Aesthetic Realism is a cult

  Who they are, how they operate • Written by former members

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Ten Lies Aesthetic Realists tell

by Michael Bluejay
February 2010

For the first six years I ran this website, I avoided using the word "lie" to describe what the Aesthetc Realists say. I preferred to just describe how the AR people weren't telling the truth and let the readers draw their own conclusions. I decided I'd let the AR people have exclusive use of that particular pejorative, which they forced down the readers' throat at every opportunity on their site called (what else?) "Countering the Lies".

So while I've known they weren't telling the truth, and I called them on it, I still tried to do so with some character and I avoided the L word. But after seeing and hearing them repeat the same falsehoods for the umpteenth time, while they keep screeching without justification that I'm the one lying, I'm finally going to call a spade a spade. I'm never going to make that the focus of the site (like the AR people did with theirs), but at least on this one page, I'm point out the AR folks' dishonesty a little more directly. And unlike them, when I make the charge of lying, I'm actually going to back it up. I'll be quoting their own writings and history extensively, as well as showing the proof that what they're saying is untrue. So let's get started....

 

1. "Aesthetic Realism never saw homosexuality as something to 'cure'."

Village voice adFACT: AR people absolutely believe that gayness is "curable", and that the cure is found within Aesthetic Realism. They trumpted their idea of a cure aggressively, in two books they published, a professionally-produced short film, TV show interviews, numerous national newspaper advertisements, and in the thousands of therapy sessions they conducted to try to help people stop being gay. (more...)  While the cure isn't part of their current rhetoric, their opinions that gayness is wrong and amenable to change are the same as they ever were.

The basis of their denial that they had a gay cure is, incredibly, that they just never used the actual word "cure". This is very typical of the AR mistruths -- they lie by omission. There's always something they're not telling you.

But they can't weasel out of this just because they didn't use the word "cure". It's like a racist website I saw a while back when it was in the news. Its FAQ read something like this:

Q: Aren't you racist?

A: Absolutely not! We just think that people of different races should be segregated for the purposes of ethnic purity. But we're not racist or anything.

The Aesthetic Realists are playing the same game:

Q: Didn't you promote a cure for being gay?

A: Absolutely not! We simply said that being gay was selfish and a form of contempt, and that by studying Aesthetic Realism people could permanently change from being homosexual. But we never had a gay cure or anything.

(more on the AR gay cure...)

 

2. "While people did change from H by studying AR, we never said anyone should change."

FACT: Sure they did. They simply cleverly avoided using the word "should", although that's exactly what they described. Their current spin is that people just happened to change, like they somehow wandered into the AR headquarters by accident and then suddenly weren't gay any more. But as we saw above, AR pushed its supposed gay cure aggressively. Here's what they said in their 1971 book on the subject:
"Since 1965 there has been a more or less continuous effort to have some coverage of the documented changes from homosexuality through the study of Aesthetic Realism." (H Persuasion, p. xvii)

And they wouldn't have pushed their cure so aggressively if they didn't think it was important. Here's a quote from the double-page ad the AR people bought in the New York Times, which shows you just how urgent an issue AR thought its gay cure was:

"We say what history will say: the American press has blood on its hands, has caused misery and death, because for years it has withheld the news that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism."

Aesthetic Realists firmly feel that homosexuality is wrong. An entire chapter of their 1986 book is devoted to that subject, titled "How Ethical is Homosexuality"? They answer that question on the very first page:

"Eli Siegel stated the main reason homosexuality is not ethical, and [he] related homosexuality to all other ways that a man has been against the outside world. He explained, 'There is only one thing that is immoral in the world: liking oneself too much and the outside world too little'.... Eli Siegel's understanding of the cause of homosexuality as an insufficient care for what is not oneself, makes it possible for homosexual persons to change."

This is followed by a chapter entitled, "Homosexuality: A Form of Selfishness". And in The H Persuasion, Eli Siegel wrote:

All homosexuality arises from contempt of the world, not liking it sufficiently.

This changes into a contempt for women....

Homosexuality, like biting one's nails, depression, excessive gambling, arises out of a disproportionate way of seeing the world.

There are other ways a person has of not liking himself, but homosexuality is one.

Okay, so we see that AR believes that homosexuality comes from contempt. And how do they view contempt?"

"According to Aesthetic Realism, the greatest sin that a person can have is the desire for contempt." (source; emphasis added)

So Aesthetic Realists believe that homosexuality is tremendously sinful. But it doesn't stop there. They also think gays are crazy. The AR motto itself is "Contempt causes insanity." It was the title of the preface to their founder's book Self and World (which is basically their Bible), and they've used it as a headline of their monthly newsletter. And as we saw above, AR thinks that homosexuality is caused by one's contempt for the world. So if homosexuality is a form of contempt, and contempt causes insanity, then homosexuals are....insane.

