IN ANSWER TO AYN RAND


Preface


In October 1968, an article by Ayn Rand called "To Whom It May Concern"

was published in the May 1968 issue of The Objectivist. In the article, Rand announced that she had broken her personal and professional ties with two long-time associates, Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. To explain the break, Rand accused the Brandens of various acts of wrongdoing.

Nathaniel and Barbara Branden prepared a response to Rand's statement and mailed it to all of The Objectivist's subscribers. Their response is in two part.


IN ANSWER TO AYN RAND


by Nathaniel Branden


It is with great reluctance and sadness that I take up the task of responding to the charges and accusations against Barbara Branden and myself made by Ayn Rand in her article "To Whom It May Concern" (The Objectivist, May 1968).

The charges and accusations stated by Miss Rand are, in the overwhelming majority of cases, either false or so misleading as to be false by implication. It is very unfortunate that Miss Rand chose to make a tragic, highly personal conflict between us the occasion of a public scandal, through the publication of her article; she has left me no choice but to make my response equally public. It is the most distasteful duty I have ever had to perform. But my name, reputation and career are at stake--and I am obliged to defend myself.

Since many of the accusations are directed against Barbara Branden, she has made her own statement, which follows mine.On the charge that, for the past three years, I have been losing interest in Objectivism and in serious intellectual concerns.


During the past three years, I have been engaged in writing (and publishing in The Objectivist) some of my most important theoretical papers in the field of psychology--papers that Miss Rand has praised as being brilliantly original and of revolutionary importance. During this period, I was working on my first major treatise in psychology, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, and had begun making notes for two books to follow it. I created and delivered (at Nathaniel Branden Institute) two new lecture courses: The Psychology of Mental Illness and The Psychology of Romantic Love. I organized and conducted my first workshops in Objectivist psychotherapy. My company signed a fifteen-year lease (and committed itself to a financial obligation of nearly half-a-million dollars) with the Empire State Building, to house an Institute to teach Objectivism. I accepted a publisher's proposal to edit a book which was to deal with various aspects of Objectivism and the Objectivist movement, and had begun lining up authors for this project. (The project has now been abandoned.)Approximately eighteen months ago, I decided to produce Barbara Branden's stage adaptation of Miss Rand's novel The Fountainhead--a decision which Miss Rand describes as "the clearest indication" of my "departure from the principles of Objectivism" and from serious intellectual concerns. Inasmuch as The Fountainhead is one of the two most famous Objectivist works, it is bewildering to read that the desire to produce a play based on this novel can be construed as a "departure from the principles of Objectivism."The Fountainhead project arose in the following way.

Since early adolescence, I have had two passionate interests: psychology and fiction (later, my interest in fiction centered on the desire to write for the stage). Miss Rand and I had often remarked, across the years, on this interesting parallel between us, in that she, too, has a dual professional interest: philosophy and fiction. Neither of us regarded one interest as incompatible with the other. Two years ago, I decided that, when I finished my book on self-esteem, I would write a play. Being totally out of sympathy with current trends in the theater, and not wanting to be dependent on established institutions, I decided to found an organization--NBI Theater--devoted to producing plays of the Romantic school of drama. The choice for the first production was among Ideal, Think Twice (two plays by Miss Rand that had never been produced), and a stage adaptation of The Fountainhead, to be written by Barbara Branden. I discussed the matter with Miss Rand, and we agreed that The Fountainhead was the logical choice, since it was an already famous property and, if successful, would pave the way for the production of Ideal, Think Twice and future plays of my own.

Miss Rand implies (since she names it first) that my chief reason for wishing to begin with a production of The Fountainhead was to give Barbara Branden (from whom, incidentally, I had been separated since 1965) a "professional start." This is untrue. Miss Rand and I both knew that Mrs. Branden had no desire for a career as a playwright, that she intended to become a novelist (and already had a publisher interested in her as yet unwritten novel), and that although the Fountainhead project was attractive to her, it was far from crucially important to her long-range professional goals. (I stress this because of Miss Rand's repeated attempts, throughout her article, to convey the notion that she was being exploited professionally.)Contrary to Miss Rand's assertion, it is not true that the Fountainhead project, at any point, took up "a major part" of my time; it never took up more than a small portion of my time. (Miss Rand's statement that she consented to the Fountainhead project only when "he assured me that it would not interfere with his primary intellectual responsibilities," suggests that I was obliged to justify to her the disposition of my time and energies, which, of course, I was not.)My delay on some of my articles for The Objectivist, which Miss Rand cites as an example of my intellectual "default," had no connection with the Fountainhead project; the delays were caused by the theoretical complexity of the issues about which I was writing--and, in addition, by the growing strain and friction in my relationship with Miss Rand.

It is also relevant to mention that, when our publication was founded, I never committed myself to writing an article per issue, nor would I have agreed to make such a commitment. I was obliged to write for almost every issue because mutual friends who had promised to write for our magazine, proved unable to do so.

As to Miss Rand's other "example" of my intellectual "default," namely, her charge that I failed to revise, reorganize and update my lectures on "Basic Principles of Objectivism"--I have been carrying on this process of revision for several years. It is true, however, that at the time I closed NBI (August 1968), I had not yet begun a total rewrite of the course, which I had planned to do in 1969.

Such is the nature of my alleged loss of interest in Objectivism and in serious intellectual concerns.On the charge that Miss Rand was professionally and financially exploited by me.


In support of this charge, Miss Rand mentions that she had no financial interest in NBI or its affiliates. She stresses the fact that she received no money from the various NBI organizations, beyond a "small royalty" on her recordings and a modest fee for her NBI lectures and for her Introduction to Calumet 'K' (published by NBI Press). Miss Rand does not mention that when, several times across the years, I raised the question of NBI remunerating her, she consistently took the position that this would be inadvisable, since it was important to her from a public relations point of view to have no financial connection with NBI. (As to the "small royalty," it is the standard percentage in the trade, and the figure was proposed to me by one of Miss Rand's attorneys.)In view of the contribution that NBI and its affiliates have made to Miss Rand's career and to the spread of her ideas, in view of the fact that she repeatedly told me that the creation of an Objectivist movement was my achievement, and in view of the fact that she said, on more than one occasion, that no one had ever done for any thinker in history what I have done for her--her complaint that she was not paid by me comes with astonishing lack of grace.

For a person who has always taken a (justifiable) pride in her self-assertiveness and in her advocacy of an ethics of self-interest, Miss Rand seems strangely eager, in her article, to convey a picture of herself as a disinterested (and somewhat helpless) altruist. She states that one of her motives in lending her support to NBI was "to help Nathaniel Branden make a name for himself." The fact is that, in the early years of NBI, Miss Rand was enormously skeptical about the success of the entire undertaking, and was continually and incredulously congratulating me on my "courage" in attempting a project that brought me into conflict with the whole culture (including my own profession). If my goal in founding NBI was "to make a name" for myself--or, for that matter, to earn a livelihood--there were and are easier ways to do it. My motive was selfish, but it was not the motive Miss Rand wishes to imply: my motive was the desire to fight for the spread of ideas I knew to be true and important. Mrs. Branden's motive was the same.

Now let us consider The Objectivist.

The Objectivist (originally, The Objectivist Newsletter) began with two commercial assets, not one: the value of Miss Rand's name--and the NBI mailing list (which provided the first source of subscribers and allowed the publication to operate in the black from its first issue).

In addition to writing my articles and doing editorial work, I was to be responsible for the financial, business, production and promotional aspects of our publication, as part of my contribution to our partnership. Miss Rand always evidenced a lack of interest in business procedures, and made it clear that she was content to leave the supervision of the business aspects of the magazine to me.

It is worth mentioning that, as recently as late June of this year, Miss Rand told me (as she had told me several times before) that she had always wanted a steady source of income apart from her books and that she was grateful to me for making it possible, through The Objectivist, which, she said, she could not have created without me.

Miss Rand's chief complaint concerning The Objectivist involves a loan made by the magazine to NBI in July, 1967. The facts relevant to this loan are as follows.

When NBI, NBI Book Service and The Objectivist had offices at 120 E. 34th Street, each corporation had a lease in its own name. When the three companies moved to the Empire State Building last year, NBI undertook to assume full responsibility for the lease--partly because Miss Rand expressed apprehension over the fact that the lease was for fifteen years. Thus, at the Empire State Building, The Objectivist was given the financial protection of being a sub-tenant of NBI, without the commitment of a lease.

NBI was required to pay one year's rent in advance--which meant that its sub-tenants, The Objectivist and NBI Book Service, should and would share proportionately in that advance payment; this fact was discussed more than once in Miss Rand's presence; she had full knowledge of it.

As is normal for a rapidly growing business, NBI required loans from time to time, and, on several past occasions, NBI had made interest-bearing loans from The Objectivist. These loans are a matter of record and were, of course, reported in The Objectivist's financial statements. In no case did Miss Rand challenge my judgment in making these loans. It was the custom of The Objectivist to augment its subscription income by purchasing interest-bearing certificates or bonds with its surplus funds. The reason for sometimes taking loans from The Objectivist rather than from a bank, was to give The Objectivist the benefit of the interest payments. NBI never encountered any difficulty in obtaining whatever bank loans it required.

NBI's busiest period was during the fall and winter months; as a consequence, it tended to have a low cash flow during the summer months. For this reason, in June of 1967, Mr. Wilfred Schwartz, NBI's Administrative Director and The Objectivist's Business Manager, recommended to me that NBI borrow $16,500 from The Objectivist, in addition to obtaining a portion of the year's rent in advance (more precisely, the sum of $6,000)--a total of $22,500. (I have no idea where Miss Rand obtained the figure of $25,000; that figure does not appear anywhere in The Objectivist's or NBI's financial statements.)Only part of that $16,500 was borrowed by NBI for the purpose of paying its own rent. The rest was used for fixed improvements of the premises, and to purchase equipment to be used jointly by NBI, NBI Book Service and The Objectivist. Part of the cost of these improvements and equipment was later charged back to NBI Book Service and The Objectivist.

Contrary to Miss Rand's claim, I never told her that I wished to borrow money from The Objectivist for the rent "because NBI did not have quite enough." At the time of the conversation to which Miss Rand refers, I had no reason to doubt that she already had knowledge of the loan, since there was regular communication between Mr. Schwartz and Miss Rand concerning the move to the Empire State Building, since The Objectivist's own Circulation Manager had prepared the check, and since the loan was entered on the books of The Objectivist. My passing reference to the loan was entirely perfunctory; it was intended, in effect, as a reminder, since I knew of Miss Rand's disinterest in business matters. When I mentioned the loan, Miss Rand said nothing to indicate that she was hearing of it for the first time; she uttered some casual expression of assent, said "So long as you pay it back" (or words to that effect), and waved her hand in a characteristic gesture, dismissing the subject.1Miss Rand states that "the original amount of the loan had represented the entire cash reserve of this magazine." The magazine's own financial statements do not support her assertion. The loan was made on July 6, 1967. The audited statement of the magazine, immediately preceding the loan, that of March 31, 1967, shows total assets in excess of $44,000 and cash in the bank in the amount of $33,881; the audited statement of March 31, 1968, shows total assets in excess of $58,000 and cash in the bank in the amount of $17,438, in addition to the $16,500 loan receivable from NBI (for which NBI was paying a higher rate of interest than The Objectivist obtained from its investments elsewhere).

In her article, Miss Rand alleges that we had an "incorporation agreement" which stated that all decisions concerning the publication were to be unanimous. Aside from the facts cited above, it is worth mentioning that my copy of our incorporation agreement contains no such stipulation.

