28th October 2009
Associated Press | Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:40 pm
PHOENIX - The release of two books by author and motivational
speaker James Arthur Ray has been postponed in the wake of three
deaths that occurred after a sweat lodge ceremony he led this
month in northern Arizona. Hyperion Books publicity director Marie
Coolman said Tuesday that the December release of a paperback
version of Ray's best-selling book "Harmonic Wealth"
and a new hardcover title, "The Seven Laws of True Wealth,"
will be delayed until late winter.
had no comment on what led to the decision. The delay comes as
authorities continue a criminal investigation into the Oct. 8
sweat lodge ceremony at a high-priced retreat outside Sedona,
Ariz., that left three dead and nearly 20 others hospitalized.
Lawyers for several of the victims have said they plan to pursue
lawsuits, although none have been filed.
to Ray's spokesman, Howard Bragman, were not returned Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked the Department
of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Ray's
Spiritual Warrior program. One of the victims was from Minnesota.
"People came from all parts of the country to attend an event
which they believed would enhance their lives," Klobuchar
said in a statement. "Instead, three people died, 18 were
hospitalized and dozens more were traumatized. Mr. Ray neither
enhanced their lives nor protected their safety."
asked the FTC to review Ray's marketing and advertising practices
and also asked Attorney General Eric Holder to determine if any
federal laws were violated. Between 55 and 65 people took part
in the sweat lodge ceremony that was the highlight of the five-day
program at a private retreat near Sedona.
with participants and law enforcement officials paint a picture
of a two-hour period ceremony that degenerated into chaos as people
became sick but were encouraged by Ray to remain inside for the
entire time. An emergency call reported two people without a pulse
and not breathing. Kirby Brown, 38, of West town, N.Y., and James
Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, died at a hospital the night of the ceremony.
Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., died more than a week later
at a Flagstaff hospital. The lawyer for Neuman's family, Louis
Diesel of Flagstaff, said he is preparing a lawsuit naming Ray.
Ted Schmidt, the attorney for a southern Arizona woman who was
badly injured, said he expects to file a suit as early as next
week. Schmidt and Diesel both discounted an extensive liability
waiver the participants were asked to sign before the retreat
began. "The law hates those agreements and almost always
find them not to be enforceable," Schmidt said. "Especially
when you're trying to release somebody from your negligence. "His
client, Sidney Spencer, was hospitalized for days with kidney
and liver failure and respiratory arrest, Schmidt said. She was
unconscious for more than an hour after being pulled from the
sweat lodge and spat up blood when she regained consciousness.
A law firm in New York, Stone and Magnanini, is representing the
family of Kirby Brown and is in discussions with several others
involved in the incident, partner David Stone said. The firm is
evaluating the legal issues and investigating the case.
investigators in Arizona's Yavapai County are treating the deaths
as homicides but have yet to determine the cause. Ray has hired
his own investigative team to try to determine what went wrong
and vowed to continue holding seminars despite criticism. "I
have taken heat for that decision, but if I choose to lock myself
in my home, I am sure I would be criticized for hiding and not
practicing what I preach," he wrote on his blog last week.
Ray has become a self-help superstar by packaging his charismatic
personality and selling wealth. He uses free seminars to recruit
people to expensive seminars like the Sedona retreat that led
to the sweat lodge tragedy. He also markets his own line of self-help
books, often pushing them to participants at his events. Beverley
Bunn, a 43-year-old Texas resident who participated in the sweatlodge
ceremony, said Ray touted his new book at his retreat and asked
everyone to buy multiple copies for family and friends so he could
make the New York Times' best-seller list.
in Mn, Wi on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:40 pm
sent to James Arthur Ray by Gloria on October 12, 2009
reading about the deaths in your sweat lodge over the weekend,
I was wondering who taught you to run a lodge. Back in 1980, Frank
Fools Crow the most respected Lakota Medicine Man and a number
of other Native men put out a statement regarding those who run
native ceremonies for profit. You can read the full statement
at this URL http://littlefeathercenter.50megs.com/foolscrow.html
read that the people who participated in the sweat fasted for
3 days. Unless you are a sundancer, who fast for 4 days, being
watched over by those who know, you never do a sweat under those
circumstances. Sundancers train for a year to do a fast, they
don't just do it and then go into a ceremony, because that is
what a sweat lodge is it is an Inipi, one of the 7 sacred rites
of the Lakota. There are only 4 rounds, I read that you did 8.
4 is the sacred number to Native people not 3 not 8.
am non-native married to a Dakota man, I have worked hard for
30+ years to gain the respect and acceptance of Native people.
