Letter dated 25-4-1988 to Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson


B.PREMANAND, Convener, Indian CSICOP,

10, Chettipalayam Road, Podanur 641 023,

Tamilnadu (INDIA).


Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson, Ph.D.,

University of Iceland, Faculty of Social Science,

101 Reykjavik, ICELAND.


Dear Friend,

I thank you for your letter of 5-2-1988 and your book "Modern Miracles". I was all the while believing that your investigation of the claims of psychic phenomena of Satya Sai Baba was not a biased one, though you have come to wrong conclusions. But your silence on my questions (which you could have answered within two or three hours) by taking shelter under the usual plea of no time due to other pressing duties, make me feel that you may be biased. I wish sincerely that I am wrong and hope to receive your answers.

I have met SSB several times and the first meeting was on 1-1-1970 at Whitefield. I had been a member of his organisation from 1969 to 1976 to understand him fully and understand his miracles. I have seen him producing vibhuthi etc., at close range, but I did not ask for any private interview lest my identity be known.

In your letter as well as in your book, you have welcomed correspondence from any reader who have relevant facts or observation concerning the contents of your book. As almost all the materials collected by you are second hand, letus first take your own personal experience and discuss them.

You have already been informed by Douglas Henning a professional magician that he was certain that he could by his magicians act duplicate all the cases of SSB and he considered the ring incident to be beyond the skills of magicians. He also said that if SSB does produce objects upon demand, this could be a feat no magician could duplicate.

You might have noted that whatever SSB claimed to have produced on demand are only by his subtle prompting like the production of double rudraksha for you.

Then the only psychic phenomena, and according to you - the most impressive incident you personally observed was the disappearance of the enamel picture of SSB from K.O's ring. Here you came to the conclusion that the sleight-of-hand hypothesis seems inapplicable because Sai Baba's hands, or those of potential accomplices, never came near the ring during the incident.

In your book "Modern Miracles" on page 44 you had mentioned that two days earlier of the disappearance of the enamel picture, Dr.Osis had been wondering if the setting was strong enough. That K.O.had taken out his nail clippers and with the file end of it had tried hard to press the four prongs which held the enamel picture. That he satisfied himself that they were as tight as possible.

In your first article published in 1977 in the journal of the American Society for physical Research Vol.71, you did not mention this incident of using a nail clipper to check up whether the enamel picture was strongly fixed. Can you explain how and why K.O. suddenly thought so? Did he have any premonition that he would lose the enamel picture, or did it seem to be loose? Also can you explain why after nine years of publishing your first article you thought of adding this piece in the book? Was it to make the story strong, or was K.O. a stooge of SSB?

Let me quote what late N.Kasturi, Editor of Sanathana Sarathi and the official biographer of SSB had to say about this disappearance and the reappearance. The extract given below is from the book Sathyam Sivam Sundaram, Part IV, first edition, 1980, page 180. You also have referred this book in Modern Miracles.

"Just then, one of the scientists observed that the stone on the ring materialized earlier was missing! All of us started looking for it; but Baba indicated, with a smile, that He had dematerialized it.......

A few days later, Baba called the two scientists two new couples from America, a British citizen and myself into the interview room. Baba enquired about the missing gem-stone; He took the ring back from the person, held it before his face, blew gently upon it thrice and the missing stone reappeared again, firm and beautiful. "It is sankalpa - the will - that does it," he explained"

See how different this story is from yours. Kasturi does not say anything about SSB getting impatient and asking K.O. to look at his ring. He does not say anything about the closing of the fist; he doesnot say anything about the difference in the ring, and from his narration it seems as if the lost stone reappeared on the same ring. I am giving below the extracts from "Modern Miracles" pages 43 to 45 to compare it with Kasturi's story:


Morning and evening at darshan we sat patiently in the sand outside the mandir, until finally he invited us in on the afternoon of the second day after the previous interview.

When we came in, he took Dr. Osis's hands and asked about the ring and the stone. 'Tell me the truth". Then he asked for the ring. It fitted tightly and it was difficult for Dr.Osis to get it off. Then Sai Baba asked, 'Did you like it?" 'Yes' was the answer. 'Would you like the same stone or a different one?' Dr.Osis wanted the same. Sai Baba took the ring in his hand and closed his fist. He held his hand still in front of him for about 10 to 15 seconds. He did not turn or move his hands and he did not bring the other hand near it. Then he opened his hand and on his palm we saw a ring. As far as we could judge, it was a similar to the one he had just taken from Dr. Osis, but not quite the same. Again it was a beautiful golden ring. The stone and its setting looked the same butthe band seemed somewhat altered."

