DR. ERLENDUR HARALDSSON'S AUTHORSHIP OF 'MIRACLES ARE MY VISITING CARDS'
(aka 'MODERN MIRACLES')
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY ON THE INVESTIGATIONS AND WHAT THE AUTHOR DID NOT MAKE KNOWN
On the right is a scan of some text I once wrote and posted about Professor Erlendur Haraldsson's book which is a rather biased but not inaccurate introduction to it. At that time I was a follower of Sathya Sai Baba and was interested in propagating information about Sathya Sai Baba, whose paranormal abilities I then regarded as very special and possibly of divine origin. Looking back, I cannot but recognise that "Miracles are My Visiting Cards" did more damage than good, though Haraldsson cannot be blamed for not realising that at the time for it was not until around 2000 that Sai Baba facades began to crack on a wide front due to the Internet. He can be held accountable for not making a proper review during the intervening year of the evidence of fraud and many other deceptions that have been exposed since then as these reflect back on and indicate blindnesses in the investigations he made into materialisation and other matters. The book has nonetheless served to help inveigle many people - especially Westerners - into believing that Sai Baba was a miracle maker and an honest-seeming person. No doubt, Haraldsson was - and until now has been - of great importance to Sathya Sai Baba's credibility. However, despite Haraldsson's neutrality - and even exposure of some fraudulent claims like resurrection - it gave rise to the seeming near endorsement of miracles by once-famous sceptic and behaviouralist, Professor Eyesenck of London University, and was encouraging to those who believed or wanted to believe Sathya Sai Baba's claims about his supposed materialization of objects and foodstuffs, quite apart from a huge range of other miraculous claims.
Haraldsson’s investigations proved Sai deceptions:
Devotees I knew referred to Haraldsson as if he were a believer in 'Sai's divine miracles’. Yet nowhere will one find any such open endorsement in his writings, though the overall tenor of his book is that Sai Baba's 'materialisations' cannot be shown to be fraudulent and that very many reliable witnesses testify to his genuineness. Having been primarily an experimental psychologist, EH always strove to be most precise scientifically. He does not formally accept anything that is beyond rigorous sceptical investigation. This is seen in his ongoing research into alleged reborn children, near-death experiences and spirit mediums, as well as his debunking of Swami Premananda, Gayatri Swami and other guru claimants as 'materialising' objects.
Haraldsson no doubt only recorded what he observed and what others told him or wrote on his questionnaire, and did so without drawing any definitive conclusion on whether the various phenomena referred to were genuine. Though he never endorsed Sathya Sai Baba's materializations or other claimed paranormal phenomena as being miracles, he came argued that there were no reasons to doubt many of them, regarding them as inexplicable, yet most likely paranormal phenomena. Despite this, his use of Sai Baba's own statement, "Miracles Are My Visiting Cards" as the title of his book as originally published seems biased towards acceptance or even belief in miracles (later changed to "Modern Miracles" which is little better).
It is fully documented that, when he first visited Sathya Sai Baba together with another para-psychologist - Karlis Osis - in 1973, they wanted to carry out controlled experiments on Sai Baba's supposed 'miraculous materializations', but were firmly denied any such thing by Sai Baba. This can be seen from the first interview they had with Sai Baba, which was reported (through incompletely) by Dr. John Hislop - a Sai Baba propagandist who made notes at many interviews and published them as a book of 'Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba'. There Hislop records a conversation in the 1970s between 'a scientist' and Sai Baba. Haraldsson was almost certainly that scientist because he referred to an object made in Copenhagen (where EH often lectured) by some other scientists there, presumably to see whether Sai Baba could 'know' what it really was (clearly not at all evident from its appearance). Sathya Sai Baba apparently ignored this. (Hislop's record is made from notes, so how Sai Baba actually reacted to the apparent suggestion that he should try to 'divine' the contents is not recorded... possibly because Hislop is known at every opportunity to have wanted to present Sai Baba as perfection itself. Here is a scan from the reprinted and expanded edition of 'Conversations...' pub. 1994/5 (see on left).
