The book and the cross
First of all a brief premise. As we've already seen, Sai Baba "materializes" practically only small items, not immediately perishable or damageable, easy to hide: therefore human manufactured articles like rings, pendants, watches, medals, little cakes, etc.; e vibuthi. Moreover to "materialize" them, SB performs a circular hand motion which is quite similar to those performed by conjurers. In the folloqing we'll see that SB has "materialized" a book with the "true" story of Jesus, and a cross with the "true" representation of Jesus crucifixed. These are very publicized miracles by Sai propaganda and literature.Well, surprise!: these two items have the same size of the trinkets he usually materializes! SB has "apported" a book: as we'll see he didn't created it but it is an apport (though in the "Blitz Interview" he denied the making of apportings, stating that he "creates" but doesn't transfer), but strangely this book has more or less the same size of the rings he usually "materializes"! Nobody has asked himself the reason of this strangeness, no: everybody remained open-mouth in front of the miracle, the mistery of the little cross and the booklet...
The mysterious book
During the Christmas 1996 speech, Sai Baba has "materialized" a book, which would contain the true story of Jesus, with informations which "are not be found even in the Bible". Let's read the account of the speech:
"[...] [Swami referred to a book compiled in Britain around 1530 AD containing all the information about Jesus gathered during the preceding centuries. The Russians condensed all this material in a small book which they preserved in a place on the Black Sea coast. Swami produced the little book by a circular wave of His hand and held it before the audience].
[He said]: This is the book. You can see the cross on the cover page. The book was designed to demonstrate the common features of all religions. What is contained in this book is not to be found even in the Bible. It contains an entirely new account of the life of Jesus.
It is not open to all to understand the ways of the Lord. To know about God one has to develop godly feelings. In this book, there are book-mark threads which distinguish every faith by a sloka [a verse, even if sloka is particular of hindu poetic compositions: thus strictly speaking we cannot talk, e. g., of christians slokas; but we know that SB sees only indian... Translator's Note] relating to it. There is one page which contains the sloka from the Bhagavad Gita in which Krishna exhorts Arjuna to give up all beliefs and take sole refuge in Him and assures Arjuna that thereafter he will absolve Arjuna of all the sins.
[...] This book contains the Vedic saying: Ekoham bahusyaam. The same God dwells in all beings. There is no justification for differences on the basis of religion. [...] That is the main message contained in this little book. The culture of Bharat has experienced this truth in the concept of Sath-Chith- Ananda (Being- Awareness-Bliss).
[...] Today there are numerous sects within Christianity all of which are engaged in propagating their respective doctrines. While this preaching goes on, there is very little of practice in daily life.
[...] This book contains the declaration: Yo Madhbaktah. The devotee who is filled with love of God is dear to me, says the Lord (in the Gita). God alone is your unfailing friend in weal and woe. You must acquire His friendship.
There are many devotees from overseas here today. They should be firm in their devotion whatever changes in the situation they may face. [...]"
(from the Christmas 1996 speech)
And here are the pictures of this "extraordinary" event; some images are magnifiable, click on them to see the complete images:
(Noticed the very "comfortable" size of the book, proper to Sai Baba's sleights-of-hand? And you'll see below that also the crucifix materialized by SB has a similar size...) Also in this case, the usual simple considerations may come to mind; let's analyze:
This phrase of Sai Baba's speech is to be noticed: "This is the book. You can see the cross on the cover page."; it seems that by this phrase SB wants to state the authenticity of the booklet. One has not to forget that this "materialization" is implicitly directed to christian and foreign devotees, and this agrees with SB's frequent raids on christian scriptures, and with his interventions on Jesus, on his life and history.
Why this? In my opinion, the reason could be the following. While in the Far East SB he enjoys of wide respect, even at the official institutional and religious levels (and it's no surprise, since that is his native cultural-religious area), the same doesn't happens in the Middle East and in the West. The reason of this poor penetration are Islam and Christianity. For the Islam, as we can see also in the page related to the "Prophecy of Muhammad", the concepts and customs of Sai environement are totally alien and unacceptable; Sai Baba himself is it, because of the way he behaves and proposes himself. The strongness and solidity of islamic faith do the rest, unabling Sai Baba to penetrate between the muslims; and he carefully avoids this: you'll never hear him speaking of Muhammad, or discussing islamic scriptures.