Contrary to Miss Rand, the loan was repaid at my instigation, not hers. She did put in a request for repayment, not knowing that I had already given instructions to that effect. She writes that there was "some delay" in repaying the loan, evidently intending to imply either financial irresponsibility or instability or both on the part of NBI. The "delay" consisted of less than ten days--which, to anyone familiar with business procedures, is scarcely a "delay."So much for my alleged financial exploitation of Miss Rand.On my withdrawal from the Objectivist.


Since Miss Rand has raised the question of exploitation, I think is is appropriate to relate the circumstances under which I signed over to her my 50% interest in The Objectivist.

In the fall of 1961, when the incorporation papers for the magazine were being prepared, Miss Rand proposed that a clause be included to the effect that, in the event of an irreconcilable disagreement or break between us, publication of the magazine would be discontinued. She said, in explanation, that she did not think it would be morally right for one of us to keep the magazine and thus go on profiting from the work of the other, should there be a break between us. This seemed reasonable, and I agreed to the inclusion of the clause she proposed. Therefore, when my relationship with her ended this summer, I would have been entirely within my legal rights to demand that The Objectivist cease publication (before her denunciation of me).

However, because of the importance I attached to The Objectivist, I informed Miss Rand that I was willing to have her continue with the magazine on her own.

Until the evening of August 25, 1968, Miss Rand and I used the same attorney. Some weeks earlier, I had apprised him of the growing breach between Miss Rand and myself, and cautioned him that the situation might reach a point where he could no longer represent both of us; I asked him to let me know if and when this point was reached, so that I could make other arrangements for legal counsel, and he assured me that he would do so.

On the evening of August 25, he came to my apartment and handed me two documents. One was his letter of resignation as my attorney. The other was an assignment of my interest in The Objectivist to Miss Rand, which he demanded I sign immediately--and with no financial recompense.

I told him that I was willing to sign the transfer of ownership, but that before I did so I wanted Miss Rand to have The Objectivist sign over to me the copyrights to my psychological articles which had been published in The Objectivist,2 and which I needed for my book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem. I reminded him that it had always been clearly understood between Miss Rand and me that each of us would retain full rights to our own articles published in The Objectivist. He telephoned Miss Rand to communicate my request. Miss Rand did not then deny, nor, to the best of my knowledge, has she ever denied, the nature of our understanding in regard to the copyrights. But, the attorney informed me after his telephone call, Miss Rand was very eager to gain complete possession of The Objectivist immediately; she insisted, he said, that I sign the transfer of ownership that evening, and she gave assurances that I would be treated fairly with regard to the copyrights.

I told him that I was reluctant to sign that evening because I was exhausted and wanted a day to think the matter over, and I might want to obtain legal counsel before coming to a final decision. He replied that if I did not sign at once, Miss Rand would seek to create a scandal that would make it impossible for me to obtain certification as a psychologist, for which I was currently applying.3 And further, he said, Miss Rand would demand a full investigation of The Objectivist loan to NBI and would initiate a legal suit against me. When I expressed shock at this, and pointed out to him that Miss Rand and everyone else involved knew that there was nothing unethical, much less illegal, about the loan, he neither affirmed nor denied the truth of my statement; he merely replied that the suit would be very unpleasant, nevertheless.

Feeling a mixture of moral revulsion, emotional exhaustion and a last vestige of sympathy for Miss Rand's anxiety over The Objectivist, I signed the transfer of ownership.

Thus ended my business relationship with Ayn Rand.On Miss Rand's attitude to Barbara Branden.


I will not comment on Miss Rand's extraordinary attack against Mrs. Branden, since Mrs. Branden has written her own statement concerning that attack. But there is one disgraceful touch in Miss Rand's article about which the victim should not have to speak. So I shall speak for her.

After characterizing my life as "a terrible waste of a priceless human endowment: ability," and calling it "a tragedy," Miss Rand adds, in parenthesis: "I cannot say as much for Barbara Branden."I think it is appropriate to quote what Miss Rand has said for Barbara Branden, so that the reader can evaluate the meaning--and motive--of Miss Rand's remark.

On Mrs. Branden's parents' copy of Atlas Shrugged, Miss Rand wrote the following inscription: "To Reb and Johnny--the parents of a girl who has the spirit, the ambition and the talent of the best characters in this book--Affectionately, Ayn."When Mrs. Branden was interviewing Miss Rand, in preparation for the writing of Who Is Ayn Rand? (the interviews were tape-recorded), Miss Rand made the following statement:"As far as you're concerned, career-wise, the turning point was when I saw the first few pages of that short story which you started and didn't finish. It was those pages that convinced me that you're going to be a great writer, and, as you see, I was right.√'.√'.√'. Up to then, I thought that you were very intelligent, and since you talked about writing intelligently, that you probably would be a good writer, but one has to see the real work. And it's those pages that made me think that this is something of enormous size."On the charge that I exploited Miss Rand intellectually and failed her personally.


Miss Rand writes: "During the past three years, my personal relationship with Mr. Branden was deteriorating in a puzzling manner: it was turning into a series of his constant demands on my time, constant pleas for advice, for help with his writing, for long discussions of his personal, philosophical and psychological problems."Aside from seeing her at parties and other social occasions, I normally visited Miss Rand, or was visited by her, one evening a week--and it was she who often complained about the fact that I did not have time to see her more often. It was she who tended to prolong telephone calls, initiated by me, into discussions lasting for hours; on countless occasions, I anxiously tried to communicate to her that those discussions constituted a devastating interruption of my writing. It was she who constantly volunteered personal advice, and tended to reproach me to the extent that I did not heed it.

It is true that Miss Rand has been of personal help to me on numerous occasions across the years of our relationship; she was always very generous with her time. It is no less true that I have been of personal help to her on many occasions. For example, in the two-year period following the publication of Atlas Shrugged, I visited her on an average of two or three evenings a week for the express purpose of trying to help her with a problem that was so distressing to her that she was unable to write or to project her future goals: the problem of her disgust with and revulsion at the intellectual state of our culture. Many other examples, of a more personal nature, could readily be cited. (Indeed, one of my most sincerely regretted injustices against Mrs. Branden, in the twelve years of our marriage, was the extent to which I permitted our lives to be subordinated to Miss Rand's personal interests and needs.)As to her claim that I constantly demanded assistance with my writing--I did nothing of the kind. When we completed our respective articles for The Objectivist, it was our policy to show them to each other, for editorial suggestions. Miss Rand is a more experienced and accomplished writer than I, and she usually had a greater number of suggestions to offer; but they were almost always of a minor nature, such as straightening out an awkward sentence or correcting some small lapse of grammar.

Miss Rand makes a great many specious allegations about my personal problems--such as the claim that I was confused or uncertain about my "long-range goals," which is entirely without foundation. I have never viewed such problems as I may have in the way portrayed by her in the article, neither with regard to their nature nor their severity nor their magnitude.

During the past several years, Miss Rand has often sought to persuade me of the validity of her own view of my problems; and one of her complaints against me was that she failed to do so.

I did have certain problems, but I submit that Miss Rand was not the person to diagnose or help correct them. I believe that her own judgment in the matter was clouded by the fact of too great a personal involvement. One of the pieces of evidence crucially important to her conviction that I had personal problems, was the fact that while I obviously admired her enormously and cared for her very deeply, my personal emotional response to her was less than she believed it should be. I shall return to this subject.

It is not my purpose here to provide an exhaustive analysis of all the issues and conflicts between Miss Rand and me. I am confining myself to answering the points raised in her article, or, more precisely, those that I consider worthy of comment.

I should now like to turn to one accusation in her article that is founded on fact and that involves a grave error I did make.

Several years ago, I found myself in an agonizing personal dilemma, which I saw no way to resolve. The solution I ultimately chose was wrong, because it involved resorting to a falsehood. It entailed, among other things, withholding from Miss Rand certain information about my personal life--specifically, my relationship with a young woman, with whom I was and am deeply in love.

Miss Rand suggests that her discovery of this falsehood was the final step in convincing her that it was necessary to repudiate me publicly. But the fact is that her decision was made when, approximately a month earlier, she learned only of my present feeling for the young woman, and before she learned of the past relationship or of any falsehood on my part. She decided, at that time, that a denunciation of me in The Objectivist was imperative. I submit, therefore, that her motive in denouncing me could not have been indignation at the falsehood. What, then, was her motive? Let the reader study this entire document and judge for himself.

I discussed my feeling for and relationship with the young woman, with Mrs. Branden, about two years ago (a year after Mrs. Branden and I had separated); I fully apprised her of the facts of the past relationship only this summer. When Mrs. Branden came to me in late August and told me she believed it was necessary to tell Miss Rand the full truth, I agreed with her. She went to speak to Miss Rand with my knowledge and approval. (As to why she went, rather than me, she explains the reason in her own statement.)Miss Rand writes: "I confronted Mr. Branden with her accusation and he admitted it." There never was a question of "confronting" me with anything, as Mrs. Branden's statement makes clear.

When I decided to close NBI (which I did by personal choice, not by legal or financial necessity), I called a meeting of the staff in order to make a statement about my break with Miss Rand. I did not want to leave them with an incomprehensible mystery. I felt very regretful over the pain I had caused Miss Rand, and wanted to assure the staff that she was fully within her moral rights in severing our relationship. I did not specify what I had done wrong; I merely acknowledged that I had taken an action that I considered wrong. I did not suspect that this attempt at candor and honesty would be used against me; but thereafter, when accusations were hurled by partisans of Miss Rand, these accusations were often accompanied by the argument: "Nathaniel Branden confessed to doing something wrong, didn't he? What else do you need to know?" In other words, I was now to be judged guilty of any offense anyone chose to charge me with.

Another common argument of Miss Rand's supporters, of which I doubt that Miss Rand would approve, is the following: "Ayn Rand says Nathaniel Branden is wrong. What else do you need to know?" The authoritarian implications, the implicit assumption of Miss Rand's infallibility, are scarcely in keeping with the philosophy such supporters profess to uphold.

Perhaps I am wrong in thinking that Miss Rand would not approve of this sort of argument--since it reflects the position taken, in effect, by four of NBI's former Associate Lecturers, the four whose repudiation of Mrs. Branden and me follows Miss Rand's in The Objectivist. Not one of those four made any effort to discuss the conflict with Mrs. Branden or me. They know only what Miss Rand has told them (with the partial exception of Dr. Blumenthal, who had some additional information, but far from the full story). They did not think it necessary to hear from the accused, in order to form a judgment. In the case of Dr. Blumenthal, when Mrs. Branden and I made separate attempts to discuss the situation with him, he refused to talk to us.

I do not think it inappropriate to mention that all four of the people who denounced us have acknowledged that, in my capacity as psychologist, I have made an incalculable personal contribution to their lives and careers; and all four have been our friends for a minimum of sixteen years. Such is the manner in which they chose to end the relationship.Conclusion


I believe it is apparent, to any thoughtful reader of Miss Rand's article, that, whatever the truth or falsehood of any of her specific charges, the real and basic reasons for her condemnation are not given in that article. There is too obvious a discrepancy between the significance of the alleged facts she cites and the intensity of the emotional violence the article reflects. It is not Miss Rand's normal policy to write in the same style and by the same method as most of the antagonistic reviewers of her books. A major part of the story is obviously missing.

She does provide one indirect clue--and I must confess I am astonished that she chose to include it.

She writes: "About two months ago (at the beginning of July), in an apparent attempt to terminate the discussions he himself had initiated, Mr. Branden presented me with a written statement which was so irrational and so offensive to me that I had to break my personal association with him."In writing the above, Miss Rand has given me the right to name that which I infinitely would have preferred to leave unnamed, out of respect for her privacy. I am obliged to report what was in that written paper of mine, in the name of justice and of self-defense.

That written statement was an effort, not to terminate my relationship with Miss Rand, but to save it, in some mutually acceptable form.

