Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Riot with Many Contrasts

Ram Puniyani

India has been the victim of divisive-sectarian violence from more than a century, more particularly after the British implemented their policy of ‘divide and rule’ and encouraged communal formations to flourish. These communal formations, Muslim and Hindu both, in turn spread hatred against the ‘other religious community’ and violence in the name of religion came to be a tragic part of our nation. Many innocents have lost their lives in this violence, which is instrument in the hands of communal forces. As the violence started becoming more structural some features emerged. These features though they have been changing their form from riot to riot, still they have some commonality. The major pattern of riots after independence have been documented and analysed by scholars like Asghar Ali Engineer, Paul Brass, Ashutosh Varshney and others. The inquiry commission reports which have gone on to investigate these acts of carnage have also pointed out to findings that are very disturbing to the plural character of our nation. These findings also show the nature of our political class, administration and police in particular in very poor light. In post independence India, since the Jabalpur riot of 1961 down to the scattered acts of violence in recent years in Rajasthan, (Sarada: Gopalgarh) and many places in UP, the pattern broadly conforms to a well orchestrated mechanism and the failure of the state to control it.

The foundation of this violence is in the myths and stereotypes prevalent about the minorities in particular. ‘Social common sense’ prevalent in the society, including that of those who are in charge of controlling the riots is practically the same. This social common sense sees Muslims as criminals, terrorists, anti-nationals and violent people. Earlier, in communal violence two religious communities used to be pitted against each other but lately the minorities are the targeted communities. This ‘social common sense’ perceive the Christians as those who are converting by force, fraud or allurement. The religion wise break up of percentage violence victims is very painful observation, the percentage of Muslims amongst riot victims is close to 90% (their population as per the census of 2001 is 13.4%) The type of attitude taken by police is by and large stereotypical and regards them as the trouble makers and police believes that they can bring these Muslims to heels through bullets and batons.

Courtesy: Indian Express

The recent riot in Mumbai 12th August, 2012, does not fit into any of the prevalent notions of riot so far. It is a total contrast to all this and at times also shows the ray of hope about the possibility of positive forces being awakened to quell the violence. The 12th August event was a huge melee of Muslims brought into Azad Maidan of Mumbai by Raza Academy and some other Muslim organizations. Some mobilization was done through the announcement in mosques. Police and organizers say they expected only couple of thousands to turn up, as such 50000 people turned up. Those who came were already feeling the heat of the present anti Muslim violence-displacement of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar. The ground of mobilization was prepared by section of Urdu media, which projected as if Muslims are being attacked all over. This exaggerated sense of insecurity was planted in the minds of large section of community which turned up in large numbers. To add salt to the wounds some speakers made inflammatory speeches and some morphed pictures/posters were shown to the assembled crowd, which felt incited by the whole thing.

The real trouble, highly condemnable, began not due to this crowd, but due to other 500-1000 armed Muslims, who started attacking police personnel, molesting women police officers and attacking the OB vans of the news channels. This was provoked due to speakers at the rally aggressively putting forward that media is not showing the news of Assam and Myanmar. Also police was targeted as the Muslim community does have the experience of police having gross anti minority stance. This is so far as the violence conformed to the usual pattern. The things which happened later were a total departure from the past riots. Let’s note that the attack of section of Muslims was not directed against the Hindu community as such. They were targeting media and police.

In the first contrast to the usual pattern, the police commissioner, Arup Patnaik, who had seen the 92-93 violence, had different ideas and in the major departure from the attitude of police. Patnaik asked police to exercise restraint. So far the attitude in such situation is a reckless firing, above the waist, to instil a fear factor to control the violence. Patnaik not only asked the police to exercise restraint, he went up to the stage with great courage and conviction and appealed to the crowd to maintain peace, else it may be the repeat of 92-93 carnage. The crowd assembled in the maidan quietly left from the other end of the ground. While the section of Muslims who had come prepared for doing violence, were brought under control with a minimum of bloodshed, 2 dead, over 50 injured. No words can adequately praise the leadership of Mr Patnaik and the restraint shown by the police personnel, despite provocations of the worst order. In this violence police has been the major victim of violence. On the top of this the usual reckless arrests of Muslims in the wake of such a violence has been a bit muted as the instructions seem to be that only those youth-Muslims should be arrested who are seen doing violence in the videos taken at the occasion. This one good use of modern technology is very welcome. One knows that not only in the communal violence but also in the acts of terror, done by which so ever group, it has been the Muslim youth who are arrested in large numbers.

The only hope this time around is that the police should be discriminatory enough to arrest only the guilty. The other heartening feature of the episode was the role of Mohalla committees, which has not been duly highlighted. The Mohall committee, which were conceptualized by one brave police officer, Suresh Khopde at the time of Bhivandi riots in 1983, have come to stay and are building the bridges amongst the religious communities. During this episode they came forward and did their peace making work with appreciable outcome. It is probably the first time, which showed that if the state-police and social groups are vigilant and aim to control the riot, it can be done, and that too within half an hour. This despite the fact that the underlying bitterness of the memories of 92-93 when the police acted recklessly, and the guilty of 92-93 were not punished in contrast to the accused of 93 March bomb blasts who were punished, and rightly so. This despite the fact the mob which had congregated at Azad Maidan was huge and had been provoked by the section of Urdu, media, the morphed images being circulated and the provocative speeches which should not have been.

It is in this context that the need for communal violence Bill becomes all the more urgent, to ensure that police does it job properly, the state leadership acts without prejudices with the sole aim of controlling the violence.

Abraham Kovoor’s Case Diary: Rifai Ratheeb - Unravelling a Muslim Miracle!

Abraham Kovoor
My interest in Rathib ceremony was first aroused when I read a reference to it in the book "Far Off Things" by Dr. R.L. Spittel. In that book he mentions how he, in the company of Messrs. R.H. Basset and J.R. G. Bantock, witnessed a Rathib cer­emony some years ago. After giving a vivid description of the various acrobatic per­formances by about a dozen persons, Dr. Spittel concludes:- 
"All these act here described I actually witnessed. There was no fake about it. I closely examined the injuries afterwards. I must confess I would never have believed some of these feats were possible had I not seen them myself. .. I was astounded. How they escape hemorrhage, at least in the form of extensive extravagation is more than J can tell ... "
 In September 1964 I had a letter from a Muslim gentleman inviting me to see a Rathib ceremony on the 3rd of October 1964 at "Majumal Kairath" on Nimal Road, Bambalapitiya, by one A. Abdulla and party.

After an early dinner that day I went to that place with a member of the Ceylon Rationalist Association. We were received by the official in charge of the ceremony, and were given 'ring-side' seats.

The performance was arranged to take place in the open garden. An area of the size of a badminton court was roped in. In this rectangular plot about two dozens of able-bodied men, in two rows facing each other, were seen singing devotional songs with the accompaniment of tambourines. The chief priest with two assistants was at one end of the two rows. The whole place was very well lit with numerous high powered electric lights. The garden surrounding the roped-in area was crowded with a thousand or more spectators.

At about midnight, one of the assistants of the priest opened a box and brought out numerous shining weapons of various types. There were two swords, six knives with sinuous blades, twelve daggers with ordinary handles, six daggers with abnor­mally big wooden handles which were spherical and of the size of large husked coco­nuts, and a large number of thin long needles. Apart from these weapons, he also brought out a light plank of about two feet long, one foot wide and half an inch thick.

