SSB and the Psychics: A Case of Mistaken Identity?
Brian Steel November 2002
Copyright © Brian Steel 2002
As soon as one mentions a psychic or paranormal connection with SSB (as in my recent posting about Wolf Messing) or a favorite New Age topic like UFOs, imminent Earth Changes and Disasters, or Prophecies, as in the almost surreal and unconvincing Mehdi Moud story which has become part of the apocryphal SSB Gospel accepted by his devotees (See 'The "Mehdi Moud" Prophecy Revisited'), SSB devotees' attention span and credulity quotient expand prodigiously. Reflecting on this phenomenon, I quickly jotted down a list of names of prominent SSB devotees with known or assumed psychic experience and abilities. This preliminary list is instantly recognisable as an impressive partial rollcall of "Western" promoters of SSB's Divinity or unofficial spokespersons for him; several of them have made an enormous contribution to the dissemination outside India of the increasingly controversial messages, "SSB is a Man of Miracles" and "SSB is the Avatar of the age".
My preliminary list: Howard Murphet. Arnold Schulman, the Cowans, John Hislop, Charles Penn, Lucas Ralli, Phyliss Krystal, Isaac Tigrett, Peggy Mason, Connie Shaw, Paul William Roberts, and Craig Hamilton-Parker. The reader can add his or her own list of other psychic enthusiasts and visionaries (met, read, or heard of on the ashram grapevine or on the Internet) who have also shared their psychic and other experiences of SSB.
These shared experiences and assertions might be seen at first glance as simply a matter of the private activities of consenting adults. They begin to merit further examination and comment when it is realised that, following their understandable initial psychic attraction to and involvement with SSB, such people usually come to view their (real or imagined) psychic insights into SSB as a proof of his strong claims to Divinity, Omnipotence, and Omniscience rather than as the lesser proof that he is simply a fellow psychic. By writing or speaking about this additional conviction, such people are offering readers or listeners their personal endorsement of the Divine claims. However, when one comes to examine closely the sorts of evidence and proof they present for this "Divinity" and these alleged Divine powers, they often turn out to consist of widely propagated but disappointingly vague, unsubstantiated (and occasionally erroneous) evidence taken from the accepted SSB mythology. For example, among the favorite "proofs" of SSB's Divine legitimacy repeated time and time again by writers, spokespersons and others, are the alleged prophecies of SSB's Divine advent by Nostradamus, Muhammad, Pope John XXIII (in 1963) , the Naadi Palm leaves and other sources; these range (as with so many confident statements about SSB) from the anecdotal to the ridiculous. And yet these psychic partisans pay NO attention!
A further reason for directing attention to what I strongly suspect as being a naive confusion of psychic abilities with Divine powers is that some psychics who endorse SSB's psychic abilities and his Divinity do so as part of their professional activities (for example New Age consulting, or writing), which these days often involves a very public website. This means that what they say has the potential of reaching many people and of remaining suspended in the ether for a long time. Think, for a moment, how the spreading of the myth of SSB's Divinity outside India would have been slowed down without the dramatic contributions of psychics like some of the the above.
Think, for example, of the gripping psychic encounters and personal rescues from death related by Isaac Tigrett. He has told devotees about some highly dramatic survivals of various life-threatening situations (two, I think, due to drug or alcohol abuse) thanks to SSB's perceived miraculous intervention and, on one spellbinding but unrepeated occasion, of his special SSB-guided meditations in the company of Mrs Krystal in relation to world peace and the changes in the Soviet Union. (For a very interesting but inconclusive update on Tigrett's position, see Mick Brown, "Divine Downfall", The Electronic Telegraph , 28 October 2000. We can only look forward to further news of Mr Tigrett's thoughts.)
Think of Connie Shaw (the self-styled high-profile Marian visionary and New Age writer) and her constant enthusiastic endorsements for SSB's Divinity, in particular, her strong promotion of the much photographed May 1991 "Golden Lingam" as a miraculous healing icon. Think of the writer and gifted storyteller and psychic experimenter, Paul William Roberts, who surprised his readers a few years back with a belated but firm admission of a lengthy secret devotion to SSB's Divinity in his fascinating book, Empire of the Soul. (Interestingly in these challenging times for SSB and his supporters, Roberts' professional website features a 1974 photograph of himself with SSB as well as two controversial photos of alleged materialisations by SSB.)
