Friends of Aesthetic Realism
       Countering the Lies
“It’s a lie, and not a well told one at that.
  It grins out like a copper dollar.”

                  —Abraham Lincoln

Statement of Barbara Allen, Aesthetic Realism Consultant and Flutist

As to the Huge Lie about Criticism and Classes
I want to comment on a gigantic fabrication: the way "criticism" is written about by "Anonymous." The picture given of people being ganged up on and gone at is some of the most repulsive, fantastic fiction—as a whole and in its details—that I have ever read. What this writing comes from I will be describing in a little while.

Meanwhile, I'm glad to be able to describe the actual criticism—of a rich, cultural kind—which does take place in the Aesthetic Realism classes conducted by Ellen Reiss. (By the way, for quite a while now there have been no Opinion Meetings, and what used to be discussed in them is now part of Aesthetic Realism classes.)  

What the Professional Classes Are Like
First, the wide curriculum of classes given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation has been described elsewhere on this website by Maureen Butler: i.e. there are seminars, and classes for which one can register on a semester-by-semester basis—in Educational Method, Music, Anthropology, Poetry, and more. But as she says, if a person feels, as I did, that he or she wants to learn how to teach Aesthetic Realism, that person applies to attend the professional classes which are for that purpose. In my opinion, there is no greater responsibility and also pleasure than to learn how to comprehend a person, which is what Aesthetic Realism associates and consultants are learning to do. Furthermore, every human being is so complex, so richly represents reality, that someone who wishes to be a consultant of Aesthetic Realism is asked to learn as much as possible about all that a person is related to: the arts, sciences, history, literature, culture of the world!  

That is exactly what happens in these classes conducted with great scholarship and kindness by Ellen Reiss. And it's a privilege and a good time to attend them!  

An important part of this education is that a person who is going to teach others learns about himself or herself. I am proud of the wide education I've received in many areas of study—music, literature, education—and very much on the subject of marriage. I teach wives in consultations and the monthly Aesthetic Realism and Marriage class with my colleagues Anne Fielding and Pauline Meglino. In this field, in discussions about marriage and self, I have been asked critical questions about myself as a wife, such as: Did I see other people, including my husband, as having an inner life as deep and rich as my own? Did I hope to think well of my husband or did I hope to find some flaw—real or imaginary—to justify caring less for him?

These questions are invaluable and contribute centrally to the marriage I have today which I am proud of. In fact, if I were not able to be critical of myself, I would not be qualified to teach others.  

If a person wants a different profession, fine! Then they needn't study to teach Aesthetic Realism, and needn't meet the requirements of that study. But if a person does choose this as a profession, of course he or she is expected to study the subject! There have certainly been, in the near-35-year history of professional classes for the teaching of Aesthetic Realism, people who felt this study was not for them and discontinued it, as people discontinue training for any profession, like medicine or law. However, a few of those were persons who were very angry at the educational standards of this study—who felt they should be able to teach Aesthetic Realism while dealing with its principles and ethics any way they pleased. These individuals withdrew, of course no one ran after them, and now they are lying publicly about the education they couldn't have on their terms.

What Are the Requirements?
Here are the requirements for being an Aesthetic Realism consultant, based on a 1975 statement by Eli Siegel on the subject: 

Qualifications for Being an Aesthetic Realism Consultant

1. The junction of knowledge and ethics in every instance of a consultant must be clear—in such a manner that a person listening to the consultant would be listening to someone who had both perceptive and ethical strength. Noteworthy is the fact that it is always “consultation with three,” by which one person can reinforce another in having some thought or observation given its true meaning. The presence of three persons makes for a constant awareness and a possibility of checking any incomplete expression.

2. The next requirement is that the person chosen be useful to someone representing the population.

3. A person is useful as an Aesthetic Realism consultant who, through his or her own experience, has seen the validity of Aesthetic Realism in the lives of people. Every person who is a consultant has, through his or her own life, seen the relevance and value of Aesthetic Realism.