Though there was no chance of our examining these weapons at close quarters, from the glittering shine on the blades, it looked that they were made of either silver or electro-plated iron.

The priest handed over these weapons one by one, after a sham enchanting, to selected persons from the 24 acrobats. From their performance one could come to the conclusion that there were in the troupe persons specially trained for specialized feats. Each acrobat received his weapon with devotion after worshipping the priest.

Acrobatic Feats

While the unarmed men in the troupe continued the chant at a louder and quicker tempo, the performers started jumping about in the arena with the agility of panthers mimicking the acts of cutting and stabbing themselves. They wore no shirts on their bodies.

Some four persons who had the knives with the sinuous blades finished their hopping about with a high jump into the air. They landed on the ground after the high jump with their bodies bent forward enabling their abdomen to recede far back. Just at the moment of landing on the ground the performer finishes a slashing movement of the knife against his encaved abdomen with lightning speed. After the slashing act he stands in the bent position holding the abdominal wall with his left hand under the pretext of preventing his intestines coming out of the non-existing wound. The priest now comes forward, pretends to make a magical movement with his hand under the pretext of curing the wound.

The slashing act in this acrobatic performance is so cleverly and quickly done that the spectators would think that the performer had actually cut his abdomen. In reality the knife passes without touching his abdomen. In one case I saw a person with two bleeding slits across his abdomen. Probably he might have been one who had not reached the high degree of required dexterity; hence the tip of the blade must have cut the skin of the abdomen. When such superficial cuts were made accidentally the prayer by the priest did not stop the bleeding.

The fraud in this act can easily be exposed if one among the spectators could get into the arena before the priest comes to affect the magical cure, and examine the abdomen of the performer while he is pretending to hold the slit-opened stomach. To his astonishment he will be able to see that there is not even a scratch on the abdomen.

I would advise the educated Muslims of this country to conduct such a test at the next Rathib ceremony. It will be helpful to prevent a few cunning persons from cheat­ing the gullible public. A world religion like Islam does not need the support of such frauds. It is possible that the priest might object to such a scrutiny on the pretext of desecration. It must always be taken for granted that if objections are raised against scrutiny on the ground of desecration, there is sure to be hidden fraud.

The staid start of the Rifai Ratheeb -
with devotional prayers.
Tambourines are lined up on the mat
Another similar act is the sham stabbing on the abdomen with a dagger. Here too, the performer leaps high up in the air and mimics the act of stabbing just at the moment of landing on the ground in a bent position. He remains in this bent position with about three to four inches of the dagger buried in the fold of the abdomen till the priest comes to his sham rescue. He even pretends that it is difficult for him to pullout the 'stuck' dagger from the abdominal wall. To make it realistic he pinches the ab­dominal skin round the tip of the dagger on to it till the priest comes to affect the fraudulent cure. Finally the priest comes, pretends to say some manthrams and pulls out the dagger which has not even made a skin-deep wound.

The performer proudly shows to the spectators his abdomen so that they may admire the miraculous powers of the priest to cure stab wounds. Like the cutting act in the former case, this stabbing act too is so quickly done that the spectators would be easily duped into the belief that he has actually pierced the abdomen. The disappear­ance of a few inches of the dagger from view into the fold of the abdomen will give the onlooker the necessary illusion.

Here too the fraud can be exposed if one of the spectators goes forward and examines the abdomen before the priest attempts the mumbo-jumbo cure.

A third act is the sham driving of a dagger into the abdomen by hammering. The dagger with the large wooden handle weighing about three pounds is hammered into the abdomen. The hammering is done with the light plank. Only fools and small children can be duped by this simple trick. The secret in this fraud lies in the following three facts.    

  1. The part of the body selected for driving the dagger in is the boneless abdomen which can yield to pressure like a sponge. The blunt tip of the dagger could be pushed into the relaxed abdomen to a depth of one or two inches without causing any wound.
  2. The thin plank is selected for hammering purposely to produce maximum sound and minimum force.
  3. The heavy handle for this dagger is purposely made. If a force X can drive an object weighing 1 ounce to a distance of 10 inches, the same force will drive an object weighing 3 pounds only to a distance of 1/5 of an inch. If a person lying on the ground can support a grinding stone on his abdomen, he can allow another person to hammer on it even with a sledgehammer without any feeling of dis­comfort. Almost all the force of the hammering will be absorbed by the heavy grinding stone. Similarly when the heavy handle of the dagger is hit with the light plank, it imparts no effect on the abdomen. If the dagger is without the heavy handle, the force of hammering even with the light plank will have some effect on the abdomen.

How thrilling it would be if one rational minded Muslim among the spectators walk into the arena while this performance is going on, and show that he too can do the same act without wounding his abdomen? Such person will be doing a great service to his community by exposing this mass fraud.

A fourth act I saw was the piercing of the boneless parts of the body like the cheek and folds of skins and flesh with sharp long needles. One elderly person was seen to perform the only difficult· act which deserved admiration. He passed a long needle through his neck avoiding the pharynx and the larynx. In dexterity this act compared favorably with the one I saw many years ago when a performer in a circus troupe sent a sword through his upturned mouth into the gullet to a length of about one foot or more. The skill in this performance was his ability to keep his upturned mouth in a straight line with the gullet, and his capacity to relax the muscles of the throat. His performance, like that of the person who sent the long needle through the flesh of the neck, depended on the skill developed through prolonged practice, and not on any divine power.

Since the performer in the present case was in a semi or totally self-hypnotized state he would not have experienced pain. There is no mystery in a needle wound not bleeding. Similar piercing of flesh under hypnotic trance can be seen at temples and devales. Unlike incised wounds which cut across blood capillaries and arteries, needle wounds do not bleed. Doctors' hypodermic syringes, even if they are sent into the veins for intra-venous injections do not cause bleeding like incised wounds.

The weapons used at the Ratheeb
The final act was a sham cutting of a man into two by a sword. Like the third act in which a man was hammering a dagger into the stomach, this too could dupe only fools and small children. A man lay on the ground with face upward. Another per­former brought down a long sword on the bare abdomen of the prostrate person with pretended great force from a height of about 8 feet. Though the sword is brought down with considerable force, that force is broken just when it is about to touch the abdomen. The blunt blade is then pressed to sink two or three inches into the relaxed muscles of the stomach. At this moment another person covers the body and the sword with a bed sheet. While in that covered state the performer moves the sword forward and backward pretending to cut the person into two. The loose skin and the relaxed muscles of the stomach allow the blade to move forward and backward with­out inflicting any wound. At this stage the priest waves his hand over the body with a mumbo jumbo prayer. The cloth and the sword are then removed. The so-called cured man gets up and shows his 'cured' abdomen to the spectators.

Apart from acrobatic feats and tricks there is absolutely nothing mysterious in Rathib ceremony. They are definitely interesting performances suitable for entertain­ment at gatherings. But to claim that they are done with divine powers is pure fraud and absurdity. Such ceremonies, in the name of religion will make gullible persons more gullible. Like all other acts, the fraud in the final act also could be exposed if one among the spectators goes forward, removes the cloth and examines the abdomen of the prostrate person before the so-called 'cure' by the priest.

Credit will have to be given to these performers for the skill they exhibit. Such skills are only like the skills shown by the circus acrobats.

I had an interview with the priest Mr. A. Abdullah at his residence at Prince Gate. The talk I had with him confirmed my own analysis after seeing the perfor­mance at Nimal Road, Bambalapitiya.

