Essay

The Dark Side of The Secret: Reading James Arthur Ray’s Sweat Lodge Disaster through a Magickal Lens

By Duff McDuffee on October 10th, 2009 1

As I reported on yesterday, participants of James Arthur Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior Event” got more than they paid for (and they paid $9,695 each) when two people died and 19 were injured in a large sweat lodge with 64 people.

What can we learn from this?

One thing we might conclude is that all spiritual teachers or personal development gurus are bad, and should be avoided. Or that James Arthur Ray specifically is a greedy, evil person. Or that the Law of Attraction and The Secret are total bullshit. And these would indeed be ways to read the situation that have some merit. I’ve been tending to take this more cynical view of personal development and spirituality lately.

But what if we read this event through the eyes of magick? James Ray claims lineage in the Western esoteric or occult tradition, so perhaps we could learn something interesting from reading this terrible event in this way that would deepen our understanding. Perhaps we could even find some ideas for moving forward in a positive new paradigm for personal development.

When I begin to think about the deaths of Ray’s seminar participants in this way, I find myself having a change of heart towards the man, far less cynical about his words and basic message while still holding him accountable for what transpired. Perhaps you will have a similar change of heart.

James Arthur Ray as Powerful Magician

From the magickal perspective, it’s not that James A Ray has been bullshitting us about a mythical Law of Attraction, but that he is indeed a powerful magician who attracted some very powerful, albeit unwanted results. We’d want to ask, “how did he attract this experience?” and “how can we protect ourselves from attracting similar experiences?”

We can see Ray as having successfully evoked the Warrior. The event was called the “Spiritual Warrior.” 15 tweets in 7 days (all since deleted, but captured here) mentioned death, the Warrior, or war, and 2 mentioned words and actions being congruent. A magician casts spells with his or her words and intent, thus influencing reality. Ray evoked the Warrior, and powerfully so. As he would say, “energy flows where attention goes.”

This is the power of Intent and Word, cultivated by magicians to influence reality. One could see this disaster as “the dark side of The Secret,” which is not just “negative thinking” but even positive intentions gone horribly wrong. Thus, positive thinking and intent are not enough if they lead to negative consequences. Indeed, Ray himself emphasizes that the results one brings about in life are what are most relevant to one’s spiritual progress. Therefore this result should be read as part of the whole of Ray’s spiritual/magickal attainment. Or as he said, “The kingdom of heaven/expansion is w/in. But it will always be measured w/out. Your results tell and [sic] interesting story…They tell the truth”.

Evoking the Warrior

What do Warriors do? They fight to protect nations. They kill other warriors, and sometimes civilians too. Sometimes they rape women, or burn buildings just because they are caught up in the trance of war. If we take him at his word, Ray was trying to bring out the good of the Warrior, to transform the hatred and violence of this archetype into positive, creative action—like a football game instead of a genocide. But while he powerfully evoked the Warrior, he foolishly overestimated his abilities to transform it into an ally, and instead unleashed the Warrior’s violence.

Stories of magicians often involve experiences of power combined with hubris. Icarus gained the magical power of flight, but flew too close to the sun and his wax wings melted, leading him crashing to his death. I hope for his sake that Ray learns to bounce.

Transformation Magick

One of the ultimate accomplishments of a magician is to be able to transform a demon into an ally. The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage is a complex, 6-month long ritual designed to gain the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel,” and then using such an accomplishment to summon demons and transform them into allies. Similarly, the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Chöd involves summoning demons and transforming them into allies by feeding your body to the demons in a complex visualization, complete with chanting, drumming, and bells. (I was recently taught a very small chunk of a “simplified” Chöd practice and was totally overwhelmed by the complexity. I have a newfound respect for Tibetan practitioners!)

One could think of a demon as a negative habit or unwanted emotion at the personal level, or a general negative tendency at the collective level. Attempts at such transformation are a dangerous business, much cautioned about in both stories of magic and actual grimoires. Through humiliating failures, magicians (that survive) can learn humility with respect to the gods or archetypes, eventually gaining more mastery with the magick of transformation, but always with the knowledge of one’s limitations.

There Are No Accidents

In the magickal view, there are no accidents. Or as Ray said, “Evry [sic] stage of the cosmic process is absolutely necessary and leads to the perfection of the ultimate result.” Could it be that one spiritual purpose of this “Spiritual Warrior Event” is to give an opportunity to Mr. Ray to act with the honor of a samurai, taking 100% responsibility for not only the design of the workshop, but even for his evoking of the Warrior? I wouldn’t ask that Ray go as far as to commit seppuku, the ritualized suicide samurai warriors engaged in to atone for shameful behaviors. Just admit whatever wrongdoing is his, including the evoking of the Warrior and all consequences that followed, and deal responsibly with such consequences. We all make mistakes, even enormous ones.

