Home of Dr. Christine B. Whelan

James Ray Death Lodge: When Will We Learn?

Two people are dead and dozens more were hospitalized Thursday after collapsing from the heat of a sweat lodge at a James Ray spiritual retreat in Sedona, Arizona.

The sweat lodge experience was the culmination of a five-day nearly $10,000 “Spiritual Warrior Event” advertised as a retreat to “accelerate the releasing of your limitations and push yourself past your self-imposed and conditioned borders.”

More than 60 participants entered a makeshift structure where hot stones created intense heat. Rituals in sweat lodges are a common Native American purification practice intended to raise the body temperature to somewhere between 102 to 106 degrees. Given the intense heat, supervision is required — and in most sweat lodges, attendance is limited to 8 to 12 people. Participants should leave when the heat becomes too intense. However, after a week of brainwashing about pushing past “self-imposed” borders, human instinct was overridden by orders from a so-called great leader.

James Ray is one of the hottest new self-help gurus – featured on Oprah, Larry King Live, and The Secret – who has only become more popular during the last year’s economic uncertainty. Ray preaches that it is only our negative attitude and negative energy that holds us back from true wealth.

This week-long event was an advanced retreat, and most of the participants had attended his wealth-building seminars before. Ironically, several of the participants lack health insurance. So now in addition to the nearly $10,000 cost of the event, the ones fortunate enough to survive will be stuck with thousands in medical expenses – that is, of course, until the lawsuits begin.

The obvious question is: Why did these men and women stay in such a hostile environment, even as their lungs burned from the heat and they felt themselves slipping into unconsciousness? Why? Because they were brainwashed into believing that those sensations were merely their culturally prescribed limitations, and that they could push on, prove that they were stronger and stick it out.

Indeed, just hours before the deaths, James Ray posted this to Twitter: ”Still in Spiritual Warrior … for anything new to live something first must die. What needs to die in you so that new life can emerge?”

We often think of self-help as harmless and silly, but the charismatic leadership that these gurus wield is a powerful psychological force. Just because a ceremony is New Age or from a native tradition doesn’t mean that it’s benign. As with all powerful experiences, training and supervision is crucial. And when a leader encourages his followers to override their own bodily signals — encourages them to give up their free will — there are terrible consequences.

October 9, 2009 - Posted by | Academic Musings, Self-Help | , , , ,


  1. Exactly right. Thanks for your clear coverage of this event.

    Indeed, James Arthur Ray has an opportunity to be a “spiritual warrior” as he teaches and take 100% responsibility for this (predictable) tragedy.

    Instead, he is already covering his tracks, having deleted all of his tweets about the event. Luckily they appear in search.twitter.com, and I have captured them here:


    Comment by Duff | October 9, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] The news is breaking all over the web. Here’s a great little piece about James’ Ray’s Death Lodge. […]

    Pingback by James Arthur Ray’s Spiritual Warrior Event Kills 2, Injures 19 in Sweat Lodge Fiasco | Beyond Growth | October 9, 2009 | Reply

  3. Wow, nice work getting those tweets! Thanks for the comment–and for your excellent commentary on the incident as well.

    Comment by cbwhelan | October 9, 2009 | Reply

    • Absolutely! Great job of being on it, Duff! Adds a lot more insight to James Ray thought process before the event than the mere couple of “death” tweets most of the media is picking up on. This guy was on about death for a while before this happened. IMO… In the very least, he was intending to bring these people to the brink.

      Comment by The Master | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  4. Good stuff. In my book, “Numen, Old Men” I write about the danger of pursuing spiritual archetypes at some length: “For a man to access the Wild Man he must retreat into his psychic depths, into the forest, into a pre-Christian pagan space of hirsute manliness. Bly intends the Wild Man, with his relationship with the young boy of the Iron John story, to be an example of how men can be initiated into adulthood and the deep masculine. This would be a worthy exercise if it enabled boys to flourish for both their own sakes and the good of the community, but instead Iron John ‘celebrate[s] violence and killing as the means to establish male identity’. This is the archetypal path established by Bly. … This disturbing precedent is continued with Moore and Gillette encouraging men to access the warrior in the male psyche, whose natural presence is indicated by the fact that chimpanzees resort to battle, and men’s fascination with war movies such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket. Moore and Gillette would have their readers believe it is natural for mythopoetically inclined men to imagine themselves operating within the presumably dark and oppressive jungle … these appeals to archetypal models promote largely oppressive and violent masculinities.”

    Comment by Joseph | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  5. rediculous.this event should not have happened.that man had no business running a sweat lodge, and collecting large sums of money for the event.in our tradition, the only time money is exchanged is to provide an honorarium for an elder or elders attending said event(s) for their time lodging and travel expenses.I have participated in sweatlodge ceremonies for the past 12 years..and not once have i ever encountered such a lack of understanding of the ceremony as i have hearing and reading about this tragic event.it is unfortunate that this has beautiful ceremony has become a money grabbing newage exploitation of a time honored tradition.

    Comment by jennifer | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  6. james ray
    self-help soiree
    turned disarray
    now he’ll have
    hell to pay

    Comment by darthlando | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  7. Once again greed and the almighty dollar have dishonored a Native American ceremony.When will people learn Creater doesn’t accept money!AHO

    Comment by shirley howell | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  8. James Ray International
    Waiver of Liability,Assumption of Risk, Indemnity Agreement and Disclaimer

    Comment by catcher | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  9. Funny. Two people died out of 64 and you’re calling it a death lodge. Had it been a plane crash, you would be calling everyone lucky.

