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Erlendur Haraldsson, Ph.D – A Parapsychologist Fails To Admit Badly Flawed Data (Article 2)

Posted by Barry Pittard on April 10, 2013

Barry Pittard. May 22, 2013Subscribe to Call for media and government investigation of Sathya Sai Baba

 

Following my last article – To Psychic Researcher Professor Erlandur Haraldsson, Sai Baba Sexual Abuses Are Only “Squibbles” – Part 1. Posted by Barry Pittard on March 26, 2013 I continue a series of articles which question the integrity – and indeed the courage – of the parapsychology researcher Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, author of ‘Miracles are My Visiting Cards’ (re-printed as ‘Modern Miracles’). Rider Book. Century paperbacks. 1987. ISBN 0712615148, 9780712615143.

Miracles Are My Visiting Cards 2Impressed by Haraldsson’s seeming authority, thousands of Sathya Sai Baba devotees, regard his book as an important source of evidence for their spiritual master’s greatness. Do authors have a moral responsibility for their works? Do the rest of us have it for our actions, which can produce harm or well-being?

Certainly. We all do. Haraldsson’s work is one of those books that, typically, Sai Baba devotees hand around to convince others to come towards Sai Baba or to stay with him.

In it are many anecdotes which consistently favor Sai Baba as genuine. But Haraldsson fails to look for evidence that Sai Baba was a master deceiver. Still more, after all these years, he maintains a silence that disturbs a number of us who care for academic integrity and responsibility, and indeed of any kind.

No Update to badly flawed research

Cover blurb for Elendur Haraldsson’s book

I do not have time to search the literature, but I see that a researcher, George P. Hanson in a paper ‘Deception by Subjects in PSI Research – originally published in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical, Research, Vol. 84, No. 1, January 1990, pp. 25-80 suggests a serious lack of training in Dr Haraldsson (and his associate, the late Dr Karliss Osis), that would make them expert in recognizing deceit in the ‘materializing’ of articles via magic tricks. Hanson writes:

  In other types of field investigations, knowledge of magic tricks is important as well. In certain cases, investigators can impose little or no control and must be content with merely watching. The only way a reader can evaluate a report from such a study is to consider the knowledge, background, and expertise of the researcher. One must consider the likelihood that the researcher would catch a trick if it indeed occurred. For instance, Pratt and Keil (1973) observed Nina Kulagina and reported: “We never observed any behavior suggesting that Kulagina was preparing a trick” (p. 387). Haraldsson and Osis (1977) watched Sai Baba and reported: “We were not able to detect any evidence of fraud” (p. 40). In these cases, given other statements made in the reports, it seems quite clear (to a magician) that the observers had no such relevant expertise whatsoever. When scientists report their observations in professional journals (as were these), they imply that they have the technical competence to make the observations and the expertise to evaluate them. Failure to report the lack of such background is deceptive to the reader. In the case of Sai Baba, it can be noted that Christopher (1979, pp. 114–116) described a number of events suggesting trickery.

Whatever Haraldsson’s standing among academic parapsychologists, how could they – or investigators more broadly – take his work on Sai Baba seriously? In fact, just as he had, in the 70’s, rebuffed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bangalore, Professor H. Narasimhaiah, Sai Baba for long refused to coöperate with Haraldsson. And indeed refusal from the ‘Master’ meant that key figures around Sai Baba followed suite.

Hosur NarasimhaiahExtract from Wikipedia article on Professor Hosur Narasimhaiah

During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor, he constituted and chaired The Committee to Investigate Miracles and Other Verifiable Superstitions, to scientifically investigate claims of miracles and paranormal phenomena. The committee challenged the claims of Sathya Sai Baba, one of the most prominent godmen of India, who was observed to materialization of sacred ash and objects out of thin air, among other reported miracles such as bi location and healing of the sick and wounded. A public controversy then ensued. The committee was also involved in a controversy with Sai Krishna of Pandavapura (a tiny village near ), a mini-Avatar and an alleged protégé of Sathya Sai Baba. See allegations against Sathya Sai Baba. In 1983, he was elected the President of Indian Rationalist Association.

