Objectivism and Theism:
Ayn Rand on Art
And the Expression of the Moral Ideal
by James Kiefer
Unpublished dot-matrix printout dated July 3, 1981
[Editor’s notes are in blue. Readers who prefer to ignore the links in the text, which go to the bottom of the page, and follow the notes on a separate page, may open a separate page with the references here.]

If God, having created us, wishes us to know him as our creator, and if, having created us as moral agents, he wishes to present to us a moral idea, then the possibility that he has taken some kind of action to enlighten us is well worth considering. Now, one way to give people more instruction is through a set of propositions about right and wrong. But, as Miss Rand has pointed out, this has it limitations. For the communication of a moral idea, there is no substitution for the embodiment of that ideal in personal, concrete form. [01]

It follows that, if God intends to communicate to us a moral ideal and an awareness of his own nature, there is no substitute for the method of embodying that communication in personal concrete form, of producing a man of whom it can be said that he expresses in human terms what the nature of God is, and absolute goodness is like.

In searching for evidence that God has revealed himself, we must accordingly ask representatives of various religious positions: “Do you believe that God has created a man who was the perfect representation in human terms of the nature of God and of absolute goodness?” If the person we are asking says “No,” then we continue our search. On the other hand, if he says, “Yes,” it does not necessarily mean that our search is over. The claim that a certain man, just by who and what he is, reveals the nature of God and of goodness and of ultimate reality, must be checked against what we know of these matters from elsewhere. Two truths do not contradict each other. If we have tested the Objectivist philosophy and found it rational, then we will expect the insights of any genuine revelation to be consistent with the truths that we have learned through the study of Objectivism.

Let us consider an actual example.

If we ask a Christian what is the central episode in the history of the universe, the event that most clearly reveals what reality is all about he will presumably reply somewhat as follows:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from Heaven to seek out, to rescue, and to claim for His own a number of persons who He intended should form a community united to Him in love. This community we call the Church, or, the Bride of Christ. Having come down to earth, He lived in obscurity for some years, and then began to proclaim publicly the Path of Life. He attracted attention at this point, and people wanted to make Him king. He answered, “I am not interested in power on your terms. Your idea of power is incompatible with everything I have been talking about.” At this point they turned against Him and crucified Him. He received five wounds: they pierced Him in the hands, and feet, and torso. (Christians, believing that Christ made the world, find it ironic that those who put Him to death are his creatures, absolutely dependent on Him for their very existence, receiving from him even the physical strength that enabled them to hammer the nails into His flesh.) He recovered from this ordeal, and told His friends that, far from being a victory, or near-victory, for the other side, this episode was His own great victory over the forces of evil and death. He said that by confronting Him, and doing its worst to Him, evil had defeated and destroyed itself, that the rest of the battle was only a mopping-up operation.

Let us turn from this to consider the answer that Ayn Rand might give us if she were asked to tell us about an event, real or fictional, that sums up her philosophy, her sense of life, her judgement as to what reality is all about. She has in fact done so. We turn to what is undisputedly her greatest novel, Atlas Shrugged, and find the following:

The hero, John Galt, has his home in a mountain paradise, where unethical behavior is unknown, and where joy has utterly triumphed. He leaves that paradise to descend into the squalid, violent, chaotic, and justly doomed world below, in order to seek out and rescue and claim his bride. He lives there in obscurity for some time, and then begins to proclaim publicly the Path of Life. He attracts attention at this point, and people want to make him Dictator. He answers, “I am not interested in power on your terms. Your idea of power is incompatible with everything I have been talking about.” At this point they turn against him. They torture him, using a machine that can be adjusted to torment the left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg, torso, or any combination of the five. (A touch of irony enters the picture, when the machine breaks down and he tells his tormentors how to repair it. We are reminded that they are complete parasites, utterly dependent upon Galt and his kind for their transportation, their food, their machines, and even for their ability to torture Galt on this occasion.) He recovers from this ordeal, and assures his friends that, far from being a victory, or near-victory, for the other side, this episode has been an essential element in their defeat — that by confronting him, and doing its worst to him, evil has defeated and destroyed itself, and that the rest of the battle is only a mopping-up operation. [02]

Christians view Christ as entering a world in the process of running down and growing old, headed toward dissolution and decay, and by his personal action reversing the process and offering resurrection and renewal, not only to individual persons, but to the whole cosmic order. [03] Similarly, John Galt, faced with a world in which the whole cosmic process is one of the decay of kinetic energy into static, reverses the process. [04]

A point which must not be overlooked in either account is the role of the Hero as Judge. A Christian might speak as follows: We Christians believe Christ to be the Judge of all men. When we say this, we are not thinking primarily of rewards and punishments, but of judgement as such. When we consider our own judgements, or those of our acquaintances, about ourselves, we hope that the unfavorable judgements are biased, and fear that the favorable ones may be. But eventually, or so we believe, every man will stand before Christ and receive an absolutely correct judgement about himself, which he will recognize as absolutely correct. There will be no room then for fudging or evasion, or for modesty. It will be either the best or the worst moment imaginable.

If we seek a parallel theme in Miss Rand’s novel, the search is not difficult. One after another, the people who become John Galt’s friends find their own sight clarified by his clear-sightedness, and in the light of his vision of the world and of them, find understanding of the world and acceptance of themselves. But we are also shown the other side of the coin. People who do not want to understand find that they cannot help doing so. Robert Stadler and James Taggart, brought face to face with John Galt, realize that he understands them, and are driven by the realization to understand themselves. They blurt out how they feel about him, and so are faced with how they feel about life, and reality, and themselves. And under the weight of that knowledge, they collapse. [05]

In both Atlas Shrugged and the Gospels we encounter the theme of Heaven as a place where a man, having given up — not without an inner struggle — all the things he valued and thought of as his below, finds that, far from never being able to say “mine” again, he can now say it and for the first time really mean it. [06] We hear him greeted with the accolade, “Well done! Enter into joy!” [07] Indeed anyone familiar with both documents will find it difficult to read either without frequently being reminded of the other.

