NXIVM (pronounced neks-ee-em) is something of an anomaly within modern American culture. This defunct self-help/business/pro-female organization had become something unimaginable. On the surface, the organization helped females to develop their self-esteem and to become leaders within their chosen fields. Beneath the surface (and behind closed doors) NXIVM was a very strange operation.
Thousands of women were being exploited, manipulated, and abused. The strange and puzzling thing about this organization is that women agreed to the mistreatment they were receiving. Even in the generation of the MeToo movement, NXIVM and its practices were being tolerated and accepted.
This whole organization was puzzling and a contradiction. The information presented here will explain what the NXIVM cult brand was and how its leader was able to bring it into existence. It will also attempt to describe how this bizarre pro-women organization was able to harm women while trying to improve their lives.
A Quick Overview of NXIVM
NXIVM stands for something that no one has been able to figure out to this day. Honestly, the cult/business/self-help organization’s leader probably doesn’t even know (or remember) why he named it NXIVM. This entity was created in 1998 and it was originally called Executive Success Program. The program was co-founded with a woman by the name of Nancy Salzman.
The purpose of the organization was to foster personal development and self-improvement. It was aimed primarily at women, but men had also joined. The philosophies, doctrine, and rules that were used to run the organization was taken from an author and philosopher by the name of Ayn Rand. We’ll go into further detail about Nancy Salzman and Ayn Rand later in the article.
Why was NXIVM a controversial organization?
NXIVM was so controversial because of a man by the name of Keith Raniere. He was the primary founder and leader of the organization even though he co-founded it with Salzman. Raniere turned the organization into his personal recruiting ground for sex slaves. NXIVM was also a pyramid scheme that posed as a cult with a sex trafficking culture inside of it. This place was a very confusing and unusual. Once again, we’ll later discuss why this enterprise was so screwed up. Now, let’s turn our attention to Keith Raniere. Since he was the mastermind behind this troubling self-empowerment organization.
Keith Raniere: The Man who Created his Own Sex Cult
Keith Raniere now sits in a New York prison after being convicted of federal charges. He was convicted for sex trafficking, possession of child pornography, and racketeering. Raniere also raped multiple under aged women. This man was considered the ultimate conman who tricked women for nearly 20 years with his self-help outfit
Keith Raniere grew up in Brooklyn, New York until he was the age of 5. After he turned 5 his parents moved to Suffern New York. About 3 years later when Keith turned 8, his parents ended their marriage in divorce. He spent the remainder of his childhood between his mother’s and dad’s home. During his childhood Raniere was considered a fairly intelligent young man.
There are reliable sources that claim that Ranieire’s dad had told him that he was special because of his intellect. Instead of taking his father’s praises as a compliment; young Raniere used it a validation for something much sinister. Raniere’s father stated that Keith really believed that he was deity or that he was somehow superior to all other people. From that moment on, Raniere would live the rest of his life with the idea that he was far more superior and greater than other people. His overblown self-perspective would lay the foundation that would eventually help him to create NXIVM cult.
Another important development happened with Raniere during his formative years. When he was around 13, his parents noticed that he had a knack for talking to young girls. His mother would catch him telling these young females that they were special to him. She went on to say that he was constantly telling young girls that they held a special place in his life. However, his mother knew that he was lying and that he was wrong. Once again, this mindset that was being developed by Raniere would later be used to help him with NXIVM.
Raniere continued growing up until it was time for him to leave home. Keep in mind that he was born in 1960. When he graduated from high school it was around 1978. He then went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). He eventually graduated from this institution in 1982 with a 2.26 GPA. People who knew him stated that he wasn’t as intelligent as he made himself out to be. However, Raniere did have skills that was very well-developed. He was an excellent manipulator, and he knew how to deceive people.
After Raniere graduated from school he got involved with Buddhism. He also started his own company called Consumers Byline. Raniere was around 24 when he started to date two teenage girls named Gina. One of the Gina’s actually dropped out of school and followed Raniere around. She worked at his business and tried to maintain a relationship with him. However, this did not work out. She was eventually found dead at a Buddhist monastery in the Woodstock, New York area. Her death was reported as a suicide.
Gina’s and Raniere’s story relationship began in the early 80’s and lasted until 2002. However, it would seem that she and Raniere split apart during that time. Here is another point worth noting. In a later interview with Gina’s sister, Heidi, the young lady reported that Raniere took advantage of her because she was a Mormon and a virgin. She also went on to say that Raniere told her sister (and other girls in the Albany area) that he was the devil. They broke up for a long time until XNIVM was formed. That’s when the two got back together shortly before her death.
