When Mark Vicente testified for the prosecution, he told a number of very distressing stories about the man known as Vanguard, Keith Alan Raniere.
He was the second witness at the trial – and he was examined for days. It was not pretty.
When it came time to cross examine him, Marc Agnifilo, Raniere’s attorney, knew he had to do something to discredit this very damaging witness.
He knew that Vicente had been a member of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment – and he seized on this to try to discredit him.
As you will see from the sidebar, Agnifilo reveals his strategy, outside the presence of the jury, for dwelling on the Ramtha period of Vicente’s life.
As a word of explanation, it was introduced in evidence that Vicente had written a letter of resignation to the Executive Board of NXIVM where her wrote, “I’m terrified writing this. I was with another organization and I did something similar and things went south pretty badly.”
That other organization was Ramtha, which some say is a cult. This opened the door for Agnifilo’s cross examination of Vicente on Ramtha.
Agnifilo: What is Ramtha?
Vicente: Ramtha is the spiritual entity that a woman, J.Z. Knight, believes that she channels.
Q Were you a member of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment at some time before joining NXIVM?
A I was.
Q What years were you there?
A I think various times between 1994 and I think 2004.
Q So for ten years?
A Yes, but I traveled backwards and forwards for ten years.
Q You gave the name of a woman when I asked about Ramtha?
A The woman what heads the organization is J.Z. Knight.
Q J.Z. Knight?
Q Tell me if this is right, J.Z. Knight believes she is channeling a 35,000-year-old warrior?
A That’s my understanding.
Q It’s your understanding because you were a member of the group?
A It’s my understanding because that’s what she said again and again, and again.
Q How did you come to join Ramtha?
A Somebody referred me at one point and said, ‘Hey, you got to check this out,’ I think in South Africa actually. And then at some point I went up and attended a weekend.
A That would have been Yelm, Washington.
Q They have a campus in Washington State, right?
A Yes, they call it the ranch but, yes.
Q Just give us a quick run-down of what would you do in Ramtha? What did you do in Ramtha?
A It was a body of knowledge…. I don’t know how much I can say because I — there may be issues by my discussing things here. I don’t know the legal issues for me.
Q Like what?
A Getting sued for saying something. I don’t know. I don’t understand how the law works in this room. Maybe in this room I can say anything that is mine.
AGNIFILO: I would like permission to ask the witness about his experience.
THE COURT: You can, go ahead. You need to answer, you’re under oath. This a Court proceeding.
AUSA MARK LESKO: May we have a side bar?
THE COURT: Okay.
The attorneys went up to the judge.
LESKO: Your Honor, we haven’t objected to this line of cross-examination. I frankly don’t expect to object in the near term. But I would make the point that this is extensive cross-examination on the Ramtha affiliation. At some point, we will start objecting if it goes too long and too detailed. I want to alert everyone to that factor.
AUSA MOIRA PENZA: Can we have a proffer of how far we’ll go?
AGNIFILO: I’ve never spoken to this witness. I don’t know what he’s going to say about it. He mentioned it obviously in his letter to the [NXIVM] executive board, so I have the right I believe to explore it. I don’t think the jury or anybody else wants to hear too much about Ramtha. I do intend to get the basic idea of what Ramtha is.
I want to understand what his problem was that he referenced in the letter to the executive board. Because he seems to be linking his own fear, that’s what he said when he said in the letter is, “I’m terrified writing this. I was with another organization and I did something similar and things went south pretty badly.” I need to know what that statement that he made to the executive board in a letter means. I need the context for what that means.
LESKO: We don’t have an issue with that. The concern I have is Mr. Agnifilo dwelling or focusing intensely on aliens communicating to this woman and, therefore, to her followers.
THE COURT: 35,000-year-old aliens.
LESKO: That’s unduly prejudicial and inflammatory, and frankly a side-show.