It was a tortured, awkward, excruciatingly embarrassed attempt to make clear to her why I felt that an age distance between us of twenty-five years constituted an insuperable barrier, for me, to a romantic relationship.

(October 16, 1968.)Endnotes


1. I have an affidavit in my possession, signed by Miss Rand's former part-time secretary, Miss G. Fletcher, testifying to the fact that she happened to be present during the above conversation and that her recollection of the event is identical with mine.

2. It is customary for copyrights of articles to be taken out by the magazine which publishes them.

3. It should be mentioned that Miss Rand has always considered psychological certification laws an immoral, political abomination, and had been very indignant about the fact that I had to apply for certification.


IN ANSWER TO AYN RANDby Barbara Branden


When I read The Fountainhead at the age of fifteen, I would not have believed that the day could come when I would be forced to choose between Howard Roark and Ayn Rand--to choose between loyalty to the values of justice, of self-esteem, of speaking and acting according to one's honest judgment, which the character of Howard Roark represented to me, and the woman who taught me the importance of those concepts and whom, for most of my life, I have loved, admired and honored more than any other human being.

But I did have to face that choice, and I have chosen. My loyalty to the values I learned from Ayn Rand led me to the actions I haven taken during the past few months, and to the most painful act of my life: the writing of this paper.

I wish it were possible not to defend myself, not to say that "To Whom It May Concern" is false, unjust, and tragically unworthy of Ayn Rand. But it is not possible. I cannot leave unchallenged and unanswered an attack on Nathaniel Branden and on myself which would so greatly damage our names and our professional futures if left unanswered. And I cannot leave our students in the state of miserable, helpless confusion in which so many of them find themselves.


Now to the charges--and the facts.

Miss Rand writes that "strangely enough," it was I who "exposed the secret of his [Mr. Branden's] private life." This is true--except for the "strangely enough." Although Miss Rand implies, again and again, that I was motivated by the hope of financial gain, she knows that it was precisely my horror of accepting the financial gain about to be showered upon me, that caused me to tell her about my cooperation in Mr. Branden's falsehood (which he has discussed).

In the spring of this year, during the growing estrangement between Miss Rand and Mr. Branden, I was uncertain how to judge the basic personal conflict between them and the validity of Miss Rand's view of Mr. Branden's problems. But I knew that he did have certain problems, and I knew that he was withholding information from her. Because Miss Rand was in considerable distress, I wanted to be of help to her, as she had helped me so many times in the past. Miss Rand is correct in stating that, during this period, I acted as her "ally."Mr. Branden presented his written statement to Miss Rand on July 3. At Miss Rand's request, I saw and discussed that statement with her the same evening, in Mr. Branden's presence; I was acutely embarrassed at the necessity of being present during such a dispute, and knew neither how to handle the situation nor what to say.

During the next several weeks, as their relationship continued to deteriorate, Miss Rand said that she was unwilling to give NBI her intellectual support if it remained under Mr. Branden's control. The Institute could have continued nevertheless, but in view of its close ties with Miss Rand, and in view of the conflict between Mr. Branden and Miss Rand, he felt it better to withdraw. He suggested that I should take over as head of the organization--and offered to turn over to me the legal ownership of NBI; he volunteered to go on lecturing as long as the Institute needed him.

Miss Rand urged me to accept Mr. Branden's proposal, saying that she would continue to give NBI her support only if I were in charge. She told me, further, that she wanted Mr. Branden to remove himself from The Objectivist and to sign over to me, without reimbursement, his 50% share. She wanted to put my name on the magazine, as co-editor with her. She offered me a $15,000 a year position with The Objectivist. She told me that she planned to change her will and to name me as a major beneficiary.

Thus I was to receive--as a gift--NBI, half of The Objectivist, a remunerative job, and a major share of Miss Rand's estate.

It was then that I decided to tell Miss Rand that I had been withholding information from her and that I could not, under the circumstances, accept her generosity.

On the morning of August 23, I informed Mr. Branden that I planned to tell Miss Rand the whole story; I received his full assent. I called in Allan Blumenthal and asked him to join me at Miss Rand's. (I knew that she would be upset, and I wanted her to have the emotional support which I believed she would not wish to accept from me.) I told him that I considered it quite likely that Miss Rand would end her personal and business relationship with me when I told her the truth--and that that was why I had to tell her the truth.

Mr. Branden, Dr. Blumenthal and I decided that Mr. Branden should not accompany us to Miss Rand's; she had previously stated that she did not wish to see him. Mr. Branden suggested that he would wait in his apartment so that he would be available if Miss Rand wanted to talk with him. (He did join us later in the evening.) Thus, as he has pointed out, there was no question of Miss Rand "confronting" him with anything.

When Dr. Blumenthal and I saw Miss Rand that evening, I told her the facts that Mr. Branden and I had withheld from her. Although she was very angry with me, she said that she knew there were important mitigating circumstances in my complicity, that our personal relationship need not end, and that our business and financial arrangements would stand. (Next day, she decided that The Objectivist should be turned over to her, not to me, a plan to which I acceded, telling her--as I had told her many times--that I did not want a gift of something I had not earned.)


After August 23, Miss Rand stated that she was no longer willing to give her support to any lecture organization in which Mr. Branden was involved, even in the capacity of a lecturer.

She writes that I "kept stressing gently" that NBI could be run without Mr. Branden. I did not "stress it gently." I said it clearly, distinctly, and emphatically. I said that I believed lectures could still be given, and that I did not want needlessly to abandon the work of ten years. I asked for a few days to think about and project a means of salvaging the lecture operation. Miss Rand agreed to this, although somewhat hesitantly.

For several days, Wilfred Schwartz, Robert Berole, a few members of the NBI staff and I worked eighteen hours a day, projecting the financial possibilities of a more modest lecture organization. We arrived at a set of figures that proved this to be eminently feasible.

While we were working on the plan for the new lecture organization, Miss Rand states, she "discovered that NBI had treated its associate lecturers so unfairly that they were not eager to continue."She could not have discovered this, because they were not treated unfairly. Nor could the lecturers have objected to continuing, because they were not asked to continue. The plan for the new organization, which was submitted to Miss Rand, stated that it was to be a "tape transcription operation, with the exception of a live Basic opening in New York City [which I was to give] and live delivery the first time any new course is given." I intended only--as the plan states--to ask Allan Blumenthal to create a ten-lecture course by means of expanding the five lectures he had already prepared for one of Mr. Branden's courses, and to accept either Leonard Peikoff's or Henry Holzer's previous offer to give a new course.

Several years ago, when contracts were first being drawn up with NBI Associate Lectures, Mary Ann Sures (then Rukavina) was employed as a member of the NBI staff as well as an Associate Lecturer; it was she who helped me to arrive at the final financial arrangements--and it was she who continually cautioned me that I was being over-generous. At the same time, I asked for and received the advice of Alan Greenspan, in his capacity as both economist and Associate Lecturer; I asked him whether my proposed financial arrangements seemed fair and equitable; he said that they did. (It is relevant to mention that I, too, was one of the Associate Lecturers and received the same remuneration as the others for my work.)Miss Rand states that when the yearly grosses of NBI grew larger, the percentages paid to its Associate Lecturers were cut. This is quite true. But she neglects to mention that when the percentages were cut, the minimum rate guaranteed to a lecturer for a course was more than doubled. (And surely the author of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal knows that the operations of a business preclude transactions which are not considered, by both buyer and seller, to be to their mutual advantage.)I might add that, a few years ago, while lecturing for NBI during the summer months, Leonard Peikoff asked me if he might tell the head of his philosophy department the sum of money he was earning for his summer's work; he explained that the amount was so much more than a university professor makes, that his department head would be profoundly impressed with the "practicality" of Objectivism. I agreed.

Recently, Reva Fox, one of our Associate Lecturers whose name is not signed to the appendage to Miss Rand's article, told me that she had heard that our lecturers were underpaid. She expressed surprise that their contract with us was not the same as hers, since she considered her own reimbursement to be eminently satisfactory. I informed her that her contract was identical with those of the other lecturers.


Miss Rand states that "on September 2, the plan [for a new lecture organization] was submitted to me at a business meeting attended by my attorney." She does not mention that her attorney had visited the NBI offices earlier that day, had been told the exact nature of the plan, and had given it his endorsement.

At the meeting were Miss Rand, her attorney and his wife, Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Berole and myself. (Mr. O'Connor was present, but took no part in the discussion.) Miss Rand writes that "the plan did not offer any relevant factual material, but a projection (by an unspecified method) of future profits to be earned by a lecture organization patterned after NBI."In fact, we presented a ten-page Report which outlined the nature of the plan and its rationale, our projection of revenue figures and expenses for the next year, and the advantages to all companies, including The Objectivist, of continuing the lecture activities. Accompanying this Report were twenty-one accounting-analysis pages of figures justifying the revenue projections and twenty-six pages of figures justifying the expense projections. Included in the Report was the statement that our revenue and expense figures were arrived at by a methodology that we had been employing at NBI for the past five years and that, in those years, by the use of this methodology, our estimates had been correct within a 2-3% variation.

In the light of this mass of material and documentation, Miss Rand's statement is truly incredible. I cannot imagine what she would consider to be relevant factual material and a specified method, if this was not.

The business meeting of September 2 began at 8 P.M. and ended at 4 A.M. It was a meeting I shall not soon forget.

After merely glancing over the Report we had so painstakingly prepared, Miss Rand declared that she would not sanction the proposed lecture organization. What she objected to--and what she is presumably referring to when she mentions a business arrangement of a "questionable" nature--was our plan to make the new lecture organization a sub-tenant of NBI (as were The Objectivist and NBI Book Service), leaving the liability for the lease where it had been, with NBI. I did not and do not understand what could be considered questionable in such a plan; nor did Mr. Schwartz; nor did Mr. Berole; nor, earlier that same day, did Miss Rand's attorney (although he did not contradict Miss Rand that evening); nor does any one of the reputable and honorable businessmen to whom I have shown the Report since then.

However, it proved impossible to discuss this issue: Miss Rand was highly agitated and was unwilling to consider arguments against her position. I therefore agreed that the plan should be dropped, and said that I would proceed with the liquidation of NBI. I considered it her right to refuse to sanction the new organization; although I could have done so, I never contemplated proceeding without her assent. But I was disturbed by the peremptory manner in which she abandoned all possibility of continuing what I believed to be the source and the future of the Objectivist movement. Less than an hour's time was spent discussing this issue.

The rest of the night was devoted to the following two issues, both of which were profoundly disturbing to me.

1. Because of NBI's recent repayment of its loan from The Objectivist, and because of the sudden cancellation of all scheduled lecture courses, NBI's cash reserves had dropped considerably. We discussed the fact that if NBI were unable to come to an amicable settlement with the Empire State Building concerning the lease, The Objectivist (as well as my own companies, NBI Book Service and its affiliates) might conceivably be saddled with a legal liability--which could result in a threat to the continuance of the magazine.

Mr. Schwartz suggested that if Mr. Branden's equity in the past profits of the magazine were transferred to NBI, that company's financial situation would be considerably improved, and all danger to The Objectivist would be averted. Miss Rand angrily refused, saying that she considered it immoral to "help" Mr. Branden. She proposed, instead, that I should transfer to NBI, from my assets, the necessary sum--that I take the action which she had denounced as immoral.

I explained that in order to obtain the required money immediately, I would have to remove all the cash from my own companies (thereby probably forcing them into liquidation) and that, in addition, I would have to go into my personal savings. Miss Rand raised no objection to my destroying myself financially in order to remove The Objectivist from possible danger.

