Phyllis Krystal is a long-standing US devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. I have met her in Prashanthi Nilayam, as an interview with Sai Baba, again later in London, UK – and also heard her holding forth at a Sai Baba Conference in Hamburg (1992).
She is a proponent of the simplification of spiritual teachings, as her own statement makes ‘krystal clear’:-
Many devotees have been asking me to offer a message to help during this time of deep concern over the present serious physical condition that Baba is undergoing. I have hesitated until now to add to the many messages being circulated around the world, however, I am now feeling an urgency to do so. Baba has taught us repeatedly to “keep it simple“, so that even a child can understand. Let us therefore practise what He Himself has been teaching us for so many years …
As I shall point out further, her books on ‘cutting ties that bind’ and other such Sai Baba-dictated panaceas are often superficial and simplistic. Krystal’s cue in this case is the premature death under very suspicious circumstances and due to being disconnected from his life-support which held the body alive but not his consciousness, unlike any known revered Indian spiritual figure, yogi or supposed ‘realised’ soul. The simple message is “We are not the body”. Rather amusing, really, since no one can prove that we have “eternal spirits” or that our supposed shared divinity in unimaginable realms that no one can describe frees our reputations from anything “we” did in the body… such as widely reported, in Sai Baba’s case, major predatory sex abuse and pedophilia. Phyllis Krystal replied – after the 1999 storm broke – to a questioner about those accusations on the lines that “Either you believe he is God or not.” If the former – as she holds – then he could never be held to account for anything he chose to do as it was for the ultimate good! This is the kernel of Sathya Sai Baba defenders’ reasoning… not exactly plausible, not morally defensible, nor in any way based on any provable facts… hence, irrational belief (which itself requires psychological and other kinds of explanations).
In her hagiographic book with the excessive title: ‘The Ultimate Experience’ – publ. Samuel Weiser Inc ) she relates how Sathya Sai Baba had told her she was suffering not from one headache, but five headaches’. She had written there that she went some kind of intensification of her symptoms while with Sathya Sai Baba, which she interpreted as being a part of the treatment.
She was a speaker at the Sathya Sai Hamburg Conference in 1992 and was asked point blank from the audience whether Sathya Sai Baba had now cured her of all her crashing headaches. She hesitated for a bit, then said that he had. However, when later visiting Lucas Ralli and his wife with my wife at their home in Bayswayer, London, he came to mention that she was in constant need of pain killers for her headaches and I was taken aback. He was the Central Coordinator of the Sathya Sai Organization for UK & Ireland until he was unceremoniously kicked out for speaking his mind, but a close friend of Mrs. Krystal, who stayed with him sometime during UK visits. So I asked if she had not been cured, but he confirmed that she still suffered greatly from this. This incident – many years after her supposed healing by Sai Baba and long after the Hamburg Conference. To dissemble and lie outright to defend her guru-God shows how even privileged devotees fear to tell negative facts that might raise doubts in listeners’ minds! Lucas Ralli and his wife were close to her and they assured me that she was still taking large doses of pain killers for her headaches. This incident is a telling example, to be afraid to tell a Sai devotee public that he had not been able to cure her as he had promised. This kind of deceit is frequent among Sai followers as I learned from 18 years as a leader to whom many would apply for advice etc.
There is no use in putting questions to such a person as Phyllis Krystal, she has pat answers to almost everything – the Sai Baba parrot phenomenon again – all developed through her doubtful and often most ‘testing’ experiences with Sai Baba and his devotees. When I heard Mrs. Krystal speak in London (as a Ralli-organised meeting), she said during her replies to questions that ‘Swami sometimes answers through me’, which immediately made me suspicious, because of the way in which she said it and the context etc. My immediate reaction to her was that I was struck by the patent falsity of her very controlled voice (but with a recognisable British whine under the gushing US patina), and her general kind of self-projection… I think someone whose life was virtually empty but for talking and writing and being admired as a Sai devotee supreme. Apropos, her host, Lucas, was an ‘officially-recognised’ channel for Sai Baba, his ‘Messages for You and Me’ in five volumes were accredited by Sathya Sai Baba in an interview (it was claimed)! I can well imagine that there was some competition mentality with Lucas there… not least because Shah had tried to cut her out of the Sai movement, warning all Org. leaders that she was not (and still is not) a member of the Sai Org., but Lucas was then the UK President (later Central Coordinator for UK). She fitted into the Ralli/Peggy Mason/Ron Laing circle because of all the mediumistic stuff they all loved (messages from the dead, ghosts, angels etc.) and she produced some fantastic fancies herself – about being shown by the Lord how Russia was under the darkest cloud on earth etc. and suchlike. Rather the kind of dreams that so many Sai Baba followers take quite literally (i.e. not least by the hagiographer Rita Bruce with her ‘message from Swami’ of the destruction of the US by germ warfare and earthquakes etc. as reported in her first book). All these people are prime exponents of spiritual doublethink and what might be called self-hypnosis.
