Much has been made of a passage in which Roark’s friend, Heller, tries to persuade Roark of the importance of learning how to talk to people, the better to get commissions from them.
People have been calling Ayn Rand a psychopath for a long time based on her philosophy which preaches selfishness, rationality and individuality. She proclaims that the individual is solely responsible for hir survival and well-being having no right to expect others to help hir out nor does the individual have a duty to help others unless s/he wants to. That philosophy is compatible with psychopathy but, as I pointed out in an article, Libertarianism and Psychopathy, there is no logical necessity for psychopaths to agree with Ayn Rand. This is a big subject, not one I plan to delve into here. Most people who call Rand a psychopath don’t like her politics. But there are psychopaths all over the political map. Another article in which I explore politics and psychopathy is Donald Trump & Ayn Rand.
Roark loves architecture and knows exactly how he wants to design buildings, that is, originally. He is an authentic human being who doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks of him or or architecture. He isn’t interested in gaining power over other people. His self-esteem is such that he doesn’t need that.
Ellsworth Toohey is a perfect villain. He seduces with ideas most people agree with. But he has his own plan.
Toohey’s mask comes off in one spectacular scene where he reveals himself to Peter Keating. He arrives unexpectedly at Keating’s home and is ushered in by Peter’s mother.
“Look, Petey, look what a guest I have for you!”
Keating lifted his head. He sat at a littered table, bent under a squat lamp that gave a poor light; he was doing a crossword puzzle torn out of a newspaper. There was a full glass on the table with a dried red rim that had been tomato juice; a box containing a jigsaw puzzle; a deck of cards; a, Bible.
“Hello, Ellsworth,” he said smiling. He-leaned forward to rise but forgot the effort, halfway.
Mrs. Keating saw the smile and stepped out hastily, relieved, closing the door.
The smile went, not quite completed. It had been an instinct of memory. Then he remembered many things which he had tried not to understand.
“Hello, Ellsworth,’: he repeated helplessly.
Toohey stood before him, examining the room, the table, curiosity.
“Touching, Peter,” he said. “Very touching. I’m sure he’d appreciate it if he saw it.”
Not very talkative these days, are you, Peter? Not very sociable.
“I wanted to see you, Ellsworth. I wanted to talk to you.”
Toohey grasped a chair by the back, swung it through the air.in a broad circle like a flourish, planted it by the table and sat down.
“Well, that’s what I came here for,” he said. “To hear you talk.”
Keating said nothing.
“You mustn’t think I didn’t want to see you, Ellsworth. It was … what I told Mother about not letting anyone in … it was on account of the newspaper people. They won’t leave me alone.”
“My, how times change, Peter. I remember when one couldn’t you away from newspaper people.”
“Ellsworth, I haven’t any sense of humor left. Not any at all.”
“That’s lucky. Or you’d die laughing.”
“I’m so tired, Ellsworth,…I’m glad you came.”
The light glanced off Toohey’s glasses and Keating could not see his eyes; only two circles filled with a metallic smear, like dead headlights of a car reflecting the approach of something from a distance.
“Think you can get away with it?” asked Toohey.
“The hermit act. The great penance. The loyal silence.”
“Ellsworth, what’s the matter with you?”
“So he’s not guilty, is he? So you want us to please leave him do you?”
Keating’s shoulders moved, more an intention than the reality sitting up straight, but still an intention, and his jaw moved to ask:
“What do you want?”
“The whole story.”
“Want me to make it easier for you? Want a good excuse, Peter? I could, you know. I could give you thirty-three reasons, all and you’d swallow anyone of them. But I don’t feel like making it easier for you. So I’ll just tell you the truth: to send to the penitentiary, your hero, your idol, your generous your guardian angel!”
“I have nothing to tell you, Ellsworth.”
“While you’re being shocked out of the last of your wits you’d hang on to enough to realize that you’re no match for me. You’ll talk if I want you to talk and I don’t feel like wasting time. Who designed Cortlandt?”
“Do you know that I’m an architectural expert?”