Miss Rand writes that she then offered me a loan "to start a book service of [my] own." This is true. But I had a "book service of my own" as of August 26, when Mr. Branden, knowing that I could be in financial difficulties if NBI closed, had generously made me a gift of NBI Book Service. However, at the business meeting on September 2, it did appear that I would soon be without a book service: I was being asked to destroy it so that Miss Rand could maintain, without cost to herself, an Objectivist "of her own."2. During the discussion, I observed the intensification of an attitude in Miss Rand that had been troubling me progressively during the past weeks: the emotional violence of her attacks on Mr. Branden was growing more and more intense; she was grossly exaggerating the nature and moral meaning of the mistake he had made; she began hurling accusations against him that had no factual foundation whatever. It seemed as though, from the time she had decided to break with him, she felt a growing need to persuade herself, and to communicate to others, that he was a monster.

Although Miss Rand's original intention had been to publish a one-paragraph repudiation of Mr. Branden in The Objectivist--(it was this paragraph which I had told the NBI staff, on August 28, was justified)--her comments now indicated that she was considering a much expanded statement, and that she would include in it many of the accusations she had begun making. (In fact, this is precisely what she did.)During the meeting of September 2, she made statements about Mr. Branden's work and character--while pounding the arm of her chair in anger--of such a nature that I could scarcely believe my ears.


By the time the meeting ended, at 4 A.M., Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Berole and I were in a state of numbed shock over the events of the evening. We were appalled by what Miss Rand was willing to demand in order to protect The Objectivist, and by the magnitude of her accusations against Mr. Branden.

Later that morning (September 3), we met with Elayne Kalberman, Circulation Manager of The Objectivist and her husband, Harry Kalberman, in order to discuss the situation. During the conversation, we mentioned that we had promised Miss Rand to have The Objectivist mailing list and equipment moved out of our quarters that morning. Mr. Kalberman objected strenuously; he cautioned us that this could be legally dangerous, so long as NBI had not settled the matter of its lease with the Empire State Building. At Mr. Kalberman's insistence, we agreed to take no action until consulting Miss Rand's attorney (who also represented me at that time).

This is the event which Miss Rand summarizes as follows: "Without any warning to me, they [Mr. Schwartz and I] tried to prevent The Objectivist from moving out of the quarters it sub-leased from NBI in the Empire State Building."Miss Rand further states that we asked Mr. and Mrs. Kalberman to persuade her "to accept the plan and `to help NBI.'" This is false. We had no intention of reconsidering the plan to salvage a lecture organization, and no such issue was discussed.

At Mr. Schwartz's request, Miss Rand's attorney joined us at the NBI offices. Mr. Kalberman told him why we were hesitant to move out The Objectivist. I explained my concern over Miss Rand's refusal to use the profits she had obtained from Mr. Branden as the means of protecting the magazine. I told him my concern about Miss Rand's accusations against Mr. Branden.

I stressed the fact that I believed Miss Rand's accusations were the result of great emotional stress, and that she would not stand by them when she was more calm. But I said--and this, presumably, is what Miss Rand is referring to when she writes that I uttered "veiled threats" against her--that, apart from the danger to Mr. Branden if such charges should become common gossip, I was worried that her attacks would compel him, in self-defense, to reveal information which would be painful and embarrassing to Miss Rand.

I did not say what this information consisted of. I specifically refused to do so. I hoped that it would never be necessary to do so--as did Mr. Branden. The information was the content of Mr. Branden's written statement to Miss Rand, the preceding events that had convinced him of the necessity to prepare it, and the fact that that statement had caused her to break with him.

At my request, the attorney agreed to telephone Miss Rand to make an appointment for Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Berole, Mr. and Mrs. Kalberman and myself. Our purpose was to discuss, once more, the possibility of Miss Rand providing the funds necessary to protect The Objectivist and to discuss her charges against Mr. Branden.

Miss Rand's response was to send me a message, through her attorney, that the purpose and nature of my proposed meeting was changed, by her unilateral decision. Without my knowledge or consent, she had invited several other people to the meeting, and had announced that Mr. Berole (who had witnessed the events to be discussed) was not to attend. I was ordered to appear, before a group of her choosing, to answer charges of having made false and immoral accusations against Miss Rand. (I was told, incredibly, that by objecting to her accusations against Mr. Branden, I had impugned her own moral integrity.) I was informed that I was to attend, and on Miss Rand's terms. I was informed that I had no right to terms or conditions of my own.

I do not accept invitations of that kind. I did not go to the meeting.

Miss Rand writes that Mr. Schwartz and I refused to come to the meeting and "I have not seen them since." She neglects to mention that I attempted to reach her by telephone, but was told by her attorney that she would not speak to me, that I could communicate with her only by mail.

Contrary to Miss Rand's claim, neither Mr. Branden, Mr. Schwartz nor I ever "screamed insults" against her to her attorney or to our staff. On one occasion, while we were answering our staff's questions about the conflict with Miss Rand, her attorney appeared in our offices, uninvited, in order to make allegations against Mr. Branden and me to our staff. We became very indignant at this. Mr. Branden said--very loudly, and in a tone of moral outrage--"How long is she [Miss Rand] going to count on me to remain silent?" I added--in the same manner and tone--that if Miss Rand continued her vendetta against Mr. Branden, she would end by disgracing herself. She has done so.


Miss Rand writes that the change in the attitude of Mr. Branden, Mr. Schwartz and myself occurred "when they realized√'.√'.√'. that the gold mine involved in their use of my name was shut down."My feeling at reading this statement was one of acute embarrassment for Miss Rand. I cannot bring myself to offer a defense against an accusation of this kind on my own behalf. But I should like to relate certain facts about Mr. Branden and Mr. Schwartz.

Throughout her article, Miss Rand makes many attempts to convey the idea that she was exploited by Mr. Branden--in effect, that he "used" her for commercial purposes, through NBI. I think this charge can best be answered by Miss Rand's own words.

The following is a verbatim transcript of a portion of a tape-recorded interview I conducted with Miss Rand, in preparation for the writing of my biographical essay in Who Is Ayn Rand?We were discussing Miss Rand's shock over the intellectual state of the culture, following the publication of Atlas Shrugged. Miss Rand said:"As cultural signs, I think the thing that really changed my whole mind is NBL. [Nathaniel Branden Lectures was the original name of Mr. Branden's organization.] It's the whole phenomenon of Nathan's lectures. As you know, when he first started it I wasn't opposed to it, but I can't say that I expected too much. I was watching it, in effect, with enormous concern and sympathy for him, because I thought there was a very good chance of it failing.√'.√'.√'. Since the culture in general seemed totally indifferent to our ideas and to ideas as a whole, I didn't see how one could make a lecture organization grow√'.√'.√'. But with the passage of time√'.√'.√'. I began to see how even the least promising of Nathan's students√'.√'.√'. were not the same as they were before they started on the course, that Nathan had a tremendous influence on them, that they were infinitely better people and more rational, even if they certainly were not Objectivists yet.√'.√'.√'. What I saw is that ideas take, in a manner which I did not know.√'.√'.√'. The whole enormous response to Nathan gave me a preview of what can be done with a culture. And seeing Nathan start on a shoestring, with the whole intellectual atmosphere against him, standing totally alone and establishing an institution, that was an enormously crucial, concrete example of what can be done."Elsewhere in the same interview, she said: "And in this respect, and for the record, Barbara, I think that the man who saved my life in this period [the post-Atlas Shrugged period] was, of course, Nathan, because it was conversations with him and his sense of the culture, his understanding, that helped me to make up my mind and to clarify things; otherwise I must say I was almost paralyzed, above everything else by disgust and contempt.√'.√'.√'. If I feel contempt for the whole culture, it doesn't make sense to even want to write.√'.√'.√'. And it's only Nathan that kept a steady point in a Hegelian [i.e., chaotic, contradictory, unintelligible] universe, in the sense that he could judge the culture and the situation much better than I could at that time."As to Mr. Schwartz, Miss Rand is aware that he left a highly lucrative business of his own in Canada, at great financial loss to himself, when he came to New York over five years ago for the purpose of studying Objectivism and working in the Objectivist movement. Mr. Schwartz is a superbly able executive, and the contribution he made to the growth of NBI and The Objectivist is enormous. (Miss Rand will be the beneficiary of his work for many years to come--indeed, for as long as there is an Objectivist.) Yet his combined salary as Administrative Director of NBI and Business Manager of The Objectivist, was approximately one-quarter of what he had earned per year in Canada. For Miss Rand to attempt to implicate him in her charges against Mr. Branden and me--to suggest that he has been motivated by improper financial considerations--is worse than disgraceful.

Throughout this whole period, Mr. Schwartz has been motivated by the passionately-conscientious desire to do whatever was just and reasonable in relation to all the parties involved in the dispute. His integrity deserved a better reward from Miss Rand.


There are certain extraordinary and shocking psychological aspects of this conflict with Miss Rand, about which I want to comment briefly. I refer to the quality of what can only be called religious mania which characterizes the behavior of many of Miss Rand's supporters.

NBI students who are unwilling to accept the validity of Miss Rand's position in this dispute (either because they challenge the validity of her arguments or because they do not believe enough evidence has been made available to justify a judgment on their part) find themselves under the most violent attack at the hands of their friends, who are persuaded that there can be only one side to the story, Ayn Rand's side, and that anyone who inquires further is thereby proven to be immoral. We are obliged to inform students who are either neutral or who express sympathy with our position, that they will be subjected to ostracism and to every kind of ugly pressure that can be brought to bear on them by Miss Rand's partisans.

The quality of religious mania to which I refer is perhaps best expressed in a letter we received recently, written by a student of Objectivism. The letter consisted of two sentences: "May the Lord have mercy on your soul. I will not!"It is as though Miss Rand's supporters are whipping themselves up into some sort of moral frenzy. When the fit passes, I can only wonder how they will evaluate their behavior during this period.

As verification of the ugly and tragic irrationality now so much in evidence, I submit the following conversational exchange. Shortly after my own break with Miss Rand, I asked one of the people who had been at the meeting of September 3 which I had refused to attend: "Is there anyone who attended that meeting who actually believes that I am a monster?" The answer was: "No." I asked: "Is there anyone who attended that meeting who is not now saying that I am a monster?" After a moment's silence, the answer was: "No."


From a reading of her article, there can be no question that Miss Rand intends to do the maximum damage of which she is capable to Mr. Branden's reputation. During the last weeks of my relationship with her, this intention became more and more apparent--and, as I have indicated, was crucial in my own disillusionment with her.

Throughout her life and career, Ayn Rand has been the passionate champion of human ability. Even now, as I write these words, I find it almost impossible to accept the inescapable fact that there are considerations to which Miss Rand is willing to subordinate that loyalty. But I have read what she has written about Mr. Branden in her article.

Here is what she said about him in one of our tape-recorded interviews:"As to Nathan, I thought he was a genius from the first evening. And I really mean genius. In that sense, I have never pronounced that judgment on someone I know, not that immediately, not that objectively.√'.√'.√'. From intelligence alone, it's not yet enough for the title genius. You know what's necessary there? It's a creative intelligence, it has to be an initiating intelligence, not merely philosophical or abstract or quick to understand or being able to deal with abstractions.√'.√'.√'. When you conclude that someone is really a genius, it's total independence, the first hand look of a creative mind, a mind that is constantly active on its own power."


Postscript: We have learned that Miss Rand has now chosen to dispute Mr. Branden's right to the use of his articles published in The Objectivist. She has set, as the price of her cooperation in this matter, a number of conditions, chief among which are the following. We must guarantee not to initiate an action for libel against her; and we must further guarantee not to defend ourselves against the charges made in her article, that is, to make no statement or comment of any kind, oral or written, about the article. We have rejected Miss Rand's conditions.

(October 21, 1968)The preparation and distribution of this statement (which is being sent to all subscribers to The Objectivist) has involved considerable personal expense. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to issue further statements, should Miss Rand choose to continue her attacks against us in The Objectivist. Our silence should not be construed as acquiescence.


