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Aesthetic Realism is the philosophy founded by poet and critic Eli Siegel (1902–1978) in 1941. It is based on three core principles. First, the deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis. Second, the greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it—contempt defined as the false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself. Third, the study of what makes for beauty in art is a guide for a good life: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves."
The philosophy is principally taught at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, a nonprofit educational foundation based in SoHo, New York City, through a variety of lectures, classes in poetry, anthropology, art, music, and individual consultations.
The Foundation faced controversy for its assertion that men changed from homosexuality through study of this philosophy. In 1990, it stopped presentations and consultations on this subject, explaining that it did not want to be involved in the atmosphere of anger surrounding the issue, and saying that “we do not want this matter, which is certainly not fundamental to Aesthetic Realism, to be used to obscure what Aesthetic Realism truly is: education of the largest, most cultural kind.”
In Siegel’s critical theory, “the resolution of conflict in self is like the making one of opposites in art.” A successful novel, for example, composes opposites that people are trying to put together: oneness and manyness, intensity and calm, sameness and change. His studies led him to conclude that any successful work of art or music combines essential dualities. In the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, Siegel developed this concept, writing that the arts and sciences all give evidence that reality has an aesthetic nature. He described the world as having a construction like art: it, too, is composed of opposites. In Siegel's eyes, freedom at one with order could be seen in an electron, a tree, or the solar system. Siegel reasoned, "If...the structure of the world corresponds to the structure [of art], that much the world may be beautiful in the deepest sense of the word; and therefore can be liked."
A primary concept of Aesthetic Realism is that the world can be liked honestly by seeing it as an aesthetic oneness of opposites. Further, a core teaching of Aesthetic Realism is that it is “every person's deepest desire to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.”
However, Siegel recognized another competing desire which drives humans away from such an appreciation—the desire to have contempt for the world and what is in it, in order to make oneself feel more important. Siegel argued that when a person seeks self-esteem through contempt—"the addition to self through the lessening of something else"—he or she is unjust to people and things. Contempt, the philosophy maintains, may seem like a triumph, but ultimately results in self-dislike and mental distress, and lessens the capacity of one's mind to perceive and feel in the fullest manner. Siegel held that, in the extreme, contempt causes insanity.
Aesthetic Realism attests that one’s attitude to the world governs how all of life's components are seen: a friend, a spouse, a lover, a book, food, people of another skin tone. Accordingly, Aesthetic Realism argues, individuals have an ethical obligation to give full value to things and people, not devalue them in order to make oneself seem more important. Aesthetic Realism states that the conscious intention to be fair to the world and people is not only an ethical obligation, but the means of liking oneself.
The philosophy identifies contempt as the underlying cause of broader social problems as well: societal evils like racism and war arise from contempt for “human beings placed differently from ourselves” in terms of race, economic status, or nationality. Siegel stated that for centuries ill will has been the predominant purpose in humanity’s economic activities. The philosophy asserts that humanity cannot overcome its biggest problems until people cease to feel that “the world’s failure or the failure of a[nother] person enhances one’s own life.” Siegel stated that until good will rather than contempt is at the center of economics and in the thoughts of people, “civilization has yet to begin.”
The philosophic basis of Aesthetic Realism was set forth systematically by Siegel in two major texts. The first, Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism, was written from 1941-3. Individual chapters, including “Psychiatry, Economics, Aesthetics” and “The Aesthetic Method in Self-Conflict,” were printed in 1946. The full text was published in 1981 (NY: Definition Press). His second text, Definitions, and Comment: Being a Description of the World, completed in 1945, defines 134 terms used in the philosophic thought of Aesthetic Realism, including Existence, Change, Fixity, Freedom, Thought, Will, Wonder, Fear, Hope, Negation, Reality, and Relation. The work was published in 1978-9 as a series in the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
Siegel stated that ideas central to the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism were implicitly present in “Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana,” the poem that brought him widespread fame when it was awarded The Nation's esteemed poetry prize in 1925. The philosophic principle that individuality is relation, “that the very self of a thing is its relations, its having-to-do-with other things,” is in this poem. It begins with a hot, quiet afternoon in Montana and travels through time and space, showing that things usually thought of as separate and unrelated “have a great deal to do with each other.” These are lines near the end of the poem:
Hot afternoons are real; afternoons are; places, things, thoughts, feelings are; poetry is; / The world is waiting to be known; Earth, what it has in it! / The past is in it; / All words, feelings, movements, words, bodies, clothes, girls, trees, stones, things of beauty, books, desires are in it; and all are to be known; / Afternoons have to do with the whole world…
The search for that which connects all branches of knowledge  led Siegel to discover a key concept of Aesthetic Realism: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.” Aesthetic Realism classes were scholarly and sought to demonstrate that poetry is related to the problems of everyday life. The viewpoint of Aesthetic Realism is that “what makes a good poem is like what can make a good life.” This contradicts the Freudian view of art as sublimation.
Siegel defined poetry as “the oneness of the permanent opposites in reality as seen by an individual.” In Aesthetic Realism classes he explained that the greatest desire of a person is to put together opposites, as, in a good poem, “emotion changes into logic: there is no rift between the two.” He maintained that music distinguishes true poetry, whatever the language, period or style; the music of a poem shows the poet has honestly perceived opposites as one, and sincerely united personal feelings with the impersonal structure of the world. “Poetry,” he wrote, “arises out of a like of the world so intense and wide that of itself, it is musical.” Therefore, Aesthetic Realism teaches, even a poem that in substance seems to condemn the world, in its technique and music is praising the world, seeing it truly.
In thousands of Aesthetic Realism lectures, Siegel demonstrated the centrality of poetry to every aspect of life, including "Poetry and Anger," "Poetry and Love," "Educational Method Is Poetic,” "Poetry and Time," "Poetry, Money, and Good Will," “A Poetic Technique of Parenthood,” “Poetry and History,” and “Hamlet Revisited; or, The Family Should Be Poetry.” His students affirm that an important aspect of the philosophy continues to be the study of how a good poem has within it “the composition, beauty, sanity we want in ourselves." This education, they assert, “makes it possible for poetry to be, as Matthew Arnold said, a criticism of life.”
