A couple of articles on Sai Baba's miracles and materializations
Some words about the authors of the two following articles. The first is Piero Angela: very famous italian anchor-man, journalist, top scientifical divulger, and author of a number of scientifical divulgation books and popular award-winning TV programs such as "Quark", "Superquark" and many others. He's one of the founders members of CICAP, Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sul Paranormale (Italian Commitee for Control over Affirmations on Paranormal, the italian correspondent to the american CSICOP). His article is drawn from "Scienza e Paranormale", the official CICAP's review.
The second article, instead, is from Massimo Polidoro: psychologist, expert on the paranormal and author of many books on the argument, he's responsible for CICAP's investigations, and director of "Scienza e Paranormale". The article is drawn from his book "I segreti dei fachiri" (The secrets of fakirs), written with Luigi Garlaschelli.
Note: the translation from Italian to English of these articles was made personally by me (under permission of the editors), and not by the respective authors. I translated being literally faithful to the original, keeping all the references, bibliography, sources, quotations, etc.
Let's consider what Sai Baba says in this passage, regarding scientists and his refusal to be subjected to tests, to ascertain the genuinity of his alleged "powers":
"However, as I have said again and again, those who want to understand me are welcome here. It is the spirit of the investigation that is important. Foreign parapsychologists have come here and examined me in such a positive and constructive spirit. You have seen their reports. They do not write letters or make public demands.
Narasimhiah's approach was improper; that is why I rejected it. If it were not so, he would have been welcome. I do not call people here so that they may bow to a God. I want them to come, see, hear, study, observe, experience and realize Baba. Then only, they will understand me and appreciate the Avatar."
(quoted from 1976 "Blitz Interview")
Reading this, it seems that actually somebody has succeded to examine SB, drawing from this examination some positive result. The foreign parapsychologists which SB refers to are Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson and Dr. Karlis Osis, authors of the book "Modern Miracles" (Fawcett Columbine, New York, l987) and other articles on this argument. But reading that book, one realizes that there was not any scientifical study at all, that nothing has been proved or denied, really nothing has been studied. The two authors were simply charmed by Sai Baba's personality: he refused any experiment, took them as a joke by saying them something and then doing something else, he talked to them about arguments (obviously spiritual ones) totally different from those they would have liked to talk about, i.e. of scientifical experiments. The two scholars accepted all this willingly, yet sometimes being happy of their relationship with SB. Nothing bad in doing so, but there's nothing scientifical in this behaviour, and nothing useful to judge whether Sai Baba is a charlatan or not. Well these "studies", as well as others as such (no other kind of "scientist" is admitted to Sai Baba's court), are often mentioned by Sai literature and propaganda to show the fact that even scientists had to admit that Sai Baba is what he claims to be. Obviously there are scientists following Sai Baba, but no one of them has been able to prove scientifically (and then beyond any doubt) nothing about SB. They talk about him as any devotee does, and so in that circle they are no longer scientists, but believers. The fact alone of having scientists between his ranks could be a nice propaganda, but certainly it's not a proof of genuinity! But now let's read the two articles.
The "scientifical" studies on Sai Baba
by Piero Angela
What credibility could we set in the spectacular demonstrations of the indian godman Sai Baba? What there is of true in his appearent ability to materialize objects out of nothing? One of the very few attempts of a scientifical study of the alleged Sai Baba's paranormal faculties is that realized by the Icelandic psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson and the colleague Karlis Osis, for the American Society for Psychical Research (APR).
The report of their investigations was published in 1977 on the Journal of ASPR (volume 71, pages 33-43) and reprinted on the July-September issue of the italian periodical magazine Luce e Ombra (*). It is really pathetic to read this report, because it's quite the account of a number of conjuring tricks performed without any control from the presents. With much innocence the two authors write (page 213): "our bid for formal experiments was rejected". And later on (page 219): "We were prepared to make instrumented observations with movie cameras and small sealed or locked enclosures wherein we hoped the objects would appear. Unfortunately, we were told not to use these in Sai Baba's interview room. We filmed him outdoors, waving his hand and producing holy ash, but not at close enough range for decisive analysis". Therefore the scientifical experiments proving psychokinesis would be like these? Come on, let's be serious! Sai Baba's repertoire is the classic one of conjurers, and infact Haraldsson and Osis (page 222) say that the magician Douglas Henning of New York, "was certain that he could by his magician's art duplicate all the cases he saw on the film".
