UPDATE on sweat lodge sacrilege. The words of a survivor.

Among us Pagans, a popular joke is “what is the difference between a New Age and a
Pagan workshop?”

“Two decimal places.”

When I read of the deaths of two people in a ‘spiritual’ sweat
lodge retreat
I was reminded of the death of a friend
of mine, alone in a sweat lodge.


It seems even more abusive and incompetent than I imagined.  The sweat lodge is a wonderful sacred practice when done by people who respect it and know what they are doing.  In my view it is defiled by people such as Ray.

But as I read more, I was utterly appalled. Sixty-four people were crammed inside the lodge. Twenty one people required medical treatment. Two died and one remains in critical condition as of when the story appeared. The article mentioned that some participants had paid $9000 for the workshop that ended with this sweat.


No wonder the thing was crammed with 64 people. It was the New Age equivalent of derivatives. Even minus two decimal places $90 is too much for a sweat. As one Crow sweat leader/healer told me “I’ve been paid for my healing with everything from a hand shake to a new car.”

I have been in sweats run both by white folks trained traditionally, and by traditional Native Americans. They were never used as money generating machines, and they and their immediate aftermath were sometimes very powerful and transformative. They were serious undertakings for all concerned. I would never venture to conduct one without training by someone who knew what he was doing.

Further, it would have been impossible to get 64 people inside a traditional sweat lodge.

Then I searched out the website for the leader, James Arthur Ray. What a crock. What an utter travesty of spirituality. What an obscene event in the purest sense of that word. The entire appeal was to ego and wealth. My sympathy for the dead and injured remains – but they got a valuable lesson in mixing Spirit with the desire for wealth, status, and power.

As Ray himself put it 

There is no sacrifice–only greater and more magnificent results, wealth, adventure and fulfillment.

You owe it to the rest of your life to get to Spiritual Warrior as quickly as you can. The investment is ONLY $9695 per person.

So it was apparently even more than $9000. 

But then, when I looked at Google to see who this guy really is, in his own statement, the first concrete thing he mentioned was

James is President and CEO of his own multi-million dollar corporation, James Ray International (JRI), which was named to Inc. Magazine’s coveted Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies in the September 2009 issue, reaching a remarkable 547.4% growth over the previous three years.

Spirit has sent a pretty clear message to this joker and the people who thought they could buy their way to wisdom.

I am very tolerant of different spiritual approaches, even ones with lots of hokum.  But there are limits.  In this case I wish the lawyers good pickings.  May they feast well. 

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