James Arthur Ray, the self-help guru who was convicted of negligent homicide after three people died in a sweat lodge ceremony at his Spiritual Warrior Camp in 2009 (which I wrote about in Breaking the Spell), was quietly released from prison last week. Ray could have been sentenced up to nine years but received only a two-year sentence. After serving 600 days he is out on probation. Hard to see the justice in that. Three lives in exchange for two years.
What’s next for Ray?
If you visit his website it says it’s currently being updated to offer more to visitors. Sounds like he plans to pick up business where he left off.
Thankfully, something else happened last week
The parents of Kirby Brown, one of Ray’s sweat lodge victims, introduced SEEK Safely, a charitable organization dedicated to educating the public about the self-help industry, empowering seekers and promoting professional standards and practices to ensure safety for participants in self-help events. They have launched the SEEK Safely Promise and are asking motivational speakers, leaders, and authors in the self-help industry to sign it. Some have. Many more have not.
In an $11 billion industry that’s unregulated, the Brown’s are hoping to establish some basic standards and practices, even if on a voluntary basis. They feature a complete list on their website of the self-help leaders who have signed the promise, and the many more who have been invited to but have not.
It’s my hope that eventually they’ll all sign the promise.
It could go a long way toward cleaning up the industry. And, while I believe it’s still up to us as consumers to do our due diligence before we invest with any teacher, it helps if the teachers are publicly setting an intention to operate in good faith. It also gives us something to hold them accountable to.
If you’d like to learn more about SEEK Safely, you’ll find the website at www.seeksafely.org