Monday, August 19, 2013

Prof. Haraldsson's book, "Modern Miracles: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba: A Modern Day Prophet", Released

Last updated on 6th November 2013

Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erlendur_Haraldsson,https://notendur.hi.is/erlendur/english/) significantly updated and revised book with a new title, "Modern Miracles: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba: A Modern Day Prophet", has been released. The publication date is July 16th 2013 and it is available on amazon.com here, http://www.amazon.com/dp/190873325X. I don't think an Indian edition is available as of now - hopefully that situation will change in the near future.

I think this book is sure to become an important book on Sri Sathya Sai Baba for interested academics, scientists and intellectuals worldwide due to the methodical investigation and documentation by its author, a Professor emeritus of Psychology in a European university. Further, the author is a European and is not a devotee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. 

[Later updates:

The post, "Review of Modern Miracles: The Story of Sathya Sai Baba: A Modern Day Prophet by Erlendur Haraldsson Ph. D.", http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2013/09/review-of-modern-miracles-story-of.html, has my review of this book.

The post, "Notes on Prof. Haraldsson's, Modern Miracles, July 2013, book on Sathya Sai Baba", http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2013/08/notes-on-prof-haraldssons-modern.html, has notes from my reading of this book. end-Later-updates]

I viewed the front page, back page, preface and foreword from the Amazon preview,http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/190873325X/ref=sib_dp_ptu#reader-link.

The back cover page has the following:

[Please note that Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson has given me permission, over email, to share the following extracts from his book preview, on this blog. These extracts are also available for free reading at the above amazon preview link.]

Sathya Sai Baba, one of India's most famous Swami's, was one of the most enigmatic and remarkable religious figures in recent times. Millions followed him and accepted his claim of being a modern day Avatar - a God Man.

Modern Miracles is the result of four decades of investigation into the apparently miraculous phenomena associated with Sai Baba. It expands upon earlier editions which were published in the 1980s under the titles Miracles Are my Visiting Cards and Modern Miracles. There followed translations in 11 languages that resulted in 17 editions. The earlier editions were based on observations and investigations up to the early 1980s.

Now, after 30 years and almost two years after the death of Sai Baba, it is time to sum up what has been learnt about this religious and spiritual figure who has had great influence on millions of people, and for whom no match can be found in modern times. The Indian government honoured him with a state funeral that was attended by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party President.

The author, Prof. Erlendur Haraldsson, on whose painstaking investigations this book is based, has been a professor of psychology at the University of Iceland and is the author of numerous scientific publications.

Unlike many academics he has never hesitated to study interesting phenomena first-hand, and his investigation into the psychic phenomena attributed to Sai Baba is no exception. Haraldsson made many first-hand observations of materializations and had nine face-to-face interviews with Sai Baba during nineteen trips to India.

--- end back cover text ---

The preface has Dr Joop M. Houtkooper concluding, "Although Sai Baba has passed away, the miraculous phenomena described here might be important if similar phenomena would occur in the future. This book provides a unique richness of experiences, the result of researches spanning 40 years."

In the foreword, which seems to be the same as in previous editions of the book and so perhaps dated in the 1980s, the late Dr. Karlis Osis, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlis_Osishttp://www.aspr.com/osis.html, starts by saying, "Modern Miracles has merits of unique proportions. Although miraculous phenomena occurring in connection with religious leaders have been reported throughout history, Haraldsson's presentation is a first of its kind. The study is based upon the firsthand observation of a scientist and is supported by his careful interrogation of witnesses. It describes paranormal phenomena of extraordinary variety and strength attributed to one of the most remarkable men of the century.

India, the land of guru worship, abounds with holy men who are often called 'babas'. Sathya Sai Baba is a unique individual - a kind of genius towering over the whole landscape."

Later in the foreword Dr. Osis says, "Readers will see with what vigour he cuts through the jungle of storytelling and candidly reports the outcome of his quest.

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.

In the absence of laboratory evidence Haraldsson states his reservations. In the Western tradition of experimental sciences, nothing that has not withstood the controlled experiment is considered certain. Many social scientists, however, including myself, have later put more trust in observations of real-life events, which often reveal what the lab distorts. Haraldsson wisely presents all sides and asks intelligent readers to judge for themselves.

Millions of Baba's followers - East and West - call him an avatar, that is, an incarnation of a deity. This is by no means universally accepted in India, just as Jesus, who is also said to be an incarnation of God, is not universally accepted in the West. These matters of belief and theological reasoning are clearly not within the domain of parapyschology, and Haraldsson wisely avoids evaluation of the religious side of the issues. The paranormal is what Haraldsson is trying to document and understand; and even that - as the reader will see - is not easy. Although some of the phenomena go hand in hand with the Western concepts of telepathy, clairvoyance, foresight of future and mind over matter (psychokinesis), there are other phenomena for which we are not prepared."

--- end Foreword extracts ---

To my mind, this book may become the early 21st century rough equivalent of the middle of the 20th century book, The Incredible Sai Baba by Arthur Osborne,http://books.google.co.in/books/about/The_Incredible_Sai_Baba.html?id=6C5F8VwYfcgC&redir_esc=y. The second page of the book, as seen from above link, notes that the book was first published in 1957. And then reprinted in 1970, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994. Reset and printed in 2000, 2002, 2005!

That shows how future generations have appreciated the Arthur Osborne book on (Shirdi) Sai Baba far more than the generation at the time the book was first published! I think that is quite the norm for books on miraculous prophets. Their miracles are just too much for the contemporaneous (or near contemporaneous) generation in general, who prefer to side with the Doubting Thomas majority. But future generations adore these truthful accounts of such wonderful and joy-and-succour-giving prophets/saints/avatars!

Arthur Osborne's book, if I recall correctly, had a Westerner's seemingly factual and balanced account. That impressed the reader (at least it impressed me) as having the ring of truth in it. BTW I don't know whether Osborne ever saw Shirdi Sai Baba. He probably got attracted to him after Shirdi Sai Baba's name spread well after his Mahasamadhi (in 1918). In Prof. Haraldsson's case, he has seen Swami, met him many times and is a veteran & eminent parapsychologist! 

I am so happy that Prof. Haraldsson's book has been published/released (though I have not read this revised edition yet and am basing my comments mainly on a previous edition of his book - I have also had some small interactions with Prof. Haraldsson on a concluding section of his revised book prior to publication). IMHO, Prof. Haraldsson has made a great contribution to methodical and truthful capture of evidence related to paranormal capabilities/events related to Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and put them all together from a four decade perspective, two years after his passing away. I thank Prof. Haraldsson for his wonderful service to truth-seekers worldwide - truth-seekers who do not limit themselves to the limited vision of current mainstream science but are willing to go beyond current mainstream science limits in their pursuit or quest of universal truth/reality.

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