This is part #2 in our series on the testimony given by Mark Vicente, one of the chief whistle blowers of Nxivm.
He was the second witness in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere, a witness for the prosecution.
In Part 1 entitle Inside the Cult – Mark Vicente Explains the Various Nxivm Groups and Subgroups, as the title suggests, Mark explained something about the number of sub groups and offshoots of Nxivm, used to recruit and interest people in joining the larger body of Nxivm.
In this post, Mark explains what happens inside a Nxivm class, called an intensive. It is probably one of the best explanations ever given and by a man who not only took the intensives but taught them as well.
AUSA Mark Lesko is examining Mark. It is the second day of trial, Vicente followed Sylvie, the first witness, who had concluded her testimony earlier in the day.
The date was May 8, it was Friday and Vicente testified to the conclusion of the day, and was set to return on Monday.
This is the remainder of his Friday testimony:
Q Mr. Vicente, what is an intensive, could you describe that for us please?
A ….it was a 16-day training one could take… at the first– five days and then if you decided to continue, you could take the entire 16.
Some people committed to only five days. That was my case; some committed to the entire 16 days….
A … The training was typically held at a center. In my case it was held at the headquarters, 455 New Karner Road. When you first came in, there was a registration process. You filled out a pretty in depth psychological survey… that survey [supposedly] was sent to some independent group that was supposed to study the results.
I don’t know if that happened or not. I think the survey… turned out to be a narcissistic personality disorder survey. There was [also] a … NDA agreement….
Q What does NDA stand for?
A Nondisclosure ….agreement…. you signed basically saying that you wouldn’t talk to anybody … about what you experienced.
There were a lot of restrictions. You couldn’t use [the teachings] for certain things and… you were not allowed to use what you learned once you left [Nxivm].… In order to get the [Nxivm] education you had to sign the agreement and [then] they were going to give you this incredible… vault of knowledge.
…. in my [first intensive] …Nancy Salzman ….was there teaching it.
Most people [in other intensives] got the education [from Nancy] on video… they might watch an introductory video from Nancy Salzman. It would be … around 50 minutes of her explaining who she was, talking about Keith Raniere, talking about this incredible model that they developed …. sort of the warm-up.
Once she had gone through that, the first module we did was called Rules and Rituals…. Basically, the ground rules of how [the intensive] is going to work, talking about… ‘are you open to feedback,’ ‘you’re not open to feedback,’ introducing the idea of sashes.
[It was] much like in … martial arts… this is what we were told…. in martial arts … you wear different colored belts. Instead of a belt, you wore a sash…. On a wall there was [a] huge array of sashes that went from … white to yellow to orange, all the way up to reds, and white at the very end… At that point the staff … working there were not wearing the sashes, but they explained the sashes and Rules and Rituals was the setup… from that point forward there were a number of modules that you did every single day…. modules like ‘Communication Being a Cause’ which we were taught was actually a concept borrowed from Neurolinguistic Programming.
And pretty early on a number of the philosophical ideas began being introduced… for example, there were ideas that … everybody had [something] called an inner deficiency… an inner deficiency is like… this …gaping hole inside of you of emptiness and… abject whatever, fear, whatever it is, that causes you … to feel like you need something from somebody else or from the external world to feel better…. we were told this is the thing [your inner deficiency] we’re going to help you work on.
So, that was one of the concepts that ….for the entire 12 years that I was there, that …concept …was always there.
Another concept was … “being at cause.”
… that they got from neurolinguistic programming. The idea that all the things you’re feeling that you think other people are causing are not caused by other people. You are the only one causing your feelings and you are the only one responsible for what you are feeling. They [others] are not doing anything to you.
In essence, what’s happening is that they [others] are a kind of stimulus. You do a bunch of things internally and you are causing your own reaction. So, really no matter what anybody else does, it’s not really them, it’s you.
And that idea also was present… in all the curriculum, the idea that really you’re the one responsible for everything…. all the upset you have at other people, all the complaining… about what people are doing, really it’s not them, it’s you… it was constantly pointed back at you.
There was a module, for instance, called “Honesty and Disclosure” … a lot of the intensive, the beginning is about redefining ideas…. In Honesty and Disclosure, the idea [is], well, maybe disclosure might not be good… there [are] circumstances under which one should not disclose things, [disclosure] should be strategic.
There was a module called “Good and Bad,” [which] again [is] redefining good and bad.
Q So, these were themes that were taught in various modules?
A They were taught in various modules and the first three days was full of this kind of redefining… redefining new words. … there was talk about tribute.
Q What was tribute?
A … Tribute was basically recognizing that you are who you are because of who came before you, who taught you… What they did with you, whether good or bad, is why you are the way you are right now and tribute is a very, very important thing.
… they talked about … the ranking structure of ESP – it’s very, very important to give tribute to those people that are of a higher rank, that have achieved… what you have not achieved and that was a constant focus.
