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NXIVM and Other Cults

August 29, 2021

Keith Raniere as per Government Exhibit GX-46 in US v. Raniere, Source, Author US District Court, EDNY (PD as work product of federal govt.)

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 [1].

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 [3].  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 over 2 weeks.

Loyalty to NXIVM was emphasized over loyalty to family.  The manner of 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.  The cult leaders Jim Jones and Charles Manson, also, used “love bombing” – excessive displays of attention and affection intended to overwhelm [5].

6.  Special access to a charismatic leader is not a sign of love.

NXIVM members vied for access to Keith Raniere, a fact he relished.

7.  Lies do not become truth merely because they are enunciated by a charismatic leader.

“Also, everyone who claims victimhood is an abuser and every abuser is a type of victim.

-One of the many lies by Keith Raniere [2E]

NXIVM – and particularly the women’s group known as DOS (“Dominus Obsequious Sororium” or master over slave women) – was portrayed as empowering to women.

In fact, it was the opposite.  Women were taught to ignore their instinct for self-preservation; to debase themselves and one another.

8.  A charismatic leader may lead an abusive personal life.

“And the person should ask to be branded.  Should say ‘Please, brand me.  It would be an honor.’  Or something like that.”

-Keith Raniere [2F]

Keith Raniere claimed to be a celibate monk, while conducting regular sexual orgies [2G].

Relying on the damaging personal information they were required to disclose as proof of commitment, Raniere exploited member vulnerabilities.  He was known to have sexual relations with underage women.

As the world is now aware, DOS group members were branded with Raniere’s initials in their pelvic region, during a NXIVM ceremony.

9.  An “enemies” list is not a good sign.

NXIVM made implicit and explicit threats against critics [2H].  Defectors were dragged through the courts on specious claims, if they attempted to speak out.  Saddled with enormous legal bills, some were hounded into bankruptcy.

10.  Secrets do not signify superior knowledge; they simply enable abuse.

“Silence is what gives powerful people the ability to commit abuses.”

-Moira Penza, Esq., former Assistant US Attorney [2I]

Ultimately, Keith Raniere was convicted of racketeering, sex trafficking, wire fraud, and forced labor [6].  He was sentenced to 120 years by the Brooklyn federal court in the Eastern District of New York.

500 Cults

But the danger has not passed.  According to the Watchman Fellowship, there are over 500 cults in the world today [7] .

All idols have feet of clay.  It is vital that we remember man is not God.  Until we do, we will continue to be deceived.

[1]  History, “5 20th Century Cult Leaders”, 2/19/20,

[2A through 2I]  NBC, American Greed, “Nightmare at NXIVM”, Season 14, Episode, 2,

[3]  ET, “NXIVM:  Allison Mack, Grace Park and Other Actors Recruited by the Cult” by Stacy Lambe, 10/19/20,

[4]  Yahoo, “Actress Sarah Edmondson recalls being branded in ‘horrific’ NXIVM sex cult ritual and the ‘smoky flesh burning’ smell” by Suzy Byrne, 9/17/19,

[5]  Healthline, “Love Bombing:  10 Signs of Over-the-Top Love” by Cindy Lamothe (medically reviewed by Janet Brito, PhD), 12/16/19,

[6]  US Dept. of Justice, “NXIVM Leader Keith Raniere Sentenced  to 120 Years in Prison for Racketeering and Sex Trafficking Offenses”, 10/27/20,

[7]  Watchman Fellowship, “Index of Cults and Religions”,

Please, pray for Afghanistan and the American troops there.


  1. I have not heard of this repulsive exploiter before. You provide a sage warning for the future as surely another will come, one day 😦

  2. Your last sentence says it all, in a way, Anna.

    And then there are the subtler controls of a denomination, senior Pastor, or elders who were ‘foundation members’ 40 years ago or even demanding congregations/members who expect the impossible.

    Oh, for the functional headship of Jesus, the Chief/Good Shepherd, administered in the body through the Holy Spirit’s gentle leading and guidance. It demands biblical wisdom and an ear sensitive to ‘the still, small voice’ of the Lord.

    Thanks for alerting us to these present dangers mentioned in your post above.

    • You are so right to point out that there are Christian congregations which fall into the error of idolatry, Erroll. Thank you, as always, for stopping by. Blessings, A.

    • Allan Halton permalink

      Amen, Anna, and Amen Erroll.

  3. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, “””because they refused to love the truth””” and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

  4. I have never heard of this cult. Wow, it seems there’s all kinds of them and all over the place. No wonder the Lord warns us. Thanks for posting.

  5. I saw a Dateline type of show that featured a woman who had been branded by this group. Even after she knew the truth of this cult she still defended them.
    I suppose none of this should come as any great surprise. As long as men and women reject the lordship of Christ, they leave themselves open to such deception. As the Bible tells us:”and no wonder, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light”.

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  1. NXIVM and Other Cults – Tonya LaLonde

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