Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stupid, stupid, stupid...


“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”

- Harlan Ellison

Ok... a bunch of stuff to cover! Let's get this gig started...

Stupid, stupid, stupid... I wouldn't want the karmic debt this dumb-ass just inherited. Criminy... I've included some relevant news articles below. The fact that these spend-my-way-to-enlightenment folks also fasted, including no water, shows how incredibly ignorant those who ran this were.

Kansas City Star:

Sweat lodge deaths cast negative spotlight on guru

James Arthur Ray led a group of more than 50 followers into a cramped, sauna-like sweat lodge in Arizona recently by convincing them that his words would lead them to spiritual and financial wealth.

The mantra has made him a millionaire. People routinely pack Ray’s seminars and follow the motivational guru to weeklong retreats that can cost more than $9,000 per person.


50 people at $9,000 = $450,000

From Indian Country Today
Concerning the deaths in Sedona

Arvol Looking Horse (Chief Arvol Looking Horse is the 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle.)


Our ceremonies are about life and healing. From the time this ancient ceremonial rite was given to our people, never has death been a part of our inikaga (life within) when conducted properly. Today, the rite is interpreted as a sweat lodge. It is much more than that. The term does not fit our real meaning of purification.

Inikaga is the oldest ceremony brought to us by Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit). Nineteen generations ago, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota oyate (people) were given seven sacred rites of healing by a Spirit Woman, Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman).


What has happened in the news with the makeshift sauna called the “sweat lodge” is not our ceremonial way of life.

When you do ceremony, you can not have money on your mind. We deal with the pure sincere energy to create healing that comes from everyone in that circle of ceremony. The heart and mind must be connected. When you involve money, it changes the energy of healing.


At Huffington Post:

What good are the ceremonies if they cannot save a people?

Tim Giago (Lakota)
Founder, Native American Journalists Association


I am not going to dance around the consequences of Arthur Ray's stupidity because he was blatantly using a religious ceremony of the Native Americans to enrich himself and what is worse, he didn't know any of the sacred rites that accompany the inipi nor did he know the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota language, an intricate part of the ceremony.

According to the recognized and respected wicasa wakan (holy men) of the Sioux Nation, the Tunka Oyate (Spiritual Grandfathers) know and understand the Native tongues of the Sioux people and any inipi ceremony without this ingredient is no ceremony at all. That should have been the first clue to the new agers attempting to usurp the rituals of the Sioux, rituals that are much older than the Holy Bible.


And finally, the NY Times:

Deaths at Sweat Lodge Bring Soul-Searching


At least seven other people have died in ceremonial sweat lodges since 1993 in the United States, England and Australia, according to news accounts compiled by Alton Carroll, an adjunct professor of history at San Antonio College who also moderates the Web site

James Arthur Ray, a self-help expert from Carlsbad, Calif., led what was billed as five-day “spiritual warrior” experience at Angel Valley, which concluded with a tightly packed sweat lodge ceremony. Participants paid about $9,000 each for the weeklong retreat, which included seminars, a 36-hour fast and solo experiences in the forest.

The authorities say that at any one time 55 to 65 people were packed for a two-hour period into a 415-square foot structure that was 53 inches high at the center and 30 inches high on the perimeter. Mr. Ray’s employees built the wood-frame lodge, which was wrapped in blankets and plastic tarps. Hot rocks were brought into the lodge and doused with water. Mr. Ray, who conducted the ceremony, left the area on Thursday after declining to give a statement to the police.


Dr. Carroll, who is partly of Mescalero Apache descent, said the Angel Valley sweat lodge was the “best example I have seen, sadly, in a long time of why it is extremely dangerous to conduct sweat lodge ceremonies without proper training.”

OK, I put those together soon after this incident occurred. What has our most recent enlightened ego guide encountered in the weeks since this sad, sad (did I mention stupid?) incident?

Well, let's see...

Hmmm... it seems the lawsuits are piling up. No surprise there, he deserves his day (or days) in court. I also know some Lakota fellers that would love to have some time with him, perhaps in one of their "warrior sweats" where they really crank up the heat.

