It appears that purported Albany, New York “cult” leader Keith Raniere (photo below), known to his followers as “Vanguard”, may be re-branding his business again.

628×471.jpgRaniere, a failed multi-level marketing guru, now runs a large group awareness training (LGAT) company. First his business was called Executive Success Programs (ESP), then NXIVM (pronounced nexium) and now it seems the latest name being used is “Ethilogia“.

The Ethilogia Web site claims it’s “the path of the ethicist” and teaches “value based decision making”.

However, in a 2003 article titled “Cult of Personality” Forbes Magazine described Keith Raniere as the “world’s strangest executive coach” and quoted one of his former clients who labeled his company a “cult”.

This year reporter James Odato of the Albany Times-Union won an Associated Press award for his investigative series “Secrets of NXIVM” exposing the seamy side of Raniere’s life and business.

The Ehtilogia Web site states, “At the core of this course of study is a patent-pending technology called Rational Inquiry”. This “technology” is described as a process of “emotional training” that affects “decision making” accomplished through “inner breakthroughs”, which are “like working out in an “emotional” gym.” The site says, “Achievements are possible because the very foundation of a person’s human experience”one’s belief system”will be completed and integrated.”

Interestingly, what the new Ethilogia Web site doesn’t mention is Keith Raniere, despite the fact that he is the creator of Rational Inquiry. At Raniere’s personal Web site associated with NXIVM he is credited as the “creator” of the Rational Inquiry as well as proclaimed a “Scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, educator, inventor and author”. It was apparently in his role as “philosopher” that Raniere put together the belief system Rational Inquiry, which is the basis for both NXIVM and Ethilogia.

The Albany Times Union reported, “Many of the terms within NXIVM are similar to those in the Church of Scientology, a religious movement that has been called a cult ” a label the Church of Scientology denies. As with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Raniere’s ideas are labeled ‘technology.’ Those who are seen as disloyal to the group are dubbed ‘suppressives’ and students move up a ladder of coursework meant to make them more successful in life and work. Long, involved sessions of guidance are called ‘intensives.’” It was also reported that Raniere’s “interest in philosophy traces to author Ayn Rand, particularly from her novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’.”

But despite what seems like Mr. Raniere’s substantial borrowings from other sources the Ethilogia Web site nevertheless says that Rational Inquiry is “a unique, patent-pending technology and body of knowledge”.

Browsing through the Ethilogia Web site you will see photographs of famous folks with corresponding stories and/or quotes. The list of featured historic icons includes Steve Jobs, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey and Olympian Wilma Rudolph. None of these people were ever actually students of Rational Inquiry or Keith Raniere. And other than Oprah Winfrey, all of these iconic figures are dead and therefore must remain silent concerning the questionable use and association of their name and image to promote Mr. Raniere’s latest business scheme.

The “team” of “coaches” touted by Ethilogia is rather telling and includes names with ties to NXIVM such as Melissa Rodriguez, Ivan Lucas, Danny Trumann and Phillip Lamport.

According to its Web site Ethilogia “is a practical emotional training program that provides the foundation necessary to acquire and build the skills for success.”

However, if you take the time to Google either NXIVM and/or Keith Raniere you will quickly understand why neither name appears at the new Web site. Raniere and NXIVM have a deeply troubled history of bad press, complaints and litigation.

Respected psychologist and court expert Paul Martin wrote two papers explaining his concerns about Raniere’s brand of executive training. Click here to read Martin’s comparison of that training to the criteria used to determine if a “thought reform” program is in use. Thought reform is more commonly called “brainwashing”. Click here to read Martin’s critical analysis of Raniere’s ESP program.

Some people that have attended Raniere’s training programs have found it less than a “success” and sought subsequent psychiatric help. Forbes reported, “After sleepless nights and 17-hour days of workshops, a 28-year-old woman from a prominent Mexican family says she began to have hallucinations and had a mental breakdown at her hotel near Albany. She went to a hospital and required psychiatric treatment. Her psychiatrist, Carlos Rueda, says in the last three years he has treated two others who have taken the class; one had a psychotic episode.”

Kristin Snyder, a young woman that attended ESP programs, walked out of a training session and committed suicide. Snyder left a note that said, “I attended a course called Executive Success Programs based out of Anchorage, AK, and Albany, NY. I was brainwashed and my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off. I still have feeling in my external skin, but my internal organs are rotting. Please contact my parents … if you find me or this note. I am sorry life; I didn’t know I was already dead. May we persist into the future.” Click here to read the news report regarding the Snyder suicide.

Keith Raniere may use various names for his business concerns, but the game always appears to be the same.

esp72.jpgAn Albany Times-Union front-page story featured the fantastic financial failures of Keith Raniere (photo left), leader of a purported “cult” near Albany, New York known as NXIVM (pronounced Nexium like the purple antacid pill).

It seems some of Raniere’s devotees became the bank for his business schemes, which culminated in fantastic losses.

Perhaps those investors may prefer the antacid pill now to further financial advice from NXIVM, also known as “Executive Success Programs.”

Raniere, a former multi-level marketing guru that saw his previous business Consumer Buyline go bust, has reportedly blown through about $100 million dollars of other people’s money.

That is, funds primarily provided by two heirs to the Bronfman/Seagram fortune, Sara and Clare Bronfman.

According to the Times-Union report Raniere lost “$65 million” through commodities speculation, “26 million” in failed California real estate deals and spent millions more in legal fees.

But Mr. Raniere, known as “Vanguard” to his faithful followers, apparently attempts to deflect any meaningful personal responsibility by blaming his failures on former business associates, the “negative thoughts” of others and “outside forces.”

NXIVM’s latest lawyer Robert D. Crockett of the Los Angeles law firm of Latham & Watkins, acknowledged Raniere’s “heavy losses,” but attempted to spin their significance.

“We’re talking about people [Sara and Clare Bronfman] who have hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in speculative and non-speculative ventures, ” Crockett said.

But isn’t it also reasonable to surmise that Raniere, who claims that “The Guinness Book of World Records” has listed him for his supposedly high IQ, is just plain stupid?

