After being featured in the book and movie of The Secret (TS) in 2006, James Arthur Ray was propelled onto the national stage. At the time, he was touted as the latest in a long line of prominent self-help gurus who claimed to hold the keys to living a happy and successful life.
In early 2007, Ray took over Oprah’s couch for two highly-rated shows devoted to TS. “[Quack] science tells us that everything is energy, and so your thoughts are energy,” Ray told Oprah’s vast audience. “Your body, your cash, your car — everything you think is solid, if you put it under a high-powered [quack] microscope, it’s just a field of [quack] energy and a rate of vibration. And so are we.”[my additions] A year later his book became a New York Times best seller. The price of joining Ray’s World Wealth Society — a program of one-to-one mentoring — peaked at $90,000, and he bought a luxurious home in Beverly Hills.
Then, in October of 2009, three of Ray’s followers died.
In Sedona, Ariz., as many as 75 men and women who had paid $10,000 each for one of Ray’s week long programs participated in a sweat lodge ceremony inside hut draped with tarps and blankets and heated by scalding rocks. As temperatures soared to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, several people inside started passing out. Kirby Brown, 37, and James Shore, 40, died of heatstroke that night. Eighteen others were hospitalized for everything from burns to kidney failure. Nine days later, Liz Newman, 49, died of organ failure. In November 2011, Ray was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide.
Three months before her death, Kirby Brown was at her parents’ house for the wedding of her sister Jean. Jean recalls that it was after seeing James Ray on Oprah’s show that her sister read “The Secret” and became a fan of Ray. She remembers Kirby telling her to read the book, how amazing it was, and how amazing James Ray was; that he’d been on Oprah, and that she was looking forward to the Ray event she would be attending a few months later.
In an open letter to Oprah dated May 27, 2014, Jean writes “But here’s the thing, Oprah. You have a voice. One that is respected, one that is listened to, one that is heard. I can sort of understand why you’d hide after what happened — for legal reasons, your reputation, etc. But now that James Ray is ‘working’ again, I implore you: challenge James Ray with the truth. Ask my mother about her truth. About Kirby’s truth.”
This is five years after the tragedy! Jean is very generous and does not blame Oprah for Kirby’s death, noting that Oprah was herself “probably duped” by James Ray. Oprah’s viewers practically worship her like an Oracle and her words are edicts on which they build their lives. And Oprah knows this. It was The Oprah Effect that catapulted James Ray into stardom. If Oprah had not sponsored Ray, he would not have been so successful and Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Newman would not have paid him $10,000 for a fatal sweat lodge retreat. Who is responsible for Kirby’s death?