The Horrors Of Sycophancy And Extreme Devotion

Keith Raniere, cult leader

By Theodore Shoebat

Thank you, Incredulity, for dissipating Favoritism, for overthrowing Sycophancy who reigns as king in the throne of collective consciousness. It is under the reign of Sycophancy where boundaries are broken, where intuition is fettered by societal pressure, where evils are pushed while being seen as “tests.” A great example of sycophancy and cultish ceverence’s reign of terror is NXIVM, a self-help group that was touted as a place of enlightenment and psychological awakening while, in reality, it was nothing more than a cult of slavery. It began with the elevation of a man — Keith Raniere — for his intelligence. He was praised by his admirers for being the smartest man in the world. Their evidence was an IQ test developed by Ronald K. Hoeflin. It was said that he got an unusually high score on the test. But the reality was that his team of followers helped him take the test. Moreover, Raniere negotiated with Hoeflin to alter the scoring system, which placed Raniere on a freakishly high IQ score. A newspaper called the Times Union did an article about Raniere back in 1988 regarding his intelligence. “By the time he was 16, the Brooklyn-born genius exhausted the curriculum at his high school,” read the paper.

When he was running a pyramid scheme, to when he was leading a controlling self-help cult, Keith Raniere marketed himself as a super-genius. The website for his cult, NXIVM, presented Raniere as having been an East Coast Judo champion by the age of twelve, and that he had been “noted as one of the top three problem-solvers in the world”. But the aura of genius was a cloud of smoke. Transcripts from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where Raniere graduated high school, show that he graduated with a 2.26 grade point average, the equivalent to a C+. During his trial, the jury was shown how in 1988 (the year that article praising him was published) Raniere was placed on academic probation and faced academic dismissal. The reality was not that Raniere was this super bright youth, but that even at a young age he was apt to using blackmail to control people.

When he was in elementary school, there was a fifth-grade girl who walked in on her older sister having sex, but because she was so young she did not understand what was happening and was having difficulty processing it. Raniere, learning of this, brought this up with the girl throughout the school year, reminding her that he could expose her secret at any time. He threatened the girl by telling her that he would tell her parents and sister about what she saw. It was thus at a young age that Raniere learned the use of blackmail to instill fear in people. It was this use of blackmail that Raniere would utilize to control his followers, the very followers that had at one point seen him as either superhuman or near divine. Hypnotism and reincarnation played a role in his cult. Raniere studied neuro-lingustic programming (a form of hypnotism) and believed that he could control people in this way. His cult would demand its members to confess their darkest secrets, or whatever made them feel shame, as a way of expressing “trust” in Raniere. The reality was that this was simply a way to gain info that Raniere could then use to blackmail people to do what he wanted. He would have his female followers branded like cattle, literally having his initials burned onto their flesh. If they expressed any resistance to this, they would get threatened with blackmail.

He would also dazzle his female followers by telling them that they were something incredibly special in some former life. For example, Raniere had convinced Gina Hutchinson that she had been a Buddhist goddess in her former life. In 2002, after her mother died, Gina’s mental state broke down and, according to a police report, she had sent “personal articles and letters to family members that stated if something were to happen to her, not to worry, and that the Buddha would take care of her.” Police would find Gina’s Toyota Tercel next to a Buddhist monastery in Woodstock, New York. They then found a small flashlight on the ground, and then they spotted Gina’s body, lying at the edge of a pond. She died on October 11, 2002, from a gunshot wound. Her death was ruled a suicide. Before her death, Gina gave away most of her inheritance to Keith Raniere. “I’m sure Gina died thinking Kieth was a genius,” said her sister, Heidi.

The wolf comes with his teeth, and the sheep flock to him. When Raniere was running his pyramid scheme, called “Consumers’ Buyline, he would seek to recruit influential people to become members (his company profited from membership, hence why it was a pyramid scheme) so that their followers would get lured in and bite the bait. According to Toni Natalie (one of Raniere’s girlfriends who helped him with his schemes), all it took was for the wife of an influential pastor to join and “her entire flock followed … Keith well knew how a single convert, if sufficiently rich and prominent, could underwrite his entire business.” Eventually dozens of states caught up to Raniere’s scheme and the whole pyramid operation was shutdown.

