James Arthur Ray is a motivational guru often associated with “self-help”, though some cynics like to point out that “if you’re paying $9000 for a seminar, it ain’t self-help, folks.” Ray is most famous for being found guilty in 2011 for negligent homicide after three participants died at a “sweat lodge” ceremony he was conducting as part of a five-day large-group awareness training retreat called “Spiritual Warrior” in 2009 (he’s out now, and apparently hasn’t learned a thing). Prior to the sweat lodge he had participants fast for three days and reportedly discouraged participants from leaving the “sweat lodge” even after people were unconscious or vomiting. Even after the deaths of his clients Ray continued to advertise future retreats and have had skeptics who showed up at his seminars to ask questions about the sweat lodge deaths escorted out. Part of the reason for that, one supposes, is that Ray don’t believe in personal responsibility when it doesn’t suit him: “I fully know, for me, that there is no blame. Every single thing is your responsibility ... and nothing is your fault. Because every single thing that comes to you is gift ... a lesson.” (I.e. he doesn’t explicitly say that he doesn’t believe in personal responsibility since he says he doesn’t and then redefines the word.)
Ray’s advice to seminar participants consists of an unholy mixture of everything New Age and woo. Ray is, for instance, among those charlatans who casually appropriate chunks and pieces of what he takes to be Native American culture – the “Spiritual Warrior” sequence is one example, and the resort was complete with fake teepees and repugnantly racist fake exoticism that some New Agers find appealing (because they are racist – Lynn Andrews, anyone?). Ray’s take on Native American culture is discussed here). The Lakota Nation holds that Ray “committed fraud by impersonating an Indian,” thus violating the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and hence that Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have “violated the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation.” Not bad for a humble New Age moron.
Ray’s mix also includes adherence to the Law of Attraction (no spineless self-help guru would be complete without that one), and he teaches that tapping into the universal harmony (presumably because of quantum vibration) can can create “harmonic wealth” in all areas of your life, as described in his bestselling book of absolutely no content whatsoever, Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want. His teachings have indeed been described as “including a mix of spirituality, motivational speaking, and quantum physics,” though the “quantum physics” part predictably bears no resemblance to actual quantum physics.
He appeared in the filmatization of The Secret, has – of course – been promoted by Oprah, and has written articles published by that cesspit of all things woo-woo and New Age self-help fluffshit The Huffington Post.
Diagnosis: Monster. And we should all be genuinely angry at the stupid suckers who empower people like Ray.