Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Death Ray: the Scumback Kid in Phoenix

James Arthur "Death" Ray, star of that infamous paean to crass materialism and narcissism
The Secret, sociopath extraordinaire, and representative of much of what I find most revolting about Scamworld and its gurus, has been on the comeback trail ever since he got out of an Arizona prison in July 2013. This was after having served less than two years for the negligent homicide of three participants in a faux sweat lodge at one of his pricey "Spiritual Warrior" events in Sedona, Arizona in October 2009. The three -- and let us never forget their names -- were Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman. I've written a few times about Death Ray's comeback efforts since his release (see links at the end of this post).

There really isn't much to say about Ray that I -- and a handful of other bloggers,
most notably Salty Droid -- haven't said dozens and dozens of times already in the past five-plus years. But there are always new ways to say it. On February 21, 2015, Ray held a one-day seminar on "Epic Living" in Phoenix, Arizona -- an event that I had mentioned in a November 2014 post (see under "GIN promotes killer"). I also posted a screen shot of one of Death Ray's Facebook promos for the event. Some of the GINfolk -- members of the Global Information Network, the seekrit club launched in 2009 by imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau -- were all excited about the Phoenix event, and were promoting Ray and his work at some GIN events and on social media. Which I found disgusting, but not really surprising.

Matt Stroud at Bloomberg Business actually attended the Phoenix seminar and apparently sat through the whole thing, and the end result was an article that, without editorializing, pretty much paints Ray for the sociopathic puke that he is.

Here's that link.

Good job, Matt. (Except for spelling Liz Neuman's last name wrong.)

As many of us Ray-watchers had been predicting when he was first released, and as some of us have blogged about since then, Ray is making the most of his time in the cage, working it into his new selfish-help shtick. He frames his "unfortunate" experience as a lesson about walking through fire and "taking responsibility." And he talks at length about his "losses" during and after the 2009 sweat lodge atrocity, apparently without actually mentioning the names of the wonderful human beings whose loved ones will live the rest of their lives with their losses.

Ray's events since his release from the cage have been vastly scaled down from the throngs he entertained in his glory days. There were only about thirty attendees at the Phoenix to-do, and I'm sure that chapped his a$$ a little. But clearly he is struggling to climb his way back up the same ladder from which his own recklessness had previously toppled him. Although the Phoenix event only cost a little under $500 a head, he is apparently offering six-hour private "mentoring" sessions for $15,000.

And clearly, he still has a problem with that "complete and total responsibility" concept that he blathers about in his workshops these days. The Bloomberg piece quotes him as saying to the Phoenix gathering that his was the first case in U.S. history in which "adults participated willingly in an event and then the organizer of the event was brought up on charges." Granted, he framed this around his declaration that when the tragedy first happened, he blamed everyone but himself, the implication being that he no longer blames everyone but himself. Yet it seems to me that he he still hasn't entirely rid himself of the notion that the folks who died were adults and willing participants, and therefore bore responsibility for their own deaths.

And this sentiment was echoed in the remark of one of the attendees, a marketer name Kevin, who is quoted as saying, "It [the sweat lodge incident] was just an accident. People were adults, were in adult situations, having given adult consent and signed agreements. Did anyone set out to murder three people that day? Absolutely not. So it's water under the bridge today."

Tell that to the families and friends of Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman. And while you're at it, tell it to the people who cherished
Colleen Conaway, who died in suspicious circumstances at a Ray event in San Diego about two and a half months before the Sedona tragedy. (Ray and his minions apparently tried to cover up her death after they found out about it, and partied on through the night.)

Matt Stroud writes that Ray declined an on-the-record interview with Bloomberg Business, but did answer a couple of questions for Matt during the event. When Matt asked him why he hadn't tried to contact the bereaved families, Ray said that Ginny Brown, Kirby's mom, had taken out a restraining order against him. Ginny denies that. And I believe her because... well, these New-Wage/selfish-help sociopaths are not known for being truthful. In fact, lying is pretty much their stock in trade.

But the most revealing Q & A came later in the day, when Matt asked Ray why he went back to the same career that had led to his downfall. Ray's answer says it all.

There is nothing else that can bring him fulfillment, he replies. There is, he says, “a power that works through” him—a faith, not in his “finite abilities,” but in his “clarity of purpose” and his power to captivate audiences.
“If you see any level or mastery in my abilities, it’s not me. It’s something that was given to me that I developed.”
To give up on that power, he says, “would destroy me.”
Never mind the people he destroyed through his callous exercise of that awesome "power."

You may have heard the old saying, "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." Very often that's something Scamworld gurus and their fans say as a way of thumbing their noses at critics like me. And I've come to accept that there's a lot of truth to this maxim. I even have a somewhat related saying on this Whirled that you've probably heard a few dozen times before: There are no neat and tidy endings in Scamworld. People like James Arthur Ray will continue to try to work their dark magic on the masses, and will always find willing audiences, and there's not a lot to be done about it -- but that doesn't mean there's nothing to be done.

One thing we can all do is to make sure that nobody ever forgets what James Arthur Ray did. I've said this before -- in fact I am pretty much lifting this bit from
my five-year Death Lodge anniversary post last October -- and I will no doubt say it again. Do what you can to spread awareness: through social media, through blogging, through peaceful protest at live events. And if you are in the self-help industry, consider signing the pledge offered by SeekSafely, the organization founded by Kirby Brown's family. Very few have signed the pledge so far, and to this day, no "big names" have bothered to do so. There is, as I noted back in October, a message there.

