Aesthetic Realism

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FounderEli Siegel (1902–78)
PurposePhilosophy dedicated to the understanding of, and greater respect for, people, art, and reality.
Coordinates40°43′34″N 73°59′56″W / 40.725989°N 73.99882°W / 40.725989; -73.99882
Ellen Reiss, Chairman of Education

Aesthetic Realism is a philosophy founded in 1941 by the American poet and critic Eli Siegel (1902–1978).[1] He defined it as a three-part study: "[T]hese three divisions can be described as: One, Liking the world; Two, The opposites; Three, The meaning of contempt."[2]

Aesthetic Realism differs from other approaches to mind in identifying a person's attitude to the whole world as the most crucial thing in their life, affecting how one sees everything, including love, work, and other people. For example, it says racism begins with the desire to have contempt for what is different from oneself.[3][4] The philosophy is principally taught at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, an educational institution based in SoHo, New York City.

In the 1980s the Foundation faced controversy for its assertion that men changed from homosexuality to heterosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism. In 1990, it stopped presentations and consultations on this subject.[5]


Eli Siegel described the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism as a study in three parts: "One, Man's greatest, deepest desire is to like the world honestly. Two, The one way to like the world honestly, not as a conquest of one's own, is to see the world as the aesthetic oneness of opposites. Three, 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. Even more briefly, these three divisions can be described as: One, Liking the world; Two, The opposites; Three, The meaning of contempt."[6][7]

Liking the World[edit]

A central principle of Aesthetic Realism is that the deepest desire of every person is to like the world. It states that the purpose of art education—and all education—is to like the world.[8]

Honest like of the world does not depend on how fortunate one is, but on seeing that reality is made well because it has an aesthetic structure, which art shows.[9] Siegel asked, "Is this true: No matter how much of a case one has against the world—its unkindness, its disorder, its ugliness, its meaninglessness—one has to do all one can to like it, or one will weaken oneself? [10]

The Opposites[edit]

Aesthetic Realism is based on the idea that reality has an aesthetic structure of opposites. Siegel stated that all the sciences and arts provide evidence of reality's aesthetic structure and can be used to understand and like the world.[11] For example, motion and rest, freedom and order can be seen as one in an electron, the ocean, the solar system. These opposing forces of reality are within every person, and we are always trying to put them together.[12] In Siegel's critical theory, "The resolution of conflict in self is like the making one of opposites in art." A good novel or musical composition, for example, composes opposites that are often in conflict in a person's mind or daily life: intensity and calm, freedom and order, unity and diversity. A successful poem or photograph or work of art in any medium, is therefore, a guide to a good life, because it shows the aesthetic structure of reality and ourselves. "All beauty," he stated, "is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves."[13][14]

The Meaning of Contempt[edit]

Siegel recognized that the desire to like the world is in a constant fight with another competing desire: the desire for contempt, or the hope to lessen what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.[15] He writes in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, number 247:

Aesthetic Realism differs from psychoanalysis and differs from other ways of seeing, when it says that contempt is the greatest danger of an individual; of society. ... Contempt is the one sure means people all over the world have of building themselves up. Contempt is in families, chancelleries, lodges, on pillows, in halls. It is that in [a person] which says: "If I can make less of this and this and this, my glory is greater." …And it should be remembered that having contempt is the same as disliking the world.[16]

An Ethical Obligation and the Means of Liking Oneself[edit]

A key study in Aesthetic Realism is how an attitude to the world as a whole governs how a person sees every aspect of life, including a friend, a spouse, a book, food, people of another skin tone. Accordingly, the philosophy argues that individuals have an ethical obligation to "see the world as well as we can" and where we don't hope to see things and people fairly "contempt winning." [17] Accordingly, the philosophy argues that individuals have an ethical obligation to give full value to things and people, not devalue them in order to make oneself seem more important.[18] 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.[19]

The philosophy identifies contempt as the underlying cause of depression and 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 basis of 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."[20][21][22] He defined good will as "the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful."[23]

Major texts[edit]

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 to 1943.[24] Individual chapters, including "Psychiatry, Economics, Aesthetics" and "The Aesthetic Method in Self-Conflict", were printed in 1946. The full text was published in 1981. It presents the philosophy in terms of how it applies to everyday life and understanding mind. Chapters include "The Aesthetic Meaning of Psychiatry", "Love and Reality", "The Child", and "The Organization of Self" (NY: Definition Press).[25]

A second text, Definitions, and Comment: Being a Description of the World, completed in 1945, defines 134 terms, including Existence, Happiness, Power, Success, Reality, and Relation. Definitions of one sentence are given for every term, followed by a lengthier explanation. The work was published in 1978-9 as a series in the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.

