Naturphilosophie im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert und moderner Holismus

von Tove Elisabeth Kruse

Die Weltenharmonie des Johannes Kepler
Lang ist sie her, die Weltenharmonie

Bereits seit ca. 30 Jahren ist ein ständig steigendes Interesse an der Entwicklung des Wissenschaftsbegriffs aus dem ausgehenden Mittelalter und der frühen Neuzeit zu beobachten. Tove Elisabeth Kruse (Forskning - Roskilde Universitet, Dänemark), zeigt in einem Aufsatz aus dem Jahre 1999 einige zentrale Aspekte des faszinierenden Übergangs vom mittelalterlichen zum modernen Denken auf. (Erstveröffentlichung in: "Downward Causation", edited by P.B. Andersen, C. Emmeche, N.O. Finnemann, P.V. Christiansen, Aarhus University Press, 2000)

Wholeness and Part, Cosmos and Man in 16th and 17th Century Natural Philosophy and in Modern Holism

Tove Elisabeth Kruse

For almost three decades there has been a renewed interest — seen mostly in English and American scholarship — in refining the study of the scientists of the late Middle Ages and the Reformation. They are no longer merely regarded as pioneers of modern empirical science and their medieval and natural philosophical heritage is no longer suppressed. Increasingly the natural scientists of the period are regarded as transitional figures between the old and the new — between the Middle Ages and early modern times.

In common with their contemporaries the scientists were deeply rooted both in a fundamentally religious universe and in the traditional perception of man as an organic part of nature. At the same time nature developed into a phenomenon which it was possible to regard and study as an independent object. Therefore, all natural scientists of the 16th and 17th centuries had to find ways of relating wholeness and part to one another.

In this article I intend sketching two identifiable and decisively different ways of relating wholeness and part, cosmos and man in the natural philosophy of the 16th and 17th centuries, since these two different elaborations of the relationship are highly relevant as 'A Distant Mirror' reflecting and putting into perspective the actual problems of the relationship between wholeness and part — especially as these problems come to expression in modern holism based on the natural sciences.

Macrocosm and microcosm

In the natural philosophy of the 16th and 17th centuries wholeness and part, cosmos and man are always connected, most often in the form of the ideas of microcosm and macrocosm.

The macrocosm is always a manifestation of God. In the creation and in the created, God manifests himself as nature and as the elements and processes of nature. God is the primal elements of all things; God is earth, water, fire and air, He is salt, sulfur and mercury. God manifests Himself in the chemical separation process of creation and in natures eternal cycles of growth and decay. Or God manifests Himself in Pan, who represents the great universal nature: Pan's two horns represent the great worlds two poles, Pan's fiery expression stems from the influence of the seven wandering stars of the heavens, Pan's spotted hide are evidence of the stars of the firmament. Pan's long beard depicts the rays of the sun, the moon and the stars. Pan's flute shows the harmony, which is created by the seven planets etc.

Since God is the primal element and origin of all things, creation is not just a process of chemical separation and nature is not just matter. Any element, all of the building blocks of nature and all of the processes of nature at the same time refer to something material and to something immaterial. All the elements and processes of nature are spiritual entities with a body, corporal spirits. The first creation and the eternally repeated creations in nature are at one and the same time a physical-chemical process and a religious manifestation. In the macrocosm God is naturalized and nature is spiritualized. Thus, knowledge of nature becomes knowledge of God.

The microcosm is created from the macrocosm, from Pan and the elements of great nature man is created:

Microcosmus is the little world and he is taken for man so called, because he bath in his composition a portion of every member of the great world. (Fludd 1979: 78)

