A thank you to Marie White for transcribing Keith Raniere’s conversation with Allison Mack. The video of the conversation is available on YouTube.
Their conversation occurred prior to 2017, when the two of them were master and slave but not yet revealed to the world for their perverse relationship that led to the branding and blackmailing of other women and their subsequent arrests.
So why did a successful actress like Allison throw away everything to follow Keith Raniere?
I believe she thought he was the smartest man in the world. That he had insights that normal people could never have – and if she was a good student, he might bring her into his super-high state of understanding. I think it quite possible that she also had deep romantic feelings towards him as well.
At one time, she believed he would sire babies with her – and that she and the other “sister wives” would raise their Raniere-babies together.
But there was a philosophy, or at least a veneer of philosophy – that Raniere was a philosopher and had a message for the world – that was part and parcel of Nxivm, its foundation.
It was not so much the philosophy itself but the existence, the fact of having a philosophy that was the glue that held Nxivm together.
We can perhaps judge this philosophy a little better when we read it, as opposed to hearing it from the lips of the Vanguard.
If we can get beyond his occasional inarticulateness, his inability to sometimes make incomplete and grammatically incorrect sentences, we can then ask, does he have a point? Is this a coherent philosophy?
In this, the first part of our series on Raniere’s philosophy, we hear his views on creativity.
Does it make sense?
The purpose then of this little study is not only to judge Raniere’s philosophy but to see how he held together his group of slaves with it.
He was not having sex with all of them, all the time. He couldn’t keep up with that impossible task. It seems at best he could do was have threesomes and he had scheduled a group blow job. But it was not enough.
So, he would come out of his sex lair and offer his philosophy. And his followers would listen and be thankful and go away and ponder his deep and hard to understand messages. This kept them in, and engaged, for they thought that they did not understand all he said, but they knew it was quite great, unique and world-affirming.
They needed to stay and learn and share this great, unique teacher and not just in the bedroom.
They had never seen anyone like him before. And yes, for people like Allison and Lauren Salzman, Nicki Clyne, Cami, Rosa Laura, Dani, Monica, Loreta, and many other women, he was a once in a lifetime genius and they were fortunate to be able to sit at his feet or across the table [semi-starved and sleep-deprived as part of their advanced spiritual training] and be part of the world mission to make a more noble society.
This became the all-encompassing goal, and the fact that he was having sex with them secretly was their privilege, and the fact that they lied for him and that he lied to others was a mere necessity to advance his brilliance and the cause – for the world itself is dishonest and any lie he told or they told was required only because of the ignoble level of civilization that presently exists.
This is part one of Allison’s questions for her Vanguard.
A. Okay, so the first question I wanted to ask is something, thank you, by the way.
K. You have your list of questions, oh my.
A. I do you have my list. It was funny, when I sat down yesterday to write up my questions I was like, wow, I have a lot of questions for you even though I’ve been your student for years and I get to spend all this time with you, I feel like there’s always such a wealth that I can…
K. But when you have the opportunity to put a bright light on me and just question me, what the hey?
A Yeah, exactly, I have to take advantage. Um, so the first question I came up with is something that sort of, it seems like, kind of like, the trend right now, like Elizabeth Gilbert started it before with the TED talk about creativity, and then there’s like all these books, and all these processes, of like, what is creativity, it’s like this gift from the gods and I know for myself there are these moments in time when I feel like creatively abounds and then there’s other times when I feel like I’m just the most boringest person on the planet. I can’t come up with anything and I was just wondering if you could just explain, sort of your take on the nature of creativity and if there is a process of creating it.
K. I could say a bunch of things that are, are just not creating creativity.
A Creating creativity? Or is it like a muscle that you can build?
K. There’s a creative act or a scientific act. I, I normally speak of science and creativity as sort of being somewhat opposite but that they’re not real, I mean, inherent in science is this notion that we can have free will and that there is even in science things like the Heisenberg principle that the talks about our limits and how we can observe things and stuff like that but you know a point is if we have something that we can predict, it becomes not creative at all. It has no free will and it’s science and if it seems to have free will, we see it as things, things, that parts that are not predictable and thereby creative. It creates. It is the thing that comes from it, is not a function of that which comes before in, in any way that we can predict. It’s as if this thing birthed something totally new and unpredictable. If it’s predictable it’s not creative.
K So, of course, we, as humans, feel we have free will and that’s sort of interesting but that doesn’t mean we do it, just means we can’t see our own programming enough to say that we’re just robots. You know, if it ever comes about that we find that we are truly just robots automaton of sorts, um, I think all creativity is out the window then.
A. Totally, cuz then it’s just pre-programmed into you.
K. Yeah, so that which makes us not a scientific, um, predictable thing is creativity. No, most people take creativity and you know, they, unfortunately, creativity in itself has a more rigorous or, ah, I would say, pure aspect and then, as with many things, and we, as humans love to do this, use it as an excuse. Um, you know, I, I, there’s a saying that talent, its by Schopenhauer ‘talent hits the target no one else can see,’ I mean ‘no one else can hit’ and genius hits the target no one else can see, so whenever I hit my volleyball, I serve my volleyball off of the court completely, it’s just genius.
K. That’s using something as an excuse you know, the same thing as creativity, you know, someone comes up with something that has no, no rhyme or reason, it’s creative and somehow a lot of times that, that it imparts a type of virtue to it, you know, so, for example, if someone is just being lazy some people think it’s creative. There’s a lot of things like that, but I would say in, it’s good sense, creativity is an expression of the human spirit, if we see ourselves as not robots and we have this somehow innate anima, this, this portion of us, this, what you might say metaphysical, this soul. Creativity has that as its source. Now some people might say “oh well creativity comes through, well maybe it’s the window” but, um, all the other predictable parts of the universe operate much like a machine and then you have this creative anima. It is true that people are sort of an intersection between what you might call the explainable science and the never explainable mysticism. The whole notion of qualia, you know, the fact that I see something that has redness but redness is something that’s unexplainable and really unmeasurable.
