April 10, 2011

Ray misused Native teachings

As the sweat-lodge trial continues, an article describes how James Ray taught indigenous beliefs and practices despite being unqualified to do so:

Sweat-lodge trial:  James Arthur Ray often misused teachings, critics say

By Bob OrtegaAt seminar after seminar, Ray would recount how he had trekked to the Andes, the Amazon and other remote reaches to learn hidden teachings directly from normally inaccessible masters.

But those attending the Spiritual Warrior retreat did not know that Ray already was being accused of misappropriating and misusing others' teachings without permission or proper training. They did not know that his claims to have been initiated into three shamanic traditions, gaining expertise in a variety of spiritual and esoteric teachings, were either exaggerations or questionable.

And they did not know that Ray's way of running a sweat lodge violated the spiritual and safety practices of the Native American traditions he claimed to follow.
And:Several academics who study shamanic practices said that initiation usually requires a decade or more of direct apprenticeship to a shaman. Matthew James noted that this might be why, in discussing his shamanic initiations, "Ray was vague and ambiguous about where the information came from. I talk about who I learned from and my teacher's teachers and where their information came from. You do need to have credentials."

A review of Ray's writings and recordings, and interviews with followers, did not reveal any reference in which he specifies from whom he learned two Native American spiritual practices he adapted for his Spiritual Warrior retreat: the "sweat lodge," in which participants gathered in a low, wood-frame shelter covered with tarps; and a preceding "vision quest," in which each participant was led into the countryside, required to mark out a 10-foot circle, and then stay there alone without food or water for 36 hours.

Years before the deadly 2009 ceremony, Ray "was approached several times by native leaders and told he was not trained to run Native American ceremonies," said David Singing Bear, an Eastern Band Cherokee and Sedona resident who has run sweat lodges. Singing Bear said that Phillip Crazy Bull, a Lakota chief who died in 2006, spoke with Ray in 2005.

Such training matters for physical safety reasons as well as for spiritual authenticity, says R.J. Joseph, a Cree filmmaker and former Native American program director at Sedona's Enchantment Resort.

"Desert people aren't really vision-quest or sweat-lodge people; they've adopted those ceremonies from Plains Indians. So when you have a fast or vision quest, it's generally in cooler climates. You certainly wouldn't put anybody out in the desert for two days with no water. Not in the desert," he said.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Natives Scorn Ray's Sweat Lodge and Stealing Native Religion Is Okay?


Anonymous said...

I don't have to point out that "shamanism" is anthro-speak for "any belief system we can get away with calling primitive". Of course, Ray's kind self-identify as shamans.

Also, vision quests are for four days. You still wouldn't do that in the desert.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard Indians even use the word "shaman". That word is only used by whites and non-natives trying to get their degrees or doctorates in Anthropology, but even so, most natives say, "medicine man" or "holy man".

Anyone stupid enough to follow a guy who charges you for "healing" and ceremony, is a fool.