If I wanted to build a horrible chimeric religion to get rich, that would probably be a profitable combo…but I’d have to be totally rotten at the core to be able to do it. Just like Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman, who founded a cult called variously NXIVM or the Knife of Aristotle.
There are innumerable articles on NXIVM and Raniere that are worth your time, including this 2010 piece in Vanity Fair that claims Raniere took advantage of several wealthy heiresses, among other alleged victims. What everyone seems to agree on is that NXIVM shares DNA with Scientology, but mostly appears to be a direct descendant of the ‘70s self-investment movement EST. Most in my age range know about EST from its appearance in recent seasons of FX’s The Americans. NXIVM goes a step further than either, with ex-members reporting harems, color-coded hierarchy dress codes, deep sexism, and other assorted basic bitch cult moves—especially litigation against journalists and anti-Raniere voices. There’s also a website devoted to tracking the group, which seems like it shouldn’t be alone in this. After all, Raniere has been on the cover of Forbes magazine. He’s not hiding from anything.
So NXIVM focuses on internal truth and a re-prioritized set of internal ethics, mostly ripped from the objectivist pages of Ayn Rand, which I think solves the mystery of “Why fake news?”
Talk about your unholy hybrids…it’s terrifying that people actually fall for this kind of poison.
I presume the EST in question is Erhard Seminars Training, rather than Eastern Standard Time, the Energy Saving Trust, or the European Society for Translation Studies?
Marcus Ranum says
the Knife of Aristotle.
And their sister-chapter, “the Razors of Occam.”
I bought one of those Razors of Occam. They said it would stay sharp for a whole year, but I only got about a week of shaves before it was unusable. And I cut myself, too. Ripoff!
Isn’t there an L. Ron Hubbard quote along the line, “…the way to get rich quick is to start a religion”?
And like a good scientist, he went ahead and tested his hypothesis :-p
Let’s not forget the dubious legal strategies and “extortion by litigation” that should be part of EVERY “New Age” (or at least “Post Enlightenment”) religious institution. See, e.g., NXIVM Corp. v. Ross Institute, 364 F.3d 471 (2d Cir. 2004); In re NXIVM Corp., 810 F.Supp.2d 567 (D.N.J. 2011); and more unreported decisions than I can count conveniently. The Second Circuit case is notorious among IP scholars for… lots of things, some of which are apparent only when one reads the briefs on appeal and the record in the District Court while already having a clue on religious misuse of IP.
myeck waters says
It’s a pyramid scheme. If you live in a pyramid they stay sharp.
The best way to (re-)sharpen an Occam Razor is to apply it vigorously to woo-woos, quacks, and cranks.
Gregory in Seattle says
A multi-level marketing organizations whose product is personal development seminars. Crimeny, but that is a whole bullfighting season’s worth of red flags right there.