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 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


Knowing, Feeling, & America / Number 1946, February 8, 2017 

Here is the final section of the landmark 1973 lecture we have been serializing: The Scientific Method in Feeling, by Eli Siegel. It is about the opposites of knowing and feeling, opposites that have seemed to people to be at war within them. Today, as in other times, men and women have (though they may not articulate it) an abiding sadness, shame, anger because as they’re stirred with emotion they don’t seem to themselves to be logical, to be the same person who reasons. And when they go for careful reason, they feel they must be unstirred, lack warmth.

Aesthetic Realism magnificently—and logically—shows that knowing and feeling are aesthetic opposites: that 1) both are always in us in some way; 2) they can be beautifully, proudly one in us; and 3) it is our deep need to try to have them be....more

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Will It Be Knowing or Contempt? / Number 1945, January 25, 2017 

Aesthetic Realism shows, magnificently, that knowing and feeling are always together. On how they’re together will depend our integrity or lack of it. And all art, true science, real intelligence, authentic kindness are, each of them, a oneness of mental exactitude and emotion....more

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Feelings, Facts, & What We Do with Them / Number 1944, January 11, 2017 

[The great 1973 lecture by Eli Siegel we're serializing] begins with his describing the rift people make between feeling and knowing. It is a division men and women take for granted in their everyday lives, even as they’re weakened hugely by it and ashamed of it. Throughout the world and throughout the years people have seen their feelings as things they need not—and cannot—be exact about. Scientists too have severed knowing from feeling; they have seen feelings as essentially unknowable. But early in the lecture, Mr. Siegel says: “The purpose of the real scientific method would be to know a thing in the best way....The question is: can there be scientific method which isn’t at the same time fair to feeling?”

The disinclination to see our feelings exactly, be accurate critics of them, is as frequent as breathing. Yet the danger of not trying to see ourselves truly is gigantic....more

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King Richard III & Everyone / Number 1943, December 28, 2016

[The lecture we're serializing] is about those two tremendous opposites in every person: knowing and feeling. Just about everyone has the sense “I’m a different person reasoning, knowing, from the person with emotions.” People have taken this rift in them for granted. Yet it has made them ashamed, and pained, also unkind. In the lecture we’re serializing and in Aesthetic Realism itself, Mr. Siegel shows that the division doesn’t have to be. In fact, feeling and knowing are always simultaneous. Feelings themselves can be known, seen accurately, and it’s necessary for us to want to know them.

In the lecture Mr. Siegel uses an anthology of English literature to show that true knowing is inseparable from feeling....more

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We Feel & Know—What’s the Relation? / Number 1942, December 14, 2016

With this issue we begin to serialize The Scientific Method in Feeling, a 1973 lecture by Eli Siegel. It is a thrilling work about something very ordinary, something people take for granted—but which makes for daily misery and also for cruelty, sometimes on a world scale. The lecture is about the fact that people have made a division between knowing and feeling, and they do not see their own feelings as things to be exact about, to know.

Scientists have made this division too. They haven’t seen feelings as knowable—the way the structure of an atom is knowable, or the makeup of an apple is. Here, there has been immense conceit: the fact that oneself with one’s degrees is unequipped to know something, does not make the thing unknowable; yet that’s the unstated basis various persons have gone on in the matter of how much feelings can be known...more

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Art Tells of—and Criticizes—Sadness / Number 1940, November 16, 2016

...This final section [of Mr. Siegel's 1975 class on Music and "Questions for Everyone"] is casual, conversational. But it’s about a tremendous matter: that what may trouble us most is present in art in a way that makes for beauty. And the beauty comes not because the artist has somehow decorated the trouble, but because he or she has seen it truly. What makes for every instance of art, Aesthetic Realism explains, is this: something is seen truly, in its specificity and relatedness; and so the world itself as structure—the oneness of such opposites as rest and motion, order and freedom, continuity and change—is felt, seen, heard. That is true whatever the art—and whatever the subject, from a rose to a bad mood....more

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There Are Music & the Sinister / Number 1939, November 2, 2016

...In the part of the discussion [on Music & “Questions for Everyone”] published here, Mr. Siegel has reached question 7: “Have I suddenly wanted other people to feel bad? or to be unlucky?” And in keeping with his purpose, he looks at the feeling asked about—not in terms of its cause—but in relation to music. Meanwhile, because that 7th question is about something so ordinary, yet also about some of the largest brutality in history—the inflicting of pain on other human beings—I’ll comment a little on the question in terms of people’s lives....more

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Everyone's Confusion—& Music / Number 1938, October 19, 2016

...The section [of the 1975 class by Eli Siegel on Music & “Questions for Everyone”] included here is much about a pair of opposites that are together beautifully, mightily, in all good art: the known and the unknown. Yet these opposites trouble people immensely in life. And so, by means of introduction, I’ll comment on some of the tumult about them....

Millions of people right now feel insulted by the unknown; fear it; even hate it. They feel humiliated and angry that they don’t understand themselves, and deeply outraged that they can’t make sense of someone close to them, and life as such. For instance, husbands and wives have a tendency, foolish and also mean, to think they’re authorities on their spouse; then they’re annoyed, even furious, when something occurs making it clear that there are things in the person they’re close to that they don’t understand....more

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Music Is about Your Life / Number 1937, October 5, 2016

...[The subject of the paper published in this issue, criticism and kindness,] has tormented people—because they have seen criticism as unkind, and have seen kindness, really, as an evasion of their own intellect and personal need. That is, people have felt that to be kind to someone they had to put aside what they might question about him or her, and also put aside their own desire to take care of themselves. Aesthetic Realism grandly and mercifully shows that this view of things is incorrect.

It happens that this human matter of kindness and criticism is related to the technical art matter Mr. Siegel speaks of here: concord and discord. Both pairs of opposites are forms of the big primal opposites For and Against....more

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"Do You Want to Be Like Music?" / Number 1935, September 7, 2016

It is an honor to begin a serialization of Music & “Questions for Everyone,” a class of 1975, taught by Eli Siegel. “Questions for Everyone: To Be Thought about and Discussed” was published early in the history of Aesthetic Realism, in 1949. It contains 27 questions, and they are beautiful—kind and critical: they get to what most troubles people inwardly. In the class we’re serializing, Mr. Siegel comments on the first ten—in relation to music. All 27 are reprinted in issue 750 of this journal:

...Eli Siegel is the critic who showed that art is essential to what every human being is, including people who think they’re not interested in art. That’s because, in order to make sense of who we are and to be as we truly hope to be, we need to see how art does what we’re trying to do: how it makes opposites one....more

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How Can People Trust Each Other? / Number 1934, August 24, 2016

We are honored to publish here a portion of an Aesthetic Realism lesson conducted by Eli Siegel. Aesthetic Realism is always philosophy. It is always thrillingly cultural. And it is always about you, in your rich particularity. In a lesson, the accent was on the life and questions of a particular person, the person having the lesson. And the knowledge of oneself that occurred through these lessons was unprecedented. People felt, as Mr. Siegel spoke to them and related their concerns to art, or science, or history: “I am being understood, as I never thought I could be—me, the person I am inside! And the basis is clear, testable logic.”...more

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History, the Self, & America Now / Number 1933, August 10, 2016

The great lecture by Eli Siegel that we have been serializing—of November 15, 1974—is about the relation between what goes on in the individual self, the mind of each of us, and large happenings in the world….What Mr. Siegel explains in [the section printed here] is a means of understanding what’s happening in America right now.

Earlier in the talk he commented on passages from a sociology textbook, including a section on revolution. And in this final section he continues speaking about what revolution is. It may not include such dramatic occurrences as the storming of the Bastille or Winter Palace. Revolution, Mr. Siegel explains, has subtlety, nuance; and it can be a process....more

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What Are History & the Self of Everyone Going For? / Number 1932, July 27, 2016

[In the lecture being serialized,] Mr. Siegel is speaking about the idea central to Aesthetic Realism: The human self is an aesthetic matter. We have in us the structure of reality itself, the opposites, and it is our constant need to make them one. “All beauty,” he is the philosopher to show, “is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

In this part of the lecture Mr. Siegel looks, for example, at those mysterious opposites, body and mind. They are inseparable in us, as the ever so tangible granite of a cliff is inseparable from the shape of that cliff—the shape which, like thought, weighs nothing, is not matter, has never of itself been touched....more

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What Makes Your Emotion Right or Wrong? / Number 1931, July 13, 2016

...What in us interferes with our own mind, life, feelings? Aesthetic Realism shows that the big weakener within a person is contempt, one’s going after an “addition to self through the lessening of something else.” And contempt is also the source of every human injustice—including snobbishness, racism, massacres, bullying, and economics based on using human beings for somebody’s private profit.

In the section of the lecture [we're serializing that is] published here, Mr. Siegel is speaking about something that he was the philosopher to explain: What is it that makes an emotion harmful, ugly, bad, and what is it that makes an emotion valuable, good, even beautiful? Four decades later, the various psychiatric practitioners still do not know the answer to that all-important question....more

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The Fight in Each of Us—& in Economics / Number 1930, June 29, 2016

...Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy which shows that the central fight in every person’s individual mind and the central fight in world economics are the same. There is a battle in everyone between respect, the desire to see meaning in things and people, and contempt—the feeling, I am important if I can look down on someone, manage things and people, and also put them aside, not think about them at all. That, too, is the big battle in economics: should things be produced, jobs be had, the nation be owned in a way that respects every man, woman, and child—or should an economy be run on a basis of contempt for millions of people?...more

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Our Selves—False & True / Number 1929, June 15, 2016

[In the lecture we've been serializing, Eli Siegel] has been giving evidence for what no other philosopher saw: the human self, including your very own, is an aesthetic matter. It is two things, which are opposites demanding to be seen as one: your self is immensely particular, unique, personal; and it is infinitely related—to every person, thing, happening in the world....

Is the outside world, with all its strangeness, ordinariness, often confusion, something we were born to know and value as a means of becoming ourselves, who we truly are? Or is the world something we should manipulate, defeat, get away from? Truth says, The first! Contempt says, The second!...more

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Ourselves, Justice, & Stella Winn / Number 1928, June 1, 2016

We have been serializing Eli Siegel’s great, definitive 1970 lecture The Self Is. And in the part published here, he relates an essay by David Riesman that he has been discussing to a section of his own book Self and World: the section in which Mr. Siegel describes the woman he calls Stella Winn.

The central matter in the life of Stella Winn and everyone, Aesthetic Realism shows, is an aesthetic matter. It is our need to put together two tremendous opposites: our own personality, our treasured particularity, our just-me-ness; and the fact that we’re related to every person and thing and were born with an ineluctable obligation to know and be just to what is not ourselves....more

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We're Related to Everything / Number 1927, May 18, 2016

...What is the self; what is its nature?—that seems to be a philosophic question, and of course it is. But it is also an immediate question, inseparable from the daily life and most intimate feelings of everyone. The rightness or wrongness of every choice we make depends on whether the choice is true to what the human self as such is, the self which has become so particularly our own. Just as we’ll sabotage our own body by eating something incompatible with how the human body is made, so we sabotage our own life by going after things that are not in keeping with the purpose and structure of our self.

Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy to explain that the human self is an aesthetic matter....more

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Pride & Humility: The Drama in Everyone / Number 1926, May 4, 2016

...Yes, the self is—it is ours, and there is nothing more intimate about us than it is. Aesthetic Realism explains what has never been understood before: this thing, the self, so particular to each of us, is fundamentally an aesthetic matter. It is the oneness of opposites—first of all, the biggest opposites: our own individual being and the whole outside world, to which we’re unendingly, indissolubly related....more

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Care for Self: Relation vs. Contempt / Number 1925, April 20, 2016

[Eli Siegel] is the person in the history of thought who has described truly what the self is, that self which is everyone’s own. In the talk [we are serializing,] he uses a collection of essays by a writer he respects: David Riesman. Yet Riesman did not see what Aesthetic Realism explains: the self is an aesthetic situation, a oneness of the opposites individuality and relation. Each of us is a point, particular, specific—and at the same time we are related to the whole world, from words to food to history to people on our block and on other continents. The way we come to be increasingly individual, who we are, is through welcoming our relation to what seems different. That is what education is about. It’s what love is about....more

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Timothy Lynch Represents America / Number 1924, April 6, 2016

On February 21, at the Huntington Hilton on Long Island, there took place a Memorial Event in honor of the life of Timothy Lynch: American labor leader, President of Teamsters Local 1205, and actor and singer with the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company. Over five hundred people attended, mostly men and women of the New York area labor movement, including union officials and union members.

