Archive for the ‘The Secret’ Category


James Ray rejects his own teachings (and his supporters don’t notice)

November 26, 2013

James Arthur Ray, the motivational torturer convicted of three counts of homicide, has served his jail time and completed his probationary period in Arizona. Now he’s back in his old home in Carlsbad California and is giving interviews again to the uncritical media and speaking publicly. And of course, continuing to cut a path of destruction through the lives of his customers.

But there has been at least one change in this recurring nightmare. In his new blog post, he has rejected all of his previous teachings. That’s right all of them!

None of his fawning supporters have noticed it, but there it is in black and white:

One of the biggest fallacies for the students of the Law of Attraction (that became so popular all over the world a few years ago), is the belief that “If I understand the LOA, and execute it perfectly… then nothing bad, ugly or challenging will ever happen again in my life.” This is a lack of understanding; an illusion of the grandest proportions.

An illusion of the grandest proportions. But this illusion is exactly what James Ray had been teaching up until now. This is what he wrote in The Science of Success, (which I wrote about just last month):

Anyone on Earth can apply this science, and it will make them successful every time. 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...

So there you have it folks. James Ray now says that the product he used to sell is “an illusion of the grandest proportions” Write and demand your money back (ha ha).

This won’t bother his supporters of course. It didn’t bother them when he failed to act according to his own teachings in court, and it didn’t bother them when his own claim of “mastery” was contradicted by his jail time. So it won’t bother them that Ray’s new teachings contradict the old ones. (The product he is promoting isn’t really a set of teachings anyway. Rather, what Ray is selling is his own persona; and that product has proven itself to be completely reality-proof.)

It will, however, bother his potential customers, and it is for them that I will briefly outline a few things about the product James Ray is offering.

The law of attraction, of course, does not exist. Those who teach it (at least the famous ones like those who appeared in The Secret) know this and do not attempt to use it in their own lives. This is demonstrated by the infighting and acrimonious court cases, cut throat business practices, blatant fraud, and general nastiness they all engage in.

Attempting to apply this nonexistent “law” to your own life is dangerous. It makes you overestimate your potential resources and your control over reality. Most importantly, it makes you ignore events that you would have recognized as a warning sign if you were using plain common sense. The course that James Ray’s life has taken over the last decade or so illustrates such failures clearly.

Participants in Ray’s events were injured doing the risky “motivational” exercises he was giving them. He ignored the complaints, the broken limbs, the cut faces, etc. Then a participant, Colleen Conaway, died during one of his events. Any sane person using basic common sense would realize that they are not only risking the health and lives of others, but their own business interests as well. Ray lied to police about Colleen’s death and managed to avoid any criminal charges, but failed to recognize that he was asking for trouble.

Two and a half months later, Ray found himself lying to police again. This time his lies didn’t work. (He claimed that he was not in charge of the deadly fake sweat lodge that killed three and sent two dozen to hospital, and — incredibly — tried to blame it on the fire keeper. This pattern of inventing excuses and lying to shift the blame onto others continued throughout his trial, and is still going on today.)

Ray claims that he did not know that people were in distress during the sweat lodge (in which he crammed about 60 people into a low, dark sweltering tent from which there was no escape (the sides were secured), and in which he controlled the air supply and the only exit.

Well actually, he doesn’t always claim he didn’t know that people were in distress. During the pre-trial investigation his lawyers claimed that, but they dropped the claim soon after reading the witness testimony. In court, that line of defense was not raised. What came out was witness after witness saying that Ray both heard and responded to people calling out that numerous people were in trouble, wanted to leave, had passed out, were not breathing. He refused to help and simply closed the exit and kept going.

It seems to me to be entirely likely that he had a narcissistic belief that “everything happens as it should” and it’s up to the universe to pull people back from the brink of death, that any deaths would be for the “highest good” of the victims. He felt no responsibility to follow through on his promise that people were safe and would be cared for should they pass out. He does seem to have spiritual ideas about out-of-body or near death experiences, and was probably trying to induce altered mental states through heat stroke.

His recklessness not only killed three more people, but also ruined his business, his finances, cost him his freedom for two years and stained his record with three convictions for negligent homicide.

