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

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News & Commentary

by Michael Bluejay, editor

Aesthetic Realism and Scientology: Separated at birth?

November 29, 2011.  Sometimes it seems that all cults are the same, and the only difference is the actual doctrines.  But sometimes even the message itself is the same from one cult to the next.  Tom Cruise of Scientology famously railed against anti-depressant medicines as frauds, saying that Scientology was the answer for depression.  The Aesthetic Realists say the exact same thing, except that in their world it's not Scientology that's the answer, it's Aesthetic Realism.  Here's one of their op-eds (one wonders whether the editor even read it before running it) claiming that AR's founder discovered that contempt is the source of "all mental trouble".  Not some of it, all of it.

Anti-depressants are certainly controversial and criticism of them isn't on the fringe, but the idea that Scientology or Aesthetic Realism has all the answers is just, well, silly.  One thing's for sure:  from what we know from former members of AR, life in the Aesthetic Realism group is pretty effective at causing depression.

Promoting Aesthetic Realism even after you're dead

June 18, 2011.  One of the defining characteristics of being in a cult is that it's a lifelong commitment.  You can't ever leave.  A lifetime of study is insufficient for your feeble little mind to grasp all that the magnificent founder/leader had to teach.  Or in those cults where they agree that you can understand it after sufficient study, you're still supposed to stay so you can help spread the news to others.  So either way, you're supposed to be in it...forever.  It's a "Til death do us part" kind of thing.

And in fact, you might wind up promoting AR even after you're dead.  A longtime Aesthetic Realist passed, and her obituary is nearly half about Aesthetic Realism.  That's not too surprising, when we learn that the obit was mostly copied & pasted from her biography on the Aesthetic Realism website, with the survivor information tacked on the end.  One wonders whether departed members are required to try to spread the news about their group in the afterlife, too.

Aesthetic Realism doesn't even merit a footnate in David Susskind's biography

February 6, 2011.  Back when AR was pushing its supposed gay cure, they were lucky enough to land interview on two different episodes of David Susskind's pioneering TV talk show.  Susskind was a respected media giant so this was a big deal.  The Aesthetic Realists trumpeted the interviews loudly in their subsequent gay cure books and in all their materials.  Indeed, many gays who saw the shows contacted the AR foundation, seeking the "cure".  In a draft autobiography by Sallie Parker, one person talks about seeing the Aesthetic Realists on Susskind's show: "They were saying, in these ridiculously queeny voices, 'We ussed to be homossexsuals, but now we are ssstrraight. We have found a cure through this new way of looking the world. A new philosssophy." 

Anyway, a few months ago Susskind's biography was published, and how much space was given to the supposedly momentous interviews of the Aesthetic Realists and their ability to fix gays?  None.  The Aesthetic Realists didn't even merit a footnote.

What do Zendik Farm and Aesthetic Realism have in common?

January 4, 2011.  Zendik Farm is a group of crazed hippies who live in a commune and rail against the "DeathKultur", the American mainstream.  They claim to be fomenting a revolution which will result in an ecological utopia.  The Aesthetic Realists, on the other hand, are a group of aging New York City professionals and intellectuals living in an urban jungle.  What could these two groups possibly have in common?

What they both have in common is that they're mind-control cults.  Both groups believe they have the One True Answer, they don't brook any dissent, and members' lives and minds are controlled in each group.  That's what makes a cult a cult.  When I tell people I was in a cult, their first question is often, "What do they believe?", but the defining aspect of a cult isn't crazy beliefs.  What makes it a cult is the fanatical devotion to those beliefs.  That's the common thread that binds all cults together.  And that's what a group of rural hippies has in common with a group of New York City intellectuals.

But sometimes there are specific similarities, too, not just general ones.  Like the Aesthetic Realists, Zendiks believe that homosexuality is a perversion.  As one former Zendik said, "They kept telling me that I was only a lesbian because of the influence of the Death Culture, and now that I was in a loving family I should embrace my hetero side."  (Of course, Zendik's sham "cure" was no better than AR's sham cure.)  (source)

Anyway, just as I did with the Aesthetic Realists, a former member of Zendik has put the truth about how Zendik actually operates on the web.  Ex-AR members will still see a lot there that reminds them of AR.

Why doesn't AR fight gay prejudice as well as racial prejudice?

Noveber 23, 2010.  AR is trying to whitewash its earlier efforts to "cure" gays by now saying that "AR is for full civil rights for everyone."  What this hides is that they simply believe that even people with mental problems like gays are entitled to civil rights.  The Aesthetic Realists still believe that homosexuality is amenable to change, they've never said their earlier efforts to cure gays was wrong, and they've certainly never apologized for it.  Anyway, I recently ran across a post on a web forum where someone asks a very telling question:

"If the Aesthetic Realism Foundation has [truly] seen the error of their ways, why are they not now attempting to combat homophobic prejudice as vigorously as they oppose racial prejudice? Why [are they] not making films promoting tolerance for gays now?"

Good question.  But the answer is easy:  No group that thinks that homosexuality is "unethical" and "a form of selfishness" is going to going start banging the drum for gay rights. (more...)

Why the press really ignored Aesthetic Realism

Noveber 22, 2010.  AR has long maintained that there's a conspiracy in the press to not report about Aesthetic Realism.  Members even used to go around wearing "Victim of the Press" buttons.  (I did the same when I was a member.)  And what was the reason for this media conspiracy?  "Press persons are furious that there are something and someone in this world they cannot look down on, even a little; they are furious that they respect Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism without limit and need to learn from Aesthetic Realism about everything." (source)

Whatever.  The real reason for the lack of press coverage is pretty obvious, and today I found another website where someone else put it pretty well:

My own "take" on the alleged press conspiracy of silence against  Aesthetic Realism was not that they were being suppressed by a deep dark dastardly media and press conspiracy, but simply did not in fact offer anything to attract the interest or attention of more than a rather small coterie of followers.  I myself always thought this so-called press conspiracy of silence was due to the fact that it WAS a small "fringe" movement, on the one hand too "kooky" or "cranky" to be taken seriously by most "mainstream" intellectuals and journalists, on the other hand not quite bizarre, outrageous, or "way-out" enough to attract attention as a bizarre colorful movement like Scientology, EST, the Hare Krishnas, or the Moonies. (source)

What does the general public think?

