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Website: About & Contact

This blog was started in response to the deaths caused by “motivational speaker” and Secret star, James Arthur Ray.

In particular, the death of Colleen Conaway (Ray’s first victim two and a half months before the more famous deaths in a fake sweat lodge in Arizona) motivated me to speak out about Ray and the industry which produced and still supports him. Ray has since been convicted of three counts of homicide and served a two year jail sentence. He was released in 2013 and is rebuilding his high profile scam, (aka “motivational speaker”), as if the whole thing was merely a PR problem and jail was a “profound learning experience” rather than a very soft punishment.

He is unlikely to be charged in relation to the death of Ms Conaway, whose death he also recklessly caused at one of his events.  He and his staff (I will note the names Greg Hartle, Megan Fredrickson and Michele Goulet, though there were others), abandoned Colleen’s body in a shopping mall and lied to the San Diego Police. The truth only came out after other staff members discovered the details and informed the authorities. By then the San Diego Police had summarily declared Colleen’s death a suicide and closed the investigation. The jury in Ray’s subsequent trial regarding three extra deaths he caused two months later were prevented from hearing about Colleen’s death. They might have convicted Ray of manslaughter had they known. The conditions for a manslaughter conviction were clearly fulfilled by the prosecution’s case.

In large part, this site is dedicated to laying bare the way James Ray and other spiritual teachers do their business. I believe that people should be able to explore spiritual ideas without being bankrupted or having their life endangered.

… 

Personal information:

I am Australian, but I live in Germany. I have studied many spiritual traditions, several quite deeply, and have been interested in meditation for a couple of decades. My “spiritual search”, backed up my reading of science, has led me to a thorough going atheism.

This means that I don’t believe in any gods, and more importantly I don’t believe that any individual people are vested with any divine powers or divine insights which are withheld from the rest of us. I do however respect everyones right to publicly identify as whatever religion they wish. Likewise, I claim the same right to publicly identify as an atheist without summarily being labeled evil or untrustworthy.

I mention plenty of people by name here, but not myself. My legal name doesn’t actually appear anywhere on the entire internet as me. Yakaru is a spiritual name I got a couple of decades ago, and is also the “handle” I always post under on numerous other sites (since about 2006). More importantly, there are also professional reasons why I don’t use my legal name. (I work in the field of social work and want people to be able to share openly about their religious views, should they wish, without being confronted with my ravings.) However, as a special service to anyone inquisitive enough, or even despicable enough to hire private investigators (like you, Mr Ray), my legal name is available to anyone who emails me.

I have no financial or professional interests of any kind related either to this blog or to any of its contents. All of the factual information presented here is freely available on the web or published elsewhere. 

You can email me: yakaru@gmail.com.

 

12 comments

  1. Becoming disenchanted with various respected icons of the spiritual world is a process that I have gone thru several times in my life. The outcome could very well be atheism, as you yourself speak about. For some reason the over riding love of the one who was called “The Christ” is the power that I rely on. I have become someone who says: “Give me Jesus” now. Since my very early search sort of began in the late 1960’s, I have gradually taken the road to Christ to be the road “home”. I do not attend any church, but I can & have walked into many various “churches” & attended the services offered to the public. I have personally experienced the rise & fall of ones that were considered to be absolute spiritual leaders. Their secrets of cocaine, sex abuse, violence, abduction, and lies has been revealed to all involved eventually. Very sobering. Good luck~ is all I have to say to everyone who is consciously on a path to Truth, God, & Inner Understanding. It’s truly a messy walk.


  2. I’ll take the opportunity to clarify: my atheism isn’t a result of disillusionment with spirituality.


  3. I find it difficult to understand how everyone doesn’t see religion in as dark a light as I do. Even taking into account the power of faith, psychological needs that help secure it and such-like, how can they know the history of atrocities and dire religious hate in the modern world all in stride and still respect almost any religion?
    I’ve come to see ‘brainwashing’ as too light a word, ‘unreasonable’ and ‘illogical’ as far too kind. I’ll respect individual rights but wont respect religion, I think religion has had more than enough chance and has failed.


  4. I am christian but find your posts very thoughtful and mind provoking, and your writing quite eloquent. Justice for Colleen. You know I don’t think , I or many others considered this guy Ray, as a spiritual leader of any sorts. But more of a self help kind of guy. So the anger against the entire industry of wellness coaches I think is a bit extreme. I do think coaches like him should be put on blast, and this incident most definitely changed the industry for the better. The Salty Droid is a website that also calls out these types of frauds. But there is fraud in every business. And we can’t throw out all the goodness with the bad apples.

