Spiritual-Scientific Approach to Research

The key characteristic of the spiritual-scientific approach which distinguishes it from other approaches is its inclusiveness of all existing evidence and all possible points of view when researching any nutritional topic. The spiritual scientist does not look at things from one or a few perspectives only, but (s)he gradually assimilates ideas and concepts from diverse sources and areas of existence with the aim to acquire a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of any topic or question of nutrition.

Objective Existence of Non-Physical Realities

This website is founded on the spiritual-scientific approach to the investigation of the questions of nutrition. The founder of spiritual-science was Rudolf Steiner. One of his important achievements was the development of the method of investigation of spiritual realities – that is, non-physical, supersensible realities – with the same rigorous strictness as is the case in natural science.

Before we look at the main characteristics of the spiritual-scientific approach we need to clarify what is meant by the word spirit. In spiritual science we recognise the polarity between spirit and matter, between non-physical and physical, between sensible and supersensible realities of world existence. Nobody can deny the existence of thoughts, but they are only perceptible to us inwardly when we think. It is evident that ideas are not physical entities, but we can notice their impact on the physical world when a person is guided by them into action. There are many other things in our lives, which can be perceived only inwardly, such as memory, ideals, aesthetic values, soul impressions, consciousness, etc. These are all manifestations of spiritual life.

Although science does not deny existence of these non-physical realities of life, they are usually looked upon as the manifestation of the physical. For example, "the materialist tries to understand the thoughts by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain in much the same way as digestion takes place in the animal organism. Just as he attributes mechanical and organic function to matter, so he credits it in certain circumstances with the ability to think. He overlooks that he merely shifts the problem to another place. Instead of ascribing the ability to think to himself, he ascribes it to matter," [1] while spiritual science starts with recognition that human beings have ability of thinking and that thinking is spiritual activity per se.

We can approach the question of the existence of spiritual realities from another direction. The characteristic of the physical world is that we can perceive it through our physical senses and with the help of instruments, which can be seen as extensions of our sense organs. The common characteristics of physical realities are that they can be perceived, measured and quantified. Because of this we recognise them as objective realities of the world existence. Now, in recent decades, science has discovered that the vast majority of the universe consists of so-called dark matter and dark energy. [2] They are called dark, because they cannot be detected by physical instruments. Their existence has been figured out on the basis of their effects on what can be perceived. Here is scientific evidence of the existence of the supersensible world! For what science 'see' as dark, spiritual science see as spiritual. Another difference is that scientists openly admit that they do not have a clue what is there in the darkness, while spiritual science is capable of explaining what is the true nature of the invisible matter and energy.

"When people look out into the universe they think that space is empty and that the stars are in this empty space. In times gone by, peasants believed that there was emptiness all around them as they moved about. Today everyone knows that there is air around us, not emptiness. So, too, we can know that in the universe there is no emptiness anywhere; either matter is there or spirit is there." [3]

We can summarize the main difference between materialistic and spiritual science in the following way: While natural science ascribes the objective reality only to physical world, spiritual science attributes the objective existence to both the spiritual and physical world. Only with such a holistic approach can we investigate the relationship between these two worlds in such a manner that we do not come to false conclusions or grope in the dark. Then we can have true all-embracing science which is capable of building bridges between the spiritual and the physical worlds in both directions. This is the aim and the task of spiritual science.

Main Characteristics of Spiritual-Scientific Approach

Here are given the main characteristics of the spiritual-scientific approach to the investigation of the questions of nutrition used in the preparation of this website. A whole chapter could easily be written about each of them, but initially short characterisations taken from spiritual-scientific literature should suffice. [4]

The Complexity of the Human Being

"In very truth the world is infinitely more complicated than is supposed. Our human nature is comprehensible only if we take account of its kinship with the macrocosm. There is truly nothing in the physically-perceptible world as complicated as the nature of the human being. It is more complicated than anything else in the world. In their form and structure, in the conditions of their life and indeed in every respect, human beings are a whole world, a microcosm as distinct from the macrocosm. All the laws and all the secrets of the world are to be found in them."

From Broad Views to Details

"Everything in the human organism works upon everything else. But we will get nowhere if we have only general abstract ideas of this interpenetration; we will reach a result only if we can evolve a concrete idea of our constitution and of how everything that is around us participates in our make-up. In spiritual science the procedure must differ from that adopted in other systems of thought. Spiritual science must first present a broad view of the facts and realities of life and then elaborate the details. The difficulty is that the field of spiritual science as a whole is so extensive that it is never possible to present more than a part of it."

Characterisations instead of Definitions

"In order to understand the things of the earth, definitions may be helpful; but when it is matter of understanding realities – above all supersensible realities – one cannot define, one must characterise; for then it is necessary to contemplate the facts from every possible vantage-point. Definitions are always one-sided and inadequate and all that can be done is to characterise. The word is han­dled in such a way that one really feels each word as something insufficient, every sentence as something insufficient, that one has the urge to characterise that which one wishes to place be­fore humanity from the most varied aspects."

Observing from Different Perspectives

"What a thing is must be characterized from different points of view, such as a tree that is photographed from different perspectives. Similarly, truth cannot be gained from an understanding that seeks to encompass an object in a single glance, but only from putting together the true views resulting from different perspectives. To say something that is incorrect is not the worst thing that can happen, for the world itself will soon put one right about it; but it is really serious to regard a one-sided truth as an absolute truth and to persist in so regarding it. It is always essential to look at truths not only from the one side but also from the other."

Understanding instead of Rules

"One thing is characteristic of spiritual science, and this one thing is its attitude. Every thought is permeated by this attitude. Spiritual science wants to understand and follow everything in life and in the life of the spirit in an unbiased way. It does not want to apply the standards of sympathy or antipathy, but rather to understand everything in human life and in the spiritual world in an unprejudiced way. Spiritual science is concerned with understanding. Spiritual science does not give rules, but only wants to explain how things really are. It does not stand for this or that kind of diet – what it actually does is to enable people to understand any form of diet. Then each may arrange his life as he wills, according to these great laws of existence."

Proofs of Life instead of Belief

"It is important for the science of the spirit to be presented in such a way as to be based on the smallest possible extent on belief in authority." All explanations presented on this website can and should be tested by "your capacity for intelligent examination. Only the thought must be really accurate and comprehensive! It must be prepared to relate the phenomena of life to what spiritual science confirms. We must be ready to test, free from prejudice, the teachings of spiritual science by the experience of life. Spiritual-scientific truths are best recognised by their fruits. Those who apply the knowledge of spiritual science correctly will find that it proves itself in life by making life strong and healthy."

NOTES

  1. Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity – A Philosophy of Freedom, London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992 (new translation)
  2. Estimated distribution of dark matter and dark energy in the present universe is: 72% dark energy, 23% dark matter, 4.6% atoms (Source: Wikipedia/Dark Matter). Besides the science has discovered also antimatter and other types of subatomic particles which behave contrary to laws of classical physics to such a degree that American physicist Richard Feynman said that physics of subatomic particles deals with "nature as she is – absurd!" However spiritual science is of different opinion and takes all these scientific discoveries as evidence for the existence of supersensible realities and the metaphysical laws of existence.
  3. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 09.08.1924, From Sunspots to Strawberries, London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002
  4. All quotations are taken from various published works of Rudolf Steiner.