While I never took the NXIVM courses (I was however asked to write/create a module for a new class) I don’t want to dissuade anyone from taking the courses.
As for myself, I never saw much originality in it.
Although it took real intelligence to construct it.
To do so, Keith Raniere studied several models.
He studied multilevel marketing, a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they generate, but also for the sales of salespeople they recruit.
He studied est/Landmark, a company offering personal development programs, which uses theories formulated by Werner Erhard, author of the est (Erhard Seminars Training).
Raniere studied Scientology, a body of beliefs and practices created by L. Ron Hubbard, as an alternative to psychiatry and as a religion with its own terminology, doctrines, the E-meter, and the practice of auditing.
Raniere studied Neurolinguistic Programming, an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder which claim a connection between neurological processes, language and behavioral patterns learned through experience and that these can be changed to achieve goals in life.
By “modeling” skills of exceptional people, one can treat problems such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, myopia, allergy, common cold, and learning disorders.
Raniere synthesized these into a brilliant scheme called NXIVM to train people who felt inadequate and frightened by life and in return to send money and sex partners to Albany for his delectation.
The courses I can say little about.
I chose not to take them.
The challenge I have with Raniere is that he is thin skinned, and willing to use the Bronfman money to punish any slights.
There is a lot in the NXIVM program that is cultish, and there are a plethora of preemptive defenses against outsiders pointing out the cultish aspects.
Are there some NXIVM people who have benefited from the lower levels?
Maybe but I did not see it.
What I saw was that the more classes they took, the less capable they were of functioning in the world, but the more obedient they were to the cult of Raniere/Salzman.
There was, I noted, an inability to focus that usually led to a disconnect at crucial times, almost as if the NXIVM student was programmed to be a good ‘worker bee’ but before they could gain the independence needed to accomplish tasks which required strength, they had a tendency to disconnect.
Following through on any tenuous project seemed difficult or impossible.
That is why NXIVM needed so many outside consultants since their own members were deficient in meaningful business and worldly matters that required subtly and perseverance.
Most could work only under careful supervision.
The women that Raniere bedded seemed to fare a little better than those he did not. I suppose they got to see a different side of Raniere and were more relaxed about their slavery to him.
Those women who were not attractive, or too old to be considered for the Raniere boudoir and the eunuchs/male members seemed to hold Raniere in the same kind of veneration that an acolyte holds his unseen God.
As I contemplate my time there, I have come to believe that Nancy Salzman is not a bad person. Were she out of Raniere’s shadow she might be a very good person indeed.
In any event I think she has made NXIVM less destructive than it otherwise would have been.
Somewhere along the line, Raniere convinced her that she could do more good (and make much better money) by helping him with NXIVM than she could with her private therapy practice.
One of my goals is to persuade members to resist Raniere’s vindictive instincts, or to leave.
Another is to make potential recruits aware of the dark side of the top of the organization. Especially the very top.