Allison Mack was once famous for her role in the TV show Smallville, a spin-off show about Superman. However, a few years ago she joined a group called NXIVM (Nexium) who promised to help her on the path to enlightenment and happiness. The group pulled in more famous people, including other TV celebrities, the director of What the Bleep Do We Know, and the Bronfman sisters, heirs to the Seagram fortune.
NXIVM ran self-help sessions in Canada and the US, and had a few odd ideas - like the rule that the group’s founder, Keith Raniere, had to be called Vanguard and bowed to, and that people were required to wear coloured scarves to denote their rank within the organisation.
Like many cults, a mythos built up around Keith. He was slated to have one of the highest IQs in the world, a successful businessman, and a spiritual guru. However, he did eventually convince the Dalai Lama to visit Albany and endorse his cult - for a large fee.
Keith set up a group for women within NXIVM called DOS - which stood for Dominus Obsequious Sororium. New members were assigned as slaves to senior members, and had to go through an initiation ceremony where they were branded while naked. They had to provide collateral - naked pictures, embarrassing stories, confessions - in order to prove their loyalty. And it was this sub-group that caused the eventual downfall of the cult - when members realised that the branding, which they had been told was a sacred symbol, was actually just a logo that incorporated both Keith’s and Allison’s initials - KR and AM.
When Keith was eventually caught he was hiding in a closet in a rental property in Mexico, and he was subsequently sentenced to 120 years in prison just before COVID lockdown. Some of his followers started dancing for him last year outside his prison window, as a way of showing their continued loyalty, which was a really odd thing to see. But it appears to have started slowly dawning on some of his more ardent followers that he was nothing more than a con man.
Just last week Allison Mack was sentenced to 3 years in prison. She recently apologised for her part in the cult - something many senior members have never done. She said:
"I am so sorry to those of you that I brought into NXIVM. I am sorry I ever exposed you to the nefarious and emotionally abusive schemes of a twisted man. I am sorry that I encouraged you to use your resources to participate in something that was ultimately so ugly."
I highly recommend the Uncover podcast for anyone who’s interested in learning more about NXIVM. The creator of the podcast bumped into an old friend just after they had left the cult, and the ensuing recordings do a great job of laying bare what it was like to have been in the group.
As always, if someone’s telling you they have all the answers, and that they will sell it to you for a price, or for your subservience, they’re probably lying. If you ever find yourself in a position where you think the group you’re in might be a cult, talk to friends outside the group about your experiences and ask their opinion. Even if you’ve previously shunned them (which many cults force members to do), most friends will be happy to talk with you if you’re in need.