Men & Women; Life & Love


What Opposes Love? / Number 150, February 11, 1976

Eli Siegel writes: "Aesthetic Realism believes that every true feeling of love can be a cause of respect for ourselves. It happens often with love that we come to think our emotion is too large for the person causing it. The words emotion and large have to be looked at. We have to see that there are two things in us causing us to love another. The first is our desire to despise the world. We can use the loved person to make less the rest of the world. The second thing, the true cause of love, uses the loved person to make the whole world more beautiful."...more

This issue includes:


What Makes Imagination Kind or Cruel? / Number 1960, August 23, 2017

...[In the paper of his published here,] Dr. [Edward] Green—composer, musicologist, professor at the Manhattan School of Music—is writing about the greatness of Aesthetic Realism’s understanding of imagination. In all the history of thought, it is Eli Siegel who showed there are two kinds of imagination, and these arise from the two big desires at war in everyone: the desire to respect the world, and the desire to have contempt—“get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself.” And Dr. Green writes courageously (also humorously) about something that has tormented artists, and that they have not understood: an artist as person may use his imagination in a way that’s fundamentally at odds with the respectful imagination from which art comes. Through contempt, people weaken their minds and lives every day. And through contempt, artists have also hindered, even stifled, the art in themselves....more

This issue includes:

This issue includes:

Everyone's Question: How Can I Like Myself? / Number 1684, January 24, 2007

The biggest question people have today is the question men and women had fifty years ago, a hundred, a thousand years ago: How can I like myself—finally like myself?! The therapies that have come and gone, the exhortations to 'think positively,' the reassurances from friends, have not enabled people to look good to themselves deeply. Nor have they brought clarity to the accompanying question: Why don't I like myself?

The answers to those biggest of questions, those questions closest to the life of everyone, are in Aesthetic Realism....more

This issue includes:

What Purpose Should We Have with People? / Number 1683, January 10, 2007

This issue is about the most important subject in the world: how should we think about people, and the world itself?...

An aspect of people's trouble about the matter is in an article that appeared last month in the New York Times. Reporter Bob Morris writes about holiday parties and the agony people have about mingling, speaking to strangers, figuring out what to say. He quotes a woman "who runs a successful public relations firm": "I'd rather stick needles in my eye," she says, "than have to work those rooms."

What neither she, nor the Times writer, nor others see is that the ill-at-easeness people can have at parties has to do with something much larger. It has to do with what Aesthetic Realism shows is the biggest fight in the life of everyone: between the desire to respect the world and people, and the desire to have contempt for them....more

This issue includes:

Can Sex & Integrity Go Together? / Number 1682, December 27, 2006

Today—through television, film, magazine articles, psychological counselors—we have an atmosphere in which people feel that they shouldn't be ashamed as to sex no matter what takes place, and that if they are, it's because they're prudes or unduly pious. There is a tremendous pretense of ease on the subject. Meanwhile, though people may not express it—though they may speak as though they're completely comfortable about body—a big uneasiness, a gnawing self-disapproval, goes on. Men and women feel as to sex: "This happened, and we both seemed for it very much. But why don't I like myself?" Aesthetic Realism explains why, and what can have men and women respect themselves in relation to sex—and the answer is not narrow a bit. It's in the lesson printed here. And it's in the following distinction, stated by Mr. Siegel: 'Sex...is always either for contempt or respect.'...more

This issue includes:

Freedom That Is Justice Too / Number 1679, November 15, 2006

In the lecture we are serializing...Eli Siegel explains something huge, not understood before: he explains what freedom really is. Mme Roland’s words on the matter are famous: “O liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!” The reason that freedom, or liberty, has been so often a cover for cruelty and for just plain being wrong, this also the lecture explains.

Mr. Siegel is showing that authentic freedom is a oneness of opposites. It is not only expression, doing what one pleases; it is simultaneously accuracy, justice. Unless we feel our being just is the same as our being free, we’ll be ethically sloppy, unkind, even brutal. That is why there is so much unkindness in personal life, and so much cruelty within and among nations....more

This issue includes:

Freedom—& Words, Nations, Love / Number 1675, September 20, 2006

[In his lecture There Are Two Freedoms, Eli Siegel] explains what that great thing, freedom, truly is. He shows that if freedom is not the same as accuracy, and not the same as justice, then it's not really freedom: it's messiness, and it's contempt….

We want to care for someone. We also want to be free. But because a person I'll call Tom does not think freedom is the same as seeing and feeling accurately what other things are—as he's affected by his wife, Dana, he feels he's losing his freedom. Dana makes the same mistake. One result is that each has a way of not listening to what the other is saying. This happens because a good deal of what a person sees as freedom is the ability to wipe out in one's mind what's other than oneself and to feel one is a world unto oneself, apart from and superior to everything else. That is the "freedom" Tom is going for as he thinks of something else while Dana talks to him....more

This issue includes:

The Most Hopeful Thing in the World: Relation / Number 1673, August 23, 2006

...[In the article by him pubished here, Aesthetic Realism associate Kevin] Fennell writes about something so constant, so little talked about, so not understood; something that makes every person ashamed, with a kind of ongoing, taken-for-granted shame. It is what Eli Siegel calls, in his essay by that title, "the ordinary doom." And Aesthetic Realism understands it and enables it to end. "If we judge from history," Mr. Siegel writes,

we are doomed not to show our feelings; not to have them known. There have been many, many persons who have lived rather long lives, and who have been in many conversations; who yet did not show what was in their minds, what feelings they truly had. When people can't show their emotion, they are disappointed and resentful.

