On Leaving A Powerful Global Cult. Sathya Sai Baba Example (Part 2)
Posted by Barry Pittard on January 26, 2010
This article continues from: On Leaving the Sathya Sai Baba Cult – Ex Leaders and Rank-and-File. See also: On Leaving A Powerful Global Cult. Sathya Sai Baba Example (Part 3)
… There was a feeling of truthfulness in the accounts of the authors, and I contacted them. They were – Terry Gallagher (who had resigned as head of the Sathya Sai Organization after rigorously investigating), Hans de Kraker (Australia, who for a number of years ran the Western Canteen at Puttaparthi), Jens Sethi(Germany), David Bailey (who had a rare closeness to Sathya Sai Baba, and an almost unprecedented plenipotentiary role), Hari Sampath (India), Glen Meloy and many others from the USA, such as Sharon Purcell (co-founder of the earliest Sathya Sai Baba center in the USA), Al Rahm (U.S.A., a major organization leader, and, in that country, head of the largest Sathya Sai Baba commune, and founder of the first Sai school).
I contacted Britt-Marie (Bi-ma) Andén (former head of Swedish Sathya Sai Organization and a key figure Sathya Sai Baba Education in Human Values movement), and Conny Larsson (former head of the latter national organization). When I spoke with Ms Andén, she outlined an account of Sai Baba’s sexual abuse of own son Jasper’s sexual abuse, and how she closed down her international Sai school in Gothenburg. In Stockholm, amidst a great many tears, compelling direct witness accounts were given to membership of the then large and significant Swedish Sathya Sai Organization, which broke up as a result of the revelations, and wider confirmation of similar cases in Scandinavia and elsewhere. One of the witnesses was a very young male, widely known as ‘the golden boy’ because of the gold trinkets Sai Baba would give to him. Conny Larsson told me how the courage of this boy in coming forward led to his own revelations about having been a Sai Baba’s homosexual lover.
As time went by, I had contact with many others in countries around the world, a brief list of whom includes:
Dr. Naresh Bhatia, Dave Brandt, Stephen Carthew, Timothy Conway Ph.D., Ella Evers, Lionel Fernandez, Jed Geyerhahn, Dennis Hanisch, Alf Tidemann-Johannessen, Afshin Khorramshagol (“Said”) , Andries Krugers Dagneaux, Dave Lyons, Rick Raines, Mark Roche, Shirley Pike, Elena Hartgering, Lori Kaplowitz, Marc-Andre St. Jean, Matthijs van der Meer, Alexandra Nagel, ‘Neptune’, Roy Pendragon, Brian Steel, Artur Wisniewski, Ullrich Zimmermann …
I also had contact with those whose names and circumstances must not be discussed except with their written permission (including updated advice on any former undertakings that were positive towards proper court of dealings with best-practice media or government organizations or any other notable institutions). These include those who have taught or studied at Sathya Sai Baba education institutions. The situation of Indian witnesses was particularly acute. The joint family is a profound factor in Indian national life, and many of them had family closely connected with Sathya Sai Baba and his organization over the years. Some family members live in the Puttaparthi ashram and depend on Sathya Sai Baba’s largesse.
As my investigation unfolded, I spoke to young males – and/or their parents. Their accounts of Sathya Sai Baba’s sexual abuse were heartrending. In the matter of my personal, emotional coping with the unceasing revelations, it was fortunate, in one sense, that both my formal work in education, social service and particular life experiences, assisted me as I listened to and read testimonies from people in various countries. Some had been so shattered that it was difficult and sometimes impossible to pursue discussions. As might be expected, some needed to vent; some only did so after a period of trust-building; and others wished (and this was a common phrase used) to “move on”. Of course, undealt-with trauma can much impede any real moving on.
Featuring in many accounts was Sai Baba’s demand of the boys and young men to perform oral sex on himself. Other factors repeatedly found were the use of bribes and threats. In case after case, the people involved were often regarded by those who knew them as unusually good-looking.
I spoke to many who, in various countries, had been prominent leaders of the Sathya Sai Organization in various countries. As a result of their own investigations, they had resigned on a matter of principle . Many others left the organization quietly, without formal resignation. Many leave-takers do not want their names brought forward.
A dilemma faces the international Sathya Sai Organization which it has not been able to resolve. Because it has maintained a glacial silence, it cannot even begin to do justice to thousands who have so deeply grieved. See Robert Priddy’s article: Sai Baba: Glaring Publicity yet Silence on Critical Issues
This dilemma may be expressed with the question: why would those who have been its dedicated and respected members for decades, in some cases prominent leaders, not show the same integrity in investigating the terrible accounts as they have so long shown in their Sathya Sai Organization roles – and, what is more, in their professions and wider communities? I have noted in the article Global Sathya Sai Cult White-ants Itself :
“The demands of professional investigators with whom former devotees have dealt in the attempt to expose the Puttaparthi corruptions are considerable. This includes Interpol, FBI, UNESCO, BBC, CBC, ABC, DR, SBS, The Times of London, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, India Today, Salon.com, Gatopardo, The Age, Financial Times (Australia), West Australian, Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Star, BT, Trouw, Spiegelbeeld, Noordhollands Dagblad, Focus, BILD …
If investigations were to uphold Sathya Sai Baba and his core servitors then all is well for them!”
I have had contact with Al Rahm, father of the Rahm family. They had an exceptionally high profile in the Sathya Sai Organization. In fact, Al Rahm started the first Sathya Sai school in the USA. Al and Marisa Rahm and their son (with his account of having been serially sexually molested by Sai Baba) appeared in 2004 in the BBC’s ‘The Secret Swami’. I quickly add that many others, whose accounts did not subsequently appear in the documentary, had discussed their experiences with BBC researchers such as Iris Asic and David Saville and Tanya Datta. David Saville, the assistant producer, with whom I worked closely for several months, told me that there were eventually over 80 hours of filmed testimony, and that the BBC had uncovered compelling accounts from others who did not appear on our private international lists. (These are essentially now in the hands of Robert Priddy and myself, and we can direct enquiries of those with excellent professional bona fides to relevant professionals within our ranks).
Almost overnight, we had become demons!
The Sathya Sai Organisation’s Deception and Propaganda Exposed – by Robert Priddy and Barry Pittard. Part One Part Two Part Three
Posted by robertpriddy on June 28, 2009
Witnesses (An alphabetical list linked to testimonies)
There is a Spanish version available: