April 8, 2008: 6:21 AM EDT
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The man who would be Robbins, Covey,and Chopra

One man's cosmic quest for wealth, harmony, and peace atop the cutthroat world of motivational speaking.

By Richard Siklos, editor-at-large

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James Ray at home in Carlsbad, Calif. Thanks to his appearance in 'The Secret,' he's the motivator with the mo.
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Bits of wisdom for sale at a James Ray event. Ray scored a seven-figure advance for his new book, 'Harmonic Wealth.'

(Fortune Magazine) -- According to James Arthur Ray, there are more than a trillion cells in a human body, and each cell has the capacity to generate 1.17 volts of electric power. "And you're telling me you don't have energy? Give me a frickin' break: You have no idea what you're capable of!" he likes to say.

This may explain why he has the thermostat for the hall in the Arlington, Texas, convention center at meat-locker levels when he bounds onstage at 8 a.m. A few hundred people are gyrating to the 1990s Euro-club hit "Get Ready for This," which is blasting over the sound system. "Who is ready to make more money!?" he yells to the assembled, most of whom have dropped $1,297 to spend two 17-hour days over the Presidents' Day weekend in this room with him.

"Say yes!" Ray commands.

"Yes!!" shouts the crowd.

But, Ray will soon explain in a quieter moment, cash is just another form of energy and only part of the cosmic equation. He promises a weekend of "accelerated learning," during which the attendees will learn that there is a big difference between being "rich" and being "wealthy."

Britney Spears, he points out, is just one sorry example that illustrates the point, and he can empathize because he has skated close to the edge himself. "I can help you make money," says Ray. "Money's easy. But if you totally neglect other areas of your life, they will come back and bite you in the ass - and bite you hard. Sustainability is where it's at, and that's a concept called Harmonic Wealth."

And that concept is trademarked by James Ray International, a little outfit in Carlsbad, Calif., where the phone is answered with the phrase: "It's an outstanding day at James Ray International." "Harmonic Wealth" is also the title of Ray's new book, being released this month by Walt Disney (DIS, Fortune 500)'s Hyperion publishing division, for which the company has announced an unusually large first printing of 200,000 copies. "When would now be a good time to start?" asks the book's ungrammatical cover tease.

For Ray, now is his moment as the next big thing in the highly competitive of world motivational gurus. What makes Ray stand out from the crowd is a frothy concoction of spiritual wisdom, life lessons, and get-rich advice - all carefully attuned to today's fragile zeitgeist.

Brenda Copeland, Ray's editor at Hyperion, describes him as a cross between the inspirational author Eckhart Tolle and Ben Franklin, with a dollop of Elvis and an old-timey revivalist. Among the living, however, the goal is to make Ray as big a household name as Tony Robbins. "With all due respect to Tony Robbins, I think his cycle has come and gone, so you have to look for the next person," says Copeland. "I really see James as the person for this year and hopefully for many years to come - he's really, really close."

If you don't know James Ray, let me ask you a question, and be honest. Are you reading this magazine because you appreciate its authoritative coverage of business, fine writing, and elegant photography? Or is it because you are interested in unleashing your true potential and mastering the secrets of success - because you want to know how all the rich people in these pages got what they got? If it's the second, then you, my friend, may have just landed on the most important page you will ever read in your life. (A few days in Ray World can rub off.)

Catapulted by a juggernaut. If you already know of Ray, it may be from his appearance in "The Secret," a media phenomenon that has sold more than 10 million books and DVDs since 2006 by extolling the virtues of positive thinking, while being widely dismissed by academics and media critics as a load of New Age bollocks.

A funny thing about Ray is that, by his own definition, he may be "wealthy" but not wildly "rich." He has been holding seminars and self-publishing since the early 1990s, to mixed results. And, like the other so-called gurus who appeared in "The Secret," Ray was not paid to do so (the spoils went to Rhonda Byrne, the savvy Australian producer who put it together).

Still, Ray knows good karma when he sees it. In addition to his book deal, he has gone on "Oprah," done "Larry King Live," even served as a judge for the Miss America pageant. King's agent at William Morris signed Ray and is looking to land him his own daytime TV show. Regarding the prospects for his book, Sara Nelson, the editor of Publishers Weekly, says: "Having been in 'The Secret' is more pedigree than most of these guys have."

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