THE COURT: Let’s go forward. And when you think things are irrelevant or —
PENZA: I think the word alien is irrelevant.
AGNIFILO: But the jury has to figure out if this man is trustworthy. Is he trustworthy? Is he someone that we should make — one of the things the Judge is going to instruct on — I’m speaking. I’m speaking.
PENZA: Speak to the Judge.
AGNIFILO: Fair enough. When the Court instructs the jury as to whether they would rely on this person in making a serious decision in their own life, I think they should know that he thinks that it’s good to join a group where a 35,000-year-old warrior is being channeled through a woman. I think that might be something that they would want to consider in whether they should trust him. I’m not going to dwell on it, but we’re going to talk about it and see what he says.
THE COURT: Well, I’ll be watching. And if you have an objection, you’ll let me know and we’ll take it from there.
(End of sidebar conference.)
(In open court.)
THE COURT: You may continue.
AGNIFILO: Thank you. Have you met J.Z. Knight?
A I have met J.Z. Knight.
Q How much time have you spent with J.Z. Knight?
A I don’t know that I can quantify it, a fair amount of time.
Q Did you believe that J.Z. Knight was channeling a 35,000-year-old warrior?
A For a few years.
Q And how did you reach that conclusion?
A Belief versus evidence.
Q So there was no evidence that compelled you to the conclusion that — let me finish — that J.Z. Knight was in fact channeling a 35,000-year-old warrior; fair to say?
A There was evidence. But in retrospect, I don’t know that I would have called it scientific evidence.
Q What was the evidence that J.Z. Knight was channeling a 35,000-year-old warrior?
A They would bring in scientists to do a series of measurements, run a series of tests. The scientists would say: this is verifiable, this is really happening.
Q Did you reach a conclusion during your time in Ramtha that J.Z. Knight perhaps was not channeling a 35,000-year-old warrior?
A Towards the end, yes.
Q What caused to you reach that conclusion?
A It didn’t make sense in the end to me. I was challenged on something that didn’t make sense. Then I felt I was threatened in a way that didn’t make sense.
Q How were you threatened?
A What I heard was that during a particular retreat intensive, she had allegedly said in front a thousand people that I’m going to die a terrible death. I realized, okay so now a thousand people in that room that may decide that that’s what they should do, let me die a horrible death.
Q I misunderstood, J.Z. Knight said that of herself?
A No, allegedly she said it of me, that I would die a horrible death in front of over a thousand very zealous people.
Q That scared you?
A You could say that.
Q What you said in your letter to the executive board of NXIVM, is that you’re terrified to write these things because you had done this once before in another group and things went south pretty quickly. That’s a passage you just read.
Q So what happened?
A The organization turned against me.
A The whole company.
Q Was that before or after you made the movie, ‘What The Bleep Do We Know?’
A That was after it was made.
Q And “What The Bleep Do We Know”, you made with two other people who are in Ramtha?
Q And was the movie, “What The Bleep Do We Know”, in some way related to the Ramtha philosophies?
A It was.
Q How so?
A Many of the ideas in that film were ideas that were discussed in that educational model.
Q How did you end up leaving Ramtha?
A I’m not clear on that, what do you mean?
Q How did you leave? Did you resign? Were you kicked out? How did it happen?
A No. I wrote a letter, then those things happened, then I just never went back.
Q So you wrote a letter, and then Ms. Knight said the thing about you dying a violent death.
A That’s my understanding, yes.
Q So what was the letter about before the woman channeling the 35,000-year-warrior said these things?
A It was concerns about people backstabbing each other and people saying things behind each other’s back. And also I didn’t believe she was getting actual information. Because in essence, I don’t know if I said exactly this way, but I said everybody is so busy kissing your ass, they are not telling you the truth.
Q You said that to Ms. Knight?
A That was the kind of thing I think I said.
Q You were critical of the head of the program of Ramtha, Ms. Knight?
A The entire system. I thought there was a problem with the system.
