G, a former cult member: A short primer on cults


By G, a Former Cult Member

So, one doesn’t become prey to a cult of any kind, and a cult can be philosophical, ideological, political, self-help groups, one on one (think domestic violence), a self-proclaimed guru, religious, etc.

You get the picture. It’s all-encompassing when it comes to what can be a cult.
Now, what does a cult do?
Edgar Schein whittled it down to three succinct steps (as I stated above this is only an abbreviated version):
1) Break them down by whatever means necessary
2) Change them
3) Freeze them
Deprogramming would involve the opposite process.
1) Unfreezing
2) Changing
3) Refreeze
When people talk about the zombie, robotic affect of a cult member what they are describing is the pseudo-personality, a superimposed personality over the authentic one.
One may well ask, and say, how does someone fall for this hooey and I wouldn’t be dumb enough to get suckered in.
Ah! Think again, my friend.
Short example.
You are in the market to buy a car.
You have intent and you know what the end-game is. A car.  You are fully aware that the salesperson’s agenda is to sell you a car and have you drive off the lot, that day, in your new vehicle.
Both of you know the beginning, middle and end and, once completed, the transaction is over. The game is transparent.
Cults, cult leaders, cult members don’t work that way. You are slowly led along, step by step, like the frog in the pot scenario.
If the frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out. But place it in room temp water, slowly increase the heat and you have one nicely boiled frog.
Subterfuge is everything in a cult, from beginning to end.
Keith Alan Raniere [l] slowly boiling a frog [r].

About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Ms. G,

    I must say, it’s getting tiresome reading your B.S. story about this ‘cult’ which has no name.

    It sounds like maybe you’re exaggerating things — and that’s why you’re hiding the cult’s name.

    Or maybe you’re just bullshitting us and made the whole thing up, looking for sympathy.

    It’s not as if anybody from that OLD cult can come after you now.

    From the way you speak, it sounds as if this happened to you 30 years ago in the 1980’s and you’re a granny now.

    That cult is dead and buried now —- and your fellow cult members are likely grannies and grampies now, just like yourself. Stop being afraid of them. Name the cult.

    What are they gonna do if you name the cult?

    Are they gonna come after you with their dentures and wheelchairs? LOL.

    Kindly name the cult and please stop being a coward.

    Otherwise, I don’t believe a word you say. 🙂

  • Just wanted to say that I’m tired of Frank Parlato waiting nearly 24 fucking hours before finally approving my posts.

    He waited nearly 24 hours to approve my longer post below (made yesterday morning) yet he approves everybody else’s posts almost instantly.

    He has a history of doing this to my posts. He sometimes waits days.

    Kindly eat shit, Frank.

    If my post violates your guidelines then fucking delete it immediately. Otherwise, why not approve it immediately?

    You weenie. Kindly eat a fresh bowl of hot dicks.

  • Another model that I think is a good way of looking at it, is Steven Hassan’s BITE Model of Cult Mind Control – a google search will turn up a detailed explanation. It’s more focused on the elements than the process:

    The BITE Model
    I. Behavior Control
    II. Information Control
    III. Thought Control
    IV. Emotional Control

    The details of Behavior Control start off with a lot of elements easily recognizable in NXIVM and DOS – dependence and obedience, Restrict or control sexuality, Regulate eat and drink, sleep deprivation, financial exploitation, and so on.

      • No, I’m just telling people how to find more information. I seem to have had trouble posting links.

        I’ve followed the subject of high control groups and cults for over two decades, and have close to two bookshelves’ worth of material on the subject. I have close to another two on related topics such as NLP and hypnosis, past life regression (which Raniere used as a manipulative tool), cognitive biases, con artists, financial frauds, art forgery (many forgers are also good con men), etc.

        And you, what do you bring to the discussion?

  • Side note: Avenatti is now facing a slew of new indictments. That case might be just as much fun to watch as this one! Get the popcorn…

  • G,

    Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences with cults.

    I think people who have never belonged or have been attracted to a cult do not understand that some people feel a calling and need to belong to something bigger then themselves.

      • G,

        I got your point….

        I should have had a break line and finished my second paragraph with a few questions

        Why do people go from cult to cult or from religion? What is the draw or attraction?

        I personally will admit I have never felt like I have never truly belonged to any group. In addition I hate authority figures with a passion. The whole idea of a cult is alien to me.

        I do not mean that I have some virtuous trait. In actuality being like me has a ton of drawbacks.

        What is the overall reason people get attracted to cults in the first place?

        I guess that is my question to you. I am just trying to understand.

        I appreciated your explanation about how people get molded and manipulated in to a somewhat new persona.