All cases but one: the disappearence of a picture from a ring. Now (and this is not specified) such experiment, from what resulting from the report, was not on the film, but it was only the result of the two psychologists' account. Then how could a magician be pronouncing on whether a trick exists or not, if he wasn't even able to see the experiment? This way of proceeding is extremely meaningful, because it shows the undue attempt to make a professional magician say that he considers an experiment "to be beyond the skills of magicians", while the truth is that the magician was not present at Sai Baba's manipulations, he wasn't even able to see a movie of that experiment, and his opinion is only based on the account from the two psycholgists! But are we joking?
The following phrase, on the other hand, well confirms this way of proceeding; infact Harldsson and Osis write (page 222) that the magician D. Henning "also said that if Sai Baba does produce objects upon demand,this would be a feat no magician could duplicate". Notice carefully: Henning says "if". Who said that Sai Baba really produces effettivamente objects upon demand? It's not known. There are voices spreading around, visitors who referred so, etc. Infact at page 221 the two authors write: "We encountered many witnesses who testified as to such occurrences: the appearance of statuettes of a deity on request, a ring with the picture of a visitor's favorite deity, etc.". Therefore: anonimous visitors refer that Sai Baba produces certain objects upon demand (notice that he doesn't produce upon demand japanese dictionaries or Finnish coins, but the usual sacred images that everybody ask for); these vague "witnessings" become the proof (without any verification) that Sai Baba "produces objects upon demand", and they make a magician (who lives 10.000 km. far away, and who has never seen Sai Baba) to say that if this is true the it's a fact, naturally, which nobody could imitate. Therefore: here is the proof of the genuinity of phenomenas, validated by a professional magician
Who are we trying to take as a joke? Should we therefore consider as scientifical proof of psychokinesis these demonstrations made by a guy: a) refuses the predisposed controls; b) makes the standard magicians' manipulations; c) only allows to be filmed from a certain distance; d) performs exercises that a professional magician, once having viewed the films, says to be able to replicate (the other stuff is not based on experiments or films, but on vagues witnessings of incompetent people or on popular accounts). All this would represent a scientifical documentation? No comment. I believe that is better to keep silent, at this point.
(*) Haraldsson, E. and K. Osis, 1977, "The appearance and Disappearance of Objects in the Presence of Sathya Sai Baba", Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71, pages 33-43. (translated: 1978, "Comparsa e scomparsa di oggetti in presenza di Sathya Sai Baba", Luce e Ombra, July-September, 78, 3, pages 211-224)
The opinion of a parapsychologist:
Regarding Sai Baba and Haraldsson, the swedish parapsychologist Martin Johnson, the first covering the role of parapsychology professor (at the university of university of Utrecht, in Holland) declared: "Personally, it amazes me that an intelligent and honest person like Erlendur Haraldsson could seriously consider the possibility that Sai Baba, or the lower-calibred Babas, could be something else than a common charlatan" (quoted in: Hoebens, H.P., 1983-84, "Sense and nonsense in Parapsychology", Skeptical Inquirer, Winter, p.128).
(Article drawn from "Scienza e Paranormale", n.19, 6th year, May/June 1998, page 18)
The case of Sai Baba: the godman... conjurer
by Massimo Polidoro
There's an old saying that sounds like this: "If it seems a fish, swims like a fish, has the taste of a fish and smells of fish, very probably it's a fish". Naturallly, if then we have the chance to examine the object in question, we can develop strong and undoubted evidences of the fact that it is a fish or not. The more we examine the object, the more certain we can be of its identity. However, to have a definitive answer, we'll have inevitably to consult an ichthyologist.
