About Mind, Education, & Contemporary Life

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Some important links about aesthetics and religion

Aesthetic Realism: The Answer to Depression

Here is the third and final section of my article, "Aesthetic Realism: The Answer to Depression."

In recent years there has been a proliferation of first-hand accounts of depression and the attempts to treat it, including through drugs. One of these is Elizabeth Wurtzel's 1994 book, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, published when she was 27 and had been on Prozac for 6 years.
I feel this book shows how unscientific, desperate, and ill-equipped mental practitioners are in dealing with people's lives. For instance, when Elizabeth's therapist gives her a diagnosis--"atypical depression"--she says she never bothered to tell her before, because "there isn't any reason to draw the symptoms of a depression into a particular category unless a therapist is about to prescribe an antidepressant." Elizabeth Wurtzel writes,

Enter Prozac, and suddenly I have a diagnosis....Which seems backward, but much less so later on, when I find that this is a typical course of events in psychiatry, that the discovery of a drug to treat, say, schizophrenia, will tend to result in many more patients being diagnosed as schizophrenics.

This is horrible! Mental practitioners do not understand mind or the cause of mental illness; yet rather than study Aesthetic Realism which has the answer, they prescribe the latest drugs—including, increasingly, to teenagers and children! With psychiatry and the media as middlemen, drug companies are making huge profits from the suffering of people: 12 billion dollars worth of antidepressants were sold worldwide in 2002. From the depths of my heart, I feel for people who are being treated this way. They deserve to know that Aesthetic Realism explains and can end depression!
Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, writes in her definitive commentary about Prozac in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known issue 1089:

The big question about Prozac or any drug is this: Does it really have a person in a more just relation to the world--or is it a managing of the world, a trick to evade that justice which we deeply demand of ourselves and without the giving of which we shall never feel at ease? … Chemistry can certainly affect emotions. But what needs to be studied too is whether the purposes we have affect the chemistry of our bodies … Through injustice--wanting to manipulate, conquer, lessen the world--we dislike ourselves. The ethical cause-and-effect is beautiful and inescapable, and no pill will change it. A pill may mask temporarily the ethics of self, but cannot take it away.

And she describes magnificently what all people need to know about our minds:

It is the self's grandeur that it was made to see justly a whole world other than itself--a world of happenings, objects, human beings, words. Through justice to that world, we become intelligent, imaginative, alive, happy, proud.

This great knowledge is taught in a wide curriculum of classes, public seminars, and individual consultations in person and by telephone worldwide at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation, 141 Greene St., New York, NY 10012, (212) 777-4490.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Here is the second installment of my article, "Aesthetic Realism: The Answer to Depression."

When I told my consultants how isolated I felt and what had happened to me the year before, they asked:

If a person wants to be isolated, what would that say about how they see everything else--"All that is friendly" or not so friendly?

SR: Not so friendly.

They explained,

Two things can deeply distress a person: feeling nothing in the world has met us fairly, and feeling that we have not dealt fairly with the world.

I said I had seen people and things as against me, not dealing fairly with me. But I also told them, "I have these dialogues inside myself--I mock what people say, or I turn things around." What my consultants explained next, every person, every mental practitioner needs to know:

Cons: Aesthetic Realism says, in every person is an ethical unconscious…. If you choose to see the world in an unfair way, your own ethical unconscious is critical of you and you are against yourself. This is where Aesthetic Realism differs from other ways of seeing self, which say we feel bad because there are standards imposed on us by the outside world which we don't meet…. You were ashamed because you weren't meeting your own demands.

As I left that consultation, I felt free! I saw for the first time that there was something I could really respect myself for--a demand coming from myself that I be fair to the world. And I began to see that the world had so much in it I could get enor­mous pleasure from: objects, trees, music, the biology I now love to teach, the feelings of people--and so much more! I knew I had found what I was looking for. That consultation was 32 years ago; and since that time, I have never been depressed again.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Aesthetic Realism: The Answer to Depression

This is the first part of an updated article I wrote that appeared in various newspapers, including the Staten Island Register and the Bangor Daily News.