Noveber 5, 2010.  Last year in NYC I rented a sign bike (a big tricycle with a billboard-style advertisement), and made signage to read "Aesthetic Realism is a Cult —".  Then I'd go park it in front of the Aesthetic Realism building on occasion.  I'll post pictures when I get some time.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share that the response from the public was overwhelmingly positive.  I didn't realize that so many people would be aware of AR, and that they'd have such a low opinion of it.  The most common response was for people to smile and give me a thumbs up as they passed.  One person just quietly said, "Thank you."  Another said, after reading the sign, "I've suspected that for some time."  One woman came up to me excitedly and exclaimed, "I've known about these assholes for years!"  But my favorite was when one guy said, "So I guess you've seen Michael Bluejay's site?"  And of course I replied, "Well, I'm Michael Bluejay."  And he nearly shrieked, "YOU'RE Michael Bluejay?!"  We then had a nice conversation from there.

Do people look for information on AR being a cult?  You betcha.

May 17, 2010.  Ever since I started this site, my server logs have shown that one way people find it is by searching Google or Yahoo for "aesthetic realism cult".  And now here's the proof!  Recently Google and Yahoo have started offering "auto-complete" suggestions for search queries.  That is, when you type a few characters into the search box, it shows you sample searches that other people have done so you can just pick one of those if that's what you want.  So as soon as you type in "aesthetic real..." you see that one of the things other people search for is "aesthetic realism cult".  Bingo!  Go ahead, try it.

Of course, the Aesthetic Realists keep acting like I'm the only one saying they're a cult, when that feeling is actually widespread — so much so that New York Magazine called them a cult, and the New York Times and Harper's had similar words.  Heck, people were calling AR a cult before I was even born.

Aesthetic Realists' latest tactic?  Claim that I'm gay.

April 18, 2010.  Both the Aesthetic Realists and I buy ads in Google to promote our respective websites.  Recently one of the AR people complained on the Google Support Forums about my ads, saying about me, "It is no matter that he is flamboyantly homosexual..." (page no longer active on the web) 

Of course this begs the question:  If it doesn't matter, why did they say it?  Well, the answer is pretty obvious:  They think that saying someone is gay is a good way to smear them.  And so all their protests elsewhere that they don't see anything wrong with homosexuality, is a big crock of B.S.  They think gayness is so unflattering that they can tar someone simply by saying they're gay.  Sometimes the AR people don't realize just how much of their prejudices they're revealing.

Incidentally, I'm not gay, which I say only to point out that AR's efforts to discredit me aren't just mean-spirited, they're also factually incorrect.

More search rankings

February 2010.  The server logs for this website tell me what people are typing into the search engines to find it.  For example, someone recently found us by searching for "funny rebuttals to being called a liar".  And typing that into Google, I see that we're #1 for that search!  That's just really got to piss the Aesthetic Realists off.

November 15, 2009. Thanks to the server logs, I see we're somehow we're on the front page of Google for a search on "what is a cult?"

This begs a variant of that old joke:  "When you look up 'cult' in a dictionary, you see Aesthetic Realism's picture!"

Are Aesthetic Realists still gay?

October 17, 2009.  We all know that most of the people who said AR cured them of their gayness decided they were really gay after all and left the group.  Some remain in AR, though, and still claim that they're cured.  Either way, many observers have noted that the "cured" still seem, well, gay.  In a draft of a novel by Sallie Parker, one of the characters talks about seeing the Aesthetic Realists on David Susskind: "They were saying, in these ridiculously queeny voices, 'We ussed to be homossexsuals, but now we are ssstrraight. We have found a cure through this new way of looking the world. A new philosssophy.'"

Of course, most people are skeptical that anyone really ever stopped being gay as a result of AR, and interestingly, one former member has thrown down this challenge:  He suggested that the supposedly straight Aesthetic Realists undergo the kind of testing where their body reactions are monitored while being shown sexual images of men and then of women.  For years I've offered to pay for such testing, and now, I'll up the ante:  I'll donate $10,000 to the Aesthetic Realism Foundation if five out of five "changed" Aesthetic Realists can pass an independent test.  Of course, the Aesthetic Realists have never acknowledged my offer.  Doesn't say a lot about their confidence, does it?

Anyway, the reason for that big introduction is to give the context for this next bit:  I sometimes check my server logs to see what people are searching for when they find this website.  And a recent search was for "bruce blaustein gay" (for which we're #4 in Google).  Apparently somebody has doubts about the completeness of his "change".

By the way, for those concerned that I'm "outing" Bruce Blaustein as (supposedly) formerly gay, he outed himself, in the ads that the AR people bought in four major newspapers touting their alleged gay care, so he was the one who first put that in the public domain, not me.

While we're at it, we were also found by people searching for "aesthetic realism lunatics", and for "I'm sick of people telling others to be grateful." (#1 in Yahoo)

What are they so scared of?

July 4, 2009. A couple of years ago, a friend and I went to a presentation at the AR headquarters, just to see if they'd even let us in.  My friend also tried to videotape it, in case they threw us out, or in case anything else crazy happened.  They did let us in, but soon after we were seated, someone hurried over to tell us we couldn't film, so we turned off the video, but kept the audio recording on.  Someone else got wise to this and came over to say no audio, either.  So we turned that off too.