To this, someone may object:

It is true that there are parallels between the Christian story and the story of John Galt. But that is not because Miss Rand is unconsciously endorsing the Christian view of the world; it is because she is consciously refuting it. She has modeled the career of John Galt as much as possible on that of Christ so as to show us all the more vividly that it is Galt, not Christ, who represents the moral ideal that all men should follow. Consider the very last paragraph, where Galt blesses the earth by making the sign of the dollar over it. Will anyone suppose that Miss Rand was unaware of the resemblance to the Christian use of the sign of the cross in blessing? Clearly she was engaging in conscious parody, in order to drive home the point that it is to the dollar and what it symbolizes, rather than to the cross and what it symbolizes, that rational, life-oriented men will give their allegiance.

To this I reply:

Several decades ago (whether it still survives I do not know), there was an atheistic organization composed almost entirely of ex-fundamentalists, mostly former Southern Baptists. They met regularly every Sunday morning to affirm their commitment to atheism in services which included a sermon, readings, anti-prayers, and atheistic songs sung to Baptist hymn tunes (the only music they knew). Typical was a parody of the Doxology which began, “Curse God from whom all earthquakes flow!” Their magazines and their pamphlets (which they handed out on street corners) were indistinguishable in tone from the corresponding fundamentalist literature, with a few key words and phrases reversed (“dedicate my life to Christ” was changed into “dedicate my life to atheism”). And from time to time people (moved by deliberate will to evil, or by the search for thrills, or sometimes just by a wish to shock their families or neighbors) will organize Satanist cults and celebrate a Black Mass, with an inverted crucifix, the priest’s vestments worn inside out, and the traditional prayers garbled or said backwards. Now, quite apart from the judgement that this is wrong, do the services of either the Satanist or the fundamentalist atheist represent the sort of activity that a serious man, even a serious atheist, can respect or admire? Are they not so obviously second-hand, so much a matter of defining oneself entirely in response to one’s neighbors? Can you imagine Miss Rand going in for that sort of thing? I cannot, and I cannot see how those who make this suggestion can suppose themselves to be defending her. It is not unthinkable that she might take an occasional passing slap at Christianity, and that a detail here and there, such as the sign of the dollar, might be so intended, although even here there is more than meets the eye. [08] But that she would make parody her guiding principle in writing the entire book — let him believe it who can. As Dr. [Nathaniel] Branden has pointed out, their view is no compliment to Miss Rand on any level. [09]

I suspect that many students of Objectivism, reading the last few pages, have become increasingly distressed and are wanting to say,

“I have always taken it for granted that Atlas Shrugged was a defense in novel form of rational, productive man, and of the rationality, practicality, and morality of laissez-faire capitalism. Reading it in that sense, I have gotten much of value out of it. Are you telling me that my regard for this book is based on a misunderstanding, that the lessons I learned from it are not really there, and that I must forget the book I thought I knew and start from scratch?”

Such readers may relax. When I say that Atlas Shrugged is, on one level, about Christ, I am not denying that it is, on another level, about the self-defeating nature of railroad regulation. Miss Rand, analyzing a particular paragraph to illustrate his method, distinguishes four levels of meaning on which it is to be understood [10] — curiously enough, using the same four kinds of meaning, more or less, that are found, according to Dante, in his Divine Comedy, and found, according to some Jewish and Christian writers, in the Scriptures. [11]

Some readers will say, impatiently, that it is all very well to point out that Atlas Shrugged has more than one kind of meaning, but that it is utterly unreasonable to suggest that an uncompromising atheist like Miss Rand would or could have written a thousand pages in praise of God. I advise them not to be so sure of that. She has given us fair warning that she understands very well the possibility of writing what looks like an attack to the naive reader but is seen upon closer examination to be something quite different. She has also made it clear that she realizes full well that the creative imagination of a great novelist often expresses truths and insights that the artist had not consciously intended, [12] and it would be utterly in keeping with her own principles if God should thank Miss Rand’s imagination for a tribute quite invisible to others, possibly including even Miss Rand herself in another capacity. [13]

The reader of Atlas Shrugged who is explicitly aware that he is reading Christian theology will find it an invaluable aid to his understanding thereof. That God is pure consciousness [14]; that awareness of all things is his essence [15]; that he is the Ultimate Truth and Ultimate Reality, in whose presence illusion becomes impossible [16]; that to know him is the end for which the human mind exists, and that to do so is to experience complete fulfillment [17]; that, precisely because experience of him is far more vivid than other experiences, attempts to describe him in ordinary language will often be curiously unsatisfactory, and move the describer to take refuge in paradox [18]; that he is the only entity that could not have been otherwise, and that therefore he and his attributes are an inseparable unit, to be grasped like an axiom [19]; that, although there is no being whose existence is rationally more certain than his, yet emotionally it is easy to stampede oneself into dismissing him as an illusion [20]; that knowing him sets us free, and that this includes freedom to love, not only him, but also other men [21] — even those who have injured us [22]; that although many men seem to know nothing about him, and to them his name is only a swear word, [23] yet the world is full of stories about him, mostly myths, only one of them literally true, and yet all containing a germ of truth [24]; that he is always with us even when we are not aware of him, and that his love extends even to dying for us, if need be [25]; that his love strengthens men for their tasks [26]; that his spirit so lives in the community of those who have found their true natures in him, that he and that community are in some sense one [27]; that he is the Ultimate Value — the true object, recognized or unrecognized, of every rational action or desire [28]; that he demands our total and undivided allegiance [29]; that Christ is the Logos, the reason, or idea, or word, or perfect expression of the nature of God, springing forth in his full perfection from the mind of God as Minerva is said to have sprung from the head of Jove [30]; that he is not only the total and perfect expression in human terms of the nature of God, but also the total expression of perfect and complete humanity, a normal man, the normal man, the definition of what men were meant to be and what God intends they shall become [31]; — all these things and more he will find carefully outlined and soberly discussed in books explicitly labeled theological, but few indeed are the theologians who are at all likely to make them as vivid to the imagination as Miss Rand. Atlas Shrugged deserves a place of honor on the theological bookshelf of every Christian.

