I’m so sorry for the loss of life and sickness that occurred at James Ray’s Spiritual Warrior Program in Sedona a few weeks ago. Before this tragedy, I’d never even heard of a sweat lodge. In the weeks following this event, James Ray has been demonized all over the media. I don’t know what happened in Sedona or who, if anyone, was responsible, but I did want to say a few things about James Ray. People are saying he’s greedy, arrogant and only in the business for the money. They’re calling him everything in the book. They’re lambasting him for living in a four million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills. People are also extending their anger by criticizing the entire personal development industry and saying all of us are only in it for the money. They’re wrong about James Ray and they’re wrong about this industry. I’ve known James Ray for about 12-13 years and I can tell you for a fact that he’s in this busines to help people. Has he become wealthy from his success? You bet. And he should be. This is still America, isn’t it? James has helped thousands of people around the world. I know because we get a lot of his people in our seminars. They love him and his programs have changed their lives. I also know most of the top speakers in this industry and honestly don’t know one who is in this business for the money. Mike McKinley, a great speaker from Wisconsin, said it best: this is the hardest business to make an easy living. No one survives in this field long term unless they’re in it to help people. Do some get rich in the process? Yes, just as they do in any other industry when they create massive success. Please listen to his post and give us your comments. This is a 9-minute audio post, and I apologize for the length. But I think it’s important enough to warrant a few extra minutes. I hope you agree. I’ll look forward to your comments. Steve Siebold

Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

16 thoughts on “James Arthur Ray and the Personal Development Industry”

  1. As someone who has been directly affected by this tragedy, I was able to research most of the interviews, transcripts and evidence and I can tell you that the news seems to have much more of an accurate depiction of what happened over a rich buddy of JR who “doesn’t know what happened in Sedona.” If this was a terrible accident, then why did James Ray blame Angel Valley? Why didn’t he appear on Dateline on Friday? Why does he have the same PR rep as Goldman and Sachs? James Ray knew my Mother, Liz Neuman, for 7 years, but he left her to die alone in a hospital as a Jane Doe. My family had to find out through the news 24 hours later. James had 9 days to visit her in the hospital before she passed and he didn’t even do that. He completely abandoned all of his followers in the middle of the night. He’s since held seminars, tweeted, and posted new videos as if nothing happened. He has done absolutely nothing for my Mom or family following the incident. And on top of all this he’s facing multiple lawsuits for money owed for “postponed events.” Does that sound like integrity?

  2. It seems that James Ray began to lack integrity when he didn’t take care of refund issues, and when he made fun of people by calling them fat and/or losers, etc., when they didn’t sign up for his seminars, and when he didn’t research or do the homework on dangerous “games.” James Ray seemed to lack integrity when he allowed the cover up of Colleen Conaway’s death and didn’t refund her money paid for future seminars. If he really did think that he was “better” than other people, then he was exercising a lack of integrity. Using the law of attraction without integrity is very dangerous. I don’t have a right to judge anyone, but I can observe myself and others. Even thinking without integrity can cause problems.
    Using lawyers to protect himself, instead of paying for the damages he caused with the “lawyer money” bank account will perhaps hurt him more than if he used what he has to make amends–starting first with refunding Colleen’s money. But James Ray, as all of us, must make his own choices, learn the lessons. and experience the conseqences. I am so sorry for the people who were hurt or lost loved ones. Accidents happen, but I feel that this “accident” could have so easily been avoided.
    I think “self-help” is a way to learn and grow. Even going to a doctor, tutorer, or university is a form of self-help. However, a doctor or teacher who operates without integrity can cause damage.

  3. If you don’t know the details of what happened in Sedona, then why are you blogging about it? That’s like raising your hand and then answering “I don’t know”. James Ray knew my Mother, Liz Neuman, for 7 years, but he left her to die alone in a hospital as a Jane Doe. My family had to find out through the news 24 hours later. James had 9 days to visit her in the hospital before she passed and he didn’t even do that. He completely abandoned all of his followers in the middle of the night. He’s since held seminars, tweeted, and posted new videos as if nothing happened. He has done absolutely nothing for my Mom or family following the incident. Does that sound like integrity?

