Robert Priddy’s “Disempowerment” Article 05
A response to Robert Priddy’s “Disempowerment In Worshipping Gurus”: Article 05:
Referenced from: home.no.net/anir/Sai/enigma/dis5.htm
“Part Five - Sai ‘Groupthink’ & Dominance through Psychic Manipulation: It has been shown indisputably here and elsewhere that the Sai movement relies very heavily on what are known as ‘group effect’ and ‘groupthink’ in its efforts to avert realities and avoid external (or internal) criticism,and reject witnesses and any evidence contrary to its beliefs about facts. As is evident, the single keystone tenet upon which everything depends and which therefore must be enforced as a condition of membership in the Sai Organisation - and for one’s acceptance in the movement - is that Sai Baba of Puttaparthi alone is God Incarnate, the all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent Avatar of the Age come to save humanity from itself and destruction. (Hilariously, one studiously avoids mentioning that SSB is documented in his own literature as saying that - similar to his alleged former incarnation Krishna - he will have to lift an entire range of mountains single-handedly to avert a vast catastrophe).”
My Response: All groups, not just SSB groups, rely on the “group effect”. That is usually why they are groups to begin with. Groups usually form when people share common interests or beliefs and usually congregate to discuss, celebrate or practice their common interests or beliefs. Even Anti-SSB Activists heavily rely on the “group effect”. This is evidenced on how Anti-SSB Activists forward Pro-SSB (or critical emails) they receive, to each other, so that their Anti-SSB group can collectively attack the person who sent the email. This is also evidenced on how ExBaba.com, SaiGuru.net, SaiPetition.net and Robert Priddy all banned my site from linking to them. Robert Priddy is not aware that the same critical stance he takes on the “group effect” has incisive and direct ramifications on the Anti-SSB group he belongs to.
Robert Priddy once believed (and preached) that SSB was “God Incarnate, the all-knowing, all-powerful omnipresent Avatar of the Age”. It is indeed true that SSB has said that he will lift an entire mountain range to avert a great catastrophe. SSB is entirely responsible for these astounding claims that he makes, and any criticisms about these miraculous claims are completely valid.
“‘Group effect’ is an experimentally-proven source of wrong decision-making in a group due to the tendency and desire to conform. What others in a group think quite easily influences persons who have different ideas and perceptions into denying their own conviction. Similarly, ‘groupthink’ - a concept introduced by Irving Janis in Victims of Groupthink (1972) - is a process whereby a group under pressure to make decisions arrives at false conclusions due to the group itself.”
My Response: This response is very amusing. I happen to agree with this comment, from Robert Priddy. However, it is amusing that Robert Priddy points fingers but does not take into consideration the fact that Anti-SSB Activists (including Robert Priddy) belong to a “group” and easily influence and pressure each other to make decisions and arrive at false conclusions “due to the group itself”!
“‘Groupthink’ results from selectivity of information, avoidance of criticism of the groups’ integrative ideas and from not studying enough alternatives. This is accompanied by a false sense of security/being invulnerable, strong belief in the group’s ideals and shared stereotypes, suppression of one’s feelings and sustaining illusory unanimity such as though defensive rationalisations. Group pressure to conform is involved - whether subtle or blatant, implicit or explicit. (see also Tim Borchers of Moorhead State University)”
My Response: Funny enough, this description sounds like an amazingly accurate description of the Anti-SSB Group! They are selective in their information (disinformation), they avoid criticism of their ideas and not studying alternatives, they share the same ideals, stereotypes and sustain illusory unanimity of defensive rationalisations! Undeniably, the Anti-SSB Group has group pressure sources that are subtle, blatant, implicit and explicit! Just read ExBaba.com’s Letters Section and one can clearly see the dominance displayed by some Anti-SSB Activists, and the sheep mentality of those who are not quite as vocal or prominent.