This is more or less what happens with Satya Sai Baba, the most famous indian "godman". Thousands of peoples are ready to swear of having assisted to genuine miracles at his presence. Miracles which he seems to be repeating from about 40 years for all his devotees. Miracles which, however, have all the appearence of conjuring tricks.
What does Sai Baba of so much unbelievable? Apparently he produces vibhuti (sacred ash), "materializes" golden rings with his image, watches, pendants, little statues and other gifts for his devotees. And he does it exactly the same way a magician can do it. It may be intersting to discover that the gold rings with his picture are not made of gold at all, but they are made of tin: it has been even found the factory that produces them for him. The rare, authentic pieces of jewelry are "materialized" only for that few important men and women on whom he wants to make a particular impression; it's well known, infact, that Sai Baba cultivates with great interest powerful and useful frendiships. Unfortunately for him, from the serial number of one of these gifts (a Seiko watch) it was possible to go back to the japanese producer and to the indian seller who sold it. Therefore, even Gods are making use of shops? Moreover, by observing some TV sequences of Sai Baba in action, it's possible to see him clearly while performing conjuring tricks to materialize objects.
It's said that scientists and other "intelligent and respectful" people have examined Sai Baba's miracles and they become fully convinced of its genuinity. One of these researchers is Erlendur Haraldsson, parapsychologist from Reykjavik, in Iceland, who visited the godman various times in India and wrote a book about his experiences. Here Haraldsson declares: "I have studied and filmed the miracles of Sai Baba. They are absolutely genuine. Science is not able to explain them - but this doesn't make them less real". And what are the extraordinary proofs for such an extraordinary affirmation? "I myself have observed him day by day", says Haraldsson.
There is an evident need to clarify some things: Haraldsson surely could be a sharp and intelligent scientist but, as the whole story of parapsichology teaches, this doesn't protect him from possible tricks. Has ever Haraldsson asked a conjurer? It seems he did so, but only after he returned from India. He told some episodes to which he assisted to a famous american magician, Doug Henning, and asked him if he would have been able to repeat the tricks of the godman.
This is exactly the strategy to follow if one doesn't want to solve the problem: it's equal to close the gate after the horses ran away. If one wants to use the advice of a magician it's fundamental, as a minimum thing, that he sees personally the would-be sensitive in action.
The alleged resurrections and healings
Sai Baba's devotees mention two cases in which he would have be resuscitated a dead. The first dates up to 1953. It regards a person from Kuppam named Radhakrishna, who was said to be dead and his body whas already decomposing when Sai Baba brought him back to life. In reality, as the same Haraldsson had been able to ascertain, from the diary of Radhakrishna's daughter emerged that the father was in a delirium state (therefore he was alive) during the three days in which he was allegedly decomposing. His relatives thought he was dead an hour before Sai Baba's arrival, bu no doctor was present to ascertain the rigor mortis and there's not any proof that Radhakrishna was really dead at that time.
The second case is that of Walter Cowan, a wealthy californian that, according to the account of Sai Baba's believers, was declared dead by two doctors in 1971. But O.G.C. Vaz, the physician who was taking care of Cowan, has publicly said that Cowan was never declared as deceased and that when he was admitted to hospital he was no doubt in a bad state, but surely he wasn't dead. Other physicians of the hospital confirmed that Cowan "was brought back to consciousness through standard cardio-respiratory techniques". Haraldsson, although considering Sai Baba an authentic man of miracles, confirms that there are no proofs that he has ever resuscitated somebody. Despite this, still now Sai Baba claims to have brought back Cowan after death.
Others say that Sai Baba could heal the illnesses from distance: not even here are existing convincing proofs that this is true. Usually, when something good happens to Sai Baba's devotees, they are ready to ascribe to him the positive event (that never happens when something bad happens to them). It's meaningful the episode of Sai Baba's brother-in-law, told by Haraldsson, an unsuspicious source. After the bite of a rabid dog, the man was told to immediately subject himself to an anti-tetanus injection. His family refused, saying that if there was really a dangers, Sai Baba would have protected him. Sai Baba arrived at his brother-in-law's home, but in spite of his presence the man died.