Between the christians, very wide layers of them consider Sai Baba a charlatan, if not even a demon and/or an antichrist. But christianity is more plastic and malleable, it seems, and it allows him to say anything he wants about Jesus, the Bible, etc.; moreover the concept of "avatar" (which is totally absent in the Islam) could be, with some acrobatics, sold off as equivalent or similar to the concept of "son of God"; and let's not forget that also hindus worship a trinity, although theologically different. And so happens that SB succeds to acquire hold on an however high number of christians, whom constitute the mass of his western devotees. Since they have put in doubt the truthfulness of their scriptures, and since they have accepted the "divinity" of Sai Baba who has put those scriptures under discussion, they won't be able to do anything else but to become his devotees and to worship him. In this way SB tries to "break down to west".
In light of this, it stands clear why Sai Baba often intervenes on Jesus, in front of the westerners, reviewing his history, figure, importance in many ways. And giong back to the Christmas 1996 speech, the fact that the speech together with the booklet and all the staging is directed to westerners and christians, it appears evident also from this phrase: "Today there are numerous sects within Christianity all of which are engaged in propagating their respective doctrines. While this preaching goes on, there is very little of practice in daily life." So: the book is christian but it contains hindu verses, but making an example of religious division and difference between preaching and practice, SB mentions the christian sects. Shall we want to discuss of the countless inner sects of Hinduism? Of wars they made between themselves, of wars in India between Islam e Hinduism, of the social aspects of this all? Or of the thousands of swamis, gurus, sadhus, babas that in India sell spirituality, each of whom has his own version of truth and his doctrine? It would be opportune to SB to think more about his country, before making lessons to others. And again: "There are many devotees from overseas here today. They should be firm in their devotion whatever changes in the situation they may face." According to logics, all devotees would have to be that way, not only those from overseas. Why SB reproaches them? Perhaps he wants to make them to feel someway "defective"? It seems to me that the phrase is self-commenting. It comes back to my mind that maxim of roman empire: "Divide et impera (separate and dominate)"...
Shortly, it seems to me that this book is Sai Baba's "little story" with marketing purpose. Obviously no one of those who assisted to it, would have asked himself anything. Perhaps is allowed to doubt of God...?
The "true" cross
This crucifix has been "materialized" by Sai Baba for John Hislop. Here are its images (click on images to enlarge them):
The story of the materialization of this cross (notice again its size !!!) is told in the book "My Baba and I" by John Hislop, lets's read it (the references in different colour link the various passages with the related comment below):
The crucifix was created by Baba on a most auspicious day, Mahasivaratri. [...] The evening before the Mahasivaratri Day of 1973, we were told to be ready in the early morning for a trip; and that when the cars were loaded and ready, we would know the destination. [...] Our destination was the Bandipur Game Sanctuary in Bandipur Forest, several hours away in Mysore State. [...] Swami intended to find a correct site where we could gather at dusk for the sacred event of the lingam birth. It was on this great and most mysterious occasion, unknown and beyond imagination to the world at large, that the crucifix came into being. (1)
As we crossed a bridge above a sandy, dry riverbed, Baba indicated that this would be the place. [...] As we passed a bush, Swami broke off two twigs, placed them together, and asked me, "What is this, Hislop?" "Well, Swami, it is a cross," I answered. 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, and he gave it to me. (2)
He said, "This 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. His stomach is pulled in and his ribs are all showing. He had no food for eight days." I looked at the crucifix, but found no words. Then Baba continued, "The cross is wood from the actual cross on which Christ was crucified. To find some of the wood after 2,000 years took a little time! The image is of Christ after he died. It is a dead face." I noticed something odd and asked, "Swami, what is that hole at the top of the cross?" Baba replied that the cross had been originally hung from a standard. [...] (3)
Within a few weeks we were back at our home in Mexico and were soon to witness an amazing series of events in relation to the crucifix. The cross is so small that the details on the figure of Christ escape the eye. A friend, Walter, came down to our home and took some color photographs of the crucifix. The over-all length of the Christ figure is only one inch, and Walter was to make some enlargements to bring out the detail. When he mailed us a sample of the prints, my wife and I were astounded. I wrote to him and said that if the pictures were seen around the world, they would create an art sensation. I am sure it is the greatest sculpture of Christ ever made. In my estimation, it is the most extraordinary object Sri Sathya Sai has ever created for the joy of his devotees. (4)
