Against a formidable instinct in human nature, most former devotees have, for not far short of two decades, refrained from striking back at those who have so massively vilified and defamed them.
A Personal Note
My own notion shared with other internationally networked former followers was that we had best focus on our central task of exposing the central figures, Sai Baba himself and the leaders of his international Sathya Sai Organization. Only in the tiniest minority of cases was there not agreement with this conservative view. A small number, quite young in age, wished to engage the other side in, as it were, fierce aerial combat, and any difference on either side of the “cyber wars” lines of battle was scarcely, if at all, noticeable: flaming, volley for volley of abuse. The spectacle was all so inspirationally edifying that one had no desire to read further.
Cooperation In Serving Those Most Betrayed
One of the refreshing characteristics of internationally networked former Sai Baba followers is that members have used consensual approaches among ourselves. Unfortunately, yes, secrecy was essential. There were very vulnerable psychological survivors among both individuals and families.
There has been a lot of listening and sensitivity to each other, and of poring carefully over essential documents. It is strange how, out of something so terrible, once we share in a deep trust and compassion, there can be something emerge that is so wonderful. It has not quite felt that we are the demons that Sathya Sai Baba has portrayed us as being in his angry, lecturn-thumbing, name-calling, self-vaunting Christmas discourse (December 2000), that had precious little to do with Christ. He called his critics ‘Judases’, ‘demons’, and claimed that there would be no salvation for them. He also said that the dissent against him was motivated by money. (What a jaw-dropper that was for that not-insignificant number of economically challenged critics, who have, indeed for reasons of spiritual development, long taken the path of simply living!)
It should never be lost sight of that many in the Sathya Sai Organization, from the leadership to the rank-and-file knew that this was not true. For his statements were about individuals they had for decades known, honored, loved and served alongside in so many service and other activities.
Certainly, in the movement of organized exposure, there has been the need for what I have elsewhere called a “regrettable secrecy”. It is likely that there will be those in Sai Baba’s organization who feel the same way. However, this should not absolve them from their accountability. In the article Secrecy Needs In Exposing A Top Global Cult, I wrote:
“Curiously, here were we – noting how the core leadership of the Sathya Sai Baba cult was so extremely secret. To the less analytic, our position can but appear to be a blatant contradiction. But it is an irony, not an hypocrisy …
… What does the layperson know of sexual abuse? The exceptions in our midst were those very qualified mental health professionals such as Shirley Pike and (the late) Elena Hartgering, Barbara Shocket, Dave Brandt and others who have preferred that their names not be used. We were entering a world of anguish and complexity. What we learnt was that the first requirement is to listen with compassion. It is the opposite of what cultic defenders show, who race to judgement, leap to the worst imaginable conclusions, and condemn any who should dare to attempt to communicate their account of abuse”.
Survivors of Sai Baba’s serial, widespread sexual abuse of boys and young men and other abuses have been advised to debrief their shocking experiences with very qualified, respected professional counselors. And indeed to go all out to ensure that those of real ability are found, and not someone who will see the answer in suppressive drugs or ‘counseling’ from some narrow or partisan agenda.
The Savage Attacking of the Vulnerable and Wounded
Even without traumatic psychological upheavals that attend sexual molestation, youth is typically (remember it?!) a time full of disruption, confusion and anguish. Internet attackers – e.g., Gerald Moreno – on the statements of those such as Alaya Rahm and many others show – have been deemed by complete third parties from law and the healing professions etc., to show acute lack of sensitivity to this framework. They also question whether it is advisable for young who are so very wounded by their experiences to have so publicly bared their troubles. To be confused, forgetful of dates, times or places, or behave neurotically does not mean that abuses have not occurred. One of the chief difficulties comes when those with a responsibility – as had the Sathya Sai Organization – for proactive and healingful responses do not acquit their duties with understanding and compassion. Because of its profound failure here, that organization has brought upon itself the massive exposure that has occured especially from circa 2000 to this day. Renewed opprobrium falls upon it yet more so because of its acquiescence with the state of affairs that closely links Gerald Moreno with saibabaofindia.com. This is a highly active group little short of being official, but whose members include those close to Sathya Sai Baba.
No Sathya Sai Baba devotee who is a properly qualified and competent psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, social worker etc., could ever condone Moreno’s attacking styles, which have been constant.