In June 1993, six executives of Sai Baba's organization were killed in his palace at Puttaparthi, after a presumed attempetd assassination of the godman. Although Sai Baba claims to be omniscient, it seems that he didn't forecast the event and moreover, although he claims also to be omnipotent, he hasn't done nothing to avoid the death of his followers, whom certainly were not of a low level: some helped Sai Baba in the materializations, other were responsibile of the administration of the cospicuous donations that Sai Baba receives and which are indian taxes free.
Sai Baba's magic exposed
According to Premanand, the alleged materialization of gold objects in favor of wealthy and influent indian families, represents a convenient way to allow those families to possess gold, in contempt to the anti-smuggling legislation in force in India. For years, Premanand tried to get Sai Baba incriminated for outlaw production of gold objects; but according to indian courts, the way Sai Baba obtains those objects couldn't be considered a "normal production"!
As we've already said, there are many video sequences documenting the improbable materialization of objects out of nothing. On 23 November 1992 the indian newspaper Deccan Chronicle opened first page with the following title: "A video from indian television discloses Sai Baba's magic". In the article was explained that at a manifestazione happened in Hyderabad on 29 August 1992 the indian television made some broadcasts in which it was possible to see Sai Baba, the famous indian godman, in the act of cheating. In the film it was possible to observe Sai Baba receiving a big trophy from the hands of an assistant, putting his hands under the trophy's base, touching his assistants's hands, then passing the trophy to the architect who designed the hall in which the manifestation was happening. At this point, he removes his hands keeping one fist closed; after some moment from the hand fist-closed appears a golden chain. It's reasonable to suppose that the chain was passed him bythe assistant, with the coverage of the trophy. The newspaper informs us that when the authorities noticed that in the video was possible to catch Sai Baba red-handed, they made any effort to destroy all the existing copies of the video.
Two parapsychologists, Erlendur Haraldsson and Richard Wiseman, who had examined the video (Journal of the SPR, Vol. 60, n. 839, April 1995), are however of the opinion that, since it is not possible to see with certainty the chain passing from the assistant's hand to Sai Baba's hand, beacuse of trophy's base coverage, even if the movements could sem to be suspicious, one cannot state with certainty that such exchange really happened.
An absolutely reasonable observation, according to which, since it's impossible to see the magician hiding the rabbit into the cylinder, we cannot say with certainty that he really has not materialezd it.
How to "materialize" the vibuthi (click on images to enlarge)
In this image: on the left Sai Baba materializes vibuthi, the sacred sand; on the right, Premanand shows that it's possible to obtain the same phenomena without claiming miracolous powers. How?
It's necessary to prepare in advance a small ball of starch and ash, then hide the ball between thumb and hand's palm, to be crushed later on, at the moment of producing the "materialization". [Site's author note: at this regard, it's interesting to notice that SB has the habit to take an handkerchief from an assistant in order to clean his hands, almost every time he "materializes" vibuthi among people; perhaps he does it to "resupply" vibuthi balls...?]
Bilocations and other miracles
As often happens with saints and godmen, Sai Baba's life as well is studded with very fanciful episodes which, however, are not confirmed by any convincing proof. It is the case, e.g., of the alleged bilocations. It doesn't exist any proof that Sai Baba (and, however, nobody else) is able to bilocate himself, i.e. to be present in two places at the same time. What that usually happens in these cases, is that someone sees a person "who resembles" Sai Baba, while the latter is surely present elsewhere. In these cases, nobody ever takes photos or videos. Moreover, it's known the existance of another would-be godman, Neelakantha Baba, who cultivates his look in order to appear as a Sai Baba's double. According to some people, at the beginning of his career Neelakantha would have acted as Sai Baba's double to simulate bilocations and only subsequently he would have undertaken an individual career.
