On 25th January, 1969, the following challenge from an anonymous religious fanatic appeared in The Times Weekender:-
"CHALLENGE TO MR. K.To Face the Unknown Terrors of an Unseen World?
Abraham T. Kovoor, rationalist, has from time to time over the years laughed to scorn all tales of ghosts, miracles, divine intervention, etc.,He has challenged, openly, publicly, all who would uphold the claim that there are stranger things on this earth than Man is aware of, and has upheld the rationalist view that everything has an explanation and everything is material, matter-of-fact and ordinary.Now, a challenger has come forward to show Mr. Kovoor how wrong or right he is. These are the conditions of the challenge:
- A confrontation, Mr. Kovoor and his rationalists must be prepared to meet the challenger, face to face.
- Any member among Mr. Kovoor's rationalists may be appointed as official representative or spokesman of the Rationalist Association, in the event of Mr. Kovoor himself being unwilling to face his challenger.
- The official contender of the Rationalist Association must carry written eVidence to show that he comes forward for and on behalf of Mr. Kovoor and that he will not ·hold the challenger responsible. for anything that might cause in him fear, terror, amazement or even physical distress, when such emotions and physical distress come from a source that the challenger is in no way responsible for. Should Mr. Kovoor come forward, he would be required to give this same undertaking so that the chall~nger is completely indemnified from the powers of the spiritual forces that may be unleashed at this confrontation.
- Mr. Kovoor must furnish the challenger with a complete list of the names of rationalists who would attend such a "showdown".
- Mr. Kovoor may name any spot he may desire for such a meeting but the challenger wishes that it be in a public place of worship, open to all who would wish to be spectators. Mr. Kovoor is free to select any church, temple, kovil or mosque for this meeting.
- The challenger is to remain anonymous until the time of the meeting. Should Mr. Kovoor accept this challenge through the medium of this paper, the challenger would then contact him by "other means."
- The challenger states that this challenge, issued through the medium of "The Times" does not in any way implicate the newspaper or make it responsible for such a confrontation or anything that might ensue from such a meeting. He wishes Mr. Kovoor to tender to the newspaper, namely "The Times", similar undertaking.
My reply to this challenge was published in the same paper on 1" February 1969, in an edited article thus:-
KOVOOR PICKS UP THE ANONYMOUS GAUNTLET7 points before 1 make afool of this challenger
Mr. Abraham T. Kovoor writes:
I was thrilled to read in THE TIMES WEEKENDER (Jan. 25th) the challenge issued by an anonymous person to me and my fellow rationalists, because I knew that this would give me an opportunity to prove before the public the absurdity of man's irrational beliefs in the existence of spiritual and supernatural POWERS and BEINGS. I wish to thank and congratulate THE TIMES WEEKENDER for publishing this challenge which, I am sure, will eventually result in eradicating some of the superstitious belief and practices of mankind.
As I am accepting this challenge, I am giving below my answers and comments on the seven points mentioned in that challenge:
1. I and my fellow rationalists are prepared to meet the challenger "face to face" on February 24th 1969, at 5 pm. at Thurstan College Hall.
2. I myself with a few fellow rationalists will be facing the challenge if and when it is conducted.
3. We are prepared to sign a document indemnifying the challenger for any adverse effects we may suffer from the so-called SUPERNATURAL powers of spirits, devils, demons, ghosts, satins, angels, gods, saints, priests, holy men, divine beings, goblins, gins, curses, vas kavi, kattadiyas, kappuralas, manthrakarayas, hoothyamkarayas etc., but not from NATURAL crimes or illegal acts such as fraud, deception, poisoning, stabbing, shooting, electric shock, radiation, etc.
To prevent fraud and deception we insist on the 'showdown' being conducted during day-time and in a public place. We rationalists know by experience that sunlight, criminal laws and the presence of fellow human beings have better effect on man to make him refrain from, doing illegal acts, than the presence of an omnipresent and omnipotent god.We must be given full freedom to search the challenger for hidden gimmicks.