Man imitates great nature in every way. The English natural scientist Robert Fludd imagines that in the same way as God lives on the highest peak in the purest heaven, the spark of God takes residence in the most distinguished and highest regions of the small world — in the head. In the middle of the little world sits the heart, which serves the same function in the microcosm as the Sun does in the macrocosm: sending its life giving rays to all the parts of the organism. And in the same way as in the great world, Chronos carefully controls the heavenly movements of the planets and, with that, time itself, Chronos also regulates the movements and beating of the heart, and takes care that the expansion and contraction of the heart 'live together in peace and harmony in the same way as husband and wife do'. So that strife and disharmony are not created in the microcosm, blood circulates in the body in intricate and complicated ways corresponding to the circulation of rainwater in great nature. After having reached all the corners of the little world the rivers of blood are collected at the great 'mountains' of the body — the stomach, the lever and the spleen. It passes from here through the stony caves of the kidneys, finally to run out in 'the salt sea of the bladder.' And in the same way as the winds blow in the great world, in the little world southerly winds also blow from the moist areas of the liver and northerly blustery winds blow from the windswept areas of the spleen. Pan regulates these winds and their collisions, so that strange meteors and troublesome illnesses are not created in the inner of microcosm. The guts, which job it is to collect the earthly excrement, represents the earth of the great world and Urine is the salt sea. Finally man is equipped with `sensory channels': two windows to look out of, two doors to listen with, two channels to smell with, a passage to taste with and finally touch to feel with.

Man does not just imitate great nature as a whole. Man is also like and corresponds to the single parts of nature, e.g., a tree:

This...growth is like a man. It has skin, which is the bark. It has head and hair, which are the root. It has its figure, its signs, its mind, its sense in the stalk, the lesion whereof is followed by death. Its leaves and flowers and fruit are for ornament, as in man hearing, vision and the power of speech. Gums are its excrement, and the parasite is its disease. (Paracelsus 1975: 229)

In the same way as everything in great nature, which man is created from, man is both material and immaterial. In the same way as the bark on trees and the skins of fruit are bodies that hide another body, man has two bodies — the external body, which is material and worthless, and the internal body which is spiritual and divine. The microcosm carries the whole macrocosm in it. The Universe is both spiritually and materially an organic whole.

Even though man is created by the macrocosm and enfolds nature in himself, both materially and immaterially, and even though the universe is saturated with correspondences and analogies between the macrocosm and the microcosm, the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm is not a relationship of mutual influence. The hierarchy of the creation from macrocosm to microcosm —downward causation in its ultimate form — makes great nature, not least the stars, decisive in relation to man:

The stars compel and coerce the animal man, so that where they lead he must follow, just as a thief does the gallows..., a fisher the fishes, a fowler the birds, and a hunter the wild beasts. (Paracelsus 1976: 174)

This is true generally for the life and fate of man, and it is tangibly true for the individual areas of existence. In this way most of the diseases of man are determined by the stars:

[...] for it is most certain, that diseases come to men for the most part from the power and influ¬ences of the stars upon the bodies of men. (Paracelsus 1975: 100)

The person who remains at his animal level will always be a slave of the macrocosm. But it is not man's destiny to be bestial, unwise and a slave of material relations. Originally God created man last and gave man the privilege of ruling over all creation and all creatures. When man does not occupy this, his rightful position it is because man does not know himself and his intrinsic powers:

[...] man does not know or estimate himself or his powers, or reflect that he is a lesser universe, and has the whole firmament with its powers hidden within himself. (Paracelsus 1976: 174)

Man's task is to carry his wisdom, because in that way 'anyone can free himself', If man becomes familiar with his own powers and if man learns to use his powers correctly, the roles between microcosm and macrocosm are switched. It is then man who rules the macrocosm and its influence, and not the other way round:

The wise man can dominate the stars, and is not subject to them. Nay, the stars are subject to the wise man, and are forced to obey him, not he the stars. (Paracelsus 1976: 174)

The macrocosm is a manifestation of God and, therefore, the macrocosm contains all knowledge of itself in itself: nature contains knowledge of its own qualities, its processes, its functions and it contains knowledge of the intentions of the creator. At the same time man is a microcosm, which in itself enfolds all of nature. The natural scientist and the man, who realizes his microcosmic potentials, can in this way meet, recognize and understand all things in and through nature, and can with alchemy as a tool recreate the metals, extract the divine essence of the material and create a universal medicine which consumes all diseases. The person who realizes his microcosmic potential can imitate God and perfect creation.

Nature is not explored, however, as an independent physical phenomenon, but as a spiritual magical reality. To study nature is to practice alchemy. And the results of alchemy are in the end the external manifestation of the unity and connection between phenomena and forces in nature, which are predestined through man's inner spontaneous knowledge of these. The unity between the world and man, between wholeness and part, makes it possible for man to recognize all things and to imitate both God and nature. The universe is magical because none of the levels of reality are independent of each other. Everything is leveled — the synthesis between wholeness and part is created by making everything equal.

