One of the most bizarre scandals in recent memory is the NXIVM cult story, something that both HBO and Showtime have covered extensively.
So many cults have come and gone over the years, often ending in mass suicides. But it seems that the nature of cults has changed in recent years.
In the 90s, with Heaven’s Gate and the Branch-Davidians, there was a religious component, a belief that their leader was an incarnate or representative of God and that their ascendance through suicide would bring them to a better place.
With NXIVM, Keith Raniere built a modern cult that picked and chose its parts from Scientology, multi-level marketing pyramid schemes, and the self-help movement. All combined into a misogynist, abusive cult located in upstate New York.
10 Raniere's Sex Crimes Started In His Early Adult Years
Raniere grew up in New York, the son of an advertising man and an alcoholic ballet instructor. After a relatively uneventful childhood in which he was praised and pampered, he first had sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 24.
According to family friends, it wasn’t his first sexual experience; he was quite the ladies’ man as a kid, but it was the first illegal encounter.
He then had sex with a second 15-year-old, and after being caught, he explained that she was a “Buddhist Goddess meant to be with him.”
The girl, Gina Hutchinson, dropped out of school to follow Raniere. In Woodstock, she was found dead outside of a Buddhist Monastery in 2002, resulting from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
9 It Was Always A Pyramid Scheme
Before Keith Raniere founded NXIVM, he was working at Amway. It wasn’t long before he started his own multi-level marketing company, Consumer’s Buyline. But the company was quickly shut down in 1993 after being investigated by 20 states.
In 1996, Raniere was banned from ever participating in chain distribution schemes, but he didn’t leave the multi-level market empty-handed.
Toni Natalie, an employee who had risen to be his top seller, left her husband and took her son to Clifton Park, NY, to be near Raniere.