Valerie Taliman: Selling the sacred for a big price
"The Oct. 9 headlines read: “Sweat lodge disaster” and “2 dead, 19 taken to hospitals, 64 people in sweat lodge.”

Except that it wasn’t a real sweat lodge. It was a bastardized version of a sacred ceremony sold by a multimillionaire who charged people $9,695 a pop for his “Spiritual Warrior” retreat in Sedona, Ariz.

The man responsible, self-help spiritual entrepreneur James Arthur Ray, claimed the New Age retreat would absolutely “change your life.”

It did – it took the lives of a father of three children and a healthy young woman. It also caused burns, respiratory arrest, kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and dehydration for other paying customers who were hospitalized.

Ray immediately fled the state and is refusing to tell detectives what happened during his two-hour “spiritual cleansing” ritual at the Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat, according Yavapai County Sheriff Steve Waugh.

Some warrior.

It gets worse. Ray was actually sending “tweets” to his Twitter account during the ritual that he later deleted. Or so he thought. It turns out you can still find them in Twitter searches, including these:

“JamesARay: is still in Spiritual Warrior … for anything new to live something first must die. What needs to die in you so that new life can emerge?”

JamesARay: “Day 5 of SPW. The Spiritual Warrior has conquered death and therefore has no enemies, and no fear, in this life or the next.”

After fleeing the scene, Ray posted a message on Twitter saying he was spending the weekend “praying and meditating at this difficult time” and asked others to do the same."

Get the Story:
Valerie Taliman: Selling the sacred (Indian Country Today 10/13)

Related Stories:
Johnny Flynn: A new sweat lodge movement (10/13)
Two dead after 'sweat' incident in Arizona (10/9)