Sathya Sai Baba Deceptions Exposed

Exposing major deceits by guru Sathya Sai Baba in India, incl. murders cover-up & widely alleged sexual abuse

Posts Tagged ‘Erlendur Haraldsson’

Erlendur Haraldsson: lessons on investigating supposed paranormal phenomena

Posted by robertpriddy on October 11, 2017

In view of the latest edition of ‘Modern Miracles’ (formerly ‘Miracles are My Visiting Cards’ with its denials and pseudo-scientific method and claims of Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, I am re-posting the following incisive and accurate book review by the humanist and rationalist Indian critic of guru fraud, Babu Gogineni. Since it was written Haraldsson has ventured to embrace through his extensive writings many fantastic paranormal claims, including belief in contacting the dead, including some massive paranormal claims of deceased Icelandic psychic medium Indridi Indridason.

Bubbles Online Volume 12 No. 6 June 1999 – Page 10

How Not To Study Paranormal Phenomenon: Lessons from Erlendur Haraldsson
Book Review by Babu Gogineni

Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Iceland, parapsychologist Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson came to India several times (twice along with Karl Osis, co-author of their book on near-death experiences ‘At the Hour of Death” to investigate Satya Sai Baba’s paranormal powers.The result of his efforts over ten years is the book “Miracles are My Visiting Cards; An Investigative Report on the Psychic Phenomena” associated with Satya Sai Baba, first published in 1987.

Dr. Haraldsson’s repeated requests for controlled experiments were firmly rejected by Satya Sai Baba and his team was asked “not to pester” Baba with more requests. Charmed by the charisma of Baba and more predisposed to believe than to investigate, Dr. Haraldsson settles for his own inefficient and subjective personal – informal observation as well as hearsay accounts from devotees. Yet, in their article entitled as ‘The Appearance and Disappearance of Objects in the Presence of Sri Satya Sai Baba in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research’ Vol. 71, January, 1977, Haraldsson and Karl Osis express their gratitude to Sri Satya Sai Baba “for his kind cooperation in their investigation” !

Dr. Haraldsson’s book does not indicate that he is aware of Satya Sai Baba’s father’s brother being a tantrik-conjuror. He could perhaps have been Satya Sai’s teacher. Despite assuring us that he “tried his very best” to trace all “Critics” only Dr. H. Narasimhaiah is mentioned. No mention of Dr. Kovoor’s whirlwind tours of Andhra,his challenges to Satya Sai Baba, his largely attended public meeting (30,000 people for instance) to the accompaniment of stupendous publicity! Contributors to the national debates in the then prestigious Illustrated Weekly of India, and the tabloids Blitz and Current Weekly are ignored. Interestingly, Dr. Haraldesson is unaware even of the Seiko watch controversy. Later, unconvincingly, he said that he was unwilling to take it up because of the various versions of it! One has not heard of an “investigative” researcher shy away on such dubious grounds.

Nor does Haraldsson mention Satya Sai Baba specialist B. Premanand, whose first book in English on Baba ”Lure of Miracles’, was published in 1976. Dr.Haraldsson’s excuse on 6 April, 1988 to Dale Bayerstein, editor of the excellent 1994 book, ‘Sai Baba’s Miracles: An Overview’ is that no one in India mentioned Premanand to him. Then again, Dr. Haraldsson writes in his letter of 21 October, 1988 to Dale Bayerstein that Dr. H. Narasimhaiah did not think it worthwhile for him to visit Premanand. When informed of this Dr. Narasimhaiah issued a issued a written clarification that he respected Premanand’s work and could never have said what Haraldsson reported. This is not the only complaint of misquoting about Haraldsson.Two chapters of the book’ Miracles are My Visiting Cards’ are devoted to M.Krishna and Varadu (in no way critics, looking at the contents of the book), former personal assistants to Satya Sai Baba in the earlier days; Krishna converted to Christianity later. Now, Krishna’s son, a good friend of mine, insists that I report this, and in the manner in which some statements were transformed to suit Dr. Haraldsson purposes. In an interview with me and Premanand, P.V.N. Nair, editor of Deccan chronicle, whom Haraldsson accused of misquoting him as saying that he was “disappointed with Satya Sai Baba”, regretted that out of good faith he had not tape recorded the interview. Premanand has shown how different version and sequences of the same event (production of ring for Karlis Osis) have been written by Haraldsson.When Premanand asked for clarification and explanation in an undoubtedly long questionnaire,the very prolific Dr.Haraldsson suddenly has no time to write!

