Clarissa Pinkola Estes on James Arthur Ray, part 2

Was Ray a cultist? He sure acted like one, writes Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her second post on Ray in The Moderate Voice. Estes has studied cult-formation in conjunction with her therapeutic work; the criteria she lists for a coercive cult are similar to though much more extensive than Robert Lifton’s (which Alice, a commentator on one of my earlier posts, noted were germane to understanding Ray’s appeal. For your convenience, I have listed them below). Ray didn’t make his followers change their names (though he did urge them to change their appearance–click here to see photos of participants in a 2007 Spiritual Warrior retreat getting their heads shaved); as far as we know, he didn’t force them to have sex with him. But in many respects, he fits the profile of an abusive cult leader, or to put it in slightly different terms, provides evidence that the LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) model of Werner Erhard’s est and Landmark Forum, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Seminars, and the programs of many lesser-known groups and individuals, like Byron Katie’s School for the Work and of course Ray’s various events, pose hazards to participants’ psyches, pocketbooks, and in rare cases like this one, to their bodies as well. Rick Ross’s forum has a lot of postings on the subject–many of them from angry people with agendas–also see the blog LGAT Truth.

Here are Lifton’s criteria, as he listed them in a 1981 article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter:
1) A charismatic leader “who increasingly becomes an object of worship”
2) A process of “coercive persuasion or thought reform” (brainwashing, in other words);
3) Economic, sexual, or psychological exploitation of the rank and file members by the cult’s leadership.

Lifton adds that the chief tool of “coercive persuasion” is “milieu control; the control of all communication within a given environment.”

Click here, here, here, here , here, and here for my earlier posts on Ray.

3 thoughts on “Clarissa Pinkola Estes on James Arthur Ray, part 2

    1. Unfortunately James Arthur Ray and others from “The Secret” fail to realize that spiritual principles cannot be bought or sold. This is a sacred healing that cannot be done without the right intent and spiritual connection. Nothing good can come from ill intent and for someone who claims to be a spiritual warrior who practices spiritual laws he should know better. My heart goes out to all the people that were under his care and who he was responsible for their well-being. There are many in the spiritual new age movement who are into NLP and Large Group Awareness Training and other ways to control others. Many of the so called “peak performance types” offer “free induction” workshops to bring people in the door. Often they put people in ice cold rooms for three consecutive days of long hard selling where they deprive them of food, water, and exit from the place until they let you go. You are told to be on time or else the doors will close and once they are closed they won’t let you out. Often the play “games” designed to put people down and shame them all in the name of working on “their issues.” Somebody who doesn’t want to play or resists is said to be holding on to their stuff. The amount of group think and pressure is amazing. The subtle control exerted on the individual from the sitting at your seat on time, to controlling bathroom breaks, to the soft humiliation in the guise of jokes, along with the 10 hour days begins to take its toll in breaking people down. Sounds kind of like Ray’s sweat box doesn’t it. Of course they say “you are free to go” but you are “strongly encouraged” to stay with “volunteers” guarding the doors. So even if Ray just “suggested” that the people in the sweat not go out that would be very powerful for someone who has given up complete control for the promise of more wealth, health, or whatever he promised them. James Arthur Ray is practicing some serious mind control tactics on people that are the most vulnerable. I’ve watched people similar to Ray and they practice therapy without a license. In fact, what they do is criminal because an ethical mental health professional would never attempt to push people to the edge so fast or so hard. Many experience trauma or dissociative disorders. Ray has a history of deaths that follow him now. Just ten weeks prior to the sweat box a woman by the name of Colleen Conaway committed suicide during one of Ray’s sessions. Apparently the woman was playing one of “Rays games” where the people were stripped of their clothes and identification and dressed in tattered clothes to see what it felt like to be homeless. Now what therapeutic value could this hold for somebody? Especially after the participants had been broken down emotionally and perhaps may have at this point been seriously traumatized or even in a dissociative state. This happened in San Diego, CA. and the media all missed it. This man needs to be stopped. He needs to be federally investigated and we need more legislature to monitor such individuals. The fact that James Arthur Ray had the audacity to leave when their was a problem in Sedona shows you what kind of leader he really is and to even consider doing another seminar or workshop within the same week is unthinkable to most of us but there he is telling us how “he is being tested.” There is his ego bigger than life. He still thinks this is about him and he can’t see through his delusion and that he is hurting people. I hope that he wakes up and realizes the consequences of his actions. His actions are speaking much louder than his words ever could. And for someone that claims to believe in ancient wisdom and spiritual principles it seems that he continues to violate all of them. I believe that on a spiritual level that Ray’s own belief system and intentions have created chaos and a karmic backlash if you will. You cannot transmit something you do not have. While I have never been to a sweat, I have been invited and have worked with others who have and have even been given instruction as to how the ceremony should be conducted. It is something that should be performed by a Native with years of experience and training. Second this is a spiritual and religious ceremony with it’s basis in healing. The fact that this beautiful ceremony has been abused in such a way as to be a sort of torture box to weaken people’s will and give them some kind of peak experience to push past their limits and that Ray was playing God with people that trusted him to lead them can only have tragic cosmic and karmic consequences. This is ethically, legally, and most of all spiritually reprehensible. This can only be seen as arrogant and criminal. I know the investigation will focus on the physical make up of the sweat box but more attention needs to be paid to the psychological warfare that Ray imposed upon these poor souls. My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of those who died and those who were injured. My thoughts and prayers go out to you.

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