"Floating islands?"

At his blog Quackometer Andy Lewis, webmaster of the blog argues against anthroposophy and Steiner Waldorf education as absurd thoughts and pedagogical quackery.

As an example of this, he in one article quotes from a published discussion by Rudolf Steiner with the Faculty at the first Waldorf School, in Stuttgart, on April 25, 1923, that discussed the curriculum for grade 12 at the school, at a time when Wegener's theory of plate tectonics still was in it infancy.

One of the things Steiner said during a discussion was:

Unfortunately, our main problem is that we must give up the Waldorf School ideal for the twelfth grade. We cannot base the twelfth-grade curriculum upon our principles. We simply have to admit that we must take all the subjects in other high schools into account during the final year. I am looking with some horror at the last semester, when we will have to ignore everything except the subjects required for the final examination. It’s inconceivable that we can work any other way if the students are to pass the final examination. This is really a problem. After thinking about it a long time, I do not think there is much to say about the curriculum for that class except those things we already considered, such as chemical technology and such.

The students are about eighteen, and at that age it is best if they attain an overall understanding of history and art. We should give them an understanding of the spirit of literature, art, and history without, of course, teaching them about anthroposophy. We must try to bring them the spirit in those subjects, not only in the content but also in the way we present them.

With the students, we should at least try to achieve what I have striven for with the workers in Dornach, pictures that make it clear that, for instance, an island like Great Britain swims in the sea and is held fast by the forces of the stars. In actuality, such islands do not sit directly upon a foundation; they swim and are held fast from outside. In general, the cosmos creates islands and continents, their forms and locations. That is certainly the case with firm land. Such things are the result of the cosmos, of the stars. The Earth is a reflection of the cosmos, not something caused from within.

However, we need to avoid such things. We cannot tell them to the students because they would then need to tell them to their professors in the examinations, and we would acquire a terrible name. Nevertheless, that is actually what we should achieve in geography.
The comment is taken from a not corrected transcript. It is an undeveloped short comment that however is understandable against the background of the discussion at the time of the formation of the continents of the Earth and the relation between the Flora and Fauna of the different continents, even if the comment in the form it has, has one of its roots that comes from Herodotus and Solon.

The British Isles are floating, as are the continents, but not on water, but on the interior of the Earth.

What floates are the tectonic plates upon which they are situated, one of them being the one upon which the British Isles are situated. The theory of Alfred Wegener about the tectonic plates was only in its beginning, first published by him in 1912 and not yet generally accepted when Steiner in 1923 made the comment about the substance of the theory, and suggesting (other source than the published Faculty discussion) that Wegener's theory should be taught at Steiner Waldorf schools.

The comment by Rudolf Steiner (who in his twenties worked for Pierer's Encyclopedia, considered by some to be the most valuable and most reliable scientific encyclopedia in the German language. writing a number of articles on geology and mineralogy for the Encyclopedia) about the continents as floating and held in place by “forces from the stars” in an extremely short way indicates an implicit view that the Earth at a very early stage was much softer, and formed by forces that imprinted a structure on it, that made it into a kind of dodecahedron, not in a strict sense with flat surfaces, but with ellipsoid surfaces (the circle being a special case of the ellips), illustrated below with the classical Greek soccer ball.

It also indicates that that basic dodecahedric structure of the very early Earth in Steiner's implicit view is the background for the formation of the tectonic plates at the surface of twelve original magmatic cells, with the surfaces in time having “cooled”, “dried” and partly broken into smaller pieces with the ageing of the Earth.

So far, that view does not need to shock anyone.

But then of course as a possible addition, there’s a possible implicit view, not expressed by Steiner in the comment, but as I think it can be identified, that the twelve original surfaces of the tetrahedric structure of the early Earth to some extent are related to forces from twelve directions in the Zodiak.

The thought to my knowledge has not been penetrated and investigated more in detail, even if the relation of the surfaces of the dodecahedron to the Zodiak is shortly reflected in discussions by Paul Schatz, artist, inventor and technician working out of anthroposophy, in a work on Rhythm Research and Technology on inversion, the turning inside-out of the "Platonic bodies" (Rhythmusforschung und Technik).

The study by Schatz of one possible inversion of the cube, one of the platonic bodies, led to the construction of the Turbula, an extremely efficient mixing machine used in the production of the material used to make Polytetrafluoroethylene, ("Teflon") used to coat non-stick frying pans as it is hydrophobic and possesses fairly high heat resistance.

Steiner's thought on the tectonic plates as originating in forces related to the star world is related to a thought by Wegener that the continental drift (resulting from the movement of the tectonic plates) could have its origin in the slow precession of the Earth's axis in relation the Zodiak.

The very short comment by Steiner in a few sentences on the British Isles reveals how much thinking you often must do to penetrate what he’s really after with repeatedly perplexing comments, in this case how the British Isles are not only part of the surface of the Earth, but that the Earth is part of not only our solar system, but is part of and also formed and has developed out of its relation to Cosmos in a larger perspective, to a degree not normally discussed.

He did not think in only short terms with regard to time or in small terms with regard to space, but on a scale often difficult – but not impossible – to grasp.

With Steiner, often few things are as simple as they may stand out at first. But if you do some thinking about it, it can be very rewarding.