The sad story becomes clearer. For some seeking rebirth, sweat lodge was end.
Midway through a two-hour sweat lodge ceremony intended to be a rebirthing experience, participants say, some people began to fall desperately ill from the heat, even as their leader, James Arthur Ray, a nationally known New Age guru, urged them to press on.
“There were people throwing up everywhere,” said Dr. Beverley Bunn, 43, an orthodontist from Texas, who said she struggled to remain conscious in the sweat lodge, a makeshift structure covered with blankets and plastic and heated with fiery rocks.
Dr. Bunn said Mr. Ray told the more than 50 people jammed into the small structure — people who had just completed a 36-hour “vision quest” in which they fasted alone in the desert — that vomiting “was good for you, that you are purging what your body doesn’t want, what it doesn’t need.” But by the end of the ordeal on Oct. 8, emergency crews had taken 21 people to hospitals.
About 90 minutes into the ceremony, Dr. Bunn said, someone yelled in the darkness that a woman had passed out just after Mr. Ray closed the tent door between rounds. Dr. Bunn said Mr. Ray replied, “We will deal with that after the next round.”
By the end of the ceremony, two people, James Shore, 40, who Dr. Bunn said had dragged an ill woman out of the lodge and then returned, and Kirby Brown, 38, were near death; they died that evening. A third participant, Liz Neuman, 49, fell into a coma and died on Oct. 17.
Two victims, Kirby Brown, 38, and Liz Neumann, 49
Given the accounts of the survivors who said that Ray was intimidating and discouraged people from leaving, I hope that criminal charges are brought against him, if not manslaughter, at least criminally negligent homicide.
I suppose it is to be expected that many will continue to support Ray, but this is shocking.
On a conference call Mr. Ray held last week for sweat lodge participants, Dr. Bunn was shocked to hear one recount the comments of a self-described “channeler” who visited Angel Valley after the retreat. Claiming to have communicated with the dead, the channeler said they had left their bodies in the sweat lodge and chosen not to come back because “they were having so much fun.”
More from the Daily Mail - Sweat lodge survivor tells how guru 'caused three deaths'
People were vomiting in the stifling heat, gasping for air, and lying lifeless on the sand and gravel floor beneath them, according to participant Beverley Bunn.
By the time people started collapsing, Bunn had already crawled to a spot near the opening of the sweat lodge, praying for the door to stay open as long as possible between rounds so that she could breathe in fresh air.
At one point, someone lifted up the back of the tent, allowing light into the otherwise pitch-black tent. Ray demanded to know where the light was coming from and who committed the 'sacrilegious act,' she explained.
As it neared the end, Bunn said some participants found themselves physically and mentally unable to tend to those around them.
After the eighth round, Ray instructed them to exit the sweat lodge just has they had entered - going clockwise, a movement meant to symbolize being inside a mother's womb.
What followed was a triage situation with people laid out on tarps and water being thrown on them to bring down body temperatures.
Some people weren't breathing and had bloodshot eyes. One woman unknowingly walked toward the fire before someone grabbed her, Bunn said.
Shouts of 'we need water, we need water,' rang out. 'They couldn't fill up the buckets fast enough,' Bunn said.
Ray was standing about 10 feet away, watching, Bunn said.
'He didn't do anything, he didn't participate in helping. He did nothing. He just stood there.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at October 23, 2009 11:52 AM | Permalink