Aesthetic Realism is a cult

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Aesthetic Realism founder Eli Siegel killed himself

 by Michael Bluejay, former member, 2005 • Last update: April 2011

 Eli Siegel's grave

   It's significant that the man who claimed to have the ultimate answer to personal happiness wound up taking his own life, in 1978. One would have to be inanimate to miss the irony. But to his we can also add deception, since the followers of Aesthetic Realism (the philosophy he founded) have refused to reveal how Siegel died. This in and of itself is telling.

     Siegel died from an intentional overdose of prescription medication, after careful consultation and planning with his students.

    Let's back up for a minute though. To be fair, Siegel was all of 76 when he took his life, and might have been in some pain. (He'd had prostate surgery, and the amount of pain he was in afterward is a subject of considerable dispute.) In any event, we can certainly sympathize with someone's desire and decision to end everything. Still, when the leader of a group which promises to have the ultimate answer for everything kills himself, it does give you pause.

     Siegel had previously spoken against suicide:

There are only two things we can do about the world. One is respect it more and more; the other is to have contempt for it....As Aesthetic Realism sees it, contempt for the world is the cause of insanity and also the cause, often, of the condition accompanying insanity or accompanied by it, suicide. ["The Right to Be Known", #229, and #604 (Oct. 31, 1984)]

 

Trying to hide Siegel's suicide from the public

Eli Siegel's death merited a 13-paragraph obituary in The New York Times, excerpted here:

"Almost from the beginning of Aesthetic Realism in 1941, Mr. Siegel and his followers -- who prefer to be called students -- insisted that the philosophy was being boycotted by the press and that it was thus impossible for them to propagate their views and gain a wide following.

"The Aesthetic Realism Foundation, which teaches Mr. Siegel's beliefs, refused yesterday to give the clinical cause of his death. But it said in a news release that he had 'died of a broken heart, having suffered for over 50 years from injustices of the press and literary world.'

"Dorothy Koppelman, the president of the foundation, said she traced the injustices to Mr. Siegel to 1925, when, after winning a poetry contest conducted by Nation magazine at the age of 22, older writers criticized him and his work as being unworthy of special acclaim." (source)

After I first put this page up, AR members complained on CounteringTheLies.com that they have not been secretive about the nature of Eli Siegel's death. That's one of the "lies" I'm supposedly propagating. But there it is in the New York Times in black and white: The Aesthetic Realism Foundation...refused yesterday to give the clinical cause of death. There is also no mention of it anywhere on their website. That's the dead giveaway that this wasn't a normal death. Had it been, they would have said so.

Wait, it gets richer. AR member Wayne Plumstead writes on AR's "Countering the Lies":

A final misrepresentation I want to refute here is the manner in which those attempting to discredit Eli Siegel have portrayed his death. The twist they give to it could only have been conceived by persons with a malevolent purpose. 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. "The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known" (TRO) has never contained any such admission that Siegel took his life. If it did, Plumstead might have actually quoted some edition of TRO, but he can't quote it, since no such published admission exists. In fact, Reiss suggests in TRO that Siegel did not take his life. For example, in the November 3, 2004 edition, she says:

"I have written every year at this time about the operation Mr. Siegel underwent in May of 1978, which was the cause of his dying 5-1/2 months later."

That implies that Siegel suffered complications from the surgery and the doctors couldn't save him. But nothing could be farther from the truth. This is a typical obfuscation from the Aesthetic Realists: Siegel killed himself because he was unhappy with the results of the surgery, so the AR people feel justified in (deceptively) saying that the surgery was the cause of his death. That's just flat-out dishonest. And that's supposedly how the true events surrounding Siegel's death have "long been knowledge in the public realm". According to the Aesthetic Realists, everyone knows that Siegel killed himself because Ellen Reiss said that an "operation...was the cause of his dying". Wow.

They pulled the same B.S. in their double-page ad in the New York Times:

Eli Siegel, who was completely honest and completely kind, died tragically in 1978. In May of that year a so-called simple operation was performed on him by a surgeon at a hospital in New York City. After the operation, Mr. Siegel's life was ruined. He died November 8, 1978.

And the mention of the suicide is where?

The truth is, the Aesthetic Realists have never come clean about Siegel's suicide, despite their protests to the contrary.

But anyway, I'm game: Let's see it! Let's see this alleged unobfuscated admission of Siegel's suicide from AR's journal. AR people, put it online so everyone can see that you're right and I'm wrong.