Haraldsson is aware that propaganda of the claimed resurrection from death of Walter Cowan and Radhakrishna had the support of Satya Sai Baba. He is also aware that Dr. Fanibunda, himself a medical doctor, testified to the resurrection of Cowan. Haraldsson’s own conclusion is that the stories of resurrections are false. Yet, to our scientist-investigator the role of Satya Sai Baba is not suspect. Nor that of Dr. Fanibunda, whose testimony he approvingly uses in another case. It also does not occur to this impartial investigator, forever solicitous of being scientific and objective that since he himself has found some stories to be false, he has necessarily to work under controlled conditions. This is how professional credentials become suspect. Some of the stories Haraldsson reports are not even amenable to verification by us. For example, he mentions how a burglar prowling in the house of a Satya Sai Baba devotee was scared away by Satya Sai’s bilocation. He does not mention the name of the Devotee, nor the name of the police station which later caught the burglar.

In the April 1995 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Haraldsson and Richard Wiseman write an article Reactions To and An Assessment of a Videotape on Satya Sai Baba, where they make pathetic attempts to show that from the Deccan Chronicle Doordarshan tape, no evidence of fraud by Satya Sai Baba can be deduced. Haraldsson and co-author are invited to watch our copy of the tape, or watch one of the episodes of the British program, The Guru Busters, a television program on Rationalist work in India, which has quite clear visuals. They should also read the analysis of a Satya Sai Baba video tape by Dale Bayerstein, Leon Mandrake et al (a team of professional magicians) where among others, they detect Satya Sai Baba “thumb palming” a necklace, before “materialisation” published in Bayerstein’s book. Perhaps, Haraldsson is also unaware of Premanand’s video cassette of Satya Sai Baba producing a gold necklace at a wedding in Balakrishna Eradi’s family (a former judge from Kerala).

While waiting to watch this, the authors should find time to read the account of the Dutch author Piet Vroon who wrote an expanded version of his article ‘Sinterklass in India’ (‘Santa Claus in India’), published in De Volkskrant of 5 December, 1992. Piet Vroon was at Puttaparthi to film Baba at “work”, and he and his partner detected Baba removing rings, necklaces and watches from behind flower vases and from pillows of his chair. They also detected Sai Baba holding Vibhuti balls in one hand, transferring them to the other hand, pulverising them and distributing them. Vibhuti is also hidden in the mouth and removed while wiping the face, which Baba does very often. Piet Vroon’s conclusion is unambiguous: “we just think that he is a trickster and a cheat”.

It is easy to see these things, especially when one’s work, and perhaps livelihood, does not depend on funding from parapsychology foundations! The only lesson one can learn from ERLENDUR HARALDSSON is how not to study the paranormal events.

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Erlendur Haraldsson on Sai Baba: ‘Modern Miracles’

Posted by robertpriddy on October 8, 2017

Review of ‘Modern Miracles’ (revised ed. 2013) by Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson (EH)

Links to some central themes exposing the pseudo-scientific nature of Erlendur Harldsson’s main attempts at investigation of Sathya Sai Baba:-
Downplaying the ‘divine downfall’ of 2000  in Haraldsson’s revised edition of his book in 2013, and in subsequent declarations, he claims that none of the alleged ‘materialisation miracles’ of Sai Baba have been proved to be fraudulent. This is itself an entirely false statement as the evidence is well-known to thousands of dissidents who left Sai Baba when this, among other extremely untoward matters, were exposed. How a former exposer of Sai Baba’s lies about having brought back devotees from death can have become so intransigently unwilling to contact witnesses or investigate the countless exposures found on-line on several websites and by hundreds of witnesses requires investigation. I was probably Haraldsson’s closest confidant on these matters since 1987 in India until some years before Sai Baba’s death in 2011 and, since I had to break with him due to his dishonesty, I was better placed than anyone else to know what he was thinking through those years. These links lead to masses of documented information from his e-mails and my copious notes through the years, including an overview of his relations to all critics and to the ‘true believers’ who remain followers of the dead guru.
How well did Haraldsson know Sai Baba?
EH’s ineffective ‘scientific investigation’ and coverage of the materialisation issue
Haraldsson’s severe lack of real knowledge of India, Hinduism and its esoteric practices
My exposure of Haraldsson’s ‘double-accounting’
Haraldsson’s damage-limitation visit to Puttaparthi
Haraldsson’s friendliness and endorsement of the Prashanthi Nilayam cultists
Haraldsson’s original investigation (reported in ‘Miracles are My Visiting Cards’)
Peer review – the scientific reputation of EH’s book
‘Lingam regurgitation’ undetected by EH!
Nineteen other issues, evidence or key witnesses Haraldsson signally failed to address
Haraldsson challenged by Professor Beyerstein and Basava Premanand
Parapsychological motivations and extra-scientific theorising
Summing up Haraldsson on Sai Baba miracles

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Muddenahalli Madhusudan lingam manifestation

Posted by robertpriddy on March 3, 2017

The massive fraud being perpetrated in Muddenahalli, near Bangalore, by Madhu Sudan and his mendacious promoters is testing the limits to which one can go with deception of innocents and desperate seekers of miracles and realisation of vain spiritual hopes. Now this impostor has extended his imitation of Sathya Sai Baba’s more fraudulent ‘miracles’ to allegedly producing a golden Shiva lingam from his stomach, spitting it out without further ado on the night of Shiva (Maha Shivarathri at the new moon). 

