We Can Know Our Feelings!

Don’t miss this great issue of the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, #1943, December 28, 2016. Here’s how its commentary, by editor and Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education Ellen Reiss, begins—

King Richard III & Everyone

We are serializing the great 1973 lecture The Scientific Method in Feeling, by Eli Siegel. It is about those two tremendous opposites in every person: knowing and feeling. Just about everyone has the sense “I’m a different person reasoning, knowing, from the person with emotions.” People have taken this rift in them for granted. Yet it has made them ashamed, and pained, also unkind. In the lecture we’re serializing and in Aesthetic Realism itself, Mr. Siegel shows that the division doesn’t have to be. In fact, feeling and knowing are always simultaneous. Feelings themselves can be known, seen accurately, and it’s necessary for us to want to know them.

In the lecture Mr. Siegel uses an anthology of English literature to show that true knowing is inseparable from feeling. And as I say this, I say too that Mr. Siegel himself embodied the oneness of those opposites, magnificently—in his teaching, writing, life. His desire was always to know. He wanted to know the world in all its fullness and immediacy. His scholarship was wide, deep, rich—truly unsurpassed—and it was always warm, vibrant with life, passionate.

In America Now

At this time, when there has been so much tumult and shock in America, it’s necessary more than ever that we want to know what goes on within ourselves and others. It’s necessary that we get to primal matters: that we ask, What kind of feeling do we want to have? What kind of feeling is best for America? Asking this is patriotism. It is also science—because to be scientific, Mr. Siegel explained, is to go after knowing, to know we’re going after it, and to see knowing as preferable to soothing or aggrandizing our ego.

Ian McKellen as Richard III
Ian McKellen as Richard III

In the section of the lecture included here, he quotes Thomas More on King Richard III. And now, in behalf of understanding our feelings and what America is looking for, I am going to quote from an earlier lecture in which Mr. Siegel also spoke on Richard III—and used him to describe a fight in everybody. He gave that lecture on May 29, 1970. Its title is There Are Ambition, Money, Love, and Energy.

Richard III, who reigned in England from 1483 to 1485, has been seen as a person who would do anything to get what he wanted, including kill anyone who stood in the way of his becoming king. He is a character in three plays of Shakespeare. In one of them he says, “Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile” (3 Henry VI). Mr. Siegel explained:

Richard has what everyone has—the feeling the world exists so that you can have your way with it. [He] represents the ego without bars, the nude ego that is aggressive, interested in nothing but itself.

We Need to Understand the Fight

The situation of America today—the bewilderment, the whirling, the anger—is a demand that we look at what Mr. Siegel is the philosopher to explain: there is a fight in every person between two desires, one of which Richard III stands for vividly. That is: we want to have contempt for the world—which includes looking down on people and truth, and manipulating these to enhance ourselves in a spurious fashion. But the desire for contempt is at war with another desire of ours: to respect this multitudinous world we were born into, and become our full, glorious selves by being grandly just to its facts and happenings and people.

The fight is personal for everyone, and it is also historical. . . .Read more