On my association with parapsychologist Professor Erlendur Haraldsson: My wife and I first met him in 1989 in Bangalore, and we have since spent a number of days together on several occasions in India and several more in Norway in later years – most recently in 2011. He visited us and has stayed in our house. We both have academic backgrounds in Scandinavia and have long shared an interest in various parapsychological questions, particularly those arising in respect of Sathya Sai Baba but also Swami Premananda and Gayatri (Gyatri) Swami.
Erlendur Haraldsson has occasionally asked me for research assistance with articles he was writing – such as into Sai Baba’s predictions of his death and various of his teachings. He has also referred to my writings on Sathya Sai Baba in his bibliography in at least one of his papers about Sathya Sai Baba (“Of Indian God-Men and Miracle-Makers: The Case of Sathya Sai Baba.” British Psychological Association, Transpersonal section, Cober Hill, Scarborough. 13. 9. 2004.) It is therefore not incorrect to call the relationship we have had ‘collegial’ according to the more general use of the term as associate, also given in most dictionaries. Yet, I have been attacked on the Internet very immoderately by a dishonest Sai fanatic for not using that word in its strictest, narrowest sense – as well as for lying when making a true statement elsewhere about ‘an Icelandic investigator’ in the 1970s. Haraldsson himself was aware of these attacks on me and their falsity, but has not after several years defended my honesty, though he did inform the attacker (Moreno) by e-mail that he and I were friends from many years back. He and I had also long disagreed in friendly but direct discussion about the morality of not releasing information about negative matters or well-founded opinions he held strongly.
EH and I have been in e-mail contact for well over a decade. I retain the full stock of our correspondence, scores of e-mails from him (with the full ‘raw source’ data) – including statements about his being convinced of Sathya Sai Baba’s homosexuality (see scan of a very REVEALING e-mail exchange released at last after 10 years – click on thumbnail on left to zoom in), that SB was a ‘split personality’ who he experienced behaving “rudely” towards others – like a “crude villager”. Further, Haraldsson has on at least four occasions when visiting my wife and I said – rather forcibly too – that one cannot believe most of what Sathya Sai Baba said, that Sai Baba had a “tremendous ego”, was a “kind of Napoleon” and boasted constantly, having “illusions about himself” and making many false and absurd claims and statements. He wrote to me that SB illusions went “to a psychopathological degree unless one assumes the split-personality model to explain him which I find tempting”. Here one sees proof that Haraldsson never was an adherent of Sathya Sai Baba’s excessive claims or religious teachings, which he has had to deny in the face of a devotee’s assurance that he is a devotee (on Wikipedia). That Haraldsson is entirely sceptical of Sathya Sai Baba’s claims to be God Incarnate and considers many of his other major claims to be entirely bogus should not surprise anyone who has read about his meticulous investigations disproving the claim, by SB and his supporters, that SB resurrected Walter Cowan from the dead in the 1970s.
However, despite repeated requests from me through the years, Erlendur Haraldsson consistently refused to make known for the public certain damaging facts from his investigations and, not least, his oft-repeated opinion to us that most of Sathya Sai Baba’s claims are entirely bogus and absurd. For example, he was most sarcastic about Sai Baba being a world saviour or an omnipotent god, or of having any influence whatever with prominent Western world political leaders. However, when he was asked by the editor of SB’s journal to write a contribution to a volume published by the Sathya Sai Trust on his 75th birthday, he wrote a more glowing article about Sai Baba than I thought him capable of, at that time still a devotee myself… his draft title was ‘Miracles of Communication’. He asked my advice about parts of its content on which he was uncertain. In the event, he did not send the article and I do not find it available anywhere. It would have seemed very like an endorsement of Sai Baba as some kind of ‘divinely human’ person. That was before the allegation storm had broken out fully, though David Bailey had in fact already denounced SB in ‘The Findings’. Haraldsson changed his mind quite a lot thereafter, it seems, for the proposed article definitely did not express the negative viewpoints he otherwise repeatedly emphasized in our conversations.
Sai Baba was not a pure celibate, even in his youth: I have reported elsewhere, though without naming EH specifically, what he was told by Krishna Kumar (now deceased, once the former close boyfriend of young Sathya Sai Baba). When interviewed by EH two separate occasions – one of which EH assured me was tape-recorded – Krishna Kumar repeated to him several times that Sathya Sai Baba (i.e. – the supposedly celibate and totally pure Divine Incarnation) was given to masturbation, which EH accepted as fact and – as a psychologist would – said he considered it only normal. Krishna Kumar, who SB called his “soul brother”, had shared Sai Baba’s sleeping apartment for over a year and went around everywhere with SB holding hands and became locally referred to as ‘Radha and Krishna’ (as reported by Smt. Vijaya Kumari who was there at the time).
