PHOENIX (AP) - Motivational speaker and author James Arthur Ray is canceling his remaining 2009 seminars in the wake of three deaths that occurred after a sweat lodge ceremony he led in Arizona.
Ray announced on his Web site Thursday that he needs to dedicate all his "physical and emotional energies" to bringing closure to the sweat lodge matter.
"That means helping the authorities and the families get to the bottom of what happened," he said.
The decision marks a sea change for Ray, a charismatic public speaker who recruits people for his expensive retreats through free seminars at hotels and conference centers across North America.
Following the tragedy that led to the deaths and the hospitalization of 18 other people, he initially vowed to continue holding the events and appeared at seminars in Los Angeles, San Diego and Colorado.
In a posting on his blog on Oct. 20, Ray said he had "chosen to continue with my work. It's too important not to."
Since then, lawyers for several of the victims have said they plan to pursue lawsuits, although none have been filed. His publisher announced this week that the December release of a paperback version of Ray's best-selling book "Harmonic Wealth" and a new hardcover title, "The Seven Laws of True Wealth," have been postponed.
Authorities in Yavapai County, Ariz. are continuing a criminal investigation into the Oct. 8 ceremony at a high-priced retreat outside Sedona. Search warrants were served at the headquarters of Ray's company, Carlsbad, Calif.-based James Ray International, and detectives have interviewed many of the 55-plus people who were inside the sweat lodge.
No charges have been filed.
The sweat lodge ceremony was the highlight of Ray's five-day "Spiritual Warrior" program. Interviews with participants and law enforcement officials paint a picture of a two-hour ceremony that degenerated into chaos as people became sick but were encouraged by Ray to remain inside for the entire time.
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