James Arthur Ray Arrested, Charged With Manslaughter

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 4, 2010 — 15 Comments

Notorious New Age self-help guru James Arthur Ray, who led a “sweat lodge” ceremony that ended up killing three people, has been arrested and charged with three counts of manslaughter.

“The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office said Ray was indicted on three counts of manslaughter relating to the deaths of James Shore, Liz Neuman and Kirby Brown on October 8 following the retreat near Sedona. His bond was set at $5 million.”

Ray’s lawyer, naturally, is indignant on his behalf.

“The charges are unjust and we will prove it in court,” the statement says. “This was a terrible accident – but it was an accident, not a criminal act. James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident. We will now present this evidence in a court of law, and we are confident that Mr. Ray will be exonerated.”

You know, if you lead a ritual that kills three people, I don’t think you get to simply say “whoops” and move on.  Just last week, Ray had given his first interview since the accident, where he admits that this experience has “adjusted” his ego.

“Well, I think we all struggle with our own ego identity, and certainly that’s me included. To say that I haven’t been tempted by, you know, my own press, if you will, would be crazy. I mean, I think a part of my path and all of our paths is to constantly look at ourselves. The word ego is a Latin word that means identity, or I. Everyone has an ego. You can’t function in the world without an identity.”

If any of the accounts from participants are accurate, he lost the struggle with his “ego identity” that day.

“Some participants began to appear ill after about an hour, she said, but Ray did not seem concerned. Bunn said he sat inside the tent door, leading the group in chants and prayers, while some people vomited and gasped for air and others lay on the floor. When someone lifted the back of the tent to let in fresh air, Ray demanded to know where the light was coming from and who had committed the “sacrilegious act,” Bunn said.”

So this is finally going to trial, and the families and friends of those killed may find some justice and closure. You can expect a huge media blitz for this one, and you can also expect Ray’s former pals, like Oprah and other “The Secret” superstars will be distancing themselves as much as humanly possible. John Curtis of Americans Against Self-Help Fraud calls this “the proverbial 9/11 for the self-help movement”, and while that’s a bit hyperbolic, major shifts in practice and attitude within the New Age and self-help subcultures could indeed develop from this situation.

You can be sure I’ll be following this story as it develops.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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