Aesthetic Realism Lectures
by Eli Siegel

Lectures given by Eli Siegel in Aesthetic Realism classes have been serialized in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. Some are on the website of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.

The 25,000 books now in the Eli Siegel Collection were used by Mr. Siegel in the lectures presented online here, and so many more, all of which he gave extemporaneously.


     Aesthetic Realism and Music
     Poetry and Words
     Map to Happiness
     Aesthetic Realism and Hope
     Aesthetic Realism and Love
     Aesthetic Realism and Expression
     Aesthetic Realism and Learning
     Mind and Schools
     New York Begins Poetically
    arrow There Are Two Freedoms
   arrowPoetry and Women
   arrowSelves Are in Economics
   arrowEducational Method Is Poetic
   arrowAesthetic Realism and Nature
   arrowOwnership, Strikes, Unions
   arrowPoetry and Keenness
   arrowAnimate and Inanimate Are in Music and Conscience
   arrowPoetry and History

   arrowMind and Attention
   arrowPoetry and Technique

arrowAesthetic Realism and Music in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1268 - 1276

Ellen Reiss writes in her commentary:

"We begin to serialize one of the greatest of all works on art and human life: Aesthetic Realism and Music, a 1951 lecture by Eli Siegel. Aesthetic Realism has in it the explanation—magnificent and solidly true—of the self, the mind of everyone.This principle, stated by Mr. Siegel, embodies what the psychological establishment is so far from understanding: 'The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.'

Eli Siegel is the philosopher who showed that our particular, throbbing self is a continuation of what the world is; and we want to be like art. That is, we are composed of reality’s opposites; they are us, even as they bewilder us, and we need to put them together."


1. An Aesthetic Struggle 6. Music, Form, Us
2. Music Has What We Want 7. Music, Sad and Joyful
3. The Rondo and Us 8. They Are All Psychological
4. It Represents a Person 9. Reality Is Here
5. Self and World Get Closer  
arrowPoetry and Words in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1396 - 1404

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Commentary:

"....No subject is more important than the subject of words, both for our personal lives and for what will happen nationally and internationally. What kind of words do we—each of us as an individual person—want to hear, from the leaders of nations and from people close to us? There is no longing larger in us than our longing to hear words that come from real sincerity: words that are exact and deep. There are no disappointment and fury bigger than the disappointment and fury that exist because people do not hear such words. And how do we use words, both to others and as we think to ourselves? Our character, our life, our opinion of ourselves depend on our honesty with words...."


1. Poetry and Words 6. Words: Continuity & Change
2. A Tremendous Instinct 7. Words: Poetic and Logical
3. Words and Feeling 8. Words: Fixed & in a Whirl
4. Words, Honest & Musical 9. Language: Fixed and Changing
5. Democratically Created  


arrowMap to Happiness: Excerpt from a 1952 lecture by Eli Siegel

"The first necessity in being able to get what we are after is to see what is already good that has come our way. Most people, because what they get is not what they think they are after, can’t appreciate what they do get. I think modesty is the beginning of wealth. Real self-criticism is the beginning of wealth. We don’t know what we want, and if something comes along that we want, we may not be able to see it. If we have the modesty to think that, then we are more after what we want in a way that will please us...."


arrowAesthetic Realism and Hope

This 1949 lecture begins: "Most people don’t think that hoping is an exact thing. There is something corresponding to the manic-depressive state in every one of us: the person who changes from thinking he can do everything, to one who thinks he can’t do anything; a person who thinks he can cross the Pacific because he has a new way of flying, and then thinks that he can’t eat an egg because his stomach is made of glass. That is going pretty far; but there is a tendency to play around with the materials of the world—to fear them too much, and to think they are too much our own. The only way out of it is to think that there is a constant relation between the way things wholly and imaginatively are and what we want..."

Part 1       Part 2


arrowAesthetic Realism and Love

From the introduction by Ellen Reiss:

"...In his book Self and World, Eli Siegel writes: “The purpose of love is to feel closely one with things as a whole” (p. 171). He taught that to love a person is to use that person to like the world itself: to be fair to people, books, objects, facts. I am inexpressibly thankful to have learned this and to have learned from Eli Siegel that the interference with love is our desire to have contempt.

Women and men who thought they would love each other forever are suffering now. They are glaring across tables, hurling sarcastic remarks, weeping. They will not learn the reason from therapists or self-help books or talk shows. The reason is in Aesthetic Realism and this great [1948] lecture: Two people have used “loving” each other to make less of the outside world. Yet the largest need of each of their lives is to like that very world. And so each feels deeply lessened by the other, and ashamed...."


Introduction         Part 1          Part 2


arrowAesthetic Realism and Expression

Ellen Reiss writes, in her introduction:

"...In [this] 1949 lecture..., Eli Siegel explains that subject, Expression, in all its beauty, puzzlingness, and pain. Right now men, women, and children have the ache of non-expression: they feel that what they are inside has never come forth.