  4. Hi Steve

    Thanks for responding to my post on James Ray.He’s still in jail because cannot post bond.My thoughts about him are simply that he does not have integrity.Everything that he supposedly teaches are violated.He attracted all this in his life by his decisions.

    I’ve checked out your other posts.You are spot on with these issues.I liked the “Being fit / obese” ideas.I also saw the video ( You are in Palm Beach ) about why people are not rich.That’s an eye opener for me! I’m about a 6 on approval meter.I want to be rich and also liked / admired by everyone.I need to work on that cause it’s wishful thinking.

  5. Nick,

    You make some very strong points. It’s hard to make a case against what you’re saying, so I won’t. All I know is the guy I’ve known for 15 years was always straight with me and operated from integrity. I still wish him the best. Thanks for speaking up, Nick. I appreciate your comments. I hope you will become a regular commentator on this blog. We need your critical thinking input!

  6. Steve

    On this post you said have not read about what happened @ Sedona.You just heard about it.Hopefully by now you have read about what happened there.As you probably know James Ray is currently in jail.

    Everything I’ve read about the Sedona event is that James Ray is a disturbed human being.Besides Sedona I’ve read about hard core sales tactics,a woman committing suicide @ another 1 of his “events”,preaching New Age mumbo jumbo.On your 9 minute audio you defend him as a good man.I don’t see it.

    The key question I have is this – Where is the integrity in this man? The red flags @ Sedona are so evident ( Sweat lodge crammed with 60 people;no ventilation,people vomiting,passed out,extreme heat exhaustion ).Result: 3 individuals died / 17 individuals injured.Ray’s big mistake – He let this carnage go on & then left the state of Arizona that night.The bottom line is this:If you have any integrity as a leader,you must be accountable for these people! You do not leave and then stonewall the authorities.He’s paying the price right now after being arrested and currently in jail.

    You also say in your 9 minute audio that people are attacking the self development industry & its not right.I absolutely disagree.The Sedona incident is very serious.There were 60 people @ that 5 Day Spiritual Warrior event who put their trust in him.The public wants to be sure that other self development leaders have integrity.The Sedona incident is a wake up call.

  7. Steve Siebold says:
    James Ray and the personal development …

    Anon2 says:
    Dear Mr. Steve Siebold,
    Is there integrity in a program where 3 people died?
    Is there integrity to charging for a Native American tradition that is normally conducted for “free”?
    Is there integrity in upsetting Native Americans by the hapless replication of what is a Native American tradition.
    Is there integrity in not accessing the safety of the structure the sweat lodge was conducted in? (or how many people could be safely placed inside)?
    Is there integrity in leaving the scene of the deaths?
    Is there integrity to holding off a day or more in calling the families of the victims?
    Is there integrity in giving at least one of the victim’s family $5000 (for the $10000 spent on the event) as a good will gesture for the death of their loved one?
    Is there integrity in NOT LISTENING to others who had let Mr. Ray know that one or more of the participants had stopped breathing?
    Is there integrity in not helping anyone when they needed help and instead stood by motionless?
    Is there integrity in charging $10,000 for a course that teaches others how to make money by giving them a huge wad of theirs?
    Is there integrity to your claim that this person that you know, James Arthur Ray, is a man of integrity when the answer is ‘no’ the all of the above??
    And do you, “Steve Siebold” in light of this situation, have integrity in sticking up for James Arthur Ray, a person who obviously lacks some integrity, in which at least 3 people died and many others were injured??
    Yes, Steve, it is really a shame that James Ray, like you mentioned, now has to sell his home.
    By the way, people who do take these courses are weak in that they are “followers”. So Steve, as an “instructor” of these types of seminars, I’d like to know: How does it feel to have such a hold of all of your followers? Feels good? Making lots of money, Steve??
    I too have been around a lot of smart and successful people. And you know what, Steve,
    their success didn’t come from doing a “seminar”. It was already inside of them.
    Only people who don’t know this go “seeking” outside of themselves foolishly for the answers in people like you and Ray.

