From transcendence to terror: Self-help millionaire has loyal flock, some cynics
By Tanya Mannes
Ray began organizing his own seminars in the early 1990s, and his popularity soared after he appeared in “The Secret,” an instructional film and book by Rhonda Byrne that has sold more than 10 million copies and DVDs since 2006. Its message: You can obtain your goals through positive thinking and visualization.
Donna Fleming, 60, was one who complained. Fleming also filed a small-claims lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court, but a judge ruled that she wasn't entitled to a refund.
Fleming, a Topanga resident who owns a business that sells recycled office supplies, said she paid $6,000 to attend James Ray seminars.
During a May 2008 seminar at Paradise Point Resort & Spa in San Diego, Fleming said about 175 people were instructed to don thrift-shop clothing and mess up their hair to appear homeless. A bus dropped them off in downtown San Diego with no money, IDs or phones.
Fleming said she didn't feel safe in the rough neighborhood they wandered in for about four hours.
“We were told not to associate with one another,” Fleming said. “We were told that we're warriors, surviving out there and living by our wits.”
Doris Peterson, 44, who owns a Tucson business selling workout videos, said she went to a talk by Ray this year after seeing him in “The Secret.”
“He had this great music, and I liked the energy in the beginning,” Peterson said of the Tucson event. “He seemed cool at first, but then he immediately wanted us to fill out this order form without even knowing how much it cost.”
Peterson said she and others refused to sign up for the retreat Ray was selling, which cost $2,000.
“If you didn't want to go, (he said) something was obviously wrong with you, and you didn't want to better your life,” she said.
Just like some participants at the sweat lodge seminar Oct. 8, Melissa Baldwin, 32, described feeling trapped while attending a 2007 seminar in San Francisco. Baldwin, a Las Vegas massage therapist, said the seminar began at 7:30 a.m. and ended past midnight and that people felt they couldn't leave until they had paid for more seminars.
“They made you feel guilty at getting up and walking out,” she said.
These people are "high achievers"? I'd love to see exactly what they've achieved. They spend a fortune to learn what the average child learns in grade school, when mommy and daddy won't buy him everything he wants.
For more on the subject, see Sweat Lodge Tragedy Shows American Values and Oprah Promoted Sweat Lodge Killer.