Introduction to a Spiritual Understanding of Nature on the Basis of Goethe’s Method of Training Observation and Thought

This most excellent text belongs in the library of every serious researcher. Both a student of Dr. Rudolf Steiner and himself a researcher, Ernst Lehrs represents an epoch of alternative thought. In the brilliant clarity of his exposition and the sheer breadth and scope of his great treatise, we are elevated into a new realm of insight and inspiration. Learning from his brief biography that Lehrs was hired by Steiner to teach science in the Stuttgart school, and I myself a science teacher, I was startled into certain conclusions. First, the freedom which was his to exercise opened communication of truths he had culled from his Goethean view of Nature must have been quite an experience for his pupils. No doubt, these persons have become models and sources of the living natural science which found expression under Steiner. Second, Lehrs himself must have participated in the most lofty of the academic transportations while relating in such an open and frank manner with those students. The freedom to express one’s deepest beliefs and practise them is indeed a rare privilege. Most of the persons I know who are engaged in any form of alternative thought and research must do so at the expense of”their double-life.” This is a sadly modem truth, that persons educated and enlightened to these marvelous truths concerning natural phenomena, must support themselves very often in positions which contradict their beliefs.  As a teacher I may tell you that the public school curriculum is simply a tool of the propagandists. Their aim is to maintain dogma in the face of overwhelming rebuke. So much has been learned in the alternative sciences that it is not a wonder to me any longer why the truth must take to the underground and be labelled as such. Ernst Lehrs was bold the day he approached Dr. Steiner in conversation of these facts, and wonderfully met by Steiner’s unexpectedly gracious response.

One of the most illuminating discourses, among the many episodes in this text, dealt with the condition of modem man. The why of our present position in scientific ”reasoning” and “skepticism” was discussed in startling depth. Just for the fact that Lehrs was the contemporary of many of the legends of early etheric physics, makes this valuable. He traced the history and steps which these early researchers took in approaching natural experience. Theirs, he pointed out, was to prove a vain quest even in the sight of their wonderful findings. This was so, he says, because of critical flaws in perception. From the start man was doomed to fall into a pattern of”onlooker-consciousness” and not participant-experience. The record of this travel through science history annotates the forgotten lore in every field and of every major name revered. Why Sir William Crookes began to investigate vacuum discharge phenomena after his dear brother’s passing was an especially touching episode. The many nuances of any period’s developing thought is vital in our understanding the why and how of our present problems. Indeed, this book is another one of those treasure finds wherein we find healings of the psyche and a refreshing look at our own initial quests. Dearly, the beautifully whole science of Natural Energy and Manifestation common to many at the century’s tum, is ever-present in these pages. The numerous lovely etchings reminds me of the many great works which include those of Baron Von Reichenbach, Charles Fort and J. W. von Goethe. This latter luminary forms the great basis for the poise and strength which Ernst Lehrs exhibits
so elegantly in this marvelous essay.

Many lost episodes of our modem position are covered in great detail, and this is to continue throughout the writing of the book. Bibliography and cross-referencing is very good for those of us, who as myself, are bibliomancers of the arcane and the obscure. It is a quote of Sir William Crookes’ which probably coined the name of our own journal, when the ”Borderland Science” of etheric transformation was mentioned. A detailed account of these discourses is made.

The author goes into wonderful detail concerning the methods and foundations of the science of Goethe. In fact, one finds a very profound bulk of the Goethean system of perception-participation all too well outlined in good perspective by an aficionado. Lehrs took his teachers’ own lessons to heart, becoming perhaps one of Goethe’s own best pupils. We are shown, in context, the method of perceiving counterspace and etheric formative forces clearly taught. The color theory of Goethe is mentioned in relationship with many other phenomena, and Lehrs does bring the theory into his contemporary viewpoint-which is refreshing in giving the original essay even more force and power than it already has. For, in the color theory of Goethe, we find the marvelous detail which Newton’s prism-based notions lacked. And Lehrs is a brilliant and good teacher. One feels the kindness which his pupils must have enjoyed under his teaching. The total scope with which weather phenomena and earth formations are brought together in a lovely sweep proves the mastery of the author both in the classroom and as a writer. Remember, the main thrust of the treatise is to show a new mode of cognition, and the wonder-filling healing promise which such a viewpoint holds for its participants. The lesson to us, his readers, is both to enjoy and partake. Lehrs made this an easy thing in the common-sense language so typical of Goethean descriptives. Having been highly recommended by the De Ia Warrs in England as well as by Mr. Trevor James Constable indeed adds all the heavy weight in obtaining copies while they are to be found. Very often such books are ultimately impossible to find. Even when located by other bibliomancers, the costs are somewhat eye-opening.

A very lengthy and thorough description of the various ethers of Steiner is given to us. All the while, throughout the entire length of
the book, Mr. Lehrs has been teaching us both howto ~ and participate, and how to experience understandings concerning natural wonders. Even the most ordinary seeming items are made to fit into a total world-view. Even as Wagnerian music is global in scope and depth, so too is this excellent work by Ernst Lehrs. Each paragraph of the book has some fresh insight for you. Every page will cause realize some unexpected thing, and may in met consolidate some of your loose-ends. The writer, qualified and sincere, leaves no stone unturned. The conversation is easy to read, and is absolutely filled with gems of every unexpected kind – seeing that Lehrs was, himself, a treasure of learning. Teachers such as these must be revered and studied. We cannot hope to make advances when our own modes of knowing
are so frightfully admixed with the inert philosophy of modem dead organized science. Whenever you have looked through a science text, hoping to find clear statements of the things you hope to reach between lines, you will realize the worth of this text. Though several topics
freely discussed in chapter after unbelievable chapter, yet the lesson is marvelously one. And the lesson is taught as if itself is an exercise in participation, not mere observation.


It is certainly hoped that other books of Ernst Lehrs will turn up. His is as important a style and presence as Steiner and as Goethe before them both. One must sit back and realize that theirs was and is a tradition of Western Mysticism. They preserve the wondrous joy which the European alchemists shared in their developing arts. Seeing the glorious wholeness of all of Nature, while being part of that unfolding drama is our quest and goal. We seek to find the deeper wonders which inner sight teaches us from childhood’s dawn. Many of the items of
our young beliefs is found written and shared in such texts. That others have had the same experience as each one of us is a warmly glorious
sensation. Many of the forgotten personal views are again given fresh life by Lehrs during the reading of his descriptives.

I highly recommend this text to you. Along with this, I also recommend that you take serious time to obtain and study the books of Goethe and Steiner, which preserve the peculiarly wonderful tradition and feel of another time. While we hope to find ourselves in their
paths of learning during our own time, it is both a vital and connective experience we gain while looking back. We will find our own errors being corrected by these good teachers of ours. Their words live on in truth, abiding in the hearts of those who cherish and honor the deep glories of truly knowing Space and Earth.

This article was sourced from the Journal of Borderlands Research Volume XLVI, No.1 January-February 1990

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