If scientifically-minded persons like Dr. Spittel, Messrs. Basset and Bantock could be deceived by the so-called 'miracles', is it surprising that thousands of spec­tators who watch Refai Rathib are hoodwinked?

"First doubt, then enquire, then discover. This has been the process with all great thinkers": H.T.Beckle

Courtesy: Abraham Kovoor: Exposing Paranormal Claims; Published by B Premanand, Indian CSICOP, Podannur-641023; Date of Publication: 15-3-2000

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Uddalaka and Yajnavalkya: Materialism & Idealism

Walter Ruben

The problem of when and how philosophy in India began is of great importance. In 1954, I started the theory that the first Indian philosopher was Uddalaka Aruni in Ch. Up. vi.1 According to my interpretation, he was a hylozoist, which means a primitive materialist. Such an interpretation must provoke criticism, because it seems at first sight impossible and is in contrast to all tradition that in the ancient Upanisads the doctrine of a materialist bas been preserved.2 In 1955, I published a German translation of this chapter of the Chandogya Upanisad along with other chapters from some other ancient Upanisads, e.g. of Yajnavalkya in Br. Up. iii-iv.3 In 1961, I wrote finally a paper about "the beginning of rational thinking in India",4 describing how the fight between materialism and idealism-between Uddalaka and Yajnavalkya-began in ancient India when a few and small Indian states in the Ganges-valley had been just founded in the iron-age in contrast to the mass of tribes, when class- struggle was beginning, when accordingly, ideological competition started, visible to us in the discus­sions between Vedic ritualists and their opponents-as, e.g., some hermits in the forests-when others, as the Vedic ritualistic intellectuals, started opposing Indra, criticizing him as a brahmicide, or when some critics attacked the main mythological teachings of the epic as regards the war of the Vedic gods against the demons. There is already recognizable some clash between Brahmins and Ksatriyas; enlightened Brahmins like Yajnavalkya, Usasti, etc. protested against orthodox ritualism with its old taboos. Sciences like medicine started fighting against religion, physicists against Brabmins; astronomy, geography, law, state-doctrine etc. began; discussions became characteristic of this new period of ancient Indian history, doubt was in fashion in all fields of consciousness, and only then the fight between materialism and idealism began on the basis of all this social and ideological struggle, especially after scientific thinking had begun, although the sciences were not yet fully developed. Uddalaka shows in his philosophy this new scientific type of thinking in his ways of arguing and proving his doctrines with reasonings and analogies, as a forerunner of later logicians who developed the analyses of anumana, drstanta, etc.

If Uddalaka was a hylozoist (primitive materialist) and the oldest Indian philosopher, as I argued, then be stands side by side with the oldest Greek philosopher, Thales, who also was a hylozoist and lived only a short time after Uddalaka. Perhaps Chinese philosophy also began in nearly the same period of the history of mankind with a similar type of materialism.5. Thus, the world-history of philosophy might come to the conclusion that philosophy and materialism had to begin with such steps of develop­ment, there being no other traditions of philosophy than those of India, China and Europe. Side by side with the types of Indian hylozoism-as that of Thales (water), Anaximenes (air) and Heraclitus (fire)-mankind has deve­loped the 'Indian and perhaps Chinese types, and comparing and c0ntrasting all these hylozoist-materialisms, our histo­rians of philosophy will one day come to a proper and comprehensive definition of hylozoism and its role in the development of philosophy, namely as the first or one of the first primitive forms of materialism. In. similar ways Yajnavalkya's idealism is to be compared and contrasted with Greek idealism of the Eleatics-Parmenides etc.-and the oldest Chinese idealism. In this way, the general history of philosophy helps the Indologist to understand the history of philosophy of India, while at the same time the Indologist with his interpretation of Indian materials enriches the general history of philosophy, which is the highest possible theory of history of all the different philosophies.

But was Uddalaka's doctrine really hylozoist-materialism? My revered teacher Herman Jacobi was the first to main­tain that Uddalaka taught some materialistic elements. He started from the struggle between the later Samkhyas who claimed that the sat of Uddalaka was matter (prakrti) while later Vedantins interpreted it as brahman.6 Jacobi stressed the point that in Vedic mentality the distinction between mind and matter was not yet quite clear and he illustrated 'this fact with the help of Uddalaka's text in "'hose cosmogony, sat, tejas etc. were thinking and willing. Although, thus, in Uddalaka's teaching the material elements were living, although, moreover, the distinction between matter and mind was not yet quite clear, he maintained that Uddalaka's doctrine was basically materialistic. 7

In 1940, H: V. Glasenapp quoted Uddalaka's philosophy with the same intention in order to show that the ancient Indians did not distinguish between mind and matter.8 But in 1949 he criticized Jacobi, maintaining that this doctrine could not be labelled as materialistic philosophy because the distinction between mind and matter was not clear in that ancient period.9 This is the reason why I, in 1954, characterized Uddalaka as hylozoist, which just means that according to his philosophy, matter was living' and thinking indeed. Glasenapp, in 1954 and 1956 attacked my interpretation without adding new arguments.10 The problem is, accordingly, whether hylozoism is to be regarded as materialism or idealism (pantheism). In 1961 Dale Riepe, following my interpretation, characterized Uddalaka's philosophy as "a hylozoist and perhaps even materialistic" view of the world.11 On the other hand, E. Zeller characterized Thales as early as 1851 as "pantheistic hylozoist", stressing the point that in accordance with the old fantastic interpretation of nature which everywhere preceded science, Thales thought everything to be living,12 and the cosmos to be ensouled and full of spirits,13 but that he did not teach the doctrine of a world-soul. Correspondingly, H. Jacobi already had observed that brahman was not mentioned in Uddiilaka's philosophy.14 In this regard Uddalaka is similar to Thales, both being hylozoists, not idealist, but rather primitive materialists.

When Jacobi and Glasenapp underlined the fact that in those old times mind and matter were not clearly distinguished, Glasenapp himself quoted Yajnavalkya des­cribing atman as mind, as vijnanaghana, vijnanamayapurusa etc. in contrast to all other things,15 - contrasting, thus, matter and mind as a full-fledged idealist. There is, on the other hand, in his idealism this link between mind and matter that minj is the origin of matter, as Glasenapp also held. But this thesis of Yajnavalkya does not, as Glasenapp pretends, involve that at that period the dis­tinction between mind and matter was not yet perfect and that, therefore, one cannot differentiate between the idealism of Yajnavalkya and the materialism of Uddalaka. On' the c0ntrary, the doctrine that mind is the primary reality and matter the secondary one is typical for idealism while materialism regards nature as the primary one.16 The doctrine of maya and vivarta is not yet to be found in Yajnavalkya's philosophy, indeed, in so far as his idealism is still primitive, just as Uddalaka's materialism is. Everything was just developing, and what we find in the ancient Upanisads is just the beginning of philosophy in its two antagonistic forms, materialism and idealism.

Let us now compare and contrast both these thinkers in some details in order to show their difference in mate­rialistic and idealistic thinking. Both, being contemporaneous, deal to a great extent with similar topics which were eminently important for the Brahmanical thinkers of that old period; but both do so in different ways.