CultNews has been told that the Bronfman sisters may have another hundred million or so to blow before they go broke.

But how long will that hold out given the burn rate of Mr. Raniere?

Vanguard, who is described in the recent press article as both a “compulsive gambler” and “crazy,” seems to be repeating past mistakes.

Consumer Buyline, Raniere’s last major business enterprise, tanked after numerous lawsuits and substantial legal fees overwhelmed it.

Is history simply repeating itself?

It has been said that those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

barbara-bouchey_tn.jpgIf the Bronfmans go broke they will likely be able to fall back upon forgiving family resources.

But at least one purported victim of Raniere’s financial schemes isn’t so forgiving.

Not an heiress Barbara Bouchey (photo right) worked for years to accumulate her assets. She then reportedly lost $1.7 million betting on Raniere.

Ms. Bouchey wants her money back.

Editor’s Note: Included in the millions of dollars Keith Raniere has wasted of other people’s money is what he has spent on hopeless lawsuits to harass his critics and perceived enemies. This includes years of extended litigation against the Ross Institute of New Jersey, sponsor of CultNews. Perhaps Raniere’s only significant achievement may be an effective expansion of the First Amendment through an appellate ruling in this litigation, i.e. regarding freedom of speech and fair use, versus the power of a confidentiality agreement. Hardly the result that Mr. Raniere wanted, but nevertheless significant. It seems as if lawyers are the most likely professionals to make money off Raniere. Meanwhile the Ross Institute is deeply grateful to the many attorneys that have provided pro bono legal assistance. This has included Douglas M. Brooks, Thomas F. Gleason and Public Citizen, who handled the litigation while it remained in New York and Peter Skolnik, Michael Norwick and Tom Dolan of the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler, along with assistance from the Berkman Center of Harvard University, which has handled the litigation since its transfer from New York to New Jersey federal court.

esp721.jpgOn November 30th NXIVM (pronounced nexium like the purple antacid pill), the brainchild of failed multi-level marketing guru Keith Raniere (photo right), experienced yet another legal defeat in its ongoing effort to end criticism of the company on the Internet.

In a federal court order handed down by New Jersey Judge Dennis Cavanaugh a motion filed by NXIVM to reinstate causes of action previously dismissed in June of 2007 has been denied. This included an effort to reinstate claims of “product disparagement” and “tortious interference” in a long-standing lawsuit filed against the Ross Institute of New Jersey (sponsor of CultNews).

Cavanaugh ruled that critical articles written by psychiatrist John Hochman and psychologist Paul Martin within the Ross Institute Internet Archives are “protected statements of opinion which cannot be the basis for legal claims of disparagement or tortious interference.”

Read the reports:

“A Forensic Psychiatrist Evaluates ESP”

“A Critical Analysis of Executive Success Programs Inc.”

“Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as applied to the Executive Success Programs”

NXIVM attempted to have a statement recently extracted from Hochman as part of a settlement considered “new evidence” in support of a hoped for reversal by Judge Cavanaugh of his previous ruling.

However, the judge said that the psychiatrist’s statement “does not contain any new evidence” nor “any new information.”

Cavanaugh pointed out that the “case was originally filed in August 2003; and resolution has been delayed by repeated changes in counsel and failures [by NXIVM] to provide discovery which have led to monetary sanctions” against the company.

Summing it up the New Jersey federal court ruled, “Granting leave to amend imposes undue delay and unfair prejudice on the non-moving party and permits amendment where the Court determined such claims are futile. Therefore, leave to amend to re-plead the…claim[s] is denied.”

This means that NXIVM and Raniere, known as “Vanguard” amongst his devoted followers, only have very tenuous copyright and trade secret claims left to litigate.

For those that have not followed the long story of NXIVM’s lawsuit filed against the Ross Institute, Keith Raniere has made copyright and trade secret claims similar to those frequently used by Scientology. That is, Raniere maintains that quoting his written teachings for the purpose of criticism is somehow a violation of copyright and trade secret protection.

However, The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit  in New York City previously handed down its definitive opinion some time ago (NXIVM Corp v. The Ross Institute ” Docket No. 03-7952), regarding an injunction request made by NXIVM to remove the reports from the Internet based upon such copyright claims.

The court said, “We agree…that the website’s use of quotation from the manual to support their critical analyses of the seminars¦[was used] for the purpose of ‘criticism, comment scholarship, or research.’

The court also noted that NXIVM’s claim that the doctors had unlawfully copied “‘the heart of their ‘services’” within the reports was meaningless, because “such services¦are not copyrightable expression.”

The decision read, “in order to do the research and analysis necessary to support their critical commentary, it was reasonably necessary for defendants to quote liberally from NXIVM’s manual.”

The court also said that use of a group’s material “might well harm, or even destroy, the market for the original,” but that this “is of no concern to us so long as the harm stems from the force of the criticism offered.”

Judge Dennis Jacobs summed it up succinctly, “Ross and his co-defendants quoted from NXIVM’s manual to show that it is the pretentious nonsense of a cult¦Certainly, no critic should need an author’s permission to make such criticism¦”

A NXIVM effort to appeal the Second Circuit decision to the United States Supreme Court also failed.

What will Keith Raniere do now?

The situation does appear to be getting increasingly hopeless for the purported “cult” leader.

As the Second Circuit prophetically predicted years ago; “Plaintiffs are not likely to succeed.”

Nevertheless Keith Raniere through NXIVM has spent millions of dollars on legal bills hoping that his lawyers could somehow transform frivolous empty claims into substance.

Meanwhile the Ross Institute has been generously represented pro bono by attorneys and public advocacy groups dedicated to protecting freedom of speech as provided for by the First Amendment.

What Raniere foolishly chose to ignore is that included within the world of ideas and free expression is the implicit freedom to criticize what others create. Apparently, despite his vaunted “genius,” Vanguard couldn’t comprehend this simple truth.

