“And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’ ” (Matt. 24: 4-5).
NXIVM is old news. Keith Raniere has joined the ranks of such infamous cult leaders as Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs, and David Koresh .
But the NXIVM phenomenon has lessons for us. Here are a few:
1. A charismatic leader may not be what he claims.
All that glitters is not gold.
Though venerated as a virtual god, Keith Raniere was originally an Amway distributor [2A]. The self-proclaimed guru and life coach called himself the “smartest man in the world” when, in fact, he had difficulty completing college.
2. The endorsement of celebrities is no guarantee of an organization’s trustworthiness.
NXIVM was supported by Seagrams heiresses, Clare and Sara Bronfman, to the tune of some $85 million [2B].
Among the celebrities who once endorsed NXIVM were actresses Allison Mack, India Oxenberg, and Sarah Edmondson . Keith Raniere even appeared with the Dalai Lama.
3. Hierarchy and ritual are no guarantees of an organization’s spirituality.
NXIVM had both.
4. Finances often reveal the true nature of an organization.
Actions speak louder than words. Lofty sounding goals are not enough.
Keith Raniere promised his followers they would change the world [2C]. Instead, Raniere’s actions confirmed his desire for sex, money, and power.
Legally, NXIVM was comprised of dozens of shell corporations, their finances dubious [2D]. Functionally, NXIVM was little more than a pyramid scheme, designed to bilk Raniere’s followers of their savings [2E].
A seemingly endless series of classes were heavily promoted. All promised self-knowledge and self-improvement, albeit at a cost. Meanwhile, members often went unpaid for their labor.
Raniere’s earlier venture, Consumer Buyline (a multi-level marketing company) was shut down in 1993 after being investigated for fraud by 20 states.
5. Excessive control is a major red flag.
There is a fine line between indoctrination and brainwashing; that line must not be crossed.
New members were introduced to NXIVM’s philosophy of “rational inquiry” at intensive, 14 hour-per-day seminars lasting more than 2 weeks.
Loyalty to NXIVM was emphasized over loyalty to family. The dress, diet, and life decisions of members were all closely regulated by NXIVM. Even the weight of members was monitored.
Other tactics employed at NXIVM included sleeplessness, isolation, starvation, corporal punishment, and coercion via blackmail. Cult leaders Jim Jones and Charles Manson, also, used “love bombing” – excessive displays of attention and affection intended to overwhelm . Continue reading