SAN DIEGO -- He was once known as one of the country’s top self-help experts, but after spending almost two years in prison for the deaths of three people during a sweat lodge retreat gone wrong, James Arthur Ray is now out of prison and beginning a return to public life.
His attempt to rebuild his self-help career is now taking the form of a new book.
"Pain is the mother of all growth," Ray told FOX 5. “It really has been horrific in so many ways, and it’s so painful. And yet I’m incredibly grateful, because I’ve learned so much, I’ve grown so much and it gives me an opportunity to help people in a deeper way than I was ever able to before."
At one time, he was considered one of the country’s leading motivational self-help gurus, earning millions through self-help books and speaking events.
That came to an end when he was sentenced to six years in prison for felony negligence in the October 2009 deaths of three people in a sweat lodge ceremony that went too far.
“It’s been tough. And I understand that other people have been harmed and hurt by it, as well emotionally, as well as three people that lost their lives, and it did happen on my watch," Ray said. "So let me say one more time, I accept absolute responsibility and I always have,”
Ray served less than two years in prison for those deaths. He was released in 2013, and now he is out and talking about a new book.
“It was my lodge. It was my event. It was my choice to do a dangerous activity, and so therefore, as a leader -- which the new book “The Business of Redemption” is all about leadership -- as a leader when something goes wrong in your entrepreneurial business or in your large corporation, there’s one person who is in the cross hairs and one person who is responsible," said Ray.
The family of the victims Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman say Ray is nothing but a cult leader responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. They have openly expressed anger at Ray’s attempts at a come back, saying his only care is making money and they are disgusted by the book.
“I understand. I don’t expect the families to ever forgive me,” said Ray. “I’ve apologized. I've taken absolute responsibility. I’ve paid a tremendous price. I’ve taken care of everything that the law and the government asked me to do. All restitution has been settled. So you know, I’m sorry is not enough. I understand that and I’m not sure what else I could really do.”
When asked what he'd do differently, Ray said in retrospect he wouldn’t have participated in the sweat lodge ceremony, because it affected his judgement and assessment of the situation.
His book, "The Business of Redemption. The Price of Leadership in Both Life and Business," is set to be released early next year.