The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand: A Personal Statement


by Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D. (73117.607@compuserve.com) Copyright (C) 1984, Nathaniel Branden, All Rights Reserved Copyright (C) 1984, Association for Humanistic Psychology


Abstract: For eighteen years I was a close associate of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand whose books, notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, inspired a philosophical movement known as objectivism. This philosophy places its central emphasis on reason, individualism, enlightened self-interest, political freedom -- and a heroic vision of life's possibilities. Following an explosive parting of the ways with Ayn Rand in 1968, I have been asked many times about the nature of our differences. This article is my first public answer to that question. Although agreeing with many of the values of the objectivist philosophy and vision, I discuss the consequences of the absence of an adequate psychology to support this intellectual structure -- focusing in particular on the destructive moralism of Rand and many of her followers, a moralism that subtly encourages repression, self-alienation, and guilt. I offer an explanation of the immense appeal of Ayn Rand's philosophy, particularly to the young, and suggest some cautionary observations concerning its adaptation to one's own life. This article is reprinted from the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, where it appeared in issue number four of volume twenty-four in the Fall of 1984 on pages thirty-nine through sixty-four. It is an adaptation of a speech first delivered at the University of California at San Diego on May 25, 1982, which is available on a lively cassette tape. Contents: * Background * The benefits * The hazards * Confusing reason with "the reasonable" * Encouraging repression * Encouraging moralizing * Conflating sacrifice and benevolence * Overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises * Encouraging dogmatism * Closing


Background


I was fourteen years old when I read Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead for the first time. It was the most thrilling and emotionally powerful reading experience of my life. The only rival to that event might be the experience, some years later, of reading Atlas Shrugged in manuscript. I wrote Miss Rand a letter in 1949 when I was studying psychology at UCLA and she was living in San Fernando Valley and was writing Atlas Shrugged The purpose of my letter was to ask her a number of philosophical questions suggested to me by The Fountainhead and by her earlier novel, We The Living. The letter intrigued her; I was invited to her home for a personal meeting in March, 1950, a month before I turned twenty. By that time anyone could read any sentence in The Fountainhead and I could recite the essence of the sentence immediately preceding as well as the sentence immediately following. I had absorbed that book more completely than anything else in my life. I told Miss Rand that I felt that she had, in effect, brought me up, long distance, through The Fountainhead. That book was the most important companion of my adolescent years. We became friends and were associated for eighteen years -- often in daily contact. I remember, in the first year of our relationship, when I was twenty years old, that my biggest expense -- at a time when I was on a very modest allowance -- was my phone bill. Typically we would talk philosophy on the telephone three or four nights a week, two or three hours at a time. In those days, thirty or forty dollars a month for toll calls from Los Angeles to the Valley was a lot of money. Our relationship went through many stages over the next eighteen years. It came to an end in the summer of 1968. There was an explosive parting of the ways. I intend to write about that break one day, but I shall not concern myself with it here. From 1958 to 1968, through the Nathaniel Branden Institute in New York City, I lectured on her philosophy and offered courses on her philosophy via tape transcription in some eighty other cities throughout North America. My first book, published in 1962, was Who Is Ayn Rand? It was a study of her life and work. Following the break, I moved to Los Angeles, and in my public lectures in Los Angeles and elsewhere through the country I encountered many people, admirers of Miss Rand, students of objectivism, who wanted to talk to me about their own experiences with objectivism as they struggled to apply Rand's teachings to their own lives. Perhaps because of my break with her, they now felt freer to speak openly to me than they would have in the past. Of course they talked of the many benefits they had derived from Rand's work. But, they also disclosed much suffering, conflict, guilt, and confusion. At first my almost reflexive response was to think that they had somehow failed to understand objectivism adequately. But as time went by and I saw the magnitude of the problem, I realized that answer was not good enough -- and that I needed to take a fresh look at what the philosophy of Ayn Rand was saying to people. This conviction was reinforced by many men and women who came to me for psychotherapy who were admirers of Ayn Rand. Here again I was exposed to problems relating to objectivism that cried out for an explanation. Later as I conducted more lectures and seminars, I met literally thousands of people around the country who described themselves as students of objectivism and admirers of Ayn Rand's books, and while I saw the great benefits and values her work offered to their lives, I also saw the dark side, the difficulties, the feelings of guilt, confusion and self-alienation that clearly seemed related, in some way, to the impact of Ayn Rand's work. Perhaps the evidence had always been there -- I think it was -- only now I was freer to see it because of my own growth and emancipation. In discussing Rand's philosophy, there are certain difficulties. One is the task of separating her basic ideas from her own style of presentation. She could be abrasive, she could make sweeping generalizations that needed explanations that she did not provide; she made very little effort to understand someone else's intellectual context and to build a bridge from their context to hers. A further difficulty lies in the fact that she was a novelist and chose principally to present her philosophy in fiction, the important exceptions being, of course, her monograph, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, and a number of collections of her nonfiction essays, such as The Virtue of Selfishness. There are some wonderful benefits to be derived from dramatizing one's ideas in a novel, but there are also hazards. A novel can be a superb form through which to illustrate a new code of ethics or morality because one really has the opportunity to show, concretely and specifically, what one means and what one advocates; one can dramatize one's ideas through characters, actions, and events -- saying to the reader, in effect, "This is what I mean." The problem lies in the fact that a good novelist has to consider many other elements besides philosophical exposition: drama, pace, excitement, suspense, and so forth. There is no time for the kind of qualifications -- amendments, exceptions, special cases -- that slow down the pace. So what we get are broad slashes, sharp-cutting strokes, which make superb reading and fantastic theatre -- unless you're sixteen years old, reading this novel and feeling more excited than you've ever felt in your life, your mind and soul on fire, and taking it all in as if it were to be read like a philosophical treatise. That's not how novels are to be read. But you see the problem, especially when reading a novelist as powerful and hypnotically persuasive as Ayn Rand. In this article I cannot provide an overview of Rand's entire system, let alone discuss each point in detail. I want to discuss here only a few basic issues, a few broad fundamentals that strike me as particularly important in terms of their impact on her admirers. What, in essence, does objectivism teach? What are the fundamentals of the Ayn Rand philosophy? Objectivism teaches: 1.That reality is what it is, that things are what they are, independent of anyone's beliefs, feelings, judgments or opinions -- that existence exists, that A is A; 2.That reason, the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the various senses, is fully competent, in principle, to understand the facts of reality; 3.That any form of irrationalism, supernaturalism, or mysticism, any claim to a nonsensory, nonrational form of knowledge, is to be rejected; 4.That a rational code of ethics is possible and is derivable from an appropriate assessment of the nature of human beings as well as the nature of reality; 5.That the standard of the good is not God or the alleged needs of society but rather "Man's life," that which is objectively required for man's or womans life, survival, and well-being; 6.That a human being is an end in him- or herself, that each one of us has the right to exist for our own sake, neither sacrificing others to self nor self to others; 7.That the principles of justice and respect for individuality autonomy, and personal rights must replace the principle of sacrifice in human relationships; 8.That no individual -- and no group -- has the moral right to initiate the use of force against others; 9.That force is permissible only in retaliation and only against those who have initiated its use; 10.) That the organizing principle of a moral society is respect for individual rights and that the sole appropriate function of government is to act as guardian and protector of individual rights. So, Rand was a champion and advocate of reason, self-interest individual rights, and political and economic freedom. She advocated a total separation of state and economics, just as -- and for the same reason as -- we now have the separation of state and church. She took the position, and it is a position I certainly share, that just as the government has no proper voice in the religious beliefs or practices of people, provided no one else's rights are violated, so there should be freedom or production and trade between and among consenting adults. Obviously there is a good deal more to her philosophy than this brief sketch can begin to convey but we are talking here in terms of fundamentals -- and these are the core ideas at the base of everything else she wrote. I don't know of any other philosopher who has had her ideas quite so shamelessly misrepresented in the media. I was fairly young during the early years of my association with Ayn Rand and objectivism, and seeing this phenomenon in action was a shocking and dismaying experience. Here was a philosopher who taught that the highest virtue is thinking -- and she was commonly denounced as a materialist. Here was a philosopher who taught the supremacy and inviolability of individual rights -- and she was accused of advocating a dog-eat-dog world. Here was the most passionate champion in the Twentieth century of the rights of the individual against the state -- and her statist opponents smeared her as being a fascist. It was not a pleasant experience, during my twenties and thirties, to know the truth of our position and to encounter the incredible distortions and misrepresentations that so commonly appeared in the press, or to be present at some event with Miss Rand and later read a summary of what happened in a magazine that bore almost no relationship to the facts of the occasion. I suppose, however, it focused and dramatized something I needed to learn about the world: how low in their priorities is the issue of truth for most people when issues are involved about which they have strong feelings. Media people are no worse than anyone else; they merely operate in a more public area. Notwithstanding all the smears on Ayn Rand and notwithstanding all the attacks and the misrepresentations of her ideas and work, her books sold and continue to sell in the millions. She has always had an especially powerful appeal to the young. Contrary to what some commentators may have led you to believe, her most passionate admirers are not to be found among big business. They are to be found among the young. I must tell you that in all the years I was associated with her I never saw big business do a thing to assist or support Ayn Rand in any way. I would say that for most businessmen her ideas were much too daring, much too radical. She believed in laissez-faire capitalism. She believed in a free market economy, I mean, a free free market economy. An economy in which not only were you to be unencumbered by regulations but so was everyone else. No special favors, no special protections, franchises, subsidies. No governmental privileges to help you against your competitors. Often I've had the fantasy of one day writing an article entitled "Big Business Versus Capitalism." The benefits


