By a NXIVM Woman
The old cults and religions, which are really also cults, to a greater or lesser degree, claim they were founded on love or justice. NXIVM is founded upon hatred.
In NXIVM, there are really no emotions permitted except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else Keith destroys — everything.
Keith knew in advance what Nancy Salzman would say. That NXIVM did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of NXIVM. That Keith sought power because women were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by a man who is stronger than themselves.
That the choice for womankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of women happiness was better. That NXIVM was the guardian of women, a dedicated group doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others. The terrible thing, I thought, the terrible thing was that when Keith said this, Nancy believed it.
I knew better. I knew that Keith sought power entirely for its own sake. Keith is not interested in the good of others; he is interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. Keith is different from all the cult leaders of the past, in that he knows what he is doing. All the others, even those who resembled him, were cowards and hypocrites.
Keith knows that no one ever has power over another with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a cult in order to safeguard its members’ freedom or safety; one creates the means of enslavement in order to establish the cult. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.
The first thing you must realize is that my power is collective, he said. The individual only has power in so far as she ceases to be an individual. You know my slogan: “He [not she] who has the most joy wins”? Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Whoever has less joy, loses? The woman is always defeated. It must be so, because every woman is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if a woman can make complete, utter submission, if she can escape from her identity, if she can merge herself into Me so that she is the slave of Vanguard, then she too is all-powerful and immortal.
What can you do, I thought secretly, against this lunatic who is more intelligent than me, who gives my arguments a fair hearing, and then simply persists in his lunacy?
He continued, mistaking my terror for adoration. “Obedience is not enough. Unless you are suffering, how can I be sure that you are obeying your will and not my own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of my own choosing.”
One day Keith said he wanted to control all of our orgasms as a test of loyalty. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards me, he said. There will be no love, except the love of Vanguard. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of my triumph over a defeated enemy.
All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this Ivy, always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine my mind controlling India Oxenberg’s mind and body forever.
I control life, he said at another time to me, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what I do and will turn against me. But I create in my followers human nature. Women are infinitely malleable. If you are truly a defiant woman, then you are the last. Your kind is extinct. Do you understand you are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent.
“Tell me,” I said when I first thought of leaving, “how soon will you kill me if I left you?”
“It might be a long time,” Keith said. “On the other hand, you will not leave. You will surrender. You made a vow. You are my wife in spirit. Everything else you do must follow. However hard you struggle, nothing can change except your attitude.”
For the first time I perceived that if I ever wanted to escape him, I must keep it a secret not only from him but I must also hide it from myself. I must know all the while that it is there, but until I was ready, I must never let it emerge into my consciousness in any shape that he could read on my brow. From now onward, I must not only think NXIVM; I must feel NXIVM, dream NXIVM. And all the while I must keep my hatred of him locked up inside me like a ball of matter which was part of myself and yet unconnected with Vanguard, a kind of cyst.
To die hating him, that was the only freedom I had left to imagine.