c/o Nathaniel Branden Lectures
165 East 35th Street
New York 16, New York
October 28, 1961
Dear Mr. Hadari:
Thank you for your letter of October 2, 1961. I appreciate your interest in my books and I am glad that you find my philosophy helpful.
As you probably realize, I cannot undertake to answer philosophical questions by mail. To be answered fully, such questions require the writing of long treatises. So I can only give you a brief indication of my answers.
You ask whether the originators of the “Original Sin” idea and of other anti-man doctrines were fully and consciously aware of their ultimate purpose. No, that would be impossible, for the reasons you state: it would have required too great an intellectual development, incompatible with such doctrines. The originators of those doctrines, as well as their modern advocates, were and are mystics, which means that their ideas are dictated to them by their emotions, their wishes or fears, not by reason. This permits them to evade the meaning and purpose of the unidentified premises that produce their emotions. They do not have or seek a full philosophical understanding: when a man’s basic premise is hatred for life and reason, the logic of this premise will do the rest.
You ask: “Why did destructive notions grow up ‘naturally’—why didn’t healthy, ‘normal’ theories accompany mankind from its start?” The answer is: Because man’s consciousness is not automatic, because man does not acquire knowledge automatically and infallibly, because every step in the discovery of knowledge has to be gained by man’s choice. To learn what is true, what is right, requires a long process of intellectual struggle and achievement. But no effort is required to promulgate mystical falsehoods. Mysticism did not grow up “naturally,” it grew
up by default—in the absence of rational knowledge.
This does not mean that every man accepts rational knowledge automatically, once it is discovered. But speaking historically, those who choose to remain irrational are impotent against the men armed with rational knowledge—in any society where men are left free. Culturally, mysticism has never won in a free contest with reason—which is why mystics resort to force to maintain their power over men, whenever they get the chance.
I suggest that you read the title essay of my latest book FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL, which deals with the intellectual history of Western civilization. You will find it relevant to your questions.