I have received many comments about the
publication here of Rudolf Steiner's First Class Lessons. Most
of these comments have been positive, expressing the writers'
thanks for finally being able to have access to the Lessons.
But there have also been messages expressing surprise, even
shock at seeing them online and available to everyone who may
be interested. So I decided that it's time to write an
“apologia” (not an apology).
Those who object to the publication do so
on both legal and moral grounds — I assume. I'll start with the
legal aspect, because it's the easiest. All of Rudolf Steiner's
literary work has been in the public domain since the year 2000.
Previously it was the property of his literary estate, in the
legal person of the “Nachlassvereinigung” in Dornach,
and before that to Marie Steiner; never to the General
Anthroposophical Society. Being in the public domain means that
the original German works may now be published by anyone and
read by everyone.
A translation is a different matter. Its
copyright may belong to the translator or to the publisher.
There already is an English translation issued by the
Anthroposophical Society of Great Britain and, I believe,
copyrighted by that body. There may be other translations of
which I am not aware.
The translations published in
SouthernCrossReview.org are new and are mine. So I could claim
copyright if I wanted to. But my point is that I have the right
to publish my own translations of texts which are in the public
domain in their original language — without needing permission
from anyone, least of all the General Anthroposophical
Now for the moral issue. Those who object
to the publication in English and free availability to everyone
of these texts are probably thinking about Rudolf Steiner's
admonitions that the texts, and especially the mantras, are
available exclusively to members of the First Class of the Free
School for Spiritual Science. In respect to the mantras, he
said that if they got into the wrong hands their esoterically
positive effect on those for whom they were intended would
vanish. In other words they would no longer be effective, no
longer be alive. It is an occult rule.
However, Rudolf Steiner died in 1925. The
esoteric school since then has consisted of continuous readings
of the transcripts of the unfinished First Class by so-called
officially appointed “readers”. The second and
third classes were of course never even begun. To believe that
the Esoteric School still exists is an illusion.
The texts in German are available to the
public since they have been in the public domain. If we take
what Steiner said seriously, the esoteric effect of the mantras
no longer exists. Now the student must create his own effect
with the help of the mantras.
If the texts are available in German, why
should they not be available in other languages, especially
English, in order to be studied by members and non-members of
the G.A.S and the Free School who do not understand
Practically everything Rudolf Steiner wrote
and said has been published in German. Keeping certain works,
such as the First Class Lessons, secret for some and not for
others, no longer corresponds to the times. The time for
secrets in esoteric life is over. The publication of the First
Class texts in English, and their availability to non-German
speaking interested individuals and groups is a reflection of
Frank Thomas Smith