Brian Steel Demythologizes Early Foreign-led Sathya Sai Baba Myths
Posted by Barry Pittard on July 23, 2009
My previous blog was: Brian Steel On John Hislop’s 27 Years as Sathya Sai Baba’s Spokesman. It refers to the article: Sathya Sai Baba’s credibility gap: Contributions by John Hislop. (Brian Steel. January 2009).
This latter article, as one expects of Brian Steel, is scholarly and readable. Considerable length and attention to minute detail distinguish his work. Recognizing that many of my readers have heavy demands on their time, I shall, in a series of blogs, select what I think are some of the key lines of his investigations. The reader may like to pick and chose among these – or else, of course, aim to read deeply into Steel.
At the moment, I am drawing attention to some more recent work of Steel, whose books while yet a follower of Sathya Sai Baba were highly-regarded, as they are now by ex-devotees and other critics of the Sathya Sai cult. Those who have time – perhaps for exhaustive academic, media investigative or book preparation purposes – will find Steel’s work indispensable. It is vast and rigorous. Some who wish to recapture some of the steps in the saga that led them to accept or reject one or more than one aspect of the Sathya Sai Baba phenomenon will also find a considerable historic overview and many sources that have taken Steel an immense effort to assemble. I should think that readers whether pro or contra Sai Baba’s perception of his role, inasmuch as they are level-headed, will greatly appreciate the balance, calm and seriousness of Brian Steel’s writing.
Given the vastness of Steel’s endeavour, and the fact that he blogs only occasionally on these topics at his blogsite – http://briansteel.wordpress.com – it is important that his work does not languish for due attention. (For further links to his work, see resources at the foot of this note)
In my previous blog (see abover link), I quoted from Brian Steel where he refers to one of the key areas of contest in regard to the credibility of Sathya Sai Baba’s own and his devotees claims as to his divinity. Here he mentions the scans available at: ‘Professor Erlendur Haraldsson contests Sai Baba’s claim of resurrection as bogus’. At the foot of this material, the editor (Robert Priddy) has placed an ‘anchor’ which leads to the precisely relevant paragraphs in a longer article: Misleading Evangelism (Updated) , Brian Steel November 2002.
For those wishing to consider Dr John Hislop’s reportages, and those of others, in regard to the alleged resurrection of the early devotee, the wealthy American Walter Cowan, there is a Steel companion piece:
Sathya Sai Baba, Elsie and Walter Cowan, and John Hislop.
A Discredited 1971 Resurrection Claim (Brian Steel. February 2009)
This details a good deal further the onset of American interest in Sathya Sai Baba circa 1965-1970. Steel lists key American followers of this period who had already emarked in actively publicising him in the USA.
“By 1971, the following Americans had already been attracted to Sathya Sai Baba and were already publicising his name back in USA: Indra Devi and Hilda Charlton (major independent early proselytisers, 1965- ), Arnold Schulman, Charles Penn, Hilda Charlton, Bob Rayman (or Reiman), Elsie and Walter Cowan, Dr John Hislop, Tal Brooke and Howard Levin. (All, except Schulman, became devotees and proselytisers, and Tal Brooke had already become the first ‘defector’ and critic.) 1971 saw the publication of the first books about SSB by foreigners Schulman and (Australian) Howard Murphet. Phyllis Krystal and Dr Samuel Sandweiss would be drawn to meet SSB in 1972, the businessman Isaac Tigrett in 1973 and Robert A. Bozzani in 1974. The 1970s would see a strong general growth in foreign devotee numbers and Sathya Sai Organisation Centres but it was the Americans who were the original driving force behind international recognition and worship of Sathya Sai Baba.
By 1965, with the formation of the first Sathya Sai Samithis (Centres), and later the Sathya Sai Seva Organisation under the capable leadership of Indulal Shah, an effective corporate structure had begun to take shape, to be followed by a rapid expansion in India of SSO Centres and in quick succession, All-India Conferences of members and (a few years later) International Conferences. By 1974, with the inauguration of the Sathya Sai Baba Association of the Americas and Canada, the Sathya Sai Organisation would be launched on a significantly wider international expansion of its activities”.
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
on William Aitken’s book, ‘Sri Sathya Sai Baba. A Life (New Delhi, Penguin Books, India, 2004. Paperback edition, 2006)
(Note: You may prefer to proceed straight to the Petition):