In the picture, taken from a cover of "SOKAREN": Neelakantha or "Bala" Sai Baba, the "double" mentioned by Massimo Polidoro. Bala Sai Baba is also mentioned in the article "New Heaven New Earth - special report: Sai Baba".
Always regarding materializations, every year it's held the "vibuthi abheshekam" ceremony, where Sai Baba throws on a little statue a great quantity of sacred sand, from an appearently empty vessel. The vessel is narrow at the opening (enough to let one hand pass through it) and wide on the lower part: the depth is enough to allow Sai Baba to introduce the arm up to the elbow. The vessel is brought on the stage; the assistants raise it up and turn it upside-down, with the opening directed toward the ground. Sai Baba inserts a finger into the opening and starts turning it around along the vessel's border: vibuthi starts flowing down. As the ceremony goes on, Sai Baba inserts into the vessel the hand and then the arm, while rotatory movements become more and more vigorous and vibuthi keeps on flowing out. Is somebody could check the vessel before the ceremony, very probably he would discover that its internal surfaces are full of pressed vibuthi, that Sai Baba scrapes with his rotatory movements, making it falling on the ground. At the end the quantity of collected sand is never higher than the quantity which could be comfortably contained into the vessel. Barry L. Beyerstein managed an experiment and he has verified that is possible to smear liquid vibuthi on the surfaces of any object: vibuthi dries up quickly and, at that point, one could easily detach it by scraping with a finger.
Above: Sai Baba performing the "miracle" of the "vibuthi abheshekam".
Another famous Sai Baba's demonstration was the production of "lingam", egg-shaped objects coming out from his mouth. Since he had been 50 years old, Sai Baba stopped to produce "lingam", and this is reasonable if the technique he used was the one already known at the time of Harry Houdini: the regurgitation. In his book Miracle mongers and Their Methods, of 1922, Houdini explains how to get accustomed to regurgitate big objects swallowed in advance: as a training, is good to start with small potatoes tied to a small cord.
If Sai Baba would really be the divinity he claims to be, it's improbable that he would loose his time materializing sand, watches and pendants in a Country where the people still dies of hunger and illnesses. It is said that Sai Baba, with the cospicuous donations that he receives, has built an hospital for the poors. It's true, the hospital exists, but informing ourselves well we discover that it is not exactly for the poors and that in reality the admission is charged, as it happens in any private hospital. Unfortunately truth is no interest to Sai Baba's followers who grab on his alleged supernatural skills with huge tenacity.
What it's important to remark, at this point, is that Sai Baba never subjected himself to any kind of controlled observation (less than ever in front of a competent magician); on the other hand, his follower say, "God certainly has no need to show his power to science". But then please stay inside the religious discussion without pretending, as Haraldsson and other parapsychologists do, to persuade the world that Sai Baba's alleged prodigies are genuine and they have no scientifical explanations. The explanations exist, then it's up to the single individuals to consider these explanations or to revere a man who gifts little heaps of ash and custom jewelry. The only thing we can do is to keep on challenging the godman, even if it's sure that he'll never answer to the requested verifications, offering the excuse that he's quite beyond this level. However he's right: he would have everything to loose accepting a rigorous scientifical investigation, which would expose him as what he really is: a godman... conjurer.
D. Beyerstein, Sai Baba's Miracles: An Overview, B. Premanand Publisher, Podanur (India), 1994.
E. Haraldsson, Modern Miracles: An Investigative Report on Psychic Phenomena Associated with Sathya Sai Baba, Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1988; cfr. I Moderni Miracoli di Sai Baba, Armenia Pan Geo, Italy, 1989.
J. Hislop, My Baba and I, Birth Day Publishing, San Diego, 1985.
A. Pavese, Sai Baba, Piemme, Casale Monferrato, Italy, 1992.
B. Premanand, The story of Godmen and Diamond Smuggling, B. Premanand Publisher, Podanur (India), 1981. Lure of Miracles, B. Premanand Publisher, Podanur (India), 1982. Sathya Sai Baba and the Gold Control Act, B. Premanand Publisher, Podanur (India), 1986.
