“Homosexuality is Against Art”
—Aesthetic Realism on the Change from Homosexuality
Eli Siegel’s “Aesthetic Realism” is a philosophy that offers a window into the nature of homosexuality from an artistic perspective.
“Being homosexual is not your problem. The way you see the world is inaccurate,” he tells his students. “As that changes, the homosexual situation will change…. Sameness and difference is what homosexuality doesn’t sufficiently honor.”
Before his death in 1978, Siegel—who was a philosopher with a substantial following, and an award-winning poet—also made a connection between homosexuality and narcissism.
In the family structure which is most common among gay men, mother and son form a bond of specialness which constricts the boy’s true nature and excludes the father.
Such a family produces both anger and love toward the mother. This results in the boy’s feeling of “adoring contempt.” Forever after, women are experienced as “boring,” “uninteresting pushovers,” and “easy conquests.” As one student of Aesthetic Realism explained, the homosexual man “robs a woman of dimension. ..he gushes over her, while he contemptuously dismisses her.”
The distorted mother-son relationship affects all the boy’s future relationships and eventually forms him as a homosexual.
The conquest of his mother was too easy; in adulthood, he then desires to repeat that victory with someone whom he sees as stronger— a man. This way, “he can have the triumph of seeing that strong person melt.”
Aesthetic Realism draws its principles from the worlds of ethics and art. It calls homosexuality “ugly” and “against art” because it fails to make one out of opposites. Due to the fact that homosexuality “fosters contempt,” it is unethical, Siegel charges, and therefore “unjust” to the world.
Aesthetic Realism in some ways parallels the Judeo-Christian understanding of homosexuality. Both traditions stress the beauty, necessity and naturalness of gender complementarity. Both stress that the purpose of life is self-giving— “loving the world” as Siegel terms it—or, in a psychoanalytic sense, growing out of one’s narcissism.
Joseph Nicolosi’s own original article on Aesthetic Realism has been lost, but most of his earlier article’s observations are recaptured here. The family structure that Nicolosi identified as the “Triadic Narcissistic Relationship” is vividly portrayed in Siegel’s students’ testimonies.
——Linda Ames Nicolosi
(Source: The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality, edited by Ellen Reiss. N.Y.: 1986, Definition Press.)
The following are statements by Eli Siegel on homosexuality.
——(Siegel to a student) “Being homosexual is not your problem. The way you see the world is inaccurate. As that changes, the homosexual situation will change. You made some bad philosophical and ethical choices at an early age which have to be revoked. ..you’ve had this superstructure so long, you think it is ‘you.’ I don’t think it is. “
——“As one learns from Aesthetic Realism to see the world justly… homosexuality simply, logically and deeply changes.”
——“Homosexuality is one way people have of dealing inaccurately with life’s opposites.”
——“It’s not essentially a sexual question. It’s an ethical question.”
——“When the homosexual love that is sought for is understood—when its motive is understood—that love has no longer the charm that it seemed to have.”
——“Mothers [of homosexuals] tend to foster a feeling of glory in their male child. ..A good way for a mother to increase her own glory, is to make her son as important as he can be. The desire for superiority, is the other side of the desire to have as much contempt for other people as possible.”
——“We all are in a fight between respect for the world and contempt for the world. This fight goes on in us all the time; it affects every particular choice we make.”
——“Homosexuality has a preponderant tendency to love of oneself and making the outside world a minor matter. “
——“In love that is not entire— and homosexual love is mostly, not entire—…love has to be a love in which intrigue itself is more of a value [than being known].”
——“In homosexual love, there is more quarreling—though certainly there is a great deal in all love— than in the love of people of different sexes. ..In all love, there is a kind of revulsion that takes place after one’s object has been attained; but the revulsion in homosexual love is of a steeper kind….The feeling of romance fades more quickly in homosexual love than elsewhere; and the feeling about another’s body…also fades quickly.”
