Though I use the word 'credo', I no longer have any kind of religious faith or belief. If anything can be called 'spiritual', I see it as having nothing to do with extraordinary beliefs or otherworldliness, but instead to do with what is close to home.
For me, spirituality means simply doing good in daily life, and not all that is usually imagined. Since I grew up I always held that what is of value and concern to real people in the real world is the starting point for all decent living. This is to seek personal satisfaction and enjoyment together with that of others - the two being completely interdependent when one studies all aspects of it. But on account of all the crib-imbibed beliefs people sustain - ideas of god, of 'other worlds' and invisible, intangible beings one never can meet - I have seen how supposedly 'spiritual' people often trample roughshod all over others if they think it will advance themselves. Human values are sane and normal aspirations based on tried convictions we derive from life experience and must be unsullied by dogmas, limiting doctrines and ideologies. Understanding, care and concern for others and our environment, respect for the plain truth (not some fantasized intangible dream-truth) and aiming at social justice and high ideals for the good of all in this life are human values.
Were one to ask scores of different people if they believe in God yet we would not know if they were answering the same question? The mind reproduces the ideas or images of God it happens to have learned. Therefore I see no good, meaningful purpose whatever in saying whether one either believes in God or not. I prefer not to talk in terms of belief at all... but stick to my experiences and what I have learned when considering what may or may not be real beyond my life and consciousness. This is the attitude of any philosophically-inclined person. The faith I cherish is not dependent on beliefs in spiritual or other leaders of any kind, nor in imagined Godheads... it is faith in the value of mankind's development, in the overall and very long-term evolutionary and ethical advance on all levels of existence. This is not blind faith, but circumspect hope for the best based on both experience and a vast body of continually-growing and deepening knowledge. It includes the spread of what can be called non-mystified 'self-realisation' rooted in personal experience - reflected in and independent mind and awareness, heeding collective human knowledge.
We all know that many willingly kill others to assert that they know what is right and good, and that religion is often involved and can be the major motivation for wars and terrorism. The mind goes mad on a brew of empty promises and cynical manipulations of human weaknesses by priests, preachers, gurus and their kind... through their desire is to control others or gain power, especially through empty beliefs and 'imaginary spirituality'. The supposed almighty god is used as a means of control, just as are deities and charms to ward off demons and the imaginary devil in more primitive communities.
To criticize any doctrine, theory, or ideology one should know it through and through. With religion it also requires knowing it through deep involvement in trying to advance the good through it - not just from the standpoint of an armchair (funny image!). I have worked through many such until their usefulness was exhausted and I could move on, being literally unable not to give up wrong ideas and fruitless beliefs once convinced of their untenability or harm. My world-view is still flexible and expanding and I modify my views here and there as evidence requires it. This is essential to the growth of wide and true understanding. Therefore I never lie - though I can be mistaken of course, whereupon I correct the error of my ways. That I have been deceived - especially by Sathya Sai Baba and his cadres - is not my fault, but a weakness soon corrected once discovered for what it was without a shadow of doubt.
Though I grew up in the Anglican Christian culture of the UK, I rejected most of the religious beliefs involved in my teenage. Though I obviously see some core human values expressed in Christianity, I reject others to do with Jesus and God and differ from all variants of it on several very basic issues. I have never returned to those beliefs, though in my late 20s I was attracted to Zen, then Tibetan Buddhism, then later to Indian philosophy and spirituality, and eventually Sathya Sai Baba. For many reasons too intricate to recap, I came to investigate this transcendental spirituality myself for about three decades. I came to see how virtually all beliefs, especially in transcendent realities, are transitory at best, and usually empty at bottom, so I no longer accept that any form of god represents any real entity.
