It’s a timeless formula for brainwashing: convince people that they are lacking something and you are the only one who has the answer.
Self-help guru James Arthur Ray was found guilty of 3 counts of negligent homicide after three people died in his Sweat Lodge, during one of his retreats in Arizona.
How were these people brainwashed into staying in a hot tent till they died?
More than fifty people had spent over $10,000 to attend James Ray’s five-day event known as “Spiritual Warrior” retreat. The final task required participants to endure Ray’s sweat lodge which he promoted as the ultimate test – all of the participants squeezed into a small dark space which he described a “hellacious” hot sweat lodge which would produce profound mental states. “Death to death” said his T-shirt and he also instructed participants to ignore their bodies’ signs of distress and one witness claimed Ray said: “If you pass out we’ll drag you out by your heels…You’ll feel like your skin will burn off, but you’ll get through it.”
James Ray’s defense team argued that the people in the tent had free will to leave at any time while the prosecution argued that Ray ratcheted up the heat in his sweat lodge ceremony and ignored pleas to help those who were passed out on the dirt floor, vomiting or having trouble breathing.
Many bloggers wrote that the participants were adults and should have known better than to do what they were told when their body was in distress; other bloggers accused James Ray of being a cult leader and brainwashing his participants.
James Arthur Ray rose to fame and fortune because of his charisma, use of psychological persuasion and the spectacular marketing of the book and movie ‘The Secret’ that featured him while also playing into people’s vulnerabilities and desires for instant gratification. Ray was featured on Oprah and Larry King Live. He also became famous as author of the New York Times Bestseller “Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want.”
So how did James Ray brainwash three people to their death?
James Ray sought out people who were lost, emotionally vulnerable or searching for something and promised them unimaginable rewards – including the experience of transcending death – but tragically, he wasn’t able to deliver on the latter. Ray found people that were willing to travel from all over the world to attend his seminars and retreats and who were also willing to hand over tens of thousands of dollars.
James Ray also used two other secrets of psychological influence:
Ray built himself as an authority, a God-like figure and the participants and followers sought his approval and feared his rejection; witnesses in the trail gave testimony claiming that Ray would scold them and mock them if they didn’t do as he told them.
Ray also convinced them that his knowledge and techniques were secrets and very precious:”In Spiritual Warrior…You’ll become privy to techniques (many kept secret for dozens of generations) that I searched out in the mountains of Peru, the jungles of the Amazon (and a few other places I don’t care to recall.)”
And after paying $10,000 for the experience of a lifetime, participants believed they were part of the privileged few to access those secrets and they sought Ray’s approval; many of them stayed in the extremely hot tent even as their bodies were entering alarm mode and shutting down.
James Ray isn’t the first person to brainwash people or lead them to their death and he won’t be the last. In 1969, Charles Manson led a group of young people to commit crimes and finally murder Sharon Tate. In 1978, Reverend Jim Jones led 909 people including children to their death in a murder-suicide pact known as The Jones Town Massacre.
James Ray created his reality the way others before him had – ego, greed, narcissism and lust for power and control.
But many bloggers are wrong when they believe that James Ray’s participants were drawn into a cult and were brainwashed because they were weak-minded people the reason they. Humans have basic emotional needs such as significance, attention, a safe, secure environment to mature and develop; an emotional connection to other people; acceptance, a connection to the wider community, and meaning & purpose. And when those needs are not being met, a charismatic man like James Ray appears claiming he is the only one who can help you – he has the secret. But James Ray’s secret was not spiritual – it was deadly.
Listen to the interview Human Behavior Expert Patrick Wanis PhD gives to Michele Morrisette. Patrick Wanis PhD reveals that cult leaders often display strong characteristics of narcissism as well as profiles of a psychopath
This article was originally published on HeadDrama.com on Tuesday June 28, 2011. HeadDrama is no longer live.
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.