As people go through their days with a rift between what's inside them and what they show, there is, on the one hand, the deep disappointment even as they smile, joke, act casual and assured. On the other hand, those same individuals can get a triumph in having a life within and another for show....more

This issue includes

What Kind of Attention Do You Want? / Number 1646, August 10, 2005

... "The useful way of seeing mind," [Eli Siegel] writes in Self and World, is "to look upon it as a continual question of aesthetics." That is, in every aspect of our lives we are hoping to put opposites together—the same opposites that are one in every instance of art. In this final section, Mr. Siegel quotes the poet Keats to show how a person with one of the most important of minds was struggling to make sense of pride and humility, uncertainty and sureness, the being for the world and against it....more

This issue includes:

The Ethical Unconscious of Everyone / Number 1634, February 23, 2005

In his [1966 lecture being serialized here] Mr. Siegel is discussing an alphabetical list of terms put out by the American Psychiatric Association. While “beginning with” them, as the lecture's title says, he is describing the self as such, as Aesthetic Realism explains it....

The central question is whether, in the various forms of mental ailment—from nervousness, to depression, to the “hypochondriasis” Mr. Siegel speaks about here—there is contempt for the world , and also a person's punishment of herself or himself for having this contempt. That is what Mr. Siegel, in many lectures and writings, made clear, and what no one saw before him. Further, the fight between our deepest desire, to like the world, and our desire to have contempt is the big, continuous fight within everybody....more

This issue includes:

The Two Desires / Number 1631, January 12, 2005

In this issue we conclude our serialization of the lecture Everyday Life and Aesthetics Look at Psychiatric Terms, which Eli Siegel gave in 1966. It is one of several lectures based on Mr. Siegel's looking at an American Psychiatric Association glossary. The lectures are wide-ranging, informal, critical, sometimes humorous, and in them is the great Aesthetic Realism understanding of the human self.

We print too part of a paper by New York City high school teacher Leila Rosen, from a recent Aesthetic Realism public seminar.......more

This issue includes:

Everyday Life, Aesthetics, & Psychiatric Terms / Number 1629, December 15, 2004

We continue to serialize Everyday Life and Aesthetics Look at Psychiatric Terms, by Eli Siegel. This lecture of 1966 is one of several in which he discusses a glossary of terms compiled by the American Psychiatric Association. The lecture is informal; often it has humor; and Mr. Siegel comments on some terms swiftly, others more lengthily. Yet throughout, he is presenting the Aesthetic Realism explanation of self: the explanation of that tremendous, intricate, so uncomprehended subject—our own mind and what in us hurts it.

     “The greatest danger or temptation of man,” Mr. Siegel wrote, “is to get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not himself, which lessening is Contempt.” He showed that contempt is the decisive factor in every instance of mental mishap....more

This issue includes:

The Trouble about Communication / Number 1627, November 17, 2004

...Technology has made communication of a certain kind ever so easy. You can telephone a person as you walk down the street. You can sit in a chair in Ohio and exchange views over the Internet with someone in Asia whom you never heard of before. Meanwhile, people still feel, as persons did in previous centuries, that their emotions, thoughts, life within are deeply separate from other people; that even a person one is close to doesn’t know who one truly is. Eli Siegel describes the situation, and the everyday, taken-for-granted emptiness it makes for, in his eloquent essay “The Ordinary Doom.” For example, he writes:

We early come to feel we are not seen right, and it appears we never will be. So we accommodate ourselves to this. It is dull, basic tragedy. In the long run, it is unnecessary.*

That this non-communication is unnecessary, that Aesthetic Realism explains it and enables people to show themselves and be known, I consider one of the kindest, most important facts in human history....more

This issue includes:

How Much Should We Feel? / Number 1620, August 11, 2004

...[In the lecture we're serializing] Mr. Siegel is discussing a list of psychiatric terms and definitions presented by the American Psychiatric Association and published in the Reader's Digest Almanac for 1966. His comments on each term are purposely brief and informal; there is humor—and there is also what he has described with tremendous fulness and variety elsewhere: his landmark explanation of the central purpose we have and of that in us which interferes. Our largest desire, he showed,

is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.... [And] the desire to have contempt for the outside world and for people and other objects as standing for the outside world, is a continuous, unseen desire making for mental insufficiency. [Self and World, p.1]....more

This issue includes:

Art versus Ill Nature / Number 1617, June 30, 2004

Eli Siegel wrote the work printed here, “With Acting in Mind,” on January 27, 1961—the same month that he wrote “Remarks on Acting” and “Acting,” published in issues 1585 and 1531 of this journal. The ten points that comprise “With Acting in Mind” are about the very fabric of acting—they’re technical—yet they’re also about the feelings of everyone, actor or not. And the writing’s style is beautiful; it has charm and depth....more

This issue includes:

Are We Proud of How We're For & Against? / Number 1613, May 5, 2004

...Mr. Siegel gave [the lecture we're serializing] just after an off-year election, and he describes something large in the state of mind of Americans as they went to voting places. He says there was a pervasive sourness, grouchiness, ill nature—because people had a feeling of deep objection about their working lives, their economic lives, the cost of healthcare and goods, but were not clear about the objection, or its cause, or how to give form to it.       

