Keith Raniere’s website credits Ayn Rand as one of his heroes.
Ayn Rand helped Keith Raniere “…become who he is today,” his website modestly explains, adding “When we look at someone like Keith Raniere, his intelligence, creativity and compassion set him apart as extraordinary. But what influences does he credit as instrumental in helping him become who he is today?”
Mr. Raniere is not believed to have ever met Miss Rand.
Mr. Raniere’s webpage states: “Rand’s philosophy and written works emphasized the concepts of reason, individualism, rational self-interest, and laissez-faire capitalism. … She also believed no one has the right to take what belongs to others by physical force or fraud, or impose their moral code on others by physical force…”
If we compare her life to his, we will find that not only have her teachings influenced Mr. Raniere, but he patterned all his organizations – NXIVM, ESP, DOS J’ness and the hundreds of other companies he’s “created” – on her organization, which she called “The Collective.”
Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum was born in St. Petersburg in 1905. She moved to the USA when she was in her early 20s and used the pen name, and made public appearances as, Ayn Rand. Her two most famous works are novels, The Fountainhead  and Atlas Shrugged .
Raniere borrowed from Rand
Ms. Rand taught “Objectivism” which she defined as “Rational Self-Interest.”
Mr. Raniere tried to patent his teachings as “Rational Inquiry” – which forms the basis of his Executive Success Programs [ESP].
Miss Rand wrote, “The creator thinks, the parasite copies. The creator produces, the parasite loots.”
More than 40 years later, Mr. Raniere wrote, “Parasites take more than they give. Parasites are dependent on others for their survival. Producers give more than they take.”
Ms. Rand said, “I think I represent the proper integration of a complete human being.”
Mr. Raniere wrote “Being whole is being integrated which creates consistency in behavior.”
Ms. Rand was an atheist and opposed to Social Security and Medicare. She said, “I am against God. I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of a psychological weakness. I regard it as an evil.”
Mr. Raniere’s Rational Inquiry teaches: “We believe that there is an ethical system of conduct that is not based on religious beliefs or spiritual principles. This means that these ethics and concepts of good and bad must be independent of any religion, spiritual principles or an afterlife…. Conclusion: If ethics are religion dependent there will always be an unethical group as the enemy.”
In addition to borrowing philosophy, Mr. Raniere created an organization remarkably similar to Miss Rand’s organization that she called, “The Collective”.
Miss Rand’s organization operated officially under the name of her chief disciple Nathaniel Branden. Mr. Raniere’s organization operates under the name of Nancy Salzman, who has been given the name Prefect, although some lass-than-fully-integrated readers have now started referring to as her as “Post-fect”.
Ms. Rand was called “The Fountainhead” of her movement.
Mr. Raniere calls himself “The Vanguard” of his movement.
Following the publication of “The Fountainhead” (1943), a group of followers came to learn from Ayn Rand. One of these was Nathaniel Blumenthal, who was 25 years younger than Ayn Rand, who was married to Frank O’Connell.
Around 1955, Ms. Rand began to instruct Mr. Blumenthal through sexual teachings. She entertained the young man in her home while her cuckolded husband, Mr. O’Connell, would leave until she finished privately “teaching” Mr. Blumenthal.
Young Mr. Blumenthal changed his name to Branden, becoming Ms. Rand’s de-facto “second” husband [Branden contains the letters R-a-n-d and perhaps could be spelled in Hebrew ב ראנד ן or “In Rand.”]
Following the publication of Miss Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged'”in 1957, many new followers came seeking to learn from Ms. Rand. The Nathaniel Branden Institute [NBI] was formed in 1958 – and was the official teaching arm sanctioned by Ayn Rand for her growing number of followers.
The Institute featured membership and a course of lectures which taught Miss Rand’s method to obtain a successful life based on Rational Self-Interest.
Miss Rand’s inner circle, privately called “The Collective”. served as teachers and worked to recruit new members.
