The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known

Aesthetic Realism was founded by Eli Siegel in 1941

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.

Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education

The Waltz: Truth As Melody

By Eli Siegel

There was a waltz

Deep, deep in one of the Vienna vaults.

It was unheard

All through the war of 1870-1871

Of France and Prussia.

It was unheard

All through the grandeur and deposition of Bismarck.

It was unheard

All through the great war of 1914-1918.

Only recently was it found

After keeping dear unseen company with one

of the cool walls of the vault.

It was played some days ago.

The vault trembled satisfiedly.

People in Vienna forgot famine.

Repressions were understood.

The waltz is truth as melody.

A Husband: To Own or Know?

By Pauline Meglino

I learned from Aesthetic Realism that the most practical, romantic purpose a woman can have in her marriage is to want to know her husband and strengthen his relation to other people and things. But wives have suffered because they have had a different purpose. In his landmark lecture The Furious Aesthetics of Marriage, Eli Siegel explained:

There is a desire to have another self as an adjunct of oneself....A self takes over another self and then, also, is robbed of its largest hope—which is to like the world which somehow became ourselves or made us.

Before I met Aesthetic Realism, I thought love meant a man’s complimenting me lavishly and needing me above all else. As a result, I both got and gave a good deal of pain. In Aesthetic Realism I met needed criticism of this attitude; and my desire to know, which was growing more and more dormant, became a live and eager thing. This made possible my very happy marriage with Joseph Meglino!

In 1975, when Joe and I began to date, I respected his care for ethics and knowledge, and had increasingly large feeling for him. Gradually, however, I found myself getting annoyed if he didn’t call me when I thought he should, or if he went somewhere on a Saturday without me. It even reached the point that when Joe got his first kittens and excitedly showed me pictures he’d taken of Delia and Natasha, I envied them.

I didn’t respect myself for these feelings—and I thank Mr. Siegel with all my heart for what he taught me. In an Aesthetic Realism class, he said to me, “In caring for someone, your opinion of other people should be deeper. Do you have a tendency to own another person?” I said, “Yes, I think I do.” And he explained, “The large question, according to Aesthetic Realism, is: if you really have a true feeling for another person, do you see the rest of the world better?”

Mr. Siegel showed me that to care truly for a man is to want to know what he is affected by. I am grateful that through knowing my husband and what he cares for—including science, computing, the art of drawing, and his work teaching men as an Aesthetic Realism consultant—I am in the very midst of the manyness of humanity and reality, and am really living!

I feel fortunate I can ask myself about the state of my desire to know. For instance, recently, when Joe brought home fresh peaches from the farmers market, my initial response was to say they were gorgeous and would be delicious, and to assume this is why Joe bought them. But he said, “Don’t eat them yet. I want to draw them first.” Situations like this present a wife with a dilemma: she will either feel shown up, or be pleased she is seeing her husband newly.

As Joe spoke about the shape and colors of these peaches, I had a feeling of wonder, and saw new meaning in them—and him. As I thought about why Joe Meglino was arrested by these fruits, with their luscious and neat rotundity, I saw they were a oneness of firmness and yieldingness, of generosity and exactitude—opposites he wants to have better related in his life. We spoke too about how shameful it is that people in our rich land have to go hungry because of our unjust economic system. Conversations like this have me closer to people, more passionate about the justice all people deserve, and my husband is dearer to me.

Her Desire to Know Is Stronger

When Katie Faro* began to have Aesthetic Realism consultations, she was worried: she and her husband weren’t close—he didn’t talk as much to her as he had—and she felt very hurt. She said that at the time she first met Jim Faro, at a club, “I liked how he listened to me.” Now they were married ten years, had two children, took frequent trips. She worked in the coffee shop he owned, and advised her husband about business. Yet she felt if she wasn’t in control of everything, she’d be taken advantage of. We asked if she felt she was in an unfriendly world she should manage, and she said yes.
This attitude affected how she was with a man. Mrs. Faro, a petite, pretty woman, told us, “My husband said, ‘You’re tough!’” And we saw why: on many matters—the children, expenditures, his work—she felt it was her job to shape everyone up. Jim Faro had friends he liked talking to; but at home she often corrected or interrupted him. He, as many husbands do, talked less and less with her. And if he didn’t do what she said, she saw him as against her. She constantly felt wounded. “After getting hurt so much, I can’t have a sweet feeling about him anymore,” she said; “I’m hurting.”

Women haven’t known that what they see as “helping” a husband is often a desire to own them. We said, “Some wives can feel, I have to know every single thing my husband is doing, everything he is saying.’”

Katie Faro. I’m one of them!

There Are Wives. The question is: does it come from the desire to know, or to control him?

KF. Ummm, to control him. 

TAW. Right. Aesthetic Realism explains that this is contempt. A wife can also resent that a husband has unexpected thoughts or concerns, and can feel, “Why does he have to feel that way? He should just listen to me—I’ll tell him everything to feel.” 

KF. I’ve done that. This is contempt for him? 

TAW. Yes.

Mrs. Faro told us, “My husband said I’m suspicious; that I’m like a detective asking questions.” And she mentioned an incident. They were giving a New Year’s party, and each couple had agreed to contribute a set amount of money. But when she saw the big spread Jim Faro was putting out, she was sure her husband had underestimated what each couple owed. “I asked him, ‘How much does all this food cost?’ I said, ‘I have to know! How much is the fish?!’ Jim got angry—he said I shouldn’t worry about it."

TAW. Do you think your husband wanted to be generous, to provide food for people, and he didn’t want to ask them for more money?

KF. Yes. He worked hard. We can afford it—and the food was delicious!

She was beginning to grant goodness in her husband that she hadn’t wanted to see. We asked, “Do you really want to know what your husband feels? Is that the first thing he sees in your lovely eyes when he walks in? Or do you look at him with the feeling, ‘What did you do wrong today?’”

KF. That too.

TAW. Most often a husband feels a wife is more interested in thinking less of him than in valuing him truly, so he feels, “Well, why should I bother saying something?” 

KF. I see.

“To understand him,” we said, “you’d need to see how he is affected by the world, other people and things.” To encourage this, we assigned her to write a soliloquy of Jim Faro—his thoughts to himself during a day. Mrs. Faro’s face lit up: “I’m going to try!”

A Wife Is Much Happier

Through studying Aesthetic Realism, Katie Faro came to have an active interest in art, literature, and people’s lives. She wrote the soliloquy of Jim Faro, and saw him with more wonder. This made them closer, and they began to talk more. She told us they went to a museum, and spoke deeply together about Vermeer’s painting Servant Handing a Letter to Her Mistress, and how it makes opposites one: “We spoke about how the letter has many words inside, but you can’t see them—there’s many and one. And it’s something personal—someone’s feelings are in it—but as the maid holds it, it is impersonal.” She told how she and her husband saw that “the maid’s dress almost blends [with] the darkness, but the light on her face is beautiful."

Mrs. Faro was surprised and pleased seeing her husband so affected by this painting. And as she saw how the opposites of personal and impersonal, light and dark were made one in it, she was seeing Jim Faro newly—not as just her husband, but a person having the unknown and impersonal in him.

Aesthetic Realism brings out, and enables to flourish, the desire in a woman to know a husband and the world he comes from. This is what happened to Katie Faro, and why she told us, “We had such a good time. It was so romantic!” Once, she never dreamed all this could be. “I am very happy,” she said. And that is what wives everywhere will feel when they can know and study Aesthetic Realism.

*Not her real name