Come and have a taste
A rare vintage
All the finest wines
Improve with age
- Count of Tuscany, Dream Theater
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, and The Abolition of Man, by C. S. Lewis, both came out eighty years ago, in 1943. Via an article by Micah Watson, C.S. Lewis on the Specter of Totalitarianism, I came across this: Ayn Rand’s marginalia on C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.
“It’s true, some wine improves with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place.”
After eighty years, let’s see which wine started with good grapes.
Regular readers know that I believe Lewis’s Abolition may well be the book that best describes our condition today, how we got here, and what is necessary to get us out – out, meaning out of the meaning crisis and out from under tyranny and toward liberty.
I lean on Lewis’s book heavily in the two “books” I have written, to be found here. One is The Search for Liberty, and the second is Natural Law and the Meaning Crisis. I also began this journey long ago, if you will, on Rand, discovering her through the band Rush and a reference to her short novel Anthem. I consider my travels as having taken me from milk to meat.
While I still find value in Rand’s work, as I have developed my thought the shortcomings in her view become ever more obvious – and even contribute to the mess of society we live in today. Certainly, when we needed him most at the beginning of covidmania, John Galt was nowhere to be found; John Galt is not our savior.
But Rand’s biggest and most damaging shortcoming is found in her views of Christianity and religion, and the tradition developed through this. Well, this and her acerbic personality. Which is where I will begin.
The aforementioned marginalia positions comments and reactions by Rand against various sections of Lewis’s book. In her marginalia, she refers to Lewis (not what he has written, but as a person) as follows:
· The abysmal bastard!
· …this monster…
· The cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-metaphysical mediocrity!
· (The bastard!)
· This is really an old fool – and nothing more!
· This incredible, medieval monstrosity…
· The lousy bastard…
· The cheap, driveling non-entity!
· This monstrosity…
· The abysmal caricature who postures as a “gentleman and a scholar” …
· The bastard…
· (The abysmal scum!)
And in the midst of a dozen ad hominem attacks, she accuses Lewis with the following:
· Ad hominem!
But enough of examining Rand’s less-than-cheerful personality. What are her substantial comments?
Lewis writes: “If [the Innovator] had really started from scratch, from right outside the human tradition of value, no jugglery could have advanced him an inch towards the conception that a man should die for the community or work for posterity.” To which Rand replies: “You bet he couldn’t!”
Rand, of course, is well known for her virtue of selfishness. So, the idea of working for the community or for posterity – for the sake of the other and not for the sake of one’s self – is anathema. Therefore, any tradition that advances such an idea – that you have some sort of obligation to care for your fellow man and your future men – is not merely a bad tradition, but an evil one. In other words, what Jesus did for humanity is the worst evil one could do.
Lewis: “Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger.”
Here Lewis is writing of the control of some men by other men – recall from Abolition that man conquers nature, after which he conquers his fellow man. If this wasn’t obvious to Rand in 1943, it most certainly is obviously clear today. Lewis saw this, and is ridiculed by Rand for seeing this.