Here's Arnold Perey's statement on Countering the Lies, which comes closer to admitting the truth but still fails to explicitly do so:

And Michael Bluejay adds more lying of his own. He claims that there has been "deception, since AR members have refused to reveal how Siegel died." For two decades, Ellen Reiss and others have described publicly, in print, the cause of Mr. Siegel's death. In 1978, surgery was performed on Mr. Siegel for a benign prostatic condition by a doctor who admitted later he had been angry at his respect for Mr. Siegel.  This operation damaged him irreparably and ruined his life. It was the reason for his death later that year, on November 8, 1978: it is apparent that Mr. Siegel chose to die with dignity, as other courageous persons have done, including, it seems clear, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and George Harrison. About Harrison, his friend Eric Idle wrote, "He passed away--here in LA--with beauty and dignity surrounded by people he loved."

Perey repeatedly censors any mention of Siegel's suicide in the Wikipedia article on Aesthetic Realism. Yes, the same Arnold Perey who above calls me a liar for saying that AR supporters are being deceptive about how Siegel died, is repeatedly censoring the fact that Siegel took his own life. I'd like to nominate Dr. Perey for the Hypocrite of the Century award.

Anyway, since I've been publicly called a liar about this, let me again reiterate a statement which is 100% fact:

The Aesthetic Realism Foundation has never made any public admission that Eli Siegel killed himself.

If they can show me that I am wrong about this, I will happily retract that statement.

I'm waiting.

 

Denying that Siegel killed himself

If the AR people were simply vague about how Siegel died that would be bad enough. But they go beyond obfuscation, they actually deny that Siegel killed himself. One of the Aesthetic Realists who's calling me a liar on Countering the Lies, told my mother point-blank that Siegel did not kill himself. And in 2008 one of the AR leaders, Dale Laurin, outright denies Siegel's suicide in a Q&A following an AR presentation at a library. (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.

Getting closer to the truth

After the pressure I've been putting on them to come clean, the AR people have been getting closer to the truth about Siegel's suicide, while in the same breath they deny that he kill himself. In the talk above where Dale Laurin said flatly "He didn't commit suicide," he later says that Siegel ended his life "with dignity", that it was euthanasia. It wasn't euthanasia, it was plain suicide, but at least this gets a little closer to the truth. And it came about because a different audience member (whom I don't know, by the way), pointed out that while Laurin claimed that Siegel didn't kill himself, Laurin didn't say how Siegel did die. So how about that? 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.

Okay, so if Siegel actually did choose to end his life, how exactly am I a liar for saying so?

By the way, when I first played this audio for a friend, she asked, "What does Siegel killing himself have to do with kindness?" Good question! The thing is, AR people believe that Eli Siegel was the kindest person ever to live. If Eli Siegel did something, then it was kind by definition. Siegel criticizes you in front of the group? Kindness! Siegel has a bagel? More kindness! Siegel kills himself? Kindness, of course.

But let's get back to the subject at hand. AR member Arnold Perey also finally get a lot closer to the truth about Siegel's death on a Wikipedia talk page:

"Eli Siegel died with dignity.... What death with dignity means to people today, thanks to the Hemlock Society and other Death with Dignity organizations, is that one has died by his own hand."

And here's another example. I just noticed (June 2008) that Devorah Tarrow admits on Countering the Lies that Siegel "died with dignity", and alludes to assisted suicide -- in the same breath as she continues to call me a liar for saying that Siegel took his own life. Here's what Tarrow said:

That a person chooses to die with dignity when he or she has been fatally injured or is fatally ill is something that is now respected and accepted worldwide. This choice has been made by persons whose names many are familiar with, including very recently, the fine actor Jerry Ohrbach, following a long illness. A newspaper reported his agent as saying, "When he was ready to leave, he left-with dignity." There is the popular and much respected film Million Dollar Baby, whose main character, Maggie Fitzgerald (played beautifully by Hillary Swank), asks the character Frankie Dunn (played by Clint Eastwood), who is her manager, to help her to die after she is paralyzed in a boxing match. He does assist her, and she is grateful; she wanted to live with dignity and she wants to die with dignity.... The motive of those attacking him is to be seen in their lying about even this most large, deep, and personal matter.

So at long last, we finally have some de facto admissions by Aesthetic Realists that Siegel took his own life. Of course, they're still calling me a total liar for saying that Siegel killed himself. Do you suppose they'd take it back if I said instead that he "died of his own hand"?

 
More info on Siegel's suicide from former students

April 9, 2005:

Just a quick note on the suicide of Eli Siegel.
  1. It was never quite clear that Siegel was suffering physical pain beyond normal post operative pain.
  2. He said he was in agony because the way his feet met the earth was changed. And because of that he found it hard to walk. And walking was necessary for him to think and create.
  3. People did try and reason with him, advising him to give his recovery more time.

