“OK to Die” – James Arthur Ray Convicted of 3 Counts of Negligent Homicide in “Sweat Lodge” Deaths

June 22, 2011

The New York Times reports here that  a jury took less than ten hours to convict James Arthur Ray of three counts of negligent homicide in the Sedona, Arizona “Sweat Lodge” deaths in October 2009. I’ve written about Ray before here, here and here.

In a recording that took place during the ceremony/workshop Ray explained, “The true spiritual warrior has conquered death and therefore has no fear or enemies in this lifetime or the next, because the greatest fear you’ll ever experience is the fear of what? Death. You will have to get a point to where you surrender and it’s OK to die.”

I’d bet he wishes he hadn’t put it that way now.

A generation or so ago Ph.D.’s and acid proselytizers Tim Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzger told their followers that a necessary part of the trip was Ego Death (in The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead). Wasted as they generally were, even this trio knew they were speaking metaphorically.

“I got a message on acid that you should destroy your ego and I did, you know. I was reading that stupid book of Leary’s Psychedelic Book of the Dead (sic) and all that shit. We were going through a whole game that everyone went through and I destroyed myself . . . I destroyed my ego and I didn’t believe I could do anything.”

– John Lennon

There were movements that began in the 1960s that did, in fact, help make the world a better place; health foods and environmentalism being two easy examples to cite. But the sloppy spirituality of the acid prophets brought drug mysticism into the mainstream, and the wreckage from that irrationality continues to this day. “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream” may make a great song lyric, but it isn’t exactly a paen to critical thinking.

It’s hard to imagine James Arthur Ray (and many other New Age self-help gurus) existing today without seeing Tim Leary as a kind of precedent. Just as it is hard to imagine Henry Ford using reiki.

We’d all be better off today if we’d followed Bob Dylan’s advice from his first Top 40 hit: “Don’t follow leaders, Watch your parking meters.”


Fun Phact:  Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues owes a great deal to Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business.





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