Checking in With James Arthur Ray

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 7, 2010 — 11 Comments

So what’s been going on with New Age guru, “Secret” booster, and two-time Oprah guest James Arthur Ray since he was arrested on 3 counts of manslaughter in connection with a sweat-lodge ceremony he led? First, his trial is scheduled for August 31st, though it’s looking likely that will be postponed due to a scheduling hold-up relating to a judge needing surgery. Secondly, a court document filed by Ray’s lawyers (now making the rounds on Twitter) seems to hint that the defense will want to suppress any mention of previous bad acts on the part of Ray during the trial.

“Other than the discovery issue there is a possibility that additional days will be requested. Defendant may be filing a motion requesting an evidentiary hearing regarding 404(b) prior bad acts and that may require more time than the two days the Court has set aside.”

What previous bad acts you may wonder? Well, his history of medical incidents at previous Ray-led events, including a shattered hand and a mysterious suicide. While the suicide is shrouded with questions, it is the shattered hand incident that might be the most damning if allowed into evidence at this new trial, showing a pattern of reckless disregard for his clients.

“In the Disney World incident, a 2005 negligence lawsuit charged a “reckless” Ray pushed seminar attendee Diane Konopka to smash the board to “overcome . . . self-esteem issues.” Repeatedly unsuccessful, the “humiliated” and “extremely exhausted” Konopka felt “she had no choice” but to do what Ray demanded, the suit says. The guru settled in 2007 for an undisclosed sum.”

Meanwhile, ABC News did a recent feature story on Ray, who says that this incident is just the “rapids” of going down the “stream” of a Law of Attraction-led life.

James Ray: So who do we have on the line, I apologize I don’t have the name…but I know you are holding?

Dan Harris: Hi James. My name is Dan Harris, I am from ABC News. And my question is, If the Law of Attraction really works — and you know how to use it, why have so many bad things happened to you and your followers?

James Ray: Well, you know Dan, um, Mickey, I think we need to flush Dan right, right on down the stream, because, um, that’s — that’s not something that we are going to talk to here. And if you had been following along, you would recognize that part of going down the stream is getting in the rapids.

The ABC feature also mentions that many followers of Ray remain true believers, something that I’ve encountered here recently, as they spout Ray’s lawyer’s talking-points in the case, and try to shift the blame for the deaths onto Angel Valley.

“It is MY OPINION that James Arthur Ray was ignorant as to just how dangerous a sweat lodge holding about 60 could be. Angel Valley must have assured Mr Ray that such a sweat lodge would be no problem to build and it would be safe or else James Arthur Ray would not have paid them to build it. Mr Ray blindly trusted Angel Valley to be experts in these matters. This is where James Arthur Ray made his big mistake. Angel Valley should have told Mr Ray that they would NEVER build such a sweat lodge because it was extremely dangerous to do so. They should have told Mr Ray that they also would not allow ANYONE to build such a dangerous sweat lodge on THEIR PROPERTY, for liability reasons. Yes, Mr Ray was indeed ignorant to blindly trust Angel Valley when they told him they could safely build a sweat lodge that can hold 60 people. It was indeed blind ignorant trust in Angel Valley that led to the tragedy in Sedona’s Angel Valley.”

To be sure, Angel Valley Retreat Center should also be held to account for their role in these deaths, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but that doesn’t erase Ray’s part in the incident. He’ll have his day in court, and we’ll see if the accusations of intimidation, recklessness, and negligence add up to manslaughter. As always, we’ll keep you posted on the latest developments.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Karen Schumann

    I have two degrees of separation from the deaths in this case and I’m not sure what infuriates me more: the blind mindset that, even after the deaths, his followers believe that this money-grubbing moron is merely “too trusting”, or that these same followers (with more money than brains, it seems) won’t take responsibility for their own spiritual awakening. It’s teeth-grindingly frustrating.

    • http://www.denisekrochta.com denise krochta

      I too have been following this with interest. I agree that others have fault here too, but that James Ray “allegedly” encouraged people to stay, did not stop the ceremony even though people were vomiting, passing out, getting burned, and comatose, charged almost $10,000, and then left everyone to fend for themselves well before the whole tragedy played out smells of negligence and malicious intent to me.
      My experience at a sweat ceremony, although different in many respects, afforded me the opportunity to understand why these people reacted the way they did.
      There is a free detailed audio of my experience to listen to on my website, blog entry dated June 30th if anyone would like to “feel” like they were at a sweat lodge ceremony without the stress of it.

    • roger roof

      James, I have known you and your brother Jon for years! I don't understand what the hell happened to you!

  • Robin Artisson

    He wasn't practicing a Native American ritual; he was doing a hacked-off, commercial rip off, white man rip off of what he thought a Native American ritual was supposed to be like. And no legitimate, authentic, spiritual, or self-respecting true Native American would EVER "consult" for him, or anyone like him.

  • Cindy

    If the Internet rumors are true and toxic press wood was used to heath the sweat lodge stones and the vinyl tarps used by Angel Valley to turn the sweat lodge into a death trap were stored with rat poison for a year before use in Sedona that changes everything in this case. What do you Native Americans have to say about using non-breathable vinyl tarps stored for a year with rat poison to cover a sweat lodge and using toxic press wood to heat the sweat lodge stones? Is that safe? Also, there are many videos of Mr Ray teaching and I own a couple of his books. They are filled with fantastic information. As for you who badmouth him, you never have anything worthwhile to teach. Hey, you may not like this fact, but it is indeed a fact!

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Oh look, another Ray supporter boosting the "poison wood" theory, how surprising.

  • http://jackie-thecottagebythehedge.blogspot.com/ JACKIE

    Mr. Ray was in charge. It was his responsibility to make sure that the lodge was safe either by checking it out himself or detailing someone to check it out and report back to him. The buck has to stop somewhere.

    I get the impression of a “straw man” who was making it up as he went along, hoping to make as much money as he could before people found out nobody was home. Not much different from most of the mega church pastors I’ve come across.

  • Jimcrawford1

    Mr. Ray is self serving and this should be a red flag for anyone who wants to follow him. In his own words, all these bad things are happening to him because he is only attending his needs. and they will continue to happen to him. DON’T be his next victim!

  • Pitch313

    I bet that the resort used Hypno-Toad to compel Ray to use that big sweat lodge…

  • Anita

    I've been to a free event he held in Chicago and I left half through it out of disgust.. People in the audience were like worshiping him. It was so wierd I would never want to see him twice. Regarding the sweat lodge if the people who attended were anything like the people I met at his free event than I can see why people listened to him. His followers appeared to be brainwashed by this guy. Just very weak minded people. Anybody who has to follow someone because they think he can "enlighten" them for better living needs to see a shrink not a spiritual guru.

  • Stella

    Refusing his 'students' of nourishment (except for some watermelon and lemons right before the fake ceremony) during the event while having his own private chef?
    Sitting right next to the open tent flap and escaping at intervals to take cool showers?
    Telling everyone "you may feel like you're dying, but you're not" to keep them from leaving for some form of…what? Entertainment? Yeah that sounds pretty comfortable for ol James.

    I doubt his punishment will be nearly as cozy.