In 1946, Siegel began giving weekly lectures at Steinway Hall in New York City, in which he presented what he first called Aesthetic Analysis (later, Aesthetic Realism), “a philosophic way of seeing conflict in self and making this conflict clear to a person so that a person becomes more integrated and happier.”
From 1948 through 1977, Siegel continued teaching in his library at 67 Jane Street in Greenwich Village, where he also resided. Individuals studied Aesthetic Realism in classes such as the Ethical Study Conference, the Nevertheless Poetry Class, and classes in which Aesthetic Realism was discussed in relation to the arts and sciences, history, philosophy, national ethics, and world literature.
Among the earliest students of Aesthetic Realism were Chaim Koppelman (1920–2009), a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and founder of the printmaking department of the School of Visual Arts, and his wife, painter Dorothy Koppelman, who opened the Terrain Gallery in 1955, introducing Aesthetic Realism to the cultural scene of New York City with art exhibitions and public discussions of the Siegel Theory of Opposites in relation to painting, sculpture, photography, poetry, and later, music, theatre, and architecture.”
Chaim Koppelman’s interviews of Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Clayton Pond, in which these artists discussed the relevance of Aesthetic Realism and Eli Siegel’s Theory of Opposites to their work, are now part of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Artists began using Aesthetic Realism in writings about their fields, including Ralph Hattersley, editor of the photography journal Infinity, and Nat Herz, author of articles in Modern Photography and of the Konica Pocket Handbook: An Introduction to Better Photography. Aesthetic Realism: We Have Been There (NY: Definition Press, 1969), a book of essays by working artists in the fields of painting, printmaking, photography, acting, and poetry, documents how the Siegel Theory of Opposites "relates life to art and is basically a criterion for all branches of aesthetics".
Some artistic productions inspired by the philosophy were surrounded by controversy. A theatrical production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler by The Opposites Company of the Theatre, in which the title character was presented as “essentially good”, in keeping with Siegel’s interpretation of the play, was highly praised in Time magazine, but severely criticized in the New York Times, which also published Siegel’s response to the critics.
Aesthetic Realism Foundation
The not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation was established by Siegel's students in 1973. Located at 141 Greene Street in SoHo, New York, it is the primary location where the philosophy is taught, in public seminars and dramatic presentations, and in consultations for individuals. The Foundation offers classes in poetry, anthropology, art, music, acting, and singing, and classes for children.'
In 1977, Siegel appointed Ellen Reiss chairperson for the teaching of Aesthetic Realism. Since that time, she has conducted professional classes for the Foundation's faculty. Herself an Aesthetic Realism consultant since 1971, Reiss also taught in the English departments of Queens and Hunter Colleges, City University of New York. She is a poet, editor, co-author (with Martha Baird) of The Williams-Siegel Documentary (Definition Press, 1970), and instructor of the course "The Aesthetic Realism Explanation of Poetry".
Siegel died on November 8, 1978. His work is continued by Reiss, whose editorial commentaries on literature, life, and national ethics appear regularly in the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
Opposition to prejudice and racism
In one of his earliest essays, “The Equality of Man” (1923), Siegel criticized writers who were promoting eugenics. He argued that thus far in the history of the world, people have not had equal conditions of life, to bring out their potential abilities, and he asserted that if all men and women had “an equal chance to use all the powers they had at birth, they would be equal.”
According to Aesthetic Realism, racism and prejudice of all kinds begin with the human inclination towards contempt, “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.” Students of the philosophy assert that the racist attitude is not inevitable, but can change if one learns to recognize and criticize contempt. In public forums, individuals of diverse nationalities and cultural backgrounds have described how, through study of Aesthetic Realism, their racism and prejudice changed, not into mere “tolerance” but into a respectful desire to know and to see that the feelings of another are “as real, and as deep, as one’s own.”
On an international level, proponents advocated the study of contempt and good will, as described by Aesthetic Realism, as “The Only Answer to the Mideast Crisis,” in a 1990 advertisement on the op-ed page of the New York Times. To oppose prejudice they recommend that persons of nations who are in conflict “write a soliloquy of 500 words” describing the feelings of a person in the opposing land.
The UN commissioned filmmaker Ken Kimmelman, a consultant on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, to make two anti-prejudice films: Asimbonanga, and Brushstrokes. Kimmelman credits Aesthetic Realism as his inspiration for these films, as well as his 1995 Emmy-award winning anti-prejudice public service film, The Heart Knows Better, based on, and including, a statement by Eli Siegel.
Another noted speaker on the subject of Aesthetic Realism and how it opposes prejudice and racism is Alice Bernstein, whose articles on the subject have been published in hundreds of papers throughout the country, including in her serialized column, “Alice Bernstein & Friends.” Mrs. Bernstein is the editor of The People of Clarendon County (Chicago: Third World Press, 2007), a book that includes a play by Ossie Davis re-discovered by Bernstein, together with historical documents, photographs, and essays about Aesthetic Realism, which she describes as "the education that can end racism." The late Ossie Davis, noted actor and civil rights activist, stated: “Alice Bernstein has dedicated her life to ending racism in this country. ...[She] is writing an introduction [to my play] based on what she has learned about people and history from Aesthetic Realism which she has studied for decades."
A production of The People of Clarendon County—a Play by Ossie Davis, & the Answer to Racism, presenting Aesthetic Realism as the educational method that explains and changes prejudice and racism, was staged in the Congressional Auditorium of the US Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC on October 21, 2009, with introductory remarks given by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn.
