The Arrest of James Arthur Ray and the Law of Attraction

  • Posted on: 15 February 2010
  • By: mokshalom

James Arthur Ray has been arrested on charges of manslaughter for the deaths of three participants in a sweat lodge ceremony he held last year.

From the Daily Mail:

...(One of the victim's) mother, Ginny, said yesterday that she would have liked to believe the deaths were accidental - but that everything that Ray did during the 'Spiritual Warrior' event almost made them inevitable.

'One of the things that horrifies me after we found out Kirby had died was to see how he behaved, to really yield his true character,' she said.

'This wasn't just a horrible accident. His own conviction in his omnipotence and his own seduction of money and wealth made him delusional.'

Back at the height of The Secret's popularity, I put myself out on a limb here on this website, cautioning against buying into the simplistic message of The Secret hook, line and sinker.

In doing so, I risked losing potential customers. The New Age and coaching world had gotten completely caught up in The Secret, and it was simply not popular to be against it.

Since then, many of The Secret's gurus have fallen from their lofty perches. Rhonda Byrne, creator of The Secret, has been accused by her former associates of withholding money she allegedly promised them, David Schirmer has been accused of bilking investment money from his customers, and now James Arthur Ray has been accused of murder.

What is the problem here? These people were supposed to be living, breathing examples of the "Law of Attraction," meaning, you create your life or you attract what you focus on.

Why are they "manifesting" investigative reports, lawsuits and arrest warrants?

Could it be that there's a big piece missing from The Secret, and that is: CHARACTER?

Character is an old-fashioned term, something you might hear more about from Christians than New Agers, who often bristle at any small edict towards morality. But the New Age is sorely missing in moral codes and ethical standards, because gosh darnit, that might actually force us to become adults instead of petulant children constantly demanding what we want at all hours of the day.

Character and integrity are extremely challenging ideals to shoot for. We don't always live up to our own standards, and we all can be hypocritical in our own way. (A common example is saying that you are against people braking the law, as you willingly and wantonly drive 20 mph over the speed limit, justifying it because you are in a hurry.)

My big problem with The Secret and the Law of Attraction (LOA) is that it is entirely selfish in its focus. In the quest for complete and total personal empowerment, we abdicate any sort of responsibility we might have for others. Oh, sure, we might ascribe to some vague notion of peace and love, but when push comes to shove, if we're ardent believers in the Law of Attraction, we can absolve ourselves of any responsibility or concern we have for another human's misery, because that's their "choice" - they created it, not us.

In this warped all-or-nothing thinking, someone such as a James Arthur Ray may indeed think he's not at fault in the deaths in his sweat lodge - after all, the deceased "created" their own deaths in their own minds. It wasn't his doing. (Never mind that by some reports he blocked people from leaving the sweat lodge.)

If you truly believe that you are "God" and create anything, then there's a line there you might cross where you may think you are above the laws of physics. You can do anything, because you believe you can. And therefore, you may put the lives of your followers (and yourself) at risk.

Of course, true LOA believers will have to acknowledge that Ray must have created his own incarceration, but not because he is responsible for murder...in the LOA view, he isn't responsible for another's death, but he is responsible for "attracting" the arrest to him, perhaps because he feared jail somewhere in his mind.

This ignores the more simple and obvious answer: That forcing people to stay in a sweat lodge for hours past the recommended time on little food and water is probably a stupid thing to do.

Unfortunately, the Law of Attraction isn't going anywhere. It is still deeply ingrained in much of the thinking in the New Age. Part of this is due to the popularity of New Thought (Religious Science) churches or offshoots such as Agape in Los Angeles. I have attended a few New Thought "churches" (spiritual centers is what they are more likely to call themselves) and they can be incredibly uplifting, amazing places filled with amazing people.

I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. I still feel now, as I did when The Secret came out, that positive thinking, positive energy, and positive intention can be extremely powerful forces - within reason.

They should never override common sense or our natural instincts to protect ourselves from danger.

You would not use Science of Mind techniques to prove that you could jump off a 20-story building and survive without injury. Likewise, you should not use Law of Attraction or Science of Mind to ignore your own inner warning signals that tell you that maybe the self-help guru who has locked you in the sweat lodge is perhaps putting your life in danger.

Unfortunately, the excesses of "fundamentalist" New Agers such as James Arthur Ray serve to harm the positive aspects of the New Age movement.

I am opposed to fundamentalism in any form. This includes fundamentalism in traditional religion and fundamentalist in New Age religion. Fundamentalism means: I take as gospel an authority outside myself and do not question it.

This could include the interpretation of the Bible by your pastor (as your Baptist pastor's interpretation may differ from that of the Episcopalian priest). This also includes accepting without question the gospel of a Rhonda Byrne, an Esther Hicks, or a James Arthur Ray.

Believing that the Law of Attraction is an immutable, permanent and never-changing law is religious fundamentalism. It's fundamentalist because it's rigid in its adherence to dogma, and it's a "religious" fundamentalism because it is a spiritual belief and not a scientific fact.

You cannot prove or disprove the Law of Attraction. Anecdotal evidence does not mean anything to science. Since we cannot at this time objectively track the ratio of positive thoughts to positive occurrences in someone's life (and the reverse), we simply cannot with any certainty prove the Law of Attraction is a universal law. Your belief that it works is not proof. Your anecdotal report that you happened to receive X in your life after thinking about X is not proof.

I can give tons of examples of times in my life where I got amazing gifts of opportunity out of the blue when I had not visualized them or even had an inkling in my head that they could be part of my future. I can anecdotally disprove the Law of Attraction time and again.

This is why I wish the Law of Attraction were renamed to the more open, less fundamentalist and dogmatic name "Principle of Attraction." Do I believe we can create positive things and attract opportunity in our lives by having more positive energy? You bet. Do I think this works 100% of the time or means we are 100% responsible for everything that happens to us? Nope.

Many of us want certainty in our lives, and questioning the wisdom of our chosen guru or path may lead us to feel uncomfortable and without a rudder. It's very tempting to grasp onto a supposedly infallible concept to fill the void of fear.

The concept may be the "infallibility" of the Bible or the "infallibility" of the Law of Attraction.

When we do so to the point of ignoring reality around us, however, we can get ourselves into big trouble. Many have been killed in the name of Jesus, whether through religious wars or apocalyptic Jesus cults. And we've now seen what's happened with James Arthur Ray and his empire of absolute certainty.

The only thing I'm certain of is that it's much healthier to take everything with a grain of salt. By retaining a healthy amount of skepticism, we can protect ourselves from the delusional, power-hungry "gurus" that seem to inevitably be drawn to top echelons of the spiritual world.

Whether it's to avoid a Catholic priest abusing his power, a televangelist committing the very adultery he preaches against, or a Law of Attraction guru who is creating death due to his hubris...we need to choose our gurus wisely and remember to listen to the voice of reason within.

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