James Arthur Ray Arrested for Manslaughter in Connection with Sedona “Sweat Box” Deaths

The news broke about three and a half hours ago.

NO, it should not have been manslaughter; it should have been murder, because of the towering arrogance of this man who thought that he knew more than what the carriers and protectors of centuries of Native American history and culture knew, and used it for money.

Controversial spiritual leader James Arthur Ray was arrested today and charged with three counts of manslaughter connected to the deaths at a Sedona, Ariz., sweat lodge in October.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest in a statement on its Web site.

“With the arrest of James Ray, Sheriff [Steve] Waugh hopes the familes of the three victims will now have some measure of closure to this tragedy,” the post said.

Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman died following a ceremony in the sweat lodge led by Ray on Oct. 9.

Bond was set for Ray at $5 million, the sheriff’s office said.

Ray’s lawyer, Luis Li, called the charges “unjust” and said that Ray would be proven innocent.

“This was a terrible accident — but it was an accident, not a criminal act,” Li said in a statement released after the arrest. “James Ray cooperated at every step of the way, providing information and witnesses to the authorities showing that no one could have foreseen this accident. We will now present this evidence in a court of law, and we are confident that Mr. Ray will be exonerated.”

Brown, 38, and Shore, 40, both of whom paid nearly $10,000 to spend the week with Ray, died in the lodge.

Neuman, 49, spent more than a week in a coma and died Oct. 17. Eighteen others were injured.

Talk about a fall from a great height. When you hurt and kill people rather than help them, then there is something essentially incorrect about your teachings.

Ray was the author of The Secret, which was based on the law of attraction. Basically, all someone had to do was to change his or her thoughts to attract what they wanted in life.

When The Secret was first published, I remember that there was a lot of discussion about the efficacy of Ray’s teachings among SGI Nichiren Buddhists. (I am a Nichiren Buddhist.) Leaders admonished members that Ray only went partway; that is, changing one’s thoughts was good, but it was not enough. The mind is always active; and that it takes the heart and the spirit to change as well.

Moreover, as time went on, Ray became a cult-like figure, where there was no room for people to challenge his authority. He also charged exorbitant fees for his workshops that were beyond the reach of regular people. Some people felt cheated because of what he offered in return. Some people who had attended his workshops soon saw another aspect of the self-help guru that was unsavory and cruel. Yet their murmurings did not get traction until the tragedy in Sedona, AZ.

Donna Fleming, 60, told ABC News in October she felt “taken” after Ray convinced her to pay $6,000 for two seminars.

“He’s good. He’s got charisma. He’s just an unbelievably charismatic individual that really does sway a lot of people,” Fleming said. “Ray is in it for the money and I have no question whatsoever that he realized he hit the goldmine when he realized he was the perfect fit for this industry.”

Fleming said she walked out of the first of the two seminars she paid for in 2008 after an activity in which the participants dressed up as homeless people and wandered around downtown San Diego for four hours.

“I was angry, I tried to deal with that. I tried to find what possible theme could this be for me, and I probably realized flat out that I’d been taken for a substantial amount of money for an absolutely ridiculous experience,” Fleming said.

Fleming filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get her money back but lost.

It’s too early for a response from the Native American community regarding the white man who misrepresented the meaning of much of their spirituality. Native Americans and their elders, shamans, chiefs, keepers and scholars came erroneously under attack by outsiders because of what occurred in October. I’m sure that one will be forthcoming.

~ by blksista on February 3, 2010.

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