Aesthetic Realism and homosexuality
A controversial aspect of the philosophy concerns the assertion that men and women could change from homosexuality through studying its principles. In 1946 writer and WW II veteran Sheldon Kranz (1919–1980) was the first man to report that he changed from homosexuality through Aesthetic Realism. Kranz said that as his way of seeing the world changed, his sexual preference also changed: from a homosexual orientation (he was no longer impelled toward men) to a heterosexual one that included love for a woman for the first time in his life. Kranz was married for 25 years (until his death) to Obie award-winning actress Anne Fielding.
In keeping with its general approach, Aesthetic Realism views homosexuality as a philosophic matter. A fundamental principle of the philosophy is that every person is in a fight between contempt for the world and respect for it. Siegel stated that this fight is present as well in homosexuality. He explained: “All homosexuality arises from contempt of the world, not liking it sufficiently. This changes into a contempt for women.”
According to the philosophy, in the field of love and sex, a homosexual man prefers the sameness of another man while undervaluing the difference of the world that a woman represents. This undervaluing of difference is a form of contempt for the world; therefore, as a man learns how to like the world honestly, his attitude towards difference changes and this affects every area of his life, including sexual preference.
In 1971 men (including Kranz) who said they changed through Aesthetic Realism were interviewed on New York City’s WNET Channel 13 Free Time show and the David Susskind Show, which had a national syndication. The book The H Persuasion, published that year, contained writing by Siegel detailing his premise about the cause of homosexuality, transcripts of Aesthetic Realism lessons, and narratives by men who said they changed, describing both why they changed and how. In response to requests from men and women wanting to study Aesthetic Realism, Siegel designated four consultation trios, one of which, Consultation With Three, was for the purpose of teaching men who wanted to change from homosexuality. In 1983, five other men who said they had changed from homosexuality were interviewed on the David Susskind Show. The transcript of this interview was published in the 1986 book The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality.
With the exception of a brief 1971 review calling The H Persuasion “less a book than a collection of pietistic snippets by Believers,” the New York Times never reported that men said they changed from homosexuality through Aesthetic Realism. Students of the philosophy who said they changed from homosexuality or in other large ways accused the press of unfairly withholding information valuable to the lives of people. In the 1970s they mounted an aggressive campaign of telephone calls, letters, ads, and vigils in front of various media offices and at the homes of editors. Many wore lapel buttons that read “Victim of the Press”.
In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1978, ads were placed in three major newspapers stating “we have changed from homosexuality through our study of the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel.” They were signed by 50 men and women. With few exceptions, the press in general either ignored or dismissed the assertion of persons who said they changed.
The gay press and gay reporters were generally hostile to Aesthetic Realism. A 1982 Boston Globe article written by “the first openly gay reporter” on its staff, interviewed primarily gay therapists and then reported that the “assertion” of change through Aesthetic Realism was “a claim staggering to psychiatrists and psychologists.” About 250 people protested the article on the Boston Common. The Globe’s ombudsman later wrote in his column that the article was biased against Aesthetic Realism and that it contained “strong, negative words without attribution” and “inaccuracies”.
Some gay advocacy groups and gay activists presented Aesthetic Realism as “anti-gay”, accusing the philosophy of offering a “gay cure” and expressing skepticism that homosexuality could or should change. Persons within the gay pride movement associated the desire of a man to change from homosexuality with a lack of pride in a gay identity, and saw Aesthetic Realism as biased against those living a gay lifestyle. The Aesthetic Realism Foundation stated unequivocally that it supported full, completely equal civil rights for homosexuals, including the right of a man or woman to live their life in the way they chose.
- Statement of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 1990: “It is a fact that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism. Meanwhile, as is well known, there is now intense anger in America on the subject of homosexuality and how it is seen. Since this subject is by no means central to Aesthetic Realism, and since the Aesthetic Realism Foundation has not wanted to be involved in that atmosphere of anger, in 1990 the Foundation discontinued its public presentation of the fact that through Aesthetic Realism people have changed from homosexuality, and consultations to change from homosexuality are not being given. That is because we do not want this matter, which is certainly not fundamental to Aesthetic Realism, to be used to obscure what Aesthetic Realism truly is: education of the largest, most cultural kind.”
- James H. Bready, “Eli Siegel's system lives" in the Baltimore Evening Sun, 28 July 1982: "In brief, the Siegelian lifeview holds 'all reality, including the reality that is oneself [to be] the aesthetic oneness of opposites.' Motion and rest, surface and depth, love and anger, and so on, once identified, can and must be reconciled..."
- Eli Siegel: "In Aesthetic Realism, beauty is the putting together of things that can be thought of as opposites….Aesthetic Realism says that reality is aesthetics….Reality is, when completely seen, beautiful: that is, reality consists of a mingling in aesthetic relation, of such opposites as the orderly and disorderly….” Aesthetic Realism: Three Instances
- Deborah A. Straub in Contemporary Authors: “This philosophy sprang from Siegel’s belief that ‘what makes a good poem is like what can make a good life…, for poetry is a mingling of intensity and calm, emotion and logic.’” URL: http://pdfserve.galegroup.com/pdfserve/get_item/1/Sad7df8w16_1/SB976_01.pdf
- William Packard: “And as far as Aesthetic Realism goes, it is eminent good sense. Eli Siegel has boiled it down to a simple formula: ‘In reality, opposites are one; art shows this.’ An artist will try to see the opposites in action, in himself and in his world and eventually in his own work.” "How a Major Poet Is Ostracized by Lit Cliches: Eli Siegel in View," published in newsArt The Smith, (1978) URL: http://www.aestheticrealism.net/NewsArt-Packard-article.htm
- Ralph Hattersley: “The solution to our problem with opposites and the use we can make of photography in finding it is pointed to succinctly in the Eli Siegel dictum, ‘In reality opposites are one. Art shows this.’” “Form and Content in Color,” Popular Photography, July 1964, (Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 84-87)
- Lawrence Campbell in Art Students League News: “According to Siegel all the arts and sciences are really attempts at liking and understanding the world.” (March 1983, Volume 37, Number 3)
- Eli Siegel: “Philosophers have often seen reality as freedom and order, simultaneously and continually. Indeed, the first opposites I chose in my Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?, 1955, were Freedom and Order. You can see these right now in the world if you look at it: freedom and order are in the street, in the ocean, in woods in upper New York State.” “Good Sense for the World,” The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #221 (22 June 1977); URL: http://www.aestheticrealism.net/tro/tro221.html.