Putting yourself out there in a way that takes risk is the first step of the warrior. Taking responsibility when you mess up is the second.

In Ray’s deleted tweets he wrote “Is how you live a reflection of how you talk?” and “Your actions speak louder than your words. A life of honor is living you [sic] values above and beyond your moods.” I would bet that Ray isn’t in the best of moods right now, but he can act with honor above and beyond anyway…if he so chooses. We all can, every time we make a mistake—big or small.

I imagine a spiritual warrior taking full responsibility—which might mean pleading guilty, serving time or paying off the lawsuit fully, asking for forgiveness from those affected and their families as well as God, and allowing this experience to change the way he does workshops. Prison was a transformative vessel for Malcolm X and others. 12-step-walking addicts understand their addiction to be the basis for a spiritual transformation. Or as Ray put it, “The esoteric traditions maintain that the “Philosophers Stone” (a metaphor for awakening) is ALWAYS found in a pile of dung.” I have found that to be true as well.

Good luck, Ray. May you take your own advice: “Its in your apparently darkest night that you find your greatest light”. I believe that to be true, and will hold that intention for you. And may we magicians and mystics all learn from your experience, such that we need not make the same mistakes.

A New Model of Magick

One final piece of advice: “Think about it. Growth doesn’t occur when you’re comfortable and always in agreement. It occurs when you wrestle w/your own world model”. Perhaps it’s time for a new model of magick and/or personal development that is sustainable and safe while still effective for transformation.

While I haven’t written as much about a new model, I have been pondering what one might look like. I have several examples in mind already of techniques and approaches, but no coherent framework that suits me yet. I hope to share some of my ideas and explorations, or even just some of my questions on this blog soon, so that we can discuss and debate these ideas together.

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157 responses to “The Dark Side of The Secret: Reading James Arthur Ray’s Sweat Lodge Disaster through a Magickal Lens”

  1. Fred Barnover says:

    Hopefully October 2009 will be the last time we will see the likes of James Ray fooling around with the lives of other humans in our beautiful town of Sedona, AZ. The native American Community is as outraged by his abuse of their sacred traditions as are a huge number of us local citizens. Grown adults dabbling around in our town with the sacred traditions of other cultures to make their personal fortune is not only insulting, but fraudulent, and as we have seen, has even provm to be deadly. Our hearts go out to the the 3 people who paid this huckster $9,000 to help "improve" their lives only to have their lives snuffed out in a moment of what is looking more and more like sheer stupidity and financial greed. This tragedy in Sedona is the product of an arrogant multi-millionare white man trying to add to his personal fortune by acting like a 10 year old playing "injun" in the 1950's. The site location even had a cute "tepee" set up for effect. How nice.

    But in the end it appears that Ray is no more than just a modern day version of the pied piper. He continues scheduling new lectures and events while three of his followers have been sent home in coffins. He won't even talk or cooperate with our local Yavapai county Sheriff as they try to get to the bottom of how these people died. Unfortunately, word has it that this same seminar for "Spiritual Warriers" is scheduled to return again in Sedona next year. If so, I can only say– Buyer Beware! Oh my!

  2. jaguarwoman says:

    In our tradition we never sell ceremonies. $9000.00 for a spiritual retreat beckons tragedy. There are many out there who go to authentic sweatlodge ceremonies coming out thinking that they can also make one happen. Having a sweatlodge is a huge responsiblity towards the community and their well being. There is so much involved that I cannot reveal, only that if it is not done in respect for all the Spirits things happen. Once again I see how Native American spiritual traditions are being abused. I am sorry to hear that so many people have been hurt for a lifetime and more for the irresponsibility of one greedy man.

  3. Alexis says:

    Read this link. If it is true, this guy is going away for awhile…

    http://thumpandwhip.com/2009/10/19/survivors-tale

  4. WayneJF says:

    I will be praying for Jesus to come to all those in need.

    5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but they cannot see;

    6 they have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but they cannot smell;

    7 they have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but they cannot walk;
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.

    8 Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

    14 May the LORD make you increase,
    both you and your children.

    15 May you be blessed by the LORD,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

    16 The highest heavens belong to the LORD,
    but the earth he has given to man.

  5. Amy says:

    As a vision quest guide and spiritual counselor myself, this tragedy has weighed heavily on my heart since it happened. When I facillitate experiences in nature for others that include 3 or 4 days and nights fasting alone in the wilderness, it is with profound awareness that there are inherent dangers in in acting these ancient ceremonies and rituals in modern ways. Rites of Passage guides often use the metaphors of living and dying, as in "we die" to our old selves/lives and be reborn to a new one that is filled with new awareness, vision and purpose for improving humanity. There is something powerfully transformative about going to the edge, of facing one's death, that gives them an appreciation for life. (It's not unusal to also invoke the "Spiritual Warrior" archetype.)