I have done a wide variety of kinds of work, both menial and social, both intellectual and artistic, and have been to many countries and speak or read several European languages, also having lived abroad most of my life. I was involved in various progressive political, lifestyle and 'spiritual' movements. I am humanistically and scientifically inclined and was for many years a professional researcher and teacher of sociology and philosophy. I also investigated most religions and mysticism vey widely and intensively and got involved personally and deeply in some of them, not at all only in academic study of books. I have finally found that there are alternative down-to-earth and/or scientific explanations of nearly all the many unusual phenomena I have experienced and investigated.
Whatever the extraordinary effects, most spirituality very largely depends on sheer speculation and bogus indoctrination, eventually leading to self-mystification and gradual loss of reality sense. I plunged into it to find out by direct experience, and I have survived it all mentally, emotionally and socially... one of the few, it seems. For example, the idea of an all-knowing and all-powerful divine creator is invariably somewhere in these doctrines - and the various external or internal forms this may take for the human mind can be studied in many ways. For example, it can often be shown to be connected with a particular kind of ingrained psychology or need for protection from fears or for support against enemies. It can be a means of psychic defense against uncertainty and confusion about oneself, nature and mankind. But it is possible to free oneself from all that too without loss and with personal gain.
While anyone can think or say fine things - and even believe in them - it seems relatively seldom that this leads to action towards making a positive difference to reality. I have discovered that what a person does with his or her life and the vast majority of what he may have learned - is actually not communicable, not effectively so, and especially not if it is based on unique experiences. I am no longer concerned with searching for answer to so-called 'spiritual questions', and in the last analysis it makes very little difference. It is how one lives, what one does and why, that matters.
Through life's ups and downs of many kinds I found myself much more secure in my understanding of myself, this world and what is and is not. In exposing mendacious fraudulence, I am much at ease with my conscience as ever. I trust in the good and true where I find it and that best may transpire for humankind. Yet - having tried the route of faith to its own dead-end - I am increasingly neutral as to any beliefs not founded on very secure facts and validated theories. I do still, or course, speculate about possible outcomes and unknown quantities past and future, more as being likely or unlikely hypotheses than beliefs. Belief in something one cannot know seems to me a psychological failure, a crutch which is needed only while the disability prevails. The truest faith in my view is the faith in one's own truth, a matter of learning from very long and many-sided personal experience and knowledge.
A summary of certain events: When first I set out to visit Sai Baba, after powerful paranormal experiences which were somehow apparently connected to his agency (but I would now add definitely not independent of me and my perceptions and interpretations either), I thought how truly wonderful it would be if even half of what he claimed in his frequent discourses were true. I set about finding out for myself, with considerable hopes. This was no simple investigation, for it involved full commitment - also in action - from both my wife and I for close on two decades. So, in middle age I became almost entirely positive to everything having to do with Sathya Sai Baba, his ashrams, his representatives, his teachings and himself. How that was possible for such a critical thinker as I already was I have explained in my book 'Source of the Dream' written while I was still an active follower. There are nothing untruthful at all in that book, but my interpretations of almost everything about Sai Baba were charged with faith and optimism in which I was misguided and deceived, as so many are. My descriptions were often made with the kind of enthusiasm and viewpoint that comes of subtle indoctrination and erroneous opinions that had been based on the whole carefully-manipulated and virtually impenetrable veil of deception around Sai Baba.
All that changed, at first only gradually and peripherally. Though I was known as a strongly convinced devotee of Sathya Sai Baba from the early 1980s until 2000, some may think I suddenly went from one extreme to the other, but this is far from correct. Although I am presently concerned only to expose wrong-doings, misguided teachings and false promises by Sathya Sai, this is simply to 'balance the account' as it were, since the positive propaganda machine around Sai (to which I once contributed too much) is so massive, so prone to use disinformation and so closed to any sincere discussion or investigation of unpleasant but crucial facts. Once I thought the teaching of Sathya Sai Baba to be largely sublime, but it proved otherwise in so many aspects - both in his word and action - especially since the 1993 murders.
