Updated: Feb 19, 2022
In previous articles, part 1 and 2 of this series, I have investigated the difference between a community and a cult and made a case for why we need to be going to the root - understanding the core pathology of toxic narcissism which leads to cults. This has been a fascinating endeavour of research for me and this series will continue to help people have an understanding not just of cults but of what we need instead: community.
In the two previous articles, I referred to NXIVM, the supposed personal development organisation which was a front for a sex cult led by Keith Raniere. Actress Catherine Oxenberg and her daughter India Oxenberg first got involved in NXIVM when they attended some of its courses together. However Catherine later left the organisation whilst India became more and more deeply involved over years, leading eventually to her being recruited into a secret sect of supposed “female empowerment” within the organisation called DOS, run by its founder Keith Raniere and a select group of devoted female followers. DOS was in fact a master and slave based arrangement designed to sex traffic women for Raniere, fuelled by blackmail in the form of “collateral” information on each person they would supply themselves, including naked pictures, videos or letters accusing family members of sexual abuse, whether it was true or not. If the women did not comply, they were threatened with their accumulated 'collateral' being released.
When the true extent of what India Oxenberg and others had been brainwashed into by Raniere became known to Catherine Oxenberg, she completely devoted herself to getting her daughter out of the cult, who had by this time been raped, starved and even branded with Keith Raniere’s initials. In fact, India had been so brainwashed she didn't come to accept the reality of what happened to her until quite some time after leaving the cult when she received therapy and reality dawned on her more and more. The full story hit the press and sent shockwaves of horror around the world, particularly in line with the #MeToo Movement and, quite rightly, increased scrutiny of personal development groups. Between healthy groups and toxic cults, there will be some degree of comparison but encroaching upon human rights is where the comparison quickly ends, with cults transgressing that line through various manipulative violations.
Some anonymous online trolls, as part of a small but coordinated smear campaign have compared Lighthouse International as an organisation to that of the NXIVM cult, but without any evidence whatsoever. I will explain why their claim is not only irrational and baseless, but libellous and therefore criminal too. Just before I do though, consider the “pathology of the rumour mill” section of my last article where a father of two was falsely accused of running a satanic cult. The accusation was totally fabricated by his ex wife who had been abusing the two children to make them accuse their father who was sent death threats as a result. We all have biases and prejudices and we are 100% responsible for them and the damage they can cause others when left unchecked. If we suspect something and have evidence, we have a responsibility to handle it with legitimacy and dignity and bring it forward through the proper channels, as Catherine and India Oxenberg did when taking down NXIVM.
Two Key Differences Between NXIVM and Lighthouse International Group
Quite simply, there are two main problems with trolls making baseless and illegal accusations comparing Lighthouse of being similar to NXIVM, a dark and secretive abusive sex cult run by a sociopathic megalomaniac, obsessed with dominating and enslaving women:
1. The trolls of Lighthouse are virtue signalling by comparing themselves to Catherine Oxenberg who went public with her allegations and staked her personal reputation on it. These people are nothing like Catherine Oxenberg.
Catherine Oxenberg, when she suspected that her daughter India’s involvement in NXIVM was more than a “personal growth group” but in fact a sex cult, she did her discovery, ascertained verifiable facts and publicly went to The New York Times who investigated the allegation properly. Catherine Oxenberg then spent years publicly speaking on TV and to the press about NXIVM which prompted further investigations and eventually the FBI’s involvement, all of which led to the eventual arrest and conviction of cult leader Keith Raniere who has been sentenced to 120 years in jail.
Catherine Oxenberg extended herself and staked her own personal reputation on exposing NXIVM where, had she been wrong and falsely accusing Mr Raniere and NXIVM, would have had to suffer the public disgrace of that. She did not start a tiny little subreddit under a pseudonym. If she had, perhaps NXIVM would still be going today and her daughter still in psychological bondage. She was open and public with her identity and she did everything in her power to get NXIVM investigated and help India see what she was a part of. She also had compelling evidence in the form of testimonies of former members with Keith Raniere’s initials branded onto them, as well as copies of a raft of dark and depraved texts and emails.
To date, no troll of Lighthouse International has come forward to provide proof and evidence in the open court of public opinion of their outrageous claims, beyond mere hearsay. Nor have they been willing to put their own reputations and true identity on the line to back what they say. Yet they are more than happy to try and defame Lighthouse’s reputation from the shadowy corners of the internet (although some have either been uncovered or unwittingly exposed their true identities).