We see, then, that although Miss Rand is an avowed atheist, her basic metaphysical and epistemological principles presuppose theism, and that her creative imagination is basically Christian. When and whether her consciously avowed convictions about God will come into harmony with the rest of her thought is, of course, anybody’s guess. On the one hand, given that irrationality now has a foothold in her mind in the form of her atheism, there is a real danger that the rot will spread — that, instead of becoming less atheistic, she will become less rational. [32] To any agent of volitional consciousness — even Miss Rand — this option is always open. [33] But as long as she consistently makes it her rule to focus on intellectual difficulties and not to evade them, we who wish her well will have every reason to be confident of the eventual outcome. Once again I turn to Atlas Shrugged for a parallel.

You will remember that when Dagny visits Galt’s mountain retreat for the first time, she agrees with his ultimate goals but is utterly opposed to his program for achieving them. She refuses to remain there, and returns to her job as a railroad executive, determined to fight to save the structure that Galt is trying to destroy. Before she leaves, Galt’s friend and hers, Francisco, says to her:

Dagny, all three of us are in love with the same thing, no matter what its forms. Don’t wonder why you feel no breach among us. You’ll be one of us, so long as you remain in love with your rails and your engines — and they’ll lead you back to us, no matter how many times you lose your way. The only man never to be redeemed is the man without passion. [34]

So long as Miss Rand remains in love with reason and honesty, and the power of man’s mind to recognize the truth, she will not permanently lose her way. And when she does become a Christian, then and not before, she will know the real answer to the question: “Who is John Galt?”


References
[Editor’s notes are in blue. Readers who prefer to ignore the links in the text and follow the notes on a separate page, may open a separate page with the references here.]

[01] A. Rand, “Art and Moral Treason” 4/3/10kk, 12gg [References of this form refer to The Objectivist Newsletter, in this case, volume 4, number 3, i.e., March 1965. After volume 4, the name of the publication was The Objectivist. The page numbers for the latter are those of the original format, not those in the bound volume.] & RM [The Romantic Manifesto (paperback edition)] 146–47.
MMIt is not abstract principles that a child learns from Romantic art, but the pre-condition and the incentive for the later understanding of such principles, the experience of looking up to a hero — a view of life motivated and dominated by values, a life in which man’s choices are practicable, effective and crucially important — that is, a moral sense of life.

A. Rand, “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art” 4/4/16bb-gg [April 1965] & RM 21–22.
MMWhen we come to normative abstractions — to the task of defining moral principles and projecting what man ought to be — the psycho-epistemological process required is still harder. The task demands years of study — and the results are almost impossible to communicate without the assistance of art. An exhaustive philosophical treatise defining moral values, with a long list of virtues to be practiced, will not do it; it will not convey what an ideal man would be like and how he would act.... There is no way to integrate such a concretization that illuminates the theory and makes it intelligible.
MMObserve that every religion has a mythology — a dramatized concretization of its moral code embodied in the figures of men who are its ultimate product....
MMMany readers of The Fountainhead have told me that the character of Howard Roark helped them to make a decision when they faced a moral dilemma. They asked themselves: “What would Roark do in this situation?” — and, faster than their minds could identify the proper application of all the complex principles involved, the image of Roark gave them the answer. They sensed, almost instantly, what he would or would not do — and this helped them to identify and isolate the reasons, the moral principles that would have guided him. Such is the psycho-epistemological function of a personified (concretized) human ideal.

[02] AS [Atlas Shrugged] 1072v-hh [hardback] (1155dd-pp [paperback]).
MMGalt glanced at the faces around him; ... he knew in what manner they were now reliving his torture.
MM“It’s over,” he said. “Don’t make it worse for yourself than it was for me.”
MMFrancisco turned his face away. “It’s only that it was you ...” he whispered. “you ... if it were anyone but you ...”
MM“But it had to be me, if they were to try their last, and they’ve tried, and” — he moved his hand, sweeping the room — and the meaning of those who had made it — into the wastelands of the past — “and that’s that.”
MMFrancisco nodded....

[03] Romans 8:19–21 (Revised Standard Version)
MMFor the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.

[04] G. [George] Walsh, “Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of the New Left,” 9/9/9g, 10e [September 1970]
MMFechner’s principle ... is “a special case of the more general second law of thermodynamics.” This law states that heat tends to become equalized among the bodies within a closed system, passing from the hotter bodies to the cold, resulting in less energy available for work (this state is called higher entropy). At the end of the nineteenth century, that law was taken to be of cosmic significance. The universe was regarded as a closed physical system of the type postulated in the law, and it was widely held that the universe is running down.

AS 165d-j.
MM[Dagny to Hank:]
MM“I keep thinking of what they told us in school about the sun losing energy, growing colder each year. I remember wondering, then, what it would be like in the last days of the world. I think it would be ... like this. Growing colder and things stopping.”
MM“I never believed that story. I thought that by the time the sun was exhausted, men would find a substitute.”
MM“You did? Funny. I thought that, too.”