I am taking the step at last – out of the public interest – to reveal some e-mails which Haraldsson sent me all of 10 years ago (one which he afterwards asked should be kept secret, though I gave him no permanent or written guarantee of so doing). Due to our friendship and my support for his reputation as a para-psychological investigator, I respected his wish which was – despite all – only to protect himself and his reputation from discussion. For me – who gets no benefit from releasing this material what now weighs heaviest is the truth - for the benefit of all those who have suffered abuse by Sathya Sai Baba and been attacked by Sai devotees, especially seeing that SB has died without being brought to justice solely because of his top-level protection within India.
I do not suppose that EH will deny the things he told us – or wrote to me – though I am well aware that he will not be comfortable and most probably will not confirm or deny anything. Haraldsson was under no professional ‘vow of silence’, as a doctor would be regarding a patient, but rather – in his expressed pity for what he saw as Sai Baba’s misfortune and “abnormal’ or “distorted sexual orientation” – he opted for a certain degree of complicity in not reporting fully. Though he rebuked me that he was not a moral policeman, he has until now been passively overlooking what are widely reported to be unconvicted criminal offenses and cultist indoctrination of both the subtlest and most insidious sort involving the ruining of many persons’ families and even an uncounted number of lives. On his last visit Haraldsson said those who gave away their fortunes to Sai Baba were merely “fools”, which illustrates how extremely little he really understands about the powerful methods of the Sai cult and the psychology of victims. Recently my wife Reidun wrote to him explaining why she felt he ought to speak out, but his reply was more of the same avoidance of the issue. (See their e-mail exchange here – it is very illustrative of his off-handed attitude).
Haraldsson’s long silence on Sai Baba: Haraldsson is in his late 70s and is concentrated only on his ongoing research into possible cases of reincarnation, he says he has withdrawn from any public discussion about Sathya Sai Baba. He still has an open mind on the subject as he also has on many other para-psychological matters, having reached no definitive conclusion as to the genuineness or falsity of the many claims about Sathya Sai Baba or about reincarnation.
He and I long disagreed (in friendly discussion) about the morality of his not releasing information about what he was told by a number of those he interviewed or otherwise knew. He did not consider it relevant to his para-psychological research, though he did report one allegation on Sai Baba’s homosexuality in the briefest manner in his book. One reason for his reticence was no doubt that he long hoped to be able to continue his observations of Sathya Sai Baba in person, which would be precluded entirely by any serious remarks about it. Indeed, he visited at Shivarathri a few times between 2000 and 2005. He remained ‘in favour’ enough to receive a front place at Shivarathri ‘darsan’ in 2000, but had no interviews for many years. Still, I have had an understanding for his decision, because in 1994 I also omitted many very disturbing facts I knew when I wrote my book ‘Source of the Dream’ as I knew that without the “sins of omission” it would have meant a permanent ban on our visiting. That I now have obtained such a plethora of facts from dissidents (many of the sex abuse survivors want to stay private) I continue to bring out the whole truth, mainly because so many have contacted me from over the globe asking for support and information etc. in their liberation process from the diverse crises and problems into which Sai Baba has entangled them. Of course, I shall always keep strict confidentiality on all reports by those who have been abused or otherwise cannot have their names or information in public.
EH has repeatedly told me that he no longer comments in public on the Sathya Sai Baba issue since he has no new data to present. Well, considering that the last ‘data’ he published was a long analysis of a video in which Sai Baba was widely believed to be seen faking a ‘materialization’, which concluded that no faking could be detected, his claim sounds hollow. There have since then emerged a number of similar videos which show Sathya Sai Baba materializations which have been judged by experts to be clear evidence of faking, as well as testimony from office-bearers, students and others of how his ever-present store of trinkets is found in his chair and in his private rooms. Moreover, the BBC film, ‘The Secret Swami’ exposed the fraud with the ‘miraculous lingam’ production, but Haraldsson told me he had not seen it, even though I presented him with a full copy! Why did he not analyse and comment on that? His excuse is lack of time and interest… but, considering how much of his reputation stems from his book on the investigation of Sathya Sai Baba (famous Professor Eyesenck was rather convinced by it), this seems a considerable lapse of professional duty. Sai Baba has beguiled countless people into believing him to be the creator of the universe, the saviour of humanity, the Father who sent Jesus, and omnipotently capable of bestowing salvation in this life and beyond… manipulating them to self-sacrifices to glorify himself and relieving them of their money under such false pretenses as materializing priceless objects (which turn out not to be at all what he claimed them to be). Despite well-founded reasons that I put to him, Erlendur Haraldsson would not listen properly or utter a word of caution to the public. My wife and I even learned from him that he knew the very close SB servitor in the 1970s. Mr. Kamani, who told him definitively that Sai Baba had improper sexual contacts with boys! No psychological scientist can be only a ‘pure researcher’ without moral or social responsibilities to their public, or be justified in thinking that such deceptions and their consequences need not be taken seriously.