Also previous to his surgery he had been suffering from horrible swelling in his legs and feet. There was no question that he was in enormous physical pain. It was during that period where he tried to heal himself without going to doctors. (Though he did ask us to get him pain killers) It was also during this period that he hardly walked at all.

After the prostate surgery when his legs and feet were no longer swollen he expected that walking would be possible. However, something felt off to him.

I doubt we will know the whole truth around what happened to Siegel. There have been a number of cases where prostate surgery caused temporary or permanent impotence; this was never discussed. However, Siegel definitely liked womem. There were rumors of him asking various attractive women to sit on his lap and the women complying and accepting his fondling. So I could imagine that impotence might have an even more devasting effect on Siegel's pysche than the business of walking. It just doesn't sound as good.

By the way, there may have been legal implications surounding a detailed admission of Siegel's suicide. Afterall it is a crime to assist a suicide.

Keep up the good work. I didn't intend this note for publication but feel free to use all or none of it as you see fit

May 10, 2005:

     I am sending this statement because of the angry statements made against Mr. Bluejay (whom I've never met) and others who speak about the death of Eli Siegel. It is all well and good to pretty things up 25 years after the fact, but it doesn't change what occurred at the time, and no amount of denial can lessen the anger and torment that festered within the "student body" of AR at the time.

      I was present for much of the period prior to Eli Siegel's death. The idea for his suicide was talked about long and hard among students as we met in the home where he resided after his operation and up to his death. We fought bitterly; there was a faction who felt he should go ahead with it and then a larger faction who couldn't make sense of his desire to die. I was part of the latter. People left Aesthetic Realism because in what seemed like an about-face, those closest to Siegel finally agreed that suicide was the proper option. It was a horrible time for people who really believed in his philosophy.

      And Eli Siegel is not the only person involved with AR who ended his life. There were others, and there was at least one person I know who was encouraged to commit suicide because of a terminal cancer. Since contempt was seen as the cause of all illness, it was seen as more contemptuous for her to remain alive. This person was ostracized when she would not go along with this. Only a very few people were allowed to attend her funeral. She was a lovely woman and deserved so much more.

      It's a shame that AR pretends that this period did not happen. Of course, I am not in a position to say what is going on now. What I do know is that even with the valuable tools for living I heard about during my "study," I am so grateful that I got out when I did. I have never once regretted my decision. It is a shame what the present regime is doing to a philosophy of value, but it only goes to affirm my decision made in 1980.

August 2008:

I did an Internet search in a moment of morbid curiosity and I found all this fuss over Eli Siegel's death.   There isn't any question: He killed himself.  I heard this directly from Ellen Reiss, the person who became Aesthetic Realism's "class chairman".

[One day, Siegel's] widow, Martha Baird began reading a letter she had written to the consultants and consultants-in-training.  She began weeping and passed the letter to Reiss, to read the bulk of it aloud.  The letter said, in no uncertain terms that Siegel had taken his life through "pills designed for sleep."  (Followers, even Siegel's own wife, often imitated his peculiar writing style.  Heaven forbid she would just say "sleeping pills".)  (more...)

March 21, 2010, by Hal Lanse, Ph.D.

I'm an AR survivor.  I want to comment on your report of AR's letter writing campaign against New York Magazine.  Such campaigns were common in the days when I was young, shame-based and suckered into the cult.  I thought I'd add some additional information I believe the public should know.

There was a letter writing campaign against the surgeon who operated on Eli Siegel.  Siegel's procedure was for prostate cancer.  Later, he claimed that "something went wrong" in the operation and he could no longer feel his feet when he walked.  Since my mother now suffers from neuropathy, I've recently learned of this fairly common disorder.  It's possible that this is what ailed Siegel. 

The AR leaders didn't see the problem as a common disorder.  One of them declared in a closed-to-the-public meeting (I was there) that the doctor didn't understand that there was a "different relation of mind and body" in Siegel than in the rest of humanity.  There were heated discussions in AR classes about Siegel's need to walk because his feet and mind were connected.  Given this line of logic it would follow that his feet and prostate were connected, too.  At the time, the weirdness of it all was lost on me.

And of course there was the usual AR paranoia:  People were out to get Siegel because they hated their respect for him.   The doctor's hatred of his great respect for Siegel (so the AR myth goes) caused him to botch the surgery.  I look back with amazement that I bought into all of this crap.  Many members did.

