Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dying for Spiritual Awakening

Would you give $10,000 to this man?

How about this one?

Same guy.  He's James Arthur Ray, a proponent of the wingnut "law of attraction" quasi-spiritual path to riches, enlightment, and general good vibes that rich people with apparently more money than sense just can't seem to live without.

Ray's taken on the idea that a sweatlodge, or to put it more appropriately, a "sweat" is what a lot of people need.  He's wrapped it up in his own weird brand of spirituality, draped it in the rich history of the Lakota people and their spiritual beliefs and practices, and then totally screwed it up.  Ask any Lakota and he'll tell you in no uncertain terms, Ray's approach was just wonky.  It lasted too long, the people operating the sweat were insufficiently trained, and the sweat lodge itself was dangerous.

Take a look at Ray's sweat lodge.  Those are tarps.  People were giving this shyster up to $10,000 so he could bake them over a period of several days under tarps.


And any Lakota will also tell you that to charge money for a sweat is offensive on many levels, not least of which being an offense to the Lakota spiritual path itself.  Nobody's selling tickets to white man's churches, Ray.  Get a little perspective.

But why am I saying all these things?  Why bring them up?  Three of Ray's customers, well-intentioned but woefully uninformed and gullible people with money, died during an extremely long period in the sweat lodge. 18 more were hospitalized.  One would hope that at the very least, Ray refunded their money to their families.  But all the money in the world doesn't get those people back.

You can make the argument that they were asking for it.  It doesn't take a lot of wisdom to see that the operation, whatever you might call it, was pretty shaky.  It doesn't take much discernment to hear the mumbo jumbo behind all the flowery language of the guy's pitch.  How did these customers ever amass enough money to waste it on this event?  But that wouldn't be fair - no one was asking for it.  No one ever would.  The Lakota go into a sweat knowing it wouldn't last this long, knowing they would be carefully monitored in smaller groups by an individual who had been carefully trained in the art over several years.

Ray somehow escaped the manslaughter charge the first time.  But the ride has to come to an end.  He's dangerous, careless, and evidently doesn't learn from his mistakes.  The man might be a spiritual leader, certainly - by leading those foolish enough to follow him to their final sunset.

I understand to some extent where these people were coming from.  I want a deeper spiritual understanding.  But the last thing I want is a careless money-grubbing pretender like James Arthur Ray slowly cooking me to death in my own juices to try to make it happen.

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