The only way to make money with the nonexistent law of attraction is by selling it to others and taking their money. You can then point to that money and success as evidence that the law of attraction indeed does exist. But Ray can’t really do that anymore, can he — he turned his own in life into a quagmire. He’s a failure, and it’s entirely his own stupid fault. So instead of the law of attraction, he has suddenly invented a brand new “Law of Polarity”. (*See Update 2 below.) This is something makes bad things to happen to nice innocent homicidal psychopaths like James, for mystical higher purposes. Here’s the relevant sample of James Ray’s profound wisdom. Fasten your seat belts….

I was speaking to a group recently, and I reminded them that every coin has two sides—both a heads and a tails. You absolutely cannot have one without the other. This principle in the world of physics is called the Law of Polarity.

James Ray is on safe ground with the bit about the coins — that doesn’t over extend his 8th grade mathematical abilities. But the rest of it is nonsense. I would suggest people take a short cut avoiding both the law of attraction and the Law of Polarity and follow something called the Law of Common Sense instead. Common sense is wrong sometimes too of course, but it’s a LOT safer than any of Ray’s teachings.

Ray and his bullish, cut-throat and greedy supporters want to convince you that Ray’s “suffering” in jail was a deep mystery.

It’ll probably take the rest of my days to even begin to understand and describe all that I’ve been gifted to see and experience.

But it’s no mystery and it needs no cosmic laws or quantum physics to explain. Ray was convicted and went to jail because he cooked three people to death and stood there gawping while others were desperately administering CPR. Then he went and had a shower. He was sitting in his undies eating a sandwich when the police knocked on his door. Then he tried to blame it all on Ted the fire keeper. And now he wants to tell you that he is a wise expert on human life. 

Below is a video of part of state prosecutor Sheila Polk’s summing up from Ray’s trial In it she lists the pathetic attempts at evading the charges that Ray’s attorneys made. In fact she spent more time on them than the defense did in their summing up

Sheila Polk: “Three people are dead because of the conduct and the actions of this man, James Ray. They are dead because he intentionally used heat to create an altered state and he was criminally reckless about the consequences. To use the words of the manslaughter statute, they are dead because James Ray consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his conduct would cause death…”

(The jury, prevented from knowing of Colleen Conaway’s prior death or of previous life threatening sweat lodge events, eventually convicted Ray of the lesser charges of homicide.)

Update 1As always, the Salty Droid has the background story on Ray’s slippery, slimey return to grace with the uncritical media.

Update 2: LaVaughn has pointed out in the comments that Ray has in fact used ideas about “polarity” in the past, and reminded me that this was even alluded to in the “Letters of Support” sent to the judge in Ray’s trial. Ray follower, Wendy Benkowski had this to say:

James has integrity and his message has integrity. I am witnessing the power of his spoken word. I am witnessing the shadow side of Harmonic Wealth. The 2009 Spiritual Warrior Retreat is a great lesson. The LESSON has touched the consciousness of the world. I respect and honor the sacrifice of Liz, Kirby, and James. I request compassion for my friend James Ray.

Potential customers should note this. If Ray causes your death, it will be considered a “sacrifice”, according to his teachings. My apologies to the bereaved for posting that again, should they happen to read it again here.

Posted by Yakaru


Skeptic Fail #1: Michael Shermer fails to debunk the Law of Attraction

September 28, 2013

I probably should have started this series a long time ago. but I didn’t. I guess I wanted to “focus on the positive”. For many years I’ve only felt able to shake my head at some of the things that professional skeptics do, and simply focus on the good skeptic work — done mostly by amateur “skeptic” bloggers or by professionals who aren’t dependent on skepticism for their income.

I also don’t pay much attention to what professional skeptics and their organizations are doing, and I don’t see any reason to start. But some of their failures do need to be pointed out, as do the blind spots inherent in the usual skeptical approach to many issues.

So let’s start with a generally disgraceful piece of failed skepticism which looks more like a pathetic attempt at self-promotion by Michael Shermer. He attempts to debunk the — dangerous and wrong — “Law of Attraction” as presented in The Secret. Unfortunately he ignores one of the most basic rules of skepticism, in that he didn’t sufficiently research, and therefore doesn’t understand, the idea he is criticizing. The result is that he winds up making a video that would be more likely to reinforce the belief in the Law of Attraction. This is known in the business as a failure.

The segment starts with Shermer and another professional skeptic Brian Dalton having a mock argument about whether or not the law of attraction applies to sick people or people who have had an accident. Did they attract it? Dalton pretends to believe they must have done, and Shermer plays the role of the believer who says it doesn’t apply to sick people.