The question here is, why Kasturi had to lie in the biography that the missing stone reappeared on the same ring by blowing gently upon it thrice and why did Satya Sai Baba allow this lie to be incorporated in his biography?

Again your above story published in "Modern Miracles" is quite different from the story you published in 1977. Why did you add the line, "that the ring fitted tightly and it was difficult for Dr.Osis to get it off? Why did you delate the following lines which are in the 1977 article?

"Sai Baba then closed his fingers around the ring in his palm, brought it to about six inches from his mouth, blew at it lightly and then stretching his hand towards us, opened it. In it was the ring. The enamelled picture was like the one that had been framed in the first ring; the ring itself, however was different." and changed it to the lines which I have underlined?

In your article of January 1977 and in "Modern Miracles", you have mentioned having interviewed a British trained Indian Dental Surgeon, Dr.Eruch Fanibunda who is an accomplished magician who had told you that he has found no evidence of fraud in SSB's psychic phenomena. In the bibliography of "Modern Miracles", I find that you have also read and referred Dr. Fanibunda's book "Vision of the Divine".

On page 10 of "Vision of the Divine", you will find that Dr. Fanibunda has claimed that he was one of the persons who witnessed a most remarkable incident of reviving a dead man approximately five hours after he was dead (Walter Cowan) on 25-12-1971.

You have found that the story of resurrection of Walter Cowan was false. Now based on this finding, please let me know what you have to say about Dr.Fanibunda's integrity, truthfulness and trustworthiness and whether his statement that he has not found any fraud in SSB's psychic phenomena could be accepted on its face value without questioning?

Let us now take the story of the resurrection of Walter Cowan investigated by you. I find that you have not been provided with copies of Sanathana Sarathi from its inception, or might be you have not dared to quote from it for fear of your predetermined conclusions getting shattered to pieces. I sincerely wish that you will explain and prove that it is not so.

You mention that during your trip to India in 1975, Mr. Easwar mentioned to Dr.Osis that Sai Baba had told him, 'TO PLAY THE CASE DOWN', I do not know whether you got this information from Dr.Osis or you were also a witness to this. I also do not know whether you checked it with SSB. If you were not a witness, then Dr. Osis is surely an accomplice of SSB. You concluded the findings with the following observation:

"Further more, it is of interest that Kasturi refers only briefly to this incident in his official biography of Baba: he cited, without any comment only a few sentences by Elsie and Walter Cowan (1982,p 23). This may indicate that the case was primarily built up by Mrs. Cowan and she may have received only a half-hearted consenting nod from others around her. (The Cowans were staunch American Devotees and donated the most imposing college building in Whitefield.)"

Your above assumptions are not facts. The story of Cowan's resurrection has also appeared in the following amongst other journals and books:

1. Sanathana Sarathi Vol.16 No.4, June 1973 pages 120 to 125: Article "Turn Him over to me" by N.Kasturi.

2. The News Chronicle SSB's Birthday number dated 23-11-1973, pages 102 to 107.

3. SaiBaba & His Message, Book published by Bell Books, 1976, Chapter 22 titled "Sai Baba and the resurrection of Walter Cowan" pages 236 to 245.

Blitz weekly dated 6-5-1978 pages 12 to 14. (same story)

5. "Vision of the Divine" by Dr. Eruch Fanibunda, 4th edition, 1980 (First Edition 1976) page 10.

6. "Baba Satya Sai" by Ra.Ganapathi pages 270 to 273.

In the wake of the controversy between Dr. A.T.Kovoor and Dr. H.Narasimhaiah on one side and Satya Sai Baba on the other side, this resurrection story was got widely publicised in several news papers and journals, with the undue influence of SSB to boost his falling image by the exposure of many of his miracles. The letter dated 19-12-1979 from the Secretary to the Editor of Blitz bears ample testimony to this fact. I am giving below the text of the letter:

"Thank you for your letter of 15-12-1979 regarding an article in BLITZ of May 6, 1978 on the resurrection of Mr.Cowan. This was a contribution received from one of the many devotees of Sai Baba. Unfortunately we do not have the book titled "Men of Miracles" nor the address of the author. Perhaps you may be able to get the information Sai Baba's Ashram at Puttaparthi, Anantapur District, Andhra Pradesh.