America now is different. Yet there is still that smoldering, sometimes exploding objection. It's more intense than ever. And it's still looking for comprehension, form, clarity. It is the objection Mr. Siegel articulated in his Goodbye Profit System lectures of the 1970s: people resent having their lives used to make money for somebody else—some employer or stockholders who don't do the work. They resent being seen in terms of how much profit can be gotten out of them....more

This issue includes:

Poetry, Self, and Love / Number 1605, January 14, 2004

Eli Siegel explained that what makes for a true poem is the very thing that will make a person’s life happy, intelligent, proud. What takes place in the technique of a good poem is what we need, and we suffer because we do not have it: "All beauty," he showed, "is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." We publish his 1960 essay "What Aesthetic Realism Adds to Poetry; or, If One Wishes, Just Says about It."

The title is very modest—because what Aesthetic Realism adds to poetry is the biggest thing in the centuries-long history of poetic criticism. It is what such critics as Aristotle, Longinus, Horace, Boileau, Coleridge, Matthew Arnold thirsted to see: the thing that makes one arrangement of words poetry and another not....more

This issue includes:

What Representation Means / Number 1601, December 10, 2003

In this section [of the lecture we're serializing, Eli Siegel] comments on the "black power" movement which was gaining strength then, and on its importance in showing what representation means.  

[The subject of the paper published here—the fight in self between coldness and warmth,] is related very much to the subject Mr. Siegel speaks on so deeply, widely, and kindly in the lecture we're serializing. If there is a coldness in us toward the world—and everyone has some—if we see the world as worthy not of our care but of our contempt, it will affect enormously the way we see representation....more

This isssue includes:

Art and Anger / Number 1585, August 20, 2003

We’re honored to print “Remarks on Acting,” by Eli Siegel. They were written in January 1961, in a notebook he kept, about the same time he wrote “Acting,” the 22 great, humorous instances for actors to perform which we published last year in TRO 1531. These shorter “Remarks” are beautiful—they present both the grandeur and the factual, workmanlike quality of acting at once....

Part of what makes the knowledge of Aesthetic Realism so important and needed is what [the article included here is]about: Aesthetic Realism shows that anger, and other large emotions—such as fear, hope, like, dislike—each has two forms, one good and one bad....more

This issue includes:

Point, Width, & Being False to Oneself / Number 1567, April 16, 2003

...In the lecture [we're publishing], Mr. Siegel speaks about two opposites that are in us and in events, and are made one in every instance of art: width and point, or welter and resolution. As he does, we are looking at this central principle of Aesthetic Realism: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”

There is a spurious, very hurtful dealing with width and point that every person is prone to. One can feel that one’s life has much confusion in it, that there is so much one doesn’t comprehend about oneself. And there is a desire to take that uncomfortable welter, that width of confusion, and, without having to think, make it come to some swift point, to some rapid sureness, and so feel bewildered no longer. People can get to this fake sureness in many ways. Anger is a principal one....more

This issue includes:

What Is Success—for a Person or a Nation? / Number 1566, April 9, 2003

...We print part of a paper that actress Carol McCluer presented last month at an Aesthetic Realism public seminar [about success]....As she shows, Aesthetic Realism answers that question—a fact of historic importance and also urgency, because the question stands for so much of the pain of people and nations. That is: both a person and a land can attain what they thought was success, yet be flops deeply, intensely, because what they saw as success was not that at all.

What does it mean for America to be a success? This is a pressing question now, as it has been at other times....more

This issue includes:

Point & Width—in Love & a Nation / Number 1564, March 26, 2003

This issue of TRO is about eternal aesthetics and urgent life. Here is part 2 in our serialization of Has Poetry Point?, the rich and surprising and great lecture that Eli Siegel gave on July 9, 1969. Mr. Siegel is speaking about opposites which, he has explained, are made one in all poetry, and he is showing how they meet in life itself. These opposites are width and point, or area and center. And in the present section, he looks at an instance of width become point in America of that time—in the midst of the Vietnam War. We are at the very basis of Aesthetic Realism, the principle “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”...more

This issue includes:

Cynicism or Like of the World / Number 1562, March 12, 2003

We begin to serialize the important and deep and kind and often funny lecture Has Poetry Point?, which Eli Siegel gave in 1969....In [it] Mr. Siegel is speaking about the very basis of Aesthetic Realism: the principle “In reality opposites are one; art shows this.” What kind of world is this? And how should we see it?

Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy which says that the deepest purpose of every person—though we may be massively untrue to it—is to like the world honestly. And the chief reason this world can be liked “is that the world has the opposites which, as one, we see as beauty itself.” That is what Mr. Siegel illustrates in this 1969 lecture, in terms of a particular pair of opposites: point and width....more

This issue includes:

Eli Siegel Day in Baltimore / Number 1534, August 28, 2002

In this issue we publish statements presented on August 16 at the Dedication of the Eli Siegel Memorial in Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Siegel grew up in Baltimore. And that day, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, was proclaimed 'Eli Siegel Day' in Baltimore by the city's mayor, Martin O'Malley, and 'Eli Siegel Day' in Maryland by the state's governor, Parris N. Glendening....Published in this issue too are Aesthetic Realism consultants Margot Carpenter and Robert Murphy, about love; and the statement by Chaim Koppelman, designer and sculptor of the memorial plaque....more

The Purpose a Woman Wants / Number 1527, July 10, 2002

The question which torments women now, even though a woman most often does not articulate it: How can I love a man and be loved, and yet be fully myself? This matter has not fared well because, for one thing, men haven't wanted it to. We know that men, and that thing called society, for ever so many centuries did not permit woman to be all she could be. But what has not been seen is that a woman herself has had purposes which make for a profound schism in her, a feeling that she is a different person in love from the person who wants to express herself in the wide world....more

This issue includes:

Love, Economics, and Ordinary Contempt / Number 1521, May 29, 2002

We print the conclusion of Eli Siegel’s great 1970 lecture Selves Are in Economics. And with it is part of a paper presented last month at the Aesthetic Realism public seminar titled “Do Women Have a Fight between Love and Scorn?” It is by New York City elementary school teacher Lauren Phillips.

The thing in us that hampers and kills love; the thing that has made economics a field for ill will, cruelty, and suffering; that which weakens our mind and makes for all unkindness—is, Eli Siegel showed, the desire for contempt. He defined contempt as “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” I comment a little on a very elemental form of contempt, which people don’t know goes on in them day after day. It is the seeing of other things and people as less real than we are, and a concomitant desire not to be affected by them beyond a certain point....more

This issue includes:

Education, Attention, & Love / Number 1455, February 21, 2001

...At the basis of the lecture we are serializing is Mr. Siegel's historic, definitive explanation of the purpose of education: it is to like the world through knowing it. I comment a little on that explanation, in relation to a matter closely connected with education, around which there has been much agony: the subject of attention.

In the New York Times of February 8, there is an article about a new attempt to "improve [children's] ability to pay attention." For $899, parents can purchase a "computer game system" based on "teaching a user to modify brain waves." Playing it, the child wears a "helmet equipped with sensors that monitor brain wave activity." The article tells us that "at least 800,000 school-age children have attention disorders." And in the last two decades, drugs, particularly Ritalin, have been massively poured into thousands upon thousands of children to make their minds not so restless....more

This lecture includes:

Sex, Poetry, & Self-Respect / Number 1446, December 20, 2000

Eli Siegel explains in the section of [the] 1948 lecture [published here], and in Aesthetic Realism as such, that the human self is made so the only pleasure that can truly satisfy us is pleasure which has in it respect for reality. Any other pleasure makes us ashamed...I comment briefly on that bewildering field of pleasure, sex. Aesthetic Realism is the knowledge that makes sense of sex at last, and enables one to see it in such a way that one feels proud and kind.

The fact that in our time persons speak about sex glibly and seemingly boldly, and may have a lot of it, does not alter the fact they are as ill at ease about sex deeply as people ever were. In the media and in conversations there is a display of ease, to cover up the fact that one is tormented about body. Then, one person looks at another and feels, "I wish I were as comfortable about sex as he is"—and doesn't see that this "he" is putting on a show, trying to convince himself, as well as others, how very comfortable he is....more

This issue includes:

What We Meet, Are, & Wear / Number 1437, October 18, 2000

...In [the lecture serialized here], Mr. Siegel speaks about the approach to literature of Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (1828-93), an approach with which Aesthetic Realism disagrees. Taine said the defining thing in a literary work is "la race, le milieu, le moment"—the author's heredity, surroundings, and time.That is not so.The defining thing, and what makes a work art or not, is its structure, how it is made, whether the artist has been able to give his subject authentic form. But because Taine emphasized so much the material world that a writer meets, Mr. Siegel uses him to show something central to Aesthetic Realism: that reality with its happenings has a structure like the structure of a poetic line—the oneness of opposites.

And Aesthetic Realism explains that in order to understand ourselves, we need to see that we are trying to put opposites together. We need to see this to make sense of the most crucial matters in our lives, the biggest, the deepest: love, the way we get angry, how we look on persons different from ourselves, our ability or inability to learn. But for now I comment…on something which seems less urgent yet affects people constantly: what takes us in an article of clothing….more

This issue includes:

Energy, and an American Election / Number 1428, August 16, 2000

…Energy that is valuable, [Eli Siegel explains in the lecture published here], is inseparable from something very different: purpose, or shape. When energy—in ourselves or anywhere—does not have an accurate purpose, and does not have form, it is not really energy but something people experience often: painful hecticness; or agitation accompanied by a sense of hollowness; or ugly determination-on-the-move.

