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Cults are the same (religious or nonreligious)

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  • Non ekster
    Interesting analysis: http://zionistgoldreport.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/the-cult-of-ayn-rand/ In the America of the 1970s we are all too familiar with the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2008
      Interesting analysis:


      In the America of the 1970s we are all too familiar with the religious
      cult, which has been proliferating in the last decade. Characteristic
      of the cult (from Hare Krishna to the "Moonies" to EST to Scientology
      to the Manson Family) is the dominance of the guru, or Maximum Leader,
      who is also the creator and ultimate interpreter of a given creed to
      which the acolyte must be unswervingly loyal. The major if not the
      only qualification for membership and advancement in the cult is
      absolute loyalty to and adoration of the guru, and absolute and
      unquestioning obedience to his commands. The lives of the members are
      dominated by the guru's influence and presence. If the cult grows
      beyond a few members, it naturally becomes hierarchically structured,
      if only because the guru cannot spend his time indoctrinating and
      watching over every disciple. Top positions in the hierarchy are
      generally filled by the original handful of disciples, who come to
      assume these positions by virtue of their longer stint of loyal and
      devoted service. Sometimes the top leadership may be related to each
      other, a useful occurrence which can strengthen intra-cult loyalty
      through the familial bond. The goals of the cult leadership are money
      and power. Power is achieved over the minds of the disciples through
      inducing them to accept without question the guru and his creed. This
      devotion is enforced through psychological sanctions. For once the
      acolyte is imbued with the view that approval of, and communication
      with, the guru are essential to his life, then the implicit and
      explicit threat of excommunication – of removal from the direct or
      indirect presence of the guru – creates a powerful psychological
      sanction for the "enforcement" of loyalty and obedience. Money flows
      upward from the members through the hierarchy, either in the form of
      volunteer labor service contributed by the members, or through cash
      payments. It should be clear at this point in history that an
      ideological cult can adopt the same features as the more overtly
      religious cult, even when the ideology is explicitly atheistic and
      anti-religious. That the cults of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Trotsky,
      and Mao are religious in nature, despite the explicit atheism of the
      latter, is by now common knowledge. The adoration of the cult founder
      and leader, the hierarchical structure, the unswerving loyalty, the
      psychological (and when in command of State power, the physical)
      sanctions are all too evident. The Exoteric and the Esoteric Every
      religious cult has two sets of differing and distinctive creeds: the
      exoteric and the esoteric. The exoteric creed is the official, public
      doctrine, the creed which attracts the acolyte in the first place and
      brings him into the movement as a rank-and-file member. The quite
      different creed is the unknown, hidden agenda, a creed which is only
      known to its full extent by the top leadership, the "high priests" of
      the cult. The latter are the keepers of the Mysteries of the cult. But
      cults become particularly fascinating when the esoteric and exoteric
      creeds are not only different, but totally and glaringly in mutual
      contradiction. The havoc that this fundamental contradiction plays in
      the minds and lives of the disciples may readily be imagined. Thus,
      the various Marxist-Leninists cults officially and publicly extol
      Reason and Science, and denounce all religion, and yet the members are
      mystically attracted to the cult and its alleged infallibility. Thus,
      Alfred G. Meyer writes of Leninist views on party infallibility: Lenin
      seems to have believed that the party, as organized consciousness,
      consciousness as a decision-making machinery, had superior reasoning
      power. Indeed, in time this collective body took on an aura of
      infallibility, which was later elevated to a dogma, and a member's
      loyalty was tested, in part, by his acceptance of it. It became part
      of the communist confession of faith to proclaim that the party was
      never wrong…. The party itself never makes mistakes.1 If the glaring
      inner contradictions of the Leninist cults make them intriguing
      objects of study, still more so is the Ayn Rand cult, which, while in
      some sense is still faintly alive, flourished for just ten years in
      the 1960s; more specifically, from the founding of the Nathaniel
      Branden lecture series in early 1958 to the Rand-Branden split ten
      years later. For not only was the Rand cult explicitly atheist,
      anti-religious, and an extoller of Reason; it also promoted slavish
      dependence on the guru in the name of independence; adoration and
      obedience to the leader in the name of every person's individuality;
      and blind emotion and faith in the guru in the name of Reason.
      Virtually every one of its members entered the cult through reading
      Rand's lengthy novel Atlas Shrugged, which appeared in late 1957, a
      few months before the organized cult came into being. Entering the
      movement through a novel meant that despite repeated obeisances to
      Reason, febrile emotion was the driving force behind the acolyte's
      conversion. Soon, he found that the Randian ideology sketched out in
      Atlas was supplemented by a few non-fiction essays, and, in
      particular, by a regular monthly magazine, The Objectivist Newsletter
      (later, The Objectivist). The Index of Permitted Books Since every
      cult is grounded on a faith in the infallibility of the guru, it
      becomes necessary to keep its disciples in ignorance of contradictory
      infidel writings which may wean cult members away from the fold. The
      Catholic Church maintained an Index of Prohibited Books; more sweeping
      was the ancient Muslim cry: "Burn all books, for all truth is in the
      Koran!" But cults, which attempt to mold every member into a rigidly
      integrated world view, must go further. Just as Communists are often
      instructed not to read anti-Communist literature, the Rand cult went
      further to disseminate what was virtually an Index of Permitted Books.