In the wake of the FDA's warning that the use of antidepressants by adolescents may lead to suicide, I want people reading this to know that there is an answer to depression. Eli Siegel, the American philosopher and educator who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941, understood the cause of mental trouble and the beautiful, scientific solution. I know with the conviction of my life that Aesthetic Realism can end depression because it understands and criticizes its cause--contempt. Mr. Siegel defined contempt as "the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it."

Contempt is very ordinary, like looking down on the way some­one dresses, or inwardly gloating at another person's mistake. I learned from Aesthetic Realism that the false superiority people get from contempt always makes us ashamed and we punish ourselves for it. "The deepest desire of every person," Aesthetic Realism teaches, "is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis." And liking the world, seeing meaning in it and in people, is what enables a person to truly like oneself!

In a 1949 lecture Eli Siegel gave titled Mind and Questions, he said:

"Life is a constant interaction between a self that wants to be entirely alone and not care for anything, and a self that is as friendly as the sunshine over a large city, wants to be nice to everybody....One thing in us would like to despise ev­erything. It would be like two piles: you make this pile low, the other pile goes up. So, in the seesaw of self, the more you can get the other one down, the more this one goes up."

These sentences described me. In high school, I was lively, nice to everybody, but also conceited. Knowing conceit wouldn't make me popular, I tried to conceal it, but in my mind I compared myself to other girls and felt superior to them all. I envied Joanne who had traveled to Europe, but I told myself I was more earthy, rugged than she was. When Marlene got better grades, I thought, "She's got brains but she's not smart and cool, like me." Without knowing it, I felt the more flaws I found in other people, the better I was.

But I had no idea why, if I was so smart, cool and deep, I hated myself so much. In the international journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known issue 842, Mr. Siegel explains:

"If a person likes himself excessively, is too lofty, he is likely also to go to the pit. If you make your own mountain­tops, you are also a pit manufacturer: good at peaks, good at chasms."

In my senior year in high school, I wrote in my journal,

"I'm so down now, so pre-occupied with myself that I can't really give to anyone around me. And for some reason, I'm so afraid to let go of myself--I'm protecting myself so much that I've built huge walls around me. Why can't I destroy my conscience? Why do I punish myself?"

I needed to hear then this question asked and answered by Mr. Siegel in Mind and Questions:

"One of the important questions...is this: "Is there something in me that is always wanting to be unhappy?" Yes. If every self wants to be nothing but itself, it will pay the price of being depressed....[We] are disposed to think that...we can be pure by putting [the whole world] aside in the ash can of time. Depression, therefore, is the highest form, the deepest, the most subtle form of conceit."

Nothing I heard from the psychiatrist I went to could change this hurtful state of mind; and what the psychologist I later saw at college told me--that the other students wore defensive masks that I was too sensitive to maintain--only added to my contempt. In my sophomore year I had what was called an acute anxiety attack and was given tranquilizers. I was terrified this would happen again, but I was so fortunate that a friend told me about Aesthetic Realism. The next year I began having Aesthetic Realism consultations.

Check back soon for part 2

Regards, Sally Ross

Here are some other links that I recommend:

Aesthetic Realism Foundation Home Page
Eli Siegel, Biographical Information
The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method
"Is a Person an Aesthetic Situation?" by Eli Siegel, Founder of Aesthetic Realism
The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, issue 449 "Against Coldness in Ourselves" about Hawthorne's important short story "The Man of Adamant."
"The Ordinary Doom" by Eli Siegel. This is a wonderful essay on the very common situation of a person's not feeling known or understood.
Lynette Abel, writing on literature, economics, love ; see her blog
Michael Palmer, writing on history, sports, art; see his blog
A New Perspective for Anthropology: The Aesthetic Realism method
Aesthetic Realism vs. Racism
Photography Education: the Aesthetic Realism Viewpoint
Self-Expression and What Interferes: an Aesthetic Realism Discussion
Donita Ellison, Art Educator and Aesthetic Realism Associate
Aesthetic Realism Resources
The Terrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation
The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known (TRO)