A few days ago I was watching the news on-line about the situation surrounding new age guru James Arthur Ray’s fouled up retreat experience that left three participants dead. I picked up on a post by an astute writer who happens to run a New Age type blog. So I checked it out.
While I was reading her post I learned that she knew one of Ray’s victims, a woman by the name of Liz Neuman. Seems that Ms. Newman had been a greeter at the door to the Unity church in Savage, MN. where they both attended. She apparently was heavily into the teachings of James Arthur Ray. So heavily in fact that she was downright effusive and giddy when she talked about him. One night the blog author decided to give in to Ms. Newman and attend one of Ray’s free presentations.
She reports that Ray made her feel herself questioning her own spiritual growth and how she wanted to attend his Retreat just to prove her “change-worthiness” to him. Luckily though, in the end, she felt there was something wrong. “He was just too smooth” she writes.
This blogger was indeed lucky and I told her so. Here’s how I ended my comment on her post:
“If your friend was into this (New Age) stuff, as you seem to be, you should thank your lucky stars that you missed (by a hair’s breath it seems) your chance to be with her and Mr. Ray in that sweaty stinky lodge out in the Arizona outback.”
It seems to me that to be a seeker can be good thing but these days, as the shortened life of Liz Neuman can attest to, it can also be deadly. You need to retain some street smarts. Although I suppose in the dreamy, drifty, air-headedness of the New Age thinking process that’s probably a tall order.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal Steve Salerno, author of “SHAM“, points out that the general attitude of Americans towards Self-help is fairly benign:
“OK, we all know this is a silly and sometimes expensive exercise in navel-gazing. But really, where’s the harm?”
The game has now changed. Three people are dead and many more are injured. The rope is tightening around James A. Ray’s neck. His organization, once worth millions is now an unstable house of cards. Police in Arizona are conducting a homicide investigation and by month’s end will announce whether charges will be laid in the case of the deaths at the “Spiritual Warrior Retreat”. At least two lawsuits have already been filed.
The media spotlight is already on James Ray.
But his colleagues, who appeared with him in the on-line movie “The Secret”, are running as fast as they can to distance themselves from him. According to Mr. Salerno they have even made a few quick changes to some of their websites.
What Mr. Ray has wrought is financial turmoil in what is currently an 11 Billion Dollar industry. The other gurus fear that their own very profitable businesses could get hammered by these developments. It’s hard to put a good spin on death from Self-help.
Maybe now’s a good time for all of them to consider an extended retreat of their own in some far-off island paradise. You know, take some time to mull over things. Chill out and grab some rays… before the cops come calling.