Certain instincts and needs of our innermost being in particular mislead us into deceiving ourselves about our own being. Take the case of a person who is terribly vain, who suffers from a form of megalomania. Such people are by no means few in number.

[…] Vanity and megalomania exist in many souls who have not the very slightest inkling that it is so.

Megalomania gives rise to many wishes …[..] — these wishes do not become conscious, they remain wholly in the depths. Such a person may wish to exercise a controlling influence upon someone else, but because he would have to admit that this desire for control over the other is born of vanity and megalomania, he will not admit it.

[,,,] such a person never gets to the point of saying to himself: ‘What I have in me, producing the desire for action, is really vanity, megalomania.’

[…] 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.”

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

See also: Apparent motives and real motives

Bust by David Dozier