Reverend Dudley’s (first name unknown) letter to AR is not in the Ayn Rand Archives (nor is any response or book review).
This letter was previously published only in the Winter 2017-18 issue of The Objective Standard.
139 East 35th Street
New York City
October 23, 1943
Dear Reverend Dudley:
Thank you for your very interesting letter. Unfortunately, you mailed it to the printers, not the publishers, of my book, so I did not receive it until today. I hope this will reach you in time for your lecture.
You asked for information on my background. I am a Russian woman by birth, but an American citizen now. I came to this country in 1926. My first novel was “We the Living” published by Macmillan in 1936. I worked on “The Fountainhead” for seven years. I wrote it as my tribute to America and to the American spirit.
Now as to your most interesting philosophical questions. You wonder “what we are going to do with the two billion that populate the earth in the light of my thesis.” The only thing to do with them is to do nothing. The only thing good we can do to mankind is to leave it alone, which means to leave it free. Men do have the capacity to work out their own destiny, and nobody else can work it out for them, and the only obstacle that stops them and destroys them is the interference of other men. All tyrannies have originated, not for an evil, but for an altruistic purpose—the desire “to do something” with mankind. When men recognize that doing things for and with others is improper and immoral and can lead only to the most vicious consequences—most of mankind’s problems will be solved.
America, as it used to be, in the form and principles established by her Constitution, has shown the proper manner of living for all mankind. Individual freedom and unalienable individual rights, independence of individual action and choice, no “planning” or “directives” of any “social aims” whatever—that is the whole formula for human decency and happiness. American has shown that it worked and how magnificently it worked. The rest of the world has America’s example. They can follow it, if they wish. If they do not wish, there’s nothing we can do for them. One cannot force men—or nations—to live as human beings if they prefer to be swine in a collectivist pig pen.
I do not believe that science and machines are producing what you so aptly call “mass-mindedness,” which then influences politics, economics and social relationships. That would be a materialistic, Marxist explanation. It is men’s thinking that determines the course of events—and our thinking has been growing progressively collectivistic for over a century. The revolting intellectual mess in which the world finds itself now is the ultimate result, the end of the blind alley of philosophical collectivism. Parasites have always existed, but they were of no danger to mankind until the better men, the thinkers and producers, began to preach the doctrine of the parasite—collectivism and altruism. What we need now to save the world is a rebirth of the principles of Individualism.
I was very much interested in your question on the relation of the ego to the “supreme ego.” I believe that my statement of man’s proper morality does not contradict any religious belief, if that belief includes faith in man’s free will. My morality is based on man’s nature, on the fundamental attribute of his nature which distinguishes him from the animals—his rational faculty. Since man is a rational being, his morality must be individualistic, for the mind is an attribute of the individual and there is no collective brain. If it is said that man is created by God, endowed with an immortal soul, and with reason as an attribute of his soul, it still holds true that he must act in accordance with his nature, the nature God gave him, and that in doing so he will be doing God’s will. But this implies that God endowed man with free will and the capacity of choice. It will not hold with a belief in a God as a deterministic ruler. But such a belief makes all morality impossible. Morality and determinism are mutually exclusive by definition. If there is a cosmic destiny, its meaning is man’s freedom. If, however, we assume a cosmic destiny working toward some purpose of its own which man cannot change or influence—then man is not free; then he can only act as prescribed and, if so, cannot be held responsible for his actions, nor considered either moral or immoral. But this is a belief which no truly religious person would accept. A benevolent God would not create a universe of slaves.
Christianity was the first school of thought that proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual. The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his brothers. This is the basic statement of true individualism. The salvation of one’s own soul means the preservation
of the integrity of one’s ego. The soul is the ego. Thus Christianity did preach egoism in my sense of the word, in a high, noble and spiritual sense. Christ did say that you must love your neighbor as yourself, but He never said that you must love your neighbor better than yourself—which is the monstrous doctrine of altruism and collectivism. Altruism—the demand of self-immolation for others—contradicts the basic premise of Christianity, the sacredness of one’s own soul. Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into Christian philosophy, which has never been resolved. The entire history of Christianity in Europe has been a continuous civil war, not merely in fact, but also in spirit. 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. It must teach man neither to serve others nor to rule others, but to live together as independent equals, which is the only possible state of true brotherhood. Brothers are not mutual servants nor mutual dependents. Only slaves are. Dependence breeds hatred. Only free men can afford to be benevolent. Only free men can love and respect one another. But a free man is an independent man. And an independent man is one who lives primarily for himself.
I had better stop now, for I could discuss this subject forever, and I am glad of my first opportunity to discuss it with a minister. Of course, I did not intend all this for use in your review of my book—but you may use any part of it that suits your purpose.
I am very grateful for your interest in “The Fountainhead,” and I appreciate profoundly the desire you expressed to give it a larger circle of readers.