After Sweat Lodge Deaths, Will Self-Help Pause to Reconsider?

Kirby Brown, a 38-year-old decorative painter from Los Cabos, Mexico, followed her self-help guru to a six-day retreat in Sedona, Ariz., last year, hoping for the ultimate in enlightening challenges to help her realize her dreams.

Instead, Brown died along with two others on the last day of the event, when a ceremonial sweat-lodge ritual went horribly wrong.

The leader of the ceremony, James Arthur Ray, 52, is currently awaiting trial on three counts of manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.

VIDEO: James Ray on Power of Positive Thinking
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Meanwhile Ray, a junior college dropout with a background in telemarketing, continues to peddle his beliefs -- for a price -- on his website.

Watch the full story Tuesday on "Primetime: Mind Games" at 10 p.m. ET

Ray's case raises questions about how someone with so little formal training could attract followers who would trust him -- to their deaths. And, as Ray's past comes into focus, larger questions are bubbling up about the self-help movement and where its future may lie.

"He needs to be stopped," said Ginny Brown, Kirby's mother. "How many more people have to die before he is stopped?"

VIDEO: Hear what happens when Dan Harris calls into James Rays radio show.
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Ray declined repeated requests by ABC News for an interview, but his attorneys maintain his innocence. Ray never forced anyone to enter or stay in the sweat lodge, they argue, and he took extensive precautions to prevent problems.

His lawyers also say participants were warned in writing and in person about the dangers.

"This was a terrible, terrible accident," said Luis Li, Ray's lawyer. "It wasn't a crime, Mr. Ray looks forward to his day in court."

'The Secret'

Ray's was a fast rise.

It began when Oprah Winfrey raved about a 2006 self-help book, "The Secret." Then Ray was featured in a film based on the book -- and he was catapulted to superstardom. What had heretofore been relegated to the new-age fringe quickly became mainstream.

VIDEO: Self-help consultant charges thousands for session on wheels in his Rolls Royce.
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Ray's book "Harmonic Wealth" became a best-seller. He was able to cash in on his popular seminars and buy a multimillion dollar home in Beverly Hills. He also amassed a cadre of B-list celebrity friends, such as Marla Maples and Hulk Hogan, said Hope Miller, a former employee.

Ray's approach "just seemed like a really practical way to pull a lot of things together for me," said one of his followers, Kristina Bivins. "It just resonated."

What resonated for Bivins, like many others, was James' interpretation of "The Secret," which practitioners say is based on a rule they call the Law of Attraction.

James Ray: 'Wealth and Harmony'

Simply put, "The Secret" says that one's wishes can be fulfilled by properly wishing for them.

Ray's adherents believed that by following him, and observing the Law of Attraction, they would grow rich. And Ray preached that message throughout his "Harmonic Wealth" and "Million Dollar Mindset" books, DVDs, and seminars.

"What I do now is teach people how to create wealth and harmony in every area of their life,'' Ray said in a 2007 interview with ABC.

"The Law of Attraction says 'like attracts like,'" Ray told his followers,"you lock into something…and BANG! You've got a Mercedes. And that's how it works."

Brandy Amstel, a filmmaker from Texas, incorporated Ray's teachings into her daily life. She used a "visioning board" to try to "attract" her life goals, like winning an Oscar.

"If those are the thoughts that you're having, then you're going to be attracting those things into your life," Amstel said.

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