NOUN: The study of the forms of things. The branch of biology that deals with the form of living organisms, and with relationships between their structures.
Divisions of morphology: There exist a number of 'types' of morphology, for Goethe his focus centred on, comparative morphology and the analysis of the patterns of the locus of structures within the body plan of an organism. Goethe's imaginary primal plant form, the Urpflanze, is a visual reference to Goethe's, Metamorphosis of Plants; a personal journal describing how plants shirt and morph from one state into another, such as seed into root, into stem into leaf etc. Goethe believed that his, Urpflanze, had the potential to become all other forms through a process of change, a sense of rhythmic movement, over time.
For Goethe observation was of utmost importance in understanding nature and our position in nature. The Goethean approach to observation has clear stages of process as follows:
Pre-stage: Clearing the workspace
This is a point of preparing the self for observation. There is a need to filter out all external factors that may cloud focussed observation, such things as the preconceptions we may bring to the task, our personal likes and dislikes, our emotions at the time. It is not possible to just forget these things but it is more a questions of knowing they are there and aiming to put them to one side for a period of time in order to enable more focused observation to take place.
Stage one: Exact sense perception
Here the observer begins to make observations about the specimen in front of them. Initially this might take the form of close looking, feeling, touching, then the use of words to describe the formal elements of the specimen, its texture, shape, pattern, weight, size etc; this text response might be worked up into an account of the experience, a poem, etc. Then Goethe highlights the importance and power of drawing. Through looking and drawing we see previously unnoticed detail and the relationships between the different parts; the act of drawing and mark-making enables eye and hand coordination through which greater understanding is acquired, a visual representation begins to develop and the observer is drawn closer to the specimen.
Stage two: Exact Sensorial Imagination
Now that the observer has put aside preconceptions and has developed a closer affinity to the specimen through looking, making text reflections and making visual accounts they are now prompted to stand back from their work and reflect on what they have done. Through reflection there now comes a point of imagination; the observer begins to unpick their practice, to deconstruct their work in order to find the parts that make up the whole. In doing so the deconstructed parts are used to reconstruct another whole; this process is akin to Goethe's, Metamorphosis of Plants, in which he outlines how all plants hold the inherent possibility to change and morph into all the other parts of a plant. Seed becomes root, becomes stem, becomes leaf, becomes flower and so on. Here then there exists a sense of play in which one uses the deconstructed parts to make and form a whole host of other possibilities and outcomes. Observation is therefore deconstructed into a field of abstraction and through reconstruction a sense of animation takes place, 'other' is created, imagination leads to mutability.
Stage three: Seeing-in-beholding
At this stage the observer takes stock of what has taken place in the previous stages. The outcome of observation and imagination becomes the inspiration for even deeper reflection and imagination. Observation is now focused on the original specimen, the observation of this and the experience of this process.
Stage four: Being one with the object
Through this process the observer is drawn closer to the specimen, a state of intuition takes over where, through previous experiences, the observer now has the ability to see and go beyond what was there in the first place. Through the process the observer has created 'another', a new specimen, a new phenomenon, one which can now become the object of further attention.
Goethe's morphology and approach to observation is a cyclical affair, one of observing, deconstructing and reconstructing. The process mirrors Goethe's reflections on the metamorphosis of plants in which nature is in a constant state of flux, always pushing new frontiers as it progressively shifts from one state to another. Through the process we remove ourselves from controlling and humanizing all nature; this process of action and reflection positions us as part of nature.