- Eli Siegel: “Verlaine...has some of the subtlest music in French verse. And here we have the first description of the world which beauty and art illustrate: that is, the world is simple and various at once. It is one universe, even as it has many twigs in twilight.” “Good Sense for the World” (op. cit.).
- Eli Siegel: “If…the structure of the world corresponds to the structure music may have or a novel may have [or any art], that much the world may be beautiful in the deepest sense of the word; and therefore can be liked. “Good Sense for the World,” (op. cit.).
- Martha Shepp: “Aesthetic Realism teaches that the deepest desire of every person is to like the world, honestly. This is the purpose of art education, and actually, ALL education." (Cataloguing Critiques: Submission to C. Staples & H. Williams, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.) URL: http://www.marthashepp.com/cv_syll_phil/CritPresent4Website.pdf.
- Daily Poetics, URL: http://dailypoetics.typepad.com/daily_poetics/2006/09/the_world_art_a.html.
- Eli Siegel, "Aesthetic Realism: a Tripartite Study," The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #247 (21 December 1977) URL: http://www.aestheticrealism.net/tro/tro247.html.
- Deborah A. Straub: “Aesthetic Realism describe[s] the two opposed purposes in everyone’s life. As Siegel once observed, even though 'every person, in order to respect himself, has to see the world as beautiful, or good, or acceptable,' there is also 'a disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world.' According to the philosopher, contempt for the world causes tremendous damage to the self (with effects ranging from boredom to insanity) and, on a larger scale, to the entire world when one nation’s contempt for another leads to war.” Contemporary Authors, URL: http://pdfserve.galegroup.com/pdfserve/get_item/1/Sad7df8w16_1/SB976_01.pdf.
- Bryan Patterson: “Eli Siegel, the great American poet and historian, defined hatred and contempt of people different from ourselves as the false importance or glory people received from the lessening of people not like themselves.” Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia (19 April 2009); URL: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/sunday-heraldsun/better-to-try-world-on-love/story-e6frf92o-1225700167216.
- Deborah A. Straub: “According to the philosopher, contempt for the world causes tremendous damage to the self (with effects ranging from boredom to insanity).” Contemporary Authors; URL: http://pdfserve.galegroup.com/pdfserve/get_item/1/Sad7df8w16_1/SB976_01.pdf.
- Lawrence Campbell: “Among many bold pronouncements none by Siegel are stronger than the assertion that contempt of the world produces insanity.” Art Students League News (March 1983, Volume 37, Number 3).
- Michael Kernan in The Washington Post (16 August 1978): “There are two elements: oneself and everything that is not oneself, which he calls ‘the world.’ These two opposites must be brought into harmony: By liking the world, one can come to like oneself. If, on the other hand, one feels disdain, or what he calls contempt, for the world, unhappiness results. ‘Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it,’ he says. Contempt can lead to insanity, according to Siegel.” URL: http://www.aestheticrealism.org/Press-Articles-on-Aesthetic-Realism/Wash-Post-Article-Kernan.htm.
- Eli Siegel: “An attitude to the world…governs one in one's everyday life. If you feel that the world is ill-managed, is contemptible, is unkind, you have to show that in how you see Mildred or how you see Morton…” “Aesthetic Realism; or, Is a Person an Aesthetic Situation?” (14 January 1969); URL: http://www.annefielding.net/Aesthetic-Situation-by-Eli-Siegel.html.
- Deborah A. Straub: “Siegel regarded this emphasis on the attitude of the individual towards the world as the major difference between Aesthetic Realism and other philosophies.” Contemporary Authors, URL: http://pdfserve.galegroup.com/pdfserve/get_item/1/Sad7df8w16_1/SB976_01.pdf.
- Bennett Schiff: “Nancy Starrels once attempted a working definition: Aesthetic Realism, she said, is: ‘The art of liking oneself through seeing the world, art, and oneself as the aesthetic oneness of opposites.’” New York Post (16 June 1957)
- Deborah A. Straub: “As Siegel once observed,…‘every person, in order to respect himself, has to see the world as beautiful, or good, or acceptable.’” Contemporary Authors; URL:http://pdfserve.galegroup.com/pdfserve/get_item/1/Sad7df8w16_1/SB976_01.pdf.
- Eli Siegel, “Civilization Begins” in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #228 (10 August 1977).
- ISBN #910492-01-8.
- ISBN # 91042-00-X.
- D.E., Booklist, (American Library Association, 15 January 1982): "A distinguished poet and teacher, Siegel died in 1978. This posthumous publication combines his essays and articles to give a final overview of his philosophy, called Aesthetic Realism....Siegel's passionate, affirmative intelligence is deeply stirring, frequently convincing. This is one of the few 'human improvement' doctrines to merit philosophic respect."
- Vincent Starrett in the Chicago Sunday Tribune (28 July 1957, part 4, p.4): “It is a longish poem, at once serious and jocose; an essay, according to Siegel, in Aesthetic Realism; and Aesthetic Realism, he says, is 'about [how] the having-to-do-withness or relation of people, is they, is themselves.'
- Corbett & Boldt: Modern American Poetry, p. 144 (Macmillan Company, 1965): “Siegel’s poetry reveals a view of reality in which ‘the very self of a thing is its relation, its having-to-do-with other things.’”
- Deborah A. Straub, Contemporary Authors: “Siegel composed ‘Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana’ with this principle in mind, taking 'many things that are thought of usually as being far apart and foreign and [showing] in a beautiful way, that they aren’t so separate and that they do have a great deal to do with each other.'”
