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Directed Origination

Aesthetic Realism's favorite mind-control trick

by Michael Bluejay
former Aesthetic Realism member
February 2010

Cults use various psychological tricks to get their members to accept the cult's teachings and devote their lives to them. I list some of these on the cult aspects page. Here I'm going to talk about one of the more insidious techniques AR uses, directed origination. That's what I call it since I've been unable to locate the proper term. (If anyone knows, please let me know.) I suppose it's possible that I'm the first to give it a name, though that seems unlikely.

Directed origination means steering the subject to give the desired answer. The idea is that by getting the subject to voice the answer, he then has a certain ownership of it. He thinks it's his idea. So he's less likely to challenge it later on, because that would mean he would be disagreeing with himself. In this way the leaders can get the recruits committed to various positions in short order.

Simply telling a subject what to think doesn't work nearly as well. After all, if you're told what to think, you might not buy it. But if you're required to give the answer yourself, then boom! You must really believe that answer. After all, you said it.

This trick wouldn't be so effective if they did it just once. But they do it over and over again. If you're in AR and you're reading this, you've had this done to you thousands of times already. Think back on your AR consultations and you can easily recognize it. I remember it clearly from the consultations I underwent myself.

I call this directed origination because you're directed by the questioner to give an answer which you then think originated from you. In reality, it originated in the questioner, but it doesn't seem that way when you're questioned.

An essential part of directed origination is the use of false dichotomies. That is, presenting a question as having only two possible correct answers, when in fact there could be many possible answers, or no answers at all, because the question is nonsensical. For example, "Do you think the President is fat or Israeli?" Obviously the president is neither. An AR teacher wouldn't ask a question quite that ridiculous, but this is just an example of a question presented as having an either/or answer, when neither answer is correct. So let's use a real example. Here's Aesthetic Realism founder Eli Siegel conducting a lesson with a student, asking him:

"You say you felt your mother was utterly devoted to you. Do you think that was intelligent or stupid of her?" (H Persuasion, p. 34)

Come again?! Most people would say that it's neither intelligent nor stupid, since devotion has nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, the student initially makes that protest, saying, "It was natural." But Siegel works on him until he gives the desired answer.

One way of steering with false dichotomies is to make one of the choices so ridiculous or exaggerated, or so insulting, that the subject has little choice but to pick the other one. That choice could also be wrong, but not wildly wrong like the first choice, so it seems more reasonable to pick that one. Here's part of an consultation where the AR people try to cure a student of being gay.

Aesthetic Realist:  So then do you think you were, as you thought about a man, and you conquered him in your mind, had your way with him, do you think you felt then more more important?

Student:  I...I don't know if I did or not.

Aesthetic Realist: Well, did you think you were some weak, pathetic person, or do you think for those moments as you had some strong, aloof man crumble for you, yield to you, do you think you were something like the ruler of the world for those moments?

I love that example because it really crystallizes this whole concept.

 

Detailed examples of Directed Origination

Eli Siegel's lesson of Sheldon Kranz

This example shows how powerful directed origination can be. In short order, Siegel gets the Kranz to agree he feels that:
  1. Kranz' mother is stupid for being devoted to him.
  2. He doesn't respect her.
  3. He has contempt for her (since AR's basic philosophy is that all problems are caused by contempt).

The text is Kranz' detailing how the lesson went.

"Do you respect your mother?" Mr. Siegel asked.

"Of course," I said.

"I don't think you do. Did you feel as a child that you owned your mother, that she was utterly devoted to you?"

"Yes," I said.

"Do you think that was intelligent or stupid of her?"

"It was natural," I answered.

"But was it intelligent?"

"Not so intelligent," I said finally.

"But you liked it? It made you feel awfully powerful having this big person so devoted to you?"

"I don't remember," I said. Then I added, "It probably did."

"Do you think that is still in your mind--feeling that you are the most important thing in your mother's life?"

"No," I replied promptly.

"Who is the most important person to your mother now?"

I thought of my father and my younger sister and my mother's sisters with whom she had a lot to do. "I guess I am," I said sheepishly.

"Do you respect your mother's attitude toward you?"

