The education taking place in Aesthetic Realism consultations is new in the understanding of people’s lives. It brings comprehensiveness and dignity to the issues people are puzzled by, distressed by, and trying to make sense of every day. It shows that the questions of people’s lives are aesthetic questions, answered in outline by the art of the world. As Aesthetic Realism consultants speak to a person in a consultation, everything we say in the consultation is based on the following principles stated by Eli Siegel:
- Every person is always trying to put together opposites in himself or herself.
- The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.
- The greatest danger or temptation of a person is to get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself; which lessening is Contempt.
- The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.
It was in classes and Aesthetic Realism lessons conducted by Mr. Siegel that I first began to learn these principles. Consultations are given by three consultants so that the knowledge and experience of each adds to that of the others. In this way, there is less chance of something central being missed as we try to understand and be fair to every aspect of the person having consultations. What is the practical use of the principles I quoted? That is a question I see answered daily by the facts and lives of the women who study Aesthetic Realism with The Three Persons, the consultation trio with which I have taught since 1971.
A Young Woman and the World
For instance, there is Hope de Renza, an executive secretary at an international bank. Early in a first consultation, a person is often asked this kind question, which Mr. Siegel asked in Aesthetic Realism lessons: “What do you have most against yourself?” Ms. de Renza told us, “I find myself cold sometimes and angry. I have a lot of dislikes….I really don’t know me that well.”
The Three Persons: What is the thing that makes you angriest?
Hope de Renza: I really don’t know. I want to be happy, but I’m not.
The Three Persons: Aesthetic Realism teaches that every person has an attitude to the whole world, and that the way we see the world begins early. Do you think the world is friendly to you or not friendly?
Hope de Renza: I think it’s friendly.
The Three Persons: Do you think a person who sees the world as friendly is cold to it or warm to it?
Ms. de Renza smiled, but did not reply.
The Three Persons: Would you like to be warmer to the world? Do you think that’s why you smile?
Hope de Renza: Yes.
The Three Persons: But is all of you behind the smile?
Hope de Renza: Probably not.
The Three Persons: That is something to be gone after, because otherwise we feel we have a self inside that nobody sees.
Inside and Outside
We asked Hope de Renza to read this principle:
“Every person is always trying to put together opposites in himself or herself.”
The Three Persons: While you go out in the world, go to work, meet people, do you feel there is something in you that has never been in circulation, never been seen by anybody?
Hope de Renza: Yes. I know there is
The Three Persons: Is a world you see as friendly a world you would show yourself to?
Hope de Renza: Yes.
We were talking with Hope de Renza about opposites: self and world; and also inside and outside—what she felt within, to herself, and what she showed outwardly. These opposites of inside and outside are big in every person’s life, though every person has them somewhat differently. A question Mr. Siegel asked me in my first Aesthetic Realism lesson is about them—and has within it the pain that had been in my life and the large change which has happened in me. “What do you want to depend on,” he asked me, “who you are, or how pleasing you can make yourself?”
When I began to see that the opposites in me were also in the things around me, I felt immediately more connected to the world. I liked it more. We asked Hope de Renza to look at the objects on the table we were sitting at. The notebooks we were taking notes in, different pens and a pencil, a tape recorder, a cassette case, and the wooden table itself—each had an inside and an outside. As we spoke about each item, I saw Ms. de Renza’s dark eyes get brighter with interest. We asked: “What do you think of how inside and outside are working in this tape recorder?” She leaned forward.
Hope de Renza: Well, the inside is protected as it’s recording.
The Three Persons: Is this somewhat the way our insides are protected by our skin—which is part of our appearance?
Hope de Renza: Yes.
The Three Persons: Meanwhile, we can look nice while we harbor not so nice thoughts. Do you ever do that?
Hope de Renza: Yes, my friends tell me I’ve got a happy-go-lucky personality, but sometimes I can’t wait to get home by myself. I can smile as I’m thinking, “I can’t wait to get out of here.”
The Three Persons: Does the tape recorder do that?
Hope de Renza: No, I don’t think so. Doesn’t it just take down what’s said?
The Three Persons: As far as we know it does. Its insides are protected, but not for the purpose of having itself secretly to itself. Do you think then, the tape recorder has the opposites of inside and outside working as one?
Hope de Renza: Yes.
The Three Persons: If inside and outside can work well in the tape recorder, can you learn something from it?
Hope de Renza: This is amazing. As we begin to see that we and the world have a structure in common, and that the opposites in reality are the same opposites that are in us, the world looks warmer, less uncaring and hostile, more friendly than before. And we feel that the rift we have made between these opposites is not inevitable.
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