James Arthur Ray promised to make them Spiritual Warriors.
The newage, pyramid-scheming, scam artist crammed 65 people into a plastic death tent, which he claimed was a sweatlodge. In the hot, wet dark with the man who had no idea how to lead an Indian ceremony, and no connection to any culture that could have taught him how (or told him this was a really bad idea), they sweated for two hours... till two were dead, three were unconscious, and 21 others went to the hospital.
Hazmat teams and crime scene tape now surround the site. Native American ceremonial people from the area are saying that, by imitating a ceremony he was not trained to perform, this newage plastic shaman killed these people. I agree. They used materials in this fake ceremony that should not be used, they used things that were physically and spiritually dangerous. They paid $9,000 for a sad death at the hands of a greedy con man.
I have no idea if they prayed in this fake ceremony, or how. I don't think this guy knows any prayers beyond, "Gimme Gimme Money Money".
James Arthur Ray made them to Pay to Pray. And Michael and Amayra Hamilton provided the place to do it.
James Ray makes his living as a self-styled, newage "prosperity" guru. He sells pyramid schemes and "you create your own reality" guilt trips to rich people. He's been on Oprah.
Even if this shameon knew how to run a small sweat, even if by some miracle this non-Native had been authorized to do so (not going to happen, but we're playing "what if") there's no way one person can keep track of 65 people in the dark. Especially 65 people who've never done this before, and been told they have to suffer to learn. 65 ignorant people who thought paying a newage guru for a weekend retreat would make them "warriors". I'm sure these seekers were all trying to out-macho each other; they were dehydrated and suffocating, and may not have said anything about how much distress they were in. And even if this creep were able to tell they were in distress, maybe he just didn't care. I've seen some really ugly, psychopathic predators among these types. These are the sort of callous exploiters who blame suffering people for their illnesses, and claim victims of holocausts and genocide brought it upon themselves with their "negative thoughts".
From James Arthur Ray's webpage:
"Many so-called successful people make a tremendous amount of money, but their relationships are on the rocks. That's not real wealth.
Likewise, there are others who qualify as a creative genius, and they're physically sick all the time. That's not real wealth!
Then there are those who claim to be really "spiritual," and they're always financially broke. That's not wealth either!"
Then he goes on to promise that if you pay him lots of money, he will show you how to fix all this. If it doesn't work, well, you just weren't spiritual enough.
No compassion, no spirituality, just greed.
And the people were willing to pay him so much because he's been on Oprah. Are you listening, Oprah? I know some kick-ass Indian women who could come on your show and talk about how dangerous it is to Pay to Pray.
This is all over the news now, but for analysis that doesn't mislabel this new age fraud as a "Native American" ceremony, I'd suggest the ongoing discussion and posting of links in this thread on the New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans site.
More mainstream coverage via The Huffington Post, AP Video, and this video of the 911 calls.
Note: When I first wrote this, initial reports were unclear, but most said there were 21 people in DeathRay's DeathTrap. Now that we know more, I've changed this to reflect the number that survivors are saying he crammed into the fake lodge (approximately 65). As of this update (Oct 26, 2009) three people have died, and more are suffering with neurological damage and possible organ failure. We now have multiple survivors stating that Ray forced these people to stay in the death tent even when they were severely disoriented, crying for help and passing out, and that he told people to not get medical help for those who were sick and dying. Criminal charges appear to be pending.
Thanks to Diana, LaDonna, Sarah, Lierre, the Iktome Returns Collective, and everyone else who has emailed and posted about this.