The Education of the Coming Century
Dear Unknown Friends:
In this final issue of the century, it is an honor to publish a poem by Eli Siegel. And we publish too something standing for the beautiful, thirsted-for, immortal education he founded in 1941: part of a paper by Pauline Meglino, from a recent public seminar at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation titled “Owning a Husband or Knowing Him—Which Will Make a Wife Happy?” The seminar was conducted by the consultation trio There Are Wives: Anne Fielding, Barbara Allen, and Mrs. Meglino.
There Are Wives are the world authorities on marriage. They teach the monthly “Aesthetic Realism and Marriage Class.” And in her paper, Mrs. Meglino quotes from an Aesthetic Realism consultation of a contemporary woman. It moves me tremendously to say in December 1999: Aesthetic Realism consultations are the education of the coming century. In a consultation a person speaks with three consultants, and the principles of Aesthetic Realism meet, with exactitude, one’s ever so particular self.
In the 20th century, so many approaches to mind came and went—were touted by the media and faded away. Because they were not true, because they were not based on a real comprehension of the human self, they failed. The principles of Aesthetic Realism are true. They are the means to make sense of one’s feelings, one’s past, happenings, confusions. I quote now three principles, stated by Eli Siegel, on which every consultation is based.
1. “Man’s deepest desire, his largest desire, is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis” (Self and World, Definition Press, p. 1). The only way we can like ourselves is through being true to this desire. We need to have as our purpose—in love, education, with food, money, anything—to care honestly for the world itself: its people, facts, knowledge, history. To have this purpose is intelligence; all art arises from it. The not having it makes a person fail deeply, including in love.
2. “The greatest danger or temptation of man is to get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not himself; which lessening is Contempt” (TRO 247). In this principle, stated so quietly, Mr. Siegel has defined what eluded philosophers for thousands of years and what humanity needs vitally to understand: the thing in self that has people be cruel. For example: contempt—the feeling we’re more through lessening something else—is the cause of ethnic prejudice. It is what enables one human being to torture another, or exploit him economically. And contempt, as Mrs. Meglino shows, is everyday, goes on in marriage. Nothing else but Aesthetic Realism explains that there is a fight in everyone between wanting to care for someone and wanting to have contempt for that very person—because we have such a fight as to the world itself.
3. “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves” (Self and World, p. viii). Mrs. Meglino illustrates this great principle here. For now I shall simply say: Mr. Siegel’s showing that our questions are aesthetic questions is not only true—it enables us to see the real dignity we and every human being have.
Nowhere is a person respected more than in an Aesthetic Realism consultation. You are asked to use your most critical thought on what you hear. And your life changes through clear logic—logic that is also kindness, full and sheer. In the representative instance Mrs. Meglino describes, Aesthetic Realism’s logical principles enabled a marriage to go from anger and terrific disappointment to deep respect, care, and romance.
Aesthetic Realism consultations began in 1971, and are based on the thousands of lessons Eli Siegel gave. As a person privileged to have them, I think Aesthetic Realism lessons taught by Mr. Siegel were the greatest oneness there has ever been of knowledge of the world and justice to an individual person. I have said this before, but I want to say it now as a means of saying farewell to this century, the 20th, in which Mr. Siegel lived his magnificent life: it is my opinion that he was the most beautiful and greatest person in all of history, for the fulness of his scholarship and knowledge; his complete honesty and kindness; for the way he fought for justice—intensely, exactly, gracefully, unstintingly. Because of these qualities, he was resented by persons who were competitive and who hated having vast respect; and his work was largely boycotted by the press.
I love the poem that we publish here, with its simplicity and large music. The waltz it tells of symbolizes something that can have ever so fine an effect on people, but which they did not know of for a long time. I see it as standing for Aesthetic Realism. The 20th century was the century that, to its glory, had Eli Siegel. All of time will have Aesthetic Realism.