A United Methodist pastor with over thirty-six years of pastoral experience, Rev. Wayne Plumstead describes what he has learned about the aesthetics of religion from the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel.

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Location: Bloomfield, New Jersey, United States

The Rev. Wayne Jack Plumstead holds a BA from Drake University and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained a minister in the United Methodist Church in 1973, he has served since 1991 as Senior Pastor at the Park United Methodist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Prior to that time he served pastorates in Lower Berkshire Valley, Bayonne, Arlington and Jersey City, all in New Jersey. Rev. Plumstead credits the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, with having an invaluable influence on his theological formation. He has given many public seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City. In 1994, the Board of Global Ministries invited him to give a presentation at a consultation on Developing Multicultural Congregations in San Antonio, Texas to assist national church staff in developing strategies for congregations in transitional communities. In 2000, he was invited to give the opening sermon at the first meeting of clergy in the newly formed Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. And, in 2002, the United Methodist Publishing House printed an article he authored in its national magazine for United Methodist clergy, Circuit Rider.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New York Times literary critic Kenneth Roxroth on Eli Siegel

(As quoted by Ken Knabb in Gateway to the Vast Realms, Recommended Readings from Literature to Revolution)

Eli Siegel [1902-1978] is a remarkable and most unjustly neglected writer and thinker. His poems are among the few modern ones that I still read and reread with pleasure. His other writings are generally concerned with expounding his philosophy of “Aesthetic Realism.” According to this perspective (which is not limited to narrowly artistic concerns, but relates to psychology, education, social relations, and in fact just about every aspect of life), people are fundamentally seeking to “unify opposites” within themselves and in their relations with each other and with the world. The arts are seen as key means or expressions of such unity. The primary danger — the “original sin,” so to speak — is contempt: the temptation to think that you will enhance yourself by demeaning someone else. It is, of course, difficult (and sometimes in fact inappropriate) not to be contemptuous of certain persons or things. Siegel’s point is that you should make sure that you have not got into the habit of actually seeking such situations so as to make yourself feel better by contrast.

He works out the implications of these deceptively simple insights with a delightful zest and a remarkable lucidity...I have reread many of his works many times and each time it’s like a breath of fresh air.

His two volumes of poetry are Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana and Hail, American Development. His other books include The Williams-Siegel Documentary (about William Carlos Williams, who enthusiastically saluted Siegel’s poetry), James and the Children (a study of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw), Damned Welcome (a collection of aphorisms), Goodbye Profit System (an anticapitalist polemic), Self and World (an exposition of his psychotherapeutic theories and methods), a Children’s Guide to Parents and Other Matters, and numerous articles, essays and talks. You can order any of them at The same webpage includes links to online samples of Siegel’s poetry and to other information about Aesthetic Realism publications and programs.