Enlighten Us (2016) Poster


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Infuriating, fascinating story of the fall of a sociopath
zenlancelot26 January 2017
Caught this on Netflix, and I was surprised to see that this film had zero reviews. Ostensibly this is the story of the rise and fall of James Arthur Ray, the self-help guru who saw his star crash to the ground when 3 people were killed in a sweat-lodge at his costly motivation retreat. He served time in prison and is aching for his "comeback" (as he says at one point in the film), so he can land his book deal, and move on with his life. The documentary follows him around as he goes to middling speaking tours, pushing people to sign on for further talks and wonders what happened to all the people he helped, where they disappeared after his fall. But the film is also incredibly sly about what it is doing, which is let this unbelievably self-delusional man talk as he justifies his actions, his life and molds the incident into an "experience" that made him stronger while taking no responsibility for it. The more he talks, the tighter the noose gets. The film literally ends with him making the figure three with hand while saying "I'm responsible", and then in the next sentence blame someone else for the deaths. The film is also fascinating when it locates James Arthur Ray in the self- help/motivation landscape that is almost unique to America, the nitty gritty look of the self-help industry-the book deals, the Oprah recommendation, the economics of it all is actually quiet fascinating. It also spends time on how someone like him to could rise and take advantage of deep-seated insecurities and difficult times of the people who may or may not be getting help. This was a really great story told really well.
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Narcissism at it's BEST..... or worst, whatever works for you.
lyndsayw29 March 2017
Before watching this documentary I had never even heard of James Ray. I have always had a fascination with people who have personality disorders (narcissists, psychopaths, sociopaths, borderline personality disorder etc...) and especially with cult leaders. James Ray ticks off more than one of these boxes. James Ray built his empire through the pain of other people. He used their pain through methods that people have been using since time immemorial. He is the snake oil salesman of today. He would take people who desperately needed hope, then he would promise them the cure for that pain, convincing them that he had the recipe for the cure that could fix everything. He would tell them a story about how when things were bad for him and he was searching like they are now, he discovered this way to fix everything and now he wanted to share that cure and help others. He employed techniques that cult leaders have perfected over time. He would rip their world and all their self worth apart and then he would give them a moment of euphoria aided by everyone else there. They would watch as he tore into them, believing his lies about how he did this to heal them and out of love. Then they would have what he called a breakthrough which in truth was really that he had successfully reprogrammed their whole way of seeing things and then he and all the others would love bomb them. These moments felt so good after all of that and the result was that they would become addicted to these breakthroughs. This entire situation was a recipe for disaster. The more people followed him and paid to be put through this over and over, the more you could see tragedy looming on the horizon. Sedona was that tragedy. This is a powerful documentary and not for the reasons James Ray wanted. I would suggest it to anyone.
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Fascinating study of the power of narcissism
ejonconrad23 February 2017
You might not remember the name James Arthur Ray, but you certainly remember the story: three people died in Sedona, Arizona during a "sweat lodge ceremony", which was part of some sort of very expensive "self help" workshop. James Ray was the self help guru who organized the workshop and was sentenced to two years in prison for negligent homicide as a result of the deaths.

The documentary follows Ray's attempt at a "comeback" after being released from prison, with flashes back to the story of his life and career, culminating in the deaths at Sedona and his trial and sentencing.

The story is presented completely without narration or commentary, but as another reviewer said, the makers are very good at "giving Ray enough rope to hang himself" - which he is only too happy to do.

I've always felt there's a blurry line between self-help gurus and religious cult leaders, an Ray unquestionably left that line in the rear view mirror. I tend to be very cynical about these things, but even I was shocked at what an unapologetic, narcissistic sociopath Ray is. He can whip up crocodile tears over the deaths when it serves his purpose: as part of his show, in front of the judge, etc, but in the one-on-one interviews, he doesn't even pretend to have the least remorse. I'm not even talking about taking responsibility (which he never does); I'm talking about simply feeling bad that three people died in an activity that he organized. Other people involved in the event, even peripherally, were genuinely distraught over what happened, but Ray only sees things in the context of the effect it had on his career. He seems to honestly believe that he was the ultimate victim of what happened, and after his release from prison, the whole incident has simply become a prop for his comeback tour - which, amazingly, is still finding a paying audience!

