Rudolf Steiner on the lecture transcripts

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Rudolf Steiner writes about the lecture transcripts in his unfinished autobiography "The Story of My Life":

„There are now two results from my anthroposophical work; firstly, my books published before the whole world, and secondly, a large series of courses which were at first intended as private prints and were to be for sale only to members of the Theosophical (later Anthroposophical) Society. These were transcripts which were more or less well done during the lectures and which - due to lack of time - could not be corrected by me. I would have preferred it if orally spoken words had remained orally spoken words. But the members wanted the private printing of the courses. And so it came about. If I had had time to correct things, there would have been no need for the "members only" restriction from the beginning. Now it has been dropped for more than a year.

Here in "The Story of My Life" it is necessary to say above all how the two: my published books and these private prints fit into what I worked out as Anthroposophy.

Whoever wants to follow my own inner struggle and work for the placing of Anthroposophy before the consciousness of the present time must do so by means of the generally published writings. In them I have also dealt with all the striving for knowledge that is present in our time. There is given what has more and more developed for me in "spiritual seeing", what has become the edifice of Anthroposophy - though in many respects in an imperfect way.

Alongside this demand to build up "Anthroposophy" and thereby only to serve what arose when one had to hand over messages from the spiritual world to the general educated world of today, there now came the other demand to also fully meet what revealed itself out of the membership as a need of the soul, as a spiritual longing.

Above all, there was a strong inclination to hear the Gospels and the scriptural content of the Bible presented in the light that had emerged as anthroposophical. People wanted to hear about these revelations given to humanity in courses.

By holding internal lecture courses in the spirit of this demand, another one was added. Only members attended these lectures. They were familiar with the initial Anthroposophical communications. One could speak to them in the same way as to those who were more advanced in the field of Anthroposophy. The attitude of these internal lectures was one that could not be found in writings intended entirely for the public.

I was allowed to speak in internal circles about things which, if they had been intended for public presentation from the beginning, I would have had to formulate differently.

So in the duality, the public and the private writings, there is in fact something that comes from two different substrata. The entirely public writings are the result of what wrestled and worked within me; in the private writings, society wrestles and works along with me. I listen to the vibrations in the soul life of the membership, and in my living inner life in what I hear there, the attitude of the lectures arises.

Nowhere is anything said that is not the purest result of the Anthroposophy that is being built up. There is no question of any concession to prejudices or preconceptions of the membership. Whoever reads these private prints can take them in the fullest sense as precisely what Anthroposophy has to say. For this reason, when the accusations in this direction became too pressing, it was possible without hesitation to abandon the idea of distributing these prints only among the membership. It will just have to be accepted that there are errors in the originals which I have not checked.

However, a judgement on the content of such a private print can only be granted to those who know what is assumed as a prerequisite for judgement. And for the vast majority of these prints this is at least the anthroposophical knowledge of the human being, of the cosmos, in so far as its essence is presented in anthroposophy, and of that which is found as 'anthroposophical history' in the communications from the spiritual world.“ (Lit.:GA 28, p. 480f)

Rudolf Steiner already pointed out the fundamental problem of lecture transcripts in a lecture given in Dornach on 28 December 1914:

„What spiritual science in particular wants is that the human being should not go sleeping and dreaming through what the world karma imposes upon him. But people who do not want to know anything about spiritual science go through all the influences of the ahrimanic and luciferic life asleep and dreaming. They are exposed to these influences and effects, even if they themselves know nothing of them. But life cannot go on in this way, for life can only go on consciously, and this is what spiritual science is for, that men should not go through the world asleep and dreaming, but should recognise the environment in which they live. But this requires that we really get involved in the intimacies, I would say, of the spiritual-scientific enterprise - pardon the word. Such intimacies are often ignored, and I can find this when I read transcripts of lectures I have given. I can find that what must often be important to me does not appear in the transcripts. Take just two things from what I have just said. I used a phrase earlier and said that spiritual science does not want something, but should want or has to want something. This is a certain expression that comes naturally to those who speak from the spirit of spiritual science, for spiritual science leads quite naturally to a more impersonal grasp of the truths of spiritual life than the other sciences. Speaking in the style of the other sciences, one would say: Spiritual science wants something. - But it says: How it should want or must want. - And I say: How I must express myself - and not: How I express myself.

It is precisely such intimacies that are important; we must not ignore them. On the contrary, we must begin to believe that it is important for spiritual science to reach into the innermost part of the human soul and also to be able to transform it, and therefore it is not acceptable to approach spiritual science with the same way of thinking that we are accustomed to from our outer life.“ (Lit.:GA 275, p. 29f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.