Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
What is truth? Is this mainly a question for philosophers, or does how we see truth determine the happiness and real success of our lives? Why does lying have such a wide appeal? And what does truth have to do with beauty—including the beauty of an oak tree, or a good poem? These are some of the exciting and vital questions answered in “Truth & Beauty Go On”—the magnificent new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
With this issue we conclude our serialization of the 1974 lecture Truth & Beauty Have a Love Affair, by Eli Siegel. In that playful title is something everyone is desperate to know: that what’s true and what’s beautiful, attractive, delightful not only can be but are fervent friends; and this is why, if we divide them, we suffer and cause suffering.
Every person is ashamed because he or she does not love truth enough. In fact, people often see truth 1) as an interference; 2) as an enemy; 3) as boring; 4) as something that does not really exist; 5) as something to be created by oneself—that is, persons can feel, Truth is what I want it to be and therefore I can pass off a lie as what’s so. Yet we will never be happy or at ease unless we feel what’s in the title of this great lecture. We need to feel that truth—truth as such—is beautiful, alluring, appealing. And we need to feel that our honoring of truth is what will make us important.
To introduce this final section of his 1974 lecture, I am going to quote from a lecture Mr. Siegel gave ten years earlier, in which he also spoke about truth and lies. It was part of a series of lectures he gave on instinct. These eloquent, logical, passionate sentences from Instinct Is Concerned with Truth describe not only the fight in every person, but the fight in a nation:
Truth is the most avant-garde idea still, and always has to be. Truth can be defined as fairness by an individual to reality, and there is nothing that is more avant-garde than that, nothing more terrifying, and also nothing sweeter….Aesthetic Realism says that the greatest desire a person has is the desire for truth….
[Yet] the instinct to lie…is a terrific instinct. It is based on the idea that what a person can do with the world is better than what the world has done with itself….
As soon as a person consents to lie,…he is welcoming tumid anger; he is welcoming swollen contempt, and Lord knows what else. The lie that I am talking of is the tendency to carry on a successful war with reality and have something so because it suits the convenience of the individual….Since the fact as such can very easily be associated with hindrance, frustration, not voting for us, we can go for the lie….At the base of everything that is bad there is this inaccurate love of the lie. [TRO 613-617]
Respect versus Contempt
The fight between truth and lying is a form of what Aesthetic Realism shows to be the big, continuing fight in each individual: the fight between contempt for the world and respect for the world. And in Truth & Beauty Have a Love Affair, Mr. Siegel is explaining that art meets our great need: to see that truth, the desire to respect reality, stands for us—not contempt and lying. This is because all art shows the real inseparability of truth and beauty, of respect and power, of justice and glory….Read more