I didn't answer.

"Do you think you deserve such devotion?"

I shook my head.

"Then wouldn't that mean that you think your mother isn't so smart in being devoted to you as she is?"

"I guess so," I said, feeling I was betraying her in some way.

"Wouldn't you say that indicated some lack of respect on your part?"

"Yes," I said.

"Wouldn't you say that lack of respect is in the field of contempt?"

"I don't have contempt for my mother," I said sharply.

"Contempt isn't just crude," Mr. Siegel explained. "It's so much a part of people's everyday lives, they don't even know it's going on. Do you sometimes find yourself not istening to your mother when she's talking to you?"

"Yes," I said.

"Do you think that shows respect or contempt?"

"Contempt," I admitted.

 

Another Eli Siegel lesson

Here's a short example which I include because the answer that's being directed relates to seeing Eli Siegel as the student's savior:
Eli Siegel:  In a sense, I am a rival to all the persons you've known--not because it's me, but because of what I call to in you. Do you feel I call to the same thing they do, or to something deeper?

Student:  You call to something deeper. (H Persuasion, p. 57)

 

Aesthetic Realism "consultation", trying to "cure" the subject of being gay

The subject here sought AR's gay cure many years ago. (It didn't work, and he considers himself a well-adjusted gay man now.) He sent me a tape of one of his AR consultations. What I like about this example is how strongly the student resisted the directed origination. He's not going along with it, he insists on answering honestly, and pointing out when he doesn't agree that a question is an "either/or" situation. He really makes the AR people work at the directed origination, which makes the D.O. really obvious.

Another reason I love this example is we get to see the fallout: Since the student isn't taking the bait, the AR teachers lash into him for being "argumentative". And finally, we see how the lesson concludes with the teachers steering the student to profess profound "gratitude" for having "met" Aesthetic Realism.

Because this is so lengthy I deleted some parts to make it flow better, and it's not always obvious where I've done so. Here's the complete original transcript.

Teacher #1

So do you think you were interested in using [another man] for your, uh, pleasure of feeling for those moments that you were the most important, powerful thing in the world? As he crumbled for you, as you conquered him in your mind?

Student

[silence]

Teacher #1

[slighty annoyed] Do you think you were not interested in knowing him, but interested in using him to make yourself superior?

Student

Well I was interested in, ah, you know, using him for my own purposes. But I really have a hard time with, you know, "trying to make myself superior".

Teacher #1

...So do you think your purposes, as you thought about a man that way, do you think you were interested in who he was?

Student

No.

Teacher #1

So then do you think you were, as you thought about a man, and you conquered him in your mind, had your way with him, do you think you felt then more more important?

Student

[silence]

Teacher #1

For those minutes...

Student

I...I don't know if I did or not.

Teacher #1

Well, did you think you were some weak, pathetic person, or do you think for those moments as you had some strong, aloof man crumble for you, yield to you, do you think you were something like the ruler of the world for those moments?

Student

Yeah, but I guess I don't see him crumbling, either.

Teacher #3

Well he was doing what you wanted him to do, right? He had no say in the matter?

Student

Well...it wasn't like I forced him.

Teacher #1

No. As you think about having your way with a man...

Student

Yeah?

Teacher #1

...do you think the height of the pleasure is feeling that for those moments that you're affecting him, he's almost mindless about you? He's in such a state of excitement and frenzy that he's almost mindless about you?

Student

I have a hard time seeing that, or thinking that I feel that way.

Teacher #1

Well, as you think about a man and a man yields to you, unless you do to him whatever you want, is he just cool, or is he all worked up? In your mind as you think about him?

Student

He's probably worked up.

Teacher #1

Probably?

Student

Well yeah...

Teacher #1

Let's, come on, what are we talking about? So he's worked up.

Student

Right.

Teacher #1

And what is he worked up over, the cornfields, or you?

Student

Me.

Teacher #1

You. So do you think for those moments you're having, you're making somebody all worked up, all in a fluster, not sensible, and certainly not cool and calm? Do you think that's true?

Student

Yeah.

Teacher #1

So do you think for those moments you feel more powerful, because of the effect you're having on a person?