This lingam production racket is just an old trick of Houdini origin (see here), taken up by many in India and elsewhere.

mustafa-lingam-magicianMustafa, a street magician or fakir regurgitates a lingam (short video clip)

 In the above very brief streaming video clip in MP4 (only a few Kbs), the street illusionist shown was filmed by a German crew I watched filming in 1990 at Brindavan ashram. The German commentary stated that Mustapha, the magician, earns his money as a ‘wonderful artist’ who genuinely brings out a stone from his mouth.

Re Sai Baba Lingam: Trick a star act on British TV
British TV-watchers were very surprised recently when a man appeared on the popular show “Britain’s Got Talent” and swallowed coins, which he could regurgitate at will, even bringing out any particular numbered coin a member of the audience chose. He then proceeded to swallow a full-sized billiard ball, and then regurgitate it. He did all this without drinking water or making grimaces of suffering for quarter of an hour (as Sathya Sai Baba used to do to increase the suspense, for he had a captive audience).
This act is on YouTube:-

Erlendur Haraldsson was completely fooled by Sai Baba:  Haraldsson visited Prashanthi Nilayam on at least two occasions after 2000 and before Sai Baba died hoping to see the so-called ‘lingodbhava‘ (alleged materialisation of the egg-shaped Shiva lingam in his stomach, ejected through the mouth). He told me he saw it once from a distance and his view was obscured the other time. As a parapsychological researcher who claims to have been instructed by stage magicians, he has not reported on the failed attempt to regurgitate a lingam in 2002 in the BBC documentary, nor in numerous other video clips. It seems he was still not interested in seeing these. He never contacted the BBC research team (under director Eamon Hardy) nor the Danish TV documentary director Øivind Kyrø (‘Seduced by Sai Baba’). Considering EH’s repeated visits to view the Shivarathri ‘lingam regurgitation’ which SB reintroduced in 2000 after a lapse of many years to counteract the effect of the allegation storm against him, EH apparently did not know that Houdini first developed the trick of swallowing and regurgitating a large egg-shaped object Haraldsson is a confused and would-be believer in Sai Baba’s greatness, without studying the massive contrary evidence.

See also Sai Baba lingam fraud:-
Sathya Sai Baba ‘materializing’ egg-shaped ‘lingams’
Cheating with lingam 1
Baba cheating with lingam 2
Cheating with lingam 3

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Sathya Sai Baba’s dual nature?

Posted by robertpriddy on August 22, 2016

According to most Hindu gurus and ‘godmen’, we are all divine, while we nonetheless are human with limitations and failings. This was Sathya Sai Baba’s “teaching”, though he frequently stated that he was the actual creator of the universe, the Deity of deities at whose feet all prayers eventually arrive. However, he occasionally stated outright that his body was no different to any body, subject to the same laws and influences. According to this pretension of having essentially a dual human-and-divine nature, there is no reason why he as a human embodiment should not be equally as capable of adharmic (i.e. immoral)  behaviour, (i.e ‘bad actions) as anyone else. The evidence that emerged over the decades overwhelmingly shows that this was so. One may conclude that he was essentially like all other human beings and his claim of superhuman power and holiness were a sham.

Many of those who lived very close to Sai Baba for any period of time (and I mean those who speak Telugu or at least some closely related language) have been of the opinion that Sai Baba had what they call a “very human” side (as distinct from a divine or superhuman side’). For example, Prof. Gokak and N. Kasturi would tell that he can be as fallible in daily doings as the next person… sometimes forgetting things, losing things, mis-hearing what is said to him, misunderstanding what is said and so forth. Such very close attendants of Sai Baba include the young man Krishna who shared Baba’s rooms for years when he and Baba were in their late teens/early twenties (Baba declared Krishna as his ‘soul brother’ and was accompanied by him in his chariots even on Gurupoornima days in Puttaparthi). (See Krishna Kumar’s testimony here)

