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Observing Organic Formative Forces

Christoph Hueck (DE)

Organic development is a highly enigmatic process. We are used to attributing a developmental series such as that of a snowdrop to "the genes" without a second thought. If we ask why the genetic programme produces precisely these forms, the answer is: it has developed this way in evolution by chance and natural selection. This figure of thought is applied to all living beings. One is then quickly "done" with the question of the living form and its development, and therefore most people today no longer even ask about it.

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)[1]

Apart from the fact that there are serious objections to the above "explanation", one can also look at organic form development in a completely different way.

Anyone will see the individual forms in the image as a series of development. The forms are snapshots of a shaping and transforming movement. One experiences this movement in a subtle way. For the objective, outwardly directed consciousness, this inner experience may at first escape attention. But as soon as one actively participates in the transformation, the dynamic becomes tangible: the outpushing growth and rooting, the graceful unfolding of the leaves, the emergence and opening of the delicate flower, finally the withering away of the plant with the fruit and seed forming at the top, withdrawing from appearance. One can experience very precisely where the formative forces unfold centripetally or concentrate centrifugally, where they are stronger or become weaker. The whole series can thus be experienced more and more as a differentiated dynamic of force, which one grasps and comprehends in inner, willful gestures.

The experience of the differentiated formative forces is very real. Anyone with a sense of the living will describe these forces in a similar way. So it is only a small step to realise that this experience is not only subjective. For why should the organic forces of development belong less to the reality of the plant than its genes and physical processes? In fact, they are more real than the physical, because the substances are in the service of dynamic development. The substances (and their biochemical interactions) are necessary for the life and development of the plant, but not sufficient to explain or even cause it.

The organic formative forces cannot be perceived with the sense organs. They can neither be physically measured nor biochemically represented. They are "supersensible" - and yet they can be observed and researched empirically in a very concrete way. This insight solves the problem of vitalism. For vitalism is not tenable as long as it only postulates a vital force theoretically without being able to observe it empirically. If, however, the forces of life are observable, it is not vitalism that is to be rejected, but the attempt to explain the development of life materialistically.


[1] Colquhoun, Margaret; Ewald, Axel: New eyes for plants. A workbook for observing and drawing plants. Stroud 1996.

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