In addition, there was an enormous focus on giving tribute to Nancy Salzman and to Keith Raniere who was called Vanguard… there was a lot of discussion about giving tribute to Vanguard….
…. there was another [module] called Pride and Prejudice, looking at… if you have the inability to give tribute…. [if you do] clearly it’s a pride problem. You have too much pride and so part of what this curriculum will help you do is… do away with that pride because that stands in the way of so many things for you.
Q So, pride was considered to be a bad thing?
A Pride was considered to be a bad thing. It was definitely something that would get in your way.
Q So…. these modules were … like classes basically?
A They were like classes…. an idea was introduce… let’s say Good and Bad [module]… what is good… what is bad… and [then] you would break out into groups and let’s say the intensive [had] 30 people, you break out into groups of maybe six or seven, with facilitators and you would discuss these questions and pretty soon you’d find out … you really didn’t have a clear definition of a lot of these things [discussed in the module] and you’d end up pretty confused… then what would happen [next was], a video would be played, or in my case [ay my first intensive] Nancy Salzman would come up and say, “great, let’s give you the answers.” They weren’t called the answers… it was called a debrief and later the term would be “disquisition.”
Q …. was the debrief session after the breakouts?
Q Breakouts, [are] participants…discussing questions?
Q [Then] Reconvene as a group and then you received the answers?
A You’d hear this module’s version of what the answers are.
Q And that debrief session was later renamed?
A Later it was renamed to disquisition.
Q Disquisition, is that a real word?
A I have no idea.
THE COURT: How do you spell it?
THE WITNESS: D-I-S-Q-U-I-S-I-T-I-O-N. I hope that was right.
Q Sounds good to me.
THE COURT: All right.
Q So, describe this debrief or disquisition?
A …. basically once you discussed a bunch of ideas, if you have six, seven, eight people in a group discussing what does something mean or what’s the meaning of this thing or what’s the definition, it’s chaos.
So, usually by the end of 15 minutes you have no idea what to think anymore, so then you’re listening to this version…. for instance. So, you know, they [trainer] would describe good as, you know, pro-survival and building of value; bad, — anti-survival and destruction of value, and you sort of say, “well, that’s a pretty good definition, I seem to like that.” They would say these are our working definitions that we’re going to use so we can keep on moving and things moved very, very quickly so… if you raised an issue, you know, it was like, well “stick with us because it is leading somewhere.”
Q What happened after the debrief sessions?
A Then we’d go back into breakout groups again and the same process would occur and then it would be anywhere from three to maybe up to seven [after] these…. debriefs that would occur and then there would be the final debrief or the sort of punch line of the message that they wanted to get across.
Q Did that have a name, that final debrief?
A It may have…I can’t remember if it did.
Q So, what happened after the final debrief?
A In the case of the intensive, you would have a very short break and then you would go back into another two hours, there were typically five two-hour sessions every day. They tended to be longer because in reality things run longer but, you know, …you were basically in session for anywhere from ten to twelve hours. This is Level 1 I’m describing…. Level 2 is a whole other thing.
Q We’ll get into that later. So, after this process of breakouts and debriefs, how did the intensive end?
A … basically the first three days was pretty much like that. The end of the first day was quite unique because there was a … module called “The Fall”. The Fall was Mr. Raniere’s version of … describing somebody’s fall from conscience into no conscience. So, basically, you know, somebody has very low self-esteem, it gets lower and lower, they’re miserable, depressed, a horrible human being, they get to like zero self-esteem and then what happens is they make a discovery and the discovery they make is that if they just abandon their conscience and abandon morality, life could be amazing. They could have anything they wanted and they start to have what’s called a negative self-esteem, which is they start to feel good having no conscience and they start to feel good hurting and torturing other people. It actually thrills them…. this always produced in the class — the class was terrified because everybody was like, “oh my God, I hope this wasn’t me.” “No, no, if you’re asking the question, it’s not you.”
And then on the fourth day they would introduce what’s called an EM, which is an “exploration of meaning,” and then you would receive one of those pretty much every day until towards the end of the intensive… at the end of intensive there was something called the “Magnificent Series” which is basically “now [that] you’ve figured out all these things about you and all these issues and all these problems, who is the real you?”, and that was discovering your essence at the very end and there was a lot of stuff in between.
[The court recessed at this point for the weekend.
A couple of observations are in order here:
The “in depth psychological survey” that supposedly was sent to some independent group to study the results turned out to be a narcissistic personality disorder survey.
Could it be that Raniere was looking for that type of personality? At the very least he was seeking to probe deeply into the personalities of the students to cull from these ones who were suitable [damaged enough] for his inner circle.
I have always found it interesting that students regularly signed NDA’s that they never got copies of. This showed they were by and large not business people, for sharp business people always insist on getting a copy of everything they sign.
