Reflecting on James Arthur Ray Tragedy

by Dan on October 25, 2009


A little over two months ago, I went to a James Arthur Ray talk, and wrote about the experience on October 27th.  I had changed his name earlier on, but at this point, there’s no real reason to hide who I was talking about.

If you haven’t heard the story, I’ll quickly sum it up for you.  James Ray is a self-help guru who was featured on the movie “The Secret,” and has appeared on Oprah, CNN, and a number of other TV programs.  He has number of books out, including “The Science of Success,” and the recent bestseller “Harmonic Wealth.”

Like most self-help gurus, besides books, he has an assortment of live events.  You start out paying $400-$800 for a multi-day seminar, and then from there get upsold on “retreats” which can span seven to ten days and cost close to $10,000.

At the free two hour live talk I was at, none of the retreats were mentioned.  We were just sold on the introductory multi-day seminars.  While I did learn some valuable information, I did not have a good feeling about the man.

Today, if you Google “James Ray News,” you’ll find some horrific results.  At his week long Spiritual Warrior retreat, he had his $10,000 paying class fast for 36 hours, have a single meal, then head to a “sweat lodge.”  In this plastic encased structure, hot rocks were used to heat the air up to 110 degrees.  This is based on a Native American ritual, which usually takes place in a tent with a maximum of twelve people involved.

This sweat lodge had 64 people, in a structure that stood four feet high.

After a number of people passing out and getting sick, without James Ray doing anything, two people died, followed by a third person dying a few days later.  19 other people were hospitalized.  Upon further investigation, it looks like James Ray kept people from leaving the tent, and told them that them throwing up and passing out was a normal “purging,” and they should stick through it.

Now the question I’m going to go into here is a little different from the commentaries you’ve read elsewhere.  There is only one issue I’m really thinking about, and that is:

How should we view James Arthur Ray products, in light of what happened?

I’ll tell you my view.  I listened to some of the “Science of Success” CD’s earlier this week and they were great.  Everything I agreed with from his two hour talk, I will continue to implement.

HOWEVER… No matter what happens, I will never attend a James Ray International event, unless it’s another two hour talk that takes place in a hotel he only has for a limited time.

The reason for this caution is that the guy obviously has no concern for his students’ safety, so there is actually a real physical, sometimes life-threatening risk to following his instructions.

Of course, he may be incarcerated in the future, so that option may never even exist again.

It may surprise you that I’m still willing to listen to his tapes, but hear me out.  It’s possible for a man to be right about a lot of things, and wrong about a lot of other things.  If his life-enhancing techniques worked for me before the sweat lodge tragedy, they will still work after.

On the other hand, will this tragedy make me take his techniques with a grain of salt?  Well, I believe you should always take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt.  It is never a good idea to put your critical guard down and believe something a claimed authority says, without using your own judgment and common sense.

So at this point, I still recommend the products and books of James Arthur Ray.  If you don’t want to support a man whose negligence caused multiple deaths, I respect that.  However, you may only be short changing yourself by denying yourself very good information out of principle.

By refusing to support James Ray, you are actually not benefiting anyone on this earth.  The damage is done, and nothing you could do to his business would reverse it.  However, if you decide that financially supporting someone you don’t like is not worth your own personal growth, then I’d suggest you reconsider that decision.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Zhenya Delate January 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Wow, that is a tough question. Being a releaser, I now am freer of doing things just to gain approval from other people, even the supposed leaders. I have learned to look at myself as the Ultimate Authority, and to do what I need to do for myself, unapologetically. I have a penchant for sweat lodges, but the plastic structure would have put me off – exposing my pores to headed plastic probably would have made me suspicious. Plastic breaks down and enters the air and then, guess what, the pores absorb it. Polyvinylchlorides is the technical term. Also, I don’t like to be crammed in small, hot, sweaty spaces with a bunch of unconscious people…Anyway, I have to believe I would have taken care of myself but at least now I know I will always take care of myself first, and not continue exposing myself to harmful situations because I want the approval of a supposed master.

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