1. Death

Uddalaka describes a dying man,-how he loses first his mind (the faculty of recognizing his relatives), then his speech, after that his breath, and finally, his warmth. This is quite a rational description of death based on sound observation. It is, at the same time, in fairly good but not quite perfect-concordance with Uddalaka's cosmo­gony, according to which out of sat developed tejah, apah and annam; annam becoming mind, apah breath, and tejah speech. He does not mention an eternal soul or the doctrine of karman in his chapter on death. Mind, speech, breath and warmth enter sat, sat being the ultimate or first living material which is eternal, and is truth: tat tvam asi.

Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, deals with the problem of death in several places. He teaches first how a man can become free from death by the help of vedic priests, climbing up to heaven (Br. Up. iii. 1, 3-6). He teaches then how the body of a dying man dissolves into earth etc., the mind enters the moon, eye the sun, breath the wind, speech the fire etc., but he adds, man himself,-his eternal soul,-is following the way of karman (Br. Up. iii. 2, 13). Yajnavalkya gives later on a hint that after death man's soul goes to Indra in the heart, the soul being indestructible (Br. Up. iii. 2). He teaches finally how the soul (purusa) leaves the weakening body like a ripe fruit leaving the tree, and turns to its origin, the atman. Just as a king leaves a village, accompanied by warriors, judges etc., the soul is accompanied by the pranas and enters the 'heart together with them. When then the eye leaves for the sun, the purusa enters the heart together with them. When then the eye leaves for the sun, the purusa does not see any longer,-he does not smell, taste, speak, think, etc. Together with the prii~tas he leaves the body, guided by his knowledge and karman in order to be reborn or to reach moksa (Br.. Up. iv. 3, 35 seq.).

Uddalaka observed rationalistically how thinking (recognizing) of a dying man, speaking and breathing stop one after another and how the body finally becomes cold. Yajnavalkya also taught that all the faculties of seeing, smelling, tasting, speaking, hearing, thinking, touching and knowing of a dying man disappear. But while Uddalaka observed death' with commonsense or even with the eyes of a physician, Yajnavalkya had no such scholarly interest but enumerated all faculties from seeing to knowing, regarding this only as a minor point, and described with much details the wandering of the eternal soul first into the heart and then out of the body, a wandering which he had never observed. He did not care for proper observation which can be controlled by everybody. His main interest was a religious one, not scientific. He was an idealist in contrast to the materialist Uddalaka.

Uddalaka next described a dying tree, which is being felled. The rasa leaves one bough after the other and finally the whole tree; he adds the rasa does not die. This life is satya (Ch. Up. vi. 11). According to Uddalaka, water (apah) is life or breath (prana) (Ch. Up. vi. 5, 2), and a man while fasting is obliged to drink water in order to preserve his life (Ch. Up. vi. 7, 1). The rasa of the tree is some kind of water and is at the same time the life of the tree. When a bough is cut, rasa and life leave it; but rasa or life is not destroyed but goes on existing in the sat into which it has gone after the death of the tree. Sat is living matter; it is eternal according to this hylozoism.

Yajnavalkya also described at the end of his long dis­cussion the death of a tree, comparing the tree with the body of a man, especially the rasa with the blood, coming out of a wounded tree, tree and body, respectively (Br. Up. iii. 9, 28 Sloka 2). But his interest is not focused on the rasa. He cares for the fact that a tree, when felled, is growing again from its root. Only if the root is des­troyed, the tree cannot grow again. He asks his adver­saries in the discussion: What corresponds to this growing again of the tree out of its root as regards a man? He also knows the answer: Rebirth out of brahman. Here again the difference between Yajnavalkya's religious intention and Uddalaka's materialism becomes clear.'

Yajnavalkya in another place maintains that at death blood and semen enter water, just as the body enters earth (Br,. Up. iii. 2, 13), when the soul follows the ways of karman, whilst Uddalaka taught that the ultimate living material into which the decaying body enters is eternal. Yajnavalkya taught that the individual body dissolves in the dead material which might be eternal, but the individual soul is what matters, being born again and again according to karman. Here again the religious idea of rebirth prevails in the doctrine of Yajnavalkya.

And his idealism becomes also clear in another place where he teaches that the heart is the base on which the semen is founded just as water is based on the semen and as Varuna, the protector of ,the western region, is based on water. In similar ways the other human facul­ties, like seeing etc., are based on the respective objects, the forms etc., which are founded in the heart, the facul­ties being on the other hand the base for a respective gods in one of the different regions. Thus the heart is the ultimate base of the world, - the subjective heart being the base of the objective forms etc. - which is an idealistic outlook.

In order to persuade his opponent Yajnavalkya adds that people, regarding a son who similar to his father, say that he has come out of the heart of his father. This custom proves, he pretends, that the semen descends from the heart (Br. Up. iii. 9, 21). But this cannot prove the doctrine that water is based on semen, Varuna on water in the western region, - in short, the idealism of Yajnavalkya cannot be proved in this way.

2. Sleep

Uddalaka interprets sleep (svapna) with the help of an etymo­logy as svam apitah: a sleeping man is gone into himself. He illustrates this fanciful etymology with the example of a bird which flies all around and finally sits down at the place of its binding. It seems that a falcon is meant which is bound to some place as long as it is not used for hunting, Thus, Uddalaka goes on, the manas flies all around till it sits down at its binding place, the breath (Ch. Up. vi. 8, 1-2). This means: The mind of a per-son awake wanders from object to object till the man gets tired, then manas comes back into the man (svam apitah) and settles on the breath. A sleeping man does not think indeed, but his breath goes on. Without breath there can be no think­ing, as all tile so-called magicians of the doctrine of breath-­wind 17 had shown. Breath binds mind to body according to Uddalaka.

This doctrine reminds us of the discussion between Yajna­valkya and Uddalaka where Uddalaka asks for the string which binds this world and the world beyond and all beings together, and Yajnavalkya answers: This string is the wind (Br. Up. iii. 7, 1-2). Uddalaka agrees to this answer. Wind and breath were regarded as the ultimate realities in macro-and-micro-cosms by the above-mentioned magicians of wind and breath, and Uddalaka was closely related to their way of thinking. 18 Yajnavalkya in this case answered the question of his opponent according to what he knew of his, - ie. Uddalaka's - conception of the importance of the binding wind-breath. But Yajnavalkya's own doctrine of sleep was quite different from that of Uddalaka.

Uddalaka imagined manas when awake as migrating out of the body and when it falls asleep returning into it, into svam, that is into atman into the Self, svam atmanam mean­ing body in this hylozoist-materialistic theory in concordance with the very old conception that the self is the body. 19

Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, spoke also in connec­tion with sleep of the bird, of an eagle or falcon which, out of fatigue, sits down. Similarly he goes on; the purusa hurries to the antah where he sees no dream (Br. Up. iv.3, 19). The manas in Uddalaka's doctrine wanders outside the body in order to come into contact with reality to get proper knowledge. But the purusa in Yajnavalkya's theory wanders to a region far away from the body in dream and sleep in order to enjoy freedom of the objective world of daily life. This difference marks again the difference between materialism and idealism.

This antah (end) of sleep is opposed to the antah of being awake (ib. 18), and the puru~a wanders along both anta~ just as a fish swims along both sides of a river. The antah-s are also called loka-s (worlds) or sthana-s (places), and there is a third sthana, the region of dreams, which connects the two other sthana-s. Standing in third dream-­place, the purusa looks at both the worlds, the world of suffering here and that of bliss beyond. And when he falls asleep, he creates with the material which he takes from this world the objects in the world of dreams-chariots, lakes, rivers, rejoicings, etc. On this occasion Yajnavalkya quotes some stanzas which deal with the phenomenon of dream in some­what other ways. They have a shamanistic outlook. According to them the soul of a sleeping man leaves the body, does not fall asleep itself, looks at the sleeping body, which is protected by breath, roams around as it wants, being eternal, the golden man, the single swan (ib. 11-12). So far this theory of sleep and dream is in full concor­dance with primitive shamanistic ideas which are well-known from Central Asia, etc.20 According to them mind or soul leaves the body in contrast to Uddalaka’s conception that in sleep mind comes back into the body.