There are cults that come with a Christian face, but then there are cults that talk about “marketing” when really their ways are abuse. For example, there was a marketing cult founded in the sixties called “Holiday Magic” founded by William Pen Patrick. Members were pressured to join seminars where they were punished for little things with beatings, mock-crucifixion and being put in coffins to instill terror. This marketing cult was shutdown in 1973. After Raniere’s cult was shutdown, he claimed victimhood, telling his sycophants that he was being persecuted. Collective denial of evil leads to collective victimhood, because the true victimizers collectively see themselves as being persecuted, when the reality is that they are merely facing justice for their crimes. Collective victimhood leads to collective evil, because the wicked who see themselves as victims, in turn, see themselves as justified to commit evil.

Raniere forgot about the marketing cult business and made himself into a self-help cult leader. This cult was called NXIVM. When a leader of this cult walked into a room, the followers had to strand up in respect. It was a religion, but the people following it thought of it as a way to self-empowerment. They had to address Raniere as “Vanguard” and in their sessions they had to say “Thank you, Vanguard.” Women in the cult, of course, were manipulated into thinking that they were something very special, and this was a strategy by Raniere to seduce them to sex. After Toni Natalie left the cult, another female member named Kristin Keeffe showed up at her job and spent five hours trying to pressure her to rejoin by telling coworkers that she was the “chosen one.” “She was telling people I was the chosen one, I had to come back to him,” Natalie recounted. At another instance, Keeffe arrived at Natalie’s home and gave her an image of a mother and child and told her: “I had a vision that you changed your mind and you’re coming back to us”.

Raniere posed as a self-help speaker, but the reality was that he was running a sex cult. He taught that to have sex with him was a way to absorb his “energy.” He told one of his female followers that he needed constant sex or else he would die from the influx of “energy.” In an interview with CBC, Bouchey recounted the teaching on sex which was connected with the Hindu idea of “kundalini”: “If you have sex, you can move what’s called kundalini energy”. In a letter to a judge, Toni Natalie stated that she was repeatedly raped by Raniere. “Prior to leaving him in 1999,” wrote Natalie, “I was raped repeatedly by Raniere, each time with him telling me it was harder on him than it was on me, that we needed to be together so that I could share his energy, and that I needed to remain silent so as to not wake up my child who was sleeping in a nearby room.” Raniere taught what he called “primitive hypothesis,” which was that men are designed to “spread their seed” (in the words of former member Sarah Edmondson) and that women had to remain monogamous (to Raniere, of course). Its like a cult leader who says he needs to ‘spread the seed of Abraham’ by being a polygamist, only in this case its a self-help cult.

Raniere would tell Barbara Bouchey, a recruiter for NXIVM, that he could feel her mood swings, even when they were far apart, because they both had past lives and that they had been reincarnated in their current bodies to resolve whatever took place in their previous existences. Raniere even told Bouchey that she was Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich, one of the orchestrators of the Holocaust. The disturbing thing is that she actually believed him. Another female sycophant, Nancy Salzman (who is Jewish) was even told that she may have been Hitler reincarnate.

Like Joseph Smith and Muhammad before him, Raniere had multiple women who, in their fanaticism for their leader, called themselves “spiritual wives”. But these women were called slaves by Raniere. When a very wealthy woman named Clare Bronfman asked Raniere for advice on how she could use her money to better the world, Raniere said that he could help but only if she agreed to be his “slave for eternity”. Clare obliged and became one of Raniere’s biggest fanatics, even going so far as to run to him, kiss him and sit at his feet. Raniere called another one of his women (named Camila) his “slave” and she even went shopping to pick out a “slave necklace”. Women were even branded like cattle, having the initials of Raniere burned onto their flesh. “Branded like cattle?” asked Camila. “You want to burn me?” “You don’t want to burn for me?” Raniere responded. Such was a case of extreme sycophancy.

