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Founded by Keith Raniere in 1998, what started off as a multi-level marketing scheme quickly turned into a dark & twisted sex-trafficking cult. Accompanied by his minions and second in command, Nancy Salzman, this “personal and professional development” brand had the backing of many influential and affluent individuals before it met its untimely demise.

Born on August 26, 1960 Keith Raniere is a Brooklyn New York native. From the get go, Raniere used his “extreme intelligence” to his benefit. He became a member of the Mega Society, a high IQ society. Could this be one of the reasons why people were so persuaded and manipulated by Raniere?


He started his Multi Level Marketing (MLM) career early on in the 1980s starting off with Amway. This quickly led to Raniere creating his own MLM company titled Consumers’ Byline Inc. Less than 20 years later, Raniere and Salzman were on the fast track to creating NXIVM.

The year was 1998. Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman were gearing up to launch their “Executive Success Programs” (ESP). These programs were targeted to those whose “main emphasis is to have people experience more joy in their lives”. 

These costly seminars were offered in weekend bundles with the price tags in the thousands. What started off as self-improvement, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)-inspired classes attracted a large following. Many of the followers were amazed at what the ESP sessions provided and how “life-changing” these seminars seemed to be. They made you experience your biggest fears and within a few sessions you were able to miraculously overcome any fears! 

Word of mouth spread and the cult built a large following. Many of these followers were well known celebrities, like Allison Mack (Smallville) and Nicki Clyne (Battlestar Galactica). 

Once celebrities were involved, their success was guaranteed and NXIVM suddenly found itself thrust into the limelight. Many of these celebrities brought in other celebrities and they were tasked with the marketing and promotion of the cult. On the surface, this group of people seemed like well-meaning, inspiring individuals. But, under the surface level things were not as they seemed.

As previously stated, NXIVM started off centered around personal and professional development. As the cult grew in numbers, members created and joined smaller groups. One of these groups was JNESS, workshops mostly geared towards women. This group centered around one of Raniere’s main teachings that “[adherents] must accept that women and men are wired differently. Men are repressed and do not enjoy the same rich experience of existence as women, but they have an understanding of right and wrong; women can be disloyal, have tantrums and get away with whatever they prefer.” Another small group within the cult was the Society of Protectors. It was an exclusive men’s club that was essentially a support system for those involved in the group. As supportive as this group was, there was also a toxic accountability aspect of this group that would easily pit the members against each other.


But, the most sinister group had to be DOS (Dominus Obsequious Sororium). This group started off as a “sorority” but quickly turned to a slave and master situation. And that’s not the worst of it. Many of the “slaves” in this beloved sorority were LITERALLY branded. This branding ceremony was an initiation of sorts into the group. The torture didn’t stop there. The “slaves” needed to be in constant contact with their “master”. They were expected to check in with their “master’ and receive permission to eat a certain amount of calories in an extremely restrictive way. Some members were told that to move up in the DOS group and to create more of a bond in the “sisterhood” they would need to sleep with Raniere. The most powerful technique this group used to ensure by-in from their members was the collateral they asked of each member. The collateral came in forms of secret confessions or explicit pictures to ensure that the group members kept DOS’ secrets.


Are we meant to believe that no one in this cult knew what was happening, especially their fearless leader?

While not much is known about Keiths ultimate end goal, it’s safe to say he was hoping to establish his cult globally and use the DOS group as a form of manipulation to gain access to wealth and power. Who knows what he might have done had he not been stopped…

Eventually, members of NXIVM started to see past the thin veil and realize what this group truly was about. As cult members started to defect, more and more information came out of individual members’ experiences. It did not take long for this group of defects to start compiling a paper trail of all the fucked up experiences and beliefs this cult truly held. Why did it take so long for authorities to act? Part of the reason was because as claims were brought to the authorities’ attention, specifically when it came to DOS, many of the members in that group claimed that they were consenting to what was happening to them. Another reason for the delay was the fact that there was so much collateral being held against the members that many people were afraid to speak out for the fear of blackmail. 


Thanks to the tireless effort of past members, NXIVM eventually showed up on the radar of the authorities and in March 2018, Keith Raniere was arrested in Mexico.

Let’s take a look at the big players in this organization.

Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison on October 27th, 2020. His charges include: sex trafficking, racketeering and forced labour conspiracy.

Clare Bronfman, one of the main benefactors of the cult was sentenced to more than 6 years in jail.

Sarah Edmondson, a former member of the cult who was part of DOS and one of the branded members, became one of the biggest voices demanding justice for the wrongdoings. She is now living in Vancouver with her husband (an ex cult member) and her two children.

Mark Vicente and Bonnie Piesse have both left the cult. Vicente was one of Raniere’s biggest confidantes and it took his wife leaving the cult to open his eyes to the atrocities happening.

Allison Mack, Raniere’s biggest supporter and one of the main “masters” in DOS is still singing his praises. She has pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. She could face up to 40 years in jail.

Nancy Salzman, Raniere’s partner in crime and co-founder, plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy. She no longer has allegiance to Raniere and turned her back on him for a shorter sentence. Her sentencing is scheduled for July 2021.

India Oxenberg, a former member of NXIVM and DOS, has produced a docuseries about her experience in NXIVM.

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