Student

[pause] Okay...

Teacher #1

Do you get the mailman to respond that way? Or do you get someone in the local supermarket to respond that way when you buy the groceries? Or are they more sensible about you then?

Student

Sensible.

Teacher #1

That's right. So do you think as you're thinking about somebody in a homosexual way, and you're, and the person's getting worked up, do you think for those moments you're getting somebody who seems to be strong, otherwise cool, otherwise sensible, for those moments he's in a whirlwind over you.

Student

[long pause] Okay, I never really thought about it...

...

Teacher #2

He was an instance you gave. At the moment after there has been getting what you wanted, as you call it, pleasure, how did Pete look after?

Student

I never really think about it.

Teacher #2

But, do you think that right after the sexual expression, however it was come to, with it or without him, do you think he looked stronger to you or weaker?

Student

[silence]

Teacher #2

Do you think that -- I don't know just what went on in your mind, and uh things are different, but -- do you think you looked over at him and there was a person there who he cared for more deeply or there was a conquest lying there when you were finished?

Student

[pause] I'd have to say neither, you know, neither stronger nor weaker.

Teacher #2

Well, uh, put it another way, would you want Pete to know your thoughts...

Student

No.

Teacher #2

about him? Why?

Student

Well because he's heterosexual.

Teacher #3

Well, even if he was homosexual do you think you'd be proud of your thoughts?

Student

No, I guess not..

Teacher #1

All right. So why are you not proud of your thought? Do you think the thought is kind, as you think about him sexually? Do you think you're kind or do you think you're selfish?

Student

[pause] Uh...probably selfish.

Teacher #1

Selfish. So do you think whenever we're selfish we're using the world, and a representative of the world, to be selfish, do you think we'll have to be against ourselves?

Student

[pause] You said...what?

Teacher #1

Do you think whenever we use the world, a representative of the world -- and Pete is a representative of the world, right? -- do you think whenever we use a representative of the world to be selfish, do you think we have to be against ourselves?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #1

That's right. The objection to homosexuality which is one form of selfishness -- it's not the only form of selfishness but it is one of the forms of selfishness humanity can go after -- whenever we are selfish, we're against ourselves because of an ethical reason....

 

And here's the fallout, where they berate him for being "argumentative". But even here, they don't tell him he was argumentative. They use directed origination to get him to say it! Incredible.

Teacher #1

...I'd like to ask you something else: Did -- you studied -- did you listen to the last consultation? I'll be direct. Did you actually listen to it?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #1

Did you like yourself for the way you talked, the way you listened?

Student

[silence]

Teacher #1

As you listened to yourself did you like the way you answered questions and even the way you asked questions?

Student

No.

Teacher #1

Did you, do you think the reason you didn't like yourself was because you were really, sincerely trying to see something, or because you were being argumentative for the purpose of not seeing what is true, and in fact thwarting?

Student

Well, I guess, maybe it would be, if I tried to, I guess I would have to say I was disappointed in myself for not catching on quicker.

Teacher #1

Yeah, but do you think there was anything argumentative? See a person can not understand something and they can say, "I don't understand this." When I began to study Aesthetic Realism I wanted to see, but I also made a mistake in wanting to be superior.

Student

So you think I'm trying...

Teacher #1

No, I'm talking, I'm talking about myself for the moment. But I had gone through schools and I felt that I, well, had a certain sense of myself, I thought I was fast and clever, uh, bright. And the idea that I did not know Aesthetic Realism and the tremendous knowledge that Eli Siegel had came to -- on one hand I was grateful that Aesthetic Realism was so big there was something for me to learn -- and it was true about me, I was grateful for that. But on the other hand, I made the stupid mistake of resenting the, the size of Aesthetic Realism and the fact that there was something new for me to learn. And do you think anything like that is going on in you?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #1

All right. Do you think, do you think you like yourself for the way -- do you think you were argumentative in a way in that last consultation?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #1

All right. I think you were. And we were ready to ask... answer questions that you had about Aesthetic Realism. That's our purpose, to teach a person Aesthetic Realism so they can have the lives we've got, and the kind of life Mr. Lynch is writing about, for the people all over Long Island to see, his life, in that review. But, do you think something went on in you that said, "I shouldn't be so grateful. I, Brian Carson, shouldn't be so grateful. I shouldn't show there's something new for me to learn. Let me see if I can very carefully thwart, and instead of answering a question, ask another question on top of it!" You know, the "but if" question. "What about..but if this...what about that?" Do you think you were doing something like that in the last consultation?