    With our current health situation in the U.S, I am not suprised that there are a couple of people who couldn’t handle ‘sweating it out’. Yes, sweat lodges are no play toy and coupled with the intensity of one of these events, eventually someone will fall out. How many events has this man led that have been successful? That would have been good information to include for people like me who are looking for both ‘sides’ of a story.

    How many people die of erroneous drug prescriptions every year? How many people leave a hospital worse off than when they came? Or get sick as a result of going to see a relative in a hospital? I think it’s great you are
    educated, but your education is simply socially accepted brainwash.

    I am suprised that someone so educated lacks the eloquence necessary to deliver such an opinion as yours.

    He deleted posts from twitter, that makes sense, wouldn’t you? Damage control. It’s a PR thing. It’s a shame that every time a doctor kills someone – or someone’s relationship – it’s not put on the news. We’d have news for days!

    Comment by andrea | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • Andrea… James Ray loves people like you. He wouldn’t have his Porsche, hawt women, and his home in Beverly Hills without ya!

      Comment by The Master | October 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Absolutely brilliant, I am glad that I kept reading and got to your post. My sister was released from medical care in September because of insurance limitations and died in hours.

      It is critical to get both sides of the story and not assume that we are stupid, gullible readers just looking for someone to blame. Thanks, Mary

      Comment by Mary | October 11, 2009 | Reply

      • I agree, that this is blown as always, out of proportion. But it will be how it is delivered. And James knows it. that is the world we live in. And he has used this system to create his life. And now this system will really create his life.

        What I want to know. Is why a Man who says ‘what you speak creates your reality.’ And is suppose to be a Numerologist, teaching people at his workshops.
        Is doing a workshop, and talking about War and death, in a Low cycle year, at a point where (if he really knew anything about numerology) he should be laying low and going within himself. Of course he is doing this now. But gee!! what a way to do this!!
        And Dr’s have hospitals and organizations to cover up what they do!! It is called the Medical Mafia!! And the Government helps run it!! You could never the reality of what they do in the public. They are too big of a corporation and are workers for the Chemical companies.

        IN the end. I feel someone who wants to speak in their reality, should avoid War, Warring, Warriors on any and all levels. You want to be a Spiritual Warrior. You better expect death!!

        Comment by Jaclyne Wachell | October 11, 2009

    • deleting tweets because of pr damage control is not something i would associate with integrity in action and to answer your question, no I would not. neither would i dream of having a sweat lasting over 2 hours covered with plastic tarps. ray’s spiritual blabber drawing on symbols and practices from native peoples is superficial at best.

      Comment by David Corner | October 14, 2009 | Reply


      Comment by Ben | September 27, 2010 | Reply

  10. […] mixture of cultural appropriation, magical thinking, New Age brainwashing, and a success at all costs mentality ends up creating unsafe environments for those merely looking […]

    Pingback by The Wild Hunt » The New Age Sweat Lodge Death Controversy | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  11. The tragedy of this whole thing is the “why” these people died. The tragedy is that this man should never ever had been conducting this ceremony in the first place. I don’t care how many doctrates he holds. Only a medicine man who learned for many many years before even being allowed to pour. The other tragedy is that these people that entered the lodge, didn’t take the responsibility of learning more about this, from someone qualified, a very traditional Native medicine person, in the search for higher knowledge. It’s become a fad especially here in AZ.
    Sure, people die tragically every day at the hands of others. THIS could have been prevented from it never being allowed to happen. ALL new age groups should cease from doing these ceremonies. Whether they charge or not. I would never step into a lodge even if they were run by someone of Native blood, without learning more about this person, no matter how long it took, now matter how badly I need to be in a sweat lodge. People need to be responsible for their own lives. In a case like this.

    Comment by Denise | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  12. I went to one of James Ray’s seminars in St. Louis…he told some of his life story and to me it became obvious he would say and do anything to get $ from folks. His whole event was about purchasing CDs, enrolling for the $10,000 seminars, etc. Think about how cost effective it was for him to take in all of those funds for this seminar, THEN to have people NOT EAT for days at his seminar (didn’t that save him alot of money by not feeding his seminar participants). I would imagine there will be alot of lawsuits now that people are opening their eyes. Someone needs to regulate these self-help gurus. What expertise does this guy have in health matters? He just writes books and blog about saving money, etc. This to me was an obvious set-up for the participants. How sad people have to die before the government will go after these types of operations.

    Comment by Kathleen | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • Whatever happen to personal responsbility and critical thinking? We don’t need more government…we need people to stop acting a fool and do their homework and trust their own intuition instead of giving power away to James Arthur Rays and Governments.

      Comment by Joshua | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  13. i am blown away by this. there are too many people in my field of personal and professional development who take such liberty in their claims and suggestions. i can only hope that people become more discerning about their choices. gurus are dangerous. we are finding now that it’s not only ‘buyer beware’ but also ‘seller beware’ – not only ethically but, inevitably, legally and karmically.

    happily, people are reading and recommending my latest book, Illuminate: Harnessing The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, a parable which talks to ‘getting real’, allowing for questioning and challenging, and, overall, creating a culture of honest and open communication dealing not just with the ‘positive mental attitude’ but also the ‘negative issues’ that we encounter.

    call it self promotion- i prefer to call it conviction and passion to a process- but i refer you and readers to check out http://www.illuminatethenegative.com
    david m. corbin

    Comment by davidmcorbin | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  14. Very sad, that this man’s training did not lead him into higher understanding of the words he speaks. I met him once, and could see his pain. too bad he had to create this in his life to see Truth.
    And besides, all this spiritual Warrior stuff is over. Law of attraction basic’s. Speak what you want to live. If you want War, you will have death of some kind or another. As Mr. Ray said. If you want Peace, get out of the War.
    He is not qualified to be teaching what he is teaching. I don’t care how many Certificates he has on his wall.
    He will have much to think about now. too bad.