“Group entrapment: Those who have become deeply involved and who live and move socially almost only within the confines of the SSB ‘mini-world’, are psychologically debilitated in their reality judgements, and their wills have been weakened so that they are psychically incapacitated for investigating the various serious allegations and massed evidence against SSB. The blinkers result from a long process of ’spiritual double-thinking’, mostly carried out by themselves by following the teaching of SSB. To ‘internalise’ the ideology through personal self-censorship and self-denigration is truly ‘the essence of what is commonly called brain-washing’. The mass of Sai followers know roughly as much - and as little - about SSB’s life and doings behind the scenes as your average Soviet citizen did about their leaders. They also awaited utopia endlessly and praised their leader to the skies as the infallible saviour.”
My Response: We must remember that Robert Priddy was a SSB devotee for 17 years and, consequently, was one of these people who was, “psychologically debilitated in their reality judgements, and their wills have been weakened so that they are psychically incapacitated”! Once again, as I have pointed out before, Robert Priddy is criticizing SSB devotees as being cases of neuroses and pathologies, however, Robert Priddy is not including himself in this group, despite his SSB devotee status for 17 years!
Most of Robert Priddy’s claims to “massed evidence” are unsubstantiated, anonymous and deceptive stories. That is why not even one Anti-SSB Activists has filed charges against SSB in a court of law for sexual impropriety. The more I research the various articles, put out by “Witnesses” and by Anti-SSB Activists, the more contradictions, conflations and misrepresentations arise. Despite this fact, and despite the fact that not even one Anti-SSB Activists has been able to factually discredit any of my points of contention, Robert Priddy and his Anti-SSB bandit are the only ones who are demonstrating their “psychological debilitation in their reality of judgments”.
“The need of anyone who is sufficiently entrapped in the beliefs and the supporting stories, is for an often false sense of worth and meaning it engenders (especially at the outset) as a servant of someone higher. Such a need ensures that they soon cannot do without the Sai community. This is similar in numerous ways to Soviet citizens’ dependency on the totalitarian State and the Great Leader’s carefully-manicured personality cult, so often seen in the 20th century. Many of the limitations they must accept are also similar, from censorship to totally uncritical subservience and de-individualisation to quite rigorous thought control… even though other conditions are, of course, far less severe for most devotees (if not all, such as those who have been murdered).”
My Response: If people fully practice the beliefs, tenets, commandments and dictates of their own chosen faith or religion, Robert Priddy is saying that they are “entrapped in the beliefs and the supporting stories”. This means, of course, that Robert Priddy is judging billions of people who happen to practice the beliefs, tenets, commandments and dictates of their own chosen faith or religion. That SSB Devotees practice SSB teaching is a no-brainer. After all, they are his devotees! I do not know anyone, who is a SSB devotee, who feels that they are being “censored” or who feel that they are “totally subservient” or who feel that they are being “de-individualized”. I guess, once again, Robert Priddy is sharing the things he went through when he was a devotee for 17 years.
Once again, Robert Priddy makes references to people who have been “murdered”. This obviously refers to the 1993 murders. Robert Priddy has written much in regards to the 1993 murders and relies on anonymous persons, newspaper articles (that Robert Priddy shamelessly embellished) and the alleged testimony of V.K. Narasimham (a SSB Devotee to whom Robert Priddy attributed all sorts of rubbish after V.K.N died, in an effort to quash verification of his claims).
“The inter-personal competitive mentality The teaching runs that one must overcome one’s ego through self-sacrifices and service of others, never criticising anyone or even thinking anything negative about them. Selflessness is the ideal, putting oneself last and never talking oneself up or taking advantage of others in any way. Devotees are always going on about it in talk and in print. But many visitors to ashrams have noticed how this applies less so in their observable actions. Coming to the ashram for the first time is a shock for many, because people are really hardly different to others… except, that is, in the degree of pushiness where any opportunity arises to get ahead of others to obtain supposed blessings. This is taken by the great majority to be a question of getting as physically close to SSB as one can… front row at darshan if possible, interview if it can be arranged, whether by hook or by crook and so on. This jostle of aspiring souls (or shall we say ‘egos’?) never stops, and it can become quite relentless on occasion. It is soon met in the ashram, where push comes to shove in the canteens, in shop queues and not least in the punishing hour-long invalid queues for a darshan seat.”