We can measure red. Both of us can consistently see something as red. We can create a machine that detects red but the redness in red is something that, as of now, is something very personal to us. Our whole experience of the universe, whether it’s Beethoven or the stars, or redness, is personal to us and right now stands behind an impenetrable veil, is thereby a type of mysticism.
A. Um hum
K. So are humans completely programmable, predictable, um, at least right now by human expression and thinking? No, we can’t explain ourselves like machines. We can’t write the equations of our behavior yet, um, and creativity is that which we can’t explain.
Now, of course, we like to think of creative creativity in a functional sense, ah, creativity as applied to the arts, but one could say that the essence of creativity is by osmosis, which is the creation of life. Here we have this inanimate planet. We have all these different chemical sorts of things going on this environment, um, maybe even creating things like amino acids and then somewhere along the line there’s this spark, a flash, whatever it was, and now there’s this thing that we call life that we can’t quite explain and accept it has certain characteristics it holds itself out against physics. You know life maintains itself in a certain way that non-life doesn’t and, of course, as we get more advanced in science, we see a number of things that seem to straddle this boundary. We can’t tell if they’re alive or not but the robust experience of life is it, it’s this thing that, that goes of its own accord, body. When life leaves the human body it, it seems now to just decay into just the physics of the universe, chemicals and mass, all these different things that just and it’s the life is gone. So creativity seems to sprout out, out of nowhere because if it’s sprouted from somewhere, if we could write an equation from where it came from, then it would be definable.
K So you might have to say that creativity thereby sort of provides the universe it goes through, it and is, is there an inherent somehow in it um so you might say that between chaos and structure, between science and creativity, we have this structure that we experience as the universe and when we are being creative hopefully we tap into that force, um, unexplainable by science, as opposed to being in the force that’s very explainable by science, inertia, and just calling that our creativity just because we are lazy.
A So then if that’s the nature of creativity, is there some way that you can practice the muscle so that it doesn’t feel so reactive and still not pre-programmed but it’s something you can slip into easily or you can access that at will or something like that?
K. Well when you say that you’re asking more for applied creativity.
K. You know your subconscious, the way your pupils move, a whole bunch of things may have creativity involved.
K You know, um, I mean certainly you can say they move with respect to light a certain way and things like that, but in all of physics, we find that there’s this, what you might call a minor unpredictability and in behavior, there’s these things that are minor unpredictability, so we call free will, so creativity abounds so what you want to do is channel it into something that’s socially acceptable and labeled as creativity.
A. I guess so or maybe just the root of something that you produce. I mean how do you know you are being creative?
K. I produce a bunch of curriculum. I have no idea if that is creative
A. Yeah well I mean.
K. It’s useful.
A. I think creativity to me like it has to do with generating something that hasn’t existed before to share a feeling, share an experience. It has to do with art.
K. It’s just an expression
A. OK but then there’s this expression that is very rote, in control, and very overlaid and something that you see over and over. Then there’s the expression that’s like very new or profound or effective, innovative, you can even say. So, to me, there’s different levels of creativity in that.
K. Well you know it’s interesting. Do you think the best actors are the most creative?
A. Think that they are the most authentic.
K. Right, so I would ask, what’s the use of being able to label as creativity where someone’s being creative?
A Interesting. I don’t know I just think like I have an interest in and I think it’s pretty common. I guess it has more to do with like generating work that’s relatable, generating, I guess, work. Something that’s original. Something interesting and compelling.
K. Well, that’s the thing. Creativity somehow comports with it. That’s positive. That’s interesting, um, you know, new and surprising, and all sorts of fireworks and flowers and butterflies.
K. And rocks. But, see creative–
K. But you know the opposite of creative, if you look at it as either rote or scientific or method, methodological, or whatever you want to call it, um, that’s almost become pejorative. That person, it’s not creative. Oh well, then what are they? They’re boring.
K. No fun, you see. You’re going to entertain me. That’s creative because it’s totally by surprise.
K If I know it’s coming and I completely know it’s coming then it’s not creative, its scientific there for there’s no fun.
A. Um-hum, interesting
K. But I, I don’t necessarily agree with the cultural tints and slants on creativity.
K. So I think, what is the basis of actually what are you asking?
A. So it’s like, it’s almost like I’m seeing it more as like difference that’s like entertaining versus something that’s just original.
K. Or surprising.
A. Or surprising but surprising even leads to entertaining you know.
K. Yeah, yeah.
Here is a genuine example of Keith teaching, or posing as a teacher, spouting his words of profundity, or as one critic described it “bogus deep.”
But is it bogus? Are his thoughts not brilliant and deep? This is a question I think each reader should decide for themselves.
The value of the transcript is it cuts away from the visual of the pontificating Raniere and his silly acolyte Mack and helps us read into what he is saying more so than what they are doing and how they look.
We can read this as coming from not two future convicts whose sexual exploits ruined both of them, but rather judge it apart – as Socrates teaching Plato or just two inane fools, one basically bloviating and the other trying to absorb it as special wisdom.
I think it was a characteristic of Raniere’s followers to all believe he was completely unique as a teacher and that his teachings were not found anywhere else.
Whatever you could find anywhere else, in any other philosophy, you could find in Raniere, but, there were a great many things in Raniere that are not found in any other philosophy.
In reality, almost everything he says can be found in some philosophy and what is not found in any other philosophy is incomprehensible nonsense.
To paraphrase Johnson, I would say, Raniere’s philosophy is both original and good – whatever is good is not original and whatever is original is not good.