Guest View: I Attended a NXIVM Weekend in 1999; I Wasn’t Impressed

This is a guest view by an individual who attended a NXIVM weekend in 1999.

By a Guy Who Was There

I did a one day / weekend Nxivm intro in 1999 with a fellow SUNY Albany alum.  He was curious because he was involved with Neurolinguistic Programming [NLP] and I hadn’t seen him in a decade so I joined him.

Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman in 1998


John Grinder is one of the founders of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), which is described as a pseudoscientific approach to personal development. Nancy Salzman claims to have studied with Grinder.

What I took away was that their technology was stolen from other groups: Rational Emotive and Cognitive Therapy, EST, The Forum, NLP and Scientology.

Albert Ellis (pictured) is the founder of Rational Emotive Therapy, a type of psychotherapy to help people to lead happier lives, developed in the mid-1950s.


L Ron Hubbard is the founder of Scientology.

Furthermore, they claimed their leader was the smartest man in the world when there is no such thing as a “smartest man”. Scientists have been arguing about the definition and parameters of intelligence along with the difficulties of measurement for decades. It made NXIVM look foolish to claim ownership over something that was undefinable to begin with.

I had a good day/weekend but I said: “No thanks”.

Keith Alan Raniere teaching a NXIVM intensive in 1998.

I thought everyone would see through them as I and my friend did; and drop away quickly. I never suspected this fledgling organization would grow into a force that would terrorize dissidents, influence upstate NY politics, judicial proceedings, law enforcement, media and beyond.

I had forgot about them completely until Frank Report surfaced on my radar somehow in 2017.

Frank Report came on the scene and made a few people aware of NXIVM.

What alerted me? They never seemed honest. They never gave credit to the other ‘technologies’ that they borrowed their program from. They flouted a leader who could not be what they claimed because that person does not exist. They demanded loyalty (bowing to the leader) when what they needed to be doing is giving love away freely.

Vanguard Week was a 10-day retreat dedicated to celebrating the Vanguard.

About the author

Guest View


Click here to post a comment

Please leave a comment: Your opinion is important to us! (Email & username are optional)

  • “I had a good day/weekend but I said: “No thanks”.

    I guess he wasn’t interested because 1999 was before all the Vancouver actresses and their orgies.

    • Well, if the material wasn’t what it was promised to be, there should have been something else to snag marks…? Maybe if there weren’t enough hot chicks and/or celebrities to parade around, they should have pitched pyramid scheme riches? Or midnight volleyball? naw – forget that one. No worries – Keith soon learned how to better grow his company.

      • Yeah, it’s called convincing two very rich gullible idiots to fund his operation and then everyone being enamored by the clout of the Bronfman name, including the uneducated, naive minor celebrities who came on board after them. It was just surrounding himself with a bunch of myths and lies that no one really decided to fact check on even though there was PLENTY of information out there, especially from Rick Ross (who turned out to be very right). Otherwise, like all his other business endeavors, it would have failed shortly within some years.

        • True. When preparation (a fake story about yourself and assembling an army of women to promote the make-believe story) meets opportunity (two very rich gullible idiots).

    • Hollywood & Vancouver actresses would have been a sure turn-off wreaking of Scientology’s dissipation. Likewise, the Mexican “elite” and the Bronfmans… Volleyball, now that is very cool!

      I’m a Catholic – and what that means is I believe in salvation that is accessible to everyone, not just rich, spoiled, overindulgent types that find life meaningless.

      • — Vancouver actresses would have been a sure turn-off —

        Depends. Sometimes people prefer fun more than salvation. Some find Kristin Kreuk more seductive than a Catholic priest.

  • For starters this is a picture of Charles Nelson Reilly, a rather “fey” character actor of the sixties and seventies.
    Frank, next time choose a picture of the more masculine Paul Lynde.

    And if you ever need a picture of me please use this classic photo of Orson Welles as the Shadow.

    As for all of this talk of self-help and neuro-linguistic programming, from the 2018 comments on the Frank Report a person, supposedly Allison Mack’s mother, claimed that Ms. Mack was interested in self-help books.
    I would respectfully request that anyone interested in self-help do their research and avoid self-help programs that resemble cults.