A third philosophic text, The Aesthetic Nature of the World, is largely unpublished, although selections appear in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.[26]


Aesthetic Realism arose from Eli Siegel's teaching of poetry. He stated that ideas central to the philosophy were present in his poem "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana", which won The Nation's annual 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.[27][28] It begins with a hot, quiet afternoon in Montana, and travels through time and space, showing that the diversity of reality is surprisingly connected, and things, people and places usually regarded as separate "have a great deal to do with each other."[29]

Aesthetic Realism Foundation[edit]

Ellen Reiss, Chairman of Education

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 now taught, in public seminars, dramatic and musical presentations, semester classes, and individual consultations. There is an interactive workshop for teachers, "The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method", and classes in poetry, anthropology, art, music, and "Understanding Marriage."[30][31]

Ellen Reiss is the Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, appointed by Eli Siegel in 1977. 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, and co-author (with Martha Baird) of The Williams-Siegel Documentary (Definition Press, 1970).[32]

Eli Siegel died on November 8, 1978.[33] Reiss continues his work teaching Aesthetic Realism in professional classes for the Foundation's faculty and in the course "The Aesthetic Realism Explanation of Poetry". Her commentaries on how the philosophy views life, literature, national ethics, economics, and the human self appear regularly in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.[34]

Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company[edit]

The Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company performing "Ethics is a Force!—Songs About Labor" (2006)

The Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company, composed of actors, singers and musicians, has appeared throughout the country in both musical performances and dramatic productions. Presentations showing the significance of art and ethics throughout history and in our daily lives, include "Ethics Is a Force!"—Songs about Labor, "The Great Fight of Ego vs. Truth"—Songs about Love, Justice & Everybody's Feelings, "Humanity's Opposites—Beginning with Ireland" (Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock and Irish Songs) and "The Civil War, Unions & Our Lives! They also present dramatic readings of Siegel's lectures on Shakespeare, Molière, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Ibsen, Strindberg, Eugene O'Neill, George Kelly, Susan Glaspell, and others.[35]

Opposition to prejudice and racism[edit]

The matter of racial prejudice has long been a focus of Aesthetic Realism. In one of his earliest essays, "The Equality of Man" (1923), Siegel opposed 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."[36]

Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism by journalist Alice Bernstein[37] contains articles published in newspapers throughout the country.[38] The People of Clarendon County (Chicago: Third World Press, 2007), includes a play by Ossie Davis, re-discovered by Bernstein, together with photographs and historical documents concerning the Rev. Joseph DeLaine and others who took part in Briggs v. Elliott. This was the first of five lawsuits that eventually led to the breakthrough 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which made segregation in public schools illegal and struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine established in 1896 by Plessy v. Ferguson. The book includes essays about Aesthetic Realism, which is described as "the education that can end racism."[39]

alt text
"The People of Clarendon County"—A Play by Ossie Davis, & the Answer to Racism, presented at the Congressional Auditorium, US Capitol Visitor Center on October 21, 2009 with Lee Central HS Chorus and the Thelma Slater Singers of Bishopville, South Carolina.

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 Rep. James E. Clyburn.[40]

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 see that the feelings of another are "as real, and as deep, as one's own..."[41]

On an international level, students of Aesthetic Realism 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.[42] To oppose prejudice they recommend that persons of nations who are in conflict "write a soliloquy of 500 words" describing the feelings and thoughts of a person in the opposing land.[43]

The United Nations commissioned Ken Kimmelman 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.[44]


Lectures and classes by Eli Siegel[edit]

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."[45] 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.[46]

Eli Siegel gave over 30,000 such lectures and lessons over the four decades he taught Aesthetic Realism. One series, "Aesthetic Realism As Beauty", considered how particular opposites are brought together in the drama, music, sculpture, dance, and painting, and demonstrated how each of these arts unites opposites that are often in conflict in life situations. He lectured on "Aesthetic Realism and Love", "Aesthetic Realism and Scientific Method", "Aesthetic Realism and H.G. Wells' The Outline of History" and "Aesthetic Realism Looks at Things: Understanding Children". He gave a series of lectures on Henry James that was later published as the book James and the Children: A Consideration of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw". He gave a series of lectures on Imagination, Religion, and the Arts and Sciences. Aesthetic Realism classes were scholarly[47] and sought to demonstrate that art is related to the problems of everyday life.[48][49] This contradicts the Freudian view of art as sublimation.[50]

The Terrain Gallery and the arts[edit]

Among the earliest students of Aesthetic Realism were Chaim Koppelman (1920–2009),[51] a painter, sculptor, printmaker,[52] and founder of the printmaking department of the School of Visual Arts, and his wife, painter Dorothy Koppelman (1920-2017), 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.[53]

