DEATH & A BOGUS SWEATLODGE                               © Spring 2010 Douglas Sundling    

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POST TRIAL ~ OCTOBER 2011

DEATH ACCEPTS AN INVITATION TO A BOGUS SWEATLODGE

JAMES ARTHUR RAY / TRADITIONAL SWEATLODGES

2010 SPIRITUAL WARRIOR RETREAT PROMO
PART 1:  NARRATIVE OF 5-DAY SPIRITUAL WARRIOR RETREAT

THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR RETREAT BEGINS

MONDAY

TUESDAY - THE SAMURAI GAME & THE VISION QUEST

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

PREPARATION FOR THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR SWEAT CEREMONY 

A PRELUDE TO CHAOS

THE 2009 SPIRITUAL WARRIOR SWEAT CEREMONY

INDIVIDUAL TESTIMONY OF EXPERIENCING JAMES RAY'S SWEAT CEREMONY
   East Quarter
   South Quarter - East Of Door
   South Quarter - West Of Door
   West Quarter
   North Quarter
   Outside The Lodge

THE CEREMONY ENDS

 9-1-1

JAMES RAY UNDER PRESSURE


LACK OF PREPARATION FOR PASSING OUT & OTHER "ALTERED STATES"


MONEY
2009 SPIRITUAL WARRIOR SWEAT CEREMONY: PROBABLE POSITIONS OF PARTICIPANTS

2009 SPIRITUAL WARRIOR SWEAT CEREMONY: PROBABLY SEQUENCE OF EVENTS BY ROUNDS
PART 2:  THE SPIRITUAL WARRIOR BOGUS SWEATLODGE

SIZE OF SWEAT STRUCTURE & NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS

COVERINGS

NUMBER OF ROUNDS & NUMBER OF ROCKS

THE HEAT

THE CROCK POT EFFECT

BETWEEN ROUNDS

LEAVING DURING THE CEREMONEY - WHAT WAS THE POLICY?

SWEATLODGE COMPARED TO A MARATHON

WAIVERS

"PLAY FULL ON"

"IT IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE" - DEATH AS A METAPHOR

WHY?

HUBRIS:  CEO vs. FACILITATOR

SWEATLODGE & THE COURTROOM


RAISON D'ĘTRE OF ONE PERSON'S "NO" -  ELSE HAFSTAD
THE RAISON D'ĘTRE OF ONE PERSON'S "NO" -
ELSE HAFSTAD


     After all the analysis and composing a narrative of this botched sweat ceremony, I wish to close with the following testimony given the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office by participant Else Hafstad.  I have edited her verbal testimony for clarity.

