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

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“If I disappointed them, then I now consider that a badge of honor.”

by Wayne Smith, Feb. 4, 2006

     Funny how the brainwashing comes back after 25 years. I was thinking how I would start this and was going to write about"AR" and immediately thought someone would ask me if I was showing respect by using just initials for this cult. lol

      To tell you the truth, I was a little hesitant to write as it was a fairly positive experience for me, in spite of this group and not because of them. I met some great people (who left the group too). I lived in New York for a year so I enjoyed the cultural experience. And I finally made peace with my homosexuality (after I left). AR was my last attempt to change after psychology and religion had also failed.

      It did amaze me to read on your site that Eli Siegel had committed suicide as that certainly did not come out once during my time there. The one thing that really seems a racket to me is how they tell you that you are not ready to express gratitude when you say you haven't changed from homosexuality and maybe if you would donate some money it would help. I cannot believe that they are denying that they led us to believe they could change people from H as they called it. I was there in the early 80's and gay people outnumbered the straight people and changing from homosexualty was one of the main topics.

      I am a very private person and don't like to push people to believe things I do [but] they soon had me wearing a victim of the press button and writing letters to Time magazine and demonstrating in the streets.

“One [AR member] actually opened an umbrella in an ELEVATOR to show how displeased they were with the former member!”

      I keep contact with a couple of friends of mine that are former members who say that when they meet active people in AR, the AR people cross over to the other side of the street.  One actually opened an umbrella in an ELEVATOR to show how displeased they were with the former member!

      In 1982, my AR roommate used to listen in on my calls to my family and then criticize me when I got off the phone. My consultants told me not to fly home for Christmas as I was not "ready" to be fair to AR while I was there. Christmas is a big deal in our family and it took a couple of years to mend family relations for the one Christmas in my life that I did not spend with my family.

      After reading your site, I can well imagine how badly my life would have turned out if I had stayed very much longer. I have been with my gay lover now for three years and am very happy. And I can say without qualification, it has nothing to do with my time spent in the AR cult! So go ahead and publish my name. Their disapproval means nothing to me now. I felt bad all the time I was there as nothing I did could please these people. If I disappointed them, then I now consider that a badge of honor.

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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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