Since the tragic events during a sweat lodge ceremony at James Ray’s Spiritual Warrior Seminar in Sedona, Arizona last October where 3 participants (Kirby Brown, James Shore & Liz Neuman) were killed and 18 injured, I have followed the progress of the story. Yesterday James Ray was arrested on 3 counts of manslaughter and this has been the hot topic on the news today.
Personally, I think that after the tragic event at Sedona, James Ray made a series of very bad decisions and have continued to do so up until his arrest. Initially carrying on with his seminars as if nothing had happened. It wasn’t until 20 days after the event that a post appeared on his blog confirming that all planned events for the remainder of 2009 would be postponed. I suspect these will now be postponed for longer than he initially anticipated!!
His focus then seemed to change and, with the aid of his legal team, worked very hard to convince everyone that it was an accident and not negligence on his part and published what they referred to as the White Papers 1 & White Papers 2 to clarify the events. A week later this was followed by another post on his blog titled Setting the Record Straight.
I have never read any of his books or attended any of his seminars and shall refrain from commenting on the quality of these, nor am I here to do repeat the story in depth. If you want to know more, google is the place to go.
What I am really interested in, is how a man like James Ray managed to convince people to happily part with almost $10,000 to attend his Spiritual Warrior event. He must have some skills in order to pull this off, especially when one factor the disclaimer participants had to sign before the even into the equation. I suspect that very few of the participants (if any) actually read exactly what they were signing for. Spiritual Warrior Participant Guide (Makes some rather disturbing reading, especially page 11 onwards).
I don’t have the answer to why anyone would sign this or part with that kind of money. I have been at a few seminars (not of that scale I might add) in my life where a large group of people are gathered and it doesn’t seem to take that much effort on the part of the speaker to somehow invoke a strange sort of “high” in the group of people. I have felt it myself and the only conclusion I have been able to draw from this so far is that I felt I belonged to a like minded group of people! That said, I think there is more to it than that for people to willingly part with that level of cash. Be it the expectation of a much better life after the event or perhaps something deeper. All I have at this point is questions and no answers.
It may also be worth remembering that while the focus is very much on James Ray at the moment, there are still people of similar caliber roaming free using their charisma and skill to con people out of money.
I have no idea what the future has in store for James Ray but I am eager to see what impact it may have on the self help industry as a whole. I am not a great fan of regulation as I believe it hinders more than it helps and could have a negative impact on the genuine people in the industry. I work in a heavy regulated industry which has only made my job more difficult. I do however hope that something will be put in place to stop the testimonial based selling and the endless promises of health, wealth and happiness so often promised on the packaging of so many of these products, but that would mean some kind of regulation and a contradiction of my previous statement!! Oh well. I never proclaimed to have all the answers!!!!
I do sincerely hope that this will serve as a reminder for people (including me) to approach some of these charismatic “gurus” with a degree of caution and common sense.