"To Whom It May Concern" by Ayn Rand

"To Whom It May Concern" by Ayn Rand

(Originally published in The Objectivist, September 15, 1968)

This is to inform my readers and all those interested in Objectivism that Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden are no longer associated with this magazine, with me or with my philosophy.

I have permanently broken all personal, professional and business association with them, and have withdrawn from them the permission to use my name in connection with their commercial, professional, intellectual or other activities.

I hereby withdraw my endorsement of them and of their future works and activities. I repudiate both of them, totally and permanently, as spokesmen for me or for Objectivism.

The reasons are as follows.

For the past three years, I have observed a disturbing change in Nathaniel Branden's intellectual attitude. It seemed to indicate his gradual departure from the principles of Objectivism, a tendency toward non-intellectual concerns, a lessening of interest in philosophical issues and in the Objectivist movement as such.

The clearest indication of this trend was Mr. Branden's venture into the theater with his project to produce Barbara Branden's stage adaptation of my novel The Fountainhead. I had many misgivings about this project, but I gave my consent when he assured me that it would not interfere with his primary intellectual responsibilities. I felt no desire, but rather a considerable reluctance, to see The Fountainhead produced on the stage; but he argued that he wanted me to give a professional start to Barbara Branden who had written a good adaptation (intended originally for television), that he wanted to write for the stage in the future, and that a "famous property," such as The Fountainhead, would help him to establish an "NBI Theater" devoted to Romantic drama.

As the date for the start of the production approached, this project seemed to become Mr. Branden's central concern, taking up a major part of his time, causing him to neglect his intellectual and business commitments. His attitude toward this project was oddly at variance with his former manner and conduct: it was an attitude that can best be described as authority-flaunting, unserious and, at times, undignified.

To mention two of Mr. Branden's defaults on his responsibilities: the growing and lengthening delays in the writing of his articles for this magazine (I have, at times, been late with my own articles, but not chronically nor to such an extent) ; his failure to rewrite the "Basic Principles of Objectivism" course for his own organization, Nathaniel Branden Institute. In regard to this last: he had discussed with me, well over a year ago, the fact that his "Basic" course needed reorganizing, rewriting and updating, inasmuch as a major part of its material had been published in this magazine, a view with which I strongly agreed; he assured me that he would do this as soon as he finished writing his book on psychology; neither task was done.

It is important, at this point, to state the exact nature of my relationship to NBI and to THE OBJECTIVIST.

NBI and its various affiliates (NBI Book Service, NBI Communications, NBI Press, NBI Theater) were organized and owned entirely by Mr. Branden (with the participation of Mrs. Branden). I had no business or financial interest in any of these corporations and no part in their management. My interest was strictly and exclusively intellectual: I permitted Mr. Branden to use my name and my ideas, in the sense that his organizations were to teach my philosophy and could recruit students from among the readers and admirers of my books; I retained intellectual control over the content of what was to be taught.

In the past few years, as I was told by its principals, the combined gross income of NBI and its affiliates was about $400,000 a year. I neither asked for nor received any part of it. The only money these organizations paid me was a small royalty on their recordings of my public speeches, a token payment for an introduction to one of their books, and, only in the last two years, a token fee for the two guest lectures I gave in the "Basic" course.

My motive in regard to NBI was: a) to help the spread of Objectivism; b) to help Nathaniel Branden make a name for himself, since he was, at the beginning, committed to Objectivism and would have had a terrible struggle gaining recognition through conventional channels in his own profession, psychology; c) to give the students of Objectivism an opportunity to meet one another and to associate with people who shared their ideas, in the midst of a hostile culture.

Mr. Branden's stated long-range goal in regard to NBI was to create a philosophically educated group of Objectivist intellectuals who would apply the principles of Objectivism to their own professions, and who would serve as a hard-core audience for the future works of young Objectivist writers, thus helping them to break through the blockade of the "liberal" Establishment -- a goal of which I thoroughly approved.

THE OBJECTIVIST (formerly THE OBJECTIVIST NEWSLETTER) was an independent venture, entirely separate from NBI and its affiliates. It was originated and owned jointly by Mr. Branden and me. Our incorporation agreement stated that all policy decisions were to be made by our unanimous consent. We also agreed that we would write an equal number of articles and receive an equal salary. I did not take any remuneration for the use of my name, even though my name constituted the main commercial asset of the publication. I was to do the final editing on the articles of other contributors, and Mr. Branden was to do preliminary editing and to supervise the financial-business aspects of the publication. It was firmly understood between us -- and repeatedly stressed by me through the years -- that the financial affairs of the publication were to be kept strictly separated from the financial affairs of NBI and its affiliates.