There is the sad fact that Moreno’s gross misconduct, and that of the Sai Baba leaders and other members who co-operate with him, brings into discredit others who do not merit it. For many Sai Baba devotees, who genuinely strive in their spiritual endeavour to be compassionate, good and caring individuals, are not as he. They have done and continue to do, for example, much worthy and unselfish work for the less fortunate in society, just as, be it noted, is the case with many former devotees active in exposing Sathya Sai Baba. It would be hard to imagine that Moreno, who inhabits the cyber world by night and day, would have any time left for it. The reason why writers like Priddy, Steel, and Pittard can write prolifically, and yet have ample time left for family, friendships and community involvement is because our university training and disciplined work habits of a lifetime allow us to achieve much work in shorter time.
Former Devotee Working Relationship
We have been with each other, even though mostly via ‘hands across the ocean’, in times of birth deaths and marriages, job change, retirement (refreshment!) – the joys and sorrows, the great rolling of the Seasons. We deeply and happily remember sadly-departed wonderful spirits like Glen Meloy and Elena Hartgering (who was one of the first professional counselors called on to hasten to New York to attend those shattered lives among the smoldering remnants of the 9/11 events).
The rapport – far from the dread conspiracy that Sai Baba apologists (See HERE and HERE) have tirelessly and offensively speculated to exist – is especially gratifying when one considers how widely national, cultural, religious and non-religious has been its composition. There could have been so many cross-purposes, but those that did exist were usually resolved well, with people learning from each other, rather than making shallow compromises.
This quality of listening and sorting out is very different to the top heavy, Soviet-style that has, over the years, developed in the international Sathya Sai Organization. One seriously discordant note that I recall is when a Christian fundamentalist was, frankly, a pain-in-the neck. When he marched off in high dudgeon (the issue was whether to include people’s professional qualifications in a joint letter) great were the sighs of relief. Pretty obviously, the response would have been the same had he been a fundamentalist of any kind. Even then, ALL participants remained courteous to him, though certainly not agreement.
A small list of those who have spoken out is below. It omits many names. This is because individuals have wanted, as they express it, to move on or not to have their names plastered over the Internet by profoundly insensitive, unconscionable individuals such as Gerald Moreno. A quick test in the latter’s case is to Google this name, and immediately you will note the countless usages of words that are: defamatory, libelous, disparaging, vituperative, aggressive, strident, malicious, strong-arming, and so on. A more recent addition has been Moreno’s repeated ageism.
These are not the words that befit any of the great spiritual or ethical paths, and are directly counter the teachings of his own idol, Sathya Sai Baba and other famous spiritual teachers whom Moreno has referenced – Sri Ramana Maharshi, Mata Amritanandamayi, etc. Brian Steel has written:
With such powerful links to devotees and others through the unofficial promotional SSB network and further boosted by his tireless Search Engine Optimization activities, Moreno has engineered, for the moment, a high Internet profile to project his own “smear campaign” with its egregious deceit and dishonesty – and smokescreens.
But this has its difficulties for Moreno, and for the Sathya Sai Organization that is now so closely linked in public fora to his name and and protean activities. Steel writes further:
Already Moreno’s reckless behaviour has earned him public condemnation on the Internet for one high-profile but minor part of his extensive campaign. Thanks to his aggressive attempt to dictate to Wikipedia contributors what should and should not be included in their (controversial) article on Sathya Sai Baba he has received an official rebuff from that prominent Internet institution. After months of Moreno’s abrasive demands and provocative filibustering, the already heated Wikipedia debate became incandescent and vituperative, leading, inevitably, to the intervention of an Arbitration Committee. After three months of discussions, in March 2007, Joe Moreno (as ‘User SSS108’) and others involved in the debate were banned indefinitely from contributing to the Wikipedia Sathya Sai Baba article, its Discussion page and related articles. (Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Sathya_Sai_Baba_2)
List of Notable Former Devotees Who Have Honorably Spoken Out – Despite Attacks Upon Them
The list also excludes many who are known or understood to have spoken out but of whom we lack proper documentation. Many who have spoken up were prominent leaders in the Sathya Sai Organization – who, the moment the stood forth, became non-persons – demeaned, shunned, defamed. Some outspoken individuals have been:
Brian D. Steel