Student

Well it's possible but I really was having a hard time understanding.

Teacher #1

Right, but do you think it, when you don't understand something, do you like the idea that there's something new for you to learn, or do you get angry?

Student

I guess I get angry.

Teacher #1

Do you think that's smart or do you think it's gonna cause trouble?

Student

Cause trouble.

Teacher #1

So do you think, you, got angry afterwards? Because in your next consultation, which was the last one, that's where you were, um, well, in a way being smug and argumentative.

Student

But I think, I think, really, I think that I wasn't understanding the way I wanted to.

Teacher #1

All right...

Student

I was being disappointed in maybe not in myself as much as...

Teacher #1

Yeah, but do you think you had a tone? See it's one thing not to understand, and we're all for explaining a principle...

Student

Right...

Teacher #1

...and talking about it until you see it yourself. Because you're the one that's got to see how Aesthetic Realism is true.

Student

Right.

Teacher #1

This is education. But do you think there was a tone you had, sort of a little annoyed, in that last consultation?

Student

[silence]

Teacher #1

Dr. Leeman would say something and then instead of you answering the question you would say, "What about this?! What about that?!"

Student

Well I guess, like, you're right, you said that I don't, maybe, you know, you're a little scared to believe that something might help me, you know?

Teacher #2

Well, but you see...

Teacher #3

You see we're saying, Mr. Carson, there's a way to meet something if there's an honest inquiry and an unsureness. And I think you listen to that consultation again in relation to your first consultation and you'll hear a difference. And there was, there was a way of coming back, instead of answering a question or asking, asking a question yourself to be clearer.

Teacher #1

You didn't -- let's put it this way -- you didn't sound just happy in the last consultation. You sounded a little annoyed.

Student

Okay.

 

And of course, they steer him to expressing profound "gratitude" to Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism.

Teacher #1

Or, you're gonna say, to yourself, "Hey, I don't like appearing like I don't know everything around, and who are they to know so much more than me? So I'm gonna act as if I want to understand something, but I'll try to fight them along the way." Do you think either you'll be glad that there's something that there's new for you to learn, and grateful, or are you gonna get angry?

Student

Well, I'm grateful that there's something to learn but I guess, I guess, I don't know, I'm disappointed in myself sometimes if I don't understand it...

Teacher #1

Now that sounds noble...

Student

...as quick as I wanted.

Teacher #1

Yeah, that sounds noble, you were disappointed in yourself. But do you think you were just disappointed in yourself, or do you think you wanted to -- I'll be direct -- do you think you wanted to punish us, because we are the ones teaching you Aesthetic Realism?

Student

[silence]

Teacher #1

See, what it comes to is this: Do you already respect Aesthetic Realism and Mr. Siegel more than you even thought you would when you called the Aesthetic Realism Foundation the first time?

Student

Well, I'm learning a lot about it, I guess I, I guess it's more than I thought it was.

Teacher #1

But I used the word respect. Do you think you, Brian Carson, respect Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism more than you even thought you would?

Student

[long pause] Yes.

Teacher #1

All right. So is that good news for you? That you've met something that's so big, true, and kind, that it has you feel so hopeful, and therefore you have so much respect, or is that bad news? That you've met something...

Student

Good news.

Teacher #1

...And what we're saying is, is when a person has about three or four consultations as you have, they begin to see how big Aesthetic Realism is. And they begin to see that it's true, not just about homosexuality, but about the world as such, people, generally. It's true! And either they'll express their gratitude for this, or they'll turn their gratitude into anger. And I feel some of that went on in that consultation, Mr. Carson, and that's why we're being critical of it now, because it was wrong, and it's also hurting you, and we're saying, "Don't make the mistake of resenting the fact that you respect Eli Siegel more and more."

