Scientific Hypotheses – Truth or Error?

October 27, 2022
By Dennis Klocek 13 min read

[Republished from Journal of Anthroposophical Medicine (JAM) Vol.10 1993]

If one were to approach a professional scientist and challenge the hypothetical method as a flawed premise for good science, one would surely be met with vigorous protest. And, indeed, the protest would be well founded, because the hypothetical method is a well-proven cornerstone of scientific work. Scientists who are challenged on this point are quick to point out the effectiveness of finding a hypothesis and then setting about trying to prove or disprove it on the basis of experiment.

In the realm of pragmatic physical science this is a most effective strategy for guiding research. However, if one challenges the method on the basis of its creative potential, it soon becomes obvious that even the creative researcher has no real insight into the pre-hypothesis mindset but that most scientific research focuses on the post-hypothesis methodologies. In other words, how a researcher actually goes about forming a hypothesis is of less interest than the subsequent experimental strategy brought into motion by the emergence of the hypothetical concept.

Methods for giving birth to scientific ideas range from the realm of happy accident (many) to the eccentric (hot baths, kite flying, high-speed driving) to the arcane (ouija boards, U.F.O.s). In such a diversified field of possible sources of inspiration it may be advantageous to first try to characterize the differences between creative thinking and personal fantasy.

Creative thinking often eludes the grasp of the intellectually-fixed abstract thinker. It is, however, a definite type of thinking, a cognitional state. One way to look at the fundamental difference between creativity and fantasy is that creative thinking is capable of improvisation, and fantasy is a form of cognitional stagnation. There is an obsessive rhythm that permeates the experience of personal fantasy. As thinkers, fantasy does not leave us free to pursue concepts in a fluid manner.

Goethe recognized this aberration by making a distinction between concept and idea. In Goethe’s view, the formation of concepts was primarily the function of the intellect. In forming a concept the intellect was called upon to take a sense impression into a higher cognitive state in which the archetypal laws that are at work behind each phenomenon are touched by the day working consciousness. It is in these higher realms that the laws of Nature reside.

The energy patterns that guide and form the physical manifestations of the sense observable world have their source in these archetypal realms. A scientist who is working to penetrate into the behavior of matter in various conditions finds it a necessity to be able to penetrate with willed thought into these archetypal realms.

An original scientific idea must go through a stern testing by the intellect, which must form an onlooker consciousness which becomes disassociated from the phenomenon and the Idea. The degree of detachment present in the intellect is considered a fair measure of the objectivity of the researcher. This in theory is the way in which most experiments are to be conducted. In the human soul, however, there are a number of polar states. One pole, according to Rudolf Steiner, is the pole of intention or will.

In the will pole, other polar forces of sympathy and antipathy can be placed. In scientific research objectivity is considered to be attained when sympathy, or subjective identification with the phenomenon, is held in abeyance. In the scientific onlooker consciousness, the analytical force of antipathy is considered to be the only viable tool in the pursuit of objectivity. Subjectivity or sympathy is regarded in science as a kind of tinkering and adjusting of the experimental data in order to better fit the pre-formed conclusions of the researcher. Truly objective research moves forward when the antipathy bossoms into intellect. This allows the thinker to reach the realm of the pure concept. The need for the soul to balance the antipathy with sympathy is then experienced in the subsequent experiment, the “doing” of the work. If the alchemy has been successful, then the work rises to a higher stage wherein the soul power of transcendence begins to form universal concepts that are provable through corroboration by other researchers who can duplicate the experiment. This proving puts the results into the thought realm in which the essences and primal laws that govern earthly phenomena are revealed. Briefly put, this is the true striving of scientific work. Having risen above simple likes and dislikes, the thinker begins to see the world as it is, unencumbered by personal fantasies and prejudice. Attainment of this level of cognition is known in Anthroposophy as Inspiration.

The seeds of this mode of cognition were developed by systematic thinkers during the Vedic ages. Philosophies and epistemologies of diverse sorts all take root in the sublime cognitive states of Inspiration. Today’s scientific rigor and the accomplishments of analytical thought are a result of thinkers reaching this inspired level of cognition.