The implicate order — man as a hologram

The majority of natural scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries were, characterized by moving in the sphere between wholeness and science. Today moving in this field characterizes the few — the minority of natural scientists creating holistic theories. This minority, however, has to a high degree set the agenda for modern cultural debate. A debate that always touches on many fields of social and political life and reality since the perspective is that of 'The Whole', including the underlying question concerning the view of existence as meaningful.

Modern holism based on science is generally constructed as a vision of wholeness, allegedly founded on a piece of empirical natural science. This is the case e.g., with Professor David Bohm, who, with his theory of 'The Implicate Order', has been a leading figure in the discussion of a change in paradigm towards a holographic or holistic world view.

Thus, Bohm's starting point is quantum physics, more specifically the question of how to describe and understand the behavior of atomic particles.

The core of Bohm's theory is the perception that the particle — besides being influenced by the laws and forces of classical physics — is also connected to and influenced by a potential possessing qualities quite different from that which is normally accepted within classical physics. For Bohm this quantum potential is the carrier of all form and all information. It is non-local and is potentially active everywhere. It forms and directs matter in the sense that the quantum potential is activated when its energy enters the particle and hereby gives form and direction to the particle. Consequently the order the particle follows, influenced by the quantum potential, is seen as a manifestation of a hidden order lying behind it. An implicate order carried by the quantum potential, which is explicated when matter activates its enfolded information. To Bohm this rule applies to all created phenomena. Any outer manifestation has a hidden implicate order enfolded within itself. And behind all unique manifestations and their implicate orders is a common implicate order, the holomovement:

We have seen that in the quantum context, the order in every immediately perceptible aspect of the world is to be regarded as coming of a more comprehensive implicate order, in which all aspects ultimately merge in the undefinable and immeasurable holomovement. (Bohm 1980: 156)

The holomovement is the foundation of all created, it gives form and direction to all that is created and is enfolded in every specific manifestation. Body and mind, spirit and nature, stars, animals, man, society, politics, and history — nothing and no one possesses more than relative independence from the common implicate order. Everything and everybody is a projection of one and only one universal unity:

[...] we will have to be careful not to slip back into regarding the various elements of any given total situation as having more than relative independence. In a deeper and generally more suitable way of thinking, each of these elements is a projection, in a sub totality of yet higher dimension'. So it will be ultimately misleading and indeed wrong to suppose, for example, that each human being is an independent actuality who interacts with other human beings and with nature. Rather, all these are projections of a single totality. (Bohm 1980: 210)

For Bohm the concept of order, which he formulates in order to perceive the movement of particles in the quantum field, is thus shown to be a specific case of a general and hidden generative order. It applies to all things — not only spiritual but also material. Therefore, Bohm's concept of order has validity not only in the field of quantum physics, but in all areas of reality. In this way Bohm's analysis of the reality of quantum physics allows for unlimited generalization to all areas and levels of reality. Consequently the concepts and theories that Bohm constructs to describe reality on the level of quantum physics are distributed to all reality, and form the basis of Bohm's theory of cosmos and the origin of life, of man and consciousness, of upbringing and social interaction, of the development of society and the course of history.

Bohm's theory — based on quantum physics — thus, also offers a solution to the disastrous situation mankind, according to Bohm, faces today. Modern civilization threatens to destroy the earth and mankind, and for Bohm this threat is a result of an unfolded and stiff order and an uncreative consciousness. But man is a hologram. As a countermove man must come in contact with his inner enfolded order — his creative intelligence — which originates from the holomovement and therefore in its depths enfolds all knowledge and all that is good. Mans creative, enfolded intelligence is omnipotent — it can transform any unfolded structure and thus radically change man and his consciousness, society and history in new and positive ways.

It is most interesting to note that modern holism in its most elitist, intellectual and trend-setting form — holism based on natural science — significantly resembles the reductionist synthesis of wholeness and science of the 16th and 17th centuries.

As has been outlined above, the essence of this synthesis is the perception of the fundamental unity of all things. A unity that triumphs over all distances and differences and harmonizes all reality in a leveled and uniform universe. The unifying of faith, the vision of wholeness and science in the synthesis is achieved by God being naturalized and becoming apparent as e.g., the power to grow, the planets and metals. At the same time nature is made spiritual, making every physical phenomenon a spiritual phenomenon too. In this universe to know nature is to know God, and the vision of wholeness and science can replace, support and verify one another.

