Paranormal References: Wolf Messing and Kirlian (Revised)
Copyright © Brian Steel 2002
One of the strangest of SB's impromptu stories about his alleged experiences is contained in his Discourse of 22 November 1980. Before going any further, it may help some readers to know a few biographical details about a Polish psychic called Wolf Messing. Luckily, most of the following information is provided by volume 1 of Love is My Form (LIMF), which as we shall see also gives two versions of the same story:
Wolf Messing was born in Poland in 1899. He was a Jewish "mentalist" (psychic; ESP practitioner). Prior to 1939, he toured many countries demonstrating his psychic abilities (presumably like an earlier version of Uri Geller). Messing went (fled?) to Russia in 1939 after the Nazis killed members of his family, married there and died there in 1974.
The major part of the Discourse (Sathya Sai Speaks, XIV, Chapter 57 - 22 November 1980) is taken up with Russia (pages 364-366). It is triggered when SB begins to speak about materialism and atheism in Russia from 1917 - " promoted mainly by Stalin. But ... [a] powerful spiritual personality named Wolfe Messing arose ..." [in Poland] (p. 364) Stalin then apparently tried to get rid of him by sending him - a Jew, remember - to Hitler. On his alleged way to Hitler, Messing, after praying to God, met Einstein and Freud in Vienna. SB says nothing further about Einstein but he offers these original thoughts to his audience:
That Freud was "a scientist engaged in research on the human mind. Freud was surprised at Messing and his powers; he realised that his own researches were shallow and turned his attention to the search for the highest level of Consciousness in man. Stalin was caught between Freud and Messing but he dare not give up the image he had once built up. He continued the easier path of establishing the materialistic and atheistic state and implanting irreligion in the hearts of youth." (p. 364)
After we have swallowed (but probably not digested) all this, comes the exclusive first time revelation by SB:
"It was 1937. This body was then 11 years old of age ... I was then at Kamalapuram ..." (p. 365) SB was near the station with his friends. A man came running up to him and kissed him, weeping and saying: "I am so happy. I love you." - as he danced about. The boys moved away and the man watched until they were out of sight. "It was Messing."
There is more. Messing=s visit to India was to do spiritual exercises in the Himalayas and to see Gandhi after which he returned to his (unnamed) country. According to SB, "He proclaimed that Stalin's state would collapse and just as he prophesied, Khruschev transformed it soon after." Then SB goes on about 'Kiril', whom we must leave until a little later.
For some reason, possibly the psychic subject matter, the compilers of LIMF have chosen to feature parts of this story as a full page boxed item (on page 48), complete with what we assume is a small photograph of Wolf Messing.
The LIMF editorial team then offer a very sanitised and rearranged version of the above Discourse story, wisely omitting all those eccentric-sounding ideas about Hitler and Stalin, Freud and Einstein. The fact that they do not offer a reference for the reader to consult the whole Discourse is probably a sign of their own embarrassment and caution. But they then go on to offer even more: another story about Messing told privately by SB (no reference). In this "new" story (which is really a typical SB variant of the first - although the LIMF editors are surprisingly unaware of this possibility), Messing was travelling by train from Madras to Cuddapah and when the train stopped at Kamalapuram (which is 200 miles from Puttaparthi), he saw SB and his schoolfriends playing near the station. He approached them but they ran off and went into a nearby house. He then sat opposite the house for 2 hours. When asked by some old men what he was doing there, he replied that he had come to seek the blessing of a boy in that house. At this moment, SB stood behind the men, giving Messing a symbolic blessing with his right hand. Whereupon the man departed - joyfully, just as in the first story.
Since Messing was a very powerful psychic (like SB) and probably did travel to India, the journey via Kamalapuram, and even the meeting, does not seem impossible. However, since this is a story about psychic powers and two known psychics, it is just possible that there was some kind of non-physical paranormal contact ('meeting') between the young Satya Narayana and the seasoned psychic performer and demonstrator.
What makes this alleged physical meeting unlikely, apart from the fanciful touches, is one of the factual details volunteered by SB: the date, 1937. Now, in 1937, SB, who was either 11 or 8 years old (depending on his date of birth), was still in Puttaparthi Elementary School (according to LIMF). He didn't go to distant Kamalapuram until 1942 (or maybe 1941), when he was either 16 or 13 and Polish Wolf Messing was safely in his new homeland, the USSR (now locked in an all-out war against Germany), working, as far as I can ascertain, as a psychic for Stalin (the man whom SB accused of trying to get rid of Messing), and/or on secret work for the Soviet war effort against Hitler. (As a matter of further interest, Messing met Gandhi on a trip to India in 1927.)