Teacher #3

...You know a tremendous amount. And I think you would be much smarter and for your life if you would talk about that, what you have seen, what you have learned. Yes, what you, also what you haven't seen and what you want to see more. But you've heard and you've seen a lot.

Teacher #2

Is that true Mr. Carson?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #2

So do you think that you are tremendously, tremendously grateful that you met the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #1

So why do you think Mr. Carson you didn't begin this consultation saying this, something like this: "Gentlemen, before you begin the consultation I want to tell you how grateful I am to Aesthetic Realism and to Mr. Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, that I'm hearing the questions and the principles, and that you're teaching me this knowledge, because I'm seeing it -- there's a lot more for me to see, I don't want to pretend that I see everything, hardly, gentlemen! But I'm seeing how Aesthetic Realism is true, and I'm grateful! I've never been happier in my life! I've never had this much hope in my life! So I want to say that as I begin." Why do you...

Student

That's how you felt I should have started out?

Teacher #1

I'm asking you why do you think you didn't begin saying something like that? Do you think something like that is in Brian Carson?

Student

Yeah, yeah, I do have a lot of hope...

Teacher #1

I'm saying, you're saying hope I'm saying gratitude!

Student

Well, I am very thankful, but...

Teacher #1

...Do you think you lead with your gratitude, or do you think you keep it under wraps? As of...

Student

I keep it under wraps.

Teacher #1

So do you like yourself for that?

Student

No, but...

Teacher #1

Okay, hold on! You're, you don't like yourself for that!

Student

Right.

Teacher #1

Do you think you'd like yourself more, Mr. Carson, if you did show more your gratitude to the good that has already come to you? Much more good can come to you! But do you think you'd like yourself more if you expressed more of your gratitude?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #2

Do you, do you feel less lonely through that poem?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #2

Well this is, this is a, are you grateful?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #2

And do you think you have felt that pretty much from the beginning as you met Mr. Siegel's thought, either through consultations or more so as you read his words in The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality, that here is a mind that was friendly to my life?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #2

Are you grateful?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #2

Do you want to see and express that gratitude as much as you haven't?

Student

Yes.

Teacher #2

Well if you do, consultations will go well and your life will be different. This is what we're saying essentially. That you haven't wanted to. And it's held you back and it's, and it's curtailed the usefulness we could have for you.

 

Inquest of a student who went back to being gay

One of the most scandalous things I have on this site is a transcript of a secret AR meeting, an inquest of someone who was "cured" of his homosexuality, quickly married off to another AR member, and then found to still be having gay sex. The scandal isn't that the cure didn't stick, or even that AR thought it was a good idea to try to convert gays in the first place. That's old news. What's scandalous about this is how furious and spiteful the AR people are at the member and his wife, the damage control planning they do (e.g. They had to hurriedly edit him out of the "We Have Changed" film they made), and how personal lives are no longer personal once you're in the cult. The wife was severely criticized for not alerting the group immediately when she suspected her husband was still having gay sex. (In fact, she did alert the group, but didn't do so immediately, and that transgression was enough to get her raked over the coals.)

The reason I mention the inquest here is because it's an excellent example of directed origination. In fact, it's an ironic example. The interrogator tries to get the member and his wife to voice what they think should be done about the member's transgression. When they can't, the interrogator asks:

Main Interrogator: ....Which do you think would take better care of Aesthetic Realism: if you came to a decision about something, or if you were told what to do?

Subject: If I came to a decision.

So they're using the tactic, about the tactic! Talk about irony.

Here are some more examples of D.O. from the inquest.

Male voice: Were you thinking of the fact that this could harm Aesthetic Realism in this way, or were you just thinking of Bonnie Randall?


Main Interrogator #1: Are you interested, Mr. Randall, in the damage you have done?

Luke Randall: Well, that's why I came here.

Main Interrogator #1: Is it a victory or a defeat?

Luke Randall: The damage I have done? It's a horrible defeat.


Main Interrogator #1: Do you see that the fact that you've been public about Aesthetic Realism and this has happened is just a death blow to the reputation and mockery of the reputation of every person in this room? And that you hold every one of us up to ridicule? Yes or no.

