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“Balance is Bogus”: The Way of Ray

January 19, 2010

…Or why they didn’t leave the death lodge.

In the days prior to the deadly Arizona sweat lodge, James Ray hit the participants with a bizarre cocktail of exercises and all designed to scramble their minds and brains, to “knock them off their center”.

Everything Philosopher James Arthur Ray does is designed to look like it’s legitimate, when actually he’s quietly tweaked the process. Hidden agenda is written all over the way the group activities were structured and carried out. It is also the continuation of a process that began with the initial contact with Ray.

Signing the Waiver

As a symbol of trust in existence and your higher self, people pay in advance for a seminar, without really knowing what it entails. After the expiry date for a refund passes, people first discover the conditions under which they will be participating. No one is forced to participate, of course. They are free to leave their $xx,000 in Ray’s hands and not show up. Naturally, if Ray kills you during a seminar, any future seminars you paid for will still be drawn from your account.

Ray’s waiver included loss of confidentiality, agreeing to allow Ray to use anyones name, image, video or audio recorded during the group in any way he wishes, including advertising. This condition is not in the interests of the participants and is absolutely unnecessary for running such a group.

Haircuts

For participants, a symbolic act of commitment to their growth. For Ray a further step in establishing authority over his charges. How much courage must Beverly Bunn have needed later, to appear before an international audience with her cropped hair?

Photos from the 2007 headshaving were displayed in flickr and only recently made private.

The first group experience

Previously, Spiritual Warrior was only open to people who had done a number of other groups with Ray. He changed this in 2009 and allowed first timers. (Not suggesting that this was because his success from The Secret was failing, of course.)

Most of the activities are intense or extreme and would be especially challenging for people having their first group experience even if they were run by someone who understood them and was concerned with their personal growth, rather than trying to get them fixated on him as an authority figure.

Holotropic Breathing

Holotropic Breathing, developed by Stanislav Grof is a very intense technique basically involving hyperventilation in a controlled and monitored setting. It is used to trigger unusual physiological mental responses, partly by reducing the oxygen supply to the brain. It’s well researched and the various problems or dangers associated are well known and practitioners are versed in how to deal with it.

In the hands of a manipulative ignoramus who doesn’t understand the technique, it becomes just another tool for opening people up, disorienting them and making Ray look like the big hero in control.

Cassandra Yorgey puts it well in her excellent article about Grof’s response to to Ray’s pretenses: “Ray executed a deliberate attack on the psychological, physical, and emotional well-being on every participant with increasing severity [throughout the group].”

NLP, Teaching, Groupwork

Each time Ray opens his mouth, NLP formulated sentences come out. Repetition, suggestion, careful phrasing are all intended to pull the listener into the emotional state he wishes. Many of the accompanying activities which tire or bore the mind aid in opening the brain for the suggestions he wishes to place into peoples psyches. Ray is combining these methods with everything he does.

Ray also uses structures where participants share in front of the whole group and are humiliated by Ray, or what he calls “pushing buttons and watching the breakthroughs”. People are confronted by this testosterone charged sociopath and have their deepest emotional wounds exposed in font of everyone. This is all well covered here.

Then of course there are all the dangerous games like sticking an arrow in your neck and pushing till you freak out, or it breaks and stabs you in the eye, snake handling….And by the way, if you ever get invited to a James Ray firewalk, think very carefully.

The God/Death Game
The game where Ray played God has been played up in the press, and it sounds like the exactly the kind of thing a sensationalist press would go to town on. But they didn’t know the whole story. Witness statements reveal the game actually went on for SIX HOURS. I would argue that it’s impossible to sensationalize that.

Ray seems to have stolen a lot of his methods, but something tells me he thought of this one himself. What better way to cement your place in your victim’s psyche than to do this. God and death are both quick ways to get around peoples normal defenses. The game combined these with public humiliation, complete disempowerment and drove it to absurd lengths.

This is the kind of thing Ray’s professional colleagues would have already told him to stop if ethics was of any concern to them.

One participant who would later not survive the sweat lodge “was reportedly holding herself and crying after this particular game.” (I don’t know the original source for this. It was mentioned here.)

Bill Harris’s  Hollow Sink CDs

Bill Harris endorses James Ray as a master of all kinds of important things that everyone should know about. In return, he made $11,000 to him from the death lodge in the form of compulsory sales of his brain wave slowing CDs. Mutual endorsement is standard practice for the new age community of thieves.

They were used immediately after the God/Death game, no doubt for maximum effect. Brainwaves are kinda tricky things, given that the brain is the most complex thing in the known universe, and it is unclear whether or not these cds are safe.

There is evidence that even proper use can turn you into a loud mouth twit, but Ray would have greatly exceeded recommended durations for use. In combination with psychologically abusive death games, they are likely to exaggerate whatever the person is going through. I don’t know. No one else knows either.

Sleep Deprivation

This is an essential technique for Ray’s groups. He sleeps well, of course, but participants have to make do with as little as one hour of sleep. As well as the obvious disorienting effects, it can also induce psychosis, and have all kinds of effects on anyone with any of the psychological conditions which leave them susceptible. Of course Ray doesn’t bother with any form of medical screening whatsoever, and so considers himself not accountable for any damage he causes.

All these experiences together form an unlikely and potent mix better suited to manipulation than healing.

Vision Quest

This was also sprung on participants. Isolated for 36 hours in the desert with no food or water. Again, for people doing it for the first time, very intense and probably at times quite terrifying. Possibly this was the only frightening experience they had which was not inherently abusive or particularly dangerous. On completion, they would have felt elated at having completed it and faced whatever they needed to face.

Apparently James Shore refused to return with the staffer when he was picked and made his own way back to the retreat.

Aftter they were collected, a final teaching class, which many believed was the end of the course, was followed by “one last surprise”….

All in all, everything was skewed in the direction of Ray being the focus of attention, rather than the needs of the participants having any priority.

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