Then the next stanza goes on: In sleep he creates many forms, enjoying women, eating or seeing dangers (ib. 13). This corresponds with Yajnavalkya's idealistic conception of the purusa creating in Dream Rivers etc., which is also in complete contrast to Uddalaka’s descrip­tion of sleep which looks very realistic, in correspon­dence with his general contrast of the materialism with Yajnavalkya's idealism.

Uddalaka later on describes how a man, falling asleep,21 enters sat and becomes unaware of his individuality, just as the rasa-s of different flowers lose their identity and the knowledge of it when they become one and the same mass of honey. But when the man awakes he gets back his individuality and its consciousness. Just as rivers become united in the ocean and (by evaporation and rainfall) come out of the ocean22 again without being conscious of having been united and having forgotten their individuality during their stay in the ocean, thus men also, when awakened, do not remember that they have been in sleep united in sat, losing their individuality and its conscious­ness (Ch. Up. vi, 9-10).

Correspondingly, Yajnavalkya taught that in sleep a father becomes a non-father, a mother a non-mother, worlds become non-worlds, gods non-gods, Vedas non­-Vedas, the thief a non-thief and in the same way a murderer of an embryo, a Candala, a Paulkasa, a sramana and a tapasa lose their identity (Br. Up. iv. 3, 22), because in sleep there is neither good nor evil. This stressing of the moral aspect is missing in Uddalaka’s teaching of sleep whilst Yajnavalkya is interested in des­cribing sleep as something happy, free from the sufferings of this world. He goes on: Sleeping, one does not see anything, but seeing itself (or rather the faculty of seeing) goes on being a faculty of the eternal subject which' in sleep does not practically see, because there is no object to be seen. The same holds true for all the other facul­ties-of smelling, tasting, speaking, hearing, thinking, touch­ing and recognizing. When the subject in this way stands alone without an object, it is in the stage of the brahman-­world, the highest bliss (ib. 23-33). Here again the idealism of Yajnavalkya is obvious: In sleep not only the subjective activities and characters of men disappear but also the objective world and the Vedas; of course they are extinct for the sleeping man only, but Yajnavalkya omits to make this restriction clear. Idealism is quite overt in Yajnaval­kya's views of the eternal soul as eternally seeing etc. Here again one observes the idealistic escapism of Yajna­valkya, for whom the highest bliss is to be free from this world, a point totally absent in Uddalaka’s materialism.

3. Mind

This materialism is further expressed in Uddalaka's doctrine that mind is becoming out of food just as breath (life) out of water and speech out of fire (Ch. Up. vi. 5). It was common among the old thinkers to identify speech with fire and breath (life) with water. But to claim that mind is food was something stupendous. It was the climax of this text of Uddalaka teaching his son Svetaketu (Ch. Up. vi. 1-7) and he felt the necessity to prove this thesis. Therefore, he used the churrning of milk as analogy to human digestion: just as milk is separated in three parts, food becomes threefold-its finest parts become mind, the middle ones flesh, the coarsest ones excrements. And finally he made his son undergo the experiment of fasting in order to show that drinking water keeps him alive but avoiding food makes him lose his thinking (rather memory). When he eats again, his knowledge, his mind, comes back, as we would say, or his mind is re­created by food, as Uddalaka taught. This conception reminds us of the later Samkhy ideas according to which buddhi is the first product of prakrti. But in Samkhya buddhi works only in connection with soul (purusa), while in Uddalaka's materialism there is no purusa, no eternal soul as the ultimate and only subject.

Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, identified atman with brah­man and mind, breath, seeing, hearing, earth, water, wind, etc. (Br. Up. iv. 3, 5) in concordance with his radical idealism, according to which the spiritual soul is the ultimate reality. He agreed in this respect with Samkhya who declared brahman to consist of mind (Ch. Up. iii. 14, 2), with Satyakama who identified one sixteenth of brahman with mind (Ch. Up. iv. 8, 3) or mind with brahman, as Yajnavalkya quoted him (Br Up. iv. 1,6) and with the anony­mous idealist of Ch. Up. iii. 18, 1. On another occasion Yajnavalkya taught that the mind of a dying man went to the moon (Br. Up. iii. 2, 13) in agreement with the teaching of one of the breath-wind magician in Br. Up. i. 3, 16. Perhaps Yajnavalkya in this context understood mind as the material base of thinking in the body. At all events he once stressed the point that there is inside mind the real subject, the antaryamin, who is governing not only mind but also breath, speech, seeing, hearing, knowing, semen, earth, water, fire, air, wind, heaven, sun moon, stars, all beings, in short, the whole world (Br Up. iii. 7, 3 seq.). This subject is the unseen seer, the unthought thinker, i.e. the absolute subject, the only thinker besides whom there is no other thinker. Yajnavalkya confessed that this ultimate subject cannot be recognized. Quite in contrast to Uddalaka he did not strive to prove the exis­tence and power 'of this spiritual subject. And, it is remarkable that he described this subject just in his dis­cussion with Uddalaka who had heard of such a 'governor of the whole world from inside' from a demon who had taken possession of a woman. Uddalaka listened to the unproved description of this antaryamin which was in sharp contrast to his own hylozoistic conception of mind being created out of matter in the form of food, and he kept silent at the end. The author, an idealist of this discussion, did not dare to make Uddalaka accept this idealistic religious doctrine of Yajnavalkya, but he avoided also to maintain Uddalaka’s repudiation of it.

In his discussion with Usasta, one of the breath wind magicians, Yajnavalkya also referred to this unknowable subject: You cannot think tile thinker of the thinking (Br.Up. 4, 2.) and he called this unknowable subject the aksaram (ib. 8, 11) which is atman-brahman. Knowing (of the supreme existence of) this innermost atman, real Brahmins give up all desire for practical success, reach childhood beyond all learning and become silent (Br. Up. iii. 5). In this way Yajnavalkya connects his agnostic doctrine of the ultimate reality of this only and unthink­able subject with his highest goal of world-detesting pessi­mism which stands in contrast to Uddalaka's materialism.

4. Monism.

Uddalaka wants to teach his pupil the one real which, being known, makes everything known, and this reality is the sat. He illustrates this monism with the examples of clay which being known make -all pots known, of copper and iron which being known make all products of these metals known. Knowledge of matter, of sat, is the goal of this materia­listic monism. As proof he gives illustrations from well-known handicrafts in Indian villages (Ch. Up. vi. 1).

Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, when he taught his beloved Maitreyi, declared that the main object of his philosophy was atman. By seeing, hearing, thinking and under­standing atman all is known (B[. Up. iv. 5, 6). Everything, the Brahmin-caste, the Ksatriya-caste, the worlds, the gods, the Vedas, all beings are in atman. Just as when a drum is beaten, the drum might be grasped but not the sounds outside the drum, in the same way the atman should be grasped and then all the worlds, gods, Vedas, beings, etc. are grasped. The conch-shell and the sounds resulting from its blowing, and the vina and her sounds are other exam­ples given by Yajnavalkya in this connection, being three altogether, just as Uddalaka had given three illustrations for his monism (Br. Up. iv. 5, 8-10).