      Since most neophyte Randians were both young and relatively ignorant,
      a careful channeling of their reading insured that they would remain
      ignorant of non- or anti-Randian ideas or arguments permanently
      (except as they were taken up briefly, brusquely, and in a highly
      distorted and hectoring fashion in Randian publications). The
      philosophical rationale for keeping Rand cultists in blissful
      ignorance was the Randian theory of "not giving your sanction to the
      Enemy." Reading the Enemy (which, with a few carefully selected
      exceptions, meant all non- or anti-Randians) meant "giving him your
      moral sanction," which was strictly forbidden as irrational. In a few
      selected cases, limited exceptions were made for leading cult members
      who could prove that they had to read certain Enemy works in order to
      refute them. This book-banning reached its apogee after the titanic
      Rand-Branden split in late 1968, a split which was the moral
      equivalent in miniature of, say, a split between Marx and Lenin, or
      between Jesus and St. Paul. In a development eerily reminiscent of the
      organized hatred directed against the arch-heretic Emanuel Goldstein
      in Orwell's 1984, Rand cultists were required to sign a loyalty oath
      to Rand; essential to the loyalty oath was a declaration that the
      signer would henceforth never read any future works of the apostate
      and arch-heretic Branden. After the split, any Rand cultist seen
      carrying a book or writing by Branden was promptly excommunicated.
      Close relatives of Branden were expected to – and did – break with him
      completely. Interestingly enough for a movement which proclaimed its
      devotion to the individual exertion of reason, to curiosity, and to
      the question "Why?" cultists were required to swear their
      unquestioning belief that Rand was right and Branden wrong, even
      though they were not permitted to learn the facts behind the split. In
      fact, the mere failure to take a stand, the mere attempt to find the
      facts, or the statement that one could not take a stand on such a
      grave matter without knowledge of the facts was sufficient for instant
      expulsion. For such an attitude was conclusive proof of the defective
      "loyalty" of the disciple to his guru, Ayn Rand. Steel-Hardened Cadre
      Man Frank Meyer writes, in his The Moulding of Communists,2 of the
      series of crises that Communists repeatedly go through in their career
      in the Party. From his account, it is clear that the rank-and-file
      member joins the party from being attracted to the official or
      exoteric creed; but, as he continues in the Party and rises through
      its hierarchical structures, he is confronted with a series of crises
      that test his mettle, that either drive him out of the party or
      convert him increasingly into a steel-hardened cadre man. The crises
      might be ideological, say, justifying slave labor camps or the
      Stalin-Hitler pact, or it might be personal, to demonstrate that one's
      loyalty to the party is higher than to friends, family, or loved ones.
      The continuing pressure of such crises leads, unsurprisingly, to a
      very high turnover in Communist ranks, creating a sea of ex-Communists
      far larger than the party itself at any given time. A similar but far
      more intensive process remained at work throughout the years of the
      Randian movement The Randian neophyte typically joined the movement
      emotionally caught by Atlas and impressed by the concepts of reason,
      liberty, individuality, and independence. A series of crises and
      growing inner contradictions was then necessary to gain power over the
      minds and lives of the membership, and to inculcate absolute loyalty
      to Rand, both in ideological matters and in personal lives. But what
      mechanisms did the cult leaders use to develop such blind loyalty? One
      method, as we have seen, was to keep the members in ignorance. Another
      was to insure that every spoken and written word of the Randian member
      was not only correct in content but also in form, for any slight
      nuance or difference in wording could and would be attacked for
      deviating from the Randian position. Thus, just as the Marxist
      movements developed jargon and slogans which were clung to for fear of
      uttering incorrect deviations, the same was true in the Randian
      movement. In the name of "precision of language," in short, nuance and
      even synonyms were in effect prohibited. Another method was to keep
      the members, as far as possible, in a state of fevered emotion through
      continual re-readings of Atlas. Shortly after Atlas was published, one
      high-ranking cult leader chided me for only having read Atlas once.
      "It's about time for you to start reading it again," he admonished. "I
      have already read Atlas thirty-five times." The rereading of Atlas was
      also important to the cult because the wooden, posturing, and
      one-dimensional heroes and heroines were explicitly supposed to serve
      as role models for every Randian. Just as every Christian is supposed
      to aim at the imitation of Christ in his own daily life, so every
      Randian was supposed to aim at the imitation of John Galt (Rand's hero
      of heroes in Atlas.) He was always supposed to ask himself in every
      situation "What would John Galt have done?" When we remind ourselves
      that Jesus, after all, was an actual historical figure whereas Galt
      was not, the bizarrerie of this injunction can be readily grasped.
      (Although from the awed way Randians spoke of John Galt, one often got
      the impression that, for them, the line between fiction and reality
      was very thin indeed.) Her Bible The Biblical nature of Atlas for many
      Randians is illustrated by the wedding of a Randian couple that took
      place in New York. At the ceremony, the couple pledged their joint
      devotion and fealty to Ayn Rand, and then supplemented it by opening
      Atlas – perhaps at random – to read aloud a passage from the sacred
      text. Wit and humor, as might be gathered from this incident, were
      verboten in the Randian movement. The philosophical rationale was that
      humor demonstrates that one "is not serious about one's values." The
      actual reason, of course, is that no cult can withstand the piercing
      and sobering effect, the sane perspective, provided by humor. One was
      permitted to sneer at one's enemies, but that was the only humor
      allowed, if humor that be. Personal enjoyment, indeed, was also
      frowned upon in the movement and denounced as hedonistic
      "whim-worship." In particular, nothing could be enjoyed for its own
      sake – every activity had to serve some indirect, "rational" function.