I also contributed many long articles supportive of Sathya Sai to the Sai-journal Sanathana Sarathi. My wife and I were the active leaders of the Sathya Sai Organisation in Norway for about 18 years. There are plenty of people still stuck in the happy delusion who cannot understand for the life of them that I have moved on... how could I ever do that? This web site gives some of the answers...
On what happened to destroy my entire faith in Sathya Sai Baba: Almost every time I went to Sai's ashrams, (nine long visits since 1984) I have - despite myself and my best hopes - I gradually came across suspicious and wrong things around Sai which seemed far too closely connected to him and in contradiction to his whole teaching. These did not then weaken my faith in him, however, for I exercised much ingenuity in rationalizing them away for myself and to others. But I could still not but sometimes wonder if there were not many things we were being kept in the dark about too. My own strongly-held belief that he could be a world avatar was not shaken, even as it was gradually being nibbled away at the edges all the time by disturbing incidents and fishy explanations.
I watched as many people I met leapt to conclusions either for or against the welter of claims by Sathya Sai and about him, for - though I long bought too large a part of the whole expensive package - I could not rid myself of a questioning attitude to various items, especially as as events unfolded through the years. I also did my best to like and help all those who he had put in place in the Sathya Sai Organisation, which eventually proved not only to be too hard a course to complete, not only for me, but for almost all the people I liked and respected who went through similar trials with uncivil and unloving people in high places. Sai Baba chose only the totally uncompromising zealots as his top leaders, always people with big egos who were often bad examples of his teaching. From being a convinced supporter of Sai Baba and his works, I gradually became more discerning and skeptical of his extravagant claims and his more jumbled and unverifiable teachings.
In 1996, my extremely good friend V.K. Narasimhan told me in secret - and in a carefully lowered voice - some key facts about the murders at the ashram in 1993. This shocked me into investigating further for several years, which led to my much greater disillusionment with the ashram and high office-bearers, but from which I somehow managed mainly to exempt Sai Baba himself. It was for years mentally too large a hurdle for me to surmount to regard him as an accomplice to murder through covering up the facts and manipulating his followers in the highest positions in India. Yet, since I rather believed he was 'omnipotent' in some sense - well, at least within his own Prashanthi Nilayam - (and even though he clearly failed to exercise his supposed omni-will for the good of all devoted followers), in the long run it was simply not possible for me to sustain belief in his innocence.
Sai Baba's acceptance of the actions of those directly involved - particularly his own younger brother Janaki Ramiah - and his avoidance of any public questioning etc. caused increasing doubts about his claimed purity and divinity. In 2000 these doubts received an unwanted strong boost by the emergence of an ever-increasing number of independent allegations world-wide of sexual abuse of young men and boys by Sai Baba, who so far remains wholly unaccountable through political and judicial protection in India at the highest levels.
However, the strength of my trust in Sai was so strong that it took four years for me slowly to investigate and come to terms with the murders evidence, plus many months even to look into the sex abuse allegations, which I had brushed aside. It took nearly a year of fence-sitting while examining and following-up the facts before I could no longer remain in doubt of Sai Baba's guilt! (See how carefully I thought and wrote to concerned persons when this process was still underway) This conviction has only been confirmed time and time again since then. Even then, I tried in many ways to see how such facts could be explained in the context of Sai Baba being an divine avatar, or through mental disturbance, delusional states, jealousy and other possible aberrations on the part of the many and varied accusers. None of these considerations would hold up against common sense, reason, human understanding or even against what Sai teaches and preaches himself.
In short, I did not jump to any conclusions without deep conviction based on most thorough consideration (as it seems that most people did one way or the other). It was the sheer weight of objective events 'external' beyond my control which shifted the balance. The process was very disturbing and painful, obviously, after so many years total absorption in Sai Baba, his teachings and spiritual practices - involving the sacrifice of time, energy, money and many former social contacts.