    movement has helped millions of people lead better lives. I’ve known James Ray for almost 15 years and he’s a man of integrity. Let’s let the investigators figure out what happened. The idea that people who attend self help/personal development seminars are weak is untrue. I attend and conduct many of them each year, and what I’ve learned in these programs helped me build three very succcessful companies that operate around the world. I’ve met some of the smartest, most successful people at personal development programs. These are not weak people. These are ambitious people who want more out of life and are willing to check their ego at the door and consider the ideas and philosophies of outside experts. I’m sorry to hear James is selling his home, because he earned it through years of helping people and hard work. I know this man, and I can tell you he doesn’t do what he does for the money. Becoming a successful personal development speaker/author is one of the hardest businesses to break into. James did it and he’s been rewarded financially. Thats not greed; thats the American dream! I have more about this on my audio blog at http://www.mentaltoughnessblog.com

  8. Hi Colin – The reality and frustration you express is something I’ve experienced for decades but I’ve been on a quest for self improvement since I was 13 – literally that is true. I was thinking about self improvement before I knew their was a self improvement industry.

    Over the decades I’ve studied tens of thousands of pages and audios and videos of self improvement and other materials. For me it’s been a little improvement, a little loss of improvement, a lot of time wondering what’s wrong, a lot of time looking at what’s right with an equal amount of time deluding myself.

    Today when we begin working with new people in our business we tell them this is a personal growth journey disguised as a business – perhaps everything in life is that and Donald Trump says our life is our business so take care of business every day and don’t take a vacation from that.

    Of course people who sell what you talk about do it to make money and they are all different and some disingenuous and mis leading. But that’s up to us to figure out as you have done

    My guess is you’ve learned a few things that five years ago you didn’t know and they are very important things. And listen to what Jaroslav has to say.

    The best of success to you.


  9. To Colin with love and respect…

    I just read a post that had much truth in it. It is my humble opinion that the following 2 points made in that post (among others) will help you tremendously in your quest to change your life.

    1. “You have to REALLY want it and be prepared to do whatever it takes.”

    2. “…you MUST believe that there are NO circumstances sufficiently strong enough to defeat you in the accomplishment of your purpose.”

    A person who consistently believes and acts as described cannot fail. It is one of my strongest desires to become this type of person myself. Thank you for the reminder.

    Blessings & Be Well,


  10. There is no way that people in this industry write their books and do their seminars without thinking about selling the books and selling the seminars. If they told the brutal truth, they would not sell as many books and so they write the truth but not the whole truth. In the back of there mind is ” I want to sell this product “And so they write with that in mind. In this way, yes they are in it for the money. I and many others I know have spent thousands of dollars on these books etc, and have noticed little or no difference. Personally I have read over 50 books, seen over 30 movies, interviews, and documentries and put it all into action. I have used mantras, I have repeated in my mind my perfect life, I have taken action, I have lived in the now, Practised Detachment, meditation, living on Purpose, visualisation, intention, reprogramming, awareness of my feelings, becoming who I want to be in the present moment, feeling it, thinking it acting on it, changing my beliefs, using spirit not ego, not being in a state of wanting, being clear, writing down my gaols and vision etc etc etc. And in the 5 years of doing this very little has changed. Im in the same job, making the same money, being the same person with the same life and the same fears and emotions.

    How about telling people how difficult it can be. That changing your life could be the most difficult task that you have ever undertaken. Rather than selling your stories with, ” change your life in 28 days ” and the like. You know, for all you guys write about, i think it can be explained more truthfully and not make it sound like there is some kind of magic that occurs by thinking the right thoughts. Its hard work. You have to REALLY want it and be prepared to do whatever it takes. Prepared to take risks, prepared to do things that are really uncomfortable and may even make you sick. Know that nothing worthwhile has EVER been achieved without the CONSTANT application of the lash of ambition. There will be huge obstacles that MUST be over come and that you MUST believe that there are NO circumstances sufficiently strong enough to defeat you in the accomplishment of your purpose. HARD? You Bet. And its not for every one. But thats the only kind of book that I want to read from now on. Because its the truth.

  11. “Joseph Bruchac, author of “The Native American Sweat Lodge: History and Legends,” called the number of participants in the lodge “appalling.”