Of course language and form differ, but at crucial points one finds fundamental similarities between the synthesis of the 16th and 17th natural philosophers and David Bohm's theory:

  • Body and soul, spirit and nature, mind and matter originate from one common source. In the natural philosophy of the 16th and 17th century God, for Bohm, is the holomovement. In this source everything is enfolded and from this source everything springs. And every manifestation enfolds the whole in itself.
  • This is true of the smallest components of matter. Bohm's particle is both material and immaterial. It is a physical phenomenon, but its energy and movement is directed by the non-local and non-causal quantum potential. Corresponding to this the elements of 15th and 16th century natural philosophy are materialized spirit, spiritualist matter.
  • This is also true of man. Man is a macrocosm or a hologram and enfolds all reality and all information, both about himself and about nature. By contacting his hidden forces man, therefore, can learn, experience and transform everything — spiritual as well as material.
  • Reality is uniform. In both the natural philosophy of the 16th and 17th centuries and Bohm there is no fundamental distinction between God, particle, man and society. Deep down everything is identical and can be reduced to the same principle, the same order.
  • Analogy, coherence and similarity degenerate to identity and the vision of wholeness that creates unity mutilates both God and science. God fades away as spiritual reality and ethical requirement and nature is not investigated as an independent phenomenon.

Bohm — like most other holistic scientists of today — aims to compensate one-sided rationalism, fragmentation and the general loss of meaning in a modern atomized world by reintroducing organic wholeness. But Bohm's theory does not expand our world view, on the contrary it makes it shrink. Bohm's theory makes our world far more anaemic and limited than before. The reason for this is unlimited generalization, that is to say reductionism. Bohm does not stick to the invariable distinction between specific concepts related to a defined part of reality and common concepts related to all of reality. Bohm thus starts off with concepts that might be of relevance to quantum physics, but ends up with a theory of everything without scientific validity. And furthermore with a theory that seems more than questionable in relation to morals and politics.


In the natural philosophy of the 16th and 17th centuries, wholeness and part, cosmos and man are always connected. But the connection is not always organic and based on identity and it does not always lead to uniformity of the levels of reality and thus to reductionism.

In Kepler the relation between wholeness and part is figurative in a true sense of the word. Cosmos and man share primordial images.

In Kepler's understanding, as in all the understanding of all the natural philosophers of the 16th and 17th centuries, the universe and creation bear the fingerprint of God, it depicts his essence. But whereas the fingerprint in the idea of the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm is concrete and sensual, manifested in innumerable ways and bound together by the inscrutable network of analogies and correspondences, Kepler's God is present in the world in form and quantity — abstract and formal qualities. The basic form is the sphere, because it expresses and creates an adequate picture of the Holy Trinity itself. The center, periphery and radius of the sphere are, therefore, the perfect image of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and saturate the world partly in the perfect form of the sphere, but more in all the geometric shapes that occur when the perfect circle is broken, is divided and is cut through by straight lines. The sphere and the innumerable geometric shapes that it gives life to are, thus, the basis for the other foundation of creation: quantity.

In this way the form of the Holy Trinity flows through the Universe from the sphere to the straight and to the curved and their internal relationships, onward through all quantity and into nature. The symbol of the Trinity is the archetype and model for all that is created — not least the cosmos. The sun, the fixed stars and the planetary system in the space between the sun and the fixed stars relate to the center, periphery and radius of the sphere, in the same way as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The created world is thus in Kepler, on the one hand, intimately connected to God — in the sense that both the Trinity and nature relate to the symbolism of the sphere. At the same time the created world is saturated by quantity and as such a rational and formally logical phenomenon.

In the same way as the cosmos and nature man and his soul is also a work of God. And in the same way as cosmos and nature, man and his spiritual capacity in its basic substance are structured in form and quantity by God. When he enters the world man is not an unwritten page. The soul is not a clean slate. All forms, all geometry and all mathematics are already laid down in the soul. Quantity, numbers and the basic ideas of mathematics and the spatial and flat geometric shapes are, thus, not derived from outside through a conceptual structuring of the profusion of the world of the senses. Fundamental harmony exists a priori — as a human instinct.