Now other than a pitiful settlement from a beleaguered psychiatrist weary of the litigation, Raniere has little to show for his years spent in the courts. Instead, all his legal wrangling has actually achieved is to expose NXIVM to increased scrutiny, which has reportedly caused significant defections.

Sources have told CultNews that NXIVM keeps shrinking, as more and more of its devotees have decided to leave.

Today the company seems to depend largely on the continuing generosity of its few remaining wealthy patrons.

“Vanguard,” as it apparently turns out is hardly on the “cutting edge” of anything, other than fundraising.

Note: the Ross Institute is deeply grateful to the many attorneys that have provided pro bono legal assistance. This has included Douglas M. Brooks, Thomas F. Gleason and Public Citizen, who handled the litigation while it remained in New York and Peter Skolnik, Michael Norwick and Tom Dolan of the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler, along with assistance from the Berkman Center of Harvard University, which has handled the litigation since its transfer from New York to New Jersey federal court.

nn_07curry_tibet_090310vsmall.jpgThe on and off and then on again NXIVM-linked Dalai Lama of Tibet (photo right) lecture in Albany, New York finally took place this week, but the sponsors of the event said they lost $142,000, reported the Albany Times-Union.

His Holiness usually sells out at virtually any venue, but this time he failed to fill the relatively humble 2,500 seat downtown Albany Palace Theatre, which had 200 seats left empty.

Why not “standing room only” for a Nobel Prize Winner, who is regularly a huge draw around the world?

Well, this might be because an organization with ties to a purported “cult” was the sponsor of the event, which may have left potential ticket buyers less than enthusiastic.

This same consideration seems to have previously put off three prominent bastions of higher education.

First Skidmore College and then RPI refused to host the Dalai Lama event. Then the University of Albany agreed to rent space, but only if certain preconditions were met, regarding any potential proselytizing by NXIVM of its students.

It seems the schools admired the Dalai Lama, but they had problems with NXIVM, a controversial large group awareness training (LGAT) company, that sells its philosophy, through seminars called “intensives,” which may last as long as two weeks.

Some say NXIVM/Executive Success Programs (ESP) uses “thought reform” (commonly called “brainwashing”) on its customers.

Many students called “Espians” have moved to Albany and become a “community,” closely wound around the company’s founders Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman.

Raniere is a former failed multi-level marketing guru and Salzman is a nurse who has spent years-studying neuro-linguistic programming.

Raniere, known to his disciples as “Vanguard” is the “conceptual” founder of the so-called “World Ethical Foundation Consortium” (WEFC), which sponsored the Dalai Lama’s pilgrimage to the capital city of New York.

The money to back the event apparently came from NXIVM devotees, which includes Clare and Sara Bronfman, heirs to the Seagram fortune.

pk_dalai_lama_31_.jpgBut only the Bronfmans, Albany’s Mayor and Catholic bishop managed to get seats on stage with His Holiness, there somehow wasn’t enough room Mr. Raniere or Ms. Salzman.

Raniere did come on stage briefly at the end to receive a khata (Tibetan scarf) from the Dalai Lama.

But only after the mayor got his (photo above) first.

The scarf wasn’t all Mr. Raniere walked away with from the event.

CultNews has learned that as Vanguard entered the venue he was served with papers regarding a lawsuit.

This wasn’t the recognition he wanted, but Raniere has been sued quite a few times and seems to almost enjoy litigation.

This most recent lawsuit is about failed real estate deals in California, which involve the Bronfmans and others.

When the representative of the Dalai Lama to the Americas explained the decision to cancel his cancellation and go ahead with the lecture in Albany he wrote, “A delegation from the [WEFC}...met with His Holiness..." And "they took the opportunity to clarify the background to the allegations that had been made against them..."

CultNews has heard persistent rumors that before the Albany event the Dalai Lama and/or his charities received a very large donation from someone with ties to NXIVM.

If the rumors were true this wouldn't be the first time that His Holiness took money from a less than holy "cult."

He reportedly accepted more than a $1 million dollars from convicted murderer Shoko Asahara, the leader of Aum. But of course this was before the Japanese cult leader ordered his followers to gas the Tokyo subway system.

_39854848_ashara203_ap.jpgAsahara (photo right) milked his meeting with the Dalai Lama; there was a photo op, claims of a mentoring relationship, etc.

Perhaps many Japanese later joined Aum based upon the appearance of respectability that meeting seemingly conferred.

Photos of Raniere and the Buddhist leader will likely pop up soon at some Web site tied to NXIVM.

The Albany Times-Unions reported that  "a documentary film crew was already on hand to capture the Dalai Lama's visit," probably with ties to Raniere and/or NXIVM.

The Dalai Lama's spokesperson said His Holiness "suggested that if the allegations against [NXIVM] are unfounded, as they claim, they should exert themselves to clear their names. Otherwise, they should admit their mistakes and undertake not to repeat them in future.” And added, “His Holiness emphasized the necessity of acting truthfully and transparently in whatever you do.”

esp7.jpgWell, Keith Raniere (photo left) has been repeatedly involved in one controvrsy after another and never publicly acknowledged mistakes, for example concerning the meltdown of his multi-level marketing company Consumer Buyline, despite being investigated by 25 state attorney generals and the focus of a class action lawsuit.

Instead, Vanguard keeps paying lawyers to sue almost anyone that criticizes him.

“Transparency “?

NXIVM/ESP requires its paying participants to sign a confidentiality agreement, precluding that they might tell what goes on within its programs.

And Raniere is now suing over what he calls “trade secret” violations, regarding critiques of ESP programs written by two mental health professionals.

Sara Bronfman appeared defensive when she talked to the press this week. “I know what I am doing is good and the truth will come out in the end,” she said.

But given the history of Keith Raniere over the years this seems doubtful.

180px-dalai_lama_1430_luca_galuzzi_2007crop1.jpgIt’s official, the Dalai Lama of Tibet (photo left) is coming to Albany, New York for a one-night appearance on May 6th, sponsored by an organization with ties to failed multi-level marketing guru Keith Raniere, a purported “cult” leader.