      Thus, food was not to be savored, but only eaten joylessly as a
      necessary means of one's survival; sex was not to be enjoyed for its
      own sake, but only to be engaged in grimly as a reflection and
      reaffirmation of one's "highest values"; painting or movies only to be
      enjoyed if one could find "rational values" in doing so. All of these
      values were not simply to be discovered quietly by each person – the
      heresy of "subjectivism" – but had to be proven to the rest of the
      cult. In practice, as will be seen further below, the only safe
      aesthetic or romantic "values" or objects for the member were those
      explicitly sanctioned by Ayn Rand or other top disciples. As in the
      case of all cults and sects, a particularly vital method for moulding
      the members and keeping them in line was maintaining their constant
      and unrelenting activity within the movement. Frank Meyer relates that
      Communists preserve their members from the dangerous practice of
      thinking on their own by keeping them in constant activity together
      with other Communists. He notes that, of the major Communist defectors
      in the United States, almost all defected only after a period of
      enforced isolation. In short, they had room to think for themselves
      (e.g. ,being in the army, going underground, etc.). In the case of
      Randians – particularly in New York City, where the movement was
      largest and Rand and the top hierarchy all lived – activity was
      continuous. Every night one of the top Randians lectured to different
      members expounding various aspects of the "party line": on basics, on
      psychology, fiction, sex, thinking, art, economics, or philosophy.
      (This structure reflected the vision of Utopia outlined in Atlas
      Shrugged itself, where every evening was spent with the heroes and
      heroines lecturing to each other.) Failure to attend these lectures
      was a matter of serious concern in the movement. The philosophical
      rationale for the pressure to attend these meetings went as follows:
      Randians are the most rational people one could possibly meet (a
      conclusion derived from the thesis that Randianism was rationality in
      theory and in practice); You, of course, want to be rational (and if
      you didn't, you were in grave trouble in the movement); Ergo, you
      should be eager to spend all your time with fellow Randians and a
      fortiori with Rand and her top disciples if possible. The logic seemed
      impeccable, but what if, as so often happens, one didn't like, even
      couldn't stand, these people? Under Randian theory, emotions are
      always the consequence of ideas, and incorrect emotions the
      consequence of wrong ideas, so that therefore, personal dislike of
      other (and especially of leading) Randians must be due to a grave
      canker of irrationality which either had to be kept concealed or else
      confessed to the leaders. Any such confession meant a harrowing
      process of ideological and psychological purification, supposedly
      ending in one's success at achieving rationality, independence, and
      self-esteem and therefore an unquestioning and blind devotion to Ayn
      Rand. One incident of suppressed doubt of Randian tenets is revealing
      of the psychology of even the leading cult members. One top young
      Randian, a veteran of the movement in New York City, admitted
      privately one day that he had grave doubts on a key Randian
      philosophic tenet: I believe it was the fact of his own existence. He
      was deathly afraid to ask the question, it being so basic that he knew
      he would be excommunicated on the spot for simply raising the point;
      but he had complete faith that if Rand should be asked the question,
      she would answer it satisfactorily and resolve his doubts. And so he
      waited, year after year, hoping against hope that someone would ask
      the question, be expelled, but that his own doubts would then be
      resolved in the process. In the manner of many cults, loyalty to the
      guru had to supersede loyalty to family and friends – typically the
      first personal crises for the fledgling Randian. If non-Randian family
      and friends persisted in their heresies even after being hectored at
      some length by the young neophyte, they were then considered to be
      irrational and part of the Enemy and had to be abandoned. The same was
      true of spouses; many marriages were broken up by the cult leadership
      who sternly informed either the wife or the husband that their spouses
      were not sufficiently Randworthy. Indeed, since emotions resulted only
      from premises, and since the leaders' premises were by definition
      supremely rational, that top leadership presumed to try to match and
      unmatch couples. As one of them asserted one day: "I know all the
      rational young men and women in New York and I can match them up." But
      suppose that Mr. A was matched with Miss B and one of them didn't like
      the other? Well, once again, "reason" prevailed: the dislike was
      irrational, requiring intensive psychotherapeutic investigation to
      purge oneself of the erroneous ideas. Psychological Hold The
      psychological hold that the cult held on the members may be
      illustrated by the case of one girl, a certified top Randian, who
      experienced the misfortune of falling in love with an unworthy
      non-Randian. The leadership told the girl that if she persisted in her
      desire to marry the man, she would be instantly excommunicated. She
      did so nevertheless, and was promptly expelled. And yet, a year or so
      later, she told a friend that the Randians had been right, that she
      had indeed sinned and that they should have expelled her as unworthy
      of being a rational Randian. But the most important sanction for the
      enforcement of loyalty and obedience, the most important instrument
      for psychological control of the members, was the development and
      practice of Objectivist Psychotherapy. In effect, this psychological
      theory held that since emotion always stems from incorrect ideas, that
      therefore all neurosis did so as well; and hence, the cure for that
      neurosis is to discover and purge oneself of those incorrect ideas and
      values. And since Randian ideas were all correct and all deviation
      therefore incorrect, Objectivist Psychotherapy consisted of (a)
      inculcating everyone with Randian theory – except now in a supposedly
      psycho-therapeutic setting; and (b) searching for the hidden deviation
      from Randian theory responsible for the neurosis and purging it by
      correcting the deviation. It is clear that, considering the emotional
      and psychological power of the psychotherapeutic experience, the Rand
      cult had in its hands a powerful weapon for reinforcing and
      sanctioning the moulding of the New Randian Man. Philosophy and
      psychology, explicit doctrine, social pressure, and therapeutic
      pressure, all reinforced each other to generate obedient and loyal
      acolytes of Ayn Rand. It is no wonder that the enormous psychological
      pressure of cult membership led to an extremely high turnover in the
      Randian movement, relatively far more so than among the Communists.