If you check over the back issues of this publication, you will observe that in 1962 and 1963 Mr. Branden and I wrote about the same number of articles and that he carried his proper share of the burden of work. But beginning with the year 1964, the number of articles written by me became significantly greater than the number written by him. On many occasions, he was unable to deliver a promised article on time and I had to write one in order to save the magazine from constant delays. This year, I refused to write more than my share; hence the magazine is now four months behind schedule. (I shall now make up for this time lag as fast as possible.)

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. About a year ago, I warned him that this was becoming a policy of intellectual and professional exploitation and, if it continued, I would break my association with him.

This year, in a long series of discussions, held at his request to help him solve what he characterized as his psycho-epistemological problems, I was shocked to discover that he was consistently failing to apply to his own personal life and conduct, not only the fundamental philosophical principles of Objectivism, but also the psychological principles he himself had enunciated and had written and lectured about. For example: he was unable or unwilling to identify the motivation of some of his actions or the nature of his long-range goals; he admitted that in many respects he was acting on the basis of unidentified feelings.

He assured me that his problem was purely emotional-psychological and did not affect his intellect or his devotion to Objectivism, but I knew that this contention would become impossible if his problem was not corrected. This placed me in a terrible dilemma: it meant that he did not practice what he preached, that he demanded of his students a standard of conduct he failed to demand of himself.

Such an attitude is not morally permissible in any writer or lecturer; it is worse in a lecturer on philosophy and psychology; it is still worse in a lecturer on morality, who has to exemplify in his own conduct the moral principles he advocates. It is intolerable in a lecturer on Objectivist morality: Objectivism does not permit any variant of the mind-body dichotomy, any split between theory and practice, between one's convictions and one's actions.

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. But, on the grounds of his plea that I had "misunderstood" him and of Mrs. Branden's assurances that she would help him solve his psychological problems, I gave him one last chance: I did not break our professional association -- on condition that he work on his problems and give me proof of his intellectual consistency before he resumed his public lectures at NBI.

On his own initiative, Mr. Branden cancelled his plans for the stage production of The Fountainhead, partly because of casting difficulties, partly because no collaboration with me was possible any longer.

About two months later, believing that Mr. Branden had improved and that he could be trusted to resume his public lectures, I was about to acquiesce in his plans to announce the fall semester of his courses at NBI, when Mrs. Branden suddenly confessed that Mr. Branden had been concealing from me certain ugly actions and irrational behavior in his private life, which were grossly contradictory to Objectivist morality and which she had known about for two years.

I confronted Mr. Branden with her accusation and he admitted it. He admitted that his actions had involved the deliberate deception of several persons for a period of some four years.

At my lowest opinion of Mr. Branden's behavior, I had not expected conscious deception on his part. I have always been willing to give a person the benefit of the doubt in regard to errors of knowledge -- and I had extended that benefit for too long in the case of Mr. Branden. I have never accepted, condoned or tolerated conscious breaches of morality. This was the last of the evidence which caused me to break all professional, as well as personal, association with him.

Another and simultaneous shock was the discovery of the nature of Mr. Branden's financial policy in regard to THE OBJECTIVIST.

As a major example of it: a few months after NBI moved into the Empire State Building a year ago, Mr. Branden told me that NBI had borrowed "some money" from THE OBJECTIVIST "to help out," because the payment of a year's rent was required in advance and "NBI didn't have quite enough." I did not like the fact that he had done it without my knowledge and consent, in violation of our incorporation agreement, and that he was informing me only after the fact, but I told him it would be all right with me if he had made provisions to repay it. He assured me that he had and that it would be repaid promptly.

Shortly before my complete break with Mr. Branden, I inquired about the status of that loan and learned from Mrs. Branden that it had not been repaid; I was startled to learn that the sum which NBI owed to THE OBJECTIVIST was $16,500. I demanded an immediate repayment; NBI'S business manager did repay it, but with some delay caused by the fact, he told me, that NBI did not have sufficient cash available.

It was not until about two weeks later that I learned the whole story: the sum which had been transferred from THE OBJECTIVIST to NBI had been $25,000 -- which was almost the entire sum of the year's rent needed by NBI. Mr. Branden's statement to me that "NBI didn't have quite enough" turned out to mean, apparently, that NBI had almost no money at all at the time and that THE OBJECTIVIST had been made to pay virtually all of NBI's rent. Subsequently, part of that loan had been repaid to THE OBJECTIVIST in the form of credits for its own rent as a sub-tenant of NBI. No effort had been made to repay the rest, until I demanded it. The original amount of the loan had represented the entire cash reserve of this magazine.

There were other, less costly instances of the same questionable policy in regard to THE OBJECTIVIST, and we are still checking the records.

