My Daughter Died at the Hands of Oprah's New Age Guru. Why Is She Silent? - 2020-07-09
Self-help gurus don't come much deadlier than James Arthur Ray, a cult-ish charlatan who became a star thanks to 2006's film The Secret and the publicity given to it, and him, by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Larry King.
Having achieved lucrative heights, however, Ray saw his empire come crashing down on Oct. 8, 2009, when three attendees at his Sedona, Arizona, "Spiritual Warrior" retreat—Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman—died as a result of a sweltering sweat lodge challenge, and Ray himself fled the scene without taking responsibility for the insanely reckless incident he'd personally overseen. Having preached the "law of attraction," which contends that our lives are shaped by the positive (or negative) energy and thoughts we put out into the world, Ray's career was rightfully shattered by this tragedy: the New Age businessman was eventually convicted of three counts of negligent homicide and sentenced to two years in jail, of which he served only 20 months before being released in 2013.
Ray's rise, fall and shameless attempted comeback is the focus of Guru: The Dark Side of Enlightenment, a new Wondery podcast (available now) created and hosted by journalist Matt Stroud, who first reported on the story back in 2013. Recounting Ray's scandalous tale in far greater detail than Oxygen network's recent Deadly Cults episode on the subject, the six-part true-crime series is guided by candid interviews with former Ray acolytes who survived that fateful 2009 weekend. Yet it's most poignant voice comes courtesy of Ginny Brown, mother of Kirby Brown, whose anguish and fury over this fatal turn of events is palpable, and who, along with her husband George, has channeled her grief into a nonprofit organization called Seek Safely which aims to create regulations and standards for a self-help industry that currently has neither.