Erlendur Haraldsson and Robert Priddy on Sathya Sai Baba
Posted by robertpriddy on June 5, 2011
IMPORTANT UP-DATE Since the following article was written I have, after holding back for many years, released a considerable amount of information – including e-mails sent me by Haraldsson, which show that there is a large discrepancy between how he represents Sathya Sai Baba and the opinion he has held of him for a long time. That I did not publish these facts at the time was due to a number of considerations, not least that he wanted them kept secret and further, that I had hopes that he would admit some of his very scathing opinions of Sai baba’s person and include a minimum of the documented information the Sai exposé has presented showing that Sai baba was involved in serial sexual abuses of young men and boys an also deeply involved in the cold-blooded murder by police of four of his devotees in June 1993 who had intruded into his apartments intending to convince him to change the corrupt running of the ashram and other matters. Further, during Haraldsson’s visit to me from 2000 onwards I apprised him of the growing evidence of fraudulent materializations and proven false claims concerning them (i.e. that green gems were precious diamonds, as he ‘produced’ for me in 1986). I also told him of the many persons who contacted me whose lives have been ruined through Sai Baba’s actions of various kinds, including the massive break of trust with them, as well as extortion of funds from them. The following pages a most important addendum to the article of June 5, 2011, below.
ERLENDUR HARALDSSON’S VIEWS EXAMINED on EH and Priddy, their divergence and agreement on Sai Baba’s character.
E-MAILS ON HARALDSSON’S CONCEALMENT OF FACTS AND TO HIM IN 2008 URGING OPENNESS
HIGHLY REVEALING E-MAILS FROM HARALDSSON ON SAI BABA sent to R. Priddy but not previously released- retained for 10 years
E-MAIL EXCHANGE ON MORALITY Reidun Priddy and E. Haraldsson
ARTICLE SUMMARISES HARALDSSON’S BOOK ON SB MIRACLES etc.
RAISING THE DEAD? Scans of pages defeating SB’s claim of resurrection of US follower Walter Cowan
THE DOUBLE-RUDRAKSHA HARALDSSON RECEIVED from Sai Baba, who seemed to ‘materialize’ it. Yet it is not at all as unique as Haraldsson’s researches suggested to him.
E-MAIL EXCHANGES: EH tells how SB affected his feelings, & shows disinterest in the exposé
DEBATE ON EH’S INVESTIGATION OF WALTER COWAN RESURRECTION CASE
HOW THE INDIAN RATIONALISTS RESPONDED TO HARALDSSON
HOW SKEPTIC BASAVA PREMANAND RESPONDED TO HARALDSSON
E-MAIL EXCHANGES BETWEEN BEYERSTEIN & HARALDSSON
DECEPTION BY SUBJECTS IN PSI RESEARCH — RE OSIS/HARALDSSON
Sathya Sai Baba devotees refer to Professor Erlendur Haraldsson in an attempt to suggest that this scientist is a believer in his ‘divine miracles’. Haraldsson did investigate the Sai movement in the 1970s, but nowhere will one find any such endorsement in his writings.
My wife and I have known Erlendur Haraldsson since 1989, when we first met him in Bangalore and have through the years met him about 8 times – in India and Norway, during which we have had many discussions of Sathya Sai Baba, most recently this year (2011). I can assure all that he is in no sense anything like a follower of Sathya Sai Baba, nor does he endorse the supposed materializations as ‘miracles’. When first I met him, I believed that the materializations were genuine and much more besides. Haraldsson was unable to hide his skepticism about much of it, but was always civil about it, though he did say he thought I was over-interpreting many things, as – indeed – I now know most certainly that I was (i.e. in following Sai Baba’s directions to the letter such as “hear, see and think only good” – understood by all to apply to faith in Sai Baba’s claims above all else). Haraldsson always strives to be most precise scientifically, as is seen in his ongoing investigations of alleged rebirth and spirit mediums, as well as his debunking of both Swami Premananda and Gyatri Swami.
In his book, Haraldsson recorded what he observed and what others told him, without drawing any definitive conclusion on whether the various phenomena were proven as genuine. Nor has he ever endorsed Sathya Sai Baba’s materializations or other claimed paranormal phenomena as being miracles. Despite this, the use of Sai Baba’s own statement “Miracles Are My Visiting Cards” as the title of his book as originally published seems biased towards belief in miracles (later changed to “Modern Miracles” which is little better). It is fully documented that, when he first visited Sathya Sai Baba together with another para-psychologist – Karlis Osis – in 1973, they wanted to carry out controlled experiments on Sai Baba’s supposed ‘miraculous materializations’, but were firmly denied any such thing by Sai Baba.
Haraldsson’s investigations proved Sai deceptions: Sathya Sai Baba’s claim of having resurrected Walter Cowan from the dead, which one can read about in his book ‘Modern Miracles’ was clearly disproved by Haraldsson’s witnesses. (p. 250 – see text here). At that time, criticism in English publications of Sai Baba’s amazing claims were extremely few and the large hagiographic literature predominated, so Haraldsson deserves praise for his unashamed unearthing of the truth about Walter Cowan and Co. That material is never referred to by Sai Baba followers, who no doubt wish it would disappear.
Since this blog was posted, I have posted another major blog with a full account and explanation of what Professor Haraldsson had told me already 10 years ago, which I have not published due to our long friendship… not until events have made it unavoidable from my viewpoint to keep quiet about such important ‘secrets’ thinking of the many victims of Sathya Sai Baba’s huge abuses of trust and his known homosexual activities.