      But so long as he was in the movement, a new Randian Man emerged, a
      grim and joyless figure indeed. For a while the Randians would
      discourse at length on "happiness," and on the alleged fact of their
      perpetual state of being happy, it became clear on closer examination
      that they were happy only by definition. That in short, in Randian
      theory, happiness refers not at all to the ordinary language meaning
      of subjective states of contentment or joy, but to the alleged fact of
      using one's mind to the fullest (i.e., in agreement with Randian
      precepts). In practice, however, the dominant subjective emotions of
      the Randian cultist were fear and even terror: fear of displeasing
      Rand or her leading disciples; fear of using an incorrect word or
      nuance that would get the member into trouble; fear of being found out
      in the "irrationality" of some ideological or personal deviation;
      fear, even, of smiling at an unworthy (i.e., non-Randian) person. Such
      fear was greater than that of a Communist member, because the Randian
      had far less leeway for ideological or personal deviation.
      Furthermore, since Rand had an absolute and total line on every
      conceivable question of ideology and daily life, all aspects of such
      life had to be searched – by oneself and by others – for suspicious
      heresies and deviations. Everything was the object of fear and
      suspicion. There was the fear of making an independent judgment, for
      suppose that the member was to make a statement on some subject on
      which he did not know Rand's position, and then were to find out that
      Rand disagreed. The Randian would then be in grave trouble, even if
      the only problem were that his language was a bit differently nuanced.
      So it was far more prudent to keep silent and then check with
      headquarters for the precisely correct line. Check With Headquarters
      Thus, one time a leading Randian attorney was giving a speech on
      Randian political theory. During the question period, he was caught
      short by being asked how he could reconcile Rand's support for the
      compulsory subpoena power with the Randian political axiom of
      non-initiation of force. He hemmed and hawed, and then said that he
      had to think about this – a code phrase for hurriedly checking with
      Rand and the other leaders on the proper answer. Part of the
      continuing need to check with headquarters came from the fact that
      Rand, though considered infallible by her disciples, changed her mind
      a great deal, particularly on concrete personalities or institutions.
      The fundamental line change on Branden is a glaring example, as well
      as the line change on other formerly high-ranking Randians who were
      expelled from the movement. But far more frequent if less important
      were changes of position on show business folk whom Rand might have
      met. Thus, the "line" on such people as Johnny Carson or Mike Wallace
      (prominent TV personalities) changed rapidly – largely because of
      Rand's discovering various heresies and alleged betrayals on their
      part. If the Randian member was not attuned to these changes, and
      happened to aver that Carson was "rational" or had a benevolent "sense
      of life" when he had already been designated as irrational or
      malevolent, he was in for serious trouble and inquiry into the
      rationality of his own premises. Driven by their conception of
      rational duty, every Randian lived in – and indeed was himself – a
      community of spies and informers, ready to ferret out and denounce any
      deviations from Randian doctrine. Thus, one time a Randian, walking
      with a girl friend, told her that he had attended a party at which
      several Randians had made an impromptu tape imitating the voices of
      the top Randian leaders. Stricken by this dire information and after
      spending a sleepless night, the girl rushed to inform the top
      leadership of this terrible transgression. Promptly, the leading
      participants were called on the carpet by their Objectivist
      Psychotherapist and bitterly denounced in their "therapy" sessions:
      "After all," said the therapist, "you wouldn't mock God." When the
      owner of the tape refused the therapist's demand to relinquish it so
      that it could be inspected in detail, his doom as a member of the
      movement was effectively sealed. No Randian, even the top leadership,
      was exempt from the all-pervasive fear and repression. Every one of
      the original cadre, for example, was placed on probation at least
      once, and was forced to demonstrate his loyalty to Rand at length and
      in numerous ways. How such an atmosphere of fear and censorship
      crippled the productivity of Randian members may be seen by the fact
      that not one of the top Randians published any books while in the
      movement (all of Branden's books, for example, were published after
      his expulsion). The only exception that proves the rule was the
      authorized exercise in uncritical adulation, Who Is Ayn Rand? by
      Barbara Branden. But if the Randian lived in a state of fear and awe
      of Rand and her leading disciples, there were psychological
      compensations; for he could also live in the exciting and comforting
      knowledge that he was one of a small number of the elect, that only
      the members of this small band were in tune with reason and reality.
