Problem statement regarding the study of spiritual science

From Anthroposophy

This is a (very) old page that needs updating

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.


  • search by title doesn't work: the title of a lecture cycle book, or the title of a lecture, is usually not representative and actually often not even relevant - hence the titles are misleading to base ourselves upon as a specific and directed entry point to organize one's study and navigation upon
  • lectures have been grouped per GA volume .. but this implies that sometimes the start and continuation of one thread over two or more days is now split across two different volumes with different title and GA number
  • organic flow, coverage and dispersion: each of the many thousands of lectures flows organically as it was held to dynamically take into account the audience, its attention and interests. One lecture typically covers multiple topics. However, a single paragraph or side note of a few sentences may provide a unique key to understanding a certain topic. Sometimes this is just a single phrase. Now supposing we divide each lecture - hypothetically - into an average of subtopics or content threads that are covered .. then we get some 50.000 'units of information' dispersed across several hundreds of books.
  • availability in english: translation in various languages lags behind, and this is also the case for English. The US and UK publishers have a Collected Works initiative but not even a list per GA of what is available and what not, one cannot even search per GA number on their websites.
  • availability in digital format: in German multiple digital versions exist, in English the most complete digital 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 approximately 100.000 pages of information
  • no links to the vast secondary literature: almost each topic covered in by Rudolf Steiner in the Gesambtausgabe, has been the subject of further research by one or more anthroposophists. However no overview directory or links exist on a subject or topic basis.
  • 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

Bottom line

In short: lack of integration.

What has been done is to go from the original transcripts to 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 could just not believe that in these 100 years, this work of integration had not been tackled yet. It appeared so obvious, as a must do, a logical consequence from just reading first dozens, then hundreds of lectures .. like most anthro students will do. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course, but although it is a very good and maybe the best and necessary first step .. it also has its limitations.

For example: to reach the full extent on many topics, one strives for complete coverage because one needs the multiple perspectives. One gazes at an incomplete partial puzzles laid with many pieces missing. However lots of effort gets lost in just the practical aspects of searching due to the dispersion and lack of availability of the materials. Then again, as students of spiritual science, we should not complain because on the positive side, we are priviledged that we have never been in a better position.

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