——“Homosexuality is based on a selfishness which need not be, and which is not beautiful.”
——“Mothers have encouraged contempt in their sons by encouraging superiority; and this encouragement of superiority is an encouragement of homosexuality, too….but the son despises his mother for so willingly and easily giving him a superiority not based on all the facts, but chiefly on the fact that he has a mother very willing to praise him.”
“All homosexuality arises from a contempt for the world, not liking it sufficiently. This changes into a contempt for women.”
——(Siegel to student)
“Do you think there can still be love between your mother and father?”
(student) “My father is not capable of showing emotions.”
Siegel: “He got married and welcomed the outside world as different, which is something you’ve not been able to do.”
——Siegel to student: “You had your greatest love affair very early” (with mother) “She acted as if you were there to save her, and you were the one mooring point in her life; otherwise her vessel was lost. It gave you a terrific feeling of importance….There’s a certain hushed tone that says, ‘How important you are to me, and how important I am to you— it’s a secret.’”
——But “all good will that is ‘special’ is false…As soon as you have good will for part of reality that you can use, it’s not good will.”
——“Praise that comes too easily, in time becomes wearisome. To be distinguished just because you are the son of a mother who wants to have an important son..is for awhile gratifying; but as time goes on, the cause of the praise and the person giving the praise don’t seem so interesting.”
——“It happens that a child who is homosexual early, or will be homosexual later, becomes quite good in the early politics of love. He knows how to take away the darksome look of his mother…. A homosexual child finds early that the good mood of his mother depends on the contributions to her happiness he chooses to make.”
——“The one thing a homosexual boy makes clear to his mother is that no matter what happens or how he seems, she is the one person in his life; no one can take her place—not, perhaps, even God.”
——“How sameness and difference become one through completing each other is everlastingly the greatest esthetic question; and sameness and difference is what homosexuality doesn’t sufficiently honor.”
——“All homosexuality arises from contempt for the world, not liking it sufficiently. This changes into a contempt for women…So he feels he can care for only what is nearest to himself— another man.”
——“Everyone’s looking to have scorn…Our attitude toward the world is still one of fear, one of contempt, and one of aloofness….wrestling in bed does not annul this…sex often angers and makes for a dim, annoying vacuity… the Self is a ‘to-be-known’ reality. If that knowing does not take place, the ‘deep and ordinary doom’ [depression] I have mentioned, occurs…it is a dull, basic tragedy.”
——“With all the talk otherwise, it has not been made clear that homosexual people are proud of their way of showing love.”
——“Pride in oneself which goes along with kindness and justice, is a beautiful necessity of every conscious being.”
From the men who changed from homosexuality through Aesthetic Realism:
“I learned from him [Siegel] that this attitude toward women— this attitude of scorning them and looking down on them and feeling simply they weren’t worthy of one, not worthy even to elicit a physical response from one—began with my mother and how I saw her: that as a little boy, my mother made such a fuss over me.
“I can remember, for instance, sitting in a big stuffed armchair in front of the TV set while my mother ran my bath water and put a thermometer and in to make sure it was the exact temperature that I wanted. I can remember loving that kind of approval and adoration that I got from her, but also thinking, ‘What a dope! Women are so feebleminded!’ There was such a conquest made of women so early that I came to use that in my own mind to scorn all women.”
From another man:
“One thing I saw very, very clearly is that the men I was with, I didn’t care about them really. I wanted to see, I wanted to feel the effect that I had on them…I wasn’t concerned abut how they feel..as I started changing and as I became deeper about all people, my homosexual feelings started stopping…
“I remember when in the first few months I started studying Aesthetic Realism, I met a man and I was with him and we had sex. The sex was ‘good,’ it was intense, and we decided the next night we were going to have sex again. …we had dinner, and I started asking—you know, we were going to go and have sex, but I said to myself, ‘What is this person’s mother like? What does he feel about books? What does he feel about his work?” The deeper I thought about him and how he was a self with real feelings…then, I couldn’t have sex. There was an organic, physical feeling that I couldn’t have sex with this man as I got deeper about him….”