Had they done a modicum of research they would have discovered almost instantly that, yes, the law of attraction says that you will attract anything you focus on, wanted or unwanted. Every single law of attraction teacher on the planet insists that you do indeed manifest negative things if you are not careful. Thus — 

“The law of attraction works whether you believe in it or not, just like the law of gravity, so buy this product and learn how to use it for yourself.”

I’m stunned that neither Shermer nor Dalton have heard that line….. That’s the basis of the whole fucking scam!

They suck you in with promising to show you how to manifest your dreams and then try to scare the pants off you with the information that you are manifesting things all the time whether you like it or not, so you better watch what you think.

This is why the idea is such a trap. All criticism of it is considered by a believer to be inherently “negative” and therefore dangerous and to be avoided lest one attract negativity into ones life. And it is based on fear — the fear that your greatest fears will become a reality if you don’t strictly control your thoughts. The Secret was carefully designed both to disable critical thinking (by presenting it as if it’s a gift from a child) and to trigger deep-seated fears in people (with numerous images of people being hunted and burned alive), without the viewer realizing what they were getting themselves into.

And Shermer and Dalton missed all of that. They don’t know what they are up against. And they are clearly oblivious to the amount of damage this idea has caused to the lives of millions of people who have tried to use it.

These two have clearly invested a lot of time, effort and money in making this video. It’s filmed in a professional studio and has obviously been scripted. They even went to the trouble of queuing up footage of chickens for the exact moment in their scripted banter when Dalton calls Shermer a “chicken”. Really funny guys. Jeez, you blokes are a laugh a minute aren’t you.

4Skeptic humor from Brian Dalton: “You’re a chicken buckaaark”

More disturbing is their sequence in which they try to “manifest” a parking space.

Shermer introduces the sequence with a smirk: “So we’re here in a parking lot with Jen…. who’s a big believer in the law of attraction.”


That’s right, two guys, both of whom have a bad reputation for manipulative dealings women have got “Jen” in the back seat of a car in a parking lot and are leering at her from the front.

This pointless and unfortunate sequence has an added piece of stupidity from Shermer which is more in the realm of normal every day poor educational practice than sexism or incompetence. Namely, he says that with Jen visualizing a parking spot, that if they find one “then clearly something is going on.” For Shermer this is just a normal over-stated “strictly for TV” Penn & Teller style mock experiment for entertainment purposes only. But it is also exactly the kind of half-baked “experiment” that millions of law of attraction believers have carried out themselves and experienced “success” with. Any believer in the LoA will simply be nodding their head at this and wondering when Shermer is going to challenge their beliefs. Again, I am stunned that Shermer doesn’t know this.

The scene ends with an abrupt cut back to the studio, with the joke that Jen was so worried about Dalton’s driving that she manifested an accident. (A further bit of patronizing and sexist tastelessness has Dalton joking that the only reason she didn’t want to work with them anymore was because she didn’t like Shermer’s beret.)

Then it gets even more tasteless and disturbing with a sequence in which they get a small child to visualize a bike, and she winds up (fictitiously) getting hit by one and taken to hospital. Again, a believer would be nodding at this and saying, “Yep, that’s why you gotta learn to do it right.” Why are they doing this?

They sum up.


If good things happen because people will it, doesn’t that mean bad things also happen because people will it? Do you really think that things like disease and terror attacks happen because people will it on themselves? I don’t think so.

Excuse me, is this supposed to be skepticism? Is this the best you guys can come up with against the most malevolent, ruthless and above all most successful piece of spiritual mass manipulation in decades? — An unwitting confirmation of its main premise; a replication of exactly the kind of experiment that appears to confirm it; and lamely countering it with the phrase “I don’t think so”?

It’s so easy to assume that the only reason why people believe “weird things” is because the human brain tends to make logical fallacies. But that is to ignore virtually the whole of behavioral psychology. It also underestimates the role of manipulation and above all the ruthlessness of people willing to exploit others by what ever means are possible. Shermer and Dalton are way out of their depth with these issues.

Part 2 looks more closely at manipulation

Posted by Yakaru


James Ray – The Prison Want Ads

May 21, 2013

James Arthur Ray, motivational speaker and star of The Secret, was found guilty of negligent homicide and sentenced to two years jail, after he cooked three people to death in a bogus sweatlodge in 2009. He is due for release on July 12 this year.