Were Haraldsson and Osis tricked? There is good reason to question whether or not the first interview in which SB produced a standard enamel 'Baba ring' for Osis and a double-rudraksha for Haraldsson was a clever 'set up'. Indeed, both EH and KO were suspicious of that. Knowing what we now do about Sai Baba's many devious methods, it is entirely possible that he understood the importance to his credibility of a visit by the first Western para-psychological scientist and took appropriate measures to mislead and deceive them. Sai Baba knew they were coming - he always gets reports from his officials in the offices where one registers, and EH and KO were no exception. They left their cards with the head of the ashram, Kutumb Rao, and asked for an interview explaining to him they were scientists wanting to investigate the phenomena. Next day they were received. Sathya Sai Baba certainly would have wanted to get - if possible - the endorsement of Western scientists, so he had time to conceive a plan to deal with them. I look into this more closely this with documentation found here.
Resurrection claims proven false: Sathya Sai Baba’s claim of having resurrected Walter Cowan from the dead, which one can read about in his book 'Modern Miracles' was clearly disproved by the witnesses he managed to find and question. (p. 250 - see text here). At that time, criticism in English publications of Sai Baba's amazing claims were extremely few and the large hagiographic literature predominated, so Haraldsson deserves all praise for his unashamed unearthing of the truth about Walter Cowan and Co. That material is never referred to by Sai Baba followers, who no doubt wish it would disappear.
The Rajah of Venkatigiri's account of the alleged resurrection of Radhakrishna by Sathya Sai Baba, as reported by Haraldsson:-"The present Raja of Venkatigiri was in Puttaparti at that time. When asked about this incident, he told me that he remembered it well. He had been with the swami when Mr. Radhakrishna's relative came to tell Sai Baba that he was dying. About an hour after Mr. Radhakrishna allegedly died, the swami came down from his room at last and said to them: `Don't fear, nothing has happened.' They waited outside the room while the swami went in. When he opened the door and called them, they saw that Mr. Radhakrishna was alive and talking slowly. The Raja did not see Mr. Radhakrishna while he was allegedly dead." Haraldsson, p. 249.
Professor Dale Beyerstein commented on the above as follows:- Given (1) that no medical doctor is supposed to have pronounced Radhakrishna dead at any time during the sequence of events in question, (2) the patient was muttering semi-coherently through the night before his alleged resurrection, and (3) even Murphet withdraws the claim that he was in the medical sense dead prior to Sai Baba's visit, the inescapable conclusion is that Mr. Radhakrishna was not in the medical sense dead prior to Sai Baba's visit. What is required, clearly, to establish a resurrection from the dead claim is a case in which it is at least alleged that the patient was found to have been dead by a doctor. These accounts of the Radhakrishna case, then, are of principal interest as an exhibit of the low standards in accuracy, consistency, and reliability of devotee reports of the miracles. He was dead three days, an hour, six days, and not at all. Somehow one expects a slightly higher standard of accuracy in reporting, if a claim is to be taken seriously by the scientific community; and if this is the best to be expected of oral reports and memories, one expects at the very least a higher standard of interest in sorting out what happened on the part of the devotees putting out the story for public consumption.