However there is an inherent danger in the pursuit of pure thinking. The danger centers around the relationship between human will and Divine Will. In prehistoric times the human capacity for thought was embedded in the will currents of the Universe. Human will and Divine Will flowed in the same streams of consciousness. This state of consciousness can be characterized as intuition. The human consciousness is at one with God-consciousness. After the temptation and subsequent fall into matter and individuality, human consciousness felt the separation of its forces from the forces of the Godhead. In order for individual selfhood to arise it became necessary for human currents of will to be reversed from the original thoughts of the Creator and focused upon the Self.

According to Rudolf Steiner during Vedic, Persian and Egyptian times the transformation from a God-centered consciousness to an earth-centered consciousness was effected. In effect, human consciousness is like a swirling vortex in a great stream. The vortex sustains its own “selfhood” in the face of the prevailing motion of the whole. Within this vortex of selfhood the flow of the Divine Will is suspended in favor of a self-sustaining internal confluence of past- and future-oriented currents.

Into the center of the vortex flow the forces of the reversed will stream of the individuality. These move quickly from the future filled with limitless potential into objects of desire. Then these forces move through the fleeting present pleasures of fulfilled desires into the past memories so poor in psychic power.

The vortex of “selfhood” arises where the reversed will currents meet the progressive force of Divine Will, which originates in the past as the original Divine Word, and works powerfully into the future as deeds of creation. In the human soul the progressive force is found in the capacity of willed thinking. Through willed thinking the human being can create a new future out of past failures. The tension between these two currents gives rise to the vortex of the self which maintains its integrity against the general flow of the great stream of Divine Will.

This vortical confluence can be characterized as human consciousness. The consciousness is a dynamic balancing of currents that gives rise to a formation capable of uniting past and future, above and below in a rhythmical, breathing interplay.

The center of the vortex is oriented toward this motion of the whole current even out into the periphery. In past times and at present in the state of Intuition, the human consciousness can resurrect these peripherally ­centered powers and reflect the broadest, most cosmic aspects of reality.

Surrounding the vortex are currents that continually pulse up and down around the vertical axis. Psychically these currents can represent the integrative forces of Inspiration which periodically connect the higher self with the lower self. In esoteric terms, these selves can be imagined as two eyes, one higher and one lower. Each sees into its own world. The task of the seer is to unite these two eyes into one whole vision. The vertical orientation of the vortex of consciousness facilitates the union of the two “eyes”. Finally, the vortex creates an area of low pressure in the center to which it draws in objects arranged at random in its environment. It is with this image that we can return to modern science.

The hypothetical method is designed to arrange these seemingly random bits of world flotsam into manageable units. The mind, by virtue of its power of thinking, partakes of the future-oriented, progressive current in the soul, pulling into focus objects placed at intervals in the field of consciousness. When the mind serves in its primal function, it does just this. It can bring forward previously learned concepts, arrange them and then pass them on into the future where they go out of the field of day consciousness and into the hands of the Godhead.

A problem arises, however, when the consciousness infused with self will draws premature conclusions out of the arranged concepts held in the vortex of the day consciousness. The attachment that the ”I” then places on the objects in the field of consciousness rises too much out of the sympathy of the will force in the lower self. The concepts formed by the consciousness are then transformed from living, future-oriented units of meaning into dead, past-oriented objects of cognition. The cognizing slips from future to past, and the interest of the consciousness dims into reflected memories.

In terms of the vortex of consciousness the vortex has pulled in so many items that are held in its grip that its force is impeded. It changes from a dynamic, vertically-breathing vortex into a sluggish, debris-ridden eddy, a stagnant backwater isolated from the main evolutionary flow of Divine Consciousness.

In scientific terms, the hypothesis already is filled with conceptual detritus. The intellect, suffused and enamored of its own conclusive power, reaches out into its storehouse of facts and constructs a new arrangement pregnant with experimental possibilities. This in itself is not true Inspiration. The intellect has simply arranged concepts into a new innovative order.

