This article was an attempt to clarify and reconcile some of the very contradictory views Sai Baba had evidently held on this matter from time to time. I tried to make some of his vague and retrogressive ideas more in accordance with philosophy and modern knowledge. At that time I was inclined to believe Sai Baba was omniscient in some sense of the word... though not on a level with modern thought or science. I could not understand why he was so wooly in his explanations, and put it down to probably inconsistent translation (use of differing terms by different translators), even to misprints. Since 2000, when Sai Baba's claim to being a pure all-knowing avatar was exploded for all reasonable and decent people, I looked more carefully and critically his so-called 'teachings', which I abandoned as no longer more trustworthy, credible or reliable than he is.

"Science gives but a partial view: for the intellect is itself an outsider, and has lost hold of the inner unity of life. ...This sense of inward reality has been deadened by the calls of ordinary life, the practice of civilisation, and we have come habitually to look upon ourselves in the same materialistic way in which we regard other things. In the silent darkness of inner feeling a direct communication seems to pass at every pore from ourselves to all other things, keeping up a continuity of sympathetic influences. But in the broad light of intellect and science, things assume an isolated and independent existence." Life of Schopenhauer, by W. Wallace

Schopenhauer was much inspired in the views summarised above by the non-dualism of the Upanishads. Indian thought provides three differing systems of explanation of reality - dualism, qualified dualism and advaita or non-dualism - optional approaches depending on the background and understanding of the individual. Western thinkers usually lack the conceptual flexibility for grasping the highest non-dualistic philosophies. Perhaps the core teaching of this is the permanence of Atma or Universal Spirit which nonetheless permeates and thus unifies all impermanent things. The human subject obtains its capacity to witness reality in and through the Atma.

Our education relies upon reason, which is based entirely on the principle of 'either - or but not both'. If matter is real, by this eliminative principle, then spirit cannot be so (unless it is also somehow physical). However, both spirit and matter are real, yet in different ways... or in opposite senses. Sai Baba explains both that the world in which we must live out our lives is real, not an illusion, and yet also that it is illusion, due to its impermanence veiling the eternal. Mere logic cannot allow that both assertions can be true.

The problem comes of reason being applied too widely, extending it beyond its capacity to matters that instead require of us our inclusive comprehension. This shows only the rigidity of logic or reason and where it is no longer usefully applicable. Only holistic understanding can harmonise outward contradictions, differing systems of thought and religion. In philosophy, there are many examples of how reason itself causes apparent contradictions, especially when applied to first and last things. (eg. Kant's antimonies).

Creation is what we call 'objective reality', while the Creator is 'the Subject' who, Sai Baba teaches, is also present everywhere, even throughout the created physical universe. Though our senses show us his objective works, Baba insists that divinity can only be experienced through self-discovery that leads to the awakening of transpersonal consciousness. In that we are inwardly conscious, we are also a party (if an exceedingly small one) to that infinite Consciousness, which is what creates and multiplies, sustains and eventually withdraws to itself even the objective universe.

"Whatever is not in man cannot be anywhere outside him. Whatever is visible outside him is but a rough reflection of what really is in him." (Sathya Sai Vahini. foreword)

Scientists look to 'the objective' for the truth, penetrating always deeper into the microscopic spheres of primary particles or the complexities of genes and always gazing further backwards into time by mapping the macroscopic universe of galaxies, quasars and our cosmic origin. Staring always outwards, scientific theory extends 'the known world' and so 'creates' the great complexity of coordinates or ideas by which it is fascinated.

Materialistic thought and material ambitions have focussed modern concern on the play of the Maya of Nature, to the exclusion of the player which is spirit. It is not enough to see only our dim reflection in our worldly works or increased information about the universe. For this easily becomes the sin of Narcissus, man's self-fascination, if we are too little aware of how little we know of the mysterious causes of life, history and creation in its endlessly-varied vastness. Pride in the mind and its works is a large part of the 'civilised' ego. (I now view this statement with considerable embarassment, it is far too close to the empty parroting of Sai Baba's half-formed ideas about the ego - which is a word he uses as an indictment of anyone who had an independent thought and which he uses in an an entirely primitive and non-psychological sense to mean about the same as 'arrogance' or 'self-importance'. He should know, he has both to the highest degree!)

The actual seer of all this outward display, the human subject, may catch an oblique glimpse of his inner reality in all that, as in a mirror dimly. The subject, once a factor scientists tried to eliminate entirely, is now allowed a place in microphysics along with the rest, if only much like another object or a factor for which one must somehow account.

However much one tries, though, the subject cannot become an object, even though it may appear partly objective when reflected upon in memory. Its very nature is to be always ahead of the objective world, never able to sink down and become part of its fixed existence. This 'transcendence' is what makes each one of us who we are and allows us as observing subjects mentally and spiritually to range beyond even time and space through the human mind at will (even though the flesh may fail to follow. This is to what the term 'inner reality' points.
From our incarnate human viewpoint, limited though it be, we have the possibility both of focussing our energies outwards onto the world of action and objective discoveries and inwards towards contemplation of the spirit and its source. Experience indicates that, if we neglect the one, it will be at the cost of the whole. A balance must be maintained between worldly activities and spiritual practices so that the one can inform the other.

