Search For Spiritual Enlightenment Ends in Deaths

Sedona, Arizona is a place with mystical charm surrounded by red cliffs that shimmer in the bright sun. It was to Sedona that a group of Americans and Canadians gathered to bare their souls in a new age spiritual journey that was intended to bring them to a state of renewal and rebirth.

But it went horribly wrong and this week many of the “enlightenment” participants are in a small courtroom in Arizona where their spiritual guru James Arthur Ray is on trial for manslaughter.

Mr. Ray, a motivational speaker with a new age slant, ran a five-day seminar that promised to change a person’s life. His fee was $10,000 per person. After journal writing, a lecture and a viewing of the movie “The Last Samurai”, a 36 hour meditation without food or water began. The final ritual was the sweat lodge ceremony, a First Nations tradition with deep historical roots intended to purify and cleanse the mind, body, emotions and spirit.

A fire pit in the centre of the lodge is the focal point around which the ceremonies take place. Prayers to the ancestors, silence, dancing, drumming and chanting are all part of the ritual.

Mr. Ray replicated the traditions, however, in the small space created for the ceremonies with willow sticks and tarps and with more than fifty people inside the structure, the heat overwhelmed many of Mr. Ray’s followers.

In their desire to meet Mr. Ray’s expectations and their goal to complete the process, two people died in the lodge, one died a short time later and at least nineteen people collapsed, vomited, foamed at the mouth or became unconscious.

A successful prosecution could result in a 30 year prison sentence. Mr. Ray’s lawyers claim the deaths were accidental and were likely caused by pesticides in the desert sand or poison from the tarps. They say the participants understood the risks involved.

I say people seeking truth and peace did not expect the death and devastation they received.

Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…”


4 thoughts on “Search For Spiritual Enlightenment Ends in Deaths

  1. These people could have saved their 10 grand by going to the person mentioned in your last paragraph. Jesus also said “Come unto me all who are weary and burdened, I shall give you rest (Matt: 11:28).”

  2. I have attended several sweats on Vancouver Island and they have always been of great benefit to me. These have all been run by First Nations Elders with experience running sweats. In all cases, the Elders and everyone else was looking out for those who would be better off taking a break and sitting outside. Everyone is told that it is no shame to sit outside around the fire when the rounds get too hot. I could not imagine 50 people in a sweat. That is too many to keep track of what’s happening. This is a very tragic example of what happens when people take a wonderful tradition and turn it toward making a financial profit.

  3. Gaining spiritual enlightenment is the ultimate goal of life as a human being! Realizing we are a pure soul… the spirit within is the essence of spirituality. Spiritual enlightenment is reached via the path of sacred Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism… the doctrine given to mankind by Lord Krishna about 3600 years before now! Spiritual enlightenment can never be gained via a path of religion (path of rituals)!

  4. I agree with Don and I like what you ended this post with, Georgialee… they were all looking in the wrong place… Jesus is THE ONLY WAY!!! What a waste of $10,000.00 that
    each person spent!!!

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