Beyond Sweat Lodge: James Ray's Controversial World

Supporters Call Seminars Life-Changing. Critics Call Foul

In free meetings, like the one in Toronto, 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 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.

Supporter Undeterred by Sedona Deaths

But while Fleming said she was dissatisfied, she said she was "among very few people who had a problem with the experience." Dave Orton, who took part in the same activity during a different seminar in San Diego, said the "homeless activity" was eye-opening.

"I experienced what it was like to be a homeless person, people looking down on me because of my appearance," Orton told ABC News. "It does take you outside your comfort zone. It does put you in a place you're not used to. It's a place where you experience growth pretty rapidly."

Orton said it's thanks to Ray that he lives a life of "near constant gratitude" for what he has and that the price tag is more than worth it. Undeterred by the recent deaths, Orton plans to attend the Sedona event next year.

"The value doesn't even compare," he said. "To the people that say he's a fraud, I haven't actually thought of what I would say to them, it's so far out of what I see as reality. Have you tried growing yourself?"

For Fleming, the only thing that grew was her distrust of the self-improvement industry.

"I feel cured of self-help groups so that's something," Fleming said. "Maybe that's worth $6,000."

On Ray's Web site, he promises the events will be back up and running "once the essential work that must be done on the Sedona tragedy has been completed." No criminal charges have been filed in relation to the Sedona deaths.

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