Think also of the British psychic Craig Hamilton-Parker, who on one of his labyrinthine commercial websites (<www.psychics.co.uk/saibaba/homepage.html>) goes further than most in offering resounding endorsements for SSB as both psychic extraordinaire AND Avatar, and whose recent book of psychic case studies (The Psychic Casebook, London, 1999) includes a grateful dedication to "Sathya Sai Baba, the omnipresent Indian Avatar ..." and a 20-page chapter on ' Miracles' devoted to SSB's alleged activities and accomplishments. Both the website and the book offer some of the most repeated but least convincing miracle stories, like the Rolex watch and the mystery purchaser with the 'afro', and the ever anonymous Australian "transported" in a flash from the interview room to his dying wife's bedside back in Australia. The attraction of this story for the gullible, like many other totally unsubstantiated bits of SSB gossip, is obvious; what is more puzzling and much more worrying is why educated people like Parker not only accept it but unquestioningly propagate it (thereby inevitably indicting their own general credibility).
Hamilton-Parker also reverentially includes a lengthy quotation from the repertoire of the late spiritualist Peggy Mason, another occasional spreader of unsubstantiated but eagerly accepted information or rumours about SSB, who enjoyed considerable popularity in UK with her columns in the spiritualist magazine Two Worlds and her books).
Finally, Uri Geller, the most famous living psychic. I recently discovered that in his former short and very wide-ranging "New Age" weekly column in the Times of London, Uri had been informed about SSB, apparently by one of the most assiduous Internet asserters of SSB's Divinity (whose authority is also quoted by Hamilton-Parker). Naturally, in view of the psychic connection and interest, and accepting what he had been told about the (usual) miracles and the lack of proof that they are fake, Uri recommended a trip to the ashram to see SSB in action. (See <www.uri-geller.com>, "Uri Geller's Weird Web" for 23 June 1999 - and note, en passant, that in two other columns Uri also endorsed Mother Meera and her website, since discontinued for reasons not yet divulged, but guessable for those who know the enfolding story, and Geller also gently cautioned his readers over the matter of selecting a professional psychic in USA.)
To my knowledge, these psychic admirers of SSB, who have had such an impact, and continue to have a potential impact, on popular opinion with their writings about SSB in his heyday, have not yet displayed any genuine or independent interest in the growing bulk of counter-evidence about SSB which has been appearing over the past three years (and some even earlier). On Parker's website, for example, although he briefly mentions and courteously rejects the Bailey "Findings" of 2000, while professing to be equanimous about the prospect that they might turn out to be true, he subsequently ignores the much more varied and solid counter-evidence that has been published (and commented on) on the Internet in the past two and a half years. The column which Hamilton-Parker added to his website inviting devotees and others to support or refute the "Findings" has produced a tiny handful of familiar unedifying responses.
The fascination exerted by SSB's psychic abilities on a large number of people with psychic experiences or interests is understandable. However, to accept and advertise his psychic nature and abilities as some sort of cast-iron guarantee of his disputed claims of Divinity (especially in the present climate of doubt and with the growing body of counter-evidence) seems an unreasonable position to maintain. After so many confident assertions of SSB's Divine status, to offer complete silence to the serious accumulating allegations and evidence against such Divine claims can surely only risk a loss of personal and professional credibility for those concerned.
The facts surrounding this discussion provide further evidence of what separates SSB from traditional Indian gurus whose teachings and methods have attracted serious spiritual attention and effort outside India, and whose writings are enjoying an unprecedented boom in sales.
The fact that SSB is able to make such strong contacts and to convince so many eager psychic seekers of his Divinity and his Divine powers may even add fuel to the argument of many ex-devotees that his psychic powers include some of a "dark" variety, a subject on which I have no knowledge at all.
Back to Brian Steel's Home Page
Back to Beginning of this article