Q So fair to say, what you’re talking about when you write the letter to the [NXIVM] executive board in January 2016, the reference you’re making is your circumstances exiting Ramtha years earlier, correct?
A Yes. And expressing myself and what I thought was going on as trying to help and the response was not good.
Q Okay. Is it fair to say that throughout your life, you’ve been looking to do important things – is that fair to say?
A I would say that.
Q And when you joined Ramtha, you wanted to do important things there, correct?
Q And when you joined NXIVM, you wanted to do important things there, right?
Q You said a few times on direct and cross-examination –let me ask you a more specific question. When I was asking about Ramtha —
Q — and I asked if you really thought that this woman was channeling a 35,000-year-old warrior, you felt it was true at that time?
THE COURT: You may answer.
A At the time, yes, I thought it was possible.
Q You don’t think it’s true anymore, do you?
Q So, you thought it was true through 2004, but you don’t think it’s true anymore?
Q And once upon a time you thought NXIVM was wonderful, didn’t you?
Q And you don’t think so anymore?
A I think there are many wonderful people. But I think there’s some problems.
AGNIFILO: Your Honor, I have nothing else.
THE COURT: Very well.
And so Agnifilo closed his cross-examination of Vicente on the sweet note of how foolish the underpinning of the Ramtha sult was.
I do not know about you, but if a woman who told a thousand people who believed rabidly that she was getting secret information from an infallible, enlightened, all-knowing ghost of a warrior who lived 35,000 years ago, that I was going to meet with a violent death, a horrible death, I would have some concern.
These are end-of-the-world type people who have hidden bunkers out there in Yelm, Washington where they hide guns and store survival food – and all it would take is one out of thousand who wanted to prove old Ramtha was right and it might not be pretty.
Vicente challenged the foundations of Ramtha when he saw some contradictions in the behavior of the lady, J.Z Knight, who had thousands who believed her story. There were thousands who built their life around her – and her channelling of Ramtha.
Vicente did some dangerous cult bashing.
And a thousand believers were told Vicente was going to die a horrible death – because Ramtha said so.
Right after leaving Ramtha, he was recruited by Nancy Salzman and Barbara Bouchey – and Vicente came aboard the NXIVM ship. Compared to Ramtha, it must have seemed pretty safe and sane.
With a lovely man, a genius with a soft voice who only wanted to create a more noble civilization, not a man who pretended to find wisdom from some old ghost, but a man who possessed all wisdom within himself, much more than any old Ramtha and he would share it with you or anyone.
Vicente spent 10 years with Ramtha and 13 years with Raniere. It’s easy to criticize. What it shows me is that Vicente was a seeker. He wanted to find answers and, as he said, do something worthwhile.
He had some hits. His “What the Bleep” movie was a success. His appearance and contribution to HBO’s “The Vow” was seen by millions. It is educational. He may have been fooled by Knight and then fooled againby Raniere, but when he stopped being fooled, he left both groups – and, in the case of NXIVM, he did something about it.
His critics say he left NXIVM much later than he should have. I don’t know. I do know that when we were in the trenches, he was a pretty good fighter.
Smart and determined to not back down. He did not run and hide like many of the others who ran from NXIVM.
His detractors say he destroyed a beautiful thing – the NXIVM community. But he could not quite abide – I know because I was there – branding women with Keith Raniere’s initials. I think, as I recall, the most objectionable part of it to him, was that the women were lied to about the brand.
They were told it was the symbol of the four elements. Even Ramtha would not have told a lie like that.
Viva Executive Success!
