Friday, October 23, 2009

Cult Video Interlude, Part 4: "It Was My Pleasure"

Meet James Arthur Ray. He's one of the many self-help gurus out there who seem to have made a lot of money telling other people how they can make a lot of money. The message seems to be: "You can get rich with your mind, but you'll have to put in a lot of effort!" I always wonder, which is it? Do I just use my mind and a mystical "secret" (like The Secret)? Or do I put in effort?

The reason this person is up here as part of a "cult" series, is that he recently led a "sweat lodge" for about 50 people in Sedona, Arizona, in which (at last counting) three people ended up dead after Ray reportedly actively discouraged them from getting up and leaving when the heat of the lodge became too intense. As human beings lay injured and dying, say eyewitnesses, Ray left the scene. This is why skepticism can save lives!

I only made it to about three and a half minutes into this video. He tells some tiresome tale about how a manager at a restaurant taught him the meaning of life by repeating the quotidian phrase: "It was my pleasure." How these "gurus" drain thousands of dollars out of other people by finding faux profundity in the utterly mundane is the only marvel here. I guess it's showbiz, if something so unentertaining counts as showbiz. But I'll continue to avoid Ray and his ilk. It will be my pleasure!

UPDATE 10/25/09: After the incident described above, a skeptic sits through a free James Arthur Ray seminar and lives to write about it here.

UPDATE 2/11/10: Ben Radford goes into more detail here about the possible perils of sweating too much.

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