Robert Campbell

Ayn Rand to the Reverend Dudley, October 23, 1943

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On Sunday September 4, a 1943 letter by Ayn Rand was sold on ebay for a tidy sum.

The letter has occasioned a few comments from the ultra-faithful, because it, well, confuses them.

I'll post it here as it was displayed on ebay (with the seller's marks over each page—you can still read the passages).

My thanks to Neil Parille for pointing this one out.

Robert Campbell

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/randtodudley102343p1.jpg

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/randtodudley102343p2.jpg

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/randtodudley102343p3.jpg

Note: Date of sale has been corrected from September 3 to September 4.

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Holy crap! I just checked, and it's not in the Letters of Ayn Rand. Do you suppose it was left out intentionally?

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The letter has occasioned a few comments from the ultra-faithful, because it, well, confuses them.

When you say ultra-faithful, are you talking Christians or Objectivists? I just posted this on OO, it hadn't been mentioned there yet (I doubt I missed it). Link to comments?

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ND,

I don't know for sure. Maybe it got separated from her other correspondence, years ago.

We'd have to know whether a copy is in the Ayn Rand Archive, and I'm not volunteering to ask Jeff Britting...

Still, would you put it past Leonard to keep it out of a volume edited under his supervision?

Robert Campbell

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Here is where Neil saw one of the ultra-faithful commenting:

http://www.newclarion.com/2011/09/letter-from-1943/

and here is the ebay listing

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220842770782#ht_2874wt_1233

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Robert,

Based on that letter, it's reasonable to say that the Ayn Rand of those years (38 years old?) would probably have been very friendly to Glenn Beck and what he is doing.

I wonder how far we can push fair use on this. I am certain that virtual text (instead of image) that one can copy and paste would spread like wildfire on the Internet.

Michael

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Based on that letter, it's reasonable to say that the Ayn Rand of those years (38 years old?) would probably have been very friendly to Glenn Beck and what he is doing.

Speaking for the anti-Beck posse here on OL:

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On Saturday, a 1943 letter by Ayn Rand was sold on ebay

That would be Sept 3. It was sold sometime between Sept 3 and 5 inclusive, but are you sure it was Sept 3?

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Robert,

The letter is fantastic from the perspective of the evolution of Rand’s thought. Here is the crucial passage, as I see it:

Christianity was the first school of thought which proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual.. .

Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into Christian philosophy which has never been resolved. . . I believe that Christianity will not regain its power as a vital spiritual force until it has resolved this contradiction. And since it cannot reject the conception of the paramount sacredness of the individual soul—this conception holds the root, the meaning and the greatness of Christianity—it must reject the morality of altruism.

Rand wrote the following words in 1936, a few years before she wrote that letter:

If a life can have a theme song, and I believe every worthwhile one has, mine is a religion, an obsession, or a mania or all of these expressed in one word: individualism. I was born with that obsession and have never seen and do not know now a cause more worthy, more misunderstood, more seemingly hopeless and more tragically needed.

There seems to have been a period in her life where individualism was paramount in her thinking. Clearly she felt she owed a huge debt to Christianity as having given birth to this idea. That’s why she gave credit to “the greatness of Christianity.”

Later she would realize that, philosophically, Christianity was incompatible with the foundation of genuine individualism (and egoism): rationality.

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Fantastic. That takes care of a lot of mis-interpretations of her thoughts in this area. She was ahead of her time, again.

And yeah, I could see that one getting edited out.

rde

Heh.

Edited by Rich Engle

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Another possible explanation is this letter was preceded by her intense and intimate relationship with Isabel Patterson.

Heller's book emphasizes how the older Patterson was a mentor to Ayn. Patterson coming from an "...entrenched Christian ethic..." [Heller, pg.137] according to Ayn. Moreover, on the prior page, Mimi "...recalled that the women would stay up talking until four or five o'clock in the morning. Rand asked the questions and Patterson answered them. It was as if the older woman were Rand's 'guru and

teacher,' Mimi said, "and Ayn didn't do that."

Additionally, 1943 was the year that they both publicly praised and recommended each other's books [The Fountainhead and the God of the Machine].

So, this letter was written at the height of Patterson's influence on Ayn.

Adam

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It was sold sometime between Sept 3 and 5 inclusive, but are you sure it was Sept 3?

Mark,

Good question. It had been sold when I looked it up on Sunday September 4, and I thought the listing had ended on September 3.

But ebay says it was sold on Sunday September 4—including the envelope:

http://www.ebay.com/...&_dmd=1&_ipg=50

Adam,

First thing I thought when I saw the letter was how much of Isabel Paterson was in it.

And there's what looks like an allusion to John Stuart Mill's rejoinder to Auguste Comte, for what he saw as distorting a Christian message: love thy neighbor as thyself getting converted into love thy neighbor and do thine utmost not to love thyself.