4. The names of persons who will be accompanying me to face the 'showdown' will be given to the challenger if and when he comes to
on February 24th, 1969. Thurstan College
5. As I feel there will be a large number of spectators to see this "farce", I suggest an arena such as the Sugathadasa Stadium or the Oval as the venue. From the day this challenge appeared in The Times Weekender I have been receiving hundreds of telephone calls requesting me to give them an opportunity to witness the "stunt" in case I am accepting the challenge. In fact, I was woken up from my sleep on the morning of January 25th by a phone call from a friend asking me whether I had read the challenge to me in that morning's 'Weekender'. This shows how interested people are to witness this, and the need for a large area to accommodate the crowd.Since there is no bet involved in this, the challenger will have to meet the expenses connected with it.
6. This challenger’s desire to remain anonymous makes me suspect his genuineness. I say this from my past experience with similar challengers. In 1967 a kattadiya from Panadura claimed that he could by his powerful charms and the demons under his control, perform various miracles such as putting a ghost in my palm, showing a "Mahasona" in a mirror, producing a ghost before me to be photographed, getting me stuck to the chair I was seated in and smashing up all the pieces of furniture in my bungalow. Though several dates were fixed for him to perform these miracles, he never turned up.In 1966, a Buddhist Monk, whose specialty is writing "vas kavi" and preparing talismans, told me in the presence of a large crowd, that he could read the serial number on a ten-rupee currency note sealed up in an envelope. Even after repeated requests by letter, he never, appeared again.
There were numerous similar threats of accepting my various challenges from astrologers, palmists and manthrakkarayas. But none of them ever came forward. As a result of three challenges issued by me on three occasions to all occultists and spiritualists in this country to kill me during specified time limits, by their charms, vas kavi necromancy, curses, hoonyam etc, I 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 powerful charms sent to kill me, I am still alive - hale and hearty. Of course, like all mortals when I die these occultists might claim that my death was due to the delayed action of their charms.
Is the present challenger's desire to remain anonymous a special device to conveniently back out in the end without any loss of personal prestige?
Since there is no bet attached to this challenge, I insist that the identity of the challenge~ must be revealed to the public before we face the so-called 'showdown'. He must either lose some money or become a fool before the public.
Since the challenger has not divulged the nature of the "showdown" I reserve to myself the right to stipulate further conditions depending on its nature.'
While thanking The Times Weekender for publicity, I assure the newspaper that neither I nor the Ceylon Rationalist Association will hold "The Times" responsible for anything connected with this confrontation."
The following article published in The Times Weekender of 9th February, 1969, contained the anonymous challenger s rejoinder:-
"Terms of the confrontation' twixt theist and rationalist still not settled:"YOU ARE THE CHALLENGER, MR. KOVOOR"
The anonymous challenger, who has expressed great pleasure at Mr. Abraham Kovoor's spirited reply, has sent us the following letter. He states:
"I wish to make one point very clear. It is something that was not mentioned earlier. I am not Mr. Kovoor's challenger. The reading public of this country will remember that Mr. Kovoor has issued through the medium of the rress, a Challenge to any person to prove that there is a spiritual plane that affects us. If I remember right, Mr. Kovoor offered a cash 'bet' of Rs.l,000 in this regard.
"Hence, I am now, although belatedly, accepting his challenge. I feel that as an acceptor, Mr. Kovoor is in no position to state terms. He has ridiculed and scorned and shown a heavy intolerance for the beliefs of many.
"I come forward in all humility to offer to show Mr. Kovoor that he is wrong.' There is no need for bets or wagers or the tactics of a boxing ring.
"My original terms stand. Mr. Kovoor may select any religious place of worship where the public may also be free, to witness our meeting.
"He may search me, but should he insist, I would also claim the same privilege. Indeed, it may be better that we both strip to loincloths!