My Response: The points that Robert Priddy makes, in this paragraph, are true as I have personally seen it for myself.
“It was illumining to note how persons who are given special status by SSB are prone to mentioning (mostly in an offhand way) the blessings that have been conferred on them. While it is natural to speak to some people about one’s positive experiences, some do it in an unassuming way, while others manage to demonstrate their pride or prominence through this. These persons stand out because of their self-advertisement, while there are doubtless many who do not make much of themselves or keep themselves to themselves. A small example: one top Danish leader (now a Central Coordinator) flaunted the fact that he had been given ’special prasad’ by SSB by announcing it to a large group who were waiting for him to conduct them on a visit - then making them wait while he shared it with another VIP and relished it together with their wives in front of about 20 persons. These prominence-seeking people make sure that everyone possible gets to hear of their interviews and importance in the scheme of things, though they pretend to be unassuming.”
My Response: Or, perhaps the Danish Leader was overjoyed about receiving SSB’s “special prashad” and Robert Priddy was envious that the Danish Leader got some and he didn’t! This is also a very valid point, especially considering how Robert Priddy is so judgmental about it all. I have often seen that when a person gets many interviews and they are quiet about it, Anti-SSB Activists see something suspicious going on. However, in this instance, if someone divulges the details of their interviews, joyously and openly, they are egotists! Again, this highlights the classic cult-like mentality of “us versus them”. Robert Priddy also derides this Danish Leader for making the group wait while he, and a fellow VIP, ate the prashad. This is laughable considering that the prashad, that SSB usually gives, is a pastry that can fit entirely in one’s mouth! Robert Priddy is making it sound like the Danish Leader made the group wait an exorbitant length of time to finish eating the prashad. The group probably didn’t have to wait more than a minute before they finished the prashad! Of course, to someone who has never been to see SSB, these facts would not be evident. Don’t expect Robert Priddy to give the details!
“Among those who take interviews and other visible signs or supposed Sai blessings to be of lesser importance are often far less pushy or self-important. In my experience, the main body of followers who live according to spiritual ideals in simple everyday and, for example, who do the real grass root service work, seldom aim to be noticed. They tend to be undervalued and their opinions are invariably ignored by officials. They also tend to be more percipient and have learned more from life experience. People of qualities that are not superficially visible or easily observed by others are also well-represented among those who fall away from the organisation or movement after a decade or so.”
My Response: Robert Priddy clearly says that those who get interviews and “visible signs” of SSB’s blessing, are “often far less pushy or self-important”. Of course, this directly contradicts Robert Priddy’s previous paragraph in which he said it was the other way around! Then, we have Robert Priddy saying that, in his experience, “the main body of followers who live according to spiritual ideals in simple everyday and, for example, who do the real grass root service work, seldom aim to be noticed”. This completely contradicts Robert Priddy’s position in his Personal Disempowerment Article #4 in which he says that, “In all matters of any real significance (as well as in absurd time-wasting or otherwise futile activities which are part of all Sai routines at ashrams etc.), one simply has to do what one is told. How far followers actually do this when not under observations is doubtful, for many pay lip-service to the accepted precepts and taboos, but covertly do what suits them (probably on account of psychological necessity). This helps explain the atmosphere of inauthenticity (gushing talk, the Polyanna attitude, religious hyperbole etc.) and double morals that so clearly mark out members of most religious sects” and “One can meet many such cases (especially foreigners) who reside at the ashrams but are doing no work, no ‘active service’. Often they are virtually just existing in limbo, coping only with the constant daily problems of subsistence there, and waiting for grace and blessings to fall into their laps.”
