I claim that all actions are selfish because they originate in the self. Max Stirner disagrees completely. He says that the world is full of selflessness. As an example, he cites a young lady forgoing the pleasures of sex for the abstract notion of virginity. He sees selflessness everywhere: People are always sacrificing their own interest for their countries, their religions, their philosophies, and a thousand other alien causes. He calls such external motivations +spooks+ and says that the selfless are mad. He chides the 19th century liberals for replacing the Spook God with the spook MAN. I believe MAN means to him the idea that mankind should be the beneficiary of human actions.
Keeping Stirner's spooks in mind, let's consider Spock, Captain Kirk's second-in-command on the science fiction show Star Trek. With a few dramatic exceptions, Spock is supposed to be the perfectly rational being. He differs from his shipmates in three major ways.
1. He possesses an enormous amount of information, often more than is necessary for the task at hand.
2. He displays no emotions.
3. His motives are unmixed.
Everything he does is for the greater glory of Starfleet. Spock is not concerned with other people's feelings or safety except as they relate to the good of Starfleet. He is even indifferent to his own dignity and life. He has made Starfleet's interests his own. From Stirner's point of view, Spock is the essence of irrationality; he is haunted by an alien cause. Spock's spook is Starfleet.
Spock has a good mind and vast amounts of knowledge, but they are of no service to him or his interests because he acts only for the benefit of his spook. The more intelligently he acts, the crazier he is. If he were stupid, he might at least act for himself by mistake every once in a while. Stirner would pronounce him insane, but I think the matter is more complicated than that. Somehow, Spock has converted Starfleet into his own mental property. By acting for Starfleet he is acting for something in himself. I'd have more respect for his intelligence if his motives were more mixed, and I think he might have made a wiser choice of spook. I don't know if anyone is smart enough to choose his spook, but I wouldn't call Spock insane or selfless.
Let's consider someone closer to human: Hillary Clinton. She was born and raised in affluence. Her high school ambition was to marry a senator and live in Georgetown. She campaigned for Goldwater in 1964. But something happened to her. A minister from her church took her and some of her classmates on tours of the poverty stricken areas around her. Apparently, this minister had a profound influence on her life. She is reminiscent of the stories told about the Buddha. He was a prince whose parents kept from him the knowledge of disease, suffering, and death. When he first saw these things with his own eyes, he decided to devote his life to understanding them.
Hillary attended Wellesley where she learned to put her compassion and sense of fairness into a political framework. Hillary was then no longer selfish; she was haunted by a political spook. In Stirner's eyes, she had become insane and was ruining her life in the service of others. Despite Stirner's judgement, Hillary suffered no decrease in her standard of living. Just the opposite, she has become quite wealthy. It's interesting to note that the selfish Stirner lived in poverty and his burial was financed by the charity of his friends.
We could ask about her inner condition. Of course, we can never get into another person's mind, but Hillary gives a good impression of being happy. She doesn't seem like a person who is haunted by a troublesome poltergeist. On the contrary, she seems to derive assurance and self respect from her spook. She traveled around the country villifying greedy doctors, profiteering drug companies, and underinsured yuppies with complete confidence. Lenny Bruce once said something like this, "As long as anyone is cold or hungry, a preacher in a three piece suit is a despicable hypocrite." I suppose you could apply this condemnation to political do-gooders, but this thought has apparently never troubled Ms. Clinton. Far from it. She pictures herself as one of a few heros living in a world occupied by victims and villains. Her own riches, which were obtained in questionable ways, don't seem to keep her awake nights. The moral of all this is fairly clear: Selflessness pays. No selfishness could match the benefits of her self sacrifice.
Few of those who are haunted by spooks grow as rich as Hillary in their service. If I am right about all actions' being selfish, spooks must provide other benefits. I would guess that most people want to be benevolent to others; they want to do good. Any spook worth its name will give its hauntee the warm glow of selflessness. It should also make a person feel that he is involved in something very important, and so increase his self-esteem. In doing these two things, the spook gives the hauntee a more tangible benefit. Remember how Spock showed no emotion? In general, Spock simply did not deal with other life forms on any kind of equal level. A man who is sufficiently haunted by a spook does not have to face the give and take of human relations. He does not have pay the usual homage to other people simply because they are people. He deals with people from the perspective of his spook. If you don't like him, he will tell you "It's not me but the Spook in me." He has become a GREAT MAN and is no longer subject to the duties and responsibilities that we selfish people are subject to.
Do I wish I had a Spook? Do I wish I were haunted? Of course, I do. I often think of the lives of monks in monasteries. They go through their simple lives each day with the complete conviction that they are doing exactly what God wants them to. Who wouldn't want to be that arrogant. But I have this one piece of knowledge: All action is selfish. It stands like that Angel with the flaming sword excluding me from the Eden of Spookdom. I am flawed.