After a very brief mention of this spectacular story from SB's 1980 Discourse, M. N. Rao (1995:126-127) adds the following innuendo and propaganda on behalf of SB's claims of Divinity: "Perhaps this Messing was the first one to identify the embodiment of divinity in Sathya the boy, just like Subbamma [the surrogate mother figure, and benefactress] in early years and Aurobindo who announced the advent of the Avathaar."
And now for 'Kiril', or as we know him, Semyon Kirlian, the Russian scientist who with his wife, Valentina, discovered what we are now quite familiar with as Kirlian photography. (Kiril was surely none other than St Cyril, who in the ninth century, along with his brother and fellow saint, Methodius, is credited with the invention of the Cyrillic alphabet - so that is a different story.)
In the Discourse, SB ends his Wolf Messing story with the latter's alleged forecast of a collapse of Stalin's state and the advent of Krushchev. Then he moves on to the subject of 'Kiril' who apparently also helped in some unexplained way to effect this transformation of the USSR - possibly with the laboratory experiments that SB mentions. And then SB is off briefly on this other tangent, sounding quite excited and even impressed as he announces some (presumably factual and documented) biographical details about Kirlian: that the latter saw flying saucers and posited life on far distant spheres, including one near the Milky Way. From these heights, SB comes back down to the topics of atheism, belief in God, and the rest of the Discourse. ( p 366). Quite a journey!
Such stories, which crop up from time to time in the volumes of Sathya Sai Speaks are so extraordinary, or contain such discrepancies (real or apparent) that they cry out for some explanation. Where does SB get the facts from? Can they be verified? Why does he tell such stories? If only one knew the answers! As vague hypotheses (about the facts but not the reasons), I tentatively offer the following:
1. In some Discourses, SB already has a theme in mind and maybe a fact or two, then he ad-libs on the basis of what he has recently read or been told by his close associates. (In this case, conceivably, recent references to the intriguing and best-selling contemporary revelations by Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder, PSI Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, Prentice-Hall, 1970, and Abacus/Bantam, 1971. This is the book which refers to Messing's visit to India in 1927 - p. 68.)
2. As a consummate weaver of stories, SB fearlessly improvises such anecdotes, basing them on tiny fragments of knowledge and garnishing them with his fertile imagination.
What do you think?
I think that this story has legs, as journalists say.
Two days after posting the above comments on the SB Discourse story about Wolf Messing, I was informed by Robert Priddy that there was a mention of Messing in a book about Shirdi and Sathya, Shirdi to Puttaparthi (by Drs. R. T. Kakade and A. Veerabhadra Rao, 6th ed., Hyderabad, IRA Publications, 1993). The book has been VERY popular in India, to judge by the number of editions it has gone through and the fact that it has been translated into no less than eleven Indian languages.
Although SB is not responsible for what is printed in the authors’ book, I will take the liberty of quoting the intriguing little twist that they add to this Messing story. I leave the reader to make his or her own judgement about whether the following report was made by an eye-witness or not. This alternative version may also be of interest to those who study the different versions of SB's stories which appear in the SB literature.
One of the authors of the above-mentioned book tells us that he was present at the Conference of 20-23 November 1980 and, without mentioning SB’s Discourse of 22 November (during which he revealed the Messing story), he reports the following simplified story, either from one of the Conference days or from a special entertainment programme by SB students ("The Kingdom of Satya Sai") on 24 November. (It is not clear.) If it took place during the entertainment, it may have been just a dramatic re-enactment of the alleged Sathya Narayana-Messing meeting of 1937 - but this had already been revealed by SB on 22 November. As the reader will see (and the audience would surely have understood), the incident is reported as though the "Russian" was really the man involved. (Wolf Messing, born in Poland, died in Russia in 1974.)
"In this connection, I would like to narrate two incidents, which became known to the public, even to the devotees, for the first time. Two gentlemen, one from Russia and the other from Korea, had volunteered to narrate these events, for the delectation of the gathering. Baba had never even mentioned them earlier, as having happened, even though he was very much a part of them.
"The Russian recalled that more than forty years ago when Baba was still a boy, studying in a school in Kamalapur, he had occasion to see the young lad playing on a platform of the Railway station along with the other children. He felt attracted by something unique in the boy’s personality, even at that tender age, and tried to take him into his arms and enjoy the bliss of communion. He must have felt a divine aura about the boy, which was not obvious to the rest of the children present. They feared this stranger, a foreigner, was trying to whisk away their young friend, a favourite friend. They got concerned and ran to report the matter to Baba’s elders, who arrived on the scene and took the boy away from the stranger and felt relieved that they had saved their young ward from the clutches of an unknown foreigner. Little did they realise at that time, that their young child would later develop into divine personality and that the foreigner could notice the innate divine spirit, even at that tender age of the boy." (Kakade and Rao, pp. 159-160) (The second incident, narrated by the Korean devotee, appears to be from his own life.)
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