The cult would celebrate Raniere’s birthday for one week, an event called V-week (V for “Vanguard,” one of the titles of Raniere), In late 2003, the cult used a training center at a YMCA on the mouth of Silver Bay to have the celebration and marketed it as a “celebration of the human potential to live a noble existence and to participate in a joyous interdependent civilization”. Behind all of this drivel, was a sex cult. The group was also very apocalyptic. Raniere taught that if humanity did not accept his teachings soon enough that the world would end in the next ten to fifteen years. Of course such five-minutes-to-midnight hysteria was a way to get people to urgently recruit more followers, especially women.

The women in Raniere’s circle were referred to as slaves. One of them, named Daniela, was actually held like a prisoner in a room for twenty-three months as punishment for losing feelings for the guru. Similar to Joseph Smith, Raniere taught that boyfriends and husbands were hindrances to ‘success,’ (really, they were in the way of Raniere). The cult presented itself as one that would bring true ethics to the world, but it represented anything but ethics. It came with the face of morality, but pursued to break the very morals it claimed to uphold. For example, Raniere would hack into the email accounts of those he perceived as his enemies, especially Edgar Bronfman, the billionaire who tried to convince (without success) his two daughters — Clare and Sara — to leave the cult.

Raniere asked Daniela to be his hacker because she taught herself coding. When Daniela challenged this request by arguing that the cult was about ethics, Raniere replied that morals at times needed to be violated to beat the enemy. “So we’re going to have to break some rules,” he said. It goes without saying that Raniere had a superiority complex, and this was reflected in his own eugenic teachings. When he got female followers pregnant, he would pressure them to have abortions. At the same time, women were encouraged to get impregnated by Raniere to preserve his seed. As Sarah Berman writes: “Talking points at some meetings raised eugenicist ideas about prioritizing the genetically fittest mate — Raniere naturally being the smartest, most evolved example on everyone’s mind.” But this was a way to encourage women to have intercourse with Raniere, since he would simply pressure them to have abortions after getting pregnant. After one woman, Daniela, had an abortion, Raniere told her that abortion was a great way to lose weight. Daniela recalled: “I remember just a few days after, we were on a walk and he told me this was a great opportunity for me to lose weight and get fit.” “What do you mean?” Daniela asked. “There are Olympic athletes that get pregnant on purpose just to have abortions as part of their training”. Raniere was obsessed with his women being thin, and would make sure that they all had calorie deficits, eating only hundreds of calories a day.

Raniere’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, admitted that “There are a lot of abortions in this case,” and said that there were a number of abortions done against the wishes of the pregnant women. While abortion was a de facto form of birth control, Raniere also had an idea of raising a perfect child. He created a children’s teaching program called the “Rainbow Cultural Garden,” in which a child would be babysat by multiple people, each one speaking a different language. The purpose of this was to make a multilingual child. The idea behind this teaching program was that by learning different languages, the child’s mind would be more expanded and have a higher IQ. In the words of Sarah Berman: “Here was proof that they were literally breeding a new, more evolved generation that would speak more languages, live according to higher principles, and score higher on intelligence tests.”

One of the most bizarre and disturbing things in this cult was its acting class. Aspiring actors (the cult always strived to recruit to famous people) were told that they needed to be willing to act out anything, no matter how evil, or else they were still dealing with internal issues. One former member (who went by Amy) remembered: “We spent a whole day on how you should be able to rape a baby… So put yourself in a place where you could identify with a pedophile who rapes babies. If you can’t, it means something is ‘in the box,’ it’s because you know that trait well, meaning you have that trait within you.” This was classic manipulation. If you aren’t willing to do something deviant, you must be a secret deviant yourself. It was a way to pressure people into doing things they didn’t want to do, since if they refused they would be accused of the very thing they are repulsed by.

The story of Raniere’s cult is the story of dangerous devotion, the witnessing of evil and letting it slide only because the perpetrator is the one you adore.