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Why Romantic Science?​


Ancient Man had the capacity to participate the inner essence of nature, what Bacon called natura naturans. This participative consciousness (what Levi Strauss termed 'pariticipation mystique') - in the nature of a dream-like consciousness - was increasingly replaced by a more waking form of consciousness operating through the intellect (as opposed to the 'gut brain' or emotional mind for the older noetic consciouness). This mentation is separative in nature, and formed the basis for the Scientific Revolution. It gave rise to advances in astronomy, physics, and mechanics, as well as later chemistry, though the particular insights of the key figures of the time still came via the older noetic participative mode (Greek nous).


However, when the inertial sciences that had provided such knowledge of inert nature were applied to the puzzle of living or vital nature, problems arose. In response to the philosophical and practical barriers to understanding the principle of life, various key scientists in the mid-1700s sought a different approach, recognizing that a differnt method was required for living matter; life could not be reduced to the outer forms of things or mechanical motions. This gave rise to a movement in Western culture known as Romanticism. While the outward focus was on the arts, this was guided by a profound philosophical approach that sought to go past the separative intellect and activate the deeper organs of knowing that could once again participate the things being studied, to go past the outer appearances to the inner flux and flow of living powers, forces and energies. While matter could give rise to energy, living energy was felt to precede matter itself, and indeed be responsible for its creation. 


European medicine became a central aspect of this search for the deeper underlying causes of outward things, as medicine had also lost its older capacity to discern the nature of disorder and disease through the ancient understanding of the 'four humeurs'. The humoral system of diagnosis and treatment arose out of and depended on the ancient noetic consciousness, but became increasingly ineffective as physicians were guided more by the intellectual, outer, mechanical understanding (anatomy, chemistry and physics). Medicine reached a crisis of therapeutics around 1795, and Romantic medicine sought a new understanding, diagnosis and basis of treatment on the basis of a dynamic physiology.


​This dynamic physiology merged with the more general philosophical and scientific efforts to comprehend the Living Principle, particularly in Germany and England. While the mainstream of science and medicine continued in the materialistic-mechanical vein, seeing man as a machine and life as the product or epi-phenomenon of matter, a significant stream of thought continued to explore the Living Principle as the creator of matter, and man as a dynamic, energy being contained within and operating through a physical form.

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