Sweat Lodge Retreat Leader 'Being Tested' by DeathsThe man in charge of a spiritual retreat last week in Arizona that left two people dead after they were overcome in a sweat lodge said Tuesday night he is facing a difficult time and is "being tested" by the tragedy.
The comments from self-help expert and author James Arthur Ray came during a seminar he held at a hotel in Marina del Rey, near Los Angeles. Ray broke down in tears as he addressed the deaths.
"This is the most difficult time I've ever faced," Ray told the crowd of about 200. "I don't know how to deal with it really."
An audience member asked Ray to describe what happened at the retreat, but he declined, saying only that he has hired his own investigative team and is cooperating with authorities.
Ray is cooperating with authorities...or he isn't. Previous reports said he left the scene of the crime, the whole state, without talking to anyone. As another article put it, "Ray is refusing to speak with media or detectives. He posted a statement on his website on Sunday."Ray added that he wrestled with whether to go through with Tuesday's seminar, which he said was scheduled weeks before the sweat lodge deaths.
"My advisers told me, 'Don't do that. You don't know who'll show up. They're going to eat you alive,"' he told the audience. But he said it was important for him to keep his commitments.
"I'm grieving right now," Ray said. "I'm grieving for the families."
I thought Ray might cancel his upcoming events. Or at least send a surrogate in his place. But he's probably the main draw at these events. His death-dealing Spiritual Warrior event generated at least $600,000 in income, so the show must go on."Pushing" people to their deathsRay led a group of more than 50 people last week through a five-day program at a resort near Sedona, Ariz., intended to push people beyond their limits.
I don't know if Ray actually used the phrase "push people beyond their limits," but that's potentially damning. Yes, killing people counts as pushing them beyond their limits.Tom McFeeley, Brown's cousin and family spokesman, called on Ray to assure that the retreat's participants "were not mistreated and not put in a reckless situation.
"He was someone people believed in, people paid good money to get his advice," McFeeley said. "It's a person we all wanted to believe had our best interest in mind. Quite simply, that didn't happen."
McFeeley also said he is concerned that Ray exhibited a "godlike complex" during the event that might have kept people from opting out of activities Ray acknowledged could cause "physical, emotional, financial or other injuries."
I don't know if Ray acted godlike, but I believe his clients considered him godlike. After all, he's rich and successful. He's been on Oprah and Larry King. That proves he's a great man worthy of being emulated and followed.
Only a sheep-like crowd would pay $10,000 apiece to be crammed into a sweat lodge resembling the Black Hole of Calcutta. Did these people know or care that they weren't getting an authentic sweat-lodge experience from a Native practitioner? Did they do any research at all on Ray before forking over enough money to feed a poor Indian family?Not the first incidentFire department reports released Tuesday show the incident wasn't the first involving a sweat lodge ceremony at the resort. Verde Valley Fire Chief Jerry Doerksen said his department responded to a 911 call in October 2005 about a person who was unconscious after being in a sweat lodge.
Angel Valley resort owner Amayra Hamilton confirmed that Ray was leading the sweat ceremony during the 2005 event. Ray's spokesman declined to comment.
Oops! It sounds as if Ray and the Hamiltons
were both criminally negligent. I hope they get everything that's coming to them--and I don't mean emotional and financial health.Meanwhile, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office continued to investigate last week's ceremony to determine if criminal negligence played a role in the deaths or illnesses. Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said Tuesday that authorities have not yet spoken with Ray.
Which confirms the point that Ray is not
cooperating with authorities. No doubt he's ducking them because he knows he's responsible and he's going to pay.
For more on the subject, see Owners Speak on Sweat Lodge Tragedy
, Ray Retreats from Tweets
, and How Sweat Lodges Can Kill
thanks for the commentary rob. many families i know live on about 10K a year and anyone who has that amount of money to pay for `harmonic wealth' would do better spreading REAL weath to those in need. that soothes the spirit and soul far more than some wanna be ever could.
Good of you to do news about this horrible situation. I wish to send this comment in several parts; I feel so deeply to write this I am up in the early hours of the morning to do it.