Sai Baba’s closest servitor through decades, who had full access at any time and had rooms beside Sai Baba’s, was Colonel Joga Rao, an ex-Army engineer who designed and directed many of Sai Baba’s major building projects. Joga Rao stated he joined Baba’s service on the understanding that he would work for him but would not believe in the miracles, omniscience etc., a position he maintained even when – with some degree of disbelief and shock – I was told this in 1996 by one of Sai Baba’s favourites, V.K. Narasimhan. This fact was covered up throughout the ashram and organisation so that few knew of it. It would have been critical for all Sai Baba’s materialisation claims had it become widely known. It was later confirmed to me by other persons who knew Joga Rao. Nonetheless, for many years, Joga Rao arranged the picnics where Sai Baba ‘found’ golden statuettes. lingams and the like in heaps of sand at isolated spots, and also followed him at darshans repeatedly taking letters Baba had collected, handing him his handkerchief. Photos and numerous disclosures by students make clear that Baba received vibuthi pills from his attendants which he would shortly ‘materialise’ for devotees before him.

Dr. V. Gokak, who was long the Chancellor of the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, also held that Baba had a ‘very human’ side, and – when Baba suffered a hairline fracture of the hip after slipping on a bar of soap in his bathroom in 1989 – Gokak reported to his long-term friend and co-devotee, Mrs Kanta Devi of Hawaii, that Gokak shed tears when he told her how each day he saw the suffering of Baba lying up at in Trayee Brindavan at Whitefield. He told her how Sathya Sai Baba was very depressed and complained to him of his continual pain and discomfort. This conflicts totally with all he repeatedly said at the time about his not suffering anything whatever.

A person’s character depends largely on their childhood environment, education and social development etc. Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson’s view – based on his own experience of Sathya Sai and backed up by both what Prof. Kasturi, Krishna Kumar and Smt. Vijayamma have told him – is that Sai Baba was a coarse villager subject to human failings – very domineering and self-glorifying – despite his reported para-normal abilities and charismatic personality. Haraldsson himself proved some of the biggest claims to be false (the alleged resurrection of Walter Cowan). When the filmed evidence of sleight-of-hand and many testimonies of fraud and sexual abuse surfaced, Haraldsson withdrew from the discussion claiming he had no evidence to go on, while in fact he visited me often and I showed him indisputable evidence of Sai Baba’s fraud and wrongdoing. Only after I exposed Haraldsson’s disingenuity on-line did he try to save his reputation by visiting the ashram well after Sai Baba’s death and collecting stories to support his personal interest as a parapsychologist in believing that Sai Baba was never caught in any fraud and make an extended edition of his lucrative book. He had himself caught out Sai Baba in fraud about bringing people back to life, but he was not shrewd enough to understand that the countless exposers of Sai Baba are in the right. By refusing to contact and investigate the claims of experiencing fraud first-hand by any of the many persons I knew or to whom I could provide him access, he has most seriously impugned his self-proclaimed standing as a neutral scientist.

Sathya Sai Baba regularly showed what many regard as human ‘failings’ – i.e. boastfulness, visible anger, untruthfulness, general avoidance/dislike of women, put-downs of people and jokes at their expense, frequent haughty unapproachability and much more. These he (and his sycophants) claim are part of his ‘Maya’, roles he assumes only to teach and guide. Very convenient explanation to hide from the plain truth of the matter – he has had such failings since boyhood! As Krishna Kumar, his room-mate for years when he was young, told Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson. This ‘very human aspect’ also explains the adharmic activities in which he is alleged to have been so deeply involved, especially in condoning the blackmail by his own younger brother Janakira Ramiah of the Puttaparthi police to murder in cold blood four intruders into his bedroom. His massive bribery of all family members and long-term residents of his ashram was but one instance of his corrupt dealings. (see here). Far from least of his human failings is known through the extensive allegations of his sexual molestation from young men in many countries in different eras from the 1950s onwards of sexual molestations and known and attested paedophile activities with his students and schoolboys.

See a complete documented overview of Erlendur Haraldsson’s failed researches and views on Sathya Sai Baba

See extensive list of mail exchanges between Haraldsson and Priddy

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Deception by trickery: psi investigators Osis and Haraldsson