AS 359v-y.
MMIt seemed to her that some destroyer was moving soundlessly through the country and the lights were dying at his touch — someone, she thought bitterly, who had reversed the principle of the Twentieth Century motor and was now turning kinetic energy into static.

AS 257aa-ee
MM“... Hank, do you understand? Those men, long ago, tried to invent a motor that would draw static electricity from the atmosphere, convert it and create its own power as it went along. They couldn’t do it. They gave it up.” She pointed to the broken shape. “But there it is.”

AS 336jj-pp
MM“Did you say it’s a matter of technology? It’s more, much, much more than that. The pages where he writes about his converter — you can see what premise he’s speaking from. He arrived at some new concept of energy. He discarded all our standard assumptions, according to which his motor would have been impossible. He formulated a new premise of his own and he solved the secret of converting static electricity into kinetic power....”

[05] AS 330m-o (348oo-rr)
MMThe sharp pain was the shock of discovering simultaneously that this was the man he longed to see more than any other being in the world — and that he had to hope that this man was dead.

AS 341i-m (360u-x)
MM“That man is dead.”
MMHe did not permit himself to know the full meaning of the words he added:
MM“He has to be dead.”

AS 998u-cc (1075j-q)
MM“And what do you want me to do?”
MM“You must kill him.”
MMIt was the fact that Dr. Stadler had not cried it, but had said it in a flat, cold, suddenly and fully conscious voice, that brought a chill moment of silence as the whole room’s answer.
MM“You must find him,” said Dr. Stadler.... “... If he lives, we can’t.”

AS 1029e-p (1119d-n)
MM“Oh yes, you’re going to be killed! You won’t win! You can’t be allowed to win! You are the man who has to be destroyed.”
MMDr. Stadler’s gasp was a muffled scream, as if the immobility of the figure on the window sill had served as a silent reflector and had suddenly made him see the full meaning of his own words.
MM“No!” moaned Dr. Stadler, moving his head from side to side to escape the unmoving, green eyes. “No! ... No! ... No!” MMGalt’s voice had the same unbending austerity as his eyes: “You have said everything I wanted to say to you.”
MMDr. Stadler banged his fist against the door; when it was opened, he ran out of the room.

AS 1063a-1064d (1145c-1146j)
MM“I don’t care! I want to break him! I want to hear him scream! I want —”
MMAnd then it was Taggart who screamed. It was a long sudden, piercing scream as if at some sudden sight, though his eyes were staring at space and seemed blankly sightless. The sight he was confronting was within him. The protective walls of emotion, of evasion, of pretense, of semi-thinking and pseudo-words, built up by him through all of his years, had crashed in the span of one moment — the moment when he knew that he wanted Galt to die, knowing fully that his own death would follow....
MMIn the moment when he, James Taggart, had found himself facing the ultimatum: to accept reality or die, it was death his emotions had chosen, death, rather than surrender to that realm of which Galt was so radiant a son. In the person of Galt — he knew — he had sought the destruction of all existence....
MM“No ...” he moaned, staring at that vision, shaking his head to escape it. “No ... No ...”
MM“Yes,” said Galt....
MMThis was the stamp James Taggart had dreaded, from which they was no escape: the stamp and proof of objectivity. “No ...” he said feebly once more, but it was no longer the voice of a living consciousness.

[06] Matthew 6:19-21 (Revised Standard Version).
MMDo not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rush consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

AS 671n-p, mm-nn (???) [James has listed here only the references for the paperback edition.]
MM[Ellis Wyatt:]
MM“Dagny,” he said earnestly, pointing at his tank, “one gallon of it is worth more than a trainful back there in hell — because this is mine....”
MM“... Is there any sort of safety vault that could protect this account in the outside world?”

[07] Matthew 25: 20-21 (RSV).
MMAnd he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”

AS 684r-cc (735nn-736e)
MM“And if you met those great men in heaven,” asked Ken Danagger, ”what would you want to say to them?”
MM“Just ... just ‘hello,’ I guess.”
MM“That’s not all,” said Danagger. “There’s something you’d want to hear from them. I didn’t know it either, until I saw him for the first time” — he pointed to Galt — “and he said it to me, and then I knew what it was that I had missed all my life. Miss Taggart, you’d want them to look at you and say, ‘Well done.’” She dropped her head and nodded silently, head down, not to let him see the sudden spurt of tears to her eyes. “All right, then: Well done, Dagny! — well done — too well — and now it’s time for you to rest from that burden which none of us should ever have had to carry.”

[08] One theory of the origin of the dollar sign, and the one that Miss Rand refers to in Atlas Shrugged, is that it began as a “U.S.” superimposed. But an alternate theory is that the symbol arose from the Spanish gold dollar, or “piece of eight” (worth eight Spanish reals), which was widely circulated in the early United States and originally defined the value of the American dollar. On its “tails” side it displayed two upright pillars (standing for the Pillars of Hercules, the Straits of Gibraltar) with a figure “8” superimposed. Now, both Christians and Jews have used the number eight as a symbol of restoration and renewal and rebirth and resurrection.

(Seven days complete the week, and the eighth day marks a new beginning. The eight candles of Hannukah mark the rededication of the temple and the restoration of Jewish independence. Jesus died on Friday, the sixth day of the week [and so 666 is the “number of the Beast”], and rose on the following the Sunday, the “eighth” day of the week, and so 888 is the number of Christ. [In Greek, where all the letters double as numerals — see the works of Archimedes for examples — the letters of IESOUS total 888. I am not offering this as a proof of anything, but only as an explanation of how a popular number symbolism came about.])