And so we come to the US presidential campaign—for it contains some of the most wasteful, fake energy ever. As I write of it, my purpose is not to comment on whom Americans in voting booths might or should or shouldn't choose, but to describe something of the state of mind of millions of people, whatever choice they make....more

This issue includes:

Energy, Poetry, & Mistakes about Love / Number 1427, August 9, 2000

…Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy that explains that every person is in relation, all the time, to the whole world. I love this idea. I have seen that it is not only true, and is not only the beginning for understanding the previously not understood confusions and turmoil and hopes of people—it gives an authentic largeness to the life of every human being. Right now a baby is being born, not just to a particular mother and father but into all of reality. And Aesthetic Realism shows that the deepest desire of that baby is to like the reality into which she is born: to like the world. That is the desire which Mr. Siegel, in the present section of Poetry and Energy, calls "the Desire of Desires." And honestly to like the world itself is our deepest purpose every moment: as we hold a coffee cup, or look intently into a mirror, or look across a restaurant table at a person....more

This issue includes:

There Is an Ethical Unconscious / Number 1421, June 28, 2000

…A matter in the world of sports that has been affecting people very much is close to the subject of [the] article [by an Aesthetic Realism Consultant published here]. That matter is the repeated inability of award-winning Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to make simple throws successfully. The June 17 New York Times quotes a sports psychologist, Rick Wolff, who says such troubles occur when a player starts to think consciously about an action that should be spontaneous. But even if Wolff is correct (I'm not sure he is), he doesn't know why such a change in thought and feeling happens: "There's no rhyme or reason," he says. Well, there is a reason for the tumult of an eminent ballplayer, as there is for all people's. Aesthetic Realism is the means of knowing it, because Eli Siegel is the person of thought who understood the human self….more

This issue includes:

We Are Related to Everything! / Number 1419, June 14, 2000

As we continue to serialize Eli Siegel’s magnificent 1950 lecture Aesthetic Realism and Nature, I am tremendously happy to describe this principle on which it is based, because I see the principle as not only scientifically mighty, but thrillingly kind and beautiful: Aesthetic Realism explains that every person is related to the whole world. There is nothing—no object, happening, or person—with which we do not have to do. All reality is everyone’s heritage. Meanwhile, everyone has a constant desire to make the world less than it is, and this desire is the most hurtful thing in humanity....more

This issue includes:

Sex, Nature, & the Decisive Criterion / Number 1418, June 7, 2000

What is the thing in us that weakens us? What is the best thing in us? This issue includes a discussion of cybersex—and what it means for a person to decide what he or she most deeply and truly wants. In terms of history and culture: people do not understand what in the self has made for "the best that has been known and thought in the world," as Matthew Arnold put it; and what in the self has caused the brutality present throughout the centuries—has caused what Burns called "man's inhumanity to man." ...more

This issue includes:

Conversations in Marriage—& Poetry / Number 1413, May 3, 2000

...Aesthetic Realism is that which understands, as nothing else can, the big, beautiful, yet so often painful subject of conversations. I have written on the matter in other TROs; but for now, I say this: What that seminar showed is that if men and women have trouble talking to each other, it isn’t for the reason given in current books—that the male approach to talking and the female are just different. The reason is, persons do not see reality and other persons justly. The man or woman you have to do with stands for reality and humanity; and as that person is in a close and crucial and prolonged relation to you, the amissness in how you both see the world will come forth in your seeing of each other, dealing with each other, speaking with each other....more

This issue includes:

Poetry—& How People Affect People / Number 1411, April 19, 2000

...Aesthetic Realism explains that the one effect we can ever respect ourselves for going after is that through us another person like the world more: that we are a means of this person’s being more interested in, fairer to, more richly and accurately joined with reality’s things and people. And the reason people can feel uneasy and sometimes desolate about their effect on others, is that this is not what they have gone after. People live whole lives feeling they have not steadily affected another person in a way that makes them proud. They may have impressed persons stupendously; they may have lived with someone for 60 years and gotten and given devotion; yet there is an unarticulated emptiness and shame—because through them a person has not liked the world more, and may, in fact, like the world less.

This matter has to do with poetry; because all poetry that is the real thing, Aesthetic Realism magnificently explains, is like of the world....more

This issue includes:

The Biggest Matter in Your Life / Number 1410, April 12, 2000

A principal way Aesthetic Realism differs from every other approach to mind is its showing that the biggest matter in your life is the fight between your desire to respect the world and your desire to have contempt. Every person wants to find value in things and people. But every person also wants to look down on other people and things as a means of feeling important and superior. Mr. Siegel defined contempt as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." He showed that contempt is the source of all the unkindness in history, and contempt is also that in a person which causes mental ailment or distress....more

This issue includes:

Words, Sex, and Kindness / Number 1399, January 26, 2000

…There is more interest now than there ever was in the way couples use words—in how men and women communicate with each other, and often don't communicate so well. Some of the most popular books of recent years have been on that subject. Meanwhile, people still feel that sex is very different from what a sentence is, what a word is, even from what a good conversation is. People still see sex as beyond words—as driving, inarticulate, and magical.