    But the last thing we would ever want is for someone to really die! We take all the precautions possible: screen participants for health and psychological issues. Teach basic wilderness survival skills. Give advice on setting up a tarp for shelter and staying warm. Inact a buddy system, keep track of quester's solo spots and visit them if intuition or circumstance warrents. Yet dangers are always present in the wild, especially when one is alone: wild animals, unexpected extreme weather, poisonous plants, getting lost, illness, etc. Most guides have participants fill out waivers of responsibility, obtain trip insurance, and warn everyone that this is not going to be easy.

    Why do teacher, guides and especially the participants take such risks? Because over the millenium they have proven to be intensely productive, healing & beneficial, not only for the individual, but their families and communities. The extreme rituals are effective in inducing spiritual experiences and perceptual shifts, and miracles are common place at these times.

    How much responsbility does the teacher/guide have, and how much do the participants have, if something goes wrong… even terribly wrong? I think each situation has to be thoroughly analyzed and understood in its own right.

    Part of me wants to demonize Ray, largely because he charges 10 times the amount I do and has 10 times more participants than I do. I think some of it is jeolousy. Some of it may be I haven't completely let go of the limiting belief that making lots of money is bad spiritually… ironic, this is a belief he appearantly works hard to help others overcome. I know I don't want to have "poverty" consciousness and don't really think I'm any better than him because I am less financially successful. I don't know if he turns away poor people, but he certainly has enough rich people who come to his seminars… and wealthy people need spiritual assistance as much as anyone. With that said, it is hard for me to imagine ever charging this much, even if I thought people would pay for it. I always want my sessions/workshops to be available to anyone, regardless of what they can afford. I wonder, would we be questioning his part in this if he offered his workshops for way less money, or even for free?

    Would we then wonder if he were the leader of a dangerous cult, instead of a self-help guru???

    So I don't really know what to think. I just learned a third participant died, and I am crying for her family and friends and the loss that can never be repaired. I'd like to believe there is some higher cosmic purpose for this: to help Ray help even more people than he already has in a much better way, by humbling him and forcing his own transformation. Or, perhaps by teaching all the other workshop attendees something of major importance that we haven't gotten yet, or teaching all of us who are reading and grieving to be better people somehow… to be safer guides and teachers and leaders. I just don't know. What about those people who tragically died? Did their souls choose this time and this way to go? Were they ready? Did they take Ray's symbolic talk literally and pass on to a higher plane of existance? Or is this all the work of demons who got the better of all of us??? I really don't know.

    Thanks for all your posts. These discussions are important. I hope we learn more soon. It strikes me as rather odd that we aren't hearing or reading interviews with the survivors. What went on in that lodge?

    • Amy, thanks for your thoughts.

      Here is a disturbing inside account of the sweat lodge deaths: http://bit.ly/Z8b3s
      (scroll down to pause the Blog Talk Radio interview that loads when the page loads)

      If this account is true, Ray has gone off the deep end into insane psychopathic guru land.

      Taking precautions is exactly the opposite of what Ray and co. did, and is a great example of evoking the warrior in a relatively safe way, like learning how to set your harness properly when rock climbing.

      Greed consciousness is another form of poverty consciousness–it's still based on the notion that I don't have enough. It's just like someone who is overcompensating with extreme over-confidence because they don't really feel confident at all. Greed itself is a feeling of I don't have enough, therefore I think I need more than I really need.

  6. Amy says:

    Continued from last post…

    As a final note, I have attended sweat lodges and classes with 100's of people, but was trained to have at most 12 on something like a vision quest, and then to have 2 guides present at that number. 55, the amount Ray had, is alot, and I'm wondering about the size of his staff and assistants. Also about the construction of the sweatlodge? From the photos looks extremely low to the ground. Was there not enough air??? I do wonder about the amount of rocks brought in… one news report said every 15 minutes for two hours. Did they open the flaps wide and pass around water during those times? All the lakota-styled sweats I've been to had 4 "doors", or rounds, where the doors were open, people came or went depending on how they felt, water was shared, fresh, cool air welcomed in, and more hot lava rocks honored inside with praises of "grandfather" or "grandmother". I've been trained to lead sweats myself and have participated many times in building the lodges with others, but have not initiated or lead one myself, mostly because I have not been "called" to do so. I've never heard or believed it was a very dangerous practice, but have been mindful that it is a difficult one for many, and could be harmful for the very young, old, sick or pregnant.

    One a completely different note (or is it???) yet with the same tragic elements, what do you think of the New Jersy marathon where three men with no known health problems died within a matter of minutes of each other??? It is eerie, in that no one knows why, if it was a freak coincidence or foul play at hand…. pending investigation and toxicology reports, just like in this case. DO YOU THINK THE ORGANIZERS OF THE MARATHON SHOULD BE HELD AS ACCOUNTABLE AS JAMES RAY? IS A MARATHON MORE OR LESS OR THE SAME WHEN IT COMES TO LEVEL OF HEALTH DANGER AND RISK???