      The rest of the world, even those who were seemingly intelligent,
      happy, and successful, were really living in limbo, cut off from
      reason and from understanding the nature of reality. They could not be
      happy because cult theory decreed that happiness can only be achieved
      by being a committed Randian; they couldn't even be intelligent, since
      how could seemingly intelligent people not be Randians, especially if
      they commit the gravest sin – failing to become Randians once they
      were exposed to this new gospel. Excommunications and Purges We have
      already mentioned the excommunications and "purges" in the Randian
      movement. Often, the excommunications – especially of important
      Randians – proceeded in a ritual manner. The errant member was
      peremptorily ordered to appear at a "trial" to hear charges against
      him. If he refused to appear – as he would if he had any shred of
      self-respect left – then the trial would continue in absentia, with
      all the members present taking turns in denouncing the expelled
      member, reading charges against him (again in a manner eerily
      reminiscent of 1984). When his inevitable conviction was sealed,
      someone – generally his closest friend – wrote the excommunicate, a
      bitter, febrile, and portentous letter, damning the apostate
      forevermore and excluding him forever from the Elysian fields of
      reason and reality. Having his closest friend take the leading part in
      the heresy proceeding was of course important as a way of forcing the
      friend to demonstrate his own loyalty to Rand, thereby clearing
      himself of any lingering taint by association. It is reported that
      when Branden was expelled, one of his closest former friends in New
      York sent him a letter proclaiming that the only moral thing he could
      do at that point was to commit suicide – a strange position for an
      allegedly pro-life, pro-individual-purpose philosophy to take. The
      break with the apostate – even if once closest friends – had to be
      uncompromising, permanent, and total. Thus, a woman, very high in the
      Randian hierarchy, once hired a Randian girl to be her assistant in
      editing a magazine. When the woman was summarily expelled from the
      movement, her assistant refused to talk to her at all, except strictly
      in the line of business – a position steadfastly maintained despite
      the obvious tensions at the office that had to result. As is true of
      all witch-hunting groups, the greatest sin was not so much the
      specific transgressions of the member, but any refusal to sanction the
      heresy-hunting procedure itself. Thus, Barbara Branden reported that
      her greatest sin was held to be her refusal to attend, and therefore
      to sanction the legitimacy of, her own trial, and other purgees have
      had similar tales to tell. It should come as no surprise to learn
      that, in contrast to most other psychotherapies, the Objectivist
      Psychotherapists served as stern moral guardians for the troops.
      "Immoral" patients were expelled from therapy, a practice that reached
      its apogee when patients of Objectivist Psychotherapists were expelled
      for simply asking their therapists the reasons for the Rand-Branden
      split. Thus, kept in ignorance of the world, of facts, ideas, or
      people who might deviate from the full Randian line, held in check by
      adoration and terror of Rand and her anointed hierarchy, the grim,
      robotic, joyless Randian Man emerged. For the moulding processes of
      the cult did succeed in creating a New Randian Man – for so long as
      the man or woman remained in the movement. People were invariably
      transformed by the moulding process from diverse, often likeable men
      and women to grim, tense, hostile poseurs – whose personalities could
      best be summed up by the word "robotic." Robotically, the Randians
      intoned their slogans, generally imitating the poses and manner of
      Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and further, imitating their common
      cult vision of heroes and heroines of the Randian fictional canon. If
      any criticism of Rand or her disciples were made, or any arguments
      were pressed that they could not answer, the Randians would adopt a
      tone of high offense: "How dare you say such a thing about her?," turn
      on their heels and stomp off. No smile, nor many other human
      qualities, managed to shine through their ritualized facade. Many of
      the young men managed to look like carbon copies of Branden, while the
      young women tried to look like Barbara Branden, replete with the
      cigarette-holder held aloft, derived from Ayn Rand herself, that was
      supposed to symbolize the high moral standards and the mocking
      contempt wielded by Randian heroines. Son of Rand Some Randians
      emulated their leader by changing their names from Russian or Jewish
      to a presumably harder, tougher, more heroic Anglo-Saxon. Branden
      himself changed his name from Blumenthal; it is perhaps not a
      coincidence, as Nora Ephron has pointed out, that if the letters of
      the new name are rearranged, they spell, B-E-N-R-A-N-D, Hebrew for
      "son of Rand." A Randian girl, with a Polish name beginning with
      "G-r," announced one day that she was changing her name the following
      week. When asked deadpan, by a humorous observer whether she was
      changing her name to "Grand," she replied, in all seriousness, that no
      she was changing it to "Grant" – presumably, as the observer later
      remarked, the "t" was her one gesture of independence. If looking and
      talking and even being named like the top Randians was the most
      "rational" way to act, and seeing them as much as possible was the
      most rational form of activity, then surely residing as close as
      possible to the leaders was the rational place to live. Thus, the
      typical New York Randian, upon his or her conversion, would leave his
      parents and find an apartment as close to Rand's as possible. As a
      result, virtually the entire New York movement lived with a few square
      blocks of each other in Manhattan's East 30's, many of the leaders in
      the same apartment house as Rand's. If continuing an intense
      psychological pressure was in part responsible for the extremely high
      turnover among Randian disciples, another reason for this turnover was
      the very fact that the movement had a rigid line on literally every
      subject, from aesthetics to history to epistemology. In the first
      place it meant that deviation from the correct line was all too easy:
      Preferring Bach, for example, to Rachmaninoff, subjected one to
      charges of believing in a "malevolent universe." lf not corrected by
      self-criticism and psychotherapeutic brainwashing, such deviation
      could well lead to ejection from the movement. Secondly, it is
      difficult to impose a rigid line on every area of life and thought
      when, as was the case with Rand and her top disciples, they were
      largely ignorant of these various disciplines. Rand admitted that
      reading was not her strong suit, and the disciples, of course, were
      not allowed to read the real world of heresies even if they had been
      inclined to do so. And so the young convert – and they were almost all
      young – began to buckle when he learned more about his own chosen
      subject. Thus, the historian, upon learning more his subject, could
      scarcely rest content with long outdated Burkhardtian clichés about
      the Renaissance, or the pap about the Founding Fathers. And if the
      disciple began to realize that Rand was wrong and oversimplified in
      his own field, it was easy for him to entertain fundamental doubts
      about her infallibility elsewhere. Rational Tobacco The
      all-encompassing nature of the Randian line may be illustrated by an
      incident that occurred to a friend of mine who once asked a leading
      Randian if he disagreed with the movement's position on any
      conceivable subject. After several minutes of hard thought, the
      Randian replied: "Well, I can't quite understand their position on
      smoking." Astonished that the Rand cult had any position on smoking,
      my friend pressed on: "They have a position on smoking? What is it?"