CultNews previously reported that his Holiness had backed out of a series of commitments made to the so-called “World Ethical Humanitarian Foundations Consortium” (WEHFC), which is the “conceptual” creation of Raniere, known to NXIVM devotees as “Vanguard.”

According to the Albany Times-Union the last communication received from His Holiness stated that all the “negative publicity connected to the sponsoring organization” concerned him, and for that reason he had decided to dump the plans previously made with Mr. Raniere’s followers.

Never mind.

Now, despite all the bad press and controversy surrounding Keith Raniere, the Dalai Lama has changed his mind again. And this time he has officially recognized the sponsoring organization by linking to it from his online official calendar.

Raniere recently gushed in an email that he is “thankful for the support of His Holiness” and added “details [would soon] be available.”

Those details remain a bit sketchy, but it appears that the Dalai Lama event has been moved from the Albany Times-Union Center to the much smaller Albany Palace Theater.

No panel discussions or other related events have been announced, just a one-night solo appearance by the Dalai Lama.

Will Raniere somehow manage to share the stage with the respected religious leader?

Or will His Holiness be introduced by Clare and/or Sara Bronfman, heirs to the Seagram fortune?

Both Bronfmans are event organizing committee members.

Will there be private meetings outside of the lecture with the Dalai Lama, that include photo opportunities?

Lama Tenzin Dhonden, who is both on the event organizing committee and the “Personal Emissary for Peace to His Holiness the Dalai Lama” has reportedly said, “The ethical tools developed by Keith Raniere” are a portion of “the essential ingredients to transform our society.”

Those “tools” are for sale through NXIVM training seminars. No doubt the Dalai Lama’s seeming endorsement will be good for business.

esp72.jpgHowever, Keith Raniere’s (photo right) training techniques have been seriously questioned, as can be seen from the reports done by two well-respected doctors, who have critiqued NXIVM training.

See the following:

“A Forensic Psychiatrist Evaluates ESP”

“A Critical Analysis of Executive Success Programs Inc.”

“Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as applied to the Executive Success Programs”

Some former NXIVM students have sought psychiatric treatment, one was hospitalized, another walked out of an “intensive” in Alaska and committed suicide.

Never mind.

According to Clare Bronfman the Dalai Lama already knows about all this.

Ms. Bronfman told the Albany Times-Union that His Holiness and his people had “spent an entire year vetting” those responsible for sponsoring the coming event.

Why would the Dalai Lama of Tibet go along with Keith Raniere, after having done the alleged “research”?

Was the religious leader impressed by Mr. Raniere’s online bio, which states that he is a “scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, educator, inventor and author” who “from early childhood¦demonstrated astounding gifts”?

Raniere’s bio then goes on to boast a long list of supposed accomplishments, from becoming a “judo champion at age of 11³ to somehow managing to be recorded as the “highest IQ.”

Maybe His Holiness believes that Raniere is the reincarnation of Leonardo Da Vinci or Einstein?

Did the Dalai Lama ever take the time to read the editorial run by the Schenectady Gazette? It said, “Keith Raniere has been involved in controversy for the last 20 years. He has been the subject of lawsuits and investigations¦He is hardly a poster boy for humanitarianism, peace and ethics…”

Perhaps His Holiness was impressed when he learned that two of the most well-known schools in upstate New York, Skidmore and RPI, refused to provide space on campus for an event connected to Mr. Raniere? And when a third school, the University of Albany, did agree to rent space out, it was only with certain preconditions regarding any potential NXIVM related recruiting activities.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the ranks of higher education for either Keith Raniere, NXIVM or the WEHFC.

Never mind.

Maybe what matters most, per an earlier news report, is that after all the costs of the coming event are paid “anything extra the Dalai Lama can donate to the charity of his choice.”

280px-timesunioncenter.jpgTickets were priced at “$52, $82 and $112³ at the Albany Times-Union Center (photo left), and with a maximum seating capacity of 17,500, that could have potentially pulled in more than a million dollars if the venue sold out.

But now the one-night lecture will take place in the much smaller Albany Palace Theater (photo below right), where a full-house only adds up to 2,800.

albpal.jpgIs money what the Dalai Lama is meditating about?

Is it possible thats His Holiness actually believes that Keith Raniere is the genuine “vanguard” of some important new movement or revelation?

Is he the reincarnation of an ancient prophet?

Or could it be that the wealthy Bronfmans and/or other rich NXIVM devotees have passed the hat for a big contribution to profit “the charity of his choice”?

If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Dalai Lama has received a large gift from a purported “cult.”

images.jpegChizuo Matsumoto known to his followers as “Shoko Asahara” founder of Aum, the Japanese cult responsible for gassing the Tokyo subway system in 1995, reportedly donated $1.2 million dollars to His Holiness and subsequently seemed to be rewarded through several high-level meetings and photo opportunities (see photo left) with the Dalai Lama.

And according to a biography of Asahara, after the Japanese guru was arrested for the terrorist attack that sent thousands of Tokyo citizens to hospitals killing 12, the Dalai Lama referred to Asahara as his “friend, albeit an imperfect one.”

Later His Holiness distanced himself from the imprisoned criminal.

Asahara is currently sentenced to death for murder and awaiting execution.

The Schenectady Gazette editorial noted,  “In 2003, Keith Raniere roped actress Goldie Hawn into speaking at Vanguard Week, an annual NXIVM event. When Hawn learned about the controversies surrounding Raniere, NXIVM and ESP, she canceled her appearance…If Goldie Hawn has the sense not to appear at an event sponsored by Keith Raniere, then cancellation by the Dalai Lama¦should be a no-brainer.”

Celebrities like Goldie Hawn routinely receive $25,000, $50,00 or more for such a single paid appearance.

Has the Dalai Lama of Tibet sold out at the Albany Palace Theater?

