The lesson of James Arthur Ray’s guilty verdict in the Sedona sweat-lodge deaths
We’ve criticized Ray and the franchise that made him famous, The Secret. A Soul’s Code practitioner urges us to extend compassion to both the victims and the convicted guru
GUEST COLUMN: CARI LA GRANGE MURPHY — The topics of spiritual authenticity, accountability, compassion, and soul growth are all weighing on my heart, mind and spirit today after hearing the sad news of self-help guru James Arthur Ray’s conviction on June 22, 2011 in Arizona.
As I’ve matured and grown into a more self-aware human being, I am not one to quickly judge an individual and pound on them when they are down, for I am able to see the bigger picture and recognize that there are always soul lessons involved in any situation.
Observing things from this broader perspective doesn’t make the situation any less sad or horrific for both James Arthur Ray, or for the three individuals who died two falls ago in a make-shift sweat lodge in Sedona, AZ, but it does allow me to open my heart and have compassion for everyone involved.
For those who aren’t familiar with what happened, James Arthur Ray, a very wealthy and successful best selling author, speaker and personal development expert who owns a multi-million dollar corporation, held a spiritual retreat in Arizona in October, 2009.
His retreats focus on creating wealth, and teaching others how to forge a millionaire lifestyle. It was a very expensive retreat (in the range of $9,000-$10,000 per person) culminating in the group joining together at the end of the week in a sweat lodge.
On October 8, 2009 three people died in the sweat lodge — and four months later, Arizona authorities charged Ray with manslaughter. Now a jury convicted him on three lesser counts of negligent homicide. They held Ray accountable for his attendees deat
hs because he was their “leader” and the one they entrusted their hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits to for the period of time that they were attending this retreat. Ray faces up to 11 years in prison but could be sentenced to nothing more than probation.
I can completely understand that for many of us our first reaction is to applaud. Ray certainly did not take the necessary precautions, nor did he appear to take authentic accountability for the tragedy as it was happening — or during the hours, days and months following the incident.
I am filled with sorrow and compassion for the families of those three beautiful souls who lost their lives that day. I am also filled with sorrow and compassion for James Arthur Ray. His human journey as a spiritual being housed in this physical body is just like ours.
This tragedy is public and therefore open to much more ridicule and criticism that it would be otherwise. That being said, I don’t want to undervalue the extremely horrific situation.
Check out the family background and history of Mr. Ray, his passion for self denial, fasting, and extreme personal and physical risk to reach “nirvana” by pushing the limits and trying to prove to himself the power of his limitless nature and abilities. I don’t condone the behavior or the possible element of ego or greed that may have been involved.
But this appears to be a man who has sought harmony (within himself) all his life. I have compassion for the journey of everyone. Some lessons are more profound than others. I also have to wonder how enlightening the event was for so many of James Arthur Ray’s “followers.” Perhaps there is a lesson for everyone involved. Isn’t there always?
I know that it’s important to have others that we look up to, respect, admire and learn from. I also recognize that there is a fine line between being inspired by someone and becoming a follower.
I believe the key for any of us that devote our lives and careers to promoting spiritual growth, awakening, well-being, etc. is to remind our readers, clients, and our audience that THEY must be their own leader. They must rely on their own intuition, their own power and their own strength to conquer and master their life/soul lessons.
We are meant to simply serve as catalysts that awaken and remind others of the immense power within them to take responsibility and accountability for the quality of their lives.
My heart and my love goes out to everyone involved in this tragic situation. May everyone emerge with a renewed sense of awareness, compassion, and love for themselves and others.
Cari L. Murphy is a best-selling inspirational and spiritual author, (www.Create-Change-Now.com) broadcaster, radio show host (www.CreateChangeNowRadio.com) speaker, and founder and CEO of Empowerment Coaching Solutions.