    Inside the Actors Studio: Charles Nelson Reilly – Saturday Night Live

  • Stumbled across these NLP certifications. If someone wishes to explore NLP and even become a practitioner, this course is recognized by the Complementary Medical Association. It does have me wondering who the experts are that designed these NLP certificates and if any of them have NXIVM affiliations or influences, especially since Rational Inquiry is used. For $200, one can go find out and report back on the experience. Hoping to read this article on FR!

    • Thanks for that. One thing it exemplifies, is that there are more relatively short NLP trainings people can pay for that provide “diplomas”, practitioner “certifications”, etc., than you can shake a stick at.

      It’s interesting that rational inquiry turns out to be a term used in the NLP world. That’s almost certainly because Raniere borrowed it, not because he introduced it through NXIVM.

      I find that it has roots in the late 19th century, from the same era, if not the same milieu, of the New Thought Movement that also spawned Theosophy, Christian Science, etc.:


      And it was popularized more recently by Noam Chomsky, another seminal figure from the same era as the human potential movement and all its figures, gurus, groups, trainings, etc.:


      That’s actually a pretty typical lineage, origins in the late half on the 19th century, and resurrection of interest and use in the later middle of the last century. Plus there was a less prominent but still influential period of early 20th century continuance or resurgence, exemplified for instance by Rudolph Steiner’s Anthroposophy (with roots in Theosophy and, less obviously, 19th century occultism) and his Waldorf schools (a direct influence on Raniere), etc.. And that illuminates how it’s also often virtually impossible to tease out whether someone using a concept in the 1960s and 1970s got it through a contemporary translator like Chomsky, or through direct knowledge of earlier sources, though anyone coming after that is almost always drawing from human potential and counter-culture era sources.

      Raniere may have been granted a dubious patent on a “rational inquiry method”, which doesn’t mean he invented rational inquiry itself; typically, however, it was spun to followers to imply that it was entirely his original work. Similarly, Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard had a knack for positioning himself to take, and be given, credit for a lot that he just got from others.

      • — I guess he wasn’t interested because 1999 was before all the Vancouver actresses and their orgies. —

        To Anon poster — you didn’t mention if you would have joined if Kristin Kreuk had been there to “recruit” you.

          • — Hah! No interest in actresses or celebrities —

            Some people here say Kreuk doesn’t qualify as an actress or a celebrity.

  • Thanks for sharing that interesting and informative personal perspective.

    The previous influences you cite were, part of the whole milieu of the human potential movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, which borrowed from earlier sources ranging from Buddhism to Dale Carnegie (and Napoleon Hill), and then in turn cross-pollinated in a myriad of ways that make it impossible to pin down any clear lineage, including then on to the next generation of groups that followed, like NXIVM (exemplifying that complexity, see chart at end).

    NLP was definitely a clear and direct source that NXIVM drew from, along with Scientology, from which they borrowed specific terminology and concepts such as ‘suppressive’ persons. Grinder gave, or was part of, many NLP training workshops of short to medium duration, and I haven’t seen any evidence Salzman did anything more than those, though she studied or worked more extensively with a more minor figure in the East coast NLP community; and she had also studied Ericksonian hypnosis, itself the precursor to NLP.

    Given where NXIVM was located I think it’s highly likely that Raniere and probably Salzman as well would have known and picked things up from people who had done former Scientology Elmira, NY mission holder Harry Palmer’s Avatar courses, which fused ideas from his earlier affiliation, with the large group training (LGAT) format best known from (though hardly unique to) est/Landmark; it’s thus possible that elements you recognize as seeming to be from that latter source, come second hand through the former group, that’s how muddled these relationships get.

    Here’s a chart that gets at the complexity, suggesting that Tony Robbins (who also puts on what could be described as LGATs, especially with his fire walking) rather than Harry Palmer is the intermediary between Erhard’s est/Landmark and NXIVM — which is one way to look at it, and perhaps it was both Robbins and Palmer:

    • Robbins is way more important to Keith’s path than has been discussed on Frank Report. Keith hated Robbins. Robbins had an office next to Toni Natalie in Albany. Robbins wouldn’t give Keith the time of day. But (according to Keith), Robbins would hit on Toni, right in front of Keith.