    Comment by Jaclyne | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  15. Has anyone who posted on here, ever been to a sweat lodge ceremony? I have! In the mid 90’s I joined a men’s group where attending a sweat lodge ceremony was part of the initiation. Everyone is told “up front” hang in there as long as possible, but if you can’t, there is no shame in leaving the swear lodge!!! While I am not specifically a fan of James Ray, I am rather surprised that so many people attacked him, when his intent was honorable. People need to take responsibility for their own finances, relationships, well being, health, AND what potential dangerous things you undertake….ie…Roller Coasters, Bungy Jumping, Sky Diving, Entering a Military Zone, and yes…Sweat Lodge Ceremonies. Judgement and name calling (Death Lodge)is rarely a solution based approach. Education, self-assessment of safety, and free will should prevail.

    Comment by Dr J. Soprano, PhD | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • LOL! Free will is fine and dandy, but if you are going to a sweat lodge run by someone who claims to be knowledgeable of such things as James Ray does, you’d probably at least expect them to know to use breathable fabric for the sweat lodge, let alone not to cram it full of as many people as were in the space provided. 60+ people in a 415 sq. ft space was irresponsible. You ever camp? If you have then you probably know why it’s not a good idea to lounge in a vinyl tent during a warm day, even with the flaps open.

      Comment by The Master | October 11, 2009 | Reply

    • I have been to may Sweat Lodges.

      He may have thought his intent, through his own perspective was honorable, but no one with proper training from an elder would ever put that many people into anything with no air flow. …never that many people at all!!

      If there were few blankets and mostly plastic on the lodge, then that is also wrong, as though it is not traditional to use these items, many are. But they use more blankets than plastic. the plastic is usually lumber wraps, which are made to breath, not straight plastic sheeting and tarps, and is more to prevent rain getting in, than anything getting out!!

      Nor would anyone who had proper training ask for money for this event, it should have been an optional after the retreat.

      as I stated above, he is in a low cycle and someone who teaches numerology should have been better planning.

      As well, that someone who says your words create your reality….well that is self explanatory.

      My heart does go out to him. He has become the ‘martyr of all martyrs’ in the New Age Genre. this event will set a president for others to be more responsible and not to steal something that is not from your own culture.
      And even if James does have some hidden native heritage. It Does not mean that he has a right to drive a car without a license. Or even with a learners. He needed a traditional elders approval on this. The sweat lodge looks like it would be easy to run. but there is a huge and great responsibility in all this!!

      And now he has a lot to think about. As nature does have the answers, it does give us more than he thinks from the books he has read. Perhaps now Mr. Ray will do the introspection that he has long allowed his clients to do for him.

      better not play with Magick, you might get burned.

      many prayers out to him and all those involved.

      Comment by Jaclyne Wachell | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  16. P.S. Those who call for “regulation” are asking the government to further regulate (control) your life.
    Thomas Jefferson said: “The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”

    Comment by Dr J. Soprano, PhD | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • I agree with you on regulation. However, I am definitely all for constitutional monitoring of cult outfits like a James Ray International. Maybe if someone from Uncle Sam had seen ole’ James there ranting off on Twitter for nearly a straight week about death and the Spiritual Warrior… A red flag may have been raised, and this tragedy may have been averted.

      Comment by The Master | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  17. Dr. Soprano,
    Yes I have gone to a sweat lodge. I have only been to three in my lifetime, even though I’ve been walking this path for most of my life. I had the chance to go into many more…even some poured by Native individuals. That was in no way a green light for me. What people don’t understand is that you can have the very best intentions, you can study how it is done, make sure you have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed in the way it is built, how you pour, the rules of the lodge. That does NOT give a person the go ahead to do so. It is so much more than just the mechanics of it, or the health issue possibility. It is a “sacred” and “spiritual” matter and if that person is not right spiritually, then it will affect the outcome of the lodge and all who step into it. This is what folks don’t understand. It is a “sacred” thing. NOT a religion. Anyone wanting to attend one should go seek an elder, on a reservation if they have to…and talk to more than one. This is a serious ceremony. You say no one had a right to attack him?? He charged 9,000 dollors Dr. Soprano. 9,000 for people to experience what he had no right or qualifications to do so! Even if he DIDN’T charge money. There are wellness and new age facilities everywhere here in Arizona. Offering sweat lodges. Claiming they were taught by someone who gave them an indian name. It just truly makes me ill to see what has happened to these sacred ceremonies and I’m not even Native! Another shameful act are some of these spiritual retreats, use an elder who is down on his luck both spirtually and emotionally and most importantly financially. So they take donations, in his name, he gets part of it but THEY should not be running lodges!! They are using the name of a respected Native elder, and taking advantage of his misfortune in life and he obliges so he can eat and be warm for the winter! Anything wrong with that you think? A sweat lodge ceremony done correctly by the correct person, and the person attending it’s motivation to do so, is not dangerous.
    I have to ask Dr. Soprano, what this men’s group was you went to and I’ve never heard of attending a sacred sweat lodge as an “initiation”. I just want to know more about your own experience.
    I mean no disrespect in my words. This is just something I am passionate about and I have seen the pain it has caused others. If one ever wonders why some Natives hate whites so much, this would be one clue. In this case, they have a right to judge. Their ways are being what is called “prostituted”. For money, for fame. Disgusting.
    With respect.