An Author’s Silence With A Hollow Ring To It

Haraldsson’s silence over so many years is singular. Given the videos and mass of other evidence that Sai Baba was a great deceiver, it is a deafening silence. For example, his terribly mistaken prophecies, promises of cure of dire diseases, statements about science and history, and more … Far worsening his case are the worldwide accounts of the Sathya Sai Organization’s grievous lack of accountability and duty of care. There was – and friend of Haraldsson Robert Priddy, like myself, has key knowledge of first-hand reports from individuals and families around the world – serial sexual molestation of boys and young men, the covered up missing persons issue, the water project and apartments’ scandals, the so-called divinely materialized, but almost valueless, stream of trinkets, watches and alleged diamonds (paiste), and the vast horde of gold, silver, precious stones, currency and many other valuable found secreted in his private apartments after his death on 23 April 2012.

There is so much else, and Haraldsson’s ignored (in the person of Robert Priddy) not only an old friend’s caring and immensely well-informed and rational accounts but someone who, like himself, has had a long academic career at a leading university. Haraldsson, it seemed clear, was in a state of denial, unable to credit that he needs to acknowledge the deficiency of his work, all the more so after teams from leading, reputed world media had investigated and reported.

Priddy Household Feelings of Old Friendship Betrayed

Robert Priddy and I have long used emails and Skype to keep in touch, including when Haraldsson visited the Priddy’s home in Oslo (see my previous article), I well recall Robert Priddy’s frustration with his old friend. Haraldsson, he told me, continually brushed aside his suggestions that Haraldsson discuss his experiences and opinion of Sai Baba’s negative aspects. For example, a case of which he had heard in the 1970’s from a close Sai Baba servitor, Major Talwasin, about Sai Baba’s homosexual use of minors.

It was always clear to me that Priddy wished, sticking only to carefully documented evidence (including, unintentionally, from a wide array of official Sai documentation), to impress on Haraldsson what ravages the deceptions, lies and abuses of faith and trust Sai Baba had caused. Robert told me how he and his wife Reidun were taken aback at the way Haraldsson almost entirely ignored accounts put to him, contemptuously labelling  as “fools” those who had donated large amounts to Sai Baba. This was ironic, because, Robert told me, Haraldsson well knew that the Priddy’s, like so many tens of thousands of others, had donated large amounts of money to Sai Baba.

Over the decades, accounts have mounted of Sathya Sai Baba’s faking materialization of artifacts. How could Haraldsson persistently ignore these? On the internet, there is a wealth of testimony from many, including outstanding leaders, who, having investigated the allegations, left the Sathya Sai Baba fold, often in deep dejection. Through a number of world-renowned media investigators, and via prominent, careful writers on Sai Baba matters, he could have seen the seriousness of the revelations. But we have no record of any such activity from him. Besides Robert Priddy and myself, I instance Alexandra Nagel (the Netherlands), Serguei Badaev (Russia), Kevin R.D. Shepherd, and the Australian scholar Brian Steel, to whom Haraldsson wrote an email remarkable for its lack of engagement. From Haraldsson we find not the slightest acknowledgement that these shocking accounts exist and have kept on coming decade after decade.

I copy below an exchange of emails between Erlendur Harraldsson and Brian Steel, now a retired university teacher in Linguistics and author of learned books and papers. I must say that Steel shows a certain terseness, far removed from anything I have seen in his huge and important opus on Sathya Sai Baba and his cult. It is little wonder, I think, and suggestive of what many academics will feel when one of their fellows displays, frankly, a lack of high professional standards, which lets them sadly down.

—— Original Message ——–

Subject:

Re: Sai Baba

Date:

Fri, 07 Dec 2012 14:56:33 +1100

From:

Brian Steel <brianst@satlink.com.au>

To:

Erlendur Haraldsson <erlendur@hi.is>

Well! Hello, Erlandur! Due to your prolonged silence on ssb matters, I had assumed that you were either dead or incapacitated. I am glad that I was mistaken.

The shortest answer to your question, for which I thank you, is:

http://bdsteel.tripod.com/More/

This contains 8 years of reporting on the ssb controversy (2001-). But I am afraid it will involve you in a lot of reading if you are serious in wanting to update and balance your ssb writing.

