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How do we know what Steiner said?

The historical sources for analyzing the development of Rudolf Steiner‘s thought have been collected by the Rudolf Steiner Archive in Dornach, Switzerland, and have been published in the 330 volumes of complete works. Additional documents continue to be issued every year, and several important volumes from this time period were first published as recently as 2006. From accounts we have from his listeners, Rudolf Steiner‘s lectures were complex, riveting, and each one unique. Almost from the beginning a number of his listeners took notes. Many people of this point received training in stenography in the course of their ordinary education, so there are also fragmentary stenographic records of the early lectures from the period of roughly 1902 to 1906. By 1906 a sufficient number of his audience felt that Steiner’s lectures were so valuable and unique that each one should be stenographically recorded. Steiner himself was ambivalent about the project, feeling on the one hand that no written record could re-create the experience of those who had an opportunity to listen in person. On the other hand, already in 1906 incomplete and, many feared, incorrect editions of notes of his lectures were being circulated, translated, and even published in foreign languages. So Steiner conceded in the interests of accuracy to having professional stenographers record his every lecture, a practice that was consistent by 1908 up to his last lecture in 1924. It is the published versions of these stenographic recordings which make up the vast bulk of the 330 volumes of Steiner’s collected works; his collected writings, including books, articles, fragments, verses, and poetry constitute less than 50 volumes.

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