Posted by robertpriddy on March 24, 2013

A well-researched paper entitled ‘Deception by subjects of psi research’  points out that psi researchers are overwhelmingly untrained in the many illusions and stage magic techniques, which in practice means that they are as easily confused or duped as the average member of the public. The book by Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, not being based on any scientific investigation but only on observation and collective hearsay, falls into the category of unfruitful psi investigation, and Hansen’s paper refers to Hodgson who pointed out that “When scientists report their observations in professional journals, they imply that they have the technical competence to make the observations and the expertise to evaluate them. Failure to report the lack of such a background is deceptive to the reader.” (HODGSON, R. (1894). ‘Indian magic and the testimony of conjurers’. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 9, 354–366). Haraldsson maintained that there was no proof of fraud by Sai Baba, nor that his powers were a proven fact. However, his book was rather overwhelming in its presentation of positive, (yet unconfirmable) reports by devotees of countless and often wholly incredible miracles by Sai Baba. Haraldsson made few critical comments on these reports. He further defended SB against the claim of visible fraud when he was seen on a famous video to fumble a supposed materialization of a necklace. All this eventually led a majority of Sai Baba followers to believe that his manifestations were genuine. No comments were made by Osis or Haraldsson on patent untruths, vast exaggerations or other deceptions done by Sathya Sai Baba, which seems suspect considering that he was a major deceiver of people.

Hansen continued: In the case of Sai Baba, it can be noted that Christopher 1979, pp. 114-116) described a number of events suggesting trickery.” (see CHRISTOPHER, M. Search for the Soul. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.)  Haraldsson and Osis were only spectators of the supposed ‘materializations’, even though they had briefly visited a few magicians, and the book ‘Miracles are My Visiting Cards’ consisted very largely in reproduction of anecdotal evidence gathered by Haraldsson among Sai devotees, though including a few who had left Sai Baba’s fold. Hansen again: “The knowledge and background of witnesses must be considered. Some people will be more reliable observers than others, and this is especially true when attempting to detect trickery. For instance, most experienced magicians have watched thousands of simulations of paranormal events. Further, they have spent years studying such methods. Hodgson (1894)” It is of note that neither Osis nor Haraldsson referred to nor sought the assistance of some of India’s magicians who had investigated Sai Baba, not least son of P. C. Sorcar – the most famous ‘father of Indian magic’. P. C- Sorcar junior, who had even copied manifestations of vibuthi etc. in front of Sai Baba, whereupon he was ejected from the ashram! (see Sai Baba: Miracle Man or Petty Magician)
Or also http://www.india-today.com/itoday/20001204/cover3.shtml

Lingam regurgitation – new video clip

 ‘Deception by subjects of psi research’  (source materials)

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Professor Erlendur Haraldsson – by Robert Priddy: very revealing materials!

Posted by robertpriddy on June 14, 2011

Up-date November 23, 2013. Erlendur Haraldsson’s re-edited book ‘Modern Miracles’ present many of the alleged miracles of Sai Baba as not being proven to be fraudulent. In this latest revision of his book (originally titled Miracles are My Visiting Cards), Haraldsson claims – amazingly in view of thousands who have left Sai Baba and many who have publicly reported fraud in materialisations – that he found no evidence of fraud involved and SSB was never apprehended in fraud, sleight of hand or the like! This omission is extremely serious and misleading. This is entirely untrue! He went to the Sai Baba ashram with his Dutch parapsychological associate, Dr Houtkoouper, for over a month early in 2013 to confer with the remaining believers there, but systematically avoided studying the massive testimonial and other documented evidence that has emerged from hundreds of well-informed former long-term followers of Sai Baba. Rather, he promoted diverse false propaganda fed him by the ashram people! He has forfeited his claims to neutrality he had, also his probity!
He also failed to contact any of the many available witnesses of fraud and deceit about whom I have often informed him. He has evidently deleted our long association from his mind and never even mentions my name in his latest edition, even though we had the most extensive contact for decades concerning Sathya Sai Baba. Full list over the extensive mail exchanges between EH and RP

The latest edition is dealt with in the following web pages:- Miracles Are My Visiting Cards – Haraldsson by Robert Priddy
Erlendur Haraldsson Breaks his Silence on Sathya Sai Baba’s Final Decade review and critical comments by Brian Steel
Professor Haraldsson’s Final Verdict on Sathya Sai Baba and his Western Critics by Chris Dokter

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 and Robert Priddy

Erlendur Haraldsson and Robert Priddy

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 ) 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.

