To the editors:

The letters about Bruno Bettelheim [April 6 and 20, May 4] remind me of myself and of people I know, and of the complexity of each of us. We can know so little of each other. Sometimes the worst, sometimes the best.

My perception of a local minor celebrity is that the public and often the private face is one of formidable and tragic saintly achievement. One of the private faces of this person is that of a brutalizing tyrant–a megalomania similar to that ascribed to Bruno Bettelheim. For the person I speak of there may be similar roots, in the terrors of war, another instance of the re- cycling of abuse and horror that seems almost never to be spent, creating the cruelest energy.

Even if we are alert to these people of extraordinary gifts and energy, who also have an overwhelming need to dominate, and, ultimately, to desecrate, it appears that they are able to protect themselves from public discovery. Their masks and their power save them–we let them do it.

William Johnson

W. Palmer