Disowning James Ray #1January 12, 2010
The Huffington Post continues its fine tradition of new age gutter journalism, with an article from one Jonathon Ellerby. He is the next in the long line of spiritual teachers queueing up to distance themselves from James Arthur Ray.
As always, they find this tricky, because they have to imply that Ray “made mistakes” in the numerous incidents which left people dead, severely injured and/or financially incapacitated, but they want to say as little as possible about what these “mistakes” might have been.
This omission is important because as we’ll see, Ray for the most part followed new age philosophy in the standard manner. The only thing he did outside the norm for his profession was getting caught.
No doubt there are spiritual teachers and other similar professionals who are outraged and deeply saddened by the fate suffered by Ray’s victims, but Jonathon Ellerby isn’t one of them.
His main concern is to distance himself from Ray, while promoting himself as one of the good guys. His insincerity shows through in the way he fails to name a single specific criticism of Ray. Instead, after a bit of hand waving, he promptly changes the subject – to smear the medical profession and evidence based reasoning. He claims that skepticism about his profession has already gone too far and washes his hands of further comment on the deaths and injuries inflicted by Ray on those who trusted him.
In the process Ellerby reveals his ignorance of the subjects he criticises. But more on that later. He also chooses to completely ignore the death of Colleen Conaway during the previous Ray seminar. Ray and his team abandoned Ms Conaway’s body and blatantly covered up their involvement in her death.
Why does Jonathon Ellerby fail to acknowledge this incident? He lists the Death Ray death count as three instead of four. James Ray covered it up. Jonathon Ellerby helps further. Not a good start if you’re looking for credibility on this subject, Mr Ellerby.
Seeing as Jonathon Ellerby never gets around to saying what he thinks Ray actually did wrong, I will kindly offer a few brief suggestions about which mistakes Ray made, and what spiritual teachers can do towards improvement.
First and foremost, Ray’s deadliest and most stupid mistake was that he acted entirely according to standard New Age spiritual philosophy.
He believed he has magical powers, that “We create our own reality” and believed that he has mastered methods for manipulating such a universal law. This led him directly to taking absurd risks, secure in the belief that everything would happen according to divine plan, according to the Law of Attraction.
After the deaths he sincerely followed through on that belief, telling some followers in a conference call that the deceased had “left their bodies and were having so much fun they decided to stay out”.
This is all perfectly in line with modern esoteric principles, isn’t it Mr Ellerby. Or do you think otherwise? You don’t say.
Then Ray mysteriously changed his entire philosophical system – rejecting years of carefully refined LoA “blame the victim” mentality and called it a “tragic accident”. So what does Jonathon Ellerby think – was the death lodge part of the Great Cosmic Plan, or is the LoA wrong? Obviously the self-help movement needs to choose.
So Step 1 for Jonathon Ellerby: disown, criticise and denounce the LoA as dangerous nonsense and stop teaching it in any form. That is, stop claiming that a universe force mirrors back to us what we put out through mystical, non-physical spiritual processes. Moreover, don’t tell people you know how to manipulate these forces, and stop using it to shirk responsibility for your errors.
Second, stop using spiritual philosophy to disable and deflect criticism and critical thinking.
Anyone who breathes a word of criticism of a spiritual teacher or idea is immediately attacked and labelled “negative”. Then the person’s motives, moral character and personal failings are called into question:
Why are you so full of rage?
Why do you have a PROBLEM with that?
Why do you find these ideas so threatening?
It’s true for those who believe it…..and so on.
One thing they won’t do is thoughtfully consider the criticism and formulate a rational answer to it. When pushed, they are in fact mentaly incapable of doing that. The Secret exemplifies the way spiritual teachers keep their followers and fans in a state of unholy fear of criticism. For them it’s “negative energy” or “negative emotion” which, if they allow to flourish around them, or, heaven forbid start indulging in themselves, will attract an appalling horrid fate to come crashing down on them via the LoA.
This mix of faith and fear led straight to the death lodge and the reactions of many suppoesedly spiritual people to it.
Step 2 for Jonathon Ellerby: stop this silliness. Allow people express their ideas and criticism openly. Of course, you would have to lift your own standards, too, and worse, you might even have to change your ideas if you realise you are wrong. Believe it or not, that process is identified in some circles as “growth”. It is considered positive and creative.
Third, spiritual teachers have started working as a cartel who vouch for each others validity and promote each others complementary products.
This circle of thieves formalised by Jack Canfield in the TLC. Financially this works great, because it removes the chance of any unwelcome ideas or criticism, and sets the standard for interactions in the entire new age community: positive, no criticism, just constantly talking each other up. The end effect is that success is measured in charisma and sales figures. Ethics and product quality (ie actual usefulness) are excluded entirely.
Step 3 for Jonathon Ellerby: examine the financial structures of Ray’s company and all the other similar ones. Expose this business of teachers manipulating people to book a package of workshops, and allow a fair timeframe for refunds. Just look at the waivers people have to sign. That will indicate very quickly which guys are the hucksters.
Fourth, admit fallibility and that the LoA is no substitute for screening participants’ medical health and having plans for dealing with emergencies, including trained medical staff.
That means knowing which emergencies might arise (eg., psychosis in psychologically demanding processes; dehydration, burns, organ failure if you’re doing sweat lodge in 150 degree heat), and know how to contact emergency workers swiftly.
Step 4 for Jonathon Ellerby: criticise (gasp!) Ray for his reluctance to call in emergency medical help – he was furious when staff did that in previous years – and criticise him again for being under-prepared. Criticise the “existence takes care” philosophy that led to this appalling situation, and criticise Ray even more heavily for seeming to actually believe that he had special powers.
Fifth, when someone dies during a group or even following a group, report it and investigate it. Don’t just abandon the corpse.
Sure doctors kill people by mistake or negligence, and sometimes cover it up, but in order to do that they have to break the rules. Ray got away with Colleen Conaway’s death. Ellerby is also holding rank on the cover up.
Step 5 for Jonathon Ellerby: Wonder, just for a minute or two, how many other Colleen Conaways there are. You have no way of knowing, do you. Maybe some protocols about following standard procedures required by law might be a good start for your poor, unfairly criticised spiritual industry?
Sixth…..Ok you get the idea yet, Mr Ellerby? I could go on to mention stamping out the use of fake qualifications – “Dr” John Gray, “Dr” Joe Vitale, etc. (Actually Ray is unusual in not having one, but seeing as he’s a “philosopher”, I guess he doesn’t need one.)
In short Jonathon, your profession is rotten to the core. Your have failed to address the problems, and instead have used it as an opportunity for self promotion and sniping at “the enemy”, ie science and medicine. Your article is merely an attempt to sweep it under the carpet, deflect criticism and promote yourself. Exactly the kind of short-sighted narcissism that your profession is shot through with.
Next up, a quick look at Ellerby’s “criticism” of the medical profession and evidence based reasoning.