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

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by Michael Bluejay • Last update: April 2022

Mind-control cults are pretty amazingly similar.  The doctrines are different, but they way they practice their mind control is the same.  For example, they all typically cut members off from their families, because family might convince the members to leave.  Here are some comparisons between two well-known cults and Aesthetic Realism.

Cult groups compared

Heaven’s Gate
Aesthetic Realism
Belief in the supremacy of their founder
Yes (L. Ron Hubbard)
Yes (Marshall Applewhite)
Yes (Eli Siegel.  Members think Siegel was "the most important person ever to live.")
Belief that they had/have the most important knowledge in the world
Yes  (Members think the leader's writings are "the most important breakthroughs in Man's history".) (source)
Yes  (Heavens Gate thought they knew "the only chance to survive" for humanity.) (source)
Yes  ("Aesthetic Realism is the birthright of every human being and studying it is the best thing that can happen to anyone." ) (source)
Yes (samples)
Yes  (The entire group killed themselves in 1997.)
Yes  The founder and at least three others took their lives.
Leaders left the group and admitted it's a cult
Yes  (samples)

(They all killed themselves before they could get large enough or last long enough for any leaders to leave.)

Yes  (see accounts here and here)
Group tries to discredit former members who now say the group is a cult
Yes  (From the Village Voice: "Predictably, Scientology is hitting back by trying to smear the two [former members, now critics]. If they were once the most trusted, most powerful members of the church, now suddenly they are lunatic losers who can't be trusted."  And see "The Ramifications of Leaving Scientology" video from CNN.)
Yes  (From one of the group's websites: "So much for the stupid lying of Mali, Bluejay and the other liars.... Why is he doing this? Feeling himself to be a failure in his own life, and joining with others also seeking revenge for essentially the same reason--notably Adam Mali--Michael Bluejay seeks the triumph of making himself important by looking down upon others. He is attempting to assuage his feeling of unimportance by attacking the persons and philosophy he very well realizes best represent truth and beauty.") (source)
Paranoid feelings of persecution
Yes  (From a former member: "L. Ron Hubbard was quite paranoid.  He believed that pretty much everyone was working against him.  This belief is built into the core of Scientology...From the very early 1950's Hubbard told stories about this conspiracy.") source
Yes  (From the NY Times magazine: "Siegel and his followers believe that only a conspiracy of silence by the press has kept Aesthetic Realism from sweeping the world."  From an AR ad: "In keeping Aesthetic Realism 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.")
Members cut off from family
Yes  (A former member quoted by ABC News: "I was even about to get on a plane [to go see my parents], and I just got pulled into a room [by the cult leaders] and screamed at.")
Yes  ("To be eligible for membership in the Next Level, humans would have to shred every attachment to the planet.  These included things Bonnie and herff had given up: friends, families, jobs, possessions, and sex.") (Cults: Religion & Violence) Yes  ("I didn't see my parents for 15 years, and I thought nothing of it. I used to plan trips to go home, and all the cult members would get around you and talk you out of it. My parents would be so heartbroken when I canceled at the 11th hour.") (former member quoted in Jewish Times)  
Former members shunned
Yes  ("If you leave without permission, they declare you a suppressive person and they make your family and anyone who knows you in Scientology disconnect from you.") (source)
Yes   "My parents had told me that, if I left, it would be the end of our relationship. They remained true to their word." (source) • "it is almost impossible to describe how filthy, disgusting, degenerate, and depraved we saw anyone who left Aesthetic Realism as being. Take all the worst people throughout history you can think of, roll them into one, and you have what we were conditioned to think of people who left." (source)
Denounces psychiatry
Yes  ("The Church of Scientology's war on psychiatry is no joke. For decades, Scientologists have maintained that the very notion of mental illness is a fraud. They base this belief on the views of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who proclaimed that psychiatry was an evil enterprise, a form of terrorism, and the cause of crime. Now, they're attempting to enshrine their contempt for psychiatry in laws across the country.") (Salon) (probably didn't have a position on it)
Yes  (The group's current leader, talking about the group's alleged cure for homosexuality:  "We are not psychiatrists; psychiatry has essentially failed. People who go to psychiatrists don’t change. They don’t get better.") (source)
Widely branded as a cult
Yes  (As though you need examples, TIME magazine called them "A cult of greed.")
Yes (e.g., by CNN)
Yes  (NY Magazine called them "a cult of messianic nothingness" and Harpers called them "the Moonies of poetry".  Steve Hassan, one of the best-known experts on cult mind control"I think that [Siegel] was a cult leader, and that like many other cult leaders, he had a narcissistic personality and was a control freak.") (source)

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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