Ayn Rand: The Dark Side of the Goddess of Wisdom
In Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Snow Queen, a little boy called Kay has tiny shards of an evil, distorting mirror lodged in his heart and in his eye.
“…a mirror with the power of causing all that was good and beautiful when it was reflected therein, to look poor and mean; but that which was good-for-nothing and looked ugly was shown magnified and increased in ugliness. In this mirror the most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best persons were turned into frights, or appeared to stand on their heads; their faces were so distorted that they were not to be recognised; and if anyone had a mole, you might be sure that it would be magnified and spread over both nose and mouth.”
This mirror makes him susceptible to the glamour of the Snow Queen who takes him off to her castle in the far North.
“Little Kay was quite blue with cold, indeed almost black, but he did not feel it; for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings, and his heart was already a lump of ice. … In the middle of the empty, endless hall of snow, was a frozen lake; it was cracked in a thousand pieces, but each piece was so like the other, that it seemed the work of a cunning artificer. In the middle of this lake sat the Snow Queen when she was at home; and then she said she was sitting in the Mirror of Reason, and that this was the only one and the best thing in the world.”
The list of powerful people who attest to be followers of Ayn Rand, the 20th century novelist, philosopher and advocate of uncompromising laissez-faire capitalism, is lengthy. First editions of her Atlas Shrugged — a doorstopper of a novel published in 1957 — sell for $25,000 to denizens of Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the City of London.
It is not the prolix style of her novels that they revere, or the workmanlike plotting or thin characterisation, but the ideas contained therein. The central tenets of her belief system, which she called Objectivism, are:
• Altruism is bad. Self-interest is good.
• Reason is the only way to look at the world. Emotions, mysticism, faith are all bad.
• A tiny elite of “great men” — top businessmen essentially — is really what holds up the world. They are “Atlas”. The rest are simply leeching off this elite. They are variously described as: “irrational,” “parasites,” “dishonest,” “thieving loafers,” “compromising knaves,” “sniveling neurotics,” and “both a beggar and a sucker.” (And yes, she meant men. See below)
• All regulation — including a police force, firemen, law courts etc — is unnecessary and simply a hindrance to this elite, which needs to be allowed to get on with using the earth’s resources “rationally” that is to enrich themselves. Journalists are bad because they ask questions. Politicians are bad because they seek to make laws… etcetera.
• Money is the best measure of a person’s worth.
• If you’re not a laissez-faire capitalist, you’re a socialist. Socialism is really, really bad and will take over and destroy everything.
Here is the hero of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, explaining: “The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.”
Much of her philosophy is a mirror of Marxism. Like him, she believed that the distribution of wealth was the key to how things worked. She also believed that if smart people were allowed to pursue their self-interest, they would always do so rationally! If you take that a step further, you can see where the neoliberal mantra “the markets are always right” comes from.
You can also see why a psychopathic CEO might be attracted to her brand of extreme rugged individualism. But some very influential people appear to take Rand’s wildest rantings seriously. This is why it’s important to understand her and her vision. She is the goddess of the alt-right, and she wrote forthrightly about what she believed, especially in her two novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. At the end of Atlas Shrugged, which she considered her most important book, the hero and heroine stand together, looking over Galt’s Gulch, the secret valley where all the “men of mind” — scientists, inventors, businessmen, artists — are hiding so that they don’t have to contribute to society. Meanwhile, the rest of the world collapses because its run by those wicked socialists. Galt’s last act is to trace a dollar sign in the air over “the desolate earth”. I think this is supposed to be a happy ending.
“Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber–go!” — Whittaker Chambers reviewing the Atlas Shrugged on its first publication in the National Review
Here are a few of her fans:
Alan Greenspan — the head of the Federal Reserve for 17 years, was a member of Rand’s Collective (the inner group of her cult) as a young man — and attended her funeral when an old man. “What she did—through long discussions and lots of arguments into the night–was to make me think why capitalism is not only efficient and practical, but also moral.” Although Greenspan is not the first name to spring to mind when you think of the alt-right, it’s important to remember that he took away a great deal of regulation that kept bankers in check. The 2008 crash is a direct consequence.
Donald Trump — says The Fountainhead is his favourite book.
Paul Ryan — Republican leader of the House in the US Senate, gives a copy of Atlas Shrugged to all his new employees.
The Pauls (Ron and Rand) — libertarian Republican congressmen, father and son, with presidential ambitions.
Daniel Hannan, British Member of the European Parliament — the brains behind Brexit writes that he keeps a picture of her on his desk, next to the one of Margaret Thatcher. His critique of Rand’s terrible writing is accurate and funny, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from loving her ideas. His motivation for Brexit is clearly stated: he believes cutting regulations will allow capitalism to thrive unfettered.