2. They are comparing our company to NXIVM, an organisation run by a sociopath with a highly secretive abusive sex cult attached to it. Lighthouse and its values are diametrically opposed to this!
NXIVM would aggressively pursue their defectors through very expensive legal actions in a covert attempt to shut any critics down as much and as quickly as possible.
In contrast Lighthouse has continued to openly invite public scrutiny from police and lawyers to investigate us and if there is any evidence of exploitation or abuse, we will take responsibility and handle it with utmost diligence. We would welcome any PhD or legal investigation to come and review our work and research to show us where and how we can improve or where we have got it wrong and need to change. These are not the actions of a cult or cult leader.
The horrors of what happened in NXIVM will not be quickly forgotten nor should they be. Keith Raniere is responsible for having permanently scarred people’s lives, not just physically but mentally and emotionally too. To compare Lighthouse to this monstrosity without any evidence is horrendous defamation and therefore criminal.
Bearing in mind, the law in most countries (with small exceptions like China and North Korea) operate in line with the legal principle of “the presumption of innocence” a.k.a innocent until proven guilty. That means, that in the absence of a burden of evidence by a prosecution, the accused is presumed to be innocent.
The entire $40 billion personal development industry needs to learn where it can and needs to improve and where things can/do go wrong; to learn more about narcissistic and psychopathic pathology. It's that pathology which led to women who signed up to a self help group being gradually lured deeper and deeper into master and slave relationship, before being sex trafficked for the sick sexual gratification of a sociopath like Keith Raniere.
For a full list of articles addressing the allegations by trolls (some of whom are simply random dogpilers who have just ‘jumped on the bandwagon’ having never known or interacted with us at all), check out our “Answering Objections” section or see this list of a few key articles addressing the allegations made about Lighthouse by anonymous online trolls:
The Future For Communities Within The Personal Development Industry Post NXIVM
Comparing Lighthouse International or any personal development company to NXIVM without strong and compelling evidence is libelous, defamatory and scaremongering because it completely misses the point that NXIVM’s intention was never to help people grow and develop, to optimise and maximise in their lives. Personal development was simply a front, utilising tools that can be used to help people manipulate them. But it needed to be credible enough for people to buy into it at first, otherwise it never would have grown. The intention was always to set up the sex-trafficking cult DOS. So tarring all of the personal development industry with the same brush is a fundamental error and huge oversight of the principles for how we learn, improve and move on as a society.
By 2027, it’s estimated the personal development market will increase to USD 56.66 billion. What are the opportunities to grow as a market and grow progressively? To operate with integrity and significantly improve our service to the people our industry was originally designed to help? At Lighthouse, we want to help educate people specifically around pathology, to understand WHAT is healthy and unhealthy, WHY it is healthy or unhealthy based on universal, eternal and infinite laws and principles (principles which aren’t our opinions, but are objective, universal, self evident, timeless, inexorable and observable) and HOW to get better when mistakes are made, how to take responsibility and make it right in line with those principles. We are already working with an international team of PhDs (who have not been disclosed to protect them and their work) on this and plan to work with many many more experts and organisations in line with this globally.
Trolls Online Behave Like Cults Because They Abhor Truth
If we look at the pathologies and patterns of trolls, or of cult leaders, what you will find is a total lack of balance, perspective and compassion. If their statements and opinions are to be believed, Lighthouse have never achieved anything good whatsoever and whatever is positive has been twisted with a preoccupation on the finances of Lighthouse International. Yet this preoccupation has been responded to by this community here in Responding to Financial Accusations Thrown at Lighthouse International Group and they are welcome to come and investigate this further in person with us too. No organisation is ever 100% good or 100% bad, yet nothing good has been acknowledged at all, which proves their bias and prejudice.
See here how everything Lighthouse has ever done has been twisted, distorted and superimposed on the horror of what happened at NXIVM with no evidence, misinformation and disinformation. Combine that with a complete unwillingness to come forward into the light of public opinion and scrutiny and it categorically shows that the intention is purely defamation. Below are two screenshots where you can see how the troll u/Enough-Reflection-78 on Reddit deliberately portrays Lighthouse International as not even “like” NXIVM but as being EXACTLY the same as NXIVM by their story.