This is even contradicted in the points that Robert Priddy made in this very article when he said, “Coming to the ashram for the first time is a shock for many, because people are really hardly different to others… except, that is, in the degree of pushiness where any opportunity arises to get ahead of others to obtain supposed blessings. This is taken by the great majority to be a question of getting as physically close to SSB as one can… front row at darshan if possible, interview if it can be arranged, whether by hook or by crook and so on. This jostle of aspiring souls (or shall we say ‘egos’?) never stops, and it can become quite relentless on occasion. It is soon met in the ashram, where push comes to shove in the canteens, in shop queues and not least in the punishing hour-long invalid queues for a darshan seat.”
Robert Priddy is changing his tune (again) when he said, “In my experience, the main body of followers who live according to spiritual ideals in simple everyday and, for example, who do the real grass root service work, seldom aim to be noticed. They tend to be undervalued and their opinions are invariably ignored by officials. They also tend to be more percipient and have learned more from life experience. People of qualities that are not superficially visible or easily observed by others are also well-represented among those who fall away from the organisation or movement after a decade or so”! Clearly, Robert Priddy is trying to slither his way into the devotee fold with double talk! Robert Priddy has spent the previous 4 Disempowerment Articles bashing SSB devotees as being gullible, psychologically weakened, having self-esteem problems, having vulnerable consciousnesses, being lazy, primitive, unintelligent, being self-deprecatory, resorting to religious hyperbole, not being discerning, being repressed projectors, being brainwashed, belonging to a cult, resorting to escapism and becoming mental, emotional and physical wrecks that litter the streets of India! Now, however, Robert Priddy is saying that SSB devotees are actually sincere people who seldom aim to be noticed and who possess genuine qualities! Robert Priddy talking out of both sides of his mouth…again.
“Persons who have been feted with interviews etc. by SSB - as well as ‘unfortunates’ who have given up hope of getting any such actual contact - will sometimes speak with an implicit ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude.”
My Response: Far be if from Robert Priddy to cast stones about others having a “holier than thou” attitude. If anyone has displayed such an attitude, it is Robert Priddy. His previous 4 articles are sufficient evidence to solidly establish this point beyond all doubt!
“For some such devotees, the competition for worth and grace is simply shifted to another plane. For them, the real grace is supposed to be what the ‘inner self’ experiences. In ‘Prashanthi-speak’ it is called ‘Not inter-view but inner-view’. There is an evident need to be looked on as someone acceptable… and that means acceptable in SSB’s. This need for personal confirmation is very marked in many devotees, and not a few do actually imagine blessings of a most unlikely kind… and some have been shown to invent events and experiences, sometimes incredible and even laughably naive. When found out, these persons may be blacklisted by the ashrams and told never to return, some denounced in the monthly journal, Sanathana Sarathi (names are not used, but no doubt who they are is left to those who know them or about them).The pressure to conform to the group and compete in holiness - so widely known from many other religious or ’spiritual’ cults - grows very strong in time. Only those unusually robust of psyche or the very mature can remain fully unaffected by this climate of competitive pressures. Though SSB in his talks discourages competitiveness, he strongly encourages it by his behaviour, whereby he uses rewards and punishments, and strong ‘push and pull’ psychology, to keep people jostling one another, yet while keeping them well in their places.”
My Response: All religions have their adherents strive for inner rewards, not outer rewards. It is not surprising that many seek some sort of bond, contact and conversation with someone who they deem to be a saint, sage, guru, avatar, Holy-Man, God-Man or God.
“One of his ever-repeated themes is that he has never yet seen a real devotee… no one is good enough, in fact he is ever telling how ignorant, selfish, egoistic, and sub-human everyone is, including the majority of his followers and not excluding his college teachers and the Seva Dal servitors! So there are plenty of opportunities provided for looking down upon oneself and comparing with others (which one is warned by him never to do), while all manner of subtle and blatant discriminations are practiced to encourage it.”
My Response: Funny enough, Robert Priddy has made the same case against SSB followers, VIPs and Seva Dals! Robert Priddy has talked about these people in derisive tones, pointing out their many faults and lack of love and compassion! It is okay for Robert Priddy to make these observations, but when SSB does it, all of a sudden, SSB is wrong and mean spirited!