"I have little else to say in this matter. Mr. Kovoor, like a doubting Thomas or an unbelieving Paul, must come to realize some day that there is a greater power of God that can change his life. I am aware that he will come to scoff. I firmly believe that he will remain to pray.
"There is nothing evil in my designs. Instead, I feel a warm sense of satisfaction that soon I would meet a gentleman who has been firm enough to scoff because God did not show him by divine sign the fact ofRis presence. But I believe in the existence of this Super Goodness and know that Mr. Kovoor must ultimately also believe. For even in Mr. Kovoor are the seeds of the divinity for we can all reach up to the stars.
"I trust that you will give me your venue according to my terms, Mr. Kovoor. You have no fear of the Unknown, so why fear a religious place of worship? You may bring a police escort but I assure you, you will have no reason to fear, for 1 love you as a child of God. It is in us that we love each other and draw closer to each other in the true awareness of the divine light that will soon infuse us.
"I would be most happy to have your firm word by next Poya morning. If you do not wish to accept me on my terms you fail - and I will pray for you."
On the same day the following letter from a reader also was published in the same paper:
DISCLOSE YOUR IDENTITY
Mr. Ariya Pathirana of Kurunegala has sent us the following letter in connection with the Kovoor confrontation:
Mr. Abraham Kovoor (vide The Times Weekender, February, 1st) states that he was thrilled to read the challenge issued by an anonymous person who has challenged in general the rationalist viewpoint.
I have before me The Times Weekender of February 1st. With reference to the conditions that this great man or woman has laid down, I would unhesitatingly answer them as briefly as possible.
Condition No.1: Both Mr. Kovoor and I are prepared to meet this challenger face to face, my condition being that through the medium of your valuable journal he should disclose his complete identity. On our part, we will not frighten him or send him any threats.
In view of my reply to condition No.1, a reply to condition No.2 does not arise. In regard to Condition No.3, our reply is that we will indemnify everyone including 'The Times'. Our condition with regard to this is that the challenger should first allow himself at the spot, at the hour, and date specified, to be examined by a medical man who knows forensic science, and a representative of the Inspector General of Police. .
To Condition No.4, our answer is that we are agreeable to satisfy this challenger and everything will be done in deference to his wishes. But there is no need to go to a place of worship, be it Buddhist, Christian or Hindu. lf the supernatural powers of spirits, demons, devils, ghosts, saints, and kappuralas are to be accepted, then it must be equally feasible for them to perform these powers in the open and in daylight.
In regard to condition No.5, the rationalist will have no objection to anyone being present at the show, indeed, we shall invite, believers as well as non-believers in religion as well as rationalism.
As regards Condition No.6, it seems to me, as it should to anyone else, with commonsense, to be the height of absurdity and cowardice for this challenger to remain anonymous. He should have had the courage both of his convictions and powers to come out openly.
As mentioned by Mr. Kovoor, there are several - nay, thousands in my opinion - who wish to witness this performance.
I request that this return challenge be accepted by the end of February."
My rejoinder to the anonymous challenger’s reply appeared in the Times Weekender on 16th February. It was as follows:-
The Kovoor confrontation
'THESE ARE MY CHALLENGES & WHICH DO YOU ACCEPT?'
Mr. Abraham T. Kovoor writes:
The reluctance of the anonymous challenger to disclose his identity even after my acceptance of his challenge confirms my suspicion that he is planning ahead to back out anonymously in the end without any loss of personal prestige.
From what he has Written on 9-2-1969, (in The Times Weekender) it appears that he is not a charlatan like astrologers, palmists, priests, kattadiyas, kappuralas, manthrakkarayas, hoonyamkarayas, exorcists, vas-kavi and seth-kavi writers, spirit media and other types of specialists in witchcrafts, nor like the precognitive prophet Jeane Dixon who has a special knack for giving publicity to her so-called predictions of the death of only eminent persons who are no more in the land of the living, and thus not available for verification. Unlike these charlatans who seek newspaper publicity to advertise their fraudulent trades, Mr. Anonymous appears to be just a pious and blind believer in the supernatural powers of imaginary gods, goddesses and demons.
