Friday, October 16, 2009
I am deeply saddened that once again, Native American culture and spiritualism have been used for fun and profit, with horrifying results.
James Arthur Ray, author of "Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want" and other self-help books, runs seminars for which people pay thousands of dollars to hear business executives, fitness experts and motivational authors exhort them to achieve material success beyond their wildest dreams within the framework of New Age spirituality. I think that spending vast sums of money to hear people speak is the exact opposite of self-empowerment, but it seems to be paying off for Ray, who is probably worth billions by preying on the dissatisfied and gullible. Clothing material lust in the trappings of spiritualism is a brilliant ploy to gain the hearts and wallets of baby boomers, many of whom are aging 60's hippies, by enabling them to reconcile a bornagain desire for wealth with their former non-materialistic values. (In my view, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with money, only with its misuse to have power over others. And there is certainly nothing wrong with changing our beliefs over time; otherwise, what would be the point in still being here?)
On October 8th, Ray conducted a sweat lodge as the culminating event of a 5-day Spiritual Warriors retreat near Sedona, Arizona, which participants paid $9,000 to attend. Native Americans have done sweat lodges for centuries - I have participated in a few - but the purpose is cleansing, not profit. The sweat lodge is typically a tent with large heated stones in a pit at the center on which water is poured at regular intervals to create steam, similar to a sauna. It is a profoundly spiritual experience and has nothing to do with material gain. It is also carefully controlled in that people are allowed to leave through a flap in the tent if the heat becomes too intense. Normally, the sweat lodge holds no more than a dozen people at a time.
In this case, however, 64 people crowded into a 415-square-foot space during a two-hour period Thursday night. Ray led eight 15-minute rounds of various spiritual exercises and while no one was forcibly restrained, participants were strongly encouraged to remain for the entire time. According to the Yavapai, Arizona, sheriff's spokesman, there was no permit granted for the construction of the temporary wooden building in which two people died and many others were taken ill.
Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee died after being overcome in the hut. Nineteen other people were hospitalized with symptoms ranging from dehydration to kidney failure. Ms. Brown was a hiker and surfer described by her family as being in top shape and the kindest person anyone knew. Mr. Shore was also in great physical condition and the doting father of three children. Both attended this event to continue on their paths of self-improvement as a means to better help others.
Ray has issued a statement through his publicist that says, "I am shocked and saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Spiritual Warrior in Sedona, Arizona, Thursday evening. I wish to express my deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives as well as offer my prayers for a speedy recovery for those who were taken ill." He has declined to comment further because there are "more questions than answers." He refused to speak with detectives on the fateful evening and left the state hours later. "He's interested in getting to the truth and will speak to the right people at the appropriate time," said his publicist. One can only assume that the appropriate time will be when he has concocted a story which exonerates him from any responsibility.
I knew there was a reason I was unable to finish reading his book and donated it to the library book store.
Posted by heartinsanfrancisco at 11:41 AM