    Comment by Denise | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  18. Aside from my rantings, I do want to take the time to ask for prayers for those who perished, and their families, and yes, even James Ray. I am certain he is going through his own hell right now. I also pray that others will take a good hard look at all this, whether they are a person who runs a simulated sweat lodge, or a person wanting to experience this amazing ceremony. Pretty high price to pay for both James, the victims and their families.

    Comment by Denise | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  19. I attended a James Ray event in Dallas in January, and I was injured, and James Ray did not care – not in the least. He was using a teaching tool to demonstrate that what you wanted was right out in front of you – simply take it. He was holding out his teaching CD’s. People from the audience were standing up and taking them. On about the 4th one, I stood up. I was sitting on the front row. A man came up from behind me, jumped on my back, knocked me to the ground and took the CD. Instead of urging people to be careful or asking me if I was okay, James Ray CONGRATULATED the man for having the courage to take what he wanted. He never even stopped his high pressure sales tactics to ask if I was okay. This happened less than six inches from his very feet.
    After the event was over, I waited a long time to tell him that I was injured. I am disabled with Multiple Sclerosis and injured my ankle and knee as the result of being knocked down – and also had an injured back, neck, and shoulder from the man jumping on my back.
    Do you want to hear how James Ray responded when I informed him that I was hurt in the incident? He smiled BROADLY and said “It sure got crazy, didn’t it?” And he laughed. He literally did not give a darn about me or anyone else in attendance. So sad.

    I’m so sad for those who lost their lives and health by trusting this man. He is nothing more than a con artist preying on the vulnerabilities of people seeking spiritual guidance.

    Comment by Leslie | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • Sorry to say it Leslie, but after that event James probably paraded around his office fishing for compliments from his staff.

      “Wasn’t that great? They really ate that up!”

      Comment by The Master | October 11, 2009 | Reply

      • I’m sure you’re right.

        I’m just sickened that he isn’t cooperating with authorities.

        During his workshop, he mentioned that before the big stock market crash a few years ago that he had a huge house that was “higher on the hill then Deepok Chopra.”

        I wonder if he’s hiding in that house right now.

        Comment by Leslie | October 11, 2009

      • Come and listen to a story about a man named James
        A poor telemarketer, hustlin’ at his sales games,
        Then one day he was trippin’ down in Peru,
        And he found himself a new sales model as a new age guru.

        Dreams sold for profit that is, multi-level-marketing, Harmonic wealth.

        Well the first thing you know ol’ James a millionaire,
        Kinfolk said James move away from there
        Said Californy is the place you ought to be
        So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.

        Hills, that is.
        Swimmin pools, movie stars.


        Comment by The Master | October 12, 2009

  20. Oh, and about my previous post – I did send a letter to James Ray International encouraging them to adopt more safety procedures to ensure the welfare of attendees.

    I never heard any kind of response.

    I’m sure James Ray isn’t smiling broadly right now, but I’m also certain he wasn’t concerned for those people’s well being until their deaths affected his bottom line.

    Comment by Leslie | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • Oh yeah he wasn’t concerned! He fled the scene and the state of Arizona instead of tending to the people that were hurt.

      Feel sorry for the people that were hurt. Don’t feel a lick sorry for James Ray.

      Comment by The Master | October 11, 2009 | Reply

      • I do feel so badly for those in attendance. So many people injured and suffering.

        It seems like every site I visit that discusses this story has “James Ray Victims” – people who felt scammed and cheated. One lady said she paid $7,000 for a similar retreat and left in the middle of it because she was uncomfortable with some of the things James Ray was doing. So sad.

        Comment by Leslie | October 11, 2009

      • And think about this, how many such retreats and seminars by James Ray have some these people attended annually? !0k per person could have just been a drop in the bucket compared to what some of these people may have financially dished out to James Ray through the years. Spiritual Warrior isn’t the only event Ray holds in a year.

        At least you were smart enough to spot that something was wrong with the guy, Leslie. Sounds like it came at a bit of a price. But the price you might have paid could’ve been FAR greater.

        Hopefully sharing such information will spare someone else from getting sucked into this garbage.

        Comment by The Master | October 12, 2009

  21. Denise,
    The circumstances under which I attended a sweat lodge are spiritual and sacred in nature, and properly administered by the proper people. In accordance with a sacred pact to not disclose details of initiation, I am bound by my word to not disclose who, what, why, where. Blessings to You.

    Comment by Dr J. Soprano, PhD | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  22. Understood Dr. Soprano. Was not looking for details as to who and where……that is not important. Never heard it called an initiation though….not a word that is used.
    But if it was done by the “proper people” you already know what an abolute honor it is to be part of such a thing.

    Comment by Denise | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  23. You know, I am all for the personal development areas… the books, audio, etc. However some of these people take things too far, and this is one clear case of it.

    People must understand one universal truth (and no, this is not a ‘law’ I read in any book, but common sense from life experience), all these authors, the have to keep producing new material all the time, because this is how they survive.

    Take James Arthur Ray as an example. He became well known after ‘The Secret’, after that video capture millions, just about all the participants started capitalizing after it. You’ll find them each offering a sleuth of products, ranging from CDs, DVDs, seminars, books, etc, or every combination possible. Yes, including JamesRay, with his following ‘science of success’, ‘harmonic wealth’ ‘millionaire mindset’ and other materials, including seminars and the new ‘spiritual warrior’ event.