But this begs the question, what the hell are the AR people so scared of?  That I might post it on the Internet and then people could see what AR was all about?  That's what they ostensibly want, for the whole world to know about Aesthetic Realism!  If they're proud of what happens in their presentations, then why wouldn't they want people to know about it?

My best guess is that it was simply their cult paranoia and vindictiveness rearing its head.  I was taping, and they consider me their enemy, so their knee-jerk reaction is to try to clamp down on whatever I'm doing, no matter how innocuous that might be.

So the Aesthetic Realists "won" that round for sure. They made sure no one on the Internet can be exposed an AR presentation.  Congratulations, guys!

How to rescue someone from a cult

July 2, 2009. The key to getting to a cult member to leave their cult is love.  It isn't logic.  It's not reasoning.  Let's face it:  If people in cults were able to think rationally about the group they're in, they wouldn't be a part of it.  That's why, as I say in the post below, perhaps the best definition of brainwashed is "the inability to see what's obvious to everyone else".

Cult people have a blind spot about their group, and no amount of logic will persuade them.  This is partly a result of mind control, and it's partly a result of cognitive dissonance, which is the idea that it's exceptionally hard for people to realize they've made a mistake—and the bigger the mistake, the harder it is to own up to.

So if we can't reach cult people with logic and reason, how do we reach them?  Since you can't appeal to their rational side (at least not at first), you appeal to their emotional side.  Cult members are human, after all.  The most well-known expert on cults, Steve Hassan, himself a former cult member, talks in one of his books about how his father intervened to try to get Steve out of the Moonies.  The father tried the typical persuasive arguments but Steve wasn't buying it.  The father then broke down and tearfully asked Steve something like, "What would you do in my shoes? I feel that I'm losing my son."  That affected Steve, enough that he reluctantly agreed to listen to what a cult exit counselor had to say.  A few days later he was free.

The same former member I quote in the entry below said something similar:

The people who had the biggest impact on me were not the ones who screamed at me "You're in a cult!" (Believe me, I had plenty of those.)  Rather the ones who made me think were those willing to care about me as a person, whether I stayed or left.  Despite their initial allure, cults do not offer unconditional love.  When I saw people on the outside acting differently toward me than my own supposed all-loving peers, it affected me.  I may not have left right away, but I could not shake that there was someone who would be willing to be my friend and care about me with no strings attached.

Okay, so I sort of cringe about screaming "You're in a cult!", because I've done my fair share of that.  On the other hand, the story of AR needs to be told truthfully, and that's what I'm doing.  I can leave the emotional component to those who actually have loved ones in AR, since I don't, as my immediate family fortunately got out of the group years ago.  I do have an aunt who's still in, and based on the quote above (which inspired this entry), I think I'll look her up the next time I'm in NYC.

People in cults aren't stupid

July 1, 2009. When we see cult people on TV, following some bogus leader with absolute devotion, many of us think, "Those people must be really stupid."  But that's not really fair.  Cults practice mind-control which makes their followers have a blind spot about that one thing (the cult itself), but they're otherwise intelligent people.  Aesthetic Realism is a great example: Its members are accomplished and respected writers, poets, artists, musicians, and businesspeople.  They're often experts in the professional fields. They're not dumb by any stretch of the imagination.  They simply have an inability to see the reality about one thing, the group they're in.  (Unfortunately that one thing winds up consuming their lives.)

Surely you've sometimes thought of someone, "How could they do something so stupid?"  Or you might have challenged a friend or relative with something like, "I thought you were smarter than that!"  The truth is, people aren't consistent, and that includes smart people.  An intelligent person isn't intelligent 100% of the time, or about 100% of things they're involved with.

In fact, this might be the best definition of brainwashed: the inability to see what's obvious to everyone else.  As one Wikipedia editor commented, "Outside of Aesthetic Realist circles, [the statement in question] would not be considered remotely controversial." (source)  But I believe this inability to see the obvious is more a result of mind control than any deficit of intelligence.

A former member of another cult speaks this in a telling piece on the International Cultic Studies Association website:

People in cults are not stupid.  After leaving my former group, I was so convinced that I had to be intellectually deficient that I actually took an I.Q. test.  Much to my surprise, instead of scoring way below average, I scored in the 97th percentile.  As I have learned more about the kinds of people cults recruit, I have found that I am the rule and not the exception.  Because the rigors of cult life are arduous, these groups do not want someone who will break down easily.  Cults go after the best and the brightest—robbing all of us of people who could be making a huge difference in this world.

That's Aesthetic Realism, for sure.

Nature's warning signs

June 17, 2008. One thing that amateur marketers do is to use a lot of exclamation marks.  Their idea is that this conveys how exciting or special what they're talking about is, but usually, it conveys something completely different: That the author is desperate to convince you of something.  So after seeing exclamation marks overused by so often to try to convince us of something (e.g., trying to sell us something via spam), we not only tend to discount the importance of exclamation marks, we may also actually distrust those who use them excessively and gratuitously.

I mention this because this little handbill I got for presentations at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation is loaded with no less than six exclamation marks, most of them completely gratuitous. (e.g., "...we long to feel that discomforts, fears, can be met gracefully!")  Now, the AR people's whole raison d'être is to get other people to believe that AR is the ultimate truth, and it's simply interesting to me how something as small as a few exclamation marks can unmask their desperation to sell us on their ideas.

Help for journalists covering AR — Media FAQ

May 15, 2008.  After doing a bunch of recent interviews with the media and fielding the same questions — and more importantly, learning how the AR people are fudging their answers with the media — I put together a Media FAQ to help reporters with the most common questions, and to help them avoid being misled by the AR people's deceptive answers.