Now what are some of the values that Ayn Rand offers, as a philosopher, to the many people who have been moved by her work? To begin with, she offered a comprehensive and intelligible view of the universe, a frame of reference by means of which we can understand the world. She was a philosophical system builder who offered a systematic vision of what life on this planet is essentially about and a vision of human nature and human relationships. And the point right now is not whether she was right or wrong in all respects of that vision, but that she had a vision, a highly developed one, one that seemed to promise comprehensiveness, intelligibility, and clarity -- one that promised answers to a lot of burningly important questions about life. And human beings long for that. We humans have a need to feel we understand the world in which we live. We have a need to make sense out of our experience. We have a need for some intelligible portrait of who we are as human beings and what our lives are or should be about. In short, we have a need for a philosophical vision of reality. But twentieth-century philosophy has almost totally backed off from the responsibility of offering such a vision or addressing itself to the kind of questions human beings struggle with in the course of their existence. Twentieth-century philosophy typically scorns system building. The problems to which it addresses itself grow smaller and smaller and more and more remote from human experience. At their philosophical conferences and conventions, philosophers explicitly acknowledge that they have nothing of practical value to offer anyone. This is not my accusation; they announce it themselves. During the same period of history, the twentieth century, orthodox religion has lost more and more of its hold over people's minds and lives. It is perceived as more and more irrelevant. Its demise as a cultural force really began with the Renaissance and has been declining ever since. But the need for answers persists. The need for values by which to guide our lives remains unabated. The hunger for intelligibility is as strong as it ever was. The world around us is more and more confusing, more and more frightening; the need to understand it cries out in anguish. One evidence of this need, today, is the rise of cults, the resurgence of belief in astrology, pop mysticism, and the popularity of self-appointed gurus. We want answers, we want to feel we understand what is going on. If philosophers are telling us, "Don't even ask, it's naive to imagine that answers are possible," and if someone at last says to us, "Look no further, I have the answers, I can tell you, I bring clarity, peace, and serenity," it can be very tempting, very appealing and sometimes some of us end up in bed with the strangest people -- all because of the hunger for answers, the hunger for intelligibility. Ayn Rand has an incredible vision to offer -- in many respects a radiantly rational one. I am convinced that there are errors in that vision and elements that need to be changed, eliminated, modified, or added and amplified, but I am also convinced that there is a great deal in her vision that will stand the test of time. Her vision is very uplifting one, it is inspiring. It doesn't tell you your mind is impotent. It doesn't tell you that you're rotten and powerless. It doesn't tell you that your life is futile. It doesn't tell you that you are doomed. It doesn't tell you that your existence is meaningless. It tells you just the opposite. It tells you that your main problem is that you have not learned to understand the nature of your own power and, therefore, of your own possibilities. It tells you that your mind is and can be efficacious, that you are competent to understand, that achievement is possible, and that happiness is possible. It tells you that life is not about dread and defeat and anguish but about achievement and exaltation. The message she has brought runs counter not only to the dominant teachings of religion and philosophy for many centuries past, but, no less important, it runs counter to the teachings of most of our parents. Our parents, who said, "So who's happy?"; who said, "Don't get too big for your britches"; who said, "Pride goeth before a fall"; who said, "Enjoy yourself while you're young, because when you grow up, life is not fun, life is grim, life is a burden"; who said, "Adventure is for the comic strips; real life is learning to make your peace with boredom"; who said, "Life is not about exaltation, life is about duty." Then, this incredible writer, Ayn Rand, comes along and says, in effect, "Oh, really?" and then proceeds to create characters who aren't in the Middle Ages, who aren't running around in outer space, but who are of our time and of this earth -- who work, struggle, pursue difficult career goals, fall in love, participate in intensely emotional relationships, and for whom life is an incredible adventure because they have made it so. Characters who struggle, who suffer, but who win -- who achieve success and happiness. So, there is a powerful message of hope in her work. A powerful affirmation of the possibilities of existence. Her work represents a glorification not only of the human potential but also of the possibilities of life on earth. And perhaps that is why her books have had such a powerful impact on the young, on those still fighting to protect themselves against the world of adults and against the cynicism and despair of their elders, on those fighting to hang onto the conviction that they can do better, that they can rise higher, and that they can make more of their life than those who have gone before them, especially, perhaps, their parents and relatives. One cannot understand the appeal of Ayn Rand if one doesn't understand how starved people -- and especially young people -- are for a celebration of human efficacy and for a vision that upholds the positive possibilities of life. The Fountainhead in particular has served as an incredible source of inspiration for the young. The Fountainhead gave them courage to fight for their own lives and for their own integrity and for their own ambitions. I remember reading letters written by soldiers in World War II who reported reading sections of the book to one another and finding in it the will to believe they would survive the horror they were enduring and come back home and create a better life for themselves. I remember reading letters from people who spoke of the courage the book gave them to quit their jobs and enter new careers, when all their friends and relatives opposed them. Or the courage to leave an unhappy marriage. Or the courage to marry someone who didn't meet with family approval. The courage to treat their own lives as important, as worth fighting for. And what is Atlas Shrugged if it is not a hymn to the glories of this earth, this world, and the possibilities for happiness and achievement that exist for us here? What is Atlas Shrugged if it is not a celebration of the human mind and human efficacy? And isn't this just what the young so desperately need? And not just the young, but all of us? To be told that our lives belong to ourselves and that the good is to live them and that we are here not to endure and to suffer but to enjoy and to prosper -- is that not an incalculably valuable gift? So these are some of the great benefits of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Now let us turn to some of the problems. The hazards


What I have to say will by no means be exhaustive or comprehensive, but I do want to touch on just a few issues that strike me as especially important. I want to share with you what I have observed. Confusing reason with "the reasonable"


I have said that Ayn Rand was a great champion of reason, a passionate champion of the human mind -- and a total adversary of any form of irrationalism or any form of what she called mysticism. I say "of what she called mysticism," because I do not really think she understood mysticism very well -- I know she never studied the subject -- and irrationalism and mysticism are not really synonymous, as they are treated in Atlas Shrugged. That gets me a little off my track, however. A discussion of mysticism outside the Randian framework will have to wait for some other occasion. I will only state for the record that I am not prepared to say, as Rand was, that anyone who might describe him- or herself as a "mystic" is to be dismissed as a crackpot or a charlatan. Reason is at once a faculty and a process of identifying and integrating the data present or given in awareness. Reason means integration in accordance with the law of noncontradiction. If you think of it in these terms -- as a process of noncontradictory integration -- it's difficult to imagine how anyone could be opposed to it. Here is the problem: There is a difference between reason as a process and what any person or any group of people, at any time in history, may regard as "the reasonable." This is a distinction that very few people are able to keep clear. We all exist in history, not just in some timeless vacuum, and probably none of us can entirely escape contemporary notions of "the reasonable." It's always important to remember that reason or rationality, on the one hand, and what people may regard as "the reasonable," on the other hand, don't mean the same thing. The consequence of failing to make this distinction, and this is markedly apparent in the case of Ayn Rand, is that if someone disagrees with your notion of "the reasonable," it can feel very appropriate to accuse him or her of being "irrational" or "against reason." If you read her books, or her essays in The Objectivist, or if you listen to her lectures, you will notice with what frequency and ease she branded any viewpoint she did not share as not merely mistaken but "irrational" or "mystical." In other words, anything that challenged her particular model of reality was not merely wrong but "irrational" and "mystical" -- to say nothing, of course, of its being "evil," another word she loved to use with extraordinary frequency. No doubt every thinker has to be understood, at least in part, in terms of what the thinker is reacting against, that is, the historical context in which the thinker's work begins. Ayn Rand was born in Russia: a mystical country in the very worst sense of the word, a country that never really passed through the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment in the way that Western Europe did. Ayn Rand herself was not only a relentless rationalist, she was profoundly secular, profoundly in love with this world, in a way that I personally can only applaud. Yet the problem is that she became very quick on the draw in response to anything that even had the superficial appearance of irrationalism, by which I mean, of anything that did not fit her particular understanding of "the reasonable." With regard to science, this led to an odd kind of scientific conservatism, a suspicion of novelty, an indifference -- this is only a slight exaggeration -- to anything more recent than the work of Sir Isaac Newton. I remember being astonished to hear her say one day, "After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis." I asked her, "You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms -- including humans -- evolved from less complex life forms?" She shrugged and responded, "I'm really not prepared to say," or words to that effect. I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God's creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable. Like many other people, she was enormously opposed to any consideration of the possible validity of telepathy, ESP, or other psi phenomenon. The evidence that was accumulating to suggest that there was something here at least worthy of serious scientific study did not interest her; she did not feel any obligation to look into the subject; she was convinced it was all a fraud. It did not fit her model of reality. When an astronaut attempted during a flight to the moon to conduct a telepathic experiment, she commented on the effort with scorn -- even the attempt to explore the subject was contemptible in her opinion. Now I have no wish to argue, in this context, for or against the reality of nonordinary forms of awareness or any other related phenomenon. That is not my point. My point is the extent to which she had a closed mind on the subject, with no interest in discovering for herself why so many distinguished scientists had become convinced that such matters are eminently worthy of study. Another example -- less controversial -- involves hypnosis. I became interested in hypnosis in 1960. I began reading books on the subject and mastering the basic principles of the art. Now this generated a problem because on the one hand Ayn Rand knew, or believed she knew, that hypnosis was a fraud with no basis in reality; on the other hand, in 1960 Nathaniel Branden was the closest thing on earth to John Galt. And John Galt could hardly be dabbling in irrationalism. So this produced some very curious conversations between us. She was not yet prepared, as she was later, to announce that I was crazy, corrupt, and depraved. At the same time, she firmly believed that hypnosis was irrational nonsense. I persevered in my studies and learned that the human mind was capable of all kinds of processes beyond what I had previously believed. My efforts to reach Ayn on this subject were generally futile and I soon abandoned the attempt. And to tell the truth, during the time I was still with her, I lost some of my enthusiasm for hypnosis. I regained it after our break and that is when my serious experimenting in that field began and the real growth of my understanding of the possibilities of working with altered states of consciousness. I could give many more examples of how Ayn Rand's particular view of "the reasonable" became intellectually restrictive. Instead, to those of you who are her admirers, I will simply say: Do not be in a hurry to dismiss observations or data as false, irrational, or "mystical," because they do not easily fit into your current model of reality. It may be the case that you need to expand your model. One of the functions of reason is to alert us to just such a possibility. It would have been wonderful, given how much many of us respected and admired Ayn Rand, if she had encouraged us to develop a more open-minded attitude and to be less attached to a model of reality that might be in need of revision. But that was not her way. Quite the contrary. Other people's model of reality might be in need of revision. Never hers. Not in any fundamental sense. Reason, she was convinced, had established that for all time. In encouraging among her followers the belief that she enjoyed a monopoly on reason and the rational, she created for herself a very special kind of power, the power to fling anyone who disagreed with her about anything into the abyss of "the irrational" -- and that was a place we were all naturally eager to avoid. Encouraging repression


