Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray
“Enlighten Us” relates the cautionary tale of motivational star James Arthur Ray, tracing his meteoric rise and fall, and focusing on his return to the lucrative world of self-help after a negligent-homicide conviction. At his career’s height, Ray was overwhelmed with clients and primed to be a television star — he’d become one of the most successful leaders of the $11 billion American personal-growth industry after a life-changing appearance in the 2006 film “The Secret.” But it all came to an abrupt and deadly halt in October 2009, when Ray led a group of 55 devotees on a five-day, $10,000 workshop in Sedona, Ariz. The retreat was to culminate in a sweat lodge designed to challenge the participants physically and emotionally, but by the end of the two-hour exercise, three people were dead and more than 20 others hospitalized. Charged with manslaughter, Ray was convicted and spent two years in an Arizona prison. Astonishingly, despite his status as an industry pariah, Ray returned to the self-help scene in 2013, less than a year after his release, with a revamped motivational speech in which the tragedy in Sedona took center stage. “Enlighten Us” provocatively uses Ray’s personal journey to explore the larger story of why we so persistently look for happiness — and what happens when that search for enlightenment goes horribly wrong.