A letter writing campaign ensued.  AR insiders had to sign up for a mailing date.  The campaign was organized this way to ensure that the doctor received a new letter every day.  Later, we were encouraged to write to other medical people, many of whom had no connection to the case.  We were encouraged to demand that these medical people contact Siegel's surgeon and demand he "tell the truth" about the operation.

Looking back, I realize that the poor surgeon could have launched a libel suit against each member who wrote to another doctor.

Share your Aesthetic Realism story!

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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.

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...

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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What former members say...

They reeled me in like a brook trout... Guilt was introduced into the experience. They told me I was "not showing respect for this great education I was receiving" by [not getting more involved].

If there is anything the Aesthetic Realists are good at, it is convincing people that if they think they see anything wrong with Siegel, AR, Reiss or how the organization is run, there is really something wrong with them. Any time I began to question things or think I saw something amiss, I had been programmed to think that what it really meant was that something was terribly wrong with me.

My new AR friends were starting to apply the hard sell a bit more so the word "cult" did come to mind , but I naïvely believed that it couldn't be a cult because it wasn't religious in nature.

They get you to actually control yourself. A lot of people's lives have been hurt --ruined.

So, there was Eli Siegel, who came up with all these rules, but to whom none of the rules applied, and there was everybody else.

[Eli Siegel] was a hurtful person. He was a sociopath. He was a control freak, and he was a cult leader.

Poor John then would be the subject of an onslaught of criticism to help him see his own contempt for Eli Siegel.... This is merely one example of the way people were controlled and humiliated if they stepped out of line or didn't conform to accepted behavior.

We all had to present ourselves as essentially miserable failures whose lives were in shambles until we found the glorious "answers to all our questions" in AR.

It was very difficult for me to surrender to AR in the total fashion they seemed to want.

I received a call from one of the AR bigwigs asking me to donate money to the foundation.  When I told him I was low on cash I received a considerable verbal drubbing.

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.

I felt a bit raped psychologically.... if you are thinking of getting into the AR consultation process, realize that they could end it all suddenly, and that you could find your most intimate thoughts on tape in someone else's possession.

They flatter you to death and tell you that you're so wonderful, and you have all these qualities that others have never seen. And then there's this horrible criticizing.

That's when I finally knew for sure: AESTHETIC REALISM IS A CULT.  I swore on that moment that if I was ever given the opportunity to tell the world what these people did to me, I would.

When I left I was definitely shunned by other students. I would meet people in the NYC streets -as I still do to this day - and they would turn the other way to avoid me, or some even made derogatory comments about me.

[New AR students] would be shocked if they knew that the lives of the people they are supposed to learn from are very different from the principles they are taught in consultations. Even though publicly the AR foundation preaches respect for people and like of the world, inside the organization the message is very different. The underlying feeling is, "People who do not study AR are inferior to us, and the world is our enemy, out to get us." We had contempt for outsiders and were scared of the world. We huddled together for safety, secure in our sense of superiority.

When I was studying, we were allowed to associate with our families only if they continuously demonstrated that they were grateful to and respectful of Eli Siegel and AR. This did not include going to visit them if they lived far away because then we would have had to miss classes, and that would have meant we were "making our family more important than AR."

Some of the students I remember going at most intensely and viciously to stop them from associating with their families, (and whom we succeeded in stopping for many, many years), are people who are now bragging on the AR website about how great their relationships with their families are and writing as though that was always the case.

There were even instances of students refusing to visit their parents when one of them was dying because the parents did not "express regret" and renounce their unfairness to Eli Siegel and AR. There were parents who literally begged their son or daughter to relent so they could see them one more time, but the child refused. The parent died without ever seeing their child again. Far from being criticized for such behavior, students who went this far were seen as heroes in AR. They received public praise from Ellen Reiss.

While I was in AR, I did believe that Eli Siegel was greater than Christ.... It would have been accurate to say I worshipped him.

People were told that if their families did not support aesthetic realism, they were not their families.

Some of the people with statements on the Countering the Lies website claiming that AR students do not shun former students have actually passed me on the street, looked straight at me, and pretended they were seeing right through me. This includes people in the highest positions in the organization.

More and more the AR zombies demanded that I express gratitude to ES and AR. Every paper that a student wrote had to end with the obligatory "I am so grateful to ES and AR for..." along with "I deeply regret that I have met this great knowledge with contempt..."

Eli Siegel was an evil person. And I don't use the word evil lightly.

See former members' statements in their entirety


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This page last updated in June 2011

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Photo of Eli Siegel's gravestone from Find A Grave