    Your anger and righteousness is meaningful and valid. I guess this blog may be cathartic for you as it must be satisfying to expose these idiots who killed people in the process of gaining wealth for themselves. Perhaps it can warn others to not fall prey to these types. However keep in mind that their are plenty of legitimate coaches that bring healing and health to people.

    I posted the brilliant picture you put up of Ray on my Facebook. So people remember to buy legitimate coaching and services from reliable sources.


  5. Thanks for your thoughts.

    The blog isn’t really “cathartic” for me, although I wouldn’t mind if it was. I understand why it might look like that, but everything that makes it into print is there for a reason. I think carefully about it. People aren’t used to seeing spiritual ideas criticized, and that anger is entirely appropriate sometimes. Spiritual people are often afraid of anger, and feel fear when they see it expressed. I’m just demonstrating that the sky won’t fall if you criticize a guru.

    The reason I damn the entire self help & coaching industry is because there is absolutely no standards or protection whatsoever that would stop someone like Ray. And there can’t be, because the industry has no substance. It’s run on multi-level marketing principles and anyone who knows how to drive it gets a ride to the top.

    A coach establishes an inherently exploitive relationship with their clients, where payment is based on “perceived value”, and emotional dependence is rewarded by the system, rather than development of skills that promote self reliance.


  6. You have a false sense of what coaching truly is yet you say “development of skills that promote self reliance” which it truly is. You are the one confused and have taken a small handful of people who have made arrogant and grave mistakes and lumping everyone in. That’s similar to saying “all black people are, all jewish people are, all men are, all women are, etc”. Opinion is just opinion and without true experience of something, you will never really know….


  7. No, you are wrong. Criticizing a “profession” is not like racism. I think you are, despite appearances, smart enough not to need that explained in any more detail.

    You would be contributing something to this discussion if you (a) understood, (b)considered, and (c) thoughtfully challenged the criticisms I made of that profession, if you still thought I was wrong.

    I will not repeat the criticisms again. Reread the comments that upset you so, and ask yourself what might be wrong with them. It’s unusual for fans of spirituality to force themselves to think rather than insult people when they’re challenged, but some manage it occasionally. That possibility has not even occurred to you yet here.


  8. I’ve read several of your posts with great interest, particularly the ones on The Secret and Louise Hay

    A well-meaning friend recommended me The Secret book, but I just didn’t understand it. It was just complete nonsense from start to finish, and I have no idea why it has become so popular.

    Similarly, Louise Hay, came highly recommended. I was able to glean at least some useful ideas from her books, but the underlying idea of victim-blaming was immensely troubling, as was the idea that you could heal physical ailments purely through the power of positive thinking. I read a chapter in one of her books which covers the acceptance of ageing which doesn’t really square with her decision to have plastic surgery.

    I commend you for calling out people who make a living from exploiting vulnerable people.


  9. I think many people don’t realize how dangerous and damaging this stuff can be. I certainly didn’t until I looked more closely. It’s a striking contrast between the good intentions and general niceness of the fans/customers of these products, and the ruthlessness and indifference to human suffering on the part of an enormous percentage of teachers.

    Thanks for reading, and for your kind comment!


  10. I think that you do a very good job. People need to simply stop believing in anything. They have to accept the reality, and grind it through your mind. Even critically weighing evidences is a too damn easy to learn skill, since not many evidences are actually good ones. Many evidences are just fabricated ad hoc lies. Such as, the presence of ice water on Mars is used as a “proof” that Mars has once supported life. No, no and NO!!!! Mars never was a planet that supported life, nor will it be able to be terraformed at all!!!
    There is TRUTH. There is REASON. There is SCIENCE. Grind it. Learn it. Accept what reality says. Nobody can change the reality, it will never change itself. It is what it is!


  11. Yes — reality does matter, and is accessible. For all the stuff spiritual folk write about the ways in which reality is “not what we think it is”, they never ever count things like selection bias, false positive, ad hoc reasoning etc.


