A sad tale of a modern-day cult, only with more money — a lot more money — than usual. From the New York Observer:
The heiress wanted to meet the Dalai Lama. She wanted the Dalai Lama to be her friend. She had been obsessed with him for two and a half years.
“I was literally in my bedroom one day listening to his tapes and thought to myself, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing!'” Sara Bronfman told an Albany AM radio host last year. When His Holiness arrived in town the next day, Ms. Bronfman could take credit for his presence.
During her dilettantish early 20s, Ms. Bronfman continued, she never would never have conceived of such an ambition, but for the previous five years she had been immersed in Executive Success Programs (ESP), a self-help regimen administered by the local organization NXIVM (pronounced Nex-ee-um). It was an experience she found singularly emboldening.
Ms. Bronfman sensed a connection between the Dalai Lama’s teachings and her training. “The way he looks at things is very scientific and very much in line with the philosophy of NXIVM,” she told the host. “I said, ‘Well, that kind of sounds like what we do!’ And I thought, ‘Maybe I could introduce myself, and bring him here and introduce him to Keith.’ Because I think Keith is a scientist and also a great philosopher.”
Ms. Bronfman was referring to NXIVM founder Keith Raniere, a bespectacled 49-year-old with graying, shoulder-length hair. Mr. Raniere, who goes by the moniker Vanguard, bills himself as a “leader in human potential development” and has trademarked a philosophy he calls the Rational Inquiry Method. He is what you would get, said one former associate, “if David Koresh and Bernie Madoff had a child.” Over the past seven years, Mr. Raniere has earned the devotion of Sara Bronfman and her sister Clare. In that time, according to his former girlfriend and financial adviser Babara Bouchey, Mr. Raniere has also squandered more than $100 million of the Bronfman liquor fortune, destabilizing one of New York’s most prominent business and social dynasties…
[continues in the New York Observer]