Their Founder Is An Even Shadier L. Ron Hubbard
The founder of NXIVM (pronounced Nexium, which makes them sound like a mid-tier medical insurance company) is Keith Raniere, a man so skeevy and irredeemable that he probably has a great future in politics. In interviews, Raniere, who gave himself the code name "Vanguard" (nerd), claims that he was always destined for greatness. According to him, he spoke full sentences by the age of one, had mastered high school math by 12, and by 13 had learned advanced college-level math and several computer languages. Or, according to court documents, he almost flunked out of all his STEM courses and barely managed to earn a degree at all. It's so hard to figure out who to believe, legal evidence or a cult leader.
After squeaking through college, Raniere discovered his true passion: child molestation. Like any creep with no shot at dating an intelligent adult, Raniere was involved in several sexual relationships with underage girls, including a 15-year-old whom he wooed by taking her to the local video game arcade. That's where his oh-so-cool code name came from, because they used to play the arcade game Vanguard together. He was also accused of molesting a 12-year-old girl, but for some reason, he didn't give himself a nickname based on what they played together.
CenturiSomehow, "Perv on teen girls!" didn't make the retail ad.
After that, Raniere decided he wanted to save the human race, though not from himself. He later claimed that this quest to help people reach their full potential was borne out of reading Isaac Asimov and Ayn Rand -- the latter fully explaining why his first move was to start a pyramid scheme that defrauded investors out of millions. After his adventures scamming housewives and being the villain from every stranger danger kids' PSA, Raniere teamed up with Nancy Salzman, a fellow bullshit artist specializing in "neuro-linguistic programming," to form the Avengers of pseudoscientific nonsense: NXIVM. Which brings us to how ...
NXIVM Was A Cult Hiding As A Boring Resume Filler
NXIVM was founded in 1988 to capitalize on the then-growing cottage industry of "executive coaching," whereby groups of rich idiots pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to tell them that fulfilling their manifest destiny can be achieved by, y'know, thinking a little differently.
That's not a joke.
In order to take part in NXIVM's "Executive Success Program," participants would pay anywhere between $1,200 (for a three-day course) to $7,500 (for a 16-day course), while high-flying executives who didn't want to slum it with the normies could pay upwards of $25,000 per session. In return for this small pile of cash, they'd be given the greatest gift of all: something nice and shiny to put on their resumes. Oh, and relentless brainwashing.
NXIVM inductees learned nonsensical handshakes and constantly recited a 12-point manifesto. They also had to wear colored robes to signify their rank in the organization, would be forced to bow whenever a higher-ranking member entered the room, and were expected to prostrate themselves before Raniere if he ever made an appearance. Except if you were an attractive lady, in which case you were to kiss him on the lips. This madness, combined with 13-hour sessions during which counselors would grill students on their emotional weaknesses, led to some targets becoming ill, with one 28-year-old woman winding up requiring psychiatric treatment.