Here again the idealism of Yajnavalkya stands in contrast to the materialism of Uddalaka. The illustration of clay, copper and iron is easily understood; but that of the sounds is strange. What the average man sees, observes and knows is the objective world (which corresponds to the sounds), and Yajnavalkya has himself on several occasions pointed out that it is impossible to know, see, hear etc. the ulti­mate subject, the atman-brahman (which corresponds to the drum etc.). But here he pretends that knowledge of the atman makes all the world known.

Uddalaka so understood his materialistic monism that he was not satisfied in maintaining only that it is suffi­cient to know sat the ultimate material; he moreover worked hard to teach his pupil how primary matter became the objective world of sun, moon, lightning and fire, of all the different things with their names and forms, of the human body, breath, mind etc.; how sleep, hunger, thirst and even an ordeal and teaching worked. In short he taught an encyclopedic materialistic monism.

Yajnavalkya, on the other hand, turned again and again to atman-brahman although he knew that it was impossible to know it. When asked, he could answer to a lot of questions as regards the phenomena of the world, but his main interest was, in contrast to Uddalaka, not to explain the becoming of the world but to become free from the world.

Correspondingly Uddalaka maintained that the world, being nothing else than a transformation of sat, was eternal and the sat could not develop out of an asat, because this was unthinkable (Ch. Up. vi. 2, 2). Today we would formulate: sat is according to definition being, not becom­ing out of something else, out of asat.

Yajnavalkya maintained quite the same as regards atman. He is eternal, he is born without a birth in a samsara, without any beginning and even in so called rebirth he cannot be born again (B r. Up. iii.). Reborn is atman only insofar as he received a new body. The progressive modern scientist agrees with Uddalaka that matter is eternal, without beginning and always changing its form. But he cannot understand Yajnavalkya who teaches religion rather than scientific philosophy.

Uddalaka in his philosophy does not deal with problems of rebirth, of an eternal soul, karman or moksa. With scholarly observation and understandable examples: he tries to convince his pupil to accept his materialistic hylozoist monism, quite in contrast to Yajnavalkya's idealism which is founded on introspection and the tradition of shamanism which was certainly living in prehistoric India and developed into yoga. Thus, it is possible to show the fundamental differ­ence between the materialism of Uddalaka and the idealism of Yajnavalkya, but insofar as hylozoism to a great extent looks similar to pantheism, the redactors of the Chandogyo­panisat accepted this materialistic philosophy into their idealistic-religious text-book and preserved this highly valuable document of old thinking. 


  1. W. Ruben, Geschichte der indischen Philosophie, Berlin 1954, 87 seq.; in my previous book, Die Philosophen der Upanishaden, Bern. 1947, 156 seq., I had called him a realist.
  2. Cf. my review of a book Die schosten Upanishaden (German translation of The Upanishads, Breath of Eternal of the Vedanta Press in Hollywood) in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 1953 Nr. 9/10, p. 462.
  3. W. Ruben, Beginn der Philosophie in Indien, Berlin 1955, 167 seq.
  4. W. Ruben, L'origine de la pensee rationelte dans l’Inde, La Pansee, revue du rationalism moderne, no. 99, Sept.-Oct. 1961, 75 seq.
  5. It seems that the Chinese materialistic conception of tao was developed from something similar to (la. (Cf. Jang Ching-Schun, Der chinesische Philosophie Laudse Lind seine Lehre, Berlin, 1955).
  6. In Festschrift Kuhn, Breslau 1916, 37 seq
  7. H. Jacobi, Die Entwicklung der Gottesidee bei den Indern, Bonn 1923, 11 seq; and Das Licht des Ostens, ed. by Maximilian Kern, Stuttgart-Berlin-Leipzig, p. 146 seq.
  8. H. V. Glasenapp, Entwickhuugsstufen des indischen Denkens, Halle 1940, 289 seq.
  9. H. V. Glasenapp, Die Philosophie der Indern, Stuttgart 1949, 126.
  10. H. V. Glasenapp, Der indische Materialismus, Asiatische Studien 8, 1954, and his review of my book in ZDMG 1956, 230.
  11. Dale Riepe, The Naturalistic Tradition in Indian Thought; Seattle 1961, 29. Cf. E. Frauwallner, Indische Philosophie I, Salzburg 1953, 90, about Uddalaka's cosmogony: it is not of the kind of an idealistic doctrine.
  12. E. Zeller, Die Philosophie der Grieehen I,1 (7th edition, Leipzig, 1923. 265 seq.)
  13. H. Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker I (3rd edition, Berlin, 1912) frgm. A 1 37 (Diogenes Laertius) and A 23 (Aetius).
  14. Jacobi loc. cir. 1923, 13.
  15. H. V. G1asenapp loecit. 1940, 321.
  16. V. I. Lenin, Materialismus und Emperiokritizismus, Berlin, 1949, 88.
  17. About these representatives of the Vaiyu-prana-doctrine of. W. Ruben, loc. cit. 1954, 80 and 84 seq.
  18. But he regards prana as a product of apah
  19. P. Deussen, Allgemeine Geschichte der Philosophie, I, 1 (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1920), 85, seq., 326 seq.
  20. Cf. Ruben in Act Orientalia xviii, 191 seq.
  21. I follow Deussen in contrast to Jacobi (loc. cit. 1923, 10: death).
  22. Yajnalkya uses the term ekayana in Br. Up. iv. 5. 12 for the organ of sense. 

Walter Ruben’s essay Uddalaka and Yajnavalkya: Materialism & Idealism was first published in Indian Studies: Past Present (1962-3), Calcutta. It also forms part of the volume Studies in th History of Indian Philosophy: An Anthology of Articles by Scholars Eastern and Western (Volume:I) edited by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya (Published by KP Bagchi & Company, Calcutta; 1978)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Abraham Kovoor’s Case Diary: Lady Wonder: A Mind-Reading Horse!

Abraham Kovoor

In Richmond, Virginia, one Mrs. C.D. Fonda owned a horse named 'Lady Wonder' reputed to possess psychic powers. In the journal of 'Abnormal and Social Psy­chology', Volume 23 (1929), on page 449-466 there appeared an article headed "An investigation of a Mind-reading Horse" by Dr. J.B. Rhine and Dr. Lousia E. Rhine of Duke University. This article stated in parts:

"The animal, subject of the experiment herein described, is a three-year-old filly, Lady Wonder, owned by Mrs. C.D. Fonda of Richmond, Virginia. According to re­ports which led to our enquiry, the horse could make predictions, solve simple arith­metic problems, answer questions aptly and intelligently, and do all these without verbal commands. All what was needed was that the question be written down and shown to Mrs. Fonda. In Mrs. Fonda's opinion these accomplishments of the horse were due to a combination of unusual intelligence and the capacity for mind-reading".

"Our Experiments were begun on December 3rd, 1927, and ended on January 15th 1928, covering In this period a total of six days. The tests were made at the residence of Mrs. Fonda in a demonstration tent 9 x 12 feet.
"Professor William McDougall was present and participated in the experiments on two days and the Assistant Superintendent of District Schools Mr. John F. Thomas on one day. Others present were Mrs. C.D. Fonda, Dr. J.B. Rhine, and Dr. Lousia Rhine".