      The Randian replied that smoking, according to the cult, was a moral
      obligation. In my own experience, a top Randian once asked me rather
      sharply, "How is it that you don't smoke?" When I replied that I had
      discovered early that I was allergic to smoke, the Randian was
      mollified: "Oh, that's OK, then." The official justification for
      making smoking a moral obligation was a sentence in Atlas where the
      heroine refers to a lit cigarette as symbolizing a fire in the mind,
      the fire of creative ideas. (One would think that simply holding up a
      lit match could do just as readily for this symbolic function.) One
      suspects that the actual reason, as in so many other parts of Randian
      theory, from Rachmaninoff to Victor Hugo to tap dancing, was that Rand
      simply liked smoking and had the need to cast about for a
      philosophical system that would make her personal whims not only moral
      but also a moral obligation incumbent upon everyone who desires to be
      rational. If the Rand line was totalitarian, encompassing all of one's
      life, then, even when all the general premises were agreed upon and
      Randians checked with headquarters to see who was In or Out, there was
      still need to have some "judicial" mechanism to resolve concrete
      issues and to make sure that every member toed the line on that
      question. No one was ever allowed to be neutral on any issue. The
      judicial mechanism to resolve such concrete disputes was, as usual in
      cults, the rank one enjoyed in the Randian hierarchy. By definition,
      so to speak, the higher-ranking Randian was right, the lower one
      wrong, and everyone accepted this Argument from Authority that might
      have seemed not exactly consonant with the explicit Randian devotion
      to Reason. One amusing incident illustrates this
      decision-by-hierarchy. One day a dispute over concretes occurred
      between two certified and high-ranking Randians, both of whom had been
      dubbed as rational by their Objectivist Psychotherapist. Specifically,
      one was a secretary to the other. The secretary went to her boss and
      demanded a raise, which she rationally intuited was her just dessert.
      The boss, however, checking his own reason, decided that she was
      incompetent and fired her. Now here was a dispute, a conflict of
      interest, between two certified Randians. How were all the other
      members to decide who was right, and therefore rational, and who was
      wrong, irrational, and therefore subject to expulsion? In any truly
      rational group of people, of course, it would not be incumbent upon
      anyone but these – the only ones familiar with the facts of the case –
      to take any position at all. But that sort of benign neutrality is not
      permitted in any cult, including the Randian one. Given the need to
      impose a uniform line on everyone, the dispute was resolved in the
      only way possible: through rank in the hierarchy. The boss happened to
      be in the top rank of disciples; and since the secretary was on a
      lower rank, she not only suffered discharge from her job, but
      expulsion from the Randian movement as well. The Pyramid And the
      Randian movement was strictly hierarchical. At the top of the pyramid,
      of course, was Rand herself, the Ultimate Decider of all questions.
      Branden, her designated "intellectual heir," and the St. Paul of the
      movement, was Number 2. Third in rank was the top circle, the original
      disciples, those who had been converted before the publication of
      Atlas. Since they were converted by reading her previous novel, The
      Fountainhead, which had been published 1943, the top circle was
      designated in the movement as "the class of `43." But there was an
      unofficial designation that was far more revealing: "the senior
      collective." On the surface, this phrase was supposed to "underscore"
      the high individuality of each of the Randian members; in reality,
      however, there was an irony within the irony, since the Randian
      movement was indeed a "collective" in any genuine meaning of the term.
      Strengthening the ties within the senior collective was the fact that
      each and every one of them was related to each other, all being part
      of one Canadian Jewish family, relatives of either Nathan or Barbara
      Branden. There was, for example, Nathan's sister Elaine Kalberman; his
      brother-in-law, Harry Kalberman; his first cousin, Dr. Allan
      Blumenthal, who assumed the mantle of leading Objectivist
      Psychotherapist after Branden's expulsion; Barbara's first cousin,
      Leonard Piekoff; and Joan Mitchell, wife of Allan Blumenthal. Alan
      Greenspan's familial relation was more tenuous, being the former
      husband of Joan Mitchell. The only non-relative in the class of `43
      was Mary Ann Rukovina, who made the top rank after being the college
      roommate of Joan Mitchell. These were the disciples before the
      publication of Atlas. After that, Branden began his basic lecture
      series, which soon evolved into the Nathaniel Branden Institute, the
      organizational arm of the movement. Eventually, NBI was established in
      Rand's symbolically heroic Empire State Building, although it resided
      unheroically in the basement. In New York City, the various lectures
      and lecture series were put on in person; outside New York, each city
      or region had a designated NBI representative, who was in charge of
      putting on performances of the lectures on tape. The NBI rep was
      generally the most robotic and faithful Randian in his particular
      area, and so attempts were made, largely though not always totally
      successfully, to duplicate the atmosphere of awe and obedience
      pervading the mother section in New York. Determined efforts were made
      to translate Rand's mass readership of her best-selling works into
      faithful disciples who would first subscribe to The Objectivist, and
      then keep attending NBI taped lectures in their area, thus being
      inducted into the movement. If a flow of magazines, tapes, and
      recommended books went out from NBI to the rank-and-file members of
      the movement, a flow of money and volunteer labor inevitably traveled
      the reverse path, not excluding payments for psychotherapeutic
      services. It has been evident throughout this paper that the structure
      and implicit creed, the actual functioning, of the Randian movement,
      was in striking and diametric opposition to the official, exoteric
      creed of individuality, independence, and everyone's acknowledging no
      authority but his own mind and reason. But we have not yet precisely
      focused upon the central axiom of the esoteric creed of the Randian
      movement, the implicit premise, the hidden agenda that insured and
      enforced the unquestioning loyalty of the disciples. That central
      axiom was the assertion the "Ayn Rand is the greatest person that has
      ever lived or ever shall live." If Ayn Rand is the greatest person of
      all time, it follows that she is right on every question, or at the
      very least, will far more likely be correct at any time than the mere
      disciple, who grants himself no such all-encompassing greatness.