Ayn Rand lived in New York City. All of her inner circle lived nearby. Just as followers of Mr. Raniere move to Clifton Park to be near him, “Randians” would leave their parents and find an apartment as close to Miss Rand’s as possible.
Virtually the entire New York movement lived with a few square blocks of each other in Manhattan’s East 30’s. Many of the leaders lived in the same apartment house as Miss Rand.
Members, who referred to themselves as Randians, were encouraged to read and re-read “Atlas Shrugged” and use its heroes and heroines as role models. Randians aimed at being like John Galt (Miss Rand’s hero in “Atlas Shrugged”). A student was encouraged to ask himself in various situations,: i.e., “What would John Galt have done?”
Randians were expected to bring family and friends into the group
If family and friends persisted in their irrational belief systems and refused to join, they were deemed irrational, part of the “Enemy”, and were to be abandoned.
Marriages were broken up by Randian leadership who informed the wife or the husband that their spouses were not suitable. Top leaders would match and unmatch couples. If a certified Randian married a non-Randian who could not be converted, he or she was expelled.
Ayn Rand was “the Ultimate Decider”
Mr. Branden, her designated “intellectual heir”, was second in command. Third in rank was the top inner circle who were designated the “senior collective.”
Every night, a top Randian lectured to members on Ms. Rand’s teachings. Failure to attend lectures was a matter of concern since learning Ms. Rand’s teachings was considered essential to mankind’s future on earth.
Efforts were made to convert Miss Rand’s readers of her best-selling works into disciples who would first subscribe to The Objectivist Magazine, then attend and keep attending lectures, thus being inducted into the movement.
A flow of magazines, tapes, and books were sold to the rank-and-file members of the movement. Money flowed upward from the members through the hierarchy, like a multi- level marketing plan, and volunteer labor service paid for lectures of members who were unable to make cash payments.
A system of guiding students in their reading helped ensure students would learn Randian ideas and not give “sanction to the Enemy.” Reading the works of the Enemy meant “giving him your moral sanction,” which was irrational.
The belief in Ms. Rand’s originality was reinforced by disciples not reading “The Enemy”. It was said by critics that students had they been permitted to be well -read would have discovered that many things Ms. Rand claimed as original were written long before she was born.
No reason to read.
The movement had teachings on literally every subject, from aesthetics to history to epistemology. Preferring Bach, for example, to Rachmaninoff was taught as irrational for it led one into believing in a “malevolent universe”.
Ms. Rand, a two-pack-a-day smoker, taught there was “unscientific and irrational evidence” about the dangers of smoking. The characters in her novels were chain smokers. The official justification for smoking was in “Atlas Shrugged”, wherein the heroine refers to a lit cigarette as symbolizing a fire in the mind, the fire of creative ideas. Smoking, for a Randian, was a moral obligation.
Spreading outside New York
Various cities had a designated Randian representative who was in charge of putting on performances of Mr. Branden’s [and Miss Rand’s] lectures on tape.
The NBI rep was generally the most qualified Randian in her/his area – and attempts were made to duplicate the atmosphere of awe and obedience pervading New York and to attempt to recruit new members who would travel to Manhattan to take lectures there was well.
A striking similarity
Mr. Raniere developed Exploration of Meanings [EM] therapy with Miss Salzman around 1998.
In the late 1950s, Ms. Rand and Mr. Branden developed Objectivist Psychotherapy [OP].
This psychological theory held that emotion [and neurosis] stems from incorrect ideas; hence, the cure for neurosis is to explore the meaning of the incorrect ideas and adjust one’s values. Since Randian ideas were infallible, generally the exploration of meaning of the neurosis or emotional problem was usually diagnosed as a deviation from Miss Rand’s ideas.
OP – in a psycho-therapeutic setting – was searching for hidden deviations from Randian theory that were responsible for the neurosis – and the cure was to purge it by correcting the deviation and conforming to Ms. Rand’s teachings.
Objectivist Psychotherapy Practitioners (OPP) guided their “patients” into learning that “happiness” consisted in being fully integrated with Randian precepts.