    Thanks for reading.
    Amy

    • They did not pass around water. Those most affected were in the back, and did not feel ANY relief whatsoever from the doors opening. Participants were already very dehydrated from the 36 hour no food and no water vision quest (which Ray and staff did not participate in). Ray closed the doors in participants faces, saying "too late! door's shut" etc.

      Ray is MUCH more responsible than a marathon organizer due to the intense psychological coercion that occurred.

    • rkzk says:

      My question for you: Do you, as "a vision quest guide and spiritual counselor", stand to gain monetary profit or do you do it for the sake of the whole?
      Perhaps living a modest, more sustainable life is more rewarding and produces more wealth than can ever be bought. People feel weak and powerless because they cannot provide for themselves, who do you know that grows all of their own food and can make their own clothes, shelter..etc. – we all rely on each other (whether we like it or not) and in a disproportionate manner. The lives of many are used to provide for the lives of few elitists. Grabbing bits an pieces of knowledge and cramming them into a program is holistic – it's disjointed and out of context. I am sad that people died in a ceremony that ethically speaking, should have never happened.
      And no, the organizers of marathons are way different, they aren't running alongside you pushing you past your boundaries, nor are they using traditional ceremonies of another culture in an inaccurate manner.

  7. marg says:

    The composer Richard Wagner was a fabulous composer, but was a great admirer of Hitler!
    What I want to say with this is: HUmans are not perfect, it was OBVIOUSLY STUPID/GREEDY what Ray and Co. did at this primitive-looking sweat lodge retreat BUT:
    The secret is inspired and it is STILL a beautiful work that has helped many instead of turning to antidepressents, alcohol, hard drugs or etc..,
    The outcome of this tragedy, is unfortunately the flip-side of something good, which is always not too far away__ as opposite polars attract– goodness and badness.
    God (no warrior Gods) is also the answer PLUS faith in oneself (as The Secret shows) makes the perfect union!

  8. I sent a msg to James A. Ray in Twitter and called attention to problems Joe Vitale and Him had recently and both had gone to Machu Picchu this year. Money trip to esoteric places?
    Money paid ritual with native indians ceremonies? Well, as in everything one should separate the bad from the good,. Rhonda Byrne´s The Secret is a good thing. Most of people involved are good people.

  9. Jack says:

    I’m glad I’m not sitting with Ray’s karma. Over 50 or 60 Sundancer led Inipis, no problem.
    In lodges led by wanna be’s, people felt sick, negative. When Ive poured it’s been healing
    for all. Sensitivety to each and Every participant’s needs are vital & honored. Funny how
    Natives have a succesful track record and people who do not honor Indigenious peoples’ ways
    cause grave harm n death. Eloquence as a sign of spiritual Mastery is extremely over rated by Americans.
    It is forgotten the Devil has a Silver tongue, as does politicians.

  10. Memi says:

    Hi,

    I have a deep distrust of anyone who charges such exhorbitant fees, the laws of attraction are about many things, not only money which we clearly are not evolved enough to understand. We covet it, we worship it, we lie and cheat and kill for it, but money gives a semblance of beauty, a semblance of the divine, a semblance of power, a semblance of immortality, and yet can leave the true evolution of the soul dying of hunger.

    Look into the eyes of James Arthur Ray. Is this an evolved soul? I'm sorry, but I am I the only one who sees a rat? What gives? He looks and sounds like a cheap used car salesman. How could anyone be convinced to give up their own god given gut instincts, follow this man into the desert, and put their life into his hands?

    I have been to healing sweats, I have followed some leaders into dangerous personal waters, and have benefitted, but never have I allowed anyone to over ride my bullshit meter.
    I am afraid James Ray DID attract what he needed to. Whether or not his victims deserved to die so that he might learn a lesson on hubris, is another matter.

  11. Heather says:

    Hey HI,
    Just thinking too, that any good Witch always mutters "For the greater good of all, HARM NONE" along with any spell, incantation, or statement of intention. Sort of like a safeguard against our own will backfireing against us. Also allowing for a greater power to only guide our will in such a way that harms none, because these forces are strong and WILL ABSOLUTELY work. Just be careful what you wish for. I wonder how many of those spiritual/wealth seekers who survived will end up with book deals!