On my association with parapsychologist Professor Erlendur Haraldsson: My wife and I first met him in 1989 in Bangalore, and we have since spent a number of days together on several occasions in India and several more in Norway in later years - most recently in 2011. He visited us and has stayed in our house. We both have academic backgrounds in Scandinavia and have long shared an interest in various parapsychological questions, particularly those arising in respect of Sathya Sai Baba but also Swami Premananda and Gayatri (Gyatri) Swami. Erlendur Haraldsson has occasionally asked me for research assistance with articles he was writing - such as into Sai Baba’s predictions of his death and various of his teachings. He has also referred to my writings on Sathya Sai Baba in his bibliography in at least one of his papers about Sathya Sai Baba (“Of Indian God-Men and Miracle-Makers: The Case of Sathya Sai Baba.” British Psychological Association, Transpersonal section, Cober Hill, Scarborough. 13. 9. 2004.) It is therefore not incorrect to call the relationship we have had ‘collegial’ according to the more general use of the term as associate, also given in most dictionaries. Yet, I have been attacked on the Internet very immoderately by a dishonest Sai defender for not using that word in its strictest, narrowest sense - as well as for lying when making a true statement elsewhere about 'an Icelandic investigator' in the 1970s. Haraldsson himself was aware of these attacks on me and their falsity, but has not after several years defended my honesty, though he did inform the attacker (Moreno) by e-mail that he and I were friends from many years back. He and I had also long disagreed in friendly but direct discussion about the morality of not releasing information about negative matters or well-founded opinions he held strongly.
EH and I have been in e-mail contact for well over a decade. I retain the full stock of our correspondence, scores of e-mails from him (with the full 'raw source' data) - including statements about his being convinced of Sathya Sai Baba’s homosexuality, that SB was a 'split personality' who he experienced behaving "rudely" towards others - and sometimes having the approach of a "crude villager". Further, Haraldsson has on at least four occasions when visiting my wife and I said - rather forcibly too - that one cannot believe most of what Sathya Sai Baba said. He held that he "always took Sai baba as a huge primadonna" (see e-mail), that he had a "tremendous ego", was a "kind of Napoleon" and boasted constantly, having "illusions about himself" and making many false and absurd claims and statements. He wrote to me that SB illusions went "to a psychopathological degree unless one assumes the split-personality model to explain him, which I find tempting". Here one sees proof that Haraldsson never was an adherent of Sathya Sai Baba's excessive claims or religious teachings, which he has had to deny in the face of a devotee's assurance that he is a devotee (on Wikipedia). That Haraldsson is entirely sceptical of Sathya Sai Baba’s claims to be God Incarnate and considers many of his other major claims to be entirely bogus should not surprise anyone who has read about his meticulous investigations disproving the claim, by SB and his supporters, that SB resurrected Walter Cowan from the dead in the 1970s.
However, despite repeated requests from me through the years, Erlendur Haraldsson consistently refused to make known for the public certain damaging facts from his investigations and, not least, his oft-repeated opinion to us that most of Sathya Sai Baba's claims are entirely bogus and absurd. For example, he was most sarcastic about Sai Baba being a world saviour or an omnipotent god, or of having any influence whatever with prominent Western world political leaders. However, when he was asked by the editor of SB's journal to write a contribution to a volume published by the Sathya Sai Trust on his 75th birthday, he wrote a more glowing article about Sai Baba than I thought him capable of, at that time still a devotee myself... his draft title was 'Miracles of Communication'. He asked my advice about parts of its content on which he was uncertain. In the event, he did not send the article and I do not find it available anywhere. It would have seemed very like an endorsement of Sai Baba as some kind of 'divinely human' person. That was before the allegation storm had broken out fully, though David Bailey had in fact already denounced SB in 'The Findings'. Haraldsson changed his mind quite a lot thereafter, it seems, for the proposed article definitely did not express the negative viewpoints he otherwise repeatedly emphasized in our conversations.