Sajid Javid — the UK’s current Housing Minister says he reads the court scene from The Fountainhead twice a year (really?!). Perhaps he’ll stop doing that post-Grenfell.
Travis Kalanick — the disgraced Uber boss is a big Rand fan. His Twitter avatar used to be the cover of The Fountainhead. Of course, even the name Uber has uncomfortable “over”tones of supremacism.
Peter Thiel — billionaire founder of PayPal, early investor in Facebook — erstwhile Trump supporter.
Rush Limbaugh — one of the most influential radio hosts in the US references Rand frequently. His accurate summary of Atlas Shrugged: “It is basically about the achievers of life quitting, because they’re tired of being 1% of the population pulling the other 99% in the cart.” (One of Rand’s upside-down techniques in the book is to make it seem like the super-rich are the victims of society.)
‘The first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man’s first duty is to himself,’ he says. ‘I wished to come here and say that the integrity of a man’s creative work is of greater importance than any charitable endeavour. Those of you who do not understand this are destroying the world.’ — Howard Roarke in The Fountainhead
Rand was, as you have probably guessed, an Aquarian Sun. Aquarius is, of course, the sign of utopias and dystopias, the sign that wants to build the future — like the hero of her novel The Fountainhead, the architect Howard Roarke.
The placement of Rand’s Moon is extremely significant — and no matter what time of day she was born, it conjuncts both Mercury, the planet of ideas, and Pallas, the asteroid of reason — and it is in detriment. This conjunction gives a new view of the asteroid of strategic thinking. Here is reason (Pallas) overwhelming emotion (the Moon). Rand’s essentially simplistic supremacist ideology is at heart cold as ice, yet it’s clear that her devotion to “reason” is irrational. This contradiction is at the heart of her ideology.
“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”
The Moon represents our emotions, our connection to the mother, our nurturing. In Capricorn, this can be cooled significantly anyway, but combined with Pallas, the nurturing turns into a dementor’s embrace.
Rand has a major stellium across Capricorn and Aquarius — the two most “rational” signs — that runs from Uranus, rebellion, futurism and the Promethean flame, to Saturn, structure and establishment — indeed these two planets are in a kind of mutual reception. Clearly, she was ambitious (Saturn in Aquarius) for her ideas about the order of society (Mercury in Capricorn) to be heard. In order to achieve this ambition, she organised her own Californian cult, called ironically The Collective (another rather Aquarian word).
Some of this sounds uncannily like another American 20th century guru’s life work. L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, was just a few years younger — he too was born with Uranus in Capricorn. He too was tapping into the American stories about individualism and specialness. He too started out as a writer of speculative fiction. Hubbard had Sun in Pisces, so founding a religion, rather than a philosophy like Rand, the Aquarian, must have felt more appropriate for him.
Back to Rand. At the centre of that stellium is Chiron — the teacher (she was), the maverick (she was), the outsider. Rand was born in Russia and lived through the early days of the revolution before emigrating to the US. She saw America through the fresh eyes of an outsider. This must have given her a certain clarity. It was certainly key to her vision. She was a short, dark, dumpy woman: all her heroes and heroines are high-cheek-boned, blue-eyed Viking-types, who tower above the rest of the crowd.
Her Saturn is exalted in Aquarius, so she had stamina, determination, stubbornness and that huge ambition. One of her opening remarks to new acquaintances was apparently: “Tell me your premises.” (That’s Saturnian: what is your foundation?)
But there are two more equally enhanced planets. Venus is exalted in Pisces. Rand was not an especially Venusian woman — not pretty or charming or even very artistic, but she was interested in sex (another Venusian area) — indeed part of the allure of both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged for teenagers must be the pornographic sex scenes.
Here is the first sexual encounter between the hero, Rand’s “ideal man”, and the heroine in The Fountainhead.
“… she felt the blood beating in her throat, in her eyes, the hatred, the helpless terror in her blood. She felt the hatred… She fought in a last convulsion. Then the sudden pain shot up… …and she screamed. Then she lay still.
It was an act that could be performed in tenderness, as a seal of love, or in contempt, as a symbol of humiliation and conquest. It could be the act of a lover or the act of a soldier violating an enemy woman. He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him- and she would have remained cold, untouched by the thing done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted.”
In the novel, Dominique Francon goes on to have bad sex with a couple of other men. The heroine in Atlas Shrugged fares no better. These are rapes, of course — but they also echo the ever popular soft-porn formula so lucratively exploited in the 50 Shades series — S&M with an unbelievably rich and/or insanely talented “great man”. It’s not often you get political philosophy spiced up with porn.
