Former AR student Ron Schmidt describes his
written February 12, 2005
Thank you for the
information you put together on this site. I was a
student for about two and a half years from summer 1987
until the end of 1989. The experience was strange to say the
least, and the word cult often crossed my mind while I was
'studying'. I began to study because I was gay and it was
not cool to be gay in a rural area not to mention my parents
are devout Catholic. I can't say everything about my
experience with AR was bad, however I learned early on that
if I didn't express gratitude for AR and ES often I would be
in trouble. Looking back I can't believe I lasted there as
long as I did. I never lived in NY but I did visit twice and
had two consultations in person, of about thirty
consultations over the phone which were taped and sent to me
so I could study them. After finding this web site a couple
of days ago I went home to listen to one of them. It
happened to be my fourth one, and most of the hour was spent
on how I wasn't grateful enough for AR and [AR
founder] Eli Siegel. When I protested that I hadn't
changed yet I was told that I had seen enough already of the
great beauty of AR. During the consultation I was asked very
leading questions like how did I think about myself after
being attracted to another man, Did I think more or less of
myself? Did I think more or less or the other person? (Now
how would any 22yr old Catholic closet case answer these
questions?) At no time was I given any numbers as to how
many people had changed, I was just told "many people had
changed" I was also never told how long I should expect to
study before I would change, nor for that matter that people
who had changed had recanted. I was afraid to ask these
questions because of the element of fear that if I wasn't
respectful enough they would drop me.
They dropped me anyway. My consultants eventually
told me I couldn't study any more. They said I wasn't trying
hard enough and I was thwarting their efforts. They were
very rude when they did this and I was devastated. I always
wondered why they were so rude. I can understand they were
disappointed that I hadn't changed after two and half years
of study, but since they always claimed to have good will
for me I would think they would have said something nicer
like "We feel we have done all we can for you for now and
encourage you to continue to study on your own," (since it
was the knowledge of AR that supposedly caused people to
change). After that when I tried to renew my subscription to
TRO my check was returned to me. I tried to study on my own
for about another year then I got some counseling because I
felt so demoralized.
That was a long time ago and I now feel I am a
reasonably well adjusted gay man and am out to just about
everyone I know.
So is AR a cult? I don't think it is for me to
say. What I can say is that I don't think AR or Eli
Siegel had any real insight into the subject of
homosexuality. Since they no longer teach the 'Change from
Homosexuality' I have no real beef with AR today and I
believe in 'live and let live'. I do feel it is important
for me to tell my story as honestly as possible, which I
feel I have done here. If someone I knew wanted to study AR
I would simply tell them to proceed with caution.
I will just finish by saying "Thank You" to Michael for
this web site because I feel better knowing I am not the
only one who had misgivings about AR.
-- Ron Schmidt,
[Editor's note: About eight
years after kicking Mr. Schmidt out of AR for failing to be
"cured" of his gayness, one of Mr. Schmidt's consultants left
AR himself. Also, while AR no longer counsels people on how
not to be gay, they haven't renounced that either. In other
words, they still think being gay is a mental problem, they
just don't talk about it any more. (See more about AR's supposed 'gay cure')]
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Former members describe Aesthetic Realism
- The ULTIMATE statement by a former member. Wow. A former Aesthetic Realism member who was involved for over ten years and into the 1990's sent us this incredibly detailed account of what life inside AR is like. This puts to rest once and for all any lingering question about whether AR is a cult - it is. The AR people will not be able to "counter" this on their Countering the Lies website because this account is from one of their own, and because it's so exhaustively detailed.
- A tale of getting sucked in. Another former member shares his experiences. This story is unique because he describes exactly how he initially got drawn in, and how he then kept getting more and more involved.
- Growing up in Aesthetic Realism. What it's like to be born into a cult.
- Aesthetic Realism ruined his marriage. "[It] introduced a level of stress in my marriage that had not previously existed....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." This former member also wrote about AR on Steve Hassan's Freedom of Mind.
- 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. A former student describes how he was kicked out of AR because he couldn't change from homosexuality. Powerful stuff.
- "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.
- "This is merely one example of the way 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!" A former member tells her story, and wonders why there hasn't been a class-action lawsuit against the foundation yet.
- They took his consultation tape. A former student describes how 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 sought AR's "gay cure" describes how the group's leaders admitted that the founder took his own life.
- "I personally know at least half of the contributors to AR's Countering the Lies website and know them to either be fibbing or having a long-term memory problem.". 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.
- Aesthetic Realism debunked. A former student explains the cult aspects of AR. Originally written for Steve Hassan's Freedom of Mind website.
- Michael Bluejay's description. This whole website is my statement about Aesthetic Realism. But in this article I describe my family's involvement in more detail.
- 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 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...
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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?