(see scans of the further e-mail exchange - with comments - after 10 years)
Sai Baba was not a pure celibate, even in his youth: I have reported elsewhere, though without naming EH specifically, what he was told by Krishna Kumar (now deceased, once the former close boyfriend of young Sathya Sai Baba). When interviewed by EH two separate occasions - one of which EH assured me was tape-recorded - Krishna Kumar repeated to him several times that Sathya Sai Baba (i.e. - the supposedly celibate and totally pure Divine Incarnation) was given to masturbation, which EH accepted as fact and - as a psychologist would - said he considered it only normal. Krishna Kumar, who SB called his "soul brother", had shared Sai Baba's sleeping apartment for over a year and went around everywhere with SB holding hands and became locally referred to as 'Radha and Krishna' (as reported by Smt. Vijaya Kumari who was there at the time). I am taking the step at last - out of the public interest - to reveal some e-mails which Haraldsson sent me all of 10 years ago (one which he afterwards asked should be kept secret, though I gave him no permanent or written guarantee of so doing). Due to our friendship and my support for his reputation as a para-psychological investigator, I respected his wish which was - despite all - only to protect himself and his reputation from discussion. For me - who gets no benefit from releasing this material what now weighs heaviest is the truth - for the benefit of all those who have suffered abuse by Sathya Sai Baba and been attacked by Sai devotees, especially seeing that SB has died without being brought to justice solely because of his top-level protection within India. I do not suppose that EH will deny the things he told us - or wrote to me - though I am well aware that he will not be comfortable and most probably will not confirm or deny anything. Haraldsson was under no professional 'vow of silence', as a doctor would be regarding a patient, but rather - in his expressed pity for what he saw as Sai Baba's misfortune and "abnormal' or "distorted sexual orientation" - he opted for a certain degree of complicity in not reporting fully. Though he rebuked me that he was not a moral policeman, he has until now been passively overlooking what are widely reported to be unconvicted criminal offenses and cultist indoctrination of both the subtlest and most insidious sort involving the ruining of many persons' families and even an uncounted number of lives. On his last visit Haraldsson said those who gave away their fortunes to Sai Baba were merely "fools", which illustrates how extremely little he really understands about the powerful methods of the Sai cult and the psychology of victims. Recently my wife Reidun wrote to him explaining why she felt he ought to speak out, but his reply was more of the same avoidance of the issue. (see this exchange here)
Haraldsson's long silence on Sai Baba: Haraldsson is in his late 70s and is concentrated only on his ongoing research into possible cases of reincarnation, he said he had withdrawn from any public discussion about Sathya Sai Baba. He still had an open mind on the subject as he also has on many other para-psychological matters, having reached no definitive conclusion as to the genuineness or falsity of the many claims about Sathya Sai Baba or about reincarnation. I informed him of some of the evidence which emerged showing Sai Baba's fraudulent use of pre-prepared vibuti pellets, to which he replied with interest. (See e-mail exchange on this here). In 2008 he did write an article about Sai Baba promoting again his own former investigations based mainly on anecdotal evidence in which he most briefly referred to the allegations of fraud. (Erlendur Haraldsson (2008). Of Indian God-Men and Miracle-Makers: The Case of Sathya Sai Baba. In (Ed.) H. Wautisch. Ontology of Consciousness: A Modern Synthesis. Boston: MIT Press, 525-548.) about Sai Baba in which he repeated at length many of the claims about miracles reported in his first book, claims which he still did not contest in view of the many testimonies and evidence of fraud that had already emerged. He repeated his former defense of Sai Baba against what most people consider was seen to be a fake materialisation by Sai Baba on Indian national TV in 1992, which Haraldsson claimed was not a correct interpretation based on his viewing of the video sequence. Instead of adopting any active or critical investigative attitude, he noted briefly that there were allegations of sexual abuse (off-handedly mentioning Tal Brooke's book) and also briefly the allegations of fraud with materialisation - quite noncommittally. He wrote, for example:-
By any measure this is the most guarded statement and it tends to devalue the many allegations of abuse and fraud because they were made on the Internet. However, no allegations have been refuted by any legal process for the reason that they are backed by sound legal documents. Besides, UNESCO called off participation in a Sai Baba run Educational Conference, citing the substantiality of the sex abuse allegations, which were also warned about by the U.S. State Department (see details). Why did Haraldsson not take account of these hard facts in his 2008 article? However, there were many signed and sworn testimonies and both national Danish Broadcasting the BBC's major documentaries on this was backed by their legal teams with affidavits. Both were invulnerable to the various threats of lawsuits made by Sai Baba representatives (against the BBC in various countries) - threats that were obviously never carried through. Haraldsson's main theme throughout was the likelihood that the miracles were genuine, though could not be proven so scientifically. He lays much weight on the so-called 'distant phenomena' where vibuti, amrit and other substances appear on images of Sai Baba, gods, saints and in other places in private homes and temples. These phenomena are definitely unexplained in many cases, though fraud had been demonstrated in some which were properly investigated. They do no, however, alter the fact that there is plenty of film evidence and sworn testimony that Sai Baba was using sleight-of-hand in many instances. One could fairly characterize Haraldsson's treatment of all that has emerged since 1999 as virtually frivolous and amoral.
