Research 2013

The Challenge of Objectivity
in Spiritual Research

2013 Living Questions Research Symposium
September 19-22

All the technical achievements of our modern civilization are evidence of our ability to objectively understand the material world. But what about the non-material world, the world of consciousness, of soul, of spirit? Are there also ways of objectively investigating the world of soul and spirit? In particular, can the soul-spiritual dimension of the world be objectively investigated by soul-spiritual means? Are there non-material ways of researching the world that can lead to more than subjective belief or personal interpretation?

Michael D'Aleo

How should we regard the results of such spiritual research? How can their truth and objectivity be tested? How do the spiritual researchers themselves conduct their work and test their own results? How do they strive for objectivity in their particular field of inquiry and activity?

At this year’s Living Questions Research Symposium, we will actively explore these questions and also hear them addressed by practicing researchers in diverse fields of scientific and artistic endeavor.

Laura Summer


This year's Living Questions Research Symposium will feature keynote talks by:

Michael D'Aleo of the Saratoga Experiential Natural Science Research Institute (SENSRI) and the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, Saratoga, NY: The Transformation of Material Scientific into Spiritual Scientific Research

Gerald Karnow

Laura Summer, artist, author, and co-founder of Free Columbia, Hillsdale, NY: What Is the Relationship of Artistic Creative Activity to Spiritual Research?

Gerald Karnow, MD of the Fellowship Community and the Otto Specht School, Chestnut Ridge, NY: Expanding our Experience of Objectivity towards a Multi-Dimensionality of Knowing

Interactive Workshops

Annelies Davidson

Workshops will be held in two sessions, on Friday and Saturday morning. Participants will choose which workshop they want to attend for both days.

Michael D’Aleo: Investigations into Visual Experience

Annelies Davidson (Eurythmy Spring Valley): Eurythmy: An Art as a Doorway to the Objectively Real?

Gary Lamb

Laurie Portocarrero (The Art of Acting): Drama as a Path of Consciousness

Hans Shumm: The Creative World of Color

Gary Lamb (Center for Social Research): From the Fundamental Social Law to the Reverse Ritual

For complete descriptions of the workshops, click here.

Research Perspectives

In three Research Perspectives sessions, six researchers will present and discuss their research. This year's Research Perspective applicants were asked to share their progress in developing methodologies for objectively investigating the realm of consciousness, soul and spirit. The six selected applicants each will receive an unconditional grant of $500 from Threefold Educational Foundation in support of their research.

Bruno Follador

Bruno R. Follador
The Language of Nature and the Human Word: Redeeming the Onlooker in Man

A major obstacle hindering our understanding of the Goethean approach to the Science of Nature is that we fail to differentiate and adequately understand the historical development of mainstream science. As a consequence, we fail to realize that the direction taken by modern science is just one possibility of many. The same obstacle stands in the way of our understanding the methods and results of Rudolf Steiner’s Spiritual Science.

My research concerns the role of objectivity itself and how the role of the individual cannot be understood apart from the cultural, historical and spiritual context of any question. The methods for my research are based on Goethean Phenomenology and the Hermeneutic Philosophy of Unfinished Meaning. I intend to highlight the apparent dichotomy of subject and object and reestablish the role of participation by the individual scientist as the central component to the successful development of Phenomenological Science.

Eiren Graver

Eiren Graver
On Perceiving the Elements of the Landscape

I have apprenticed myself to the landscape of Full Circle Farm, and through growing vegetables and herbs biodynamically and observing the process carefully, this farm individuality and I are learning to communicate. Of particular interest to me at this stage of my work are Steiner’s thoughts in Lecture 7 of the Agriculture Course on how to work with the balance of the elements in a landscape. These questions are my constant companions as I work: what does this landscape need from me, and in the larger picture, how does communication with nature, especially the listening part, help us to be better humans?

As I live and work with these questions, I am the “microscope” and in order to keep this “tool” well calibrated, I bring myself back again and again to the question: Am I observing or imposing?

Henrike Holdrege

Henrike Holdrege
Mathematics as a Preparation for Spiritual Science

Mathematics today is often taught in schools and higher education as a tool for quantifying data: algebra, calculus, etc. In my work I have found that even algebra and calculus, but certainly also geometry and projective geometry, are providing a path of schooling that leads to sense-free thinking and activity in thought with full clarity. In her presentation, Henrike will focus on the spiritual activity within mathematics. You need not be a mathematician to participate!