  12. […] been sitting with this incident for two weeks now, reading insightful commentary from folks like Duff McDuffee and responses from the Native American community. Various Native Americans have spoken out against […]

  13. Glenn says:

    James Ray may be all of the above (posts). What he is not, is wise. To paraphrase Lao Tse: 'A wise man when he makes a mistake, realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.' I make the judgment that Ray lacks wisdom for additional reasons. I have been attending Sweat Lodge ceremonies (I use the common parlance, though it is a misnomer) since 1978. I have conducted over 1000 of them myself. I attend these ceremonies on average twice a week. I judge Mr. Ray because I know he was gaming this ceremony. He played with principles and primal forces of nature as though they were obstacles on an adventure. From the pictures I could see no altar. The altar between the fire and the lodge is the filter that screens or protects us from the dark forces. I have never been to a lodge that did not have an altar. That's what I look for. That's how I decide whether to attend or not I look for traditional instruments. The altars of true medicine men are incredibly simple and understated. The altars of faux medicine men are puffed up and fatuous. The altars of new age shamans are often cluttered with every eclectic indigenous toy south of Nome. I eschew new age gibberish. If Ray had no altar, then his audacity and arrogance in this regard would lead me to conclude that he was gaming natural law and is deluded. If he did have an altar (again, I didn't see one and the remnants would have, I think, been obvious,) then it did not filter out the Shadow of Death, which leads me to conclude he was playing with faith, instead of praying with Faith. My prayer is that Mr. Ray step up and take responsibility for his actions. That would be wise.

  14. Vera says:

    As James Ray states, if you are not growing and learning then you are dying.
    I am fed up people saying that the people who died are responsible for their own deaths. This is totally unfair and more new age talk that shows no empathy or respect for those who lost their lives or their grieving families.
    The people who died were already good people. They had a good life and they went with the promise that they could have more…..and they put their faith in James. James didn't share any of his own wisdom, he robbed from the First Nations and took their ceremonies and desecrated them. Many of the new age healers are no better than others who have come before them robbing and theiving. It is sad. I have been a new ager for most of my life but recently been confronted with the fact that many of these so called healers are the false Gods that will appear to us in the form of the positive(God) but are really the negative or Satan. Satan = Narcissism

    • Yana says:

      Hi Vera, Nobody is disrespecting the lives of those people. I am sure they were good people and I can't imagine the pain, frustration and helplessness of their families. But taking the power out of them by not making them responsible for their lives is also disrespectful. Every single person is a strong being that can control his/her life. Whatever happened, very tragic indeed, was because of a choice they made – they choose to trust Ray and they went to his seminar. Call it the law of attraction, call it destiny, call it the right of choice God gave us but don't call it mere coincidence as that rips them off their power. What is left for us now is to touch on our beliefs for the life after this life and let's hope that those people are in the good place they were aiming at and not just helpless victims of a ruthless man.

      And before you tear me piece by piece :), I will say that I am also very full of anger right now, as to me it seems that Ray acted extremely irresponsible, greedy and yes, very narcissistic. I am very sorry that this thing happened, that he is so enchanting that people chose to strip off their power and put their lives in his hands and that he failed them.

      And one more note. You should follow what your heart tells you. But please don't cut yourself from searching for your answers because of the so many thirsty for money "teachers" out there. You know that it is most dark just before dawn, so be not surprised by all those 'satan's as you call them. They too have their divine role in this game. We can't see the light without having the dark.

      Let us allow everybody to follow their own path as they find best for them and us work on us and our own growth, as we see it.

      Much love, Yana

  15. vera says:

    Narcissistic people are perfectionistic, despise weakness (poverty) and show no empathy. They move on quickly to their next victims to steal their energy. They show no remorse and can be very convincing of their God like ways and charm many people. Look it up on the internet and you will find that many of our leaders today possess this narcissistic personality disorder. We all have some degree of narcissism and some is even healthy but, many who are suffering from this personality are in a world of their own and if they are confronted with any opposition or adversity they run away. Then never own up to what they have done!!!

  16. This is a great piece about a very sad situation. I got to meet James Ray on a flight several months ago, and I found him to be very accesable and very deep – and we got into some comments about Judaism and the Holocaust – and as someone who comes from that world – I found the discussion refreshing in that it went beyond the victim mode of my own people. I hope he takes some accountability, even seppuku as you suggest. I talk about in my blog today how, while I love sweatlodges, there is nothing that will sweat out your insides and your heart like being in a committed relationship.
    Michael Sherman – blog: http://tinyurl.com/yfzy4ho

    • Thanks Michael. It's hard for me to tell personally what this man's motives were. The more I hear about the insider reports, the more it looks like coercive persuasion. And Ray doesn't seem to be taking any warrior-like action from what I can see. I even confronted him with a friend and asked him whether he had blocked the door to the sweat lodge in a Denver free evening event after the deadly sweat lodge and he didn't respond, but simply had us escorted out and continued with his program.

