James Arthur Ray has been convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the deaths of three people attending a sweat lodge event he planned and executed nearly two years ago. The New Age motivational speaker mostly known for his featured appearance in the pseudo-psychobabble blockbuster The Secret has finally learned the real secret to the Law of Attraction: If you put bullshit into the Universe with the intent of manipulating others and brain-washing them into cultist emotional immobility so you can keep stroking your own expansive ego, the Universe will select whatever means is appropriate to make sure you get what you deserve in an equally large measure.
While it is true that Liz Neuman, James Shore, and Kirby Brown, and all those other people who were sickened and injured during the Spiritual Warrior Weekend were all there of their own free will, the freedom to think on their own essentially ended when they plunked down the fee for the event. Their every move was orchestrated and monitored by Ray and his minions once they set foot on the site reserved at Angel Valley Ranch. The sweat lodge was built to specifics Ray conceived, designed and provided. Despite the hubris being touted by Ray, I some how doubt that you are in control of your surroundings when you are being deprived of food and water for more than a day, then shamed into staying in what is essentially a canvas pressure cooker until your brain becomes just so much addled mush. Ray, the very personification of megalomania, managed to convince three half-starved, electrolyte imbalanced individuals who were probably already on their way to a low blood sugar coma that the power of their mind was enough to over come the physical effects of the super-charged thermal heat roiling inside the canvas enclosure. The thing about this type of delusional thinking is that in that type of setting and under those conditions, a false mindset of deity- a hallucination, if you will- develops among participants who forget they are mere mortals and subject to the Laws of Physics, Science and Nature. I suspect at that moment it was difficult to tell who was more insane -Neuman, Shore and Brown or James Ray himself.
And before I go any further, I am going to tell you that I am among those in the Pagan community who have a very huge problem with those who think that it's okay to bastardize Native American sacred rites, or the sacred rites of any living tradition, for that matter. Many of us have been taught that it's perfectly fine to create eclectic ritual from a variety of religious and cultural traditions- and it is, when it is done with thoughtfulness and respect.But it is not okay to slap together a medicine wheel ceremony based on what you've gleaned off Wikipedia, or read in a book, any more than it is to perform Holy Eucharist with all the Christian trappings when you are not a Christian. It's fine to study and research living tradition, but it's not okay to 'play Indian' any more than it is to 'play Catholic'. I think that using the model of the Hebrew Seder to tell the story of a particular tradition of Paganism is an excellent resource, but using a Haggadah and just changing the words around is plagiarism and disrespectful; it is never going to be a Pagan Seder. Using sweat techniques such as sauna as an adjunct to spirituality has been used for centuries in many cultures, but it doesn't make it a sweat lodge...nor should it...ever.
Ray was raised in an evangelical Christian family; his father was an impassioned Church of God minister whose ministry and mission was so central in his personal life that the family had to live in the church office because they could not afford a proper home. Without actually knowing the situation, I can only guess at the level of dysfunction involved for this to be allowed by parishioners. I suspect this minister ruled the parish with an iron first and liberal doses of brimstone. That does not excuse Ray's eventual descent into narcissistic personality disorder, but it does explain where he got the influence for his leadership model. Like father, like son, I'd say.
The courtroom testimony brought forth from several witnesses was that Ray sat outside the sweat lodge and shouted 'encouragement' to those who wanted to leave; it included chiding them to literally beat the heat and overcome their physical discomfort and symptoms by not wimping out and being a looser. I'm sure these words from their guru were comforting as their skin was blistering and they were foaming at the mouth as all the moisture from their bodies was evaporating from the heat. I wonder if the thought crossed their minds that the person they entrusted their physical, emotional and spiritual health and safety to was a sadistic psychopath.
The story about the incident which is provided on Ray's website is a masterpiece of shirking personal responsibility. Whomever wrote the PR should be awarded a PhD in Spin Doctoring. They also need congratulating on cleaning up
"While numerous indicators from EMTs and emergency room doctors were present [they] documented [ the presence of ] poisons,[and] the state followed up on none of them." It emphatically states. Anyone who followed the trial on TV can tell you this is not the truth.
This is not only untrue, it's an outrageous outright lie. I can speak from professional experience as a health care provider that EMT's in the field have no way of identifying this type of poisoning. Identifying a case of poisoning without laboratory support is nearly impossible because usually the symptoms are vague enough to match those of other physical problems. What was obvious to the EMTS- and Ray's own staff- was that all the victims were suffering from heat prostration and other heat-related illness due to the extreme temperature of the sweat lodge.I find it highly doubtful than any single member of the emergency response team were thinking about poisoning that day while they were trying to render aid to the victims of what was primarily a heat-related emergency. The possibility of poisoning was never entertained until the result of the post-mortem examinations of the victims, according to the expert witness giving medical-related testimony during the trial. His statements were recorded by both the court stenographer and CNN, so there is no wiggle room on this for Ray.
Ultimately, the jury didn't think so, either.
Sometimes Justice prevails against the arrogance of those who believe they are above the Law....so here's "The Secret", Mr Ray...if you prey on the innocent and emotionally needy for monetary gain and ego stroking, eventually the Law of Attraction gives you what you deserve...and not what you want.