“Nearly all the women are treated as second-rate persons in actuality, though they are lauded in a discourse once or twice yearly. Invalids are invalidated as ’sick persons’ ( ‘rogi’, that is not good enough to be a ‘yogi’), so they are increasingly placed at the rear and noticed less and less by SSB (he can easily afford this nowadays as his ‘great compassion’ is already an established byword among the determined believers.”
My Response: In India, the custom is that women and men are separated and are not mixed. That is their custom. SSB praises women much more than one or twice yearly. SSB praises women and mothers, in one form or other, in almost every discourse! If SSB treated women like second-rate citizens, and belittled women, why did Robert Priddy stay devoted to SSB for 17 years? Was it because Robert Priddy likes to belittle women too? Or is it because Robert Priddy’s negative perception is now re-interpreting everything about SSB? Either scenario does not look good for Robert Priddy.
It is also completely untrue that invalids are treated inferiorly, at SSB’s Ashram! This is a blatant and pathetic lie, by Robert Priddy. Invalids, the elderly or the ill are seated near the entrances and exits to SSB’s hall. This is done for convenience in allowing the elderly or ill easy access to seating facilities (SSB’s hall does not have seating and people sit on the floor). Although the seating for the elderly or ill is further away from the darshan area, the seating allows for the elderly or ill to have full darshan. The seating section allows for easy entrance and exiting before and after darshan time. Robert Priddy stated earlier how people push one another to get to SSB. This would not bode well for those who are elderly or ill. The people who make the seating arrangements know this. At SSB’s other ashram, in whitefield, the seating for the elderly or ill are prime seats that many healthy people try to take, by faking illnesses, just to get close to SSB!
“Repression of experience through self-delusion: A Dutch Sai devotee, Ms. Titia Boelens, who is involved in SSB educational work wrote the following to me. “I love everyone because Sai Baba teached me with His program that I am my own master. So I blame myself when I blame others. What do you think about this?”Well, here is my reply. To say one loves everyone is easy, to do so is another matter. Can this person really love, say, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden or thousands of other horrendous killers, rapists, indescribable sadists, torturers? In fine talk, yes. But how would she love them in real personal interaction or in any decisive situation? For all the idealism, if she were a victim in one of the many terrible torture chambers that exist today, her self-mastery would probably have to exceed even that attributed to Jesus on the Cross.”
My Response: This is a very valid response. Love is terribly over-rated. It is very easy to profess love, but very difficult to find someone who truly practices it. Similarly, it is very easy for Anti-SSB Activists to resort to lies, dishonesty and deception and very difficult to find one who practices truthfulness, honesty and openness.
“I am of course sceptical of her claim never to blame anyone for anything, as her wording indicates. To blame is to assign responsibility to a person for a wrongdoing. How this can be avoided is a mystery to people who live in human society. The idea accords with SSB’s insistence that one must carry out self-examination rather than blame others. Genuine practising psychologists will tell you that this is a guilt-creating and - if carried too far - self-nihilating programme. It is a plain recipe for all kinds of emotional and mental health crisis. As Andries Krugers Dagneaux of the Netherlands forwarded from an acquaintance of his who is also known to others ex-devotees (but who would remain anonymous):”
My Response: Just as the insistence to carry out self-examination, rather than blaming others may create guilt and, if carried too far, result in a type of “self-nihilating programme”, it is also true that a person who blames everyone else, and who does not carry out self examination, can perpetrate victim-mentality, escapism, denial, neuroses, obsessive compulsive behaviors, egotism, dictator-like qualities, judgmental outlooks, bias and a holier-than thou attitude. This goes two ways. Not one-way, Robert Priddy’s way. As a matter of fact, there is far more psychological data on the “disease” of blame and blaming others, than there is to the contrary. I’d suggest Robert Priddy read Be Your Own Therapist. This online book talks a lot about the uselessness of blame and how to empower oneself to get over the unhappiness and negativity that binds one to blaming others. Also, there is another fantastic book The Trouble With Blame, written by Sharon Lamb, a Professor of Psychology at St. Michael’s College, that talks about the “Blame Pathology”. Strange enough, a position that SSB promotes and teaches, and a position that Robert Priddy takes issue with!