Haraldsson and Priddy

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.”  (RP’s Comment. Behind his cushion in his chair, as discovered by Conny Larsson and seen by numerous other informants)
“Who are the suppliers for the one or two dozens of objects he reportedly may produce most days? He would require a steady supply.” (RP’s Comment. Some students reported to me that they all knew a slim, inconspicuous Indian elder who was seen every few weeks or so to walk unhindered into the interview room at various times, even during darsan, and it was known that he replenished the supply which some students who cleaned in this room at times were able to see in a cupboard, also one at Kodaikanal).
How has he been able to keep them a secret for so long?” (RP’s Comment. His staff were mostly in complete awe and fear of him, and even those who knew his fraudulence and supported it for diverse reasons would never say a word to anyone outside the inner circle. A former security chief , Mr. Hari Sampath, reported this when he defected around 2000 and lodged please with the Supreme Court and the CBI which were suppressed by the Sai Baba devoted and compromised highest Indian authorities).
“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.” (RP’s Comment. Not his very closest servitor through decades, engineer Colonel Joga Rao, who always had a room beside Sai Baba’s with immediate access to all his rooms at any time and who did not believe in any Sai Baba miracles, as known to most residents at his ashrams, as V.K. Narasimhan told me to my shocked surprise).
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.” (RP’s comment: Not at all surprising. It took me many years of regular visits with interviews and 18 years within his organisation before the facts were made indisputably known to me)
“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.”
  (RP’s comment: Evidence of miracles is impossible to prove, evidence of fraud is abundant but difficult to access to persons who do not – or like Haraldsson, would not – enter into confidential and caring relations with the victims. Even without privileged information, fraud is surely the default position when the total range of deceptions is considered).  Excerpt from http://www.indian-skeptic.org/html/is_v01/1-6-13.htm 1988

Robert Priddy with Erlendur Haraldsson 2009

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.

Posted in Cults, Gurus | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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:-

Letter dated 7-11-1987 from Erlendur Haraldsson.

The Appearance and Disappearance of Objects in the Presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba – Erlendur Haraldsson and Karlis Osis

Letter dated 27-11-1987 to Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Letter dated 5-2-1988 – Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Letter dated 22-1-1988 from Mark Plummer, Executive Director, CSICOP, Buffalo, to Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Letter dated 25-4-1988 to Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Letter dated 16-5-1988 – Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Letter dated 4-6-1988 to Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

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.

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The ‘Divine mystery’ of Sathya Sai Baba

Posted by robertpriddy on July 22, 2010

Sai Baba maintains his ‘mystery’ by avoiding giving straightforward answers

Sai Baba is a practiced master at seeming to answer a question or tell something while expressing it so ambiguously or obliquely that it amounts to saying as good as nothing. Every now and again he suddenly breaks off mid-sentence and turns his attention to something else or another person. The disappointed person soon contrives an explanation, for this omniscient God must be telling something deep and subtle through this behaviour. There is much talk about how to understand in a positive light things that it would be glaringly evident to independent persons are avoidance or manipulations by Sai Baba. I have to admit that I was taken in for a long time by some of his clever comments and half-spoken sentences…

I too spent much time searching to explain his words and acts. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack, and the results were seldom too convincing when I did find any. I even wrote articles in his journal Sanathana Sarathi at the behest of its editor (V.K. Narasimhan), all precisely to try to clear up some of his vague or contradictory statements. I now conclude that he mostly avoids really telling anything when he is may be trapped into an easily unproven answer, meanwhile leaving the devotee at least an illusion of having the attention of God Himself and a response the meaning of which will make itself known in good time. Those he talks to (very seldom more than one or two sentences) are told by yet blinder followers that they should be pleased, even grateful, for this divine blessing! Many are overwhelmed with gratitude for this audience which it is said by all devotees to be something one has striven towards through many previous lives packed with good actions! Many people want to believe such things and the more difficult their lives are, the more they apparently do. In the ashrams one believes in ‘thinking with the heart, not the head’. No one seems to realise that the heart (i.e. the emotions and irrational impulses) can deceive as much or even more than the head. The so-called ‘heart’ can be filled with feelings of inferiority, intense unfulfilled longing for love and further, bitterness and hate. Not exactly an infallible inner guru to rely on blindly in the face of common sense and informed reason, as most gurus including Sai Baba insist it is!

There is no doubt that the subjective experiences of interviews are felt as very good by most people (though not all, for some are told off strictly too). One can read hundreds of accounts that use superlatives beyond all reason. I can now see myself as misled and so ‘naively guilty’ of a much too one-sided and gold-tinted account of interviews in my book (‘Source of the Dream’). Therefore I choose to describe my summary of Sathya Sai Baba interviewees’ from the cold clarity of my eventual disillusion with them.

