I thought I would write to you about my John Gray week-end.
I admit I have never been a fan of John Gray’s books. His books are poorly written, his premises, arguments and solutions weak and ill conceived, and in the real world they do not meet the reality test. Despite these views I attended Mr. Gray’s personal success week-end seminar in Seattle on October 24 and 25, 1998. I had never attended a personal success seminar before and was looking for something my sister and I could do together (she, like myself, is also a professional who is happily married with two young boys). Both of us would describe ourselves as successful and I believed the seminar would be fun and provide us with a “polish” or some new tools. We went with an open mind and heart, buoyed by the endorsement of Oprah and a close family friend.
We arrived prior to the start time of 9:00 am on Saturday, received our badges and milled around with the back of the conference room. No materials were handed out. Approximately 500 people were in attendance at $250 a pop. Peppy loud music played in the background as we waited for Mr. Gray’s arrival. He was late and obviously just showered when he walked in. The crowd cheered loudly as he stepped onto the stage. (BTW the crowd was a mix of ages, gender and socio-economic backgrounds, but predominately white).
As a general comment, during the seminar Mr. Gray tended to be unfocussed, rambling and self promoting. The first hour held out a lot of promise of an interesting and insightful week-end. It also foreshadowed the possibility of things moving into the twilight zone. Things moved into the twilight zone. Mr. Gray stated he believed in astrology, reincarnation, white and black magic, spirits, possessions, and his ability to heal mental and physical ailments. He went so far to suggest that he could cure MS, brain tumors and cancer. He then told us he was looking forward to doing some of this healing on this week-end. More on that later. He also identified himself as a believer in metaphysics (although he never used that term).
Before the morning break he had the group meditate/pray to God. After this break we seriously moved into the religious zone and healing of “blocks”. Mr. Gray did a quick and dirty explanation of what he referred to as people’s “blocks” to success. After this explanation Mr. Gray led us in a 10 minutes “feelings’ letter”. We then heard testimonial after testimonial of unhappy housewives, careers gone bad and parental blame as Mr. Gray used members of the crowd to demonstrate how to work through a “block”. Tissue paper was passed to those in the throws of crying and weeping. Mr. Gray had the group meditate/pray for each person to be “healed” from their pain/block. In the afternoon Mr. Gray led the crowd through a “meditation and remembrance” session. He then divided the crowd into three groups based on the remembrance session – good memories, bad memories, no memories. People with bad memories were paired with people from the other groups. In our pairs we were then led through a second session of expression about one of our parents. You again, could hear a lot of crying in the room. After the exercise the group was brought together once more for meditation/prayer before breaking early for the evening. In closing he requested those with physical ailments wishing to be healed by him to write him a letter of gratitude(?) and to sit in the front two rows the next day in order to be healed.
The next day, Mr. Gray was again late. Apparently, having just completed 2 1/2 hours of writing and taking a shower (wet hair). He spent about 15 minutes explaining the “blocks” and the process he suggested to work through these “blocks”. He then moved to the floor and we heard even more testimonials from unhappy housewives, people in careers they hated or had abandoned and just plain dysfunctional hurt human beings. Group meditation and prayers were again employed. It went on and on and on…we were going to leave, but kept thinking there had to be something more. It actually took someone from the crowd in the afternoon session to move us from the unending testimonials to what Mr. Gray laughingly referred to as “flower power”. “Flower power” is a method in which one discharges negative energy into flowers. In groups of 20 we huddled around potted moms and meditated/chanted to discharge the negative energy we had been accumulating.
We then moved to the last exercise for the day which was done in groups of four and consisted of two parts. First, we and our group separately affirmed to ourselves our power and love ability as a person. In the second part, we participated in a touch/trust experience. The first part of the exercise received a neutral rating in our group. We could, however, hear people crying uncontrollably in other groups. Everyone in our group liked the second part of the exercise which was the touching exercise. (Hedonists that we are).
Mr. Gray then closed the seminar with requests for testimonials on how this seminar had changed or benefited anyone in the room. More testimonials which included a Mr. Gray saved my life bent. That was it, the Personal Success Seminar. He then invited those interested in the crowd to stay for another hour for a healing or to learn how to heal. Since it was 7:30 at night we chose to skip the healing session and leave. Frankly, I wish we had left sooner. It was obvious, others shared our view that the Seminar was not what we thought we had signed up for. The crowd had really thinned out on the second day and had continued to thin out as things progressed (or did not progress).
More on Mr. Gray’s stated abilities to depossess or exorcise spirits. On Sunday morning Mr. Gray stated a couple of people had come up to him on Saturday who were possessed and he would be depossessing them that day. He truly went over the top when he went through a “depossession” of a woman sitting on the right side of the room Sunday afternoon. She was screaming and wailing, he was screaming and wailing. It was too weird and rang so untrue as to be stomach turning. I felt so bad for that woman, whoever she was, and I wondered if she even shared Mr. Gray’s view that she was possessed by demons. I also found the crowd’s willingness to believe all this out pouring of emotion in one afternoon was going to help them disturbing. My sister and I both thought our attendance of this Seminar was a sad experience. We hadn’t realized how many walking wounded were out there looking for anything or one to offer a solution to their pain. Or how exploitive Mr. Gray really was in feeding on crowd dynamics and the pain of individuals’ who really do not know any better.
In my opinion, Mr. Gray’s Personal Success Seminar had nothing to do with success and everything to do with exploiting the need for an emotional release by adults who had not dealt with or taken responsibility for their lives or pain. The seminar rated a 1 out of 10. I am so grateful we never took the 6 day Personal Success Seminar.
October 26, 1998