- "Aesthetic Realism on Art and Self," Peter Gorlin Interviews Eli Siegel on The World of Art, WKCR, 18 April 1963 published in Definition 15 (Definition Press, 1963): "Aesthetic Realism is an educational method. And the first thing that it asks is: What is there in common in biology, and in history, and in the study of music, and in psychology, and in religion, and in cookery, and in the study of the history of sport, and in the study of fabrics, and in the study of chemistry, and the study of geology, and in the study of the dance? Is there something in common? The one thing that is in common is, obviously, the opposites, because in every art and every science, there is something that is and something that changes.”
- Music's Intellectual History, edited by Zravko Blažeković & Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale, 2009), page 167: "It is a central belief of Aesthetic Realism that art, indeed, has metaphysical substance, and therefore any attempt to sever art and philosophy limits the precision and the freedom of one's mind. 'The world, art, and self,' said Eli Siegel, 'explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.'"
- Donald Kirkley, Baltimore Sun, 24 September 1944: “These proceedings are orderly, sensible, and, in this writer’s opinion, scholarly and valuable.”
- The Villager, 26 July 1956: “This relation of poetry and aesthetics to what a person feels and thinks, goes through in any day of his life, is the unique contribution of Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy taught by Mr. Siegel.”
- Deborah A. Straub, Contemporary Authors: “Known first as Aesthetic Analysis and later as Aesthetic Realism, this philosophy sprang from Siegel’s belief that 'what makes a good poem is like what can make a good life.'”
- Katinka Matson, Psychology Today Omnibook of Personal Development (William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1982): The basic tenet of Aesthetic Realism is that all reality is united in an aesthetic union of opposites: This is beauty itself....Siegel analyzes what he calls 'failures' as personified in the work of certain men, Sigmund Freud and T.S.Eliot among others. Siegel believes their common failure to be the neglect of seeing 'the large continuous purpose of man as good will for everything, animate an inaminate.' Freud 'appealed to incompleteness in man.' He confined man's possible view of self by emphasizing his sexual anxieties and death instinct as the keys to mental disorder."
- Ellen Reiss, Preface to Quintillions by Robert Clairmont (American Sunbeam Publisher, 2005): “Eli Siegel…[is the] founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism....Poetry, he wrote, 'is the oneness of the permanent opposites in reality as seen by an individual.'”
- Patrick Skene Catling, Baltimore Sun, 19 April 1952: “'In aesthetic realism,' Mr. Siegel said, 'emotion changes into logic: There is no rift between the two.' Emotion and logic, energy and calm, can and must coexist in poetry if it is to be good poetry, in Mr. Siegel’s opinion.”
- Ellen Reiss, Preface to Quintillions by Robert Clairmont (American Sunbeam Publisher, 2005): “Eli Siegel...founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism...[showed that] every true poem...has come from a person’s seeing something so justly that he or she has perceived in the immediate object the structure of the world itself: the oneness of opposites. And we hear that structure as poetic music. Poetry, he wrote, 'is the oneness of the permanent opposites in reality as seen by an individual.' That is true about every instance of good poetry--no matter what its style, or language, or in what century it was written. On the other hand, an unauthentic poem, however impressive, however praised, is insufficiently sincere...lacks that honesty which is a self at its very center meeting what an object really is.”
- Eli Siegel, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #181 (15 September 1976): “Poetry arises out of a like of the world so intense and wide that of itself, it is musical.”
- M. Carpenter, K. Van Outryve, Preface to The Critical Muse, p. iii (Terrain Gallery, 1973) ISBN 0-911492-18-6: “The Critical Muse is an anthology permeated with the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism....Every poem on the pages that follow is about the need of a person to put together opposites in himself. What makes these poems so important is this: as they tell us about the opposites in ourselves, the way they tell us, the technique of poetry, shows that opposites can be one. The music of poetry...is the most important sign that opposites are one....In our studies with Eli Siegel, we have come to see poetry as having within it the composition, beauty, sanity we want in ourselves. This is the education which makes it possible for poetry to be, as Matthew Arnold said, a criticism of life.”
- Donald Kirkley, “Poet Outlines a Philosophy,” Baltimore Sun, 2 August 1946: “More than 160 persons…attended the introductory talk. Subsequent lectures will be given weekly at Steinway Hall. Tonight’s theme was 'Self and World.' In it, Mr. Siegel affirmed his belief that 'aesthetic analysis can be of help to everybody.' It is, he said, ‘a philosophic way of seeing conflict in self and making this conflict clear to a person so that a person becomes more integrated and happier.’”
- “From Here to Obscurity” by Michael Kernan, The Washington Post, 16 August 1978: “[A]t 67 Jane St. in the Village…[Siegel] gave his first lessons….[T]oday there are perhaps 250 serious students, mostly New Yorkers, though a few commute from nearby cities.”
- Trudie A. Grace, Same Objects/Different Visions: Etchings by Chaim and Dorothy Koppelman in Journal of the Print World (Winter, 2004) p. 36: “In the 1940s, Chaim Koppelman wanted to be a sculptor and then a painter, but in 1953 he switched to printmaking, attracted primarily by the potential for subtle chiaroscuro in the handling of form and atmospherc qualities as well as effects achieved in the biting of the plate.”
- Bennett Schiff in the New York Post, Sunday, 16 June 1957: “An interesting aspect of the cultural life of this city within the past three years has been the development of the Terrain Gallery. There probably hasn’t been a gallery before this like the Terrain, which devotes itself to the integration of art with all of living, according to an esthetic principle which is part of an entire, encompassing philosophic theory. The gallery was organized and launched about three years ago by a group of young, cultivated persons including writers, artists and teachers, all of whom held a fundamental belief in common. This was the validity of the theory of ‘Aesthetic Realism’ as developed and taught by Eli Siegel, a poet and philosopher whose work has received growing recognition….Aesthetic Realism is: ‘The art of liking oneself through seeing the world, art, and oneself as the aesthetic oneness of opposites.’”