(This article is the 6th chapter of the book "I segreti dei fachiri" (The secrets of fakirs), by Luigi Garlaschelli and Massimo Polidoro, published by Avverbi edizioni - Rome, Italy)
There's something more to say on the argument. As perhaps we've already seen, according to the usual pro-Sai Baba propaganda, there is a supposed crowd of ex skeptics, scientists, etc., who would have fallen at SB's feet after having watched his miracles. The implicit purpose of these statements is to show that even the most hard scientists and rationalists, and indeed many of them, believe in Sai Baba and endorse his divinity; but in reality these are the same 4 or 5 names which are continuously repeated from long years. Here's an example, drawn from the italian article "Sai Baba, il divino Avatar (Sai Baba, the divine Avatar)" by Alfredo Lissoni, available on the site Esonet:
"The extraordinary faculties of Sai Baba have won the resistances of the most skeptical scholars, from the indian nuclear physicist Bhagavantam, who later on became one of his most ardent supporters, to the guru Sai Path, who went to challenge Sai Baba and instead he got cured by him of an articular paralysis, to two western scientists, Karl Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson. They have recently stated: In our activity of researchers we have examined tenth abbiamo esaminato several tens of supposed materializations and teleportings, always remaining skeptics, but with Sai Baba it's different. As we have written in a report for the american society for psychical research, we have ascertained that the phenomena we have observed are genuine ones, they are not produced with tricks.
Among the persuaded ones we find the indian magician Eruch Fanibunda, who seeing Sai Baba at work has excluded any form of sleight-of-hand, and the catholic priest Father Mario Mazzoleni, who was suspended "a divini" and excommunicated by the Church in 1992, since he publicly acknowledged Baba's holiness.
Sai Baba performs an average of 20 to 30 materializations per day. In twenty years - said the physicist Bhagavantam - I watched thousands of prodigies performed by Sai Baba. I have not been able to reconcile my own concepts on the working of phsysical laws with those prodigies, but I've understood that there are many realities trascending science... "
(source: Alfredo Lissoni, "Sai Baba, il divino Avatar", from Esonet. Personal translation)
Obviously here is carefully avoided to mention that Fanibunda is just an amateur magician (how much conclusive could it be his "exclusion of sleight-of-hand"?), that many skeptical scholars kept on criticizing and exposing Sai Baba's tricks: tra questi Premanand, Kovoor, Narasimhiah (tutti indiani...). Due to their revelations, Sai Baba had to stop performing some of his most "exciting miracles". In the same way it's avoided to mention the magicians who instead have noticed the presence of sleight-of-hand, and who were able to reproduce many SB's "miracles" or have stated with certainty to be able to do so: e.g. Premanand again and P. C. Sorcar (both indians), and Douglas Henning from New York, quite the magician summoned by Harldsson and Osis.
Regarding Bhagavantam's reliability as a scientists bound to Sai Baba, it's enough to remember that he is the author and spreader of the false materialization of the Seiko watch, and that his conduct in that case was anything but worthy of a scientist with such titles. In truth, he behave as a common devotee. If a scientist could be allowed to follow SB as such, he would have granted the chance to study SB as a scientist, that insetad nobody has never been able to do. In such conditions, it doesn't matter whether a devotee is a scientist or not: he's always just a devotee, and he behaves as such. And this certainly doesn't give more titles to Sai Baba.
Regarding Mario Mazzoleni (who, since he has been excommunicated, is no longer the catholic priest Father Mario Mazzoleni), he has not been excommunicated because he acknowledged Sai Baba's "holiness", but because he acknowledged his divinity, and he practically recognized him the status of "Christ". He acknowledged SB as God and professed faith in him, and doing so he evidently went against many of the basic rules and dogmas which regulate and rule the Catholic Church. In his last book "L'intervista (The interview)", in the chapter which tells the story of the excommunication, we can clearly read that Mazzoleni has denied some basical truths of his Church, such as the Eucharist, the unicity of Christ, etc.; and he did so willingly and knowinlgy. Thus it is no surprise that the cardinal Ruini, however after having offered Mazzoleni the chance to think upon the question and the time to do it, has resolved that Mazzoleni couldn't be no longer a priest, since he was denying some basical rulse of his own ministry. And Mazzoleni was perfectly aware of this; but somehow there's always the attempt to show him as a martyr, a victim of the "obtuseness of the Catholic Church which has not recognized God Incarnated".