In fact, AR doesn't think that contempt is one cause of insanity. They think it's the only cause of insanity. As one of their leaders writes:

One of the greatest humanitarian and intellectual achievements of all time was the discovery by Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, that contempt causes insanity; in fact, that it causes all mental trouble. [emphasis added; and they said the same thing in an op-ed]

The only way that the AR people could plausibly say that they don't view homosexuality as a mental illness, is if they say that they don't view insanity as a mental illness. That would be a pretty bold claim, but they're welcome to try.

AR members still retain this antigay prejudice privately even though it's not part of their current rhetoric. Indeed, some of the people on Countering the Lies who say I'm a liar were contributors to the 1986 book about the gay cure, denouncing homosexuality throughout its pages, and led therapy sessions trying to help people not be gay. This is important, because whenever someone brings up the gay cure, the AR people shriek, "That was in the past! That was a long time ago!" But what they're not admitting is that while they no longer offer their program for change, their opinions about homosexuality haven't changed at all. Here's what one of the AR teachers said on Wikipedia quite recently:

The Aesthetic Realism Foundation formally discontinued this single aspect of study because it was being sucked into the culture wars--with the far Right trying to use it to promote their bigoted agenda against homosexuality and the far Left furious at anything that even remotely suggested homosexuality was not biological. In such an atmosphere Aesthetic Realism's sensible, philosophic approach to the subject didn't stand a chance of being considered reasonably. (emphasis mine; source)

They're trying to spin all this by cherry-picking a later quote from Eli Siegel where he says "If the homosexual likes himself then the matter has come to a just and triumphant end." Of course he said this years after the first book went to press, when AR was getting a lot of flak and felt a need to do some damage control. For this reason, any Siegel quotes on the subject after 1971 should be treated with suspicion.

But more importantly, it's what the AR people are not saying that's important. Siegel's new gay-friendly quote is that *if* a gay person likes himself then there's no problem, but AR believes that a gay person cannot like himself. Their whole idea about the cause of homosexuality as that it's the result of one's not liking the world and not liking him/herself. So it's pretty disingenuous for them to try to now claim that they see nothing wrong with being gay. To them, being gay is a result of one's contempt for the world.  Here's a telling quote from their first book, that shows how little respect they have for people who are happily gay:

"So, when we are told--and it is more often belligerently told than not--that someone likes being gay and wouldn't change for anything, we listen, but with an attitude of benevolent semi-conviction. This is not meant to be patronizing. It's just that we are helplessly unconvinced." (p. xi)

In a televised interview, when the interviewer asks, "Can you conceive of any homosexual as having a good, healthy, noncontemptuous relation with a homosexual?", AR changeling Sheldon Kranz answers, "I would say no." (The H Persuasion, p. 14)

Ellen Reiss' quote in the New York Daily News is telling: "We are not psychiatrists; psychiatry has essentially failed. People who go to psychiatrists don’t change. They don’t get better."

Note her choice of words: Gays who see psychiatrists don't get better!  So it's pretty clear that AR views homosexuality as an affliction.

 

3. "Aesthetic Realism never saw homosexuality as a mental illness."

FACT: They absolutely did. In fact, they still do.

The AR motto itself is "Contempt causes insanity." It was the title of the preface to their founder's book Self and World (which is basically their Bible), and they've used it as a headline of their monthly newsletter. And as we saw above, AR thinks that homosexuality is caused by one's contempt for the world. So if homosexuality is a form of contempt, and contempt causes insanity, then homosexuality is....a form of insanity.

In fact, AR doesn't think that contempt is one cause of insanity. They think it's the only cause of insanity. As one of their leaders writes:

One of the greatest humanitarian and intellectual achievements of all time was the discovery by Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, that contempt causes insanity; in fact, that it causes all mental trouble. [emphasis added; they said the same thing in an op-ed]

The only way that the AR people could plausibly say that they don't view homosexuality as a mental illness, is if they say that they don't view insanity as a mental illness. That would be a pretty bold claim, but they're welcome to try.

 

4. "The people in AR's first book about the gay change didn't 'fall off the wagon'." (source)

FACT: At least one did, and three of them certainly left the group. There were four contributors to The H Persuasion. Three of them left AR and the fourth died while still in the group. One of those who left was actually kicked out because they discovered he was still having gay sex. I contacted one of the others to inquire about his experience and he told me that he hasn't studied AR or had anything to do with those who do for decades, and that he no longer wanted his name used in conjunction with it. (Incidentally, the three who left AR attended my lesson with Eli Siegel when I was two years old.)

