Is James Arthur Ray’s self-help empire just a personal money machine?

sweat lodgeThe more details emerge about the practices of self-help guru James Arthur Ray, the more it appears, at least to me, that getting enormously rich is his real motivation.

The steep fees he charges for his appearances and products, the poor quality of services he provided for at the retreat, the lack of attention to and respect for Native American practices and traditions, and the refusal to reimburse the dissatisfied or the victims for their substantial costs all indicate that one thing, above all else,–not helping people become wealthy or spiritually enlightened–is what James Arthur Ray is focused upon: making money.

Incidentally, there’s not a single report that I can find that anyone, including the people who were killed, got their “Spiritual Warrior” fees returned. I’m sure their families could use the $10,000 in this difficult time.

Sweat Lodge Deaths: A Sedona Spa GM’s View
Monday October 19, 2009

I just had a chat with Ed Conway, general manager of Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, about the sweat lodge deaths. Coincidentally, he met with James Ray, who was looking at hotels in the area for doing other events, right before the “Spiritual Warrior” seminar, which left three people dead.

Conway has no direct knowledge of what happened, but as a manager he was critical of the lack of medical back-up during the sweat lodge. “When you collect $650,000, you can afford $30,000 for an emergency medical vehicle and a doctor. They even have an emergency vehicle at football games.” He says it was particularly important because Angel Valley Retreat Center is in a remote setting, 20 miles outside of Sedona and another three or four miles down a dirt road.

As a manager, he estimated the facility rental around $30,000, and food costs would have been low because there was fasting. To him, that meant the seminar was very low on expenses and very high on profit. “It seems to have just been a money-making scheme for him.”

I’d like to take a second here and add this tidbit: how much did it cost the millionaire and his empire to get the highlighted event site, the sweat lodge, built in order to challenge and educate his “Spiritual Warriors”? Would you believe probably about a thousand bucks?

Michael and Amayra Hamilton are the founders of the Angel Valley Retreat Center. At the Sheriff’s press conference, held on Thursday, October 15, other people, simply identified as the Mercers, were said to actually build the sweat lodge.

According to YCSO, the Mercers typically built sweat lodges for the Angel Valley center, and in the Group Retreat Terms and Conditions, they offer “Additional Options Made Available at Extra Charge” at the top of page 3. In that list, you read, “Sweat Lodge: $900-$1300, for up to 75 people, without or with facilitator and fire tender(s)”.

Back to Ed:

Conway also felt that the sweat lodge itself was not handled in an authentic or professional manner. “Why not hire a Native-American? I’m not saying we would do a sweat lodge, but if we did, we’d bring in the experts.”


A Native American writer at blackhillsportal.com posted this:

Native American Chief Addresses Deaths In Sweat Lodge
Chief Arvol Looking Horse Speaks Out

A white man, James Arthur Ray, who owns a company called Spiritual Warrior charges 60 people almost $10,000 each, or more than a half a million dollars, then directs them not to eat or drink for three days before allowing them to cook in a sweat lodge. Each person is then allowed only a space equivalent to two foot by 3 foot space to sit until they “see the light” or die! His Twitter site even says “something must die before something new can be born”

felon james rayHow many things are wrong here? Well first this traditional Native American event is truly a spiritual event, not a “For Profit Event”. Second, the true event is held by a person of native indian descent who have knowledge and understandings of the nature of the spiritual journey. It appears that once again greed interfered with common sense. Why would anyone pay these outrages fees to be conducted by someone who doesn’t even know or understand the spiritual meaning or significance?

One must ask what James Arthur Ray, a self proclaimed wealth builder, of non Native American descent, from southern California has to do with Native American spiritual growth? Ray’s company, James Ray International, is based in Carlsbad, California and brags of raising profits of over 500% last year. He holds two hour wealth building seminars around the country for up to 2000 people for $2000 per person, that’s 2 million an hour, not bad!…

Arvol Looking Horse, a 19th Generation, Keeper of our Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, says, “I am concerned for the 2 deaths and illnesses of the many people that participated in a sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona that brought our sacred rite under fire in the news. I would like to clarify that this lodge and many others, are not our ceremonial way of life, because of the way they are being conducted. My prayers go out for their families and loved ones for their loss.

Our ceremonies are about life and healing, from the time this ancient ceremonial rite was given to our people, never has death been a part of our inikag¹a (life within) when conducted properly. Today the rite is interpreted as a sweat lodge, it is much more than that. So the term does not fit our real meaning of purification…

Our First Nations People have to earn the right to pour the mini wic¹oni (water of life) upon the inyan oyate (the stone people) in creating Inikag¹a – by going on the vision quest for four years and four years Sundance. Then you are put through a ceremony to be painted – to recognize that you have now earned that right to take care of someone¹s life through purification. They should also be able to understand our sacred language, to be able to understand the messages from the Grandfathers, because they are ancient, they are our spirit ancestors. They walk and teach the values of our culture; in being humble, wise, caring and compassionate.

What has happened in the news with the make shift sauna called the sweat lodge is not our ceremonial way of life!

When you do ceremony – you can not have money on your mind. We deal with the pure sincere energy to create healing that comes from everyone in that circle of ceremony…


A commenter at a previous post here claimed to have unfortunate first-hand knowledge of James Arthur Ray’s ‘spiritual’ and business practices. Donna writes:

As a one-time participant in James Ray’s “warrior” games, I experienced firsthand being put into a dangerous situation in order to “get out of my comfort zone”. I seemed the only person there, out of about 175, who saw this event for what it was, and Mr. Ray for the charlatan that he is. His good looks and charismatic personality made me think of what the early days of Jim Jones (of Jonestown in Guyana) must have been like. I’d paid $6000.00 for two seminars (I am now embarrassed to admit) and left this first one, “Creating Absolute Wealth” (for Mr. Ray, a clear success) when the absolute nakedness of the self-styled “emperor” became clear to me, and apparently, me alone. Even though I’d been verbally assured, before paying for the two seminars, that Mr. Ray would “stand behind his product” in the highly unlikely event that one would request a refund (I was told it had never happened – too bad I didn’t check the BBB first…but it was “spiritual”, right?). I was unable to get my money back either for the seminar I left OR for the other I’d prepaid that was still 6 months in the future, having decided that I did not wish to take a Quantum (or any other kind of) Leap with Mr. Ray. I am sorry, but not surprised, that Mr. Ray’s utter ego-maniacal self-interest has now cost lives. I hope he has to pay for this, at least, and I hope it is with his time, and not his money.


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3 thoughts Is James Arthur Ray’s self-help empire just a personal money machine?

  1. avatar Lynn says:

    Thank you for staying on top of this horrible man. I’m really surprised that nothing at all has come out regarding the 2-day event he just held this weekend. SOMEONE must have attended that who has something to say….

    Is no one watching this guy–why aren’t the paparazzi hounding him? You see 50 or more paparazzi surrounding every big celebrity, but no one is hanging around to catch this jerk outside his expensive seminars? I don’t get it.

  2. avatar M. Ray says:

    I sincerely hope James has to answer for his actions with both money and time. He needs to be both incarcerated and have his bank accounts siezed. It embarrasses me to have the same last name as him, and being of Native American descent and familiar with the sweat lodge ceremony, he was an idiot to have people fast before the ceremony and then to cram that many people into his make-shift lodge. I also think, (not wanting to offend anyone with this comment,) that Oprah should has some culpability as well in the disaster, as she encouraged and vouched for the man on her show.

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