“I designed Cortlandt.”
“Like the Cosmo-Slotnick Building?”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want you on the witness stand, Petey. I want you to tell the story in court. Your friend isn’t as obvious as you are. I don’t know what he’s up to. That remaining at the scene was a bit too smart. He knew he’d be suspected and he’s playing it subtle. God knows what he intends to say in court. I don’t intend to let him get away with it. The motive is what they’re all stuck on. I know the motive. Nobody will believe me if I try to explain it. But you’ll state it under oath. You’ll tell the truth: You’ll tell them who designed Cortlandt and why.”
“I designed it.”
“If you want to say that on the stand, you’d better do something about your muscular control. What are you shaking for?”
“Leave me alone.”
“Too late, Petey. Ever read Faust?”
“What do you want?”
“Howard Roark’s neck.”
“He’s not my friend. He’s never been. You know what I think of him.”
“I know, you God-damn fool! I know you’ve worshiped him all your life. You’ve knelt and worshiped, while stabbing him in the back. You didn’t even have the courage of your own malice. You couldn’t go one way or the other. You hated me—oh, don’t you suppose I knew it?—and you followed me. You loved him and you’ve destroyed him. Oh you’ve destroyed him all right, Petey; and now there’s no place to run, and you’ll have to go through with it!”
“What’s he to you? What difference does it make to you?”
“You should have asked that long ago. But you didn’t. Which means that you’ knew it. You’ve always known it. That’s what’s making you shake. Why should I help you lie to yourself? I’ve done that for ten years. That’s what you came to me for. That’s what they all come to me for. But you can’t get something for nothing. Ever. My socialistic theories to the contrary notwithstanding. You got what you wanted from me. It’s my turn now.”
“I won’t talk about Howard. You can’t make me talk about Howard.”
“No? Why don’t you throw me out of here? Why don’t you take me by the throat and choke me? You’re much stronger than I am. But you won’t. You can’t. Do you see the nature of power, Petey? Physical power? Muscle or guns or money? You and Gail Wynand should get together. You have a lot to tell, him. Come on, Peter. Who designed Cortlandt?” .
“Leave me alone.”
“Who designed Cortlandt?”
“Let me go!”
“Who designed Cortlandt?”
“It’s worse … what you’re doing … it’s much worse .. .”
“Than what I did to Lucius Heyer.”
“What did you do to Lucius Heyer?”
“I killed him.”
“What are you talking about?”
“That’s why it was better. Because I let him die.”
“Why, do you want to kill Howard?”
“I don’t want to kill him. I want him in jail. You understand? In jail. In a cell. Behind bars. Locked, stopped, strapped-and alive. He’ll get up when they tell him to. He’ll eat what they give him. He’ll move when he’s told to move and stop when he’s told. He’ll walk to the jute mill, when he’s told, and he’ll work as he’s told.. They’ll push him.. if he doesn’t move fast enough and they’ll slap his face when they feel like it, and they’ll beat him with rubber hose if he doesn’t obey. And he’ll obey. He’ll take orders. He’ll take orders!”
“Ellsworth!” Keating screamed. “Ellsworth!”
“You make me sick. Can’t you take the truth? No, you want your sugar-coating. That’s why I prefer Gus Webb. There’s one who has no illusions.”
Mrs. Keating threw the door open. She had heard the scream,
“Get out of here!” Toohey snapped at her.
She backed out, and Toohey slammed the door. ”
Keating raised, his head. “You have no right to talk to Mother
that way. She had nothing to do with you:
“Who designed Cortlandt?”
Keating got up. He dragged his feet to a dresser, opened a drawer, took out a crumpled piece of paper and handed it to Toohey. It was his contract with Roark. Toohey read it and, chuckled once, a dry snap of sound. Then he looked at Keating.
“You’re a complete success, Peter, as far as I’m concerned. But at times I have to want to turn away from the sight of my successes.”
Keating stood by the dresser, his shoulders slumped, his eyes empty.
