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of Sathya Sai Baba And his worldwide cult, the Sathya Sai Organization

Brian Steel On John Hislop’s 27 Years as Sathya Sai Baba’s Spokesman

Posted by Barry Pittard on July 18, 2009

In my recent note Brian Steel On Sathya Sai Baba’s Credibility Gap. John Hislop Contributions, I drew attention to Brian Steel’s scholarly article which deals with a seminal figure, Jack Hislop, in the spread of the Sathya Sai Baba movement:  Sathya Sai Baba’s credibility gap: Contributions by John Hislop.  (Brian Steel January 2009).

Steel refers to the controversial Walter Cowan ‘resurrection’ in 1971, mentioning the refuting evidence presented by Professor Erlendur araldsson, B. Premanand, (the late) Professor Dale Beyerstein.

For decades, these critical points met with no satisfactory explanations from the Sathya Sai Baba camp, and yet a great number of devotees rejoice in this so-called miracle of resurrection, as they do in so many ‘miracles’ of their guru, which, however, keep on being disproved by film footage of excellent provenance:

Right Hand. Sleight Hand. Watch Sai Baba Cheat With Sacred Ash (Film clip)

BC and Other Film Footage Shows India’s Top Guru Sathya Sai Baba Faking Miracles 

For those of my readers who may not have time to read highly detailed, longer articles, I shall excerpt here and in the next days select parts of his John Hislop article.

Excerpt from Brian Steel’s Sathya Sai Baba’s credibility gap: Contributions by John Hislop (January 2009)

“The case of Dr John (Jack) Hislop (1904-1995), like those of other prominent devotees such as those mentioned above who met Sathya Sai Baba in the expansionist and surging 1960s or 1970s, is very instructive. Following a successful career in teaching and business, his quarter of a century of total devotion to the SSB cause and of intimate contact with SSB himself coincided with the major international expansion of the Organisation. By the end of his life, John Hislop was internationally famous in devotee circles and the two books he filled with his accounts of SSB’s words and deeds had become international bestsellers (in devotee circles) in several languages.These had helped to make SSB known to countless thousands of people, mostly outside of India. The books were Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and My Baba and I, both published by the Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust of Prasanthi Nilayam. There would later be a third, posthumous compilation by his American associates in 1997: Seeking Divinity [Talks by Dr John S. Hislop], published by the Sathya Sai Society of America, Tustin, California.

Hislop had been a spiritual seeker for many years, together with his wife, Victoria. In 1958 he gave up his job as Vice-President of a large company and went to India to find land and build a training college in the Himalayas for the up and coming celebrity guru of the 1960s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (later of TM fame). Hislop accompanied Maharishi on his tour of Germany and became the first US President of the Mahesh Yogi American Organization. He also taught TM and was said to be capable of day-long meditations. He finally left the Maharishi’s Organisation, it is said, because of an imagined fault in himself.

Hislop’s first visit to Sathya Sai Baba was in January 1968, when he taped two deeply spiritual conversations with the guru who, he immediately felt, was the true source of wisdom. At that time there were only a few foreigners in Puttaparthi and Hislop was especially privileged to have daily meetings with SSB, and visits from him, lasting up to two hours per day (My Baba and I, p.15). The results of these long conversations (mainly question and answer sessions) were later published in California (in 1978) as Conversations with Sathya Sai Baba , a book which offered many invaluable insights into SSB’s teachings and revealed to foreign devotees and others his opinions on many topics. As a result of many further visits and periods of residence in the ashram, Dr. Hislop later wrote My Baba and I, which, like the first book, has been instrumental in U.S.A. and around the world in increasing knowledge about Sathya Sai Baba and drawing devotees to him (especially foreigners). The inclusion of several translated and typewritten letters to Hislop from SSB underlines the fact that at the time and for many years, SSB regarded him as his main representative in USA, as well as the foreigner with whom he felt most comfortable.

My Baba and I (pp. 28-31) includes Hislop’s account of the alleged Walter Cowan ‘resurrection’ in 1971. This claim is not only controversial but was refuted by Professor Haraldsson in his widely read 1987 book (and a year later by Indian rationalist B. Premanand), on the grounds that two attending doctors denied certifying Cowan’s death. The issue was also critically analysed by Professor Dale Beyerstein in his 1994 book. In spite of this, for over 20 years these proofs have been denied or ignored by Hislop, the SSO and devotees, all of whom still reiterate the ‘resurrection’ claim as if it were a fact. (Another major earlier claim, alleging the resurrection of devotee Ramakrishna, was also refuted by Haraldsson.) In view of Hislop’s key role in the narration and dissemination of the Cowan story, I have published a companion article ‘Sathya Sai Baba, Elsie and Walter Cowan, and John Hislop. A Discredited 1971 Resurrection Claim’) setting out the history and the detailed background to this extraordinary story which offers further evidence of the importance and impact of the role of spokespersons in the SSB Mission.

(For those interested, scans of the relevant critical pages of Erlendur’s Haraldsson’s book are available on the Internet: ‘Professor Erlendur Haraldsson contests Sai Baba’s claim of resurrection as bogus’.)

Dr Hislop was not only the first President of the Sathya Sai Baba Council of America but also an indefatigable contributor to the development of Sathya Sai Centres in U.S.A. and to the worldwide Sathya Sai Movement. Because of this prominent position, his total devotion, and his specially privileged access to SSB, clearly evidenced in his books, Hislop became one of SSB’s most influential overseas spokespersons and a popular lecturer in SSO Centres in many countries during the years of rapid overseas expansion of the SSO from 1970 until his death in 1995″.

Select writings from Brian Steel’s Extensive Opus

Sathya Sai Baba can be documented by any conscientious reader as having made contradictory statements and egregious historical and scientific blunders. These include his remarks on Jesus Christ and Martin Luther . For Steel’s detailed and sharply contextualized discussion, see: Sai Baba and Christianity. Some Observations (2002). Steel remarks here the alarming “extent of Sai Baba’s inventiveness”. This can be instructively read in concert with his Basic Notes On Sai Baba’s Credibility Problem (2004)

Brian Steel Indexes

Barry Pittard On Brian Steel

Revealing Materials On Sai Baba Of India

Brian Steel’s Surprise Visit To Sathya Sai Baba’s Ashram

William Aitken’s Book Fails to Answer Sai Baba Critics

For Brian Steel’s detailed exposure of severe inadequacies of a foremost Sai Baba hagiographer mentioned in this article refer to Steel’s:

Bill Aitken and Sathya Sai Baba. A Writer’s Dilemma,

on William Aitken’s book, ‘Sri Sathya Sai Baba. A Life (New Delhi, Penguin Books, India, 2004. Paperback edition, 2006) 


See:  Petition For Official Investigation Into Sathya Sai Baba Cult

2 Responses to “Brian Steel On John Hislop’s 27 Years as Sathya Sai Baba’s Spokesman”

  1. […] Brian Steel On John Hislop’s 27 Years as Sathya Sai Baba’s Spokesman […]

  2. […] Brian Steel On John Hislop’s 27 Years as Sathya Sai Baba’s Spokesman […]

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