Statement by Maureen Butler, Technical Writer
Lie: “There is very little time for leisure activities, all time away from work is spent at headquarters trying to stay awake at meetings.”
This is an outrageous lie. I’ve studied Aesthetic Realism since 1978, and I do what I want with my leisure time. In fact, I have always been known to my family and friends as a person with a strong independent streak. No one told me what to do with my life.
First of all, there are no meetings. There are two distinct kinds of classes offered in the curriculum of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation:
1) Classes offered to the general public. There are classes each semester that anyone can attend simply by registering for them, such as classes in drawing, acting, poetry, education, the visual arts, singing, and anthropology.
Then there are also two monthly workshop classes offered to the general public, The Aesthetic Realism and Marriage Class and the Learning to Like the World Class for young persons 5 through 12 years old. Persons can attend these classes without registering.
2) Professional classes for persons who teach and are studying to teach Aesthetic Realism, taught by the Chairman of Education, Ellen Reiss.
There are also public seminars and dramatic presentations given at the Foundation, which anyone can simply walk into—paying a suggested contribution at the door if they wish.
Persons who wish to attend the professional classes in which one studies to teach this knowledge must have studied Aesthetic Realism previously and must submit a formal application and be accepted—similar to the way a person must submit an application to study at a law, medical or graduate school. Such persons have made a career choice to participate in an in-depth professional education. Adam Mali is a person who at one time made such a choice. He asked to be there; no one attends these classes without formally asking in writing to do so. Persons who study in professional classes are held to standards of scholarship that are quite high. As a person who has had the privilege and pleasure to attend these classes since 1981, I’m very proud of that.
Meanwhile, in his web page Adam Mali falsely presents all the classes and public presentations given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation as the same, making no distinction between the professional classes and the rest of the curriculum, calling them all “meetings.” This is insulting and untrue. He lumps them all together because it serves his purpose of giving people a small, enclosed, and vaguely sinister picture of Aesthetic Realism where secret things go on in closed “meetings.” This is complete nonsense.
I am an associate studying to teach Aesthetic Realism and I love attending the professional classes Mr. Mali speaks of so disparagingly and falsely. There are two such classes per week, one on Tuesday and one on Friday from 8 to 10 PM. Each class is a big, thrilling, intellectually stimulating, wonderful experience. There is in them an understanding of the human self and what is going on in the world that is urgent, new and needed knowledge. Being there is electric!
Saying that anyone would have to try to stay awake in them is like saying you have to try to stay awake for the Ode to Joy. It’s true that some people fall asleep hearing a symphony of Beethoven, or seeing a play of Shakespeare, or in reading a novel of Balzac. But does that mean there is something wrong with Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Balzac? Wouldn’t you say instead that there is some lack in the person falling asleep—or, trying not to fall asleep?
To show what a lie Adam Mali tells, I’ll try to give some idea of what is in these classes and, as I do, I will also counter another lie he tells—that:
“There is a definite need to consult both in public and private about major life decisions. There is no privacy, and everybody knows intimate details they shouldn’t. This goes along with reporting thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors.”
This is ludicrous. I’ve made my own major life decisions—whether it was deciding to move to New York City from the Midwest after college: or to go—while in college—to eastern Kentucky for a summer to work on a newspaper, The Mountain Eagle, which was known for its criticism of the coal companies in the 1970s for their practice of strip mining; or when I decided to start my own corporation—going it alone so to speak—as a technical writer developing systems documentation for IT departments; or, yes, when I decided that the most important and meaningful career I could have would be in teaching Aesthetic Realism. And I’ve continued to make my own decisions since then.
In the professional classes that Adam Mali also once had the privilege to attend, as part of the study of the human self, consultants and associates have the opportunity, if we would like, to ask questions about things that we’d like to understand better in ourselves. I’ve asked, for example, about how I might see more accurately and with good will my husband, a co-worker, my mother and father, my sister. Through the many discussions conducted by Ellen Reiss which have ensued as a result of questions I brought up, my life has benefited in big ways. I’ve felt respected and understood as I hoped. At the same time I’ve been learning to see myself as both personal and impersonal—as just myself while related to other people. Seeing that I represent humanity has made me feel larger and prouder. This is contrary to the lie, told by Michael Bluejay, that a person who studies Aesthetic Realism is “supposed to feel small” and “inferior to AR.”
I’ll describe just one example of the many discussions that have taken place in these classes. Excerpts from some of them have been published in the international periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. This summer, my husband and I were planning a trip to see my mother in Cleveland. My husband pointed out that when we were talking on the phone with Mom about a menu for a family party, I wasn’t so interested in her hesitation about having a dinner for 40 people—even with my help! I also had other ideas about what she should do. I saw he was right. Also, it was clear my mother did not like this and I felt bad about it. I shuttled back and forth between feeling that I was right and feeling that maybe there was something I didn’t see. I decided to ask about this in an Aesthetic Realism class and said:
“On one hand, I see that I manage my mother [and tell her what to do.] And then I also feel: “What can I do? I’m right. If I know best, shouldn’t I manage?”