A few weeks later, Walter and his wife returned with color enlargements of the cross. The time was about 5 p.m., [...] the sky along the Mexican coast was clear and peaceful. But suddenly, without any warning, there was a loud crash of thunder, and as our eyes turned to the windows, lightning flashed from a dark cloud where a moment before there had been only clear sky. A violent wind rushed through the house, causing windows and doors to open and shut with such force that glass was in danger of shattering. The curtains were flying in all directions. We were much startled by this turn of events, but my wife at once said, "It is 5 p.m., the time Christ died on the cross, and what is now happening is described in the Bible." She later brought a Bible and we looked until we found the pertinent paragraph, which said that at the moment Christ gave up His life, a violent storm arose with lightning and thunder [as it happens for any storm of a certain entity, since Earth exists, Translator Note], and winds rent the curtains of the temple. We concluded that we had witnessed a wonder totally beyond our power of imagination. Before our eyes had occured nothing less than a recapitulation of events related to the crucifixion. The following day newspapers in San Diego carried a brief story commenting on the sudden and mysterious storm that had arisen without warning on the Mexican coast, near Ensenada. We and our friends concluded that this recapitulation of an event which had taken place some 2,000 years ago upon the crucifixion of Christ implied a great power connected in some way with that small cross and Christ figure materialized by Baba. A year or so later, I sent a description of the event to Dr. Eruch B. Fanibunda for his book, Vision of the Divine. He showed the memo to Baba. After reading the memo, Baba said that the event occurred as described and that the significance attributed to it was correct. (5)
[...] In 1975, I made an unannounced trip to India [...]. Swami had not been informed of my visit and was away on a tour when I arrived. On that day [...] he said, "Hislop arrived in Bangalore just now and is waiting." One of the men at the table (who later told me of the scene) remarked, "You made a crucifix for him." Baba replied, "Yes, I made it for him. And when I went to look for the wood, every particle of the cross had disintegrated and had returned to the elements. I reached out to the elements and reconstituted sufficient material for a small cross. Very seldom does Swami interfere with Nature, but occasionally, for a devotee, it will be done." (6)
Let's see right now, therefore, a comment to the various passages; like we'll see, also in this case "the evnt beyond our comprehension" will resolve in the usual "nothing":
(1) I can't see why Mahashivaratri, the festival of Shiva (third person of hindu trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), would have to be an auspicious day for something related to Jesus Christ (second person of christian trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Mahashivaratri is an auspicious day for hindus and Baba's devotees, but it has nothing do to with christianity. And more: "It was on this great and most mysterious occasion, unknown and beyond imagination to the world at large...". Is back again and again these abuondance of "hidden, mysterious, unimaginable, unknown, beyond of our abilities, etc. etc." things. But this is understandable: otherwise, if everything is clear (like in theory it would have to be), how could one have hold and power on people? Anyway, as we can see at the related page, the lingam's "birth" is an event more, more prosaic and comprehensible of what it seems...
(2) But shall we want to stop shouting at the miracle for such events? Any conjurer is able to make conjuring tricks which are much more complex than the one made by SB with the twigs... perhaps this would be a demonstration of "divine power" ? What wonder there is such an exhibition?
(3) Here is the usual Sai Baba's attempt to demolish christian traditions. The message is as following: "the christian iconography and historiography that you know are wrong. I solely, being God, know the truth about Jesus and I show it to you. Trust in what I say to you [and consequently in me, Translator's Note]". However: there are countless Christ's representation in all-times christian iconography, included those in which ribs are showing, or anyway in which Jeusus shows clear signs of the suffering. Moreover, SB says: "He [Jesus] had no food for eight days.". It's instead universally known from the Gospels that Jesus asked his Apostles to prepare what is known to everybody as the Last Supper, and that he consumed it the day before the crucifixion! Wrong as usual... Then an amazing fact: the cross, "created" by SB with the presumed original wood form Christ's cross (we'll see ahead the way by which he got that wood...!), has a hole on the top because "the cross had been originally hung from a standard. " ! How is this possible? If Sai Baba has "created" the cross for Hislop, how could it have been hung before that moment?!?!?! And Hislop "drinks" SB's answer without breathing!