Timothy Lynch, I am immensely grateful to say, was my husband. What he stood for and fought for—in relation to both unions and Aesthetic Realism—is what America needs most, needs desperately. And so there is the title of this issue: Timothy Lynch Represents America. Here, the word represents has two meanings, which are connected: Timothy’s work as a union leader was to represent people, speak and fight for them, and he did that greatly. Further, what he saw in his study of Aesthetic Realism—about economics, art, history, and his own life—is what can bring to the people of our land the justice and happiness they’re thirsting for. That means he represents Americans’, and all people’s, biggest hopes....more

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Our Self: Intimate & Wide / Number 1923, March 23, 2016

We begin here to serialize the definitive, thrilling lecture The Self Is, which Eli Siegel gave in 1970. It is, as he says, philosophic. It is also immediate, vivid—and vital, because every person is a self. And we’ll never understand who we are—we’ll never understand our confusions, our purposes, our mistakes, what success for us is, what failure is, what we’re asking of ourselves, what it means to be true to ourselves or betray ourselves—unless we understand what that human self is, now so intimate under our own skin.

Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy which shows that the self of every person is aesthetic: it is a situation of opposites needing to be one. And the chief opposites are these: every person is “just me,” is so particular; yet we are related to everything, and we become ourselves the more we meet that everything truly.


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The World Drama in Everyone: The Opposites / Number 1921, February 24, 2016

Here is a portion of a 1970 Aesthetic Realism lesson conducted by Eli Siegel. The consultations that take place today—at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation and via Skype or telephone anywhere in the world—are based on the lessons Mr. Siegel gave to individual men and women from 1941 to 1978. In them, people came to know themselves in a manner unprecedented in human history. It is my happiness to say from personal experience: in Aesthetic Realism lessons people were truly, logically, kindly, grandly, deeply understood as Eli Siegel spoke to them and related their questions to the world itself—to history, culture, science, other people.

The basis of every lesson was this principle: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”...more

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Always with Us: Lightness & Weight / Number 1914, November 18, 2015

In this issue we publish two very different works by Eli Siegel. First, a poem of 1961, in which he writes about words, sounds, that have taken on a certain new meaning in our own time—tweet and twitter. Second, we reprint a work that is ever so literary, rich in culture, philosophy, kindness (also playfulness): “Death by Various Hands,” first published in the August 1930 issue of Poetry World. It is composed of short essays on the subject of death, written in the manner, and from the viewpoint of five different authors. And Eli Siegel is able to convey the quality of each of these writers, be within their various ways of seeing and expression. He doesn’t necessarily agree with what he has these persons say; but in each instance, what he has written is beautiful....more

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Your Particular Self—& All People / Number 1909, September 9, 2015

...In [the lecture we've been serializing, Mind and People,] we see Mr. Siegel describing the biggest confusion, opportunity, turmoil, field for kindness or cruelty in the life of ever yone. It is this: We want, terrifically, to see ourselves as just us—unique, apart—and to take care of our own self. Yet we also, simply by existing, have to do with everything and everyone—and we have a deep, impelling desire to see ourselves as of them, related, close. These desires are opposites, and people have gotten and given much pain because they haven’t been able to put them together. In fact, all the cruelty in the world has come from people’s feeling that care for their own self was different from justice to all other things and people.

Aesthetic Realism explains that our constant and burning need is to see ourselves as at once unique
and related to everything. It is an aesthetic need...more

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Fellow-Feeling, & What’s Against It / Number 1908, August 26. 2015

We’re honored to publish here portions of a lecture Eli Siegel gave in 1948: the magnificent Mind and People....This lecture is a classic: it is true for all times and places. And it has what we need to know right now.

The biggest matter in the life of everyone is how we see other people. And how people see people is the biggest, most urgent matter affecting the world itself: it determines the decisions of nations, including whether there will be war or peace; it determines how wealth is distributed; what laws are made; how persons of different ethnicities and religions treat each other. In Mind and People Mr. Siegel explains what it is that has human beings see each other hurtfully. He also explains what can enable us to see other persons in a way that’s resplendently just—both to them and to our own ever so particular treasured self....more

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What Is Frustration? / Number 1907, August 12, 2015

In 1948 Eli Siegel gave a talk on the subject of frustration. No audio recording or transcript of it exists. But as I did this May with another 1948 lecture, I am using notes taken by two people— Martha Baird and my mother, Irene Reiss—to recreate some, at least, of what Mr. Siegel said in that class 67 years ago. And clearly: what he said is great in its logic, vividness, depth, exactitude, scholarship, and kindness.

In 1948 the Freudian approach to mind still reigned. People were being told that all troubled feeling, and certainly frustration, had a sexual cause. Meanwhile, from the time he began to teach Aesthetic Realism, in 1941, Eli Siegel showed courageously that Freud’s way of seeing the human self was untrue: it was, in fact, ridiculous, and insulting to humanity. Mr. Siegel explained early that the fundamental matter in a person’s life is not sex but how he or she sees the world itself: how we are as to sex arises from how we see reality. The lecture we’re publishing was revolutionary when it was given. It is also revolutionary now, because, while people don’t think of frustration as chiefly a sexual matter, they still do not understand it....more

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Our Selves & Ernest Hemingway / Number 1906, July 29, 2015

Here is the conclusion of the magnificent 1972 lecture Hail, Relation; or, A Study in Poetry, by Eli Siegel. In this section, he speaks about a matter that is intense and constant in everyone’s personal life: the relation between one aspect of ourselves and another. That relation going on within each of us can take the form of: What do we want from ourselves? Why do we disappoint ourselves? Is there something in us stopping us from being how we truly want to be? Can we ourselves interfere with what we are?

And this final section, though brief, is definitive about an important American writer: Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). It has in it the comprehension of something critics noticed but could not explain: why Hemingway’s work became much less good in his later years. And Mr. Siegel gives, too, the large reason for Hemingway’s anguish and self-dislike.... more

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Art versus Racism / Number 1905, July 15, 2015

...I will comment on a matter that has to do centrally with relation, and is a horrible mis-seeing of relation. That matter is racism. Since June 17, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat among the men and women there, then opened fire, murdering nine people—racism has been talked of in the media with somewhat more urgency. The need to end it has always been vitally, utterly urgent.

Aesthetic Realism explains the cause of racism. And, I say soberly and passionately: the study of Aesthetic Realism can end racism. I have written about this fact before; others have. I do so freshly now....more

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Day & Night, Awake & Asleep—We Are Related / Number 1904, July 1, 2015

...[The 1972 lecture by Eli Siegel we're serializing] can be seen as illustrating the following sentences from the Preface to his Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems:

Poetry, like life, states that the very self of a thing is its relations, its having-to-do-with other things. Whatever is in the world, whatever person, has meaning because it or he has to do with the whole universe: immeasurable and crowded reality.

Mostly, people do not feel that the things they meet, the persons, the occurrences, are related to each other—let alone to millions of other things and people of now and the past. Therefore, they have a pervasive yet taken for granted feeling that most of reality is messy and dull. If we do not see things as related, we have to feel agitated and feel too an essential emptiness, absence of meaning....more

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How We See Relation / Number 1902, June 3, 2015

...I remember hearing Mr. Siegel say that there is no word more important than relation. Aesthetic Realism itself arose from his passionate and scholarly search for the relation among things—all the things of the world. In a 1944 article on him in the Baltimore Sun, Donald Kirkley writes that years earlier, even before the time Eli Siegel won the 1925 Nation poetry prize,

he wanted to investigate the whole reach of human knowledge, past and present....He thought “all knowledge was connected—that geology was connected with music, and poetry with chemistry, and history with sports.”... He wished to find something, or some principle, unifying all the various manifestations of reality....more

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Arrogance & the Self—Beautifully Understood / Number 1901, May 20, 2015

In 1948 Eli Siegel gave a lecture titled Mind and Arrogance. We have no voice recording or transcript
of it. But I have used notes taken by two people who were there, to present some of what Mr. Siegel
said. The notes are those of Martha Baird and Irene Reiss, my mother. Even in this abridged form, we
see an explanation that is big, new, greatly kind, and needed by the people and nations of the world.

Most men and women do not see themselves as arrogant. But can a person who seems demure, sad,
uncertain, even self-effacing have—and have intensely—something that can rightly be called
arrogance? Also: do some of the cruelest ways of humanity arise from arrogance? The answer to both
questions is Yes. Arrogance is much more ordinary than people see. It is also more brutal….more

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Justice: As Real as the Sidewalks / Number 1900, May 6, 2015

...In the present lecture, Mr. Siegel is speaking about the shame that has always accompanied profit economics. That shame exists because the profit way is based on something ugly: the seeing of human beings in terms of how much money can I extract for myself from them—from their labor and their needs.

... Of enormous importance for America’s history and future are the recent demonstrations across the land, demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage. There have been several in the last two years, principally by fast-food workers. But the strike/demonstration that took place this April 15 in  226 American cities also included home healthcare workers, carwash employees, part-time college teachers, and more. According to USA Today, it’s being called “the largest-ever mobilization of U.S. workers seeking higher pay.” And that newspaper gave the article telling of it the headline “Fast-Food Strikes Widen into Social-Justice Movement” (April 15)....more

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Lives, Feelings, & the Profit Motive / Number 1899, April 22, 2015

...In [the lecture by Eli Siegel we're serializing, he] gives instances—diverse, surprising, some subtle, all vivid—of the profit way of seeing and using people, with its ensuing shame. And by way of prelude, I’ll mention a very current instance.

On March 26, in New York City’s East Village, an explosion destroyed three buildings. There had been many apartments in those buildings, and the residents lost their possessions, their homes. Two people lost their lives. Twenty-two others were injured. The full cause of the conflagration that leveled the buildings is still being studied, but some things seem clear. New York Magazine wrote on April 1, “Authorities now believe [the explosion] was caused by an illegally tapped gas line.” That is: it seems the landlord of two of the buildings arranged a system for siphoning gas and getting it to the apartments in her building—either to avoid paying for the gas, or to keep the apartments usable and rents coming in even though utility workers had “determin[ed] that the building was not ready to receive gas on the upper floors.” The owner had been caught engaging in the same technique several months before....more

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Intelligence, Shame, & Profit / Number 1896, March 11, 2015

...The lecture we’re serializing is about the feeling of shame that, Mr. Siegel shows, has always been present in connection with the profit system. He begins with a discussion of one of the most noted essays in English, Charles Lamb’s “Poor Relations.” And he speaks about the shame that has been because some people have had much less money than others....

That poverty exists in this world, which has enough resources for all, will be seen as massive barbarism. I remember Mr. Siegel saying that only contempt could permit poverty to go on. He defined contempt as the getting an “addition to self through the lessening of something else,” and identified it as the source of all cruelty....

A matter of huge, immediate importance—which joins the two aspects of this issue of TRO—is: Is the profit system based on intelligence? Is the “engine” impelling it, the famous profit motive, intelligent? What’s intelligent depends on what the purpose of the human self is—because if we go against the very purpose of our life, of our mind, we’re unintelligent....more

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Shame, Pride, & Economics / Number 1895, February 25, 2015

With this issue we begin a serialization of the historic lecture Shame Goes with It All, by Eli Siegel. The “It” is the profit system: economics based on seeing one’s fellow humans in terms of how much financial profit one can extract from them—how much money one can get from them and their labor while giving them as little as possible.

[This lecture], of October 1970, is one of [those] in Mr. Siegel’s Goodbye Profit System series. In May of that year he explained that the profit way of economics had reached the point at which it was no longer able to succeed. Though it might be made to continue, it would do so with more and more difficulty and would never flourish again. In his lectures he gave the reasons why and provided evidence from history and the immediate moment, from economic texts and from world literature....more

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Knowledge & Narrowness / Number 1893, February 11, 2015

...In Philosophy Consists of Instincts, [Eli Siegel] shows that the big battle going on in every person is also the central battle in philosophy.

Philosophy can seem theoretical, not-urgent, hard to understand—far away from the confusions of a beset individual. Yet, Mr. Siegel explains, there is a fight in us between the desire to see, to know, and the desire to use things, situations, people to make ourselves comfortable and important. And this most immediate of fights corresponds to matters in philosophy—however esoteric they may seem.

This lecture has in it the great and new seeing which is the basis of Aesthetic Realism: that the questions of self, of our tumultuous selves, are not just personal—we have to do, always, with the whole world....more

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We & the World Are Intimate & Wide / Number 1893, January 28, 2015

...The very basis of Aesthetic Realism is that we—at our most personal, our most everyday, our most confused, our most hoping, our most worried—are like the world that philosophy looks at, and like art. “The world, art, and self explain each other,” Mr. Siegel wrote: “each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”

The biggest opposites in our lives are me and all that’s not me, or self and world. And our constant battle, in everything we do, is about how we should relate these. In the lecture being serialized, Mr. Siegel describes the battle this way: should we try to know what’s outside us—or use it to make ourselves comfortable? And he shows that those two battling desires correspond to disagreeing approaches in the history of American philosophy. The approaches take many forms, but they always have to do with notions of fact and notions of value....more

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We—& Children—Are Philosophic / Number 1892, January 14, 2015

In [his lecture about instinct we are serializing] Mr. Siegel shows that the big battle going on in people’s lives every day is also the continuous conflict in a field that seems so different: the history of philosophy. This conflict is about fact and a notion of value, and it takes many forms in both philosophy and us. Centrally, it takes the form in us of the desire to see, to know, versus the desire to have things make us comfortable and important....