Thus, for Kepler too, man contains all things within himself, but man is not a microcosm. Man does not contain macrocosm and man is not the point of departure and ultimate goal for all analogies and correspondences. The relation is figurative in the most fundamental meaning of the word — man and world share primordial images, ideas and concepts. The unity between man and the world is not organic and, for Kepler, never has the character of an actual identity.

At the same time the connection between wholeness and part in Kepler is neither hierarchical nor deterministic. Wholeness and part, world and man synchronously carry the same archetypal images within them. The synchronicity between outer and inner constellations activate an already extant potential. This idea saturates at all levels Kepler's experience of the relationship between wholeness and part, world and man. The nature of love is one example:

The infatuated young man loves a girl and does not know why or what it is in her that he is so in love with. (Kepler 1982: 218)

The young man is not aware of the hidden but fundamental similarity between himself and the girl, which is the cause of this love. He is unaware of the inner primordial images which are the fuel of the infatuation: he is in love with her, because she is like him — or more correctly because something in her is like something within himself. But this similarity is not recognized in its pure form — the similarity has grown together with the girl who carries it — and therefore the object of the young man's love is the girl and not the similarity.[1]

Because of the idea of synchronicity Kepler's astrology is also based on a very different foundation than is the case with his contemporaries. Kepler disregards the zodiac and its partitioning of the firmament as the basis of astrology. The horoscope and its connection to 'houses', 'constellations' etc. are, in Kepler's view, created by man and random phenomena without an empirical basis in nature. Kepler finds the natural basis for astrology only in rays of light, the angles they form and the influence these angles have on nature and man. The planets affect nature and man, when the emanations of two planets form an activating configuration. The configuration touches the ability of the soul for insight and causes the soul's affect on itself. The affect of the configuration is thus based not on a force, which springs from the emanations of the stars and the angles of the emanations. The affect is dependent on the ability of the soul to activate itself.

Thus, nature and man are, in Kepler's opinion, not passive objects, which are affected by the planetary constellations — not victims of the power and influence of the stars. Kepler points out that 'the planets are not astronomers and know nothing of the angles their rays create on the earth'. Neither evil nor good, positive or negative, health or disease arise from the heavenly aspects. The emanations of the stars- only have an activating influence on what terrestrial and not least human nature contain:

I am addressing astrologers ... I consider nothing in the heaven malevolent, for the ... reason ... that it is the nature of Man himself, exercised here on Earth, which by the emanations of the planets gains their influence for itself. (Kepler 1981: 119)

Whether it is the case of the psychology of love or of the effect of the horoscope the relationship between the external world and internal knowledge is, therefore, the same. The primordial images, basic forms and constellations of the outer world do not create anything new in the soul or in understanding. The soul is already filled with primordial images, geometric patterns, psychological constellations etc. Things that, because of the external stimulation, are woken to life for then to recognize, rediscover or recreate themselves in action, activity and all the manifestations of the outer world.

This thought also saturates Kepler's lifework and possibly comes most clearly to expression as the very backbone in what Kepler himself thought of as his masterpiece Harmonice Mundi from 1619. With this work Kepler wanted to — as the title indicates — show how divine harmony flows through the world and where divine harmony has its source.

Harmonice Mundi consists of five books. The first is about the origin or foundation of world harmony: the regular solids, which prior to all creation lay hidden in the divine spirit and which in the creation are manifested as basic forms and archetypes for all the created. From these solid geometrical figures the plane geometrical shapes also spring. The subject for the second book of Harmonice Mundi is, thus, the congruity between the solid and the plane geometrical shapes. A congruity which consists of the angles which can be established when both the solid and the plane geometrical shapes are intersected by straight lines. In the first and the second book, Kepler works through the prerequisites for the proportions and relations that occur in the division of the geometrical shapes which is the subject of the third book of Harmonice Mundi.

The quantification of the geometrical shapes is the foundation of numbers and mathematics, and numbers are the structuring principle of any harmony. A large part of the third book is thus given over to the numbers, the principles of harmony.

Where the first to the third book are primarily about the archetypal figures, images and proportions of geometry and mathematics, the fourth and fifth book are about how archetypal primal shapes saturate the world. In the fourth book, Kepler describes how the archetypal images are both laid down in the human soul as well as in nature, and at the same time are constantly being activated by the harmonious proportions of the emanations of the stars — so that divine harmony exists both in the external and the internal, is both laid down in the soul a priori and is continually being recreated. The fifth book is the culmination of Kepler's work. The book is, in Kepler's own opinion, at the same time both a work on astronomy and metaphysics. It shows the perfect harmony between the movements of the planets on the one hand, and on the other, the intervals in song and music.