Postscript: The Albany Times-Union has reported that NXIVM devotees traveled to India, in an effort to convince the exiled Dalai Lama of Tibet that he should change his mind again about coming to Albany as their “honored guest.”  A spokesperson for His Holiness says that because of the Dalai Lama’s commitment “to supporting the expression of worthy ideals….he has agreed to visit Albany on May 6th.” When questioned about any financial incentive connected to the visit the spokesperson said that whatever money was received would be “used for charitable and other purposes as per His Holiness’ guidance.”

Endnote: Tickets on sale for the Dalai Lama lecture cost $55 to $85 per person. If the 2,800 seat theater sells out His Holiness could potentially walk away with more than $100,00 for his one-night appearance.

What a difference a week makes.

NXIVM devotee and would be event planner Clare Bronfman told the Albany Student Press a little more than a week ago that the Dalai Lama of Tibet had “spent an entire year vetting” her organization, the so-called “World Ethical Humanitarian Foundations Consortium” (WEHFC) and given all “the research” he had done was “still coming” to Albany for a series of events sponsored by the group despite growing controversy.

180px-dalai_lama_1430_luca_galuzzi_2007crop.jpgHowever, only days later it was reported that the Dalai Lama (photo right) had changed his mind and dumped the planned program altogether. A date for the event strangely never appeared on his official online calendar of scheduled appearances.

According to the Albany Times-Union His Holiness didn’t appreciate all the “negative publicity connected to the sponsoring organization.”

The WEHFC seems to be little more than a thinly veiled front group for Keith Raniere; a failed multi-level marketing guru named “Vanguard” by NXIVM devotees.

Raniere is the “conceptual founder” of both WEHFC and NXIVM, which is a for-profit enterprise, largely devoted to selling training seminars called “intensives.”

Critics have called the business a “cult” and noted mental health experts have critiqued its trainings, comparing the underlying methodology to “thought reform,” commonly called “brainwashing.”

A scathing editorial that appeared in the Schenectady Gazette read, “Keith Raniere has been involved in controversy for the last 20 years. He has been the subject of lawsuits and investigations…He is hardly a poster boy for humanitarianism, peace and ethics; and his invitation to the Dalai Lama to speak at the inaugural event of The World Ethical Foundations Consortium, which Raniere recently founded, makes one question the motive of the invitation.”

The same editorial also noted, “In 2003, Keith Raniere roped actress Goldie Hawn into speaking at Vanguard Week, an annual NXIVM event. When Hawn learned about the controversies surrounding Raniere, NXIVM and ESP, she canceled her appearance.”

The Schenectady Gazette editorial then concluded, “If Goldie Hawn has the sense not to appear at an event sponsored by Keith Raniere, then cancellation by the Dalai Lama…should be a no-brainer.”

Well, it may have taken some time for His Holiness to sort through the “research,” but ultimately the Dalai Lama did decide not to appear in Albany with and/or associated tangentially to Keith Raniere.

His Holiness sadly found himself in an increasingly awkward and embarrassing situation.

The Dalai Lama of Tibet, who is frequently featured as an honored speaker at some of the most prestigious universities across the United States and around the world, was not being officially hosted by any school in the Albany area for the WEHFC events.

The Albany Times-Union reported that despite the stature of the religious leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, no school in the area was willing to put its name on the line as an official host for any event associated with WEHFC/Raniere.

Skidmore College and RPI both rejected bids by WEHFC to provide a venue.

An RPI spokesperson explained, “While we have the highest respect for the Dalai Lama and his teachings, we chose not to accept the invitation based on a variety of considerations.”

“Considerations”?

The University of Albany finally agreed to rent out some space, but only with the explicit understanding and precondition that “NXIVM and the organization [WEHFC] were not going to have any part with dealing with…students, or advertising or recruiting…on campus,” according to UAlbany’s vice president for development.

esp72.jpgIt seems that Keith Raniere (photo left) hoped that somehow through the Dalai Lama’s visit to Albany he would be able to establish his significance, that is outside of his devotees within NXIVM.

Raniere, who is a physically small man, appears to posses an oversized ego, which includes a penchant for grandiose claims.

Mr. Raniere states through his online bio that he is a “scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, educator, inventor and author” who “from early childhood¦demonstrated astounding gifts.” The bio then boasts a long list of alleged accomplishments, from becoming a “judo champion at age of 11³ to somehow managing to be recorded as the “highest IQ.”

Well, now Keith Raniere can add the dubious distinction of being dumped by the Dalai Lama of Tibet to his list of proclaimed accomplishments.

Some in Albany must be deeply embarrassed by this turn of events, including Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings, who appeared at a news conference with Clare Bronfman to endorse the planned program personally, declaring it a “historic event.”

Maybe the mayor could use some Nexium, not the training provided by the purported “cult” group, but rather the advertised purple antacid pill.

According to the WEHFC Web site there may be more than enough embarrassment to go around. The group touts the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson, along with Mayor Jennings.

Most embarrassed must be Lama Tenzin Dhonden, who is the “Personal Emissary for Peace to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” He apparently was instrumental in setting up the now canceled visit to Albany.

The lama is quoted to have said, “The ethical tools developed by Keith Raniere” are a portion of “the essential ingredients to transform our society.”

Look for this lama to be reassigned soon.

At this juncture it seems that Keith Raniere’s primary remaining and significant claim to fame may just be that he has convinced two heirs to the Seagram fortune, Clare and Sara Bronfman, to support him. And given their substantial resources he can manage to at least soldier on financially, maybe not on the world stage, but as NXIVM’s vaunted “Vanguard” starring in his own self-contained and “conceptualized” productions.

However, if the Bronfmans ever decide to follow the Dalai Lama’s example and dump him, it may be curtain time for Mr. Raniere.

Postscript: Chet Hardin of Metroland recently reported that NXIVM leader Keith Raniere (aka “Vanguard”) now claims that the Dalai Lama will visit Albany on “May 6, 2009.” Raniere also wrote Hardin April 13th in an email that he is “thankful for the support of His Holiness” and concluded, “additional details will be available in the next few days.” However, nothing about an Albany visit appears on the Dalai Lama’s official calendar. His Holiness does have a public talk scheduled in New York City on May 3rd and a teaching on the 4th, but no announcement appears about any trip being planned to Albany.  Is this just another example of Vanguard’s “conceptualizing,” or what some might label wishful thinking?

