Editor’s Note: When I was working hard to take down Nxivm – before the branding story, I cataloged all the horrors of Nxivm that I could find and published them. This was one of my first stories that really had some impact. It was published on January 6, 2016 – about a year and a half before the branding story broke. This story began to bring me a [small] but steady stream of Nxivm and ex-Nxivm readers.
A lot of them did not know that Raniere had a son. I also published this in Artvoice and the Niagara Falls Reporter.
It was published almost four years ago.
Cult of NXIVM Part 7: “Don’t call me ‘Papa’”
Every December more than a billion people celebrate the birth of Christ, a child born of immaculate conception who would change the world – whose true father was said to be God, and whose earthly father was an Israeli carpenter named Joseph.
Cult of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere’s former partner Toni Natalie is quoted in MacLean’s Magazine saying: “I was the chosen one. I was brought in to bear the child that would change the world.”
Another former Keith Raniere partner, Barbara Bouchey, stated: “Keith himself told me that he had dreams and visions that I actually would be in a relationship with him and have a child with him.”
This, of course, is weird since both women were told by doctors that they were unable to bear a child. Perhaps that inspired the clever and controlling Raniere to appeal to their primal desire for motherhood.
His fervent female acolytes no doubt believed that he could make a barren woman fertile and miraculously give birth to a child of destiny – a twisted version of the immaculate conception of the virgin Mary minus the immaculate and minus the virgin.
But Raniere did indeed father a child, a boy named Gaelen, born nine years ago. But unlike Joseph, who raised Jesus as his son, Raniere denied he was the father of Gaelen – and although Gaelen lived in the NXIVM community, Raniere never spent time with the boy as father and son.
Some of Raniere’s female followers believe he is Christ-like – come to atone the sins of struggling humankind through his teachings and pure life of truthfulness, sacrifice and celibacy.
So what story did the celibate spiritual leader give to explain how his son Gaelen came to live among them? It’s very complicated.
Raniere told people that Barbara Jeske (an inner circle NXIVM member) had an old boyfriend living in Michigan who was now a widower and a bereaved father. His daughter had died giving birth to a male child – and the father was unknown.
Remembering Jeske as a kind and compassionate woman and having no wife or female relative who could care for the newborn, the widower grandfather called his old flame to give the child to her.
As the fiction went – Jeske and another NXIVM inner circle member, Kristin Keeffe, traveled to Ann Arbor to get the boy just days after his birth and brought him back to live with Jeske in Albany.
Soon Jeske found she could not care for the infant and Keeffe took over as surrogate mother; moving into a new townhouse with the ‘adopted’ infant Gaelen and out of a townhouse on the same street that she’d shared with Raniere (and two other women).
The infinitely compassionate Raniere then decided to personally supervise the child’s education. He would be a teacher, almost “like a father” to this child – the first to be raised utilizing Raniere’s unique methodology. The child would be exposed to certain kinds of music, certain kinds of physical exercises and languages, a certain diet and his interaction with other children would be limited. He was to have no common, ordinary friends.
This was the story told to all in NXIVM village and beyond. And the story is a lie.
I was there and I witnessed it.
Gaelen is the child of Keith Raniere and Kristin Keeffe.
The elaborate lie about his adoption was told because Raniere did not want NXIVM students to know he fathered a child. Students – from Mexico to Tacoma and all points in between – believed he was a “celibate monk”.
Some of his inner circle knew he wasn’t celibate because they’d had sexual relations with him. They knew he wasn’t celibate and they believed he would, when the time was ripe, have a special child with a chosen woman who he had preordained would be the mother of a child who would carry on Raniere’s work to save the world.
Keeffe, on the other hand, was his Legal Liaison – a smart, tough-talking, but eager follower of Raniere. Raniere never showered on Keeffe the special attention that he did with others like Barbara Bouchey, Toni Natalie, or, more recently, Mariana Fernandez; not for Keeffe was such an honor of bearing the golden divine child.
But it was Keeffe who got pregnant.
Raniere immediately required Keeffe to lie about her maternity. He helped her hide her pregnancy, and being thin she hardly showed for months. When her pregnancy became visible, he told people she was severely ill and could not be seen.
Over time, some in the NXIVM inner circle came to know Gaelen was Keeffe’s child. A smaller few came to learn Raniere was the father.
Keeffe told them. Nancy Salzman knew, as did Jeske, of course. But these women could be trusted to lie for Raniere.
The rest of the community, NXIVM students far and wide, and the press – were led to believe the boy was adopted. He would have the privilege of being raised according to Raniere’s revolutionary theories.
What kind of a man denies his own son, tells the spiritual community he leads a lie about his child’s parentage, and forces the mother to publicly state her child is not hers, but adopted?
What is the psychological impact to the boy growing up – with all the people around him – and himself – believing he is adopted and that his mother died while giving him birth? It is well known that children whose mothers die at childbirth often feel heavy guilt.
Meanwhile, his mother is not dead but is raising him, and his father lives nearby acting the part of some kindhearted man who decided to become his teacher.
I saw the child many times. He looks like his parents. I spoke with his father and mother many times. I heard this lie told many times.
Although I initially believed the lie, irrefutable evidence came into my possession that demonstrated the adoption story was fabricated and that Raniere and Keeffe are the parents.
In time, Keeffe told the boy the truth about his parentage. Despite Raniere’s plan, she would not let the boy grow up with a lie. Apparently, motherhood is stronger than cult-hood.
Raniere never allowed the child to call him “dad” and the boy never received a father’s tender love. Gaelan never had the pride a boy has in saying to all, “see – there – this is my father.”
In February 2014, Keeffe fled the cult. She had to enlist the help of Rodger Kirsopp, a New York State Police Investigator. Kirsopp confirmed in an interview that he helped Keeffe escape from Raniere with her son, and helped arrange for her to live in safe houses for battered women for a time. She is now in hiding.
Defenders of Raniere contradict me if you’re able. Show me this isn’t true and I will cease writing about Raniere and the cult of NXIVM.
To the followers of Raniere, I ask: How long you will defend or be blind to Raniere’s grotesque life and heinous actions?
Clare Bronfman, Sara Bronfman, as you continue to fund this conniving, cowardly man, ask yourself what your life would be like if your own father had told you that when you were born, your mother died giving you birth and that he was not your father.
Sara, you have a child now. Would you or your husband lie to your child the way your spiritual leader Raniere did?
There are not many things lower than a man who denies his child. But lower still are the women who know this and continue to fund him and follow him.
Yes, the enablers are worse.
For without the Bronfman money, the Cult of NXIVM would cease.
The suicides, the twisted sex, the frightened former members running and hiding, the relentless lawsuits, the lurid tabloid stories, the house of lies, could all disappear with the simple closing of your checkbook.