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Jim Constantine

Well said Dave! This tragedy wouldn't have happened if those in charge had understood the physical limits of the human body.

I traveled a simular road in my life, and came to the realization that By seeking truth anyone can experience enlightenment.

Three Cheers for Dave! Great piece which needed to be written.

In my humble opinion James Arthur Ray is one of the biggest frauds that has come down the Personal Development Pike in a long time. From the moment I saw him on the original "The Secret" video that was floating around the internet prior to it getting mass media attention by Oprah, my vibe was "watch out for this guy".

Everything he said in that movie was a direct parroting of Anthony Robbins and others. Not an original thought in that guys brain.

I spent 10 years of my life as a franchise for Anthony Robbins and Associates, spending 1000s of hours in seminar environments that entailed firewalking, parachuting, ropes courses etc and safety was always a priority. If people wanted to opt out we let them opt out.

I hope Ray gets his butt handed to him in court.

JP Micek

Great breakdown Dave. Ditto the suggestion for Cambell's work, Heroes Journey & all. This should help open the eyes of a lot of people . . . until they're together with others in a group again. ;-)

Lucia Mitro

Dear Mr. Lakhani,

I would like to start my comment by stating that I know a little about you, I met you in person and greatly respect you for all you have done. You can check my posts on Twitter and you find your name there often.

I have to admit I have missed felling about this post. I certainly see this needed to be said. The horrible tragedy shook me in my core. I know James Ray. I learned a lot from him and there was a point in my life that a few words he said to me personally gave me a “kick” of faith in myself I needed to go on. Stating that, I also need to say I wish James would made different decision but it is so easy to point fingers right now. There was great work done in the metaphysical field and this tragedy is a huge step back. My heart goes to all affect by this. Especial families that lost their loved ones.

You stated:”The real purpose of this article is to explore how people get persuaded to a point where they will follow anyone and do anything regardless of how illogical or dangerous it seems.”
Yes, there are a lot of crooks there that use and mislead people; suddenly everyone is a guru in this field.
I just do not feel James Ray is the horrible person. I do not feel he intended for people to die.
I have my share of people that I wish I never met. I worked with “gurus” that pretended to serve when all they want to count dollars.
I can see where you are coming from and believe me I am right there with you.

Well, you took his sales copy apart. You bolded some techniques he used .Well to me this is all it is – a sales copy, marketing, PR.

You do write those (sales copies) to right? You to use same techniques (to some extend) to. Your clients choose to work with you because you are great in what you do. In my opinion, your copy and your expertise in some cases were what got people buy the product, not product itself.

As I stated before I greatly respect you for all you do. You are amazing person and it is an honor to know you. However, I do appreciate work what James Ray did.
As I urge my clients to do- I am eager to learn for every single person I encounter, I take what feels right to me and leave what does not. I miss sometimes and get burned but I know better next time.

Dear Dave,
Please keep up the great work

Love Lucia

Rob Northrup

Dave, great post.

I hadn't heard about this tragedy but people will certainly follow authority especially when challenged to puch past limits by someone that they think knows more than they do.

This reminds me of the Richard Branson reality show "Rebel Billionaire" where the contestants had to perform various tasks. Some of them were marketing oriented, some were Daredevil oriented, such as bungee jumping.

On challenge, he set up an elaborate stunt, the person was going to get into a barrel with Branson and go over a huge waterfall-- the 360 foot drop at Victoria Falls in a "high tech barrel".

(Branson never had any intention of going through with it). The contestants overcame his rational logical thinking which told him that this would likely kill him, and agreed to do the stunt.

At this point Branson told him it was a test, and it was much too risky and eliminated him...

watch starting about 5 minutes on this video...

Rob Northrup

Cosmic Connie

What a superb job you have done here, Dave, not only of covering the standard manipulative tactics that self(ish)-help gurus use, but also of analyzing the reasons so many people are vulnerable to these tactics.

