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Breaking news: Transcript of private call between James Ray and sweat lodge victims
October 15, Cassandra Yorgey
Mind control is a subject commonly found in works of speculative fiction, but rarely in reality. Self-help guru James Arthur Ray is the latest to use mind-control, called coercive persuasion among psychologists, in the sweat lodge tragedy that occurred last week. James Ray is currently under investigation for two deaths and 19 additional hospitalizations that occurred at his Spiritual Warrior Retreat last week in Sedona, AZ during the sweat lodge portion.
Last night James Ray made his first public statement regarding the tragedy and today he had a conference call that was only for the victims of his latest retreat-gone-wrong. Why does James Ray want to have private communication with his victims? What is he hiding? It would appear that he is psychologically tampering with witnesses as well as continuing to hit them up for money, trying to enroll them into more of his programs, and giving them bad advice. What proof do I have of this? Today I received a transcript of this call from a victim that wishes to remain anonymous. I have great respect and sympathy for all the victims, their families, and what they are going through in this trying time, so I will not post the transcript in its entirety. I want to protect the victims that are not yet ready to speak out but I will gladly post everything James Ray and his staff said though, because it is inexcusable and he must be brought to accountability.
The call started with Greg (a staff member) explaining the purpose of the call was to bring closure to the retreat and to give James Ray a chance to interact with everyone. Next, Greg introduced Katie Carlson as an international follower of James Ray and strongly urged everyone to seek guidance about this tragedy with her, even though she is not certified as a counselor. I’d like to repeat that because of the crazy factor – he urged people to consult someone who is in no way certified in the fields of therapy. Why would he refer trauma victims to a non-professional to cope with this tragedy? Because James Ray and his staff kept stressing the importance of turning to others in the James Ray community for support, or as James Ray kept referring to his followers “Harmonic minded individuals”. This is a huge warning sign of cult activities – turning to unqualified people for help only because they are members. Cults focus their members inwards in an attempt to cut off outside influences.
“Harmonic minded individuals” is bad enough but another phrase James Ray and staff kept using was “those who have fallen ill” apparently he is choosing to portray this as some sort of disease or sickness, as opposed to the reality - they are suffering from overexposure to dangerous levels of heat that is a direct consequence of James Ray’s actions in the sweat lodge. Even more astounding is how many victims were agreeing with James Ray, even though they themselves are still recovering from injuries he imposed upon them. This raises serious questions about the levels of indoctrination James Ray has achieved among his followers – they are willing to support him even after he almost killed them. Some even espoused the near death experience as transformative and praised James Ray for it, even while they discussed the physical problems they are still struggling to overcome. I have heard similar sentiments from other people who suffered from the effects of coercive persuasion – cult members, abused teenagers from wilderness therapy programs, etc.
The words of the staff are bad enough, but barely scratch the surface of what James Ray himself stated. He starts by saying “I really wanted to be with you all on the final night and my thoughts were consisistenly with everyone who was having challenges.” Of course, he neglects to mention why he wasn’t there with everyone, because he was not in police custody – he was on his way out of the state. Doesn’t seem like he really wanted to be there then, huh?
He goes on to say “I just kept thinking ‘I have to take care of my people’.” How he could even utter those words after his gross failure to take care of them during the retreat when they needed it is beyond me. James Ray insists to the callers that “this is something I have never been confronted with before” and George and Amayra Hamilton, the owners of Angel Valley Retreat (where the sweat lodge was held), have repeatedly backed him in news reports. However, “not been confronted” is not the same as “never happened before” and the fire department released information that something exactly like this has happened before. In 2005 a call was placed to 911 because of another sweat lodge being run by James Ray at the same Angel Valley Retreat center. Furthermore, the police are investigating James Ray’s retreats at multiple other locations.
Another catch-phrase James Ray and staff kept using is “remember your teachings” and “remind you of what you know” which he used a lot while saying “just be good to yourself. This is the most important time, its always important, to practice what you know, eat right… You gotta eat and you gotta eat healthy. You gotta get your workouts in, speaking from experience, sometimes you don't feel like it but you gotta get rest and eat right.” That’s strange advice coming from James Ray, the very same person who deprived them of food, water, and sleep for 36+ hours right before shutting them in the sweat lodge.
James continued, “As restless as your mind might be, take 15 to 20 minutes to slow down and remember who you are. Next it’s important to surround yourself with healthy harmonic minded individuals who support you and love you. Hopefully you’ve connected with support, and if you haven't please, please do because this community is coming together like never before and there is lots of support around the world. I’m sending [unclear] to all those who took ill and also those that transitioned and left this physical life, you can only give what you have and you can't give what you’re not. Again lets all remind each other of what we know.” The first part sounds like followers struggle with their sense of self unless they are around other followers, the last part of the quote doesn’t even make sense, and he wraps up with more repetition.