Here's an example of the kind of deception that AR was able to get into the Village Voice article:

...from the 1960s through the '80s, the Aesthetic Realism Foundation ran a program intended to turn gay people straight, and claimed to have successfully "changed" 150 people. (The foundation ended that program in 1990, and today insists that "Aesthetic Realism is for full, equal civil rights for everyone.")

Anyone reading that would conclude that AR had a change of heart and no longer saw homosexuality as something to cure.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  AR did stop its conversion therapy, but not because they realized it was wrong, but rather because it wasn't working. They couldn't defend it with a straight face when the media came calling because most of the cured decided they weren't really cured at all and left.  The group was also tired of getting protested by the gay rights groups.  But they never admitted they were wrong, and certainly haven't apologized for it. And  AR's saying that they're for "full civil rights for everyone" is a clever way to mask the fact that although they do believe that, they also firmly believe that homosexuality is a psychological disorder that's amenable to change.

AR gets public funding—and we get it canceled

May 8, 2008.  Last month I found out that AR had been awarded $4000 from the NY state budget by a NY assemblyperson, Felix Ortiz.  (In New York state, a legislator can dole out small grants directly to non-profit groups, without the whole legislature having to vote on it.)  I alerted the media which did some stories on how the state was funding an alleged cult, and as a result it looks like that funding has now been pulled.  (I still need to confirm that the pull is permanent, but I think it is.)  Score one for us!  And thanks especially to the other former members (like Adam Mali) who agreed to be interviewed, and greatly aided this effort.

For the record, I'm not too hard on Assemblyperson Ortiz, since he really didn't know about the darker side of AR.  And as a staunch supporter of free speech, I believe that AR has the right to promote themselves and their philosophy as they see fit—they just don't deserve taxpayer money to further their private agenda.

Here are the media stories:

AR member admits AR founder Eli Siegel killed himself!

May 1, 2008. I don't know how I managed to miss the significance of this gem from AR member Arnold Perey when I first read it on a Wikipedia talk page:  "Eli Siegel died with dignity.... What death with dignity means to people today, thanks to the Hemlock Society and other Death with Dignity organizations, is that one has died by his own hand."

So at long last, that's finally a de facto admission by an Aesthetic Realist that Siegel did, in fact kill himself!  Of course, the AR people are still calling me a total liar for saying that's what happened.  Do you suppose they'd take it back if I say instead that Siegel "died of his own hand"?

I doubt it.

Who's afraid to debate?

Feburary 29, 2008.  I've had an open offer to debate the AR people for years, but they haven't even acknowledged it, much less accepted.  They're content to scream across the Internet that I'm a liar, but they won't stand behind those words.  I've even offered to have the debate on their turf (at their own Terrain Gallery) and let them pick one of the two resolutions which I pre-emptively agree to sight unseen. But no dice.

It got really comical when AR member Arnold Perey said on Wikipedia that I'm afraid to debate!  That's right, I made a standing debate offer to the AR people which they wouldn't even acknowledge, and supposedly I'm the one who's afraid to debate.  Wow.

So last May when I was in NYC, I caught up with Dr. Perey at the AR headquarters when one of their gatherings was just getting out.  I told him that I would like to debate him, but he wouldn't acknowledge me.  I pointed out that he'd said I was afraid to debate, but here I was, making an offer.  But he wouldn't respond.   I kept repeating my offer, but Dr. Perey wouldn't say even one word as he hurried to the car.  A friend of mine got the last half of this on video, unfortunately missing the first few times I made my offer.

The gay cure in general

Feburary 29, 2008.  AR isn't the only outfit that professed a cure for being gay.  Lots of religious groups tout the same thing.  I read about one such group in the Dec. 27 edition of Las Vegas' City Life, and the reporter's words really struck home:

"Problem is, it doesn't work; psychiatric experts scoff at the notion of changing sexual orientation; the 'relapse' rate is high; and in some cases the so-called cure is worse than the disease..."

That kind of rings a bell, huh?

Cult vocabulary

Feburary 1, 2008. I just ran across an MTV article about Scientology vocabulary.  While Scientology and Aesthetic Realism are miles apart in terms of what they teach, they still share that common bond of being cults, and thus have some of the same characteristics.  These include specialized vocabulary and a paranoid fear of the media.  While reading the article, I kept being reminded of AR. Here's a telling excerpt: "A 'Suppressive Person' (SP) is someone who commits suppressive acts, like murder, criticizing Scientology or altering [the founder]'s teachings, according to former and current members. Journalists are automatically considered SPs because they traffic in bad news and so are barred from entering Scientology.". [Update: I just added a page about AR's special vocabulary. (4-09)]

Artists' take on Aesthetic Realism

November 1, 2007. I noticed that on the Artists Talk on Art forum, some people made comments about Aesthetic Realism in posts from 2005 and 2006.  On AR's gay cure:

"[Eli Siegel's] views on converting homosexuals could have revolutionized The Arts by discrediting the contributions of: Sappho, Gertrude Stein, Viginia Woolf, Francis Bacon, Sopholcles, Socrates, John Milton, Walt Whitman, Oscar wilde, Jean Cocteau, Leonardo da Vinci, Audrey Beardsley or Michelangelo [because they were gay]." (link)

That's interesting.  While I've opposed AR's gay cure for years on moral grounds, somehow I failed to consider that when AR condemns homosexuality, it's really condemning some important and prominent artists—which is ironic considering how AR considers itself grounded in the arts.

There was also some controversy about an AR person moderating one of ATOA's panels, with ATOA members being concerned about participation by a group that professed a gay cure.

Another writer quotes AR's "Countering the Lies" website:

"And [Bluejay et al's] purpose is to have you feel that if you like Aesthetic Realism (as it is so beautifully easy to do), if you have a high opinion of it (as a person with a careful mind will), it's because you've been somehow taken in."

