Aesthetic Realism Consultant Nancy Huntting

Lee Miller, photo by Man Ray
Lee Miller, by Man Ray

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Aesthetic Realism Seminar

A Woman's Conscience― Friend or Enemy?

by Nancy Huntting, from a Women Are Various Seminar 
given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, 141 Greene St., NYC 10012

I learned from Aesthetic Realism that every person is a critic of himself or herselfthat I had a conscience and it is the best thing in me, it is my friend.Our conscience, Aesthetic Realism explains for the first time, is the world in us, demanding that we be fair to it and try to like it, or else we cannot like ourselves. When I learned this my life changed to one that was happier than I ever thought possible.

Eli Siegel explains the central thing about conscience in a lecture titled, "Life Is Involvement":

Aesthetic Realism says what we are most troubled by is the way we make the beauty of the world less in order to give ourselves importance. That is what the conscience is most troubled by...Whenever we care more for ourselves than we do for finding the world authentically likable, our conscience is bothered.

Women have gotten importance from looking beautiful, but they haven't known that their conscience insists that they see beauty and meaning in the world and not make it less. This is what we most deeply wantit is the one way we can feel we have integrity and like ourselves honestly.

Tonight I will be speaking about my own life and what I have learned from Aesthetic Realism, and about Lee Miller, who lived from 1907 to 1977; a Vogue model, professional photographer, American war correspondent and photojournalist in World War II. Lee Miller had this fight between the power and importance she got from looking beautiful, and the demand of her conscience that she see beautifully, through her own eyes and the eye of a camera. I respect the ethical struggle in her, and am grateful that through her life and the principles of Aesthetic Realism, other women can learn about what we most deeply want.

Knowledge or Praise: The Early Debate in Women

Mr. Siegel has written beautifully about the strength of a child's desire to know and like the world, and Lee Miller was a very lively little girl, and she and her two brothers were encouraged by their father Theodore Miller's keen interest in engineering, photography, and many other things. But Lee also knew her feminine charms, her blond hair, lovely face, and large eyes, had a powerful effect on her tall, authoritative father. Getting easy adoration, Aesthetic Realism explains, we may have contempt for a parent for being foolish about us, and use it to feelwhy use my mind to know and see meaning in things, when I can get pleasure and power without doing anything? 

There is in everyone a  desire for contempt―which Mr. Siegel described as "lessening of what is different from ourselves as a means of self-increase as one sees it"―and it is the big opposition to the demands of our conscience. I remember at night the special feeling I had sitting in my father's lap, eating an orange with him which he had peeled. I thought he liked me, age 5 or 6, better than my mother, and I thought he was right. In an Aesthetic Realism class Eli Siegel asked me, "Did you want to have your father in some way subservient to you?" I did, and I thought other people should make me feel important in this way. Wanting adoration from men became more important to me than anything else; yet it was never satisfying--I felt empty and desperate for more. My conscience was critical of the praise I was going after, because it wasn't really about who I was and what I most deeply wanted.

Eli Siegel explains this in one of the greatest, kindest essays ever, "The Ordinary Doom":

Our desire for praise, so common and often so hurtful, is really a substitute for our desire to be known as we are... If we are praised without being known, no matter how intense and multitudinous the praise may be, we are not wholly alive. To be taken for someone else is hardly a way to be alive in one's own right.... Anyone who praises us without knowing us confuses our fundamental selves. To be known is to be seen in relation with all things: and when we can see our relation with all things, we like ourselves. The largest purpose of every person is to become what one is, entirely, by making accurate relations between what one is and all other realities.

We often use the family's praise to confuse our fundamental selves. My conscience, and the conscience of every woman, is asking we become ourselves, entirely, by seeing our relation with all things. Aesthetic Realism makes this possible because it shows what that relation isthat the structure of the world and ourselves is the oneness of opposites.

Continued, Part 2: Our Conscience Wants Us to Be an Integrity


© Aesthetic Realism Consultant Nancy Huntting. All rights reserved