- Smithsonian Archives of American Art: “Relevance of the Siegel theory of opposites to the work of Roy Lichtenstein, Clayton Pond, and Richard Anuszkiewicz, interview by Chaim Koppelman, 1968.” 
- Ralph Hattersley, “Form and Content in Color,” Popular Photography July 1964 (Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 84-87): “The solution to our problem with opposites and the use we can make of photography in finding it is pointed to succinctly in the...dictum, ‘In reality opposites are one; art shows this.’ Siegel has, incidentally, a considerable influence on my thinking about photography; but to hold him directly responsible for any of my statements would be to make him considerably less of a philosopher and critic than he actually is.”
- Nat Herz, Konica Pocket Handbook: An Introduction to Better Photography, Universal Photo Books series (NY: Verlan Books, 1960).
- Library Journal, 1 September 1969: “Heraclitus, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, and even Martin Buber have posited contraries and polarities in their philosophies. Eli Siegel, however, seems to be the first to demonstrate that ‘all beauty is the making one of the permanent opposites in reality.’ Since the 1940s, this poet-philosopher-aesthetician has been advocating Aesthetic Realism: ‘that the structure of reality is aesthetic.’ He has also been demonstrating the practicality of and the necessity for the aesthetic criticism of self. The Siegel Theory of Opposites relates life to art and is basically a criterion for all branches of aesthetics.”
- Eli Siegel, “Two Critics of the New Hedda Gabler,” New York Times, Sunday, 15 March 1970: “Did Hedda Gabler want humanity and the world to be more beautiful? I see her as good because with all her uncertainty and displeasingness, this was the main thing in her life.”
- Ted Kalem, Time, 19 December 1969, p. 58: “Now, in an off-off-Broadway production by a group called the Opposites Company, there is a new Hedda Gabler, not only beautifully performed, but deeply and subtly thought through in terms that make it peculiarly relevant to the psychic and psychological states of the modern woman.”
- Walter Kerr, “Hedda Is Not Candida,” New York Times, 25 January 1970: “It is wholly boring and only boring….It doesn’t really mean anything to say that Hedda is 'essentially' good. All people are 'essentially' good, or so I believe.”
- Clive Barnes, “Hedda Gabler: the Good Person,” New York Times, 18 January 1970: “To see Ibsen’s wonderful and dangerous Hedda…as 'a good person' is a cheap little travesty of drama, a misinterpretation of the playwright’s clear demands.”
- Eli Siegel, “Two Critics of the New Hedda Gabler,” New York Times, Sunday, 15 March 1970: “The history of criticism makes it clear that a lack of good will on the part of a critic constitutes an early form of critical incompetence….As Barnes and Kerr deal with various aspects of the Actor’s Playhouse production, if you have your ear to the ground you will discern not criticism but a displeasure with the existence of Aesthetic Realism as a thing to learn.”
- Katinka Matson, p.34, The Psychology Today Omnibook of Personal Development (William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1977): "The process of Aesthetic Realism takes the form of seminars...sponsored by the A[esthetic] R[ealism] Foundation. The seminars deal with a wide range of subjects: those that are directed toward daily problems and the greater problems of life. In seminars, a consultation trio discusses aesthetic solutions to these problems, in terms of music, literature, poetry, painting, history, etc."
- Deborah A. Straub, Contemporary Authors: “Informing and educating the public has therefore become the primary task of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation…whose staff members conduct seminars, workshops, and consultation sessions.” URL: http://pdfserve.galegroup.com/pdfserve/get_item/1/Sad7df8w16_1/SB976_01.pdf
- Filomena Gomes, "Promising the world" in The Bergen Record 26 March 1999: "In a monthly program dubbed 'Learning to Like the World,' educators at the nonprofit foundation, established by Eli Siegel, work with children ages 5 to 12 to help them learn to use books as a tool to appreciate the world and the people around them....The world, according to the foundation’s philosophy, is made up of opposites: outside and inside, rest and motion. Similarly, children want to feel excited and feel at ease at the same time."
- Quintillions by Robert Clairmont (American Sunbeam Publisher, 2005) back cover: "Ellen Reiss is editor of the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, where her commentaries on literature, life, and national ethics appear regularly. She is Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, appointed by its founder, the philosopher, critic, and poet Eli Siegel; and is co-author, with Martha Baird, of The Williams-Siegel Documentary. She teaches at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation and taught previously in the English departments of Queens and Hunter Colleges, City University of New York."
- New York Times obituary, 10 November 1978.
- The Modern Quarterly Beginnings of Aesthetic Realism 1922-1923 (NY: Definition Press, 1969), p. 28: “Whatever the reason, no attempt has been made to bring out all the powers of mind that are in each man at birth, by giving it conditions that would fit it best. Worded differently, men have not had an equal chance to be as actively powerful as they might be. And if they had been given an equal chance to use all the powers they had at birth, they would be equal.”
- Susan P. Smith, Hickory, SC Branch, NAACP, “Back to School Rally Offers Answer to Racism,” Hickory Daily Record, Friday, 21 August 2009: “The Belk Centrum Theater at Lenoir Rhyne University was packed Saturday for an intellectually stimulating Back to School Rally sponsored by the Hickory Branch NAACP....This demonstrates that people in this area are ready for new ideas in education and race relations. Aesthetic Realism views contempt as the cause of racism, 'the addition to self through the lessening of something else'…. The criticism of contempt, including in oneself, and learning to see that the feelings of other people are as real and as deep as one's own, are essential in ending racism.”
