Letter to the editor promoting AR's "gay cure"
by Michael Bluejay
Aesthetic Realists sent untold numbers of letters to the media
trying to promote their supposed gay
cure. In reality, they were
stumping for Aesthetic Realism itself; the gay cure was just the
bait with which they tried to attract interest to the cult.
(They stopped trying to convert gays around 1990, not because
they decided it was wrong, but rather because they were being
increasingly hassled by gay rights protesters, and because so
many of the "cured" had reverted to gay life that they couldn't
really talk up their cure with a straight face any more.)
Below is an example of the kinds of letters that AR
used to send to the press. Make no mistake,
to this day they still flood the media with letters to the
editor promoting Aesthetic Realism, they just don't mention the
gay cure any more.
Omni magazine, June
1982, p. 5 (source)
article "Gay Origins" has perpetrated a lie.
I met Aesthetic Realism by chance in
1974. After much critical inquiry, I found it to hold
truths about the way the mind works in a way that psychology
could not. Aesthetic Realism describes the self
accurately in showing how one's deepest hope is to be fair to
the world and how the desire for contempt interferes with
it. (In the film Yes, We Have Changed, Aesthetic
Realism's founder Eli Siegel's first lesson is "Get rid of
your contempt for people and you will get rid of one of the
chief ingrediens of homosexuality.") This knowledge
benefited my life tremendously. Judith Hooper
misrepresents Aesthetic Realism and the people who study it.
The power and logic of Aesthetic Realism can make
emotional and organic changes in people.
- Her citation of AR's film about their gay cure Yes, We
Have Changed might be more compelling if the ARists
hadn't hurriedly edited out one of its subjects from the film
after they found he'd reverted to having gay sex.
- Notice how she lunges for the word "lie" in the very first
sentence. For decades, when anyone has been critical of
Aesthetic Realism, the Aesthetic Realists scream "Liar!"
- My policy is to anonymize names when the writer is ex-AR
(i.e., those who woke up and are no longer apologists for
Aesthetic Realism). I left Ms. Goren's name as she's
stil an AR supporter, as evidenced by her
piece on AR's ironically-named "Countering the Lies"
website. (There's that word "lie" again.)
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...
A scientific challenge...
A former AR student wrote to suggest that we
challenge the AR Foundation to provide scientific
proof that its gay cure really works. But how
much more proof do we need? We already know that many
of the "success stories" decided they were really gay
after all and left AR. Heck, even three of the four
success stories profiled in AR's first book on the
subject left the group. (The fourth is dead.) When I
contacted one of these subjects he told me in no
uncertain terms that he didn't want his name used to
support AR's efforts. So why do we need to re-prove
what's already been proven?
Maybe because even many of those who haven't
left and continue to claim that they changed,
haven't really changed at all. Here's the
challenge our reader laid down to the AR Foundation:
"AR Foundation, if you are
truly interested in providing evidence [of the
change from homosexuality], then let it be
quantifiable, scientific evidence. Let your body
provide the evidence. Scientists can measure all
sorts of bodily reactions to certain stimuli. For
instance, they can measure dilation of the pupil
when something pleasurable is gazed upon. They can
also measure such things as blood flow to the
genitals, a faster heartbeat, and changes in
breathing in response to sexual stimuli. I propose
that the ARists who claim to have changed from
homosexuality submit to an experiment in which they
are shown sexually explicit images of men and women
(separately) while having their bodily reactions
monitored. If they are truly confident of their
change, and if they truly want to provide "evidence"
of this change, they should be happy to participate.
Of course, I'm sure they'll have all sorts of
reasons for not participating. Either that, or they
simply won't respond to my challenge."
The reader is right: the AR Foundation won't respond
to the challenge. I made repeated offers
to debate AR publicly but they never even
acknowledged my offers, much less accepted. Still, for
what it's worth, I'm willing to fund up to $2000 of
these experiments, if the AR Foundation accepts. But
-- Michael Bluejay, editor
Aesthetic Realism in popular culture
of a novel by Sallie Parker contains this
exchange between two characters, about AR trumpeting
its "gay cure" on the David Susskind show:
"You know what they were saying? They were saying, in
these ridiculously queeny voices, ‘We ussed to be
homossexsuals, but now we are ssstrraight. We have
found a cure through this new way of looking the
world. A new philosssophy.’”
“Oh! You’re talking about Aesthetic Realism,” Gorbles
shouted. “Right. That David Susskind Show! That’s
legendary. Aesthetic Realism, yeah, they’re always
putting up flyers around Washington Square. You’ve seen
them. ‘We have changed from homosexuality, but the
press covers it up.’ et cetera et cetera.”
“Those weirdoes!” Hornblower rocked backward in his
seat. “They such bad news! Got into fight about it.
