Jun 23, 2011

James Arthur Ray: Guilty Verdicts and Responsibility

Bob Proctor, he of Secret fame, is putting his mouth front and center in the wake of James Ray's guilty verdict.

"Anybody had the right to leave there (the sweat lodge), and they didn't. Some did," Proctor said. "It was a tragic thing that happened, but I don't think (Ray) should be the one that's held responsible.

Earlier, when he was interviewed on In Session, Proctor allowed that Ray had law of attracted this for some reason. I guess the most generous reading of Proctor's logic is to say that Ray was spiritually responsible but not materially or legally responsible. He attracted this debacle, maybe because he let himself think some unhappy thoughts. Why, oh why, didn't he put on some happy music and chase the negativity from his mind?

In a 2007 interview with Dan Harris James Ray articulated his views on the issue of personal responsibility. He even put the statement on his website.

In an interview, Ray answered about personal responsibility, “I fully know, for me, that there is no blame. Every single thing is your responsibility … and nothing is your fault. Because every single thing that comes to you is gift … a lesson.”

There is nothing new or original in that statement. It's the boilerplate response to the kinds of hard questions Dan Harris has distinguished himself among journalists for asking about the law of attraction philosophy Ray represents. (If you haven't seen his Primetime: Mind Games show on the sweat lodge tragedy, I highly recommend that you take an hour and do so.)

I heard a lot of the same kinds of statements when I was just a whippersnapper in this new age arena. I heard them because I asked the same kinds of questions. The blame the victim implications of law of attraction beliefs never sat right with me. And the kind of response, articulated in that for instance by Ray, has always sounded like so much parsing to me. It's just playing at semantics.

See if you can follow the logic here. Where's my Secret decoder ring... As per Joe Vitale, there are no victims in the Haiti earthquake. The Haitians are responsible because of their negative thoughts. But as per Bob Proctor, James Ray is not responsible for the deaths of three people even though in exchange for their money and volunteered service, he packed them into an "hellacious hot" tent and urged them to "transcend" their feelings of impending death. The self-described master of the lodge proceeded to dismiss concerns called out by people who thought that Kirby Brown and Liz Neuman were in trouble, and said they'd take care of unconscious people after they were done. Then he ordered more heated rocks and poured more buckets of water. And when the ceremony was over and people were running around trying to save lives by dragging people out, calling 911, and performing CPR, Ray cooled himself under a tree, chatted on a cell phone to someone other than 911, and then went back to his room for shower and a sandwich.

I guess you could say he was not responsible... in the sense that he acted totally irresponsibly.

I also think it's interesting that Proctor doesn't just say that Ray isn't responsible. He implies that someone else should be held responsible. I can only assume from the context that he's referring to James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman. After all, they could have left. Others did. And we're right back to the same blame the victim idiocy I've come to expect from adherents of the The Secret. Every one of us is responsible for our own reality and only our own reality. We don't actually have any impact on other people. We're just in our own little worlds, making our own choices, and living with the consequences.

In this case, the choice made by these three was to take Ray at his word and do what he asked of them; what he reminded everyone they had paid for.

I remember years ago, I belonged to a healing circle and one of the leaders did something inappropriate that hurt and angered someone. I don't even remember what it was. He acknowledged his error but explained that it was part of that other person's learning experience that he had drawn to himself. I found that explanation stunning. What kind of spiritual teaching says, Hey, I did you wrong, but you're creating your reality so you need to take responsibility for the wrong I did to you. You're welcome!

Such is the crazy, fun-house mirror world of the new age arena, in which everyone is responsible but the teachers, the leaders, the gurus. And we're only really responsible for the experiences we draw to ourselves; not the wrongs we do to other people.

That's the punchline on Proctor's statement and on Ray's behavior. It doesn't even surprise me. I've seen it all before... except for the gruesome, horrible death part.

How much differently might all of this played out if Ray had taken actual, no kidding responsibility for his actions... and inaction? What if he'd made a plea agreement, admitted his guilt in the sweat lodge deaths, apologized, and made some restitution to the families. This whole thing would have gone a lot easier... on him. He wouldn't have blown through his fortune paying legal fees. He wouldn't have attracted as much media attention. He would not have burned so many bridges with former students or made total enemies of the bereaved.

I have said for years that the fatal flaw of The Secret is that it's all about the glorification of the ego. You can have whatever you want. You can be whatever you want. And it's all through the power of your mind... in other words, the power of your ego.

James Ray is a shining example of what happens when the ego runs completely amok. And he's just crashed and burned on his own grandiosity.

"My feelings on it are James Ray was totally bogus. None of his credentials panned out," [Kim] Brinkley said. "We walked into that sweat lodge believing in his training, paid for his knowledge and wisdom, which was all false. Whether or not he goes to jail, somehow, this will force James Ray to take responsibility."

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.