The realization that Mr. Branden was exploiting me intellectually and professionally had been bad enough; that he should also attempt to exploit me financially was grotesquely sickening.

In the light of the entire situation, I insisted that Mr. Branden remove himself from every connection with THE OBJECTIVIST. He complied and turned it over to me.

I must state, for the record, that Mr. and Mrs. Branden's writings and lectures up to this time were valid and consonant with Objectivism. I cannot sanction or endorse their future work, ideas or ideological trends.

The case of Barbara Branden is far less complex and much more obvious.

During the period of the growing breach between Mr. Branden and me, she volunteered to act as my ally, almost as my "protector" against him, expressing great indignation at his behavior. Strangely enough (in the light of what was to follow), it was she who exposed the secret of his private life. I gave her credit for her somewhat belated honesty: she seemed to be a victim of Mr. Branden's policies and, if NBI were to be closed, she would be left in serious financial difficulty. She did not complain about it, but kept stressing gently that NBI could be run without Mr. Branden.

On August 28, she made a formal announcement to the staff of NBI and its affiliates, in which she denounced Mr. Branden's behavior, declared that I was fully justified in my repudiation of him, and stated that he had resigned from all his organizations. Mr. Branden made a parting statement to his staff. Those who were present told me that he admitted his failure to practice Objectivist principles and that he admitted I was justified in repudiating him; they quoted him as saying that Miss Rand had given him a blank check on the use of her name and he had defaulted on his responsibility.

Then I considered the idea of endorsing Mrs. Branden's proposal to run a lecture organization of her own, on a much more modest scale, with the assistance of NBI's associate lecturers. But after a few inquiries, I concluded that this was impracticable: I discovered that NBI had treated its associate lecturers so unfairly that they were not eager to continue. (For instance, when the yearly grosses of NBI grew larger, the percentages paid to its associate lecturers were cut.)

I considered whether I would be able closely to supervise a lecture organization, and realized the full extent of my own distance from such work. I am not a teacher by professional and personal inclination; my way of spreading ideas is by the written, not the spoken word; and, although I do see value in lectures, it is not my favorite method of teaching or of learning.

And more: I never wanted and do not now want to be the leader of a "movement." I do approve of a philosophical or intellectual movement, in the sense of a growing trend among a number of independent individuals sharing the same ideas. But an organized movement is a different matter. NBI was not quite either; it was intended as a purely educational organization, but it did not function fully as such, and, at times, it became professionally embarrassing to me. It led to the constant trouble and responsibility of worrying about the activities and the verbal misrepresentations of some of its students, the constant reports about NBI imitators, i.e., unauthorized, self-appointed lecturers on "the philosophy of Ayn Rand," who, having apparently discovered that that name has commercial value, postured around as spokesmen for me. Originally, Mr. Branden was to protect me from that sort of thing; but in recent years, he ignored and neglected it -- and, in certain peculiar instances, he seems even to have encouraged some dubious "Ayn Rand Clubs."

The only element of the NBI situation that I valued and did not want to let down was the thousands of students across the country who had a sincere and eager interest in ideas, who were attracted to NBI by my name and my books, and attended the lectures in order to learn my philosophy. It is them that Nathaniel Branden has betrayed, as he has betrayed me. I did want to help them, if I could, and I did consider endorsing some form of lecture organization. But I found it to be impossible.

These were the conclusions I reached and communicated to Mrs. Branden. But she asked me to consider a plan, worked out by Mr. Wilfred Schwartz, NBI's business manager, which proposed to reorganize NBI and its affiliates to let her run them without Mr. Branden.

On September 2, the plan was submitted to me at a business meeting attended by my attorney, Henry Mark Holzer. 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, with Mrs. Branden giving the "Basic" course. The essence of the plan required that THE OBJECTIVIST remain in the same quarters with Mrs. Branden's new corporation, under a business arrangement of so questionable a nature that I rejected it at once -- and informed them definitively that I would not endorse any setup similar to NBI. I repeated a previous offer I had made to Mrs. Branden to give her a remunerative position on THE OBJECTIVIST, and a personal loan if she wished to start a book service of her own. She answered that she would think it over.

Next day (September 3), a sudden switch occurred in the attitude of Mrs. Branden and Mr. Schwartz. Without any warning to me, they tried to prevent THE OBJECTIVIST from moving out of the quarters it sub-leased from NBI in the Empire State Building. They did not communicate with me again. Instead, they called in two mutual friends and asked that they intervene, that they persuade me to accept the plan and "to help NBI"-- while Mrs. Branden began to utter veiled threats and undefined accusations against me.