Payments for OP psychotherapeutic services were quite lucrative and some devotees of Ms, Rand, who were certified by her approval, were able to earn good money practicing therapy on members of the group .
This is almost precisely what Miss Salzman and others in ESP perform in their Exploration of Meaning practices on ESP members.
In the end, disobedience, defiance and deviance occurred only if someone became “irrational” – which was defined as ideological or personal deviation from Miss Rand’s teachings.
This was taught as the highest truth since it was taught that Ms. Rand had an answer for every question of ideology and life.
All aspects of life had to be searched – by oneself and others – for deviations from Ms. Rand thinking. If a student was defiant and did not accept Miss Rand as infallible, they had to be expelled because they were irrational. And the entire group was based on Rational Self Inquiry,
While the Randians lived in a state of awe of Ms. Rand and her leading disciples, they also exulted in the exciting and comforting knowledge that they were a member of a small group of people who uniquely understood reason and reality.
This required loyalty of the disciples in the supreme belief of the inner circle which was that “Ayn Rand is the smartest person that ever lived or ever shall live.”
While it was universally agreed that Ms. Rand was the greatest person of all time, there was a dispute about Mr. Branden.
Some maintained that Mr. Branden was the “second greatest person of all time” but others felt that Branden was “tied for second with Aristotle”.
Murray N. Rothbard, who knew many Randians, wrote in his excellent description of the group, “[T]he cult did succeed in creating a New Randian Man – for so long as the man or woman remained in the movement. People were invariably transformed by the moulding process from diverse, often likeable men and women to grim, tense, hostile poseurs – whose personalities could best be summed up by the word ‘robotic.’ Robotically, the Randians intoned their slogans, generally imitating the poses and manner of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and further, imitating their common cult vision of heroes and heroines of the Randian fictional canon. If any criticism of Rand or her disciples were made, or any arguments were pressed that they could not answer, the Randians would adopt a tone of high offense: ‘How dare you say such a thing about her?,’ turn on their heels and stomp off. No smile, nor many other human qualities, managed to shine through their ritualized façade. Many of the young men managed to look like carbon copies of Branden, while the young women tried to look like Barbara Branden, replete with the cigarette-holder held aloft, derived from Ayn Rand herself, that was supposed to symbolize the high moral standards and the mocking contempt wielded by Randian heroines.”
It occurred sometimes that a member of the group who was found to have deviated from the teachings of Ms. Rand was asked to appear at a meeting.
If he appeared and could satisfactorily assure Miss Rand, Mr. Branden and other leaders that he could again conform to Randian ideals, he or she would be placed on probation.
If the offending member, however, refused to attend, the meeting would be held in absentia, with members providing evidence of the student’s disintegration and malevolence.
If it were ruled that the student could no longer be part of the group, whoever brought him in the group or was his closest friend, was assigned to write a letter informing him he was excluded from associating with members. All members were informed that the offending individual was to shunned.
Having the excommunicate’s closest friend write the letter afforded the friend an opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Ms. Rand.
Branden was expelled
The Rand cult grew and flourished for about 10 years until a split occurred between Ms. Rand and Mr. Branden in the fall of 1968.
In a move that might portend the final outcome of the relationship with Vanguard and Prefect, Nathaniel Branden was expelled from the Collective.
After he was expelled, Randists were required to sign a loyalty oath to Ayn Rand where they swore their unquestioning belief that Miss Rand was right and Mr. Branden wrong, even though they were not permitted to learn the facts behind the split.
Part of the oath was a declaration that the signer would shun Mr. Branden and never read any of his writings or listen to his lectures.
Numerous close relatives of Mr. Branden were part of the senior group in the Collective. They broke with Mr. Branden completely. One of Mr. Branden’s closest friends sent him a letter saying the only moral thing for Mr. Branden to do was commit suicide.
The Objectivist Psychotherapy Practitioners came to the fore at this time to perform OP’s on disturbed members.