And here's their comment on that quote:

"So, if a person open mindly examines and decides that A.R. just isn't their cup of tea then they don't pass the right IQ test."

Yep, you got it!  AR people harbor a lot of contempt for people who don't like Aesthetic Realism.

Aesthetic Realism parallels with The Secret

October 17, 2007.  I got another story by a former member, describing how ARists feel they have all the answers for everything, and how they feel qualified to lecture everyone, even strangers, about how to feel about tragedy in their lives.

I didn't even have a chance to post that story before I got another email from a non-member, complaining how an ARist criticized her and her son, blaming any problems they had on their contempt for the world.  It was interesting to get a non-member writing in to corroborate when the former member had just said, before I'd even posted the former's story.  (If you're looking for it, I posted it at the end of the former member's story.)

But there are yet more parallels.  Last year there was a lot of hype about a book and film called "The Secret", which purported to have the answer to how to achieve wealth and happiness.  This is a little different from AR, since promoting riches has never been a big part of its message, thankfully.  But The Secret's ideas about how to achieve happiness and success are a direct mirror of AR's philosophy: it's all a result of your attitude to the world. Check out what a critic of The Secret said about it on Amazon:

By far the most offensive part of the message is the suggestion that people who have pain in their lives are somehow attracting it with their thoughts. Darfur rape victims did not ask for it. Children who are molested did not ask for it. Starving Africans did not ask for it. To suggest that their "incorrect thinking" is the cause of this is sickening. Positive thoughts may help you endure pain, and help you find meaning in it, but it will not end random violence, illness and war. Shame on anyone who tells a sick person that they are manifesting it themselves, that they don't want to get well badly enough.

 Now compare that to what a former member has to say about AR:

When people around me faced issues like loss of love or a job, money problems, being assaulted or raped, grave illness — even life and death — I had no doubt that I had a grip on the situation.  ...  I was skating very close to and often crossing the line into a blame the victim mentality..... For example, illness (except for Siegel himself, of course) was always associated with a person's contemptuous attitude to the world, and a sick person was seen as needing criticism to get well.  If they died, well, it was as though they had brought it on themselves because they had refused to listen to criticism of their lousy attitude toward the world, and the chickens had come home to roost.

Aesthetic Realism and The Secret: separated at birth?

But wait, there's more!  Here's another parallel:  The comedy TV show South Park had an episode about a gay cure!  This was a bit different from AR's gay cure, in that the cure in the TV show is based on fundamentalist religion, but there are plenty of similarities to AR's "cure" that just jump off the screen at you (like the huge failure rate, and the idea that they're trying to cure something which has no need to be cured).

If you missed it on TV, you can watch it here.

High school student says teachers tried to indoctrinate

July 13, 2006. Gideon Rettich writes us:

I was not in any way involved with this group but two of my HS teachers were. I went FH Laguardia HS of music and art. There was an art history teacher named Donita Ellison and an English summer school teacher - something Rabinowitz.

They repeatedlty taught their courses from the perspective of AR and we were given low marks on tests if we did not reflect THEIR beliefs in our course work.

I never tolerated their obvious attempt to "rope us in" at our young ages and I was given low marks because of it.

There are other teachers involved in AR throughout the eduacation system. They need to uncovered and fired - they try to convert in the class room.

Feel free to publish this including my name.

Thank you for this website.

More on AR in the public schools.

#2 in Google

July 13, 2006. We're now #2 in Google for a search on "aesthetic realism". We can't get much higher than this....

Spanish teacher teaches AR instead of Spanish

February 8, 2006. From a blog I just found: "Since the 10th grade I had a teacher, Carmine Pulera, for Spanish. Mr. Pulera was a follower of [the] Aesthetic Realism cult.....Mr. Pulera was also an extremely closeted homosexual...[H]e always seemed quite guilty about being a queer, and would, in my opinion, try to balance this all out by not just including [AR founder] Eli Siegel in his class discussions but also God.  Mind that this is suppossed to be a Spanish class.  Did we learn Spanish?  Not at all.  We learned about Aesthetic Realism however...."

Read the full blog post here.

We're #3 in Google — and the story behind it

December 30, 2005.  After the AR people published my mother's name on their website identifying her as a former member (against her wishes), I asked them to take it down, and when they refused, I told them if they'd take it down that I would not seek the #1 spot in Google on a search for "aesthetic realism".  (Previously my page wasn't even on the first few pages of Google.) They refused again, and so I began my upward climb.

In order to rank well I'd need to have a large, impressive site with lots of useful information, so my first step was to expand my offering from a single little page into a full-blown website with lots of good content.  And almost exactly one year later, we're now in the #3 spot!

The AR people really shot themselves in the foot here.  Had they simply taken down my mother's name which they never should have published in the first place, this site not only wouldn't be buried in Google, but the listing that was buried would be for a little one-page missive that was hardly very persuasive.  But instead, now we not only rank at #3, but the listing that ranks there is for this massive site filled with testimonials from lots of former members, the transcript of my lesson with the cult leader, a scan of their ad in the New York Times that they were hoping people would forget about, and so much more. They could have prevented all this, easily.  I have to admit that it gives me some pleasure when the AR people are responsible for their own downfall.

A year ago, I had mixed feelings about turning my one little page into a whole site, because I knew it would be a major effort and I had other things I preferred to work on, and I would have been only too happy for the AR people to have taken my mom's name down, not just because that's what she wanted, but also because that would have given me the excuse to not have to spend a lot of time creating this site.  But looking back, it's clear that this site really needed to be done, which is the message I get from the countless former members who have written in to tell me so, even if they don't contribute their own statements themselves.