All you fucking crazies from California came up here and ruined Washington! Go the fuck back home
When I was in my teens, Ramtha was a thing. Shirley MacClaine had just done her book and miniseries and was into Knight and Ramtha. I checked it out, and while I was at it, I checked out channeling in general. I was definitely a seeker but way more skeptical. I came to believe Knight was a faker pretty early on or maybe that she was not channeling something good. A lot of good, decently intelligent people got sucked into the whole channeling thing though so it’s not so weird as that. It was just a big thing then spiritually speaking. It takes a lot to break out of beliefs like this, to reject the guru and to go on to find your own path. I deeply respect Vicente and Co for doing that. Note, I went to see the Bleep movie, which was not openly promoted as being involved with the Ramtha movement, and immediately told the friend that I went with what was up and that I was done watching it. I literally left the cinema early on because I recognized the language immediately and wanted nothing to do with it. It makes me chuckle now to realize Vicente was involved…
I remember Shirley McClain’s movie. It was intriguing, but didn’t connect the Ramtha dots though.
Nothing defines the degeneracy of contemporary American society than the tendency to fall for mindless cults.
How many people still believe that Joe Biden actually controls the US government instead of a cabal of greedy corporations and devious politicians?
If voting really mattered, it would not be legal.
I often completely disagree with you, Shadow, but not on this comment.
But I wonder if you realize that you saying “Americans easily fall for cults and govt is run by devious politicians” would more aptly apply to T-Rump?
The other night I was listening to a radio talk show host named Jessie Kelly.
He broadcasts from KPRC radio in Houston.
Here is Kelly’s point:
“Jeffrey Dahmer was an evil man who murdered young men.
Today we have panels of college educated doctors in lab coats denying medical treatments like ivermecten and mono-colonal anti-bodies to seriously ill people for political reasons and to enrich Big Pharma.”
What is the difference between Dahmer and the college educated panels of doctors?
Donald Trump is not and never was the problem.
The problem is a callous, cruel elite motivated by greed and a lust for power.
To Jessie and Shadow:
The most effective defense against dying from covid is not getting seriously sick from covid — which is what vaccines do very well.
“College educated doctors” say that only one of the three monoclonal antibody treatments now works on Omicron, and supplies are virtually gone — because there are so many dense anti-vaxers needing it.
“Donald Trump is not and never was the problem.” Wrong. He kept secret the fact that Covid is “airborne” because he “didn’t want to start a panic.” The best defense at that time was mask-wearing — but he set the deadly example of not wearing one, because it would smudge his orange makeup and make him look like a sissy. How many needless deaths did he cause?
If recommending vacines is motivated by “political reasons and to enrich Big Pharma” — then NOT taking them is also for political reasons which (I guess) will somehow bankrupt Big Pharma? There is a reason that 80-90% of those who die from covid are unvaxed — right wing media is a co-morbidity factor.
Want a conspiracy that makes sense? Liberals (the same ones who stole an election without leaving even a trace of evidence) actually started the movement in right wing circles to not mask and not vax, so hundreds of thousands of right-wingbats would die and not vote. AND IT’S WORKING!
Save yourself, Shadow. Stop listening to Jessie and Joe Rogan and get vaxed. You are in the age group most at risk.
[…] out, he became disillusioned with Ramtha. He described his time with the group and his exodus on cross examination in the trial of Keith […]
So many self-righteous and self-certain commenters here who have absolutely no experience with other people’s belief systems, or even alternative belief systems to their own. In fact, I’ll bet a few people here are so ignorant of their own beliefs that they think they don’t have a belief system.
Their self-righteousness and their self-certainty is a sure sign that they’ve never examined and questioned what they themselves believe.
The comedian Ron White said “You can’t fix stupid”, and that’s the operative principle here.
For example, I’ll bet there are many Catholics here who are still Catholic even after becoming aware that the Catholic Church is factually a global pedophile ring, where hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals have been tried, convicted and sent to prison. They think Catholicism is a “real” religion while most others are “cults”.
You can’t get more stupid than that.
Factually, a global pedophile ring?
You have proof of this or is it a one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch kinda thing?
Yes. It’s factual I’m afraid:
I like the photo where Mark Vicente looks like a retired ice dancer and am so happy that you removed the image of Mark sharing a kiss with Raniere. That was unnecessarily cruel.
