Is the fact that this man was violating a Native American spiritual ceremony really that important?” I say “Yes.”
Most will agree that people of all cultures share a desire to seek a connection to the divine. We need not look far for ample evidence. And all around the world, sacred ceremonies are shared with those outside their culture. It is a great honor to be included and an outsider's participation is with complete awareness of the potential dangers involved.
But sometimes the greedy forget how powerful the human mind is and, if underestimated, how these forces can quickly overwhelm our bodies. We need only look to the field of psychology to see how this plays out: Soldiers returning home without a scratch yet so traumatized they can never again function in society; victims of rape never again able to experience a loving sexual relationship; and yes, victims of new age ceremonies, those conducted without adequate knowledge or sensitivity to indigenous teachings, traumatized for life by the sights and sounds of people wretching and dying all around them.
This is where human frailties become dangerous as one man’s greed did not long ago. Without the blessing or sanction of medicine people in the Native American tradition, he decided to make money off of innocent people’s desire for spirituality. Last night, as my eyes closed, I mulled over these issues and almost before I was asleep Amazon Sage dream-traveled to that fateful day in Camp Verde, Arizona. She was determined to find out what really happened inside and if possible, offer help. Once inside the makeshift “sweat lodge” she quickly saw the problem; too many people had too little air. Yet they were admonished not to lift the tarp around the sides and certainly not to exit, lest they lose their “spiritual lesson.” Meanwhile, the “leader” sat next to the opening where he had all the air he needed.
The looks on the people’s faces were certainly not of bliss. Some had already begun to vomit, struggling to follow their leader’s directive to stay put. When Ray finally allowed the occupants to exit, one of his outside staff members described the scene this way: “As people stumbled out of the sweat lodge, collapsing on the ground, James Ray was just watching... standing above and watching. “ ... as people suffered and died. Amidst the horror, all Amazon Sage could do was sit quietly with the dying as their sweet spirits passed into the great beyond.
Were this an actual spiritual ceremony and not simply a device for a leader to line his pockets, no person would have been shamed into staying. More importantly, they would certainly not have been charged money for their “spiritual experience”. So, once again I ask you: “How did a new age ceremony become murder?” Look to the motivation of the leader and the source of the ceremony and you will know the answer.