This shows how the human spirit, which forms hearing and musical expression, is the carrier of the same harmonic proportions that God has placed in the outer world in the form of the heavenly movements of the planets. Thus, Kepler has uncovered the harmony of the world.

In Kepler, as well as in the other natural scientists of the 16th and 17th centuries, cognition has the nature of recognition. For the alchemists recognition is instinctive or contemplative and in any case it is spontaneous and not open to discussion. The alchemist spontaneously 'tunes in' on the correspondences of nature and knows, because of inner experience, which plants, minerals, planets and metals correlate with which parts of the body and illnesses. The signatures of nature are read because of spontaneous inner information. The path of recognition is hidden and inaccessible for those who do not have access to the same mental and spiritual experience. At the same time the content of recognition needs no evidence in the outer world: the alchemist experiments and observations of nature only illustrate and show what the natural scientists already know because of their internal experience.

The case is different for Kepler. The problem of recognition is of central importance to him — a problem he consciously reflects upon and illuminates from many different angles in order to achieve clarity on the crucial question: how can internal and external experience meet? How can external experience based on the senses meet with internal spiritual experience based on the archetypal primal images? What is the criteria for, that recognition can take place? How can Kepler know that something in the external world really is harmonious, so that he can witness the true harmony of the world?

Kepler's lifework — to show the Holy Trinity in the created world in the shape of the planets and their movements and internal relationships — demands that God and nature are in relation to one another in such a way that the two things can be compared. It is, however, crystal clear for Kepler that no direct comparison is possible: God's inscrutable nature, God as love or mercifulness, God as an ethical demand can never be on the same level as the orbit of the planets or their mutual distances. The nature of God and the true profusion of nature do not allow comparison and scientific processing. What can be compared and processed scientifically are concepts — and in the final analysis images and symbols. The sphere is 'an image of...the Trinity', the form of the surface exists 'in imitation of the eternal manifestation of the Sun', which is 'symbolised and depicted' in this form. Radius is 'an ... image of the creating spirit'. (Kepler 1982: 215)

'Image', 'imitation', 'symbol', 'depiction' — again and again Kepler stresses that the sphere with its center, radius and periphery is not the Trinity. What is talked about are images, symbolic expressions. Kepler knows he uses images, symbols and concepts, and that they are not identical with reality. In the same way Kepler knows when he is speaking allegorically. In Kepler's introduction to the chapter in Mysterium Cosmographicum, where he describes the planetary system as an image of the Holy Trinity the first lines are:

'Bear with me now, patient reader, if I trifle for a moment with a serious subject, and indulge in allegories a little'. Thereafter follows the description of amongst other things 'the Sun above being the image of God the Father'. (Kepler 1981: 107)

In the same way as the sphere is a pictorial, symbolic expression for God, nature's `true reality' is changed into an image; a concrete concept is created, a concrete, materially based model, a concrete geometrical or mathematical expression, which `illustrates' the empirical evidence.

God and nature's actual and profuse nature denies intellectual and scientific understanding. They are qualitatively different and do not allow themselves to be compared. Only indirectly can wholeness and part be brought into connection with one another. They can relate in images, in symbols and in quantifiable things. God and the individual parts of nature are not identical and the same. The connection can only exist by proxy: via the symbolic and conceptual expressions in which God and Nature — each on their own — allow themselves to be expressed. Only in this way is the comparison possible, which is not just central but crucial for Kepler's theory of knowledge and all of his scientific work.

The comparison between things in the external, sensory world, and at the next step between the external sensory world and the internal primal images, is the final test — if there is no concord then Kepler has found no true harmony.

The basis for Kepler's vision of wholeness and scientific method is, thus, on the one hand a special combination of the legacy of Pythagoras with medieval Christian mysticism.[2] Kepler revises the Pythagorean idea of numbers as the foundation of the world and sees instead the geometric shapes as the archetypal point of departure of the created. And these geometrical shapes are loaded with religious, symbolic meaning by Kepler: the sphere becomes the symbol of the Trinity.