"It is indeed strange that this huge Cosmos depends ultimately on whether 'I' cognise it as such or not! 'If you feel it is there, it is there; if you feel it is not there, it is not there!' This means that we have to go deep into this process of the mind of man. Is there any occasion when our assertion leads to the existence of a thing and our negation results in its disappearance? Or, is this conclusion a figment of the imagination? Inquiry on these lines would undoubtedly reveal the Truth..." (Sathya Sai Vahini p 164)
We must then strive to see ourselves through becoming what we truly are. Sai Baba is always demonstrating for us in a host of illuminating ways how we are pure universal spirit awaiting its own self-realisation. The end of this quest is not some worldly achievement but an inner blessing.
(Comment 2003) However, after long and intensive study of what SSB says, one finds that there are many contradictions and confusion in SSB's statements about self-realisation. His teaching is really a hodge-podge - though a clever one - of different and incompatible Indian 'philosophies' of the dualistic and monistic kind. In this way he provides something for everyone and only the discerning can discover that the entire mass of his teachings do not hang together at all.
Apart from reading deep spiritual books or studying great religions, the need to explore inwardly comes from within us too. Theories that 'map' the inner landscape may be helpful in some ways, such as for those whose education has overlooked or denied the 'inner'. Yet what Baba teaches about the inner reality makes evident that it is not to be 'found' solely by introspective navel-gazing or mere mental investigation. The practice of inwardness in and through daily doings is the action that chiefly advances us... as our own experience also can confirm for us when we learn how to subject it to analysis and then do so honestly.

For those of us who always somehow have to try to ally faith and reason, one stumbling block is often the relationship between 'inner' and 'outer'. Concentrating exclusively on the world of external things, our modern pragmatic training hinders us in grasping the connection between its scientific ideas and the heart of the matter, the reality of the subjective person.

The human subject is like the lens of both film camera and film projector, everything must pass through it, inwards and outwards, in order that anything be brought to light. (And it is only the subject for whom anything is brought to light at all).
Add to this the fact that we can and must exercise our will, which itself gears inner to outer. By our will we select and modify what we 'take in' and also what to 'put out' in words or action. The result is surely that the human subject has considerably greater long-term influence than any external cause which affects the body or the environment. It is the only point of contact between the ideal and the real, where ideas and reality meet. This fact, the latent power of the individual spirit in the face of any sort of challenge, is still much neglected and overlooked in modern world culture and education which concentrates overwhelmingly on the 'outward' factors that affect us at the expense of our latent 'inward' resources.

In a world 'blinded by science' people are fearful of 'blind faith'. Yet gradually again it seems, after decades dominated by pragmatism and utilitarianism, the age-old issue of knowledge versus faith is gradually being raised again. St. Thomas taught that the sciences have their own sphere and need not usually conflict with faith. When so really happens, as it allegedly did, St. Thomas was in no doubt that faith must then prevail.
Believers in science rightly talk of the dangers that can come of religious superstition and most Western countries still overwhelmingly prefer to form their policies on scientific predictions rather than on religious beliefs. Yet this can go too far. In referring to the Manu Dharma Sastra, Swami wrote:-
"The scientists of today call this attitude 'blind faith'; they want it to be discarded. They want every subjective and objective fact to be examined and put to rigorous tests. They confuse themselves when they consider this as an independent path to discovery of reality." (S.S.Vahini , p.112)

What is called 'belief' can refer to judgements about facts - on whether something is true or not - and this concerns the outer world of observables, opinions and creeds. Then faith, on the other hand, can signify a state of the subjective person and reflect 'inner' qualities. Such qualities include, among many others, trust in the rightness of caring, friendship, of love of others and of creation. By this definition we could reasonably assert that there can be many and varying beliefs but essentially only one type of faith.

Matters of belief have to do with analysable states of affairs and can be argued scientifically or rationally (often with little or no appreciable impact on the actual person within). However, faith simply reflects an individual's holistic self-understanding... a comprehension which goes beyond any debatable issues. Standing back from the world to get an overview of oneself as within yet beyond it, of one's relations with all and everyone, faith intuits our true identity as an inward being. Because it is not of the body but of the spirit, faith can be reviewed and assessed on its own inward evidence, cognising it directly - without any interposing medium or sensory organ. Knowing oneself includes the subject knowing the heart of the subject.
Sai Baba instructs that the prerequisite of spiritual action is genuine dedication (for the universal good), being the exact opposite of selfish motivation. Though outward results from one's work - money, status, popularity and so forth - can give passing gratification it is inward results like self-confidence, peace of mind, increased detached equanimity, expansion of heartfelt mindfulness, recognition of the sublime and their like are what give lasting quality to life. Unlike 'objective' goods or popularity, such 'subjective' qualities can become part of ourselves.

Inner vision is advanced by unattachment. It accrues as faith, deriving from actual life experience combined with the practice of inward seeking. It is not itself an intellectual fruit. As Sai Baba has said; "the intelligence discriminates and the attempt to divide and dissect is again a sign of unsteadiness" (ibid). (Since I wrote the following, I have changed my view considerably. Here I am still fighting my own intelligence in the desire to continue believing in what was becoming a more and more untenable Sai doctrine. What Sai Baba calls 'heart' I now clearly realise is mainly, for him, blind emotional faith in himself and whatever he teaches - not to think, to 'kill the mind', which I am sure now is actually an absurd and futile undertaking, one which deadens the person and makes devotion an automatic limbo). The intelligence copies, reworks and transforms the observations our senses provide, so it is an artificer. Baba has said "art is outside, heart is inside". Qualities like peace of mind, compassionate understanding, goodwill, mental courage, tenacity of purpose and others are 'inward'. Seen as spiritual rewards coming as the expression of instilling a good will towards all, they can be enjoyed in self-confidence for they differ from the 'outward' fruits of actions that are done for tangible rewards.

(Robert Priddy, 1989)

To read my present 'credo' - or rather, statement of my developing understanding, please click here

The above material is the copyright of Robert Priddy, Oslo 1999