RSL references

From Anthroposophy

This site uses the following acronyms:

  • RSL is an acronym that stands for Rudolf Steiner Lecture
  • SWCC is an acronym that stipulates that a quote has been 'shortened without contents change' but is not the literal original

Background and challenges

In practice, there are thousands of lectures spread over hundreds of volumes. And, to confuse things further, lectures have been moved from one GA volume to another in consecutive editions. Furthermore, lectures that follow eachother or often in different GA volumes, whereas it can be shown that the chronological context in which the lectures were given does matter, contents-wise.

The best example of this are probably the 80+ karma lectures in 1924, spread across GA volumes un-chronologically. Dale Brunsvold therefore recorded the lectures in chronological sequence, as they were delivered. Studying by listening in this sequence definitely has a unique value.

In the past, to reference any particular reference, initially there were:

  • the Arenson 50 cycles
  • then there was the Schmidt numbering (used eg by Hagemann upto the 1970s)

Lecture references

The FMC (Free Man Creator) project works with a standard format for referencing lectures. It consists of the date of the lecture, followed by its GA number. For example: 1907-04-01-GA096

The date was added for readability, so one can immediately reference a GA volume which is a huge practical advantage. The GA number is and always needs to be three digits so eg GA003 and GA013.

The lecture number within any cycle or book was left out as redundant if the date is given, this lecture number offers no added value in practice.


The consistency of the FMC referencing standard has obvious advantages:

- full text search can use the string to immediately track quotes in large reference files or file systems

- one can easily sort in digital files


  1. certain lectures have been moved between GA volumes in the various versions of each cycle. This could give problems, however these cases are really exceptional and have happened especially in the early editions. The current GA editions have fixed this lecture allocation.
  2. Rudolf Steiner held multiple lectures on certain days, so one might argue the nomenclature is not sufficiently granular to uniquely identify a lecture. This however is exceptional, and usually any doubt resolves itself as either lectures are from different GAs (then no issue), or immediately following eachother (again no issue). Even so in those case where more than one lecture a day exists, the suffixes A, B, .. are used.

Other sources

The RSL lecture reference has been extended for use, whereby NB stands for Notebook, eg '1923-04-08-NB' is a Steiner notebook entry.

However also for lectures of eg Ehrenfried Pfeiffer 'EP', or Karl König 'KK' was used instead as a suffix instead of of GA after the date.

The SWCC acronym: Shortened without Contents Change

SWCC means the text reflects the exact same meaning as the original, but not wordly and literally the original text.

For this site, a choice was made to edit the original quotes from Rudolf Steiner's lectures. Normally this is not done. Here is the rationale.

  • The English translations of the lectures are already not a full reflection of the German original, depending on the translator and editor wordings and phrasing are quite different.
  • The texts are stenographed from spoken lectures. This spoken language was never intended to be treated as the holy gospel, it was intended to convey information, to give an explanation in spoken interaction. Rudolf Steiner always insisted these lectures were not really intended to be published, and not comparable with the books he had written.
  • We are now a century further and with online tools and cultural changes leading to shortened attention span and higher interactivity, our goal has to be to be as efficient and effective as possible to convey the essence.

Therefore the choice was made to have the liberty to try and reduce quotes to the bare essence, without any loss of meaning, and so they can also serve as pointers for further research. The true student will know that more context is needed and go back to read whole lectures. But a pointer can or should not be a replacement of the original lecture texts or explanations, they should just be concise pointers.

Again: this does not mean oversimplify or reduce to an executive summary so a lazy person thinks they 'got it too' by just reading a page. Spiritual science is soul work, and can not be spoon fed, nor hastened. It is a process that requires mental ànd emotional energy, time and persistency, living with questions.

What is meant then with 'shortened'? Specifically, the stenographed lectures are a reflection of the spoken word. Because of the process for publishing the lecture texts, focus was lying on trying to give the best reflection of what was said (stenography, rewritten, then put to typoscript, compared and merged, edited again often multiple times). As Rudolf Steiner pointed out explicitly, this however is not the same as a written book where one constructs sentences in a way to try and convey something with a certain flow and logic.

With shortened is meant that the excerpts, the relevant paragraphs used in quotes on this site, have been rephrased into more condensed phrasing, whereby redundant additions of the spoken language have been removed. The main purpose was and is to give the most densely written essence. This is really a logical consequence that rapidly followed from the mission and intentions for this site, else this MediaWiki site would become overloaded or just a huge dump of Rudolf Steiner lectures excerpts.

The NOGA and XXXX references for GA

In some cases the GA for a lecture is not known, because the lecture has been translated by the FMC initiative directly from the Uranos and Steinerdatenbank and was worked on the basis of original typoscripts. In those cases the NOGA is used instead of the GA prefix with three digits.

Other lectures exceptionally may also lack a GA reference even on rsarchive and steinerdatenbank/uranos sites. Then a XXXX is given.

Related pages

References and further reading

  • 'Zur Qualität der stenografischen Mitschriften von Rudolf Steiners Vorträgenesamtausgabe: Aktueller Stand und Abschlussplanung', Archivmagazin Nr 6, Jun-2017.
  • Irene Diet: 'Ist die «Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe» das Werk Rudolf Steiners? Eine historische Studie' (2013)