In the present section..., Mr. Siegel speaks about two opposites in thought: reality as definite, immediate, the objects right before one; and reality as indefinitely wide, expansive—as illimitable. In each of these opposites, the fight he has been describing is present: we can use each in behalf either of knowing or of making ourselves contemptuously comfortable....more

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Philosophy, a Famous Song, & You / Number 1891, December 31, 2014

…In his lecture [Philosophy Consists of Instincts], Mr. Siegel explains what no other philosopher has: the biggest conflict in every person, he says, the turmoil that goes on in people every day, corresponds to the largest matter in philosophy:

There is an instinct on the part of everyone to see or be honest; there is also an instinct to be comfortable....Perhaps the best way to see what this conflict is, is to see how it is present in the history of...American philosophy....more

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Philosophy & Our Hopes / Number 1890, December 17, 2014

With this issue we begin to serialize the 1965 Philosophy Consists of Instincts, by Eli Siegel. It is a lecture at once amazing and logically solid; it has might and ease, the everyday and the grand. As Mr. Siegel looks at philosophy, we can see something central distinguishing from all others the philosophy he founded and taught: he shows that the biggest matters in philosophy are equivalent to situations, desires, battles that are present in the life of everyone, often tormentingly, every day. It is Aesthetic Realism which shows that the subjects philosophers deal with, perhaps in intricate and forbidding language, are at work in a bewildered child, in an argument of a couple in a bedroom, at a party amid insincerity and laughter....more

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Science, Art, & Insistence / Number 1888, November 19, 2014

...Both [the section of Eli Siegel's lecture and a poem of his published here] have to do with the biggest matter in everyone’s life: how we relate two tremendous opposites—our dear, intimate self, and the world in all its width and particularity. “We all of us,” Mr. Siegel writes,

start with a here, ever so snug and ever so immediate. And this here is surrounded strangely, endlessly, by a there. We are always meeting this there: in other words, we are always meeting what is not ourselves, and we have to do something about it. [Self and World, p. 91]

The ways we insist are forms of our “do[ing] something about it.” Some of our insistences we’re aware of; many, we are not....more

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The Battle of Insistences / Number 1886, October 22, 2014

We begin to serialize a lecture Eli Siegel gave in 1949: Mind and Insistence. I find it amazing—great. He describes with richness and delicacy the various kinds of insistence everyone has, which are not understood by or even known to us.

There are, Aesthetic Realism explains, two big purposes that insist in every person, and battle with each other. There is the purpose we were born for: to respect the world, see meaning in it. That is at war all the time with another purpose, false but tremendous: to have contempt, to lessen what’s not us as a means of elevating ourselves. This second purpose is the source of every cruelty. Yet the first—to see things and people with vibrant justice—is the larger, deeper insistence. No matter how much we try to submerge it, it’s what our minds are for....more

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Literature, the World, & Aesthetic Realism / Number 1885, October 8, 2014

From the late 1920s through the mid ’30s, Eli Siegel wrote many book reviews. There were those, for example, that appeared frequently between 1931 and ’35 in the noted Scribner’s Magazine. We reprint here his review in The Book League Monthly, August 1930, of a book on the history of American magazines.

In those early reviews by Mr. Siegel we see some of the tremendous scope and depth of his knowledge. He discussed novels, biographies, books on history and America, literary criticism and mind. Whatever the subject, whoever the author reviewed—whether someone famous, like Theodore Dreiser, or someone little known—the reviews have, for all their brevity, Eli Siegel’s greatness as critic. They have his discernment, his oneness of clarity and subtlety, passion and ease….more

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Intelligence, Feeling, & Our True Self / Number 1884, September 24, 2014

...Here is the final section of the great 1964 lecture [we've been serializing, andis part of a paper by Aesthetic Realism associate Barbara Buehler, from a recent public seminar titled “The Real Me; or, What Is True Self-Expression?” Our expression is an aspect of intelligence. And as Ms. Buehler writes about herself of once, she describes a grief had right now by ever so many other obviously intelligent people: the aching sense that, for all their keenness and perhaps abundant education, they’re not really expressing themselves; they’re not being their true selves, and don’t know what this true self is.

Aesthetic Realism is the knowledge that identifies at last the huge opponent in us to both our intelligence and authentic self-expression. That opponent, that obstructer of one’s real self, is something which a person feels is oh-so smart and relies on, but which weakens oneself day after day.

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What Education & the Economy Are For / Number 1883, September 10, 2014

We publish an article...on the great Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method. And I am going to relate the principles behind this method to economics—and the economy from which millions of children are suffering throughout our land.

Eli Siegel is the philosopher to explain that “The purpose of education is to like the world through knowing it.” This idea is fundamental to the Aesthetic Realism method, which has been enabling children of all backgrounds to learn successfully—including children who had been thought incapable of doing so. To like the world through knowing it is why we should learn the alphabet, find out about numbers, continents, atoms, history. To like the world is the purpose of everyone’s life. Meanwhile, humanity has lived for centuries with a system of economics completely opposed to that purpose....more

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Intelligence; or, Do We Like Our Thoughts? / Number 1882, August 27, 2014

It was fifty years ago this month that Eli Siegel gave the lecture [on intelligence] we are serializing....The knowledge in it is fresh, great, and tremendously needed—because there is, including among the supposed “experts,” so much fakery, ignorance, and cruelty about what it means to be intelligent. Mr. Siegel defined intelligence as “the ability of a self to become at one with the new.” And in the lecture he shows that intelligence is always a oneness of opposites—such as precision and scope, fact and imagination, oneself and the outside world in its width and particularity. Intelligence is described centrally in this Aesthetic Realism principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

The present section is about the fact that intelligence and foolishness have been so intertwined in history—and in individual lives. What Mr. Siegel shows is about all of us, because every bright person has also felt, with much pain, “How could I have been so stupid!” And people have been disgusted by the brutal unintelligence of various persons who govern nations....more

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Always—Our Mind & the World / Number 1881, August 13, 2014

...I’ll comment here on a recent occurrence that involved self-expression of a horrible and shocking kind. I’m doing so because that event, in all its horror, is a means of understanding some quite ordinary notions people have of what it means to express themselves. A June 6th New York Times article about it reports that a 12-year old girl in an upper middle class Milwaukee suburb nearly died from “19 stab wounds...inflicted by two friends who had lured her into a park to kill her.” The Times calls this attack “unfathomable.” But it is not: it can be explained, through Aesthetic Realism....more

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Intelligence & Freedom, in Life & Art / Number 1880, July 30, 2014

In [the present lecture by Eli Siegel], he is describing what that great thing, mysterious thing—that thing people can be so mistaken about—really is. He speaks about various aspects of intelligence, so different from each other. As he noted in an earlier (1949) lecture on the subject:

Intelligence is that which enables you to repair a faucet, understand a child, get a bus sometimes, do well when you are cleaning your clothes, be more sensible in politics; and then, it is about the very biggest question of all: how to spend one’s life. [TRO 706]...more

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Intelligence, Words, & Our Largest Hope / Number 1879, July 16, 2014

...In [the lecture by Eli Siegel that we're serializing], with depth and kindness, great intellect and humor, he is explaining what intelligence truly is. There have been so much pain, cruelty, and confusion around this subject. There have been noxious feelings of superiority, and also of inferiority, and often the same person has both.

This lecture is a rich illustration of the 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.” Intelligence, Mr. Siegel is showing, always has to be fair to two opposed things. For instance, it has to be practical, deal efficiently with a problem before one—and also care for the largeness, the majesty, even the mystery of the world. Real intelligence, too, is both logical and daring. And it is care for self at one with generosity....more

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What Is Intelligence? / Number 1878, July 2, 2014

With this issue we begin to serialize Intelligence Is You and More, a remarkable, kind, clear, immensely important 1964 lecture by Eli Siegel. Every person has seen himself or herself as intelligent in a big way—as keener, sharper, deeper than others. Every person has also called him- or herself stupid, foolish, and worse. A woman right now, for instance, a Boston lawyer, feels that she’s very knowledgeable about jurisprudence and that she’s the brightest partner in her firm, able to outwit anyone. But she has also told herself she’s been an idiot as to love or else she wouldn’t have suffered so much about the various men she was close to. She feels she’s smart in her ability to impress a jury, but again and again feels inept after a conversation with her mother....

What is intelligence? It’s certainly not what IQ tests—those grossly inadequate and cruel things—delineate....more

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Intensity, False & True / Number 1877, June 18, 2014

We are honored to publish “Reflections on a Certain Lack of Intensity,” by Eli Siegel. This great essay was written, it seems, in the early 1950s, and what Mr. Siegel describes in it has to do very much with the literature of that time. Now, more than sixty years later, various ways of literary expression have changed; but the matters, the troubles, the mistakes that he explains—magnificently explains—are with us still, both in art and in life itself. I’ll mention some of those troubles about intensity as they’re present in lives of men and women day after day.

Mostly, people are intense in ways that make them ashamed—so much human intensity is anger that’s inexact and selfish. One result of this inaccurate intensity is: since people are ashamed of having it, they try instead to be unruffled, unaffected, cool. Meanwhile, people, often the same people, also feel bad because they lack intensity: they’re not for anything passionately...more

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Every Day, It's Ourselves & the World / Number 1876, June 4, 2014

In this issue we publish a poem by Eli Siegel, likely of around 1927, and also his magnificent, vivid, down-to-earth, beautifully written essay “Alcoholism; or, You Got to Find the World Interesting.” The essay appeared originally in 1962 in the journal Definition. And (to be very clear), we’re reprinting it now not to present Aesthetic Realism as some means of treatment—it’s certainly not that—but because Aesthetic Realism is that which understands the human mind in all its turmoil and grandeur. The essay contains this understanding—and some of the best writing of the century.

There is a tendency in today’s psychology to say that any trouble of mind has a biological source, arises from one’s genes; and to say, too, that much mental trouble is not really trouble at all but simply something that makes one “special.” The chief reason for this tendency is: the psychological practitioners don’t understand the human self and they go by the unspoken logic that “Since we cannot find a mental cause for something, there must not be one!—the cause must be physical.”...

At the basis of Aesthetic Realism’s great understanding of humanity is this principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”...more

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Slowness & Speed: Poetry’s Opposites & Ours / Number 1875, May 21, 2014

…The Aesthetic Realism explanation of poetry—of what distinguishes a true poem from something not that, why poetry matters, what it has to do with the life of everyone—is central to Aesthetic Realism. And as I have said many times, I know of nothing more important, more beautiful in the world. Eli Siegel is the critic who showed that the questions of every person's life are answered in the technique of a good poem—because the opposites that are in us, that bewilder and battle in us, are made one there—in various ways but always vibrantly and powerfully. A line of good poetry is always a oneness of such opposites as activity and calm, familiarity and strangeness, freedom and order, and the opposites told of in the essay printed here: slowness and speed.

As introduction, I'll comment on some of the ways people are mixed up, often steeply, by speed and slowness in their lives. For example, every day throughout this land people feel both agitated (badly speedy) and torpid (badly slow); they shuttle between those two feelings, profoundly disliking each....more

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The Battle in Us All—& Matthew Arnold / Number 1874, May 7, 2014

It is an honor to publish the essay “Conflict as Possibility,” by Eli Siegel. He wrote it quite early in his teaching of Aesthetic Realism—the late 1940s, I estimate, or the beginning of the ’50s. That word, conflict, is not used as much now as once to characterize the turmoil in people, but the thing itself certainly exists just as much. In the 21st century, as in others, battles are going on within everyone, battles that put people in a whirl, and can make them feel bogged down, angry, disgusted. Aesthetic Realism is that in the history of thought which shows that these conflicts are aesthetic: they are answered in the technique of art. “All beauty,” Aesthetic Realism shows, “is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”...more

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Always—Yourself & the World / Number 1872, April 9, 2014

Here are two essays by Eli Siegel, the first written in 1966, the second around 1960. They are at once philosophic and about the individual lives of people, about people’s feelings, vividly, subtly, precisely....

In the preface to his Self and World, Mr. Siegel writes: “The large difference between Aesthetic Realism and other ways of seeing an individual is that Aesthetic Realism makes the attitude of an individual to the whole world the most critical thing in his life.” The fact that we have to do, always, with the whole world, is what the two essays, in different ways, are about....more

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There Are the Self & Sleeplessness / Number 1869, February 26, 2014

The two essays by Eli Siegel printed here were written (I surmise) fairly early in his teaching of Aesthetic Realism. The first, “What Has Aesthetics to Do with Feeling Bad?,” along with explaining what had never been explained before, is a description of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism itself.

The second, on “Why People Don’t Sleep,” is about something that has agonized human beings for thousands of years. There has been eloquent, even beautiful writing on the subject....

Meanwhile, insomnia, in all its misery, has continued—because, without Aesthetic Realism, it has not been understood. Today, prescription sleep medication is a multibillion-dollar industry—testimony to the fact that psychiatry has not known why people don’t sleep and so has not solved the problem. It is equally unknowing about the tremendous subject of the first essay: why people dislike themselves.