Now let's turn to another very important issue in the Randian philosophy: the relationship between reason and emotion. Emotions, Rand said again and again, are not tools of cognition. True enough, they are not. Emotions, she said, proceed from value judgments, conscious or subconscious, which they do in the sense that I wrote about in The Psychology of Self-Esteem and The Disowned Self. Emotions always reflect assessments of one kind or another, as others besides Rand and myself have pointed out. We must be guided by our conscious mind, Rand insisted; we must not follow our emotions blindly. Following our emotions blindly is undesirable and dangerous: Who can argue with that? Applying the advice to be guided by our mind isn't always as simple as it sounds. Such counsel does not adequately deal with the possibility that in a particular situation feelings might reflect a more correct assessment of reality than conscious beliefs or, to say the same thing another way, that the subconscious mind might be right while the conscious mind was mistaken. I can think of many occasions in my own life when I refused to listen to my feelings and followed instead my conscious beliefs -- which happened to be wrong -- with disastrous results. If I had listened to my emotions more carefully, and not been so willing to ignore and repress them, my thinking -- and my life -- would have advanced far more satisfactorily. A clash between mind and emotions is a clash between two assessments, one of which is conscious, the other might not be. It is not invariably the case that the conscious assessment is superior to the subconscious one; that needs to be checked out. The point is not that we follow the voice of emotion or feeling blindly, it means only that we don't dismiss our feelings and emotions so quickly; we try to understand what they may be telling us; we don't simply repress, rather we try to resolve the conflict between reason and feeling. We strive for harmony, for integration. We don't simply slash away the pieces of ourselves that don't fit our notion of the good or the right or the rational. The solution for people who seem over-preoccupied with feelings is not the renunciation of feelings but rather greater respect for reason, thinking, and the intellect. What is needed is not a renunciation of emotion but a better balance between emotion and thinking. Thinking needs to be added to the situation, emotion does not need to be subtracted from the situation. Admittedly there are times when we have to act on the best of our conscious knowledge, and children will pay more attention to our conscious knowledge and convictions, even when it's hard, even when it does violence to some of our feelings -- because there is not time to work the problem out. But those are, in effect, emergency situations. It's not a way of life. I wrote The Disowned Self to address myself to this problem. In a way, that book is written in code. On one level, it's a book about the problem of self-alienation and a deeper discussion of the relationship of reason and emotion than I had offered in The Psychology of Self-Esteem. But on another level, it's a book written to my former students at Nathaniel Branden Institute, an attempt to get them to rethink the ideas about the relationship of mind and emotion they might have acquired from Ayn Rand or me, and thereby I hoped to undo some of the harm I might have done in the past when I shared and advocated Rand's views in this matter. If you read the book that I wrote with my wife Devers The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book, you will find that approach carried still further. In the days of my association with Ayn Rand, we heard over and over again the accusation that we are against feelings, against emotions. And we would say in all good faith, "What are you talking about? We celebrate human passion. All the characters in the novels have powerful emotions, powerful passions. They feel far more deeply about things than does the average person. How can you possibly say that we are against feeling and emotion?" The critics were right. Here is my evidence: When we counsel parents, we always tell them effect: "Remember, your children will pay more attention to what you do than what you say. No teaching is as powerful as the teaching of the example. It isn't the sermons you deliver that your children will remember, but the way you act and live." Now apply that same principle to fiction, because the analogy fits perfectly. On the one hand, there are Rand's abstract statements concerning the relationship of mind and emotion; on the other hand, there is the behavior of her characters, the way her characters deal with their feelings. If, in page after page of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, you show someone being heroic by ruthlessly setting feelings aside, and if you show someone being rotten and depraved by, in effect, diving headlong into his feelings and emotions, and if that is one of your dominant methods of characterization, repeated again and again, then it doesn't matter what you profess, in abstract philosophy, about the relationship of reason and emotion. You have taught people: repress, repress, repress. If you want to know the means by which they were taught, notwithstanding all the celebrations of passion in Ayn Rand's books, study the scenes in The Fountainhead that deal with Roark's way of responding to his own suffering, study the ruthlessness toward their own feelings and emotions exhibited by the heroes and heroine of Atlas Shrugged, and study also consistent way in which villains are characterized in terms of following their feelings. And understand the power of role models to shape beliefs. When admirers of Ayn Rand seek my services professionally, they often come with the secret hope, rarely acknowledged in words, that with Nathaniel Branden they will at last become the masters of repression needed to fulfill the dream of becoming an ideal objectivist. When I tell them, usually fairly early in our relationship, that one of their chief problems is that they are out of touch with their feelings and emotions, cut off from them and oblivious, and that they need to learn how to listen more to their inner signals, to listen to their emotions, they often exhibit a glazed shock and disorientation. I guess I should admit that seeing their reaction is a real pleasure to me, one of the special treats of my profession you might say, and I do hope you will understand that I am acknowledging this with complete affection and good will and without any intention of sarcasm. The truth is, seeing their confusion and dismay, that it's hard to keep from smiling a little. One of the first things I need to convey to them is that when they deny and disown their feelings and emotions, they really subvert and sabotage their ability to think clearly -- because they cut off access to too much vital information. This is one of my central themes in The Disowned Self. No one can be integrated, no one can function harmoniously, no one can think clearly and effectively about the deep issues of life who is oblivious to the internal signals, manifested as feelings and emotions, rising from within the organism. My formula for this is: "Feel deeply to think clearly." It seems, however, to take a long time -- for objectivists and nonobjectivists alike -- to understand that fully. Most of us have been encouraged to deny and repress who we are, to disown our feelings, to disown important aspects of the self, almost from the day we were born. The road back to selfhood usually entails a good deal of struggle and courage. I know a lot of men and women who, in the name of idealism, in the name of lofty beliefs, crucify their bodies, crucify their feelings, and crucify their emotional life, in order to live up to that which they call their values. Just like the followers of one religion or another who, absorbed in some particular vision of what they think human beings can be or should be, leave the human beings they actually are in a very bad place: a place of neglect and even damnation. However, and this is a theme I shall return to later, no one ever grew or evolved by disowning and damning what he or she is. We can begin to grow only after we have accepted who we are and what we are and where we are right now. And no one was ever motivated to rise to glory by the pronouncement that he or she is rotten. It's often been observed that the Bible says many contradictory things and so if anyone tries to argue that the Bible holds a particular position, it's very easy for someone who disagrees to quote conflicting evidence. It's been said that you can prove almost anything by quoting the Bible. The situation with Ayn Rand is not entirely different. Right now someone could quote passages from The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged that would clearly conflict with and contradict what I am saying about the messages contained in those works. They would not be wrong, given that the works contain contradictory messages. Nathaniel Branden of 1960 could quote lots of passages to dispute at least some of the points I am making here. He did, too. That doesn't change the fact that if you really study what the story is saying, if you pay attention to what the actions of the characters are saying, and if you pay attention to the characterizations, you will find abundant evidence to support my observation that the work encourages emotional repression and self-disowning. Notice further -- and this is especially true of Atlas Shrugged -- how rarely you find the heroes and heroine talking to each other on a simple, human level without launching into philosophical sermons, so that personal experience always ends up being subordinated to philosophical abstractions. You can find this tendency even in the love scene between Galt and Dagny in the underground tunnels of Taggart Transcontinental, where we are given a brief moment of the intimately personal between them, and then, almost immediately after sexual intimacy, Galt is talking like a philosopher again. I have reason to believe that Galt has a great many imitators around the country and it's driving spouses and partners crazy! The effect of Rand's approach in this area, then, is very often to deepen her readers' sense of self-alienation. That was obviously not Rand's intention; nonetheless it is easy enough to show how often it has been the effect of her work on her admirers -- not only self-alienation, but also alienation from the world around us. Now it is probably inevitable that any person who thinks independently will experience some sense of alienation relative to the modern world. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about alienation exalted to the status of a high-level virtue. And how might a reader draw that inference from Ayn Rand? I will answer in the following way. In preparation for this presentation, I re-read the opening chapter of The Fountainhead. It really is a great book. I noticed something in the first chapter I never noticed before. Consider these facts: The hero has just been expelled from school, he is the victim of injustice, he is misunderstood by virtually everyone, and he himself tends to find other people puzzling and incomprehensible. He is alone; he has no friends. There is no one with whom he can share his inner life or values. So far, with the possible exception of being expelled from school, this could be a fairly accurate description of the state of the overwhelming majority of adolescents. There is one big difference: Howard Roark gives no indication of being bothered by any of it. He is serenely happy within himself. For average teenagers, this condition is agony. They read The Fountainhead and see this condition, not as a problem to be solved, but as a condition they must learn to be happy about -- as Roark is. All done without drugs! What a wish-fulfillment that would be! What a dream come true! Don't bother learning to understand anyone. Don't bother working at making yourself better understood. Don't try to see whether you can close the gap of your alienation from others, at least from some others, just struggle for Roark's serenity -- which Rand never tells you how to achieve. This is an example of how The Fountainhead could be at once a source of great inspiration and a source of great guilt, for all those who do not know how to reach Roark's state. In Atlas Shrugged, admittedly, Rand does acknowledge that we are social beings with legitimate social needs. For many of us, our first introduction to Ayn Rand's philosophy was through The Fountainhead, and that book makes an impression not easily lost Encouraging moralizing


Another aspect of her philosophy that I would like to talk about -- one of the hazards -- is the appalling moralism that Ayn Rand herself practiced and that so many of her followers also practice. I don't know of anyone other than the Church fathers in the Dark Ages who used the word "evil" quite so often as Ayn Rand. Of all the accusations of her critics, surely the most ludicrous is the accusation that Ayn Rand encourages people to do just what they please. If there's anything in this world Ayn did not do, it was to encourage people to do what they please. If there is anything she was not, it was an advocate of hedonism. She may have taught that "Man's Life" is the standard of morality and your own life is its purpose, but the path she advocated to the fulfillment of your life was a severely disciplined one. She left many of her readers with the clear impression that life is a tightrope and that it is all too easy to fall off into moral depravity. In other words, on the one hand she preached a morality of joy, personal happiness, and individual fulfillment; on the other hand, she was a master at scaring the hell out of you if you respected and admired her and wanted to apply her philosophy to your own life. She used to say to me, "I don't know anything about psychology, Nathaniel." I wish I had taken her more seriously. She was right; she knew next to nothing about psychology. What neither of us understood, however, was how disastrous an omission that is in a philosopher in general and a moralist in particular. The most devastating single omission in her system and the one that causes most of the trouble for her followers is the absence of any real appreciation of human psychology and, more specifically, of developmental psychology, of how human beings evolve and become what they are and of how they can change.


So, you are left with this sort of picture with your life. You either choose to be rational or you don't. You're honest or you're not. You choose the right values or you don't. You like the kind of art Rand admires or your soul is in big trouble. For evidence of this last point, read her essays on esthetics (Rand, 1970). Her followers are left in a dreadful position: If their responses aren't "the right ones," what are they to do? How are they to change? No answer from Ayn Rand. Here is the tragedy: Her followers' own love and admiration for her and her work become turned into the means of their self-repudiation and self-torture. I have seen a good deal of that, and it saddens me more than I can say. Let's suppose a person has done something that he or she knows to be wrong, immoral, unjust, or unreasonable: instead of acknowledging the wrong, instead of simply regretting the action and then seeking, compassionately, to understand why the action was taken and asking where was I coming from? and what need was I trying in my own twisted way to satisfy? -- instead of asking such questions, the person is encouraged to brand the behavior as evil and is given no useful advice on where to go from there. You don't teach people to be moral by teaching them self-contempt as a virtue. Enormous importance is attached in Rand's writings to the virtue of justice. I think one of the most important things she has to say about justice is that we shouldn't think of justice only in terms of punishing the guilty but also in terms of rewarding and appreciating the good. I think her emphasis on this point is enormously important. To look on the dark side, however, part of her vision of justice is urging you to instant contempt for anyone who deviates from reason or morality or what is defined as reason or morality. Errors of knowledge may be forgiven, she says, but not errors of morality. Even if what people are doing is wrong, even if errors of morality are involved, even if what people are doing is irrational, you do not lead people to virtue by contempt. You do not make people better by telling them they are despicable. It just doesn't work. It doesn't work when religion tries it and it doesn't work when objectivism tries it. If someone has done something so horrendous that you want to tell him or her that the action is despicable, go ahead. If you want to tell someone he is a rotten son-of-a-bitch, go ahead. If you want to call someone a scoundrel, go ahead. I don't deny that there are times when that is a thoroughly appropriate response. What I do deny is that it is an effective strategy for inspiring moral change or improvement. The great, glaring gap in just about all ethical systems of which I have knowledge, even when many of the particular values and virtues they advocate may be laudable, is the absence of a technology to assist people in getting there, an effective means for acquiring these values and virtues, a realistic path people can follow. That is the great missing step in most religions and philosophies. And this is where psychology comes in: One of the tasks of psychology is to provide a technology for facilitating the process of becoming a rational, moral human being. You can tell people that it's a virtue to be rational, productive, or just, but, if they have not already arrived at that stage of awareness and development on their own, objectivism does not tell them how to get there. It does tell you you're rotten if you fail to get there. Ayn Rand admirers come to me and say, "All of her characters are so ambitious. I'm thirty years old and I don't know what to do with my life. I don't know what I want to make of myself. I earn a living, I know I could be better than I am, I know I could be more productive or creative, and I'm not. I'm rotten. What can I do?" I've heard some version of this quite often. I've heard it a lot from some very intelligent men and women who are properly concerned they they have many capacities they are not using, and who long for something more -- which is healthy and desirable, but the self-blame and self-hatred is not and it's very, very common. The question for me is: How come you don't have the motivation to do more? How come so little seems worth doing? In what way, in what twisted way, perhaps, might you be trying to take care of yourself by your procrastination, by your inertia, by your lack of ambition? Let's try to understand what needs you're struggling to satisfy. Let's try to understand where you're coming from. That is an approach I learned only after my break with Ayn Rand. It is very foreign to the approach I learned in my early years with her. And it's very foreign to just about every objectivist I've ever met. However, if we are to assist people to become more self-actualized, that approach is absolutely essential. We are all of us organisms trying to survive. We are all of us organisms trying in our own way to use our abilities and capacities to satisfy our needs. Sometimes the paths we choose are pretty terrible, and sometimes the consequences are pretty awful for ourselves and others. Until and unless we are willing to try to understand where people are coming from, what they are trying to accomplish, and what model of reality they're operating form -- such that they don't see themselves as having better alternatives, we cannot assist anyone to reach the moral vision that objectivism holds as a possibility for human beings. It's not quite true to say that I didn't understand this until after my break with Rand. This approach is already present in The Psychology of Self-Esteem, most of which was written during my years with her. I will say instead that I learned to practice this approach far more competently only after the break, only after I disassociated myself from her obsessive moralism and moralizing. So here in Ayn Rand's work is an ethical philosophy with a great vision of human possibilities, but no technology to help people get there, and a lot of messages encouraging self-condemnation when they fail to get there. Her readers come to me and they say; "Boy, it was so great. I read her books and I got rid of the guilt that the Church laid on me. I got rid of the guilt over sex. Or wanting to make money." "Why have you come to see me?", I ask. "Well, now I'm guilty about something else. I'm not as good as John Galt. Sometimes I'm not even sure I'm as good as Eddie Willers," they respond. Rand might respond, "But these people are guilty of pretentiousness and grandiosity!" Sure they are, at least some of the time. Although when you tell people, as Rand did, that one of the marks of virtue is to value the perfection of your soul above all things, not your happiness, not your enjoyment of life, not the joyful fulfillment of your positive possibilities, but the perfection of your soul, aren't you helping to set people up for just this kind of nonsense? A man came to me a little while ago for psychotherapy. He was involved in a love affair with a woman. He was happy with her. She was happy with him. But he had a problem; he wasn't convinced she was worthy of him -- he wasn't convinced she was "enough." And why not? Because, although she worked for a living, her life was not organized around some activity comparable to building railroads. "She isn't a Dagny Taggart." The fact that he was happy with her seemed to matter less to him than the fact that she didn't live up to a certain notion of what the ideal woman was supposed to be like. If he had said, "I'm worried about our future because, although I enjoy her right now, I don't know whether or not there's enough intellectual stimulation there," that would have been a different question entirely and a far more understandable one. What was bothering him was not his own misgivings but a voice inside him, a voice which he identified as the voice of Ayn Rand, saying "She's not Dagny Taggart." When I began by gently pointing out to him that he wasn't John Galt, it didn't make him feel any better -- it made him feel worse! I recall a story I once read by a psychiatrist, a story about a tribe that has a rather unusual way of dealing with moral wrongdoers or lawbreakers. Such a person, when his or her infraction is discovered, is not reproached or condemned but is brought into the center of the village square -- and the whole tribe gathers around. Everyone who has ever known this person since the day he or she was born steps forward, one by one, and talks about anything and everything good this person has ever been known to have done. The speakers aren't allowed to exaggerate or make mountains out of molehills; they have to be realistic, truthful, factual. And the person just sits there, listening, as one by one people talk about all the good things this person has done in the course of his or her life. Sometimes, the process takes several days. When it's over, the person is released and everyone goes home and there is no discussion of the offense -- and there is almost no repetition of offenses (Zunin, 1970). In the objectivist frame of reference there is the assumption, made explicit in John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged, and dramatized throughout the novel in any number of ways, that the most natural, reasonable, appropriate response to immoral or wrong behavior is contempt and moral condemnation. Psychologists know that that response tends to increase the probability that that kind of behavior will be repeated. This is an example of what I mean by the difference between a vision of desirable behavior and the development of an appropriate psychological technology that would inspire people to practice it. Conflating sacrifice and benevolence


