All moral deeds can be traced back to selflessness, all immoral acts to egotism. Only in ordinary life, a true moral assessment is concealed by the fact that one can be immoral, filled with selfish motives, but still follow the conventional moral rules. However, these are not his own rules at all. He acts according to how he was taught to behave, or because he is ashamed of what others will think. His behaviour is determined in the same way a link is inserted into a chain.
But true morality is part of the human individuality, lives in him. Right actions result from the interest in the other person. Through interest, we acquire the ability to feel and experience what others feel and experience as if it happens to ourselves; the immoral in its origin manifest, where man closes himself off, where he does not feel what other people feel.
Good thinking means one can place oneself in the position of the other person; wrong thinking means there is an inability to transpose oneself in the situation of the other. This inability can become law, can develop into conventional rules. One can either be ashamed or not ashamed when following these rules. As a result, what is selfishness can be significantly hidden under the rules of convention. One cannot assess a person’s moral value by how he acts in a given situation; one has to look deeper into the human character, into human nature to be able to judge the actual moral value of a human being.
Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 221 – Erdenwissen und Himmelserkenntnis – Dornach, February 17, 1923 (page 117-118)
Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger