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A spiritual guru linked to a philosophy endorsed by Oprah Winfrey is facing possible criminal charges in the deaths of two and the hospitalization of 19 in a ritual “spiritual cleansing” at an Arizona resort.
The victims were participating in a sauna-like “sweatbox” treatment while attending a program run by James Arthur Ray, who appeared in a DVD version of “The Secret,” a New Age book authored by Rhonda Byrne that was heavily promoted by Winfrey.
The dead were identified as James Shore of Milwaukee, Wis., and Kirby Brown of Westtown, N.Y. The dead were attending Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior” program at the Angel Valley Resort near Sedona.
The sweatbox is a dome structure covered with tarps and blankets, utilizing hot rocks and water to create steam.
Angel Valley Resort advertises itself as “a place to relax and heal … where powerful earth energies are present and active.” It was founded in April 2002 by Michael and Amayra Hamilton, both of whom are teachers and counselors there.
The use of sweat lodges for spiritual and physical cleansing is a part of several Native American tribes’ cultures.
The self-help guru is known for his programs that claim to teach individuals to create wealth and prosperity through all aspects of their lives by simply thinking thoughts of perfection and happiness.
“The Secret” rose to the top of the best-sellers lists after massive promotion on Winfrey’s TV show.
Meanwhile, another best-selling author, Josh McDowell, has just published a book co-authored by Dave Sterrett that seeks to expose what they call Oprah’s “false teachings,” including “The Secret.” In their book, “‘O’ God, A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality,” McDowell and Sterrett confront the TV queen’s gospel of health, wealth and prosperity.