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

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

"I'm suggesting to you that there's every bit as much good in 9/11 as there was bad."

Ray has attracted critics.

"It sounds wonderful when you say, 'You can achieve anything you want in life,'" said Salerno. "It doesn't sound so wonderful when you say, 'If you don't achieve something in life it's because the universe is mad at you.'"

An Empire Unravels

Once charged in February by Arizona authorities, with three counts of manslaughter in the sweat lodge deaths, Ray spent weeks in jail until he was able to get his bail reduced.

Investigators said they found a suitcase full of prescription drugs, including steroids, in Ray's hotel room after the sweat lodge. Ray has said that he needed the steroids for a medical condition.

And while he stopped making public appearances soon after the Sedona retreat, Ray has continued to preach to his followers through regular blogging, videos on his website, DVDs and other products sold through the site. He also peddles a $97 monthly subscription to an Internet radio broadcast.

James Ray: Beverly Hills Mansion on the Market

Still, Ray spends most of his time behind the gates of his Beverly Hills home, now for sale for a negotiable $3.99 million.

Melinda Martin and several other former Ray employees say they left his company in disgust over the handling of the Sedona tragedy.

"I feel like he didn't live his integrity because... he's so busy... trying to keep the magic and trying to keep the spell going that I think that he's lost the sense, the common sense of humanity and compassion," Martin said.

Others are similarly disillusioned. Brandy Amstel, hospitalized after the sweat lodge, filed a civil lawsuit against Ray, which was recently settled on confidential terms.

"I won't do another James Ray program,'' she said. But she's not ruling out following another guru.

And there are "tons" to pick from, she said. "Other leaders that follow a code of ethics, that actually care about people."

Shanna Bowens, who was at the Sedona retreat, still believes in the Law of Attraction, but she's disavowed all self-proclaimed thought leaders: especially Ray. "I can't trust him and I'm not looking to him anymore for my personal journey," she said.

Despite all the controversy surrounding their self-help guru, many of Ray's followers are still listening.

Essad, who saw participants break their hands in a brick-bashing exercise at a Ray event in 2008, and who was also at the sweat lodge event, said he would go to another Ray event.

When asked why, he said, "Because of what I'm getting out of it. What I'm learning from it."

Bivins, too, still believes in Ray. "It's horrible what happened in the sweat lodge that three people died, but my life is better and I am so grateful for that and I'd do it again in a heartbeat..."

Salerno is skeptical.

"You have a lot of people in this culture who are searching for something, they are in the belief that if this doesn't do it the next thing will,'' he said. "There's this notion that if you believe enough if you stay with the program you will someday absolutely get to the Promised Land."

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