      With their proximity and the success Robbins was having, I’m sure Keith pilfered every ounce of value he could find from Robbins. I noticed many similarities in the original 20 modules.

      • Nutjob, fascinating that Robbins had operations in the Albany area and crossed paths with Natalie. I had no idea.

        And, it shows what a small world it is when it comes to things like this. I wonder if it points to the Albany area being more of a nexus for for this sort of ideas and groups than might be obvious.

        Whatever you want to say about Robbins, he is professional, focused and well-organized. He obviously recognized the grungy guru Raniere for the hack he really was.

        Robbins also provides a contrast that reminds us that Raniere never really did get the “executive” angle down, After snagging a couple of known names early on, probably mostly due to lucky connections, he never really got beyond attracting low-level wannabe managers and salespeople, plus some heirs and heiresses who probably wanted to find ways to seem important in the shadow of their parents.

    • My personal experience is Keith and Nancy were not receptive to my and my buddy’s references to other groups or forms of psychotherapy! Nor my reference to Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher from which true rational inquiry derives.

      We were respectful in bringing up those questions simply because we wanted clarification as to how they were different and what they would offer that would be different. I did not find it necessary to mention I had been at Esalen Institute in its early days, did the EST Training, etc., had several high-level professional degrees and had instructed at an Ivy medical school. I had the impression they were just a semi-delusional, small town local outfit putting on their own rock and roll show, doing cover songs from other bands without bothering to give credit to them! (Personally, it was a great weekend to reminisce with my buddy but unfortunately our last one together.)

      I never dreamed these creeps would have conducted a scorched earth warfare campaign through upstate NY, successfully deceiving, bribing, suing and seducing their way until it all backfired when they ended up on the front page of the NYT! It’s amusing some of these entitled fools are still out there in Brooklyn, feel no shame, and fail to recognize the deception, cruelty and abuse at the heart of their deeds and the philosophy of Objectivism. Even when confronted on camera in front of MDC Brooklyn, they declined to go on camera and answer those questions. They want to control the narrative to judicial and prison abuse and make themselves into martyrs for human rights. And human rights are exactly what they need to think about: protecting the rights of all, especially those they’ve harmed.

      • Wow, it sounds like you really had the background to have some perspective on just what they were doing. And I’m impressed and envious that you got to spend time at Esalen. I have some similar background, including having had friends during grad school who were studying hypnosis and NLP, particularly relevant to understanding NXIVM.

        It sounds like you tried to engage them in the sort of “inquiry” that they only pretended to be teaching – typically for such gurus and groups, it was more a veneer for indoctrination. And while they put on pretenses about one of their key principles being acknowledging the work of others, typically that only applied in the way that was advantageous to the guru – students had to credit him, but he failed to acknowledge important influences and outright lifting of concepts from others.

        Having some lines of interest that have led me to study groups like this, it’s pretty typical that diehards and apologists have the attitude or viewpoint that they feel happy they got theirs, and aren’t really concerned with what it might have cost others. And if you look at the groups, their leaders and ideologies, that typically comes out of a worldview that is ultimately very self-centered and callous (extremes of utilitarianism and libertarianism, verging on “might makes right”), and which, for example, in both NXIVM and Scientology, rejects expending time or money on any sort of charity.

        • Thanks for your comments. Your viewpoint is accurate. Self-centeredness has become an integral part of many personal growth movements, and this has become a danger for all of us.

          Keep in mind, many contemporary personal growth leaders are self-styled and haven’t had in depth higher education. This is true for Robbins and Werner Erhard aka Jack Rosenberg (EST). People haven’t understood philosophical lineages that extend back to the Buddha, the Greeks, Christ, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the various 19th Century movements that sought to ground man back in nature. People continuously re-invent the wheel and are in ignorance of all those who came before them.

          Most important, don’t forget we all live together on a spinning planet that rotates around a sun. That is a feat in itself. Be thankful for being conscious of all we have.


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.” He also appeared in "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM, and was credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

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.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083