Michael Bluejay‘s experience with Aesthetic Realism
by Michael Bluejay, founder of this website, 2005
My roots in Aesthetic Realism
go deep. I was born into it, because my mother was born into it,
because her parents were involved in it. My maternal
grandfather, Jack Musicant, was introduced to Aesthetic Realism by
Marvin Mondlin who today (2005) is reportedly its oldest living
supporter (and who has publicly reamed me
for daring to speak out against AR). From what I understand, Mondlin met
Siegel while in college, though Siegel himself didn't attend college
and professed a disdain for it. Jack apparently introduced AR to his
future wife, May Musicant. Jack and May knew Siegel well and were
students of his. May was one of the people who claimed to have changed from homosexuality as a result
of studying Aesthetic Realism, as shown in the big ad the group bought
in the New York Times. Jack died around 1977 and May around 1988.
May and Jack had three
daughters, including my mother, and all three daughters were
brought up in AR. My grandparents took my mother to private lessons
with Siegel when she was 4 or 5 years old. Another daughter (Alice) is
in AR, and cut off relations with my mother when she left the
group. They haven't spoken in years. [Update: Shortly after I put up my
first page of AR criticism, Alice called my mother to complain about it
and ask her to get me to take it down. So the first and only time Alice
spoke to my mother in over 20 years was to complain about my AR is
My mother introduced my
birth father to AR when they were in high school. I
was thus born into the cult as my mother was. I had at least one
"lesson" with Eli Siegel, one at age two. (See the
transcript of the lesson.) I believe I had two others but I can't
locate the records. My mother and my first father divorced when I was
about 2 or 3.
Shortly after that my mom met
and married the man who would become my second father. When he met
my mother he saw the effect that AR was having on her, and saw that I
was destined to grow up in the same environment, so he took us to Texas
when I was 5. He knew this was his best hope of getting us out of AR,
since after a several decades AR had never successfully spread very far
outside of its headquarters in Greenwich Village, NYC.
Me at 12 years old in NYC with
my Aunt Alice (still in AR), dutifully
wearing my "Victim of the Press"
Of course, the Aesthetic Realists tried to prevent Mom from leaving. They told her she was making the biggest mistake of her life, that her life would be utterly destroyed without AR, that she was leaving only because of the contempt she had for the founder Eli Siegel, etc. Once in Texas, for the next several years if her parents called, it was only to yell at her for leaving NYC where the cult is based.
But even though she'd left NYC, and even though the cult people disowned her (including her parents), she was stil loyal to AR. As a result, AR wasn't completely out of my life, either. Mom had
brought the complete set of AR books with her to Texas, where she
continued to self-study AR, taught dance classes from the
Aesthetic Realism perspective, gave talks on AR wherever she could, and started
an AR study group for anyone she could recruit. I attended the the talks
and group meetings. When I was 12 I returned to NYC to visit my cousin,
and my mom's sister Alice lost no time in dragging me right back to the
Aesthetic Realism Foundation for lessons and "consultations".
I even participated in one of AR's vigils
against the New York Times. I was basically reabsorbed into the
Incidentally, on AR's
"Countering the Lies" website Alice claims that I've been uninvolved
with AR since I was five, and that she was friendly with me on my visit
to New York when I was 12 even though I was uninvolved with AR.
Neither of these things is true. Alice was friendly with me because
I was involved with AR during my visit, and I was involved because of
her efforts to get me involved. She took me to lectures and
I had consultations, I participated in a NYT vigil, I wore my VoTP
button, and she had me associate with all the other AR people whom she
should be my influences.
Perhaps three years after my
NY visit when I was in high school my mother abruptly had an epiphany
in which she saw the Aesthetic Realism group for what it really was,
and immediately renounced it all, and tearfully apologized to me for
making AR a part of my life. (To this day she periodically makes the
same apology on occasion, to which I reply that there is nothing to
apologize for, since I cannot see anyone else in the same circumstances
acting differently. When you're born into a cult, as she was, your
ability to reject it and to make informed decisions is severely
compromised.) My mother's relevation ended my involvement with AR. That was fine with me, as I'd never really bought into AR anyway.
