James Ray Arrested in Sedona Sweat Lodge Deaths

"The White Papers," addressed directly to Bill Hughes, the Supervising Deputy County Attorney, presents in more than 60 pages what amounts to a defense against criminal charges of any kind.

"Criminal charges would compound this tragedy, regardless of outcome," the document says in its introduction. "Despite the innuendo in various media accounts, Mr. Ray did not lead or pressure participants into making a choice they otherwise would not have made."

Ray has been criticized for refusing to give investigators a statement concerning the deaths and for hosting two events after the deaths before he canceled an event in Toronto.

"In the days following the terrible accident, I struggled to respond the right way," Ray said on his Web site.

It's a rare admission for a man whose meteoric rise in the self-help industry was largely based on knowing just what to say.

'The Secret' to Self-Help Fame

Ray's self-help star rose dramatically in 2006 with the best-selling book "The Secret," which preaches "The Law of Attraction," the idea that people can attract anything they want -- money, love, improved health -- through the power of thoughts.

"In simple terms, if you are constantly thinking, feeling and acting broke, then you're never going to attract prosperity into your life," Ray told ABC News in a previously unaired 2007 interview with Dan Harris.

Supporters Call James Arthur Ray's Seminars Life-Changing

In that interview, Ray defended "The Secret" against critics who asked if the victims of 9/11 or the Holocaust are to blame for simply thinking incorrectly.

"I know people of the Jewish faith and heritage who don't necessarily believe the Holocaust was bad," Ray said. "Now that might be shocking to you but I have people on record who have said, hey there's a lot of good things that came out of that, a lot of lessons, a lot of opportunities for the world. "

In free meetings Ray gives a taste of his teachings -- which include a mix of spirituality, motivational speaking and quantum physics -- in a pitch that urges attendees to sign up for his multi-day seminars. These seminars, like the one in Sedona, can cost thousands of dollars.

The seminars are a mix of lecturing based on various self-help teachings and activities such as walking on coals, breaking wooden boards and the now-infamous sweat lodge, which are meant to push personal limits, one attendee said.

Donna Fleming, 60, told ABC News in October she felt "taken" after Ray convinced her to pay $6,000 for two seminars.

"He's good. He's got charisma. He's just an unbelievably charismatic individual that really does sway a lot of people," Fleming said. "Ray is in it for the money and I have no question whatsoever that he realized he hit the goldmine when he realized he was the perfect fit for this industry."

Fleming said she walked out of the first of the two seminars she paid for in 2008 after an activity in which the participants dressed up as homeless people and wandered around downtown San Diego for four hours.

"I was angry, I tried to deal with that. I tried to find what possible theme could this be for me, and I probably realized flat out that I'd been taken for a substantial amount of money for an absolutely ridiculous experience," Fleming said.

Fleming filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get her money back but lost.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Kanye West accepts the Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Christopher Polk/MTV1415/Getty Images
PHOTO:Parker Posey, Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette in Wes Cravens Scream 3.
Joseph Viles/Dimension Films/Getty Images