There are so many scam artists who have a touch of spiritual knowledge and alot of acting talent; caucasian AND Native American. A true Elder does not dress the part so that tourists and people looking for their own spiritual place in this hard to live in world can be roped in, scammed in and LED in to "their" World just to fatten up their wallets. A true Elder is not that way at all. Sedona is a magnet for people like that. There are VERY MANY sincere, good people who live their Spiritual Traditions in Sedona. But, there are also those who know that Sedona is an easy mark for making a "name" for yourself and making alot of instant money. Ask Vernon Foster. If there were to be TRUE investigative reporting about all this, thre would be no shortness of supply of evidence on how even certain former "ousted" AIM members
have fallen into this racket; so quickly so easily by claiming their AIM profile history, wearing the regalia and scheduling talks on the way that white man destroyed the Native Way and how they themselves are here to give us the parital inside scoop on Old Traditional Ways and how to go into a sweat lodge; slip them more than a few bucks on the side to do things like "help; their poor families and suffer through with dignity." Bull crap. I read an article; deeply soul wrenching on how an elder person on a poor reservation froze to death last winter because no one volunteered to cut wood for them or see to it that their lives were made better. Thats the travesty. People like Massa Ray and Massa Foster and every other scam artist with that sociopathic type personna know how to dig the last dime out of a 90 year old (so to speak!)but delve into their personal lives; their personal histories. Be part of the local communities for awhile; a good while...and you will learn the real deal. Geez, most Indian people could take a few acting classes and wear regalia and sell hell to the devil! But, MOST Indian people do not want to do that and do not want to perpetrate this unbelievable crime against the human spirit. Most...I do believe that most are people just like the rest of us...the rest of us who are part Indian or part Irish or part Scot or just plain mongrel. Most non Indian people could take those same acting classes and wear "sincere" clothes and live just enough of a life to publically declare their "sincere" tradition for walking Grandfathers Way. There have ALWAYS been those kinds of scam artists in EVERY religion and philosophy on this old planet from the mythical time of Adam and Eves Garden of Eden....why cant we all just get along and teach each other, share with each other what we ourselves know of our own personal experiences with Spirit. Why does there ALWAYS have to be bickering and lines drawn and "I ME MY" mentalities. There's alot of angry people in this world that are choosing to vent their rage this way. We are ALL in this world together! I have so much respect for my own Walk that I would not hesitate for a moment to be able to ease someone elses pain by sharing my own personal beliefs IF it will possibly make someone elses life better. But, I also have learned some hard reality lessons from really Wise people.....and AND because at different times in my earlier years I have been sucked in by apiritual con artists I have also learned some really hard reality lessons from those who have been the scam artists like the Rays of the Sedona world and the Fosters of the Sedona world who carry off; who perpetrate the worst kind of scams...the scamming of those who are reaching outward beyond themselves for answers and reaching inward to WALK IN PEACE in this difficult so very difficult world that we live in now.
Bits of knowledge used as a tool in the wrong way and for the wrong purposes can at some point some day and in many ways end up like those Jim Jones followers ended up; in total destruction of the human spirit. Just because someone has been able to attend many many workshops and read many many books over the years and visited many many Indian Reservations doesnt make someone a beautiful human being. Its what you do with what you learned that matters. Just because someone grew up Indian doesnt make that someone knowledgable of Old Traditions and how to walk with Earth. Just because someone was in AIM or a head of AIM doesnt make that same person an authority of any sort on anything...
John Trudell has affected so many people in so many deeply constructive ways. He was a spokesperson for AIM who had unspeakable tragedy in his life. Listen to his philosphies, his poetry, his talks (check out YouTube for some!). He is amazing. But, he is also just human like you or I...I would never make him the be-all and end-all and empty my wallet to him just because he is Native American, has been in AIM, maybe looks beautiful in his regalia.....I dont think hes that type either so it doesnt even come into play. But, there are those who fool the Japanese tourist population in Sedona and fool the naive New Agers in Sedona and crap on the local Indian people who DONT like that monies are scammed by selling teachings and passing oneself off as an Elder in a tourist world. And, by building a sweat lodge in Sedona area for the "Spiritual teachings of a self promoted former AIM elder (HAH...)" If you were to explore the true personalities of the most sincere sounding and looking scam artists who sell their own Souls for money, you will find sordid events. Heartbreaking perpetrations of good people who only want to find answers and feel the deep Soul Peace that we all want....Perhaps, these lives lost and damaged so badly in that sweat lodge will be reminders of what can occur when you sink your existence into the lives of the Rays and the Foster types. Perhaps, people will learn. Perhaps, people will learn.
You're confusing several different things. AIM members aren't necessarily traditionalists and vice versa. AIM members usually don't wear regalia to give talks on "the way that white man destroyed the Native Way." There's nothing particularly wrong with charging money to give talks. No one is claiming John Trudell or any other AIM member is perfect. No one is saying that growing up Indian makes someone knowledgeable about "Old Traditions and how to walk with Earth." No one is even saying that non-Indians should follow Native religions rather than sticking with their own religions.
Despite your gross generalizations about the failings of AIM members and traditionalists, you appear to have a grudge against only one person: Vernon Foster. You've made your point about him in great detail, and that's enough. I'm going to delete any more comments about Foster because his case is irrelevant to James Arthur Ray's case.
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