To all of us. So yuck.
Right? and that kind of cruelty is meant only for the women’s degradation, silly Frank!
What a dumb thing for Agnifilio to bring up. Why would you want to draw parallels between NXIVM and other crazy cults? Supposedly, the defense theory was the NXIVM was a legitimate business, not a cult.
Was the point to show that Vicente is naive, ignorant, easily mislead? Bad idea. First, you only call a witness dumb if his testimony requires intelligence. Eyewitness testimony does not – it only requires you to report what you saw and heard. If you bash a witness unnecessarily, the jury won’t like it. And second, Raniere’s whole defense is about how everyone involved was so smart and independent, and knew exactly what they were doing. This Ramtha stuff contradicts that theory completely. It reminds the jury that even smart, successful people can be mislead by hucksters and frauds. Why would you want the jury to hear that?
Vicente was in one cult, which he left when it got crazy and dangerous. Then he joined NXIVM, which he left when it got crazy and dangerous. This seems perfectly reasonable. It also basically tells the jury, again, that NXIVM is a cult.
Frank, please for the love of G_d, get yourself a proofreader.
The timing of this article is strange to me Frank. It’s all very interesting but it came out of nowhere. What was the motivation to do this now?
The timing of this article corresponds to Mark Vicente being interviewed in 2 parts on Sara and Nippy’s “A Little Bit Culty” podcast, kicking off their “Season 3”.
Here’s the link to part 2.
With Vicente being on the Culty pod, and Vicente taking it on the chin in John’s articles, I’m glad Frank chimed in. Vicente will always be polarizing
Vicente, like Edmondson and a bunch of other Nxians, jumped from cult to cult. Looking for “answers”. How stupid can you get?
It’s not just that they are fools, perpetual victims susceptible to getting ripped off. No, they’re looking for an angle. A quick path to money and power. After all, that’s what Nxivm offered, “executive success”.
The path to a quick buck.
These people are despicable.
Mark Vicente spent ten years with the Ramthas. TEN YEARS. Following this ridiculous organization whose leader claims to be channeling a 35,000 year old ghost.
Ghosts? “Channeling”? Speaking In tongues? What foolishness.
So, he finally twigs to the idea that something’s not right, leaves that outfit and goes and joins Nxivm. Smart, real smart.
And that movie Vicente made, “What the Bleep…”. What the f*ck indeed. The movie is pure quantum mysticism, pseudoscience malarkey pretending there’s a link between science and spirituality. This junk is more than just nonsense, it does actual harm by advancing ignorance, superstition, and misinformation. In fact, it advances the kind of thoughtless “inquiry” that Raniere peddled. Toss out a pile of impressive sounding jargon to keep your audience off balance, some unverifiable claims, then drop in whatever crazy conclusion you like.
Of course, this technique works best on a certain kind of audience. Gullible fools. The kind of people who join cults. Especially the people who never learn. Who join a cult, get burned, then go join another cult.
I am a weird duck. I like to try to figure out the motive for why people do the things they do. It helps you understand the world, and to me, it’s a critical difference between being a realist vs pessimist. Thanks to crime shows, people think motive denotes something bad. It doesn’t. It’s definition is simply “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.”
People like to help the homeless. Their motive? Could be as simple as that brief warm and fuzzy feeling they get for doing good. Knowing this motive is ultimately useless information in this case but it still can’t hurt to know. But my point being is attaching motive to actions is not searching out for sinister reasons to do a thing. You’re just looking for a reason, a context. Sometimes that context can make something unforgivable, forgivable, shrug worthy or make you realize something is far more complicated than thought. It can matter and so asking the motive question should be a regular part of what you do while recognizing you ultimately are making a theory on motive and should be willing to change that theory as new information comes to light.