Like you, I would hesitate to call James Ray and his ilk sociopaths (though some may well be), but they definitely seem narcissistic, as you aptly illustrated in point 11 of your "process" list above: "When things go wrong, bring it back to the leader's pain, rally the true believers around him, get them to talk about how terrible the leader feels and have them express what his internal condition is, make it about his suffering not that of the affected. Turn the attention to the teachings and the teacher not the failure."

This certainly seems to be what James Ray is doing now.

While I have my doubts that this incident will put a real damper on the multi-billion-dollar self-help biz, it might, at the very least, cause some of those who were wavering to finally see the whole "Secret" franchise for the vacuous, greedy enterprise it has been from the beginning.And that's a good start.

It's just too bad that people had to die in order for that awakening to come about.

Dave Lakhani

Thanks to all who have left comments so far, I appreciate your input.

Let me be really clear. As I mentioned in the post, It isn't my purpose to say whether or not James Ray is guilty of anything, that is up to the authorities. I'm interested in demonstrating how groups are persuaded and how otherwise rational, logical people become sheeple, which in this case can and did turn deadly. It is important to understand so that we avoid much larger tragedies like the Guyana/Jim Jones tragedy or even a repeat of genocide like the Holocaust. It is also important to understand so that you can recognize the signs and make sound decisions for yourself.

Do I use sales and marketing? Of course, but I only sell things that have solid scientific, psychological underpinnings and not psuedo-science or promise things like teaching the spiritual enlightenment of Samurai warriors. Just because you can say something that causes people to be fooled doesn't mean you should.

Keep the comments coming!
Dave Lakhani

Sherri Frost

Your comments as always are right on target. There is a fine line between persuasion and manipulation. That line is crossed regularly by self help gurus who only want to help themselves in the end. People are often willing participants in this manipulation because they feel that it removes their decision in the process as well as their responsibility. You rightly point out that people are looking for a 'magic pill' which does not exist. Rather, it takes persistent, consistent effort to make progress. I will be following this story to see what the repercussions are for James Arthur Ray.

Arthur Goldwag

Very interesting post. Whether or not Ray's following qualifies as a cult, he uses all the techniques that cult leaders do and puts them in the service of his narcissism.

Arthur Goldwag

Alex Alexander

Dave as usual you are right on track.
Call it what you want cult self help church politics. All the same really
It Is truely incredible the power that can be wielded by shaping the words you use.
I love this quick story.
Grandpa use to tell me don't pay attention to money seek joy and find hapiness so I didn't pay any attention to money and it was all stolen (By grandpa)
I never fully trust anyone with an offering plate.
Funny how they are always the ones insisting you call the something bigger than yourself by the same name they call it.
What happened to the good ol days when spiritual leaders lived in the desert and ate locusts?
Todays gurus are pansies by comparison
Alex Alexander
Author of
The Great Big Boook on Twitter
Featuring a chapter of thoughts from Dave Lakani's stream

Alex Alexander

Promise you, I did put the h in your name.
My iPhone corrected it for me.
Is there a post in you about the cult of the
Pretty sure this little piece of metal and plastic
has me under it's spell.
Thanks for your work.

Ryan Healy | Business Growth

Dave - Thanks for putting together this post about why people do illogical things.

One of the telling things about the people who died is that they were actually group leaders back in their home towns and/or had been following James Ray for many years.

Clearly, they were "true believers" who were strongly predisposed to do anything that James told them to do.


Dave, you are as insightful as ever in this piece, and it's an important one at that.

I think it was Zig Ziglar who said, "The opposite of courage is not cowardice but conformity."

That's the power of group think in almost any hierarchical situation.

While in my 20's I enrolled in the hottest course of it's time, EST. Late in the morning, with no break in hours, an elderly lady in front of me got up and headed up the aisle.

They were famous for not allowing bathroom breaks or other comforts. The trainer stopped and addressed her, asking where she thought she was going.