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.[54] Artists began using Aesthetic Realism in writings about their fields, including Ralph Hattersley, editor of the photography journal Infinity,[55] and Nat Herz, author of articles in Modern Photography and of the Konica Pocket Handbook: An Introduction to Better Photography.[56] 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".[57]

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,[58] was highly praised in Time magazine,[59] but severely criticized in The New York Times,[60][61] which also published Siegel's response to the critics.[62]

Aesthetic Realism and homosexuality[edit]

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.[63] 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.[64]

Sheldon Kranz and Anne Fielding
Sheldon Kranz and Anne Fielding (1980)

In keeping with its general approach, Aesthetic Realism views homosexuality as a philosophic matter.[65][66][67] A fundamental principle of the philosophy is that every person is in a fight between contempt for the world and respect for it.[68] Siegel stated that this fight is present as well in homosexuality.[69] 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.[70]

Beginning in 1965 supporters of the philosophy began an effort to have press and media report on the change from homosexuality through Aesthetic Realism.[71] 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[72] and the David Susskind Show,[73] which had a national syndication. The book The H Persuasion,[74] 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.[75] The transcript of this interview was published in the 1986 book The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality.[76]

With the exception of a brief 1971 review calling The H Persuasion "less a book than a collection of pietistic snippets by Believers,"[77] the New York Times never reported that men said they changed from homosexuality through Aesthetic Realism.[78] 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.[79] Many wore lapel buttons that read "Victim of the Press".[80][81]

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.[82] 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.[83] 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.[84] A 1982 Boston Globe article written by "the first openly gay reporter" on its staff,[85] interviewed primarily gay therapists and then reported that the "assertion" of change through Aesthetic Realism was "a claim staggering to psychiatrists and psychologists."[86] 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".[87]

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.[88] 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 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.[89]


The organization has been described by Steven Hassan as a psychotherapy cult.[90]