    These people try to captivate the public with new schemes all the time, that simply looks like the answer to the unsuspecting few. James Ray comes out from books to vids, and now attempting to capitalize on some retreat function.
    He has no experience in these sweat lodges.

    What pisses me off, he comes and starts to bill $9,000 a person for this ‘retreat’. He rents a crappy and shoddy area (take a look at the police photos) and what looks like a tent with tarps and plastic covering it, and crams nearly 65 people in there. Having no idea wth he is doing. This unfortunate event has produced 2 deaths, 21 injured and one in critical condition.

    He refuses to talk to police authorities and fled the first jet out of there. He’s got a ‘spokesman’ who simply says they probably had prexisting conditions and how James extends his prayers to victims and loved ones. Family of one of the victims says she was in good health, very active, avid hiker and exercise. James Ray, you suck big time.

    A local indian chief criticized what James did. He said sweat lodges are made of natural materials, made for 12 people and under and the top is covered with natural cotton material as in everything is breathable. And to come in there with some plastic tent and cover everything in tarps is insulting.

    Black Wolf also said people seeking enlightenment or a sweat lodge shouldnt pay $9000, he called that prostitution.

    It upsets me, that this self help guy, has NOTHING posted on his website regarding the event..nothing. It’s back to business like usual. In fact with new items showing up.

    This is a disgrace. It’s what happens when self help becomes a business. Pay up and run. I just saw above a user commenting on a waiver they signed. Pathetic. I hope everyone gets together and file a major lawsuit. Perhaps the victims signed the waiver, but their family didn’t.

    Shame on you James Ray. I had one of your books laying on my bookshelf someone gave me months ago, first thing I did is throw it out. Hopefully everyone starts boycotting you. Be a man, speak with the authorities directly and the families directly. Your 80character twitter isn’t gonna help you. Didnt you say in your book take action and be responsible? Practice what you preach.

    Comment by Antonio Kuilan | October 10, 2009 | Reply

    • “It upsets me, that this self help guy, has NOTHING posted on his website regarding the event..nothing. It’s back to business like usual. In fact with new items showing up.”

      Bingo! Common sense in action!

      Comment by The Master | October 12, 2009 | Reply

  24. Oh let me add, that BlackWolf also indicated more than 12 people is injustice and manmade materials like plastic/etc can also release fumes causing damage.

    Comment by Antonio Kuilan | October 10, 2009 | Reply

  25. Wow, my comment is deleted. Respectful post criticizing the practices of these self claimed experts. I’ll never visit this blog again.

    Comment by None | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  26. That waiver of liability Ray had people sign isn’t going to hold up in court if it’s shown that the two people died (and others injured) as a result of hypoxia or anoxia (lack of oxygen). You can’t waive away the need to provide a basic environment conducive to life, including oxygen.

    Oh yeah, and Andrea, your two out of 64 is grossly inaccurate. Twenty-one people (that’s 33 percent of the people present) were TRANSPORTED TO HOSPITAL in Sedona, Flagstaff and Prescott. If you know anything about this area, those were not short trips. They were not taken there casually. Not only that, Andrea, how many people die in sweat lodges every year? I would be the number is in the very low single digits. So, two dead and a total of 21 people transported–this indicates a disaster to me.

    This James Arthur Ray person who was selling a spiritual experience for a large sum of money, who won’t talk to the police about what happened (as opposed to EVERYONE ELSE INVOLVED) and who tried to cover up what happened by deleting his tweets. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for people in this position.

    Comment by mirele | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  27. Dr. Whelan,

    As a published author, leader and public figure you must be aware your words have great power. As the saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility”. Have you exercised great responsibility with this post or have you sought to further your own hidden (and wounded) agenda? Your post is simply a regurgitation of an initial news wire piece that was published shortly after the event occurred. Your post reports no new or relevant information it only offers your veiled contempt and broad stroked sensationalism. Brainwashed, Jonestown? It has not yet been determined what actually transpired in Sedona during the workshop however you are quick to incite the malleable minds of your readers with such evocative and emotionally charged words. No facts, no knowledge, no direct experience, no research just emotional manipulation via the written word, is this truly the style of journalism you desire to perpetuate within our world? Your blog post is destructive in its intent and serves only to propagate the energy of fear disguised as a cautionary flag. You appear to be a bright well educated woman from a very good family, you are young, influential and have the power to lead many of your generation in shifting the paradigm on our planet from fear to love. Your words have power (all of them) will you use them to perpetuate a world of fear or a birth forth a world of love and compassion? This is the greatest responsibility. I stand by holding the highest thought and intention for your highest good.


    Comment by Gary | October 11, 2009 | Reply

    • Gary:

      Your blog post is destructive in its intent…

      Two people are dead and you’re calling a blog post destructive. WTF?

      Comment by L | October 11, 2009 | Reply

    • i agree with gary’s comment.
      plus, this is not similiar to jonestown in any way.

      Comment by JLAN | October 12, 2009 | Reply

    • Another in agreement with your post, Gary. I’m really sad to see so many people jumping on the sensationalist bandwagon.

      Comment by West | October 12, 2009 | Reply

    • very well said Gary. thank you for that.

      i wonder if these same rantings would apply to the tragic events that occasionally occur at sororities and fraternities during hazing. are members of the greek system all brainwashed? are they members of a cult? and as such, is their leadership automatically assumed to be exploiting them for evil personal gain?
      while i’ve never been a fan of the greek system, i would never jump to such foolish conclusions. especially if I knew nothing about the organization until it made the evening news.