    “If you put people in a restrictive, airtight structure, you are going to use up all oxygen,” he said by phone Saturday from his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “And if you’re doing a sweat, you’re going to use it up that much faster.”

    American Indian sweat lodges typically hold about 12 people and are covered with blankets made of natural materials, such as cotton or wool, and the air flow isn’t restricted, he said.

    “I don’t see how the person running that lodge could have been aware of the health and well-being of that many people,” he said.

    The participants had fasted for 36 hours as part of a personal and spiritual quest in the wilderness, then ate a breakfast buffet Thursday morning. After various seminars, they entered the sweat lodge lightly dressed at 3 p.m.” — news source
    I trust Steve’s knowledge of James’ genuine intent to do good helping people through the work that he does. What I just posted if true might indicate poor judgment or inacuate information leading to how the situation was conducted.

    Or something else may have happened yet to be identified.

    It’s a sad situation.


  12. Steve,

    For the sake of accuracy, I posted the email (below) that I received from James Ray this morning (10/29). As you can see he has decided to not continue doing events and has postponed the remainder of his live schedule for 2009.

    In addition his publisher, Hyperion Books, has suspended the release of the paperback version of his NY Times Bestseller “Harmonic Wealth” and the release of his brand new book as well.

    Like you, I can’t comment specifically on Spritual Warrior 2009 (the name of the Sedona retreat) because I wasn’t there. However I did attend the SW 2007 event and I can tell you with some authority that even though, as you say, “no one in this industry is telling us what to do or how to think,” the situation/circumstances at any James Ray SW event in any year are not that clear and simple.

    While I agree with you about the intentions of the leaders in the personal development business, yourself included, it is also true that one of my friends died during this year’s Spiritual Warrior event. I believe that good, well intentioned individuals can and do make mistakes (myself included) and it’s clear that one or several (mistakes) were made at SW.

    Hopefully, after the dust settles on this matter, people will come to their senses and see the good that personal development teachers, writers and thought leaders have contributed to the world at large.

    Important Update Regarding Upcoming Events?
    From: James Arthur Ray (jamesray@jamesray.com)
    Sent: Thu 10/29/09 9:03 AM

    Dear Friend,

    The lives of the families impacted by the Sedona tragedy have been changed forever. These families deserve to have the questions raised by the tragedy answered as quickly and authoritatively as possible. That is the goal I’m dedicated to achieving.

    In the days following the terrible accident, I struggled to respond in the right way. This is the most emotionally wrenching situation I’ve ever faced, and it’s now clear I must dedicate all of my physical and emotional energies to helping bring some sort of closure to this matter. That means helping the authorities and the families get to the bottom of what happened.

    I’m committed to devoting all of my time, for as long as it takes, to achieve this goal. For that reason, I’m postponing all the events I had planned for the remainder of 2009. These events will be rescheduled as soon as possible in 2010—once the essential work that must be done on the Sedona tragedy has been completed.

    I appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time. I will keep you updated regularly as we move forward about our progress and about our plans for rescheduling the postponed events.

    Much love and respect,

    James Arthur Ray
    James Ray International, Inc.

  13. Steve,

    I’d not heard any detail about this tragedy–(don’t listen to much news!), but am at once shocked by the tragedy and the jumping on the “band wagon of blame” by the masses. They are the ones who are “sheep”. I agree with everything you’ve said. Have always heard the highest praise of James Ray’s works and words, and would dearly love to attend one of his workshops. Keep up the good work!

    Lindit’ Hopson

  14. Thank you for being open and honest and taking a stand. Many of us were very confused and this really helped.

    Thank you again.

  15. I agree with what you were saying Steve… The people in personnal development are far from being sheeps and I would go further and say that sheepish followers are not encouraged, this is about thinking for yourself not blindly following…

    thanks for caring

  16. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”- Luke 12:48. Mr. Ray did not live up to the precious responsibility he was entrusted with that fateful day in the arizona desert. The LAW is the law. And as he well knows the law is no respecter of persons. He will have to take responsibility for all of it else he will experience a personal torment far worse than any slander or criticism can bring and ultimately he will be the author of his own undoing. simply put, no one, no matter how well intentioned or charismatic, is above the law….we cannot escape it.

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