“I didn’t expect you to have it in writing like that, with his signature. So that’s what he’s done for you—and this is what you do in return. No, I take back the insults, Peter. You had to do it. Who are ‘you to reverse the laws of history? Do you know what, this paper is? The impossible perfect, the dream of the centuries, the aim of all of mankind’s great schools of thought. You harnessed him. You made him work for, you. You took his achievement, his reward, his money, his glory, his name. We only thought and wrote about it, You gave a practical demonstration. Every philosopher from Plato up should thank you. Here it is, the philosopher’s stone—for turning gold into lead. I should be pleased, but I guess I’m human and I can’t help it, I’m not pleased, I’m just sick. The others, Plato and all the rest, they really thought it would turn lead into gold. I knew the truth from the first. I’ve been honest with myself, Peter, and that’s the hardest form of honesty. The one you all run from at any price. And right now I don’t blame you, it is the hardest one; Peter.”
He sat down wearily and held the paper by the comers in both hands. He said:
“If you want to know how hard it is, I’ll tell you: right now I want to burn this paper. Make what you wish of that. I don’t claim too great a credit, because I know that tomorrow I’ll send this to the district attorney, Roark will never know it-and it
would make no difference to him if he knew—but in the truth of things, there was one moment when I wanted to burn this paper.”
He folded the paper cautiously and slipped it into his pocket. Keating followed his gestures, moving his whole head, like a kitten watching a ball on a string.
“You make me sick,” said Toohey. “God, how you make me sick, all you hypocritical sentimentalists! You go along with me, you spout what I teach you, you profit by it—but you haven’t the grace to admit to yourself what you’re doing. You turn green when you see the truth. I suppose that’s in the nature of your natures and that’s precisely my chief weapon—but God! I get tired of it. I must allow myself a moment free of you. That’s what I have to put on an act for all my life-for mean little mediocrities like you. To protect your sensibilities, your posturings, your conscience and the peace of the mind you haven’t got. That’s the price I pay for what I want but at least I know that I’ve got to pay it. And I have no illusions about the price or the purchase.”
“What do you … want … Ellsworth?”
There were steps in the apartment above, someone- skipping gaily, a few sounds on the ceiling as of four or five tap beats. The light fixture jingled and Keating’s head moved up in obedience. Then it came back to Toohey. Toohey was smiling, almost indifferently.
“You … always said … ” Keating began thickly, and stopped.
“I’ve always said just that. Clearly, precisely and openly. It’s not my fault if you couldn’t hear. You could, of course. You didn’t want to. Which was safer than deafness-for me. I said I intended to rule. Like all my spiritual predecessors. But I’m luckier than they were. I Inherited the fruit of their efforts and I shall be the one who’ll see the great dream made real. I see it all around me today. I recognize it. I don’t like it. I didn’t expect to like it. Enjoyment is not my destiny. I shall find such satisfaction as my capacity permits. I shall rule.”
“Whom … ?”
