NXIVM / Executive Success Programs

Quick Facts on NXIVM

  • What: NXIVM (pronounced as ‘nex-i-em’) is a company offering courses in the development of human potential. Also known as Executive Success Programs.
  • Founder: Keith Raniere
  • President: Nancy Salzman
  • Titles: NXIVM followers refer to Ranier as ‘Vanguard’ and to Salzman as ‘Prefect’ [1]
  • Location: Albany, New York
  • Claims: “NXIVM is a new ethical understanding that allows us to build an internal civilization and have it manifest in the external world. It allows us to explore our most fundamental nature and to begin to redirect our power of creation, a power that we all possess in a very human sense. It is a place where humanity can rise to its noble possibility.” [2]
  • Process: “The NXIVM training system is administered through Executive Success Programs, but details of the programs are largely hidden due to licensing and copyright protections. What is known is that, the training relies on a technique called Rational Inquiry to facilitate personal and professional development.” [3]
  • Controversy: Devotees praise Raniere and his program. Detractors refer to it as a ‘cult‘ or ‘cult-like’ organisation that ‘brainwashes‘ its followers. [4]
  • NXIVM responds: “Top officers and benefactors have denied that NXIVM is a cult, through their lawyer, Robert Crockett. He said the organization is built around a martial arts theme and is part of the human growth industry that includes the popular Tony Robbins. The philosophies, he said, mirror some found in the writings of Ayn Rand but with more of an altruistic component.” [5]

Also known as Executive Success Programs, NXIVM is a company offering courses in the development of human potential.

It uses methods created by Keith Raniere, NXIVM’s founder, called “Rational Inquiry” technology which Raniere has been trying to patent since 2000. He has said his program is a practice based on how the mind handles data with a goal of ethical behavior.

The program can by purchased like a health club membership to include weekly classes that run year-round, called Ethos, costing about $1,800 annually. Hundreds of modules are offered with names such as “Work and Value” or “Parasite Producing.” Students must sign a confidentiality agreement to not share materials, methods and information.

Besides the Ethos program, NXIVM offers “intensives” of 16 days, costing about $7,500, where people work from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; or for five days, costing about $2,700. VIP intensives can run as much as $10,000 for the five-day program. Also, one-on-one “EMs”, or exploration of meaning, sessions are encouraged to concentrate on “issues” a person may be dealing with, such as relationships.

NXIVM promotional material describes its “school” as a place to help people develop consistent ways of approaching goals by changing the way students think, make decisions and react.

Students are instructed that all adults have “disintegrations” because they learned to understand the world from the perspective of a small child and NXIVM courses help people to re-examine beliefs.

Sashes of different colors are assigned to NXIVM participants to denote rank, similar to martial arts.
– Source: James M. Odato, What is NXIVM, Albany Times Union, Feb. 20, 2012

The introduction to NXIVM quoted above is a part of a series of investigative reports on NXIVM published by the Times Union (Albany, New York).

The newspapers has published many articles on controversies related to the organization. Some observers consider NXIVM to be, sociologically, a cult.

In November 2010 the Times Union reported

In court papers filed Friday, a former high ranking officer of NXIVM depicts the cultlike group as a self-help and ethics school that is secretly a place for its leader to explore opportunities for sex and gambling money.

Susan Dones, a trainer who ran the Colonie-based company’s former Tacoma, Wash., center, told a bankruptcy court last week that Keith A. Raniere, the creator of the teachings used in NXIVM’s self-improvement courses, may have motives beyond the education of human potential.

Dones said NXIVM presents Raniere “as the most honest, ethical, Nobel (sic), man who had the answers to mankind’s problems” yet his training sessions are “used as a venue to stalk their students … who might fit into Raniere’s profile of sexual conquest and who might be willing to ‘give’ Raniere money to feed his gambling problem.” […]
– Source: James M. Odato, Ex-NXIVM trainer: Students are prey Times Union, Nov. 22, 2010

Women branded in NXIVM

Former NXIVM member Sarah Edmondson describes being branded in a secret NXIVM sorority initiation (ABC News 20/20, December 16, 2017):

See also:
– Barry Meier, Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded, New York Times, October 17, 2017.