“There’s a physical delight in homosexuality, but what you think of yourself for it is something else. ..when I have my arms around my wife and I’m close to her, I feel intimate and warm and I feel the pleasure of respect, because I feel she stands for a world I can like more. I never had that emotion, and it surges through my body. ..there’s an emotion when you change from homosexuality, because you change the way you see the world. ..you have a different kind of emotion, and it’s pleasure and respect. It’s a knockout!”
From another student:
“For the first time in my life I’ve had sex with a woman, and the feeling, I can’t describe it, it’s so different from what I felt in homosexuality. Because I remember as I was close to a man, there would be a tremendous sense of revulsion and wanting to push myself away, and I remember I would feel unclean in some way. Sometimes I’d go to the bathroom and have to take a shower.
“But as I’ve been close to my wife…I’ve felt proud. I’ve felt clean. And it has to do with a difference in response to the whole world. One of the differences.. as I would be close to a man the thought was about me, my pleasure, what I wanted to get; and I was aware that as my wife and I are close, I’m thinking about her, I’m affected by her, who she is, what she feels to herself, what she’s feeling at that moment. It’s all the difference in the world. And every man, every man, can have that feeling.”
From another student:
“A child who is going to become homosexual uses this silliness [narcissistic adoration] of the mother ..to make less of the mother. And she stands for the outside world… a boy sees a mother being this way and feels it’s his due. And there was nothing that I could do wrong. I would brighten her day. And as that went on, I felt that my mother—there was something dull about her.; I had her in my hip pocket, so to speak; and I wasn’t interested in her. Through that..you begin to have contempt for womankind, the mother standing for it, and for the world.”
“Some kind of disappointment is always present [in the parents’ marriage]. That’s why the mother turns to the son….. My mother was an accomplished person, and I had the feeling very early on that anything else, would be dropped for me. And I saw that she did not care for my father so much. I wanted to be—Mr. Siegel put it so bluntly—on the winning team. ..there’s this interplay of [family] politics where one feels, a homosexual man feels, that he can fool women pretty easily…I was my mother’s confidante.”
“Most of the time there’s the mother, but it can also be an older sister or a grandmother or some monumental female that a child meets first in his growing up. With me it was my grandmother. I remember my grandmother saying to me, ‘You’re the only one that understands me. You’re the kindest…I love you more than anything else.’ Here I was: I was three years old and you can imagine the importance and the approval that a three-year-old could feel to have this grown woman feel that he’s the most important, deep person in the whole wide world. And this is what I felt. But at the same time I felt she was stupid. ..I, at a very early age, made a decision that all women were pushovers.”
“I always thought that my father was more sensible than my mother. He didn’t give me the kind of utter approval that my mother gave me, which already made me feel that he was less warm to me. But also, he saw the team that my mother and I were in. He felt pretty early that I preferred my mother and my mother preferred me, and he withdrew and got hurt. ..”
“Homosexuality is based on a “relished dislike” of the world… Petulant showings of displeasure with the world are frequent among homosexual men.”
Siegel in a dialogue with a student:
“I think that at a very early age you felt that you had a willing slave in your mother. You got a tremendous sense of power from that, but at the same time you had contempt for her. I also think you had contempt for your other relatives who made a fuss over you…I think you used all of them to have contempt for people..
“I want to show you that you used various things, including your mother, to come to an attitude toward the world and toward women which does not represent you. I think you have another desire which represents you more….Do you feel your mother understands you?”
(student answers) “I keep a lot back from her. I have this whole secret life. It’s one of the things that pains me so much. But as a child I think she understood me better than anyone else.”
“Do you think that devotion to a person is the same thing as understanding?”
“Your mother was devoted to you when you were a child. But did she understand you?”
(student) No…I don’t think my mother knew what I felt….no, my mother didn’t understand me. With all her devotion, I often felt very lonely..