On the other hand, Kepler's scientific work is based on an unusual combination of the Platonic theory of knowledge and the critical empirical method. Cognition is recognition, but recognition is only valid if the external and the internal are exactly alike. This means that Kepler's scientific method of work resembles that of Max Weber: on the basis of the empirical evidence an ideal type is formulated — a concrete concept, a concrete theory which is compared with the internal primal image — the general concept — which, thus, functions as a hypothesis. Or as the method of work often is in Kepler's practice: the primal image forms the starting point for a hypothesis, which has to be compared with empirical evidence in order that it can be verified. Therefore Kepler, on the basis of the empirical evidence —that is to say the astronomical observations — calculates a mathematical or geometrical model, which is then compared with the original hypothesis of the primordial image. If there is not concord then Kepler has not rediscovered or recognized the harmony in the external world. For Kepler observations and calculations serve not as illustrations of an already given a priori, internal knowledge. The empirical proof shows whether the internal primordial image only has the character of a subjective idea, or whether it is of objective validity. The exploration of the external nature has, thus, independent validity in the face of the internal, archetypal image of the hypothesis.

Kepler's approach to the relationship between world and man, wholeness and part allows for a connection .that is not reductionistic. In Kepler's vision of wholeness, wholeness and part, world and man are synchronous. Different levels of reality manifest simultaneous phenomena and expressions, which have a joint core. But the synchronous relation is based not on organic identity, but on formal and pictorial likeness. And it is asserted that likeness means that x and y have something in common, whilst other things are different. Similarity between wholeness and part, world and man occurs, thus, as a phenomenon which demands that both that which is the same, and that which is different have equal weight. The levels of reality carry certain similarities, but similarity does not triumph over difference. Kepler maintains the completely decisive distinction between similarity and identity. Thus wholeness and part, world and man can be connected without being uniformed and leveled.

Thus there are important differences in the ways of relating wholeness and part in the natural philosophy of the 16th and 17th centuries. In a modern perspective, however, it is obvious, that the natural scientists of this period also share ideas that differentiate clearly from modern scientists. First of all none of them ever question the relationship between wholeness and part, cosmos and man. They just disagree — as sketched above — on the very nature of this relationship. Secondly they share essential ideas, that are crucial especially to their concept of order. In the scientific reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries, as in the middle ages order is based on and created by analogy and correspondence, similarity or even identity. But order is never based on difference and diversity as in most modern approaches. Order based on similarity belongs to a world-view, that values stability and community; to a society where change is not seen as progress but as disorder, an interruption leading astray from the original and eternal harmony.

Order based on similarity and order based on difference express and originate from completely different world-views, based on completely different values. In this interpretation the scientific concept of order does not stem from science but from history.


Bohm, D. 1980. Holeness and the implicate order. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Fludd, R. 1979. A Philosophical) Key. In A.G. Debus, Robert Fludd and His Pholosophicall Key, being a Transcription of the Manuscript at Trinity College, Cambridge. New York: Science History Publications.

Kepler, J. 1981. The Secret of the Universe. New York: Abaris Books.

Kepler, J. 1982. Weltharmonik. Munich.

Paracelsus 1975. The Archidoxes of Magic. London: Askin Publishers.

Paracelsus 1976. The Hermetical and Alchemical Writings. Ed. A.E.Waite. California: Shambala Publications.

Pauli, W. 1955. The influence of archetypal ideas on the scientific theories of Kepler. In The interpretation of nature and the Psyke. New York: Pantheon Books.

[1] Kepler's idea of the psychology of love — and in further understanding cognition — is, thus, in many ways parallel to modern psychology's ideas of the inner patterns, traces and images which are basic for the individuals meeting with the world. The similarity is striking, however, in relation to the Jungian psychology. Here it operates not just with individual patterns and images. Jungian psychology is fundamentally founded on the idea of archetypal, primordial images as the actual centres of energy in the soul — an energy which is for Kepler, amongst others, woken by and activated via specific constellations in the outer world. There are, therefore, fundamental similarities between parts of Kepler's ideas of the ways of knowledge and the foundation of Jungian psychology. W. Pauli has pointed this out in relation to the concept of the 'archetype' in Pauli 1955.

[2] Kepler gives Nicolas Cusanus as a crucial source of inspiration in connection with the idea of the geometric shapes as religious symbols. (Kepler 1981: 93ff.)