Luke Randall: I can't say yes or no. [Many exclamations of disapproval in background]

Main Interrogator #1: We hope that by the end of the evening, you will be saying yes.


Main Interrogator #1: What do you think would be justice in this situation as to you? As to Mrs. Randall?

Luke Randall: It's very hard to be objective. I don't know.

Main Interrogator #1: I WANT YOU TO SAY WHAT YOU THINK WOULD BE JUSTICE IN THIS SITUATION! YOU WANT EVERYBODY ELSE TO TELL YOU! WE'RE NOT GOING TO...

Luke Randall: [garbled]

Main Interrogator #1: WELL THEN SAY IT!

Luke Randall: I don't know!


Miss P: I wanted to ask Mrs. Randall if she sees herself as a victim of circumstance or an active participant in this?

Bonnie Randall: Well, I've been thinking about this because I didn't want to see myself as being a part of this, and I feel that...

Main Interrogator #1: Miss R seems to want to interrupt you.

Miss R: I'd like to know, since you say you didn't see yourself as a part of this, when you got the first hint of a suspicion that there might be H, why didn't you call ten people; why didn't you raise your hand in an Opinion Meeting? Why didn't you make something public - unless you were out to protect your husband so you can have contempt galore for him, contempt for Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism and drag everybody through the mud?


Main Interrogator #1: Have you or have you not been in torment in the last couple of days, Mr. S?


Male voice: I wanted to ask you what do you intend to do to protect Aesthetic Realism?

Luke Randall: Well, the thing is, I definitely never intend to go near an H bar or dock or anything like that. I, I...

Main Interrogator #1: So you're going to live deprived. What else do you intend to do?

Luke Randall: I don't know; I don't know.

Main Interrogator #1: Well, sir, think! This is what we're here for.

Luke Randall: I really don't know.

Main Interrogator #1: Mr. Randall, I'll just, I'll say it quietly. Which do you think would take better care of Aesthetic Realism: if you came to a decision about something, or if you were told what to do?

Luke Randall: If I came to a decision....

Main Interrogator #1: I will not hesitate to tell you what I think you should do, but I think it would be far better for Aesthetic Realism if you made the decision.

Luke Randall: I agree with that.

Main Interrogator #1: So will you please tell us what you think should be.

Luke Randall: I don't know!

Main Interrogator #1: FIND YOUR WAY!

Luke Randall: I, I, it's, this...

Male voice: You want to be told what to do, and then you can have contempt for Aesthetic Realism and work it into this situation where you are hurt.


Main Interrogator #1: Mrs. Randall, look, let's make something very clear. In certain ways you don't have a choice. So what do you think, even as to you, would be fair? And what do you see as for yourself as taking care of Aesthetic Realism at this time?

Bonnie Randall: Just as to myself?

Main Interrogator #1: As to yourself.

[LONG PAUSE]

Main Interrogator #1: Do you think people have a right to question your sincerity?

Bonnie Randall: Yes.


Main Interrogator #1: Yes, but staying with right now, what's being talked about as to Mr. Randall, you say rather cautiously maybe he shouldn't be in class. Do you think that -- what do you feel is necessary to protect Aesthetic Realism? Do you feel that "Perhaps Mr. Randall shouldn't be in class" is sufficient, or do you think that it is, well, that perhaps Aesthetic Realism needs further protection?

[LONG PAUSE.]

Bonnie Randall: I think both, I don't know.

[VOICES YELLING]

 

What's on this site

Cult Aspects

What is Aesthetic Realism?
An explanation about both the AR philosophy and the group that promotes it.

Cult aspects of Aesthetic Realism
Fanatical devotion to the leader, cutting off relations with families who aren't also believers -- it's all here.

AR and Homosexuality
The AR group used to try to "cure" people of being gay. They stopped that in 1990 because high-profile success cases kept deciding they were gay after all and leaving. AR has never said their gay-changing attempts were wrong.

AR's founder killed himself
AR's founder Eli Siegel killed himself, but the AR people have been trying to hide that fact. They can't hide any more, since enough former students have come forward to confirm the truth.