Paterson might have read Mill's rejoinder to Comte. I doubt Rand did.

Robert Campbell

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Another possible explanation is this letter was preceded by her intense and intimate relationship with Isabel Patterson.

Heller's book emphasizes how the older Patterson was a mentor to Ayn. Patterson coming from an "...entrenched Christian ethic..." [Heller, pg.137] according to Ayn. Moreover, on the prior page, Mimi "...recalled that the women would stay up talking until four or five o'clock in the morning. Rand asked the questions and Patterson answered them. It was as if the older woman were Rand's 'guru and

teacher,' Mimi said, "and Ayn didn't do that."

Additionally, 1943 was the year that they both publicly praised and recommended each other's books [The Fountainhead and the God of the Machine].

So, this letter was written at the height of Patterson's influence on Ayn.

Adam

Adam,

That’s not really a different explanation of the significance of the letter. It’s another aspect of the same explanation (i.e., Rand’s early emphasis on individualism as a fundamental doctrine). One key influence of Isabel Paterson on Rand’s thinking was Paterson’s appreciation for Christianity’s role in the theory of individualism.

The God of the Machine was a radical defense of individualism as the source of mankind’s progress. At one point, Paterson describes The Declaration of Independence as “a secular application of the Christian doctrine of the individual soul.” (GOTM, p. 69)

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“a secular application of the Christian doctrine of the individual soul.”

The thing is, those kind of people have had a really funny way of going about doing that (or getting it done to them). By complicit behavior, or maybe just fear . . .

inquisition2.gif

rde

Drown Me Like A Witch, And I Will Be Pure

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Another possible explanation is this letter was preceded by her intense and intimate relationship with Isabel Patterson.

Heller's book emphasizes how the older Patterson was a mentor to Ayn. Patterson coming from an "...entrenched Christian ethic..." [Heller, pg.137] according to Ayn. Moreover, on the prior page, Mimi "...recalled that the women would stay up talking until four or five o'clock in the morning. Rand asked the questions and Patterson answered them. It was as if the older woman were Rand's 'guru and

teacher,' Mimi said, "and Ayn didn't do that."

Additionally, 1943 was the year that they both publicly praised and recommended each other's books [The Fountainhead and the God of the Machine].

So, this letter was written at the height of Patterson's influence on Ayn.

Adam

Adam,

That's not really a different explanation of the significance of the letter. It's another aspect of the same explanation (i.e., Rand's early emphasis on individualism as a fundamental doctrine).

Dennis:

Maybe that is why I chose the word "another" rather than "different" when I typed the post.

Adam

questioning intentions is a life long labor of love...

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Another possible explanation is this letter was preceded by her intense and intimate relationship with Isabel Patterson.

Heller's book emphasizes how the older Patterson was a mentor to Ayn. Patterson coming from an "...entrenched Christian ethic..." [Heller, pg.137] according to Ayn. Moreover, on the prior page, Mimi "...recalled that the women would stay up talking until four or five o'clock in the morning. Rand asked the questions and Patterson answered them. It was as if the older woman were Rand's 'guru and

teacher,' Mimi said, "and Ayn didn't do that."

Additionally, 1943 was the year that they both publicly praised and recommended each other's books [The Fountainhead and the God of the Machine].

So, this letter was written at the height of Patterson's influence on Ayn.

Adam

Adam,

That's not really a different explanation of the significance of the letter. It's another aspect of the same explanation (i.e., Rand's early emphasis on individualism as a fundamental doctrine).

Dennis:

Maybe that is why I chose the word "another" rather than "different" when I typed the post.

Adam

questioning intentions is a life long labor of love...

Adam,

Maybe you should learn to communicate clearly, because there is nothing about your prior post that implies any connection with my theory about Ayn’s early emphasis on individualism.

What does ‘questioning intentions’ have to do with anything?

Is it possible to have a sane discussion around here?

Good grief.

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Another possible explanation is this letter was preceded by her intense and intimate relationship with Isabel Patterson.

Heller's book emphasizes how the older Patterson was a mentor to Ayn. Patterson coming from an "...entrenched Christian ethic..." [Heller, pg.137] according to Ayn. Moreover, on the prior page, Mimi "...recalled that the women would stay up talking until four or five o'clock in the morning. Rand asked the questions and Patterson answered them. It was as if the older woman were Rand's 'guru and

teacher,' Mimi said, "and Ayn didn't do that."

Additionally, 1943 was the year that they both publicly praised and recommended each other's books [The Fountainhead and the God of the Machine].

So, this letter was written at the height of Patterson's influence on Ayn.

Adam

Adam,

That's not really a different explanation of the significance of the letter. It's another aspect of the same explanation (i.e., Rand's early emphasis on individualism as a fundamental doctrine).

Dennis:

Maybe that is why I chose the word "another" rather than "different" when I typed the post.