On the one hand, I have been grateful to him for a number of extraordinary things he had apparently done for me, some of which I have - in retrospect - come to look as having other possible (and sometimes much more likely) explanations. On the other, I am very disgusted and cannot accept many things for which I am convinced that he is personally responsible. Besides, gratitude is best expressed in actions, which I have done… but it cannot and should not be sustained permanently despite so much deceit and worse. I do not expect eternal gratitude for any good things I have done, so why should Sathya Sai Baba, who claims to be selfless, so often express how much he expects it?
So, as an ex-participant in the Sai movement, I found myself becoming yet more and more of an independently-minded observer of the whole Sai phenomenon and movement. This does not mean that I have no antipathy to Sai Baba's great deceits, simply that I am able to study them critically and more dispassionately than persons without long acquaintance and deep insight into him and what is around him. Obviously, I have disdain for him and scorn him entirely because of his untruthfulness, fraudulence and defects in his character and behaviour (of which I now realise that there are many), because I am committed to the truth and the good of the public and not because of personal bitterness, anger or the other base motives which Sai Baba repeatedly ascribes to anyone who criticizes him to the slightest degree, and which his devotees repeat mindlessly.
I have done plenty of what Sai Baba has asked of devotees and I can even regard myself as one of the financiers of his easy and luxurious lifestyle, having donated very large (for me) sums of money, even though I was having to live on a disability pension. My wife and I did thousands of hours of seva. So did others we organised, but those of them who did any genuine seva also left not long after we did. I was the active worker/leader in Norway for 18 years. But I found him out well and truly! I feel I am no longer wasting my time, not being deceived at all by the Sai phenomena, hype, corruption and lies any more.
Once the first doubt of Sai Baba's honesty was firmly established, a progressive collapse of many accompanying beliefs followed, a liberating mental domino effect which successively readjusted the whole set of interpretations of experiences and putative facts and even some of the moral principles on which my former faith in Sai Baba was based. The result of this renovation of the entire Sai phenomenon and my experiences relating to it is expressed in my current writings.
Looking back, I recognise that some of my personal experience in going to India, in plunging deeply into the spirit of it all, was instructive and had some benefits for me. These came to rights mainly when I eventually 'surfaced'. Having had to really examine myself thoroughly and consciously evaluate my beliefs and actions and how I could have been duped, I learned very much about the entire human condition that one cannot learn properly and definitively without getting so involved in some kind of deep engagement outside everyday experience. Fortunately, my character and basic values were already well developed and what I regard as my 'everyday spirituality' was essentially sound before Sai Baba came into my life with his paranormal powers. When I discovered the worm at the rotten core of the Sai apple, I fortunately had well-established insights and well-tried ways to fall back on. Young people who get inducted do not have such an alternative, so awakening to knowledge that one's life has been surrounded by such deceptions can surely be very traumatic. From all this I learned first-hand something of how those who have embraced a set of beliefs and have invested in them very much personal thought and feeling, can react to crucial facts which, if true, will cause a complete overturn of those beliefs.
My dilemma was that I had written a book praising Sathya Sai for doing much good, about which I now realise I was being at least partly deceived, and in cunning and wilful ways. My considerable exaggeration of his importance was based on my having been fundamentally misled to believe that he was what he says he is by all the many indoctrinated and confused followers (and not least by him). He leaves no middle ground - one must accept the entire package or nothing. So, since I am concerned to correct false perceptions I have actually helped spread, I am not inclined to laud him in the slightest for any good works he may actually have done. I have to right the balance, to counterweight the other side of the fully over-weighted scale. That is how objectivity is approached, on an informed, insider basis, and no one who has not this kind of experience can speak with any real authority on the actual nature of Sathya Sai Baba, nor theorize academically about the workings and effects of religious sects and cults.
