An Essay on Brainwashing


Date: 02-11-02

By: Andries Krugers Dagneaux, a former follower of Sathya Sai Baba.

Document date: 02-07-02


The word 'brainwashed' is a convenient way to characterize a deluded believer in SSB and I use it myself too, but I don't believe in brainwashing. It is just intellectual laziness to use the term in my opinion.

Underneath I try to explain what 'brainwashing' actually is. Thanks in advance for your comments.

(1) Lack of information or even information control.

One of the elements is to convince oneself that glaring contradictions in information are "irrelevant" compared to the overall intent or picture. Glaring contradictions in information are ignored entirely or glibly rationalized. So a large part of the information is controlled by minimizing the significance of contradictions through the articles of faith, or dogma itself such as "oh, Master knows best"; or "you will see the 'truth' yourself when you 'go within' then all those seeming contradictions will vanish."

In the case of SSB I had not heard until 1999 of e.g. Dale Beyerstein's analysis of the claims of SSB's omnipotence and omniscience nor from Tal Brooke. Earlier only very indirectly from Keith Ord's story. And even after reading about them, it took about a year before the truth dawned to me.

(2) Emotional investments (a big thing for some).

(3) Cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a term for a very common, well known psychological law that says that after making a choice one tends to evaluate the chosen thing, person, religion, guru or whatever more positive as before making the choice. It is also extensively treated in Steve Hassan's book "Releasing the Bonds" about cults.

(4) Intellectual inaccuracy ( or 'never let the truth in the way of a good story').

As we all know quite a lot miracle stories are promoted by exaggeration by devotees. In a way you can't blame the devotees in my opinion because they don't consider intellectual accuracy important. After all SSB never told them so.

(5) Group Thinking.

If so many intelligent persons believe in it, then it must be true. Everybody tells me that SSB is the avatar and they are not stupid at all, so they must be right.

(6) Gullibility/Naivete.

"Nobody would dare tell THAT big of a whopper story, so my Avatar or guru - MUST be right and God Incarnate, then!" Oh, dear. Yes, Virginia, people CAN tell huge WHOPPERS and "God" does not incinerate them where they stand for their temerity. (A spontaneous human combustion in their next life perhaps?). Sad, but true."

I simply couldn't believe that somebody who was always talking about Truth, Love and God would cheat people by faking materializations. I always considered that alone morally criminal to do so.

7) Wishful thinking.

Or why do people buy lottery tickets?

(8) Attachment to the group and friendship with the group members.

This makes leaving very difficult of course. Many SSB devotees basically end up creating depth friendships with other devotees... and gradually their non-devotee friendships fades. Because connections with the rest of the world (friendships) atrophied an ex-devotee can be left feeling socially very stranded.

(9) Subjective certainty increases faster than objective correctness.

This law is one of the first thing I learned when I studied psychology at the university. It was demonstrated by a live experiment on the students. What is meant that when re-thinking a certain subject, you get very quickly the feeling that you must be right although actually you are not. In my case in the beginning I had a lot of doubts about Sathya Sai Baba, but gradually I lost them all. I just knew he was an avatar.

(10) Bhakti (devotion) towards SSB.

For some reason or another it was very difficult to end this love affair. I was very disciplined in fostering my devotion with daily japa (recitation of God's/SSB's name).

(11) Avoid doubt and uncertainties about God, the meaning of life and guidelines for daily living.

I guess everybody is looking for answers about vital questions and some guidelines for daily living. I find it emotionally very unattractive to have constant doubts and uncertainties about these subjects. I guess this is the same for other people too. As David V. Barrett pointed out in his book the "The New Believers" this makes losing faith and leaving very difficult.

- This essay was developed in conjunction with correspondent 'Berthathegood' at's exsatsangisupportgroup club.