  • ….or you might say it’s like the slick used car dealership, where you stop off at the lot to check out a practical, affordable family car that they have prominently featured, and find yourself somehow driving off in an pricey red two-seater convertible – that later turns out to be worn out and held together with a fresh coat of paint…

    Good basic explanation, though. The frog in the pot analogy is indeed the most apt.

    I hope that we can have further discussion of this topic. For instance, I’d suggest consideration of Steven Hassan’s BITE Model of Undue Influence and Cult Mind Control – many of the first steps of behavior control will sound quite familiar from NXIVM, Raniere’s inner circle and DOS:

    “Many people think of mind control as an ambiguous, mystical process that cannot be defined in concrete terms. In reality, mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought-stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts.

    Based on research and theory by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Edgar Schein, Louis Jolyon West, and others who studied brainwashing in Maoist China as well as cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger, Steven Hassan developed the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. “BITE” stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control.”

    The BITE Model
    I. Behavior Control
    II. Information Control
    III. Thought Control
    IV. Emotional Control

    Behavior Control

    1. Regulate individual’s physical reality
    2. Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates
    3. When, how and with whom the member has sex
    4. Control types of clothing and hairstyles
    5. Regulate diet – food and drink, hunger and/or fasting
    6. Manipulation and deprivation of sleep
    7. Financial exploitation, manipulation or dependence
    8. Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time
    9. Major time spent with group indoctrination and rituals and/or self indoctrination including the Internet
    10. Permission required for major decisions
    11. Thoughts, feelings, and activities (of self and others) reported to superiors
    12. Rewards and punishments used to modify behaviors, both positive and negative
    13. Discourage individualism, encourage group-think
    14. Impose rigid rules and regulations
    15. Instill dependency and obedience
    16. Threaten harm to family and friends
    17. Force individual to rape or be raped
    18. Instill dependency and obedience
    19. Encourage and engage in corporal punishment

    Information Control
    1. Deception:
    a. Deliberately withhold information
    b. Distort information to make it more acceptable
    c. Systematically lie to the cult member
    2. Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
    a. Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, other media
    b.Critical information
    c. Former members
    d. Keep members busy so they don’t have time to think and investigate
    e. Control through cell phone with texting, calls, internet tracking
    3. Compartmentalize information into Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
    a. Ensure that information is not freely accessible
    b.Control information at different levels and missions within group
    c. Allow only leadership to decide who needs to know what and when
    4. Encourage spying on other members
    a. Impose a buddy system to monitor and control member
    b.Report deviant thoughts, feelings and actions to leadership
    c. Ensure that individual behavior is monitored by group
    5. Extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda, including:
    a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audiotapes, videotapes, YouTube, movies and other media
    b.Misquoting statements or using them out of context from non-cult sources
    6. Unethical use of confession
    a. Information about sins used to disrupt and/or dissolve identity boundaries
    b. Withholding forgiveness or absolution
    c. Manipulation of memory, possible false memories

    Thought Control
    1. Require members to internalize the group’s doctrine as truth
    a. Adopting the group’s ‘map of reality’ as reality
    b. Instill black and white thinking
    c. Decide between good vs. evil
    d. Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs. outsiders)
    2.Change person’s name and identity
    3. Use of loaded language and clichés which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words
    4. Encourage only ‘good and proper’ thoughts
    5. Hypnotic techniques are used to alter mental states, undermine critical thinking and even to age regress the member
    6. Memories are manipulated and false memories are created
    7. Teaching thought-stopping techniques which shut down reality testing by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only positive thoughts, including:
    a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
    b. Chanting
    c. Meditating
    d. Praying
    e. Speaking in tongues
    f. Singing or humming
    8. Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism
    9. Forbid critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy allowed
    10. Labeling alternative belief systems as illegitimate, evil, or not useful

    Emotional Control
    1. Manipulate and narrow the range of feelings – some emotions and/or needs are deemed as evil, wrong or selfish
    2. Teach emotion-stopping techniques to block feelings of homesickness, anger, doubt
    3. Make the person feel that problems are always their own fault, never the leader’s or the group’s fault
    4. Promote feelings of guilt or unworthiness, such as
    a. Identity guilt
    b. You are not living up to your potential
    c. Your family is deficient
    d. Your past is suspect
    e. Your affiliations are unwise
    f. Your thoughts, feelings, actions are irrelevant or selfish
    g. Social guilt
    h. Historical guilt
    5. Instill fear, such as fear of:
    a. Thinking independently
    b. The outside world
    c. Enemies
    d. Losing one’s salvation
    e. Leaving or being shunned by the group
    f. Other’s disapproval
    6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows – love bombing and praise one moment and then declaring you are horrible sinner
    7. Ritualistic and sometimes public confession of sins
    8. Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about leaving the group or questioning the leader’s authority
    a. No happiness or fulfillment possible outside of the group
    b. Terrible consequences if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc.
    c. Shunning of those who leave; fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family
    d. Never a legitimate reason to leave; those who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or counselor, or seduced by money, sex, or rock and roll
    e. Threats of harm to ex-member and family

  • Question for G – I agree with your post. The frog scenario is how Keith did it. Boiling pots were taken to never before seen levels with Keith.