After attending several interviews they tend to become an anticlimax to persons who have still have a mind of their own, because so little can really be learned about anything from Sathya Sai Baba. He just reels off his usual imprecise spiritual directions and follows – with few variations – a set of routines he has practised and perfected through thousands of interviews. Sometimes it is like a routine he enters, regardless of who is present. But this is certainly not how one’s first interviews seem! Interviewees are often so worked up after months or years of his ‘Wait! Wait!’ instruction – and who can count what sacrifices and efforts many have made- and are mega-relieved (as if they were pools’ winners). In interviews, many behave as if in a daze, there is often a sense of staring, hypnotic happiness. Especially ladies, mostly having been constantly starved for the slightest attention at darshan, often give themselves over to an orgy of gushing words about it afterwards, like ‘blissed out’, ‘spaced out by divine love’ and ‘eternal moments of realisation’ and what have you. All of this remind of some psycho-social orgasmic release of pent-up doubts and worries in surrendering to the delightful conviction, ‘So I am really one of God’s chosen children after all’. This conviction is always insecure, however, and Sathya Sai Baba will shake it time and again with his famous hypothetical ‘tests of faith’, i.e. his indifference, his neglect and much more besides until death… of that one could invariably be convinced and confident, at least!

From about 10 hours altogether in the various interview rooms with Sai Baba and from hearing and reading at least 100 accounts of interviews from other devotees (often noted in papers they circulate or in articles and books) and after countless hours of private discussion with Sai Baba’s translator at many interviews, V.K. Narasimhan, it is fair to say that Sai Baba seldom responds openly and frankly to what the questioner really wants to know, but turns the question back at the questioner or spins the matter around somehow. If he does reply (rather than, as often, turn to another person instead) what he says is frequently elliptical and off the point. He treats all questions or comments which he does not like in what my elderly colleague Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson characterised to me very fittingly as follows:
“I recall when Karlis Osis and I had our first encounter with Sai Baba we both felt that he, apart from his great charisma, was a great prima donna, with a tremendous ego, and also kind of a Napoleon, with a ruler’s mind and tactics. Boasting, and illusions about one’s true characteristics is a part of such a psychological makeup, and in Sai Baba this is to a psychopathological degree unless one assumes the split-personality model to explain him, which I find tempting.”

What we would not accept as a valid or relevant answer from other people, many devotees will immediately accept as profound when it comes from the one they believe to be omniscient. For example, when asked by a friend of mine from Copenhagen why it was that Jehova (i.e. God, i.e. Sai Baba) had not told the Jews about reincarnation, but asserted the contrary via the Bible. Sathya Sai Baba simply did not understand the question and asked to have it explained. (A divine joke that he can’t understand? I think not!). My Jewish friend said that the question was about reincarnation and intended to specify, but – without waiting to hear the actual question again – Baba replied brusquely, and in so many words, “Oh! Reincarnation! You cannot understand it. Do not try to think about it. It is like the seed and the fruit.” I saw that this answer was just a brush off, but afterward my friend claimed that it was a perfect answer! His view was that, because the question was one that his Jewish wife considered very important, Baba was telling that they should rather concentrate on other more important things. This is not untypical of Baba’s way of answering questions.

Sai Baba frequently replies so obliquely that no intelligible sense can be made of his words, or he changes the subject unexpectedly, or brushes it aside and the person concerned often takes whatever comes as a significant teaching or even a spiritual directive. This is also typical of evasive deceivers hoping to maintain others’ false perceptions, or to avoid being unmasked or incriminating themselves. In short, whatever Sai Baba replies, or however he avoids replying, is taken by devotees as a profoundly meaningful matter! If what he says seems plainly mistaken, based on a misunderstanding or factually wrong , the devotee will twist and turn the words in every possible way and relate them to all manner of events past present, dreams, imagined things and so on until some kind of sense can be derived from the words… however unsatisfactory. This is also the case when he does not reply or is gruff, or gives the brush off. It becomes a subject of constant meditation or worry, self-examination and self-doubt. I have witnessed this on many occasions. What hardly ever seems to occur to the poor person who is struggling with these challenges is that Sathya Sai Baba might be wrong, might not know what he is talking about, may be bluffing or may simply be inadequately equipped to deal with the question. Only after realising that Sai Baba is not at all what he claims to be does all this gradually become as apparent as the sun in daylight!

See also how Sai devotees are induced into the cult of systematic rationalization through re-interpreting Sathya Sai Baba’s words and vague statements


Posted in Cults, Delusion, disinformation, Gurus, India, Mind control, Sathya Sai Baba, Spiritual propaganda | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How the Sathya Sai mythology emerged beyond India

Posted by robertpriddy on March 4, 2009

The ‘first wave’ of publicity in the USA about Sathya Sai Baba came via Bob Raymer and associates. Australian Howard Murphet (author of  best-selling ‘Man of Miracles’) heard of Sai Baba from Bob Raymer and a second wave came to the USA via him and the yoga teacher Indra Devi and her friends. Other early US devotee proselyltizers who wrote hagiographies were Indra Devi, Arnold Schulman, Charles Penn, Hilda Charlton, Bob Rayman, Elsie and Walter Cowan, and Howard Levin (in the 1990s).  Fellow American Arnold Schulman’s 1971 book (‘Baba’) attracted much attention in USA, but he shows reluctance to see Sathya Sai Baba as God and never became a devotee. Tal Brooke wrote pro-Sai materials but later became  the first well-known ‘defector’ and critic of Sathya Sai Baba as a sexual abuser.

