AP Photo/Jack Kurtz, Pool
James Arthur Ray at his bond hearing in Camp Verde, Arizona on February 23, 2010.

Self-Help Shamster Behind Sweat-Lodge Homicides Released From Prison


James Arthur Ray, the purported self-help guru who went to jail in 2011 for negligent homicide after three people died in his sweat lodge, is out on parole.

The 55-year-old author and entrepreneur left state prison near Phoenix on Friday July 12, the Associated Press reported. Though he is not barred from conducting self-help seminars or sweat lodge ceremonies, AP said, “his brother said Ray has no immediate plans to resurrect his business,” though he left it open by maintaining that the tragedy was not Ray’s fault.

The deaths occurred after things went awry about halfway through a two-hour ceremony back in 2009. The incident killed a 38-year-old and a 40-year old man, injured 18 and led to the death of a third man in the hospital a week later, AP recounted.

Ray went to trial in 2012 and was sentenced to two years—concurrent sentences for each of the deaths. He was required to fulfill at least 85 percent of the term and was ordered to pay $57,000 in restitution to the victims’ families, ICTMN reported upon his sentencing. AP said that his release means he has served that amount of time.

The tragedy resonated deeply in Indian country, not least of all because the ceremony bore little if any resemblance to an actual sweat lodge ceremony.

“It was a bastardized version of a sacred ceremony sold by a multimillionaire who charged people $9,695 a pop for his ‘Spiritual Warrior’ retreat in Sedona, Ariz.,” wrote ICTMN’s now West Coast Editor Valerie Taliman at the time in an award-winning opinion piece.

Related: Selling the Sacred

Ray’s brother did not elaborate on whether his brother would try to resume the sweat lodge practice.

"At this point, he wants to get out and hide out, and start putting his life back together, which has been completely turned upside down," Ray’s brother, who was not named, told AP just before the release. "I say that with all due respect because I know a lot of people's lives have been turned upside down because of this unfortunate incident."

Dozens of people were in the sweat lodge that day outside Sedona, Arizona, the culmination of a five-day Spiritual Warrior retreat, AP said. The sweat lodge’s advertised “hellacious hot” temperatures were supposed to generate breakthroughs.

“The man responsible, self-help spiritual entrepreneur James Arthur Ray, claimed the New Age retreat would absolutely ‘change your life,’ ” Taliman wrote. “It did—it took the lives of a father of three children and a healthy young woman. It also caused burns, respiratory arrest, kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and dehydration for other paying customers who were hospitalized.”

Related Stories:

Two-Years for James Arthur Ray, Is It Enough?

CNN Reports on Indian Country’s Reactions to James Arthur Ray Verdict

James Arthur Ray Found Guilty of Negligent Homicide

CNN Post on James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Trial

James Ray Sweat Lodge Trial Begins

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chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
for one, i would love to know what was going on inside that 'sweat' lodge way too many people how was it hot enough to burn people unless they were sitting on the heated stones... this is crap and exactly what happens when something is bastardized into something else by people who dont know what they're doing...aiahninchi ohoyo

hammertime's picture
Submitted by hammertime on
10 grand to go sit in a sweat logje ...and be fed a lot of mumbo-jumbo this guy was a con man acting like some sort of shaman and messing with things he did not understand ..... If you got a bunch of folks willing to pay10 grand for some sort of spiritual experience, , in his mind you pack them in tight for more profit.. and a big pay-day. This fellow got off way too easy