I've participated in big lodges, small lodges, hot ones, warm ones, family sweats and men only sweatlodge ceremonies. The only injury I've ever seen came when someone (non-Indian) used the wrong kind of rocks and they exploded in the fire. As karma goes this was pretty instant because it was the one who picked the rocks that got zapped by flying shards. I think they hurt.

I've written here about the sweatlodge before, so I'm gonna repeat myself (I once was head of the Department of Redundancy Department) a bit.

The sweatlodge ceremony is really, really old. Native American traditions pretty uniformly agree the ceremony is so old know no one knows how old it is and often it is a tribe/nation's oldest ceremony. But sweating is, after all, an international affair. For some it was hot baths in hot springs, for others - like my kin in Scandinavia (hello Lillkrokvik!) - the sweat practice is conducted in the sauna.

The problem Mr. Ray encountered is that he copied the sacred ceremony of the sweat and then ran it as a means to make money. Wrong wrong wrong. The sweat is the most humble of ceremonies and often the most humbling. You sit on the ground in a structure made from sticks and covered with whatever. Again unfortunately, Ray's folks at Angel Valley covered theirs with plastic tarps. Wrong wrong wrong. But in the lodge there is nothing but water, earth, fire and air... on the ground in a dome of sticks... no choirs, no fancy stained glass, maybe some sweetgrass, maybe some sage, cedar... maybe even someone will sing who has a good voice. Even the prayers are humble and pretty generally never for one's self but directed towards those in need - food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, blankets for the cold ones... protection for the voiceless...

Ray's instructions also called for fasting prior to the ceremony, including a fast from water. Duh... hello? A sweat lodge can drain a body, sweat can just pour off a body to the point that the body's sweat is no longer salty. Of course that's one of the health benefits of sweatlodge, a complete flush of the body's water supply.

Your skin is your body's largest organ and holds toxins that can accumulate. A sweatlodge heats your entire body - in a sense it is an oven - and one's body gets hot all the way thru. It sweats! Lots... and lots. If you don't have water in you, your body will revolt, kind of like a collective "oh no you don't!" from your organs. Add to it the possibility of the wrong rocks or the addition of some "special herb mixture" and you have a recipe for disaster. And of course the proof is in the pudding... 3 dead, dozens injured.

Native people are glad to share, they'll give 'til it hurts. But when you desecrate their sacred things, you've gained a whole lotta people not liking you so much. I've never been chased away from a sweat, never been criticized by indigenous folks for doing my own sweats... but I have been trained, I've participated in hundreds of sweats and every one is a learning experience. I also respect my own indigeneity...

We ALL are indigenous. There is no escaping that little truth. Everything we have (except for those moon rock samples) has come from the earth. We are earth...

James Ray... I most certainly hope you get all you deserve and that no one ever gives you another dime again.

How sad... can you say "cheese"


And some photographs... I've been away from the blog for over a month, been working on some changes. Here's one of the biggies:

Gone, the moustache I've had for about 15 years since last I didn't have it. Gone, the hair...

I've had my long hair for 35 years. When I got my last haircut in October of 1974 it was my last one because, 1) I was wanting to become a hippie, 2) I had people telling me to get my haircut for 24 years, and 3) I decided I was going to go 24 yers w/o getting a haircut. I've adapted my life, my social/cultural relationships around being a man with long hair. And yeah, I ran into plenty of cultural bigots. Idiots I prefer to call them. But I've always had the option of NOT having long hair. Skin color can't be changed. And if that's what you've got for an excuse to hate... how sad for you...

Bigots suck. We're all bigoted to a point, but most of us work on growing up and acting like adults who live in a world we have to share with a variety of folks. I mean really? I don't like a whole lot of people and am a pretty private person, but I'll be damned if humanity doesn't keep shining through our patina of collective stupidity, displaying wonderful, loving and good hearted acts of grace. And those moments are almost worth all the other shit we put each other through and keeps me from just writing humanity's sorry ass off. Hate is just bad form... and we all benefit the less there is of it.