The Rajah of Venkatigiri’s Account, as Reported by Haraldsson:: The Rajah of Venkatigiri’s Account of the alleged resurrection of Radhakrishna by Sathya Sai Baba, as Reported by Haraldsson: The present Raja of Venkatigiri was in Puttaparti at that time. When asked about this incident, he told me that he remembered it well. He had been with the swami when Mr. Radhakrishna’s relative came to tell Sai Baba that he was dying. About an hour after Mr. Radhakrishna allegedly died, the swami came down from his room at last and said to them: `Don’t fear, nothing has happened.’ They waited outside the room while the swami went in. When he opened the door and called them, they saw that Mr. Radhakrishna was alive and talking slowly. The Raja did not see Mr. Radhakrishna while he was allegedly dead. Haraldsson, p. 249. http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/23/dbbook/3resur.htm
Professor Dale Beyerstein commented on the above as follows:- Given (1) that no medical doctor is supposed to have pronounced Radhakrishna dead at any time during the sequence of events in question, (2) the patient was muttering semi-coherently through the night before his alleged resurrection, and (3) even Murphet withdraws the claim that he was in the medical sense dead prior to Sai Baba’s visit, the inescapable conclusion is that Mr. Radhakrishna was not in the medical sense dead prior to Sai Baba’s visit. What is required, clearly, to establish a resurrection from the dead claim is a case in which it is at least alleged that the patient was found to have been dead by a doctor. These accounts of the Radhakrishna case, then, are of principal interest as an exhibit of the low standards in accuracy, consistency, and reliability of devotee reports of the miracles. He was dead three days, an hour, six days, and not at all. Somehow one expects a slightly higher standard of accuracy in reporting, if a claim is to be taken seriously by the scientific community; and if this is the best to be expected of oral reports and memories, one expects at the very least a higher standard of interest in sorting out what happened on the part of the devotees putting out the story for public consumption.
The ability also to bi-locate has been claimed for Sathya Sai Baba and other spiritual figures, such as the famous Catholic Pater Pio of Pietrelcina, Italy (1887-1968, now Saint Pio of Pietrelcina). Parapsychologist Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson tried to investigate these highly controversial claims of Sathya Sai Baba’s bi-location but, though he could not substantiate them, he lent them some credence even by presenting the claims which could not be tested in any way. All accounts he obtained were anecdotal and/or hearsay, some being very meagre, others more detailed. Haraldsson classified such reports as ‘apparitions’ as in para-psychological terminology, many of which have been recorded by para-psychologists (over 10% of questioned persons in general are supposed on statistical grounds to have such an experience at least once in their lifetime).
However, particularly since 2000, good reasons have arisen to question the preparedness of Haraldsson and Osis in the 1970s for study of deceptive sleight-of-hand, suggestion techniques and misdirection of attention to observe were never well enough prepared or stringent enough to uncover any fraudulent Sathya Sai Baba’s productions. Though Haraldsson had visited magicians for tips about fraud, he never detected what many others have. For example, – such Sai Baba misdirected attention in various ways while he reached behind himself for objects under his cushion, which he later pretended to materialize. This was done, for example, by saying something unusual to a person at the back of the room, so all heads turned to see who it was. Nor did the parapsychologists realize that many shops in South India produce exactly the same kind of ‘diamond’ rings, medallions and pendants that Sai Baba supposedly ‘materialized’ (all most certainly having synthetic stones, which the investigators did not ascertain either), for Haraldsson discounted there being a supplier without serious investigation. It is now known how items were smuggled in to Sai Baba by helpers (not hard to guess either!). Several disaffected followers had seen and reported a number of typical objects behind the cushions on his chair in the interview room, while one ex-student has told how he came across a box of such objects while cleaning in Sai Baba’s private quarters at Kodaikanal.
Perhaps yet more embarrassing for Haraldsson, he completely failed to question the production of the lingam from the mouth on Shivaratri days, which he attended at least twice, even though this trick was invented by Houdini (see here) and copied by a large number of Indian street magicians and fakirs (see video of the same lingam trick). That must be considered a major research lapse. The use of misdirection, powerful suggestion, cold reading and other techniques by Sai Baba has since been reported by a large number of persons from interviews and sleight-of-hand has been filmed on various occasions quite conclusively. Haraldsson told me he was not concerned with examining or commenting on these – nor even did he watch the copy of ‘the Secret Swami’ I gave him. He holds that his being used within the Sai movement as an endorser of the paranormal phenomena due to his neutral conclusions is not of his doing.
Haraldsson’s last venture into the arena of discussion about Sathya Sai Baba was his attempt – with Richard Wiseman – to analyse the famous ‘faked materialization ‘ video which appeared briefly on Indian TV’s national channel Doordarshan. He concluded that there was no definitive evidence of faking… but nor could he reasonably exclude the possibility. In short, he seemed (in the eyes of followers) to endorse Sai Baba’s genuineness but did not definitively do so. Since then he has ignored all the video and other evidence that have been available on-line for years… he even referred to them briefly to me last time I spoke with him as ‘internet rumours’, which shows he has not even looked at most of them at all.
Haraldsson was challenged by the ex-follower and very determined exposer of Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles, Basava Premanand, to which he made one reply. The issues raised were not really confronted by Haraldsson, as one can see from the series of e-mails here:-
Further posting about Erlendur Haraldsson and his negative views on Sathya Sai Baba to come later, concerning the ‘double rudraksha’ he received from Sai Baba, the sleight-of-hand videos, the Sai Baba sexual allegations on which EH has remained silent about since he wrote his book (researched in the 1970s) where he did most briefly mention one report of homosexuality by Sai Baba.