Troubled Vortices in Sedona

Sedona, Arizona is ground zero for New Age spiritual retreats and commercialization of all things New Age.  For several thousand dollars, you can spend a long weekend in Sedona taking in the mystical charms of its four vortexes, all the while being shepherded in your quest by gurus such as Mark Amaru Pinkham, whose spectacular title is “North American Grand Prior of The International Order of Gnostic Templars.”  If that sounds like a bit much, you can visit on your own as Renee Gannon did, and embellish photos of your experience on the ledge:

Not everyone experiences Sedona with such rapturous joy; last year, three people died during an especially intense “Spiritual Warrior” sweat lodge ceremony.  Criminal charges were filed and civil lawsuits are flying, apparently interfering with the pristine energy of the vortices.  Visits to Sedona are way down, and the many New Age businesses dependent on credulous consumers are hurting.

As Marc Lacey reports for the New York Times, Sedona’s metaphysical purveyors are concerned not only about unmet (and costly) spiritual needs, but also about their bottom lines:

Nobody is sure exactly what is keeping people away from Sedona’s four vortexes, those swirling energy sources emanating from the earth, but the effects are clear: far fewer crystals are being purchased, spiritual tours taken and treatments — from aura cleansings to Chakra balancings — ordered.

“[The sweat lodge deaths last year] was a very unfortunate and sad situation that could have happened anywhere,” said Janelle Sparkman, president of the Sedona Metaphysical Spiritual Association, who attributes the woes that New Age practitioners are experiencing to the lack of disposable income tourists have for spiritual needs and not what happened that awful afternoon.

“Initially, I didn’t think it was going to affect business and, a year later, I know I was wrong,” said Deidre Madsen, who runs a New Age travel company in Sedona and a Web site devoted to inner growth. “I’m shocked at the impact. My business is down 20 percent.”

The owners of Angel Valley, a spiritual center that charges $3,300 for a 7 day Sedona retreat, have sued the wealthy sweat lodge master who presided over the deaths last year, for the ensuing bad energy and lost profits:

Mrs. Hamilton and her husband, Michael, also sued Mr. Ray, accusing him of damaging their struggling retreat’s business of helping people find inner peace. After the sweat lodge deaths, the suit says, many spiritualists began keeping a distance from Angel Valley and it began losing as much as $35,000 a month.

Those fearing they are not spending enough to purchase spiritual well-being might take some comfort in knowing that Mr. Hamilton has consulted “the archangel Michael, his spiritual muse” about these matters.  No word yet on whether the Archangel has directed him to a hidden pot of gold or guaranteed more customers for the coming year.

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