She was clearly embarrassed. The ensuing dialogue was abrasive and verbally threatening. The entire audience, including me, sat there and watched her pain. She explained that she'd recently had surgery, which was why she had to leave.

When he continued his vebal assault with her frozen in place, in tears, I finally got up and told her to just keep going and began to walk with her.

The trainer was going nuts, screaming at us. I turned around and suggested something to the effect that he go fornicate himself. The word was harsher.

The audience remained in shocked silence, looking back at this ogre, as he finalized his abuse by telling us to get out for good.

Only one other person stood up and protested and left with us. There were over 500 in the room.

That was the most important lesson I could have learned, and I was ashamed that it had taken me that long to stand in protest.

Some of our modern day gurus, politicians, religious leaders, ad agencies and "celebrities" have well learned these super persuasion techniques.

We have to be the guardians of our own minds and souls and what you are doing with posts like this is putting that out in 3-D.

Thank you, Dave.

Tom Justin
Not A Guru

Blake Thomas

Your post is brilliant and timely. It demonstrates exactly why our country (and perhaps our world) is in the situation it's in. We blindly follow authority figures in the media, schools, religious institutions and government, regardless of whether or not they are qualified to lead.

Our common sense is challenged, diverted and often hijacked -- day after day -- and no one bothers to pay attention.

Your post reminds me of an air raid siren blaring in an increasingly deaf world... a bright strobe light flashing in the land of the blind... a valiant attempt at a serious warning that is thwarted by a docile, submissive and totally passive society.

I hope we wake up soon.

I look forward to your future posts.

Blake Thomas
"It’s what they’re doing to your brain when you’re not paying attention..."

Stage Hypnotist Simone

David, Thank you for writing this article. I attendend a James Ray live event about a month ago and James gave me a ten dollar bill for a dollar. I made a video (on my youtube channel) as I "put it back into the universe" Mysterious, huh.

I agree that persuasion skills held by anyone come with tremendous responsibility. You taught me the best of everything I know about persuasion. If you look at my youtube videos, I teach people the truth about lies because I want people to have fuller, better, more meaningful lives with real power. I owe YOU, David, for starting me on that path (especially since your Renegades of Persuasion Event).

James Ray is coming back to vegas in a couple weeks and I'm invited again. Do I want to go? I think not.

I enjoyed Ray's presentation. He's very good. I have nothing against him. Really. I realize you also have no animosity towards him. He did not go into that sweat lodge wanting to kill people.

That's not enough. Persuasive skill comes with tremendous responsibility.

Sometimes I shoot my videos in front of my library. There sits a copy of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hilter, containing the mindworks of a persuasive genious--for all the wrong reasons.

Bottom Line: People, even without evil intent, such as that of Hitler, can do a lot of harm by misusing persuasive talent, or simply by not paying attention to the negative results when you are not properly administering responsibility over your persuadees.

I probably didn't express that as well as I could. Just understand: Be responsible for the powerful effects of your very persuasive words, actions, marketing, everything that you do to persuade. Have a back up plan for your clients and students of your persuasion. Be there for them--for life.

Love you, David. Thanks again for this empowering and well thought out article on a very painful topic.


Great article Dave. Thanks for adding your psychological knowledge to understanding this situation.

Joy Weston

"Just the idea" that someone else has the
answers we all seem to be searching for...
in any area of our lives...makes us do stupid things. And if we can pay more, do more, risk more--then of course that must mean that it has so much more value than any inner wisdom we could generate on our own.
WOW...en-mass, we sure did buy into one well scipted snow job...that is literally
killing us!
James Arthur Ray certainly did not create this situation to kill anyone...but from all that I have read, he sure didn't make sure his guests were safe...starting from a poorly constructed Sweat Lodge, to under-standing the basic steps to fasting and coming out of fasting etc.
Does that make him guilty? Damn straight!
That's the good and the bad that comes with stepping up as the leader people are followng and trusting their minds and bodies too.
Now if this opens all our eyes to our wishful thinking of who and what will save us...maybe this horrifc event will have some meaning.
Thanks Dave. Joy Weston

