Aesthetic Realism and Mind


The Right Of is edited by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, who is author of its commentaries.

Having One's Way / Number 148, January 28, 1976

To live is to have one’s way somehow. The question is whether we know our true way well enough. Our desire to have our way is always accompanied by what the facts are. Insanity arises from the having one’s way even though the facts do not go along. Reality and the facts may be at one with our desire; or reality and the facts may not be in agreement with our desire. If we have contempt for reality, contempt for the facts because these seem not in accord with having our way and we go after having our way nevertheless, the disaster called mental trouble may follow.

....It is well...to know what having one’s way means and where it is harmful. At this moment, Mary Queen of Scots is asking that we consider her and deal with her truly and well... more

Down With Beauty! / Number 149, February 4, 1976

Aesthetic Realism has been saying for a long time that the problem of madness is the same as the problem of poetry. In madness, a person’s desire for symmetry and order is not at one with his desire for freedom or abandon. Human life with its constant temperature—when things are well—of 98°, accompanied in the body by all kinds of unsymmetrical tendencies, instances the fact that a person is order and disorder. Health is not just order; it is the oneness of order and freedom, or order and new possibility. Poetry, like the body at its best, is order and freedom at once, logic and impulse fairly had at the same moment...

What I have written is illustrated by the history of all the arts, including, surely, poetry. It is necessary, though, to see the reasonableness of this statement: Poetry is sanity. It is necessary to see the reasonableness of: Art is sanity.....more

The Fight / Number 151, February 18, 1976

The greatest fight man is concerned with, is the fight between respect for reality and contempt for reality that has taken place in all minds of the past and is taking place now. There are three places in literature which make the fight between respect and contempt clearer. These places are Sonnet 66 of Shakespeare; Baudelaire’s “O Mort, vieux capitaine”; and Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.”

Certainly there are many more illustrations in literature of that fight between respect and contempt which Aesthetic Realism sees as the beginning and most important fight in every mind. Still, the three instances of literature that I have mentioned can serve richly to tell what the fight in man is. The large fight, again, in every mind, every mind of once, every mind of now, is between seeing the world or reality as having meaning, aesthetic order, and some friendliness, a world which one can truly like; or seeing the world as disorderly, causeless, uncaring, something one cannot truly like....more

Recapitulation / Number 152, February 25, 1976

...I shall try to present a general view of the Aesthetic Realism attitude to contempt as a cause of unfortunate things in man’s life.

The first thing to see is that contempt is ever so general and is ever so particular. We can have contempt for the whole world because, seemingly, it is mismanaged by forces we do not see. And we can have contempt for a chair because there is a sign of a split in the back of it. We can have contempt for something we may wear, because some fatty substance has stained it.

Contempt, then, is as wide as the world; and as inclusive as all the telephone books together in America....more

The Gods Are Lessened / Number 153, March 3, 1976

Contempt spares nothing. An important portion of history is how man has wanted to have contempt for the gods he has made and thought he needed. We see from history itself and from the history of religion that there is a desire in man to own and manipulate whatever he might respect....

There is something, we think, that makes gods of ourselves if we can either dismiss the world or find it tedious. And certainly, if along with dismissing the world or finding it tedious, we can swallow it—as Baudelaire intimates—our god—like possibilities are more than ever asserted. There is, at least, a relation between boredom and self-divinity.

The history of religion—or non-religion—tells a great deal about contempt and how it has been in man....more

Look Who's Here! / Number 154, March 10, 1976

...If...Aesthetic Realism is correct and the self is a constant aesthetic debate, then it is not hard for one to see that the two possibilities of self may both be regarded with contempt by a living person. This means that the self given only to care for itself is seen with contempt by that in a person which wants to be more comprehensive or larger. Also, the self which tries to be or wishes to be larger and more inclusive, is seen with contempt by the self-regarding person, the person who thinks that taking care of just what he is, is work enough for one life....more

Care for Self / Number 155, March 17, 1976

It is rather clear that if a person is to care for himself, he must make some sense of our great desire for love and our great desire for contempt. Man is both a diminishing and an enhancing animal. He would like to make everything smaller, more wretched, less important, so that amid the unattractive ruins he might be distinguished. And then there is a tendency in man, rather unsuccessful, to give more meaning to all things.

Unless both possibilities—lessening and increasing—are seen as of man himself, there will be pain...

In the life of Sara Teasdale (1885-1933), one can see quite well what I am talking about.... more

The Hawthorne Omission / Number 157, March 31, 1976

In this number of TRO, I shall give evidence that Nathaniel Hawthorne knew he was driven by a deep contempt; and he also knew that he might die of it. Yet Hawthorne, even when renowned in America as the author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, did not know an syone who was so concerned as to take his own statements about himself and others seriously; and so be of friendly use to him. Nor have critics taken many things Hawthorne said with the amiable gravity they deserved.

Consequently, dear unknown friends, the Hawthorne Omission is persons’ failure to see a great, constant fear of his. Perhaps this letter or essay is the first attempt to take a deadly concern of a noted writer as truly that.... more

Ah, to Dismiss / Number 159, April 14, 1976

Years ago, through Trent’s American Literature, I learned that Edgar Allan Poe had a hold on Europe which hardly any other American writer had....

We have to ask, what is the nature of this hold of Poe on the reading world? I am matter-of-fact when I say that the reason Poe has a hold on the reading world is that he tells so well of persons' desire to dismiss the world. When you do well with the general desire to dismiss the world, you can become internationally indispensable. That is so with Poe. It became clear while Trent was writing his rather popular work on American literature....more

The Suppression of Good Will / Number 160, April 21, 1976

One of these days, it will be seen that the chief thing man has suppressed so far is his good will. This, perhaps, is the largest matter in human history.