      I do think good can come from any difficult or terrible event like the Holocaust, but I also think there is a right time to see the good, which for me comes with grieving and seeking justice. Ray's PR campaign seems to be ignoring his own culpability by distracting with rhetoric of the positive spiritual purpose of this event. Personally, I think one positive spiritual purpose is to highlight such abuses of power in spiritual and personal development communities and workshops.

      • Hi – thanks for your response. I totally agree with you about taking a look at the power that is presented from the stage at personal growth events. I do get a lot of value from these events, and they can serve a need. People are vulnerable and they don't know where to go. The failure, in my eyes, is that having been to a lot of these – trainers talk a lot about how this kind of breakthrough work can affect your relationships. While I've seen that to some degree in folks who I have followed at these kinds of events, I think this is really the fatal flaw of this work. Let people have an experience – sky diving, breaking boards, sweatlodges, whatever —- but then teach them how to be contribute to the people in their lives. Teach them how to be vulnerable with their words and their presence. You don't need 120 degree heat to do that. Feelings are hot enough.
        Thanks – Michael Sherman – http://www.CourageousLovingNation.com
        />

        Michael Sherman, MA, Imago Educator
        Writer and Teacher
        http://www.CourageousLoving.com
        />michael@courageousloving.com
        (845) 653-1097

      • Hi – thanks for your response. I totally agree with you about taking a look at the power that is presented from the stage at personal growth events. I do get a lot of value from these events, and they can serve a need. People are vulnerable and they don't know where to go. The failure, in my eyes, is that having been to a lot of these – trainers talk a lot about how this kind of breakthrough work can affect your relationships. While I've seen that to some degree in folks who I have followed at these kinds of events, I think this is really the fatal flaw of this work. Let people have an experience – sky diving, breaking boards, sweatlodges, whatever —- but then teach them how to be contribute to the people in their lives. Teach them how to be vulnerable with their words and their presence. You don't need 120 degree heat to do that. Feelings are hot enough.
        Thanks – Michael Sherman – http://www.CourageousLovingNation.com
        />

        Michael Sherman, MA, Imago Educator
        Writer and Teacher
        http://www.CourageousLoving.com
        />michael@courageousloving.com
        (845) 653-1097

  17. Totally agree. I have had more than enough breakthroughs to see that they are usually short-term. Long-term relationships, with intimate partners and even yourself, are where sustainable growth are found.

  18. […] sweat lodge ceremony left three of his followers dead.  McDuffee wrote two excellent posts following the incident, and him and Theo have since gone on to face Ray personally at his event in […]

  19. browneyedgurl says:

    this was most likely not a sweatlodge,maybe a image of one but not a real ceremony.i have been in many sweatlodges never did i encounter or see such a thing.too bad theres people out there hurting people for money.this article is the first that i have heard of warriors raping woman.i have heard of non native men killing and raping children and woman .especially what the first nation children went through the boarding schools,sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. steve says:

    This tragic event should never have happened. James Ray should have stuck to his fine metoring lectures like fellow teachers Randy Gage and Dov Baron.
    Sadly, the tragic unstudied version of the fine native american traditions is what was wrong, not the law of attraction.
    The media has now caused a pigpile of people upon the entire self-development arena by people, may of whom, couldn't tell you one sentence about the law of attraction.
    Joel Osteen delivers the same message every Sunday to a totally filled compaq center, is this all a giant fraud ?

  21. Yana says:

    I can easily see how this whole thing can make people think the LoA is fake but… what happened has actually nothing to do with the validity of the loa! LoA never states that bad things can't happen and if a bad thing happened to a LoA teacher, then… yes! he did attract it on his way to reaching whatever goals he has. Maybe one of Ray's goals is to be a highly spiritual being and the universe seeing his greediness and love for money does… bahm! something that will cut all his income sources. You can bet this is something that made Ray think realllll hard how and why he attracted it.

    But we should NOT talk only about him. Focusing only on him means we are claiming him to be more important than the rest of the people there. In a situation everybody is a co-creator. You can't say that Ray attracted this to those people without them having anything to do with it. I've written this before on this site, but… how much do you need to hate yourself or to not believe in yourself to let yourself die… Think about that…

    I am deeply sorry for the pain that is rippling from this event. Let all of us get responsible for the way we live our lives!

  22. Teresa Da Silva says:

    James Ray is NOT a Witch nor a Warlock.
    He is a manipulative asshole and far too greedy for anyone's taste!

    Karma is a bitch!
    And right now James Ray's karma is the biggest bitch of all… to him anyway.

    People should be kind and good, naturally, and not use money as a means to be good.
    His time is up and he will never ever manipulate anyone else again.

    Like I said, Karma is a bitch, but in this case, it is a beautiful and well deserved bitch!