4. A person is an Aesthetic Realism consultant who, while seeing Aesthetic Realism as true, is interested in both science and art as living things; and sees teaching as going along with learning every day.

5. Ethics is a central thing in Aesthetic Realism; and therefore every Aesthetic Realism consultant must show that he or she welcomes an obligation to another; that he or she sees being useful to another as valuable to his or her own life and representing it.

6. An Aesthetic Realism consultant must care for both the old and new; must be able to see what is alive and useful in the past, and also be aware that the past can any day be seen in some new fashion.

7. An Aesthetic Realism consultant makes a one of responsibility and his or her own honest expression.

  • Read statements by many individual men and women
  • Reviews from the NY Times Book Review, Saturday Review, Library Journal, Harlem Times, Popular Photography, and more
  • The poetry by Eli Siegel, so greatly respected by William Carlos Williams and many others
  • Read lectures by Eli Siegel on subjects as diverse as literature, love, & economics
  • What is learned in classes taught by Ellen Reiss

  • A Little Anthology of Comments (Some Funny We Hope) on Further Misrepresentations.

    >> Continue

    "On the Pleasures and Advantages of Anonymity: An Ode"—
    >> Continue

    A Dramatic and Cautionary Tale about an Unknown and Very Unimportant Person

    There once was a young man of ancient Greece named Milos. And Milos knew Socrates. He did not like Socrates because the great man asked far too many questions.... >> Continue

    Statements by Friends of Aesthetic Realism

    Barbara Allen
    Frances Amello
    Jerry Amello
    Christopher Balchin
    Mara Bennici
    David Berger
    Alice Bernstein
    Rachel J. Bernstein
    Barbara Buehler
    Gina Buffone
    Beverly Sue Burk
    Maureen Butler
    Jeffrey Carduner
    Margot Carpenter
    Lori & Robert Colavito
    Albert Corvino
    Nicholas Corvino
    Henry D'Amico
    Matthew D’Amico
    Ernest DeFilippis
    Vincent DiPietro
    Carol Driscoll
    Donita Ellison
    Anne Fielding
    Lorraine Galkowski, RN
    Pamela Goren
    Edward Green
    Avi Gvili
    Ames Huntting
    Mark Lale
    Dale Laurin
    Rose Levy
    Timothy Lynch
    Lorraine Mahoney, RN
    Derek Mali
    Glenn Mariano
    Haroldo Mauro Jr.
    Joseph Meglino
    Pauline Meglino
    Allan Michael
    Marvin Mondlin
    Robert Murphy
    Michael J. Nadeau
    Meryl Nietsch-Cooperman
    Ruth Oron
    Arnold Perey, PhD
    Lauren Phillips
    Jack Plumstead
    Maria Plumstead
    Rosemary Plumstead
    Rev. Wayne Plumstead
    Marcia Rackow
    Zvia Ratz
    Ann Richards
    Anthony C. Romeo
    Leila Rosen
    Rhonda Rosenthal
    Sally Ross
    Claudia Senatore
    Sheldon Silverman
    Jeffrey Sosinsky, MD
    Barbara Spetly McClung
    Joseph Spetly
    Faith K. Stern
    John Stern
    Arlene Sulkis
    Devorah Tarrow
    Jaime R. Torres, DPM
    Dennis L. Tucker
    Francine Weber
    Steve Weiner
    Miriam Weiss
    Carrie Wilson


    These ethical and cultural standards Anonymous and his/her cohorts chose to be angry at. It's clear that their purpose is to hurt tremendously the person and persons who didn't let them get away with something.

    As I've said, the Aesthetic Realism classes conducted by Ellen Reiss are wide-ranging and, I want to add, always exciting in their presentation of the arts and sciences. The purpose of these classes is to have the principles of Aesthetic Realism seen and used exactly, as the purpose of the Opinion Meeting was. This includes the study of how "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." Also we learn to better understand the great fight Aesthetic Realism shows to be fundamental in every self: between respect for the world and contempt. It is my opinion that there's no more important study in the world!

