Blogging James Ray’s book, The Science of Self Destruction — Part 1

September 17, 2013

James Ray’s book is actually called The Science of Success, (published in 2003), and the first forty pages of it are readable on Googlebooks. I thought I’d take a look at it.

There is no “science” of success. But there might be a science of self destruction. Certainly part of it would involve maintaining an unrealistic belief system which narcissistically fails to identify risks and dangers and dismisses any warnings as “negative”. A really dangerous belief system will also cause one to persist despite disastrous failures and obvious errors of judgment. The ideas contained in this book might also give an insight into James Ray’s own self destruction.

Ray (or his ghost writer) starts:

The principles in this program are nothing new. You have heard most of them before. What is unique about the Science of Success is that I have put this information together in a way that is understandable, and usable by everybody! The Science of Success makes universal principles of success available and practical. Anyone on Earth can apply this science, and it will make them successful every time…

Personally, I think it’s about time that people learned to find this kind of absolutist talk not just dangerous but repulsive. And I challenge any dissenting reader to admit that they already know that there is an escape clause just waiting to pop out of that sentence; and that they already know what it is. “These laws always work. If you are unsuccessful it’s because you haven’t applied them properly.”

Ray, the currently destitute ex-con, continues:

…That’s because the Science of Success works with universal laws, laws as fundamental and unbending as the law of gravity. If you follow these laws I guarantee that you will succeed – every time, and in whatever endeavor you undertake – just as surely as a pencil will fall down when you drop it instead of up. People who win and succeed consistently use these laws and principles, whether or not they are aware of doing so. When you understand the Science of Success, you can choose to use them consciously. In doing so, you guarantee your success.

release mugshotJames Ray, philosopher, out of jail now and ready once again to “guarantee your success every time”.

Ray is of course referring to the dangerous and stupid idea that “thoughts become things.” The science of success — whoops I forgot to capitalize it so it looks like it’s his own special product — is merely Ray’s version of the Law of Attraction. The only universal law here is that who ever asserts that “thoughts become things” will also assert that “it’s a law just like gravity”.

Of course, if the Law of Attraction were real, it would immediately disprove the law of gravity. (Note to Secret fans, don’t insist your fantasy law is as real as a law that completely, utterly, and devastatingly contradicts it.)

The next universal law that Ray follows is the rags to riches story which, according to quantum physics, must attach itself to every get rich quick guru, regardless color creed or gender. In Ray’s case the fact that his daddy was also a get rich quick guru as well had absolutely no influence on him whatsoever. So insignificant is that fact, that he doesn’t even bother mentioning it. Instead he describes how he started off as a weedy little kid who then grew up to become a body builder and have some moderate degree of success and improvement of self esteem. Along the way we get an interesting admission:

…I started injecting myself with dangerous doses of anabolic steroids.




I guess he’s talking about pharmaceuticals like the regular cocktail that body builders imbibe or inject. And those are indeed photos of Ray’s personal stash of anabolic steroids. But that’s not the young James Ray’s bag in the 1980s; rather, it’s the middle aged James Ray’s bag in 2009. But what the heck, you gotta do something to keep up appearances, okay?

Those photos were taken by police after Ray had fled Arizona. Those who only know Ray through his website will be surprised to learn that James Ray cooked three people to death in a fake sweat lodge in 2009. He was later convicted of three counts of negligent homicide.

That’s what success looks like according to James Arthur Ray. He ran a sweat lodge which killed three people, resulted in the hospitalization of a further twenty-three, and required the state to provide four rescue helicopters, a dozen ambulances, dozens of fire fighters, 60 police investigators and the Yavapai County Hazardous Chemicals Unit.

You probably thought I was being ironic or sarcastic when I began that last paragraph with “that’s what success looks like for James Arthur Ray.” I wasn’t. A few hours after the last helicopters and ambulances had left, and with two of his victims having died before his very eyes, Ray sent out an email to the customers on his mailing list declaring the event “a success”, “despite some people having taken ill.” 

Welcome to the world of James Arthur Ray.

There are indeed lessons to be learned from Ray. He clearly demonstrates the lack of consumer protection in the self help industry and its ruthless and exploitive attitude towards its customers. He clearly demonstrates the depths to which gurus will sink in order to turn a buck, and the risks people are taking in becoming involved with people like Ray and the rest of the manipulative cabal known as motivational speakers.