Here is a fine example of another anonymous story dispersed by Anti-SSB Activists, that proves my point nicely:
“On the subject of improving vs. not improving while a devotee, one has written: “I was one for nine years. During the first few years I would say that I improved as a person in many ways. I concentrated on developing the qualities that I thought raju wanted in his followers: patience, willingness to serve, equilibrium. For example, I wouldn’t go into an emotional tailspin if my feelings were hurt as I often had prior to that. I became more accepting of other people as they were. I also became more creative, as I was so inspired by my guru. I sometimes spontaneously felt what seemed like bliss.After a few years, however, I began to feel physically weak and debilitated. I was tired all the time and felt that I was aging rapidly (I’m in my late 50s). I was more psychically open than I ever had been before, which I thought must be a positive thing, but it was as though my energy was being syphoned out of the top of my head. I had little desire to take part in ‘the world’, like working at a job or interacting with anyone outside of the raju group. I was increasingly depressed but didn’t know why. Looking back, I think (but can’t prove) that this is the course that a lot of devotees take. Enthusiasm, almost euphoria, in the beginning, and a desire to ‘do everything right’, followed by a gradual downhill slide into rigid thinking, mindless rule following, self-enforced separation from those who don’t agree, aversion to work, and so on. It’s as though all their personhood is gradually drained out of them.
I had one friend who once proclaimed with a sigh, ‘I used to love to play Scrabble!’. In other words, she couldn’t play Scrabble any more because the ‘avatar’ wouldn’t approve. On another occasion 2 long-time devotees told me that if raju told them to commit suicide, they would do it. Sick!”
My Response: Some people do feel that they must give up all sorts of things in order to fulfill their concept of “spirituality”. This is not unique to SSB or his followers. One can see people practicing their belief system in varying degrees and with varying intensities.
To give a perfectly clear example as to why these anonymous stories generate valid doubts, in regard to their integrity, I provide the following observations about this anonymous letter: One will notice that the anonymous person, who wrote this letter, refers to Sathya Sai Baba as “Raju”. It is very well known that the only person (that I am aware of) who constantly refers to Sathya Sai Baba as “Raju” is Said Afshin Khorramshahgol. Click Here to view an article by Afshin and his ceaseless reference to SSB as “Raju”. Although the anonymous letter most certainly appears to have been written by Afshin, it is important to point out that Afshin is nowhere even close to being 50 years old! He is in his mid to late 20’s. The very same concepts and ideas that the anonymous writer discussed, have been similarly discussed by Said Afshin Khorramshahgol, on Anti-SSB Sites.
Consequently, one can clearly see why I have valid reservations regarding anonymous stories. It most certainly appears that Afshin wrote this letter and lied in it. However, since the person chose to be anonymous, one cannot say, with full certainty that Afshin wrote it, however, the stain of doubt cannot be removed as long as there is anonymity. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword. Not only does this anonymous story create doubts, it also casts doubts on Said Afshin Khorramshahgol’s integrity. It may be entirely possible that Afshin had nothing to do with this letter. However, by dispersing it under the guise of anonymity, Afshin’s credibility is questioned.
Anti-SSB Activists do not care, in the least, about using anonymous stories and letters as “proof and evidence” against SSB. However, if anyone writes an Anti-SSB Activist, with a semblance of a Pro-SSB stance, and does not use their real name or a full name, they are called “faceless”, “cowardly creatures” and “hypocrites”! And, if one does use their full name, even then, they are said to be lying until they divulge their phone number and address! Despite this cult-like reasoning, Anti-SSB Activists engage in this very same reprehensible behavior that the attribute to others! Hypocrisy, clear and simple.