Endnote: Two days after Keith Raniere’s email to Chet Hardin about a May visit in Albany by the Dalai Lama of Tibet, an addition appeared on His Holiness’ Web site calendar. It reads that he will give “a public talk on The Need for Spirituality in the 21st Century at the Albany Palace Theater.” However, unlike other public events announced on his Web site, no sponsoring organization and/or contact link is offered or even mentioned. The Albany Palace Theater doesn’t have the event listed on its calender yet, but apparently there is an opening May 6th at the venue, between the showings of classic films (“The Sound of Music” and “Shane”) and a performance by the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Final Note: The Albany Times-Union has also confirmed that the Dalai Lama will visit Albany on May 6th, but reports that an emailed announcement from the Dalai Lama’s representative “did not mention by name the World Ethical Foundations Consortium, which is an initiative of the Ethical Humanitarian Foundation,” the previous sponsoring organization with ties to Keith Raniere. The newspaper also reported that NXIVM devotee Clare Bronfman “asked Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber if the arena was available May 6, without specifying for what…Belber informed her the arena was booked that night (by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) and suggested she contact Palace Theatre general manager Chris Gould.”

Update: It’s official, the Dalai Lama of Tibet has openly acknowledged the connection between himself and Keith Raniere’s so-called “World Ethical Foundations Consortium.” At the Dalai Lama’s official Web site there is now a link to the NXIVM leader’s group, for “contact” information regarding his scheduled public speaking event in Albany.

CultNews has been reporting for some time about a “human potential” large group awareness training (LGAT) company called NXIVM (pronounced Nexium) also known as “Executive Success Programs” (ESP) located in Albany, New York.

esp7.jpgNXIVM/ESP devotees often call themselves “Espians.” A failed multi-level marketing guru Keith Raniere (photo left), who goes by the title “Vanguard,” leads them.

NXIVM has been called a “cult” and described as “extremely dangerous” by its critics.

Raniere historically has the dubious distinction of being featured on the cover of Forbes magazine in 2003 as the “world’s strangest executive coach.”

The Forbes article titled “Cult of Personality” reported, “people see a darker and more manipulative side to Keith Raniere. 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.”

One of those families affected by the influence of the self-proclaimed “Vanguard” is the Bronfmans, specifically the two daughters of billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr., of the Seagrams fortune.

Clare and Sara Bronfman are major backers/supporters of various Raniere enterprises, one, which apparently and surprisingly includes His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the “guest of honor.”

Acting through what seems to be little more than a thinly veiled front group called the “World Ethical Foundations Consortium (WEFC)” founded by Raniere, the Bronfmans have somehow managed to convince the Dalai Lama to become involved in an upcoming group event on April 19th to be held in Albany, New York.

According to the WEFC the “Event Organizing Committee” is comprised of Sara Bronfman as the “Event Chair,” her sister Clare as “Event Organizer,” another active Espian named  Edgar Boone as its “spokesperson” and an official representative of the Dalai Lama.

Both of the Bronfmans are also “co-founders” of WEFC.

The so-called “Inaugural Event” of the WEFC will feature the Dalai Lama who will “participate,” according to the WEFC Web site.

Lama Tenzin Dhonden, “Personal Emissary for Peace to His Holiness the Dalai Lama” gushes,  “With the ethical tools developed by Keith Raniere, and the presence, wisdom and guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we have the essential ingredients to transform our society.”

But isn’t this an odd tag team for world transformation?

The Dalai Lama is certainly a heavyweight, he is after all an international figure with a Nobel Peace Prize.

But Keith Raniere hardly ranks as even a featherweight on the world stage. His only claim to fame seems to be the notoriety he achieved during the 1990s through his failed multilevel marketing scheme known as Consumers Buyline Inc., which was toppled under the weight of 25 separate investigations by state attorneys general.

Of course Raniere sees himself quite differently as visitors to the WEFC Web site can read. His rather strange bio posted there claims that he is a “scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, educator, inventor and author” who “from early childhood…demonstrated astounding gifts.” The bio also boasts a long list of alleged accomplishments, from becoming  a “judo champion at age of 11″ to somehow managing to be recorded as the “highest IQ.”

Modesty, it appears, is not one of Vanguard’s virtues.

Ironically, Edgar Bronfman Sr., who once told Forbes that NXIVM is a “cult” now apparently has allowed his name to be used endorsing Raniere’s latest enterprise. 

Bronfman Sr. is quoted to have more recently said, “Convening this group of leaders in Albany for the World Ethical Foundations Consortium is a noble effort.”

Not to be outdone British tycoon Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, extols the coming event as “extraordinary and potentially world changing!”

Gerald Jennings, Mayor of Albany says the Dalai Lama’s planned visit is a “historic event.”

Well, a father’s love cannot be discounted, Sir Richard Branson has always been a bit of an eccentric and any mayor is happy when someone important drops by to give his or her city some added recognition.

180px-dalai_lama_1430_luca_galuzzi_2007crop.jpgBut what explains the Dalai Lama (photo right) lending his name to this purported “cult” effort?

According to the Albany Times-Union  tickets for the event “will cost $52, $82 and $112″ and the “proceeds go to cover the cost of the event. Anything extra the Dalai Lama can donate to the charity of his choice.”

The venue for this is the Times-Union Center, which unless the fee has generously been waived, would be part of “the cost of the event.”

Fund raising can often make strange bedfellows.

But maybe His Holiness or one of his charities also expects to be the happy recipient of a hefty donation from one and/or both of the Bronfman sisters too?

If so, this wouldn’t be the first time the Clare and Sara Bronfman have doled out cash acting as seeming surrogates for Raniere. Previously, their generous contributions appeared to be focused on garnering NXIVM some political clout, as reported by the New York Post. 

Maybe the Bronfmans have shifted gears to get Vanguard some pull within religious circles?