Out of his piety, goodness and utter ignorance Mr. Anonymous states, "Even in Mr. Kovoor there are seeds of divinity, for we can all reach up to the stars" with divine help. It would be good for this credulous ignoramus to know that man is going to reach the moon entirely by the help of science and technology, and not through any divine help. Neither the atheistic
Academyof Sciencein Russia, nor the NASA in Americaconsults religious books and omniscient gods for their space research. Although most religious pundits of today try to prove that their brand of religion is in perfect harmony with modem science, none of the research laboratories stock religious books for reference purpose.
Mr. Anonymous confirms his ignorance when he says, "We love each other and draw closer to each other in the true awareness of the divine light". This statement simply shows his lack of historical knowledge. It is a well-known historical fact that more human beings were killed on this planet for the sake of religion than for any other cause. Is he not aware that even today people are killing each other because of religious conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in
India, between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, between the so-called high and low castes in Jaffna? Instead of "drawing man closer to each other" the diversity of gods and their religions have made, and are still making, men hate each other!Although Mr. Anonymous came out with challenge on 25-1-1969, he now states that I am the challenger, and that he is only a ''belated acceptor" of one of my earlier challenges. Yet, he exhibits his muddled reasoning in the very next sentence. He says, "I feel that as an acceptor Mr. Kovoor is in no position to state terms". It is funny that I am both the challenger as well as the challenged. Only an anonymous person can make such a nonsensical statement in a newspaper without any feeling of shame.
However, since he does not say which of my numerous challenges he is accepting, I am giving below my permanent challenges which would remain in force till my death, so that he may tell me which one he is accepting.
1. To astrologers and palmists
I promised to give a reward of Rs.1000 to each astrologer who could say correctly the sex and the date of death (if dead) of ten persons whose dates and times of birth - correct to the minute, together with the latitudes and longitudes of the places of their births - are supplied. To prevent the general public from rushing to take part in this GAMBLE; I stipulated that a genuine contestant should make a refundable deposit of Rs.75. For the benefit of palmists, I would be supplying the palm-prints of ten persons, instead of the dates of birth. A margin of 5% error would be allowed. The deposit of those who lose the challenge will not be refunded. There is no bet attached to this challenge.
2. To clairvoyants, telepathists, fortune-tellers, card-readers, light-readers, umbler-talkers. Crystal-gazers, anjanakkarayas, mystics, saints, yogis, gods and their prophets, who claim supernatural powers.
I waged any amount between Rs.75 and Rs.75000 against an equal amount that no person, whatever his mystical powers be, can tell correctly the serial number on a currency note sealed up in an envelope. For the benefit of those who claim to possess telepathic powers, I would allow one of the judges to read the number on the note so that the telepathist in another room could “read the mind” of the judge and give the correct number.
3. To fire-walkers
The person, who walks on fire during fire-walking ceremonies, does it in an auto-hypnotized state of analgesia, induced by the effect of drumming and the chanting of refrains on his nervous system. Although he does not feel any pain, he is sure to burn his feet if he walks slowly on the red-hot embers. To prove that the fire-walker is not helped by any god or demon, I promised to pay Rs.1000 to each fire-walker who mold stand on fire for one minute without burning his feet. Neither his god nor the god of Mr. Anonymous will be able to protect the 'devotee'. There is no bet attached to this.
4. To hypnotists who claim to make their subjects clairvoyant
I promised to pay any amount up to Rs.75000 on a reciprocal basis, to any hypnotist who could make a person under hypnosis to read the serial number on a currency note sealed up in an envelope
5. To charmists and necromancists
I challenged on three occasions all the manthrakkarayas, hoonyamkarayas and vas kavi poets in this country to kill me during specified period, using their miraculous powers. In response to these challenges I received numerous charms. Yet I am still alive.
