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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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Sai Baba Top Leaders Antidemocratic

Posted by Barry Pittard on October 31, 2007

For many years, Sai Baba and the Sathya Sai Organization have avoided critical scrutiny. With rare exceptions, such as retired world and Indian organization head Indulal Shah, and current world chairman Dr Goldstein, Covina, California, USA, his leaders and rank-and-file have long been forbidden to make statements to media.

bbc-clip-dr-micael-goldstein-gets-angry.jpg

Not that these leaders say more than a picayune amount (if at times angrily with a rage normally kept behind-the-scenes but caught here by BBC hidden camera), and we can document that they keep crucial information from their rank-and-file. Indeed, it does not speak well of Sathya Sai Organization members that they permit such extraordinary Soviet or Chinese style, authoritarian diktat – all the more reprehensibly so in those countries which are supposed to be relatively mature democracies.

No Reputed Scholars Need Apply

Well-funded, distinguished scholarly investigation is badly thwarted – no matter whether from one of the top half dozen universities in the world. (With permission of those scholarly sources concerned, I shall, as in past years, give details to any bona fide academic institution or scholar or to well-reputed, ethical media investigators). Other cases include the extremely limited cooperation given to world class investigators such Dr Erlendur Haraldsson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Iceland and the late Dr Karlis Osis of the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University, USA.

A difficulty of the Sathya Sai Baba exposé (and I think any major undertaking that lacks teams of researchers, analyists, librarians, etc) is proliferation – where welter and mass defeat best-practice materials organization and reader focus. There are certain articles which particularly should not, I think, get buried in the mass. One of these refers to a major departure from Sai Baba’s strict policy. Here, the second top official in Sai Baba’s large global Sathya Sai Organization, retired Indian nuclear scientist Dr G. Venkataraman, has spoken out specifically pointing to activity largely led by Robert Priddy, former head of the organization in Norway, and me, Barry Pittard. Our joint article: The Sathya Sai Organization’s Deception And Progaganda Exposed is detailed, in four parts, and contains many important hotlinks. Again, what cannot be shared because of immediate security issues can and will be related to bona fide investigators, particularly those which have the clout to stand up to Sathya Sai Organization threats, as have the BBC, DR (Denmark), SBS (Australia), Times of London, and, if to a somewhat capitulated extent – worried by the lawyers of one of its big, Sai Baba devotee advertizers – CanWest (Canada), etc. Happily, despite pressure from hundreds of Sai Baba devotees even prior to screening The Secret Swami three times, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) stated publicly that it had “trust in the professionalism” of its BBC colleagues.

Quote from the Article: The Sathya Sai Organization’s Deception And Propaganda Exposed

Dr G. Venkataraman and Sai Baba’s other top leaders have failed to look with even remotest objectivity at the reasons so many have left the Sathya Sai Organisation. Unconscionably and repeatedly, its leaders have refused a proper hearing to those anguished individuals and their families – or many former members – who have told them about Sai Baba’s sexual and other abuses. These leaders have not been truthful about the integrity of those former devotees and their rightful – and righteous – claims. This cultic aspect of the Sathya Sai Organisation alerts third party investigators, such as the world’s most responsible media, to the credibility of the former devotees’ claims. Journalists and their research teams quickly notice the secretive, evasive nature of Sai Baba and his leaders.

Leading media and other organizations such as UNESCO and the U.S. State Department have been very stringent in their expectations of sound evidence from organized former devotees around the world. Those who have researched the worldwide allegations against Sathya Sai Baba include the BBC, DR (Denmark), ATUL (Argentina), SBS (Australia), ABC (Australia), and print media in India, the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, Australia, etc. They quickly discovered for themselves the dishonesty and elusiveness of Sai Baba and his leaders. For example, this was why the BBC’s legal department permitted its The Secret Swami team to clandestinely film Sathya Sai Organization world chairman Dr. Michael Goldstein, of Covina, California, USA, allowing millions in many countries to see him show no respect for the accountability and transparency that citizens and responsible organizations today expect. They also saw Goldstein act nastily in a way that is the very antithesis of a spiritual leader.

It suits G. Venkataraman – who refers to Goldstein as “Brother” to suppress this telling aspect, as he also does with other self-damning statements by Sai Baba and American billionaire Isaac Tigrett, in The Secret Swami. The BBC interviewer Tanya Datta says to Tigrett, “But even if it was proven to you that Sai Baba was a paedophile and a serial sex abuser, you’re saying it wouldn’t change the fact that he is your guru”. Tigrett replies, “Absolutely not. Absolutely not. He could go out and murder someone tomorrow…”

Further Resources

BBC Caught UNESCO Head Bowing To Indian Government

The Secret Swami BBC Docu. Review. Condensed

Sai Baba’s ‘Minister of Propaganda’ Dr G. Venkataraman

View the Television Documentaries

The Secret Swami (BBC Television):
(154 MB, Broadband)

The Secret Swami
(23.3 MB, Modem)

Seduced (DR, Danish Broadcasting, Denmark’s national television and radio broadcaster):
(80 MB, Broadband)

Seduced
(21 MB, Modem)

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