Another example at the Bayswater meeting: After her set piece, Krystal offered to field questions. One question from the rear of the hall put by a young Englishman was whether Sai Baba accepts homosexuals or disapproves of homosexuality. Phyllis Krystal took her time and then claimed she felt she had received a reply from Swami himself, something she sometimes strongly intuits is the case. The answer was that he loves everyone and therefore does not exclude homosexuals… that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. This claim to be a channel for Sathya Sai Baba has been constantly made by hundreds – if not thousands – of devotees, including the host of the meeting, Lucas Ralli, who got published several books of his own “Messages from Sai Baba” books. However, Phyllis Krystal either did not know or had forgotten that Sai Baba has condemned homosexuality in no uncertain terms! It is obvious to many of us why he did so…
Further, Dutch Matthijs van der Meer talked with Mrs Krystal about the sexual abuse matter. He wrote about his meeting with her in his article in Spiegelbeeld October 2000, in which he testified to having been subjected involuntarily to ‘oiling’ by SB himself, and he related how Keith Ord had told him how Ord’s friend Michael Pender was forced into oral sex by Sai Baba and later took his own life in the UK. Van der Meer had visited Lucas Ralli and talked with him about his own, Ord’s and Pender’s experiences, years before the The Findings exposé appeared, with no satisfying results, so Van der Meer investigated further as follows:
“It just seemed too atrocious to be possibly true. Meanwhile many months had elapsed since I had begun to turn myself to whichever Sai author into whose hands I could manage to place a letter… – …When in May ’96 Sandweiss visited the Netherlands I took the opportunity to personally thrust a copy of my former letter into his hands. But still he wouldn’t answer. Yet the trouble was not taken in vain. Some people from the organisation spotted my action, and as if by the grace of Baba in October ’96 a meeting with the then 81-year old Phyllis Krystal was arranged for me. She affirmed to both Baba’s intimidations and the cover-up of it by the organisation. With the proviso that she refrained from drawing any conclusions. It could be sensed how she groped for clues with regard to the divine explanation for which I myself had once been looking so hard as well. And so I contended that all things considered, no rational support whatsoever was left for distinguishing Sai Baba from a criminal (for how was one to escape the implication that on the given basis even Hitler and Nero could have been avatars!). “Even if in our hearts we believe Swami”, I argued, “in our behaviour we should doubt Swami because that’s our moral duty in a situation like this.” But even though she admitted to the logic of my ethics, Krystal kept evading to take the consequences of it.While saying goodbye she promised to let me know as soon as any further insights would come about. Yet of the gruesome ‘insights’ to which revelations would give cause in the years to come, she was not to give notice. Even though she hardly could have missed the work by David Bailey, a Sai-VIP from her own circle of acquaintances.”
Comment:- Interesting that she didn’t refute it out of hand. She did have a fairly sophisticated way of dealing with questions, but none the less deluded for all that! Her millionnairess lifestyle fitted badly with the role SB gave her as a lecturer on ‘Ceiling on Desires’ – while in Copenhagen she lived at the very most expensive super-luxury hotel (declining devotees’ invitations to stay)! I was struck by the complete disinterestedness in SB of her husband, even at an interview (where both of them and I were present, in 1987) and at the Hamburg Sai Conference. He looked very much like Oliver Hardy (but with white hair and glasses) and was merely accompanying Phyllis! Rather odd that he remained so unaffected while his wife was a fanatical believer if ever there was one!