“I have an incredible support group in my life and it’s been invaluable. I know Greg and Megan left me a voicemail last Friday and I saved it and listen to it several times a day. It’s important to do these things. That’s why we have Katie, she has experience and knows how to do these things.” Katie is present on the call and agrees that these things are important. I guess it’s nice that James Ray listens to his friends’ messages on repeat, but I am not sure that would qualify as important in the grieving process. It is also unclear as to what Katie has contributed to the exchange, other than agreement, which means very little as she is not a qualified therapist. Nor is James Ray, while we’re discussing it.
“Now is the time to rise above the mood and use what you know. It’s OK to grieve. I feel grief, but in the midst of that you have to do the things that will keep you healthy and that are best for every one of our family members who are still ill or deceased.” Again, James Ray is heavy on the repetition. “Use what you know” is such a dangerous catchphrase because the very act of making it a catchphrase encourages people to replace actual thinking with oft spouted empty words. Notice also how he calls the victims “family members”. Most of these people only met last week, hardly long enough to form bonds of friendship, let alone familial ties. I would think it would be healthier for the victims to turn to their actual families and loved ones, but like Katie and James Ray, I am not qualified to give counseling. It would be best to ask a licensed therapist about such things.
“We all know the power of prayer, studies prove it. [Let’s have a] moment of silence for those who have taken ill and for those in recovery and for those that are family members of those who transitioned. A moment of silence to do what we will to send our brightest intentions and love to all those involved including ourselves. Envision all of us in a circle if you will. Let’s take a deep breath in. Breathe in. And out. You know what to do. Be the light in the darkness for ourselves and each other for all involved. Envision ourselves standing together in a circle, as we have so many times before, and as we stay in that circle we can press *6 to mute out our line if we’re being noisy.”
Everyone beeps their line while they follow his command.
“Take a breath in. Out. Remembering who we are and what we know. Remembering that we are here in this special time in world history to make a major positive difference in a world that needs it so much. Knowing that we can and that we are. Next breath in. And out. Loving ourselves and allowing ourselves to experience whatever we experience and loving ourselves because the only way to go beyond it is to [unclear]. We [unclear] energy in this circle, breath in and out. Remembering all that we’ve learned and experienced and knowing the laws of the universe that every [unclear] chaos comes order that never existed before the chaos, moving elegantly through chaos to facilitate the order. Knowing a higher power than what we know conciously is guiding and directing us. No matter what we feel in the moment we are guided and protected always. Imagine ourselves standing in a pyramid of light and on the next breath take all intentionality and experience into the heart and crown chakra. Through the heart of each of us here now, into the crown, out through the heart, connecting all of us here and now. Breathe in and out. Irrelevant who is here, the unconscious mind knows and the universe knows. Now that we are connected I [unclear] to heartfelt energy [unclear] infinite [unclear] to still hospitalized. To their highest good and rapid healing at whatever level that may be. Breathe in and out through heart and all those who may still be hospitalized breathing in an out. Send out to all those how have taken ill for their rapid healing and breakthrough for new level - breathe in and out through the heart. We just feel the energy going out. Individuals who transitioned out of this physical life feel love and support of God and energy to assist them in this time of grief and challenge. Breathe in and out through the hearts of families, bathing them and supporting them in this moment. Final breath back to ourselves. Support each other, re-bond this community. In and out to the hearts of each other. Vibrating and pulsating through our bodies in this moment and we step forward acting upon this moment and the laws of the universe. So be it and it is.”
“Let me say one more thing before I turn it over to Barb. Barb, *6 again to share. I did an event in L.A last night, last thing I wanted to do, would rather stay home and meditate and heal but it was the right thing to do. It was a commitment and same with San Diego tonight. Many are discussing [attending] summit, and the bottom line is i made a commitment and people are flying in. There has never been a more important time to stay dialed in to thoughts of hope, thoughts of possibility and to be reminded of the things all the greatest teachers [have taught]. I know most of you are going. It will help you to be there. It will feed your soul. What we’re doing is necessary so I’m gonna be there and give it my best. Barb, will you now tell us a little about what you experienced during the closing ceremony?”