The error lies in the formation of a conclusion that is provable only to empirical experiment, for in the formation of the experiment the intellect has overstepped its primal function. It is in this context that Goethe made his distinction between intellect and reason. The intellect can only order and analyze the data. It cannot really draw conclusions. The conclusions are inherent in the ideas of the Godhead. These sublime ideas could be pictured as concepts of concepts or constellations of cognitive feelings. Only through reason can the mind approach the Idea. The intellect simply cognizes the objects in the field, the reason cognizes the field and its field of relationships. The original hypothesis that constellates into the mind of a thinker is actually the inspirated door to a whole nexus of concepts that constitute the Idea. To immediately employ the intellect to form a train of experiments closes the door on the future orientation of the thought life and banishes it into the backward-moving currents of the individual’s self will.

Through vigorous self-observation of cognitive states any scientific thinker can corroborate these- perceptions. The mystery and magic of the initial “Aha!” moment of the formation of the hypothesis immediately dims into the “post-hypothesis-partum blues”. Where is the delicious joy of discovery, the sense of working one-on-one with the Godhead? And what of the disappointment when the experimental data further tarnishes the initial shining insight? Do we resort to “curve ironing” and other devious ploys of the intellect in order to keep the mind engaged, or is there another strategy that can be employed in stalking ideas?

Creative inspirational thinking springs out of the practice of the essence of mathematics. The inner experience of the proper mathematical unfolding of a phenomenon is a grounding experience for the consciousness. Through this grounding the mind is able to lift its focus of activity into the realm in which the consciousness of the Godhead divines the laws of the world. It is this grounding and ordering of the phenomena that creates the capacity for a scientist to receive creative Inspirations. After an intense effort of concentration aimed at ordering the phenomena the mind must relax. The relaxing allows the mind to lift into the realm of Inspiration where it can listen to the super-conscious melodies that lie behind the world’s manifestations. It is at this point where the intellect must give way to reason. For the intellect can only work in the formation of concepts. The intellect fades in the perception of the living ideas that are the source of the concepts. The light from the source is much brighter than the small lantern of the intellect. The cognitive mode must shift from one of intellectual forming or “speaking” into reasoned listening. The mind trained by logical mathematical principles must recognize not the computative aspects of the mathematics, but the spiritual creative aspects emerging out of the mathematical ordering. Instead of speaking about all that it has gathered, it must be silent and listen to the real message coming toward it from higher realms.

Modern science here makes an error from the viewpoint of spiritual science. The new hypothesis given to a thinker is but the tip of the iceberg of constellated ideas. To immediately attach the insight gained by the hypothesis to an experimental method forces the mind to enter into a speaking mode. The experience of the numinous character of mathematics becomes muddied in the computational “speaking” mode of the experiment. The results from such experiments are simply dim reflections of the sublime mysteries of the higher realm of cognition. The mind, like a vortex, becomes clogged with the factual flotsam produced by the experiment and is thereafter encumbered in its ability to rise into higher realms of Inspiration. The mind becomes enmeshed in the facts swirling around the phenomenon, and the actual phenomenon itself becomes obscured by the hypothetical construct formed as an abstract model for the experiment. The essential sacredness of number is abstracted into fixed mathematical laws that appeal to the intellect but leave the heart in hunger. The hypothesis then becomes a prison and actually works to obscure the mind from its source of inspiration. To be more exact, the forming of the hypothesis acts in this obscurative way, the experience of the hypothesis still remains numinous.

The formed hypothesis creates an artificial system of logical relationships – atoms, molecules, etc. – that reflect higher laws. The intellect can easily grasp such metaphysical systems and use its innate ordering power to juggle symbols into new hypothetical configurations. These metaphysical abstractions may be capable of predicting the behavior of chemical compounds, the velocity of a moving object and other physical phenomena, but they impoverish the soul by denying the soul any relationship to the outer world other than through intellectual abstractions. This alienation feeds the self-directed impulses of the lower soul, and seeds for a technical arrogance are sown in the thought life. Most of modern science stands at the brink of this chilling wasteland.