  23. […] Like organized religion, spiritual people can use the core teachings of their particular tradition or beliefs to avoid everyday challenges in life. Likewise, these same people can use spiritual teachings to fortify their ego, get praise, attention, and even material wealth. Take the latest example of James Arthur Ray, whose spiritual warrior retreat left three people dead. […]

  24. Jaime says:

    I think that when this whole thing is over and all the facts come out, any rational person will con clude that ALL "spiritual" teachers or personal development gurus are bad, and should be avoided, that James Arthur Ray specifically is a greedy, evil person and that the Law of Attraction and The Secret are total bullshit. It's time for this country to become both scientifically and culturally literate. There should be courses in elementary school that teach critical thinking so no one ever puts up a blog of such ridiculous apologetics for obvious frauds, hucksters and flim flam artists. This country can't survive the soma of pseudo-science and irrationality that is so chic among those who see themselves as "spiritual" but not religious. Whoever wrote this would have done better to spend time with a basic logic course and familiarizing himself with the scientific method. It also wouldn't have hurt him to investigate the perspective of indigenous Americans, rather than assuming that he knows all about all warrior "paradigms". I'm sure James Ray's PR team will find a way to use this type of irrational blathering to their advantage.

    • Hi Jamie, thanks for your comment.

      I got a 110% in Symbolic Logic as part of my Philosophy degree (without studying!), and did quite well in Philosophy of Science as well. I am well-versed in and a strong advocate of critical thinking.

      This post was written one day after the death lodge news came out, and was not intended as an apology for James Arthur Ray's huckerism, but to frame him as needing to take responsibility even from his own perspective. I was anticipating a response from the LoA crowd that would blame the victims for "attracting" their deaths and injuries, and attempting to reframe the attraction argument to show that James Ray attracted these results and therefore is morally and ethically culpable.

      There is a world of difference between such professional scam artists as James Arthur Ray and wise and compassionate spiritual and religious teachers like Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, A.H. Almaas, etc.

      Bradford Keeney says to be interested in spirituality but not religion is like saying you are hungry but don't like to eat. I think folks like Ray and his Secret buddies are serving up zero-nutrition spiritual junk food.

      • Ian says:

        "Bradford Keeney says to be interested in spirituality but not religion is like saying you are hungry but don't like to eat. I think folks like Ray and his Secret buddies are serving up zero-nutrition spiritual junk food."

        Nice.

  25. Gearheart says:

    Calling this guy a megician is trying to make light of what he really is.
    Remember magicians are performers, they do tricks, magic is not real?
    You guys are just sheep.

  26. mwoo says:

    Good writing there, Duff. But you over look James' definition of Warrior as "one who conquers onself". That, in my mind is what Spiritual Warrior was all about. I do believe James is ultimately responsible, but let's not negate the personal responsibility of the participants. It's not a good idea to give over your personal power to anyone, even a James Ray. It's a very sad thing, what happened, and the last person to die in the hosptial was a personal friend of mine for over 10 years. But lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I hope all the good James has done, the transformation of so many people's lives, is remembered and balanced against this tragedy. Liz would want that, too.

  27. bob says:

    This is a great way of eliminating liberal democrats. Keep up the good work.

  28. Manu says:

    I have been researching law of attraction for a while now, ever since I watched the movie the secret. While many people think of the law of attraction as auto-suggestion, I have found also experimental researching which explains this theory. Lets remember that 400 years ago (according to science) the earth was flat, and anyone who thought else was a accused of witchery.

    I believe that James Arthur Ray, simply deviated from the whole point of law of attraction. Law of attraction, lay of attraction doesn't need any fancy ritual in orther for it to work and achieve results, lets not forget it is always working as it is (to my opinion and many others) a physical law.

    Its not fair to condemn the whole theory just because this guy deviated and corrupted himself so much with marketing schemes that finally took the lives of others.

  29. millie martin says:

    as a music teacher myself when someone is in my studio i am responsible for their welfare. if they pass out i call an ambulance… if they hurt i do not say keep doing it, it will pass.
    this is how people get injured… sometimes for life… because of trying to "do it right", "not be a quitter", etc… missing the point that growth is different for different people and thier physical and mental conditions MUST BE ACKLNOWLEDGED.
    i have contact information on ALL of my students.
    I hade liked what James Arthur Ray was saying but totally think this is the HEIGHT OF NEGLECT and not serving the students. they trust you with themselves and that you, as a teacher and mentor, are there to guide them in THEIR best interests… not yours.

  30. realist says:

    This man is a crook who took thousands of dollars from people and in exchange didnt even bother to learn about the health and safety regulations/reccomendations/common sense for his own facilities. Let's see if his "magick" can keep him out of jail on manslaughter charges. I for one, hope not.

  31. JamesWFE says:

    Is Mr. Ray a federally recognized American Native Person, belonging to a federally recognized tribe? Or is Mr. Ray a bona fide member of the Native American Church?