AR's sneaky advertising tactics

October 24, 2005.  The AR people advertise their websites in Google, as do I with this site.  These are the ads that appear on the right side of the window when you do a search for "aesthetic realism".  Nothing scandalous about that.  Except AR advertises endorsements where none exists.

Some months ago they ran ad ad that said "Read about Aesthetic Realism on University's award-winning site,"  But the article in question wasn't published by the university, it was just some professor's personal web page.  Any professor or student can put anything on their own web page, though AR was implying an endorsement from Minnesota State University.  And it's against Google's rules to advertise a site other than your own, unless you have the permission of the owner of the other site.

I contacted the Minnesota State to ask if they'd given their permission for AR to advertise them that way?  No, they hadn't.  They were actually concerned that AR was trading on MNSU's good name, as you'd expect.  MNSU must have then complained to either Google or the AR Foundation itself, because shortly thereafter the ad disappeared.

But now the AR people are at it again. Here's an ad I noticed today:

Eli Siegel's System Lives
The Baltimore Evening Sun reports
on history of Aesthetic Realism

The problem with this ad is that it doesn't even take you to the Baltimore Sun.  If you click on it you go to the website!  This is likewise a violation of Google's policies, and for good reason.

It's sadly typical that the AR people try to attach themselves to the good names of others.

More insults from Aesthetic Realists

August 26, 2005.  AR people have now taken to sending anonymous insults through the "Submit-your-experience" form I have on the website.  What I mean by anonymous is that they not only don't give their name, they also list a fake email address so I can't respond.

This is more than a tad hypocritical, since the AR people have a whole essay on their CounteringTheLies website complaining vociferously that when former members tell their stories here they usually choose to do so anonymously.  As I've said elsewhere, it's understandable that former members choose to make their statements anonymously, because otherwise the AR people insult and slander them on CounteringTheLies, and because many former members are embarrassed about having been in a cult and don't want that information to be public.

Below is the most recent example of anonymous jabs I've received.  They list their name as "Michael Bluejay, loner", their email address as "", and their Years-in-AR as "1 month, infant", a reference to the charge they made against me on Wikipedia that supposedly my only experience with Aesthetic Realism was as an infant, which I refute further down on this page.

Regarding the impression you give through your description of your one-person protest: In your experience, have you ever seen such a demonstration on the streets of New York consisting of one person?  What has been your impression of that person?  Often such people who demonstrate alone are viewed as loner-types and are seen by the public as being a little odd to put it mildly (one-person demonstrators have been parodied in many cartoons!).  After all why can't the lone demonstrator get others others to join him?  Does the lone demonstrator have any friends?  You may have made some legitmate points on your website, but you hurt your cause and revealed too much about yourself in your description of your one-person protest.

My response about my one-person protest is this: I protested simply because it's something I wanted to do.  No one else could have joined me because I didn't tell them about it beforehand.   Most of my friends are in Austin (where I live), and it wouldn't make sense for even my NYC friends to protest because they've never been involved in AR and don't know much about it.  As for what others thought about a one-person protest, the rap that worked best for me in getting passersby to take a flier was actually, "I'm protesting this group here, would you take my flier?"  One person doubled around to come back to get one since he'd walked past me by the time I could get that out.  Would I do a one-person protest again? Absolutely.

Anyway, it's hard to be hurt by an AR apologist—it's the AR talking.  Especially when they start off by trying to tell me I was only involved with AR for one month as an infant (they wish!), and especially when they're too cowardly to even give their email address when they send their insults.

I likely won't list any more anonymous snipings like this on the News page because it will just encourage them to send more.  In fact, I'll go ahead and change the submission form now so that it requires verification of the sender's email address before I even see the message.

I'm a shameless money-grubber!

August 20, 2005.  Today an AR supporter sent me an impassioned defense of AR's homosexuality cure, which was fairly unremarkable, but then he followed up with this: Just wrote my experiences in AR to you and when I finally hit submit, you requested money from me to help your website pay its Gooogle ad. AR NEVER ASKED ME FOR MONEY BUT YOU DID.  I sure hope you add this to your site.

Oh, hell yes I will add this to my site!  I couldn't make up stuff this good.  Yes, indeed, there's a little box on most pages of this site (including this one, on the far bottom right) that encourages readers to help me pay the advertising bill for this site, since I pay out of my own pocket to advertise it in Google.  This is scandalous?

For the record, I've received exactly two (count 'em) donations in the eight months this site has been running.  That covers a fraction of my ad bill. I pay for the rest out of my own funds.  We could of course compare that to the head of AR who literally lives off what AR members kick in to the organization.  But there's really no point.

The really funny thing is in this person's original message he explained the consultations he took for five years to cure him of his gayness cost $30 week.  That would amount to $7,500. But we can see where the real scandal is, can't we?  It's the little voluntary donation box I have on this website.

[Update: A wealthy former member has offered to underwrite the advertising costs, and whatever other expenses I have in running this site, so I took the donation box down. (4-09)].

Who's afraid to debate?

August 9, 2005.  Below I cover some of the B.S. the AR people have been dishing out on Wikipedia, such as saying my only experience with AR was as an infant (they wish) and that I'm just the front person for other former members and this website is their brainchild, not mine. (Where do they get this stuff?)  But today the B.S. sunk to a whole new level.

Arnold Perey made this incredible statement on the talk page of the Eli Siegel article:

Apparently Michael Bluejay is afraid to debate.

Here's the response I posted to Wikipedia:

I have no idea what that is in reference to but geez, can we get any more hypocritical here?  I had an open offer on the front page of my website for *nearly two months* to have a public debate with any AR people prior to and during my trip to NYC in June, which not even one AR supporter took me up on, including APerey.  Each time I called the foundation to invite them to debate they even pretended to not know who I was, even though they created a whole website to try to debunk what I've been saying (and to insult me personally, of course).  APerey et al had to have seen my invitation too even without my calling them because the AR people are quick to react on their website to new stuff I post on mine—except the debate invitation.  And once I returned to Austin I've continued to make it clear on my site that I'm 100% ready to make a special trip back to NYC once the AR people decide to accept my debate offer.

