From our mailbox...
just stumbled on your website today and thought I'd say hello.
I'm the former student of AR whose testimonial appears on Steve
Hassan's website, and which you link to from your site. I'm so
glad you have done this; you have done an excellent job in refuting
[AR's] lies about your so-called "lies."
years, when I thought back to my involvement with AR, it made
my blood boil. I can still get to the boiling point if I think
about it long enough, but mostly I prefer to deal with Eli Siegel and
Aesthetic Realism by giving them as little thought as possible, by
giving them the cool disrespect they so dread, but so richly
can be of any help to you, please let me know. You may, for
instance, publish this email on your website. Just please don't
use my name. I may be ready to reveal that someday, but not at
this point. I'd like to share more of my experiences with AR with
you, but I don't have the time right now. I just wanted to touch
base and say thanks for the work you're doing. Take care.
Jan. 30, 2005
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.
Statements by the general
- What does the general
public think? This reader confirms my suspicion that anyone
unfamiliar with AR who reads both my site and CounteringTheLies will
see clearly that AR is a cult. July 16, 2005
About the testimonials
by Michael Bluejay, ex-member of AR
Members or students?
claim that there aren't any former members of Aesthetic Realism,
because there are no "members" to begin with, only students. Of course, that's
a semantic distinction which has no real importance. When AR people
complain that I sometimes refer to them as members they're
cleverly trying to change the subject. They'd prefer that you focus on
whether they're students or members, than on whether they're a mind
I simply use the term members
to mean that the people I'm talking about have bought into their
group's ideals and feel a strong allegiance to it. If it makes AR
people feel any better then I publicly concede here that no one in the
group receives a special laminated membership card. That couldn't be
more irrelevant. It's the fact that the believers have devoted their
life to this cause that makes them members. And once people
snap out of it and leave the group, they generally agree that "members"
is the proper term.
In fact, the Aesthetic Realists have a short memory: They used the term "members" themselves
in their ad in the Village Voice. And their founder, Eli Siegel,
used the same term in a letter to the same paper. And of course,
the media has called AR adherents members too. (example: Village Voice)
It's interesting that the
defensive cry of "We don't have members!" is a hallmark of cults. Cult
expert Steve Hassan spoke to that in this TV
interview many years ago:
Host: But Roy Masters
says that you can't join the Foundation of Human
Steve Hassan: There's him and
at least a dozen other cult organizations that say, "We don't have members!",
like The Way International, but they have their membership
lists, and they subscribe to the newsletter, and they give
their money over....
Which side is telling the truth?
Of course that's up to the
reader to decide, but let me mention some things that I think are
- There are lots of former members who tell pretty much the
same kind of story about life inside the group. Which is more likely:
That all these numerous former members have somehow formed a secret
conspiracy to tell the same kind of story (for some unfathomable
purpose), or that they're really telling the truth?
- Most people who have joined up with AR have later left --
and they haven't gone back.
- AR's defenses can be proven false. They said they never had
a cure for homosexuality. The evidence
shows otherwise. They said Eli Siegel didn't kill himself. The evidence shows otherwise. They said I was
only 2 years old when my family stopped studying AR. No, I was a
teenager, and here's a picture of me in AR
company wearing my AR button when I was 12.
- It's not just former members saying AR is a cult. It's also
cult experts like Steve
Hassan (author of two critically-acclaimed books on mind control
cults), and the media. When AR makes it into
the press, the treatment is rarely favorable.
- Cult members never realize they're part of a cult -- until
they leave. Current members are perhaps not the best unbiased source as
to whether a group is a cult or not. Nor are former members who left
only because they were forced out and not allowed to continue their
- I prefer you get both sides of the story. By all means,
visit AR's Countering the Lies and read the vitriol they spew
about former members who have dared to speak out. The hysteria
displayed there answers the whole cult question nicely. By
contrast, they won't link to this site, even though their site is
devoted to rebutting this one. It's funny, people who stumble
across their site are supposed to believe the rebuttals without ever
seeing what's supposedly being rebutted.
- I've had an open offer to debate the AR people for years.
They scream up and down the street that I and the other former members
are "lying", but thy won't stand behind their statements in a formal
debate. Their excuse is that I'm not worth their time. But somehow it
was worth their time to create a 100-page website (!) to argue
with me and the other former members behind the cover of the Internet.
Why there aren't
even more ex-member stories here
For a small cult like AR, I think there are a fair number of
former-member stories here, especially considering that when people
leave a cult, they often just want to put the experience behind them
and not talk about it any more. However, the AR people say that
the "few" stories on this site is evidence that the group isn't really
a cult. So let me speak to why there aren't even more ex-member
- I don't know how to contact most former members.