Dr. Lisa Van Allen

Brilliant piece Dave. The use of social manipulation to equate a benign even beneficial idea/concept/act with an unacceptable one was mastered by Edward Bernays ( The idea of equating deeper spirituality with starving yourself and then cramming yourself in an overcrowded sweatlodge would generally be rejected. A group of seekers put their bodies, souls and spirits into the care of someone they trusted. Those of us who train, market, coach, minister or use persuasion to "help" others need to be aware and be cautious about exerting our powers of influence and persuasion. Ray wasn't there just to promote spirituality. He was making a lot of money and using crowd psychology to do it. What he did, in my opinion, was unethical and negligent.
Thanks for using your gifts Dave to challenge us to THINK!
Dr. Lisa Van Allen


Once again, Dave, you clarify and bring to Light How and Why there are so Few Free Thinkers in our [relatively] Free Society. The masses have been taught all too well to self denegrate and Follow the Leader, Succumb to Authority, no matter the cost...Taught To Believe that they couldn't possibly - Know Enough to Question Authority ... or ... Self-Regulate. When will people 'Get' that their 'Guru' is Within, IS Them and Not outside somewhere by whatever name, living or dead. I'm glad to say I know you and that You Shed Light on Mis-Information. You Show people How and Where they've been 'Done To' I hope that 'we' as a society 'Wake-Up' soon. Another point I'd share is a question I've heard asked often by my Native Brothers...When will White People STOP 'Playing Indian' and Disrespecting Native Culture? If one [or any group] desires any type of 'Native Experience' I'm certain there ARE Those in the Indian Nation who would be Willing Guides...Those who would preserve the Integrity both of the Ceremony and the 'Nation'. Doing so would ensure the Safety of participants And Save Lives.[If someone reading this requires contact with someone in the 'Nation' please feel free to contact me and I will get you 'connected' with the right people through my Native friends]. Just a couple of My thoughts on the subject...or are they?

Donna Barnette

Well, Dave, without saying "I told you so" let me just say that I told my friends so! It is good to see him exposed.

I joined two girlfriends in NY to see Mr. Ray a couple of years ago. This after a group of "Pop Spritualists" I had been hanging around with, and I, went to one of his free seminars.

What I witnessed at the NY venue was a cult leader. James and Mr. Jones have everything in common. Two peas in a pod. The hours were overwheleming; few breaks; late late times to get food; late endings; early morning starts. On the second day after witnessing Mr. Ray's absolute verbal attacks on some apparently vulnerable people I advised my freinds that the guy was a fraud and dangerous. I wanted to leave. They did not. I spent the rest of the weekend in my room waiting for the time when a plane would take me out of the cult setting and back to Chicago!

The strangest thing happened next. Three days after returning to Chicago I was hospitalized with a partial bowel obstruction. Never happened before. Never happened again since. And as bizzare as it sounds I felt it was somehow tied the experience in NY. Kind of back to Gestal theory--my body was speaking the only real truth of my experience.

I wrote a letter to Oprah (she's not completely out of the Ray category--but I don't think she is evil), advising her of what I witenssed in NY and suggesting she send a "secret shopper" to one of his seminars before continuing to associate with him in any way.

By the way, all of Ray's "I will answer all your questions" sessions provide the exact same answer to every question the audience comes up with. It's this: "Buy another seminar on that subject and you'll get your answers."

Mary Goulet

Great posts, everyone. My question is, why would a coach, consultant, leader of any sort, who is espousing their teachings "will change your life" want those very same people to abnegate their gut knowingness? A "real" teacher wants their students to grow and learn from their teachings so they can be independent of him, not dependent on him.

