missionaries today. Looked at in the light of new discoveries in the history and philosophy of science, such claims to have found the ultimate basis of reality looks like no more than quaint relics from a bygone age."

It's that longing for "ultimate reality" that always comes a cropper. I like how this paragraph encourages us to put science as another man-made world-view (that encounters its own limits) in the sequence of ultimate reality graspers: theology, reason, mathematics.

Somehow this seems to fit very well with Hegel's view of history.

Added 15th March 2013 

Five Key Themes (for a five day course)

Here is my provisional outline:

Subject Grade Level Teacher's Theme Topic
Monday Physics Six Natural Law Sound, Light & Heat
Tuesday Physics Seven Sense Perception & Self Perception Mechanics
Wednesday Physics Eight Industry & Technology Electricity & Magnetism
Thursday Chemistry Seven Elements & Temperaments Inorganic Chemistry
Friday Chemistry Eight Experience, Experiment & Authority Organic Chemistry

Education and the Unknown - Rudolph Steiner

"We shouldn’t ask: What does a human being need to know and to master for society as it exists? Rather: What are a human being’s predispositions and potentials for development? Then it will be possible for each generation to infuse ever new impulses into society. Then what flows out of these full human beings can live in society rather than a new generation becoming a result of what existing society wants to make out of it."

(4 August, 1919; p. 26; translation by C. Holdrege)

Feb 15th

I am having a lot of fun preparing a Science course for W.I.S.C. this summer, but I would appreciate input from experienced field-workers and high school teachers. The initial request was for "Science in grades 6-8" but I am shaping this as "Approaches to Science in the Class Teacher Years" as although I will focus on Physics and Chemistry in grades 6-8 I also want to place this in the broader context of what is science and its place in human development, how does this fit with child development and developing natural science throughout the grades. I am also (always) keen to explore possibilities for collaboration and cross-curricula work. For example the cultivation and expression of sense-perception and self-perception can be explored in many areas (I especially like seventh grade for this), whereas with much of the eighth grade curriculum it is possible to combine developments in science with the historical, and even ethical, impact of technology and industry.

Two Scientific Streams:



Inductive (parts up)

Deductive (idea down)

Practical & Empirical

Rational & Theoretical

- the flaws are in abstract reason

- the flaws are in sense perception

From Aristotle on science had its foundations in human reason.
Bacon thought scientific enquiry sould be rooted in experience,
Descartes in mathematics.
(Hume dismissed both!)

The Original Scientific Stream
Four Scientific Streams

The First Stream of Science, Natural Philosopy, has its foundation in Reason. (Aristotle & the Scholastic Philosophers)

The Second Stream, Theoretical Science, seeks a reality behind appearances that can be expressed through Mathematics. (Galileo, Descartes & Newton)

The Third stream, Empirical science, is focussed outward, not on the mind but on experience and experiment. (Francis Bacon's "New Organon")

Goethe's Phenomenological Science refuses to accept the splits within and between the above three streams - individuals through experience can uncover "archetypes", ideal forms which are not subjective but arise from experience in the sense organ of the mind.

. . . . ish - Goethe will take more work!

A "Classical" (Scholastic) Perspective:
Click to zoom and read -
"Saving Western civilization one student at a time . . ."

Memoria Press
Here's Bacon (representing Empiricism):

Empirical and inductive study of nature, pursued with a view to increasing man's power over and control of his material environment, without regard to authority or the great names of the past.

Knowledge and human power come to the same thing, for nature cannot be conquered except by obeying her.

(personal note: we cannot obtain effects without an accurate knowledge of causes.)

Galileo ~ from "Il Saggiatore" (representing Ratonalism):

"Philosophy is written in the book of the universe, but this cannot be read until we have learned the language and understood the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which it is impossible to understand a single word."


Emmanuel Kant's "Copernican Revolution"

"Truth" has been held to be when the idea (understanding) and the object (sensation) are in agreement.

What if, rather than the idea responding and conforming to the object,
the object responds and conforms to the idea?

. . . and what we see is not determined by what is before us but rather limited by what we are able to see?

The scientist as "appointed judge who compels the witness to answer questions which he himself has formulated" - Kant

. . . but scientists never notice this circularity because they believe they hear the voice of "nature" speaking, not realising it is the transposed echo of their own voice. - Bortoft

"We must remember that what we observe is not Nature itself, but nature as expressed to our manner of questioning" - Heisenberg 1959

Quoted by Manfred Von Mackenson, who goes on to say:

Nature develops and ripens through the human being - the human being is neither superfluous, nor a mere onlooker.

Phosphorus - Carbon - Sulfur
Above is polarity drawing taken from Ernst Lehrs that I found in an old notebook.

May 5th:

Very interesting workshop with Michael D'aleo this weekend, who seems to be really doing the work

A question I have been living with is what are we hoping for in the inner development of the students when we introduce formal science teaching in middle school? The nugget I received was that that at this age the students are leaving behind the sense of wonder and connection with the world that is a natural part of childhood, and that by introducing science in a healthy way we can present them with tools to consciously regain this connection and sense of wonder for themselves while developing rather than loosing their identity or sense of self. The "healthy way" bit is key, of course, as a large part of the science teaching that I have encountered is heavily unbalanced towards the phosphorous pole (conscious detachment) at the expense of sulfur (active engagement)  with very little space for "breathing" - which only compounds the problem when a student is newly experiencing cynicism and alienation.

The Concepts of Immanuel Kant

Which given Kant's "Copernican Revolution" (see above) should be taken as the

thought structures without which perception would not be possible.

Which, as long as they are taken as a picture of the Western Mind at a particular point in its history, are really quite interesting!

I do like that "Causality" is lined up with "Hypothetical"!

Thank You!

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Here are some of the ideas that I have been exploring.

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 Philip James GuestLos Angeles, CA310.383.2327