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Similar history here. I heard the story as gossip and found it too weird to believe, so I didn't until BB's book came out years later.

The two published In Reply to Ayn Rand a and sent it to the Objectivist subscriber list. He said that what finally, irrevocably broke them up was his telling her that the age difference was "an insurmountable barrier to a romantic relationship". We took it to mean that she wanted to start it, not revive it.

The text used to be at his website and perhaps in one of his books.

Edited by Reidy
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On 8/14/2021 at 8:13 AM, Reidy said:

The two published In Reply to Ayn Rand a and sent it to the Objectivist subscriber list.

I looked into this after our interview with James Valliant. The letters are titled "In Answer to Ayn Rand" and they still appear on Barbara Branden's website.

From Part 1:

Quote

 

[That written statement] was a tortured, awkward, excruciatingly embarrassed attempt to make clear to her why I felt that an age distance between us of twenty-five years constituted an insuperable barrier, for me, to a romantic relationship.

(October 16, 1968.)

 

I believe the above is a lie by omission. It leaves the implication that he did not have an affair with Rand, despite her wanting one.

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I looked into this after our interview with James Valliant. The letters are titled "In Answer to Ayn Rand" and they still appear on Barbara Branden's website.

From Part 1:

I believe the above is a lie by omission. It leaves the implication that he did not have an affair with Rand, despite her wanting one.

I think it's pretty evident that neither of them considered it to be an affair. Besides, I don't think it can be a lie by omission simply for not stating the specific nature of the relationship besides what was publicly stated by Rand before.

Overall it just seems like a situation of two adults who catastrophically failed at a romantic relationship in such a spectacular manner that they were substantially immoral to each other.

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Besides, I don't think it can be a lie by omission simply for not stating the specific nature of the relationship besides what was publicly stated by Rand before.

What do you make of his use of the adjective "insuperable"? Doesn't that suggest he never had a romantic relationship with her, because of the age difference?

In Judgment Day he puts it a little differently, writing:

Quote

I said that the twenty-five-year difference in our ages now made sex with her impossible for me. (p. 376)

When the relevant context is presented, he has to say that her age became a problem, when clearly it wasn't when they started. By omitting the relevant context in his 1968 letter, he can pretend like it was always an "insuperable barrier."

Of course he also failed to mention that he had fallen in love with someone else, and that was a factor. So I frankly don't believe it had much to do with the age difference. That was a convenient excuse for his romantic confusion and dishonesty.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

That was a convenient excuse for his romantic confusion and dishonesty.

But are you making the case that in a sense he was an evil person. As in that is how it always was and would be going forward.

Or did he simply make a mistake?

Also, I was wondering did you ever meet him to get a sense?

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10 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

What do you make of his use of the adjective "insuperable"? Doesn't that suggest he never had a romantic relationship with her, because of the age difference?

I think anyone reading it should easily understand that the relationship he was terminating was a romantic one, therefore the barrier is what became a barrier. 

10 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

By omitting the relevant context in his 1968 letter, he can pretend like it was always an "insuperable barrier."

That's not an omission, that's not stating the obvious. Why would someone need to say "it wasn't that way at first"? 

10 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

That was a convenient excuse for his romantic confusion and dishonesty.

Same for Rand. They both seemed confused and dishonest.

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On 8/16/2021 at 11:32 AM, Easy Truth said:

But are you making the case that in a sense he was an evil person. As in that is how it always was and would be going forward.

Or did he simply make a mistake?

Also, I was wondering did you ever meet him to get a sense?

I never met him, and I don't have much of an opinion on whether he was an evil person. From what I've read and heard, I think he mistreated Rand for years. I'm saying he was dishonest in this particular situation, and I don't see a reasonable excuse for his dishonesty.

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On 8/16/2021 at 8:44 PM, Eiuol said:

Why would someone need to say "it wasn't that way at first"? 

Because he's sending his letter to a bunch of Objectivists who don't know if there was an affair or not. And he's leading them to believe there wasn't, since he refused Rand.

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16 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

I'm saying he was dishonest in this particular situation

I don't think anyone would disagree with that.

16 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

and I don't see a reasonable excuse for his dishonesty

Depends on what you mean by excuse. Marriage and Family Therapists see this type of thing all the time. It's pretty normal.

Most endings to relationships are messy.

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

And he's leading them to believe there wasn't, since he refused Rand.

I think they would have to be beyond dense to not recognize that the relationship had been romantic at some point based on the entire letter and looking at Rand's extreme anger. But about this instance, I don't think it matters much.

I don't understand why people present his dishonesty as special compared to Rand. They were both dishonest. They both had profound character flaws. The sniping between ex-lovers indirectly through letters is prone to be filled with misunderstandings, conflicting memories between both parties, baseless accusations, and anger. 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Depends on what you mean by excuse.

He writes on page 362:

Quote

I hated the calculations and manipulations this strategy entailed, but I felt that my back was to the wall and that my survival was at stake. Another, previously unrecognized self had emerged within me: not the younger self that Patrecia had reawakened, nor the adult, masculine self that had fallen in love with her, but someone ageless, androgynous, and utterly ruthless, who had no other purpose than to assist me in realizing my aims and who was willing to blast through any obstacle or impediment. I will call this part my survivor-self.

That's how he described himself at the time he had formed the plan to manipulate Rand into accepting Patrecia and getting her to tell him that age had become an insurmountable barrier. Frankly this sounds more like a sociopathic self than a survivor self. But, in the end, it is his excuse, or one of them.

On page 368 he says:

Quote

I felt anxiety at the knowledge of how many of my own principles and convictions I was violating. I felt the rage of an animal pacing a cage and roaring impotently.

There and elsewhere he tried to make the case that he felt trapped in the relationship, like an animal in a cage. So he mistreated Rand because he felt trapped by her or because he needed time to manipulate her to his secret viewpoint, or perhaps some combination of both factors. In either case I don't think it's the excuse of a reasonable man. I believe he was attempting to rationalize his powerlust. Ultimately Rand saw through his BS.

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I think she was pretty dishonest about his contributions, minimizing them purely out of anger after the fact, it always seemed to me like like she was dishonest with her husband Frank about the whole thing, and never seem to admit that she wanted to be in a romantic relationship with him for at least a decade. 

Yes, failed relationships easily bring out the worst in people. 

48 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Frankly this sounds more like a sociopathic self than a survivor self.

It's a pretty normal thing to do when people realize that they are not living up to their own standards. They end up not being forthright about their feelings, dragging on a dead relationship. A person with sociopathic intent does not believe that they are doing anything wrong and don't even try to suggest that they failed themselves. 

=

I'm mostly reacting to the way some have wanted to completely ignore any contribution Branden ever made, and those who react negatively to any mention of his name as if he is a special kind of evil. I'm not trying to portray him as any moral ideal. 

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1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:
Quote

I hated the calculations and manipulations this strategy entailed, but I felt that my back was to the wall and that my survival was at stake. Another, previously unrecognized self had emerged within me: not the younger self that Patrecia had reawakened, nor the adult, masculine self that had fallen in love with her, but someone ageless, androgynous, and utterly ruthless, who had no other purpose than to assist me in realizing my aims and who was willing to blast through any obstacle or impediment. I will call this part my survivor-self.

That's how he described himself at the time he had formed the plan to manipulate Rand into accepting Patrecia and getting her to tell him that age had become an insurmountable barrier. Frankly this sounds more like a sociopathic self than a survivor self. But, in the end, it is his excuse, or one of them.

It seems you believe what he says.

But what is striking is that you think a sociopath could offer such insight into his psyche. A sociopath would be lying about this.

2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:
Quote

I felt anxiety at the knowledge of how many of my own principles and convictions I was violating. I felt the rage of an animal pacing a cage and roaring impotently.

There and elsewhere he tried to make the case that he felt trapped in the relationship, like an animal in a cage. So he mistreated Rand because he felt trapped by her or because he needed time to manipulate her to his secret viewpoint, or perhaps some combination of both factors. In either case I don't think it's the excuse of a reasonable man. I believe he was attempting to rationalize his powerlust. Ultimately Rand saw through his BS.

He could be using it as an excuse. Or it could be your interpretation. Is there any indication of him asking the reader to "ignore what I did", "ignore the ugliness I created" or "ignore that ugliness what lurks within me"?

He's telling you what he did and how it happens i.e. how it can happen. He is admitting his faults. He is coming clean.

If the ultimate motive would have been power lust, why not keep Patricia a secret? That is the most efficient way to achieve power. 

Or just tell her to put up or shut up if he had that much power in the relationship.

Furthermore if he exerted such power, she could never react to the BS as you say.

It looks much more like just a relationship. It doesn't work for one person and what doesn't work for that person won't work for the other person. And they have to break up. If the recriminations indicated sociopathic behavior most couples' in the world are sociopaths.

I am assuming that you believe he was solely motivated by power lust. Like she was just a toy to her. As in he never loved her in any way. If so why was he conflicted about it? A sociopath would not care how she felt.

Now, there is another part of this issue that is not being discussed. Other than Rand, what about the moral standing of Leonard, and the rest. What is the position of ARI on this matter? Have they admitted it happened? Especially Binzwanger.

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10 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

But what is striking is that you think a sociopath could offer such insight into his psyche. A sociopath would be lying about this.

What makes you so sure about that? Besides, I didn't say he was a sociopath. I said how he described himself in that situation sounded sociopathic.

36 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

If the ultimate motive would have been power lust, why not keep Patricia a secret? That is the most efficient way to achieve power. 

He did keep his affair with Patrecia a secret. It was Barbara who, guilt-ridden, eventually told Ayn the truth.

50 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I am assuming that you believe he was solely motivated by power lust. 

I doubt he was solely motivated by powerlust. He also feared losing his leadership status in the movement.

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13 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

I doubt he was solely motivated by powerlust. He also feared losing his leadership status in the movement.

So not losing his leadership status ... is not power lust.

Then let me rephrase it: Do you think his main motive was power-lust and losing his leadership status in the movement.

As in, that was the only thing he was conflicted about.

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9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

So not losing his leadership status ... is not power lust.

Perhaps they're different sides of the same coin. I was thinking that his choice to deceive and manipulate Ayn was powerlust, while his fear of losing his Objectivist status/career was a lack of self-esteem. But I suppose the two could be related.

He describes in one scene where he's walking around the NATHANIEL BRANDEN INSTITUTE, how he wants everything. He wants to remain the leader of the Objectivist movement, he wants to remain friends with Ayn, and he wants to be open about his romance with Patrecia. Yet he seems to think that the best course to achieving this utopia is by lying to and manipulating the creator of the philosophy he advocates. It's truly absurd. It's like his actual goal was to utterly erode her trust and confidence in him as an upright man. He literally reduced himself to the mental state of a caged animal. He became a self-imposed prisoner of his own jacked-up psychology. Then he seemingly tried to blame Rand for his own pathetic choices.

That's about as softly as I can put it.

9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then let me rephrase it: Do you think his main motive was power-lust and losing his leadership status in the movement.

As in, that was the only thing he was conflicted about.

To put it plainly, I believe him when he says he felt like a caged animal. But, whether Rand threatened to cut him out of her life if he stopped loving her, that seems manufactured, especially now that we have the evidence of Rand's own diary. But Branden might have felt trapped because he feared that Rand would cut him out and he couldn't imagine his life without being Mr. Objectivism.

But ultimately she didn't exile him until she discovered the extent of his deceptions, and ironically this he brought on himself. If he had only been forthright and just with Rand in the beginning of his affair with Patrecia, he might have succeeded with Rand. It is perfectly understandable that age would become an issue between them, and even in Branden's book he admits that Rand expressed understanding of this problem. Yet he refused to believe that she would ultimately accept romantic rejection on this basis. He puts words in her mouth to this effect:

Quote

Her voice rose. "The man to whom I dedicated Atlas Shrugged would never want anything less than me! I don't care if I'm ninety years old and in a wheelchair! This will always be my view!" (p. 371)

First of all, I don't trust Branden's recall of Rand's words. So there's that. But, secondly, assuming he's quoting her accurately, if in "calmer times" she showed willingness to accept rejection, then why didn't he answer her honestly when she would say things like, "Is it my age? I could accept that." I don't buy his excuse that whenever he tried to hint at it she would explode in wrath. Maybe she just expected him to be straight with her and to not Mickey Mouse around with lame hints and innuendos.

So, yes, I think his main motive was powerlust perhaps associated with his fear of losing professional status/position in life. The conflict was between his moral principles and his desire to gain/keep power through deception and manipulation. He let his fear rule the day and didn't reason out his situation. Reason should have led him to honesty in this situation because he was dealing with a great value not a vicious enemy. Rather than treating Rand as someone capable of seeing reason, he treated her like an emotional basket case who needed to be deceived and manipulated into his viewpoint.

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7 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

First of all, I don't trust Branden's recall of Rand's words. So there's that. But, secondly, assuming he's quoting her accurately, if in "calmer times" she showed willingness to accept rejection, then why didn't he answer her honestly when she would say things like, "Is it my age? I could accept that." I don't buy his excuse that whenever he tried to hint at it she would explode in wrath. Maybe she just expected him to be straight with her and to not Mickey Mouse around with lame hints and innuendos.

Thanks, I have a better understanding of why you think what you think. It makes sense. I would have come to the same conclusion.

But I do believe that her wrath existed. I had seen the Donahue interview. I was seeing the series of excommunications. The authoritarian personality of Rand clearly existed and it is very unfortunate because it taints her legacy and message. It was not just Branden that was kicked out. Many people were kicked out for smaller things.

Branden understood Objectivistivism. A person who has that understanding will be awestruck by it's intellectual integrity. That goes for Branden too. Any conflicted-ness would have to include that too. One lives with one self and when abrogating a beautiful ethical system that gives meaning to their life, there will be inner turmoil.

You seem to believe that we, at any moment, can apply reason. As if emotions don't exist or they can be suppressed at any time. That emotions can't overwhelm a person. That we can't be blinded in highly emotional periods. Branden went into this issue extensively and examined it. He brought up the issue of repression as a key component in causing irrationality. I assume you don't think that "repression" is prevalent in Objectivists as a coping mechanism.

We, at any moment, are not in control of all of our behaviors. How many Objectivists are smokers even though they know the effects. Are there some who don't manage their money properly? I know many that are messy. Are they moral degenerates  too?

Branden was not perfect (even though he was portrayed to be in Barbara's initial book). And for Rand to love him so much as to dedicate her greatest work to him and to be so deeply hurt would make sense. She can't be expected to have remained rational in face of something like that. We're all human.

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15 hours ago, Eiuol said:

A person with sociopathic intent does not believe that they are doing anything wrong and don't even try to suggest that they failed themselves. 

Yes, I'm mostly referring to his reliance on deception and manipulation. As far as his capacity for self-criticism and regret, I think he also scores low on that test. While he accepts responsibility for violating his principles, he spends way too much energy playing the victim of Rand. Then he does something weird in the epilogue. Several years after the break, he calls Rand in 1976. Not because he hopes to resume a relationship, but to remake the ending of it. He wants "a better ending--one with more honesty and dignity between us." (p. 419) And when she hangs up on him, he laughs and dances around his hotel room. Yes, it seems that getting hung up on is something to celebrate. After all, he has manipulated her once again, this time into giving him a different ending for his story, one in which he finally overcomes his fear of telling Rand the truth. Only he didn't get to tell her the truth, so really it was the fear of trying to tell her.

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

You seem to believe that we, at any moment, can apply reason. As if emotions don't exist or they can be suppressed at any time. That emotions can't overwhelm a person. That we can't be blinded in highly emotional periods.

I don't know how you got that impression. I certainly accept that we can be overwhelmed by emotions. But keep in mind this ordeal took place over a long period of time. It's not like they made these critical decisions in the heat of emotions.

2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I assume you don't think that "repression" is prevalent in Objectivists as a coping mechanism.

Prevalent? I hope not, but I don't know the statistics. 

2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

We, at any moment, are not in control of all of our behaviors. How many Objectivists are smokers even though they know the effects.

I haven't done a survey of Objectivist smokers. But I'd be surprised if they weren't in control of such behavior. Even if they are addicted, they should know there are ways to wean themselves off the substance.

2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

And for Rand to love him so much as to dedicate her greatest work to him and to be so deeply hurt would make sense. She can't be expected to have remained rational in face of something like that. We're all human.

You're not pointing to what was irrational about Rand's behavior and arguing why it was irrational. You're saying that someone in her situation would be irrational ... because human. What did she do that was irrational? And why was it irrational?

2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The authoritarian personality of Rand clearly existed and it is very unfortunate because it taints her legacy and message. It was not just Branden that was kicked out. Many people were kicked out for smaller things.

Are you saying that Rand was irrational because she had an authoritarian personality that kicked people out of the movement for minor vices? What was so small about Branden's offense? 

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49 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Are you saying that Rand was irrational because she had an authoritarian personality that kicked people out of the movement for minor vices? What was so small about Branden's offense? 

Branden's loss was huge. It was an intense emotional experience for her.

In her small circle she was very frequently dictatorial. 

54 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

You're not pointing to what was irrational about Rand's behavior and arguing why it was irrational. You're saying that someone in her situation would be irrational ... because human. What did she do that was irrational? And why was it irrational?

It is in plain view in the Donahue interview. Someone else will have to name each person that was kicked out and the history of excommunications. (which Peikoff continued with that behavior)

A pattern of irrational behavior is not due to a consistent every moment heat of emotions. There are periods that one is not thinking about the (intense) issue so you can be rational. It can also be repressed where one cannot think clearly about it by choice. Branden discovered the physiological characteristics of a certain kind of evasion (how we all do it).

58 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

I haven't done a survey of Objectivist smokers. But I'd be surprised if they weren't in control of such behavior. Even if they are addicted, they should know there are ways to wean themselves off the substance.

And that is at the core of our disagreement and ironically of Branden's warnings about the hazards.

As if "It's so simple". Kind of like when Rearden found out about Dagny and Galt. No big deal.

"It is how it should be", not the way it usually is. And as I said Rand was human. She has every right to react the way she did. There was also the period, the culture. A woman of her age could not easily say yes we had an affair. On the whole that would be irrational based on today's culture but she did what she had to do and I don't fault her for that. But if you go with your perfectly ethical model, she fell very short of it.

I also suspect you are too young to have heard Peikoffs defense of smoking as it is not in his course anymore.

Keep in mind, I am not excusing Branden's behavior. Just that he is not a worthless criminal.

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14 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

What was so small about Branden's offense? 

Compared to the actual things that both Rand and Branden were complicit in, this wasn't much of anything. The way I have heard that Branden provided psychotherapy to people in the movement and Rand's approval of his methods, and the way that therapy was treated as a tool of dogmatism, that was worse. Everything was pretty screwy. Rand being older to such a degree and her strength of individuality would not suggest that she was some kind of victim. There was so much going wrong psychologically apparently in their relationship and everything around the context of the relationship. 

But anything else about their psychology can't be more than pure speculation. And certainly there isn't enough to completely condemn all his contributions or ignore those contributions. 

3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

She can't be expected to have remained rational in face of something like that. We're all human.

You can expect that actually, but that just means that Rand was less virtuous than you would hope. 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

A woman of her age could not easily say yes we had an affair.

I don't know why people keep saying "affair". It was a nonmonogamous relationship with the consent of those involved or connected, that ended badly. 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

It is in plain view in the Donahue interview.

If it's in plain view, can you point to it? Where does she say or do something irrational? I want to see what you mean. I've watched both Donahue interviews, and I didn't see anything that was obviously irrational.

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

 

I also suspect you are too young to have heard Peikoffs defense of smoking as it is not in his course anymore.

Which course? Peikoff is evidence that Objectivist are in control of such behavior, since he quit when he developed emphysema.

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Keep in mind, I am not excusing Branden's behavior. Just that he is not a worthless criminal.

We agree then that he was not a worthless criminal. 

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