Outside Julius’. Just coming out through side door. And
one of those characters was handing out pieces of paper.
Recognized the guy, used to be in Julius’ all the time
years ago—so I looked at what he was handing out and I
told him, ‘You sorry faggot.’ Old queen just loses it,
calls me names, starts to chase me down Waverly Place.
Drops his flyers of course, flying everywhere. Then he
shouts after me, ‘You too can change!’ I’d
rather run into a Jesus freak.”
“Jesus freaks,” said Gorbles thoughtfully. “Funny you
mention. Now there’s a subject no one’s addressed
“Why would you want to?’ Hornblower had his face screwed
up as he lit a joint. In his head he was still
outrunning the Aesthetic Realism freak.
From The Globe and Mail
"Pity the lot of the Aesthetic Realists, a New
York-based group with fewer than 200 members who are mad
at the New York Times because the Times, they claim,
refuses to print a story that 123 homosexuals have
changed (to heterosexuality) through Aesthetic Realism.
In fact, the AR people are so mad they've been
bombarding the Times' city desk with more than 65 calls
a day demanding that the story be run. Not just that -
they have also taken to holding vigils in front of
publisher C. L. Punch Sulzberger's home and those of
other top Times officials, and to staging little
protests in the Times news room. It's really quite
funny, in a sad sort of way, a friend at the Times tells
us. They come in a couple of times a week - three
sorry-looking guys flanked by two women. The guys wear
signs around their necks saying something like 'I used
to be a homosexual but Eli Segal (founder of the AR
movement) saved me.' At least they had an identity when
they were gay; now they look as if they've been put
through the laundry. The Times, we understand, is
holding to its rise-above-it-all stance and has no plans
to publish the story."
FYI Put those
fears away, all citizens-to-be, (Robin Green, The
Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ont.: Apr 28, 1978. p.8)
From New York Magazine:
On a cold, rainy Saturday, two men in drag with XXXGAYS
stenciled on their chests burst into the Aesthetic
Realism Foundation's offices on Greene Street and
exclaim, "We're here for the cure!" ... But the men's
seemingly sincere plea "Why don't you want to help us?"
The Aesthetic Realists: An oddball presence in SoHo for
more than twenty years... most famously, the group has
also held that gay men can be converted from
homosexuality, which "arises from contempt of the world,
not liking it sufficiently. This changes into contempt
for women." Aesthetic Realists' contention that the
media ignored their "cure" led many of them to wear the
familiar VICTIM OF THE PRESS buttons for much of the
A reader says...
I enjoyed reading this site. My exposure to AR came
when I was doing graduate studies in music at
Manhattan School of Music. My private composition
teacher (who also taught other classes within my
program) was Edward Green. Green was, and I believe
still is, very involved with AR.
Green made use of AR principles in teaching. I have
to admit that many of the concepts have been very
useful to me. That contempt towards others and the
world as a destructive force is both obvious yet
important. Because of those concepts, I can see
contemptuous behavior in myself an in others very
clearly.. I can catch myself in that behavior.. and
I can be kinder to those who are obviously
suffering... I've always been an optimist, and I
firmly believe that evil is just goodness corrupted.
At the time I was exposed to AR, I had already come
out of the closet as a gay man, and was an activist
for gay rights and for AIDS issues. Nobody was going
to convince me that one could or should 'change from
Of course, Green kept inviting me to events at the
AR Centre. (I never went.). And Green and I had
several discussions about Homosexuality..
AR claims that Homosexuality is caused by men
having contempt for women.. I remember telling Green
"Well by that logic, wouldn't Heterosexuality be
caused by men having contempt for those of the same
sex?" I told him that AR seems to have contempt for
Homosexuality. Green had this interesting habit of
toying with one of the rims of his glasses whenever
he felt challenged. A friend of mine (also gay, also
a private student of Green's) and I referred to this
nervous gesture as "changing the channel".
I'm glad that AR has decided to stop promoting this
'change from Homosexuality' but it's ridiculous of
them to claim they never really made such claims..
Again, I enjoyed your pages.. Keep up the good
work. -- Aug. 8, 2005
Musician Diamanda Galás mentions AR's antigay
position in an
in the Village Voice. When asked "Who are your
fans?", she replies:
who find it necessary to think for themselves in
order to survive, because they're damned by the
fact they don't agree with the mediocrity that
society shoves down their throats. They rise above
this by continuing to educate themselves. This is
especially true of homosexuals, who are born
outside the law anyway. They're still figuratively
and literally buried alive by the Egyptians and
Turks. Here in New York they're visited upon by
the Aesthetic Realism Foundation and treated with
In fairness, the AR Foundation never actually tried
to change gays with electroshock therapy. Galás is
simply caricaturing AR's professed gay cure itself.