Sweat lodge deaths – James Arthur Ray found guilty

James Arthur Ray at the trial

A short opinion piece on the continuing trial of James Arthur Ray.

The sweat lodge deaths in Sedona have been discussed on MOTO before,  here and here. News just at hand is that Mr Ray has been found guilty on three charges of negligent homicide. He was found not guilty on the three more serious charges of manslaughter.

I have followed these events because for me they highlight certain aspects of western culture and spirituality we cannot ignore. As I mentioned in my first post on this subject, ultimately we are all connected to this tragedy, all in some way responsible. If we had not created such a spiritually impoverished culture people would not rush off and spend $10 000 on dangerous and spiritually dubious new age events. If we had created strong and public western mystical and magical traditions, there would be no need to spiritually appropriate from native traditions. If we created loving and nurturing family and educational structures, people would not be so dis-empowered they would stay in danger, risking their lives to please or obey their leader.

Personally, I am very happy with the verdict so far – the jury will consider soon if aggravating circumstances were involved in the deaths, something which will greatly influence sentencing. I am glad guilt has been ascribed to Mr Ray. This will, I hope, make other people seriously consider their leadership and participation in dangerous spiritual events in the future, ensuring more safety. I also hope it will deter further cultural theft from native traditions for new age gain.

I am pleased that the negligent homicide conviction allows for probation. While not underestimating the desire for justice from the victims’ family and friends, I see no good coming from a custodial sentence for Mr Ray. He is of no further danger, has suffered and lost much already. I doubt a custodial sentence over a probationary one would further prevent similar tragedies in the future. Still, I can quite see why others would disagree…

I hope and pray some good comes from all this.


Thanks to the Wild Hunt for keeping me up to date on this 🙂



  1. chonying · June 23, 2011

    Do you think it’s possible to have polytheistic nontheism?


  2. Peregrin · June 27, 2011

    Hi Chonying,

    I think the whole of Tibetan Buddhism and the interplay between Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal and other countries shows a real definite ‘yes’ to your question 🙂 thanks

  3. Louis · June 29, 2011

    I disagree. I mean I agree with your arguments on society – I think that ‘celebrity’ culture is a lot to blame for trusting someone who is not qualified. If there was no celebrity culture people would have to prove with their deeds/apprenticeship that they could be trusted.

    But I disagree that Ray has lost enough. There was already one death previously Colleen Conaway who family and friends say died while on another of James Ray’s excursions but was simply ignore. Has he learnt his lesson? I don’t think so, without a custodial sentence he will always think he is above the law due to the ‘power of his mind’.

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