It was also interesting that people regularly signed an agreement that said in effect, you couldn’t use the teachings without Nxivm’s consent – for any business or money making venture. Although it might be impossible to enforce, technically you were not allowed to use what you paid to learn if you left Nxivm.
This is rather unique in the history of education. Imagine Harvard, for instance, telling students that they could not use what they learned once they stopped being members or taking classes. And Nxivm was every bit as expensive as Harvard.
The main difference is that most people who graduate from Harvard go on to become successful in their fields. Very few who ever attended Nxivm intensives ever were successful at anything. And no one ever graduated. The courses went on forever.
The indoctrination started almost immediately. Nancy, either on video, or in person, gave the introductory and almost at once she starts to talk about Keith Raniere, and how incredible he is.
In Rules and Rituals you are supposed to be ‘open to feedback,’ which is to ensure you will listen to what the trainers tell you [feedback] as to what is right and what is wrong.
The sashes are a ranking system to allow Raniere to control power in the organization by deciding who is promoted.
The idea that everybody has an “inner deficiency” is also an excellent control feature since Raniere – and through his minions – could find your weaknesses and point them out to you; it was their job to find your weaknesses and the fact is you would never correct them no matter how many intensives you took.
“Being at cause” is also quite perfect since it is always your fault and never the course, or never Raniere for the horrible things you are experiencing from him or his teachings,
“You are the only one causing your feelings and you are the only one responsible for what you are feeling,” Vicente says, and it is what the misled students – especially those who took numerous classes [for Nxivm was nothing more than a giant sifting machine to sift out the people who would not be his servants and slaves] began to believe: No matter what harm Raniere did to them, things that made them unhappy, it was really their issue., They were at cause.
It is the perfect recipe for Raniere to ruin lives and have them blame themselves for it.
Tribute was also part of the hypnosis or indoctrination technique . While every bad thing you felt or experienced is all about your inner deficiency and you being at cause, there was one thing that you had to always be constant in — giving Raniere tribute.
You owe it all to him because of what he taught you – this prized teachings [that is actually undermining all your self confidence and robbing your wealth] – and the whole time you are thanking, giving tribute to your secret enemy, Raniere.
Of course if you did not give him tribute, the fault lies in you – you are prideful.
As for the method of doing a module and then going into breakout groups, this was meant to confuse the student and get them receptive to the debriefs where Nxivm would provide new answers to questions like “Good and Bad’ or “Honesty and Disclosure.”
Your morals would be revamped.
The use of the word “disquisition” to replace the old word “debrief” is revealing in itself. A disquisition is a long and elaborate dissertation on a topic usually meant to be the last word. To end any further inquisition into a topic, one provides a disquisition.
In short, Nxivm would tell you what to think. Then you would have a break out where you would realize that you really didn’t know what to think, then you would go back and do the debrief [or disquisition] and you would be told what to think.
Then there would be another breakout where, if you were not yet in agreement with the Nxivm teaching, you would be deliberately confused and confounded by the coaches or they would tell you at least to “stick with us, we have a point.”
Then you would go back for the final debrief and be told again what to think.
Combine this with the long, long, early morning to evening sessions, with minimalist meals, a room either too cold or too warm and very few breaks and you begin to wear down.
Short breaks and more two hour sessions, then break outs and debriefs and more break outs and disquisitions. There were five two-hour sessions every day. And they ran longer than two hours.
Of course Nxivm was a sifting machine.
Then there was Raniere’s likely favorite model — “The Fall”.
He is basically describing himself- and it must have given him such glee, as many psychopaths experience glee when they drop hints about their true intentions.
But he also used the Fall as a weapon against his followers. It was they who – having some conscience, which he of course lacked – who were always worried about having the fall.
As Vicente explains. “The Fall was Mr. Raniere’s version of … describing somebody’s fall from conscience into no conscience. So, basically… somebody has very low self-esteem, it gets lower and lower, they’re miserable, depressed, a horrible human being, they get to like zero self-esteem and then what happens is they make a discovery and the discovery they make is that if they just abandon their conscience and abandon morality, life could be amazing.”
This is precisely what happened to Raniere and very early on in his life. As soon as he lost his conscience, he lived gleefully for decades using everyone, without regard to how he hurt them.
It went on until karma caught up with him.
Vicente continues; “They [i.e. Raniere] could have anything they [he] wanted and they [he] start[s] to have what’s called a negative self-esteem, which is they [he] start[s] to feel good having no conscience and they [he] start[s] to feel good hurting and torturing other people. It actually thrills them [him].”
It was interesting that Vicente and others, including Sylvie, had the same reaction when they heard about the Fall — “this always produced in the class — the class was terrified because everybody was like, ‘oh my God, I hope this wasn’t me.”
No, it was not you, it was the guy you were giving tribute to.