As a follow up to an earlier blog that I wrote, James Arthur Ray was found guilty of aggravated manslaughter in the deaths at the sweat lodge of Sedona in 2009. This of course is not a second degree but rather a fourth degree guilty sentence. He could spend as little as 2.5 years for each of the three counts. While it is fitting that the he was found guilty, it is a shock to me and many that such a small amount of time should be spent in prison paying for ending three full lives. What is even more devastating is the fact that he was able to coerce these individuals to do something outside their comfort zone and have such a disregard for their lives through mitigating factors.
But it is not over with yet! The jury is looking at those factors. First, to make 10,000 per person on a weekend warrior experience which led up to a sweat lodge experience is anathema for those of us who pour lodges. I can’t imagine charging even a dime. Everything we do is done on a donation basis. Lodge is a way of life, not a quick fix from a snake oil salesman with the next secret to tell.
Second, did he cause significant emotional harm to the families of his victims. This almost seems like a no brainer to me. But what do I know of the law! I would think that it is significant to loose a loved one in this manner.
And third, here is the kicker, did he abuse a position of trust in such a way as to cause further aggravation to the situation at hand. Hell yes! A water pourer is in the most intense position of trust in a sweat lodge that one can be in. A water pourer must know exactly where everyone in a lodge is at at any given moment. A water pourer is guided by spirit, intuition if you don’t buy spirit, or certainly enough training to know the limits of the spaces that we go into. To pour in a lodge for 60 people requires an extreme amount of care. Large lodges were not unheard of with our tribal elders…. But they were rare. We know our lodges. The first time we begin to pour in a new space, we have to listen to the heat, the affects, the way the rocks sing in a lodge. We don’t rush into just any lodge space and pour without this knowledge… otherwise we are careful and slow when we are in a new space.
All of this is about trust. The people trusted that James Arthur Ray was not going to kill them. He should have warned them more than what he did and share with them that they did not have to stay in the lodge. No one is ever trapped in a lodge the way he did his lodge. Such a domination and removal of personal freedom from the participants through trying to convince them that their endurance would lead to greater monetary or personal success is shameless egotism…. That shameless egotism is a breach of trust and the position that he placed himself in as a leader. He did not follow the people, he hurt the people.
I am a small voice from the sidelines who loves lodge more than anything. It saddens me to see this brutal farce going on as long as it has. The machinations of this entire process has saddened all the elders and people who hold lodge as a sacred act. Hopefully the jury will come to realize what everyone knows… he has brought down not only the people who died and their families great harm, but even greater harm on the whole world for his actions.