Finally, again on Harldsson and Osis: we touch again the point treated by Piero Angela. Again there is the attempt to show their work as a scientifical investigation on Sai Baba. Infact the two parapsychologists state: "we have ascertained that the phenomena we have observed are genuine ones, they are not produced with tricks". And how did they have "ascertained" this?. Let's read:
"We observed some 21 appearances and disappearances of objects at close range, but none under controlled conditions. [...] The alleged paranormal appearance and disappearance of objects has been a tough problem for psychical research in the sense that observations are rarely permitted under conditions which would exclude all possible normal causes. We were prepared to make instrumented observations with movie cameras and small sealed or locked enclosures wherein we hoped the objects would appear. Unfortunately, we were told not to use these in Sai Baba's interview room. We filmed him outdoors, waving his hand and producing holy ash, but not at close enough range for decisive analysis. All we have are observations made under semi-spontaneous conditions. Therefore, all our conclusions have to be extremely tentative."
(from Haraldsson and Osis, "The appearance and Disappearance of Objects in the Presence of Sathya Sai Baba", 1977)
The meaning of these observations of two parapsychologists is quite simple: they have not ascertained nothing at all. Reading the book "Modern Miracles" by Haraldsson/Osis, the work that best summarizes their "researchings" on Sai Baba, one understands that all they have done was to collect stories from many devotees (many of which were inaccurate, without dates and details), and from some ex-devotee (none of them was however clearly against Sai Baba), and to make comparisons between those stories; all this with added with direct observations of the miracles, performed as we have read above without any chance of control. However, the real scientifical attitude of the two parapsychologists is already evident in the foreword of the book (written by Karlis Osis), which seems to be there only for Sai Baba's sake:
"Neither Haraldsson nor I were able to persuade Baba to participate in experiments. Nothing would have clinched the matter so well as, say, a week or two spent in the best parapsychological laboratories in the world, and that we offered. Nevertheless I could understand the reluctance of a religious leader of millions to submit to experimental protocol designed by people of different beliefs and cultures. After all no one asked the Pope to go to the laboratory, before his holiness could be trusted."
(Karlis Osis, from the foreword to "Modern Miracles" by Erlendur Haraldsson.)
These are the words of a supporter, not those of an experimental scientists. Any good experimenter, looking at the premises we've seen above, would have classified the investigation as "non conclusive" and rejected it, and he would have turned to other matters. Here instead there's anyway the attempt to palm off Sai Baba's "miracles" as genuine and ascertained ones. Is this a reliable and scientifical method?
Let's then notice that it wouldn't be SB's holiness or doctrine to be put under examination, but rather his claims to create out of nothing, to heal, to resuscitate... in brief to violate a number of natural laws without giving a single reliable and objective proof. A valid experimenter, even if different from Sai Baba in faith and culture, would only stick to facts, data and experimental results. Therefore Osis' agreement with SB's refusal to experiments basing on that reason is quite unscientifical, and very favourable to SB's views on the question.
The same is for the last observation on the Pope. There's a subtle difference between Sai Baba and the Pope: the latter has never claimed to be omnipotent, to create matter out of nothing, to bilocate, to resurrect the dead... a Pope always remains steady in the field which is proper of faith alone, and for this reason nobody will never ask him to submit to experiments, or rather nobody will never be able to ask him so, since there's nothing to be scientifically investigated in what a Pope says or does. One instead could not say the same about Sai Baba, who is a far different phenomenon. But this is not interesting to Sai Baba's "scientists" and devotees. The only important thing is to keep on believing, at any cost, that Sai Baba performs miracles and that he's "God".
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