      Comment by derekmunson | October 13, 2009 | Reply

  28. Gary,
    I agree 100% with your post, and honor you for stepping up and speaking your truth.

    Good People,
    We all know there is a “possibility” that the sweat lodge builders/maintainers may not have been as knowledgeable as they should…that’s a given. That is being investigated, so until that is complete all else is speculation. It seems most people are complaining that James Ray’s price tags are outrageous. You are not being strong armed into going, so allow others their right to make choices without your judgment. Fear is the basis of judgment, and gives people an egoist sense of superiority. Please, consider being compassionate to those affected and their families. Allow others, what you would want, if you were going to do something out of the norm….Respect to make choices that others don’t agree with.

    Dr. Whelan,
    I am disappointed that you capitalized on what’s under investigation by posting basic info, and then rendering an unqualified opinion. The world is where it is, because of fear. Media of all kind use fear to sell stories, and people in the Western world buy it. I do not judge you, but I am disappointed in your behavior, as it incites fear not love. I sincerely hope that you take a moment to reflect on “perceived authority” as people believe what is written by one of their gurus. You have a following…hence you are a guru of “perceived authority.” Every time you speak or write, you impact thoughts. Maybe this is a lesson for all of us, as each of us in some way is a perceived authority to someone, if only our children. Love heals all. I am holding the Intention that you, me, everyone posting, and all associated with Mr. Ray and this event…will look within our hearts and find the best of ourselves and share THAT with the world. Be The Love!

    Comment by Dr J. Soprano, PhD | October 11, 2009 | Reply

    • I’m curious of your qualifications there Dr J. Soprano, PhD? See my spidey sense started tingling with your posts. Must’ve been something to do that some of the content in your posts. See to me at least, they come off a bit as public relations spin. The whole trying to debunk Dr. Whelan here as being unqualified especially caught my eye. But there were other bits as well. Anyhow, it really got me rather curious as to your qualifications to call another PhD unqualified.

      I mean, after all, Dr. Whelan has her credentials posted right up top there in her article here. Care to share where you went to school? Where your theses you used to obtain your own PhDis published? I think such information would be invaluable as to your own qualifications!

      Thank you in advance!

      Comment by The Master | October 12, 2009 | Reply

  29. In doing a little digging, it seems the only qualifications (other than self-annointing) that James Ray:

    Attended a junior college (note: doesn’t mention graduating) http://www.collegedropoutshalloffame.com/r.htm

    – Running a telemarketing operation at AT&T, and working for Stephen Covey http://www.allamericanspeakers.com/speakers/James-Ray/4105

    I’m sure he’s ever so deeply committed to that $piritual quest of his.

    Comment by Lisa | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  30. SAY IT AIN’T SO! I freaking read all this guys books! This is so disturbing… Can you say Lawsuit? This guy is so over now. I’m sorry for the victims and him! His whole reputation is shot forever! Those tweets put the nail in his coffin. I hate to see someone with good intentions fall so hard! Now he’ll just be known has a self-help fraud who was out for money, Damn!

    Comment by Lisa | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  31. There has been a “Declaration of War” against exploiters and thieves running since 1993. Wade Crowe, Hunkpati Dakota Sioux from Crow Creek, SD

    Comment by wade crowe | October 11, 2009 | Reply

    • It sure has Wade. I wonder how many people this tragedy will wake up. Both the exploiters and the seekers.

      Comment by Denise | October 11, 2009 | Reply

  32. UPDATE:

    I received the following email from James Ray this evening:

    For All Those Affected by the Tragedy in Sedona
    I am shocked and saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Spiritual Warrior in Sedona, Arizona, Thursday evening. I wish to express my deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives as well as offer my prayers for a speedy recovery for those who were taken ill. Because there are so many more questions than answers at this time I believe it inappropriate to comment further until we know more.

    Out of respect for the deceased and their loved ones and for those who have taken ill and for whose speedy recovery we pray, we will not be replying to individual postings. Instead, we thank you for writing, and we hope you will share in our continued wishes of support, strength and comfort to all those impacted by this tragedy.

    We also want everyone to know that a friend has been at the hospital monitoring the condition of those still ill. Our love and warm affection is with all who mourn and with all of you in this time of grief, sadness and challenge.

    With never-ending love and prayers,

    James Arthur Ray
    James Ray International, Inc.

    Comment by Leslie | October 12, 2009 | Reply

    • ADD: this was a bulk email, not personally addressed to me. I am still on his mailing list since attending that workshop in January. I typically delete the emails without reading them, but this one, I did read.

      Comment by Leslie | October 12, 2009 | Reply

  33. Look at this article James Ray wrote about Personal Responsibility.

    Hmmmmmm. . . interesting.


    Comment by Leslie | October 13, 2009 | Reply

  34. I love narcissists. Only they can take a horrible tragedy and make it all about them…

    From AP Newswire: “Ray, who said he is “being tested” by the tragedy, added that he wrestled with whether to go through with Tuesday’s seminar. He said it had been scheduled weeks before the Arizona retreat.”

    Comment by Lisa | October 14, 2009 | Reply

  35. there is info coming out that there was another alleged death at a James Ray seminar in July 2009.

    by parkrapidsmn October 12, 2009
    This is not the first time someone has died at a James Arthur Ray seminar.
    On July 26 of this year Colleen died during a James Arthur Ray Creating Absolute Wealth Seminar in San Diego. She had been emotionally broken down, starved and kept awake ungodly amounts of time. During a group “field trip” to Horton Plaza Mall she plunged to the floor from a third level railing.
    Colleen was a happy and succcessful woman. Prior to her death she had absolutely never given any of her friends and co-workers any signs of suicidal thoughts/intentions. She was making future plans…had a positive outlook on life…and was completely healthy.