“You. The world. It’s only a matter of discovering the lever. If you learn how to rule one single man ‘s soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It’s the soul, Peter, the soul. Not whips or swords or fire or guns. That’s why the Caesars, the Attilas, the Napoleons were fools and did not last. We will. The soul, Peter, is that which can’t be ruled. It must be broken. Drive a wedge in; get your fingers on, it—and the man is yours. You won’t need a whip—he’ll bring it to you and ask to be whipped. Set him in reverse-and his own mechanism will do your work for you. Use him against himself. Want to know how it’s done? See if I ever lied to you. See if you haven’t heard, all this for years, but didn’t want to hear, and the fault is yours, not mine, There are many ways. Here’s one. Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity. That’s difficult. The worst among you gropes for an ideal in his own twisted way. Kill integrity by internal corruption. Use, it against itself. Direct it toward a goal destructive of all integrity. Preach selflessness. Tell man that he must live for others. Tell men, that altruism is the ideal. Not a single one of them has ever achieved it and not a single one ever will. His every living instinct screams against it. But don’t you see what you accomplish? Man realizes that he’s incapable of what he’s accepted as, the noblest virtue and it gives him a sense of guilt, of sin, Of his own basic unworthiness. Since the supreme ideal is beyond his grasp, he gives up eventually all ideals, all aspiration; all sense of his personal value. He feels himself obliged to preach what he can’t practice. But one can’t be good halfway or honest approximately. To preserve one’s integrity is a hard battle. Why preserve that which one knows to be corrupt already? His soul gives up its self-respect. You’ve got him. He’ll obey. He’ll be glad to obey because he can’t trust himself, he feels uncertain. He feels unclean. That’s one, way. Here’s another. Kill man’s sense of values. Kill his capacity to recognize greatness or to achieve it. Great men can’t be ruled. We don’t want any great men. Don’t deny the conception of greatness: Destroy it-from within: The great is the rare, the difficult, the’ exceptional. Set up standards of achievement open to all, to the least, to the most inept-and you stop the impetus to effort in all men, great or small. You stop all incentive to improvement, to excellence; to perfection. Laugh at Roark and hold Peter Keating as a great architect, You’ve destroyed architecture. Build up Lois Cook and you’ve destroyed literature. Hail Ike and you’ve destroyed the theater. Glorify Lancelot Clokey and you’ve destroyed the press. Don’t set out to raze all shrines—you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity—and the shrines are razed.
Then-there’s another way. Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It’s simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humor is an unlimited virtue. Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul and his soul won’t be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man. One doesn’t reverence with a giggle. He’ll obey and he’ll set no limits, to his obedience—anything goes—nothing is too serious.
Here’s another way. This is most important. Don’t allow men to be happy. Happiness is self-contained. and self-sufficient. Happy men have no time and no use for you. Happy men are free men. So kill their joy in living. Take away-from them whatever-is dear or important to.them. Never let them have what they want. Make them feel that the mere fact of a personal desire is evil. Bring them to a state where saying, ‘I want’ is no longer a natural right, but a shameful admission. Altruism is of great help in this. Unhappy men will come to you. They’ll need you. They’ll come for consolation, for-support, for escape. Nature allows no vacuum. Empty man’s soul—and the space is yours to fill. I don’t see why you should look so shocked, Peter. This is the oldest one of all.
Look back at history. Look at any great system of ethics, from the Orient up. Didn’t they all preach the sacrifice of personal joy? Under all the complications of verbiage, haven’t they all had a single leitmotif: sacrifice, renunciation, self-denial? Haven’t you been able to catch their theme song—’Give tip, give up, give up, give up’? Look at the moral atmosphere of today. Everything enjoyable, from cigarettes to sex to ambition to the profit motive, is considered depraved or sinful. Just prove that a thing makes men happy—and you’ve damned it. That’s how far we’ve come. We’ve tied happiness to guilt. And we’ve got mankind by the throat.—Throw your first-born into a sacrificial furnace-lie on a bed of nails-go into the desert to. mortify the flesh—don’t dance—don’t go to the movies on Sunday—don’t try to get rich—don’t smoke, don’t drink. It’s all the same line. The great line. Fools think that taboos of this nature are just nonsense. Something left over, old-fashioned. But there’s always a purpose in nonsense. Don’t bother to examine a folly. Ask yourself only what it accomplishes. Every system of ethics’ that preached sacrifice grew into a world power and filled millions, of men. Of course; you must dress it up. You must tell people that they’ll achieve a superior kind of happiness by giving up everything that makes them happy. You don’t have to be too clear about it. Use big vague words. ‘Universal Harmony’—’Eternal Spirit’— ‘Divine Purpose’ -— ‘Nirvana’— ‘Paradise’— ‘Racial Supremacy’—”The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.’ Internal corruption, Peter.