I have been wondering what James Ray will do upon his release. I’ve been expecting a slippery, slithery return to business, aimed at new customers and avoiding mention of what he’s been up to lately. Also, there are those who have clung onto him so far, hoping to grab a bargain business deal from a fallen dictator. They will be flooding the atmosphere with good vibes about Ray, and promoting exploitive “business opportunities” to the most vulnerable end of the market they can find.

That’s all still to come. But first up, the parole board requires Ray to remain in Arizona for 110 days after his release. That might pose some logistic difficulties for him I guess, but James Arthur Ray, author of Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want is an expert in using quantum physics and the Law of Attraction to get everything — yes everything — he wants… and you can too.

Or not.

Actually things don’t seem to be going so Harmonically well for Death Ray. He doesn’t know where he’s going to stay in Arizona for that time and has been reduced to getting his brother, Jon C Ray, to beg to other people for money, support and a couch to sleep on. An email which Jon Ray sent out privately has fallen into the hands of the activist blogger and kick ass fake robot the Salty Droid, who kindly featured it on his website:

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A Short Note on the Politics of the Law of Attraction

November 7, 2012

Over at the “Post-Abe” blog, Mariah (who sometimes comments here) has an interesting post about yet another way that the Law of Attraction disempowers its believers — this time in the realm of politics. Here’s a link to it.

The “Abe” referred to in the blog name, by the way, is “Abraham”, a spiritual entity made famous by the channeler (i.e. liar), Esther Hicks. Curiously (i.e. stupidly), the term “Abraham” is not singular, but plural. It refers to a curious collection of disembodied and diffuse invertebrates which at different times includes Buddha, Jesus and Mohamed (as well as others).

One might expect such a diverse group of critters like these to have trouble finding any common ground. At times they certainly do appear to be rather ignorant and undecided about their own teachings — in fact, it’s almost as if it’s being made up on the spot by a poorly educated and hucksterish ex-Mormon who’s being promoted by her Amway trained husband — but as it happens, there is one thing they always agree on: the Law of Attraction. I guess they only discovered it after they died. But the important thing is Buddha, Jesus and Mohamed got to lend their prestigious names to the “Abraham” label, even if their previous knowledge and talents have been completely subsumed by this corporate giant.

Anyway, before I go too far off topic, I wanted to highlight a point that Mariah made about the LoA and the current US presidential election. She noted that followers of Abraham (which she has cutely dubbed “Hicksians”) have been lately telling her that there’s no need to vote. Instead she should get into the “vortex” (this is another Abe teaching) and use the LoA to create the reality she wants.

Mariah answers them:

While you’re out there ignoring what you don’t like and pretending you’re in the {imaginary} vortex and not caring about politics, the ones who are paying attention are the ones making things happen. There’s irony there.

People believing they create their own reality, but not actually doing so… while their world is created around them by the people who are paying attention. Dang, these are disempowering teachings! 

If the overwhelming majority of LoA fans were potential Republican voters, then keeping them away from the polling booths would probably be the only good thing that has EVER come from the stupid and ugly Law of Attraction. Certainly the LoA is much closer to the immoral and stupid Republican platform on issues like rape, birth control, health insurance, global warming, environmental protection and foreign aid. The more I think about it, the more I feel like saying to LoA fanatics, “Okay guys, right! Don’t vote, don’t insure yourselves, and above all don’t open your stupid mouth in public ever again either. Got it?”


Subliminal Advertising in The Secret (Part 4) — In Bed With Einstein

September 8, 2012

In the earlier posts (see Part 1), we saw how the advertisers who made The Secret used various standard advertising tricks to sell Rhonda Byrne’s story and turn her audience into active promoters as well as consumers of the product. In this post, as well as some more subliminal images and some good old-fashioned lying, we will notice the way discovering The Secret has been carefully constructed around the framework of a sexual encounter….

The film makers face their most difficult challenge in this section of the film. They have built up an entirely bogus story linking “The Secret” with ancient mystical traditions, and upped its value by claiming that people were burned alive in order for you to see it; and that the content you are about to see is the first time these ancient life secrets have ever been revealed to a mass audience.

