Sunday, October 18, 2009
UPDATE: Third Victim Claimed in Sweat Lodge Tragedy
News outlets are now reporting that a third person has died in the James Arthur Ray sweat lodge fiasco. I have copied a couple of reports for you to read, below. This post updates my previous post of Friday, October 16th on this topic, entitled "A Law of Attraction Guru Runs Amok".
Arizona Rural Headlines Examiner - October 18, 9:30 AM Arizona
Third victim claimed in Sedona, Arizona death lodge tragedy
"Liz Neuman, 49, of Minnesota died Saturday at a Flagstaff hospital, the third in a series of fatalities from a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona last October 8.
Yavapai County sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said the 49-year-old suffered multiple organ damage.
The ceremony was being conducted as part of the "Spritual Warrior" program led by get-rich-quick guru James Arthur Ray. Accounts from past participants of the program suggested that students were subjected to a grueling 2-hour sweat lodge experience after 36 hours without food or water, and were urged to complete the session regardless of personal discomfort.
The sweat lodge itself, just over 400 square feet in size, had been far overcrowded. Estimates of people in the sweat lodge ranged from 50 to over 60 at the time emergency personnel were called the Thursday evening, Oct. 8 from the Angel Valley resort. Nearly two dozen were transported to medical facilities in Flagstaff and elsewhere in Yavapai County, and two, Kirby Brown and James Shore were pronounced dead on arrival.
Ray has not spoken to investigators, and left the area shortly after the incident occurred.
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Department has since upgraded its initial investigation into the deaths as a homicide investigation. While no charges have yet been filed, the headquarters of James Ray International in Carlsbad California has been searched for documentation kept by Ray regarding construction, proper use, and conduct involving sweat lodges.
Experts in Native American ceremonies have decried the James Ray ceremony as being improperly conducted and badly motivated.
Participants paid nearly $10,000 each for the program."
Christine Whelan in the Huffington Post writes about the participants in Ray's retreat:
"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 our negative attitude and negative energy that holds us back from true wealth.
Let me be clear: The 60-plus people in that sweat lodge weren't stupid. They weren't lemmings. They trusted a well-known, well-loved inspirational leader who had been given the popular culture seal of approval. The attendees are the victims here because they trusted a leader who claimed to have expertise in a potentially dangerous practice. The idea that we trust our leaders isn't anything new -- and the idea that this trust can be misplaced and used to harm us or others isn't new either. (Remember the famous Milgram experiments dealing with how receptive people are to authority?) But this recent tragedy is a terrible way to re-learn those lessons.
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 James Ray told them their limitations aren't necessarily where they think they are, to trust him and push past them.
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 trust him over themselves -- there are terrible consequences."
Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-whelan/james-ray-death-lodge_b_315934.html