Statement by Arnold Perey, Ph.D., Anthropologist and Aesthetic Realism Consultant
Aesthetic Realism Is Not a Cult! or, The Big Lie of Adam Mali and Some Others:
Adam Mali and his mother, Ellen Mali, (of Evergreen, Colorado) have produced a steady stream of sensationalist lies about Aesthetic Realism, its founder, Eli Siegel, and the persons who study and teach it, which they hope the American people will lap up. They hope they can make these lies so stunning and frightening that they will eclipse forever the truth about Aesthetic Realism and Eli Siegel, whose integrity was unimpeachable. I am writing because as long as I am alive I will do all I can to have the truth known by people in America and the world.
I am an anthropologist who has taught both anthropology and sociology in American colleges. As a professional social scientist, it is my business to know what a cult is (e.g. I began by studying New Guinea cargo cults in 1966); and I also studied propaganda and lies with Margaret Mead—who was the sponsor of my doctoral dissertation—at Columbia University, as part of human culture.
Aesthetic Realism is not a cult and never has been. The lectures by Eli Siegel, the poetry, the passionate and well-reasoned articles by those who study Aesthetic Realism, which are to be found in libraries and on the Web, show that it is constituted of knowledge which meets the highest professional and scientific criteria, and that those who respect it do so authentically. That is not true of any cult. The Aesthetic Realism Foundation is no more a “cult headquarters” than is Princeton University. It is a place of learning.
As to science, statistics—and ignorance: Mali’s lying—with which he hopes to blacken Aesthetic Realism and its integrity—is also ignorant. There is, for example, the following Mali untruth: “Interestingly, they claim to be scientific. Never have they kept any statistics, or produced evidence of a controlled experiment.”
This is not so. I can mention, for instance, science teachers of New York and elsewhere, who have presented, with accurate statistics included, such workshops as “The Success of the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method” at statewide and national conferences of science teachers. Professional organizations and schools have sponsored workshops and research papers in the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. And teachers have carefully and for years documented (with statistics) the effect of this method in enabling students to learn. Some of that documentation—available for anyone to read—has been on the Aesthetic Realism Foundation website for years (see http://www.AestheticRealism.org/Education_link.htm).
(Strictly speaking, of course, neither “statistics” nor “controlled experiments” are necessary for science. Geology is based on neither—because [for example] one cannot by experiment produce mountains rising from the sea over a period of millions of years. And this is what Lyell, founder of modern geology, gathered evidence for—and was completely correct. Nor did he use or need statistics for this discovery.)
Mali cannot be believed by a person who wants to think honestly about what he said, sees its contradictions and crudeness, and wants to discover what the facts really are. (They are so easily available on the Web.)
On another of Mali’s deceptions—about college: There is this purposely misleading sentence of Mali: “I also was discouraged from earning a college degree.” First, Adam Mali did attend college at the time he says he didn’t. It was Hunter College, City University of New York. Second, his biological father, Emmy-award winning filmmaker Ken Kimmelman, an Aesthetic Realism consultant, told me that he helped Adam Mali in his preparation to attend the School of Visual Arts college (which he decided not to attend). Third, Edward Green, a prize-winning composer, professor of music, and student of Aesthetic Realism, told me that he tried to be useful to Mali in college preparation. Fourth, other persons studying Aesthetic Realism contemporaneously with Adam Mali (including myself) went to college or graduate school. Often, their Aesthetic Realism studies were used to obtain striking success in their fields. (I received a Ph.D. Indeed, my dissertation was based on Aesthetic Realism, and as I said, Margaret Mead was my advisor.) And Fifth, students have received college and graduate credit for courses they took at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
We have to ask why so much encouragement, such an abundance of intellectual riches, did not “take root” with Adam Mali, why it was rejected and later lied about.
Every Lie Has a Motive:
I knew Adam Mali and his family from the time he was about 4 years old till 1990 or so. From an early age, he did not respect learning sufficiently. He showed me, once, a Horatio Alger book Eli Siegel had given him as a child. Then he pointed to a row of other children’s books and said Mr. Siegel had given these to him too. “What did you think of them?” I asked. “I never read them,” he said.
As a young man, Adam Mali applied to become an Aesthetic Realism consultant-in-training: to study, in professional classes, to teach Aesthetic Realism. (Not everyone who is interested in Aesthetic Realism does so; there are many different ways to study it.) Numerous accomplished and learned people attended those classes at the same time Adam Mali and his mother did; yet he found Aesthetic Realism classes to be boring which other, certainly no less intelligent people thought were thrilling cultural landmarks. He was driven to feel superior to those people, including financially. “Everyone’s afraid of my mother,” he once gloated to me. When someone commented to his mother, Ellen Mali, that it would be good if Adam (then in high school) read, his mother was angry because she saw it as an insult—saying it came from a desire to disparage her by finding “flaws” in her child. She once said to me, regarding her anger, “I’m like a mother bear. I have to protect my cub.”