Her books are just the kind that I really could not stomach from the word go! They are amateur pseudo-psychology of the self-help kind, based entirely on her subjective ideas about what people need to do to free themselves from the “ties that bind” them, an Americanised ‘positive thinking’ of the ‘drop your hang-ups’ kind based very much on what Sai Baba says. Its sickly spiritual semantic coating and constant implicit reliance on the quite shallow and always vague and anecdotally-based religious ‘doctrine’ of Sai Baba about personal growth and supposed ‘spiritual development’ towards self-realization and the eternal liberation of moksha or nirvana amount all too readily to a programme for voluntary self-indoctrination. Some people may find some relief through the more intelligent parts, but Krystal fails to strike the balance between reality and fantasy. In a sovereign manner, she side-steps all that has been learned through the last century in countless researches and the fruits of experiences with many forms of psychological therapy worldwide! She presents her ‘cutting ties’ and related inventions as if they were the ultimate answer, all stemming from her supposedly infallible God-guru’s unworldly and impossibly unrealistic and speculative teachings. Though I am not any longer a paid-up believer in Freud, Reich, Adler, Jung and co., I think that – in their many deficiencies – they are less dangerous than the self-denial and refutation of unpleasant experience in the New Age fashion that Krystal purveys. I have come to regard much of the kind of ‘inner work’ she teaches as pseudo-spirituality for impressionable people who are too hung up on a fantasy world and an imagined possible purity of psyche and release from all human suffering, but seldom really productive of authentic self-knowledge or spirituality in everyday life. In my view, Krystal’s failure to keep her promise to update such an anguished person as van der Meer evidently was never even to contact him again. This kind of behaviour is typical of many Sai VIPs and speaks of anti-spiritual disregard of others or even suppressed self-doubt and gutlessness.
Dr. John Hislop wrote in one of his infamous clandestine letters to Sai officials (which he required that all recipients should destroy! But one set of copies did survive: see here). In one of these we read: “Directors Bayer, Goldstein, Krystal and myself have been going over and over the problem as we were talking together this weekend. Let me first say what we are not able to explain. There are two ways for us to respond to these horrible stories about Sri Bhagavan. One is to believe Sri Bhagavan when He says the stories are totally untrue, and the other is to believe the stories. If our decision is to not believe the stories, then the question arises as to what moves so many people to say these false stories. This question we are quite unable to answer.”
This shows how well Phyllis Krystal knew of the sexual abuse revelations very early on and CHOSE not to believe them. No investigations, no duty of care, simply denial. She told some devotees who questioned her that either they believed Sathya Sai Baba is God Incarnate or not. If so, they had to accept that there is no truth in such allegations, and has otherwise implied that there may alternatively be another explanation for those actions. The following was stated by Conny Larsson of the Sathya Sai Organization ‘VIPs’:- “…many of the victims have personally talked by phone to these people, when we tried to understand what was happening with us, but they all told us that this was “Divine” and we had to put up with it. We have talked to leaders as the American leaders dr. Goldstein, Phyllis Krystal, Hal Honig, Jagadeeshan, Gruber, Piculell, Meyer etc. and many, many others. They have all expressed the same opinion “it’s divine”
All one can fairly say, perhaps, is that Phyllis Krystal’s kind of self-deceit is to protect her faith and all that she has invested her life in for decades. This does not condone it, for it covers over a multitude of sins – those of Sathya Sai Baba, whose promises are supposed to be as cast in iron and whose healing is infallible etc. After her husband1s death, Mrs. Krystal’s house was shattered by the Californian earthquake in the ’90s, making her homeless, along with her deceased huband’s lifelong collection of crystal glass reportedly worth much more than $1 million. (Odd fixation on crystal/Krystal!). As she describes in detail in her book ‘The Ultimate Experience’, Sathya Sai Baba had himself told her to move to that house, after she had prayed constantly for a very long time and repeatedly asked him whether she could move house! Eventually he had given the go-ahead verbally to her. Devotees, in their great wisdom, regard such things as a boon from Sathya Sai Baba! A test on which to grow! It helps one to detach from worldly things and prepare for the final detachment! This reasoning, when taken to its conclusion means it is a boon when anything or anyone is destroyed, relatives are lost etc., because it prepares one for death! All very acceptable and faith-inducing, no doubt!
Phyllis Krystal has written a large number of books about self-healing, books which have sold very well in the New Age marketplace from which she must have made a lot of money.
Krystal, Phyllis: 1985: Sai Baba – The Ultimate Experience, Los Angeles, Aura Books. [Reprinted by Samuel Weiser, 1994]
— 1993: Cutting the Ties that Bind, York Beach, Samuel Weiser.
— 1993b: Cutting More Ties that Bind, York Beach, Samuel Weiser.
— 1994: Taming Our Monkey Mind. Insight, Detachment, Identity, York Beach, Samuel Weiser.
— 1995 Cutting the Ties that Bind Workbook, York Beach, Samuel Weiser.
— 1995b: Reconnecting the Love Energy, Don’t By-Pass Your Heart, York Beach, Samuel Weiser.