The soul-warming Inspirational force of the initial hypothesis is experienced as a proof that God exists and is communicative. When this intimate, warm connection to the creative Godhead is traded for a mechanical, abstract chain of technical events, the vortex of selfhood separates further from the creative streaming currents that are the source of its continued existence.

This is not meant to imply that all hypothesis and experiment be done away with. On the contrary, experiment can be a supremely enriching and empowering activity. The danger lies not in the experimentation but in the drawing of intellectual, logical conclusions from the experiments. A more wholesome technique is to regard the first hypothetical insight as simply one aspect of the solution. When experiments arise as possibilities the researcher can perform them in order to direct the mind toward the realm of Inspiration. This can be accomplished by converting quantities into qualities, or by focusing on the secondary qualities such as color, taste, and warmth. This can stimulate the Imagination to begin to form images or pictures of the phenomena. Through images the phenomena can be explored as if they were directly connected to the soul life. Converting the data into images by way of developing the imaginative forces of the mind moves the thought life from the coldness of abstract analysis into the warm realm of the creative idea. Intellect is then transformed into reason; concepts are brought into contact with their source of life and change, and the hypothesis regains its aura of numinous mystery. By transforming hard data into images a “breathing” can be established in the mind that connects the upper transcendent eye with the lower physical eyes.

The question remains how such a breathing might be established and what practical results it would yield. The realm of Imagination is limitless and chaotic. This side of imaginative work can often be experienced in the dream state. Even in chaotic dreams, however, there is an inner consistency that rests in the soul’s ability to empower and collate images. The natural world is filled with such empowered images that can serve to regulate and inspire the consciousness. The power that Nature invests in the formation of living forms can be put into service in the training of perception. By carefully observing a phenomenon and then representing the phenomenon exactly before the inner eye, the formative force patterns that regulate the phenomenon are impressed upon the consciousness at a level above the intellect. Through repeated exact observation the essence of the phenomenon gradually forms into an image that can be grasped by the self as a form of imagination. This picture is filled with insight about the phenomenon in that it is actually formed in the human consciousness by the phenomenon. It is thus not a metaphysical concept but a living Idea. The difference is that the living Idea can go on growing and constellating in the higher consciousness, whereas the abstract concept cannot because of being fixed by the intellect.

A scientific hypothesis is such a living Idea. It is born in the discipline of the researcher who inwardly visualizes the variables surrounding a phenomenon. An error is made when the insight is fixed into a quantitative technical procedure. What if the researcher were to design experiments and tools which strive to keep the hypothesis open? This is difficult in the physical sciences of chemistry, physics and engineering but very possible in the life sciences or the social sciences. The open hypothesis is now an accepted method in ecological studies, peer counseling, management training, new-age medicine, and many other fields of research.

Perhaps the time has come when Goethean techniques of observation can be brought closer to the mainstream of science. With these techniques, it is possible for the closed vortex of the human consciousness to sense how its center is connected as if by invisible strings to the grand spiral motion of the cosmos and how its small confluence is an exact image of the grand workings of the Universal mind. For each small vortex and eddy in a stream is singing the song of the whole stream, each is growing and contracting, pulsating to the rhythms of the whole nexus of currents in each brook, creek, stream, river and sea on the face of the planet. And the waters are sensing the swinging motions of the moon and sun and planets, and they are images of the great swirling dance of the Universe. All of this knowledge and more is available to a mind whose vortex of selfhood can remain open and responsive to the creative images brought to light by the dance of the Father.


Dennis Klocek

Dennis Klocek, MFA, is co-founder of the Coros Institute, an internationally renowned lecturer, and teacher. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released Colors of the Soul; Esoteric Physiology and also Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics. He regularly shares his alchemical, spiritual, and scientific insights at

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