So again: Which side is actually afraid to debate here?

I'm sorry to use this Talk page for something unrelated to the article but when the AR people use it as a forum for slandering me then I want to set the matter straight.  And on that note, Arnold Perey, where the HELL do you get off saying that I'm afraid to debate when I'M THE ONE WHO MADE THE DEBATE OFFER!   Hello?  When you're ready to put your money where your mouth is I will *gladly* make a trip to NYC to debate you and/or any other AR devotees. Put up or shut up.

[Update, Sept. 24: Over a month later, Arnold Perey still hasn't even acknowledged my debate offer. Surprise, surprise.]

Protest at the AR headquarters

July 16, 2005.  While I was in NYC in June I took the opportunity to have a little one-person protest at AR's headquarters in Soho—conveniently located near Washington Square Park (where I like to play chess) and Times Up!, a group which promotes car-free transportation and has been supporting Critical Mass bicycle rides.  Basically I just handed out little brochures titled "Aesthetic Realism is a cult", with the contents being an abbreviated version of the cult aspects of AR page on this website, plus many of the quotes from former members listed in the sidebar.  I did this just before one of their Saturday night presentations.

It was almost like they expected me, since no one seemed surprised, and most shuffled past me while making a concerted effort to not even look at me.  I asked some of them if they'd like a brochure and most didn't even respond, though a few said "No thank you."  When they did that I thanked them for acknowledging me.  Only one AR member actually took a flier.  I wondered how they were going to complain about my protest on CounteringTheLies without knowing the contents on the brochure.  One member snarled at me, "Get a life!", which I had to think was possibly the most ironic thing I've heard this decade.

I greeted Ellen Reiss and her entourage with, "Good evening, Ms. Reiss."  No response, not even a glance at me.

One thing obvious from all this is that they're not drawing in people from the general public, who would at least have some curiosity about what I was doing and probably would have at least looked at me, rather than pretending to not see me.  The attendance for their seminar was made up of the already-believers.

Although AR currently claims to have the answer to racism you wouldn't know it by the makeup of the group.  As the time approached for the seminar to start it looked like there wouldn't be even one person of color in attendance. But then finally a lone black man came up and entered the building (out of maybe 40 people total).  Still, when your group claims it has the worldwide answer to racism, this is pretty pathetic.  They're whiter than the chess club.

Most passersby didn't take my brochures, especially when I said, "Would you like to join a cult?", or "Free brainwashing, two for one on mind control!", though I got some smiles about those.  The rap that was most successful was, "I'm protesting this group here, would you take my flier?"  I also made sure that AR's neighbors up and down the street got copies.  In contrast to the general public, the neighboring businesses and galleries were all keenly interested in what the hell was actually going on in the AR building.

AR won't debate

July 16, 2005.  This won't surprise anyone, but the AR people wouldn't even acknowledge my offer to debate.  Now, I'll be the first to say that no organization has to give a forum to its critics, but the difference here is that the AR people have put up a whole website calling me a liar and insisting that they welcome dissenting opinions.  That gives them a pretty frickin' large responsibility to live up to their rhetoric.

Except that they won't.  I had my debate offer on the front page of this website for weeks before and during my visit to NYC, and I called them twice. (Each time I called they pretended to not know who I was, even though they created a whole website to counter me.  Go figure.)

Anyway, the offer still stands.  I'll make a special trip to New York if and when the AR people ever decide they're not too frightened of different perspectives.  As in my original offer, we can have it at their headquarters where they can amass as many of their supporters as they like, and I'll let them pick one of the two resolutions, so we each contribute one.  I can't be fairer than that.

More AR dishonesty on Wikipedia

July 16, 2005.  Wikipedia is an open-source encyclopedia where anyone, even you, can edit the articles.  This actually works a lot better than you might suspect, and a large contingent of users keeps most of the vandalism in check.

Long ago I edited the Wikipedia article on AR to add two simple things: A link back to this site to share an alternate perspective, and a mention that Eli Siegel killed himself.  Not surprisingly AR supporters immediately censored those two bits from the article.  I added them back, they removed them again, I added them again, they removed them again, ad nauseum.  So much for being open to criticism, huh?

But now they're taking it to a whole new level, adding things that are outright untrue.  Here's what they tried to get into the article to try to discredit me as one of their critics:

"One of the more persistent critics of Aesthetic Realism is Michael Bluejay of Austin, Texas, whose connection with Aesthetic Realism is that his mother once studied Aesthetic Realism when he was an infant."

First off, my mother didn't study AR "once", she was born into like I was, and thus studied it nearly out of the crib pretty much continuously well into her thirties, when I was a teenager.  She was a member because she was born into the group as I was, since her parents were some of Eli Siegel's first students.  And of course my father was also a member, because when your in AR, you can't marry anyone outside.  My extended family were also members:  my mother's two sisters, their families, etc.  After my parents divorced my father even lived at the AR headquarters for a while.  We were all believers, all a part of it.  As for my own experience, besides my personal lesson with Siegel when I was two, I attended the AR events my mother coordinated while growing up, and when I was older, I participated in one of the vigils at the New York Times building, had consultations at AR's headquarters, and attended classes and presentations there.

But even all this is beside the point: I didn't set up this website to debunk AR the philosophy.  I set it up to show that AR is a cult.  Whatever my alleged unfamilarity with the teachings, real or imagined, that couldn't be any more irrelevant to my charge that AR is a cult organization.  And I've provided exhaustive evidence to back up that point.

