Saturday, April 23, 2011


Спонсор месяца - Упоминатор.Ру

They trusted him - or rather, the man they thought he was.

But that trust may have cost three of them their lives.

If anything has become clear in the manslaughter trial of James Arthur Ray over three deaths at a so-called sweat-lodge ceremony he led near Sedona in October 2009, it is how strongly the men and women who spent up to $10,000 to take part in Ray's retreat believed that the self-help entrepreneur knew what he was doing and could help them transform themselves.

"I made great progress in stuff I wanted to change in my life, so I had great trust in him," sweat-lodge participant Stephen Ray (no relation), 47, testified in Yavapai Superior Court. The California psychologist attended every retreat Ray offered for more than two years.

Other participants have detailed on the stand how Ray had assured them of his extensive experience with sweat lodges and other Native American spiritual practices, designed to imbue them with powerful self- belief.

And why shouldn't they trust him? Ray seemed the embodiment of his own teaching that you can attract wealth into all areas of your life: charismatic, confident, fit and seemingly younger than his 51 years; the author of a New York Times bestseller; a star of the hit motivational book and DVD "The Secret"; a media darling who rubbed elbows with Oprah Winfrey and Larry King; the subject of a recent profile by Fortune magazine; and chief executive of James Ray International, which claimed $9.4 million in annual revenue and had just been named to Inc. magazine's list of 500 fastest-growing private companies.

At seminar after seminar, Ray would recount how he had trekked to the Andes, the Amazon and other remote reaches to learn hidden teachings directly from normally inaccessible masters.

But those attending the Spiritual Warrior retreat did not know that Ray already was being accused of misappropriating and misusing others' teachings without permission or proper training. They did not know that his claims to have been initiated into three shamanic traditions, gaining expertise in a variety of spiritual and esoteric teachings, were either exaggerations or questionable.

And they did not know that Ray's way of running a sweat lodge violated the spiritual and safety practices of the Native American traditions he claimed to follow.

Ray, whose trial on three charges of manslaughter is entering its seventh week, is subject to a judicial gag order - as are his attorneys, the prosecutors and all the witnesses in this case - and could not be interviewed for this story. Ray has pleaded not guilty, and his defense attorneys argued in court that the deaths of Kirby Brown, Liz Neuman and James Shore were a regrettable accident for which Ray was not responsible.
Lacked training

The sweat-lodge ceremony was the culmination of five days of retreat activities linked by a common thread: Ray's lack of training or authorization to teach them.

He guided participants in Holotropic Breathing, an accelerated breathing technique intended to help people reach altered states of consciousness without drugs. The trademarked technique was invented by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, founder of Grof Transpersonal Training. According to Grof's attorney, Ray never trained with or even met Grof. "You are not, nor have you ever been, certified to conduct holotropic breathwork," attorney Jack Silver wrote in a March 7, 2011, letter to Ray. The organization says it takes two years of training to become a certified practitioner.

Ray also led participants in a leadership exercise called the Samurai Game, in which he played "God" and could declare participants dead, requiring them to lay for hours without moving or speaking. This team-building exercise is trademarked too.

"To put this on, you have to be trained, certified, sign a contract and pay royalties - and that did not happen in this case," says Lance Giroux, managing director of Allied Ronin Leadership Training and Consulting, which holds exclusive rights to train and certify facilitators.

Several Native American elders and experts in indigenous spiritual practices said that a lack of proper training also explains what they called Ray's mishandling of the sweat-lodge ceremony. His approach to the ceremony, they said, was part and parcel of a broader misuse of shamanic teachings, from various traditions, in which his claimed expertise was questionable.

Ray used techniques that he said he had learned from being initiated into the shamanic rituals of Hawaiian huna, traditional spiritual and healing practices of the islands.

But Ray was not initiated or ever given permission to pass on these teachings, of which he had only superficial knowledge, according to his huna teacher, Dr. Matthew James, president of Kona University. He said the training process to become a huna teacher takes a decade or longer; Ray took several short introductory workshops from James in 2004 and then began holding his own version of huna ceremonies at a local hotel.

"I had someone from my office call James up and say 'what you're doing is improper, you weren't given permission, you need to stop right away,' and his response was that he was going to keep doing it," James said. "So we informed him he would no longer be able to take training with us."

Ray also claimed in seminars and interviews to have been initiated in Peru by a Q'ero shaman named Don Jose Luis, with whom he studied for three years. But former clients who traveled to Peru with Ray in August 2009 said he seemed to have little familiarity with the country, and wouldn't let anyone meet Jose Luis, who local guides said was not a shaman.

"He talked about him all the time," said Connie Joy, a member of the group that went to Peru. "Ray said (he) was so amazing he didn't have to call ahead to Peru because Don Jose would just psychically know to meet him," said Joy, author of "Tragedy in Sedona," a book about Ray and her membership in his inner circle.

But Denise Kinch, who has spent 20 years working with the Q'ero, said she knows Jose Luis well, and that he is neither a Q'ero nor a medicine man, but a guide who teaches an "Easy-Bake," weekend version of Q'ero rites. Kinch is the author of "A Walk Between the Worlds," a book about Q'ero traditions.

Several academics who study shamanic practices said that initiation usually requires a decade or more of direct apprenticeship to a shaman. Matthew James noted that this might be why, in discussing his shamanic initiations, "Ray was vague and ambiguous about where the information came from. I talk about who I learned from and my teacher's teachers and where their information came from. You do need to have credentials."

A review of Ray's writings and recordings, and interviews with followers, did not reveal any reference in which he specifies from whom he learned two Native American spiritual practices he adapted for his Spiritual Warrior retreat: the "sweat lodge," in which participants gathered in a low, wood-frame shelter covered with tarps; and a preceding "vision quest," in which each participant was led into the countryside, required to mark out a 10-foot circle, and then stay there alone without food or water for 36 hours.

Years before the deadly 2009 ceremony, Ray "was approached several times by native leaders and told he was not trained to run Native American ceremonies," said David Singing Bear, an Eastern Band Cherokee and Sedona resident who has run sweat lodges. Singing Bear said that Phillip Crazy Bull, a Lakota chief who died in 2006, spoke with Ray in 2005.

Such training matters for physical safety reasons as well as for spiritual authenticity, says R.J. Joseph, a Cree filmmaker and former Native American program director at Sedona's Enchantment Resort.

"Desert people aren't really vision-quest or sweat-lodge people; they've adopted those ceremonies from Plains Indians. So when you have a fast or vision quest, it's generally in cooler climates. You certainly wouldn't put anybody out in the desert for two days with no water. Not in the desert," he said.

Almost every aspect of Ray's sweat lodge was inauthentic, said Wambli Sina Win, a former Oglala Sioux tribal judge who has written about sweat-lodge practices.

"Whatever he led was not a sweat-lodge ceremony as I understand it," she said. "He evidently learned bits and pieces and created a Frankenstein."

Ray's lodge was much larger, built to hold 75 people, vs. the traditional 10 to 15. And it lasted twice as long, with eight 15-minute rounds, vs. the traditional four rounds.

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Спонсор месяца - Упоминатор.Ру


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