Sounds like James' ego is at work if needs to control his following.

The best gift he could give people is a sense of trust in themselves more than trusting him. If that was being taught maybe more of them would have crawled past him out of the sweat lodge, saving their lives as well as his career and reputation.

Author/coach of Go With Your Gut

MaryAine Curtis

Thank you Dave for an exceptional and timely message. I really appreciate what you had to say. If's a long road learning to follow one's own heart and guidance and any mind control techniques have been experienced and we all have had some.
I like Tom Justin's post on the EST seminar. It takes guts to stand up to the guru and help someone that is caught in the abuse.
Last week in San Luis Obispo a young girl was brutally attacked while walking with her mother at 1:30 P.M. Only one person came forward as a witness and he lives in Australia and has gone home. The perp was not caught. The girl has her jaw wired shut.
This is another result of people not wanting to get involved or take a stand or make a move. It makes it more important to teach young people to trust their gut so they hopefully do not become sheep.
Keep talking, You're a big necessary voice. Thank you, MaryAine


Great post, Dave, well thought out. I have participated in sweat lodges (so far all led by white people who had been taught by American Indian people). The facilitators were always very humble and utterly concerned with everyone's safety and wellbeing, knew exactly what they were doing, never coerced anyone, and charged a very reasonable price - the most I ever paid for such an experiene was $200.
Fasting, drinking and eating were all done at times and in ways that were biologically appropriate to the situation, with a lot of care going into the foods offered both before and after the sweat.
My biggest worry whenever a story like this hits the media is that it reflects badly on all those teachers and facilitators out there who are doing a wonderful job of empowering their clients and making an honest living that way, while at the same time almost everyone seems to be willing to be completely bamboozled by a government using the same marketing and PR techniques to make people do stupid things that are harmful to themselves only on a much bigger scale with a much bigger impact.

Great post. Thanks!

I just began to learn about marketing last year and went to several internet marketing workshops to learn the game. As one who is in the spiritual, self-help field and a facilitator of transformational workshops etc, it is very hard to not use typical BS marketing tactics and still be in my integrity. This post helped.

Thanks bro.


Hi Dave,
Excellent post - excellent points - thanks for putting it out there. I was saddened to learn about the James Arthur Ray Sweat lodge tragedy. He does not have the proper humility to lead a sweat.

I have attended many sweats led by native pipe carriers. None of them are hard driving motivational persuasion experts. In fact, I would never have participated if they had been.

I'm not much of a joiner in popular social groups. I was raised in the southwest bible belt. I've seen it all. My family standards kept us away from those sideshows.

My wish here is that the sweat lodge ceremony itself doesn't get a bad rap. It's truly beautiful to go within with respectful people and get clear on your own journey. It's certainly not a necessary ritual, but, I feel fortunate to have experienced it. There is magic inside the sweat.

Funny, I Didn't find Mr. Ray completely persuasive at all.
But then I come from a perspective of traditional knowledge through my culture.
I actually couldn't believe no one could hear the things he was really saying. I was a Met Bill Harris event and James was a guest.
I had a chance to ask him a question and share with him a project lead page ( basically just a title and inspiring short paragraph. He trashed Project just by assumptions on the title and basically made it very clear to me he has an underlying issue with women!! I also found him a touch on the needy side.
I decided to line up to meet him anyway. just following my intuition I guess...and as he arrived and shook my hand, I just knew behind all this charm and such...was a very deeply, deeply wounded man.
And the on going story that he tells of just how ugly he was(n't) as a boy was a huge sign for me of his inner issues.
but I too was at a bit of a loss there, as even my Sister was sold on him and his pitch!!

I have prayed many time since that meeting for him and still do now.

thank you. this was the best article I have read yet to help people grasp that this was just a lost man, who needed help himself. No an intended killer as some are trying to make out!!

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These stories are awful!!

Manifesting abundance

Great post! I learnt a lot from all of ya!

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