Aesthetic Realism is a cult
Who they are, how they operate • Written by former members

Get notified when I update this site.

The peculiar language of the Aesthetic Realists

Original: April 2009 • Last update: April 2022

Most cults have a funny way of speaking, using special words and phrases not used in normal speech.  AR is no exception.  Here's a rundown of their specialized terms.

Completely Fair.  Being "completely fair" to Eli Siegel or Aesthetic Realism means expressing extreme devotion to them.  If any members fails to do this, they're quickly criticized as "not being completely fair".  AR leaders use this phrase several times in their secret inquisition we posted.

Consultant.  An AR leader who conducts consultations.

Consultation.  AR's special brand of therapy where three consultants work on brainwashing  one member.  The purpose of consultations is to get the member to affirm or re-affirm their devotion to Eli Siegel and AR, and to discourage the member from pursuing things in their life that keep them from promoting or studying AR (such as relationships with friends or family who aren't in AR). (more on consultations)

Contempt.  AR believes that the root of all unhappiness is a person's believing they're better than other people, which they refer to as contempt.  This concept is so important to them that their slogan is "Contempt causes insanity".  AR sees homosexuality as caused by contempt. (And since "contempt causes insanity", we're supposed to conclude that homosexuals are insane.)  Naturally, if anyone dares to question anything about AR or its founder, Eli Siegel, that's considered contempt.

Criticism.  The AR leaders love to dole out what is supposedly constructive criticism to its members.  That's because an essential part of brainwashing in any cult is what cult psychologist Robert Lifton calls the "Establishment of Guilt".  To get members to accept this abuse more readily, AR teaches that "criticism is kindness".  Of course, it's verboten to criticize AR or its founder, Eli Siegel.  That would be considered contempt.  In a nutshell, the AR leaders' negative opinions about you?  That's criticism, and criticism is kindness.  Your criticism of anything else?  That's contempt, and that's supposedly the source of all your troubles.  Telling quote by an AR member: "I am so grateful that my desire for contempt was criticized by Aesthetic Realism." (from AR's double-page ad in the NY Times) 

Exclamation marks.  The Aesthetic Realists are desperate to convince to the public of how important AR is, so they overuse exclamation marks when naming and publicizing events, such as their workshop "Understanding Marriage!"  Incidentally, it's funny that AR says that they have the answers for successful marriage with a straight face, given that their leader has divorced like three or four times, each time from another Aesthetic Realist.  And her numerous divorces are certainly not the only ones within the group.

Fair.  In Aesthetic Realism, "fair" means believing and saying that Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism are the greatest things since sliced bread.  Any criticism whatsoever is unfair.  The Aesthetic Realists got wind of an article being written in Harper's, and in that article, the author says that one of the AR people called to ask if the article would be "fair".  He goes on to say:  " 'Fair' is a word favored by the Aesthetic Realists, a.k.a. the Embattled Disciples of Eli Siegel and, in some of their incarnations, the Moonies of Poetry." (Harper's, April 1982)  See also: completely fair.

Grateful / Gratitude.  AR members are expected to continually express profound "gratitude" for having "met" Aesthetic Realism, and for Eli Siegel himself.  Failure to express gratitude is considered contempt or not being completely fair.  Expressing gratitude to Eli Siegel and AR was supposedly the key to AR's gay cure, as shown in this AR consultation.  Telling quote by an AR member, hitting on three of their terms in one fell swoop: "I am so grateful that my desire for contempt was criticized by Aesthetic Realism." (emphasis added; from AR's double-page ad in the NY Times)

H.  Their abbreviation for homosexuality.  e.g.,  I kept them secret thoughts, the H thoughts. (source) 

Meanwhile.  Meanwhile means "at the same time" but AR people use it randomly, meaning it makes no sense when they use it.  e.g.:

  • "The content of this book gives some of the details...Meanwhile, four fundamental principles of AR have been stated..." (H Persuasion, p. vii) 
  • "It is a fact that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism. Meanwhile, as is well known, there is now intense anger in America on the subject of homosexuality…" (source) 
  • "Aesthetic Realism makes for tremendous respect for the world…Meanwhile, history shows this about Galileo, Keats, Spinoza, King…" (

You can also see it in an AR consultation, on their Countering the Lies website, and on Wikipedia discussion pages.

Met.  AR people frequently talk about AR as though it's a person, and this is perhaps the best example.  AR people refer to their first finding out about AR as having met Aesthetic Realism.

Opposites.  A fundamental teaching of AR is that "beauty is the making one of opposites". This is an old concept, dating back thousands of years to Chinese yin/yang, but AR adherents think that Eli Siegel invented it.

Passive voice.  They use it excessively.

Persons.  Aesthetic Realists almost always say "persons" when a normal person would say "people". It's not incorrect, it's just idiosyncratic. For example:

"I am a rival to all the persons you've known..." (Eli Siegel, The H Persuasion, p. 57)

"[We] wanted this lesson with Eli Siegel to be heard by persons..." (The H Persuasion, p. 60)

"Persons in the media have been furious that they themselves have something enormous to learn from Aesthetic Realism, and have tried to keep this knowledge from reaching people." (AR website)

     "Persons" is also used a euphemism for AR's current leader, Ellen Reiss. If someone says, "I have spoken to persons," they really mean, "I have spoken to Class Chairman Ellen Reiss."

Terrain Gallery.  AR's building at 141 Greene Street include the group's offices, meeting rooms (where consultations are held), and an art gallery, called the Terrain Gallery, where they host art showings and presentations.

TRO.  Acronym of the first three words of the AR newsletter "The Right Of Aesthetic Realism to be Known." Notice, AR isn't just a philosophy, it has rights!

