A Violent, Deadly Cult With Forced Abortions and Shades of Scientology - 2020-04-24
To understand how a cult operates, one need look no further than the nightly news, where a charismatic strongman messiah preaches to his acolytes that he's the only bulwark against a conspiratorial evil enemy, and then convinces them to behave in ways that are antithetical to their best interests. Still, for a more in-depth (and less politicized) view of such charlatans and the mesmerizing grip they hold over their flock, Oxygen's Deadly Cults returns this Sunday, April 26, with eight new tales of sinister saviors and easily duped disciples. Insightful and sensationalistic in equal measure, the series' second season illustrates that, whether in traditional or modern forms, these groups continue to flourish thanks to the megalomaniacal egos and greed of certain men, and the catastrophic gullibility and need of so many everyday individuals.
It's a contemporary cult that gets initial attention from Deadly Cults, as its premiere episode trains its critical gaze on James Arthur Ray, a self-help huckster who rose to prominence in the 2006 film The Secret, which promoted the notion that one could achieve anything one wanted by simply believing in it. His participation in that film, as well as subsequent appearances on Oprah and Larry King's talk shows, helped propel his seminar business, and as former followers such as Connie Joy and Melissa Phillips confess, they quickly found themselves hooked on his teachings. For them, Ray's lessons were a gateway to personal growth, and thus worth the exorbitant costs required to move up his pyramid-structured "Journey of Power" curriculum—including the $10,000 demanded of participants who wanted to experience the apex of the course, "Spiritual Warriors."
As depicted by Deadly Cults, Ray is a New Age version of an old-school televangelist crook, enticing clients with promises of enlightenment and satisfaction while not-so-subtly milking them dry. Unfortunately for him, though, his operation fell apart on Oct. 8, 2009, when, during an insanely intense sweat-lodge challenge at a "Spiritual Warriors" retreat, Ray wouldn't allow followers to physically escape to fresh air, causing three attendees to die. The tragedy netted Ray two years behind bars for negligent homicide—and the loss of many devotees. And yet as the series indicates, he now continues to hawk his counterfeit wares, replete with new claims that his own misfortune is an example of the type of obstacle one can learn to overcome with his coaching.