    Woman in fatal Horton Plaza fall identified

    Comment by curious | October 14, 2009 | Reply

  36. Interesting links those! Also the below contact information is absent from from many of the current articles on the elevation of this case into a homicide investigation.

    “Waugh said his office would like all participants who have knowledge of the Spiritual Warrior seminar at Angel Valley Retreat, or who have experienced something similar, to contact the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office by e-mail at http://www.ycsoaz.gov or Yavapai Silent Witness 1-800-939-3232.”

    Taken from…

    Comment by The Master | October 16, 2009 | Reply

  37. People miss the one thing not being discussed. For years and years self help gurus, new age folks and the like have appropriated American Indian Ceremony out of ignorance and greed.

    before the lodge they had conducted a 4 day vision quest ceremony. traditionally one fasts and prays for a vision from creator for direction.This can last for up to 4 days. It was after this they did this lodge. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing especially when one conducts a ceremony one know nothing about and has manipulated it into something it was never meant to be. 10,000 dollars a head is all you need to understand where they were coming from.

    The Inippi ceremony as practiced by traditional folks is one of the seven sacred ceremonies of the Lakota as is the Hanblecheyapi. This guy thought he could bastardize the ceremony to his vision and look at the results. Those who don’t understand never will.

    Comment by jimmy | October 18, 2009 | Reply

  38. People paid almost $10,000 each to be pushed to the edge. They fasted for three days; no food or water. They entered a sweat lodge after +/- 72 hours without water and three people died. No one thus far has stated the participants medical/physical condition. Before participating in such an event they more than likely signed a statement pertaining to their health etc. I don’t know but it would be irresponsible for the lodge to do otherwise. There is a lot that is unknown but I do know the participants were adults and should be held responsible for making the decision to participate in such a rigorous program. Personal responsibility and looking out for your own health is what the focus should be on instead of blaming someone else for risky behavior. Mr. Ray pushed his clients but they paid a lot of money to be pushed. To say that they were brain washed is a huge leap and there is no evidence of such a claim. These programs are dangerous and there is risk. I don’t agree with such programs because most people can’t take the punishment and it is punishment to go to the brink; not unlike those who follow Sherpa up Mount Everest or volunteer for survival courses. Something can always go wrong in a risky situation; and when things go bad, people want to fall back and say they didn’t fully understand the risks. Any of those people could have quit and walked away & most, at least three, should have but the chose to stay. Families want to sue because they want retribution for their loved ones death even though they were all adults and were not forced. Again, they paid a lot of money to be purged, if you will, of whatever they felt was holding them back from whatever! I’m sure none thought they would die, but then again, they wanted to push through to “something,” and that something is personal to each of us and can only be known to the person experiencing the event. I’m a risk taker and drive my Mom cray when I rock climb or sky dive but it’s my decision. I feel terrible for the families of those that died; however, at this time, I don’t see where a crime has been committed. I’m interested to hear what the survivors have to say. This rush to judgment is unfair and typical in a society that has come to “blame” versus taking responsibility for their own decisions/actions/mistakes. We see things like this and think how stupid they are and then blame the guru; however, he can’t lead if people don’t follow. I’m not a follower of James Ray or any other of his genre so I have no skin in this game. I just believe in personal responsibility.

    Comment by verna | October 18, 2009 | Reply

  39. “Why did these men and women stay in such a hostile environment, even as their lungs burned from the heat and they felt themselves slipping into unconsciousness?

    Because they didn’t realize they were dying in there. One of the first things that goes when you are dehydrated or hyperthermic is your ability to think clearly.

    It has little to do with psychology or cultish behavior and everything to do with physiology.

    Comment by Tsu Dho Nimh | October 27, 2009 | Reply

  40. Then consider then “why” they were so dehydrated….Every lodge I’ve been to they make sure you know you need to drink “plenty” of water and/or gatorade. You are strongly urged to do so. The rest is up to you. Fasting from food 24 hours prior, maybe. That would be ok for someone who is “used” to being in a lodge…but NEVER water. I also wonder if it was stated no alcohol for at least 48 hours if not more before a lodge. Not only for physical reasons but spiritual reasons.
    It is obvious much of the reasons for this happening is what happened “before” they went in there. Not only what happened “during”.

    Comment by Denise | October 27, 2009 | Reply

  41. This tragedy has caused a media pig pile on James Ray and a sad spillover effect on the law of attraction in general (some of whose concepts go back 1000’s of years and came from people like Christ, Buddha and Krishna.)
    The focus should be the dangers of attempting altered states thru such a harsh environment ONLY.
    I would like to know how many of the commenter’s who rush to judgment know anything about loa at all before making their pronouncements.
    Read an interview with any successful person and you will hear the same basic tenets. Are all these successful people frauds and hoaxsters? Listen to Joel Osteen, same exact concepts. Charles Haanel-masterkey system-early 1900’s , same exact concepts.
    Businessmen who took his course felt it was so valuable they tried to buy it so it could no longer be distributed. Were all those succe$$ful businessmen being duped ?
    I learned all I could from a CD which cost under $100 and contained several extensive interviews covering every aspect of loa. It has made a profound impact on my life.
    Aside from this terrible tragedy which should never have been attempted or happened, there seem to be many, many people who are determined the loa is a hoax, and all around them people are happily applying it and succeeding. The difference is you can’t just watch the secret movie, put a picture on your fridge, and sit on the couch waiting for your new car.
    That is NOT what these guys teach when allowed to finish their entire rap. The secret movie was just a series of snippets and MOST of what these guys had to say ended up on the cutting room floor.
    When allowed time to finish, on the CD I bought, they lay out an easy to follow version of the law of attraction (but complete). Instead of some wishy-washy feel good new age stuff, it’s common sense actions that any self-made millionaire would grin at (having already DONE that).
    Time and again articles about the common habits and beliefs of successful businessmen boil down to the same thing that these people teach about the law of attraction.
    So if the loa is a fraud, there appear to be many very successful people being duped, using it and making a lot of money in business.

