How NXIVM Seduced Hollywood Stars And America’s Most Highly effective Elite Into A Barbaric ‘Intercourse Cult’

From Esquire

In 2017, a New York Instances expose impressed a justice division investigation that took down an American multi-level advertising scheme turned ‘intercourse cult’ often called NXIVM. The group had been working for practically twenty years beneath the guise of providing self-help deprogramming to heiresses, Hollywood actors and highly effective CEOs. However, after one survivor got here ahead to the New York Instances, NXIVM had lastly been uncovered for what it was—a barbaric group that abused its members emotionally and bodily.

This Sunday at 10 p.m., The Vow premieres on HBO. It is a 9-part true-crime deep dive on the origin and downfall of NXIVM, the cult based by Keith Raniere, who served because the group’s non secular guru and chief. Raniere, who was often called “Vanguard” inside the group, based NXIVM in Albany in 1998 together with Nancy Salzman, often called the group’s “Prefect.”

HBO’s documentary is guided by interview footage from many as soon as high-ranking, inner-circle members of NXIVM. The primary episode treads calmly into the world of the group, giving an outline of the Govt Success Packages (ESPs) inside NXIVM, which individuals first entered the group by way of. The ESPs had been marketed as a set of non-public {and professional} growth programs which taught methods for members to beat their “limiting beliefs,” fears, and anxieties, and therefore understand their full potential in life. If that sounds jargon-fueled and cryptic to you, that is as a result of it’s.

However rewiring your mind to study Raniere’s “moral framework of human expertise” got here at a steep worth. The value for the primary course, a 5-day intensive, was $2700, and from 1998 by way of to 2018, over 16,000 individuals accomplished ESP programs at facilities throughout the USA, Canada, and Mexico. The “scientific” approach taught within the Govt Success Packages, trademarked as “Rational Inquiry” by Raniere, was known as a type of costly mind-control “aimed toward breaking down his topics psychologically” by forensic psychiatrist John Hochman in his 2003 analysis of the group.

Raniere was hailed as an elusive, god-like savant inside the firm. The Vow’s ex-NXIVM interview topics recount overcoming anxieties, phobias, and even witnessing friends have medical situations comparable to obsessive-compulsive dysfunction and Tourettes cured by Raniere’s methodology in Episode One. The Dalai Lama even visited Albany to commend Raniere’s moral work in Might of 2009 (after an preliminary cancelation of the go to resulting from issues surrounding the group).

Photograph credit score: Jemal Countess

The Govt Success Program had a 12-point mission assertion that was learn aloud earlier than every session started. One such level purports that “There aren’t any final victims; due to this fact, I cannot select to be a sufferer.” In gentle of Raniere’s current day conviction, this deep psychological manipulation of ESP college students from Day One in every of their enrollment feels obtrusive. However the indoctrination was refined, too: college students signed NDAs on the ESP session materials earlier than they started. In lessons, they had been acclimatized to ritualistic practices like eradicating their sneakers, carrying completely different coloured sashes to indicate their rating within the ESP multi-level universe, and standing when the next rating member entered the room. All greetings with “Vanguard” Keith Raniere included a kiss on the mouth. Extremely draining, 17-hour days alienated members from the skin world. And ESP was simply the entry level into the world of NXIVM. Excessive-ranking members of the group would reside collectively in commune-like housing, instructing lessons and periods (often with out pay, in line with the HBO testimonials of former members) on the group’s spin-off spider-like internet of cash-grabbing enterprises, comparable to a girls’s solely program entitled Jness, a males’s solely program known as Society of Protectors (SOP), and a fitness-focused program known as Exo/Eso. Celebrities, CEOs, and prosperous figures together with Smallville’s Allison Mack and Seagram heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman are among the many notable former members of the cult.

In 2003, Forbes printed a harsh profile of the Jesus-like determine that was Raniere, sowing the primary seeds of the cult allegations and darkish undercurrents coursing by way of the group. Per Forbes:

“Detractors say he runs a cult-like program aimed toward breaking down his topics psychologically, separating them from their households and inducting them right into a weird world of messianic pretensions, idiosyncratic language and ritualistic practices.”

Edgar Bronfman Sr., father of high-ranking NXIVM members Sara and Clare, is quoted within the story, stating merely that he “suppose[s] it’s a cult.” The piece detailed Raniere’s historical past of multi-level advertising fraud within the early ‘90s earlier than he based NXIVM, in addition to testimonials from members who had suffered hallucinations and psychotic episodes following grueling ESP periods. However the damning profile didn’t cease the group from persevering with to prosper till practically twenty years later.

Photograph credit score: Amy Luke

In 2017, an unique, extremely secret girls’s society inside the group, known as Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), which stands for a Latin phrase roughly translated as “lord over the obedient feminine companions,” is what lastly sparked the downfall of NXIVM. Sarah Edmondson, an actress and decades-long devoted NXIVM member, filed a criticism to the N.Y. State Division of Well being after her initiation into DOS. Per the New York Instances’ account of her expertise, the initiation required Sarah to ship bare images of herself as collateral to her “grasp,” whom she was recruited by to be a “slave,” and was accomplished with Sarah being blindfolded, held down bare on a therapeutic massage desk, and instructed to say: “Grasp, please model me, it will be an honor.” Edmondson was then branded by a cauterizing system with a small image that includes Keith Raniere’s initials close to her pelvis. The ladies in DOS had been additionally required to be on name 24 hours a day—they might be punished with hunger if they didn’t reply to a textual content from their grasp inside 60 seconds—and a number of other had been assigned to have intercourse with Raniere, as properly. The 2017 media buzz surrounding the DOS ritual is what lastly woke many members as much as the evils on the core of their group, prompting many departures and denouncements of NXIVM. Raniere fled to Mexico. However in February of 2018, a criticism was issued in federal court docket requesting an arrest warrant. Mexican authorities arrested Raniere in March and deported him again to New York.

“Vanguard” Keith Raniere was charged with varied crimes together with intercourse trafficking and compelled labor and pleaded not responsible. A number of different notable NXIVM figures together with Allison Mack and Clare Bronfman had been indicted as properly for an array of crimes together with “id theft, extortion, pressured labor, intercourse trafficking, cash laundering, wire fraud and obstruction of justice.” However Raniere’s co-defendants—the ladies who had adopted and served him faithfully for the previous twenty years—all pled responsible to sure lesser expenses (Mack
to racketeering; Clare Bronfman to visa fraud) in lieu of standing trial, and Raniere stood trial alone. In June of 2019, Raniere was convicted by a Brooklyn jury of racketeering, intercourse trafficking, pressured labor conspiracy, and wire fraud conspiracy in lower than 5 hours. Raniere faces a compulsory minimal of 15 years imprisonment and as much as life in jail, and his sentencing is ready for October 27 of this 12 months.

In January of 2020, a civil lawsuit was filed in opposition to NXIVM management by greater than 80 plaintiffs who had at one time been members of the group. Most of the plaintiffs filed beneath pseudonyms. It alleges that Raniere, Salzman, Clare and Sara Bronfman, and Allison Mack, amongst others, conspired to systemically abuse, manipulate, and extort members of the group. The civil lawsuit has been stayed pending “closing adjudication” and sentencing within the authorities’s felony case in opposition to Raniere. No defendant within the civil case has but filed responses to the allegations in that case.

The primary episode of HBO’s The Vow simply begins to scratch the floor of the darkish underworld of NXIVM. The 9-part collection is bound to enlarge our Sunday Scaries for the upcoming weeks because it dives deeper into the unusual rituals and twisted methodology of the cult-like group.

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