Aesthetic Realism is a cult
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Aesthetic Realism ad in the Village Voice, 1962

Aesthetic Realism's 1962 ad in the Village Voice

by Michael Bluejay • May 2010

The very first time the Aesthetic Realists threw down some major cash to buy ad space in the media was probably for this ad, shown at right.  It was a half-page in the March 1, 1962 Village Voice (page six), and it contains some excellent evidence of the cultish aspects of AR.  Let's start with the milder stuff, getting juicier as we go along.

Aesthetic Realism members

One of the things the Aesthetic Realists have their panties in a wad about these days is that I and other former members describe ourselves as former members.  Because, according to the Aesthetic Realists, there are no "members" of AR, only students.  Here are some examples of their protest, each made by a different Aesthetic Realist on their website:

  • "Michael Bluejay writes in his article: 'they actively recruit new members' and 'they shun former members.' First of all, it is impossible that there exist former Aesthetic Realism 'members' because there has never been one, to begin with. The Aesthetic Realism Foundation provides education for whoever wants to study. There are no members, but only students and teachers."
  • "...and I’m not even discussing the fact that he uses the completely inaccurate yet charged word 'members'."
  • "I also resent, object to and despise the way the trasher of Aesthetic Realism calls students and teachers of Aesthetic Realism--Members."
  • "This attacker has stated in big bold type that the only persons talking in favor of Aesthetic Realism are those he calls 'current members.'...there are no 'members'..."
  • "The Aesthetic Realism Foundation is not a membership organization; it is a not-for-profit educational institution. There is a fundamental distinction."
  • "And what is this nonsense about Aesthetic Realism being a cult with members?"
  • (and on and on)

Okay, and so what do we see at the bottom of this ad bought and paid for by the Aesthetic Realists?

"Members of the Society of Aesthetic Realism"


Digging a little further, we see that Aesthetic Realism founder Eli Siegel himself used the term "members", in a letter to the Village Voice:  "The members of the Society for Aesthetic Realism...have come to see [AR] as having a meaning for them.]" (source)

The Aesthetic Realists' hypocrisy is amusing, and there are certainly plenty more examples.  But anyway, I don't call them members because they themselves used to use the same term.  I call them members because that's the best way to describe people who huddle together in a strong allegiance to a particular idea.  That's why others use the same term as well.

By the way, the "members" (their word) who signed this ad include my birth father (who left the group in the 70's) and my maternal grandparents (deceased).  Another one of the "members" signing the ad is the current leader of the group, Ellen Reiss.

Aesthetic Realism a 1962!

If you listen to the Aesthetic Realists, then I'm practically the only person saying that Aesthetic Realism is a cult.  According to them, I'm just a solitary, bitter drop-out, and no one should pay attention to me.

In reality, Aesthetic Realism has been called a cult by dozens of other former members, New York Magazine, Harper's, and a whole slew of others.  And now, we have this defensive gem from AR's newspaper advert:

"Aesthetic Realism is not a cult.  We find particularly bizarre that tendency in artists and critics to call Aesthetic Realism a cult..."

So what this shows is that people were calling Aesthetic Realism a cult in 1962, long before I was even born!

Proof positive that non-believers aren't welcome

Once you join Aesthetic Realism, you're expected to recruit your family and friends.  If you can't, they're not your family and friends any more.  The Aesthetic Realists deny that, of course, and say that that's a lie.  But look what they said in their own newspaper ad:

"We cannot consider any person a friend who does not want to be fair to Aesthetic Realism and Eli Siegel."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Incidentally, "being completely fair" is part of AR-speak.  If a person doesn't believe in the supremacy of the philosophy and the founder, then the AR people say that the person isn't "being completely fair".

By the way, most of the signers of the ad are no longer Aesthetic Realists, either because they left the group or they're no longer alive, since, after all, the ad is over sixty years old.

Anyway, the ad is a good example of one of my main points:  My best evidence against the Aesthetic Realists is not what I say about them, or even what other former members say about them, or even what the media says about them:  it's what the Aesthetic Realists themselves say that shows them for who they really are.  (For more examples of what they say themselves, see the tape of one of their secret internal meetings, their double-page ad in the NY Times, their hysterical complaints to New York Magazine, and their book, ad, and interviews about their alleged cure for homosexuality.)

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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