(4) Apart from the comprehensible Hislop's exciting for the gift from his guru, also by looking the photos above one can understand that the cross has absoluting nothing special. But let's make the experts talk; the two following evaluations were drawn form the virtual book "Sai Baba's Miracles An Overview" by Dr.Dale Beyerstein, who presents them this way:
"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 on 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, personal communication, 1988
William S. 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.
Yours sincerely, (signature)
William S.A. Dale, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus.(personal communication)
It seems to me more than sufficient, don't you think?
(5) "...the sky along the Mexican coast was clear and peaceful." The following is an hypothesis. This is a classical example of the search for elements and matchings into an event, being adherent to one's own interpretation of it, AFTER that the event itself happened. It's very likely that Hislop and his wife didn't take care at all of weather conditions that day, unless they record them constantly waiting for the arrival of a"mysterious storm"... it's AFTER the storm that they took care of weather conditions BEFORE it, and since they had yet drawn the conclusion of having relived Jesus' death, in that they were influenced by SB's crucifix, they CONCLUDED that the storm could not have happened "normally". The newspapers would have reported that "mysterious" event and this, in my opinion, shows that it was however a phenomenon shared by all and, even if sudden, natural and not related at all to the cross "created by Sai Baba. Hislop's wife said: "what is now happening is described in the Bible.". Yes, in the Bible is described ONE violent storm, but not THAT violent storm. Otherwise, anyone who assists to a similar evnt around 5 p.m. must think of being reliving Jesus' death...? To be noticed then: "We concluded that we had witnessed a wonder totally beyond our power of imagination.". It seems that the imagination of the more excited Sai devotees has short range and narrow views! It tends to look only for incomprehensible and supernatural phenomenons, and it has an insatiable desire of being surprised by Sai Baba. Is by that way that a storm becomes "...a recapitulation of events related to the crucifixion." It was just a storm! Christ's crucifixion, you will agree, has been a much more long, complex, suffered and composite event.
Finally, an clear example of ingenuity which is near to gullibility: Hislop sent to SB a memo in which he described to his guru the event along with its interpretation ("...and that the significance attributed to it was correct.", thus the signifiance was attributed to it by Hislop). SB answers "...that the event occurred as described...": nice answer! The event was told him by Hislop, who lived it! Perhaps one must be God to tell somebody that a certain fact happened right in the way he (who lived it) told you?!?!?! Moreover SB says "...that the significance attributed to it was correct.". Again! But it was Hislop himself who gave him his divine-supernatural-religious interpretation of the fact! It's obvious that SB agrees, he doesn't ask for anything better. Conclusion: a classical example in which the devotee gives informations to his guru, which then resells them under the form of "wisdom and omniscience". And the devotee is happy, taking this "wisdom" as divine nectar.
(6) Let's make a little example: a piece of the wood of Jesus' cross remains on the ground. As time passes it decays, and it's reduced by bacteriums and microorganisms to other simpler chemical compounds. This process contributes to enrich the ground and that piece of wood becomes, let's say, grass. An animal at random eats that grass, which will become part of its body, and part of the body of the descendants that animal will generate, and part of the body of whoever will eat that animal; and it will also become excrements, which will again enrich the ground... and so on, for around 2.000 years until the day of creation of the cross. Well: Sai Baba has stated to be able to revert this chain, picking up here and there the molecules of the compounds which consituted the animals, the food, the excrements, etc. etc. all of which originated from the molecules of cross' wood from which all started. He has picked up enough to reconstitute the wood necessry for the "creation" of Hislop's cross. And since the process would have been as described, what of the hole on the cross' top? Perhaps the wood of Jesus' cross was perforated...!?!?!?
Would Sai Baba, please, give us JUST ONE, SMALL proof of what he stated, since the importance of such an ability, if true? Otherwise, it's nothing more than a fable... For instance, he could "reach the elements" and reconstitute my dog dead some year ago, which I loved so much... or, he could simply stop saying absurdities.
Finally: needless to say, here again nobody has made a dating of the cross to test its age. Hislop himself, who has been so certain in the conclusion of having relived a scene of 2,000 years ago, didn't take care of verifying if the object which evoked it has the same age...
And that's all... also this one Sai Baba's "miracle", if analyzed without the distorsion of devotion, reveals itself for what it is: a conjuring trick for a important devotee in SB's projects, sold off as an act of unexplicable "divine power".
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