The Pillars of Hercules, in classical thought, marked the gates of Paradise, in the form of the Garden of the Hesperides. That John Galt should bless the earth with a symbol of resurrection and of the opening of the gates of Paradise seems to me entirely appropriate. On the other hand, I am not offended by the dollar as a sign of blessing, any more than I am offended by the pictures of Heaven as having streets of gold. To me, gold does not symbolize greed. It symbolizes objective worth.

[09] N. Branden, “A Report to Our Readers — 1965” 4/12/58dd-ee [December 1965]
MMIn view of the fact that most of these attacks declare or imply that atheism is the most important and central feature of the Objectivist philosophy, a brief comment is perhaps appropriate. As uncompromising advocates of reason, Objectivists are, of course, atheists. We are intransigent atheists, not militant ones. We are for reason; therefore, as a consequence, we are opposed to any form of mysticism; therefore, we do not grant any validity to the notion of a supernatural being. But atheism is scarcely the center of our philosophical position. To be known as crusaders for atheism would be acutely embarrassing to us; the adversary is too unworthy.

[10] Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, WIAR [Who Is Ayn Rand? (paperback edition)] 111–14 [hardback edition: 136–40].
MMAyn Rand’s analysis of this paragraph is as follows:
MM“This description had four purposes: (1) to give an image of the view from Dagny’s window, namely: an image of what New York looks like on a foggy evening; (2) to suggest the meaning of the events which have been taking place, namely: the city as a symbol of greatness doomed to destruction; (3) to connect New York with the legend of Atlantis; (4) to convey Dagny’s mood. So the description had to be written on four levels: literal — connotative — symbolic — emotional.”
MM(The complete analysis covers three and a half pages.)

[11] Dante, The Divine Comedy-1: Hell, Penguin Classics, (Dorothy Sayers, trans. and ed.) pp. 14-15, with examples p. 217 and throughout. (quote???)

[The first reference is to a letter from Dante to his patron, Con Grande della Scala, explaining how the Comedia was to be understood:]
MMThe meaning of this work is not simple ... for we obtain one meaning from the letter of it, and another from that which the letter signifies; and the first is called literal, but the other allegorical or mystical. And to make this matter of treatment clearer, it may be studied in the verse: “When Israel came out of Egypt and the House of Jacob from among a strange people, Judah was his sanctuary and Israel his dominion” [Psalm 114:1-2]. For if we regard the letter alone, what is set before us is the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt in the days of Moses; if the allegory, our redemption wrought by Christ; if the moral sense, we are shown the conversion of the soul from the grief and wretchedness of sin to the state of grace; if the analogical, we are shown the departure of the holy soul from the thraldom of this corruption to the liberty of eternal glory. And although these mystical meanings are called by various names, they may all be called in general allegorical, since they differ from the literal and historical.
MMThe subject of the whole work, then, taken merely in the literal sense is “the state of the soul after death straightforwardly affirmed”, for the development of the whole work hinges on and about that. But if, indeed, the work is taken allegorically, its subject is: “Man, as by good or ill deserts, in exercise of his free choice, he becomes liable to rewarding or punishing Justice.”

[The second reference (p. 217) is to Dorothy Sayers’s application of this analysis to the image of Caiaphas in Canto XXIII, lines 110-25. I give first Dante’s verse, then Sayers’s analysis:]

[I saw] one lie crucified
There on the ground, with three stakes stricken through;

Who, when he saw me, writhed himself, and sighed
Most bitterly in his beard; and seeing me make
A questioning sign, Friar Catalan replied:

“He thou dost gaze on, pierced by the triple stake,
Counseled the Pharisees ’twas expedient
One man should suffer for the people’s sake. [John 11:49-51]

Naked, transverse, barring the road’s extent,
He lies; and all who pass, with all their load
Must tread him down; such is his punishment.

In this same ditch lie stretched in this same mode
His father-in-law, and all the Sanhedrim
Whose counsel sowed for the Jews the seed of blood.”

[In her notes, Dorothy Sayers explains that Fra Catalan had served as a podesta for Florence, but instead of helping to end conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibbelines, his administration achieved only the creation of a savage riot. See John 11 for the account of the reason for Caiaphas’s counsel. Annas, is identified as having been a high priest and the father-in-law of Caiaphas in John 18. The “load” Fra Catalan refers to is a Gilded Cloak lined with lead which the souls in this part of Hell must wear.]

[Sayers’s analysis:]
MMThe image [of Caiaphas] lends itself particularly well to Dante’s fourfold system of interpretation.... (1) Literal: the punishment of Caiaphas after his death; (2) Allegorical: the condition of the Jews in this world, being identified with the Image they rejected and the suffering they inflicted, “crucified forever in the eternal exile”; (3) Moral: the condition in this life of the man who sacrifices his inner truth to expediency (e.g. his true vocation to money-making, or his true love to a politic alliance), and to whom the rejected good becomes at once a heaven from which he is exiled and a rack on which he suffers; (4) Allegorical: the state here and hereafter of the soul which rejects God, and which can know God only as wrath and terror, which at the same time it suffers the agony of eternal separation from God, who is its only true good.


Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200?) Stromateis, 1,27 (179,1) apud H. Bettenson, op. cit., p. 168 (in some editions, 231-32). (Henry Bettenson, ed. and trans., The Early Christian Fathers, to which there was a reference in one of the earlier chapters of the Notes.)
MMThe meaning of the Law (i.e., the Old Testament) is to be apprehended by us in four ways: [as literally expressed, or] as displaying a type, or as establishing a command for the moral life, or giving a prophecy.