In view of my advanced age, and three coronary heart attacks, this challenge will not be repeated. The only reason why I do not want to repeat this challenge is not because I have developed any faith in charms, but because I do not like to give these charlatans a chance to succeed even by fluke if my natural death should happen to take place during one such period.
6. To parapsychologists who claim that they can prove REBIRTH by hypnotic age regression.
I offered a reward of any amount between Rs.75 and Rs.75000 on a reciprocal basis to any hypnotist who could regress two identical twins to their "pre-natal life" and make them give identical descriptions of their common "previous birth".
Hypnosis being a state of hallucination, induced by suggestion, it is utter foolishness to accept the utterances of hypnotized persons as "gospel truth". Of course, such talks are of immense value to a psychiatrist to study the working o(the unconscious mind of the subject.
7. To spiritualists
When four persons - two Buddhist monks and two kattadiyas-boasted through newspapers that they could show me ghosts if I could accompany them to cemeteries at midnight, I offered to pay them Rs.5,000 on a reciprocal basis if they could produce a ghost to be photographed. I stipulated this condition because, unlike the human mind, a photographic camera cannot be influenced by hypnotic suggestions or delusional fears. This challenge applies to Mr. Anonymous also if he can produce his god to be photographed!
I have been adopting the method of challenge all these years because I feel that it is the most effective way by which these charlatans can be silenced, and proved to be frauds before gullibles like Mr. Anonymous. Of course, I am aware that these challenges, staking large sums of money, are liable to create a wrong impression in the minds of the public that I am a fabulously rich person with plenty of money to throw about for cheap publicity and sensation. I am also aware of the dire consequences of these challenges. If astrologers, palmists, charmers, fortune-tellers, telepathists, clairvoyants, spiritualists, mystics, parapsychologists, hypnotists, gods, demons, spirits, priests, saints, yogis, holy men etc., have the spiritual or mysterious powers they claim to possess, I would have to spend my old age in a "Home for the Destitutes". But I am sure that I will not be losing even a single cent because there is absolutely no scientific evidence on which these superstitious beliefs are based, except many fables, anecdotes and the blind beliefs of gullibles.
I hope Mr. Anonymous will tell me through the columns of this newspaper which of the above challenges he is accepting. As Mr. Arya Pathirana of Kurunegala says, it is absolutely necessary that this anonymous person should reveal his identity, and state specifically what kind of "showdown" he is contemplating.
As promised in my last reply. I will be giving him a list of men and women who will be accompanying me to face the challenge on 24th February 1969, at Thurstan College Hall. But I like to tell Mr. Anonymous categorically that neither I nor the ladies and gentlemen facing the challenge are prepared to strip in public to satisfy the god of Mr. Anonymous. Of course, we don't mind Mr. Anonymous performing a "strip tease". At least let the spectators enjoy a free show at the expense of this pious fool!
As I do not wish to give him even a flimsy excuse to back out, I am agreeing to this encounter being conducted at a so-called "place of worship". I suggest the premises of the Raja Maha Vihara at Kelaniya as the venue, if the temple authorities are agreeable. The open space available there may be just enough to accommodate the vast crowd."
Without divulging his identity the challenger gave his final reply fixing the confrontation for 3rd March. This was published in the Times Weekender of 24th February.
"MEET ME AT THE MAKARA THORANA SAYS KOVOOR'S DEFIER"
The Kovoor confrontation is fixed; the correspondence is closed, and theist and rationalist are now on their own. Below is a reply to Mr. K's challenges.
The Editor,The Times Weekender,22nd February, 1969
I wish to thank you for having, on three Poya days, given my acceptance of Mr. Abraham Kovoor's challenge, due publicity. Last week, Mr. Kovoor detailed his general challenge and asked me to name which section of his long written harangue I come under and which of his several challenges I accept.