I know of a number of other non-natives who have done the same
thing, all of us RESPECT the Native ways and would never do anything
to put them into disrespect. Now you have drawn the peoples gaze
towards you and your making money sweats, and it makes all of
us who have worked so hard for many years to be tarred with the
same brush as you. It is not acceptable.
training did you have to run these sweats? Did you have a fully
trained Native American running it? You know money isn't everything,
integrity is worth more than money. I can imagine that you will
have many emails calls and letters like this one from both non-native
and native people. I can also see the laws changing so that only
Native people can run sweats, and only those who are trained from
a young age will be recognised as a water pourer. That will really
be wrong, a ceremony that has been done for hundreds of years
on the Upper Plains will then be under state or Federal laws.
the Native people have been abused and their ceremonies ridiculed
this time by you and your followers, and all in the name of money
and power! How awful.
hope you will never meddle in the ways of another culture again.
The Creator spoke loudly to you this week, I hope you heard the
words and learned the lesson.
by Jim Tree
went wrong in the Sedona sweat dome.?
Please note: The information presented here is based on first
hand accounts that have not been verified by the authorities.
The opinions expressed are my own based on this information and
not considered fact by any law enforcement body, yet.
recent tragedy in Sedona, in my opinion, was totally preventable
and may end up being deemed prosecutable. Unfortunately the reporters
in main stream media do not know what questions to ask to find
out what really happened. It is not their fault; they just are
not educated in the native mind/culture. I have spent the last
few days asking questions of someone who was there and found to
my disbelief the circumstances that lead up to the tragedy.
have been attending sweat lodges regularly for over 20 years and
have had the responsibility to run lodges for about half of those
years. I was given this responsibility by Elders who made sure
I learned all that was needed to run a safe and successful ceremony.
By successful I do not mean how many stones were used, how hot
it was or if the songs were all done properly, but rather did
the helping spirits show up and bring assistance to those attending.
The old adage you know the tree by its fruit applies
here. The fruit of a well run lodge is peace, rebirth, answers
to prayer, healing, and restoration. In all my experience I have
never felt sick or vomited as so many of the participants of this
disastrous imitation of a sweat did.
are many simple, plain and practical things to know about running
a lodge, hundreds of small details that have become tradition
through the refinement of time tested experience. Things like
not how much water to give to the Grandfather rocks. How to adjust
the temperature inside the lodge to be of maximum benefit to those
attending, how long to heat the rocks, what kind of stones they
should be, what is the cover of the lodge made of. (If you look
at some of the photos in the news you will see plastic tarps were
used, this should never be done.) So many little things that if
deviated from can affect the outcome of the ceremony, sometimes
These things, not to mention the spiritual aspect of the training,
can take years to learn.
In the traditional way one learned these things because from birth
they were a part of your daily life and you helped with the work
of preparing and conducting ceremony. It often takes a lifetime
to come to the place on so many levels where the Elders will release
you to walk in that kind of medicine, also known as service. Running
a sweat is not a title or office, it is a responsibility.
here is what led to these horrible deaths. Yes, I said horrible
because those who endured the fiasco that has been mislabeled
a sweat lodge went through days of tortured humiliating (my view
of their experience) before the final ceremony they
called a lodge.
It appears to me that the leader of this retreat had no real training
in these ceremonies at all. He violated some of the most basic,
fundamental rules of safety concerning running this type of ceremony.
First, anyone who is pregnant, has high blood pressure or a heart
condition should never attend a lodge. This is just plain common
sense. When the paramedics arrived on the seen they tried to find
files or records about the participants of the retreat, only to
discover that not even the most basic background information concerning
health and other important conditions had been gathered by the
owners of the resort or the man who ran the event. It seems that
all he had requested was their name, address and birth date. (Plus
payment of up to $9,000.00 a head (X 64 = $576,000.00)
comes the really sad part. This man used techniques that are considered
common among those recruiting members into a cult. Sleep deprivation,
brainwashing, personal humiliation and demands for a show of commitment
beyond what would be reasonable for this type of experience.
The attendees were told that if they wanted to show there commitment
they had to Play full on, they were told shave their
heads. Most of the 64 men and women did just that. (Note: the
leader did not shave his head; it is still unclear if he went
without food and water as well) He then put them on a two day
fast from food and water on a group vision quest in
the desert. This was followed by a small breakfast and a couple
of hours to hydrate before entering the sweat dome.
Most anyone knows it takes many hours for the human body to actually
hydrate after water has been consumed, and then the amount is
slowly built back up. There was a nurse hired by him to be on
staff, why didnt she speak up? They should have been re-hydrating
the day before the supposed sweat.
Instead in between 54 to 64 people went into the lodge totally
dehydrated and during the first round, of which there were 6 rounds,
some began to throw up.
was reported that later some began to pass out. It seems that
the dome was about 30 ft in diameter and the door was very small,
letting in very little air when opened in between rounds. The
ones in the back were the hardest hit by this lack of oxygen.
Headaches and dizziness, vomiting, kidney failure, burns, respiratory
arrest, and passing out was their unfortunate experience.
man running the ceremony did not pour water from a dipper as is
customary onto the stones, instead he poured buckets of water,
and this causes uncontrollable steam and heat.
Think of the closing round of a Lakota sweat where just the rest
of the water in the bucket is poured onto the grandfathers. If
you have experienced this you will understand why it is at the
end of the lodge and the door is opened right away.