Three influential hagiographers

Three influential hagiographers

Most important in building the mythology – and the contact net for the Sathya Sai Organization in the Americas was Dr. John ‘Jack’ Hislop. His  associates and readers have long recirculated his stories and ‘incredible’ claims, which are packed with gullible zeal, spiritual ambition and naive humility. Among the most noteworthy implausible stories  of John Hislop is the claimed resurrection from the dead of the US millionaire Walter Cowan, which has been thoroughly disproven by Professor Erlendur Haraldsson and Basava Premanand.

The Walter Cowan resurrection story has been one of the most influential of Sathya Sai Baba’s claimed miracles, and as Brian Steel writes: “For decades, John Hislop and many other major and minor other spokespersons and devotees have boldly promoted and advertised as absolute proof of the Divine Powers of Sathya Sai Baba the most improbable story of the Hislop Crucifix, the picture of the predicted Prema Sai Baba on Hislop’s ring and the completely unsupported claim of the “resurrection” of Hislop’s friend, Walter Cowan. The authority and influence of such Sai celebrities has played a major role in the success of the international SSB Mission. The numbers of foreigners attracted to the Sathya Sai Baba fold since 1971 by this persuasive promotion is incalcuable.

Hislop states that in a conversation with Sathya Sai Baba at distant Prasanthi Nilayam a week later, the latter made this claim: “Mr Cowan died three times. I had to bring him back three times” (Ruhela, 240). What the story lacked from the outset was medical proof of the death. .. ” ( see Brian Steel’s thorough analysis of Hislop and the Cowan myth)

Sathya Sai Baba, who never shuns publicity when it is under his own control or that of his minions, encourages devotees to share their experiences of him, by which they are led to believe they obtain ‘holy grace’ and not least privileges when visiting the ashrams.

Perhaps the other single most influential book in promoting the fantastic claims about miracles which surpass in number and inventiveness anything attributed to Jesus, was the first volume of the  “official Sathya Sai Baba biography” by Professor  N. Kasturi, ‘Sathyam, Sivam, Sundaram, Part I!’ was largely the result of post factum reconstructions of events related by impressionable and uneducated villagers’ stories and general hearsay about his ‘major miracles’. Kasturi faithfully internalised all of Sathya Sai Baba’s so-called “teachings’ and repeated completely uncritically whatever Sathya Sai Baba said to him, in this way spreading and virtually endorsing the truth of it all.

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Sathya Sai Baba bi-location

Posted by robertpriddy on December 15, 2008

Another prophecy from the ‘Suka Nadi’ palm leaf scrolls about Sathya Sai Baba is listed by saibabaofindia.com:-

· He will show Himself in many places simultaneously, though He will actually be in one place and there will be many divine acts and manifestations.

COMMENT: The ability to bi-locate has been claimed for 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).

My views on such miraculous accounts are based on much questioning  of devotees (mostly Indians) through two decades. When reporting their experiences, inaccuracies, exaggerations, vagueness, sloppy observation, unquestioning reliance on hearsay and the zeal to convince others are all too common. These most extraordinary claims of Sathya Sai Baba having appeared in his physical person in two places at once would need most extraordinary evidence to be taken seriously, but such is completely lacking.

In dreams, visions and apparent ‘visitations’, the form of a distant person may well appear to people. Another likely explanation of perceived ‘visitations’ by Sathya Sai Baba can be the same as those now considered to have been causative of experiences of incubi, witches, the devil, spirit bodies, persons returned from the dead, UFO abductions and many other apparently waking phenomena. Sleep paralysis combined with a vivid dream while the mind experiences a waking state causes dream contents to be perceived as real and physical. This condition has recently been understood much better by neurologists and is quite common, often being connected with the various causes and kinds of narcolepsy.  Another prophecy made was:-

· He will have the power to die whenever He wants.

COMMENT: Actually, virtually everyone has the power to end their own lives whenever they wish – it’s called suicide. If Sathya Sai Baba ends his own life by his own will, whatever means used, then this must surely rank as suicide too in a moral and a legal sense. That matter apart, he has given at least two totally incompatible predictions of when he has chosen to the “leave the body”, (in published discourses) in particular either at age 92/3 or at 96. (See here)

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