See Part 2

Posted by Yakaru



  1. Is this a new book by James Arthur Ray?

    By the way, some woo woos say that gravity is just an agreement. Those may be the ones who say people can fly.

    Thanks for writing about this. It makes my skin crawl nowadays to read stuff like this. The critical thinking required to see how foolish this is is not complicated but I was missing those skills when I used to believe stuff like this!

  2. Whenever I see or hear the phrase “sweat lodge,” it’s always in the context of someone dying from heat stroke, exhaustion, exposure, or such. I think one case was aggravated by malnourishment since the men involved only had a handful of berries and nuts for the sake of being with nature or something. The long hike they had to take in the cold to get to the sweat lodge location didn’t help, either.

    If you follow these laws I guarantee that you will succeed – every time, and in whatever endeavor you undertake – just as surely as a pencil will fall down when you drop it instead of up.

    There’s a message I hear in between the lines of self-help advice and motivational speeches like this: That there’s one perfect confident go-getter attitude/personality that’s applicable to any job. Confidence and eagerness are often good traits to convey, but taking them to the extremes that self-help gurus endorse seems likely to backfire if your dream job emphasizes things like caution, self-control, meticulous attention to detail, or reliable conservative methods over questionable new fads.

    I’d also worry that if someone took on that attitude, they’d be seen as shallow and over-entitled, like they think they deserve more than their superiors just because they talk big, rather than letting their work speak for itself.

  3. Well, Bronze Dog, a lot of people who read this stuff don’t want “real jobs” they want easy money. Perhaps if they had the work/social skills you reference, they wouldn’t be so vulnerable to the self-help guru predators.

  4. That is a good point, though there are good-intentioned people who get suckered in because they’re a little too trusting.

    A related factor in the whole appeal is that self-help gurus offer simple solutions to complex problems, kind of like diet pills that promise easy weight loss. As a society, we have a lot of knowledge and technology that make many kinds of problems simpler, so it’s often tempting to think that someone, somewhere has the answer to yours. Simplicity is also tempting on its own, since it requires less work. It can also make a person feel superior because they think they have a unique grasp of the “obvious” while everyone else is toiling in the dark.

  5. All good points, Bronze Dog! I agree that many who get suckered in are decent folks who are/were a bit too trusting, or in some cases too desperate to be discerning.

  6. @Mariah,

    No this isn’t a new book. He did have one written and about to ne released but the publishers pulled the plug on it after they realized he was a complete nutter.

    @Bronze Dog,

    Yes, they seem to sell a manic psychological state and pretend you can live like it for ever. I personally have no sympathy or understanding for people who get into this stuff because of greed. I have a bit more sympathy for others (as long as they don’t promote it), because i think people should be able to explore metaphysical ideas without being financially ruined or tortured to death.

    Ray seems to have especially attracted people who are already quite successful in business, but nevertheless feel a bit empty and wanting more from life. The system Ray runs is one that has been developed and refined over many decades, and specifically designed to target as many human frailties as possible. People also often respond well to the numerous introspective techniques that involve sharing about ones emotional wounds, fears and hopes etc, and getting support from the group.

    Basically a lot of these guys run what appears to be a therapy group, using very powerful methods. What people don’t realize is that there’s another event running parallel, in which people are slowly manipulated into dependence on the guru.

    A lot of the techniques these guys use are quite valuable therapeutic methods, but they’re all twisted and skewed to condition people to buy more. And sadly, financial investment = emotional investment, and a certain pain threshold has to be reached before people will admit they were wrong. In Ray’s case people were often completely ruined before they realized what had hit them.

  7. @Yakaru- oh the irony! “Science of Success” author winds up in prison. Thanks for the clarification.

  8. I’ve updated the post to include the publishing date — 2003. Thanks for asking. That’s an important clarification.

    Yes, perhaps the quickest way to find out the value of someones teachings is to look at how well they actually work for the person. In Ray’s case, I strongly suspect that he really believes a lot of it, in his own scrambled and narcissistic way. He certainly believed himself to be invincible right up until he was charged.

  9. Very powerful post, yakaru. Great the way the prison mug shot sneaked up the page as I scrolled, reading the vacuous promises above it.

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