Encyclopedic Dictionary of Judaism, Geoff. Wigoder, ed. (New York, Leon Amiel, 1974) under “pardes.”

[12] A. Rand, “What Is Romanticism?” 8/5/2f [May 1969]
MMThis is not to say that a writer identifies and applies all the consequences of his basic premise by a conscious process of thought. Art is the product of a man’s subconscious integrations, of his sense of life, to a larger extent than of his conscious philosophical convictions.... Even the choice of the basic premise may be subconscious — since artists, like any other men, seldom translate their sense of life into conscious terms.

A. Rand, “Introduction to Ninety-Three,[by Victor Hugo], RM 158d.
MMAnd perhaps the most tragic conflict is not in his novels, but in their author. With so magnificent a view of man and of existence, Hugo never discovered how to implement it in reality. He professed conscious beliefs which contradicted his subconscious ideal and made its application to reality impossible.

A. Rand, reviewing Ninety-Three, by V. Hugo, 1/10/421 [October 1962] & RM 154b.

[13] FH [The Fountainhead], 287-88 (288)
MMRoark came to stand beside her, close to her, his legs pressed to her knees, and he looked down at the paper, smiling.
MM“You have Roger completely bewildered by this,” he said.
MM“Has he read it?”
MM“I was in his office this morning when he read it. At first he called you some names I’d never heard before. Then he said, Wait a moment, and he read it again, he looked up, very puzzled, but not angry at all, and he said, if you read it one way ... but on the other hand....”
MM“What did you say?”
MM“Nothing. You know, Dominique, I’m very grateful, but when are you going to stop handing me that extravagant praise? Someone else might see it. And you won’t like that.”
MM“Someone else?”
MM“You knew that I got it, from that first article of yours about the Enright House. You wanted me to get it. But don’t you think someone else might understand your way of doing things?”

[14] AS 652jj-ll (701hh-kk)
MMIt seemed to her for a moment that she was in the presence of a being who was pure consciousness — yet she had never been so aware of a man’s body.

[15] AS 652ff-hh (701ee-ff)
MM[Dagny first sees Galt]
MM... he looked as if his faculty of sight were his best-loved tool and its exercise were a limitless, joyous adventure.

[16] AS 609u-w (653k-l)
MM“I can’t lie to you, you always seem to see everything, it’s worse than trying to lie to myself.”

[17] AS 682r-x (733ff-kk)
MMShe kept seeing his figure in her mind ... she felt nothing else ... there was no such entity as herself, she was not a single person, only a function, the function of seeing him, and the sight was its own meaning and purpose, with no further end to reach.

[18] AS 417k-o (442kk-oo)
MM“What does he look like?”
MMThe secretary smiled with sudden animation, as if she were about to utter an enthusiastic compliment, but the smile vanished abruptly. “I don’t know,” she answered uneasily. “He’s hard to describe. He has a strange face.”

AS 885oo-ss (954u-y)
MMShe thought it was strange to emerge from a span of unconsciousness which had been the span of the sharpest awareness she had ever experienced, only she did not know how long it had lasted or where she was or why. She had been aware of Galt’s face.

AS 652jj-ll (701hh-kk)
MMIt seemed to her for a moment that she was in the presence of a being who was pure consciousness — yet she had never been so aware of a man’s body.

[19] AS 655s-x (704x-ee)
MMShe remained silent. She noticed that she had asked questions about every subject, but not about him. It was if he were a single whole, grasped by her first glance at him, like some irreducible absolute, like an axiom not to be explained any further, as if she knew everything about him by direct perception, and what awaited her now was only the process of identifying her knowledge.

[20] AS 649c-j (695tt-696g)
MMShe glanced around her — and for one frightening moment, she thought that it was a quiet summer morning, that she was alone, lost in a region of the Rocky Mountains which no plane should ever venture to approach, and with the last of her fuel burning away, she was looking for a plane that had never existed, in quest of a destroyer who had vanished as he always vanished; perhaps it was only his vision that had led her here to be destroyed.

[21] AS 420e-k (445rr-446c)
MM[Ken Danagger after meeting John Galt:]
MM “About Hank Rearden ... Will you tell him that I ... You see, I’ve never cared for people, yet he was always the man I respected, but I didn’t know until today that what I felt was ... that he was the only man I ever loved.”

See also the following:
MMFH 679 (paperback)
MMRoark stood before them as each man stands in the innocence of his own mind. But Roark stood like that before a hostile crowd — and they knew suddenly that no hatred was possible to him. For the flash of an instant, they grasped the manner of his consciousness. Each asked himself: do I need anyone’s approval? — does it matter? — am I tied? And for that instant, each man was free — free enough to feel benevolence for every other man in the room.

[22] AS 598n, hh-qq (640cc-641b-i)
MMRearden’s hand rose, swept down, and slapped Francisco’s face.
MM... He was looking at Rearden, but it was not Rearden that he was seeing. He looked as if he were facing another presence in the room and as if his glance were saying: If this is what you demand of me, then even this is yours, yours to accept and mine to endure, there is no more than this in me to offer you, but let me be proud to know that I can offer so much. She saw ... the look of an enraptured dedication that was almost a smile.

[23] AS 124h-i (???) (James has given only the paperback reference.)
MMHe shrugged. “Who is John Galt?”
MM“Oh, don’t use gutter language.

AS 124h-i (This hardback reference is incorrect.) (188mm-189e)
MM“That’s what I’m going to call it: the John Galt Line.”
MM“Good God, no!”
MM“Yes.”
MM“But ...” His voice dropped to an almost superstitious sound: “Look, Dagny, you know, it’s ... it’s bad luck ... What it stands for is ...” He stopped.
MM“What does it stand for?”
MM“I don’t know....”

