Cult recruitment goes into orbit


This Is London, January 28, 2000

by Lynne Wallis

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The Sai Baba cult, whose origins are in India, says it is a 'service' organisation whose aim is to help the poor. It emerged in the Seventies and has an estimated half a million devotees worldwide, with about 200,000 in Britain. Many of these members are in London, and actively recruiting. Sai Baba's namesake is believed to be more powerful than God, the Buddha, and Mohammed. Devotees believe he can create sacred dust with health-giving powers out of thin air, and last year the cult converted many members of the cast of Grease to its cause. Sarah Miles is a believer; so is the founder of the Hard Rock Café, multimillionaire Isaac Tigrett. Experts say that when Europeans devote themselves to Sai, they go for it 100 per cent.

However, as fast as cults are recruiting new members, the lights of people like David Bailey are coming on. A former disciple of Sai Baba, and the leader's right-hand man in the West for four years, Bailey, a 44-year-old concert pianist with a religious background, got sucked into the cult after meeting Sai and being totally overwhelmed by him. He left, disillusioned, a year ago, when it became clear to him that the cult was 'evil'. Bailey says, 'I got drawn in because Sai Baba genuinely seemed to be doing good, and the people who introduced me to him were so convincing. I've always been someone who searches for different things, and, foolishly, I believed he was God.' Sai Baba has been exposed as a fraud on Irish and Australian TV, and a showcase hospital in India which was ostensibly built to help the poor is, in fact, 80 per cent empty and charging high fees. There are also allegations of bodily organ sales to wealthy Arabs. Bailey says the leader's 'magic dust' is a mixture of cow dung and sandalwood. Bailey's stepson was, he claims, coerced into a French-kissing session with the cult leader, having been told it was an introduction to Tantric sex and would improve his 'kundalini spirit'. There has been an attempt on the leader's life, and several young men have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against him. Their testimonies can be found on the Internet.

Sai Baba's days, however, may be numbered. The man who thinks he is God recently became ill. Bailey concludes, 'Lots of people are beginning to wonder about his immortality. If he really is God, he wouldn't have had a heart attack, would he?'