Mr. Siegel is the person of thought who, with tremendous diversity and constancy, spoke for most, fought for most, and explained the need of people to be expressed: to be truly expressed in our personal lives, and in how a nation is managed and owned. He showed that the need for expression—the need to have what we deeply are become outward and add to the world—is a need as inevitable as the need to breathe, though it may go unfulfilled all our lives...."

Introduction         Part 1          Part 2


arrowAesthetic Realism and Learning

Ellen Reiss writes, in her introduction:

"...In this lecture, Mr. Siegel speaks, greatly, on the relation of knowing and feeling and about the kind of feeling people are looking for. Aesthetic Realism is education in how to know the world and ourselves rightly so we can feel rightly. This education has been needed for centuries. In every year in every place of the world, people have had the pervasive pain of not being proud of their feeling, because it was not large enough, deep enough, accurate enough. We see that grief even in people who sometimes had feeling so rich and true that they are part of lasting culture. There is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, writing in his “Dejection: An Ode” about stars, clouds, sky: “I see them all so excellently fair, / I see, not feel, how beautiful they are!” There is Matthew Arnold, in a letter to his friend Arthur Hugh Clough: “I am past thirty, and three parts iced over....”

Introduction         Part 1          Part 2          Part 3


arrowMind and Schools

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Introduction:

"In the schools of New York and elsewhere, there is a battle between learning and anger. Aesthetic Realism can have learning win.

Eli Siegel has shown that the deepest desire of every person is to like the world. This is true of a girl we can call Nora Jimenez. Six years old and entering first grade, she has heard her parents fight loudly, seen rats in her apartment, and sometimes gone without lunch because there was not enough money. It is true about a high school student—we’ll call him Christopher Morgan—of Forest Hills. He has come to feel everybody is a phony and out for number one; he thought last week of killing himself in the basement of the Morgan home. Aesthetic Realism shows that if a person dislikes the world he will be deeply disinclined to take that world into him in the form of subjects in a school’s curriculum. He will also want to punish the world, manipulate it, leave it."

This lecture was published earlier in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.

Introduction         Part 1          Part 2          Part 3


arrowNew York Begins Poetically in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1814 - 1820

Writes Ellen Reiss in the Editor's Commentary:

"With this issue we begin to serialize the lecture New York Begins Poetically, which Eli Siegel gave in October 1970. Relating aspects of history, literature, and the feelings of people, it is a deep, leisurely, surprising, often humorous discussion. In it, this Aesthetic Realism principle is inseparable from New York—her earth, years, lives: 'All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.'

     Eli Siegel loved New York, and the city is present in many of his poems. Despite all the injustice, and the suffering too, that have taken place here, New York is beautiful, and one of the reasons is the way suffering and injustice have been fought.

      In New York Begins Poetically, it is principally Manhattan that Mr. Siegel speaks of and presents as having that oneness of opposites which makes for poetry. In this first section, beginning with 1626 and Peter Minuit, he comments on three pairs of opposites. And so, by means of introduction, I’ll say a little about ways those opposites can be in us, in all people, very often confusingly and troublingly."

brown diamond ornament for Aesthetic Realism lectures CONTENTS
(1) New York Is Land & Feelings

(2) New York, Poetry, & Our Lives

(3) To Whom Should New York Belong?

(4) Feelings, Money, & New York

5) New York, the Opposites, & People's Hopes

(6) New York, Love, & Poetry

(7) Walt Whitman, New York, & Our Lives Right Now


arrowThere Are Two Freedoms in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1674-1680

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Commentary:

"With this issue we begin to serialize There Are Two Freedoms, the lecture Eli Siegel gave on June 5, 1970. It is about one of the most beautiful and important words in the world: freedom. And yet, as Mr. Siegel shows, people have used the word freedom as a cover for some of the ugliest and most vicious activities....Economics now ha[s] to be based on true freedom, the freedom of good will: the seeing how self-expression, individual creativity, real self-glory are the same as justice to other people and things." arrowBegin reading these issues of The Right Of here.

brown diamond ornament for Aesthetic Realism lectures CONTENTS

(1) Jobs, Beauty, & the Two Freedoms

Commentary by Ellen Reiss
Lecture by Eli Siegel, Part 1: There Are Two Freedoms

(2) Freedom—& Words, Nations, Love

• Commentary
• Lecture, Part 2: "Production, Competition, & Words"

(3) Money & the Feelings of People

Lecture, Part 3: "People's Lives Are in It All"


(4) The Ethics of Freedom

Lecture, Part 4: "No Freedom without Good Will"

(5) Freedom & Confusion: Historic & Everyday

Lecture, Part 5: "Why We Misjudge"

(6) Freedom That Is Justice Too

Lecture, Part 6: "Free Expression & Accuracy"

(7) How Should We Think about People?