Aesthetic Realism sees these matters, with all their personal turbulence, in a way that gives a deep dignity to the human self. Aesthetic Realism shows that they have to do with what art is....more

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Individualism—True & False / Number 1868, February 12, 2014

The great essay by Eli Siegel published here explains something that has confused people enormously, usually without their even knowing it. This thing, seen rightly, has made for all the art, intelligence, justice, science in the world, and, seen wrongly, for cruelty, suffering, and stupidity—both in people’s particular lives and in world history.

“There Is Individualism” was written, I estimate, in the late 1950s. And in it Mr. Siegel explains what had not been explained before: there are two kinds of individualism, one true and one false; one good and one hurtful. He defines the difference with logic that is clear and in prose that is vivid, graceful, often thrilling. For now, I’ll say that the two kinds of individualism arise from what Aesthetic Realism shows to be the two big desires at war within everyone. That is: is our individualism, our sense of our own importance and distinction, based on contempt, the looking down on other things; or is it based on respect—on wanting to see reality with justice and fullness?...more

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Our Two Desires / Number 1867, January 29, 2014

The two essays by Eli Siegel published here were likely written in the late 1950s. They have that comprehension of people which is Aesthetic Realism’s alone, and which is based on this principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

In “Medusa Is a Nice Girl,” Mr. Siegel writes about opposites that confuse everyone: our fierceness and our tenderness. “Is Your Unconscious Your Friend?” is a definitive description of the fundamental situation within us all. The word unconscious is not so frequently used these days. Perhaps that’s because of the rather ridiculous way it was used by Freud: psychiatry’s foolish way of seeing the unconscious has somewhat tarnished the word itself. In this essay Mr. Siegel gives a beautiful and clear definition: our unconscious is “the cause of what we do, which we don’t know.”...more

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Woman, Body & Mind / Number 1866, January 15, 2014

It is an honor to publish here one of the great essays of the English-speaking world. It is “The Everlasting Dilemma of a Girl,” by Eli Siegel; and I surmise it was written in the late 1950s. While related to other notable essays—those, for instance, of Hazlitt and Lamb—in having prose that is powerful and graceful, charming and deep—“The Everlasting Dilemma of a Girl” has done something different and more. Through it, women have felt, “This explains me! Someone understands what I feel. Something I couldn’t give words to but have been so distressed by, is described—and in a way that gives me hope!”

Without “giving away” what is in this work, I can say it is about the philosophic opposites of appearance and reality—as experienced by women every day. It is about the huge opposites of body and mind. And it is certainly a kind, rich illustration, in terms of a woman’s hopes, of this Aesthetic Realism principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”... more

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How Everyday! How Big! / Number 1864, December 18, 2013

Here are two essays by Eli Siegel, written, it appears, in the 1960s. Both have to do with what Aesthetic Realism shows is the fight within every human being: between the desire to have contempt for the world and the desire to respect it. Part of the greatness of Aesthetic Realism is that it has described this fight in all its massiveness and nuance, and shown it to be the ongoing, principal battle all through history and in the daily life of everyone.

Both contenders in this mightiest and most everyday battle do things with the opposites of self and world. The desire to respect the world is the feeling that in trying to be just to something else we take care of ourselves. From that desire come all art, science, intelligence, and real love. Contempt, however, is the use of a seeming care for self against justice to outside things. Mr. Siegel defined it as “the addition to self through the lessening of something else,” and he showed that contempt is the ugly, cruel principle within humanity. From it has come every horror, including war, racism, all economic exploitation.

In the two essays printed here, Mr. Siegel writes about some everyday forms of contempt....more

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The Ordinary, the Strange, & Ourselves / Number 1862, November 20, 2013

[Eli Siegel's 1963 lecture Romanticism and Guilt] is a cultural first, groundbreaking both as literary criticism and in the understanding of mind. Mr. Siegel shows that every new movement of art has arisen from artists’ welcoming of a deep guilt: the feeling, We have not seen the world, and things and people in it, fairly enough! We have shamefully summed up what beauty is! We must correct this terrible injustice!

Romanticism, which began around the start of the 19th century, was the movement that most richly and fundamentally honored, expressed, and acted on that guilt....more

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Guilt, Profit, & Poetry / Number 1861, November 6, 2013

[The subject of the article printed here from an Aesthetic Realism public seminar] has much to do with a poem of Wordsworth spoken of in the lecture [Romanticism and Guilt]. It is a famous poem, but its meaning is made clear for the first time by Mr. Siegel.

The opposites in the seminar title, care for self and justice to what’s not us, are the biggest opposites in our lives. And, Aesthetic Realism shows, all the cruelty in the world comes from dividing them—from feeling that the way to take care of ourselves is to lessen and look down on other people and things. That feeling is contempt. It’s immensely ordinary, and also the worst thing in humanity. Mr. Siegel explains—and I find these resounding, vivid, deep, clear sentences beautiful:

There is only one thing that is immoral in the world: liking oneself too much and the outside world too little....Once you feel what is owing to yourself is more and what is owing to other people is less, you can rob people’s purses, tell lies, keep back things that would do good to people, start wars....

Contempt is also the cause of guilt—or, as it’s often called today, low self-esteem. Guilt can take such forms as anxiety, nervousness, excess unsureness....more

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Wordsworth—& the Fight in Everyone / Number 1860, October 23, 2013

Mr. Siegel is in the midst of speaking [in the lecture being serialized] about the poet William Wordsworth, and describing, as no other critic did, a fight that went on within him. That fight is literarily important—it has to do with why some of Wordsworth’s poems are much better than others. But it corresponds to a battle going on right now in every person. And one of the contenders is the cause of guilt....

“The greatest fight man is concerned with,” writes Eli Siegel, “is the fight between respect for reality and contempt for reality”(TRO 151). From the desire to respect the world—from the desire to know it and give it justice—has come all art, and, mightily, that movement in art at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, romanticism. For example, as Wordsworth, in his 1800 Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, describes a new approach in poetry, we see him respecting what others had spurned, belittled, taken for granted: the ordinary. He wrote:

The principal object...proposed in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, throw over them a certain coloring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect; and...above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them...the primary laws of our nature....more

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Originality, Convention, & What's True / Number 1859, October 9, 2013

Part of [the] greatness [of the lecture we're serializing] is Aesthetic Realism’s explanation of guilt. Whether guilt is searing or murky, whether it shows itself as agitation or emptiness or “low self-esteem,” it is the sense that we have been unjust to the world. Guilt does not come from society or religion or our upbringing. It comes from what the human self is. If we are unjust, whether we’re clear about that or not, we have to dislike ourselves—because our purpose from birth is to be ourselves through seeing truly what’s not ourselves. This purpose is in keeping with the aesthetic nature of the human self: each of us is, all the time, a situation of opposites needing to be one, and the chief opposites are self and world. Writes Eli Siegel in two clear, resounding, and beautiful sentences:

The basis of the Aesthetic Realism method is that every human being is a self whose fundamental and constant purpose is to be at one with reality. It is impossible for that self to evade this purpose, although he can curtail it, obscure it, limit it.

That is how “The Guilt Chapter” of his Self and World begins....more

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Guilt, Art, & Us / Number 1858, September 25, 2013

...The 1963 lecture [by Eli SIegel] we are serializing [is] historic in the understanding of both art and the bewildering self of everyone....

He is presenting this big, new idea: every important movement in art has come from various persons’ welcoming a certain feeling of guilt. That guilt—felt keenly by an artist but present, however murkily, in others too—is: “Art so far, mind so far, our minds, have been UNFAIR to many things! We’ve deprived them of their meaning. We have not wanted to see all that may be beautiful, meaningful. There are beauty, form, even nobility, to be found in things and people we’ve passed over, spurned, sneered at. This is terrible!” The artist feels: “I’m ashamed of our injustice—yet as I try to remedy it, I’m proud, expressed, free!” A highpoint in the welcoming of this guilt and changing it to justice, was the romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th century.

While the lecture is great in the history of literary criticism, the comprehension of guilt that is in it is something people need in order to like themselves, be at ease, kind, and truly expressed. Today guilt is often called low self-esteem or anxiety. And a sign of how much it’s with people is the fact that for over a year the New York Times “Opinionator” blog ran an “anxiety series,” posting over 70 essays by persons about their ongoing agitations and self-accusations. The essays are various. Yet in none is there a comprehension of why a person can feel so against herself or himself; be so often excessively worried, even panicky....more

This issue includes:

What & Who Are Important? / Number 1856, August 28, 2013

[In the lecture by Eli Siegel being serialized here,] he shows that every new movement in art arises from the sense that the world has not been seen with enough justice; things have not been valued; their meaning has not been brought forth! We’re ashamed, we have guilt, when we’re unjust. And an artist welcomes the guilt and feels, I must give to these misseen, undervalued things the form, the beauty, they deserve!

Never was such a feeling stronger than during the romantic movement, at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. Romanticism said: The ordinary things you take for granted have wonder! Things you consider distant from you, strange, even grotesque, can tell you about yourself! People who have been thought lowly have importance, dignity, even grandeur! ...more

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A Magnificent Self-Dissatisfaction / Number 1855, August 14, 2013

It is an honor to begin to serialize a lecture that is groundbreaking, mighty, and beautiful in the understanding of art and of the human self—the self that belongs to each of us. The lecture is Romanticism and Guilt, and Eli Siegel gave it in 1963.

Today the word guilt is not used as much as once. Yet that dislike of oneself, which can be gnawing, or sharp, or take the form of agitation or unsureness, is with people as much as ever. Often it is called “low self-esteem.”

It was over 70 years ago that Mr. Siegel began to teach the philosophy he founded. Aesthetic Realism explained then, as it does now, what guilt is and comes from—which is one of the many things psychologists today still do not understand. Guilt, Aesthetic Realism shows, is always about the opposites of self and world. Guilt is the inevitable self-dislike with which we punish ourselves for having contempt for the world…. more

This issue includes:

The Grand & Needed Study of Our Feelings / Number 1854, July 31, 2013

Here is the conclusion of the great 1964 lecture Aesthetic Realism Looks at Feeling, by Eli Siegel. Central to it is his showing that feeling is always a matter of the fundamental opposites for and against. Our feelings—so personal and so confusing—can be made sense of at last through this Aesthetic Realism principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

In this final section Mr. Siegel speaks about the fact that throughout history people have questioned their feelings; they’ve objected to some feelings of theirs. At the present time there’s an effort to have people not question their own feelings very much. The directive, implied and sometimes explicit, of psychology today is: whatever you feel is okay, because it’s your feeling. People have always tried to sell themselves that idea, but the salesmanship has never worked. The reason is in the very nature of the human self....more

This issue includes:

Feeling, Science, & the Battle in Everyone / Number 1853, July 17, 2013

One of [the] historic aspects [of Mr. Siegel's lecture Aesthetic Realism Looks at Feeling] is his showing that knowing and feeling always take place together. Indeed, he explains that every science has feeling in it. And he comments on feeling in relation to 14 sciences, providing a particular illustrative sentence for each. The sentences and comments are surprising, vivid, charming, sometimes humorous, often poetic, always exact....

People often complain—most notably in the field of domestic life—that somebody is trying to manage them. And sitcoms and films are filled with comic examples of spouses trying to out-manipulate each other. Aesthetic Realism, while valuing the comedy that can be found in the subject, is the philosophy that says plainly: the desire to manage someone—have your way with the person rather than try to know and be fair to the person—is the ugliest thing in the human self. It is contempt, “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” And it always makes the manager ashamed, unsure, and intellectually weakened...more

This issue includes:

Feeling—& the Fight about It / Number 1852, July 3, 2013

[In the section we have reached of] Aesthetic Realism Looks at Feeling, a 1964 lecture by Eli Siegel…he shows that every science has feeling with it, of it, in it. As one sees this, one can see that the rift people make—sometimes with great pain—between knowing and feeling is unnecessary and false.

What Mr. Siegel does in this section is also a magnificent combating of something immensely hurtful that people go after. That is, right now millions of men, women, and even children are trying to be cool, unfeeling, often without knowing they’re doing so. One reason people try to be unstirred is that they’re so confused by and ashamed of the feelings they have. However, this sought-for coldness is a form of what Aesthetic Realism shows to be the most hurtful thing in the human self: contempt....more

This issue includes:

Feeling, Knowing—& Anger / Number 1851, June 19, 2013

In [the lecture by Eli Siegel we're serializing] he defines feeling in a way that I think is great. The definition gets to what every feeling is—from the most intense to the most tepid; from the feelings we’re proudest of to those that make us ashamed; from those we’re keenly aware of to those that subtly and intricately mingle with other feelings, so that we don’t know what they are. He defines feeling as “any instance whatever of pain or pleasure.” And he says, “A feeling is always a for and an against.”

One can see, in this 2nd section, that Eli Siegel’s spoken prose is beautiful. And through it, one has a sense of who he was—of his own feeling and knowledge. In all his lectures, Mr. Siegel spoke without notes, and here one can see in the sentences the inseparability of scholarship and pleasure which stood for him so much. He is humorous, playful, yet utterly serious and exact. I love, more than I can express, his remarkable and so respectful ease amid, and delight in, the literature of the centuries.... more

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What Our Feelings Are / Number 1850, June 5, 2013

It is an honor to begin to serialize Aesthetic Realism Looks at Feeling, a 1964 lecture by Eli Siegel. Nothing is closer to us than our feelings. Nothing confuses us more. Since every human act of kindness or beauty began with a person’s feeling something, and so did every vicious or ugly act, it is mightily important to know what feeling is. Aesthetic Realism is the means to that knowledge...

