Decide on your ethics and make them the guiding force in your life; do not make decisions that are not in line with those ethics. Look to create strength and character through discipline. Look to create love. Do not reject your family unless your family rejects Nxivm, in which case some other steps may be necessary. Do not be a slave to your fears and attachments.
Pain creates conscience; do not be afraid of pain. Nxivm had not granted access to a journalist for an article for 14 years before it gave me a tightly stage-managed tour of its leadership and operations this winter, ahead of potential indictments. It remains highly secretive and exquisitely paranoid.
They have also answered some defectors, journalists and critics with lawsuits. My initial contact within Nxivm was Clare Bronfman, one of the two Bronfman daughters who are staunch supporters. To meet her, I traveled to Mexico, where Nxivm had built educational centers and where she was staying with Raniere, in an urban location I was asked not to reveal. They were staying there on the advice of lawyers and consultants and also because Bronfman was fearful in the United States.
She was fearful here in Mexico, too, worried that someone connected with a disgruntled ex-member or someone who had read about her wealth might kidnap her when she was out for a jog. Bronfman was wry and slight, polite. Every moment is such a moment. She took a seat on a cozy couch, set up for intimate chats among members.
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Bronfman told me she was an introvert, and her voice was so soft that it drifted away, but she answered my questions directly and seemed highly in touch with her emotions. Bronfman outlined the shape of the group for me. Nor were they often taught by Salzman anymore, but rather by members she had instructed, members whom those members had instructed, and so on. Nearby, a number of colorful sashes hung on hooks. Some higher-ranked sashes have never been attained, Bronfman whispered. Anything in the group about skinniness, about punishment, about self-denial was simply to help members evolve.
But after talking to ex-members, I learned there was a pattern within the group of not allowing people to meet Raniere before a Nxivm member, usually a woman, had spoken of his great gifts. Then we arrived at a nondescript condo building. Pushing open a heavy wood door, I was greeted by a tall woman with surging dimple creases wearing the Tiffany necklace. When Raniere materialized — waking from a micronap — it was as if a record skipped.
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He was built like a wrestler and dressed in business casual: a sky-blue polo shirt, gray slacks and round tortoiseshell glasses. He was graying at the temples, but the rest of his dark hair was cut with flair and volume. He spoke in a nasal, New York-accented voice and often tossed his hair, a feminine gesture that he used to punctuate his thoughts.
He seemed like a high-end real estate broker trying to come off as friendly but anxious about closing a sale.
Those lines portended some grand finale. He was honest about the fact that he was polyamorous and spoke to me about the importance of not only sex but intimacy. But what was important to know about him was that what he does every day is simply walk and think, he told me. Yet through many hours of conversation, Raniere did not progress to new points. But I watched as he drew into himself, seemingly intentionally, becoming a black hole of anti-charisma.
Raniere has considered himself special for a long time: He has said he spoke in full sentences at a year old, read by 2 and taught himself to play concert-level piano at 12, the same year he learned high school math in 19 hours. His home life was something quite different, and he claimed this was what had led him to create Nxivm.
His mother had a heart condition and was often in bed. She and his father fought. Relationships outside his family became of paramount import to him.
He wanted to be an academic, but for a child who felt out of control, control of others may have been appealing, and he became interested in the science behind multilevel marketing. It was enormously successful, at least at first. Local papers in Albany portrayed him as an eccentric, appealing genius, noting that he slept only a few hours a night and could juggle and unicycle. After developing another company — a health network selling vitamins and dietary supplements and recommending alternative doctors — with his girlfriend of the time, Toni Natalie, Raniere began thinking more deeply about persuasion and how you could talk people into anything, even helping themselves.
When Raniere met Salzman, who had a successful therapy practice near Albany at the time, they began having conversations, just two people going back and forth talking, and soon, Salzman said, she started to feel better, more joyful. She asked Raniere if she could watch him do his persuasion model. Can I watch you do it on a person? Like Raniere, the Bronfman sisters were seeking to heal familial relationships, particularly with their father, a pillar of New York society and president of the World Jewish Congress.
When Clare, who was a professional equestrian competitor in her early years, took her first course, she was unimpressed. I would never connect with people who did. And people are people. So rich people can do good and bad, poor people can do good and bad.
As a wealthy woman, it was all done for her. My family had accountants. A profound rift developed between Edgar and his daughters a few years into their involvement in Nxivm, but Clare continued to want to use her inherited money ethically.
In fact, Salzman owns Nxivm, and Raniere has nothing to do with it, officially. He received no salary from Nxivm, nor possessed a credit card, A. He answered that they usually appeared. Raniere insists it was less. With access to Bronfman funds, Nxivm engaged in all manner of legacy-creating enterprises, many demonstrating kindness and concern for others. The group invited the Dalai Lama to Albany, though he initially canceled his trip after the press drew attention to the mysterious nature of the group; several members traveled to Dharamsala to smooth things over.
They formed an a cappella group named, appropriately enough, Simply Human. Bronfman has also produced a film about Nxivm improving the symptoms of Tourette patients, which screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival this spring. Raniere had free rein to indulge his interest in scientific experiments. He conceived a new type of school to teach children as many as eight languages at a time; each teacher speaks one language, on the theory that children pick up language more easily from a beloved caregiver.
News was disinformation that could encourage fear, start wars and convince people of anything, but the Knife wielded its powerful tool nobly.
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Women filled many high ranks in the group, so it is not a surprise that one of its enterprises involved gender relationships. By voicing these feelings, which can be taboo to speak out loud, men supposedly developed compassion for women, and vice versa. In , when Harris was 7, Shirley Chisholm dropped by. She was exploring a bid for president. When I asked Maya about her relationship with her sister, Kamala raised her eyebrows and cocked her head, like, This had better be good.
Harris, laughing, declined. Do I even need to say it? They won. Harris attended high school there. At Howard University, in Washington, D. This was not an easy sell for her parents.
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Donald Harris, meanwhile, had become an economics professor at Stanford University, the first black man in his department and one of about 10 black faculty members total. He was a left-leaning iconoclast who wrote and taught about uneven economic development around the world, particularly across racial lines, long before many Americans had ever heard the phrase income inequality. She wanted insider power, establishment power.
It was the choice of a woman who likes control.
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