Why this pre-amble? Well, it takes me to Mark Vincente. I agree with Frank that there was a real sacrifice and certain nobility to what Mark did in his part to take down a cult that he played a substantial part in building. Few people would turn on the thing they built, most would purposely blind themselves to its failings to avoid admitting their own mistakes like Nicki Clyne. Mark deserves much credit for that. There is no telling how many victims were prevented by his part in coming forward.
Still, motive is context and in telling the story of the fall of NXIVM, asking about motive remains important. Did Mark speak because he knew it was all wrong? I really don’t think so. Now that I know about his other cult, I am starting to suspect that this unknown reason he left it is for same reason he turned on NXIVM – they did something that violated his world in a way he couldn’t forgive. With NXIVM, those blinders were firmly on until he learned what Raniere did to his wife. And while I don’t recall it being said out loud, considering how DOS operated I find it hard to believe she didn’t cheat on him with Keith. Be it for bruised ego or nobility, a good came from it. But when telling the story of this thing, motives matter and it’s worth knowing more about it. Especially as those involved continue to try to turn the history of events to paint themselves as heroes like India.
Random thoughts I know, just writing out my questioning nature I guess – and reminding people to truly ask – why do people do what they do? It’s a rare day they do it for purely altruistic reasons, as that is simply not human nature.
Agnifilo’s cross examination was very limited in scope and he missed a major opportunity to tie Vicente as someone who was unreliable, untrustworthy and has chronic bad judgment. Agnifilo needed to take a more authoritative role to paint Vicente as a flake with unsound thinking!
— I don’t recall it being said out loud, considering how DOS operated I find it hard to believe she didn’t cheat on him with Keith. —
India said in “Seduced” that there was a lot of partner swapping sex in Nxivm…so I guess that in a sex cult ,it’s fair to believe pretty much anything goes…like the Necker Island orgy John TIghe reported on.
Forgive me, but these statements say way more about you than they say about others.
I’ve seen no evidence that Keith and Vicente’s wife had an affair. His wife’s actions can be totally explained by simply becoming aware of behavior contradictory to the stated purposes of NXIVM, as she says. People in “cults” and religions and groups and companies can see these red flags, and they can take actions that are helpful to others. It’s most often why whistleblowers become whistleblowers – altruism.
It’s a mistake to discount altruism in people. Even the Nazis had an altruistic purpose of “eugenics” – improving the human race for all mankind by culling the population of those with bad genes. The most horrific acts are usually committed for altruistic motives. If you can conceive of a Nazi guard corralling Jews into the ovens out of a love for mankind, you are going to get a lot farther in your understanding of others.
As for what motivates Vicente, I think he is very altruistic. He is just ignorant of the effect of an ideology on the human mind.
He’s the kind of guy who has not yet spotted that when you adopt an ideology to make sense of the world – which we ALL do – pretty soon that ideology starts to do all your thinking for you. And so while that ideology is buzzing like a propeller beanie on the top of your head, you miss what’s happening right in front of you. It’s very uncomfortable to realize your ideology doesn’t explain everything (even though none of them do), so you tend to look away from, discount, or ignore that which your worldview can’t explain.
Mark Vicente is saving the world – an altruistic purpose. He moved from the ideology of Ramtha, to NXIVM, and now to “Narcissistic Personality Disorder as an Epidemic”.
It goes like this: Mark adopts an ideology to make sense of the world. Then the ideology determines what he sees around him and what he’s supposed to think and feel about it. He is fully convinced that his ready-made answers from his ideology are true, and can help others if they would only adopt them too.. He has a very low tolerance for doubt. He has to have explanations all the time, and he is not comfortable unless his worldview is explaining absolutely everything for him 24/7.
In other words, Mark Vicente is a normal human being.
👍for the most part, but where I differ, is that I believe we humans are on a path of evolution, and as such, altruism not only is part of human nature, but I believe it will eventually become the whole of human nature. We are constantly evolving to higher awareness, and to greater good.