Apparently, Raniere was using the girl’s religious beliefs against her to manipulate her sexually. So, she was around when Raniere first started NXIVM but they might not have been involved with each. Also, Gina’s part in the story becomes more complex and confusing because her sister states that she was flying to India contemplating suicide at Raniere’s (the devil’s) request. Heidi also said that Raniere was using her sister to set up some type of meeting with Dalai Lama at the time. The Dalai Lama is the highest ranked spiritual leader in Tibet. Like I said, the story just kind of gets confusing and very bizarre at this point.
Meanwhile, Raniere continued living life. He carried on with the idea of being a genius and highly intelligent spiritual being. Reaniere took highly prized IQ tests to validate his mental powers. He stated that he read Isaac Asimov’s book about mind control called Second Foundation. He supposedly had read this material at age 12. Truthfully, with his ability to manipulate and coerce people later in life, he was probably telling the truth. Again, Raniere always pushed the idea of being a master genius who could easily control people.
Amway is a popular multilevel marketing firm that has been around since 1959. Raniere was employed at this company throughout the 80’s. Apparently it had a big impact on him. Many people who knew during the time later reported that he was really hooked on the organization. Apparently, the company influenced Raniere to eventually start his own multilevel marketing firm.
Raniere also liked Scientology and neuro-linguistic programming. Both these things really appealed to Raniere. Scientology can be classified as a religion or even as a therapy practice. Neuro-linguistic programming focuses on a person’s ability to communicate through their mind and to manipulate others through this process. Once again, this type of mental activity appealed to Raniere who seemed to have a knack for this type of thought process.
Raniere stayed immersed in these things. He was knowledgeable about computers because sources point out that he was able to land a job as a computer programmer for the New York Division of Parole. By the time the 90’s rolled around, Raniere created Consumers Byline. During the 1990’s he was romantically linked to Toni Natalie who was a worker at his company. She ended up with Raniere after leaving her husband.
Raniere’s business failed by 1993. At least 20 states recognized the organization as a pyramid scheme. By 1996 Raniere was no longer allowed to create any type of business that would involve this type of business practice. He also had to pay a 40,000 fine. Raniere started another business with Natalie but it too failed by 1999. They both opened up a health store during the late 90’s.
How NXIVM came into Existence
Toni Natalie met a nurse who was a hypnotist. They met in 1998. The nurse’s name was Nancy Salzman. Raniere and Salzman met and they decided to create a company called Executive Success Programs which they dubbed as self-improvement organization. Over the next few years, they changed the name of the company to NXIVM. Remember that Ayn Rand influenced Raniere how to run this organization.
As a side note Ayn Rand was noted for starting a philosophy called objectivism. This philosophy basically states the belief that certain things, especially moral truths, exist independently of human knowledge or perception of them. Raniere applied this philosophy to his organization and things that went on in them. Rand’s philosophy, Salzman’s hypnotic practices, Isaac Asminov’s ideology, manipulation techniques and mind control techniques and Raniere’s super intelligence was used to form the tenants of NXIVM. Again, this place was very confusing in how it was operated and what its main purpose.
An Important Intermission to Help this Story Makes Sense
At this point the story gets more involved, intertwined, complex and confusing. Remember, NXIVM took place over a 20-year period. There was too much going on within this organization during those two decades. Everything cannot be addressed in this article. However, we can touch off on the important points of NXIVM that lead to the organization’s downfall and to the arrest of Rainer.
Things that Happened in NXIVM between 2003 and 2005
NXIVM was starting to gain popularity with lots of people. Many unsuspecting people did not realize what was Salzman’s and Raniere’s real intentions with the organization. Once people started to join, they began to realize that something wasn’t right. In 2003 Forbes featured a story that claimed that the organization was a cult. This is the time period when eyebrows were being raised by many people. A teenager who was only 15 (in 2005) was raped by Raniere during this time. Her name is Camila, and she was considered Raniere’s first sex slave. Raniere was also making commodities trades in some of his client’s name. This too raised concern about the company’s practices. This also made people concerned because hundreds of millions of dollars were traded by Raniere. This was around the time when Raniere started the DOS or his personal sex cult inside of NXIVM.
NXIVM 2005 to 2009
Raniere continues to recruit more people despite the bad press and bad publicity. People are now being recruited by various members. Some famous people such as Sarah Edmonson joins the organization. Edmonson is known for her role on Stargate SG-1. She was deeply involved in NXIVM and left in 2017. She was a whistle blower on the organization.