Note: Buyer beware! In the process of researching NXIVM keep our cautionary information regarding ‘cult experts‘ in mind. If you find yourself in need of a cult expert we suggest you contact the International Cultic Studies Association.

nixvm article vanity fair

‘Seagram heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman and Keith Raniere’s NXIVM cult’ – Vanity Fair UK, November 2010


  • Cult of Personality, Michael Freedman, Forbes, Oct. 13, 2006

    Keith Raniere‘s devoted followers say he is one of the smartest and most ethical people alive. … They say his teachings as an inspirational executive coach can empower some of the most successful people in the world to attain ever higher levels of status and money. Why, his program can even cure ailments like diabetes and scoliosis. […]

    Detractors say he runs a cult-like program aimed at breaking down his subjects psychologically, separating them from their families and inducting them into a bizarre world of messianic pretensions, idiosyncratic language and ritualistic practices.

  • Ex-NXIVM student: ‘I think it’s a cult’ by James M. Odato, Times Union, Sep. 7, 2010. “Woman details 25-month ordeal and almost leaving her family as a student of NXIVM’s Executive Success Program”

    Three years removed from the organization, [Becca] Friedman said there is no doubt she has changed for the better because of instruction in NXIVM — from a selfish, angry woman who blamed others and external things for being in a rut. But she said she could have gotten the same place on her own. In NXIVM, she said, “they teach you that you don’t need anyone or anything to be fully actualized, or ‘at cause,’ as they call it, but you do need NXIVM.”

    She said it was tough to pull away from a group that was so alluring. With a $9.95 self-help book like “Zero Limits” and Buddhist spiritual study, she said, she has learned that the same principles are available without relying on NXIVM.

  • The Heiresses and the Cult by Suzanna Andrews, Vanity Fair UK, November 2010

    To family friends, Seagram heiresses Sara and Clare Bronfman are victims of a frightening, secretive “cult” called nxivm, which has swallowed as much as $150 million of their fortune. But the organization’s leader, Keith Raniere, seems also to have tapped into a complex emotional rift between the sisters and their father, billionaire philanthropist Edgar Bronfman Sr. The author investigates the accusations that are now flying—blackmail, perjury, forgery—in a many-sided legal war.

  • How to lose $100 million “A bizarre guru, menacing detectives, a mess of lawsuits: a tale of two heiresses of the legendary Bronfman dynasty” Nicholas Köhler, McCleans.ca, Sep. 9, 2010

    Triggering this latest round of NXIVM-related news coverage are allegations that Clare and Sara Bronfman, the daughters of Edgar Bronfman Sr. and partial heirs to the Seagram’s whisky fortune, have lost in the neighbourhood of US$100 million in failed investment schemes controlled by Raniere, to whom they are devoted. […]

    Bad press has dogged NXIVM for years, due largely to its zeal for litigating detractors. […]

    Critics say NXIVM’s workshops, which cost US$6,000 for a 16-day “intensive,” use 14-hour days, warm rooms and protein-poor meals to push newcomers into a psychologically pliable state. They point to the handful of people who have suffered breakdowns while pursuing the NXIVM curriculum, including an Alaskan who in 2003 paddled a canoe to the centre of a lake and drowned herself. “I was brainwashed and my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off,” she wrote before her death. Yet even former Nexians with good reason to distance themselves from the group say such reports fail to reflect how effective Raniere’s program can be in raising self-esteem and erasing anxieties, and stress that good, intelligent people often stay with the program. […]

  • Secrets of NXIVM In-depth series of special reports by the Times Union


News & News Archive

See Also

Apologetics Index research resource Self Help / Success Coaches


  • NXIVM Official website of NXIVM. Not recommended. Link included for research purposes only


  1. Cult of Personality, Forbes, Oct. 13, 2006
  2. What is NXIVM? official website. Last accessed Tuesday, February 21, 2012 – 10:54 AM CET
  3. NXIVM Wikipedia. Last accessed Tuesday, February 21, 2012 – 11:07 AM CET
  4. Various media reports. See
  5. Ex-NXIVM student: ‘I think it’s a cult,’ James M. Odato, Times Union, Sep. 7, 2010

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