Egotism and Altruism

Under certain circumstances, what is called love may, however, be very self-seeking. Observation of life will show how often what is called love is self-seeking. But an egotism extended beyond the person may also be very selfless, that is, it may protect, cherish and take care of what belongs to it.

By such examples as these, my dear friends, we ought to learn that life cannot be parcelled out according to ideas. We talk of egotism and altruism, and we can make very beautiful systems with such ideas as egotism and altruism. But facts tear such systems to pieces; for when egotism so extends its interests to what is around it that it considers this as part of itself, and thus cherishes and takes care of it, it then becomes selflessness; and when altruism becomes such that it only wishes to make the whole world happy according to its own ideas, when it wishes to impress its thoughts and feelings on the whole world with all its might, and wishes to adopt the axiom, ‘If you will not be my brother, I will break your head,’ then even altruism may become very self-seeking. The reality which lives in forces and in facts cannot be enclosed in ideas, and a great part of that which runs counter to human progress lies in the fact that in immature heads and immature minds there arises again and again the belief that the reality can in some way be bottled up in ideas.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 145 – The Effect of Occult Development Upon the Self and the Sheaths of Man – Lecture VII – The Hague, 26th March 1913

Previously posted on March 4, 2014

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