"Behind the Mask of the Clown" by Conny Larsson
Review by Åsa Samsioe - practising psychologist and ex devotee to Sathya Sai Baba

As a main thread all through this wonderful and abounding story about Conny´s rather unusual life, run all those treacheries, which might well have become his death. But a strong vital force and an immense love for life would help him to draw himself up again and again and get a new lease of life. Most amazing is Conny´s childlike innocence and the total trust which he somehow manages to maintain and keep all through his life. Perhaps that´s why his story is so irresistible and touching. With never-ceasing optimism, Conny throws himself into one impossible project after the other, which end up in stupendous experiences and also amusing incidents. All of it is described with a benevolent sense of humor in a dissociated, courageous and almost totally self- exposing way.

Conny doesn´t meet only those people who deceive and exploit him, like his father´s friend, Uncle Pettersson, who molested him sexually for many years while his father was drunk next to unconsciousness. There were also all those guardian angels and goddesses who became his breathing holes and gave him hope where no hope was to be found. But the yearning for that radiant light, filled with warmth, which Conny experienced as a six year-old boy, when he went through the ice and got into the water, would become a guiding -star to him for the rest of his life. This near-death experience would stand in stark contrast to his feelings of despair and being left outside and to the darkness which enclosed him when he was a child. From now on his life became a struggle to keep that light alive within him.

Another important incident, which Conny experienced as a child, was the sudden and unexpected closeness to his alcoholic and rather frightening father, when the latter brought Conny home after the near-accident. The longing for that father, of whom the little child Conny only caught a glimpse, would become another main thread all through his life. Those things probably contributed to his subsequently getting into the clutches of remorseless "holy" men. The most unscrupulous of them all is Sathya Sai Baba who passes himself off as an avatar, or God Father Himself and the reincarnation of both Rama and Krishna.

After reading Conny´s story it isn´t difficult to realize why he of all people would become the ideal victim of Sai Baba´s homosexual molestations. All the important components were there even before that; the traumatic childhood and the searching for the Father - the "Light". In his relationship to Sai Baba, Conny´s trauma would be put on stage again. Those who have experienced sexual molestations as children may get difficulties setting proper limits to others. As their bodily boundaries have not been respected, but have been exposed to continuous violations, they don´t trust their own right to say no. Besides, the feelings of guilt and shame for what has happened are usually directed towards themselves and not towards the perpetrators. Obviously this tendency to try to please others and the inability to say 'no' also characterizes Conny. This is for example illustrated by his description of the course of events when he suddenly turns out a property owner at Sri Lanka. I can´t help getting the suspicion that an important reason for the purchase was Conny´s inability to say no and his fear of disappointing the abbot who was involved in it. We can just imagine how many times he has got into similar situations with Sai Baba!

Another characteristic which must have fitted like a glove for Sai Baba, is Conny´s desire to share his experiences with others. When he smokes hashish as a youth, he believes that he has at last retrieved the "Light of Love", which is now synonymous with God or Cosmic Consciousness. Eagerly he lets his chillum pass from hand to hand for those who are interested. This drug would later be replaced by another drug - the guru-drug.

After being detached from Maharishi Mahesh yogi he at last ends up in Sathya Sai Baba´s ashram. Now Conny will have great use for his art of acting and his charismatic personality. In his eagerness to share with others the announcement of the "Light", he travels all over the world to missionize about Sai Baba. But what he didn´t dare to tell others was the "godhood´s" continuous violations of his bodily boundaries.

Conny tries to rationalize as long as possible the sexual molestations which he had to put up with as healing and divine touch. There were warning signs all the time but Conny dismissed them, denied them and deported them to the sub conscious realm. But at last something begins to happen to him. A doubt which even finds it´s physical expression starts manifesting itself. Now a painful conflict will take shape within Conny and throws him between moments of sudden clear- sightedness and moments of total denial.

As an ex devotee of Sai Baba, I recognize in myself  that process which Conny now goes through and the ambiguous  feelings which are the result of that process. Some part of you has already long ago discovered and interpreted the signs that the guru isn´t what he says he is. Another part of you would prefer to shut the eyes for all those signs, as an acceptance would imply that the very foundation on which you have built your life, would inexorably crumble away.

Nobody who hasn´t been a devotee of Sai Baba and has been exposed to the massive brain-washing his cult is exercising, may imagine the breadth of those counter forces, which are activated both within those who are trying to detach themselves from the iron grip of the cult and within those who are still devotees.

Few gurus claim themselves to be God Father Himself. as Sai Baba does.  And his devotees, who have been crammed with stories of all sort of miracles and have perhaps even had own miraclulous experiences, believe him. Sai Baba doesn´t only try to influence his devotees´ thoughts, but also the very foundation of those thoughts; that is their perception. His censorship also affects what his devotees see, hear, feel and so on. This is the reason why many of his devotees continue to be attached to their guru though the allegations towards him are serious. In spite of that, Conny at last succeeds in breaking himself free from the straitjacket which Sai Baba and his cult have forced on him. He is also helped by other seekers after truth, who have not so far been destroyed by their contacts with the cult.

As a little boy, Conny became mute and lost the ability to talk, probably as a consequence of his traumatic experiences. Many years would pass before he was able to talk normally again. In these circumstances you can´t but admire the tremendous courage which the grown-up Conny has now demonstrated.

As if it were not enough that the Sai Baba, whom he trusted during two decades of his life, vanished into thin air, he also had to put up with campaigns of slander from his former cult- friends, who are now defending their guru with teeth and nails. But this time nobody would succeed in frightening him to silence. The little boy who was hardly permitted to enter school because he was mute has at last begun to talk.

Return to index menu