    My question is – Why do you not seem to have compassion for all the damn frogs in NXIVM? From your posts, I’ve concluded (maybe incorrectly) that you want harem heads to role more than Shadow.

    • I doubt she (or he) was really in a cult, this kind of info can be easily found anywhere.

      Most of the real cult victims have way more compassion than this because they know it could have been any of them…I can’t find the link right now but i saw several people on twitter trying to explain why Allison was as much a victim as the victim themselves.

      Those victims also Don’t mind to clearly say the name of the cult (they were in) …Something that G isn’t doing.

      It’s easy to pretend to be this or that on the net…Proving it is harder

      • Screw you.
        Keep trying to bait me.
        Been there, done that, did my homework years ago.
        How about you reveal who you are.
        Bet you won’t.
        Do you ask Heidi to prove her loss? Bet not.

        • Why don’t you reveal who you are, before asking somebody else to.

          Before calling somebody else an anonymous coward, try looking in the mirror.

          Your touching story is still tied to an anonymous account.

          Pot meet kettle.

        • Heidi isn’t hiding anything…you do

          You even hide the name of the “cult” you were not a victim of.

          I’m not the one who pretend to be someone so i Don’t feel a need to reveal my Identity….I just state facts (contrary to you)

      • Sure there is info on the Net, in books, etc.
        I urge everyone to do their due diligence.
        We need to keep reminding people just how thus works and why so fewer are captrured.

        By the way, anon, I never call myself a victim.
        You term me that.
        Evidently you love the current craze of victimology.

        • No, i love when people stick to the facts…you don’t.
          You pretend you understand cult because you have been there yet your analyse shows that you know absolutly nothing more than anyone who just spend a couple of minutes reading Something on wikipedia…

          • I agree. “G” shows no special insight or knowledge that makes me believe he was ever a member of a cult.

            Why don’t you name this cult, G?

    • I had a long response typed and it vanished so here goes agsin.

      Interesting way to back hsnded slander me. Nonetheless I deal in facts not feelings.

      I will not waste one ounce of compassion for Keith, the Salzman’s, the Bronfman’s, the so called doctors Brandon and Danielle, Allison, Barbara who is still gaga over Keith and thinks to resurrect the “best parts” of NXIVM (there are no best parts), or anyone who participated in grooming underage, pimping out, enslaving, impoverishing, holding blackmail over others, etc.
      Not one ounce of mercy will I waste.

      This was done to women, not men, WOMEN!

      The above named are morally bankrupt, vile people who, except for Keith, did this to their own sex.

      Are you so quick to forget the victims?The two “suicides?”
      Who were the NXIVM women who went into Gina’s motel room before her “suicide?”

      You so easily forget the facts and the victims and attempt to alter the narrative.

      I am no feminist and would never wear a pussy hat but I will stand with all women against this vile group and damn well won’t waste one iota of sympathy on the lot of NXIVM.

      • May I kindly suggest that it is not as simple as labeling the above mentioned people, whom you have no compassion for, as “good” or “bad”?

        I write this as I tiptoe on eggshells – but how can I backhand slander you when you took the conclusion that I typed and confirmed it? Or is only confirming it for 8 people (including Barbara???) your way of saying everyone else but those eight are worthy of compassion for this fucking cult ordeal they’ve been dealing with?

        We all want to know details of the (at least 3) “suicides”. I’ll add “poisonings” to the suicide list. I want a trial because I want details of Keith killing people to come out. I can tell you one thing is a damn fact. None of the people that you don’t have compassion for would ever have killed someone without it being rationalized, glorified, ordered, and planned out by Vanguard.

          • Think there’s a chance either Lauren or Nancy squawk in an effort to help their sentence?

            If Kristin Keefe or Karen U haven’t already spilled the beans, I doubt anything will ever happen. But if they’ve already given it up, maybe corroboration from a Salzman might get him charged?

            Pure speculation, but with Pam C and Barbara J dead, these four are the ones who could drop knowledge.

  • Ms. G,

    Aren’t you the gal who immediately leaped out of the pot —- the moment you were asked to copulate with prospective members, as a recruiting tool?