The Dalai Lama should seriously consider the negative consequences that NXIVM programs have reportedly produced.

Past participants in Raniere’s trainings have subsequently sought psychiatric treatment, one was hospitalized and another tragically committed suicide.

CultNews strongly suggests that someone in a position to advise His Holiness read the reports produced by two well-respected doctors that reviewed Keith Raniere’s training programs.

See the following:

“A Forensic Psychiatrist Evaluates ESP”

“A Critical Analysis of Executive Success Programs Inc.”

“Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as applied to the Executive Success Programs”

So before the Dalai Lama packs for a trip to Albany perhaps he should meditate upon the last written words of Kristin Marie Snyder, who took her own life after walking out of a NXIVM intensive in Alaska.

“I was brainwashed and my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off. I still have feeling in my external skin, but my internal organs are rotting. Please contact my parents … if you find me or this note. I am sorry life, I didn’t know I was already dead. May we persist into the future…No need to search for my body.”

Is this what the Dalai Lama really considers the “essential ingredients to transform our society”?

Note: The Ross Institute (sponsor of CultNews) is engaged in litigation with NXIVM.  Keith Raniere has unsuccessfully attempted to use the courts as a means to purge information that he doesn’t like, such as the above cited doctor’s reports, from the Internet.

Final note: In the end according to the Albany Times-Union “The Dalai Lama¦canceled his scheduled April appearances in Albany, apparently because of negative publicity connected to the sponsoring organization.”

Kristin Kreuk the WB star that plays “Lana Lang” on Smallville was spotted in Albany, New York attending a five-day intensive of the controversial large group awareness training program called NXIVM (pronounced NEX-ee-um, like the “purple pill” for acid reflux).

Kristin KreukNXIVM has been called a “cult” and described as “extremely dangerous” by critics.

Its leader Keith Raniere known as “Vanguard” to his followers made the cover of Forbes magazine in 2003 as the “world’s strangest executive coach.”

The Forbes article titled “Cult of Personality“ reports that “people see a darker and more manipulative side to Keith Raniere. 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.”

A source has told CultNews that Kristin Kreuk has been attending the “cult-like program” since Saturday and that the program will continue through today. The actress was accompanied by her boyfriend and is one of about 40 people attending the “intensive” at the NXIVM headquarters in upstate New York.

Some NXIVM program participants have sought psychiatric treatment subsequent to attending the group’s intensives, one participant was hospitalized and another committed suicide.

According to a reliable source Kristin Kreuk is one of about ten new participants at NXIVM currently going through its initial training at an Albany building located at 455 New Karner Rd.

A source told CultNews that the Smallville star and others spent hours the first day watching videotape of Raniere’s disciple, NXIVM President and registered nurse Nancy Salzman, droning on about her mentor’s philosophy. The training took place in a windowless, monitored, tightly controlled room, which included frequent adjustments in room temperature.

Salzman’s daughter is leading the program now being attended by Kreuk.

The fee for this five-day “intensive” is around $2,000.00, depending upon when participants sign up, a 16-day program offered by the group costs even more.

Kreuk and boyfriend on left attended NXIVMNXIVM says, “The 5-day intensive training provides participants with a clear understanding of the first principles of success. It constitutes the first five days of the 16-day intensive, and encompasses the foundational practices of both the Ethos and the Origins programs. Participants in the 5-day intensive trainings have access to a certified personal coach for 30 days after their training has concluded.”

A “certified professional coach”?

Will Kristin Kreuk end up being controlled by the “world’s strangest executive coach”?

Maybe someone should fly in to rescue the 24-year-old actress from this purported “cult”?

But Superman can’t fulfill that task, like he does on Smallville, rescuing Lana Lang from various evils and catastrophes.

Instead, for this situation Kristin Kreuk must rely upon her personal power of critical thinking, with perhaps a little help from family, a boyfriend and/or her management team.

NXIVM (not to be confused with Nexium the “purple pill” for antacid relief) also known as “Executive Success Programs” (ESP) recorded another strike in its ongoing court battle yesterday.

Strike Three was thrown by the United States Supreme Court, the third court to reject NXIVM’s efforts to silence its critics. The controversial organization has run out of courts to approach in search of an injunction.

This allows the last ruling of the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals to stand, which was a harsh rebuke of NXIVM’s claims.

NXIVM sued the Ross Institute of New Jersey (RI), Rick Ross, John Hochman, MD, Paul Martin, Ph.D. and one of its former students claiming that quoting its material within the research reports somehow violated “copyright” and “trade secret” law.

See the following reports:

“A Forensic Psychiatrist Evaluates ESP”

“A Critical Analysis of Executive Success Programs Inc.”

“Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria of thought reform as applied to the Executive Success Programs”

NXIVM founder Keith Raniere appeared to experience his Andy Warhol “15 minutes of fame” last year when the failed former multi-level marketing guru made the cover of Forbes Magazine as “The World’s Strangest Executive Coach.”

But that dubious distinction soon faded and a downhill slide seemed to begin, certainly in the courts.

In an ultimately futile effort to change his legal lot Raniere retained one of the largest (1,400 attorneys) and most expensive law firms in the United States with offices in Washington D.C.

However, even the Ivy League lawyers at Sidley, Austin, Brown & Wood were unable to “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Perhaps the D.C. attorneys explained to their client that his chances of overturning the lower court’s definitive decision was likely to occur “when pigs fly.”

Mr. Raniere, known to his faithful as “Vanguard” and his preeminent disciple nurse Nancy Salzman who is called “Prefect” seem to have no problem wasting money in a hopeless effort to somehow circumvent the First Amendment.

But maybe the dynamic duo doesn’t care since it’s likely that the funding for their legal crusade comes largely from devoted students.

Douglas Brooks of Massachusetts and Thomas Gleason of Albany, New York represent RI and Dr. Paul Martin pro bono.

University professor Dr. John Hochman has been provided legal representation by the University of California in Los Angeles.

Attorney Douglas Brooks with help from the nonprofit organization Public Citizen prepared the response to NXIVM’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

Now NXIVM faces a motion to dismiss its entire lawsuit before a federal judge in Albany.