Some patients were expelled from the group for asking the reasons for the Rand-Branden split that was supposed to be a secret and remained a secret for several years.
The reason for Mr. Branden’s expulsion was that Ayn Rand found out that Mr. Branden was having sex with another woman.
Like Mr. Raniere, while Ms. Rand was permitted to teach disciples using sexual techniques, her harem-men were not permitted to have sex with other women.
When Ms. Rand learned of the affair, she struck Mr. Branden violently, leaving welts on his face. Then she falsely accused him of embezzlement and excommunicated him from the group.
Unfortunately for Ms. Rand, Mr. Branden had run the operation and was propagandist for Ms. Rand who for her part was permitted to be aloof as a venerated and divine character. With him gone, the organization cratered.
Ironies that border on hypocrisy
Two curious details emerged after Mr. Branden was expelled. Ms. Rand who advocated smoking, contracted lung cancer in 1974. She was 69. She immediately quit smoking.
Despite her teaching that social security and Medicaid were immoral, she accepted those benefits quietly. And a successful operation was conducted that removed the tumor on her lungs. Unfortunately, Ms. Rand had to become temporarily a “parasite” as she allowed taxpayers to be forced to pay her medical bills.
The operation was successful.
But another problem emerged.
The world’s smartest woman was wrong about smoking.
She had said there was no data to prove smoking caused cancer and she got lung cancer.
Now that she had lung cancer, caused by smoking, some of her disciples asked her to denounce smoking since so many of her disciples smoked because of her.
They suggested that she did not have to admit she had cancer from smoking. She need only say there was now enough data to conclude smoking was a health danger.
If she did this, many of her followers would quit smoking.
Here, Ms. Rand demonstrated perfectly what she meant by rational self interest.
If she admitted she was wrong about smoking, she would no longer be infallible to her followers. She declined to denounce smoking.
She has a worthy follower, a man inspired by her; she is a worthy hero to Keith Raniere.
Idiocy is on full display throughout this pathetic smear-piece (notice that not one claim is backed up a single reference). Anyone too lazy to look beyond such wild distortions and outright lies deserves to live in the ignorance of pre-Internet savages. The only evil on earth is being stupid on purpose.
Ayn Rand’s philosophy is a partial derivative of and or related to Nietzche’s, which is derived from and or partially related to Aristotle and probably many thinkers. The important question is, are they on to something or not?
There is so much hate out there regarding Ayn Rand and Keith Raniere. We must remember these are humans and they have their motivations, imperfections and hypocrisies. I prefer to focus on the central philosophy itself, which seems very sound and promising. My takeaway is that freedom, reason and self responsibility can be put on a pedestal as primary virtues. Of course no one is perfect, but maybe these ideals can help guide us in a promising direction.
Over the years, some critics have accused the Objectivist movement of being a cult or cult-like, and Rand of being a cult figure. The term ‘Randroid’ (a portmanteau of ‘Rand’ and ‘android’) has been used to evoke the image of “the Galt-imitating robots produced by the cult.”
Suggestions of cult-like behavior by Objectivists began during the NBI days. With growing media coverage, articles began appearing that referred to the “Cult of Ayn Rand” and compared her to various religious leaders. Terry Teachout described NBI as “a quasi-cult which revolved around the adoration of Ayn Rand and her fictional heroes,” one that “disintegrated” when Rand split with Nathaniel Branden. In 1968, psychologist Albert Ellis, in the wake of a public debate with Nathaniel Branden, published a book arguing that Objectivism was a religion, whose practices included “sexual Puritanism,” “absolutism,” “damning and condemning,” and “deification” of Ayn Rand and her fictional heroes. In his memoirs, Nathaniel Branden said of the Collective and NBI that “there was a cultish aspect to our world […] We were a group organized around a charismatic leader, whose members judged one another’s character chiefly by loyalty to that leader and her ideas.”