Attempts to recruit schoolchildren
Some AR members are public schoolteachers, and yep, they do try to recruit in the classroom.

How cults recruit new members.
Explains how a rational person can unwittingly get sucked into a cult group.

Mind control tricks
This article explains AR's use of Directed Origination, a classic tool for brainwashing. Also see the article where someone infiltrated the group to learn about their mind control methods.

Five reasons you can't trust an Aesthetic Realist
One reason is that most people who were in AR eventually woke up and got out. See more about this, plus four other reasons.

Lies Aesthetic Realists tell
They say they never saw homosexuality as something to cure. They say the leader didn't kill himself. They say my family left the group when I was an infant. These and more are debunked here.

Hypocrisy of the Aesthetic Realists
It takes some serious brainwashing for the members to not realize that they're guilty of what they accuse others of.

Aesthetic Realism glossary
We explain the real meanings behind the loaded language that AR people use.

AR in their own words

Actual AR advertisment
The AR people spent a third of a million dollars for a double-page ad in the NY Times to tell the world that the press' refusal to cover AR is just as wrong as letting hungry people starve to death.

Ad for the gay cure
AR bought huge ads in major newspapers to trumpet their ability to "fix" gays.

Actual letters from AR people
When a theater critic casually dissed Aesthetic Realism in New York magazine, the AR people responded with hundreds of angry letters, calling the article "a crime against humanity".

Actual internal meeting
The AR people blunderingly made a tape recording of a secret meeting they had, where they lambasted a member who had supposedly been "cured" of his gayness, but then found to still be cruising for gay sex. Their screeching hostility towards him is matched only by their fear that the secret will get out.

Actual AR consultation
For the first time the public can see what really happens in an Aesthetic Realism "consultation" (thanks to a former member sharing his tape with us). In the session the AR counselors tried to help the member not be gay, explaining that the path to ex-gayness was to express deep gratitude to AR and its founder.

Actual AR lesson
I had a lesson with the cult leader, Eli Siegel, when I was two years old, which, like everything else, they made a tape of. The highlight is Siegel taunting me with "Cry some more, Michael, cry some more!"

Ad in the Village Voice from 1962
The AR folks try to deny that they're a cult in this ancient ad -- showing that people were calling them a cult as far back as 1962!

AR responds to this website
The AR people have tried to rebut this website with their own site called Countering the Lies, whose title ought to win some kind of award for irony. Here we explain the story behind that site.

What former members say

Aesthetic Realism exposed
The ultimate statement by a former member, who was involved for well over a decade.

A tale of getting sucked in.
This former member describes exactly how he initially got drawn in, and how he then kept getting more and more involved.

Growing up in a cult. An ex-member who was born into AR tells what it was like growing up in the group, and how she got out.

Aesthetic Realism ruined his marriage. "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."

On having all the answers. A former member explains how AR members think they have all the answers, and feel qualified to lecture others about how they should view personal tragedy.

Kicked out for remaining gay. Former students describe how they were kicked out of AR because they couldn't change from homosexuality. Ron Schmidt and Miss Brown.

"Leaving, however was only the first challenge.". One of the original teachers of Aesthetic Realism explains the cultic environment inside the group, and how she got out.

"If I disappointed them, then I now consider that a badge of honor." A former member tells how AR try to change him from being gay, and convinced him not to spend Christmas with his family.

"...people were controlled and humiliated if they stepped out of line...". The experiences shared with us by a member from 1974-80, now a Fortune 100 executive.

"I want Ellen Reiss questioned!" This former member wonders why there hasn't been a class-action lawsuit against the foundation yet.

They took his consultation tape. Describes how the AR people kept his consultation tape with his most intimate thoughts on it, and told him he couldn't study any more unless he incorporated AR more radically into his life.

"There isn't any question: Eli Siegel killed himself."
A former member who had sought AR's "gay cure" explains how the group's leaders admitted that the founder took his own life.

Confirms all the criticism. A former member from 1971-80, confirms that AR students don't see their families, are discouraged from attending college, and shun other members. He also offers that he was mistaken when he was involved about thinking that AR had changed him from homosexuality.