So, Dr. Rhine after employing his great telepathy testing technique on Lady Wonder for six days aided by a number of his colleagues including his superior at Duke University, Professor William McDougall, and after taking one year's time to think over the matter and discuss with his colleagues, wrote:-

"There is left only the telepathic explanation, the transference of mental influ­ence by an unknown process. Nothing was discovered that failed to accord with it, and no other hypothesis seems tenable in view of the results".

In plain language the above simply means that the scientists of the department of psychology of Duke University have stated in print their conclusion that Mrs. Fonda's horse was capable of reading a person's mind.

Lady Wonder, thanks to Dr. Rhine, became the most famous non-racing horse in the world, and helped her owner earn fabulous fortune. This wonderful story of Lady Wonder was featured In newspapers and magazines, including a spread in the LIFE magazine. The 1956 July Issue of CHALLENGE credits Lady Wonder with aiding the police in finding the dead body of a young boy.

It is estimated that Lady Wonder, since the day that Dr. Rhine pronounced her psychic, has been seen and talked to by 1,50,000 visitors who came to seek her help to solve their problems.

As the fame of Lady Wonder reached Professor John Scarne in New Jersey, he decided to investigate the case himself. One afternoon Searne visited Mrs. Fonda's farm in the company of Donald Grey. They waited till the crowd of people who were having their minds read thinned out, and entered a tent in which there were Mrs. Fonda and the three-year-old filly Lady Wonder.

Lady Wonder was standing in front of a table on which were arranged several rows of lettered wooden blocks each showing one letter of the alphabet. Mrs. Fonda explained to Scarne and others there that Lady Wonder, after reading their mind, would answer the questions by spelling out the answers. She went on to explain that the horse's nose would touch one letter at a time and thereby spell out the answer to the question.

Scarne did not say a word but just tried to look interested in a police officer in uniform talking to the horse. This officer had come from Chicago to consult Lady Wonder to solve a bank robbery. He asked the horse, "Lady, do you know why I came".

Lady Wonder nosed the blocks and spelled out YES. He then asked in a nervous voice, "Lady Wonder, how shall I go about it?” Lady Wonder then nosed the letters WORK.

The police officer then asked in a begging tone, "I am sorry Lady for asking so many questions, but please tell me where the robbers are at present".

The horse touched the letters C.H.I for Chicago. It could not complete the word because 1he letter C would have to be used twice, which meant Mrs. Fonda would have to move the block C in its original position. She made it a practice never to come in front of the horse during performance.

The police officer then turned to the horse and said, "Thank you Lady. You have been of great help to me".

Mrs. Fonda then told Scarne to ask any question he wished. How do I do that?" Scarne asked. Mrs. Fonda replied, Just say, Lady please tell me how did I come here?” Scarne repeated the question.

Lady wonder moved her head a bit, and then dropped her head close to the lettered blocks on the table. After a few seconds of hesitation Lady's nose pushed the blocks marked C. She brought her head upward again, then down again and the nose pushed the block marked A. Next she pushed R. The three letters spelled out the word CAR.

After this demonstration of mind-reading by Lady Wonder, Scarne turned to Mrs. Fonda and said, ''That's wonderful, but I have a question I am thinking of that I would like the Lady to answer. How do I ask her without telling her what the question is?”

Mrs. Fonda seemed stumped for a moment, then handed over a pad and pencil to Scarne and said, "Write your question in this pad, and don't let the lady see it". Scarne wrote the question on the pad, but did so without Mrs. Fonda seeing it.

Mrs. Fonda looked a hit disappointed, but turned to lady and asked her to answer professor Scarne' s question. The horse did not move its head, and the reason was obvious to Scarne. After a few minutes' wait Scarne realized that if Mrs. Fonda did not see his question, the horse was not going to push the blocks with her nose.

So Scarne decided to let Mrs. Fonda get a glimpse of the question without his apparently knowing what she did. As Scarne turned to talk to his friend Grey, he surreptitiously turned over the pad so that Mrs. Fonda could read the question, which read "Where do I live?” Scarne turned around after he was convinced that Mrs. Fonda had seen the question, and immediately Lady Wonder started to push around the blocks and spelled the word NEW YORK.

Scarne acted surprised and said, "That is wonderful. How did Lady know that I lived in New York?" (Scarne actually lived in New Jersey). Scarne gave Mrs. Fonda her fee - five dollars - and left with Grey.

As Scarne was driving back he could not help but wonder if it were true that the professors from the Duke University had been fooled by such an obvious bit of horse­play on the part of Mrs. Fonda.

According to Scarne, the only clever thing with Mrs. Fonda and her mind-read­ing horse was Mrs. Fonda's salesmanship in duping the professors.

The simple fact of making Lady Wonder push the blocks with her nose at the proper time is explained by Scarne thus:-

“Mrs. Fonda carried a small whip in her right hand, and she cued the horse by waving It. I detected Mrs. Fonda doing it every time the horse moved the lettered blocks with the nose. This method of doing the trick might have puzzled me if I hadn't known that the placement of horse's eyes on 'either side of the head gave them wide backward range of peripheral vision. Therefore it offered no problem for me to detect.
"Mrs. Fonda, when cueing Lady Wonder, stood about two-and-a-half feet be­hind, and approximately at a 60-degree angle to Lady's head. The shaking of the whip first time was the signal for Lady to bend her head within a couple of inches to the blocks. A second shake of the whip was the cue for Lady to continuously move her head in a bent position back and forth over the blocks. When Lady Wonder's head was just above the desired block Mrs. Fonda made the horse touch the block with her nose by shaking the whip a third time. It was as simple as that". (The Amazing World, pp. 247-53).

It does not surprise me that Professor William McDougall was duped by a trick­ster woman and her trained horse, but I am surprised that Dr. J.B. Rhine who is a biologist should have forgotten the fact that a horse with its laterally placed eyes could see what was taking place behind it.

With the publication of Professor Scarne's investigations came the end of Lady Wonder's mind-reading career.

Need for Intellectual Integrity

For the sake of maintaining a high degree of integrity for his researches and writings it was the duty of Dr. Rhine himself to have given publicity about his failure to detect the fraud practised by Mrs. Fonda. After all, scientists, unlike Popes, are not infallible. Had not Professor John Scarne exposed this hoax, still the world would have believed, on the authority of Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine, Director of Parapsychol­ogy at Duke University, that telepathy occurs even among animals.

Since the name of his research laboratory was linked up with the widely publicized "submarine telepathy", which was later proved to be a carefully planned fraud, was it not the duty of Dr. Rhine to have published a disclaimer? His absolute silence with regard to these two frauds, with which his names was connected directly or indirectly, gives sufficient room for people to suspect Rhine's integrity.

Abraham Kovoor’s Case Diary: Science of Charms!

Abraham Kovoor
"What really are manthras? They are a certain co-ordination of words, sounds and phrases which, when chanted a required number of times, harmonize to produce an ethereal vibration. This vibration causes ripples in the Pancha Maha Bhutha (five elements). As all living beings are composed of the jive elements, these vibrations have an effect on living matter.
"In certain charms the forces, which are the Devathas, come under three cat­egories. These are brought into force by the constant and rhythmical repetition of their names and powers. In other charms, only the cosmic forces and their vibrations are brought in to play. In the third forms of manthra, devils' names and evil forces are brought into play.
"Charms could either bring evil spirits (devils) into service or repel them. A charmer could be bound by a devil, or he could drive it out of a possessed person".
 (Gaston de Rosayro, The Ceylon Observer, 8-5-67.)