At the present time, the good will in man is somewhere struggling to come forth, as more powerful than ill will. The way of economics which the world has adopted is the large hindrance to the emerging of the good will which, somewhere, has always been in man, hoping to be seen and to be given its due.

The reason Edgar Allan Poe is so valuable as artist is his dealing so much with the consequences of suppressed good will....more

The Common Destruction / Number 161, April 28, 1976

Good will is an aesthetic matter; for it is the oneness of criticism and praise as something useful and kind. To point out something which a person is given to and to show this person that the preferred thing is detrimental to his life, may be kind and useful. Likewise, to praise something, to encourage the continuation of a way a person has, or to affirm this person's choice, may be kind. Perhaps the oneness of opposites most necessary to be seen in the everyday life of people is the oneness of opposites in good will: the fact that a person can be made stronger both by the questioning of a way of his and by praising a way of his.

However, in the life of man so far, there has been a rift in mind as to good will. Good will is seen often as insincere praise, unfelt approval....more

The Two Pleasures / Number 162, May 5, 1976

One thing that is clear in the history of man is that he has had pleasure of two kinds. Man has had pleasure from seeing a sunset; from Handel’s Messiah; from seeing courage in someone; from a great rhythm in words. He has also had pleasure from making everything he can meaningless; from changing architecture into broken eggshells; from making the mighty malodorous; from trivializing. Man, then, praises; he also diminishes. The same lips that can curve and droop into a sneer can be apart in astonishment. Seeing meaning, then, has given pleasure; taking it away has also given pleasure....more

We Are Exclusive / Number 163, May 12, 1976

To be an individual is already to exclude a great deal. We are born with what seems to be only ourselves. It seems the whole purpose of education is to add extraneous matter of the world to our sacred selves.

The true purpose, though, of education is simplicity of self through the riches of reality. This is an aesthetic matter; it is the adding of the impersonal to make ourselves more richly personal. The addition to ourselves is the subtraction of narrowness, exclusiveness in ourselves. All education, dear unknown friends, adds and simplifies. And, again, to add and simplify at once is an aesthetic procedure....more

The Three Failures / Number 181, September 15, 1976

A fair idea may be had of what Aesthetic Realism is by considering The Three Failures, as Aesthetic Realism sees these. The failures are different, are in different fields; but they all arise from the seeing of the world and persons representing the world, in an inaccurate and unjust way. These three failures, in contemporary terms, may be described as: One, The Freud Failure; Two, The Greenspan Failure; and Three, The Eliot Failure.

Because Aesthetic Realism sees Sigmund Freud as having failed the mind of man; sees Alan Greenspan as failing now the economics of man where economics is ethics; and sees Thomas Stearns Eliot as having failed poetry as meaning and music at once—an idea may be had of what Aesthetic Realism regards as not failure, or success. For the purpose of understanding Aesthetic Realism, is it not necessary, dear unknown friends, to know what Aesthetic Realism regards as failure and regards as success?... more

It Is So Easy / Number 167, June 9, 1976

I believe that some day contempt will be seen as man’s greatest temptation. Sex certainly looks more dramatic; but contempt is quieter, deeper, more pervasive. In fact, it can be said that often an unseen purpose of sex is to achieve a quiet contempt for reality. That is why Aesthetic Realism has said the only thing wrong with sex is that it can be used to make the world less. Wherever, otherwise, sex seems evil, it is not the sex which is evil, but some unfairness to another often accompanying the sex.

The deepest and most ordinary ethics is concerned with sex as it is with money, food, politics. As soon as self takes more than is coming to it in the field of sex, the wrong is the disproportion, not the sex. And, dear unknown friends, because sex is such a great vehicle for the victory of contempt, sex can easily make one forget the loveliest question a person has, also the most insistent and most powerful: What is coming from me to what is not myself?...more

 

Space, Matter, Good Will, & The Whale / Number 1970, January 10, 2018

We are serializing the great 1949 lecture Poetry and Space, by Eli Siegel. It is an opulent, surprising, living illustration of the principle on which Aesthetic Realism is based: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Space and its opposite, matter, are aspects of the physical universe. And they also represent desires of our own. They have to do with our own confusions, hopes, happiness, mistakes. Space and matter are related to other opposites that are always part of us, opposites that need to join well in us and so often do not: for example, lightness and heaviness, emptiness and fullness, mind and body....more

This issue includes:

Space, Matter, & Our Own Emotions / Number 1969, December 27, 2017

It is an honor to begin serializing Poetry and Space, a lecture Eli Siegel gave in 1949. It is great in its literary criticism and its kind, rich understanding of people.

Space, of course, is part of the physical world. Yet we have feelings about it all the time. Those feelings can have joy with them, and ease; also agitation and even terror; and much in between. Space, as Mr. Siegel explains, is in all art. It can be seen as having two opposites: one is time; the other, perhaps even more fundamentally an opposite of space, is matter. And this principle of Aesthetic Realism certainly includes space and matter, space and time: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”...more

This issue includes:

The Thing in Us We Need Most to Understand / Number 1967, November 29, 2017

...Discussing poems of James Thomson (1834-82), Mr. Siegel is describing [in the portion of Poetry and the Unconscious published here] the central matter in the self of everyone—including in our unconscious, or that in us of which we’re unaware. Although Thomson is best known for his powerful writing about the world as darksome, as having much evil, Mr. Siegel points out that he also wrote some of the most cheerful poems ever. And contrary to what various critics have said, Mr. Siegel shows that Thomson didn’t write the happy poems early in life and the darksome later. Rather, he wrote both kinds all along, because he had, intensely, what everyone has—two ways of seeing the world: as an enemy against which he should find solace in himself; and as a friend....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.


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