That’s the oldest one of all. The farce has been going on for centuries and men still fall for it. Yet the test should be so simple: just listen to any prophet and if you hear him speak of sacrifice-— run. Run faster than from a plague. It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice; there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master. But if ever you hear a man telling you that you must be happy, that it’s your natural right, that your first duty is to yourself—that will be the man who’s not after your soul. That will be the man who has nothing to gain from you. But let him come and you’ll scream your empty heads off, howling that he’s a selfish monster. So the racket is safe for many, many centuries. But here you might have noticed something. I said, ‘It stands to reason.’ Do you see? Men have a weapon against you. Reason. So you must be very sure to take it away from them. Cut the props from under it. But be careful. Don’t deny outright. Never deny anything outright, you give your hand away. Don’t say reason is evil-though some have gone that far and with astonishing success. Just say that reason is limited. That there’s something above it. What? You don’t have to be too clear about it either. ‘The field’s inexhaustible. ‘Instinct’-— ‘Feeling’-— ‘Revelation’-— ‘Divine Intuition’-— Dialectic Materialism.’ If you get caught at some crucial point and somebody tells you that your doctrine doesn’t make sense-— you’re ready for him. You tell him that there’s something above sense.-— That here he must not try to think, he must feel. He must believe. Suspend reason and you play it deuces wild. Anything goes in any manner you wish whenever you need it. You’ve got him. Can you rule a thinking man? We don’t want any thinking men.”
Keating had sat down on the floor, by the side of the dresser; he had felt tired and he had simply folded his legs. He did not want to abandon the dresser; he felt safer, leaning against it; as -— it still guarded the letter he had surrendered.
“Peter, you’ve heard all this. You’ve seen me practicing it for years. You see it being practiced allover the world. Why are you disgusted? You have no right to sit there and stare at me with virtuous superiority of being shocked. You’re in on it. You’ve
your share and you’ve got to go along. You’re afraid to see it’s leading. I’m not. I’ll tell you. The world of the future. The world I want. A world of obedience and of unity. A world the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought of the brain of his neighbor who’ll no thought of his own but an attempt to guess the thought next neighbor who’ll have no thought-— and so on, Peter, around
the globe. Since all must agree with all. A world where no man will hold a desire for himself, but will direct all his efforts to satisfy the desires of his neighbor who’ll have no desires except to satisfy the desires of the next neighbor who’ll have no
desires-—around the globe, Peter. Since all must serve all. A world in which man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster-prestige. The approval of his fellows-—their good opinion-—the opinion of men who’ll be allowed to hold no opinion. An octopus, all tentacles and no brain. Judgment, Peter! Not judgment, but public polls. An average drawn upon zeroes-—since no individuality will be permitted. A world with its motor cut off and a single heart, pumped by hand. My hand, and the hands of a few, a very few other men like me. Those who know what makes you tick-you great, wonderful average, you who have not risen in fury when we called you the average, the little, the common, you who’ve liked and accepted those names. You’ll sit enthroned and enshrined, you, the little people, the absolute ruler to make all past rulers squirm with envy, the absolute, the unlimited, God and Prophet and King combined. Vox populi. The average, the common, the general. Do you know the proper antonym for Ego? Bromide, Peter. The rule of the bromide. But even the trite has to be originated by someone at some time. We’ll do the originating. Vox dei. We’ll enjoy unlimited submission-from men who’ve learned nothing except to submit. We’ll call it ‘to serve.’ We’ll give out medals for service. You’ll fall over one another in a scramble to see who can submit better and more. There will be no other distinction to seek. No other form of personal achievement. Can you see Howard Roark in the picture? No? Then don’t waste time on foolish questions. Everything that can’t be ruled, must go. And if freaks persist in being born occasionally, they will not survive beyond
their twelfth year. When their brain begins to function, it will feel the pressure and it will explode. The pressure gauged to a vacuum. Do you know the fate of deep-sea creatures brought out to sunlight? So much for future Roarks. The rest of you will smile and obey. Have you noticed that the imbecile always smiles? Man’s first frown is the first touch of God on his forehead. The touch of thought. But we’ll have neither God nor thought. Only voting by smiles. Automatic levers-all saying yes … Now if you were a little more intelligent-—like your ex-wife, for instance-—you’d ask: What of us, the rulers? What of me. Ellsworth Monkton Toohey? And I’d say, Yes, you’re right. I’ll achieve no more than you will. I’ll have no purpose save to keep you contented. To lie, to flatter you, to praise you, to inflate your vanity. To make speeches about the people and the common good. Peter, my poor old friend, I’m the most selfless man you’ve every known. I have less independence than you, whom I just forced to sell your soul. You’ve used people at least for the sake of what you could get from them for yourself. I want nothing for myself. I use people for the sake of what I can do to them. It’s my only function and satisfaction. I have no private purpose. I want power. I want my world of the future. Let all live for all. Let all sacrifice and none profit. Let all suffer and none enjoy. Let progress stop. Let all stagnate. There’s equality in stagnation. All subjugated to the will of all. Universal slavery-—without even the dignity of a master. Slavery to slavery. A great circle-—and a total equality. The world of the future.”