This great vibration theory of charms as expounded by Mr. Rosayro should find a place along with subjects like heat, light, electricity, magnetism etc., in text-book~ on Physics, and should be included in the G.C.E. Syllabus for our students, especially because - unlike other countries - charms, manthras and devil dances are special features of our culture. Is it not necessary that we should have a faculty in the Univer­sity of Ceylon for this specialized branch of science? It may be that we may not be able to get suitable persons from abroad with university degrees or doctorate in occultism or demonology to chair this faculty. In that case the university authorities should not overlook the claims of local Kattadiyas. At least there is one among them with specialized training in demonology in America.

Abraham Kovoor
As a result of three challenges issued by the writer on three occasions to all occultists in this country to kill him, during specified time limits, by their charms, vas kavis, necromancy, curse etc.; he received 48 charms by post from various parts of the island. Of these, 33 were on copper and silver foils, and the rest on paper. In spite of all these so-called powerful charms and their 'vibrations' he is still hail and hearty.

Of course, like all living organisms, when he finally dies the demonologists and charmists in this country might claim that his death was due to the delayed action of their charms.

One Mr. Nandiris de Silva, a kattadiya from Panadura, claimed through the columns of the Sinhalese newspaper 'Silumina' that he could, by his charms and medical powers perform various miracles such as putting a ghost in my palm, show a demon in a mirror, get me stucked to the chair I was seated on, and smash up the pieces of furniture at my home with the help of demons under his control. Though several dates were fixed both by the editor of the 'Silumina' and myself for Mr. de Silva to demonstrate his tall claims, he never turned up.

The following letters which passed between us will expose the bluff of this typical charlatan:

26th July, 1967
Dear Mr. de Silva 
Although you published through the columns of the 'Silumina' that you were prepared to take up my challenge, so far you have evaded to demonstrate your so­called mysterious ability on the dates fixed earlier. Since the readers of Silumina are liable to lose faith in you, the Ceylon Rationalist Association whose main aim is to eradicate superstitious beliefs from the minds of people, and the newspaper Silumina, a final date to demonstrate your so-called power to smash up the furniture in my home by the help of demons or ghosts you claim to have under your magical control, has now to be fixed.
"The time fixed for the demonstration is 30th July, 1967, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. You are therefore requested to be present at my bungalow at this time to carry out the demonstration in the presence of Mr. Subasinghe, Deputy Editor of Silumina, Mr. Kapila Somaratna and Mr. Garnini Cabraal.
"Though the original challenge of mine was with a bet, tins test will be con­ducted absolutely free. Your failure to be present on this occasion on some lame ex­cuse will make me come to the logical conclusion that you, like all kattadiyas, are out to cheat the gullible public by your bluff, and that conclusion will be given due public­ity. Please remember that this is the last and final date, and no postponement will be made as the readers have waited too long already.
Yours faithfully,
Abraham Kovoor

On 3rd August, 1967, I got the following reply from Mr. de Silva:

Dear Sir,
I am in receipt of your letter dated 26th July, 1967. I have already mentioned in my stories in Silumina that I wanted enough time to produce a ghost before you.
"Herewith I certify that I would produce a spirit of ghost before you. Please fix the date in September, because at present I am undergoing medical treatment from Dr. Ratnavale for an ailment in my body.
"Please let me know the date enabling me to prepare for it in time.
Thanking You
Yours faithfully,
S. Nandiris de Silva
On 3rd August, 1967, I followed it up by the following 1etter:­

Dear Mr. de Silva,
Thanks for your letter of 1-8-1967. Though I said in my previous letter of 26th July, that no postponement would be made, in view of your illness I am prepared to accede to your request.
"The new and final date now fixed to conduct, the test is 4th September from 10 am to 11 am Please note that this is the 4th postponement, and no further change will be made.
"Though I am sorry to hear that you are not well, I am glad that you are doing the correct thing by taking treatment from a medical doctor instead of depending on the magical powers you claim to possess. While ignorant persons seek the help of Kattadiyas, the Kattadiyas themselves seek the help of doctors. It is to expose this type of fraud that I have been all along challenging Kattadiyas.
Hoping to meet you on 4th September.
I am,
Yours faithfully
Abraham T. Kovoor

Following is an English translation of a letter from Mr. Nandiris de Silva written in Sinhala.

28-8-1967, Panadura 
Respected Sir,                                                                               , 
Thank you very much for the two letters. I am not in a position to show you the powers of ghosts on the 8th of next month owing to the following reasons:
I have been suffering from a brain trouble for the last three months and now I am feeling better. I am medically advised to rest for another month more: Before the 15th of October I will show you what the ghosts can do. This I will do at the Panadura Town Hall in the presence of you and a limited number of persons. This is because the police will object to public demonstrations.
I wish you long life and happiness.

N. de Silva

On 31st August I sent the following letter to Mr. N. de Silva.

Dear Mr. de Silva,

I am in receipt of your letter dated 28-8-1967. Although several dates were fixed in the past for you to demonstrate your claim, you have cleverly evaded facing the test each time giving some sort of excuse. The final date in September was fixed at your own request, but now you want it to be postponed again.
"I have now learned by experience that you are not in any way different from other Kattadiyas who claim that they could take up my various challenges, but in the end slowly back out by keeping silent. Hence, I am not prepared to waste any more of my time with an unreliable person like you. Right from the very beginning of the controversy you have shown your unreliability by changing your claims and condi­tions from time to time.
"First you said that you could put a ghost on my palm. Two weeks later you said that you could produce a ghost to be photographed. When this was accepted you changed your ground again and said that you could show a ghost through a mirror. Later you said that you could get me glued to the chair I was seated on. When asked to do it, you cleverly evaded that also and said that you could smash up the furniture in my house with the help of demons or ghosts.
"It was to demonstrate your claim to smash up the furniture that the last few days were fixed. Now you are trying to back out on the plea that you are having some brain trouble.
"Your last letter of 28-8-67 does not say a word about the smashing up of the furniture. On the other hand you vaguely say about 'what ghost can do' at the Panadura Town Hall, on the plea that the police will object if it is done in public. What was wanted of you was to break up my own furniture in my own house, and not in any public place. There is no question of the police interfering in it as you are doing it at my own request, in my own house.
"All you claim is mere bluff - an excuse to back out. Or, could it be that you find it difficult to introduce your accomplices to help you by some tricks if it is done in my house?
"Though I am not going to fix any more dates, you are at full liberty to fix a date most convenient to you to smash up the furniture. You can do this even without inform­ing me. If at any time you succeed, that news will be given publicity in newspapers.
"In the meanwhile I am releasing to the press the contents of the letters which have passed between us so that the readers may know the actual state of affairs.
"Though I am sorry to hear about your mental trouble, I am glad that you are taking treatment from a neurologist, instead of trying to cure it by your so-called manthras, thovil, bali and other fraudulent practices.
Yours faithfully
Abraham T. Kovoor

(It is a pity that the newspaper Silumina, which sponsored this controversy for many months, failed to give its readers the opportunity to know the final outcome of it by publishing these letters in spite of repeated requests. After all, who is the editor who will knowingly kill the goose which lays for him golden eggs regularly by way of lengthy advertisements?)

Courtesy: Abraham Kovoor: Exposing Paranormal Claims; Published by B Premanand, Indian CSICOP, Podannur-641023; Date of Publication: 15-3-2000


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