Ray and his small but possibly growing group of fans can rationalize all they want. But for those of us who refuse to forget who and what he is, the deaths of three -- no, four -- good people, and the physical and emotional harm done to who knows how many others, will never be "water under the bridge."

More about the Scumback Kid:
And in case you haven't read this yet and want to find out more about James Ray in his glory days before and immediately after he became a killer, here is my October 2010 offering, published on the one-year anniversary of Death Lodge.

PS ~ Also in the No Neat and Tidy Endings category, here's Matt Stroud on the real reasons the FTC can't really put a dent in pyramid scheme problem. And if the name Peter Vander Nat sounds familiar, it may be because you encountered him in this December 2013 post where I wrote about his assessment of the now-defunct GIN MLM as a pyramid scheme.

Update, 12 March 2015: LaVaughn at the Celestial Reflections blog has some spot-on commentary about Ray's hypocrisy and media-dodging, citing numerous indicators that the leopard has indeed failed to changed his spots. "...aside from the near media blackout, he's the same old James. He's still trying to make the universe his bitch." Here is the link.

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Anonymous Jean Brown said...

As always, thank you, Connie, for your continued pressure on Ray and your efforts to spread the information about this story and my family's non-profit work. It is greatly appreciated.

Regarding the whole "restraining order" bit--clever, but untrue. My parents never took out a restraining order on Ray. Why bother? Beyond one phone call a few days after the "sweat lodge," he's never tried to contact us. Certainly not to pay the court-ordered restitution or offer any words of apology or support.

I think the thing that bothers me the most here is the comments from participants at the event. That they buy his explanation so readily is upsetting, though I suppose the fact that they were there shows that they had already formed that opinion.

But this idea of willing participants is just absurd--nobody willingly consented to die that day.

I also wish Stroud had mentioned the fact that Ray filed for bankruptcy protection this summer to get out of paying his lawyers--the lawyers who managed to strangle the facts of the case so effectively that he only served 18 months for killing 3 people.

But the power quote is just priceless.

Thursday, March 05, 2015 6:47:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thank you so much for your comment, Jean. I wish there were more I could do. I wish I could bring back the people Ray killed.

The comments of the participants bother me too, and I've been hearing similar comments/rationalizations for years, as I'm sure you have too. Some of the comments immediately after the "sweat lodge" event, and even during the trial, were brutal. But it is precisely this willingness to rationalize even the greatest atrocities that helps to keep Scamworld alive and thriving.

The argument about "willing participants" seems like a valid one on the surface -- but only on the surface. The hours, days, months, and in some cases YEARS that Ray spent hammering his messages into his followers were enough to break down even the strongest and most resolute person. And that's how charismatic leaders work. It's hard to know you've been sucked in until it's too late to know. A lot has been written about the subjects of manipulation and coercive persuasion, and I was probably negligent not to at least add a couple of links... but maybe I will go back and do that when I have time.

Filing for bankruptcy protection seems to be a common ploy among Scamworld gurus who teach about wealth but whose own finances are, for various reasons, a wreck. Some of the other stars of "The Secret" have also filed for bankruptcy. And non-"Secret" star but enthusiastic "Secret" promoter and James Ray defender Kevin Trudeau even tried it back in 2013, though that didn't persuade the courts to grant him leniency regarding his $37.6 million fine, so his lawyers dropped the case.

I have great respect for the legal profession in general, and in general I think that professionals should be paid for services rendered, but in this case I think Ray's lawyers are getting what they deserve.

Thank you again for your comment, and give my regards to your mom and the rest of your family.

Friday, March 06, 2015 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Karen Brown Letarte said...

Just the thought of Janes Arthur Ray nauseates me. I shudder to think he's back to pulling his same old scams on people. How can people not see the naked greed and EVIL in this murdeous so-called guru? I'm embarrassed I ever went to a JAR event and wish I could get my $795 back... At least I recignized him at that one event for the fake he is.

Friday, March 13, 2015 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Karen, thanks for commenting. I find this whole thing nauseating too. You're very fortunate that you "only" lost $795.00 before discovering what a phony JAR is.

Saturday, March 14, 2015 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James seems like a nice friendly guy, nobody put a gun to the participants heads to make them enter the sweat lodge and if they really wanted to leave they could of.

Saturday, March 21, 2015 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comment moderation, what a poser !

Saturday, March 21, 2015 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Well, Anon March 21, I don't know if you're sincere or just trolling for the heck of it, but if you are really serious, you need to go back and read some of the abundant material about how Ray relentlessly manipulated and bullied the participants for days. They were very worn down by the time they got to the "sweat lodge," and even those who struggled to get out when they realized they were in trouble were taunted and bullied by Ray, and he did everything he could to keep others from attending these people.

Maybe you also need to do a little research about manipulation and coercive persuasion as it is practiced by scummy "gurus" and LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) "leaders" like Ray.

Or maybe you need to ask some of the loved ones of the people Ray killed what THEY think of your opinion.

And I don't know what you meant by your second comment, "Comment moderation, what a poser." If you were merely annoyed because your comment didn't show up right away, I'm sorry about that, but I do moderate for many good reasons. And I'm not online 24 hours a day waiting for comments to come in. Yours came in last night after I'd already signed off of my computer.

Sunday, March 22, 2015 12:29:00 PM  

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