MAIN REACTION PATTERNS TO FACTS CAUSING FUNDAMENTAL DOUBTS OF PERSONAL FAITH
By: Robert Priddy
Though I was know as a strongly convinced devotee of Sathya Sai Baba from the early 1980s until 2000, it is evident to those who visit my website now that I am now very definitely not so. Some may think I suddenly went from one extreme to the other, but this is far from correct. Though I am presently concerned only to expose wrong-doings, misguided teachings and false promises by SSB, this is simply to ‘balance the account’ as it were, since the positive propaganda machine around SSB (to which I once contributed far too much) is so massive, so full of disinformation and so closed to any sincere discussion or investigation of unpleasant but crucial facts.
Three different reaction patterns to pending crises of faith
Those who have embraced a set of beliefs and have invested much personal thought and feeling in them, often involving the sacrifice of time, energy, money and even many former social contacts so as to forward them, can react in different ways to facts which, if true, will cause a major revision or complete overturn of those beliefs:
1) The emerging doubts are ignored while possible, rejected out of hand when discussed and – when this may fail – by increasingly unlikely rationalising to quell the anxiety caused by such thoughts of having made a massive mistake in one’s life.
2) All one believed is put into question en bloc and the entire set of beliefs is simply negated, while all contacts which bring one into contact with them are dropped. This requires perhaps either an unthinking and non-committal kind of personality, a shallow faith… or else a strong personality and/or support system having resources to regenerate one’s own well-being and redirect one’s life goals.
3) One begins to confront the facts which underpinned the former belief system and begins to investigate them as fully as possible. This requires the ‘tolerance of mental and emotional uncertainty’ and leads one to put more and more facts, claims and sub-beliefs into mental parentheses while a reorientation is sought through open and honest communication and reflection. This process takes much longer, it would appear, and is more demanding in various ways, than the first two general alternatives.
While an active follower I wrote a book and many articles of an almost exclusively positive nature about SSB and his movement. Since I learned in 1996 facts from an indubitable source very close to SSB about the executions which took place in his private rooms in June 1993, I found myself increasingly having to struggle with doubts and conflicting feelings concerning not only those directly involved, but with SSB’s acceptance of their actions and his avoidance of any public questioning etc. In 2000 these doubts received an unwanted strong boost by the emergence of many credible allegations of sexual abuse of young men and boys by SSB. It took me months before I decided even to look at the allegations. It then took over a year of full daily intensive investigation before I reached the conviction that they were substantial.
This discovery hastened the gradual questioning of many accompanying beliefs, initiating a mental domino effect which successively readjusted the whole set of interpretations of experiences and putative facts and even some of the moral principles on which my former faith was based. Despite the inexplicable aspects of SSB, I could never by any remotely conceivable means trust him again or believe he is what he claims to be.
The result of this renovation of the entire SSB phenomenon and my experiences relating to it is expressed in my writings under the title “The Sathya Sai enigma reevaluated”. I note with interest that no one has succeeded in refuting credibly one single assertion I have made there so far. I challenge any Sai official or devotee to do so in a factually documented or other reasonable manner. I shall be pleased to learn of and correct any factual mistakes or genuinely proven errors. There must be some points, if only minor ones.