Self-help guru James Arthur Ray's trial begins in sweat lodge deaths
Self-help guru and author James Arthur Ray listens to opening statements at his manslaugjter trial.
March 1st, 2011
04:29 PM ET

Self-help guru James Arthur Ray's trial begins in sweat lodge deaths

Opening statements began Tuesday in the trial of self-help author and speaker James Arthur Ray, who is charged with three counts of reckless manslaughter in the death of three people at an Arizona sweat lodge.

The trial stems from a well-publicized incident that took place during a ceremony at a five-day retreat in Sedona, Arizona, on October 8, 2009. Two people died during the ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center. A third died nine days later, and - authorities allege - at least 15 others fell ill.

Ray faces up to 10 years in prison on each count. His attorney has argued that the author is not to blame for the deaths.

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Nancy Terrano

    I AGREE WITH THIS: “You have to understand the situation before you blindly judge it. If YOU went to that workshop, with any one of the three people who eventually died, and lasted till half-way though the last round of the sweat lodge you would have said something like, 'That's it for me, I've got to get out. Are you doing okay?' And they would have said, 'Yes”. Then you would have asked, 'Are you sure you're okay and want to stay?' and they would have said, 'Yes!'” Everyone around them was convinced they were okay. (((EVERYONE))). If ANYONE for one moment was certain these people were actually dying they would have started screaming (((SHE'S DYING!!!))) No one ever did. That's why James Arthur Ray wasn't concerned. He trusted that the people were responsible enough to get out when they had had enough. There is no crime in this! IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, as he said all along, and the coroners agree with him. All three deaths were officially categorized as “accidents”. Look it up if you don't believe me!

    All those who initially were certain the deaths were not accidental were DEAD WRONG!!!!

    March 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nancy Terrano

    TO CARL: They knew he was going to make it difficult for them to quit before they paid the money! They didn't go there to have Mr Ray make it easy for them to be quitters!

    March 7, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. philgro

    I wonder if any of you people saying "Darwinism in action" and "nobody forced them to stay in there" have heard the tapes of James Ray during the retreat. I have, and one of the things he told them was " you may feel like you are dying, but you aren't ". Add that to days of brain washing and power tripping, and those people were in no place to make rational decisions about their safety.

    I hope they throw the book at him...

    March 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cman

    Did James Ray twist any arms? did he threaten any of the participants? Did he make them stay in? I don't know about you but there's not a single soul on the face of the earth that could make me stay in a lodge or anywhere else for that matter. I believe that there is too much judging going on here. Looking for someone to blame for the decisions made by those who passed on. I hope that when James Ray is found not guilty that people will have a wide eye and make better decisions in the future.


    March 9, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. jack

    anyone charging money for gods work deserves the karma rebound.
    He was trained correctly but allowed his ego (edging god out) and greed to rule him.

    March 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Nancy Terrano

    Hey, when I have run for two miles I have often felt as though I was dying, but I wasn't.

    March 11, 2011 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. Carl Hammerschlag M.D.

    I’m listening to people’s responses to the testimony of witnesses in the James Arthur Ray’s trial, who say they wouldn't have allowed themselves to be pressured into surrendering their lives into some slick salesman’s hands. To which I say, be careful about your certainties.
    Most of us, if confronted by a crisis in which we have no expertise, would indeed defer to authorities that we think know more than us. Dr. Stanley Milgram, a distinguished Yale psychology professor, designed one of the most controversial experiments ever conducted. In 1961, Milgram measured the willingness of people to obey the orders of an authority figure, even if that authority instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. His book, Obedience To Authority, An Experimental View (1974), makes it clear that most people when faced with a situation in which they have no experience/knowledge, will leave the decision-making to someone with greater authority.
    Why did these bright, competent, energetic people surrender their autonomy to this quack?
    As a species we are programmed to seek answers to questions, and in our culture we have come to expect that we can find them fast. But some questions don’t lend themselves to easy answers, like the existential, meaning and purpose of life questions. In an age of quick fixes, anyone who says they have an answer to those soulful questions will find an audience ready to listen.
    Human’s, by their nature are also wired to be social animals who need to connect with others, we need approval, and to trust in someone other than ourselves if we are to survive.
    Along comes James Arthur Ray, a sales trainer by profession, who says I have the answer to your needs, and will make you a “spiritual warrior”. My secrets come with a high price; you have to be able to afford it, and you must trust me enough to place your life in my hands. The participants in that torturous sweat lodge were seekers who believed James Ray would lead them to a place they wanted to get to.

    It’s of course true that James Ray did not physically restrain participants from leaving, but he surely did emotionally. Those people chose to stay because they believed they would have failed this test of their spiritual courage as Ray sold it to them.
    The witnesses stayed in that sweat lodge even as their friends were dying next to them, and they will have to live with that memory forever. It’s a hard lesson that James Arthur Ray had to teach all of us; do not surrender your life into someone else’s hands until you know them by more than just their words.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Personal development health

    Self-confidence isn't a thing that most people are delivered along with. You will find the ones that can easily normally enter a place along with take it around after which it you will find other people who have ...Self Improvement

    January 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. neurofeedback

    We are a gaggle of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with helpful information to paintings on. You have performed an impressive job and our entire neighborhood can be thankful to you.

    April 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
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