The stage will finally be set for the dramatic entrance of The Secret’s teachers with a triumphal sequence which reaches its climax with the entirely bogus claim that Albert Einstein “knew The Secret”….

….And then somehow they have to make the transition to Bob Proctor, a man who believes no one knows how electricity works, and that receiving social benefits will alter your DNA.

But I want to back track slightly and pick up a sexually related image that I missed in the previous post.

I speculated about the possibility that the film makers used the only white sheet of paper in the entire film to present an image that looked like a child being tucked in to bed, thus reinforcing the association of The Secret with a child. The person in sequence who laid that sheet of paper over the Emerald Tablet was the young man with shoulder length hair. But in the actual sequence, Rhonda Byrne’s hair has been photoshopped over the man’s hair. (Not so clear in this still, but it’s carried through three frames. Click on the images to enlarge.)


Rhonda is making a bed and is about to lie on it. (Or lay in it, for US readers. Lying or laying, they both have appropriate double meanings.)

Rhonda Byrne, we shall see is going to need to go to bed with Albert Einstein in order for the film makers to ease the transition from the great men of history to a bunch of successful, fraudulent, backstabbing losers.

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Subliminal Advertising in The Secret (Part 3) — Be positive & get burned alive

September 2, 2012

My apologies for the rather ghoulish title, but that’s what The Secret is about. As we will see in this post, one of the strongest messages buried in this opening sequence is that people were burned so that YOU could have the product that Rhonda Byrne wants to sell you.

This message is left subtly implied rather than overtly stated, because you’re not supposed to be thinking “Well if The Secret will give me everything I want, then why did so many people who knew it previously get roasted?” Instead they want people to feel the intensity of the flames and feel the fear all at a subconscious level.

The Secret runs on subconscious fear just as much as it runs on appeals to hope and greed. The latter two are masked by claims that they are simply telling you the facts: The universe really IS a massive conspiracy to make you rich…. Or to break you. It all depends on how you use the Law of Attraction, and these mystical heroes are willing to sell you the secret key.

The parallel with the Dark Ages and Catholic Church selling indulgences to rescue people from the flames of hell, will become even clearer in this post.

The use of subliminal images in the film (already explored in Part 1 and Part 2) not only reveals the film makers’ contempt for the audience; it also reveals the way in which they attempt to manipulate people into reacting in certain ways. Subliminal advertising seems to have only limited effects in very limited contexts, but following it frame by frame provides a glimpse in to the thoughts and intentions of the film makers. It shows the way they have stitched the whole fabric of lies, distortions, fear-mongering and emotional blackmail together.

Of course, no advertiser would be worth his salt if he didn’t use plenty of sexual innuendo, and that is where we will start.

Remember, so far we are barely 40 seconds into the film, in this the third post in this series. The viewer has little idea how much information they have swallowed up to this point.


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Subliminal Advertising in The Secret: (Part 2) — Frightened Eyes and a Dollar Bill

August 14, 2012

Welcome to the second installment of this in-depth look at subliminal advertising and manipulative persuasion techniques in the first few minutes of The Secret.

Part 1, which should be read first to understand what’s going on, got us about 35 seconds into the film. The focus in this post is on a short burst of images of less than two seconds’ duration.

But first, let’s back up half a second or so, and look at an image I left out from the end of the last post.

It’s worth emphasizing that the film aims to make the viewer identify with Rhonda Byrne’s character. Later we will see Byrne wishing to “share this Secret with the world”. The viewer is tacitly instructed to do the same, and is immediately given an avenue to act this out: the complete film was initially released on You Tube, and viewers were invited to share it with their friends, “as a gift”. This concept is called viral marketing and the strategy for The Secret was developed by Dan Hollings

Anyway, that’s why I kept pointing out in the last post that they were careful to use visuals to get the viewer to see Byrne handling a what looks like a video as well as a book. (See above image.)

I also emphasized the “OXOX” (hugs & kisses) on the note from Byrne’s child as a theme which will recur. Remember that Byrne has just told us her father died, and a male face appeared behind her as she finds the “gift”. Look what happens to that OXOX as she opens the book – it now appears to spell out DADX. (I might be writing a bit much into that, but we’ll see more on this father theme soon.)

This is all quite subtle. But more crass, blatant and brutal subliminals are about to come. (*NB the focus here is on what these methods reveal about the intentions of the film makers. There’s little evidence for the effectiveness of such techniques.)

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