We know so much.
We are so terribly well-informed. Mails stream into my mailbox daily that tell me “the truth” about this or that greater or smaller event, with links to further information (or disinformation). Many people hastily point out new “news” and share it with dozens or hundreds, like a good friend who just wrote: “Don’t miss this”, and then just attached a link to a website.
We are like dogs driven around in an arena snapping for all sorts of information thrown in our direction. Or like the seagulls I could observe in the port of San Diego last autumn. They were following our sailing boat as soon as we started to throw pieces of bread up into the air. The quickest ones managed to catch the pieces in mid-air without in the least banging into their colleagues. Brilliant.
Do we want to become running dogs, hunting for information with our tongues hanging out, or like seagulls competing with each other to get the first bits?
In this inhuman info-hunting game all is momentary. We feel almost ashamed to think of the moment that has just past. We continually want to be in the latest, the present moment.
Dante? Homer? Steiner? They are all of yesterday, all passed. We have no time to look back. We are driven into the present moment like sheep into a pen, fed with the latest info found on the electronic pastures of the internet.
But information is not knowledge. It has to be digested, sorted out. Do we know how to sort out the essential from the inessential? To do this, thought is needed. But alas, there has never been an age with so much information and so little – thought.
Let us pause for a moment and look at the greater truths. What is The Present Age?
After the close of the Kali Yuga on 19 February 1899 we are in the beginning of an Era of Light which will carry us through another 4900 years to come. This is a truly long “moment” called “The Present Age”. We should not get dizzy looking up to such a lofty presence which fills up the whole horizon. This is the era of a new faculty to grasp the supersensible realities we once knew and then gradually lost.
But within this long present age we are presently at the darkest spot, around the time of the incarnation of Ahriman.
Ahriman’s weapons are sense-knowledge and quantity. He works with the sheer quantity of information. He wants us to believe: you have to strive to know everything. And only then you can understand and begin to form a modest judgment. What seeming modesty! What an illusion! No-one can ever know everything. It’s the wrong question. It’s not the quantity that’s decisive, but the quality. How do we know the essential, the things that have real weight? This is the real question.
To do this we need to develop the faculty of discernment.
As the young Elisabeth Vreede, later a member of the Executive Council of the Anthroposophical Society, wrote her thesis, she was confronted with a mass of useless information. She told Rudolf Steiner about this, and how she went to the library, got the first book, got the second book, got the third book, all useless regarding the subject. Finally the thirteenth book contained something valuable. Steiner looked at her, smiled and said: “you have to learn to immediately grasp the thirteenth book.”
That requires that we trust in our ability to find the essential. We could go even further and say: We have to become magnets for the essential, so that it may find us.
Such attitudes and abilities cannot be developed as long as we constantly remain under the bombarding shower of information.
Do we really know? Only if we deepen info-knowledge by developing the “sense for the thirteenth book”.