    I read your earlier article here:

    Thus, you were not treated like a frog. You were boiled at a reasonably fast pace — certainly fast enough to let you detect when the pot was getting too hot. That’s why you left so abruptly.

    It looks like maybe you simply loved the cult for a while —- until you stopped loving it.

    You implied that they let you live in their house for free, or at least for a major discount (since you admitted to having to live in your car once you left that house).

    You also claimed that you were dependent on the ‘crumbs’ from their table (metaphorically speaking) — to help you survive and to keep you from living in your car.

    Therefore, you loved the benefits of the cult as long as they were free. You had no problem with the cult as long as everything was free.

    *But you quickly got mad when they asked you to contribute the only asset you had at that time (your body).

    While I understand your anger about being asked to copulate with strangers (you were right to say no), I’m still not sure why you expected your cult leaders to house you for free — without you having to contribute anything.

    That is not an equitable deal, madam.

    Nothing in life is free.

    Perhaps you were just teasing them to get what you wanted (free housing) — and then you got mad when they called you out and asked you to stop teasing and start contributing.

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    It looks like you simply got mad when your ‘free lunch’ was cancelled and they asked you to start paying your tab in any way possible.

    I don’t defend what they asked you to do — since it was prostitution and that’s not legal or moral. But I also don’t defend your attempt to tease them into giving you free housing.

    In the end…. It sounds like the frog can leap out of the pot after all, since you leaped quick quickly. 🙂

    • Bangkok

      Always attacking women like G.
      You are a sick misogynist.

      Why do you hate women so much? Did mommy not love you? Was mommy not nice? Were the girls in high school mean to you?

      I bet you are one of those sick f*cks that thinks that women are whores.

      I can not believe that Frank Parlato publishes this shit.


      Only cowards attack women. You are a f*cking sorry excuse for man. Your just a small sniveling loser. When you die the world will be a better place.

  • Dr. Walter Martin wrote an excellent book The Kingdom of the Cults, an encyclopedia of cults and ways to determine if an organization is a cult.

  • I’d say that by the time that video above with Raniere and Mack was made, that frog was already cooked. That was not a medium rare frog, that was a well-done frog.

    • It was a long process and that video was already around the DOS time…
      She joined the inner circle (supposedly) around 2010.
      In 2011-12 she moved to Knox wood (She was in Brooklyn height before).
      In 2013 she posted some strange message (and video) that trigger a red alarm for some people and people who met her said that she was in distress, she was already under the crazy diet and sleep deprivation.
      The Allison she used to be was slowly dissapearing.

      in 2015 (around summer) , she was in DOS and started to be a criminal in 2016(court document info)…

      It is said that it extended until june 2017 but in reality, it’s unlikely as she wasn’t in NYC for several month in 2017 (she was in LA to do her play in San Diego…).
      She appeared back in NYC around May-june.

      I think she started to resent doing what she was doing in 2017…She spent a lot of time away of NYC .

      It mean that she was groomed for 2-3 years in this video…probably longer (as she had no reason to move otherwise)

      It’s also around 2012-13 that she started sort of a relation with Raniere (based on the mail she had with him (he asked for more collateral before she would be allowed to bed him))

      • This topic is about cults in general, not Mack in particular, other than that one photo at the bottom, presumably added by Frank – so why are you going on about her, and what are you trying to prove and to whom?

        You seem to be part of Allison’s cult of personality, that’s in some ways not unlike other cults.

        And that timeline has a lot of unproven conjecture in it, almost as if you think you can read her mind.

        • This topic might be about cults in general, Mr know it all but the message i answered is about Mack.

          Also seeing the stupid reaction of G over Allison’s situation, i suspect it’s mostly aimed at her. (Oh and is that Allison mack on the picture? is it…Well it is!!!!)

          Why do you have this need to show your stupidity furthermore each time? You have Nothing to prove anymore !

          As for unproven , It is probably in YOUR twisted reality were she is the mastermind of the cult.

          But the Truth here , is it’s based on fact for everything but her entry in the inner circle.
          And if wrong, it would only be later.

          You just don’t like facts, do you?

          I already told you : Contrary to YOU, Mr know it all, I write about facts…I assume Don’t would not recognize fact if it was knocking at your door.

          • There it is again AnonyM, that other-worldly reasoning and v. poor argumentation.
            An Insolent tone, and (somewhat poignant under the circs) over weaning superiority.

            The more I reflect on your hunch the more plausible it seems.
            Who in Mexico would be really rattled by Alison’s culpability?

            Who would or could be exposed as similarly culpable, and who would be similarly excused for the same mitigating reasons as are being alluded to and pleaded for Ms Mack here?

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com