Apparent motives and real motives

In connection with a series of actions, a man once said to me that he had done them out of an iron sense of duty, out of infinite devotion to the cause he represented. I was bound to say to him in reply: “The opinion you have about the motives of your procedure and of your actions is no criterion whatever. Only reality is the criterion, not the opinion one may have. The reality shows that the impulse, the urge to these actions was to gain influence in a certain direction.” I said to the man quite baldly: “Although you believe that you are acting out of an iron sense of duty, you are really acting under the impulse to acquire influence and you misinterpret this way of acting as being selfless, done purely out of a sense of duty. You are not acting out of this motive but because it pleases you to act so, because it brings you certain pleasure — again, therefore, out of a certain inner impulse.”

Our opinion, our mental picture of ourselves may be extremely complicated; it may not resemble in the very remotest degree what is really dominating and weaving in the soul. it may be extremely complicated. You will admit at once that such things must be known when it is a question of living in a world of truth and not in a world of Maya; you will also admit at once that it is necessary now and then to speak of such things in a radical way! The reasons which as genuine, true reasons, drive us to our actions, can only become clear to us slowly and by degrees, when through Spiritual science, we really have knowledge of the secret connections existing between the human being and the world.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 161 – The Problem of Death: Lecture 1 – Dornach, February 5, 1915