Adam Mali knew that because of his adoptive father, Derek Mali, he would be much wealthier when he came of age than most of those studying Aesthetic Realism. Meanwhile, they had the nerve to respect Eli Siegel very much without looking up to Adam the way he thought he deserved. This enraged him. That is why he tells lies about persons’ respect for Aesthetic Realism and says, angrily and falsely, that they were “utterly devoted” to Eli Siegel and even uses the term “worship”: Eli Siegel “predict[ed] that by 1992, [Aesthetic Realism] would be known, worshipped, and used as a criteria for living one’s life by everyone.”
This is nonsense. Mali has completely fabricated it. What Mr. Siegel did say is that he thought Aesthetic Realism would become standard knowledge in time. That is far from being “worshipped” (one of the words Mali and “Anonymous” use to create the false picture they desire); and it is also not the same as being “used as a criteria [sic] for living one’s life by everyone.”
Why does he distort and mislead this way? It happens that Mali himself wanted to be worshipped by others as much as his mother worshipped him, and didn’t get it. Early documentation shows that to inflate his importance, he lied in print. Barbara Allen, flutist and Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
“When he was about 21 years old, he decided he wanted to learn how to play the flute. I, Barbara Allen, gave him perhaps six lessons. Then he stopped. Shortly after this, I saw in the Directory of Musicians Union Local 802 that Adam Mali listed himself as both percussionist and flutist. I was shocked. I knew he could barely play a scale on the instrument. The man was a liar then, and he continues to be. When, at the time, I had occasion to talk to his mother, Ellen Mali, and asked her if she knew about this flagrant misrepresentation of his ability, she became angry with me for questioning her son.”
Sir Francis Bacon and the Roman philosopher Seneca both say that someone can hate another person when he has reason to be grateful to that person. He can feel that being grateful makes him unimportant. That too is part of Mali’s reason for lying. His anger at Aesthetic Realism is one of the most unjust things a person could have. It was that years ago and is now, even as Mali is chef in his own restaurant in Evergreen, Colorado.
As to the lies of “Anonymous” about “extremists” and “Eastern Europe”:
I cannot take up every lie of “Anonymous” so I will note the following two statements by him or her, which plainly show deliberate, reckless disregard for the facts and a purposeful invention of non-facts. “Anonymous” writes this way about persons studying and/or teaching Aesthetic Realism (including myself): (a) “They are rabid left-wing extremists. . . . They claim that Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was justified, because the world’s resources should belong to all the people”; and (b) “I was ‘studying’ with them when communism collapsed in Europe; just a few months before that happened, they were writing in TRO about how happy the people of Eastern Europe were with their economic system.”
This is wild! (And I am not commenting on the fact that Aesthetic Realism is non-political; that it is about ethics and aesthetics.) Compare those statements of “Anonymous” with actual statements made in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known (TRO) during the times referred to: (a) “There was contempt in Iraq’s peremptory taking over of Kuwait” (The Right Of, issue 920); and (b) “What people [in Eastern Europe] want is for their governments to do better with the opposites: to give an individual his untrammeled individuality with all the expressive rights that go with it, even while the people as a whole and their rights to housing, jobs, food are thought of” (The Right Of, issue 871). More statements could be quoted illustrating the same point. What “Anonymous” states is created by “Anonymous,” with an obvious desire to deceive.
About Eli Siegel’s death in 1978:
Some of the most despicable writing of Mali and Michael Bluejay concerns the death of the founder of Aesthetic Realism. If their motives were not so low they couldn’t write as they did. This is Adam Mali’s lie: “He took his own life in 1978, believing, and stating that the world resented his greatness.”
First, Eli Siegel never said this. It is in no printed work and no one ever heard it. Adam Mali made it up.
And Michael Bluejay adds more lying of his own. He claims that there has been “deception, since AR members have refused to reveal how Siegel died.”
For two decades, Ellen Reiss and others have described publicly, in print, the cause of Mr. Siegel’s death. In 1978, surgery was performed on Mr. Siegel for a benign prostatic condition by a doctor who admitted later he had been angry at his respect for Mr. Siegel. This operation damaged him irreparably and ruined his life. It was the reason for his death later that year, on November 8, 1978: it is apparent that Mr. Siegel chose to die with dignity, as other courageous persons have done, including, it seems clear, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and George Harrison. About Harrison, his friend Eric Idle wrote, “He passed away—here in LA—with beauty and dignity surrounded by people he loved.”
The reason for Mr. Siegel’s death is lied about by Adam Mali and Michael Bluejay in order to denigrate a great man and to evoke suspicion in the minds of anyone they can reach. And why? To get the spurious importance and the thrill of “pulling down” a great man, and the victory of stigmatizing his students. Contempt is a great motivator.
To falsify a man after he has died and can no longer reply—could anything be more cowardly or show more baseness of character? If so, I haven’t seen it.
PhD Columbia University
BA University of Chicago
Recipient of National Science Foundation Grants, Public Health Service Fellowship, Regents Scholarships, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute medal, etc. See biographies in Who’s Who in Science & Engineering, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World
Member, American Anthropological Association
[The website of Arnold Perey is Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology.]