THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA VANCOUVER, B.C., CANADA V6T IW5
Department of Philosophy 1866 Main Mall, E-370.
Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson, University of Iceland,
Faculty of Social Science, 101, Reykjavik, Iceland.
Dear Doctor Haraldsson,
Thank you so much for your letter of April 6, and apologies for the long pause before this reply. I had sent a letter to Dr.Hislop for his response to your investigation of the Cowan resurrection through the good offices of Dr.Evani of B.C., a Sai devotee, and have been waiting for his response. Also I have been putting together the research as enclosed in SAI BABA'S MIRACLES, which I send you with my compliments. I'm sure you will be interested to have a look at it, particularly the section analyzing the materializations.
I certainly agree with the point you make at the end of your book that in the absence of agreement for controlled testing of claimed paranormal powers, we must make rough and ready judgements analogous with judgements made in court house contexts. (Analogous, but not identical with for obvious reasons). On these sorts of grounds, the evidence seems overwhelming against taking the materialization claims seriously. Sai Baba is caught out in self-puffery in so many instances-allowing omniscience claims when his language abilities are only average, and so on. And not only allowing them but making them himself. And he speaks so loosely in so many ways that his denials that he uses sleight of hand cannot be given any real weight. The overwhelming evidence given the film analysis, it seems, the loose anecdotal nature of the claims, etc., all point so definitely in the direction. Moreoever the wide spread claims of sexual hanky panky and the evidence of association with the gold business -- although not conclusive,--must be seriously entered into the overall picture.
On the questions you asked, "Sam Dalal' is a name given by James Randi. Randi in a phone conversation said that Sai Baba 'materialized' a seiko watch for a Seiko watch company executive visiting India. Sam Dalal asked for the serial number from the executive as I understood it, and got it. The number was then sent back to Japan for tracing. Turns out the number was a watch which was to have been stored in a warehouse not far from the site where the 'materialization' took place. I have written an address given by Randi for Dalal, but received no reply. (Actually two addresses: PO Box 858 Calcutta 700 001 is the more permanent sounding of the two, but Randi wasn't sure whether they were current or not.)
You asked whether he had made first hand observations. If a magician who insists he's doing sidhis or has special 'natural powers is to be checked out, we don't go into the audience. We try to get backstage. Finding out about serial numbers and so on is one way. Analyzing film in frame by frame is another.
On the question of your 'failure' to ask Sai Baba to account for the discrepancies on the Cowan resurrection. Hislop thinks this is a shortcoming of yours. Surely we understand that someone who is clearly 'mythologizing' to put it politely, or making up whatever he please (as with his goof about Jesus not having eaten for days before the crucifixion!) will say whatever he pleases if asked about the Cowan story. As you well recognize it's the overall picture that counts supported by whatever hard evidence one can find. But for the sake of thoroughness, and consistency it seems odd that you don't comment on the fact that you seem so comfortable to draw the negative conclusion on the Cowan case when there is so much evidence of loose talk and hanky panky sorrounding Sai Baba on all scores.
By the way, what do you know about Richard Bock's death? I understand he died in January, and that two other Sai devotees of long standing also died in January. Did Richard Bock die in India or in the US? Do you know anything of the circumstances? I would be interested in any information about this.
B.Premanand's address is:
Mettur Bungalow, 10A, Chettipalayam Road,
Podanur--641 023. Tamilnadu (India)
It is really essential that B.Premanand's many publications on Baba and the social scene in which he functions be closely examined in order to make the kind of balanced assessment of Baba's paranormal claims which you seek to make in the absence of controlled testing. Is it not extremely telling that even after Premanand has hauled the Sai Organization into court for a ruling on his apparent evasion of the gold manufacturer's tax, Sai Baba refuses to settle the issue by agreeing to controlled testing?
Looking forward to your further thoughts,
Premanand mentions Kasturi deletes the Seiko reference after the investigation. Also have you been in touch with Sorcar Jr.? through magician's circles, entertainment agencies, and so on.
I have many other toughts on testing for magic, and would be happy to share them with you as our correspondence continues.
The University of Regensburg neither approves nor disapproves of the opinions expressed here. They are solely the responsibility of the person named below.Gerald_Huber@r.maus.de
Last update: 8 July 1998