In 1972, libertarian author Murray Rothbard began privately circulating an essay on “The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult”, in which he wrote:
If the glaring inner contradictions of the Leninist cults make them intriguing objects of study, still more so is the Ayn Rand cult … [f]or not only was the Rand cult explicitly atheist, anti-religious, and an extoller of Reason; it also promoted slavish dependence on the guru in the name of independence; adoration and obedience to the leader in the name of every person’s individuality; and blind emotion and faith in the guru in the name of Reason.
Rothbard also wrote that “the guiding spirit of the Randian movement was not individual liberty … but rather personal power for Ayn Rand and her leading disciples.”
In the 1990s, Michael Shermer argued that the Objectivist movement displayed characteristics of religious cults such as the veneration and inerrancy of the leader; hidden agendas; financial and/or sexual exploitation; and the beliefs that the movement provides absolute truth and absolute morality. Shermer maintained that certain aspects of Objectivist epistemology and ethics promoted cult-like behavior:
[A]s soon as a group sets itself up to be the final moral arbiter of other people’s actions, especially when its members believe they have discovered absolute standards of right and wrong, it is the beginning of the end of tolerance, and thus reason and rationality. It is this characteristic more than any other that makes a cult, a religion, a nation, or any other group, dangerous to individual freedom. Its absolutism was the biggest flaw in Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the unlikeliest cult in history.
In 1999, Jeff Walker published The Ayn Rand Cult. In one passage, Walker compared Objectivism to the Dianetics practices of Scientology, which is considered by many to be a cult. Both, argues Walker, are totalist sets of beliefs that advocate “an ethics for the masses based on survival as a rational being.” Walker continues, “Dianetics used reasoning somewhat similar to Rand’s about the brain as a machine. … Both have a higher mind reprogramming the rest of the mind.” Walker further notes that both philosophies claim to be based on science and logic. Walker’s book has drawn criticism from Rand scholars. Chris Matthew Sciabarra criticized Walker’s objectivity and scholarship. Mimi Reisel Gladstein wrote that Walker’s thesis is “questionable and often depends on innuendo, rather than logic.” R. W. Bradford called it “merely annoying” for scholars.
The claims of cultism have continued in more recent years. In 2004, Thomas Szasz wrote in support of Rothbard’s 1972 essay, and in 2006, Albert Ellis published an updated edition of his 1968 book that included favorable references to Walker’s. Similarly, Walter Block, while expressing admiration for some of Rand’s ideas and noting her strong influence on libertarianism, described the Objectivist movement as “a tiny imploding cult.”
He’s a sociopath! He has no philosophy. He gets up in the morning (or early afternoon as he is a lazy ass) trying to screw people over (literally and figuratively) and he goes to bed doing the same. The only philosophy he has is destruction. Giving him credit that he’s this deep thinking guy is a disservice to deep thinkers everywhere.
If you’ve ever had the feeling that there was something fundamentally sociopathic about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, you may have been on to something. Apparently one of Ayn Rand’s early “heroes” was a serial killer named William Edward Hickman. When he was arrested Hickman became quite famous — the talk of the town, so to speak, but for the entire country. Rand took things a bit further than most, though, and modeled at least one of her literary characters on Hickman.
The best way to get to the bottom of Ayn Rand’s beliefs is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation.
Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation — Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street — on him.
I was a student of Objectivism/Ayn Rand starting in the early 70s. I also went to RPI. I took taped classes there from NBI. I heard much of the information you presented about the Collective, but not the information on smoking. I also heard or read that Rand said a woman would never want to be president, since she could not be in a superior position to a man. I never understood or accepted this view.
While there are many philosophical similarities between Raniere and Rand, I believe he follows the views of Frederick Nietzche more than Rand. See Will to Power and read about the Ubermensche. I do not believe Randians would ever support branding. spanking, or blackmail, and they would not put women in such an extreme submissive position.
There are many similarities between the Ubermensch concept and the sociopath concept. But Raniere fits better into sociopath.
Nietsche isn’t in Raniere’s “heroes” list, and Ayn Rand is.
Rudolph Steiner is in the list, but he was a Goethe fan….