    To give a small sampling: Recently Ms. Reiss gave a series of classes on Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary [1750] showing how deeply this important writer was concerned with the relation of good and evil, with "the grandeur of the human self and also the fact that people can deal so brutally with one another." In another class she lectured on some of the Sherlock Holmes stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle. "What is there in these stories," she asked, "that takes people?... Are we affected by the opposites-our opposites-the known and the unknown?" Is Sherlock Holmes a terrific relation of energy and languor? Are we? She has spoken about the Civil War; current articles in the newspapers which show the ethics working in the world, for instance, an important article titled "One Japanese on a Quest of Atonement"-about a Japanese World War II veteran who is impelled to guide his countrymen and women to China and speak of the atrocities Japanese soldiers committed there. There are the classes she's given on works by the American writers Washington Irving and Bret Harte. And this is just a small sampling.

    And I'd like to include here a small portion of a diverse and exciting list of required reading initially presented by Eli Siegel for these professional classes: Hamlet by William Shakespeare; John Tyndall's "Belfast Address" (1874); Honore de Balzac's The Country Doctor; Immanuel Kant's The Metaphysics of Morals; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson; the 14th Chapter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria; Willa Cather's short story "Paul's Case"; Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe; Thomas Henry Huxley "On the Causes of the Organic Phenomena of Nature"; Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud; George Eliot's Middlemarch.

    The criticism I sought all my life, I am finding in these classes, as I found in the Opinion Meetings! As a musician I looked for criticism from my teachers. If, as I attended the University of Illinois as an English major and an Applied Flute student with Charles DeLaney, or Joanne Bennett of the Chicago Symphony, they had told me that everything I played was wonderful, that I had reached perfection, I would have felt flattered and also rooked. And certainly my improvement would have been stifled!

    As every athlete knows, a coach has, as his or her responsibility, to tell the players what they can do better. The best coaches-the great Vince Lombardi for one-have been strict and encouraging of their players. And it is clear in every school there is course work, there are evaluations given; there are standards set; there is criticism and encouragement so that a person will learn. I know of no teacher who would praise a child for saying 15 divided by 3 equals 4. It simply is not true.

    Well, the same thing goes for our selves. And I respect and, yes, love the way Aesthetic Realism shows the scientific basis upon which we can criticize ourselves and also reality. But this is what those few individuals are furious about. They were not permitted to be sloppy about Aesthetic Realism and its ethics. And this is what is being twisted and lied about beyond belief. (There is one manufactured item after another. For instance, the presentation of Aesthetic Realism as telling people what to say during sex is sheer nonsense and does seem to arise from an imagination that is warped.)

    The Desire for Criticism
    Now I'll give a few historical instances of the desire for criticism—true criticism, because it's this that is being falsified monumentally! In each instance it made a person stronger, more an artist, a better person.

    1. LITERATURE.   It is well documented that one of the most popular and best-loved books in the English language—Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-exists because Robert Louis Stevenson listened to criticism from his wife.  

    One day he brought her the first manuscript of this work saying, "It is the best thing I have ever done.” Mrs. Stevenson read it and thought it was the worst thing of his she had read. Writes her biographer:

    At last, by his request and according to their custom, she put her objections to it, as it then stood, in writing, complaining that he had treated it simply as a story whereas it was in reality an allegory. After reading her paper and seeing the justice of her criticism,... he burned his first draft and rewrote it from a different point of view. [The Life of Mrs. R. L. Stevenson by Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez: London, 1920, p. 118]

    The result is the powerful, critical description of the dual nature of the self that is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which thrilled and educated the world.

    As early as 1923, Eli Siegel defined criticism as "that action of mind, whose aim is to get the value of anything; and by value I mean size of power; and this power may be good or bad. It is clear that the value of a thing may not be got unless the thing itself is known."