During this time Raniere’s practices started to grow out of control. He created the DOS which was a personal branch of NXVIM. This part of the organization was Raniere’s sex cult. Reportedly, females recruited other females to sexually serve Raniere. The women would also receive his branded initials on their genitalia.
The Dalai Lama was also involved with Raniere during this time. He apparently wrote books with Raniere and supposedly got involved with some sexual relations with Raniere’s clients. This was something that a Dalai Lama was not supposed to do.
NXIVM 2010 to 2015
A lot of things took place in NXIVM between 2010 and 2015. Members were being beaten with paddles if they did not bring in new women for Raniere. NXIVM celebrity members such as Allison Mack, Kristen Kreuk, and Nicki Cline started to join at this time. Keep in mind that this organization had attracted many influential business and social figures.
Allison Mack was considered Raniere’s second in command. This former Smallville star was a die-hard member of NXIVM and she loved to serve Raniere’s cult. During this time many people started to come forward and began to testify that Ranier had repeatedly raped them, locked people into rooms for years, and that he was using his female clients for sex and funding for his gambling problems. The NXIVM Nine were former members of the organization and they left telling everyone about the bad things that were going on there. This place around 2010. However, the organization continued to operate.
NXIVM Between 2016 – 2020
NXIVM was headed on a downward decline by 2020. Raniere’s shady practices were starting to catch up with him. In 2015, the organization was involved in lawsuits with different organizations. This aspect of the company really began to become a problem in 2016 and beyond. By 2017 people were coming forward about DOS and Raniere’s sexual slavery. Women were starting to come forward revealing that they have been branded. Other things were happening as well. By 2018, Raniere had fled the country to Mexico.
The FBI had built a case against NXIVM by 2018. In March 2018 he was picked up in Mexico. He remained in jail until his trial began in 2019. He was found guilty and convicted of various federal charges. In October 2020 he was sentenced to jail for 120 years. Allison Mack is in jail awaiting her sentence. Nancy Salzman is also sitting jail awaiting sentencing. Other key members of the organization have also been prosecuted.
The Problem with NXIVM
NXIVM is a very strange tale because it produced a culture of rape, abuse, and degradation for about 20 years. This is an extremely long time for people to be caught up inside of a fake business like NXIVM. Some people who joined the organization knew that things were off. However, they chose to stay and continue with what was happening.
What’s even more confusing and bizarre is how Raniere was able to deceive so many people all at once. Some of the main leaders in this group were television stars. People would think that famous celebrities would not get caught up in something like this. Even if a person has someone manipulating them for many years; it’s highly unlikely that they would not have people around who could spot a fraud. This cult’s leader was able to take advantage of people and it was almost as if they complied. Actually, they seemed to ignore what was being done.
One of Raniere’s early lovers stated that he had the ability to make his women see blue lights after they had sex. The woman confessed to this happening. This individual had won a Ms. Michigan beauty pageant in the 90’s. She wasn’t a simple-minded person. Still, the fact that she said that she literally saw a blue light after she had sex with Raniere is troubling.
This brings up another point. Raniere probably does have the power of persuasion and mind control like he asserts. Some trusted sources claim that he continues to have his female slaves visit him jail while dancing for him. Again, this is very odd because most people will realize when someone like Raniere was bad news and let go of that individual.
NXIVM is nothing new in terms of its cultic identity. However, what sets it apart from the Jim Jones situation in the 70’s and the Branch Dividians of the 90’s is the length of time that it was operation. Most modern cultic organizations with thousands upon thousands of members simply do not last throughout the years. The culture of NXIVM had to be tightly regulated and controlled by Raniere and his cronies. If it wasn’t there is no way that this corrupt operation would have lasted so long.
There were too many people joining the organization and then leaving it. There were also many people staying inside of the group regardless of what was happening. Again, some of these people had to be really dedicated to what was going on for it to last that long. There were reports that Raniere would blackmail females by acquiring nude photos and videos of the women and by isolating people from their family and social networks. Still, most people have family and/or friends who care about them enough to check on them within a 20-year time frame. Also, a lot of people move on from bad things and situations over the course of 20 years.
Ultimately, the story of NXIVM is very bizarre and it is literally an extension of Keith Ranier’s mind and he live his life. For whatever reasons he was able to capture people’s hearts and minds and turn some of them into slaves and others into his servants. While this is highly unusual for most people to achieve, Raniere was able to pull it off. The NXIVM cult has left many people abused and it cost a lot of people their self-respect, money, and time. No one can say for sure why this organization was so successful despite its many red flags and warnings. Still, many people are glad that NXIVM is no longer in existence.