Cult Exposure. By Their Documents Ye Shall Know Them
Posted by Barry Pittard on April 1, 2008
Those organizations and individuals approached by the International Sathya Sai Organization may do well to look at the page just constructed by Robert Priddy. Now a retired academic from the University of Norway, he was for over fifteen years its head in Norway, until his prolonged and rigorous investigations disclosed its profound duplicity (often hidden from its rank-and-file). He documents the Sathya Sai Organization’s (so-called!) ‘Interactive Panel’ of the 8th World Conference (November 2005)
– from [http://www.saiscotland.com/resource/misc/8thWC-QA1.htm].
Non Interactive ‘Interaction’?
The whole notion of interaction can be seen as false by any reader not enmeshed by cultic (non-) thinking. But by what – plausibly more than by the voices of critics – will the Sathya Sai Baba’s cult be exposed to the world? It is by reference to the conflicted words and actions of Sathya Sai Baba’s leaders that the profound failure of intellectual and moral integrity of his operation at large is made manifest to honest enquirers. Indeed, Robert Priddy’s main website is entitled: Sathya Sai Baba In Word And Action
By Their Documents Ye Shall Know Them
It was anciently said: ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’. Very true, and I may add: By their documents ye shall know them. One does not contend that the leaders of the international Sathya Sai Organization are unendowed with intelligence. If anything, they have all too much of it – but it is unhappily deployed, and if unchallenged, given the group’s Croesus-like wealth, runs the serious risk of their founder being hailed for centuries. There is, however, a feature that is of interest to those scholars and other investigators who study patterns of cultic thought and action. This factor relates to the way in which – in the worship of a charismatic figurehead – even the most ordinary practices of intellectual probity, the exercise of the most fair, democratic and reasonable processes, the faculty of moral discrimination, and indeed of commonsense itself are self-subverted, and, by powerful reinforcement, undermined by group-think. Or group-non-think.
Of Ghostly Semi Responses, Floating Disembodied Questions, and Human Immobilization
The genuineness (and indeed perhaps an underlying anxiety) of the questions from the conference floor, as any slightly sensible person can see plainly, are in marked contrast to the evasiveness and poor general poor quality of the virtual non-responses by the top leaders in Sathya Sai Baba’s organization. They have a consummate exemplar in their sorely disfigured figurehead. You can scarcely hear the ghosts of their former, and perhaps even likable human and vulnerable, selves. But you can hear the creaking of the haunted house, and sense the bated breaths of the frightened inhabitants, the captive audience – with a straining-at-the-leash partial awareness of severe need for reform, but unable to see far beyond the kennel to which they are bound. The Chief ghost has them deeply troubled but immobilized, not even to bay at the moon. Their questions hang in the air like disembodied spirits, never to be communicated with. Sai Baba himself believes in, and claims he is in touch with, ghosts. Yet again is the bad fruit revealed by the self-documentation, publicly available. See, Unnatural Events In Sathya Sai Baba’s Bedroom, Told By Him, Sanathana Sarathi, June 1998, p. 142-3.
The Disappearing Ghost References. Banished by An Eery Touch No Lighter Than An Editorial Hand
Indeed, one of the ghost-vanquishing editorial hands was my own! For a few months ca. 1997-1998, I had a considerable editorial hand in Spiritual Impressions, Puttaparthi, a beautifully-produced magazine distributed worldwide. When I saw Sai Baba’s ghost references (referring to Sai Baba’s account of his seeing his mother’s ghost) in a brand new pencil-written translation by (if I recollect aright) Professor Anil Kumar, Sai Baba’s official translator, I went across the road and conferred with my dear friend (the late) V.K. Narasimhan, one of India’s great newspaper editors, then Editor of Sanathana Sarathi. Each of us censored most of the ghost references felt likely to blow the mind of rational readers, in an account which was, in any case, terribly muddled and a terrible strain on any half-compos mentis translator. Such extraordinary blunders usually get excised before they get into publications that go worldwide like Sanathana Sarathi and Spiritual Impressions. In retrospect, the flap they cause among Sai Baba’s editors and other publication staff are really quite funny. See, Brian Steel, SB’s Discourses. More Nonsense, where Steel works, as so often, from the tell-tale documents themselves and here from (then devotee and Sai Baba’s official videographer) James Redmond’s video material from which the excisions of the magazine editors were not able to occur. See also my, Huge Sai Baba Gaffes I quote briefly from Robert Priddy’s page – http://www.saibaba-x.org.uk/10/interactive_panel.htm
Here, Robert Priddy copies, and tersely comments on, parts of a transcript of the 8th World Conference (November 2005) of the Sathya Sai Organization – noting that:
“the questions and answers demonstrate very well how avoidance of issues, cover-up of damaging facts and patronizing talk is the backbone of all Sathya Sai Organization conferences”.
‘(Dr David Gries) introduced the panel: Dr. Michael Goldstein, Dr. Narendra Reddy, Air Chief Marshall N. C. Suri, and Dr. William Harvey
Question 1. “Why are previous Conference recommendations and resolutions not implemented?”
Answer 1. (Dr. Goldstein): Many recommendations and resolutions have been made. (Priddy’s comment: That does not answer the question, as usual) Suggested changes to the Charter are being considered by members of the Prasanthi Council. (Priddy: Authoritarian VIPs decide everything, in other words. Anti-democratic because it would all fall apart otherwise)
Q10. Doesn’t the Organization need to set a vision? The Organization is not addressing its sustainability. The speakers are not addressing the theme of the conference.
A10. (Dr. Michael Goldstein, international head of Sathya Sai Organization): First of all, there is no question of addressing sustainability. This organization is imbued with divinity, founded in the name of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Imbued with Love, wisdom and power insofar as we are able to come together as devotees and tap that Love, the organization is invulnerable and eternal as is Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Swami has said so.
A12. (Dr. Goldstein): Swami appointed the members of the Prasanthi Council. (Priddy: and he is a known misogynist) With regard to the panel, I thought these people would be the best to serve you. (Priddy: So it’s a man’s world for Goldstein too!) (Air Chief Marshall Suri): Men and women can relate. Our understanding of Love now is based on animal instincts, but Love should be pure (Priddy: Suri can speak for himself). Swami gives us options, take time to think about what will be correct action. Do relations have to be physical? It is the manner in which we relate to one another that becomes important. Love is different from relationships. We have the task of letting people know the difference. The problem you mention is not foreign to Indians. (Priddy: Women’s liberation may have just begun weakly in India, but certainly NOT in the Sathya Sai Organization!) … Goldstein is the one to talk about status consciousness see here and treating people with love as his bullying behavior towards Tanya Datta of the BBC)
Q15. Heads of the Sai organization are becoming status conscious. How could this be remedied?
A15. (Dr. Goldstein): The remedy for officers who are so status conscious is to treat them with Love. (Priddy) Better to kick them all out and have genuinely spiritual leaders. Anyone who asks sensitive questions is kicked out (e.g., Leader of the Moscow Centre, Serguei Badaev), so why not also and not least these immature and often authoritarian characters.
Further General Resources