It’s quite an elaborate story, like a conspiracy theory, and on first glance some might even feel a bit concerned, I get it! But don’t be, because it doesn’t make it true whatsoever. Look at the tone, how it feels, think about how good this person’s intentions are. Does this read as someone making a mature and balanced case or someone with a grudge or personal agenda? What is there to show that this wasn't all just concocted in the author's mind? I.e. where are the facts, the evidence, the proof? The misinformation and disinformation in this post is not backed up once with any hard evidence. It is purely opinion and conjecture at best where they have maliciously and deliberately chosen to name the documentary “Seduced” about NXIVM to cast Lighthouse in the same light in people’s minds.
This community blog is a great example of a platform where we can share about our work and the people who have been supported by Lighthouse, where it quickly becomes clear that NXIVM and the values at the centre of Lighthouse are diametrically opposed. As for those who feel their questions have not been answered here, Head Mentor Paul Waugh’s invitation to all enquirers, critics and trolls to come and have a civilised discussion with him at his own home remains open. However, none have taken this up to date, but yet they still seek to criticise and demonise him, even though he is clearly someone trying to find solutions and build bridges.
Do I need to say any more about the contrast in character here? Instead of appreciating his offer though, like with everything else, it is twisted by their narcissistic pathology into Paul being labelled as a “cult leader” with malicious intentions, despite there being no tangible or reasonable evidence for that whatsoever, in fact quite to the contrary. But such is the polarised and single mindedness of such unhealthy and dark pathology of a narcissist, a troll and ironically, a cult leader.
Worth also noting here also is that, contrary to what is written on Reddit, the offer of an “impartial sit-down with a third party and moderator” has not been made directly by contacting Paul or someone else in Lighthouse to arrange this. If any troll reading this would like to arrange this, you can fill in our online contact form here.
My Personal Challenge To Any Toxic Troll
I’m writing these articles exploring the comparison between communities and cults and, whilst we are on the subject, I can personally attest that Paul has always shown me kindness, love, care and respect. He has never been in any way inappropriate with me and has only ever supported me. Is he perfect? No, nobody is, but he has shown me more respect than my own cult-like family who have adamantly refused to speak or meet with him, yet have continued to criticise my involvement as an Associate here incessantly, without any substance or evidence to back their opinions up either.
Trolls and critics, if you are experts on cults, as I believe some of you claim to be, I invite you to come and educate us. We want to start a dialogue with you, let’s learn together how you can contribute to the research we are doing on cults and narcissism here and be a positive force for good, just like Catherine Oxenberg was (who I still don’t think has a Reddit account herself). If that’s your intention then we’re on the same side.
I’m on this community site openly writing about the research I have done on what builds healthy communities. Research I have written about and shared for the purposes of educating everyone and research which we as a community take seriously to apply and learn from in every way. If we are going to investigate and learn about cults, we have to also understand and teach what a healthy community is in reality. I am committed to seeking reality as much as possible, as this community is. Which is why I invite anyone who would care to comment on my research, add to it or make an amendment with good reason, I will be glad to hear of it. My name is here, my email address is here (see the bottom of all my articles and thank you to whoever signed up my email address to the International Cultic Studies Association newsletter, it's an extremely valid resource, thank you!), you can look me up on LinkedIn (as some of you already have, in the anonymous setting though I might add).
I am personally honoured to be a part of this group of genuine people who are not perfect, but who want to learn and are open to learning in order to improve themselves and who have the courage of their convictions. Associates and the people we support try to take responsibility for themselves and build community wherever they can. I really implore anyone who desires to learn about community but who has been narcissistically damaged through toxic relationships and influences to reach out and get in touch. I would love to hear from you and share with you my experience of going through chaos and what is needed to build community.
More in this series of true communities versus cults is still to come! If you want to stay up to date with all our latest blog posts, why not contact us and write to us about becoming a member of our website, where you can receive notifications for new posts and write comments. We can protect your identity if you do not want to write as yourself, and we can discuss with you what you would be most comfortable with.
If you want to discuss this article or another article or to learn about how we will be moving forward with education around building healthy communities, as well as our work to help people understand how to stand up to online trolling, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with an Associate.
“Il n’y a pas plus sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre.” - French proverb
(No one is as deaf as the one who does not want to listen.)