Yours faithfully,

Sd.Secy. to Editor.

I am giving below some extracts from the article "Turn Over to Me" authored by N.Kasturi published in Sanathana Sarathi, Vol.16, No.4, June 1973 pages 120 to 125:

"The attending physician of the hospital, is well known to Sri G.K. Damodara Rao, Retired District & Sessions judge. He told the judge that Walter was indeed dead, when he examined him shortly after arrival. There was no sign of life. He said that he pronounced Walter as dead, that his ears and nose were stuffed with cotton, and that Walter was covered with a sheet and moved into an emtpy room. The doctor had then left the hospital on some professional duty and had missed seeing Sri Baba, when Sri Baba was in hospital. When the doctor returned to the hospital, Walter was alive.

I saw Sri Baba at his place of residence, after he had returned from the hospital continues Dr.Hislp. He told me and others within hearing that Walter Cowan had died and that the hospital had stuffed his ears and nose, and covered him with a sheet. Sri Baba said that he had brought Walter back to life."

In the book "Baba Satya Sai" authored by Ra Ganapthi, pages 270 to 273 let us see how he explains this incident:

"On 25th December, 1971 - Christian day - When Baba was on a visit to Madras, Cowan died at the Connemara Hotel also at Madras. Yes, in a reputed medical clinic at Madras, he was declared clinically dead, his ears and nose were plugged with cotton wool, the body was shrouded up, and put away.

At that very moment, Baba was telling the people by his side "Ayyo papam! if the old lady loses her husband here in India, and goes back to America all by herself, it would be a great tragedy.

Elsie,taking the help of Mrs. Ratanlal the occupant of the adjacent room in the hotel, ran to Baba.

'I shall come to the hotel at about 10 O'clock' said Baba and sent them back. They returned to the hotel and reached the hospital exactly at 10 O'clock. The doctors had gone out then.

One of the employees said, Baba had been here, and have gone back.

Ruefully ruminating, 'Oh God! Has he gone back so soon?' they went to the ward where Walter's body had been left where a wonder awaited them.

It was not just the body, but the sentient, living Cowan!"

As a witness to the resurrection of Walter Cowan, this is what Dr.Fanibunda, the dental surgeon said in his book "Vision of the Divine":

"...... Apart from listening to Divine discussion by Baba and attending other functions, the author witnessed a most remarkable incident which proved to him that Baba's omnipotence embraced not only the manifestation and control of the physical universe, but also the very basis of existence, that is life itself. Baba revived a dead man approximately five hours after he was dead. In brief, this is what happened. In the early hours of the morning of 25th December 1971, Walter Cowan an elderly American gentleman who was a devotee of Baba, died in the Connemara Hotel after a short illness of Pneumonia. He was shifted to the hospital in Madras where the attending doctor certified him dead on arrival. After stuffing his ears and nostrils with cotton wool, the hospital authorities had kept his body in a seperate room. At about 10.00 am. that day, Baba visited the Hospital and gave Walter Cowan back his life."

Now again, let us see what Kasturi said about this incident in Sathyam Sivam Sundaram Part IV in first edition, 1980, page 179:

"They asked Baba, 'Baba, on what basis do you grant grace to persons?' Baba took the question very cooly and expounded his reply: 'I grant Grace when the person has fully surrendered to me and the situation is such that he will be greatly helped. At Madras, Walter had three attacks of heart failure, full and fatal, but I saved his life all the three times for I wished to save Mrs.Cowan the pain and bother of taking her husband back home dead."

In the second edition of the same book, published in 1981, the text is slightly changed on page 162:

"They asked Baba, 'On what basis do you bestow grace upon people?' Baba replied, 'I bestow grace when a person has fully surrendered to Me and when the situation so demands. At Madras Walter had three attacks of heart failure, full and fatal, but I saved his life all the three times, for that was needed."

Changing even the words of a conversation would prove that the story is only an imagination.

G.K.Damodara Rao, the retired District & Sessions Judge, being a responsible office bearer of the Satya Sai Organisations in Tamilnadu, he cannot say that he did not read Sanathana Sarathi and other books published by Satya Sai Baba wherein the story of the resurrection of Walter Cowan was published. If his being a witness to the resurrection of Cowan was false, he would have certainly reacted to his name being used as witness to the death and resurrection. He also kept silent on my registered letters, and later refused to accept the letters.

