Call For Media and Government Investigation

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

Posts Tagged ‘Elsie Cowan’

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 SpokesmanIt 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  – – 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

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) 



Excerpt From Public Petition

(Note: You may prefer to proceed straight to the Petition):

Public Petition For Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization

There is a Spanish version available:


Posted in Opinion, Religion, South Asia, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Religions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Guru Sex Abuse Testimony To BBC – After Years of Silence

Posted by Barry Pittard on June 11, 2007

In the interests of establishing a new life for himself, Mark Roche, who had quit Sai Baba at the beginning of the 90’s, preferred overall not to have contact with either devotees or former devotees.

The issue was very sensitive with him, as is typical with those who have been sexually traumatized and who feel their deepest trust in their spiritual master betrayed (the latter of which is also a severe ordeal in itself, as many former devotees know who have not been sexually abused). In this way, painful and confusing memories are far easier to suppress.

Click Here for video clip of Mark Roche interview from The Secret Swami, BBC 2, This World, first screened, Thursday 17, 2004.

Over the years, international coordinators like the late Glen Meloy, Robert Priddy and me, Barry Pittard, have gone out of our way – trustfully without, at the same time, being somehow wishy-washy – not to pressure witnesses into going public. A great many have decided not to speak out, although some say that given others coming out in an organized way, such as in a law court, they may reconsider. We have put a case for either a) speaking out publicly or, at least, b) providing private documentation, or c) giving moral support to others among former devotees who also give abuse accounts.

Glen Meloy. Historic Figure in Exposing Sai Baba and His Worldwide Cult

In late 2003, Glen Meloy and Mark Roche, who had mostly been out of contact for some years, began dialog via phone and email. But Roche, like many others with survival accounts, wanted to ‘move on’, and was not ready to go public. He had shared his account with almost no-one. An exception was a friend of three decades, Sharon Purcell, who was also closely associated with Walter and Elsie Cowan, Dr Hislop and other original and significant Sai Baba leaders. Looked at with hindsight, a document that Glen Meloy, a dear and trusted friend of the Purcell family for many years, long ago posted on the Internet reveals this in its own way – for the man who is not named there was, in fact, Mark Roche:

“In 1972, Walter Cowan allegedly died in India, and there are many stories alleging that Sai Baba raised him from the dead after he had suffered a heart attack and his orifices had been stuffed with cotton and his body hauled off to the morgue.

Later, Sharon’s long term male friend whom Baba had sexually molested by forcing his penis into the devotee’s mouth and then ejaculating his sperm would tell her that the resurrection stories were not true and that he was an eye witness to what really happened. This person is also known to me and told me the same incidents. The accounts of Cowan’s personal physicians completely contradict the resurrection claims that Dr. Hislop and many others have been making for 29 years in print and in many lectures and retreats around the world”.

See, Sharon Purcell’s Personal Story HERE. My recollection of a beloved friend to many is available in .pdf HERE or in .htm HEREIn Memoriam – Glen Meloy (“Standing up for truth and goodness“). Mrs Purcell’s son Satch (Sathya or Satya) Purcell, who was named by Sai Baba when a babe has written of his experiences when a member of a group of teenagers and young men led by Hal Honig visited Sai Baba in 1993. It is found by going HERE, then clicking on the News tab and selecting entry for 05-22-07.

Hal Honig. Investigators Need To Query Him

A list of 16 questions asked of Hal Honig – about whom, on the basis of documentation that is ready to be sworn to in a court of law by its author – I have filed a report to the FBI via the U.S.A. Embassy in Canberra, Australia, is found in my article Will Sai Baba Keep Hal Honig Smiling? HERE. Strangely – and one may query whether compromisingly – Hal Honig is a member of the Sathya Sai Central Council of the U.S.A., National Executive Commitee for Sai Young Adults, and National Seva (Sanskrit=Service) Coordinator Service Projects (which includes teaching needy youth)

Barry Pittard’s comments in regard to the Public Petition) -:

Petition For Official Investigation Into Sathya Sai Baba Cult


Public Petition For Official Investigations of Sathya Sai Baba and His Worldwide Organization

There is a Spanish version available:



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Posted in Morality, Neglected/sidelined News, New Age, Protest, Rationalism, Religion, Scandal, Sex, Skeptics, Spirituality, Uncategorized, World Religions | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »