Sunday, October 18, 2009

Third Death in James Ray Sweat Lodge Case

Yet another of the sixty-plus people crammed into James Arthur Ray's Sedona sweat lodge has died. She evidently was one of his true believers:

The Rev. Meredith Ann Murray of Bellingham, Wash., who has completed all of Ray's retreats, said [Liz] Neuman was among Ray's earliest followers and had attended dozens of his events.

According to Ray's Web site, Neuman was the leader of the Minneapolis-area "Journey Expansion Team." The teams, developed by Ray's friends and followers around the country, meet to exchange ideas on his principles. The next Minneapolis-area meeting is scheduled for Oct. 23.

But here is the delicious part. Ray, facing homicide charges, is evidently bobbing and weaving:

In his first public appearance Tuesday in Los Angeles, Ray told a crowd of about 200 that he has hired his own investigative team to determine what went wrong.

Sheesh, Veronica Mars could tell him what went wrong. He was greedy and heedless of the safety of his followers.

Sweat lodges have been around for a long time in many places. I see them as part of the old Stone Age circumpolar religion, along with flat-headed drums and a special relationship with bears.

Whether used for physical health, for contacting the spirits, or both together, they are a small-scale magical technology. It sounds as though Ray tried the "megachurch" approach to sweat lodges--at $9,000-plus per person.

Aside from all the issues that this case raises, it speaks as well to the difficulty of turning small-scale mysteries into congregation-size events.

UPDATE: Tim Giago, a veteran American Indian journalist in South Dakota, asks why, if traditional sweat-lodge ceremonies are so special and good, are they not doing more good for the Lakota:

Arvol [Looking Horse], why are the sacred rites you represent not being used to bring our own people back from the brink? Why aren't they being used to bring back the good health our people once enjoyed? Why is there an unemployment rate of 80 percent on the lands you call home? Why is there such a high rate of STD's and teen pregnancies in Lakota country?

What good does it do to speak out and criticize an event that happened in Sedona, Arizona, when it had no lasting impact upon the Sioux people? Aren't there terrible things happening in our own homelands, right under our noses, to worry about and try to change?

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Blogger HR Mitchell said...

here is the delicious part.

No, that would be salacious, Chas, or perhaps disturbing or maybe even responsible. But certainly not delicious, unless you want to be just another yellow journalist.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

No, not salacious

Delicious, as in "tasty to those who are of a cynical and ironic turn of mind."

Don't Web-surf with your default irony setting as "off."

I was a salaried journalist for about eight years, of what hue I will leave others to determine.

You do meet a lot of cynics hanging around the city desk, though.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Rhondda said...

Perhaps Mr. Clifton you should look up delicious on, since you used it for salacious.
Rationalize your subjectivity much?
Post modern bullshit perhaps?
Ah, sweet death, so final and yet so pure. Good grief. How's that for cynical irony? I hope you approve.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

I meant to link to "salacious." There is nothing lustful or lecherous going on here, unless you know something that I don't know.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Black Nyx said...

For the record I just had to say I thought your use of the word delicious was perrrrfect.

Where did everyone's sense of humor go?

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Pitch313 said...

Once the events of contact have rather thoroughly disrupted an indigenous culture, so that survivors are bounded by reservations and generally crummy circumstances/prospects, it should be no surprise that many elements of a previously whole indigenous spirituality no longer operate as they used to. To the benefit of that indigenous culture and all of its members.

Sweat lodges vs. co-opting industrial capitalism...

2:44 PM  
Blogger Brad Hall said...

Well, you know that O.J. is still looking for the real killer. Hoping to hear an update on that investigation from him any day now...

3:16 AM  
Blogger Brad Hall said...

This post has been removed by the author.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

About the co-opting of culture; coming to a global consciousness... I think it becomes the choice of individual choosing to learn and grow with a spiritual self responsibility... all of Ancestors are guiding us. We must approach these cultures, their antiquity and the People in respect and humility if we find a personal connective-ness to them.

But I have been through two Inipi ceremonies / Indigenous conducted / and was cautioned both times, through a passage of many years, in many ways before entering 'sweat lodge'... And never more than 11 people were allowed in the circle within. When going through an initiatory experience of that consequence you must take care of your open presence / consciousness... I mean hell! You're being beat down physically to achieve a state of release... spiritually exposed to whomever and whatever surrounds you.

Carnival barkers touting on the horizon. Geesh. It's such a tragedy. Many genuine / authentic individuals seeking ... but are they looking for spiritual leadership other than their own?

12:49 PM  
Blogger Rhondda said...

Thank you Mr. Clifton for clearing that up.
I think after reading Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, and the flack she got for 'revealing secrets', (not that white people would really get them), I really distrust 'white authorities'. So maybe you do know what you are talking about. Maybe not. Who am I to discern that? It was an initial reaction to definitions on my part.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a tragedy which never needed to happen, because Ray was reaching to the edge to creat altered states. Fasting alone would have been a much safer path.

Sadly, the media pigpile is casting a pall on a lot of good teachings.

I agree there is a lot of new age la-la stuff being peddled for high dollars.

I was probably just lucky I found a CD for $27 with interviews by people from the secret and others about the law of attraction.

As opposed to a lot of the fluff, these guys all made the exact same 5 points and not at all sugar coated.

1. You must focus and feel your vision strongly every day.
2. You must take action(s) to move towards your goal, not just put a sticky note or picture on your fridge and go sit on your sofa.
3. You will need to find and disable limiting belifes/negative thinking that will interfere with points 1 and 2.
4. Along with point 3 you will also need to make sure you are not doing things to defeat yourself. For example haven’t we all seen a person who complains they have no money as they eat out several times per week, spend $70 on cigarettes, $10 on videos and $10 on lottery ?
5. To successfully apply all the above you will need to stick with it and persevere. There is NO instant overnight success. Jack canfield was turned down by over 200 (two hundred) publishers before going on to worldwide multiple best seller success with the chicken soup for the soul franchise. Imagine if he’d quit at 100.

I’ve read many summaries of the traits-habits-practices of successful people and they all mirror the above.

So, my point was that if the law of attraction as defined above is a hoax, then the world is full of successful businessmen who have been hoaxed and are making a lot of money.

I think the sweat lodge tragedy is causing people to throw out the baby with the bath water.

6:23 AM  

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