On my attorney's advice, I called a meeting for that same evening, to which he invited my associates, who were lecturers at NBI or contributors to THE OBJECTIVIST or both (as well as the two mutual friends involved), and invited Mrs. Branden and Mr. Schwartz to attend and to explain their behavior and their accusations. All those invited came to that meeting, with the exception of Mrs. Branden and Mr. Schwartz. They refused to come. I have not seen them since.

During the next two days, while THE OBJECTIVIST's property was being moved out, Mr. Schwartz, Mrs. Branden and Mr. Branden (who suddenly reappeared on the NBI scene) began to act in a manner which has been described to me as unbelievably hysterical. They screamed insults, threats and accusations against me to my attorney and to their own staff. The substance of their accusations was that I had been unjust to them.

Since this change in their attitude occurred when they realized that my business association with them was finished and that the gold mine involved in their use of my name was shut down, draw your own conclusions about the cause and motive of their behavior.

Such is the sordid story, as of this present date. I am told that Mr. and Mrs. Branden are now in the process of closing NBI and its affiliates.

I offer my apology to the readers of this magazine and to the students of NBI, who trusted Mr. and Mrs. Branden on my recommendation. I have written this long account in order to make the situation intelligible and to explain why I did not act sooner. I made every effort to give the Brandens the benefit of the doubt; I took action when the evidence became conclusive.

The question had been raised that this public repudiation might be a severe blow to the Objectivist movement, that many students admired Nathaniel Branden and would be badly hurt by this disillusionment, that their morale would suffer, that the enemies of Objectivism would take advantage of it and would attack and smear me with renewed vigor, that this would be professionally embarrassing to me -- and, therefore, wouldn't it be better to cover up the truth about the Brandens, i.e., to adopt a policy of pragmatic expediency and deception?

But my decision on this did not take me any longer to reach than the time required to formulate that question. I do not fake reality and never have. I do not seek or want any value that requires such faking. I hold that no value can be achieved that way. I hold that that way is neither practical nor moral.

Since the facts are as they are, all those concerned should recognize them and act accordingly. As far as I am concerned, I have made an error of knowledge and must be prepared to take the consequences. Whatever these might be, they are never as hard to bear as the consequences of a breach of morality.

In conclusion, I want to indicate, at least in a general way, an answer to the question that is now torturing his former students here in New York: How could Nathaniel Branden do this?

First, let me say that their original impression of Nathaniel Branden, and mine, was not an illusion: he was an unusually intelligent man who had the potential to become a great man. He chose to stifle that potential. It is a terrible waste of a priceless human endowment: ability -- and it is a tragedy. (I cannot say as much for Barbara Branden.)

What caused it? Psychological conflicts and contradictions. Bad premises cannot be held still: they must be corrected or they will grow and choke off the good ones. He did not choose to correct them.

In a grimly tragic way, this is a demonstration of the Objectivist theory of volition: man's mind, values and knowledge do not function automatically; no amount of past thinking, of established virtues, of acquired knowledge will guarantee that a man will remain rational and virtuous next day, next year or in the next emergency; the act of focusing one's mind and of facing reality remains an act of volition, to be performed anew in every hour and issue of one's life.

But, it is asked, how could any psychological contradictions become so devastating in view of Mr. Branden's intelligence and great knowledge? The answer is that his contradictions became devastating precisely because of his intelligence and his great knowledge. A lesser man with mixed premises would be able to muddle along, not too happily nor too destructively, for a much longer time. But a man of Mr. Branden's knowledge cannot afford a single contradiction; the inner conflict becomes too great and too explosive: it necessitates such massive evasions that it destroys his rational values and divorces his theoretical knowledge from reality and from application to himself.

If Mr. Branden never intended to correct his contradictions, then he made a mistake about the philosophy he chose to profess: he should have chosen Existentialism, which, recognizing no general principles, gives ample scope to contradictions, to self-exemptions from general rules, to undefined feelings and unknowable whims. If such was the case, he did not belong in Objectivism. Consistency is one of the cardinal requirements of Objectivism, both philosophically and psychologically. It is a dangerous philosophy to play with or to accept half-way: it will stifle the mind that attempts to do so. In this respect, Objectivism, like reality, is its own avenger.

I regret that the demonstration of this fact had to come in so tragic and ugly a form.

(September 15, 1968.) THE OBJECTIVIST


September, 1968

We, the undersigned, former Associate Lecturers at Nathaniel Branden Institute, wish the following to be on record: Because Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, in a series of actions, have betrayed fundamental principles of Objectivism, we condemn and repudiate these two persons irrevocably, and have terminated all association with them and with Nathaniel Branden Institute.

Allan Blumenthal

Alan Greenspan

Leonard Peikoff

Mary Ann (Rukavina) Sures


(Posted with permission of Dr. Leonard Peikoff and the Estate of Ayn Rand. All Rights Reserved.)