The longer answer may strike you as less welcome, but for me it is the inevitable consequence of your extraordinary question (request) and the peculiar attitude which it appears to display.

Where have you been for the past 12 (+) years while the wide debate about  ssb’s bona fides and life’s work has been raging,  mainly on the Internet?  Am I to assume that you do not use the Internet? Surely not. Are you REALLY as unaware as you sound? Have you REALLY not heard of (or been curious enough to follow) my research or, more importantly, the voluminous and quite extraordinary contributions of Robert Priddy and Barry Pittard on these matters over 12 years? Unlike me, they are still writing on a very regular and public basis! And since the premature (!) death of ssb, they have shared all sorts of NEW information about him and his SSO sycophants. Did you know anything about all that, or not? (If not, why not?)

If you now wish to make any tangible impact on public opinion, you must also consider all that (and much more) in your research for the new book. By the way, is it meant for a general or an academic audience? If for the latter, I hope you will not repeat the errors of your colleagues Tulasi Srinivas, Smriti Srinivas (who seems to be a devotee) and that PhD (devotee) chap in NZ whose name escapes me for the moment. They have all produced flawed accounts of ssb.

Warming to the subject you have raised and mindful of a few sparse email contacts with you a few yrs ago, I really must ask you if you have forgotten about my 2005 and 2007 150 page Bibliography of SSB, in the first part of which I wrote about your work on ssb. It’s all there on my fossilised website! You don’t need to ask me. Just do your research!

After your crucial (and now inexplicable) absence from the ssb scene for 12 years or more, I pose the question that I have sometimes asked myself: Why have you kept silent for so long on matters which you could have had an important part in elucidating? And another question:

Given the important critical points about ssb which you raise clearly in the now very out of date ‘Mod Mirs.’, why did you not see fit to air them during the Internet debate? For example: the telltale Krishna episode, and the spurious resurrection claims along with your invaluable evidence of their falseness which, together with Premanand’s evidence, totally discredits them – a fact which devotees airbrush from their distorted view of your book as a vindication of ssb’s divinity. I wrote about this important research of yours in the ‘Compendium’ that you mention and in my other 1998 book (also written as a devotee – but already with a few awkward niggling questions, some of them inspired by sections of your ‘Mod Mirs’! For which, my repeated thanks!).

I do hope that even at this very late date, you will be able to redeem your shameful silence over such a long time with a more balanced account of the life (and premature death) of ssb..

I wish you luck.

BS

PS

I have just remembered a contact in 2009, when, at your request, I removed your name from the (partisan) Wikipedia article on ssb. Activist devotees of ssb had added your name to the list of (Famous) Devotees of ssb. I noticed it and reported it to you. I can see why they did that, but I wonder if you can.

On 6/12/2012 9:19 PM, Erlendur Haraldsson wrote:

Dear Brian Steel: Did you not write some books and articles on Sathya Sai Baba? I have your Compendium. I am updating my Modern Miracles and would like to know what you have written since the Compendium. A reply would be much appreciated. With best wishes Erlendur Haraldsson Erlendur Haraldsson Ph. D. Professor Emeritus Faculty of Psychology, School of Health Sciences University of Iceland Reykjavik 101, Iceland Homepage: www.hi.is/~erlendur

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To Psychic Researcher Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, Sai Baba Sexual Abuses Are Only “Squibbles” – Part 1

Posted by Barry Pittard on March 26, 2013

Barry Pittard. May 22, 2013

Subscribe to Call for media and government investigation of Sathya Sai Baba

(Part 1 of a series of articles on Erlendur Haraldsson)

Some key readings so far:

Around the world, many Sathya Sai Baba devotees own a copy of Professor Erlendur Haraldsson’s  book ‘Miracles Are My Visiting Cards: An Investigative Report on the Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sathya Sai Baba’.  Rider Book. Century paperbacks. Century, 1987. ISBN 0712615148, 9780712615143.