Haraldsson and I had long disagreed (in friendly discussion) about the morality of his not releasing information about what he was told by a number of those he interviewed or otherwise knew. He did not consider it relevant to his para-psychological research, though he had reported one allegation on Sai Baba's homosexuality in the briefest manner in his book. One reason for his reticence was no doubt that he long hoped to be able to continue his observations of Sathya Sai Baba in person, which would be precluded entirely by any serious remarks about it. Indeed, he visited at Shivarathri a few times between 2000 and 2005. He remained 'in favour' enough to receive a front place at Shivarathri 'darsan' in 2000, but had no interviews for many years. Still, I have had an understanding for his decision, because in 1994 I also omitted many very disturbing facts I knew when I wrote my book ‘Source of the Dream’ as I knew that without the "sins of omission" it would have meant a permanent ban on our visiting. That I now have obtained such a plethora of facts from dissidents (many of the sex abuse survivors want to stay private) I continue to bring out the whole truth, mainly because so many have contacted me from over the globe asking for support and information etc. in their liberation process from the diverse crises and problems into which Sai Baba has entangled them. Of course, I shall always keep strict confidentiality on all reports by those who have been abused or otherwise cannot have their names or information in public. That I release Haraldsson's mails I consider in the public interest, both to help disabuse the vulnerable and advance the cause of well-meaning scientific scepticism.
Haraldsson & Priddy a
Prashanthi Nilayam 1996
EH repeatedly told me that he no longer comments in public on the Sathya Sai Baba issue since he has no new data to present. Well, considering that the last 'data' he published was a long analysis of a video in which Sai Baba was widely believed to be seen faking a 'materialization', which concluded that no faking could be detected, his claim sounds hollow. There have since then emerged a number of similar videos which show Sathya Sai Baba materializations which have been judged by experts to be clear evidence of faking, as well as testimony from office-bearers, students and others of how his ever-present store of trinkets is found in his chair and in his private rooms. Moreover, the BBC film, 'The Secret Swami' exposed the fraud with the 'miraculous lingam' production, but Haraldsson told me he had not seen it, even though I presented him with a full copy! Why did he not analyse and comment on that? His excuse is lack of time and interest... but, considering how much of his reputation stems from his book on the investigation of Sathya Sai Baba (famous Professor Eyesenck was rather convinced by it), this seems a considerable lapse of professional duty. Sai Baba has beguiled countless people into believing him to be the creator of the universe, the saviour of humanity, the Father who sent Jesus, and omnipotently capable of bestowing salvation in this life and beyond... manipulating them to self-sacrifices to glorify himself and relieving them of their money under such false pretenses as materializing priceless objects (which turn out not to be at all what he claimed them to be). Despite well-founded reasons that I put to him, Erlendur Haraldsson would not listen properly or utter a word of caution to the public. My wife and I even learned from him that he knew the very close SB servitor in the 1970s. Major Talwas, who told him definitively that Sai Baba had improper sexual contacts with boys! No psychological scientist can be only a 'pure researcher' without moral or social responsibilities to their public, or be justified in thinking that such deceptions and their consequences need not be taken seriously. Since the welter of video and testimonial evidence has come forth about Sathya Sai Baba’s sleight-of-hand, Haraldsson has unfortunately kept away from the subject entirely. He broke off a discussion begun with Professor Dale Beyerstein before answering his critical points. Though he entered a discussion with Premanand, he soon broke off without reply to the heavy criticism Premanand soon raised about shortcomings in his research methods, citing that his e-mails were published by Premanand without his permission. Nonetheless, his published reply to Premanand in 1988 states fairly well even today the status of EH's investigations into the 'miracles' - and some considerable reservations about them. He has not engaged in much further serious investigative work on the subject since then and stopped writing a second book he was preparing on Sai Baba. His original statement to Premanand was as follows:-
