Does the statement that a person may not use occult powers for selfish personal gain not somehow constitute an impossible demand for the human being of today? This question we must answer first of all. Those who make this statement set as their first commandment: thou shalt not be selfish! – Of course, that is a supreme decree. Looking at this realistically, what matters is not that one demands such things but whether one can keep them. And whoever believes that the directive not to be selfish can be so easily fulfilled today is surrendering to a grand illusion. Those who consider it their duty to expose misconceptions must also destroy the illusion that it is easy to fulfil such a commandment. Perhaps somewhere, a person will come forward and say: I want to be active in the world in a totally unselfish way!
If someone says that they want to be active in the world totally unselfishly, that is an incredibly beautiful ideal. But if we then question a little further: why do you want to be so unselfish, why do you impose this commandment on yourself? – then one hears curious answers, e.g., by being unselfish, I gradually reach a higher level of development; I cannot bear to be a worthless human being; I want to be a human being of significance to the world. If one were to analyse this feeling, one would find that there is often the most incredible selfishness behind the motive for being selfless. Often much greater selfishness is found in such ideals than in persons who do not want to be selfless but simply pursue their selfish instincts. Follow this train of thought, and you will see how much selfishness is in the drive for selflessness.
Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 101 – Mythen und Sagen Okkulte Zeichen und Symbole – Berlin, 21 oktober 1907 (page 118-119)
Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger