Letter 102, pg. 2
I do not believe that science and machines are producing what you so aptly call “mass-mindedness,” which then influences politics, economics and social relationships. That would be a materialistic, Marxist explanation. It is men’s thinking that determines the course of events—and our thinking has been growing progressively collectivist for over a century. The revolting intellectual mess in which the world finds itself now is the ultimate result, the end of the blind alley of philosophical collectivism. Parasites have always existed, but they were of no danger to mankind until the better men, the thinkers and producers, began to preach the doctrine of the parasite—collectivism and altruism. What we need now to save the world is a rebirth of the principles of Individualism.
I was very much interested in your question on the relation of the ego to the “supreme ego.” I believe that my statement of man’s proper morality does not contradict any religious belief, if that belief includes faith in man’s free will. My morality is based on man’s nature, on the fundamental attribute of his nature which distinguishes him from the animals—his rational faculty. Since man is a rational being, his morality must be individualistic, for the mind is an attribute of the individual and there is no collective brain. If it is said that man is created by God, endowed with an immortal soul and with reason as an attribute of his soul, it still holds true that he must act in accordance with his nature, the nature God gave him, and that in doing so he will be doing God’s will. But this implies that God endowed man with free will and the capacity of choice. It will not hold with a belief in a God as a deterministic ruler. But such a belief makes all morality impossible. Morality and determinism are mutually exclusive by definition. If there is a cosmic destiny, its meaning is man’s freedom. If, however, we assume a cosmic destiny working out some purpose of its own which man cannot change or influence—then man is not free; then he can only act as prescribed and, if so, cannot be held responsible for his actions, nor considered either moral or immoral. But this is a belief which no truly religious person would accept. A benevolent God would not create a universe of slaves.
Christianity was the first school of thought that proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the individual. The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his brothers. This is the basic statement of true individualism. The salvation of one’s own soul means the preservation