Grand Send-off to Moon: Strikingly Similar to Sathya Sai Baba in Life and Death

Two weeks ago, another grand old master of purported religious unification died, age 92: the self-proclaimed Korean Messiah and big business tycoon Reverend Sun Myung Moon succumbed to complications of pneumonia. In a great send-off today, Moon was interred in a marble tomb, following a grand media spectacle eerily akin to Sathya Sai Baba’s send-off last year, in the Kulwant Hall, Puttaparthi.

Moon in his casket carried out of the Hall amidst thousands of followers and dignitaries

The similarities between Sai Baba, his family and his Trust and Moon, his following and Trust, go far beyond their death. Like Sai Baba, Moon led a sectarian, cultlike movement for nearly six decades. Like Sai Baba, Moon was from a humble rural background. Like Sai Baba, Moon claimed a pivotal change took place at a very young age (SB at 14, Moon at 15), after which he started his mission of unifying the world and establishing world peace, believing to be The Second Coming of Christ. Like Sai Baba, Moon was a deeply narcissistic man, who reveled in mass adoration and was in dire need of constant and singular attention, claiming to be a special spiritual entity who, if accepted as a personal master, protected you from harm and opened up the gates of Heaven to his true followers. Like Sai Baba, Moon brainwashed his ‘Moonies’ into believing the most abstruse and far-fetched ‘truths’, and made them give away millions of dollars to ‘charity’. As Moon’s church rose to prominence in the 1970s and 80s, spreading to the United States, it spawned a business empire encompassing construction, food, education, the media and even a professional football club. Like Sai Baba, Moon grew immensely rich, owning a business empire as impressive as Sai Baba’s, including press agency UPI and the Washington Times. Like Sai Baba, throughout his life, Moon assiduously courted political leaders in what critics said was a bid to lend legitimacy to his Unification Church, which has been condemned as heretical by some Christian organisations. Like Sai Baba, Moon and his organisation vastly exaggerated the number of followers. Like Sai Baba, the cult was so deeply personality based, that without Moon’s unifying presence, some experts see potential for conflict between his sons who control the church’s religious and business arms and who do not command the same loyalty as their father from overseas chapters.

See this link for further info: Daily Mail.

For those interested in the kind of mindset a cult like this creates, the following video is quite informative:

Ex-Moonie Diane Benscoter talks from personal experience about some of the changes a ‘disciple’ went through. She mentions an interesting viral-memetic process through which you get infected with circular thinking, ‘gain’ an endless capacity to rationalize each and every doubt away, and alienate yourself from family and the world at large, having found simple answers to complex issues.

Esteemed expose writer on Sathya Sai Baba, Robert Priddy, has published extensively on this same subject matter, see e.g. this post: The Culture of Cults: a serious analysis.

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7 comments on “Grand Send-off to Moon: Strikingly Similar to Sathya Sai Baba in Life and Death

  1. prakashj03 says:

    Finally someone compared the grandiose messiah complex of SSB and SMM. Thank you!

  2. […] In his blog Mind your Mind, Chris Dokter, a Dutch psychotherapist, writes instructively of some striking similarities between the renowned cult leader, the late, self-proclaimed Korean Messiah and big business tycoon Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the late Sathya Sai Baba. See:  Grand Send-off to Moon: Strikingly Similar to Sathya Sai Baba in Life and Death. […]

  3. Each movement of significant size, like the SSB movement and the Unification movement are mini-worlds. And hence of significant complexities.

    I see some similarities between the Unification movement and the SSB movement, but also a lot of differences. For example, the Unification church was active in politics because of its anti-communism. Rev. Moon seemed to be sincere, unlike SSB who was a charlatan or at best pious fraud from the start. Demographics of the movements are very different, as well as the response from the society. SSB movement hardly has full time members unlike Unification movement in the beginning.

    “Moon was a deeply narcissistic man [ ….] who, if accepted as a personal master, protected you from harm ..”

    I do not think that Moon ever claimed to prevent followers from earthly harm.

    • chrisdokter says:

      Thank you, thinkerandtinker, for your interesting reaction.
      Yes, you are right to state that any movement of significant size is of intricate and notable complexity. This alone makes it hard to compare accross the board. Still, the main gist of my comment was the eerie similarity in death (and life) between Moon and Sathya Sai Baba as far as mass adoration and the way of interment was concerned.
      As far as similarities in life go, I pointed out a few, like you pointed out some differences. And yes, I agree that there are differences, both in time and place, and in intent.
      If you meant to infer that there are far more differences than similarities, though, then I am not so sure. For instance, you state that Moon seemed sincere whereas Sai Baba was a fraud and charlatan. Personally, I think they both started out sincere, but with a massive amount of undetected hubris because of their personality defects, each fully believing in their chosen sense of messianic mission. Yes, Moon gained popularity through his rabbit anticommunism and seemed to be more political, but SSB was a shrewd politician annex diplomat too, and had his hand in the making and shaping of Indian affairs up til the very highest levels. Many a president of India, cabinet members et cetera followed his lead while paying him visit after visit over decades, and no, not just for political gain: they really believed in him (Some still do!) and shaped their policies along lines of direction they got from ‘his master’s voice’. Like former Chief Justice Bhagwati admitted, he made not a single decision while on the Supreme Court without consulting SSB…
      As to the difference in demographics, Moon’s followers were mainly Asian (Japanese and Korean), like SSB’s were Indian, i.e. from their respective home countries/territories. Neither had huge followings abroad, though they both boasted they had. As far as I could research, probably SSB had at one point (mainly from 1980 up til 2000) (far) more western devotees than Moon had Moonies in the West.
      The ‘full time-membership’ you mention is an interesting topic: true, Moon seemed to have many full time ’employees’. But then, so did Sai Baba within his organisation: many hundreds of people gave up careers and devoted all of their time and money towards ‘the movement’ and spreading the word or doing unpaid seva in every conceivable shape or form.
      A few more similarities I did not go into: Moon was famous for performing mass weddings. So did Sai Baba: I witnessed one such occasion myself. He, like Moon, was actively bringing prospective partners together, deciding de facto who was to mary whom. Another similarity? Moon wanted to unify all religions into a single (Christian) one, with himself as ‘the gate’. Sathya Sai Baba tried the exact same thing, in my opinion. Although unifying all religions into his emblem, and stating anyone remained free to pursue his own religion, he himself modeled his image and worship, and thereby his ‘religion’ on an exclusively Hindu stance, promoting himself as the origin of sanathana dharma, avatar of avatars. In many ways the cult around him reflected this: traditional Hindu, with a traditional Hindu agenda.
      Did Moon claim to prevent followers from earthly harm? I read this in several of the obituaries, but I might be wrong there.

      • Hello Chris, you mention some similarities that are typical for the Unification Church, like mass wedding and full-time membership, but were exceptions for the SSB movement. These similarites do not count, in my opinion.

        What I think are similarities are the idealism of followers, the charismatic leaderhip in the Weberian sense of the word, the extreme moralism, the belief in spirits.

        Why do you think that SSB started sincere?

        Thanks. Andries

  4. A big difference between the Unification Church and the SSB movement was that former members of the Unification Church who were not deprogrammed were not angry and did not feel betrayed. Sources: 1. Eileen Barker in Bromley 2.Leaving Cults: The Dynamics of Defection. By Stuart A. Wright. Washington, D.C.: Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1987

    In the SSB movement, it was clearly different, but even there many left without big problems.

  5. NBA季後賽 says:

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