However, I think grave questions need asking about Haraldsson’s methodology. I will allude to these in the weeks, but they may best be treated in detail by his professional peers. One investigator associated with Haraldsson is Professor Robert Wiseman, famous for his British television and radio programs, which show many of the human mind’s tricks which lead to beliefs regarded as facts and even Truth. Haraldsson and Wiseman have collaborated in various work, easily discoverable via an internet search, such as when they investigated the claims of (the late) Swami Premananda.

Sathya Sai Baba duped Haraldsson, no less than he duped many of us. However, Haraldsson’s book has widely influenced many in their coming to Sai Baba. My main question is:  Will Haraldsson publicly admit to making a huge mistake in his assessment of Sai Baba? 

A probing and lively Australian blogsite, Subversive Thinking, carries work between Wiseman and Haraldsson (the original of which I have yet to find). See:  Monday May 9, 2011. Erlendur Haraldsson and Richard Wiseman assesment of a videotape on Sathya Sai Baba

It is my layman’s guess that NO professional magician or other competent investigator of alleged miracles could overlook Haraldsson’s paucity of hard knowledge about professional magic. I shall write to Wiseman and see what position he may take. I have touched on related issues here:  Top Magicians Derren Brown, Keith Barry and Others: Exposing How We Get Deceived. Posted by Barry Pittard on November 6, 2012

Miracles Are My Visiting Cards

Ought Authors Write Books and Not Correct Grave Errors Subsequently?

But – more importantly to my three-part series over the next few days – there are serious ethical questions to raise about Haraldsson’s extraordinary inability to deal squarely with a great deal of information that has come to light about Sai Baba in the last two decades. It is significant that via emails (copies of which I have) his old friend Robert Priddy, a retired academic of the University of Oslo and major expert on Sathya Sai Baba and his cult, has made available to Haraldsson many salient facts about Sathya Sai Baba’s faked miracles, the cover up of killings in his Puttaparthi bedroom, the sexual abuse of boys and young men from many countries, large-scale venality, authoritarianism and lack of accountability and duty of care in the Sathya Sai Central Trust, and much else.

Over time, by Skype and email, I discerned how troubled Robert Priddy and his wife have been when, on the one hand, there was the fact of the old Priddy-Haraldsson friendship and yet, on the other, Haraldsson imperviousness to the sheer weight of evidence for Sai Baba’s fraudulence, and an unwillingness to reconsider his (Haraldsson’s) very influential writings on Sai Baba. 

Haraldsson’s Writing Has Long Furthered Devotion To Sathya Sai Baba Worldwide

Many Sai Baba followers have long valued Haraldsson’s book. For the more rationally inclined it – supposedly – satisfies the intellect. Typically, it was a book which devotees handed to others whom they wished to interest in Sai Baba. Through this and other means, ‘Miracles Are My Visiting Cards’ has much advanced Sai Baba’s influence throughout the world. It is a grave responsibility. And yet – we see no response from Haraldsson which faces a terrible fact:  that a great weight of evidence worldwide discredits Sai Baba.

I knew of Robert Priddy’s delay in taking up the Haraldsson matter in public.  It is true that Priddy and I had many other pressing duties in bringing the Sathya Sai cult to international attention, and yet here was an issue Haraldsson needed to face. It seemed as if Robert hoped that – given many people leaving Sathya Sai centers worldwide, and revelations after 2000 across major television and radio networks and print media  – Haraldsson would change his public standpoint. I wondered whether the continued delay might, consciously or unconsciously owe something to the painful anticipation of confronting an old friend in Haraldsson. When I discussed the issue, Robert told me that he wished to invite Haraldsson to stay at his home in Oslo, upon which he and his wife Reidun (also previously a long-term and dedicated Sai Baba devotee) would tell Haraldsson of much compelling evidence of Sai Baba’s fraudulence, and the profound betrayal of so many.

For Erlandur Haraldsson, Anguished Concerns About Sexual Molestation of Minors Are But “Squibbles”

I think that Haraldsson shows a callous disregard about the issue of decades of Sathya Sai Baba’s serial sexual molestation of boys and young men. In his reply to Reidun Priddy’s email to him, this tragedy Haraldsson can dismiss as “squibbles about SB, who is dead anyway”.