It has been reported that during the 5th round people outside
the dome heard cries for help and pleas to be let
out from inside. When the man leading the ceremony was asked to
let them come out he replied No, let them stay.
man left after the 5th round and felt he had failed because he
did not Play full on. It was pointed out to him that
thank God, by taking care of himself he was able to help tear
the back wall off of the dome and rescue those suffering inside.
While professional rescuers and volunteers worked in the mud and
sand trying to resuscitate the first woman who had died, others
from inside the lodge did all they could to help their stricken
While all this was happening the owner of the resort and the leader
of the retreat just stood by watching, not even offering to help
anyone. One woman lay on the ground having seizures, foaming at
the mouth and speaking gibberish while they looked on. Maybe that
was a bit to messy for them to get involved in.
wonder if the leader of this disaster will be required to use
some of the $576,000.00 he collected from the participants, all
for the privilege of being humiliated, abused and even led to
their death by him, to make some kind of restitution to his victims.
am sure more information will be forthcoming, but the real tragedy
is that this man has been doing this for the last 7 years. The
fruit of his ceremonies are people being physically
trashed for days after the sweat ceremony, vomiting
and passing out during them and when Tribal Elders came to him
and asked him to stop holding them, he refused. He just ignored
their requests and went on with his renegade ego trip of destruction.
The result was that 18 people had to be medically helped during
one of the next of these ceremonies.
is a quote for his twitter posting about what happened: "My
deep heartfelt condolences to family and friends of those who
lost their lives, I am spending the weekend in prayer and meditation
for all involved in this difficult time; and I ask you to join
me in doing the same."
with all that said, I should mention a whole different aspect
of what happened. We understand that the ones we refer to as the
Thunder beings defend the abuse all things sacred. Things like
the Sacred Pipe, the ceremonies such as the Sweat lodge and the
sacred dances, etc. I could write about the wild events at the
Rose Sundance in Idaho or the one held against the
Elders wishes near Yankton a few years ago. How the winds smashed
the camp flat on tree day or so many other warnings to not abuse
the ceremonies. One thing I know from experience, the Thunders
give many warnings before bringing such harsh a discipline. This
man must have refused to listen to their voice over those years
as he did those of the Elders who came to him. So his resistance
and pride led to this tragedy on an even deeper level then just
word used for a person who runs ceremony in Annishanobie is Oshkoshbaywiss
translated Servant or better, Slave. (A
servant would have rushed to assist those he led into suffering,
dont you think?)
message am I getting from this disaster personally? This all happened
because people were duped into thinking they were taking part
in a real sacred ceremony that would bring blessings into their
life. They believed a lie, so the liar is first to blame, but
what about the rest of us? Not blame, but what could we have done
to prevent this. I feel people need to be informed about what
is a true ceremony, from those who know. That means me and you.
If you have attended a good sweat, or if you have sweat for many
years, talk about it during the next few weeks. This subject will
be prominent for a while, lets take the opportunity to speak
with those who would normally not even think about these things.
Lets use this opportunity to explain what the traditions
are, what the purpose of these ceremonies are, what are the outcome
of a true ceremony is.
We have before us a way to bring something positive out of this
tragedy, to help prevent further abuses of people and the ceremonies
I just found out this guy has three more of these events booked
and paid for, without sweat thankfully, with seemingly no plan
to cancel them. I hope he finds himself in jail before he can
harm anyone else.
at the Center have received emails and questions about this tragedy.
However all we can say is we don't know what happened there, all
we know is what we have read in the police reports and newspapers.
We are delighted that Arvol Looking Horse put out a statement
so quickly responding to it. As a repercussion of the above incident,
last weekend, there was a meeting of elders at Eagle Butte, SD
where some wanted to close whites out of ceremony altogether.
Spiritual Leader and Head Man, David Swallow, from Pine Ridge
Reservation, went to speak on behalf of those who are non-native,
but follow the ways. So far we have had no reports about what
to the meeting Gloria and Chuck spoke together and Gloria suggested
that non-natives police other non-natives when it came to incidents
such as this one. She sent out an email to a number of people
suggesting this. She said 'if we don't speak up against the people
who are doing these things, who are of course a minority, we will
all suffer the same repercussions. We will keep you informed on
latest happenings and news on this tragedy.
latest news is that a third person died after the sweat she had
been hospitalized and died a few days later. She was from Minnesota
her name was Liz Neuman and she had done many other courses with
James Ray. Also the police are now treating this as a homicide
but so far have not arrested anyone. It will be interesting to
see who they arrest, as we have heard various reports about things
happening there, one was that someone (?) sprinkled a toxic substance
over the stones. How true that is we don't know but it would make
sense why these people all passed out.
News - Couple
speak out about previous experience with Ray
Press - First Sweat Lodge survivor speaks
- Sweat Lodge participants say leader urged them to stay inside.
There are other links on this page including video clips.
three victims of the sweat lodge. Kirby Briwn, Liz Neuman and