Sunday, April 10, 2011

Self help & America's desire for transformation


Time

I am a few hundred yards from the spot where three people died in October 2009. They were on a "spiritual warrior retreat" led by James Arthur Ray, a man with improbably white teeth who claimed he had been initiated into 12 shamanic orders. He had been a guest on Oprah and was featured in the best-selling DVD The Secret, and the nearly $10,000 weeklong course was his platinum self-help offering. On the last day of the retreat — the final chance to "play full on" — he harangued his pupils into staying in an overcrowded, overheated sweat lodge even after some of them had passed out and one had fallen into the glowing rocks in the center. The 55 participants, already weakened from a 36-hour "vision quest" with neither food nor water, suffered terribly in the sweat lodge, but the vast majority stayed. "You're not going to die," Ray told them. "You might think you are, but you're not going to die." He was only partly right. In the end, 18 were hospitalized, and three died from heatstroke or organ failure. Ray's manslaughter trial is due to begin March 1.


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