Lecture, Part 7: "Literature & Poverty"


arrowPoetry and Women in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1525-1529

Writes Ellen Reiss in the Editor's Commentary:

"We begin to serialize the historic lecture Poetry and Women, which Eli Siegel gave in 1949. So much in women’s lives has changed since then. Women now do just about everything men do. Yet though it is expected that girls play soccer, and female doctors and lawyers abound, and no one is surprised to see a woman wield a hammer, there is still a difference between woman and man. The question What is a woman? remains."  Includes discussions of 16th-century poet Louise Labé, 17th-century Mary Chudleigh, Caroline Norton (1808-77), Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Virginia Woolf. arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

(4) Two Women
(5) To Be Herself


arrowSelves Are in Economics in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1511-1521

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Commentary:

"Eli Siegel saw what other economists have not: the chief matter in economics is the human self in its fulness, the self of every person. Economics is connected to the same self in each of us that hopes, loves, is bewildered, wants to understand who we are..." arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.


arrowEducational Method Is Poetic in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1448-1457. Writes Eli Siegel:

"I’ve called this talk 'Educational Method Is Poetic.' I use the word poetic carefully, and persons listening should judge whether that is a flamboyant title or is essentially true. The material for such a talk, of course, is all over the world...." Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.


arrowAesthetic Realism and Nature in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1417-1423

(4)  There Are Whales, Too
(5)  With & Against Nature
(6)  Logic: A Product of Nature
(7)  Nature Is Unity and Variety


arrowOwnership, Strikes, Unions in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1356-1366

Writes Ellen Reiss in her Editor's Commentary:

Ownership, Strikes, one of the "Goodbye Profit System" lectures—in which Mr. Siegel described, documented, and explained something enormous taking place in world economics and within people....By the spring of 1970...the profit system, a way of using human beings that had always been ugly, was now irrevocably crippled....And even more than in the1970s, there is an anger across America [now]...a fury in people about the way they are seen on the job: contemptuously, in terms of...profit.  Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.


arrowPoetry and Keenness in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, no. 1314-1323

Writes Eli Siegel:

"Keenness is in poetry because it is one of the big things in life. A person has a cheek; a person has fingernails. There are points in our body, and wide surfaces and smooth surfaces. Keenness is the world coming to a point, the world being sharp. In keenness, aesthetically speaking, there are four things: cuttingness; piercingness; neatness; and depth. And keenness is a sign that there is an interior, a dimension." arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

(5)  Beyond Surface
(6)  The Senses and the Self
(7)  More about Keenness
(8) Whole Vision
(9) Keenness Divides and Joins


arrowAnimate and Inanimate Are in Music and Conscience in TRO no. 1291-1301

Writes Eli Siegel:

"I found that the depths of Aesthetic Realism could be shown in a rather new way through music. And strangely enough, the most modern things in music, the most difficult things, are the most useful there. The fight between structure and emotion, between emotion and music almost as solid geometry, does go on. And there are terms that concern conscience—the earlier term polyphony, the new one polytonality, also atonality. And I hope to show that looking at these things is a way of seeing conscience too."arrowBegin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here

(7)  Mahler: Awesome and Frail
(8)  Conflicts in Music
(9)  Music: Pain and Pleasure
(10) Junction, Separation, Evil
(11) The Melody of Conscience


arrowPoetry and History in TRO no. 1385-1393

From the editor's commentary by Ellen Reiss:

"Mr. Siegel wrote and lectured much on history.  His scholarship in the field was immense.  And—whether he was speaking about Wat Tyler or John Adams, the French Revolution or the Spanish Civil War—the events and the feelings of the time became real to those who heard him, as close to you as the very clothes you were wearing...[and] you had a sense always (it's in the lecture we're serializing) of largeness—you felt the bigness of reality...."
Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

From the editor's commentary by Ellen Reiss:

"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...."
Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

(1) Mind and Attention

(2) Attentive to Something

(3) Attention and Interference

(4) Successful Attention

(5) Attention and Hamlet

(6) Attention and Polonius

(7) Objects Matter


arrowPoetry and Technique in TRO no. 1185-1191

From the editor's commentary by Ellen Reiss:

"We begin to serialize the great lecture Poetry and Technique, which Eli Siegel gave in 1948. And as we do, I am very grateful to comment on what I see as the most beautiful thing in the world: Eli Siegel’s showing, after centuries of literary criticism, what poetry really is; and his showing that in the emotion and technique of every good poem are to be found the answers to the tumultuous life questions of each person and also to the troubles afflicting nations. This principle, the basis of Aesthetic Realism, is resplendently true about poetry and about the life of everyone: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” ..."
Begin this serialized Aesthetic Realism lecture here.

(1) Poetry and Technique

(2) The World in a Line

(3) What Reality Has

(4) The Technique That Is False

(5) Technique: True and False

(6) Lightness and Depth

(7) Technique Is Ourselves