Rudolf Steiner's Gesamtausgabe (GA)

From Anthroposophy

The Collected Works (CW) or Gesamtausgabe (GA) of Rudolf Steiner's foundational contribution to spiritual science encompasses some 100.000 pages and consists of over 350 volumes that are hopefully nearing completion by 2025. The majority of the content are the 4550 lectures with notes, from the 6200 lectures given in over 120 cities and 13 countries in the period between 1904 and 1924.

In one century, many hundreds of people worldwide have worked on the GA. Starting with the stenographers and transcribers who created the typoscripts at the time of the lectures. Then generations of editors that not only produced the lecture texts from all available sources, but also worked on the multiple editions through the decades. Then translators from the German originals to the many languages: English, Spanish, Russian, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, .. And ultimately publishers. Not forgetting the audio versions in German and English.

The GA as we know it today therefore has passed through multiple generations, just as there have been many generations who have worked and maintained it, and are still doing so today.

Rudolf Steiner's life timeline

Schema FMC00.124 gives an quick reference overview on Rudolf Steiner's adult life and especially his lecturing activity in the three main seven year periods (in colour), the three moon nodes (in grey on the left), and some milestones in the right columns.

FMC00.124.jpg

History of the GA

To connect to the atmosphere of Berlin in this period 1905-1910 when Steiner held many of the most important lecture cycles, you may want to view for example the first 3 minutes: Berlin atmosphere when Steiner lectured there. There are some periods of say twenty seconds in this short 'evocation' movie that allow one to transpose one's mind to this period when Steiner walked around there on these streets to his lectures.

For a breakdown of the GA in the various elements both in terms of format and contents, we refer to the sources below. Not focusing on the written works or artworks, focus here is on the thousands of lectures that constitute the bulk of the available written materials on spiritual science.

There were five official stenographers, not all professional. The table supports Rudolf Steiner's concern that the texts of the lectures should not be taken as the written word. Not only were the lectures in the spoken word very much tuned to what lived in the audience, but the reflections of these lectures cannot taken verbatim. Furthermore rather heavy editing was applied in the course of decades, where new editors made ever new editions.

Schema FMC00.120 provides a high level overview of the lectures:

FMC00.120.jpg

Before the GA

  • Marie Steiner's work on publishing and owning the editorials , starting 1923 upto her death in 1948
  • Arenson's listing of the top cycles

The GA idea, plan and project initiative

  • First ideas from Ehrenfried Pfeiffer in 1947 and first proposal in 1953 by Teichert and Picht
  • Foundational plan for editorial work and publications by Hella Wiesberger in 1961, updated in 1984 (PDF available in references below)

Roll-out of publications

Schema FMC00.072 below shows the number of GA volumes published per year. Upto 1980 the data is based on Mottelli, afterwards no exact data was available. Since the GA2025 the data is again available.

It shows that in the period 1960-1980 (both years inclusive), a yearly average of 13 volumes per year was published for a total of 277 volumes in those 21 years and for a total of 289 volumes in 1980. This of course was able to build on the large volume of material that had been published in the fifty years from say 1910 to 1960, now fitting al the available publications after re-editing and bundling into the new GA framework.

Although no exact data are available for the period afterwards, it's clear that the pace dropped afterwards in the period 1980 to 2010.

Existing volumes were revised and updated regularly with consecutive editions.

Amazingly, key materials only got published very late, examples are GA089 and GA091.

FMC00.072.jpg

Schema FMC00.073 shows the cumulative number of volumes in the published GA

FMC00.073.jpg

The Uranos/Steinerdatenbank initiative

The making available of original typoscripts, also for unpublished lectures

The GA2025 initiative

Get everything out by 2025, one century after Rudolf Steiner's death, for more info see the GA2025 page.

Individual contributions - a few profiles

Certain individuals have played a key role in the process, others stood out for special reasons. There are too many to mention, but some examples will illustrate:

  • Marie Steiner, and Hella Wiesberger
  • Helene Finck (stenographed some 1700 of the 4500 lectures from which notes exist)
  • Anna Meuss (translator to English)

The English version

History and the first translations

stories from the very early days

The rsarchive initiative

The Collected Works initiative

by the two publishers in US and UK

Practical guidelines

This section gives some practical guidelines for students working in English:

- how to get hold of old translations, use of the audio versions, etc

Tips: take care to trust only one available version if your study goes deep into something where you base yourself upon one lecture. In some cases the version on rsarchive is incomplete or even erroneous (eg 1906-07-29-GA097 on Wagner and blood at the MoG, or the GA215 cycle), or with terrible old translations. You will find the same if you listen to the audio versions, and then go to look for quotes or sections in the rsarchive. If multiple versions are available, parse more than one. In many cases I still bought the books to get better versions scanned and OCR-ed for personal study - thus allowing parsing and annotation. The rsarchive is a wonderful and unique tool, use it but make sure not to stop there.

The English audio version

The pioneer of this effort was Rick Mansell who (translated and) read-to-tape some 1900 lectures of Rudolf Steiner between 1939-1981. These are still available from The Rosenkreuz Institute in the US.

Dale Brunsvold started his reading and recording efforts in 1980 but the website only came in 2005. His rudolfsteineraudio makes available some 2000 files and over 1200 hours of reading time (info 2016).

The GA in other languages

Languages worldwide

Spanish

XL or PDF file here

French

XL or PDF file here

Portuguese

XL or PDF file here

Dutch

XL or PDF file here

Russian

XL or PDF file here

Problems with using the GA

(no critique, just practical consequences of it's structure)

- the segmentation does not respect chronology or context (examples)

- changes in allocation of lectures to GA volumes

The Blackboard Drawings and original illustrations

Discussion


Related pages

References and further reading