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

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An unbiased reader shares some thoughts

July 16, 2005

I stumbled onto your site, and took a look at the Countering the Lies website, as well as the AR homepage. I am not, nor have I ever been, in any way affiliated with AR. In fact, I only heard about it for the first time when I came across this website. After reading what everyone here has to say, checking out, and perusing, I must say that what you're all saying here is quite valid. They pretend to be some institution of higher learning, but all they talk about is their cult leader, Eli, who they feel is better than Christ, although their "philosophy" "fits well with any religion." I am dumbfounded as to their personal attacks on you and other former members who spoke of their experience inside the cult, especially for an organization that proclaims, "...the viewpoint of Aesthetic Realism that we have an obligation to see everything as well as we can." (Straight from

The next problem is where they say on, "The absurdity is obvious; the lack of interest in truth, palpable." [comparing criticism of AR with criticism of Kant, or Pascal, or Lao-Tze, or Nicolas of Cusa, or Hegel, or Sartre.] If you had attacked Yale or Harvard, saying they were not schools, but cults, would Yale or Harvard create a website to ease public relations and personally attack the few that claimed such? No. They might make a public statement about the comment, laughably, but probably not even that. Because it is actually absurd. But is clearly an attempt to regain some public relations points and try to proactively stop people from thinking it's a cult. They wouldn't want you to think that if they were to try to convert you.

Finally, run a word check on because nobody in the world, even an English major, would use all of those 10-point words (as my 9th grade English teacher would call them) to express such a simple idea. They used a ton of "big words" and liken themselves to great teachers and philosophers of the past in an attempt to sound more intellectual, thus garnering points as an academic study, not a cult. I'll bet their perfect being, Eli Siegel, didn't even speak like that. And the way they make themselves out to be their own martyrs? Please.

Anyhow, just wanted to let you know what a total outsider thought of the whole ordeal.

Also, as an aside, I have had experience in another cult (which also isn't considered a cult by its members, and is largely unknown as such) myself, and I just wanted to let you know that what you're doing—speaking out against them, exposing the truth of the matter—is a great thing. I hope others, maybe even those inside may see this and understand what it is.

Editor's note:   Thanks for writing in!  Yes, I think AR's “Countering the Lies” site reflects very badly on them, which is why I was delighted that they put it up.  In trying to convince people that AR is a cult, they certainly made my job a lot easier.  One of the hallmarks of cults is that they have no clue about how crazy they seem to the outside world.

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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