So... the hair is gone, the 'stache is gone. Why? It was time. Things in my life are changing. I have stuff I need to accomplish in this last decade or maybe two left to me here. My photography is at a level that I have to get out there and sell myself. I can't keep climbing ladders and scrambling on rooftops for too much longer. And I certainly can't make as much money in the building maintenance biz as I can looking through my camera.

So, for a bit, my posts may be spread out a ways. I'll try and get images posted if I don't have time to write.

AND BY THE WAY! Thanks to those who have purchased my calendar. I could stand to sell a few more though, so please, support the arts, support your local artists... buy one of my beautiful, all Oregon images calendars: Allan Erickson's Oregon

My daughter's choir joined with the high school's Jazz Band to hold a PieFest as a way to raise money for a trip the band plans to make. As always, it was a fun show and I took the camera to provide images to both groups (a funny sidenote here, at 58 I finally get my photographs into the high school yearbook!):


Went up to Washington for Thanksgiving dinner with my little sis and her family. The trip began with this moment of terror:

my son Alex, has his driver's permit. After some heavy pre-trip trepidation it was the realization that my dad had to teach me freeway driving in L.A. that helped eased my nervous hesitation. He did real well... he even drove thru some fairly heavy rain:

(I even sat in the backseat, thus the, uh, backseat view)

We had a wonderful dinner, some good family time. My grand niece Keira provided a great target for my camera:

I love my rural NorthWest... I-5 may be handy but it's not pleasant for me to drive it. Which is just my distaste for BIG showing through I guess. Once I get a chance to get off the freeway, I do. We caught this scene as we crossed the Chehalis River at Porter after leaving my sister's on our way back to Eugene:

I also have to admit a prejudice for liking Portland. I love its skyline and passing through at dawn or dusk is always a treat. This shot taken from my perch in the backseat:


And here are a few more just 'cause:


- “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

- Albert Einstein



Britt said...

Congrats on the haircut/shave! Thanks for posting your thoughts on the James Arthur Ray fiasco. Apparently official J.A.R. words should be forth-coming shortly. I, like you, am awaiting this man's words. More interesting than the inevitable court case is how people will vote with their wallets. He still has a profound following!


Unknown said...


First time I've read your blog and I have to admit to liking it. Of course your photos of PDX didn't hurt as I live in the metro area.

I'd also like to congratulate you on your even handed comments about JAR. The sweat lodge history was interesting and your not making hysterical claims was refreshing.

At the very least JAR was stupid and potentially liable. Ultimately, he was responsible as any leader is but I doubt that it was done with malice.

Like many people I am waiting to see how many people try to make money from this unfortunate incident. Not being a sage I have no idea who and how much each person is to blame but it seems to me that there is enough blame to go around. But as I said earlier the ultimate blame has to fall on the shoulders of JAR.

JAR has followers that blindly follow him and if your paying $9,000 for the weekend I have to believe that your a pretty dedicated follower. As such, JAR bears a special responsibility to those people that don't necessarily think for themselves.

Allan Erickson said...

Thanks Britt... I am also now the proud owner of a cold neck.

Gary... thanks for dropping in and the kind words.

I've watched the Ray episode and it's a culture study that kind of blows the mind. I seem to repeatedly end up falling back on that old saw about truth always being stranger than fiction.

And if anybody wants a private, one-on-one individual growth seminar that will challenge and inspire , I'll be available for 30 day sessions this summer. Only $10,000... you have to provide your own sweatlodge tho'...

One of the stories I found was about a local veterans' group in Arizona using sweatlodge for vets w/ PTSD. I'll wager they do it for less than 9 grand, probably free. My tribal relatives who are vets will attest to the value of sweats.

And Gary, we're a rush-to-judgement society. So I can't. It's that principles thing... tho' I must confess to a distaste for self-professed, high dollar "gurus... ya know?

And Britt's blog (linked in the comment above) is keeping up to date news links running on the Angel valley sweat.