“I think you used your mother and your aunts to feel you were a little emperor who had people running all over the place to serve him. ..It was a world you had to hide in, but one in which you could fool people and get their approval, even as you secretly had contempt for them. I can tell you this now: get rid of your contempt for people, and you will get rid of the chief cause of your homosexuality….I think you were bored with women by the time you were six. Conquering a man became much more of a challenge.”
(student) “My mother and I felt that we were two sensitive people in a crude world—which included my father and a lot of other people. We also talked about other people, including relatives, always to our enhancement. When I was with my mother, I felt snug and cozy. We approved of each other in a way that was unquestioned. It was a snobbish oasis, apart from the rest of the world.”
“I think both of you would like to break up this anti-world team you have. But you’ll have to see the tremendous sense of power you get from your mother. That sense of power, together with the contempt you have, is heaven to something in the unconscious. ..You’ll never see the world, including women, the way you want until you disavow this ugly way of using your mother.”
(student) “Why is it ugly?”
“Because you use her to lessen and dull your response to the things of this world that deserve your care. You get so much ego importance from your mother that unconsciously you feel the rest of the world is like cold potatoes. That is ugly. It is like taking a beautiful painting, and drawing dirty pictures all over it.
“…If Aesthetic Realism is correct, your deepest desire is to like the world. You’ve used your mother, among others, to frustrate that desire….even as a child, you collaborated with your mother. Children learn very early how to manage adults…
“….You’re having some of your secret treasures taken away from you today, and something in you is furious. .. But I also think something deeper in you is relieved and grateful.”
From another student:
“Superiority and inferiority, high and low, are in a terrible relation in a boy who is going to become homosexual. At home with his mother, he feels like a prince. Then he can feel so inadequate, different, inferior, playing with other boys, or at school.
“It is well-known in the homosexual world that a homosexual person can go from superiority, feeling he is the greatest thing going, to great depression, feeling his life is worthless. This is what I felt….Mr. Siegel was describing with accuracy and style something ugly in me and in all men who are homosexual. It is the phrase ‘adoring contempt’: a beautiful phrase which describes opposites in a bad relation, the making too much and too little of another person. This is what I had done all my life with my mother and later with other women. …..
“How wonderfully Mr. Siegel described the opposites fighting in me, which had made for so much pain between my mother and me. I would be so rude to her that she would end up crying in almost every conversation we had; and right after, I would go out of my way to get my mother a present, or do something top show her that she was the most important person in my life. I was her master and her servant…
“The changes in my mother’s life are as big as my own. We are both grateful to Aesthetic Realism for teaching us how to be kind to each other, and to use each other not for consolation, but as a beginning point to like the whole world….In homosexuality, you are essentially loving yourself. You are not really affected by another person, but by the effect you have on that person. This makes for deep uncertainty and shame, despite all the protestations that gay is proud and good….a man wants the power he had over his mother to be repeated with someone whom he sees as stronger—a man—so he can have the triumph of seeing that strong person melt.”
“This conquest of the world through another human being is what every homosexual man is after. It is what I was after, though I presented myself as considerate and consoling.”
Another student explains:
“The desire to make a father submissive, and the anger one has at not being able to do so, are central in homosexuality….
“Some of my earliest homosexual memories are memories of trickiness and ill will. At about age ten I would go with my older brother to football practice, not for any love of the game, but secretly to watch the boys in the locker room and imagine situations in which I could have the strongest, most attractive of these boys at my disposal, to do with his body as I wished.
“As I changed from homosexuality, I felt this loneliness—which I had taken for granted as part of human nature—lift from me like a thick blanket…
“Mr Siegel has enabled something inside me—dim, stagnant and buried away—to come alive.”
And so we are reminded that homosexuality is not just the realm of the psychotherapist and the minister, but also, of the philosopher and the artist. They, too, see the wisdom of nature in the unity of opposites.