I have clearly stated that I wish to confront this gentleman and show him by the faith of my convictions that there is a God. That is all. I do not therefore fall into any of the categories Mr. Kovoor describes. I am neither kattadiya nor hooniyamkaraya, nor do I chant vas kavi or resort to charms or signs of devil worshippers. I do not wonder that all these droll persons have so far failed for they have tried to fight Kavoor's evil with their own. Evil can never be fought with evil- only good. Kovoor will find that r am thus not conforming with his accepted ideas of wild-eyed fanatics who ask the powers of darkness to manifest themselves. Rationalism and the denial of the spiritual is the most blanketing evil of all, for it denies God and all His wonders.
I thank you for having up to now preserved my anonymity. I wish it to be so even now. I would have dearly wished to have met Mr. Kovoor this week, but since our tussle is now a week-by week one, I find that this, my reply, must first find its place in your Poya paper before Mr. Kovoor and I can meet. This letter is my reply. I will be at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihare at 8 a.m. on Poya day, the 3rd of March. Mr. Kovoor will find me under the Makara Thorana, after the flight of steps leading to the temple.
I will then identify myself to Mr. Kovoor with these words: "I COME IN THE NAME OF GOD"
Mr. Kovoor may take any precautions he deems fit. As for me, I face him alone and, he may be assured, unarmed.
My name is not yet to be disclosed but I will give you permission to do so after the 3rd of March."
(Ed-This correspondence is now closed)
In my replies I insisted on the following three specific conditions:-
- The Challenger should reveal his identity before the 'showdown '.
- The nature of the confrontation should be revealed in. advance.
- The challenger should be responsible for the expenses and arrangements in connection with the confrontation.
My insistence on the challenger revealing his identity before hand was mainly to prevent others appearing on the scene posing as challengers. Similarly, if the challenger does not state precisely how he is going to prove that God exists, it would be open to him and others to interpret any chance occurrence such as a rainbow, a sudden shower of rain, the disappearance of the sun under clouds, the blowing away of the cap on my head by a sudden gust of wind or any other incident as evidence of God’s working, as this type of credulous fools often do.
Ignoring all these stipulations, this agent of God publicly announced in the paper that he would be meeting me 'anonymously' at the Kelaniya Temple on 3m March at 8 a.m. He exhibited his cowardice by failing to meet me and my fellow rationalists 'face to face' on 24th February at Thurstan College to receive the list of other rationalists who were prepared to 'face' him at the final encounter. This was one of the conditions he stipulated in his first challenge.
On 27th February, the chief priest of the Raja Maha Vihara, Kelaniya, informed me that nobody had sought permission from him, and that he was not in favour of any one exhibiting his 'madness' within the premises of his temple.
This necessitated my making the following paid announcement in the Times Weekender and the Daily News or the benefit of the members of the Ceylon Rationalist Association and the public:-
"RATIONALISTS - As the encounter with the anonymous challenger is postponed till his identity is revealed, and the venue booked, members who volunteered to face the challenge with me are requested to wait till further announcement."
Why are these God’s representatives, unlike rationalists, keen on doing things stealthily? His insistence to remain anonymous to the last confirmed my suspicion that he was determined to escape without personal humiliation. I must accept that I have failed in my hope to make a fool of this pious fanatic in public!
Information just received from the newspaper office reveals the identity of the challenger as a European skin diver turned film producer and director, who recently preferred transcendental meditation to psychiatric treatment!
This accounts for the eccentric announcement about his appearance under the 'Makarathorana' at 8 a.m. on 3rd March, shouting "I COME IN THE NAME OF GOD", without obtaining prior or later permission from the temple authorities, and finally failing to appear on the scene at the appointed hour!
Now that his identity is revealed, at least unofficially, will he come out in the open, courageously, and give a chance to the public to witness him performing a "strip tease" in the name of God to convince the rationalists that God exists?!!