“No one seems to have discovered SSB’s exact modus operandi. If we assume that objects are produced by sleight of hand, then they must be kept hidden until they are used. None of those around him seem to have discovered where. Who are the suppliers for the one or two dozens of objects he reportedly may produce most days? He would require a steady supply. How has he been able to keep them a secret for so long? As there is considerable turnover in his “inner circle” he must have had several, if not many, accomplices during his 45 years of activity. There is for example no one with him now who was with him in the 1950s. Many of the attendants/associates interviewed - ex-devotees included - lived with him practically day and night, had free access to his room, took care of his things etc. However, all of them were equally puzzled and did not have a clue to SSB’s secret. Has SSB perhaps some exceptional means to keep even his ex-devotees and critics from revealing how he operates? There are many questions. I have to admit that after eight trips to India during the years 1973 to 1983 and a total of over a year and a half of questioning witnesses and searching for evidence against him, I came out practically empty-handed. There is an enigma here and we may be fooling ourselves by not admitting it and coming to hasty conclusions based on mere conjectures. We do indeed need strong evidence to accept the paranormal hypothesis but we also need solid evidence for accusations of fraud. Of course there are lots of false rumours of allegedly genuinely paranormal phenomena and numerous distortions and exaggerations. For example, in the widely published case of the resurrection of Mr. Cowan we have clear evidence to show that the claims are not true. Still, much of the phenomena remain puzzling.” Excerpt from http://www.indian-skeptic.org/html/is_v01/1-6-13.htm 1988.
Priddy & Haraldsson, 2009
To this I must add that many new details have since emerged against Sathya Sai Baba's 'miracles'. For example, objects Sai Baba gives away are found in shops all over South India and were brought in inconspicuously to Sai Baba's rooms by persons who students came to know were doing this regularly. None of them have been proved to have genuine diamonds as Sai Baba claimed they had, - while a considerable number have been assayed by experts and found to be synthetic gems (see here). I have told Haraldsson about this last case - a ring Sai Baba pretended to materialize for me which was (much later) proven to be a synthetic sapphire. He seemed entirely uninterested, as if it were an insignificant detail. Though the rings can be of genuine silver and gold - from 18 to 22 carats sometimes. Many are instead of 'panchaloka' metal - an alloy of 5 metals common in India for trinkets, such as bracelets, pendants, rings etc. Most extraordinarily, perhaps, is that among those who did not believe in Sai Baba's miracles was his closest servitor for decades, Colonel Joga Rao (see full details here). So how come these miracles happened wherever Rao was present - for example, objects taken out of the sand at picnics arranged by Joga Rao in advance, and at darshan (Rao often walked behind Sai Baba taking letters and handing him handkerchiefs). Besides, those who discovered anything untoward were always under huge pressures not to divulge anything. It could result in a severe reprimand or banishment from the ashram, college or staff... up to and including disappearance and murder (many incidents of both have been documented). Haraldsson did not consider these themes worth considering, even though the major police executions had not then taken place, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence of such untoward events for serious notice. Since then students have told exposé activists that Sai Baba had a machine for producing vibuthi (ash) pellets (using water), and a sponge in a saucer with fragrant oil which he squeezed before 'materializing' the oil he applied to male genitals etc. He has also been caught in the act of bogus materialization by diverse office-bearers, including former Central Coordinator for UK, Aime Levy and his wife, the former Sai Organization leader in Sweden, Conny Larsson and numerous others. These deceits have even been admitted (and defended in great contortions of rationalization) by a blind believer, Bon Giovanni, (see here). Vibuti pellets were dropped in front of Australian Central Coordinator Terry Gallagher after the bedroom murders incident, while back in 1968 he'd been seen having an 'accident' with a 'thumb tip' apparatus for palming vibuthi. Further, the bill for a very large consignment of vibuti bought by the ashram from Palani has been posted too (see here). One can be puzzled, but once major new evidence has emerged, one should investigate it properly.