The powerful Venus squares both Uranus and Neptune — an opposition which dominates the chart. (Neptune-Uranus: fantasies about the future.) Venus in Pisces can create art from fantasy. Uranus-Venus can be quite kinky, and Neptune exaggerates the Piscean element of self-sacrifice, humiliation, abnegation.
Ayn Rand held her own sex in some contempt. “The essence of femininity is hero worship – the desire to look up to man” or “an ideal woman is a man-worshipper, and an ideal man is the highest symbol of mankind.” Oh well. Her Venus is also given impetus by its placement in at 29°. This is Venus in the very last degree of the Zodiac — the omega woman. In her books, Rand seems to be writing out a personal fantasy, a fantasy so alluring that it has won her millions of admirers. Perhaps, her greatest real insight was to understand that fiction is a far more powerful tool for getting ideas across than polemic.
Venus is also closely conjunct Lilith, the taboo-breaker (which she certainly did), marriage wrecker (she also did), the childless one (she was). In fact her attitude to women who had children seems at best ambivalent. Venus can also show us what we love — and Rand’s chef d’oeuvre is about the end of America. She describes the lights going out with relish. Atlas Shrugged is in part a nihilistic fantasy.
Mars, the planet of aggression, and action, is also in its own sign, Scorpio — a place where it acts more subtly than in Aries, but it’s still aggressive, passionate and sometimes vindictive. Rand’s ex-followers remember her as exceptionally cutting, a session with her was like being “flayed”. Mars, wielder of blades. And again, both her famous novels are vengeful in intent — pointing the finger at the 99%.
Once you understand Rand’s ideological stance against “regulation” and the “thieving loafers,” , you can begin to see why the American Republican Party is so set on getting rid of Obamacare, health care that benefits so many people. Presumably, Obama is seen as a Rand “socialist”, and therefore extremely dangerous. Once you understand that Daniel Hannan rates Rand, you can see why he wants to get the UK out of the European Union. These ideas that seem to be so obviously harmful to the citizens of the United States or Britain, make sense if you see that they come from a complete ideology. What is more with a real Randian “ideal man” in the White House, we are beginning to see what the world might look like if these “great men” are allowed to exercise their Randian right to unfettered individualism. Among the many odd beliefs that are apparent on reading Atlas Shrugged is the idea that the earth’s resources are limitless and there to be pillaged. Rand seems to have a hatred of nature (despite Galt’s Gulch). She liked clean lines, skyscrapers, cigarettes.
Ayn Rand did not believe in democracy (obviously), but in capitalism. These two are often used interchangeably but capitalism does not require democracy — and democracy does not lead to capitalism.
Unwittingly in her book, she demonstrates just how nihilistic her philosophy is. Pretty much everyone in Atlas Shrugged is doomed to die or starve except the chosen few, who leave the rest behind. That might make you wonder about, say, Elon Musk’s rockets to Mars.
The destructive potential of Rand’s ideas has been given new power of late and the transits to this chart show that. Currently, Pluto, the planet of transformation and super-power is near Rand’s Moon-Mercury-Pallas, the nexus of her ideas, and exactly quincunx her natal Pluto in Gemini (writing about destruction, or destructive writing). The current crisis of capitalism began when Pluto transited her revolutionary Uranus. Meanwhile, Uranus by transit is on her Jupiter in Aries this year. That Jupiter helped make her a pioneer — and maybe gave her the illusion that her luck was all self-generated. Her Jupiter-Pluto sextile is activated right now.
Furthermore, last year, Rand had a nodal return, as the Dragon’s Head went back to Virgo — a real writer’s placement.
Chiron has finally reached Rand’s Venus. This happens only every 50 years or so. Last time Chiron was in Pisces, Rand was a the height of her fame as a teacher, appearing on TV talk shows, and giving an annual lecture. When Chiron was on her Venus, her affair with a much younger protegé ended in vilification. Perhaps some of her modern followers will fall out of love with her now.
Here’s a truth that ought to be universally acknowledged: never trust someone who believes themselves to be utterly objective. There is no such thing. We can try to be neutral, but we are always the products of our environments and our character — and, for an astrologer, our charts. Rand’s Objectivism is a dangerous, illogical fraud based on fear — of the socialism she witnessed as a child. Looking at her chart, you can see a cold fantasist, striving to create a world that fits her own neurotic needs. What’s scary is that this neurotic fantasy turns out to have been so very appealing to people who have been turning that Randian dream into a nightmarish reality. Behold the 1%.
In the Snow Queen, Kay is rescued by Gerda in the end. She rescues him with kindness — and altruism.
There are many links throughout this post for you to follow. Here are four that I found especially useful.