 

5. "Eli Siegel [AR's founder] didn't kill himself."

FACT: Did, did, did, did, did! We know this because enough former members have come forward and spilled the beans. Yet the AR people screech all over their "Countering the Lies" website that I'm providing "misinformation" about how Siegel died.  My mother's sister (who is still in AR) told my mother point-blank that Siegel didn't kill himself. One of the AR leaders, Dale Laurin, said the same thing to the audience at an AR presentation he gave at a library in 2008. (He didn't realize he was being recorded.)
Audience Member: You'd mentioned Eli Siegel and his views on contempt and selfishness. And, I was reading just a little bit about him before I came here.…Uh, one thing that was interesting, though, he said that he believed homosexuality was a form of contempt and selfishness. Did he ever recant that before he committed suicide?

Dale Laurin: Uh, first of all, ah, he didn't commit suicide...

Here's some audio of that quote. The reason there's a sound change before the first time that Laurin starts speaking is that his voice was barely audible, being far away from the questioner, so I boosted the volume and added some noise reduction. (If you see the "Loading..." message, just click the Play button anyway.)

Later on, after the presentation, another audience member (whom I don't know, by the way) goes up to Laurin and asks, if Siegel didn't kill himself, then how did he die? Here's how Laurin responds:

Audience member: [mostly inaudible] You didn't say...I couldn't understand why all of a sudden this guy wondered...

Dale Laurin: Do you know how many people die in this country, and they're in the hospital, and they are suffering tremendously? And every person has the right to end their life when they feel that they have been tortured. That's what happened to Eli Siegel. And there's a person on the Internet who used the word "suicide" to describe the kindness of a person having the right to end their life in dignity. That is what occurred with Eli Siegel.

Audience member: Okay, thank you....

Dale Laurin: Exactly. See, and don't you think it's malicious that a person would turn that into suicide, with a reckless abandon?

Audience member: [quickly] Yeah, yeah, thank you...

Dale Laurin: This was a man who suffered at the hands of doctors who had ill will for him, who like this person I'm referring to, had anger at their respect for him. And this doctor actually admitted this after the fact. Mr. Siegel's life was ruined in the operation. He valiantly lived and continued to teach for many months after that until it became [inaudible]. And then he did what every person I feel has the right to do.

So in the same breath they're saying that Siegel didn't kill himself, but then pretty much admitting that very thing. (All the while calling me a liar for pointing out that Siegel killed himself.)

 

6. "AR has been up front about how Eli Siegel died."

FACT: Not even close! First, let's see their claim, made on their "Countering the Lies" website:
A final misrepresentation I want to refute here is the manner in which those attempting to discredit Eli Siegel have portrayed his death.... The events that led to his dying have long been knowledge in the public realm, because Ellen Reiss has described them, often in detail, in the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known at least once every year since 1987!

No, she hasn't. No such writing exists. I challenged the AR people years ago to provide this alleged admission of Siegel's suicide from the AR journal, but they can't, because they were never up front about how Siegel died.

 

7. "Michael Bluejay was only two (or three) years old when he was involved in AR."

FACT: Don't they wish! For years I've had the picture at right on this site, from when I was 12 years old (dutifully wearing my AR "Victim of the Press" button), but the AR people continue to say I was only 2 or 3 when I was involved. They've repeatedly tried to get wording like the following into the Wikipedia article about AR:
"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." (source)

One of them also sent me some anonymous hate mail referring to me as being an "infant" when I was involved. One of them actually said that I never studied AR! (source)

As I've said many times, after my family moved to Texas (and away from the AR headquarters) when I was five, my mother started an AR study group in Texas which I attended. When I was 12 I returned to NYC for the summer to visit relatives, and since they were still AR adherents, they promptly dragged to the AR headquarters where I attended numerous classes, presentations, and the dreaded 3-on-1 consultations. I also participated in an AR vigil outside the New York Times building, where we were protesting the Times' refusal to cover AR's gay cure. My subjection to AR didn't end until my mom snapped out of it, which was around high school for me. (And as for mom, she didn't "once" study it, she studied it continuously, from infancy into adulthood.)

But no, according to the AR people, I was only 2 or 3 when I studied.  Here's one of AR's leaders, Dale Laurin, lying through his teeth following an AR presentation he gave at a library, saying twice that I was only 3 years old when I was involved. (He didn't know he was being recorded.) These are two different instances he said this, spliced together. (If you see the "Loading..." message, just click the Play button anyway.)

It's unlikely they're fooling anyone about this. A third person at that library presentation (who, again, I do not know) asked Dale Laurin the obvious question: "If he was only three years old at the time, then why is he doing all this? What's his motivation?" (Laurin gave the stock AR answer: I'm supposedly angry at my great respect for Eli Siegel. That's their answer for anyone who's ever critical of AR for any reason.)

