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A Ray of caution?

Folks, I am as down on James Ray as anyone. As I recently told a Member of Major Media, Ray and his travails epitomize all that's wrong with latter-day self-help. Little or no credentials to be selling what he's selling...the promise of near-instant transformation...a distinct proclivity for "churning" his disciples...scandalous prices for a slapdash program consisting of unproven, potentially (now manifestly) dangerous material.

All that said...I'm getting a wee bit uneasy about the ardor of our collective assault on Ray. I think there is danger in piling on, as some of us have
—including your host. I think that we run the risk of unwittingly marginalizing ourselves: that in our zeal to find and trumpet every last incriminating detail, background circumstance or untoward facial expression—while at the same time ignoring or rationalizing away any possible mitigating circumstanceswe make ourselves look like, say, the liberals who once were accused of "Bush derangement syndrome." Or the current Republicans who take such delight in savaging Obama, every word that emanates from his mouth, and everything he philosophically stands for.

You can drop those eyebrows back to their normal positions; believe me, I intend no parallels between Barack Obama and James Ray. I'm just saying that while Ray may be the poster boy for reckless/venal self-help, we probably shouldn't make him out to be the Grim Reaper, Adolph Hitler and Bernie Madoff rolled into one. Certainly not until he has his day in court. The guy almost surely is a megalomaniac
but if you're telling me that he intended to kill those people, or that he didn't care if he did...I'm not buying it. I think that in the person of James Ray, we have a messianic blunderer with no sense of consequences who may have honestly felt that he was showing tough-love on that October day, driving clients to push beyond their limits. This is not in any way to excuse what happened in Sedona. If anything, it underscores why self-help is so stupid, so scary. And that is where our emphasis should now reside, in my opinion.

Over the past year or so, The Secret and its mystique have been coming apart at the seams. The sudden fall from grace of some of its "stars"
not just Ray but also David Schirmer* and even creator Rhonda Byrne herselfspeaks volumes about the project and the people involved, putting the lie to the touchy-feely philanthropy and avowed "hope for mankind" that characterized The Secret's earliest viral PR. (A little birdie tells me there are more falls from grace to come.) Further, if other erstwhile Secretrons have avoided major public black eyes, they have also shown no qualms about throwing the project and their collaborators under the bus, riffing on The Secret's deficiencies and building entire new programs around its (supposed) "forgotten laws."

Their actions say more about that project
and the New Age muck from which it sprangthan millions of words of condemnation for James Ray, churned out daily by the ever-growing skeptosphere. S

* Not to be confused with Skeptic's Michael Shermer. Regular readers know this, but I don't want to leave casual visitors with any mistaken impressions.

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