Statement by Miriam Weiss, Translator, Proofreader, and Essayist
I am proud to add my voice to counter lies that a small group of individuals have put forth on the web. I comment here on some of them—first, on the lie that Eli Siegel “demand[ed] to be worshipped and robb[ed] people of their individuality.” I can't think of any greater falsehood. The thing that Eli Siegel stood for with passion—and I saw this with my own eyes from 1975 as his student in the classes he taught—was justice to reality; respect for people, facts, objects, ideas. The respect I have for Eli Siegel arises from and is in direct proportion to the respect Aesthetic Realism has encouraged me to have for so much else. Through my study I have come to know and honestly value hundreds of people who have enriched humanity in the fields of philosophy, literature, science, poetry, drama, religion, and more. One of the most notable things that a person comes away with after hearing any of the thousands of talks Mr. Siegel gave, was how entire was his desire not to miss the goodness in any person or thing.
As a teenager, it mattered very much to me to stand up for justice to people in the social field, but I never felt I was wholehearted and this made me feel unsure of myself. In Aesthetic Realism I met something that stood for justice across the board—not only in one field, but as to everything! Economic justice for people was not separate, I learned, from justice to an everyday object that I could be careless about, justice to words, or justice to the thoughts of a member of my family. “This is the real thing!” I felt to myself, and 35 years of study has only confirmed this.
Seeing how I became a more interested, kinder daughter, also more alive and confident under my skin, my mother wanted to find out what had such a good effect on me. She attended Aesthetic Realism public presentations and liked what she heard. She got new hope for her own life and decided to study Aesthetic Realism herself, which she continues to do now at age 85. My father, who died in 1985, though he didn't formally study Aesthetic Realism himself, encouraged us in our study and expressed in many ways how personally grateful he was for what we were learning. This is my answer to the utter falsehoods put forth that Aesthetic Realism breaks up families.
As to the absurd lie that a person loses his or her individuality through studying Aesthetic Realism, I personally blossomed through my Aesthetic Realism education, and possibilities of perception and expression in me came to life. I continue to study now in classes taught by Ellen Reiss because I want to be a wider, more informed and expressed individual than I already am. I resent anyone casting aspersions on my character and my intelligence about my own life. I equally resent the lies about the character and purpose of Ellen Reiss, which certain nameless individuals have had the temerity to concoct. I have had the good fortune to learn from Ms. Reiss beginning in 1973 when she was one of my consultants and what I saw then and now has been consistently: integrity, a love of knowledge, a passion about truth, great modesty and pride and also a tremendous sense of humor, all of which qualities people out to discredit Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism have to try and obliterate. As others have written on this website with detail, it is a pleasure to study in the classes she teaches for those wishing to teach Aesthetic Realism.
More on the matter of individuality: Something I associate very much with who I am is my study of the Japanese language and culture, which began before I started studying Aesthetic Realism. While I am proud that my sense of myself takes in ever so much more now, I continue to be a serious student of Japanese, attending weekly classes in the language, and have received only encouragement of this pursuit from friends and colleagues. I spent many months in rigorous preparation to take the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, given worldwide and sponsored by The Japan Foundation. I took this test at Columbia University and passed. Also, in my leisure time (which I supposedly do not have away from the Aesthetic Realism classes I attend) I recently visited Japan with my husband. I watch Japanese television, read Japanese newspapers and novels and socialize with friends and family. I also love to cook, go to concerts, bike ride and take Pilates classes.
On the Past, Self-Criticism, & a Motive
Another lie I want to address is the pathetic one about how persons studying Aesthetic Realism see and talk about their past. An anonymous person on Michael Bluejay's website has written that a person has to present oneself as a “miserable failure whose life was in shambles,” all for the sinister purpose, of course, of making Aesthetic Realism look good in comparison. This is simply not so. I, for one, would never have requested to have another Aesthetic Realism consultation after my first had I not come to learn that I was much better and deeper than I thought, even as I also got hope for the first time ever that I could understand and change things in myself that I didn't like. Far from seeing my past as “miserable,” I thank my lucky stars, my parents, and through them all the enriching experiences I was afforded as a young person—exposure to different cultures, the theatre, programs in filmmaking and anthropology, the feeling for justice that had been instilled in me—that I was able immediately to value the new, important knowledge in Aesthetic Realism when I first began to study it at age 18.
I am proud of the “good” that was in me, which included intelligence and the hope to be a useful person. But part of that good was a feeling that there were also things in myself that I wanted to change. The persons most respected in this world are those who have been honest about where they questioned themselves in the past. [See Jean Jacques Rousseau, St. Augustine, Benjamin Franklin, George Eliot, the 10th-century Japanese woman diarist Sei Shonagon, to name only a few.]
If the motive were not so repellent, it would be laughable to see how certain people have tried to twist the ability to acknowledge and hope to change what one doesn't like in oneself into something slavish and weak. It is nothing but a smokescreen for the fact that some people hate the idea of being grateful to something that doesn't flatter them in return. That is what it comes to and it might as well be said straight, but of course that would look pretty sleazy. I for one am damned glad I can be grateful, not just for something incidental that I can brush off when it suits me, but for the biggest thing—knowledge I have seen to be true about myself and the world. What I have learned about contempt alone—Eli Siegel's seeing that the emotion of contempt hurts mind—has been invaluable to me, not only for the happiness of my own life, but for my understanding of people as such. I would be an absolute dope to deny this and act as if I could take or leave what I have learned and continue to learn from Aesthetic Realism. The honest truth is that care for Aesthetic Realism is eminently intelligent and strong.