Beyond Sweat Lodge: James Ray's Controversial World

Ray postpones events after Sedona deaths; victim's family says he's responsible.

ByABC News
October 28, 2009, 3:49 PM

Oct. 29, 2009 — -- When dozens of fans and supporters for James Arthur Ray showed up for one of his events in Toronto Wednesday night, they were greeted by a handwritten sign saying the event had been canceled.

At the time no explanation was given, but one of Ray's former mentors, Bob Proctor, apparently convinced Ray to cancel the seminar just hours before it was scheduled to start, ABC News has learned.

In a post on his Web site today, Ray said he is postponing the rest of his events for the year to help "get to the bottom" of the incident in Sedona, Ariz., earlier this month in which three people died after attending one of his seminars in a sweat lodge.

"These families deserve to have the questions raised by the tragedy answered as quickly and authoritatively as possible," Ray writes on the Web site. "It's now clear I must dedicate all of my physical and emotional energies to helping bring some sort of closure to this matter."

But for at least one of the victims' families, closure is not enough -- the family wants Ray held accountable.

"I think he should take responsibility for his role in this incident," Andrea Puckett told ABC News. Puckett's mother, Liz Neuman, died days after she slipped into a coma as a result of dehydration during an event called "Spiritual Warrior" in the sweat lodge. "Honestly, I think he deserves to be behind bars. I think that he was completely negligent and I believe that he is responsible for my mother's death."

Beverly Bunn, a participant who survived the sweat lodge ceremony, said Ray urged participants not to leave, even when people were passing out and vomiting.

In a statement to ABC News, an attorney for Ray called the deaths a "terrible accident" but distanced the self-help guru from accountability.

"The facts are that Mr. Ray was not the one who was responsible for the design, construction or maintenance of the sweat lodge," the statement said.

Ray has been criticized for refusing to give investigators a statement concerning the deaths and for hosting two events after the deaths before the canceled event in Toronto, but his latest statement could signal a newfound cooperation with authorities.

"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.

James Arthur 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.

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. "