It will probably never be possible to reach conclusive evidence that all of Sai Baba’s supposed ‘powers’ are bogus since these events are in the past and were never observed by independent witnesses trained in detecting false or confused claims, crony-assisted ‘tricks’, sleight-of-hand and even virtual ‘instant hypnosis’ (as demonstrated extraordinarily in many different settings by Derren Brown of Channel 4 TV in UK). Haraldsson, who had consulted with magicians, did not look for Sathya Sai Baba’s hand to move behind his cushions in advance of ‘materializations’ (which Sai Baba does at the best psychological moment of misdirected attention), nor did he investigate the genuineness of the alleged ‘diamonds’ or availability of trinkets identical to the Sai “materializations” at many shops in Bangalore. (Neither did I do that until after 2000, unfortunately). He stated his opinion that the objects Sai Baba gave to people were unlikely to be provided by shops, and failed to consider that they could be brought in surreptitiously by a helper, as we now know from a student witness was done on a regular basis. These failings in the preparedness of Osis and Haraldsson have been indicated by an authoritative paper on Deception by Subjects in Psi Research.
As already suggested, good reasons have arisen - particularly since 2000 - to question the preparedness of Haraldsson and Osis in the 1970s for study of deceptive sleight-of-hand, suggestion techniques and misdirection of attention to observe were never well enough prepared or stringent enough to uncover any fraudulent Sathya Sai Baba's productions. Just to master the art of explaining much stage magic alone would take far more advice that Haraldsson received. Though Haraldsson had visited magicians for tips about fraud, he never detected what many others have, not looked into the role and motives to help in deception of his accomplices. Sai Baba misdirected attention in various clever ways while he reached behind himself for objects under his cushion, which he later pretended to materialize, yet Haraldsson never thought of that as he did not report such. This was done, for example, by saying something unusual to a person at the back of the room, so all heads turned to see who it was. Nor did the parapsychologists realize that many shops in South India produce exactly the same kind of 'diamond' rings, medallions and pendants that Sai Baba supposedly 'materialized' (all most certainly having synthetic stones, which the investigators did not ascertain either), for Haraldsson discounted there being a supplier without serious investigation. It is now known how items were smuggled in to Sai Baba by helpers (not hard to guess either!). Several disaffected followers had seen and reported a number of typical objects behind the cushions on his chair in the interview room, while one ex-student has told how he came across a box of such objects while cleaning in Sai Baba's private quarters at Kodaikanal.
Details have long since emerged as to how objects are bought on Sai Baba's behalf and brought in inconspicuously by persons who students came to know were doing this. Among those who did not believe in Sai Baba's miracles, was his closest servitor for decades, Colonel Joga Rao (see full details here), so how come these miracles happened wherever Rao was present - at picnics, in interviews and at darshan (Rao often walked behind Sai Baba taking letters and handing him handkerchiefs). Those who discover anything untoward were always under huge pressures not to divulge anything. It could result in anything from a severe reprimand to banishment from the ashram, college or staff. up to an including disappearance and murder (many incidents of both have been documented). Haraldsson did not consider these themes worth considering. Students have told exposé activists that he has a machine for producing vibuthi (ash) pellets (using water), and a sponge in a saucer with fragrant oil which he squeezes before 'materializing' the oil he applied to genitals etc. He has been caught in the act of bogus materialization by diverse office-bearers, including Aime Levy and wife, Conny Larsson, and outright deceits have even been admitted and defended by a devotee, Bon Giovanni, (see here). Vibuti pellets were dropped in front of Australian Central Coordinator Terry Gallagher and the bill for a very large consignment of vibuti bought in by the ashram has been posted too (see these here). One can be puzzled, but once the evidence has emerged, one should investigate it properly.
