Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.
G. I. Gurdjieff
From the dawn of exact knowledge to the present day, observation, experiment, and speculation have gone hand in hand; and, whenever science has halted or strayed from the right path, it has been, either because its votaries have been content with mere unverified or unverifiable speculation (and this is the commonest case, because observation and experiment are hard work, while speculation is amusing); or it has been, because the accumulation of details of observation has for a time excluded speculation.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Science works because the phenomenon being described can be relied on to remain the same. Even in quantum physics, where phenomena are changed by observation, the way in which observation interferes is regular and falls within a limited range of possibilities. Human culture, however, has the nasty habit of never staying the same for very long.
Literature especially has an interesting relationship to photography - to observation, to description, to fiction: taking something that you see and elaborating, jamming, and I think, staging.... taking that moment of observation and letting it go, giving it some wings, following it, rather than nailing it. You're riffing off of reality.
As there is not in human observation proper means for measuring the waste of land upon the globe, it is hence inferred, that we cannot estimate the duration of what we see at present, nor calculate the period at which it had begun; so that, with respect to human observation, this world has neither a beginning nor an end.
It is better to use this available energy for your observation, inner observation. Just watch everything - and it is good because you have nothing much to do. You have not to go here and there and visit people and become a member of the Rotary Club. You are saved from so much nonsense that I felt really jealous of you! Enjoy it! And feel sorry for everybody else! They are poorer and you can become immensely rich. And the art of that richness is witnessing. Witnessing is another name for meditation.
Awareness is observation without choice, condemnation, or justification. Awareness is silent observation from which there arises understanding without the experiencer and the experienced. In this awareness, which is passive, the problem or the cause is given an opportunity to unfold itself and so give its full significance. In awareness there is no end in view to be gained, and there is no becoming, the 'me' and the 'mine' not being given the continuity.
Drawing instruction is a training towards perception, exact observation and exact presentation not of the outward appearances of an object, but of its constructive elements, its lawful forces-tensions, which can be discovered in given objects and of the logical structures of same-education toward clear observation and clear rendering of the contexts, whereby surface phenomena are an introductory step towards the three-dimensional.
We know nothing of the principle of health, the positive of which pathology is the negative, except from observation and experience. And nothing but observation and experience will teach us the ways to maintain or to bring back the state of health. It is often thought that medicine is the curative process. It is no such thing; ... nature alone cures. ... And what [true] nursing has to do ... is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him.
A man's knowledge may be said to be mature, in other words, when it has reached the most complete state of perfection to which he, as an individual, is capable of bringing it, when an exact correspondence is established between the whole of his abstract ideas and the things he has actually perceived for himself. His will mean that each of his abstract ideas rests, directly or indirectly, upon a basis of observation, which alone endows it with any real value; and also that he is able to place every observation he makes under the right abstract idea which belongs to it.
To consider the matter aright, reason is nothing but a wonderful and unintelligible instinct in our souls, which carries us along a certain train of ideas, and endows them with particular qualities, according to their particular situations and relations. This instinct, 'tis true, arises from past observation and experience; but can anyone give the ultimate reason, why past experience and observation produces such an effect, any more than why nature alone should produce it?
In my first publication I might have claimed that I had come to the conclusion, as a result of serious study of the literature and deep thought, that valuable antibacterial substances were made by moulds and that I set out to investigate the problem. That would have been untrue and I preferred to tell the truth that penicillin started as a chance observation. My only merit is that I did not neglect the observation and that I pursued the subject as a bacteriologist. My publication in 1929 was the starting-point of the work of others who developed penicillin especially in the chemical field.
There is no ideal in observation. When you have an ideal, you cease to observe, you are then merely approximating the present to the idea, and therefore there is duality, conflict, and all the rest of it. The mind has to be in the state when it can see, observe. The experience of the observation is really an astonishing state. In that there is no duality. The mind is simply - aware.
Science starts with preconception, with the common culture, and with common sense. It moves on to observation, is marked by the discovery of paradox, and is then concerned with the correction of preconception. It moves then to use these corrections for the designing of further observation and for more refined experiment. And as it moves along this course the nature of the evidence and experience that nourish it becomes more and more unfamiliar; it is not just the language that is strange [to common culture].
J. Robert Oppenheimer
The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves "inside the skin" of the other. We "go inside" their body, feelings, and mental formations, and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering. We must become one with the subject of our observation. When we are in contact with another's suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us. Compassion means, literally, "to suffer with."
In all of knowable reality, God is unique. He is knowable not like the multiplication table or the table of elements; he alone is knowable as the one totally in control of being known. He is not at the disposal of the human mind. He is known when he wills to be known. Yet he is known in and through created reality, which is known naturally. Therefore the glory of God is exalted most not when we know God apart from observation and reading and study, but when we know God as a result of his free and gracious self-revelation in and through our earnest observation of and meditation on his work and Word in history.
Observation and theory get on best when they are mixed together, both helping one another in the pursuit of truth. It is a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in a theory until it has been confirmed by observation. I hope I shall not shock the experimental physicists too much if I add that it is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they have been confirmed by theory.
Do you remember, " he said, "one of Holmes's little scores over Watson about the number of steps up to the Baker Street lodging? Poor old Watson had been up and down them a thousand times, but he had never thought of counting them, whereas Holmes had counted them as a matter of course, and knew that there were seventeen. And that was supposed to be the difference between observation and non-observation. Watson was crushed again, and Holmes appeared to him more amazing than ever. Now, it always seemed to me that in that matter Holmes was the ass, and Watson the sensible person. What on earth is the point of keeping in your head an unnecessary fact like that? If you really want to know at any time the number of steps to your lodging, you can ring up your landlady and ask her.
Sophia was asked to speak to the students of a local medical school. 'Sophia, what do we need to be better doctors?' the students asked. 'Doctors, ' Sophia said, 'need strong stomachs and strong powers of observation.' Then she opened a canister. The putrid smell quickly moved through the classroom. Sophia stuck a finger in the jar, pulled it up, and then licked it. She passed the jar around encouraging each doctor in training to do the same. Each did, and though many felt nauseas, no one got sick. 'You all have very strong stomachs, ' she said. 'But your powers of observation need some work.' 'What do you mean?' they asked. 'We did just what you did.' 'There is one difference, ' she replied. 'The finger I dipped in the jar was not the finger I licked.
David W. Jones