Problem statement regarding the study of spiritual science
Rudolf Steiner was the herald of a new stream of spiritual science, for which he provided the foundation in some twenty years of teaching. Writing some core books, supplemented with twenty years of lecturing across Europe in the period 1904-1924.
- vast volume: 5000-6000 lectures complementing his books, grouped in some 400 volumes (books). After 100 years, not everything has been published and 'new' material is still being made available by the official publisher (Steiner Archiv Dornach). Link to Gesambtausgabe project.
- titles of books, or title of lecture, is usually not representative and actually often useless - hence it is misleading as an entry point to organize one's study and navigation upon
- lectures have been grouped per GA volume/book .. but this implies that sometimes the start and continuation of one thread on two days is in two different volumes with totally different title and GA number
- organic coverage and dispersion: each of the many thousands of lectures flows organically as it was held to dynamically take into account the audience, it's attention and interests. One lecture typically covers multiple topics and dimensions. A paragraph or side note of a few sentences may provide a unique key to understanding a certain topic. Suppose each lecture would be - hypothetically - split into subtopics, on average 10 .. then we have 50.000 units of information across hundreds of books.
- availability in english: translation in multiple languages lags behind, so also in English. Link to Collected Works initiative.
- availability in digital format: in German multiple digital version exist, in English the most complete version available online is rsarchive.
- indexes and glossaries: a multitude of cross references and navigational aids exist to assist the student to navigate across the 80.000 pages of information
- no links to vast secondary literature: many, allmost each topic covered in the RSL has been the subject of further research by anthroposophists. However no link or directory list exists.
- no links to bridge to non-anthroposophical subject matter references: eg contemporary scientific research eg on the etheric, anthropology and geology, dead sea scrolls findings, etc
In short: lack of integration.
What has been done is to go from the original transcripts to a clean published texts that are generally available, and to a large extent even in English, and digital. This is a huge first step, however it is far from complete. The missing pieces are often crucial -> buy books, scan and OCR self, or have translated separately when not available.
What has not been done?
make an integrated version that not only takes all relevant quotes and sections on a specific topic, but also produce from this a synthesis .. with didactic efficacy .. so cohesive, complete, without repeats, in a logical flow and structure .. without loosing any richness from the original lectures. This means it could and usually would use literal RSL quotes, obviously with references. But also it would add links to secondary literature (see SoSoG).
In 2013 I just could not believe that in 100 years, this work had not been tackled yet. It appeared so obvious as a must do, a logical consequence .. just reading dozens, then hundreds of lectures .. like most anthro students will do. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but although it is a very good and maybe even necessary first step .. it also has its limitations. For example to reach the full extent on many topics, because much soul-labour-intensive work is required to develop one's insights due to the dispersion, lack of availability .. of the materials. One gazes as incomplete partial puzzles laid with many pieces missing.