      Typical of this attitude was a meeting of leading young Randians
      attended by a friend of mine. The meeting turned into a series of
      testimonials, in which each person in turn testified to the overriding
      influence that Ayn Rand had been in his own life. As one of them
      explained: "Ayn Rand has brought to the world the knowledge that A is
      A, and that 2 and 2 equal 4." When a top Randian, on hearing that a
      notoriously refractory member who was in the process of leaving the
      movement had written a parody in the Randian philosophical manner, a
      "proof" that Ayn Rand was God, the Randian, in genuine puzzlement,
      asked: "He's kidding, isn't he?" There was a generally consuming
      concern with greatness and rank among the Randians. It was universally
      agreed that Rand was the greatest person of all time. There was then a
      friendly dispute about the precise ranking of Branden among the
      all-time all-stars. Some maintained that Branden was the second
      greatest of all time; others that Branden tied for second in a dead
      heat with Aristotle. Such was the range of permitted disagreement
      within the Randian movement. The adoption of the central axiom of
      Rand's greatness was made possible by Rand's undoubted personal
      charisma, a charisma buttressed by her air of unshakeable arrogance
      and self-assurance. It was a charisma and an arrogance that was
      partially emulated by her leading disciples. Since the rank-and-file
      disciple knew in his heart that he was not all-wise or totally
      self-assured, it became all too easy to subordinate his own will and
      intellect to that of Rand. Rand became the living embodiment of Reason
      and Reality and by some quality of personality Rand was able to bring
      about the mind-set in her disciples that their highest value was to
      earn her approval while the gravest sin was to incur her displeasure.
      The ardent belief in Rand's supreme originality was of course
      reinforced by the disciples' not having read (or been able to read)
      anyone whom they might have discovered had said the same things long
      before. Ejection From Paradise The Rand cult grew and flourished until
      the irrevocable split between the Greatest and the Second Greatest,
      until Satan was ejected from Paradise in the fall of 1968. The
      Rand-Branden split destroyed NBI, and with it the organized Randian
      movement. Rand has not displayed the ability or the desire to pick up
      the pieces and reconstitute an equivalent organization. The
      Objectivist fell back to The Ayn Rand Letter, and now that too has
      gone. With the death of NBI, the Randian cultists were cast adrift,
      for the first time in a decade, to think for themselves. Generally,
      their personalities rebounded to their non-robotic, pre-Randian
      selves. But there were some unfortunate legacies of the cult. In the
      first place, there is the problem of what the Thomists call invincible
      ignorance. For many ex-cultists remain imbued with the Randian belief
      that every individual is armed with the means of spinning out all
      truths a priori from his own head – hence there is felt to be no need
      to learn the concrete facts about the real world, either about
      contemporary history or the laws of the social sciences. Armed with
      axiomatic first principles, many ex-Randians see no need of learning
      very much else. Furthermore, lingering Randian hubris imbues many
      ex-members with the idea that each one is able and qualified to spin
      out an entire philosophy of life and of the world a priori. Such
      aberrations as the "Students of Objectivism for Rational Bestiality"
      are not far from the bizarreries of many neo-Randian philosophies,
      preaching to a handful of zealous partisans. On the other hand, there
      is another understandable but unfortunate reaction. After many years
      of subjection to Randian dictates in the name of "reason," there is a
      tendency among some ex-cultists to bend the stick the other way, to
      reject reason or thinking altogether in the name of hedonistic
      sensation and caprice. We conclude our analysis of the Rand cult with
      the observation that here was an extreme example of contradiction
      between the exoteric and the esoteric creed. That in the name of
      individuality, reason, and liberty, the Rand cult in effect preached
      something totally different. The Rand cult was concerned not with
      every man's individuality, but only with Rand's individuality, not
      with everyone's right reason but only with Rand's reason. The only
      individuality that flowered to the extent of blotting out all others,
      was Ayn Rand's herself; everyone else was to become a cipher subject
      to Rand's mind and will. Nikolai Bukharin's famous denuciation of the
      Stalin cult, masked during the Russia of the 1930's as a critique of
      the Jesuit order, does not seem very overdrawn as a portrayal of the
      Randian reality: It has been correctly said that there isn't a
      meanness in the world which would not find for itself and ideological
      justification. The king of the Jesuits, Loyola, developed a theory of
      subordination, of "cadaver discipline," every member of the order was
      supposed to obey his superior "like a corpse which could be turned in
      all directions, like a stick which follows every movement, like a ball
      of wax which could be changed and extended in all directions"… This
      corpse is characterized by three degrees of perfection: subordination
      by action, subordination of the will, subordination of the intellect.