Adam

questioning intentions is a life long labor of love...

Adam,

Maybe you should learn to communicate clearly, because there is nothing about your prior post that implies any connection with my theory about Ayn’s early emphasis on individualism.

What does ‘questioning intentions’ have to do with anything?

Is it possible to have a sane discussion around here?

Good grief.

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It is very possible that a copy of it was nowhere in her papers after she sent it. Peikoff might not have known that this letter existed.

Chris,

Yes, it is possible.

The letter that sold for $5K was the one she mailed.

Maybe for some reason no other copy survived.

That's why I said that one would have to find out whether a copy reposes in the Ayn Rand Archives—and I doubt Jeff Britting will be eager to respond to inquiries on the subject.

But if a copy does reside in the Archives, could Leonard Peikoff have ordered that it not be included in the Berliner volume?

Yes, it is possible.

Robert Campbell

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Another possible explanation is this letter was preceded by her intense and intimate relationship with Isabel Patterson.

Heller's book emphasizes how the older Patterson was a mentor to Ayn. Patterson coming from an "...entrenched Christian ethic..." [Heller, pg.137] according to Ayn. Moreover, on the prior page, Mimi "...recalled that the women would stay up talking until four or five o'clock in the morning. Rand asked the questions and Patterson answered them. It was as if the older woman were Rand's 'guru and

teacher,' Mimi said, "and Ayn didn't do that."

Additionally, 1943 was the year that they both publicly praised and recommended each other's books [The Fountainhead and the God of the Machine].

So, this letter was written at the height of Patterson's influence on Ayn.

Adam

Adam,

That's not really a different explanation of the significance of the letter. It's another aspect of the same explanation (i.e., Rand's early emphasis on individualism as a fundamental doctrine).

Dennis:

Maybe that is why I chose the word "another" rather than "different" when I typed the post.

Adam

questioning intentions is a life long labor of love...

Adam,

Maybe you should learn to communicate clearly, because there is nothing about your prior post that implies any connection with my theory about Ayn's early emphasis on individualism.

What does 'questioning intentions' have to do with anything?

Is it possible to have a sane discussion around here?

Good grief.

Dennis:

I know that this may be difficult for you to absorb, but I was not making any connection to your post at all. If I was, I would have explained that I was connecting it to your post.

My post was directly related to the letter, the year it was written and the fact that it coincided with her relationship with Patterson. Robert Campbell got it rather clearly I thought.

Sorry, next time I will make sure that I include you in my post if I happen to follow your post.

Adam

would not want to offend unless I meant to and then I will make sure it is clear lol

Edited by Selene

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Here is an excerpt from a fascinating commentary by Chris Sciabarra which relates directly to this letter. The statements quoted by Rand in the first two paragraphs below are from The Letters of Ayn Rand, pp. 287-288.

. . .[When] a fan (Sylvia Austin, 9 July 1946) compared Jesus and Roark, Rand recoiled at the comparison, but still acknowledged: "Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism—the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means—one's ego and the integrity of one's ego." She goes on to say: "But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul—(this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?)—Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or ~live for~ others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others."

She continues: "The solution? We have a choice. Either we accept the basic principle of Jesus—the preeminence of one's own soul—and define a new code of ethics consistent with it (a code of Individualism). Or we accept altruism and the basic principle which it implies—the conception of man as a sacrificial animal, whose purpose is service to others, to the herd (which is what you may see in Europe right now—and which is certainly not what Jesus intended)."

Note above, Rand's suggestion that Jesus's alleged altruism may have been an outgrowth of "His interpreters." She repeats the charge in the early drafts. In notes for Roark's speech (1942), she mentions "Christ and Nietzsche" in the same breath and in an earlier version of Roark's courtroom speech, Roark mentions both of them in a list of creators who were made to suffer. The list includes Socrates, Joan D'Arc, Galileo, Spinoza, Luther, Hugo, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Nieztsche, Ibsen, Dostoevsky, and Jesus Christ ("against the majority of [indecipherable] crucified").

Shoshana Milgram makes the additional point in her analysis of these drafts (see THE INTELLECTUAL ACTIVIST, August 2001) that Rand had curtailed allusions to both religion and Nietzsche in THE FOUNTAINHEAD. But she reveals a very interesting passage that was initially included in Roark's speech: "Men have come close to the truth, but it was destroyed each time. . . Christ proclaimed the untouchable integrity of Man's spirit [stating] the first rights of the Ego. He placed the salvation of one's own soul above all other concerns. But men distorted it into altruism. Nietzsche, who loved Man, fought against altruism---and destroyed his own case by preaching the Will to Power, a second-hander's pursuit."