AS 340ss-yy (360f-l)
MM“I knew a John Galt once. Only he died long ago.”
MM“Who was he?”
MM“I used to think that he was still alive. But now I’m certain that he must have died. He had such a mind that, had he lived, the whole world would have been talking of him by now.”
MM“But the whole world is talking of him.”

[24] AS 149z-150y (153o-154q) (My paperback gives pages 149xx-150g)
MM[Galt and the legend of Atlantis:]
MM“John Galt was a millionaire, a man of inestimable wealth. He was sailing his yacht one night, in mid-Atlantic, fighting the worst storm ever wreaked upon the world, when he found it. He saw it in the depth where it had sunk to escape the reach of men. He saw the towers of Atlantis shining on the bottom of the ocean. It was a sight of such kind that when one had seen it, one could no longer wish to look at the rest of the earth. John Galt sank his ship and went down with his entire crew. They all chose to do it. My friend was the only one who survived.”

AS 171tt-172k (178l-aa) (My paperback gives pages 171xx-172k)
MM[Galt and the legend of the Fountain of Youth:]
MM“[John Galt was] the greatest explorer that ever lived. The man who found the fountain of youth....
MM“John Galt spent years looking for it. He crossed oceans, and he crossed deserts, and he went down into forgotten mines, miles under the earth. But he found it on the top of a mountain. It took him ten years to climb that mountain. It broke every bone in his body, it tore the skin off his hands, it made him lose his home, his name, his love. But he climbed it. He found the fountain of youth, which he wanted to bring down to men. Only he never came back.”
MM“Why didn’t he?” [Dagny] asked.
MM“Because he found that it couldn’t be brought down.”

AS 486k-s (517ff-nn)
MM[Francisco:]
MM“I can answer it,” he said. “I can tell you who is John Galt.”
MM“Really? Everybody seems to know him, but they never tell the same story twice.”
MM“They’re all true, though — all the stories you’ve heard about him.”
MM“Well, what’s yours? Who is he?”
MM“John Galt is Prometheus who changed in mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains and he withdrew his fire — until the day when men withdraw their vultures.”

AS 660jj-ll, qq-ss (710o-q, v-x)
MMShe closed her eyes; in a moment she asked, “All those stories I heard about you — which of them were true?”
MM“All of them.” ...
MM“The young inventor of the Twentieth Century Motor Company is the one real version of the legend, isn’t it?”
MM“The one that’s concretely real — yes.”

[25] AS 757p-t (814x-aa)
MMThey did not speak. Once, she said suddenly, “Mr. Galt.”
MM“Yes?”
MM“No. Nothing. I just wanted to know whether you were still there.”
MM“I will always be there.”

AS 891bb-pp (960bb-oo)
MM“I was here all those years,” he said, “within your reach, inside your own realm, watching your struggle, your loneliness, your longing, ... I was here, hidden by nothing but an error of your sight, as Atlantis is hidden from men by nothing but an optical illusion.... I was here. I was waiting for you. I love you, Dagny. I love you more than my life, I who have taught men how life is to be loved. I’ve taught them also never to expect the unpaid for — and what I did tonight, I did it with full knowledge that I would pay for it and that my life might have to be the price.”

[26] AS 595c-g (637h-i)
MM“Francisco!” she cried,... “How can you do what you’re doing?”
MM“By the grace of my love” — “for you,” said his eyes — “for the man,” said his voice, “who did not perish in your catastrophe and will never perish.”

[27] AS 228b-h (238mm-rr)
MMAs she started up the rungs on the side of the engine, a reporter thought of a question he had not asked.
MM“Miss Taggart,” he called after her, “who is John Galt?”
MMShe turned, hanging onto a metal bar with one hand, suspended for an instant above the heads of the crowd.
MMWe are!” she answered.

[28] AS 210n-211c (220k-221c)
MM[Dagny meditates.]
MMOnce, when she was sixteen, looking at a long stretch of Taggart track, at the rails that converged — like the lines of a skyscraper — to a single point in the distance, she had told Eddie Willers that she had always felt as if the rails were held in the hands of a man beyond the horizon — no, not her father or any of the men in the office — and some day she would meet him....
MMShe thought: if emotion is one’s response to the things the world has to offer, and if she loved the rails, the building, and more: if she loved her love for them — there was still one more response, the greatest, that she had missed. She thought: to find a feeling that would hold, as their sum, as their final expression, the purpose of all the things she loved on earth.... To find a consciousness like her own, who would be the meaning of her world as she would be of his.... No, not Francisco d’Anconia, not Hank Rearden, not any man she had ever met or admired.... A man who existed only in her knowledge of her capacity for an emotion she had never felt, but would have given her life to experience....
MMIs that what you want? Is it as simple as that? — she thought, but knew that it was not that simple. There was some unspeakable link between her love for her work and the desire of her body; as if one gave her the right to the other, the right and the meaning; as if one were the completion of the other — and the desire would never be satisfied, except by a being of equal greatness.
MMHer face pressed to her arm, she moved her head, shaking it slowly in negation. She would never find it. Her own thought of what life could be like was all she would ever have of the world she had wanted. Only the thought of it — and a few rare moments, like a few lights reflected from it on her way — to know, to hold, to follow to the end....
MMShe raised her head.
MMOn the pavement of the alley, outside her window, she saw the shadow of a man who stood at the door of her office.