In this lecture, Mr. Siegel describes what is fundamental to all feeling, however complex. Feeling—whether a child’s on touching a cat, or Hamlet’s during an intricate soliloquy—is always a matter of pain or pleasure; it is always for or against. In any day, every person has feelings about hundreds of things. That means we are for and against in ever so many ways. And Aesthetic Realism explains this: in order to like ourselves, we have to be for and against in a way that makes us proud. A huge cause of shame and tragedy in the lives of people is, they’re not proud of their feelings. They’re not proud of why they’re for and against....more

This issue includes:

There Are Babies, Art, & Ourselves / Number 1848, May 8, 2013

[The lecture by Eli Siegel we are serializing] is very much about two tremendous questions critics have tried to answer for centuries: What is art? and Why does art matter? Aesthetic Realism answers these questions—truly and greatly.

Aesthetic Realism also explains that the way of seeing which makes for art, and the purpose in us which enables us to be affected by art, are completely opposed to another way of seeing we have: contempt. Contempt is the getting an “addition to self through the lessening of something else.” It is the ugliest, stupidest, most hurtful thing in every person. Yet people have mistakenly felt that this ability to look down on the outside world made them clever, secure, and even creative....more

This issue includes:

Our Lives, Art, & How We Judge / Number 1847, April 24, 2013

This issue has to do with something great, beautiful, necessary-to-be-known—something Aesthetic Realism is the body of knowledge to show. It is this: What makes a critical judgment in the field of art right or wrong, has everything to do with what choices we make in our lives. What makes a critic judge a work of art wrongly and what makes us judge wrongly in our life are the same….

To place a little the paragraphs from the 1972 lecture [by Eli Siegel serialized here]: Paul Elmer More (1864-1937) was a literary critic with right wing views—views Mr. Siegel disagreed with adamantly. Yet Mr. Siegel praises More’s large care for Milton and sees it as important….more

This issue includes:

The Fight of Large & Small / Number 1846, April 19, 2013

...[The 1972 lecture we're serializing] is about a central idea of Aesthetic Realism: that the way of seeing which is in all authentic art is the way we need to see in order to have lives, selves, minds we like. “All beauty,”Aesthetic Realism explains,“is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

There are the opposites in the lecture’s title: known and unknown. And Mr. Siegel has been showing that all art arises from a person’s desire to know truly, both what he or she feels and the object being dealt with. In art, this desire to know is so powerful, exact, deep, wide, that the result has too the unknown as beautiful. That is: whether in a good poem, concerto, painting, or dance, there is—along with something ever so immediate—the sense of wonder, of something unbounded, of the world in all its fullness.

A different way of seeing, however, is the source of bad art, and is also the big weakener of every person’s mind....more

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Sincerity & Power / Number 1845, March 27, 2013

[Eli Siegel's lecture The Known and Unknown Are Kind in Poetry] is definitive, has his scholarship, and his ease too, his everydayness, and humor. As a preliminary, I’ll comment a little on something he speaks of in it: sincerity. This is a matter that people are uncomfortable thinking about and can try to put aside. Nevertheless, we all judge ourselves, whether consciously or not, on how sincere we are.

In the lecture Mr. Siegel has been discussing a passage he sees as important: by philosopher R.G. Collingwood, about what Collingwood calls “corruption of consciousness.” That phrase means the lack of desire to see truly what we feel. And it has everything to do with sincerity, because to be sincere is not (as is often thought) to blurt out something unpleasant. In his Outline of Aesthetic Realism, under the heading “Sincerity Is Oneself as Real,” Mr. Siegel explains:

When one sees that it is best to be exact about oneself, for oneself is as real as anything in the world, sincerity is liked and followed. more

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Art, Horror, & Two Kinds of Power / Number 1844, March 13, 2013

...The lecture [we are serializing] is about something which Aesthetic Realism—and, really, Aesthetic Realism alone—shows to be of the utmost importance in every person’s life. It is this: Do we want to see our feelings exactly, critically; or do we go on the notion that our feelings must be right, because they’re ours? The latter is more frequent by far. It is a form of contempt for the world and makes for cruelty, both ordinary and massive....

[R.G. Collingwood, from whose work Mr. Siegel is quoting,] is writing mainly about art. Aesthetic Realism, however, is the philosophy which shows that the questions of self are aesthetic questions. It shows that art is not separate from what we, in our tumult and hopes and worries, are. Art has what we are looking for; it is how we want to be... more

This issue includes:

Power, Kindness, & Our Feelings / Number 1843, February 27, 2013

The lecture [we are serializing] is about something people do every day, usually don’t think about, and when they do think about it, generally consider it smart. But it is actually, Aesthetic Realism shows, a massive cause of self-weakening, pain, and cruelty. It is the right people give themselves to see their feelings any way they please; to assume that because they have a certain feeling the feeling must be right; to lie about their feelings, even to themselves…. more

This issue includes:

Do We Want to Know Our Feelings? / Number 1842, February 13, 2013

[The lecture by Eli Siegel we are] about something which Aesthetic Realism, of all the world’s philosophies, has shown to be a matter of the most vital importance in every person’s life. Along with the fact that one’s own personal happiness and one’s kindness or cruelty depend on this matter, it is central to the conduct of nations, to world economics, to how justly or brutally human beings treat each other. One way of describing it is: How much do we want to know truly what we feel, be critics of our own feelings, see them accurately?

People mainly go by the unstated notion that one’s feelings are one’s own, and therefore one can do with them as one pleases. That includes not looking at them. It includes lying to oneself and others about them. This ordinary way of seeing is the complete contrary to what happens in art—because all art comes from a person’s wanting to see his or her feeling and deal with it accurately, widely, deeply. Sometimes the accuracy is a wild accuracy, has strangeness to it, but it is accuracy nonetheless.... more

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Do We Like the Way Our Minds Work? / Number 1841, January 30, 2013

With this issue we begin to serialize The Known & Unknown Are Kind in Poetry, the lecture Eli Siegel gave on October 11, 1972. Like Aesthetic Realism itself, it is philosophic, literary, scholarly—and at the same time vividly, mightily, plainly, and urgently about the life of every one of us.

At its basis are two Aesthetic Realism principles. First: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy which explains that the questions of a person—including the most tumultuous questions—are solved in outline in the technique of art. This is because every good poem, painting, song, dance makes a one of the very opposites that fight in us—including the opposites Mr. Siegel speaks about here: the known and unknown, and truth and imagination.... more

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Shelley and Love / Number 1840, January 16, 2013

...We find in this section [of a 1965 lecture by Eli Siegel] an understanding of [Percy Bysshe] Shelley that is great, that is beautiful, that is unprecedented, that is true. What drove Shelley in the field of love—drove him superbly, yet also blunderingly, and painfully? And what is the relation of Shelley’s confusion, in all its grandeur and sinking, to what men and women are going through today?...more

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Needing What's Not Oneself / Number 1839, January 3, 2013

[This issue is] about the tremendous subject of need: how people feel about needing what is not themselves. The subject is beautiful; the turmoil, suffering, and mistakes about it are enormous. So as preliminary, I’ll comment swiftly on some aspects of this mighty and everyday subject.

...Everywhere in the world, people want to find their lives interesting. At the same time...there is a terrific desire in people to see themselves as needing nothing but themselves. That desire is an aspect of what Aesthetic Realism identifies as the most hurtful thing in us: contempt, the feeling that the way to be important is to be superior to what’s not ourselves.

Well, if we do not want to need the outside world, whatever interests we have will be shallow, dilettantish, and often fleeting. That is why millions of people feel bored and empty. For anything to interest us deeply, stir us widely, for us to have big, lasting care for anything, we have to feel we need it to be fully ourselves. To the contempt in people, that is an indignity. Shallow interest and boredom arise from conceit: the conceit of feeling the world is unworthy of being needed by us…. more

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What Is Mind For: Knowing or Acquisition? / Number 1838, December 19, 2012

…In the present section [of Mr. Siegel’s 1965 lecture on instinct], he speaks…about hardness and softness. Those are opposites that trouble people ever so much—because the way we make ourselves implacable and the way we give in don’t make sense to us, don’t seem beautiful. We may not do the best job with these opposites, yet they are ours because the world is in us, and the world is always, in thousands of forms, both hard and soft. It has, at once, the hard rock and the soft moss touching that rock.

I know of no more magnificent, composing, and encouraging idea than that we, in our human individuality, our personal distinctiveness, are illimitably related to the world. We have reality’s make-up. To see that the world is, as Mr. Siegel put it, the other half of ourselves, is the necessary means to settle truly the fight [consultant] Jeffrey Carduner writes about [in the article published here], which has raged in everyone. The fight about knowing or acquiring is a form of what Aesthetic Realism defines as the central fight in us all: between the desire to respect the world and the desire to have contempt for it....more

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Instinct, Ethics, & an Election / Number 1837, December 5, 2012

...The United States has just gone through an election that has big meaning for this nation and the world. I’ll comment on that meaning, in relation to some of what Mr. Siegel says in the present section of his lecture on instinct. Toward the end, he makes this statement:

The great artistic question of all time is:...How much can you have sympathy and still affirm yourself? That’s the big question in art and also in life.

Those are opposites—making oneself important and having feeling for what’s not oneself. It’s been hard for people to feel the two could be together. Aesthetic Realism explains that the most dangerous thing in everyone—contempt—is the ugly yet ordinary pitting of our self-importance against valuing truly what’s not ourselves...The desire for contempt has given rise to every injustice in human history and in life today—from snobbishness to racism, from self-absorption to carpet-bombing a city....[B]y definition the profit motive is contempt—because it is the looking at other human beings, not with the purpose to understand and be fair to them, but to squeeze as much as you can from them while giving them as little as you can. That, after all, is what profit is...more

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Is Reality a Good Time? / Number 1832, September 26, 2012         

[This issue of TRO contains the last part of Eli Siegel’s 1970 lecture Philosophy Begins with That.] Philosophy, he shows, is not apart from our moment to moment life, but is in every confusion, distress, hope of ours; every object, every happening.  This is because all these have in them the structure of the world itself: the oneness of opposites….

We can safely say that most people, even as they may knock themselves out trying to have a good time, feel that life is mainly not exciting; that it’s pretty tepid stuff. A person can go through most of the hours annoyed aplenty, angry often, agitated and uneasy—but not animated, not agog, thrilled, swept. Then, because life seems largely dull, he or she tries to pump up some momentary excitement—maybe through sex, drink, seeing a violent or scary film….more

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The Battle about Knowing Ourselves / Number 1830, August 30, 2012

[In the lecture serialized here, Mr. Siegel] shows that philosophy is not remote, but is of us all the time, with everything we do and meet. To illustrate that fact, he uses entries from a journal of the novelist Arnold Bennett. The principal reason philosophy is everyday is: the opposites which make up reality itself are in each person and thing. In the journal passages quoted here, in writing by Bennett that is keen, charming, sometimes poignant, we see the philosophic opposites of absence and presence, sameness and difference.

The subject of the article [by an Aesthetic Realism consultant which follows] is one that has so much pain and hope with it. Yet it’s really an aspect of that branch of philosophy called epistemology, the study of knowing, a field in which such philosophers as Plato, Descartes, Hume, Locke, and Kant reasoned logically and ardently. A huge mater in epistemology is, What is knowable? And a matter agonizing people, including those who never heard of epistemology, is: “I don’t understand myself! What makes me do the things I do, feel as I feel?”....more

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Philosophy—& Our Opinion of Ourselves / Number 1829, August 15, 2012

…I am going to comment on a poem by [Eli Siegel] that is related to the subject of this TRO. “Character Sketch” is about a way of seeing that goes on in everyone. The poem is humorous, vivid, subtle, and musical.

In the lecture [serialized here], Mr. Siegel shows that philosophy is not some theoretical study separate from daily life. In fact, there is nothing more ordinary: philosophy is in every object, person, feeling, happening. That’s because each of these—each of us—has to do with nothing less than the whole world. Every thing and every person has reality’s structure: the oneness of such opposites as motion and rest, difference and sameness, freedom and order, sheer individuality and unending relation….more

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The Family, Philosophy, & Kindness / Number 1828, August 1, 2012

…Eli Siegel [has shown] that there is nothing we meet, no thought we have, no situation we’re in, which is not philosophic…. Aesthetic Realism says the family needs, and deserves, to be seen philosophically—and to see it that way is not to be academic or aloof, but artistic, intelligent, truly loving, kind….

People today, as much as ever, feel confused, angry, and guilty in relation to the family. They can’t make sense of a tumult of opposites in themselves as to a parent, sibling, or other relative: Why do I feel, about this person, so devoted, so tender, yet so resentful? Why do I shuttle between warmth and coldness? And why can I often feel so distant from this person whom I’ve seen as closer than anyone to me—why can it often seem we’re miles apart as we sit in the same room?...more

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Land, Water, Philosophy, & the Family / Number 1827, July 18, 2012

…Eli Siegel [shows in the lecture we’re serializing] that philosophy is not an esoteric, remote study, but is as everyday as the sidewalk we step on, the air we breathe. That is because the structure of reality is in everything….

In the midst of summer 2012, we can use…, as illustration, something millions of people are desiring, going after, experiencing. I am speaking about the fact that there is a desire to be where land meets water. People are traveling in cars, buses, trains, planes, to fulfill that desire. Why (aside from its cooling properties) do we want so much to be where water is, to be on the shore of it, whether ocean, lake, river, stream? ... more

 This issue includes:

Jobs, Feelings, & Philosophy / Number 1826, July 4, 2012

[The section of Mr. Siegel’s lecture printed here] is an illustration of the philosophic basis of Aesthetic Realism, the principle “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.” ….

A pair of opposites Mr. Siegel speaks about in the present section…is Cause and Effect. How utterly philosophic these are. Yet they have with them the turmoil, the anguish, and also the possible happiness of people. I’ll comment a little about cause and effect in relation to an agony of today: unemployment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that, as of January 2012, there are in America 12.8 million people unemployed. And this figure does not include the millions of  “discouraged workers”: people who have failed for so long to obtain a job that they have given up looking for one. …more

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People’s Lives, the Profit System, & Philosophy / Number 1825, June 20, 2012

Discussing entries from [the] diary of…Arnold Bennett, and relating them to the history of philosophic thought, Mr. Siegel shows something that has been “left out of philosophic studies...and its absence has made the discussions of philosophy incomplete.” Philosophy, he shows, is not just about the seemingly higher matters: it’s in each “specific thing, the thing on the move.” It’s what we’re in the midst of all the time.

...[He] describes philosophy as “the study of what reality can never be without.” And this what is the opposites: such opposites as sameness and difference, rest and motion, being and change. The philosophic opposites are also our very own: they’re in us, in how we feel. They’re in our mistakes, worries, triumphs, ponderings….more

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The Drama of Self & World, Justice & Contempt / Number 1824, June 6, 2012

Eli Siegel...explains that philosophy—contrary to how it has been seen—is not just about large concepts, nor is it about a higher, purer reality than the one we go around in, hope in, battle in, feel mixed up in every day. Philosophy is in everything. It has to do with paperclips, nasty looks, funny jokes, our agitation at 2 in the afternoon, our nightmare at 3 in the morning. The fundamental matter in philosophy is told of in this Aesthetic Realism principle: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”

…There are…various fights going on in us. [The article by an Aesthetic Realism associate printed here] is about the biggest of these. And it’s about what Aesthetic Realism has identified as the thing in us which interferes with our own lives, and which is the source of every cruelty: contempt[:] the “addition to self through the lessening of something else.” Since it pits the two biggest opposites in our life against each other—our self and the outside world—it damages the relation of all the other opposites in us… more

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Philosophy Is in Things, Happenings—& You / Number 1823, May 23, 2012

[In the portion of Mr. Siegel’s lecture Philosophy Begins with That published here], he begins…with a discussion of the branches of philosophy: ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics. Aesthetic Realism itself is all four, and shows that they are inseparable….more

This issue includes:

Philosophy, Contempt, & Love / Number 1822, May 9, 2012

[The wonderful lecture serialized here] is about something no philosophy but Aesthetic Realism has shown: that every object, every thing, every aspect of every thing, is fundamentally and completely philosophic, because the structure of reality itself is in it. That structure is the oneness of opposites. The objects that surround us, an incident, our own feelings, a kiss, a sneeze, a running dog, a cloud, a grammatical error, a map (online or off), the eyes of a loved one, a memory—all are composed (in different ways) of reality’s motion and rest, awryness and symmetry, particularity and relation, definiteness and nuance, perfection and imperfection. That means every thing, every person, is related centrally and richly to every other thing and person, however apart these seem. Put personally it means, in Mr. Siegel’s beautiful words: the world and every item in it is the other half of yourself.…more

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The Opposites Are Philosophy—& Your Particular Life / Number 1821, April 25, 2012

With this issue we begin serializing the lecture Eli Siegel gave on April 10, 1970: the great Philosophy Begins with That. It is about one of the big matters distinguishing Aesthetic Realism from other philosophies. Mr. Siegel explains that philosophy is in things as such: ordinary things; things we bump into, use, discard. It is in everyday happenings; in moods; in disappointments; in clothing, trees, and every human being. And this is not a theoretical matter but vivid, immediate, and urgent…more

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Philosophy, Art, & Our Turbulent Selves / Number 1804, August 31, 2011

[Here is the conclusion of the great lecture by Mr. Siegel’s we have been serializing]: You Can Gossip Philosophically about Psychology.…[As] its title implies, the discussion is casual, informal, sometimes humorous. Yet it is hugely important. It is definite about what matters most to us: the human self, the self which is so intimately our own. Mr. Siegel has been commenting on passages in a psychology textbook….

Aesthetic Realism explains that each of us is, all the time, a philosophic situation — because the opposites that constitute reality are in us. They make up our turmoil, our hopes, intelligence, griefs, bodies, everything about us. Further, we are an aesthetic matter, because what we need for ourselves—to make those opposites one—is what happens in all true art....more

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Respect vs. Contempt—in Mind & Economics / Number 1803, August 17, 2011

[In the section of Mr. Siegel’s lecture serialized here]—casual in its style, often humorous, yet always exact—is immensely important. Discussing passages from a psychology textbook, Mr. Siegel explains what no psychology has understood: the human self is a philosophic, aesthetic matter. That is, our lives, and our very beings, are composed of reality’s opposites, and our great need is to make them one. The two biggest opposites we have are Self and World. And our deepest desire is honestly to like the world: to see that being just to wide, multitudinous, and specific reality is the same as taking care of our own so particular self. …more

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What Makes Our Emotions Right or Wrong? / Number 1802, August 3, 2011

…Mr. Siegel [gives] evidence for this fact, which Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy to state: the human self, the self each of us walks around with every day, is a philosophic, aesthetic matter. That is: our hopes, drives, confusions, woes, regrets, delights, angers, longings all have in them the opposites that make up reality itself and that are one in art. “All beauty,” Aesthetic Realism explains, “is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

What Mr. Siegel does in the section [of the lecture] printed here is great. He defines what it is that makes any emotion right or wrong. There’s nothing more necessary for people to know...  more

This issue includes:

Mother Goose, the Nervous System, & Our Lives/ Number 1801, July 20, 2011

… [Mr. Siegel, in the lecture serialized here] …illustrates the great, definitive explanation of the human self which is in Aesthetic Realism. Casually, often humorously, always with scholarship and exactitude, he is showing: 1) The deepest desire of every human being is to like the world honestly. 2) The self of everyone is a philosophic, aesthetic situation, because we are composed of the opposites central to reality itself, and we are trying to do what art does—make those opposites one….more

This issue includes:

 What Impels Us? / Number 1800, July 6, 2011

…A matter much in the news in recent weeks has to do with what the self is and what impels us. And so I’ll comment briefly on the Anthony Weiner revelations: the fact that this noted congressman, whose political future seemed bright, had been sending erotically revealing photos of himself to various women via Twitter and other social media. Weiner has since resigned. But as commentators eagerly hashed over the revelations day after day, one heard such statements as, “I don’t understand what made him do it—it’s a mystery” and “How could a sharp, media-savvy guy like that be so careless—didn’t he know he’d get caught?”

Aesthetic Realism understands, beautifully understands, the self.. That includes the self of a person who could fight tenaciously in behalf of good causes yet also have another way of seeing, rather low; a person ever so smart yet also ever so foolish…more

This issue includes:

Poetry versus Cruelty / Number 1797, May 25, 2011

In this issue we print nine poems by Eli Siegel. They are all from a single notebook of his—a notebook which, while mainly containing writings of the year 1961, has also, in its early pages, some of his poems of the 1930s. All have his logical imagination; his imaginative logic, wild and exact; his love of reality; his kindness.

We publish these poems on the 33rd anniversary of the terrible operation that led to his death. I’ll comment a little on them; they stand for him. And I’ll comment some too on those cruel happenings in the spring of 1978 which I have written about with more detail over the decades….more

NOTE: The following issues of TRO, beginning with Number 1735, include lectures Eli Siegel gave in 1946 and 1947 in Steinway Hall, New York City. Writes Ellen Reiss: “[Although edited from notes of these lectures,] the main ideas and [his] voice, his style, his large and kind way of seeing come through to us.”

Possibilities & America / Number 1782, October 27, 2010

By “possibilities of Aesthetic Realism” he means the good that can come to be as Aesthetic Realism is studied. And it moves me very much to say, six decades later, that where and to the extent that Aesthetic Realism has been truly studied, those possibilities have become living beautiful realities…..more

This issue includes:

Happiness—& What Makes a Person Unkind / Number 1781, October 13, 2010

[In the lecture printed here, Mr. Siegel] is, as he says, speaking principally about the purpose of that “phase of Aesthetic Realism which is individual lessons.” Meanwhile, there is Aesthetic Realism in its philosophic and cultural entirety, about which he writes in Self and World:

Aesthetic Realism is personal useful; it is all for personal development; but it is always a seeing of the whole world, and a hope not to miss anything which tells us what the world is.  Aesthetic Realism, then, is unabashed philosophy, as it presents the moment as friendly to a person; as perhaps wider, deeper, more of oneself than was thought. [P.20]…more

This issue includes:

Anger, Love, & Our Largest Desire / Number 1780, September 29, 2010

… As [Eli Siegel]…presents what distinguishes Aesthetic Realism, we see its vast difference from other approaches to mind—of both then [, that is, the 1940s,] and now. We see too something I love: Eli Siegel’s beautiful extemporaneous prose—vivid, warm, incisive, graceful, alive.

He is describing the very basis of Aesthetic Realism, the principle “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” Right now as in every year, people are in pain, quietly and fiercely, because opposites in them seem against each other. Mr. Siegel speaks about some of those warring opposites: our logic seems counter to our emotion; our desire for freedom does not go along with our desire for accuracy; our self as sensual seems at odds with our self as intellect….more

This issue includes:

Our Self—& What Explains It / Number 1778, September 1, 2010

[In the first section the 1946 lecture serialized here, Mr. Siegel] is describing how Aesthetic Realism differs from other approaches to mind then current. And as he does, we can see too that it differs vitally from the approaches current now.

Commenting on such persons as Freud, Horney, Adler, and Jung, Mr. Siegel points out that he is not, in this talk, discussing texts. He certainly did so, closely and richly, on other occasions. Here, speaking somewhat casually but exactly, he is giving an overview.

Eli Siegel respected the work of other philosophers and writers on mind—he loved, for instance, Kant, Descartes, Hegel, Locke—and saw Aesthetic Realism as coherent with good thought anywhere. But he did not want it to be made falsely akin to things it differed from hugely….more

This issue includes:

Our Self, Our Danger, & Our Imagination / Number 1777, August 18, 2010

[In the talk printed here, Mr. Siegel] is showing, during the Freudian heyday, that the self is something very different from what psychiatry was presenting. The self we all have, in its turmoil and triumph and confusion and sinking and hope, is an aesthetic situation, described in this principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

Even through our incomplete record of it—notes taken at the time—the greatness of this lecture is clear. For example, Mr. Siegel speaks about abstract art, which had become the reigning mode of modern painting and sculpture, and we see his graceful, definitive explanation of what it is. He does what no other critic did: relates abstract art to our so un-abstract lives....more

This issue includes:

How Can We Be Ourselves? / Number 1776, August 4, 2010

[Here]…we see [Mr. Siegel] presenting, with clarity, style, and ease, that which psychiatry lacked then and lacks now: the understanding of what the self is.

Both aspects of this TRO [which includes a paper by an Aesthetic Realism associate] are about a subject around which there is a great deal of fakery, turmoil, and quiet despair: how can we be ourselves—and what on earth does that mean? People have justified all sorts of cheap remarks and mean actions with “I’m only being myself.” And why have people, after supposedly “being themselves,” come to feel they betrayed themselves?

Fundamental to the meaning of being ourselves is that the good possibilities in us are able to come forth, live, be expressed—not be unborn, wasted, stifled...more

This issue includes:

Profits & Feeling in America / Number 1775, July 21, 2010

... In [the lecture printed here, Mr. Siegel] explains what people now, six decades later, need to know: what is the biggest question in the life of each of us, and also the biggest question America as nation needs to answer....

“The unconscious” is not talked about as much as it used to be. In 1947, when this lecture was given, the Freudian picture of the unconscious was everywhere one turned. It was a baleful, sexual, scary, quite weird unconscious.  In fact, the unconscious as Freudian psychology presented it, simply does not exist.  It doesn’t correspond to what a person is or has.