I don't have a Nietzsche reference in front of me, but it is possible that this view of Jesus's egoist message being distorted into altruism ~may~ have been anticipated by Nietzsche himself. Rand's early drafts are peppered with a few additional religious references---religious metaphors are actually plastered all over the published version of THE FOUNTAINHEAD---including a Biblical quotation from Matthew 12:31-32, which centers on the issue of sin against one's own highest virtues. Rand goes a long way toward explaining the power---and reclaiming the imagery---of religious metaphors in her 25th anniversary introduction to THE FOUNTAINHEAD.

Chris Sciabarra

Roark singing the praises of Jesus. Wow! This sheds considerable light on the changes in Rand's thinking between The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

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Here is an excerpt from a fascinating commentary by Chris Sciabarra which relates directly to this letter. The statements quoted by Rand in the first two paragraphs below are from The Letters of Ayn Rand, pp. 287-288.

. . .[When] a fan (Sylvia Austin, 9 July 1946) compared Jesus and Roark, Rand recoiled at the comparison, but still acknowledged: "Jesus was one of the first great teachers to proclaim the basic principle of individualism—the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal; this means—one's ego and the integrity of one's ego." She goes on to say: "But when it came to the next question, a code of ethics to observe for the salvation of one's soul—(this means: what must one do in actual practice in order to save one's soul?)—Jesus (or perhaps His interpreters) gave men a code of altruism, that is, a code which told them that in order to save one's soul, one must love or help or ~live for~ others. This means, the subordination of one's soul (or ego) to the wishes, desires or needs of others, which means the subordination of one's soul to the souls of others."

She continues: "The solution? We have a choice. Either we accept the basic principle of Jesus—the preeminence of one's own soul—and define a new code of ethics consistent with it (a code of Individualism). Or we accept altruism and the basic principle which it implies—the conception of man as a sacrificial animal, whose purpose is service to others, to the herd (which is what you may see in Europe right now—and which is certainly not what Jesus intended)."

Note above, Rand's suggestion that Jesus's alleged altruism may have been an outgrowth of "His interpreters." She repeats the charge in the early drafts. In notes for Roark's speech (1942), she mentions "Christ and Nietzsche" in the same breath and in an earlier version of Roark's courtroom speech, Roark mentions both of them in a list of creators who were made to suffer. The list includes Socrates, Joan D'Arc, Galileo, Spinoza, Luther, Hugo, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Nieztsche, Ibsen, Dostoevsky, and Jesus Christ ("against the majority of [indecipherable] crucified").

Shoshana Milgram makes the additional point in her analysis of these drafts (see THE INTELLECTUAL ACTIVIST, August 2001) that Rand had curtailed allusions to both religion and Nietzsche in THE FOUNTAINHEAD. But she reveals a very interesting passage that was initially included in Roark's speech: "Men have come close to the truth, but it was destroyed each time. . . Christ proclaimed the untouchable integrity of Man's spirit [stating] the first rights of the Ego. He placed the salvation of one's own soul above all other concerns. But men distorted it into altruism. Nietzsche, who loved Man, fought against altruism---and destroyed his own case by preaching the Will to Power, a second-hander's pursuit."

I don't have a Nietzsche reference in front of me, but it is possible that this view of Jesus's egoist message being distorted into altruism ~may~ have been anticipated by Nietzsche himself. Rand's early drafts are peppered with a few additional religious references---religious metaphors are actually plastered all over the published version of THE FOUNTAINHEAD---including a Biblical quotation from Matthew 12:31-32, which centers on the issue of sin against one's own highest virtues. Rand goes a long way toward explaining the power---and reclaiming the imagery---of religious metaphors in her 25th anniversary introduction to THE FOUNTAINHEAD.

Chris Sciabarra

Roark singing the praises of Jesus. Wow! This sheds considerable light on the changes in Rand's thinking between The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Dennis,

Thanks for looking this up - it was partially quoted here some months ago, without much fanfare, and its significance was lost. I then couldn't source it again.

A fascinating insight into AR's mind, that she would see afresh what others missed, and look for the most favorable and benign interpretation - initially.

My recall of the Gospels is hazy, but it does all fit, that Jesus railed against conformism, the society and the power of the 'Church' of his time. The only reference to the government I can remember was his "Render unto Caesar...", so I don't know about any anti-statism!

I tend to the belief that it was his followers who distorted his meaning (now what does that remind me of?), taking "Love thy neighbour as thyself", and - as someone mentioned here recently - transmuting it into "Love thy neighbour", period.

I'm quite used to Jews I know proprietarily and respectfully viewing Jesus Christ as "one of us" - born a Jew, and living as a good Jew.

Isn't it ironically amusing to consider that as individualist, Jesus was likely "one of us", too?

Tony

Edited by whYNOT

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Holy crap! I just checked, and it's not in the Letters of Ayn Rand. Do you suppose it was left out intentionally?

My guess is that it was. Rand was being extremely reasonable and tolerant with an individual who held an opinion quite contrary to hers.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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