Haraldsson is, however, alive anyway, but not, clearly, alive to how he has a moral responsibility to repudiate serious shortcomings in his work, and the way alive – but mistaken and unrepudiated – ideas and information continue to exercise a grip on minds very widely.

Erlendur Haraldsson’s Extraordinary Remark – in an email to Reidun Priddy

Erlendur's Extraordinary Remark - in an email to Reidun Priddy

Erlendur Haraldsson and Robert Priddy, Puttaparthi, 1996
Erlendur Haraldsson and Robert Priddy, Puttaparthi, 1996
The Erlendur Haraldsson-Robert Priddy Friendship, Puttaparthi 1989
The Erlendur Haraldsson-Robert Priddy Friendship, Puttaparthi 1989
Haraldsson Visits Robert Priddy (and wife Reidun), Oslo, 2009

Haraldsson visits Robert Priddy (and wife Reidun), Oslo 2009

Unlike Haraldsson, Robert Priddy and I have worked daily, and year after year, on the Sathya Sai Baba exposé. As our internet writings show, an intensive research has meant following up thousands of on-line references to the Sai Baba issue. The work has involved hundreds of phone calls, a vast number of emails, and much contact with leading investigative media.  Particularly heartrending has been our contact with people (some now even in their sixties, such as the psychotherapist Mark Roche – see:  Health Professional Comes Out On BBC: Sai Baba sexually abused him when young. Posted by Barry Pittard on April 26, 2011), who have submitted details of Sathya Sai Baba abusing them when they were boys or young men, and with families and friends of molestation survivors from around the world. This is but one part of the gut-sickening Sai cult corruption and betrayal – an extaordinary phenomenon that shows profound paucity of spirituality among those who proclaim their guru to be the God of gods, and the Avatar that ushers in the ‘Golden Age’. A phenomenon which has, most prominently, been articulated and exposed by the work of those  such as David and Fay Bailey (UK), Conny Larsson, Britt Marie Andén (Sweden), Glen Meloy (USA)  Alexandra Nagel (Holland), Hari Sampath (India), Robert Priddy (Norway), Sergei Badaev (Russia), Sanjay Dadlani (UK), Brian Steel, and myself (Australia). And most recently, after years of public silence, by Eileen Weed who, as Divya, lived for many years at Sai Baba’s Puttaparthi ashram, and who was very close to Sai Baba’s sister, Venkamma (USA). See:

Hari Sampath, former insider on myths by Sathya Sai authorities

Posted by robertpriddy on October 10, 2011

Alexandra Nagel. A Seminal Writer On Sathya Sai Baba, A Guru Accused

Posted by Barry Pittard on July 3, 2010

Sai Baba school closed because of reported sex abuses

(Britt Marie Andén’s account as former national leader in Sweden, and mother of a young son whom she found Sai Baba had sexually abused)

Posted by robertpriddy on March 19, 2010

Glen Meloy (“Standing up for truth and goodness”) – In Memoriam

Posted by Barry Pittard on November 18, 2009

Video clip testimony of Sai Baba as a sexual predator

Posted by robertpriddy on July 25, 2011

Sathya Sai Baba Critic Serguei Badaev: An Incisive Voice of Conscience From Russia

Posted by Barry Pittard on November 2, 2009

David Bailey and Thomas Wiehe. Transcript Of Phone Link: Sathya Sai Abuses

Posted by Barry Pittard on October 25, 2009

Robert Priddy and Barry Pittard On Dr G. Venkataraman – Sathya Sai Baba Global Propagandist

Posted by Barry Pittard on October 18, 2009

Brian Steel Demythologizes Early Foreign-led Sathya Sai Baba Myths

Posted by Barry Pittard on July 23, 2009

Coming in the next few days:

To Psychic Researcher Professor Erlandur Haraldsson, Sai Baba Sexual Abuses Are Only “Squibbles” Part 2

——————————————–

From Robert Priddy’s website:  Sathya Sai Baba In Word and Action

Discussions on the Sai Baba issue and Erlendur Haraldsson, Professor of Psychology, University of Rekjavik, Iceland

Haraldsson investigates Sai Baba and his movement in the 1970s and later, publishing his results in a book which originally helped his wider reputation and recognition in parapsychology established facts and documented words.

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