Welcome to my website, where I’m glad to bring to people what I’ve learned from Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded in 1941 by the great American poet and critic Eli Siegel.
On this site you will find articles by me that have been presented at Aesthetic Realism public seminars in NYC.
I grew up near Cincinnati, majored in English Literature at Denison University, and moved to New York where I first attended an Aesthetic Realism seminar. I was electrified by the honesty and scholarship of the speakers, and what they were saying about art and life.
What is Aesthetic Realism?
I began to study these principles, stated by Eli Siegel, which are the basis of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism:
1. The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.
2. The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it….Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.
3. All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.
I recommend the book Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism and many other works by Eli Siegel in the Online Library. And there’s the international journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, edited by Ellen Reiss. I quote from her commentary in the recent issue titled “Excitement and Calm—in Poetry and Us“:
“Every human being wants excitement and also quietude—but a person usually shuttles between the two. There is a tremendous desire for calm. And people have gone after calm in ever so many ways. They have lain on beaches for hours. They have sipped tea. They have knitted. They have taken naps.
“Then, after a while, that quietude dissatisfies. They feel bored, stuck, and want some excitement. Yet the excitement people go after—whether through sex, or sports, or through spending money, or rappelling down cliffs, or beating out someone in a matter of career—usually comes with a deep letdown….
“Quietude and excitement will make sense in our lives only if our purpose in both is to know and see meaning in the world. Then those opposites will not make for a shuttling within us. They will be friends—as a tumultuous passage in a Beethoven symphony is friendly to, at one with, a quiet, tender passage.” —Ellen Reiss, TRO #2003
Attending classes in the formal and exciting study of Aesthetic Realism, I was understood by Eli Siegel, seen with good will, and my life and mind were encouraged immensely. Here’s just one example of his deep comprehension of women—
The Everlasting Dilemma of a Girl
By Eli Siegel
“First he did praise my beauty, then my speech.” —The Comedy of Errors
Girls have always found it hard to know what they should be liked for. Of course, they have wanted to be liked for how they looked; but suppose they couldn’t feel that how they looked was the same as what they really were? Then there was something missing; and there were incompleteness and pain.
While girls have wanted to be liked “for themselves”—as men do, too—there has been that impelling them to be liked for something else. Both men and women have been in a general conspiracy to like each other for something other and less than themselves, while hoping to be liked for what they were. It seems as if both masculine and feminine persons did not rely on themselves, without some kind of arrangement preceding and standing for them. The married persons who can now say: “I am liked for myself,” are, I’m afraid, not so many.
And so a girl in the thirteenth century “arranged” herself to have the most effect on a man. If successful, she could hardly think it was a victory for herself. If Delicia of the fourteenth century achieved the love of Hubert—for Delicia had so prepared herself, adorned herself that the susceptible and ardent Hubert fell, as a small town falls to a large army—could not Delicia, in her fourteenth-century heart, ask: “Is it me, after all, whom Hubert desires? Is it the Delicia I know?” And if Viviane of Burgundy in the fifteenth century was courted assiduously and pertinaciously by Evald, over-thrown by Viviane, could not Viviane be unsure as to what it was that so had conquered Evald, whether it was really she?
The doubts of Viviane of Burgundy five hundred years ago are like the doubts of Doris these days. Doris knows she can do things to men, when looked upon, but is it she, Doris, the very, the ultimate Doris, who is doing them? Is it perhaps an image of Doris, a visual representative of Doris?…read more