I love Aesthetic Realism for its understanding of both words and sex, and for showing the relation between them. This principle, stated by Eli Siegel, is the basis for understanding how words came to be, how people use them; and also how people are in sex, with all the victory, confusion, anger, and shame attending: "The greatest fight man is concerned with, is the fight between respect for reality and contempt for reality" (TRO 151)….more

This issue includes:

The Education of the Coming Century / Number 1395, December 29, 1999

In this final issue of the century, it is an honor to publish a poem by Eli Siegel. And we publish too something standing for the beautiful, thirsted-for, immortal education he founded in 1941: part of a paper by Pauline Meglino, from a recent public seminar at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation titled "Owning a Husband or Knowing Him—Which Will Make a Wife Happy?"

There Are Wives are the world authorities on marriage. They teach the monthly "Aesthetic Realism and Marriage Class." And in her paper, Mrs. Meglino quotes from an Aesthetic Realism consultation of a contemporary woman. It moves me tremendously to say in December 1999: Aesthetic Realism consultations are the education of the coming century....more

This issue includes:

The Known & Unknown—in People & Poetry / Number 1383, October 6, 1999

We have in this TRO those tremendous opposites of known and unknown....A form in which the unknown comes to a child is the fact that grownups, including parents, bewilder him: they seem to change on him in a way he doesn't understand. Some of the finest prose in English is about this feeling. It is in "The Child," chapter 9 of Eli Siegel's Self and World; and here are a few of many sentences describing a boy's bewilderment: Joe couldn't understand why his mother, Helen, should be irritated with him ....

Sometimes Helen's irritations would occur without notice, just when she seemed to be pleased with the growing and exploring Joe. It just didn't make sense. Here was some being, an important being, smiling at him; and then, some moments later, maybe just because a doorbell rang, or because something in the kitchen went wrong, acting as if she didn't care for Joe at all. [P. 218]

The way people around one can go, without a sense of coherence, from sweetness to displeasure, from wanting to hug one to being aloof, has sometimes been so confusing, so woundingly mysterious, that a child can use it to be against the world itself....more

This issue includes:

The Drama of Excitement and Love / Number 1381, September 22, 1999

Mr. Siegel shows in [the lecture being serialized here] that excitement is always a feeling of opposites converging: hope and fear, for instance; much meaning and a single moment. And he has shown that love too is a oneness of opposites—most notably self and world. The purpose of love is to have more feeling about, be more just to, the people and things of this wide and various world through caring for a particular self whose lips we may kiss. When love "fails," it is because we have failed in making these opposites one.…

The two subjects of this TRO—what excitement is and what love is—meet, often tormentingly, in people's lives. Millions of people right now are in the following situation—which we can put in the words of Kira, married 5 years to Phil: "Here is this man who once made for such excitement in me. When we were dating, just the idea that I would be seeing him, that we would hold each other's hand and look in each other's eyes, made for such a stir inside me. Now we're together—and I'm sure not excited. He's become someone I get so quickly irritated with; talk sarcastically to; even scream at. I suppose we'll stay married for the rest of our lives; but there's a big dullness and emptiness instead of that excitement I once felt. I feel bitter, mixed up, and ashamed."…more

This issue includes:

Excitement, Byron, & the Trouble about Sex / Number 1380, September 15, 1999

This issue serializes a lecture of 1949 by Eli Siegel in which he speaks about Lord Byron....I can say as a person who knows the field: Eli Siegel is the critic who understood Byron, both the man and the poet, supremely—as Byron thirsted to be understood. It moves me very much to comment on some of that understanding as expressed in another lecture: Lord Byron May Yet Be Known, of September 14, 1969. Early in it, after reading a passage by William Hazlitt about Byron's intensity and his desire to escape ennui, Mr. Siegel said:

That hints at Byron's suffering. He wanted not to fall into himself in some dull and lessening way....Byron opposed dullness in himself in two ways: through writing and through women. His big complaint is: after the ecstasy of love he was more in himself than before.

Byron never knew—as no person has before Aesthetic Realism—what differentiates the excitement that makes us proud and more alive, from the excitement that leaves us ashamed, dull, empty....more

This issue includes:

True Excitement vs. Competition / Number 1379, September 8, 1999

In [his lecture Poetry and Excitement], with such scholarship, vividness, and ease, Mr. Siegel does a tremendous thing: he shows the structure of excitement—that which makes any thing or moment or happening exciting. The basis is this central principle of Aesthetic Realism: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." And as we see that excitement has a structure, a scientific and poetic organization, there are thrill, relief, grandeur—because people have felt excitement and order or dignity were opposites that had to fight; and they have been ashamed and distressed by the disjunction in their lives between an "exciting" time and an accurate or just time….more

This issue includes:

Art versus Weariness / Number 1376, August 18, 1999

"To What Is the Artist Responsible?" is an introduction Eli Siegel wrote in 1973 for a public seminar presented by Aesthetic Realism consultants. This introduction is both leisurely and definitive, kind and historic. As Mr. Siegel answers the question in the title, he explains something huge, which no other critic of art saw….

