Alleged miracle crucifix materialised for Dr. John Hislop
The crucifix given to John Hislop was supposed to have been materialized by the paranormal powers of Sai Baba. The question as to the plausibility of a true materialization which reproduces such details as air bubbles identical with those caused by techniques of inexpensive mass reproduction, and standard but historically inaccurate iconographic features such as nails through palms.
For hundreds of thousands of readers, The book My Baba and I by Dr. John Hislop, [1985: Birth Day Publishing, San Diego] has been read very widely and it is translated into many languages. The title was given to Hislop by Sai Baba. The book reports on Hislop’s prolonged and intimate experiences of Baba’s teachings, some alleged miracles (notably that of the famous Crucifix materialised for Hislop by Baba on Mahashivaratri, 1973. This occurred on a car trip to have a picnic. These trips were then arranged by the Sathya Sai servitor, Colonel Joga Rao, who did not believe in Sai miracles, but who evidently conspired with Sai Baba to facilitate the fraudulence. Joga Rao’s reason for this reportedly was that Sai Baba would thereby become able to get funds to help the poor etc.. On Mahashivartri Day of 1973, Sai Baba took Hislop and others on a car trip in the morning. See Hislop's account.
Dr. John Hislop readily believed what Sai Baba told him, namely, that the crucifix was made from a piece of the original wood of the Cross. Of course, no carbon dating was done – for it would surely disprove that. Serious scientists would not bother to go to such lengths to disprove such a cheap trick, and Hislop would never have tried because he worked entirely on blind faith.
However, a magnified photo of the amulet was examined by an art expert emeritus professor and proclaimed most likely to be a commonly manufactured amulet from 19th century UK, with visible small defects due to the mass/casting process. There is a serious defect in the crucifix too, for the nails in actual crucifixions passed through the wrist, because nails through the hand could not support a weight of the body. It also has a hole at the top of the cross, so Hislop asked his Lord and master what it was. Sathya Sai Baba, improvising as usual, told him the cross had been suspended from above!
The same kind of small crucifix is available from shops and markets in India for a small amount of money. The hole is quite evidently for a locket chain so it can be worn around the neck, not for Sathya Sai’s reason - i.e. hanging of the original cross from above. (See “The fake crucifix” and also comments at http://www.exbaba.com/articles/premanand3.html).
Piet Vroon, wrote in “Santa Claus in India” in Indian Skeptic 6(4), August 1993: 8-16. an article (which appeared on Saturday December 5, 1992 in De Volkskrant (a Dutch national newspaper, under the title ‘Sinterklaas in India’):-
”The crucifix given to John Hislop was supposed to have been materialized by the paranormal powers of Sai Baba. The question might also be raised as to the plausibility of a true materialization which reproduces such details as air bubbles identical with those caused by techniques of inexpensive mass reproduction, and standard but historically inaccurate iconographic features such as nails through palms.”
"Baba indicated that this would be the place. He said we would all return here just at dusk..."
COMMENT: Sai Baba's indication of the sandy site was noted by his helper, Joga Rao, no doubt, so the silver flash could be buried in advance! Further, at dusk it is harder to see details and a good time for sleight-of-hand!
" Baba then closed his fingers over the twigs and directed three somewhat slow breaths into his fist, between thumb and forefinger. Then he opened his hand to reveal a Christ figure crucified on a cross..."
COMMENTS: The situation chosen was unexpected for a 'miracle' and rather confusing. Closing his hand to conceal the twigs and taking his time to blow on it... this is a technique used often by him (I have seen it very close-up myself). It will be preceded by some clever misdirection of attention while the switch is made.
(NOTE: The taste of 'amrith' is nothing but exactly that of Tea Rose! see here)
Dale's Comments on the Crucifix:
Your letter of February 8, enclosing the material on Sai Baba and the miraculously-produced crucifix, has arrived, and I have studied it with great interest.
From the photograph it is quite clear that the metal figure closely resembles those on crucifixes of the 19th and early 20th centuries (As is normal with these, the suppedaneum is cast in one piece with the figure.) Its small scale suggests that it may once have been attached to a rosary.
Contrary to Sai Baba's claim, there is nothing unusual about the iconography of the piece. The representation of the dead Christ, his body sagging, his head drooping onto his right shoulder, and his eyes closed, is frequently found in monumental crucifixes after the 10th century. From the late 12th century one foot is placed over the other, and a single nail is used to fasten both to the cross, instead of one for each foot. By the middle of the 13th century the braided crown of thorns becomes a prominent feature, and in some examples the stomach is drawn in, showing the ribs.
As for the statement that this crucifix "shows Christ as he really was at the time he left his body", it has been demonstrated that nails through the palms of the hands, as in the artistic convention followed here, could not have supported the weight of Jesus' body on the cross. Instead, it has been suggested that the nails would have to go through the wrists, as the image on the Holy Shroud of Turin seems to indicate.
With mass-produced objects such as this it would be impossible to pin down any single source of inspiration, since it draws on such a long and rich tradition. In any case it seems unnecessary.
(signature) William S.A. Dale, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
P.S. A good basic reference for the iconography of the crucifix is Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art (Lund Humphries, 1972) Vol. 2.
In 1973, Sai Baba produced a small crucifix, gave it to his disciple named Dr. Hislop, and, according to Dr. Hislop, said, "this shows Christ as He really was at the time when He left his body. No writer or artist has imagined him this way before."p. 7, [An Eastern view of Jesus Christ: Divine discourses of Sathya Sai Baba (Compiled by Lee Hewlett & K. Nataraj]
As for the claim
Sai Baba makes that the crucifix "shows Christ as he really was at the time he
left his body, not as artists have imagined him or as historians have told about
him", and "no writer or artist has imagined him this way before," the following
are comments from Uno Langmann, a highly reputable art, antique, and curio
dealer headquartered in Vancouver B.C., and Dr. William S. Dale, Professor
Emeritus in Fine Arts at the University of Western Ontario, upon inspection of
the full page magnified colour photograph of the crucifix reproduced at p. xi
(Plate 2) of Dr. Hislop's book, My Baba & I:
Uno Langmann's Comments on the Crucifix: Judging from the photograph, the sculpture would be an ordinary inexpensive crucifixion depiction. The material of the Christ figure would probably be of soft metal such as pewter or lead. Of course this is hard to tell from a photograph. It might be bronze or conceivably silver, but neither of these is likely. The casting is cheap and not very skillful, which supports the idea that the material would be lead perhaps. You can see little air bubbles around the feet which indicates that it was made by cheap plaster of Paris mold. The sculpture is affixed to the wood by small manufactured nails. The rendering of the feet and toes is especially coarse, which also indicates the cheapness of the piece. The wood appears to be low-grade hardwood of some sort. Finally, as to the image itself, it is a typical artistic conception of the crucifixion. I believe I have seen this sculpture image before. I would guess that it's a medieval European representation originally perhaps 12th or 13th century. At least that would be a period to check. In this miniature reproduction form it would not be a particularly interesting piece. [Uno Langmann, 1988]