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

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Five reasons you can't trust an Aesthetic Realist

by Michael Bluejay • Original: Feb. 2010 • Updated April 2011

Aesthetic Realists say their critics are liars. In fact they have a whole website called Countering the Lies. (Hypocritically, that site contains their own mistruths.) But here's a laundry list of reasons why it's hard to trust what an Aesthetic Realist says about their organization.

1. They're out of their friggin' minds.

Don't take my word for it, listen to what they have to say themselves. (Emphasis added.)

"Eli Siegel [AR's founder] was the greatest man in the history of the world." (from their NY Times ad, and their Spring 2008 presentation at a NYC library) ▶ Play the audio

"When we see how much [Siegel] was able to do without recognition or acclaim, imagine what he might have done if he had had them! He thought, for example, if he had been able to work with doctors, he could have found the cause of cancer." (introduction to AR's Self ond World book, p. xi)

"I believe Self and World is the greatest book ever to have been written. If you think I'm saying greater than the Bible or Shakespeare — yes, I am." (from the intro to that book)

"In keeping Aesthetic Realism—in all its grandeur, all its kindness—from you, the American press has committed a crime against humanity as much as if it deliberately kept from starving people the news that the food they needed was available for them." (from their NY Times ad)

"I accuse the American press of preferring the continuing pain of children and even death to being honest about Aesthetic Realism." (Robert Murphy on AR's website)

"It sounds strange, in a way, but I think I love the opposites of Sameness and Difference as much as I love any person." (from their 1971 book about their "cure" for homosexuality, p. ix)

"Homosexuality, in simple terms, is bad aesthetics." (their 1971 book about their cure for homosexuality, p. x)

 And here's how an arts writer for The Virginian-Pilot described her encounter with an Aesthetic Realist:

"A woman with a curious button on her chest sat down beside us. Her button read: 'Victim of the Press.'  She looked safe enough to ask questions. Some ruse. As she spoke of her cause, she began to emerge as, well, deranged."

2. They lie their faces off.

Aesthetic Realists claim they never promoted a cure for being gay.  But they did, and it's well-documented.

They also say that while people did change from being gay by studying AR, they never said people should change.  But quotes like these suggest otherwise:

"We say what history will say: the American press has blood on its hands, has caused misery and death, because for years it has withheld the news that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism." (from their NY Times ad)

An entire chapter of AR's 1986 book on their gay cure is devoted to the idea of homosexuality being wrong.  On its very first page it says, "Eli Siegel stated the main reason homosexuality is not ethical, and [he] related homosexuality to all other ways that a man has been against the outside world.  He explained, 'There is only one thing that is immoral in the world: liking oneself too much and the outside world too little'....".

As for AR's claim that they don't see homosexuality as a mental illness, this one is easy:  Their founder, Eli Siegel, wrote, "All homosexuality arises from contempt of the world, not liking it sufficiently." AR also believes that "contempt causes insanity". (It was the title of the preface to their founder's book Self and World (which is basically their Bible), and they've used it as a headline of their monthly newsletter.)  So if homosexuality is a form of contempt, and contempt causes do the math.  It's painfully obvious how AR views gay people.

AR people say that Eli Siegel didn't kill himself.  But he did, and we know this because enough former members have come forward and spilled the beans.  (And also because with the spotlight that this website has shone on the AR people about this, they've finally begrudgingly alluded to Siegel's suicide.)

AR folks claim they've never been secretive about how Siegel died:

A final misrepresentation I want to refute here is the manner in which those attempting to discredit Eli Siegel have portrayed his death.... The events that led to his dying have long been knowledge in the public realm, because Ellen Reiss has described them, often in detail, in the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known at least once every year since 1987! (AR website)

No, she hasn't.  No such writing exists. I challenged them years ago to provide this alleged admission of Siegel's suicide from the AR journal, but they can't, because they've never owned up to it.

A favorite falsehood the AR people like to tell is that I was only 2 or 3 years old when I was involved with Aesthetic Realism.  In fact, my involvement didn't end completely until around high school.  The picture at right shows me at age 12, dutifully wearing my AR "Victim of the Press" button.  That same summer I also attended multiple presentations and classes at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, and had the "consultations".

For more, see Lies Aesthetic Realists tell.


3. They obfuscate and distort.

Do you wonder how AR can claim they didn't have a gay cure when they published two books, produced one film, took out several ads in major newspapers, and held hundreds of counseling sessions on the subject?  Simple: They never used the word "cure".  A cure is exactly what they described, and it's a word used by others who have written about their efforts (including the New York Times and SoHo News Weekly), but the AR people tiptoed around that word themselves.  So they're claiming "We never said we had a cure for homosexuality!" simply because they never used the word cure itself.  Incredible.

They obfuscate this way with everything. They "refute" a former member's charge that members don't get to take vacations by giving examples of recent vacations — without mentioning that vacations were allowed only recently and only specifically so they could claim that they'd taken some.  Ditto with being in contact with family members.  It's a relatively new phenomenon, but they don't mention that bit.  Or they talk about the people at the lower levels in the organization, who don't face as severe restrictions as those higher up — only they don't tell you that that's what they're talking about.  In everything they say on Countering the Lies, there's something significant they're leaving out.


4. Most of them eventually recant what they're saying.

Most people who have ever been Aesthetic Realism members have eventually snapped out of it and left.  So it's really kind of hard to take what the current members say seriously, when over the years countless others who said the exact same kinds of things, and with just as much fervor, later left the group and recanted their statements. When so many former members say they were wrong, why should we believe what the current members are saying?


5. They won't stand behind what they say.

I saved the best for last: I've had an open offer to debate the Aesthetic Realists, any time, anywhere, but they won't even acknowledge that offer, much less accept it.  Between them and me, I'm the only one willing to stand behind what he says.  The AR people want to safely hide behind the cover of the Internet without having their distortions held up to public scrutiny.  They won't defend their words publicly.

And when the Aesthetic Realists won't stand behind what they say, why should anyone take what they have to say seriously?

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

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