Aesthetic Realism shows that there are two big purposes fighting within every person, and one of them is the source of all art. The deepest purpose we have is to like the world honestly, to see meaning in it, structure in it. From this purpose have come all intelligence, kindness, courage, and every instance of art in any century and nation. But there is another purpose working in each of us: contempt, which Mr. Siegel defined as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." He showed—and there is no discovery more crucial or monumental—that all the injustice in history has come from this purpose; and that contempt is also the thing in every person which weakens our own minds and lives, even as we feel we are taking care of ourselves by having it.…more

This issue includes:

The Tumult about Strength / Number 1354, March 17, 1999

Everyone…wants to be strong, in both body and character. With the proliferation of exercise machines and fitness centers, the going after physical strength is more intense and elaborate now than at any time in history. The increased interest in having one's body strong is certainly a fine thing. And it is possible that an excess focus on it, the narrow, heated concentration a person also can have on the firmness of one's physique, comes from the feeling in him or her that there is something too flabby in how one sees, something limp, wobbly, wishy-washy in one's ethics and interest in knowledge....more

This issue includes:

Fitness, Chaucer, and Ethics / Number 1347, January 27, 1999

[In this issue of TRO is a paper in which an Aesthetic Realism Associate writes about] something more worked at than ever before in history—physical fitness—and why, though a man's body may be in top-notch shape, he can still dislike himself, feel dull, nervous mean.

The basis of Aesthetic Realism is this principle, stated by Eli Siegel: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." The chief opposites in everyone's life, whether we are lifting weights or reading Paradise Lost, are Self and World. And Mr. Siegel explained what all the various therapists and counselors haven't seen: the way we judge ourselves, however unconsciously, is an ethical and also aesthetic way—it is not on whether we have praise from others, career success, or fine muscle tone; it is on whether we are trying, with our thought and feeling, to be fair to the world....more

This issue includes:

Attention: An Aesthetic Matter / Number 1339, December 2, 1998

In recent years, difficulty with attention has been talked of mainly as a clinical matter. Many children are said to have "attention deficit disorder"; and they have been given, abundantly, the drug Ritalin as the supposed mighty pharmaceutical bringer of attentiveness. Ritalin is now being questioned more….

While "more than a million children" suffer and are drugged, the understanding of attention has been in Aesthetic Realism these many years. Before one can know how to "treat" problems about attention—and everybody has problems about attention—one has to see what Aesthetic Realism explains: attention is not essentially a clinical, chemical matter; it is an aesthetic matter….more

This issue includes:

What Love—and Strength—Really Are / Number 1313, June 3, 1998

It is an honor to print an introduction that Eli Siegel wrote in 1973 for a public seminar presented by Aesthetic Realism consultants, “Why Does Love Change to Something Else?” Accompanying it is part of a paper by consultant Derek Mali from a seminar of this spring....And I am tremendously happy, as preliminary, to comment a little on this fact: Aesthetic Realism is that which explains at last, with grandeur and infinite practicality, the bewildering, thrilling, tormenting subject of love.

I begin by quoting William Butler Yeats, musical and pained on the subject Mr. Siegel writes about here....more

This issue includes:

The Thirst for Criticism / Number 1307, April 22, 1998

In [his lecture Poetry and Practicality], Mr. Siegel opposes the division people make between the "practical" and the "poetic," between the everyday and the cultural or wonderful. It is a rift that has people find most of life pretty tedious—peppered with moments of loveliness or excitement. Yet those moments can't have lasting meaning, because they are in a separate reality from the "real" reality of traffic jams, dust under the couch, and ill-natured bosses. This rift—which Aesthetic Realism magnificently shows to be false, unjust to what the world truly is—is related to another split people make, which I am grateful to comment on here.

People make a split as to themselves between the factual and the wonderful: That is, they want to be seen as wonderful, get tremendous approval, even be adored. And they feel that being seen truly, with critical exactitude, will interfere with the glowing sense of themselves they desire....more

This issue includes:

Practicality, Poetry—and Justice! / Number 1304, April 1, 1998

Aesthetic Realism shows that… justice and the practicality of poetry… are the same subject! The practicality Mr. Siegel mainly speaks of in the [lecture being serialized in this issue] is, he says, the customary notion of practicality as the utilitarian and unfanciful. But he is the critic who showed that every good poem, no matter how strange its subject, is practical in the most urgent sense.