    Comment by Steve | November 3, 2009 | Reply

    • I am curious as to why leading a spiritual life and becoming a millionaire are so entwined in the self-help movement. In my experience the essence of spiritual growth is about connecting to and expressing one’s true being in the world. It is hard for most of us to do this if we are destitute, but obtaining tremendous wealth is not a requirement or an inevitable outcome of the process. According to the theories advanced by some of the self-help gurus, Jesus and Bhudda must have been abject failures who never quite “got” the Law of Attraction since neither of them were financially successful. (Maybe Jesus should have taken some workshops and built up his carpentry business).

      Comment by Theodore Slipchinsky | November 22, 2009 | Reply

  42. Wow, so magical thinking goes back thousands of years and was part of the teachings of Christ, Buddha and Krishna?

    Hook, line and sinker.

    Comment by David Corner | November 3, 2009 | Reply

  43. My take on James Ray is that he never actually represented the self-help nor the New Age movements.I truly feel that he is a dangerous individual who simply found a forum for gaining access to his victims.It worries me that he still has supporters and followers,however, it is not surprising. So do David Koresh(sevenseals.com)and Marshall Applewhite (heavensgate.com)By the way,Applewhite also refers to the body as a “vehicle”. It seems that people would learn from historical accounts of cult leaders and their tragedies,and would know how to spot a scoundrel like James Ray. Hopefully,he is no longer able to weasel his way into the lives and pockets of anyone else. Note: The JRI website is still taking payments for products and events,even for a 2010 “Spiritual Warrior” in Sedona! It seems he will not stop until he is forced to do.

    Comment by Jean | December 25, 2009 | Reply

  44. It’s just really sad that these people had to die. My heart goes out to the family members.

    Comment by GaryTell | February 16, 2010 | Reply

  45. I was an attendant at practical mysticism. Although James original intentions seemed good, it seemed as a dark egpytian bird has taken over prying on his ambition, and greed for wealth. In this seminar, many NLP hypnosis tactics were used, one could call them spells. Or, if you will just suggestions. These suggestions are given life by the emotion set for in the seminars.

    When one sets high emotion to a thought, we can sometimes have a tough time breaking it. So, when studying the seminars he puts on, and you reach a point like the sweat lodge, there is a cult like atmosphere to follow these newly created beliefs as he would call them.

    So, the logical mind can be over come by the emotions. The logical mind says “get out of this sweat lodge” but the emotional body and these new beliefs hold you there. What to do? Under this pressure, few can escape. Especially as the fear of ridicule is so high, and the power of group think often overtakes the logical mind.

    No doubt James didn’t want them to literally die, however, one can push people to far. And there is a responsibility of both parties.

    Comment by Dale | March 4, 2010 | Reply

  46. Aho Dr. Whelan,

    I am a descendant from the Dakota Sioux tribe. My grandmother and great-grandmother were tribe members. My take on this is somewhat that as what Denise has posted before me. A traditional Lakota Sweat Lodge is not an initiation ceremony like what you have mentioned. It is much more than that and anyone can participate of their own free will.

    I attended my first Lakota “Inippi” sweat lodge ceremony last night. This was not about money, in fact no money changed hands. The tradition in fact was handed down from an elder to the man who lead the ceremony last night.

    The lodge was built out of wood branches, I believe they were from the willow tree, since they are bendable. There was a tarp, only to keep the water/snow out. The rest were blankets or comforters to contain the heat from the “Grandfathers” also known as the stones that are placed one by one into the center of the lodge. There were nine participants plust our leader ten total. We were not cramped and had room to move.

    I attended this ceremony for personal reasons of purification of my mind, body, and soul as this ceremony was intended. This was a chance for me to be in tune with my higher self. I was not aware prior to the ceremony to fast from food, in which I wish I would have. During the third round of prayer, I felt ill and thought I was going to vomit. We were told to try to stick it out as long as possible by leaning into the “Grandfathers” and praying for the strength to continue, however I could not and WAS allowed to exit. I was also allowed to re-enter when my sickness was subsided. The ceremony went on and they left the door open so I could hear the prayers of the other participants. As my body temperature cooled down and I felt better, I re-entered the ceremony to continue the journey I came there seeking.

    There were two women that had to leave during the first round of prayer because they felt this was not for them. We all congratulated them for being there and blessed them as they made their free will choice to leave. At NO point during this whole ceremony were we forced to stay. This is a free will ceremony, you are either led to participate or not. When you remove free will, that is where you take out the original intent of the ceremony.

    I have to say that this has changed my life and I will continue to go to them as I am led to do so. As with any other tradition, you do not remove free will. This was not an initiation because I was not inducted into anything. This was about the people there needing guidance from past elders and their loved ones before them.

    I have to say that I am not sure why anyone would post things here if they did not know the facts. This is not about judgement, for it is not our place to judge others. Remove EGO from this and you will go further.

    Love and Light,

    Comment by Debbie | February 27, 2011 | Reply

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