- New York Times, 13 October 1990
- Oron, Bernstein, Fishman, Gvili, Ratz, Levy, Shazar, “Contempt Must Be Studied for Mideast Terror to End!” Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism, ed. Bernstein (Orange Angle Press, 2004), p. 135
- Isaac J. Black, The Heart Knows Better, The Amsterdam News, 28 October 1995: “The Heart Knows Better, produced by Ken Kimmelman of Imagery Film Ltd., was just awarded the Emmy for Outstanding National Public Service Film. The film addresses racial prejudice and was inspired by this...statement of Eli Siegel, the American poet and founder of Aesthetic Realism: 'It will be found that black and white man have the same goodnesses, the same temptations, and can be criticized in the same way. The skin may be different, but the aorta is quite the same.'”
- Robin H. King, South Carolina Black News, 18 Dec. 2008: “Many people have been introduced to Alice Bernstein through her nationally published articles, and her column in the South Carolina Black News for the last five years. She writes about what she learned about the cause of and answer to racism from the educational philosophy, Aesthetic Realism.”
- Bernstein, Alice, ed., The People of Clarendon County--A Play by Ossie Davis with Photographs and Historical Documents, and Essays on the Education That Can End Racism (Chicago: Third World Press, 2007, p. xiv).
- CapitalWire, Culture, 1 Nov. 2009: “House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn gave opening remarks at a historic event on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 21st: The People of Clarendon County—A Play by Ossie Davis & the Answer to Racism!”
- John Lewis: “Gays Who Have Gone Straight," NY Daily News, March 15, 1981. “The late Sheldon Kranz, a GI in World War II, was the first man to make the change in 1946. Kranz later married Anne Fielding and the couple remained married for 24 years until his death recently.”
- Sheldon Kranz to interviewer Jonathan Black; Free Time show, WNET, Channel 13, 19 February 1971. Interview reprinted in The H Persuasion, Sheldon Kranz, editor (New York: Definition Press, 1971). “Aesthetic Realism is the first body of knowledge which presents a way of seeing the world that incidentally affects one in terms of the way one sees women…so that one can be permanently heterosexual.” Sheldon Kranz to interviewer Jonathan Black: “One of the things that happened in terms of my wife is that every time I had sex I have never had that ghastly feeling afterwards. As a matter of fact, it never ceases to be a source of wonder to me that one could have sex and really feel good afterwards.”
- “The Homosexual Story” by Eli Siegel, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, Issue #316, April 25, 1979. “Aesthetic Realism was not chiefly interested, as I said, in talking to homosexual people, although it felt it could be of great use. [T]he principal purpose of Aesthetic Realism in talking to a homosexual person [was] to have him see the world differently and therefore himself differently; or, if one wishes, to have him see himself differently and therefore the world differently.”
- Sheldon Kranz to interviewer Jonathan Black, Free Time show, WNET, New York: 19 February 1971. Interview reprinted in The H Persuasion, Sheldon Kranz, editor,(New York: Definition Press, 1971), “Aesthetic Realism is the first body of knowledge which presents a way of seeing the world that incidentally affects one in terms of the way one sees women…so that one can be permanently heterosexual.”
- Elmhurst Press (Elmhurst, Illinois), “Aesthetic Realism Ends Homosexuality,” August 17, 1983, “Five formerly homosexual men…appeared with David [Susskind] and told how they had changed from homosexuality to heterosexuality with the help of a program of Aesthetic Realism developed by Eli Siegel…It is not just for homosexuals but everyone who may feel he or she would like to make some changes.”
- “Aesthetic Realism and Homosexuality” by Kay Longcope, The Boston Globe, April 18, 1982. “The cornerstone of Aesthetic Realism is four-fold: ‘Every person is always trying to put together opposites in himself. Every person, in order to respect himself, has to see the world as beautiful, or good, or acceptable. There is a disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world.”
- Deborah A. Staub in Contemporary Authors. “The first statement of Aesthetic Realism maintains that ‘every person is always trying to put together opposites in himself.’ Though Siegel never intended this principle to become identified with any particular form of self-conflict, it long ago became linked to his position on what he termed the ‘H Persuasion’--homosexuality. Because he believed homosexuality arises from contempt for the world that manifests itself as contempt for women, the philosopher reasoned that people could be 'changed from homosexuality' if they were taught to 'like the world on an honest basis.' Since 1946, over 100 men and women say they have 'changed from homosexuality' after attending special question-and-answer consultation sessions conducted by teachers of Aesthetic Realism.”
- “Instances of How Aesthetic Realism Sees A Matter of This Time” by Eli Siegel from The H Persuasion, Sheldon Kranz, editor (New York: Definition Press, 1971)
- Sheldon Kranz to interviewer Jonathan Black, Free Time, show, WNET, New York: 19 February 1971. Interview reprinted in The H Persuasion, Sheldon Kranz, editor (New York: Definition Press, 1971): “It’s a very philosophic matter, but maybe I can explain it as simply as possible. I think that the desire of every person, just as person, is to be able to welcome and take to himself as much of the variety and diversity and difference of the world as possible….A person becomes educated…to get more and more of the diversity of the world to him. I feel that in homosexuality there is such a limiting of that…such a denying of difference, that I feel there is something very deep in the self of a person that says, ‘This is not what I want.’ Now, as I said…if people…really can say, ‘I like myself this way, really,’ –it’s not for me to say one way or the other.”
- Free Time show, WNET, Channel 13, New York, aired 19 February 1971
- The David Susskind Show WNEW-TV, Channel 5, aired 4 April 1971, New York.
- The H Persuasion, Sheldon Kranz, editor (New York: Definition Press, 1971)
- The David Susskind Show WNEW-TV, Channel 5, aired 8 May 1983, New York.
- Ellen Reiss, editor, The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality (New York: Definition Press, 1986)
- The New York Times, Book Review, page BR64, September 12, 1971
- Robin Green: “FYI Put those fears away, all citizens-to-be” The Globe and Mail, April 28, 1978, p.8 “Pity the lot of the Aesthetic Realists…who are mad at the New York Times because the Times, they claim, refuses to print a story that 123 homosexuals have changed (to heterosexuality) through Aesthetic Realism.”