    If the answer to both of these questions is no, Mr. Ray must be found guilty of ‘Constructive Manslaughter’. If the answer is yes to either one of these questions, Mr. Ray must be fully and totally exonerated from any criminal charges. Members of federally recognized tribes and / or the Native American Church are protected, under the First Amendment and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA).

    Conducting an American Native Ceremony, by federal law is a felony rather it is a Sacrament (Peyote), Sweat Lodge and etc ceremonies.

    Because these ceremonies are so very transforming and that there is a substantial degree of danger to the participants especially the Sweat Lodge, the United Sates Government states very clearly in the wording of AIRFA that these ceremonies are to be conducted by members of a Federally Recognized American Native Tribe and / or a Native American Church Spiritual Leader. It is demanded, within these American Native communities, that Leadership of these ceremonies are to have American Native hereditary training to conduct said ceremonies. This training entails a variety of American Native ancient traditions, designed over thousands of years to protect participants from such travesties that occurred in Arizona.

    A historical pre-requisite to conducting an American Native Spiritual Ceremony is first and foremost the spirit of service, in which, more than often, the spiritual leader has taken a vow of poverty.

    It is vitally important for the sanctity of American Native Spirituality that these ancient ceremonies, for the public’s safety, are to be respected and honored by being conducted in accordance with federal laws.

  32. Janine says:

    A wolf in sheeps clothing. NOT a spiritual, symbolic, power totem animal wolf. A crafty, opportunistic predator, When no one is looking, James Ray is counting his ill-gotten loot and planning his next deception. He needs a decade in prison to think about what a creepy little man he is.

  33. Synesthesia says:

    I believe in thinking positive, but there's no way I'd give that much money to some guru. I can think positively for free, on my own, thank you.
    I can't believe he was allowed to do that.. to have a sweat lodge ceremony in such an unhealthy way!

  34. Shamanic healing focuses on energetic and emotional "spring cleaning" and then on bringing a person back to wholeness. We often travel through life dragging all our emotional baggage with us, but this is not necessary! We can leave it all behind us and move forward into a life of happiness and freedom, and liberate ourselves from our past through Shamanic healing

  35. LondonKdS says:

    You can widen this a bit by considering the element of financial motivation in this affair, and also in the self-centredness of much “personal development”. What is a Warrior who fights for material gain? At best a mercenary who might possibly be working for an admirable course, at worst a bandit. And what is a Warrior who fights for a selfish kind of “self-development”? At best an arrogant sportsman who misses much of the spiritual side of his art, at absolute worst a bloodthirsty, sadistic spree killer.

  36. istanbulenglish says:

    I've always thought that words were strangely prophetic – makes me think of Jung's idea of synchronicity.

  37. Glenn says:

    When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad. Being and non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. Long and short define each other. High and low depend on each other. Before and after follow each other. Therefore the Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn't possess, acts but doesn't expect. When her work is done, she forgets it. That is why it lasts forever.
    (Lao Tse – transl Steven Mitchell)

  38. Jacob_Sokol says:

    Interesting ideas… thanks for the contribution!

  39. Zauberer says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article and agree wholeheartedly with a few points:

    ( “Think about it. Growth doesn’t occur when you’re comfortable and always in agreement. It occurs when you wrestle w/your own world model”. Perhaps it’s time for a new model of magick and/or personal development that is sustainable and safe while still effective for transformation.”)

    In the midst of this “dung”, we can learn what N O T to do and how to improve upon the various spiritual and magickal practices. In my opinion, it was greed, egotism and a lack of genuine, unconditional love for himself and others that caused James Ray to be the cause of these horrendous events. James Ray is a cheesy and foolish salesman trying to dabble in the occult. He is no magician, although he may have been successful in a few areas, eventually the spiritual powers he prostituted backfired.

  40. AznHisoka says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. James Ray need to live up to his label of "Spiritual Warrior", act with honor and accept the consequences… Pay the lawsuit and just pay your dues in jail.

    Although I dunno any "warrior" that spends his life in jail.. that's a pretty pathetic warrior *chuckles* Oh how the might have fallen.
    My recent post My Colon Cleanse Story

  41. Reja_CIMS says:

    Excellent article. I wrote one recently, as a Course in Miracles student, and came to the same conclusion: as you did here. You wrote: "Could it be that one spiritual purpose of this “Spiritual Warrior Event” is to give an opportunity to Mr. Ray to act with the honor of a samurai, taking 100% responsibility for not only the design of the workshop, but even for his evoking of the Warrior? "____

    My article is a Response to the original article at this site: [Scroll down below article to see my Response] http://bit.ly/eAINpt

  42. […] mind would never conduct a sweat lodge in the desert. Ray is most famous for his book and DVD, The Secret.   This classic con man has made hundred’s of thousands of dollars off those wanting to […]

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