By Asher Moses
US authorities are trying to determine if criminal negligence played a role in the deaths, which occurred in a sauna-like sweat lodge at a resort in Arizona during a two-hour "spiritual cleansing ceremony" last Thursday evening.
The organiser of the "Spiritual Warrior" retreat, James Arthur Ray, is an author who holds seminars on wealth creation and was interviewed in the 2006 film The Secret. He has appeared as a guest on shows including Oprah and Larry King Live.
Ray is also an avid tweeter and, even while attendees were falling ill at the retreat, he made several posts to Twitter that were later deleted but not completely removed from the site.
"The Spiritual Warrior has conquered death and therefore has no enemies, and no fear, in this life or the next," he wrote in one.
In another he wrote: "... for anything new to live something first must die. What needs to die in you so that new life can emerge?"
After deleting those tweets Ray published new Twitter messages saying he was "shocked & saddened by the tragedy occurring in Sedona."
He offered "deeply heartfelt" condolences to family and friends of those who died and hoped for a "speedy recovery" for those who fell ill.
He said there were "more questions than answers at this time."
Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh said that Ray refused to speak to authorities and had since left the state.
I think Ray posted those tweets before the sweat lodge, not after. I imagine he was trying to justify the harsh treatment his clients were about to endure. I.e., "You'll be packed into this hellhole like sardines, but suffering is good for you."
The "more questions than answers" include whether Ray is guilty of criminal negligence, manslaughter, or murder.
Ray is big on personal responsibility, so we're waiting for him to take personal responsibility for what happened. Given his flight from the scene of the crime, I wouldn't hold my breath.
Michelle R. Shining Elk had this to say about Ray's posted apology:
He is "shocked and saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Spiritual Warrior...."
I am sure he is "shocked!" Shocked at what this is going to do to his bank account. He will be "shocked" even further when he sees the costs, fees and judgments he will likely have to pay.
From a Facebook posting:
Ray's website is still advertising upcoming "Live Events." Presumably he plan to appear at them. Alas, I imagine the cancellations are running a little high for these events.
If Ray isn't huddling with crisis management experts, he should be. I'd say he risks being detained or arrested if he appears at one of his events. I suspect he'll send some surrogates along with a claim that he's grieving in seclusion.
More to the point, his entire New Age empire is likely to take a significant hit or collapse completely. He should plan on spending the next few years in disaster recovery mode. I think he'll have to make the rounds of talk shows like Mel Gibson and Michael Richards: apologizing and trying to rehabilitate his image.
For more on the subject, see What James Arthur Ray Teaches, How Sweat Lodges Can Kill, and New Age Sweat Lodge Kills.
Below: "This photo provided by the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office shows a 'sweatbox' structure at Angel Valley resort in Sedona, Ariz., where two people died and 19 others fell ill."