Inexplicably, something that actually makes sense came about as a result of James Arthur Ray’s depraved indifference toward human life, otherwise known as his sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona. You may have heard of Ray: he was one of the contributors to the mega-bestselling The Secret. His latest news made headlines everywhere but the basics are these: About 50 people, dedicated to Ray’s teachings and philosophies, paid almost $10,000 each to attend his “spiritual warrior” retreat in the Arizona desert earlier this month. After several days of participating in various practices and rituals, including food and sleep deprivation, they entered into an enclosed space – Ray’s new age version of a Native American sweatlodge.
The tragic result was that twenty-one of his followers needed medical attention and three of them died as a result of his enlightened approach to spiritual “cleansing.” It’s very likely a number of factors contributed to their deaths, among them the oppressive heat, and Ray’s own direction to everyone to stick with the program and not give in to their desire to abandon the effort. Even while the criminal investigation is underway in Arizona, Ray is continuing to enlighten different followers, otherwise known as same s—t, different day.
The surprisingly lucid news about this story follows: On Monday, I read an update in Publisher’s Weekly, stating that Ray’s publisher, in a moment of clarity that was no doubt encouraged by the company’s legal team, had postponed the upcoming publication of two new books by the financial advisor turned spiritual guru. The first title scheduled was the paperback edition of his bestseller Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want. The second was a new book from Ray, titled The Seven Laws of True Wealth.
Before I go any further here, I have a few questions: why is everything that can make me happy in life is a secret? And why does everyone seem to know it but me? Why would I want to attract a life I don’t want? When there are laws or rules or habits that everyone should know, why are there always seven of them? Why aren’t there 23? Or 6? Or 327? What is false wealth and who would desire it?
Okay, enough about my issues. Hyperion, Ray’s publisher, has postponed his books until January 2011. Yes, that’s fourteen months away. By that time, Ray could well have offered the injured and the grieving families of the dead enough money to help this all fade from public view.
I hope they get some kind of compensation for their pain – whatever that could possibly be - but not one of them should allow him to get away with this. I’ve watched enough Law & Order to know Ray committed some kind of crime here and needs to be held responsible. Arizona must have its own real life version of Jack McCoy.
Hyperion has started to pull the plug on his deadly game of smoke and mirrors and good for them. The book-buying public needs to begin to do the same, not only to James Arthur Ray, but to every specious guru like him who professes to know exactly what we need to know to be fulfilled and happy and enlightened…knowledge they’ll happily share with us if we pay them a small price (in the case of a paperback book) or a very large fee, like those required to attend the horror show in the Arizona desert.
Because no matter how enthusiastically these now deceased people followed Ray, I refuse to believe that any of them were willing to pay with their lives.