James Arthur Ray Death Lodge Seventh Anniversary: Never Forget
Note: If you get a sense of deja vu as you read this, it is because I am lifting some of it from last year's anniversary post. It's okay; I gave me permission to plagiarize myself.
I always love October. I love the way it presents itself, more often than not, in such bright and perfect blue and gold -- yes, even down here where we don't have the stunning autumn colors that are seen further north. I love the way October always feels, even more than September does, like a beginning rather than the herald of any kind of ending.
But as much as I love October, there is an undercurrent of sadness in these pristine fall days. Most of the hummingbirds are gone by now, though a scant few stragglers remain, but that's not the core of my sadness. It's more of a general melancholy, rather subtle, perhaps best expressed by Rilke's poem, "Autumn," which is no doubt even more lovely in the original German, though the version in this blog post is the English translation that touches me the most (yes, despite my agnosticism).
This October day in particular is a sad one, for today is the seventh anniversary of the deaths of Kirby Brown and James Shore, two participants in New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality guru James Arthur Ray's phony "sweat lodge" in Sedona, Arizona. Nine days later a third participant, Liz Neuman, passed away as well, without ever awakening from a coma.
And after that, the world was never the same for untold numbers of family members and friends of these three lovely people.
I knew none of them, though some of the family members are now my Facebook friends, but I think of them every year at this time. Mostly it is with sadness but also with anger, because the man whose recklnessness was responsible for these three deaths (four, if you count Colleen Conaway's death at another Ray event in July 2009), served a prison sentence of less than two years for the Sedona deaths. (He served no time at all for Colleen's death, and wasn't even charged, much less tried or convicted, although my understanding is that there was a civil settlement of some kind, eventually.)
And these days, James Ray is exploiting the Sedona tragedy and his time in prison for his own purposes, still parading as a success guru but with a new hook: he uses the pain and loss of others to portray himself as the hero who has walked through fire.
He may have walked through fire, figuratively speaking, but he did not die by fire, literally, as did James Shore, Kirby Brown and Liz Neuman.
He may have lost a lot, but he is still alive and capable of writing unmitigated crap such as, "In the process of losing everything...I actually found myself."
That theme -- redemption through profound loss -- is the one that Death Ray is still flogging.
And as October inevitably gives way to November and December, there will still be empty places at the holiday tables of the families whose loved ones were killed by the arrogant recklessness of James Arthur Ray.
Regarding the latter, there are bright spots of joy with the sadness; in the years since Death Lodge, beautiful babies have been born to some of the family members of those who were lost. Life goes on, and for some, October is truly a time of beginnings.
And maybe, just maybe, no one is ever truly lost. Rilke:
...And yet there's One whose gently-holding handsKirby Brown's family, trying to create something good from the awfulness wrought by James Ray, is still promoting their non-profit, Seek Safely, whose purpose is to educate people about how to safely participate in the self-help industry. They have recently upgraded the site. Check it out.
this universal falling can't fall through.
I will mention once again, as I always do when writing about this organization, the Seek Safely Promise. In contrast to previous years, it now appears that several industry leaders have signed the pledge; the page linked to in the previous sentence includes not only the promise but also a list of both those who have signed and those who haven't. But I would be remiss if I were to imply that I believe that signing the pledge is a guarantee that the individual is "okay." For instance, several of the Internet marketing scammers Salty Droid has written about appear to have signed the promise, which may be a big reason that Salty/Jason has turned down requests to speak at Seek Safely events. He really cannot find much good to say about the self-help industry, and for that matter neither can I.
And I notice that Esther Hicks seems to have signed it too, although the Abraham-Hicks cult has arguably played a part in emotionally if not physically destroying numerous people over the years.
Still, Seek Safely is a worthy cause, especially since a big part of its mission is to educate consumers and prevent them from becoming victims, and I applaud Kirby's family for their efforts.
And me? I'll continue, as I have for the past seven years, to do my part to make sure that people never forget what happened on October 8, 2009.
For insights into the arrogance that led up to Death Lodge, and the arrogance Ray has displayed since then, see this post, written on the first anniversary of Sedona. Also read Connie Joy's book, Tragedy in Sedona. There's also a public Facebook group, James Arthur Ray is a Felon.