A few years later my parents
divorced and my mother returned to NYC and married another former AR
member, but both stayed far away from AR.
AR people are trying to
discredit my criticism with their site Countering
the Lies, in part by pointing out that I've been uninvolved
with AR formally for many years. That's very true, but what they're
not mentioning is that AR hasn't changed since the days of my
involvement, according to former members who left more recently than I
did and who have been sharing their
stories on this website. They're also not mentioning that I'm not the only one saying these things. Hell, people were saying Aesthetic Realism was a cult before I was born!
It's funny when you know
someone who swears up and down the street that something is true, for
decades, and then they suddenly change their mind. I wonder when
the next Aesthetic Realist who is currently calling
me a liar will eventually leave the group, like so many other
former members before them, and decide I was telling the truth after
So why this site?
Because AR hurts
people. People don't know when they're recruited into the group
might wind up spending the rest of their lives devoted to it to the
exclusion of everything else—including their family. Because
like most cults, a new recruit's first job is to bring in their friends
and family, and if they can't, then those people aren't friends and
family any more. When
people finally get out of the group (and most eventually do) they
have a lot of regret about the time they wasted inside of it, they may
need therapy to be able to recover, and they have to rebuild
relationships with loved ones they previously shut out. As long
hurts people, I'm
going to be around to make sure the truth about them is known.
Siegel's poem for me
Much as my experience with Aesthetic Realism was unpleasant,
I still have to think that I'm lucky to have had a poem composed about
me by a man whom William Carlos
Williams praised as one of the greatest poets of our times. Of
course I was only two years old, and Siegel improvised it
verbally off the top of his head, and it's definitely not his best
work, but a poem is a poem.
Improvised Song for Michael Andrew
From the Aethetic Realism Lesson
Conducted by Eli Siegel
Once there came to this very room
A little boy called Michael Andrew.
What could I do?
His life was unformed,
He was cold and was warm;
But Michael Andrew had a soul,
And it was for me to encourage it to be whole.
He tried to interrupt me and tried to show that he was in
But Michael Andrew has a soul,
And what could I do, but to make it whole
As well as I could.
When a little boy is here
I don't know what I should do,
Because on the one hand
There is something to understand;
And on the other, there must be authority.
And sometimes I don't agree with what I do.
But this I know:
That Michael Andrew has a soul that is new,
And I must do all I can do
To have it always new
And always a soul that is a whole soul,
Not just a fraction
Making for an action
His mother and his father
In order to encourage Michael Andrew and his soul
To be in control of the lesser soul,
And show that Michael Andrew has a soul
That is a whole soul.
-- Eli Siegel
[This page started in 2005 and last edited in 2011.]
What's on this site
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
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
AR bought huge ads in major newspapers to trumpet
their ability to "fix" gays.
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".
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.
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!
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
The ultimate statement by a former member, who
was involved for well over a decade.
of getting sucked in.
This former member describes exactly how he
initially got drawn in, and how he then kept getting more and more
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.
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."
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.
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.
were controlled and humiliated if they stepped out of line...".
The experiences shared with us by a member from 1974-80, now a Fortune
Ellen Reiss questioned!" This former member wonders why there
hasn't been a class-action lawsuit against the foundation yet.
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.
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.
description. Your webmaster describes his own family's
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.
Realism debunked. A former student explains the cult
aspects of AR. Posted on Steve Hassan's Freedom of Mind website.
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.
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.
Aesthetic Realism at a Glance
Aesthetic Realism Foundation
|Eli Siegel, poet and 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.
|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
|New York City (SoHo)
|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).
- 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
- Odd, specialized language.
More about cult aspects...
Google picks the ads, not me;
I don't endorse the advertisers.
Google picks the ads, not me;
I don't endorse the advertisers.
Google picks the ads, not me;
I don't endorse the advertisers.