This is a frequent situation between mothers and their adult daughters. And it causes quiet, and not so quiet, resentment between parents and adult children throughout the country. When I asked about this situation, I did so because I wanted to understand myself better and do better. It was not because, as Adam Mali (and also Anonymous) would have you think, persons who study Aesthetic Realism have to “report…thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors.” That is such a lie. First of all, there are no superiors and there is no hierarchy. As Ms. Reiss spoke to me as an individual, everyone in the class, including myself, was also learning about humanity: She asked me:
Do you think you can ‘know best’ if you're not trying to understand? After all, if you’re not trying to understand, you can never be sure you're right. Also, if we’re not trying to understand we may never be right. Do you think your mother wants to feel that you are getting pleasure from trying to understand her?
MAUREEN BUTLER: I think so, yes.
ELLEN REISS: Whether a person says so or not, people look for it. We want to feel that other people believe in knowing. That includes wanting to understand us.
MAUREEN BUTLER: That's true. I think my mother feels I want to cheer her up without trying to see what she feels.
ELLEN REISS: Do you think your mother wants to feel there are people in the world who really see understanding as strong and attractive?
MAUREEN BUTLER: Oh yes!
I’m glad to say that shortly after this class, my mother, my husband and I, along with others, had deep and lively conversations while in Cleveland, and these conversations continue now as we talk on the phone. We are becoming the friends I always hoped we’d be. Recently Mom said that our trip did have a good effect on her and that she feels better about things in general since then. In recent months my sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews have been busy planning Mom’s 80th birthday party.
All of this is so contrary to another lie that “Aesthetic Realism breaks up families, and that if persons in your family don’t study Aesthetic Realism, they’re your enemies, and you should have nothing to do with them.” My mother does not study Aesthetic Realism formally, although she has come to love reading the periodical The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
But let’s go back to the lie that about “trying to stay awake at meetings.” Again, there are no meetings. And as for the professional classes that Adam Mali attended, I certainly never had trouble staying awake in them. Hardly. Along with discussions about the questions people have in their everyday lives, Ms. Reiss lectures on a whole range of subjects of vital concern to people today. For example, in one class she spoke on the meaning of a 2004 article in the New York Times on how American workers’ health is badly affected by down-sizing. In another she took up an article about autism and compared and contrasted it with the way Aesthetic Realism explains what goes on in the mind of an autistic child. In another she looked at the ancient legend of Siegfried & Brunhilda, the subjects of one of Wagner’s enduring operas, and related it to the current popular trend in movies and TV to depict women as warriors and avengers. Having any trouble staying awake?
There’s more. In each Friday class consultants and associates study one of the thousands of tape-recorded lectures Eli Siegel gave during the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s on a breath-taking variety of subjects. Though I majored in English and Journalism in college, it was in studying Aesthetic Realism—in hearing tape recordings and dramatic readings of these lectures, and in hearing them quoted in public seminars and presentations—that I came to know and love such writers as George Eliot, Henry James, François Mauriac, Walter Scott, William Makepeace Thackeray, H.G. Wells, and the poets Walter Savage Landor, Alfred deVigny, Charles Baudelaire, William Carlos Williams, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Vachel Lindsay, Christina Rossetti, Wilfred Owen, and more. I came to care more for writers that I already knew and liked, such as Jane Austen, Henry Fielding, Charles Dickens, Dostoevsky, and the poets John Milton, Walt Whitman, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Carl Sandburg.
Besides the writers I mentioned, Mr. Siegel lectured or wrote about the economist Adam Smith; the philosopher, John Stuart Mill, the historical works of Thomas Babington Macaulay; Edward Gibbon; the writings of Thomas Aquinas, John Wesley, Spinoza; the lyrics of Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, the Beatles; the lives, careers, and the largely unknown selves of Theodore Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe and Harold Ickes Sr.; and so much more.
This is only a small fraction of the knowledge that is presented in the classes which Adam Mali says he had difficulty staying awake for. I knew Adam Mali somewhat when he attended them, and he did look dull and bored. Then, again, if a person is bored at something many other people find scintillating, is it possible that person is missing something? Is it possible he has a mind not so capable of getting excitement from large thought, and from the art and culture of the world?
Of course, no one should have the art and culture, the knowledge of the centuries and of this very minute, stuffed down their throats as Adam Mali implies happened to him. If a person does not, or cannot, enjoy these things, they should do as they please and go elsewhere. Adam Mali took his somnolence elsewhere in 1989 or ’88. It is not hard to understand why, when he stopped studying Aesthetic Realism, his departure was barely noticed, except by his mother, who later joined him. She now calls herself Ellen Mali. Mother and son now live in Colorado. The son owns a restaurant. Fine. And I continue to enjoy Aesthetic Realism classes every Tuesday and Friday evenings from 8 to 10 PM.
In another lie Adam Mali says: “The doctrines are not important…,”
Here is my answer:
Excuse me? Would you say that the doctrines of any other philosophy—for example, Idealism, Scholasticism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Existentialism—don’t matter?—that their doctrines are not important in understanding what they are? No. So, why does he think he can get away with that kind of statement when it comes to Aesthetic Realism? This careless declaration reveals Adam Mali’s state of mind and his, yes, contempt, for the facts. This is in keeping with the state of mind of a person who would say that it was difficult to stay awake as the riches I spoke of earlier were laid before him in an Aesthetic Realism class.
The public seminars and dramatic presentations given each month at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City have in them these riches too and I recommend them for everyone! For more information, click on Events at www.AestheticRealism.org.