    Authentic criticism is good will. It enables a person to be kinder, meet situations with more knowledge, and be true to oneself. But to the ego, which wants to do anything it pleases with reality, criticism is seen as an affront, something to get revenge for or punish. Yes, I am grateful for the criticism I've received and am proud to say so!

    2. ART. Marcia Rackow, painter and teacher of the museum/gallery class The Visual Arts and the Opposites, describes here how the great sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti looked for criticism:

    The greatest artists of Italy were invited to take part in the competition to design new Bronze Doors for the Baptistry in Florence . All the other artists kept their works in process secret—Brunelleschi, Donatello, everyone—but, Vasari writes in his Lives (1551),

    Lorenzo alone...continually brought his fellow-citizens, and also passing strangers if they understood the trade, to see his work and hear their opinion. By the aid of their criticisms he was enabled to produce a model which was beautifully made and absolutely without fault. [Emphasis mine] [Everyman edition, translated by A. B. Hinds, vol. I, pp. 241-242]

    Yes, Lorenzo Ghiberti, who welcomed criticism, won the contest-and his doors are still one of the wonders of Florence today.

    3. ACTING. This was sent by the renowned actress, Obie-award winner Anne Fielding, Consultant and Director of the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company:

    It is an accepted fact that any person interested in a profession in the various arts, sciences, etc. needs to STUDY one's particular field, and a crucial part of that study is criticism. For example, John Gielgud writes in his introduction to Constantin Stanislavsky's An Actor Prepares:

    To whom shall the successful actor turn for true criticism and constructive advice as he encounters the perils and continual problems of his career? To whom can the student go when he embarks on the first perilous seas of stage experience?.... Every young actor must wish, be told the things that Stanislavski tells of in his book.

    That book, An Actor Prepares, written in 1936, which is now a must for aspiring actors everywhere, is all about the need for, search for, honest criticism if one is to become an artist with integrity. In it, Stanislavski tells of the criticism he and other students in a theatre company received in lessons given by their Director, Tortsov—criticism the great Russian theoretician cherished, and from which he built a method of teaching acting which is studied today all over the world.

    4. SCIENCE. Dr. Arnold Perey, an authority on human evolution, wrote this about Darwin and his contemporaries:

    Charles Darwin, as he was developing the Theory of Evolution, asked continually for criticism of every point to make sure it was correct. But the theory of evolution itself was a criticism of other scientists, whose knowledge was incomplete without it and who needed to learn from Darwin. Being angry at criticism is fatal for the progress of science. And those who were angry—such as the great zoologist (whose knowledge Darwin respected and whom he quoted in The Origin of Species) Louis Agassiz of Harvard—fell by the wayside. "An ingenious but fanciful theory" Agassiz called evolution. And the Cambridge geologist, Adam Sedgwick, Darwin's teacher, called it poison: he claimed that Darwin was teaching that we "are the children of apes and the breeders of monsters."

    The great Thomas Henry Huxley, however, thrived because he was inspired by the criticism of himself that he experienced. When he "first encountered [Darwin's theory] his reaction was, 'How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that.’" (John Durant, New York Times Book Review, 23 April 2000). But then Huxley wrote to Darwin: "I do most heartily thank you for the great store of new views you have given me," and assured him that "you have earned the lasting gratitude of all thoughtful men. And as to the curs which will bark and yelp, you must recollect that some of your friends, at any rate, are endowed with... combativeness....I am sharpening up my claws and beak in readiness." (Letter of November 23, 1859, Huxley to Darwin).

    That's how to see criticism: as inspiration! This criticism in the field of self as well as culture is what takes place in classes for Aesthetic Realism Consultants and Associates, and took place in Opinion Meetings. And it is what Anonymous is furious at and getting revenge for by making it seem so monstrously different from what it is!

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