The reason is in this principle stated by Mr. Siegel: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." All humanity's cruelty has come from people's seeing two opposites as apart: what's just to other things and what takes care of me. The way of mind which Mr. Siegel identified as the source of all the unkindness on this earth—Contempt—pits those crucial opposites against each other: contempt is the "disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world." But poetry shows those opposites are one: that to be just to the outside world is the same as expressing oneself. There is nothing people more desperately need to know: because unless we see justice as self-importance, we will want to exploit another— including economically—and be superior, including as to race….more

This issue includes:

The Best in Us—and the Worst / Number 1256, April 30, 1997

...Aesthetic Realism, greatly, shows that, with all the various purposes human beings have—to succeed in a career, find love, dress well, be entertained—there are two central, warring purposes that all the other purposes are about. One of these two purposes is the best thing in humanity; the other is the worst: and everybody has both. Until we understand these purposes and can love that best thing and criticize that worst thing in us, we will be mixed up about all our other purposes and never know or get clearly what we want. The best and deepest purpose of everyone, Mr. Siegel showed, is “to like the world on an honest basis.” This purpose, become intensely impelling, wide, rich, deep, is the drive to art. “Art,” Mr. Siegel writes, “goes for justice to all that is and all that lives. It welcomes subtly. It welcomes universally.”...more

This issue includes:


The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known online:

*Current Issues: The most recent issues in which Aesthetic Realism explains the news, happenings in people's lives, events in history, and some of the most moving works in literature.

*National Ethics: What honest criteria can we use to be good critics of ethics on the national and international levels? Aesthetic Realism looks at ethics as to loyalty, international affairs, & more.


*Literature / Poetry: Discussing many great works of poetry and prose. Criticism, wrote Eli Siegel compactly, is showing "a good thing as good, a bad thing as bad, and a middling thing as middling."

*Love: How Aesthetic Realism describes the purpose of love—"to like the world honestly through another person." Discussion of what interferes with having real love—today and in history.


*Racism—the Cause & Solution: The Aesthetic Realism understanding of contempt as the cause of racism, and the place of aesthetics in respecting, pleasurably, people different from oneself.

*The Economy: Why our economic system has failed to meet the needs of the American people, and the Aesthetic Realism understanding of good will as the basis for successful and fair economics


*Education: The success of the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method in having students learn to read and write—learn science, social studies, art, every subject—and be kinder, less angry, less prejudiced.

*Eli Siegel Day in Baltimore: Talks given on August 16, 2002, Eli Siegel's Centenary, placing Mr. Siegel and Aesthetic Realism, his work, in terms of world culture and history.


*Art: "Aesthetic Realism sees the purpose of art as, from the beginning, the liking of the world more..."

*Archives: The rich education provided by Aesthetic Realism in issues of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known which are online.


Aesthetic Realism Foundation online

The most comprehensive source of information about Aesthetic Realism is the website of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—and the sites connected to it, including this one. You can start, for instance, at the Foundation's home page. Then, go on to biographical information about Eli Siegel, who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941. You will see how the education he began teaching in those years continues now in Aesthetic Realism consultations and in public dramatic presentations and seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—as well as in the Foundation's Outreach Programs for seniors, young people, libraries, teachers. Meanwhile in the schools of New York, the dramatically effective Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method has enabled students to learn, to love learning, and to pass standardized examinations for three decades. And artists since 1955 have exhibited at the Terrain Gallery for which many have written commentaries (including on their own works), based on the philosophic principles of Aesthetic Realism. You can read about Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education online, as well as about every person on the faculty of the Foundation. As editor of TRO her commentaries are in every issue (see, e.g., "Nature, Romanticism, & Harry Potter"; "Clothing and Emotion"; and "Jobs, Discontent, and Beauty"). In the Aesthetic Realism Online Library, you'll find the largest single repository of reviews, articles in the press, lectures, poetry; and The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. In 2002, Eli Siegel' s centenary, the Governor of Maryland and the Mayor of Baltimore, the city where he grew up, wrote on the meaning to America of Aesthetic Realism and its founder. So did the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, in the U.S. Congressional Record.

Selected Resources online

People in America's diverse professions—the humanities, the arts, education, the social sciences, medicine, labor—have written on the value of Aesthetic Realism. They describe the way Aesthetic Realism teaches people how to understand themselves more accurately; how the ability to be just to other people is enhanced; how one's professional attainments are augmented. Language arts teacher Leila Rosen, for example, writes on the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. Anthropologist Arnold Perey writes on the way Aesthetic Realism opposes prejudice and improves international understanding. And there are many others. Historically, new knowledge has often been met unjustly. This was true about the new, innovative thought of Louis Pasteur and John Keats, Beethoven and William Lloyd Garrison, Jonas Salk and Isaac Newton. And it has been true about Aesthetic Realism. Documenting and opposing this, the website "Friends of Aesthetic Realism — Countering the Lies," written by more than 60 individuals, refutes the falsehoods of the few persons who have attacked Aesthetic Realism and lets the facts speak for themselves. People who want to express their opinion of Aesthetic Realism, and have the knowledge to back it up, have created blogs and websites and have written numerous articles. See, for example, composer and educator Edward Green; essayist Lynette Abel; photographer Len Bernstein; teachers Ann Richards, Christopher Balchin, and Alan Shapiro. Others are listed in "What People Are Saying." The education of Aesthetic Realism enables a person to understand oneself more exactly than has been possible before, and to like the world honestly, authentically.


subscribe: email  |  subscribe: print

Aesthetic Realism Foundation  |  Articles about Art & Life   |  Aesthetic Realism Theatre Co.   |  Terrain Gallery

© Copyright 1999-2016 by Aesthetic Realism Foundation
A not-for-profit educational foundation