A fanciful account of a supposed Sai Baba miracle was given by Prof. N. Kasturi in his autobiographical book ‘Loving God’ (p. 168-9 – scan inset on right). It concerned the Norwegian shipping magnate Alf Tidemann-Johannessen, who had lost a ring Sathya Sai Baba had appeared to ‘materialise’ and then given him. According to Kasturi, Sai Baba produced the selfsame ring which had fallen off Tidemann-Johannesen’s finger into deep water when boarding a vessel three months previously, saying that it had fallen into his hands. Actually most of the rings Sai Baba produces with enamel pictures of himself on are clones of one another, though sometimes in different settings like panchaloka, silver or even 18 carat gold. Or, as in Tidemann’s case, the traditional 9-gemstone navagraha ring often given by Sai Baba (identical rings are on sale in shops throughout India). It does not take much thought to see that Sai Baba would simply have palmed another identical ring, having observed – or learned from his many servitors and other informants that Tidemann had lost his.
However, Tidemann-Johannessen was known to some of us in the Oslo centre. He defected from Sai Baba around 1979, calling him a cheat and a thief… and was never seen at Sai Baba ashrams again, according to a long-term devotee in the Oslo group – Reidun Lindstad of Skjetten who since died of cancer (of course, not saved by Sai Baba). She knew him and last met him around 1988 when he visited Norway from Mexico. He was then writing a long, rambling book (unpublished but seen by Oslo followers) denouncing Sai Baba, whom he claimed he was a deceiver. He told that Sai Baba had failed in his promises, and had deceived him about the helicopter that Tidemann claims to have provided to Sai Baba for travel purposes and, not least, giving darshan at his 55′th birthday. (A film showing this helicopter darshan was made and distributed by Richard Bock of California as a 3-art series entitled ‘The Universal Teacher’). Tidemann-Johannesen died in 2001. The ‘official’ Kasturi autobiography was, of course, not amended or commented on by Kasturi in any way.
Very similar stories of ‘dematerialization’ by Sai Baba – whether to ‘teach a lesson’ to a doubter or to enhance his own reputation as a man of miracles – have circulated since Sai Baba’s earliest years, when he surrounded himself with impressionable street children and youth in Puttaparthi, a village where the most superstitious Hindu beliefs in miracle-performing yogis, saints and deities were daily fare. Once enough credulous people there believed he had miraculous powers, the word spread and his following gradually grew as other religious seekers visited, no doubt many being all to eager to find what they sought. Once an aspirant actually believes the many accounts so glowingly described in the literature that Sai Baba can materialise anything from anywhere due to his ‘omnipresence’, it is a small matter for him to repeat the trick… such believers never question further, and so the deception spreads to others
Unfortunately, my (former) friend Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, together with another parapsychologist Karl Osis, was duped by Sai Baba into thinking that he had dematerialized a gemstone in a ring given the day previously to Osis. The two were very impressed. However, there are possible other explanations. The gemstones in Sai Baba rings (which he called diamonds but were synthetic gemstones) had a tendency to fall out. Even to get splintered when the wearer squatted on the marble floor outside the interview room (as a green ‘diamond’ given to Lucas Ralli did just minutes after he had received it!). Sai Baba can have noticed that this had occurred before Osis realized, and so capitalized on the fact. That two supposed ‘scientists’ so readily endorsed this apparent ‘miracle’ as an inexplicable fact caused many doubters to believe Sai Baba had special physical powers (including the very prominent psychologist, Professor Eyesenck). Actually, on questioning Haraldsson about his knowledge of fraud both with sleight of hand and as regards where such items could have been obtained (H. claimed no supplier could be found, though there actually were several), I found him to have not studied the matter at all deeply. He was inclined to believe that Sai Baba had such powers, though he carefully never endorsed them in writing. (see overview of my documentation etc. about Haraldsson here)
Please note: A mistake in attribution was made in previous posting where it was stated: “Alf Tidemann-Johannessen – One of the first Norwegian devotees in the 1960s, described at length in Kasturi’s official biography of SSB”. It was, however, in his own autobiography that Kasturi wrote about Tidemann.