 

8. "There are no 'adherents' of Aesthetic Realism--that implies an uncritical acceptance." (source)

FACT: Aesthetic Realists are absolutely adherents, and their acceptance of the group's teachings is beyond complete, it's fanatical. They believe that their founder was the greatest person ever to live, that one should be "grateful without limit" for the knowledge of Aesthetic Realism, and that the media's disinterest in covering Aesthetic Realism is "a crime against humanity". If that doesn't describe an adherent, I don't know what does.

 

9. "There are no credible critics of [Aesthetic Realism] at all." (source)

FACT:  Geez, how many examples do you want?
  1. Harper's Magazine called AR "the moonies of poetry".
  2. New York Magazine referred to them as "a cult of Messianic nothingness" and their arts editor called them "a crackpot cult lodged in the woodwork down in Greenwich Village".
  3. New York Native said, "Aesthetic Realism is a cult...employing all the subtle and manipulative techniques of mind control used by such masters of the genre as the Moonies [and] the Scientologists"
  4. Cult expert Steve Hassan said, "I think that [AR's founder] was a cult leader, and that like many other cult leaders, he had a narcissistic personality and was a control freak."
  5. The associate editor of Literary Times said, "[The Aesthetic Realists] should be considered liars.  I made my appraisal of Aesthetic Realism only after extensive thought, research, and field trips.  I could only conclude that as philosophy it is primitive and, as religion, worse than having none at all....The absurdity of the movement is well illustrated by its propaganda."
  6. Commentary Magazine called AR an "odd psychiatric cult".
  7. And then there are all the other former members who now speak out against AR.

 

10. "AR critics don't want you to see the AR site, Countering the Lies."

FACT: Then why have I linked to it, repeatedly, all over this site?! (Here's another link. Please, go have a look!) I'm only too happy for people to see AR's site because it shows just how fanatical they are. In essence, they help me make my point. I believe in that old saying, "Give 'em enough rope, and they'll hang themselves."

The AR people made the "don't want you to see" charge on an earlier version of their Countering the Lies site, though they recently removed it, quietly. They also repeated their charge on Wikipedia.

Incidentally, this particular charge is rather duplicitous, since they have never linked to the site you're reading now. In other words, they don't want you to see this site. In fact, they repeatedly censored any mention of it from Wikipedia.


I titled this page "Ten lies...", but here are some bonus items.

 

11. "AR's critics are Ellen Mali, Adam Mali, and Heide Krakauer. Bluejay was just enlisted because of his internet savvy, and took to the job eagerly." (source)

FACT: The Aesthetic Realist who said this (Arnold Perey) just pulled it out of his ass. I started this site myself, as my own idea, of my own volition, and without any help from anyone. Once I put out the call for former members to share their stories a number of them did, but as I write this in July 2009, none of the above-named people has submitted one word to this website, nor supplied any other information about AR for me to use. And I've never met nor spoken with Heide Krakauer in my entire adult life.

Note that on the very same page where Arnold Perey made his claim, he also said:

"[He] attacks by stating misrepresentations as if they were truths. There is a word for that, and the word isn't criticism; it's lying."

Which is ironic, because that's exactly what he's doing with his ridiculous charge.

 

12. "AR wasn't concerned with changing people from being gay before 1971." (source)

FACT: AR started trying to cure gay people as early as 1946. Their own book, The H Persuasion, documents how Sheldon Kranz had a lesson with Siegel around that time to try to purge his homosexuality. Siegel told him things such as:
"The way you see the world is inaccurate. As that changes, the H situation will change. You made some bad philosophical and ethical choices at an early age which have to be revoked. H is a superstructure you built on to yourself as a way of solving your relation with what you saw as an unfriendly world." (p. 26)

And on p. xvii of the same book, they say:

"Since 1965 there has been a more or less continuous effort to have some coverage of the documented changes from homosexuality through the study of Aesthetic Realism."

This particular bit of revisionist history wouldn't be such a big deal, except that they claimed anyone who said otherwise was lying:

"What 'continuous concerns' about homosexuality did Aesthetic Realism have prior to 1971? That is a pure fiction." (source)

 

What's so ironic about all this is that the AR people claim their critics are the ones who are lying, and they put up a whole website about us called "Countering the Lies".

The Aesthetic Realists should try looking in the mirror sometime.

 

 

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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Your experience:

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Okay to publish your name?

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

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Get a notice of updates to this site? (no more than 4x/year)

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...


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Photo of Eli Siegel's gravestone from Find A Grave