Michael Judge

Michael Judge
Human Evolution—Is There Agreement Between Natural Science and Spiritual Science?

Rudolf Steiner as a Spiritual Scientist asserts that genuine Natural Science (NS) and genuine Spiritual Science (SS) agree in their research findings. As NS focuses on material earth conditions, this would lend comparison in SS with phenomenon esoterically labeled the "Lemurian/Atlantean/Post-Atlantean Epochs." This is the richest area in the flow of time to show coherence between NS and SS on questions of evolution. It should be noted that conventional modern science sees these esoteric labels as fantastic and absurd. The onus is thus on SS to make the case. The prime method to make the case is the Goethean method.

Michael Lapointe

Michael Lapointe
A Method for Objectively Penetrating Questions of Economy, Money and Society

A great deal of what we have as a resource from Rudolf Steiner on social science amounts to a gathering of signposts, hints, descriptions of social laws as facts and conclusive ideas that culminated at the end of a process; but the process and the picture behind the concepts have not been fully expressed. The challenge then comes to bear when we speak and write about these things, and do our own research: do we offer more than a recapitulation of the outline of ideas that were presented in the lectures we have read? Can we penetrate the statements and indications to find the concrete pictures behind them?

I will present the process/method that I have developed as a fundamental means to penetrate the questions of economy, money and the social questions. It entails in its essence: Thinking in Activities, in other words Living Thinking. It entails an observation of our own dynamic thinking movement between observing whole and part.

Deborah Lothrop

Deborah Lothrop
As Light and Darkness Meet: Bridging the External and Internal Worlds

The simple charcoal drawing exercises given by Liane Collot dʼHerbois (known as Light, Darkness, Color study) create a bridge between the external and internal worlds by maintaining the activity of the ego (wide-awake arbiter of the senses) within an activity which can easily fall into a dreaming (soul) process. Properly carried out, the work can lead to further understanding of aspects of the spiritual world; through that, further understanding of the sensory world, and so on and on, each nourishing the other.

The Research Symposium was supported by the Henry Barnes Fund for Anthroposophical Research, which is administered by the North American Collegium of the School for Spiritual Science.


A Research Manifesto

At the 1924 Christmas Foundation Conference, Rudolf Steiner placed spiritual scientific research at the center of the work and mission of anthroposophy. In 1926, Threefold Farm in Spring Valley, New York, was founded as a living laboratory for spiritual science in social threefolding, biodynamic farming, and the arts. Our mission was codified in 1965, when the Threefold Educational Foundation was chartered by the State of New York Education Department “to establish, conduct, operate and maintain conferences, programs of research and adult education in all fields of human endeavor emphasizing the principles and methods enunciated by Rudolf Steiner.”

We recognize that research is not a luxury, it is a necessity—life itself depends on it. However, research, like any living thing, requires a convergence of essential elements in appropriate amounts. These elements include: qualified researchers carrying worthy questions; time and space in which to do research, and means for researchers to live on; and a social and physical setting that is supportive of the researchers’ work. In short, what is urgently needed is for qualified researchers to be paired with appropriate institutional, social and financial support.

Over the past year, Threefold Educational Center has consciously acted on its task as an anthroposophical institution, which is to create and foster the conditions necessary for spiritual scientific research to take place. A series of conferences hosted by Threefold have brought together interested parties from all over North America and Europe, in part to investigate and discuss the nature and meaning of such research in the past and going forward. A community of researchers and a constellation of questions have been identified. We have developed our physical facilities to create appropriate spaces for working, meeting, exhibiting and performing, a process that continues as new needs and opportunities arise.

A major step in this process was the creation in 2010 of the Threefold Researcher in Residence program. Our first Researcher in Residence, artist and geometrician Frank Chester, worked with a team of eleven research fellows at Threefold from September 19 to October 30. Their work culminated in an exhibition at Threefold Auditorium, “Art as Research and Scientific Inquiry as a Creative Act.” The exhibit’s opening coincided with a weekend Symposium on Anthroposophical Research, co-sponsored by the Collegium of the North American School of Spiritual Science and Threefold.

As the Threefold Researcher in Residence program takes shape and evolves, a continuous dialogue with the Collegium of the School of Spiritual Science is intended to ensure that our work harmonizes with the Collegium’s efforts in the same direction.