May be, the story of resurrection of Cowan was perpetuated by SSB with the help of the above people to exploit Mr. and Mrs. Cowan for funds to build the college at Whitefield. Or they may be a party to the huge wealth of SSB transfered to other countries by dubious means and when it was needed they might have sent it back as donation. It is for them to explain.

Now we come to the story of resurrection of Radhakrishna which you have investigated. You have investigated only one of the resurrections of Radhakrishna out of the three. I am wondering why you did not investigate the other two also, when you had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Radhakrishna, their sons, daughters and other members of the family.

I am giving below what Kasturi had to say about other two in Sathyam Sivam Sundaram, Part IV first edition, 1980, page 179:

"The scientists asked Baba whether He had gone out of his body to rescue a man who was drowning in a well at Kuppam village, as was reported by Murphet. Baba said, 'I saved the man, Radhakrishna from drowning. I did not move from here to that place to do that. I was there, already. I am every where at all times. I need not go or come back.'........

Besides it would make America sit up and think of the message of the East, with greater reverence. I brought Radhakrishna back alive for just ten days so that he might WRITE HIS WILL AND COMPLETE LEGAL FORMALITIES ABOUT SUCCESSION. You also ask me about death and extension of life; but you are neither born nor can you die."

In the second edition published in 1981 page 162, Kasturi deleted the sentence in capital letters:

(Ph-2 Photo)

"The scientists asked Baba whether He had gone out of His body to rescue a man who was drowning in a well at Kuppam village as was reported by Murphet. Baba said, 'I did save the man, Radhakrishna, from drowning; but I did not go from here to there to do that. I was there already, I am everywhere at all times. I need not go or come back....

I also brought Radhakrishna back to life for just ten days, because I deemed it necessary. You ask me about death and the extension of life; but I say you are neither born, nor can you die."

When according to SSB one can neither be born nor can he die, how could he bring Cowan and Radhakrishna back to life after they died?

Again, why did SSB hide the fact that he brought Radhakrishna back alive for ten days, so that he might write his will and complete legal formalities about succession in the second edition of his biography part IV? Is he afraid of criminal prosecution for making a false will in the guise of resurrecting Radhakrishna for just ten days? Dadaji, the godman from west Bengal on whom you have written an article with K.Osis, "OBEs in Indian Swamis: Sathya Sai Baba and Dadaji", was sued by the widow of the person who was said to be resurrected by Dadaji just for making his will.

From the diary notes of Mrs. Vijaya Hemchand, daughter of Radhakrishna, you have yourself found out that Radhakrishna was only unconscious and not dead. It was SSB who put into the subconscious mind of Mrs. Radhakrishna by his words, 'I have given life to your husband", that she implicity believed his words and came with the story of Radhakrishna's resurrection.

One has to find out as to who all were the beneficiaries of the will and because of this will who all lost getting a part of Radhakrishna's estate.

To come to the climax to the stories of psychic phenomena of Satya Sai Baba, let me point out to you the statement N.Kasturi made in Sanathana Sarathi, Vo.2 No.2 March 1959:


Devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba felt that spreading His Gospel would contribute to human progress and so, we craved Baba's permission and blessings to start a magazine. But, Baba did not agree. Some months later, we prayed again, we repeated our prayers and did not give up hope. At last, He indicated assent, provided it did not descend into verbal pendantry or arid controversy.

This is the story of the birth of this magazine.

Next, we desired to publish the experiences of devotees and their attitude towards Baba: here too, Baba's reaction was the same. After the initial unwillingness. He yielded to the pressure of many of us and agreed.

This is the history of one year in the life of this magazine.


Based on the above statement of the Editor, if anyone could prove even a tiniest chaff of untruth in the articles published in Sanathana Sarathi will not the creditability of all the stories published about Satya Sai Baba tumble down from the base itself, and also the creditability of the subjective investigations detailed in your book "Modern Miracles" shatter into pieces?

The integrity of the persons who claimed to be witnesses to the alleged psychic phenomena become a questionable one. Are not these witnesses and authors accomplices of SSB's deception? I sincerely hope you are not one amongst them and you will explain me the points I have put to you. I wish you will reply me and stay in touch with me as expressed by you in your letter of 5-2-1988.

With my best wishes,

Yours sincerely,


Back to the Indian Skeptic page

The University of Regensburg neither approves nor disapproves of the opinions expressed here. They are solely the responsibility of the person named below.

[email protected]

Last update:18. September 1998