Perhaps yet more embarrassing for Haraldsson, he completely failed to question the production of the lingam from the mouth on Shivaratri days, which he attended at least twice, even though this trick was invented by Houdini (see here) and copied by a large number of Indian street magicians and fakirs (see video of the same lingam trick). That must be considered a major research lapse. The use of misdirection, powerful suggestion, cold reading and other techniques by Sai Baba has since been reported by a large number of persons from interviews and sleight-of-hand has been filmed on various occasions quite conclusively. Haraldsson told me he was not concerned with examining or commenting on these – nor even did he watch the copy of ‘the Secret Swami’ I gave him. He holds that his being used within the Sai movement as an endorser of the paranormal phenomena due to his neutral conclusions is not of his doing.
Haraldsson's last venture into the arena of discussion about Sathya Sai Baba was his attempt - with Richard Wiseman - to analyse the famous 'faked materialization ' video which appeared briefly on Indian TV's national channel Doordarshan. He concluded that there was no definitive evidence of faking... but nor could he reasonably exclude the possibility. In short, he seemed (in the eyes of followers) to endorse Sai Baba's genuineness but did not definitively do so. Since then he has ignored all the video and other evidence that have been available on-line for years... he even referred to them briefly to me last time I spoke with him as 'internet rumours', which shows he has not even looked at most of them at all.
The ability also to bi-locate has been claimed for Sathya Sai Baba and other spiritual figures, such as the famous Catholic Pater Pio of Pietrelcina, Italy (1887-1968, now Saint Pio of Pietrelcina). Erlendur Haraldsson tried to investigate these highly controversial claims of Sathya Sai Baba’s bi-location but, though he could not substantiate them, he lent them some credence even by presenting the claims which could not be tested in any way. All accounts he obtained were anecdotal and/or hearsay, some being very meager, others more detailed. Haraldsson classified such reports as ‘apparitions’ as in para-psychological terminology, many of which have been recorded by para-psychologists (over 10% of questioned persons in general are supposed on statistical grounds to have such an experience at least once in their lifetime).
Raising the dead?
'Miracles are my Visiting Cards' by Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson 1987 in which his investigations lead to the unavoidable conclusion that Sathya Sai Baba's claim that he resurrected the US devotee Walter
Sai Baba: Healings and Rescues
Varadu, quoted in Haraldsson, Miracles are My ... Mr. Krishna, quoted in Haraldsson, ibid., p. 176. 113 ... healing that never occurred... Haraldsson, ibid., p. 201. 120 -
Did Sai Baba Resurrect Someone From The Dead?
Radhakrishna while he was allegedly dead. Haraldsson, p. 249. Given ( ... his investigations. Erlendur Haraldsson (Miracles Are My ... on this. 24 - Dr. Haraldsson's Hypothesis: I have
On the Seiko watch 'materialization' - B. Premanand & A. Kovoor
Erlendur Haraldsson, he mentioned about the Seiko ... by Sam Dalal, Magician, Calcutta. Dr. Haraldsson in his letter dated 21-10 ... dated 6-4-1988 Dr. Haraldsson said that he had not
Sai Baba: Materializations
Haraldsson points out throughout the ... for controlled scientific studies. Thus, Haraldsson ends up with a `on ... this work. First of all, Haraldsson's many witnesses of materialisation
Sai Baba: Sundry Miracles
Osis, and the reports of their visits issued by them. Here is Haraldsson's report ... way, he stated. Haraldsson, Miracles are My ... with mirrors! Bilocation Haraldsson mentions two cases
Does Sai Baba Have Complete Telepathic Knowledge?
Raman, would accompany him. Haraldsson, ibid. p. 156. Mrs ... against others' assessments? 73 - Haraldsson's Survey of Devotees ... her a few times. Haraldsson, Miracles Are My Visiting