     I arrived at the Angel Valley a little late, so I missed the introduction that James Ray had.  He must have said something that motivated everybody to have their heads shaved.  And so I went up and watched the last two people who were having it done, and they asked if I wanted to do it.  And I said it doesn’t mean anything to me, it doesn’t do anything to me to shave my head, so I didn’t do that. 
     There were four of us that didn’t [shave our heads], then there were three of us, and then there were just two of us, and he would look right at us and smile.  It’s group pressure, and I thought, “Why would I do it now?  Is it because I feel like he is making fun of me or does it mean something to me to shave my head?”  And I said it doesn’t make any sense, it doesn’t give me anything to shave it, the only reason why I do it now because I don’t want him saying this to me anymore.  So I thought, “No, I am not going to do it.”  And I know a couple of those girls were shivering and scared about having their hair cut off and they were going to die if they didn’t.  And then when they did it, they stood in front of him gleaming like, “See.  Did I do it?”  And I felt like gees, they stand there like little girls getting an acknowledgment or something.
     Then everyday it just occurred to me, even that last day, the girl that died [Kirby Brown] had had that long hair, and then she was one of the many girls that just they went out and did it in the break.  And then they went straight up to show themselves to James Ray for some kind of an approval, and he would have everyone cheering, “Oh, that’s great.”  And I thought, “That’s what you get; you get that ten seconds of cheering, and then you sit there with your head shaved.”  I just didn’t see the whole value of it for myself.  I am always a little wary of group pressure, and it looked like it and it felt like it.  And the theme was to go beyond where you have ever been before, so I thought, “Why am I not doing this?”  Ultimately you are responsible to know your own body and your own limits.
      And I thought people were being pressure to do stuff.  That whole event was different than the two other ones that I had gone to.  It felt like a lot of pressure. 
     And no one was told that we were going to do a sweat lodge after [the Vision Quest], so I don’t think all of us really tried to hydrate like crazy when we got back.  And I hardly ate anything because I have never been without food and drink or water for that long, and I was just drained from bleeding [menstruating] so much that I figured I don’t have anything to go on.  But I was also a bit pissed at James because he knew there were a couple of very obese women and men there and also one with that blood pressure problem, and he should have warned people somehow that you are going into very extreme heat and just go in cautiously.  And instead, I had two roommates that were, “I feel nauseous” and “I feel scared” and all that stuff, and I thought, “Then why do you go in there?”
     I mean you can be spiritual but it has to be a little bit practical and grounded too.
     I just didn’t think it seemed safe because he explained that he had the hottest sweat lodge that he ever done before.  And the roof was lower than it had been before, and I knew it was about sixty of us.  And he explained that you probably had to be prepared to crawl on your hands and knees because you couldn’t stand up in there.  I am an engineer, so I just thought safety is one of my areas and I just didn’t think it seemed safe.  And then we had just done about 36 hours without food and water, and I was on my period and had kind of been complaining that I had never bled so much in my life.  I was dehydrated to start with, and I thought to go in there, I wouldn’t even last five minutes.  So I just didn’t think it was right, and I didn’t think it seemed safe.  And so I just decided I wouldn’t go.
     [Before the sweat ceremony] I actually went to [my] tepee, and my two other roommates were getting ready and all nervous and all that.  And I just sat down on the bed and said, “Do I want to do this?”  And so I just asked myself if it’s right for me, and I just felt like no.  And then, “Why would I do it?  I would be dizzy in there, and what am I proving?  Nothing really.”  And so I just thought, “No, it’s not safe, it’s not going to be good for me, I am not ready for it. I am totally dehydrated. And I am bleeding like crazy.  So what good could it do.”
     My thing was I didn’t go there [sweat ceremony], and I felt guilty about not having gone.  And so I sat there and struggled with not having done it and all that, and I felt kind of silly at that.  It wasn’t right for me and that’s what I knew, but I should have spoken up.
    I am a single mother of two children, and that was also one of the reasons why I didn’t want to take a risk in that lodge because if anything happened to me, then it would have been very irresponsible and selfish I thought.  There’s nothing I could experience in there that would excuse that.

     This is a story that can be told over and over, but never explained.  Three people are dead because of this story.  How they died is fairly self-evident.  Why they died isn’t. 
     A timeless intrigue of this tragedy can be portrayed by the moments between the Vision Quest and the eight-round endurance test of a bogus sweatlodge.  Up to those moments, while there had been some risk, none of James Ray’s activities had or probably could have overwhelmed anyone.  But the same inherent flaw that Det. Mike Poling had sensed as he conducted investigative interviews Else Hafstad had realized in those moments between the events. 
     Ms. Hafstad sensed the danger and responded using the very principles most traditional sweatlodges move through – find clarity of perception, formulate a response, resolve emotional sensibility, and respond with integrated action.  Yet when she presented that resolve to her two roommates who felt scared and nauseous, they responded with blind faith in James Ray.  Why? 
     The clarity of common sense flared up and presented itself to two anxious people but couldn’t spark the light of good sense in either one.  Why not?  Why didn’t one of Else’s roommates pause, sense the clarity of Else’s perception, formulate a response, find emotional sensibility, and then respond likewise with a “no.”  If two roommates had decided “no,” then why not the third one also?  And if three Spiritual Warrior participants had presented themselves to James Ray and his gathering clients and said they weren’t going to rush into this crazy and intense “sweat lodge,” would more have responded likewise? 
     What caused everyone to chase after the fanciful impressions Mr. Ray had conjured for them?  Money?  Ego?  Pride?  Brain-washing?  Broken souls?  A cult and its cult leader?  The eternal and insatiable human thirst to reach some unattainable state of existence? 
     In the moments between the Vision Quest and James Ray’s bogus sweatlodge, one person had the insight and the will to say “no,” and the others didn’t.  Explanations abound, but can never fully explain “Why?”  That quality of being human shall always be a mystery. 

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