  1. ^ Cummings, Hon. Elijah E. (July 29, 2002). "Honoring Eli Siegel" (PDF). Congressional Record—Extension of Remarks: E1445–E1447.
  2. ^ Eli Siegel, "Aesthetic Realism: a Tripartite Study," The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #247 (21 December 1977) URL:
  3. ^ Mkhondo, Rich (4 January 2012). "Racism deserves to get the red card" (PDF). Sunday Tribune, Durban, South Africa.
  4. ^ The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #2034 (24 June 2020) URL:
  5. ^ "...Aesthetic Realism is, and always has been, for full, completely equal civil rights for everyone. And that includes the right to marry a person of whatever gender one chooses. As is well known, there is intense anger in America on the subject of homosexuality and how it is seen. Since this subject is definitely not central to Aesthetic Realism, and since the Aesthetic Realism Foundation has not wanted to be involved in that atmosphere of anger, in 1990 (nearly 30 years ago) the Foundation discontinued its presentation of the fact that through study of Aesthetic Realism people have changed from homosexuality, and consultations to do so stopped 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.
  6. ^ The Dictionary of Psychology. Brunner-Routledge. 2002. p. 24.
  7. ^ Siegel, Eli (21 December 1977). "Aesthetic Realism: A Tripartite Study". The Right of Aesthetic Realism to be Known. 247.
  8. ^ 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:
  9. ^ Siegel, Eli (31 October 1984). "Liking the World on an Honest Basis: A Note". The Right of Aesthetic Realism to be Known. 604.
  10. ^ Reiss, Ellen (15 April 2020). "Now & Always—How Should We See the World?". The Right of Aesthetic Realism to be Known. 2029.
  11. ^ Campbell, Lawrence (March 1983). "Aesthetic Realism". Art Students League News. 37 (3)."According to Siegel all the arts and sciences are really attempts at liking and understanding the world."
  12. ^ 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..."
  13. ^ 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.'"
  14. ^ Hattersley, Ralph (July 1964). "Form and Content in Color". Popular Photography. 55 (1): 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 Eli Siegel dictum, 'In reality opposites are one; art shows this."
  15. ^ Kernan, Michael (16 August 1978). "From Here to Obscurity". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 August 2020. "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."
  16. ^ Eli Siegel, "Aesthetic Realism: a Tripartite Study," The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #247 (21 December 1977) URL:
  17. ^ Deborah 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:
  18. ^ Siegel, Eli (1981). Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism. New York: Definition Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0-910492-27-1.
  19. ^ Patterson, Bryan (19 April 2009). "Aesthetic Realism". Herald Sun of Melbourne Australia."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."
  20. ^ Eli Siegel, "Civilization Begins" in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #228 (10 August 1977).
  21. ^ Ellen Reiss, "Aesthetics; or, How Not to Be Depressed" in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #1759 (9 December 2009)
  22. ^ When the Raj Faltered By Christopher Balchin,The Tribune Sunday Reading, 09/05/1999|The Tribune, the largest selling daily in North India, publishes news and views without any bias or prejudice of any kind. Restraint and moderation, rather than agitational language and partisanship, are the hallmarks of the paper. It is an independent newspaper in the real sense of the term.|URL:
  23. ^ Eli Siegel, "Good Will Is Aesthetics" in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #121 (23 July 1975) (vol.3 no.17): "Good will can be described as the desire to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire makes oneself stronger and more beautiful."
  24. ^ Siegel, Eli (1981). Self and World: An Explanation of Aesthetic Realism. New York: Definition Press. ISBN 0-910492-27-1.
  25. ^ 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."
  26. ^ "The Fight about Knowledge— in Schools & Everywhere," The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #1962 (20 September 2017) URL:
  27. ^ 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.'
  28. ^ 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.'"
  29. ^ Straub, Deborah, ed. (1983). Contemporary Authors New Revision Series: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Writers in Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Poetry, Journalism, Drama, Motion Pictures, Television, and Other Fields, Volume 9. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Inc. 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.'
  30. ^ 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."
  31. ^ 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:
  32. ^ 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."
  33. ^ New York Times obituary, 10 November 1978.
  34. ^ "Aesthetic Realism Online Library".
  35. ^ Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company
  36. ^ 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."
  37. ^ Aesthetic Realism and the answer to racism: articles published nationwide & abroad in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  38. ^ 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."
  39. ^ (Chicago: Third World Press, 2007, p. xiv) in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  40. ^ 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!"
  41. ^ 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."
  42. ^ New York Times, 13 October 1990
  43. ^ 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
  44. ^ 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.'"
  45. ^ 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.'"
  46. ^ "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."
  47. ^ Donald Kirkley, Baltimore Sun, 24 September 1944: "These proceedings are orderly, sensible, and, in this writer's opinion, scholarly and valuable."
  48. ^ 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."
  49. ^ Siegel's assertion that the world is seen truly in art contradicted the Freudian view, popular at the time, of art as sublimation.
  50. ^ 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 and inanimate.' 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."
  51. ^ [1].
  52. ^ 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 atmospheric qualities as well as effects achieved in the biting of the plate."
  53. ^ 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.'"
  54. ^ 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." [2]
  55. ^ 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."
  56. ^ Nat Herz, Konica Pocket Handbook: An Introduction to Better Photography, Universal Photo Books series (NY: Verlan Books, 1960).
  57. ^ 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."
  58. ^ 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."
  59. ^ 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."
  60. ^ 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."
  61. ^ 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."
  62. ^ 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."
  63. ^ 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."
  64. ^ 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."
  65. ^ "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."
  66. ^ 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."
  67. ^ 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."
  68. ^ "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."
  69. ^ 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."
  70. ^ 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."
  71. ^ The H Persuasion, Sheldon Kranz, editor (New York: Definition Press, 1971), p. xvii. "Since 1965 there has been a more or less continuous effort to have some coverage of the documented changes from homosexuality through the study of Aesthetic Realism."
  72. ^ Free Time show, WNET, Channel 13, New York, aired 19 February 1971
  73. ^ The David Susskind Show WNEW-TV, Channel 5, aired 4 April 1971, New York.
  74. ^ The H Persuasion, Sheldon Kranz, editor (New York: Definition Press, 1971)
  75. ^ The David Susskind Show WNEW-TV, Channel 5, aired 8 May 1983, New York.
  76. ^ Ellen Reiss, editor, The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality (New York: Definition Press, 1986)
  77. ^ The New York Times, Book Review, page BR64, September 12, 1971
  78. ^ 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."
  79. ^ "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."
  80. ^ 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.'"
  81. ^ 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?'"
  82. ^ 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.
  83. ^ Advertisement, "We Have Changed from Homosexuality" March 18, 1978, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times
  84. ^ 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."
  85. ^ 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."
  86. ^ 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."
  87. ^ 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."
  88. ^ 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."
  89. ^ 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.'"
  90. ^ Tucker, Maria Luisa (May 6, 2008). "A Brooklyn Assemblyman's Earmarks Are Political Surrealism". Archived from the original on June 29, 2011.


  • 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.
  • "Foes Accuse Teachers of Cult," "'I threw out 15 years of my life,' says ex-follower," "Foundation Refutes 'Smear' Tactics", The New York Post, 8 February 1998.
  • 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.

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