Michael Bluejay's description. Your webmaster describes his own family's involvement.

Members interviewed in Jewish Times. This lengthy article in Jewish Times quotes former students of Aesthetic Realism extensively.

NY Post article. A series of articles in the NY Post quotes many former members who are now critical of the group.

Aesthetic Realism debunked. A former student explains the cult aspects of AR. Posted on Steve Hassan's Freedom of Mind website.

Other Goodies

Thinking of leaving AR?
If you're thinking of leaving the group, you're not alone. Let's face it: Most people who have ever studied AR have left -- and not come back. There's got to be a reason for that. Curious about what they figured out? Worried about the fallout if you do decide to leave? Here's everything you need to know.

Recovering from your AR experience.
People who leave cults often need special therapy to cope with what they went through. Whether you decide to seek counseling or choose to go it alone, here's what you need to know.

Media Reports
NY Mag called AR "a cult of messianic nothingness" and Harper's referred to them as "the Moonies of poetry". We've got reprints of articles, plus some help for journalists researching AR. (And here are shortcuts to the landmark articles in New York Native, the NY Post and Jewish Times.)

Site News / Blog
Here's some news and commentary that I add from time to time.

Share your Aesthetic Realism story!

If you did time in AR, had or have a friend or relative in AR, or had some other run-in with the group, I hope you'll share your story on this site. If you'd like to write something that you don't want to appear on this site, then please write directly to my email address instead.

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Email Address


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Your experience:

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Okay to publish your name?

Yes   No

Okay to identify your gender? (e.g., "his story", "her story")

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Aesthetic Realism at a Glance

Name

The Aesthetic Realism Foundation

Founded

1941

Founder

Eli Siegel, poet and art/literary critic.
Committed suicide in 1978

Purpose

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.


Philosophy

The key to all social ills is for people to learn to like the world. Having contempt for the world leads to unhappiness and even insanity. (Their slogan is "Contempt causes insanity".) For example, homosexuality is a form of insanity caused by not liking the world sufficiently.

Also teaches that "beauty is the making one of opposites".

Location

New York City (SoHo)


Membership

About 106 (33 teachers, 44 training to be teachers, and 29 regular students). Has failed to grow appreciably even after 70 years of existence, and is currently shrinking.

All members call themselves "students", even the leaders/teachers. Advanced members who teach others are called "consultants".

Method of study

Public seminars/lectures at their headquarters (in lower Manhattan), group classes, and individual consultations (three consultants vs. one student).


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
  • Odd, specialized language.

  • More about cult aspects...

Open offer to debate

Since 2005 I've had an open offer to debate the Aesthetic Realists publicly in a formal format at any time to defend what I've said on this site, and to answer their own charges against me. But the AR people won't do it. Their excuse is, "He's not worth debating." But if that's true, then why did they put up a ninety-six page website to try to snipe at me and to try to rebut what I'm saying? I think the answer is that they're content to hide behind the cover of the Internet, but they know how bad they'd look in a live format where anyone actually got to ask any pointed questions.

You know what's really funny? Someone went to one of their public presentations, said he'd seen this site, and asked about the cult allegations. The AR person said, "It's very easy to say crap like that on the Internet and never have to be challenged." Oh, the irony is killing me!

Anyway, Aesthetic Realists, as for a public debate, I'm ready when you are. And to everyone else, when the AR people won't stand behind what they're saying, why should anyone take what they say seriously?


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Other kinds of Realism

In art, realism is exactly what it sounds like -- the realistic depiction of the objects being painted, sculpted, etc. There's more about this, with several examples, on ArtLex, an online encyclopedia of art terms. ArtLex is really impressive!

The article Realism and Naturalism explains realism in music and fiction as well.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an article about realism in metaphysics and philosophy.

So what does aesthetic realism mean? To paraphrase Eli Siegel, reality is composed of opposites, and that reality is beautiful, or aesthetic. An expanded definition is available on the Aesthetic Realism Foundation's website.

 

 


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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' statements in their entirety

 


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This page last updated July 2009

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Photo of Eli Siegel's gravestone from Find A Grave