Alienation from Nature is perhaps the most fundamental characteristic of our times. Andit is inevitably linked to an alienation from ourselves. This estrangement from our own humanity is certainly one of the main reasons for the numerous social and politicalproblems besetting our society as it moves toward globalization. It is therefore essential that we develop a way of knowing Nature that can resolve this alienation and lead to newways of working with Nature, our environment, and each other.
As builders of civilization, we are continuously transforming Nature. In this sense,humanity can be seen as a natural force. For this reason alone, a way of knowing that seeks to resolve our alienation from Nature must also encompass the human being. Itmust in fact encompass Nature, the human being, and human civilization. This broad context calls for a radical departure from the conventional approach that divides ourinvolvement with Nature into many separate specialized disciplines and fields of study. The problem of alienation can be resolved only by connecting the various disciplines.
In order to achieve a transformation of our relationship to Nature, ourselves, and ourcivilization, The School of Nature will focus on three areas:
1. Scientific insight into Nature: In contrast to conventional science that seeks only
external knowledge, we will strive to become aware of what we ourselves experience
when we observe Nature. The fundamental question underlying our scientific
studies will be: to what extent does external Nature reveal its innernature through
our own inner experience? The exact observation of Nature will be enhanced by
aesthetic self-observationwhereby, for example, beauty becomes a criterion for the
health of the observed environment. Thus the ugliness of degraded landscapes, of
areas exploited byindustry or other commercial interests is an indicator that such
environments are inimical to life. Another central endeavor of The School of Nature is
to experience Nature as acreative agent, as natura naturans,1 and to discover how
Nature’s creativity corresponds to our own.
2. Art: Every productive act has its artistic aspect. In The School of Nature,therefore,
art is not a supplementary exercise but rather inherent in all activities. Thinking, the
production of meaningful thought-structures, can be experienced asan art. Becoming
aware of the creativity in our own thought processes is an important aspect of the
observation of Nature. Attending to the creative processesin our own artistic work can
become a key to understanding creative processes in Nature. In this sense, self-
knowledge becomes a tool for understanding Nature.In addition, artistic activity is a
preparation for working in larger social contexts, for example on a farm, or in a
business—in enterprises whose scope far exceedsthe life of one individual. What
we are actually doing when we are creatively active is a question of greatest
significance for the destiny of humanity and of theEarth because it determines how
we deal with ourselves and with Nature. As we know, this can either lead to the
beauty of a cathedral or to the drabness of urbansprawl, to a healing medicine or to
an atom bomb.
3. Agriculture: Agriculture is the archetype of all activities that have a lastingeffect on
Nature. In fact our whole concept of “culture” comes from the word “agri-culture.” By
cultivating Nature, we can raise it to a level where it nourishesand sustains us. Today
agriculture is still a field in which human beings can work in an intimate relationship
with Nature. But because this activity brings us intodirect contact with Nature, the
impact of misguided agricultural practices is particularly destructive. The School of
Nature offers its students farmingexperience that can become a meaningful dialog
between Nature and human creativity.
The three areas outlined above may at first appear to be unrelated. When we look at themmore closely, however, their interconnectedness becomes apparent. It becomes evident that creative capacities are the basis for science and agriculture or any other culturalactivity. Any scientific insight, any practical undertaking, especially one that has an enduring effect (a cultivated landscape, for example), is a productive activity, a creative act, and only possible because the human being is a creative being endowed with artisticcapacities. It should in fact be obvious that our creative artistic capacities form our most intimateconnection with Nature. For Nature herself is an all-encompassing matrix of productive relationships, and we as human beings follow Nature’s sublime example in our ownmodest ways. We are integral and active participants in Nature’s artistry.