AS 592g-u (633tt-634n)
MM[Dagny meditates.]
MMShe felt — as she had felt it one spring night, slumped her desk in the crumbling office of the John Galt Line, by a window facing a dark alley — the sense and vision of her own world, which she would never reach.... You — she thought — whoever you are, whom I have always loved and never found, you whom I expected to see at the end of the rails beyond the horizon, you whose presence I had always felt in the streets of the city and whose world I had wanted to build, it is my love for you that had kept me moving, my love and my hope to reach you and my wish to be worthy of you on the day when I would stand before you face to face. Now I know that I shall never find you — that it is not to be reached or lived — but what is left of my life is still yours, and I will go on in your name, even though it is a name I’ll never learn, I will go on serving you, even though I’m never to win, I will go on, to be worthy of you on the day when I would have met you, even though I won’t.

AS 755g-ff (812k-ii)
MM[Dagny: the earlier meditation repeated silently with spoken interpolations:]
MM[This entry appears here exactly as it appears in the dot-matrix printout. I do not understand what James had in mind, especially in light of the next entry.]

AS 755gg-ff (812k-ii)
MM[Hank Rearden to Dagny Taggart:]
MM“Somewhere within the last month, you have met the man you love, and if love means one’s final, irreplaceable choice, then he is the only man you’ve ever loved.... I think I’ve always known that you would find him. I knew what you felt for me, I knew how much it was, but I knew that I was not your final choice.
MM“What you meant to me can never be changed. But the man I met — he is the love I had wanted to reach long before I knew that he existed, and I think he will remain beyond my reach, but that I love him will be enough to keep me living.”

AS 889kk-pp (958dd-ii)
MM“John, that night, it was you I was thinking of ... only I didn’t know it....”
MM“But you see, I knew it.”
MM“... it was you, all my life, through everything I did and everything I wanted ...”
MM“I know it.”

[29] AS 593ll-594s (635ff-636s)
MM[Francisco to Dagny:]
MM“Do you still think you can serve him — that kind of man — by running the railroad?...
MM“So long as you still think that, nothing can stop you, or should. You will stop on the day when you’ll discover that your work has been placed in the service, not of that man’s life, but of his destruction.”
MM“Francisco!” It was a cry of astonishment and despair. “You do understand it, you know what I mean by that kind of man, you see him too!”
MM“Oh, yes,” he said simply, casually, looking at some point of space within the room, almost as if he were seeing a real person. He added, “Why should you be astonished? You said that we were of his kind once, you and I. We still are. But one of us has betrayed him.”...
MM“You know, Dagny, we were taught that some things belong to God and others to Caesar. Perhaps their God would permit it. But the man you say we’re serving — he does not permit it. He permits no divided allegiance, no war between your values and your actions, no tributes to Caesar. He permits no Caesar.”

[Remark: Some readers may object that this passage, far from being a parallel between Galt and Christ, shows how much they differ. Galt demands an undivided allegiance, while Christ is prepared to share his with Caesar. But in fact we find that Christ demands an undivided allegiance. (“No man can serve two masters.” “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 5:24; 10:37) The reference to Caesar (Luke 20: 20-26) was in response to a trick question. He was living in a conquered and occupied country, and his enemies asked him publicly, “Is it right to pay tribute to Caesar?” If he said “No,” he was likely to be arrested for treason, and if he said “Yes,” the people would regard him as a collaborationist, or at least a coward. It was the equivalent of publicly asking a Frenchman in occupied France, “What do you think of Hitler?” with a Nazi guard a few feet away. They were not looking for moral advice, and he gave them none. He told them to give Caesar whatever Caesar had a right to. An enemy who denounced this answer to the Romans as an implied “No” would himself have to take the position that Caesar did not have a right to the tax. An enemy who denounced this answer to the people as an implied “Yes¸ would have to take the position that Caesar did have a right to the tax. The passage tells us nothing about Christ’s politics, only about his unwillingness to walk into a trap, and his skill in avoiding one.] [I believe that James got his “Yes” and “No” reversed in explaining what implicit positions the denouncing enemy would be taking. Am I wrong?]

[30] AS 731aa-gg (786aa-gg)
MM[Hugh Akston:]
MM“— and John, the self-made man, self-made in every sense, penniless, parentless, tie-less. Actually, he was the son of a gas-station mechanic at some forsaken crossroads in Ohio, and he had left home at the age of twelve to make his own way — but I’ve always thought of him as if he had sprung into the world like Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, who sprang forth from Jupiter’s head, fully grown and full armed.”

[31] AS 731b-e (786b-e)
MMDon’t make the mistake of thinking that these ... are some sort of superhuman creatures. They’re something much greater and more astounding than that: they’re normal men — a thing the world has never seen.

[32] A. Rand, “To Whom It May Concern,” 7/5/8b [May 1968]
MMBad premises cannot be held still: they must be corrected or they will grow and choke off the good ones.

[33] N. Branden, “The Objectivist Theory of Volition,” 5/2/8e-h [February 1966]
MMThe more consistently and conscientiously a man maintains a policy of being in full mental focus ... the easier and more natural the process becomes.... But — and this must be emphasized — his psychological state must be maintained volitionally; he retains the power to betray it.

N. Branden, “Self-Esteem,” 6/5/9c [May 1967]
MM... the will to understand. It is a policy that he must re-affirm volitionally in each new issue he encounters, for as long as he lives; it always remains a matter of choice.

A. Rand, “To Whom It May Concern,” 7/5/8c [May 1968]
MM[M]an’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.

N. Branden, “Self-Esteem,” 6/6/2f [June 1967]
MM... so long as [man] lives, his need of thought and effort is never ended.

[34] AS 751hh-nn (808z-ee)

HomeNNNNKiefer main pageNNNNNotes Table of Contents

E-mail Thornwalker at neff@thornwalker.com.

Copyright © 2001–2016 Ronald N. Neff, d/b/a Thornwalker.com

Thornwalker.com is hosted by pair Networks.