Meanwhile, today most people would grant that there are things in them they don’t know, that they’re affected in ways they don’t understand… more

This issue includes:

Your Self: A Philosophic Drama / Number 1774, July 7, 2010

[In his lecture Aesthetic Realism Doesn’t Mind Being Philosophic, a portion of which we print here] Eli Siegel…does something enormous. He describes what the human self is—the self that is our own, so particular to each of us, that walks down the street, goes into restaurants, speaks, dreams, can feel delighted and also awful.

He shows…that the one way to understand our self is philosophically—what we are is aesthetic, described by this principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves....more

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 Our Selves Are Philosophic / Number 1773, June 23, 2010

…I love [the talk printed here], with its grace, clarity, and definitive explanation of what the self—so specific to each of us—really is….And what Mr. Siegel shows is what people now, six decades later, want achingly to know. The self of everyone—with our hopes, worries, confusions, triumphs, defeats, angers, mistakes —is philosophic, because it’s composed the way reality itself is composed: of opposites. Our self is aesthetic, because our fundamental need is to do what art, every instance of art, does: make opposites one. Mr. Siegel speaks here about how such opposites as the intimate and the wide, sameness and change, body and mind, fact and wonder, are the very substance of ourselves. Our pleasures and our miseries are about them....more

This issue includes:

Pretense, Love, & an Oil Spill / Number 1772, June 9, 2010

…What [Eli Siegel explains in the section of the lecture printed here] is the means to understand so much of the daily pain of people: the nagging, often quiet, sometimes fierce feeling that what I’m doing doesn’t fully represent me and I don’t know what would, but there’s something false and empty in my life.

The basis of what Mr. Siegel explains is this Aesthetic Realism principle: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” If we don’t see that both opposites— for example, logic and emotion—stand for us, and if we’re not trying to make them one, we’ll inevitably be pretending. That’s because we’ll sometimes act as though one opposite represents us, and sometimes another—while neither in itself does.... more

This issue includes:

Pretense & Love / Number 1771, May 26, 2010

... Pretense can, on the one hand, be hideously unjust, vicious, and ugly. It is insincerity, lying, perpetrating a fraud, conning people. On the other hand, it can be completely kind and beautiful. For example, pretending is in art. It’s obviously in acting, and it’s in fiction.  It’s obviously in acting, and it’s in fiction. One can say that such characters as George Eliot’s Dorothea Brooke, Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, Flaubert’s Mme. Bovary, Cervantes’s Don Quijote are immortal because of the exactitude, conviction, scope, delicacy, and richness with which their creators pretended they were real, and used English, Russian, French, Spanish words to do so….more

This issue includes:

Kindness, Cruelty, & Competition / Number 1770, May 12, 2010

… [Eli Siegel] was the philosopher to show that the human self is an aesthetic matter. We are composed of the opposites that are in art, and the one way for us to be happy, mentally thriving, truly ourselves, is to make a one of those opposites—the largest of which are care for Self and justice to the outside World.

We publish here too an article by Aesthetic Realism consultant Ernest DeFilippis [in which he] shows that hurtful competition—of which there’s and enormous amount—comes from contempt: the feeling we’re more through making what’s not us less. Contempt, Aesthetic Realism explains, is the big weakener of our lives and the cause of every cruelty….more

            This issue includes: 

Art, People, & a Mine Disaster / Number 1769, April 28, 2010

[In the lecture by Eli Siegel, the first half of which is printed here, we] see him describing what the human self truly is. And he describes what in us interferes with our own minds and happiness....

That interfering thing is contempt: the lessening of what’s not oneself as a means of “false importance or glory.” Our contempt takes the biggest opposites in our lives, our self and the outside world, and severs them.  It is, then, completely unaesthetic—counter to what makes for art. In his teaching and writing, Mr. Siegel showed with rich documentation that contempt is the cause within a person of anxiety, nervousness, the multifarious and debilitating difficulties of mind and feeling….more

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 Every Child & the World / Number 1768, April 14, 2010

…In 1947, and earlier and later, the prevalent way of seeing children was the Freudian way: just about everything a child did—from sucking one’s thumb, to going to the bathroom, to enjoying a fairy tale, to doing a drawing—had some sexual implication. This immensely ugly and ignorant approach to children was thrust on people by the psychiatric establishment, which ha sneer expressed regret for misleading and hurting tem with it for decades.

In [the lecture printed here], we see Mr. Siegel, in the very midst of that Freudian era, speaking with courage and clarity. He presents what is true about children. And this knowledge is as thirsted for now as it was 63 years ago....more

This issue includes:

The Fight in Everyone & the Answer of Art / Number 1767, March 31, 2010

…The great need of every person, Aesthetic Realism explains—in how we see, feel, in every aspect of our lives—is to put together the opposites that are one in all art: such opposites as freedom and accuracy; intensity and ease; surface and depth; our so particular Self and the outside World.

Aesthetic Realism’s understanding of the human mind is not only true—magnificently true—but shows our real dignity. We can feel proud knowing that even in our confusion we have to do with nothing less than what beauty is and the structure of reality itself. That is, we’re dealing all the time with the opposites, which are in every object and happening and are the basis of art…more

This issue includes:

Mind, Art, & a University Murder / Number 1766, March 17, 2010

The lecture [serialized here] is about mind, our minds, what makes them good, sensible, beautiful, intelligent, deep, kind, and what makes them go wrong, including very wrong.

At the basis of the talk are these two principles: 1) “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are gong after in ourselves”; and 2) “The greatest danger or temptation of man is to get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself; which lessening is Contempt.” Contempt, Mr. Siegel showed, is the cause, from within the self, of all mental difficulty.  It injures every aspect of our lives, even though we think it makes us clever and safe.

The two principles I quoted are inseparable, because, as Mr. Siegel describes in this lecture, contempt is the contrary of art....more

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Our Minds—& What Interferes with Them / Number 1765, March 3, 2010

…Part of Mr. Siegel’s greatness as philosopher is his discovery and understanding of that way of seeing in every person which interferes with our lives; which is the source of all unkindness; which always weakens our minds and, if present with sufficient fullness, can do so catastrophically. This way of seeing is contempt: the “disposition in every person to think we will be for ourselves by making less of the outside world.”

In the present journal, beginning in 1975, he gave rich documentation for his finding that “contempt causes insanity and...interferes with mind in a less disastrous way. Contempt is the great failure of man.” In issue after issue for many years he presented evidence, explanation, illustration. The scope of his material was vast....He wrote, for example, about Dostoyevsky, Coleridge, Baudelaire, Hawthorne, Poe, and that great sanity which is art. And he wrote, definitely, about the cause of Nazism, and of all prejudice. Always, his writing was clear, graceful, and powerful; often there was humor….more

This issue includes:

Worry, Art, & William Wordsworth / Number 1764, February 17, 2010

[In the portion of the lecture printed here, Eli Siegel] is speaking about the inaccurate worries people have, which they feel driven to have, which they can’t shake. The psychiatry of neither then nor now has understood their cause.

What Mr. Siegel shows is that such worries come from the fact that there is a battle going on in every person between two large desires.…

The two desires, to respect reality and to have contempt for it, are in us all the time, though mainly we don’t articulate them to ourselves, and every aspect of our lives depends on what we do with them....more

This issue includes:

Everyday Worry & an Earthquake / Number 1763, February 3, 2010

[The lecture by Eli Siegel, a section of which we print here]…explains definitively a tormenting yet everyday matter: the inaccurate worrying that people find themselves driven to engage in.

Meanwhile, this issue of TRO is being prepared days after the earthquake in Haiti—at a time when so much true worry is taking place, along with human anguish and agony on a gigantic scale….

In [this lecture] of 1947, during the heyday of Freudian psychology, Mr. Siegel is explaining what neither Freud nor the therapists of now have understood: what the human self really is. He is defining the big continuous fight in the life of everyone….more

This issue includes:

Snobbishness: What It Is & What’s Against It / Number 1762, January 20, 2010

…Snobbishness is something people resent (“What an awful snob she is!”), yet also envy (“I wish I were in that set”—with the implication “and could look down on everyone the way they do”). Mr. Siegel explains that we’re all more snobbish than we know. He shows the ubiquity of snobbishness. And he has humor about it. But also, not long after the end of World War II, he is showing that snobbishness is related to Nazism: a way of seeing that “nice” people have every day is related to the fascism that enslaved and brutalized so much of Europe.

In this lecture Mr. Siegel calls snobbishness “the elegant phase of contempt.”…Aesthetic Realism explains this tremendous thing: snobbishness and mental depression always go together....more

This issue includes:

The Two Kinds of Pleasure—& Tiger Woods / Number 1761, January 6, 2010

 …[The lecture by Eli Siegel printed here]…explains what people now—in living rooms and at worksites, in schools and kitchens, at social gatherings and in halls of government and in bedrooms—most need to know.

The “current psychologies,” to which Mr. Siegel refers critically, are of course those of the 1940s. But today’s dealers with mind are just as unknowing about the grand, compelling, intricate, inescapable subject of pleasure as the two people he mentions, Sigmund Freud and Karen Horney, were….more

This issue includes:

Jobs for Usefulness—Not Profit / Number 1760, December 23, 2009

Various terms in this early…talk, like “mental conflict” and “the unconscious,” were much in use then, and the term “nervousness” took in more than it does now. But I think it is clear that the human mind of all time and our time is being understood at last, and greatly.

As to jobs: in 1947 the state of the US economy was very different from now. It seemed to be flourishing. Unions were increasingly powerful and therefore more and more people were making better and better wages. Today a huge 10 percent of our population is unemployed—over 15 million men and women. And that government figure does not include the millions of so-called “discouraged workers”—people who have stopped even looking for work. Yet what Mr. Siegel is explaining in 1947 is not only relevant and true today—it’s blazingly needed; it is, in its kindness and clarity, an emergency....more

This issue includes:

Aesthetics; or, How Not to Be Depressed? / Number 1759, December 9, 2009

Speaking nearly 63 years ago, Mr. Siegel is presenting [in the lecture printed here] what psychiatry both then and now has not understood. For lack of this knowledge, millions of people have endured misery. And they’ve been subjected to shock treatments (then), and numbing and agitating drugs (now). They were told then that their feeling low came from repressed sexual desire. And they’re told now, with equal wrongness, that their depression is biochemically caused. …

Mr. Siegel explains, with clarity and vivid examples, what must be seen for depression to be understood: There is a desire in everyone to find what’s not oneself inferior, dull, cruel—because in doing so we feel that we are superior and special. This desire is contempt, and Aesthetic Realism shows it to be the most hurtful thing in the human self. It is the cause, for instance, of racism. And it simmers, thrusts, mingles with other desires in everyday life....more

This issue includes:

Learning: Ourselves & a World to Love / Number 1758, November 25, 2009

This issue [of TRO] features the lecture Education and Feeling Good by Eli Siegel.  [Although taken from notes,] …the grandeur …comes through, its aliveness, its newness—and its importance.

I know firsthand, through my years of study with him, that Eli Siegel lived the way of seeing education that he presents here. He loved knowledge—that was clear to anyone who heard him speak. And he was interested in every field of thought. His scholarship was vast; it was comprehensive. Whether he spoke about Shakespeare, or economics, or the history of religion, or sociology, or French drama, or the movies, or a little-known American writer of fiction, or the Middle Ages, or the historians of Greece and Rome, a listener would feel, This must be his field of expertise. He wanted people to be at ease with knowledge, to see it as a friend. I am very moved as I write these words, because Mr. Siegel—representing the way of seeing that is in this lecture—made education warm to me, enabled me to love learning. And Aesthetic Realism can do that for all people....more

This issue includes:

Love, a Person, & the World / Number 1757, November 11, 2009

…[T]this issue is about the magnificent, often tormenting subject of love. And it’s about Aesthetic Realism’s explanation of love and what interferes. That explanation, I’m immensely happy to say, is true—and great. It’s what people have wanted longingly, achingly, turbulently to know….

The purpose of love, Aesthetic Realism makes clear, is to like the world itself through a particular man or woman.  The desire to value all people and things more through knowing someone, and to encourage that person to value them, is good will. And it is real romance—true, deep, sweeping, and enormously logical….more

This issue includes:

Love—& What Interferes / Number 1756, October 28, 2009

[Eli Siegel’s lecture titled Love and Confusion serialized here] … is as immediate as the griefs, longings, worries, resentments, ecstasies, and strategies about love that men and women will have tomorrow….[and] truly explains these— as the counselors and therapists over the years have been unable to….

The self, Aesthetic Realism explains, is philosophic: we have an attitude, all the time, to the whole world, reality as such. And central to that attitude is a battle of two desires: the desire to respect the world, value what’s not ourselves; and the desire to have contempt, to lessen what’s other than us as a mains of heightening ourselves….more

This issue includes:

Art versus Cruelty / Number 1755, October 14, 2009

We publish here, from notes taken at the time, the lecture Eli Siegel gave on February 27, 1947, at Steinway Hall: Why People Hurt People. It is definitive on its subject, a subject that alarms and stymies people now.

For example, discussions of bullying are taking place all over America. Teachers, parents, and school administrators don’t know what to do about it. The New York Times of September 22 described the bullying going on in a school honored last year as “the best high school in the state” by New Jersey Magazine...
Mr. Siegel shows that we shall never understand the overt, fierce ways people hurt other people until we understand contempt—and how it is present in everyone....more

This issue includes:

Notes on Nervousness / Number 1752, September 2, 2009

...In the preface to his Self and World, Mr. Siegel wrote:

Is it true, as Aesthetic Realism said years ago, that man's deepest desire, his largest desire, is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis? And is it true...that 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?

Yes, it is true. And unless we want to learn about the fight in everyone between those two desires—to respect the world and to have contempt for it—we shall never understand mind, including our own.... more

This issue includes:

Stuttering & the Human Self / Number 1751, August 19, 2009

In this issue, we meet the explanation—clear, logical, kind, exact—of a matter that torments people now [—stuttering]. And it would not do so, were Aesthetic Realism’s understanding of the subject widely known.

The lecture [printed here] can be seen as a companion to Mr. Siegel’s rich, stylistically beautiful discussion of stuttering in his Self and World. There he shows that this difficulty in expression is a phase of the fight all people have: the fight between respect for the world and contempt for it. “Stuttering is a collision,” he writes, of the desire “to be other, to be related,” and the desire “to be a snug, perfect point, capable of dismissing anything and everything” (pp. 324, 331).…more

This issue includes:

Mind, Violence, & Movies / Number 1750, August 5, 2009

[In the lecture printed here, Mr. Siegel] speaks about the popularity of films that present mind gone awry, and films that contain violence. And he explains, as no one else has, why people want to see such films….

Mr. Siegel shows that people were interested in the psychiatric film and the terror film because they wanted to understand themselves….Meanwhile, the people of 1946 and all the years since haven't found, in psychology and the media, the comprehension of mind they've been looking for. That long sought after comprehension has been in Aesthetic Realism all these decades....  more

This issue includes:

Why People Can't Sleep / Number 1749, July 15, 2009

…[The]subject [of this lecture by Eli Siegel], the inability to sleep, torments people today as it has for centuries. Around 1370, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of himself [lines that mean]:…“I have great wonder, by this light, / How I live, for day or night / I cannot sleep nearly at all.” He says that, for lack of sleep, he is “a mased thing, / Alway in poynt to falle adoun” (“a dazed thing, / Always at the point of falling down”).. Chaucer made poetry of his trouble about sleep; he told of it musically; but he didn't understand it.

Today, the psychologists don't understand the cause of sleeplessness any better than Chaucer did—and their expression on the matter is certainly much less beautiful….more

This issue includes:

The Logic of Happiness / Number 1748, July 8, 2009

[In the portion of Mr. Siegel’s lecture serialized here]…we see some of the thorough, clear logic on which Aesthetic Realism is based. And we see Mr. Siegel explaining what people today want mightily to understand: what happiness really is; what interferes with it; and why, so often when persons get what they think will make them happy, they are unhappy still and perhaps more than ever.

{It] is about the cause within oneself of unhappiness. To be sure, there have been external causes—things outside a person which have made for misery. One of the biggest is the profit system, the barbaric way of economics that has had certain people be rich and condemned many others to lives of poverty....more

This issue includes:

Happiness—& What Interferes / Number 1747, June 24, 2009

…[W]orking in [the lecture by Eli Siegel serialized here]…are two principles of the new philosophy he was teaching. The first: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” As he shows what that fervently desired thing happiness is, he speaks about the opposites of rest and motion, and the biggest opposites for everyone: our dear self and the wide outside world.

The second principle describes the thing which people think will make them happy but which really makes them miserable. “The greatest danger or temptation of man,” he writes, “is to get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself; which lessening is Contempt.” Mr. Siegel explains that if we go after being happy by contemptuous means—by lessening the world, and trying to own and manage portions of it—we will suffer….more

This issue includes:

Beauty versus Depression / Number 1746, June 10, 2009

[In his lecture Ethics Isn’t Soft, for Guilt Exists, a portion of which is serialized here, Eli Siegel]…explains what psychiatry is still far away from understanding: the cause of depression and other mental ailment.

...Mr. Siegel does something that I find magnificent—thrilling in its logic and newness. He describes in detail the relation of victory and self-loathing, supremacy and self-disgust, which, he makes clear, is in all depression....more

This issue includes:

Ethics, Beauty, & Feeling Bad / Number 1745, May 27, 2009

[In the lecture serialized here]…Mr. Siegel explains what the psychologists today still don't understand: why people feel pervasively low, depressed, anxious, empty.

From the talk's opening sentence we meet the newness—new in the history of thought, new today—of Aesthetic Realism. Two fields usually seen as very much apart and even as conflicting, are, Mr. Siegel shows, deeply the same: ethics and aesthetics. And both are central to our own intimate choices, confusions, despair, and hope. Aesthetic Realism explains that what makes a work of art beautiful is justice in the fullest and truest sense. And that is so even if the art work is ever so wild….more

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The Largest Power Is Kindness / Number 1744, May 13, 2009

As we approach the 31st anniversary of the terrible operation that led to the death of Eli Siegel, we are honored to publish several of the many poems he wrote in the last year of his life.

[We also see in the article by an Aesthetic Realism consultant printed here] something that Aesthetic Realism explains and that every person and nation needs mightily, desperately, to know: There are two kinds of power, and we're in a fight between them all the time. They are the power of contempt, to lessen other things as a means of making ourselves big; and the power of respect, to see and add to the meaning of reality—of people and things. That human beings haven't known the difference has made for vast personal and international suffering. …more

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Children, Parents, & the World / Number 1743, April 29, 2009

[While notes for this lecture given in 1946s] are quite fragmentary[,]…they convey something of the great, kind, true way of seeing children which is in Aesthetic Realism.

…Th[e] understanding of children [that is in the 1946 lecture by Eli Siegel printed here] is to be found in Mr. Siegel's Self and World, and in the…talk he refers to one of the children written about in chapter 9, “The Child.” The boy Joe Johnson is imaginary, but he's based on real children. And he stands for real children today—who are thirsty to be understood and to like themselves for how they meet the world. In Self and World, Mr. Siegel has brought to the children he calls Joe Johnson and Luella Hargreaves and Michael Halleran and Daniel Dorman not only that longed-for comprehension but, in my opinion, some of the finest prose in English…. more

This issue includes:

How Do We Interfere with Ourselves? / Number 1741, April 1, 2009

The last word in the title [of Eli Siegel’s 1946 lecture serialized here, Pleasure, Desire, & Frustration,] …was much in use then, because it was a term central to Freudian psychology. Freud presented frustration as being essentially a sexual matter: he said you became neurotic because your sexual desires were frustrated. Mr. Siegel shows what neither Freud nor the therapists of now have understood: what the central question and desires of the self really are. He explains what pleasure really is; and that pleasure is of two kinds. The big question of everyone—the big fight in everyone's life—is: will I be myself through having the pleasure of respect for the world or the pleasure of contempt? …more

This issue includes:

Envy & Our Biggest Desire / Number 1740, March 18, 2009

In presenting what is true about the human self, it was necessary for Mr. Siegel to show the falsity of the way that was then overwhelmingly prevalent: the Freudian way. Freud is not so current now. But it can be said soberly that the therapists of today don't understand the self any better than he did….

To place swiftly some of what [Mr. Siegel] is countering [in the lecture printed here], I quote…from “Aesthetic Realism; or, Is a Person an Aesthetic Situation?”:

The essential difference between Aesthetic Realism and Freud is that Freud saw nervousness as arising from what, earlier, was incomplete expression in sex, and, later a damming up or conflict in the libido—a prettier work than sex….more

This issue includes:

Knowing Ourselves—& America / Number 1739, March 4, 2009

[In this issue of TRO], and in Aesthetic Realism itself, is an explanation of the unconscious so different from what Freud and others described, and from what the unconscious is still largely taken to be—something fearsome, illogical, even lurid, in a world apart from the thoughts we know. Mr. Siegel shows that our unconscious is a philosophic matter, an aesthetic matter, also an everyday matter—that it's in keeping with this Aesthetic Realism principle: “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:

What We're After; or, Art vs. Freud / Number 1738, February 18, 2009

[Here] is an instance of Mr. Siegel's clear, courageous, logical criticism of Freudian theory—the theory that, at the time, pervaded every aspect of culture, intimidated people, and was the source they went to in the hope to understand themselves and feel better....As Mr. Siegel speaks of Aesthetic Realism's disagreement with Freud, he is presenting, with vividness and grace, what is true about the human mind. …more

This issue includes:

Motives, Body, & the World / Number 1737, February 4, 2009

[This issue of TRO] is on a subject that troubles people as much now as ever, despite today's seeming freedom, outspokenness, and glibness about it. I think Aesthetic Realism is magnificent on the subject. It contains the understanding of it, and of people's feelings about it, and of how people can truly like themselves about sex—not pretend to be at ease, but truly like themselves. And so this talk of 62 years ago is the most avant garde text on the subject (along with other works of Aesthetic Realism), and the most needed, and the kindest….more

This issue includes:

Care for Self—& an Unlimited World / Number 1736, January 21, 2009

…. Published [in this TRO] is the conclusion to [Mr. Siegel’s] introductory talk [given at Steinway Hall], which began with [him] explaining: “Aesthetic Realism says that every person—whether Hedy Lamarr or Harry Truman or a dishwasher or a philosopher—has one problem: the problem of Self and World.”

[Mr. Siegel] quotes Freud, who was seen as the Grand Authority on mind, and Karen Horney, who made social factors more important than Freud had. And [he] describes briefly and clearly a principal way that Aesthetic Realism's explanation of self is vastly different from theirs. He is illustrating 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”....more 

This issue includes:

True about the Self of Everyone / Number 1735, January 7, 2009

Very early in the history of Aesthetic Realism, from August 1946 through April 1947, Eli Siegel gave a series of 37 lectures in New York City's Steinway Hall on this new American philosophy. He had been teaching it since 1941.

The Steinway Hall lectures were not recorded, but notes of them exist,...And so it is an honor to begin, as the year 2009 begins, to present at least some aspects of those lectures, which were on such subjects as “Love & Confusion,” “Children as Selves,” “Unhappiness in America,” “Reality Includes Sex,” “Aesthetic Realism & Economics,” “The Philosophy of Stuttering,” “The Philosophy of Depression,” “Why Aesthetic Realism Is New,” “Education & Feeling Good,” “Why People Hurt People,” “Snobbishness & Self-Conflict” …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 Self, Shelley, & What People Deserve / Number 1645, July 27, 2005

We are serializing the 1966 lecture Psychiatric Terms and Shelley, Byron, Keats, by Eli Siegel....Th[is] stanza [from the poem "Song to the Men of England"(1818)] by Shelley is about the biggest social and economic question today. That question is: To whom should the world and its wealth belong? Shelley was passionate on the subject: the earth, he felt, should belong to everyone living on it. The idea that some few people owned the land of England, and that other people who should rightly own it too had to work for those few persons and provide wealth for them, Shelley despised. That idea is, in fact, contempt, and has the disproportion which, in another field, is insanity....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:

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:

Anxiety or Knowledge? / Number 1336, November 11, 1998

...The way of seeing the human self that is the basis of [the] great lecture[we're serializing] is hugely different from the approaches people are meeting in the media and from practitioners. And the way Aesthetic Realism sees the self, is, I am immensely grateful to say, not only TRUE — revolutionarily and immortally true—but beautiful and kind, and happiness-making! Aesthetic Realism shows: 1) The deepest desire of every person, what every baby comes breathing, feeling, and soon yelping and gurgling into the world for, is to like the world honestly—to know it, to give it deep and wide attention. 2) However, we have a competing desire: for contempt, “the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.”

Our Ethical and Aesthetic Mind / Number 1334, October 28, 1998

...[In the lecture being serialized] is that understanding of the human mind—one’s own mind, one’s own self—which people are thirsting for now, and are not finding in the therapists, counselors, books on self, magazines, talk shows. In the section of the lecture printed here, Mr. Siegel explains some of the things that mind can do which have most bewildered people and frightened them. His explanation is not only clear, logical, historic, true: it is given with his beautiful grace and humor; with his scholarship, which was always at one with tremendous kindness; with his honesty, which was utter and therefore always at one with ease.

Every person wants to feel good and to think well of himself or herself. To understand why a person (who may be ourselves) does not, and to know what will end this person’s unease, nervousness, deep discomfort, we have to know what the nature of the human mind is. The various counselors today do not have that knowledge. It exists, magnificently, in Aesthetic Realism....more

This issue includes:

Attention and America / Number 1333, October 21, 1998

We begin to serialize Mind and Attention, by Eli Siegel. He gave this great lecture in 1949. And in it, that subject attention—so wonderful yet often so distressing to people—is understood truly, with Mr. Siegel’s beautiful kindness, depth, scope, and also humor. He explains the deep mix-up: how we are, without knowing it, both for and against the giving of attention, and the getting of it. Later in the lecture, he will explain something that psychiatry is still massively ignorant about: what in a person interferes with his or her giving attention. I anticipate that discussion by saying: Mr. Siegel has shown that the big thing hampering the ability to give attention is contempt for the world....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 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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