Since the welter of video and testimonial evidence has come forth about Sathya Sai Baba’s sleight-of-hand, Haraldsson has unfortunately kept away from the subject entirely. He broke off a discussion begun with Professor Dale Beyerstein before answering his critical points. Though he entered a discussion with Premanand, he soon broke off without reply to the heavy criticism Premanand soon raised about shortcomings in his research methods, citing that his e-mails were published by Premanand without his permission. Nonetheless, his published reply to Premanand in 1988 states fairly well even today the status of EH’s investigations into the ‘miracles’ – and some considerable reservations about them. He has not engaged in much further serious investigative work on the subject since then and stopped writing a second book he was preparing on Sai Baba. His original statement to Premanand was as follows:-
“No one seems to have discovered SSB’s exact modus operandi. If we assume that objects are produced by sleight of hand, then they must be kept hidden until they are used. None of those around him seem to have discovered where. Who are the suppliers for the one or two dozens of objects he reportedly may produce most days? He would require a steady supply. How has he been able to keep them a secret for so long? As there is considerable turnover in his “inner circle” he must have had several, if not many, accomplices during his 45 years of activity. There is for example no one with him now who was with him in the 1950s. Many of the attendants/associates interviewed – ex-devotees included – lived with him practically day and night, had free access to his room, took care of his things etc. However, all of them were equally puzzled and did not have a clue to SSB’s secret. Has SSB perhaps some exceptional means to keep even his ex-devotees and critics from revealing how he operates? There are many questions. I have to admit that after eight trips to India during the years 1973 to 1983 and a total of over a year and a half of questioning witnesses and searching for evidence against him, I came out practically empty-handed. There is an enigma here and we may be fooling ourselves by not admitting it and coming to hasty conclusions based on mere conjectures. We do indeed need strong evidence to accept the paranormal hypothesis but we also need solid evidence for accusations of fraud. Of course there are lots of false rumours of allegedly genuinely paranormal phenomena and numerous distortions and exaggerations. For example, in the widely published case of the resurrection of Mr. Cowan we have clear evidence to show that the claims are not true. Still, much of the phenomena remain puzzling.” Excerpt from http://www.indian-skeptic.org/html/is_v01/1-6-13.htm 1988
To this I must simply add that details have since emerged as to how objects Sai Baba gives away are found in shops all over South India and were brought in inconspicuously to Sai Baba’s rooms by persons who students came to know were doing this regularly. Most extraordinarily, perhaps, is that among those who did not believe in Sai Baba’s miracles was his closest servitor for decades, Colonel Joga Rao (see full details here). So how come these miracles happened wherever Rao was present – for example, objects taken out of the sand at picnics arranged by Joga Rao in advance, and at darshan (Rao often walked behind Sai Baba taking letters and handing him handkerchiefs). Besides, those who discovered anything untoward were always under huge pressures not to divulge anything. It could result in a severe reprimand or banishment from the ashram, college or staff… up to and including disappearance and murder (many incidents of both have been documented). Haraldsson did not consider these themes worth considering, even though the major police executions had not then taken place, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence of such untoward events for serious notice. Since then students have told exposé activists that Sai Baba had a machine for producing vibuthi (ash) pellets (using water), and a sponge in a saucer with fragrant oil which he squeezed before ‘materializing’ the oil he applied to male genitals etc. He has also been caught in the act of bogus materialization by diverse office-bearers, including former Central Coordinator for UK, Aime Levy and his wife, the former Sai Organization leader in Sweden, Conny Larsson and numerous others. These deceits have even been admitted (and defended in great contortions of rationalization) by a blind believer, Bon Giovanni, (see here). Vibuti pellets were dropped in front of Australian Central Coordinator Terry Gallagher after the bedroom murders incident, while back in 1968 he’d been seen having an ‘accident’ with a ‘thumbtip’ apparatus for palming vibuthi. Further, the bill for a very large consignment of vibuti bought by the ashram from Palani has been posted too (see here). One can be puzzled, but once major new evidence has emerged, one should investigate it properly.
See also My previous detailed blog about Haraldsson’s investigations
Investigation on the death of a Sai Baba’s colleger
Review of the unsolved murders incidents in Sai Baba’s temple apartment
A later posting here will examine the supposed ‘miraculous manifestations’ Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson reported at their first interview, and other materialization claims related to those investigations etc.