  12. Hi..your email comes up as not valid, so I am just going to paste it here instead;
    Dear Mr. Y;
    I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog, which I just stumbled upon last night after being given a copy of Mutant Message by a well meaning friend. I decided to google author Marlo Morgan, since it looked like another one of those white lady as indigenous savior tales..and pretty much was. (Fun read, though!)
    I’m particularly thrilled that you can spell and write well,….that always gets my attention on the interwebs! Your observations are really interesting and, I think, very helpful to anyone with an open mind. Plus I love exposing frauds.
    As I read your observations about Marlo Morgan and a few others, I was impressed by the fact that although you have a critical and discerning approach, you don’t rant on and on about what jerks these people are, or really look down on the people who follow them..and it’s clear that you are knowledgeable about numerous traditions. You don’t condemn the message as much as the deceptive messengers.
    I myself was formerly of two minds about much of this stuff. I converted to Tibetan Buddhism 24 years ago..Nyingma School. I have also been a Tarot reader for about 30 years, something that runs in my Scottish family for several generations, and something I do not charge money for. I wanted to grow up to be Thomas Merton.
    But I also feel that the New Age movement is just ridiculous and is mostly large white, middle aged ladies who wear lots of scarves and men who want to start their own cults. People who want to use potential mystical experience as a drug..something to get high on and entertain themselves with.

    I studied with my Lama for 3&1/2 years.. and watched my love of the dharma be turned into some sociopathic, narcissistic man’s sex cult..because “Tantra”! I left. I tried studying with HIS teacher, who arrived here after we all busted our guy..but it was the same girl in a different dress as it were. I still do some of my practices, but steer clear of teachers now, though I did study for a time after that with a very ethical Pure Land monk whom I liked a lot, just to experience another Buddhist tradition.

    I am also a breast cancer patient for the past 3 years and have been on the receiving end of all the ‘create your own reality’ crap that is out there. “Stay positive!” “Eat only this, don’t eat that!” and on and on. When people tell me to “stay positive”, or “you’ll be fine!” I tell them to go fuck themselves. I know tons of “positive thinking” women who are just as dead as anyone, and that’s just an easy way for a healthy person to imagine that THEY will never be in my position, because they do their stupid affirmations or whatever. Making cancer a “choice” as it were, is the worst kind of victim blaming and causes a lot of suffering among patients. I’ve always been a happy soul, am thin, exercise, don’t smoke..and here I am..all cancer-y. (I’m not a huge fan of regular oncology medicine either, but I did subject myself to the basics in addressing my cancer, while refusing some treatments due to extreme side effects.) All these purported “natural” cures and protocols just make us poorer.. and feel like WE have somehow failed when they don’t work. Forget the toxic environmental problems we all face..cancer is because we don’t think right, or ate some candy!

    5 years ago I was introduced to a Native American couple who host a local pow wow and who introduced me to a lovely Grandmother/Elder who has taught me some things. I asked if she could give me a few teachings because Buddhism is very focussed on getting out of here and never coming back..nature is just something to transcend. I work in animal rescue and humane education and liked the NA respect for the natural world..but here again.. she and NA’s in general attract lots of white people, who want to play make believe and live at a sort of “spiritual buffet”. This week it’s angels, next week find your spirit animal and learn to be a shaman in only three days, and oh look, a Medicine man is visiting, so let’s all vision quest! (Not to mention the two Lakota medicine men the grandmother hosted turned out to be the usual sociopathic narcissists in holy person’s clothing and really screwed over this lovely old woman.) So I’m out of there as well and now just see Grandma privately at her house.

    All this to say that I think the human impulse to connect with the All That Is, the Mystery, is a universal one and very valid..but I no longer feel that teachers and the parent/child dynamic have any value, leading as they do to very human abuses of power, and learned helplessness on the part of seekers. This doesn’t mean we can’t learn from each other, or that people do not have things to teach that are valuable..but in the final analysis, spiritual practice is between the individual and Spirit itself. There are no prizes for it, a chosen path is not some pink cloud. It can be, and should be, difficult as one digs deeper, and outside validation means nothing. When I was younger I longed to be “seen” somehow..for someone to recognize my sincerity..but consider myself so fortunate that my Lama turned out to be a shitty person, because it cured me of this in record time. Now, halfway through my sixties, it pains me to see people fall for things that are not sincere or real in their quest for communion. So I really like the things you have to say!
    Lately I am very taken with the writing of Elaine Pagels..just finished her new book “Why Religion?’ She is the theological scholar who translated the Gnostic Gospels from Coptic, in case you aren’t familiar with her. If you haven’t read the book, you might find it interesting.
    In any case, I thought it would be fun to write to you..it was! and I will now be checking in on your blog with interest!
    Thanks and be well!



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