Now let us move on to still another aspect of the Rand philosophy that entails a great contribution, on the one hand, and a serious omission, on the other. I have already stressed that in the objectivist ethics a human being is regarded as an end in him- or herself and exists properly for his or her own sake, neither sacrificing self to others nor sacrificing others to self. The practice of human sacrifice is wrong, said Rand, no matter by whom it is practiced. She was an advocate of what we may call enlightened selfishness or enlightened self-interest. Needless to say, this is a viewpoint that I support unreservedly. I noted earlier that, when we want to understand a thinker, it's generally useful to understand what that person may be reacting against. I believe that in desire to expose the evil of the notion that self-sacrifice is a virtue and in her indignation at the very idea of treating human beings as objects of sacrifice, she presented her case for rational self-interest or rational selfishness in a way that neglected a very important part of human experience. To be precise, she didn't neglect it totally; but she did not deal with it adequately, did not give it the attention it deserves. I am referring to the principle of benevolence, mutual helpfulness and mutual aid between human beings. I believe it is a virtue to support life. I believe it is a virtue to assist those who are struggling for life. I believe it is a virtue to seek to alleviate suffering. None of this entails the notion of self-sacrifice. I am not saying that we should place the interests of others above our own. I am not saying that our primary moral obligation is to alleviate the pain of others. I am not saying that we do not have the right to place our own interests first. I am saying that the principle of benevolence and mutual aid is entirely compatible with an ethic of self-interest and more: An ethic of self-interest logically must advocate the principle of benevolence and mutual aid. Given that we live in society, and given that misfortune or tragedy can strike any one of us, it is clearly in our self-interest to live in a world in which human beings deal with one another in a spirit of mutual benevolence and helpfulness. Could anyone seriously argue that the principle of mutual aid does not have survival value? I am not talking about "mutual aid" coercively orchestrated by a government. I am talking about the private, voluntary actions of individual men and women functioning on their own initiative and by their own standards. By treating the issue of help to others almost entirely in the context of self-sacrifice and/or in the context of government coercion, Rand largely neglects a vast area of human experience to which neither of these considerations apply. And the consequence for too many of her followers is an obliviousness to the simple virtues of kindness, generosity, and mutual aid, all of which clearly and demonstrably have biological utility, meaning: survival value. There are too many immature, narcissistic individuals whose thinking stops at the point of hearing that they have no obligation to sacrifice themselves to others. True enough, they don't. Is there nothing else to be said on the subject of help to others? I think there is and I think so precisely on the basis of the objectivist standard of ethics: man's/woman's life and well-being. Would you believe that sometimes in therapy clients speak to me with guilt of their desire to be helpful and kind to others? I am not talking about manipulative do-gooders. I am talking about persons genuinely motivated by benevolence and good will, but who wonder whether they are "good objectivists." "Have I ever said that charity and help to others is wrong or undesirable?," Rand might demand. No, she hasn't; neither has she spoken very much about their value, beyond declaring that they are not the essence of life -- and of course they are not the essence of life. They are a part of life, however, and sometimes an important part of life, and it is misleading to allow for people to believe otherwise. Overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises


I have already mentioned that there is one great missing element in the objectivist system, namely, a theory of psychology, or, more precisely, an understanding of psychology. Rand held the view that human beings can be understood exclusively in terms of their premises, that is, in terms of their basic philosophical beliefs, along with their free will choices. This view is grossly inadequate to the complexity of the actual facts. It is, further, a view that flies totally in the face of so much that we know today about how the mind operates. Many factors contribute to who we become as human beings: our genes, our maturation, our unique biological potentials and limitations, our life experiences and the conclusions we draw from them, the knowledge and information available to us, and, of course, our premises or philosophical beliefs, and the thinking we choose to do or not to do. And even this list is an oversimplification. The truth, is we are far from understanding everything that goes into shaping the persons we become, and it is arrogant and stupid to imagine that we do. Among the many unfortunate consequences of believing that we are the product only of our premises and that our premises are chiefly the product of the thinking we have done or failed to do is a powerful inclination, on the one hand, to regard as immoral anyone who arrives at conclusions different from our own, and, on the other hand, an inclination to believe that people who voice the same beliefs as we do are people with whom we naturally have a lot in common. I remember, at Nathaniel Branden Institute, seeing people marry on the grounds of believing that a shared enthusiasm for objectivism was enough to make them compatible; I also remember the unhappiness that followed. Professing the same philosophical convictions is hardly enough to guarantee the success of a marriage and not even enough to guarantee the success of a friendship: Many other psychological factors are necessary.


Our souls are more than our philosophies -- and certainly more than our conscious philosophies. Just as we need to know more than a human being's philosophical beliefs in order to understand that human being; so, we need to know more than a society's or culture's philosophical beliefs to understand the events of a given historical period. Of course, the philosophical ideas of a society or a culture play a powerful role in determining the flow of events. Other factors, however, are always involved, which one would never guess from reading Ayn Rand. One factor that many thinkers beside Ayn Rand tend to ignore in their studies of history are the psychologies or personalities of the political and military leaders. Different people, with different psychologies or personalities, at the same moment in history might act differently -- with profoundly different historical consequences. There is no time here to explore this theme in detail, beyond saying that the objectivist method of historical interpretation is guilty of the same gross oversimplification that is manifest at the level of explaining individual behavior. One of the unfortunate consequences of this over simplification is that most students of objectivism are pathetically helpless when faced with the task of carrying their ideas into the real world and seeking to implement them. They do not know what to do, most of the time. Objectivism has not prepared them. There is too much about the real world, about social and political institutions, and about human psychology, of which they have no knowledge. Encouraging dogmatism


Ayn always insisted that her philosophy was an integrated whole, that it was entirely self-consistent, and that one could not reasonably pick elements of her philosophy and discard others. In effect, she declared, "It's all or nothing." Now this is a rather curious view, if you think about it. What she was saying, translated into simple English, is: Everything I have to say in the field of philosophy is true, absolutely true, and therefore any departure necessarily leads you into error. Don't try to mix your irrational fantasies with my immutable truths. This insistence turned Ayn Rand's philosophy, for all practical purposes, into dogmatic religion, and many of her followers chose that path. The true believers might respond by saying, "How can you call it dogmatic religion when we can prove every one of Ayn Rand's propositions?!" My answer to that is, "The hell you can!" Prior to our break, Ayn Rand credited me with understanding her philosophy better than any other person alive -- and not merely better, but far better. I know what we were in a position to prove, I know where the gaps are. And so can anyone else -- by careful, critical reading. It's not all that difficult or complicated. This may sound like a trivial example of what I mean, but it's an example that has always annoyed me personally. I would love to hear some loyal follower of Ayn Rand try to argue logically and rationally for her belief that no woman should aspire to be president of the United States. This was one of Rand's more embarrassing lapses. If we are to champion the independent, critical mind, then the philosophy of objectivism can hardly be exempt from judgment. Ayn Rand made mistakes. That merely proves she was human. The job of her admirers, however, is to be willing to see them and to correct them. Sometimes, when her admirers begin to grasp their mistakes, they become enraged. They turn against everything she had to say. They feel betrayed, like children who discover that their parents are not omnipotent and omniscient. That's another hazard to which I'd like to draw your attention. Ayn Rand might turn over in her grave to hear me say it, but she really did have the right to be wrong sometimes. No need for us to become hysterical about it or to behave like petulant eight-year-olds. Growing up means being able to see our parents realistically. Growing up relative to Ayn Rand means being able to see her realistically -- to see the greatness and to see the shortcomings. If we see only the greatness and deny the shortcomings or if we see only the shortcomings and deny the greatness, we remain blind. She has so much that is truly marvelous to offer us. So much wisdom, insight, and inspiration. So much clarification. Let us say "thank you" for that, acknowledge the errors and mistakes when we see them, and proceed on our own path -- realizing that, ultimately, each of us has to make the journey alone, anyway. Closing


I want to close on a more personal note. I have been asked: Would I be giving this presentation if Ayn Rand were still alive? Although I can't answer with certainty, I am inclined to say: No, I wouldn't. I am not an altruist. I do not believe in practicing self-sacrifice. In view of the disgraceful lies that she spread about me at the time of our break, in view of her efforts to destroy me, to ruin my reputation and career -- which is a story I do not care to get into here -- I would not have wanted to do anything that would benefit her directly while she was still alive. I am not that disinterested. I won't deny that, when she was alive, almost in spite of myself I did do a number of things that directly benefited her; they seemed necessary at the time. I wasn't too happy about doing them. One of the things that happened in consequence of her death is that I am free once again to speak comfortably and openly about what I admire in her work.





 

 



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