- ”Some News that’s Unfit to Print,” New York Magazine, 17 April 1978, p.8: “Though the New York Times does a fine job of covering Milanese fashions…it has somehow managed to overlook the Aesthetic Realism story. The Aesthetic Realists do not like this, and they are doing something about it….[They] have disrupted the Times city desk with more than 65 calls a day from people demanding that the story be run….What is more, the Aesthetic Realists have gone into the city streets, holding vigils in front of publisher Punch Sulzberger’s home and those of other top Times officials.”
- Nat Hentoff, "Minority protesters trash First Amendment," St. Petersburg Times, Wednesday, May 5, 1993, p. 11A. "For many years in New York's Greenwich Village, decorously dressed followers of poet and guru Eli Siegel ("Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana") used to wear buttons proclaiming themselves ‘Victims of the Press.’"
- Barbara Fischkin, Muddy Cup: a Dominican Family Comes of Age in a New America, (NY: Scribner) ISBN 0-684-80704-1, pages 231-232: "Linda Kunz wore a 'Victim of the Press' button on her lapel. On the first day of class, she wrote this on the blackboard: 'The purpose of all education is to like the world through knowing it--Eli Siegel.' And then this question: 'Can grammar, which is the structure of language, tell us anything about the structure of the world--including ourselves?'"
- Bayer, Ronald (1987) Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 3, p.158, pp. 127-8. ISBN 0-691-02837-0.
- Advertisement, “We Have Changed from Homosexuality” March 18, 1978, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times
- Allen Roskoff, “Gay Activist Allen Roskoff Lets It All Out”, Queerty, “…they were telling the gay men that it was unnatural to be homosexual. Only opposites could attract in art and in life. The whole philosophy was about opposites, and of course that meant that homosexuality was wrong. I guess they matched up or convinced men. Whenever I saw a woman with a button, I would say, ‘What’s the matter, you can’t find a straight man?’ I detested these people. I mean, they were the ex-gay people.”
- Obituary of Kay Longcope, The Boston Globe, April 8, 2007. “Generally regarded as the first openly gay reporter on the newspaper's staff…. Ms. Longcope, who spent 22 years at the Globe and then founded a statewide gay and lesbian newsweekly in her home state of Texas, died of pancreatic cancer March 28 in Hospice Austin's Christopher House.”
- Kay Longcope: “Aesthetic Realism and Homosexuality,” The Boston Globe, April 18, 1982. “The assertion of change based on Aesthetic Realism is especially startling to professionals in the psychotherapeutic field after a decade of rethinking homosexuality—a process triggered by the Gay Liberation Movement.”
- Robert L. Kierstead, Ombudsman, “Globe article on ‘Aesthetic Realism’ and gays prompts complaints,” The Boston Globe, 24 May 1982. “On May 13, an estimated 250 people rallied on the Boston Common…in the case of The Boston Globe and the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City….The Globe, once it decided to do the article…also assumed an obligation to spare no effort in thoroughly researching and investigating an organization which espouses a philosophy which is both complex and controversial. [Assistant Living Editor Ed Siegel] and writer Longcope believed that under the circumstances involved the story was fair….The ombudsman disagrees. The story, as published, contains a preponderance of material based on interviews with representatives of the gay community who, for the most part, are not un-biased in their views of Aesthetic Realism….The ombudsman believes the article, not intended as an exposé, contained a negative tone and strong negative words without attribution. It also contained inaccuracies.”
- Anti-Gay Cult Pulls Fast One” by Bill Schoell, The New York Blade April 25, 2008. “Unfortunately, Siegel and his followers believed that homosexuality was an illness ‘caused’ by self-contempt….In the 70s AR…heavily promoted the myth that they could convert people from gay to straight….New York’s Gay Activist Alliance responded by infiltrating [or “zapping”] their meetings at their Greene Street headquarters and passing out pro-gay literature.”
- John Lewis: “Gays Who Have Gone Straight” NY Daily News, March 15, 1981. “Ellen Reiss a teacher at the foundation said: ‘What we offer is a means to have people see themselves and the world as they truly are. We are not interested in grabbing people off the street and saying, “Change.” If a person is gay and likes himself and the world and wants to stay that way, fine. But if a person wants to change we offer them a scientific logical approach.’”
Baird, Martha and Reiss, Ellen, eds. The Williams-Siegel Documentary. Including Williams' Poetry Talked about by Eli Siegel, and William Carlos Williams Present and Talking: 1952. New York: Definition Press, 1970. ISBN 0-910492-12-3.
Corsini, Raymond J. "Aesthetic Realism" in Handbook of Innovative Psychotherapies. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1981. ISBN 0-471-06229-4.
Hartzok, Alanna. "Earth Rights Democracy: Land, Ethics, and Public Finance Policy," paper presented at the Richard Alsina Fulton Conference on Sustainability and the Environment, 26–7 March 2004, Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Herz, Nat. Konica Pocket Handbook: An Introduction to Better Photography (New York: Verlan Books, 1960). Kranz, Sheldon, ed. The H Persuasion; How Persons Have Permanently Changed from Homosexuality through the Study of Aesthetic Realism With Eli Siegel (New York: Definition Press, 1971). ISBN 0-910492-14-X Matson, Katinka. "Aesthetic Realism" in The Psychology Today Omnibook of Personal Development. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1977. ISBN 0-688-03225-7.
Parker, Carol. "Filmmaker Tackles Homelessness Issues," Northport Journal, Huntington, New York, 16 December 1999.
Siegel, Eli. Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism. New York: Definition Press, 1981. ISBN 0-910492-28-X.
Siegel, Eli. “Civilization Begins,” in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #228, 10 August 1977.
Siegel, Eli. "Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?" New York: Terrain Gallery, 1955; reprinted in the following periodicals: Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, December 1955; Ante, 1964; Hibbert Journal (London), 1964.