I'm not someone who could ever fall for this sort of thing, but if you or a loved one are at all susceptible to this type of manipulation and control, I really recommend you watch this, and pay close attention to the audio tapes from the "Spiritual Warrior" workshop that led to the deaths. By then Ray was clearly drunk with his own power over people. He even made them shave their heads just to demonstrate his dominance. Maybe this documentary will help people recognize the warning signs, and look for the exits, before they do something stupid.
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Self-help megalomaniac gone murderer!
hollymwmk4 November 2019
I had to stop watching this documentary when this idiot was somehow back on stage after he served time in jail for killing 3 of his "friends"! They were killed in a sweat lodge of his design! He said that was a terrible time in his life filled with anguish and pain. Never once did he mention how it must've affected the deceased people's families. It was just a tough blow to him... and him alone! By the grace of God he is still here! This is such a pathetic display of humanity and I'm so disgusted with myself that I waisted 30 minutes of my life on it! Do not waste your time on this piece of poop!
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What was Netflix thinking?
glizze120 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Don't waste your time! This felt more like a promotion for this guy's comeback. I agree with the other viewer that no interesting and/or difficult questions asked of him. His entire spiel through this documentary is about him helping people yet the very moment his people needed his help the most he casually walks back to his own quarters and takes a shower, call the lawyer and leaves them behind. What an absolute coward! People were laid on the ground dying and all he cared about was covering his ass pathetic. These questions are never raised in the documentary. It's all about his trials and tribulations after spending a meteor two years in jail meanwhile nothing is mentioned really of the his victims and their families.
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Slow and biased
glensleeo25 February 2017
This subject matter and access to insider sources of this documentary is outstanding. This is a fascinating story and this movie gets at much of this.

I found a few problems severely limited this film. For one they wait too long in the film to explain the foundational event - which makes much of the film too disorienting. Another problem is that much of the screen time is taking with long pointless shots of people walking to their cars or other non-eventful activities. This comes at the expense of establishing fundamental details about the central event that remain unanswered (and could be answered by the people interviewed if they only decided to focus on that instead of filming people walking to the car again).

The documentarians got amazing access to the central figure of this story. Perhaps to keep this access they never ask him the crucial questions or don't press him hard enough. Even if they couldn't get him to answer the questions, they could have talked to other people to get the necessary details of this issue addressed.

Instead, this film left me thinking that it is a deliberately biased account and overall a missed opportunity.
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This man as others before him is a cult leader
nastyburn24 May 2018
You may call it whatever you like, but people who follow such cultist are to me just dumb. They are often exceptionally greedy as Ray is and as others have mentioned he is a positive narcissistic sociopath. Indeed, such risks with the lives of his hapless charges. I am often thinking these folks are well dressed, can pay Ray thousands of dollars to watch his act. That's a steep price to visit Oz, where there is a Wizard and the streets are paved with gold. He now is certainly a sociopath because he shows really no remorse or accepts responsibility for what he did. Indeed I consider Oprah a cult leader as well. The fragile and the greedy always think an easy way to wealth, love and success. But in the end, it really happens the old fashioned way, you have to earn it.
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He's a charlatan, scumbag, and predator.
arognt-7163128 December 2019
This documentary is random in the timeline.. annoying at best. He NEVER genuinely apologizes for anything... And points the blame of the deaths ON THOSE THAT DIED! HE is the victim. They address the Sweat-Lodge incident an hour into the film.. don't waste your time on the first hour.
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Remembering the tragic event at Sedona
take2docs20 February 2020
Warning: Spoilers
I first became aware of James Arthur Ray having seen him in "The Secret," a pretentious picture with an egregious message steeped in or at least with ties to New Thought bunkum.

Humility; contentment; altruism. These are not the qualities promoted by most so-called self-help gurus and motivational speakers. The personal empowerment they preach often appeals to the selfish human ego and worldly desires for wealth and fame. Critics of this particular school of thought have described it as commercial (i.e. faux) spirituality. It is no wonder why it thus remains attractive to so many dupes and victims.

ENLIGHTEN US profiles one such self-help guru who was rather popular back in the mid-Aughties until a tragic event occurred in October of 2009 in Sedona, Arizona, that saw to his downfall -- or what some Bible readers might say, his being humbled. The familiar proverb in speaking of pride, says that it precedes a fall.

I've never met this guy nor would I want to, but based on what I've seen of him here and in "The Secret," he would be one of the last men I'd ever think would contain any valuable truths and insight. It is said that wisdom comes from old age and here I think of that hoary headed sage from the 1937 film "Lost Horizon" as an example of this.

The documentary shows what some have described as a swellhead, atop the stage speaking to an audience, mostly always full of adoring female fans. Following the Sedona tragedy, a few of these former hero-worshippers begin to question their mentor's motivitational methods and it's no wonder why some of them went onto become disillusioned on account of the experience at the Sedona retreat, where it is said about 60 attendees were crammed into a tent and, fantastically, were willing participants in an endurance test of sorts, which to most folks would have been seen as an absolutely insane thing to do.

I have never understood the need for self-appointed intermediaries, either as individuals or institutions, when it comes to matters of faith and spirituality. Here I am reminded of "Kumare" (2012), an excellent documentary about an ordinary man who pretends to be a guru, acquires a following, and all with the aim of teaching his students a truly powerful and yet simple lesson: that one needn't look up to a guru in one's solitary pursuit of self-knowledge and -improvement.
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Sad but true
castlekc42 August 2018
Egomaniac preying on " lost " people..... we've seen it over and over with charismatic speakers ... they suck in these aimless fools , make them pay him to fix their ruined lives .... so bad
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