Unlike the AR Foundation, I don't have contact information for people
who used to be involved. Now, if the AR Foundation would like to
provide me that info, I would be happy to contact former members to
solicit their statements.
- Many former members prefer to put their AR experience
behind them rather than dredge it up again by writing about it.
- Many former members are embarrassed by their involvement
and don't want that experience to be public, even anonymously.
- Former members are well aware that AR will drag their
name through the mud if they dare to criticize AR. Here's what an
ARsupporter said about me on AR's website after I put up my own
statement here: "So much for the stupid lying of
Mali, Bluejay and the other liars.... Why is he doing this? Feeling
himself to be a failure in his own life...Michael Bluejay seeks the
triumph of making himself important by looking down upon others. He is
attempting to assuage his feeling of unimportance". Most people
are understandably wary of subjecting themselves to that sort of abuse.
- Many former members are dead. And not just the ones
who killed themselves, like the founder, Eli
Siegel did. AR has been around since the 1940's and their heyday
was in the 1970's, and many of the former students are simply no longer
- Perhaps most importantly, one former member pretty much wrote the book on the
cult aspects of AR. Most former members probably feel with some
justification that there is little more to say.
Why many of the testimonials are
Let's take a moment to address the Aesthetic Realists'
complaint that many of the statements on our site anonymous. The AR
people are raising a stink about anonymous statements for exactly two
- They want to be able to identify their critics so they
can drag their names through the mud on Countering
the Lies, same as they did with me and Adam Mali,
and to snipe at us any way they can. They found on my personal page
where I said my mother is a private person who didn't want her name on
the Internet, so the AR people lost no time in outing her, and her
husband. And they try to discredit me right on the front page of their
site by pointing out that I've ridden a bicycle naked. Yeah, so I've
been to Burning Man
(along with tens of thousands of other people) and I rode in the ride
in London to protest oil dependence (along with thousands of other
people). How that could somehow mean I'm not qualified as a former
member to say that AR is a cult, I can't possibly imagine. But the
point is, if they think they have any dirt on their critics, they don't
hesitate to make it public. And when you're in AR, you're supposed to
share everything, so they know all the secrets of the people
who have left. Most former members understandibly don't care to have
their personal lives displayed on the web for all to see in this way.
Regarding this, one former student remarked to me, "I think that people
on the outside might think there is something wrong with a person's
mind if they DO give their name! It might seem like they're a masochist
or that they don't have the sense they were born with if they're
willing to hand themselves over to be chopped into little pieces!
Anyone with a life or career could see the need to protect themselves
- The AR people are hoping to shame former students into
not contributing their stories. After all, if a former student buys
into the AR argument that it's unfair to post about their experience
anonymously, then they won't post at all, and AR has pre-silenced
another critic (managing to manipulate the student even after
s/he left the group!).
This is obvious enough -- except to Aesthetic Realists
who are complaining that some of the contributors here choose to remain
It's also a tad hypocritical,, because every single
time an AR apologist has written in to the site here, they've not ony
failed to give their name they've used a fake email address too.
When the former members write in, they give both their real names and
their email addresses, I just don't publish them if they don't want me
to. But the AR people don't give either. Once an AR member wrote to
complain that this statement
by a former member was made anonymously -- and they sent in their
complaint with a fake name and email address! That really ought to win
some kind of award for irony. And it doesn't end there. AR apologists
have taken to harassing my mother -- anonymously, of course.
Here's what one of them sent to her:
I studied Aesthetic Realism for
only 9 months, and I could tell that it is an incredible philosophy.
You are so cruel to your son, as you use him to get back at what you
respect so much, yet can't be superior to, and making him look like an
angry old man, and a stupid one at that. Your ego has taken over you. I
am your son's age and I am glad that I have a mother and father who
understood my study of Aesthetic Realism. YOU know Aesthetic Realism is
not a cult, but you probably ARE a cultist.
I whithold my name because you and
your son seem so bitter and nasty.
Talking about prizes for irony, that last line ought to get
Incidentally, my mother has had zero input into this website,
because she prefers to put her AR experience behind her and not talk
about it any more. But the AR people insist on believing my mom is
behind the site somehow -- and persecuting her for it. Anonymously.
By the way, if the person above really believes that AR is an
"incredible philosophy", then why did they stop studying after only
nine months? And where did they get the idea that my mom was behind the
site, if they're not a part of the group? Well, we can't ask them --
they sent their missive not only anonymously, but with a fake email
address to boot.
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?
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I don't endorse the advertisers.