      When the last degree is reached, when the man substitutes naked
      subordination for intellect, renouncing all his convictions, then you
      have a hundred percent Jesuit.3 It has been remarked that a curious
      contradiction existed with the strategic perspective of the Randian
      movement. For, on the one hand, disciples were not allowed to read or
      talk to other persons who might be quite close to them as libertarians
      or Objectivists. Within the broad rationalist or libertarian movement,
      the Randians took a 100% pure, ultra-sectarian stance. And yet, in the
      larger political world, the Randian strategy shifted drastically, and
      Rand and her disciples were willing to endorse and work with
      politicians who might only be one millimeter more conservative than
      their opponents. In the larger world, concern with purity or
      principles seemed to be totally abandoned. Hence, Rand's whole-hearted
      endorsement of Goldwater, Nixon, and Ford, and even of Senators Henry
      Jackson and Daniel P. Moynihan. Neither Liberty Nor Reason There seems
      to be only one way to resolve the contradiction in the Randian
      strategic outlook of extreme sectarianism within the libertarian
      movement, coupled with extreme opportunism, and willingness to
      coalesce with slightly more conservative heads of State, in the
      outside world. That resolution, confirmed by the remainder of our
      analysis of the cult, holds that the guiding spirit of the Randian
      movement was not individual liberty – as it seemed to many young
      members – but rather personal power for Ayn Rand and her leading
      disciples. For power within the movement could be secured by
      totalitarian isolation and control of the minds and lives of every
      member; but such tactics could scarcely work outside the movement,
      where power could only hopefully be achieved by cozying up the
      President and his inner circles of dominion. Thus, power not liberty
      or reason, was the central thrust of the Randian movement. The major
      lesson of the history of the movement to libertarians is that It Can
      Happen Here, that libertarians, despite explicit devotion to reason
      and individuality, are not exempt from the mystical and totalitarian
      cultism that pervades other ideological as well as religious
      movements. Hopefully, libertarians, once bitten by the virus, may now
      prove immune. Bibliographical Note Of the several works on Randianism,
      only one has concentrated on the cult itself: Leslie Hanscom, "Born
      Eccentric," Newsweek (March 27, 1961), pp. 104–05. Hanscom brilliantly
      and wittily captured the spirit of the Rand cult from attending and
      reporting on one of the Branden lectures. Thus, Hanscom wrote: After
      three hours of heroically rapt attention to Branden's droning
      delivery, the fans were rewarded by the personal apparition of Miss
      Rand herself – a lady with drilling black eyes and Russian accent who
      often wears a brooch in the shape of a dollar sign as her private
      icon…. "Her books," said one member of the congregation, "are so good
      that most people should not be allowed to read them. I used to want to
      lock up nine-tenths of the world in a cage, and after reading her
      books, I want to lock them all up." Later on, this same chap – a
      self-employed "investment counselor" of 22 – got a lash of his idol's
      logic full in the face. Submitting a question from the floor – a
      privilege open to paying students only – the budding Baruch revealed
      himself as a mere visitor. Miss Rand – a lady whose glare would wilt a
      cactus – bawled him out from the platform as a "cheap fraud." Other
      seekers of wisdom came off better. One worried disciple was told that
      it was permissible to celebrate Christmas and Easter so long as one
      rejected the religious significance (the topic of the night's lecture
      was the folly of faith). A housewife was assured that she needn't feel
      guilty about being a housewife so long as she chose the job for
      non-emotional reasons…. Although mysticism is one of the nastiest
      words in her political arsenal, there hasn't been a she-messiah since
      Aimee McPherson who can so hypnotize a live audience."4 At least as
      revelatory as Hanscom's article were the predictable howls of overkill
      outrage by the cult members. Thus, two weeks later, under the caption
      "Thugs and Hoodlums?", Newsweek printed excerpts from Randian letters
      sent in reaction to the article. One letter stated: "Your vicious,
      vile, and obscene tirade against Ayn Rand is a new low, even for you.
      To have sanctioned such a stream of abusive invective…is an act of
      unprecedented moral depravity. A magazine staffed with irresponsible
      hoodlums has no place in my home." Another man wrote that "one who has
      read the works of Miss Rand and proceeds to write an article of this
      caliber can only be motivated by villainy. It is the work of a
      literary thug." Another warned, "Since you propose to behave like
      cockroaches, be prepared to be treated as such." And finally, one
      Bonnie Benov revealed the inner axiom: "Ayn Rand is…the greatest
      individual that has ever lived." Having fun with the cult, Newsweek
      printed a particularly unprepossessing picture of Rand underneath the
      Benov letter, and captioned it: "Greatest Ever?"5 Notes 1. Alfred G.
      Meyer, Leninism (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962), pp. 97–98. A
      particularly vivid expression of this communist faith was put forward
      by Trotsky, in a speech at the 1924 Congress of the Soviet Communist
      Party: Comrades, none of us wishes to be or can be right against the
      party. In the last instance the party is always right, because it is
      the only historic instrument which the working class possesses, for
      the solution of its fundamental tasks…. One can be right only with the
      party and through the party because history has not created any other
      way for realization of one's rightness. In Isaac Duetscher, The
      Prophet Unarmed. (New York: Random House, 1965), p. 139. On all this,
      see in particular Williamson M. Evers, "Lenin and His Critics on the
      Organizational Question," (unpublished MS.) pp. 15ff. 2. Frank S.
      Meyer, The Moulding of Communists: The Training of the Communist Cadre
      (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1961). 3. Nikolai Bukharin,
      Finance Capital in Papal Robes: A Challenge (New York: Friends of the
      Soviet Union, n.d.), pp. 10–11. Also see Evers, "Lenin and his
      Critics," p. 15. 4. Newsweek (March 27, 1961), p. 105. 5. Newsweek
      (April 10, 1961), pp. 9, 14.

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