This, I think, is the worst part of the entire conference call. Barb is one of James Ray’s staff members and she goes on to talk “of the two that had passed and they left their bodies during the ceremony and had so much fun they chose not to come back and that was their choice that they made.” This is going to be really hard for James Ray and his people to explain when the autopsy results are released, because people do not cook themselves to death. They just don’t. Barb implying they do is asserting James Ray’s innocence and falsely supporting that the survivors are alive because they chose to live. In actuality, James Ray had to be interrupted and the participants were physically removed from the sweat lodge because they were not capable of transporting themselves.
The rest of Barb’s words were less offensive, but still rather odd. “There were a number of us that were still there Friday afternoon. We had all been sharing and working through the processes and Angel Valley and [unclear] and Friday evening one of them did [unclear] with cleansing for various sights they had been on and a session with everyone still on site. I gotta say they opened up their hearts and [unclear] he opened up, got into her mode and I believe she was channeling some of the spirits from Angel Valley and she opened it up for questions that anyone wanted to ask, but I don’t remember them all.”
“This is bringing attention to how sweat lodges should be used. The next morning the police had cleared the site and then Angel Valley could take the shelter down and burn it.”
“We were in the dining hall the next day and got a circle together and did prayer pouches to put on fire to honor the process the participants went through on their vision quest. We had tobacco, material, and strings that varied people had and Angel Valley gave cornmeal and we sat in a circle and talked about who and what we wanted to do with all the pouches. We made a pouch for those who passed, James Ray, James Ray International, the hospitalized, all the participants, and last is all encompassing for everyone on the globe being affected by this. Saturday in circle we held hands, took hot breath, and sand for each pouch took intentions and [unclear] that pouch for intentions and prayers for that particular person represented. Instead of leaving in the string we tied it in a circle to represent togetherness. After that we went to the sweat lodge area and everything had been taken off except the wooden structure. We gathered around and all the participants of the dream team who were left stood in the north, at that point some Angel Valley people spoke and opened up to anyone who [wanted to speak]. People really spoke about embracing the dark and the light.”
“Some spoke of being next to those who were dead or sick, others of the teaching the rest of the week and [how] it was exactly what they needed to [unclear] higher evolution. Some spoke of the use of sweat lodges in the future. Everyone was quiet for a bit. Everyone spoke of embracing the light if anyone had anger or frustration [unclear] that they really need to not hold that within ourselves. I can't remember if anyone spoke but I think if [unclear] it was expressed in themselves and not spoken words.”
Barb spoke of dismantling the sweat lodge. “The tradtional way is to cut or untie the strings that held the wood together. It took a while to take it down but we [unclear]. Ffter we had that kind of filled we took the grandfathers and put them in the shape of a heart around the pit. Participants [unclear] on the ground and that was tied through the circle of pouches we created that morning that [unclear] held up and put both pouches on [unclear] and that represented our intentions for [unclear] and the other string of pouches from [unclear] represented all of the participants that didn't make it to the fire [unclear].”
“And then matches were passed around for everyone and we all struck a match and helped to light the fire and watched the fire and said what was in their hearts.”
James Ray ended Barb’s story. “Hopefully all of you appreciate hearing that as well as I did reading it and hearing it again. Greg you were gonna say something?”
Greg chimes in. “Thank you very much Barb, that helps a lot. I did want to acknowledge Katie, she is available and [unclear] contact us to be in contact with Katie, everything you have she can help with. At this point Katie, is there anything you want to add or say?”
Katie, the not qualified to be counseling anyone on grieving follower of James Ray, says “For the most part it is OK to feel what you’re feeling and don’t do it alone. You guys really know how to journal, get those feeling out of you. Make sure you connect with anyone, especially Harmonic like-minded individuals. There’s a ton of people out there for you.”
“Thank you Katie”
Greg continues, “I would like to open up to anyone, I know there’s a lot of you, I want to be sure that out of respect we stick with our own feelings and how we can best support each other.”
This is when the survivors begin to share and I cannot in good conscience repeat their private feelings. I will say that many had difficulty recalling the experience clearly and many thanked the others for pulling them to safety while they were incapacitated.
James Ray wraps up the call with “I love you guys with all my heart. I’ve thought about each and every one of you. The families. Nonstop. I would have loved to have been with you that night. Please, please let me remind you since [retracted] said she was late, as a reminder, take care of yourself. Now more than ever stay plugged in. As hard as it was for me I told Megan and Greg it was every bit as healing to go speak to those people last night as it was for them. Stay plugged in, eat exercise, talk to Kaite and stay connected with this community. I give you 110% of what I have. Thank you so much for who you are and what you are doing for each other and the world. Highest prayers for the families and those taken ill and a speedy recovery. Love you lots.”