But wait, there's more.  In the discussion forum on Wikipedia, AR supporter Arnold Perey dishes out even more B.S.:

"There is, indeed, an anti-Aesthetic Realism gang of which Bluejay is only the most recent mouthpiece..... These web pages of his on Aesthetic Realism are less than a year old.  The lynchpin of the gang is Ellen Mali of Evergreen Colorado.  Next is her son Adam Mali, now a restaurant owner there, who wrote a web page of astonishing misrepresentations a few years ago..... And there are a few others who also hide behind a screen of anonymity.  This little gang has come out with a stream of lies that would curdle vinegar.  Bluejay was just enlisted because of his internet savvy, and took to the job eagerly."

Where does he dream up this stuff?  I created my website on my own volition, without any encouragement from anyone.  I've never met the Malis, and they haven't written one single word for this webiset.  Who the hell is Arnold Perey that he thinks he knows otherwise?

The reason Perey believes that the Malis are the masterminds behind the site, is that he just imagines it must be true, so therefore, to him, it is.  That's Aesthetic Realism logic for you.  And other AR supporters are only too eager to buy it without question. Here's what another said:

"I have long felt Michael Bluejay was just the webmaster for Mali & Company. Glad to have it confirmed."

Confirmed?!  Wow.  All I can say is — wow.

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...

What former members say...
They reeled me in like a brook trout... Guilt was introduced into the experience. They told me I was "not showing respect for this great education I was receiving" by [not getting more involved].
If there is anything the Aesthetic Realists are good at, it is convincing people that if they think they see anything wrong with Siegel, AR, Reiss or how the organization is run, there is really something wrong with them. Any time I began to question things or think I saw something amiss, I had been programmed to think that what it really meant was that something was terribly wrong with me.
My new AR friends were starting to apply the hard sell a bit more so the word "cult" did come to mind , but I naïvely believed that it couldn't be a cult because it wasn't religious in nature.
They get you to actually control yourself. A lot of people's lives have been hurt --ruined.
So, there was Eli Siegel, who came up with all these rules, but to whom none of the rules applied, and there was everybody else.
[Eli Siegel] was a hurtful person. He was a sociopath. He was a control freak, and he was a cult leader.
Poor John then would be the subject of an onslaught of criticism to help him see his own contempt for Eli Siegel.... This is merely one example of the way people were controlled and humiliated if they stepped out of line or didn't conform to accepted behavior.
We all had to present ourselves as essentially miserable failures whose lives were in shambles until we found the glorious "answers to all our questions" in AR.
It was very difficult for me to surrender to AR in the total fashion they seemed to want.
I received a call from one of the AR bigwigs asking me to donate money to the foundation.  When I told him I was low on cash I received a considerable verbal drubbing.
I consider my "study" of Aesthetic Realism to be one of the factors that led to the eventual breakup of my marriage, to my eternal sorrow.
I felt a bit raped psychologically.... if you are thinking of getting into the AR consultation process, realize that they could end it all suddenly, and that you could find your most intimate thoughts on tape in someone else's possession.
They flatter you to death and tell you that you're so wonderful, and you have all these qualities that others have never seen. And then there's this horrible criticizing.
That's when I finally knew for sure: AESTHETIC REALISM IS A CULT.  I swore on that moment that if I was ever given the opportunity to tell the world what these people did to me, I would.

When I left I was definitely shunned by other students. I would meet people in the NYC streets -as I still do to this day - and they would turn the other way to avoid me, or some even made derogatory comments about me.

[New AR students] would be shocked if they knew that the lives of the people they are supposed to learn from are very different from the principles they are taught in consultations. Even though publicly the AR foundation preaches respect for people and like of the world, inside the organization the message is very different. The underlying feeling is, "People who do not study AR are inferior to us, and the world is our enemy, out to get us." We had contempt for outsiders and were scared of the world. We huddled together for safety, secure in our sense of superiority.
When I was studying, we were allowed to associate with our families only if they continuously demonstrated that they were grateful to and respectful of Eli Siegel and AR. This did not include going to visit them if they lived far away because then we would have had to miss classes, and that would have meant we were "making our family more important than AR."
Some of the students I remember going at most intensely and viciously to stop them from associating with their families, (and whom we succeeded in stopping for many, many years), are people who are now bragging on the AR website about how great their relationships with their families are and writing as though that was always the case.
There were even instances of students refusing to visit their parents when one of them was dying because the parents did not "express regret" and renounce their unfairness to Eli Siegel and AR. There were parents who literally begged their son or daughter to relent so they could see them one more time, but the child refused. The parent died without ever seeing their child again. Far from being criticized for such behavior, students who went this far were seen as heroes in AR. They received public praise from Ellen Reiss.
While I was in AR, I did believe that Eli Siegel was greater than Christ.... It would have been accurate to say I worshipped him.
People were told that if their families did not support aesthetic realism, they were not their families.
Some of the people with statements on the Countering the Lies website claiming that AR students do not shun former students have actually passed me on the street, looked straight at me, and pretended they were seeing right through me. This includes people in the highest positions in the organization.
More and more the AR zombies demanded that I express gratitude to ES and AR. Every paper that a student wrote had to end with the obligatory "I am so grateful to ES and AR for..." along with "I deeply regret that I have met this great knowledge with contempt..."
Eli Siegel was an evil person. And I don't use the word evil lightly.
See former members' stories in their entirety

"There is a very interesting and rather warped dynamic among the students who left. To varying degrees, we're all wounded and in varying stages of recovery."

"Your site is a great source of comfort and excitement to all of us, probably more than you can tell from the silence of most." —former AR student

The best bits:  Cult aspects of ARDream to NightmareA journalist infiltratesAll the articles

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