Statement by Carrie Wilson, Aesthetic Realism Consultant, Singer, Actress, and Gallery Coordinator
As to "worship": Among the lies which several individuals put forth on the Internet about Aesthetic Realism, one I find particularly absurd and despicable is an assertion that its founder, Eli Siegel, wanted to be "worshipped." Nothing could be more false. I had the opportunity to learn from and observe Mr. Siegel as I studied in classes with him for eight years. His modesty was such that after I had been his student for two years, and he had understood, more deeply and exactly than had ever occurred in my life, how I felt and saw things, he said to me in a class, "I never feel I know a person well enough." And he was this way as to everything.
For example, after lecturing definitively on the play Hamlet, and writing an extensive, thirteen-part dramatic consideration of it, Shakespeare's Hamlet: Revisited, he continued to look at the play freshly, year after year, always seeing new things about its meaning and poetry.
Worship was the last thing Eli Siegel wanted. It was honesty and good will that he prized, not flattery and prestige. He hated facile agreement. He asked that people test Aesthetic Realism, ask questions. Anyone who doesn't like to think would find this uncongenial, and one of the individuals whose false statements I am countering, Adam Mali, was clearly such a person. Moreover, if Mr. Mali had to fight "to stay awake," as he says, during lectures on Shakespeare or Milton, on world history, ethics, and the aesthetics of medicine, to mention only a few of the hundreds of subjects on which Mr. Siegel lectured, it is hardly an indication of sound critical acumen. If a person can't stay awake during Brahms' Second Symphony, it is not a reflection on the music.
As to the lies about Ellen Reiss: I also want to say something about the attempt to slur the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, Ellen Reiss. Mali says, "What is best for Aesthetic Realism, and the current leader, Ellen Reiss, and her instructions are the criteria for any action." Yes, Ms. Reiss does ask what is best for Aesthetic Realism, and it is why I trust her. Would the president of a university not be expected to ask what is best for that university? She does not issue "instructions"; she is an educator, not a "leader." I have attended the classes she teaches for Aesthetic Realism consultants and associates for 27 years, and I have never seen her act from a narrow motive. Anyone who reads Ellen Reiss's commentaries in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known knows the integrity, the kindness, and wide scholarship, which characterize her mind. She has been a deep and constant friend to my life, and to my expression as a singer and actress. I love her because she has kept Aesthetic Realism true to what Eli Siegel taught, and that means kind and honest.
As to a press boycott and the lie about feeling the world is against oneself:
I comment also on the attempt to make it seem that there was in Eli Siegel, and is, in persons studying Aesthetic Realism, a neurotic belief that the world is against oneself. This is totally absurd. Aesthetic Realism shows more clearly and convincingly than any philosophy I have studied or heard about, that the world can be liked on an honest basis.
Mali states: "They believe there is an active press boycott." It happens such a boycott has existed. In 1976, I was curator of an exhibition of documents from the 1950's on, showing this fact conclusively in the fields of literature, the visual arts, education, mental health, and more. Persons of the press and media, in their conceit, have resented having something large to learn from Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism. And I will mention too that some years ago, as a director of the Terrain Gallery, which has Aesthetic Realism as its basis for exhibiting art, I was told by the then chief art critic of the New York Times, explaining why he had never reviewed an exhibition at the gallery, that "Word came down from the top not to write about Aesthetic Realism." Pardon me, but does that not sound like a boycott?
Meanwhile, I'm happy to say, the situation is not what it was some years ago. There are now editors of papers across America and overseas publishing articles, guest editorials, columns, and letters presenting the explanation and solution Aesthetic Realism provides to such matters as the crisis in education, the cause of racism, the inequity of our health care system, and much more.
Eli Siegel was the greatest man of thought I ever knew. His knowledge was the most extensive, the most organized, the most useful. His spoken prose was beautiful. He gave thousands of extemporaneous lectures, many of which have been transcribed. They are just plain great, thrillingly great. I never knew anyone so kind, or so honest. This is my opinion. It is a careful one, an earned one, and I have a right to it. He is no longer living, but it is an honor to praise him—just as any sensible person would be proud to praise Shakespeare.
Carrie Wilson has a degree in art history from Barnard College ('66), and also graduated from the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.