“Ellsworth … you’re …”
“Insane? Afraid to say it? There you sit and the world’s written all over you, your last hope. Insane? Look around you. Pick up any newspaper and read the headlines. Isn’t it coming? Isn’t it here? Every single thing I told you? Isn’t Europe swallowed already and we’re stumbling onto follow? Everything I said is contained in a single word-—collectivism. And isn’t that the god of our century? To act together .. To think-—together. To feel-—together. To unite, to agree, to obey. To obey, to serve, to sacrifice. Divide and conquer-—first. But then-—unite and rule. We’ve discovered that one at last. Remember the Roman Emperor who said he wished humanity had a single neck so he could cut it? People have laughed at him for centuries. But we’ll have the last laugh. We’ve accomplished what he couldn’t accomplish. We’ve taught men to unite. This makes one neck ready for one leash. We found the magic word. Collectivism. Look at Europe, you fool. Can’t you see past the guff and recognize the essence? One country is dedicated to the proposition that man has no rights, that the collective is all. The individual held as evil, the mass-as God. No motive and no virtue permitted-except that of service to the proletariat. That’s one version. Here’s another. A country dedicated to the proposition that man has no rights, that the State is all. The individual held as evil, the race-as God. No motive and no virtue’ permitted-—except that of service to the race. Am I raving or is this the cold reality of two continents already? Watch the pincer movement. If you’re sick of one version, we push you into the other. We get you coming and going. We’ve closed the doors. We’ve fixed the coin. Heads-—collectivism, and tails-—collectivism. Fight the doctrine which slaughters the individual with a doctrine which slaughters the individual. Give up your soul to a council-—or give it up to a leader. -—But give it up, give it up, give it up. My technique, Peter. Offer poison as food and poison as antidote. Go fancy on the trimmings, but hang on to the main objective. Give the fools a choice, let them have their fun-—but don’t forget the only purpose you have to accomplish. Kill the individual. Kill man’s soul. The rest will follow automatically. Observe the state of the world as of the present moment. Do you still think I’m crazy, Peter?”
Keating sat on the floor, his legs spread out. He lifted one hand and studied his fingertips, then put it to his mouth and bit a hangnail. But the movement was deceptive; the man was reduced to a single sense, the sense of hearing, and Toohey knew that no answer could be expected.
Keating waited obediently; it seemed to make no difference; the sounds had stopped and it was now his function to wait until they started again. Toohey put his hands on the arms of his chair” then lifted his palms” from the wrists, and clasped the, wood again, a little slap of resigned finality. He pushed himself up to his feet. ‘
“Thank you, Peter,” he said gravely. “Honesty is a hard thing to eradicate. I have made speeches to large audiences all my life. This was the speech I’ll never have a chance to make.”
Keating lifted his head. His voice had the quality of a down payment on terror; it was not frightened, but it held the advance echoes of the next hour to come:
“Don’t go, Ellsworth.”
Toohey stood over him, and laughed softly. “That’s the answer, Peter. That’s my proof. You know me for what I am, you know what I’ve done to you, you have no illusions of virtue left. But you can’t leave me and you’ll never be able to leave me. You’ve obeyed me in the name of ideals. You’ll go on obeying me without ideals. Because that’s all you’re good for now …. Good night, Peter.”