Tremendous.  AR people believe that AR is the most important thing in the world, ever, and they therefore struggle with how to adequately communicate the extreme importance they think AR holds.  One result is that they use the word tremendous quite frequently.  You hear Donald Trump overuse the same word, for the same reason: he's trying to convince you of something.  The overuse is kind of comical.  A Google search on "aesthetic realism" tremendous reveals nearly 1,000 hits! Just a few examples:

  • "The effect of the Aesthetic Realism education on people's lives is tremendously beneficial, and thrilling." AR website
  • "Using the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel as a teaching method, I have had tremendous success teaching William Gibson's The Miracle Worker in high school." —by Ann M. Richards, on AR's website
  • "The Terrain Gallery is proud to present an exhibition featuring the work of three photographers who have seen the tremendous value of Aesthetic Realism for art and for life" Announcement of an exhibit at AR's headquarters
  • "A few months later I began to study Aesthetic Realism and to my tremendous relief I learned that my deepest desire is to like the world..."an Aesthetic Realist's website
  • "I am tremendously fortunate to be using the Aesthetic Realism teaching method." article for an education journal
  • "Using the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel as a teaching method, I have had tremendous success teaching William Gibson's The Miracle Worker in high school." —Tagline of an AR teacher's blog
  • "Aesthetic Realism makes for tremendous respect for the world and people, and therefore someone who feels entitled to have contempt for everything can become angry with it." — From AR's "Countering the Lies" website
  • "My mind was encouraged in tremendous, new ways to embrace facts and sustain them." —Mark Lale, on AR's Countering the Lies" website 
  • "I think that at a very early age you felt you had a willing slave in your mother. You got a tremendous sense of power from that..." Then, three pages later, "You'll have to see the tremendous sense of power you get from your mother." — Eli Siegel, The H Persuasion, pp. 36, 39
  • "You a tremendous gift of comforting people—it's too good!" —Eli Siegel, The H Persuasion, p. 64
  • "By now I had a pretty clear idea of the tremendous range of Eli Siegel's knowledge." —Sheldon Kranz, "The H Persuasion", p. 24
  • "I left my [Aesthetic Realism] lesson with a tremendous amount to think about.... Although I couldn't put it into words that day, logic, poetry, and a tremendous amount of knowledge had all been working together to explain me to myself." —Sheldon Kranz, The H Persuasion, p. 42
  • "So do you think that you are tremendously, tremendously grateful that you met the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel?" —Aesthetic Realism consultation; they actually use the word tremendous *nine times* in that session
  • "There is a tremendous feeling in a person that by making less of something else you will be more important." Then two sentences later, another Aesthetic Realist says: "It has tremendous subtlety to it." — In the Channel 13 tv interview on the gay cure 
  • "At the same time, I admired her tremendously."—In the Channel 13 tv interview on the gay cure
  • "[O]ne thing I feel very strongly about is the fact that we have a tremendous opportunity to be fair to the greatest knowledge and the greatest person who ever lived." — Leader of a secret internal AR meeting, speaking about AR and its founder, Eli Siegel
  • "This was a tremendous day for the Jewish community." —AR teacher Devorah Tarrow, about AR's duping local officials to declare "Eli Siegel Day" in Baltimore
  • "Do you know how many people die in this country, and they're in the hospital, and they are suffering tremendously?" — trying to obfuscate the fact that the leader killed himself

Urgent.  As with tremendous, the Aesthetic Realists struggle to impart how important it is that the world learn about AR, so they overuse urgent when talking about this.  For example, in its non-profit filing, AR describes its purpose as being "to teach Aesthetic Realism...knowledge that...meets the urgent need for people throughout America and the world to see each other and reality fairly."

Aesthetic Realism at a Glance


The Aesthetic Realism Foundation




Eli Siegel, poet & art/literary critic.
Committed suicide in 1978.


To get the world to realize that Eli Siegel was the greatest person who ever lived, and that Aesthetic Realism is the most important knowledge, ever.


We have a tendency to look down on others to make ourselves seem superior by comparison (contempt).  Every single problem in the world (including homosexuality) is the result of contempt.  By studying AR, we can learn to purge our contempt so the world will be perfect.  Also, beauty comes from the contrast of opposites.


New York City (SoHo)


About 66, as of 4/22, as ~23 teachers + ~43 teachers-in-training.  (In 2009 it was ~77 (33+44), and ~29 regular students.  You could consider them members, but I'm not including them in the total.)  Anyway, with only ~66 committed members, much for world domination.

All members call themselves "students", even the leaders/teachers.  Advanced members who teach others are called "consultants".
StatusIn serious decline.
They might have ten years left.

Method of study

Public seminars/lectures at their headquarters (in lower Manhattan), group classes, and individual consultations (three consultants vs. one student) (usually in-person, but also remote).

Cult aspects

  • Fanatical devotion to their leader/founder
  • Belief that they have the one true answer to universal happiness
  • Ultimate purpose is to recruit new members
  • Feeling that they are being persecuted
  • Wild, paranoid reactions to criticism
  • Non-communication (or at least very limited communication) with those who have left the group, and family members who refuse to join
  • Odd, specialized language.

  • More about cult aspects...
The best bits:  Cult aspects of ARDream to NightmareA journalist infiltratesAll the articles

Want to know when I update this site?

Get on our list and I'll let you know when I have new stuff.

And of course, your address is confidential.

The current AR members who troll this site are also welcome to sign up too.

©2004-2023 Michael Bluejay    moc.tluCkroYweN@rotide   Media/Interview requests • (512) 402-4364