Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Age Dumbassery Turns Deadly in Arizona

New Age "success guru" James Arthur Ray (aka The Secret-schlepping hack) packed between 55 and 65 people into a sweat lodge his company built (improperly) at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona, Arizona, leading to the deaths of two people and the injuries of 19 more on October 9.

One of the 19 injured remains in critical condition in a coma. The rest suffered from burns, dehydration, respiratory arrest, kidney failure or elevated body temperature.

The sweat lodge was improperly constructed, covered in layers of tarps and blankets, which restricted air flow. Properly-run Native sweat lodges generally involve no more than 12 people. Ray and his company packed in five times the safe number of people into the improperly-constructed structure. Properly-run Native sweat lodges are also headed by people with real knowledge and understanding of the process who are responsible for monitoring the health and well-being of each of the participants. Not qualities you will find with the "instant guru" Native cultural appropriation that Ray favours.

Charge for the retreat: between $9,000 and $10,000. So you can see why they would want to pack it as full as possible...

Ray actually appeared in the video for The Secret, so he's been involved in this pseudo-spiritual pyramid scheme since the very beginning and has made multi-millions from this crap. He has appeared on Oprah, The Today Show and Larry King Live, among others.

"The self-styled success guru says people are ready for his wisdom if "You simply (and deeply) want to make more money and become more successful" and "want to double, triple, even multiply by ten the size of your business."

Hmm...multiplying the size of a safe sweat lodge by five to line your pockets even more didn't turn out so hot for you or your victims. I'll pass on your supposed wisdom, thanks.

"Joseph Bruchac, author of "The Native American Sweat Lodge: History and Legends," called the number of participants in the lodge "appalling."

"If you put people in a restrictive, airtight structure, you are going to use up all oxygen," he said by phone Saturday from his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "And if you're doing a sweat, you're going to use it up that much faster."

American Indian sweat lodges typically hold about 12 people and are covered with blankets made of natural materials, such as cotton or wool, and the air flow isn't restricted, he said.

"I don't see how the person running that lodge could have been aware of the health and well-being of that many people," he said.

The participants had fasted for 36 hours as part of a personal and spiritual quest in the wilderness, then ate a breakfast buffet Thursday morning. After various seminars, they entered the sweat lodge lightly dressed at 3 p.m.

Two hours later, a woman dialed 911 to say that two people, [identified as 38-year old New Yorker Kirby Brown and 40-year-old James Shore of Milwaukee] did not have a pulse and weren't breathing."

The full story is here.

I love how Ray updates his Twitter account: "I am spending the weekend in prayer and meditation for all involved in this difficult time; and I ask you to join me in doing the same."

You should be spending it in handcuffs for criminal negligence causing death, buddy. And you might be if you hadn't skipped out of state.

This level of irresponsibility is hideous, really. And the abuses of this get-rich-quick, "instant manifestation" New Age ideology and its self-declared gurus continue. Completely disconnected from physical reality.

When people preach exponential growth without any level of responsibility for that growth...things go wrong. Case in point. Building a business or anything, for that matter, that is on solid ground, that is sustainable and of real benefit to the community takes time, effort, patience, diligence, persistence, development of knowledge and expertise and personal responsibility, among other things. All those Saturn in Virgo things that so much of the New Age finds distasteful.

Here is some commentary that includes the leaked transcript of a telephone conference call Ray made to the victims October 14 trying to cover his ass and reinforce "the teachings."

Circling the wagons is a very common technique used in New Age indoctrination to keep everyone "on board." "All part of the divine plan; all part of the divine plan; all part of the divine plan."

Also trying to keep himself out of future litigation, I'm sure.

I sincerely hope this man is held accountable and brought to justice. I also hope the victims' families sue this guy and he loses his phony fortune as quickly as he made it.

Instant manifestation, instant de-manifestation!

That would help raise the profile of another couple "laws" we've got on Planet Earth - easy come, easy go and what goes up must come down...

Honestly, a tragic incident like this was just waiting to happen. The energy of this stuff is so unbelievable dirty. A pyramid-scheme spiritual hierarchy built on phony foundations and an incomplete understanding of "universal law." Misuse of energy for personal gain in the most extreme ways. It was only a matter of time before it came crashing down. Unfortunately, people have lost their lives in the process and others will probably have lifelong ill effects to deal with.

The two deaths are now being investigated.

And none of this has stopped Ray and his money-making machine. He has continued his "motivational speaking" tour since the incident.


Astro-Hypnogog said...

Well written Willow. Too bad we're not gonna see this grace the opinion pages of the Herald or whatever.

Also like your neologism, 'Dumbassery.' Sounds like something I'd say...

Your pal,

Geminio HubBub

Willow said...

The delusional get-rich-quick pyramid scheme gets a strong reality check...

Too bad most of the "true believers" involved won't take it as such.

freeforall said...

Willow, this is excellent and informative. Intuitively I didn't like The Secret as soon as I heard of it, but went to a movie showing so that I would have an informed opinion. I liked it even less after that.

I don't know if this Ray fellow is Native American, but I've always believed that they need to be the ones to share their culture with us - not wannabe gurus from other cultures.

This whole New Age Dumbassery (I also like your word) makes me sick.