Many of us had many experiences. Mostly, these turned out not to be of a divine nature but largely either 'interpreted phenomena', often only sleight of hand, and other illusions and delusions called 'leelas'. Since I have no proper explanation of certain of these undoubtedly extraordinary occurrences, I reserve judgement on their causes and origins and take an agnostic position towards them. I am certain that they arise at least partly through one's own mind - plus intense concentration or strong longings, and not forgetting the 'synchronicities' of the subliminal mind. Having had many paranormal or supra-mental experiences which I cannot deny (however much more acceptable that may be to some), I reserve opinion on the possibility of some kind of post-death survival of certain mental and other attributes and events of a kind some attribute to an etheric medium, though I now consider this more and more unlikely. I am sure that a wide variety of people have had experiences which have not yet been explained by any scientific theories so far developed. However, science is still probably in its relative adolescence! I know well of many kinds of "inner talk experience" - including with aliens, angels, the dead, demons, famous people, mischievous poltergeists and one god, demon or another - which puts Sai Baba's alleged 'appearances' and 'inner communications' in some perspective. Most of these are not what they seem to be, but have rational explanations, as do all manner of such psychic phenomena.
Whatever truthfulness Sathya Sai might have shown, he has certainly proved himself to be an outright liar, self-contradictor, boaster, gigantic self-promoter, and a 'healer' who says he has cured better and faster than any other human being (all unconfirmed by any independent researchers). Yet he is himself physically decrepit that he is unable to walk more than a few staggering steps, is blind in one eye and is failing mentally (he claimed the earth was attracted by his love, which was why he stumbled due to the intense magnetism! But it was just a failing hip joint). He who had the audacity to repeat the adage, "Healer, heal thyself!" What foolishness in those who believe such deceit.
It took a long time before I stumbled on explosive facts about the secretive and largely unapproachable and incommunicative, manipulative person that Sathya Sai Baba really is. I could not find out definitely certain basic things about him that are not told openly until many years had passed (which is also the situation of the great majority of followers). Yet I came to learn of them mostly from V.K. Narasimhan (who died in 2000) and I am still somewhat amazed at how I could have remained so effectively blinded by his whole doubtful set-up for so long. Only because of my belief in his integrity did I manage to entertain much of what he 'teaches' (which I was also aware is nevertheless standard Indian religious fare - often superficial - all taken from a rich tradition). The greatest possible abuse of others is abuse of their faith. This I consider among the most serious of the many accusations laid at the door of Sathya Sai Baba.
I had to realise that - despite all my faith and best hopes - he is a narcissist and uses many methods or tricks to attract and control people. A person whose charisma and social power (backed up by psychic powers and deep deceptions) had overwhelmed me, as it still does at least a million people. Though hard to see for most people, he has all the qualities of the gifted but unconscionable psychopath, and delusions of grandeur of a megalomaniac dimension. His power complex is also illustrated well by the constant homosexual abuses as described in various of the allegations. My disillusionment meant that I had to cut away all the redundant ideas about him and superfluous advice that he employs largely to keep people subservient to him, uncritical and entrapped in his movement, whether emotionally, mentally, socially or all of this at once. The rationalizations, lies and often slurs and defamations - also from Sathya Sai himself - speak loudly for themselves. This is indeed a threadbare 'God Almighty'!
Note: Rejection in principle of all belief as unfounded
After freeing myself from many contradictory and obscure Christian beliefs [before I became of age], I became convinced on a scientific historical basis of the inauthenticity of most of the Gospels. I have followed research into the history of the Middle East, including the Nag Hammadi texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls and much else in a lifelong studious interest in the history of idea and philosophy, and the history and anthropological study of all major cultures and religions. Consequently, even before I came to visit Sai Baba at age 48, I did not believe in most of the contents of the Gospels (which researchers have shown to be 60% extremely doubtful), nor can I believe that Jesus was a holy Messiah, the son of god or the only way or any of that Biblical mythology. I recognise that there was a historical basis for many of the stories, but also that most of the New Testament 'miracles' and stories predate Jesus and are found attributed to half a dozen semi-mythical figures in other religious cultures well before he lived. Though I rejected the Christian mythology and theology early on, and though I wished only to rely on proven knowledge, I was not in a position outright to reject various other beliefs which I help may prove to be well-founded... not until much later.