Attorney Thomas Gleason will appear in that court proceeding.

No doubt Mr. Raniere and Ms. Salzman will keep swinging hoping somehow to improve upon their terrible legal batting record.

However, more than a few judges have weighed in and it seems like they’re about to call the game.

Nevertheless NXIVM has unintentionally achieved something. It has helped to better legally define freedom of speech on the Internet.

In that regard Mr. Raniere may be more than just a courtroom joke and have finally found for himself some sort of lasting legacy, his court losses may be cited in the future as legal precedents.

Landmark Education, a privately owned for-profit company that sells controversial large group awareness training programs to the public, has sued the Rick A. Ross Institute (RRI) for more than one million dollars.

The lawsuit was filed in New Jersey and is currently moving forward within the court of federal Judge John Lifland (Civil Action No. 04-3022 (JCL)).

RRI is a non-profit tax-exempted charity devoted to providing educational information to the public about destructive cults, controversial groups and movements through the Internet.

RRI is one of the largest single resources regarding this subject area on the worldwide web today. More than 15,000 individual unique users visit its database daily. And the RRI Open Forum message board has more than 1,300 registered members.

The lawsuit recently filed by Landmark Education claims that information posted through the RRI archives about the private for-profit company constitutes “product disparagement” and represents “interference with [its] ongoing business relations.”

Landmark Education is certainly a big business; it has 58 offices in 26 countries. And boasts that “more than 125,000″ people participate in its programs annually, which represents millions of dollars in profits for its owners each year.

This litigation appears to be an effort by Landmark to purge critical information about the company from the Internet.

RRI has archived articles, documents and personal testimonies about Landmark, which features a course called “The Forum,” that was earlier offered by a previous incarnation of this business enterprise known as Erhard Seminar Training or “EST.”

The titular head of Landmark Education today is Harry Rosenberg, but it was his brother “Werner Erhard” previously known as Jack Rosenberg, a high school graduate and former used car and encyclopedia salesman, who created the seminar “technology” touted by the company.

EST, something of a craze in the 1970s, drew endorsements from celebrities such as sitcom star Valerie Harper (“Rhoda”) and singer John Denver.

Forbes Magazine dubbed Werner Erhard a “millionaire guru.”

But the programs Mr. Erhard devised were soon associated with and/or linked to “psychiatric disturbances” and “psychosis.” Amidst extensive and unfavorable media coverage he sold EST in 1991 to employees, who then formed the current company Landmark Education.

Landmark then agreed to pay substantial annual licensing fees to Werner Erhard for his so-called “technology.”

No peer reviewed scientific study has ever been published by an objective scientific or professional journal to substantiate that the programs offered by Landmark Education produce any meaningful measured results, though what can be seen as its “mass marathon training” remains controversial.

New Jersey attorney Peter L. Skolnik of the law firm Lowenstien Sandler located in Roseland, New Jersey has agreed to represent RRI pro-bono.

An answer to the Landmark lawsuit was filed on September 20, 2004.

Other lawsuits involving RRI include litigation filed by another seminar selling company in New York named NXIVM (not to be confused with the “purple pill” Nexium used to quell acid reflux).

NXIVM, also known as “Executive Success Programs” (ESP), after two losses in court hopes to appeal before the US Supreme Court. Like Landmark, NXIVM seeks to purge critical information about its business from the Internet.

RRI is represented pro-bono regarding the NXIVM case by Massachusetts attorney Douglas Brooks of the law firm Gilman & Pastor and Tom Gleason of the law firm Gleason, Dunn, Walsh & O’Shea, in Albany, New York.

Public Citizen, a nonprofit, advocacy organization with 160,000 members nationwide, is assisting Mr. Brooks and Mr. Gleason regarding the possible NXIVM appeal pending before the US Supreme Court.

In another interesting case a group called “The Gentle Wind Project” located in Kittery, Maine, which hawks “healing cards” for “suggested donations” allegedly based upon plans from outer space, sued RRI for stating it is a “rather odd group” and for providing a link to a website critical of the organization.

RRI is also represented pro-bono concerning this action by attorney Douglas Brooks and local counsel William Leete of the law firm Leete & Lemieux in Portland, Maine.

Despite legal threats and later lawsuits filed by Landmark, NXIVM and The Gentle Wind Project, RRI has refused to be intimidated and continues to provide historical, analytical and/or critical information about these groups and other controversial organizations to the general public through its Internet database.

I have previously personally withstood frivolous litigation regarding my professional comments and/or providing website information in other notable lawsuits.

The “Church of Immortal Consciousness” founded by Steven and Trina Kemp sued me in 1995.

Judy Hammond of “Pure Bride Ministries” sued me for $15 million dollars in 2001.

The Kemp lawsuit ended after an appeal to the US Supreme Court failed and I was awarded costs. Arizona attorneys Paul Eckstein and Daniel Barr of the law firm Brown & Bain represented me pro-bono in that case.

The Hammond lawsuit likewise ended in a dismissal only months after its filing. Florida attorney Robert Rivas represented me pro-bono.

RRI is listed immediately after Landmark’s own commercial website on Google and has prominent positions regarding searches for information abut NXIVM and The Gentle Wind Project.

In this “Information Age” the pubic increasingly has turned to the Internet for background about people, companies, organizations and movements.

The word “Google” has become a verb and is synonymous with this process—as Internet users frequently say, you can “Google” someone or something as a quick way to obtain whatever information is readily available.

Landmark Education, despite its name, seems intent upon making sure that essentially only self-serving promotional advertising and/or propaganda largely appears on the Internet about the company and its courses.

Landmark apparently hopes that it can somehow control its published history, either through legal threats and/or what can be seen as frivolous litigation.

However, instead the Landmark Education lawsuit is likely to become another landmark for freedom of information on the Internet.

Note: Cult expert Steven Hassan was also sued by the Gentle Wind Project. However, he was dropped from the suit after a negotiated settlement, which included him deleting all material and references to the group from his website.