Sunday, 28 April 2013

Abraham Kovoor’s Case Diary: Do We Survive Death?

Abraham Kovoor

“If Mr. Kovoor s materialistic theory of the mind is accepted, all possibility of survival after death has to be ruled out, which means that all religious teachings that postu­late a life after death are false”. (G.G. Munidasa - Times of Ceylon - 30-4-67).
“What Mr. Kovoor thinks will happen to his own spirit after his death?” (A. Wickramasinghe - Times of Ceylon).

I do not hold the view that my life is located in a particular spot in my body. Life is generated in all living cells in my body, and is sustained by the oxidatory chemical action which goes on in them. This chemical action is maintained by my breathing and blood circulation. It is not in any way different from the production of heat and light energies during the combustion of the hydrocarbon in a burning candle. Heat and light do not depart from a burning candle when it is put out, and return to it when relit.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
It is just a case of cessation of chemical activity and production of energy. Similarly there is nothing to get out from my body when it dies as a result of termination of breathing and blood-circulation. If by any chance my dead body is resuscitated by some of the modem techniques, it will be wrong to think that the ‘departed life or soul’ re-entered the revived body.

My death will not be taking place abruptly at a particular moment in time. I began to die some 70 years ago. I started my life as a parasite on my mother. About one-eighth of my body died in the form of the umbilical cord and placenta on the day I terminated my parasitic mode of life. From that day onward I have been dying as well as growing. While numerous cells in my body died daily, numerous new ones were born. Large quantities of dead tissues have escaped my body by way of cropped and shaved hair, peeled off skin, cut nails, dropped teeth, and the millions of internal cells dead and discarded as waste during urination and perspiration.

Accidental cuts and bruises, bacterial and virus infections, physical and mental work, exposure to ultra-violet and infra-red rays of the sun, action of caustic and corrosive chemicals I have come in contact with while working in science laborato­ries, consumption of highly spiced pungent curries etc., have been responsible for killing the major part of my seventy-year-old body.

Once, a part of my body was removed by surgical operation. Forty years ago a minute cell separated from my body, merged with a foreign cell, and continued to grow out of my body. It is still growing, dying and proliferating in Paris as Dr. Aries Kovoor.

During my youth the rate of birth of new cells in my body was far greater than the rate of death. Hence, I began to grow and put on weight, reaching a maximum of 185 pounds in my 40th year. I maintained this maximum weight for a few years more when the rate of birth and death of cells in the body was equal. Thereafter the rate of death steadily kept ahead of birth, so much so, that my present weight is only 125 pounds. The total weight of the dead tissues which have escaped from my body all these years would amount to lakhs of pounds.

This process of continued death will go on till the day when there will be no more cells left behind to multiply. Even after the death of all the cells in my body, the cornea of my eyes will continue to live in the eyes of a lucky stranger.

The death of the 125 pounds of my present body will be a major event in my life of continued birth and death, because my brain - the seat of my mind - would cease to function, bringing to an end my individuality and ego.

My last breath will not be in any way different from the present ones. Then, as well as now, I shall be breathing out carbon dioxide and water vapour.

I do not believe that I have a soul or spirit to survive my death and go to heaven or hell, or to roam about as my ghost, or even to be reborn.

Abraham Kovoor (right) with MC Joseph
If at all there is a soul, the major part of it should have escaped from me long ago with the large mass of dead tissues which have left me already; and even after the death of the present 125 pounds of tissues, a fraction of that soul should remain in the body of the stranger who would be receiving the corneal graft.

I am an individual because, as a highly evolved animal, I have a set of centralized nervous, respiratory, circulatory and alimentary systems. But during the early stage of my development in my mother's womb, before the centralized biological functions started, I too had a dividual stage like many lower animals and most plants. While I was in my mother's womb, had the foetal tissue or the fertilized egg divided and separated into two or three parts, I would have had one or two identical (congenital) brothers born with me sharing fractions of my original soul or reborn personality.

Though sound and logical, these postulations will be rejected by people who are indoctrinated or brainwashed .about souls and rebirths, because they are not in line with the ‘teachings of religions’ .

Thus, though all religious teachings 'postulate a life after death' I have not found any valid reason or evidence to believe it. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Excellences and Values

A.N. Moorthy Rao 

From the stage when man regarded nature forces and animals like the crocodile, the snake and the monkey as God, we rose to the stage of the ‘Trimurti’ concept and have presently reached the vision of a single God. We may rightly say that our cogitation has indeed progressed. It is true that in popular legends, many human vices have been attributed to God. But, as civilization advanced, the tendency to attribute to God the virtues of man along with his vices, a tendency which had been present always became pronounced. This tendency is evident in the concept of the Trimurthis. We have seen earlier that Vishnu symbolizes a full life while Shiva stands for restraint and renunciation. We may, therefore, reasonably expect our ‘one God’ to be a harmonious blend of these two qualities. It would suffice to refer to Him as just ‘God’, no other nomenclature is necessary. Once the labels of Vishnu and Shiva are done away with, the stories they recall can also be forgotten. Everyone - the Dwaitis, Advaitis and Vishishtadwaitis and others - could accept without squabbling, the position that God is only one.

This synthesizing process had in fact been at work in the minds of our people. The supreme deity of Dwaities and Vishishtadwaitis, Krishna (Vishnu), can shun ostentation and affluence like Shiva. Did He not relish the frugal rice flakes offered by Sudama? When He went to Hastinapura as the ambassador of peace, He stayed in Vidura’s house, not in the magnificently furnished royal palace. With Arjuna sitting in the chariot, Narayana (Krishna) was only his charioteer. Krishna, the author of the Gita, toils, though he needs no reward.

Shiva is the Lord of all wealth – ‘ekaishwarye sthitaha’. He is not without wealth, only He is not attached to it. In non­attachment and renunciation He surpasses ascetics; yet, He is no stranger to love. He is ‘Ardhanareeeshwara’ (half man and half woman). When we reach the point of recognizing in a single entity a synthesis of these two principles - involvement and Withdrawal, enjoyment and detachment, passion and renunciation, opulence and uninvolvement - we will have moved beyond mythology and theology and will have taken the first step towards philosophy, that is, a major step in our quest for truth.

Excellence-Related and Value-Related Qualities:

We have seen the list of human shortcomings that have been attributed to God. Now, let us turn to His virtues, which are of two categories. First, God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. These underline God’s power and capabilities and His greatness. These qualities (if they truly exist) may benefit the world or may not: that depends on whether God chooses to exercise them, and, if He does, in what manner.

The second category of qualities relates to the values that inevitably arise from any interaction between God and living beings, values like justice, nonviolence, compassion and love. From our point of view, these qualities are very important. Theologists may revel in eulogizing God’s greatness; the ordinary man seeks help and sympathy from God. We' need help and sympathy. Nature has no interest - neither love nor hatred at all for us (that is, living beings). The sun sheds welcome warmth during winter not out of his love for us but because heat is natural to the sun. An earthquake is not caused by nature’s displeasure towards man: an earthquake has to take place under certain conditions. Nature functions according to its own laws. It never takes into account what is good or bad for us. If justice, compassion etc., are what we are looking for, then, we must seek them elsewhere. That is why we visualize a God. Therefore, from our standpoint, His value-related qualities become more important than His powers.

But the exercise of values in life demands power. Therefore, the qualities of the first category also have their own value. Our feelings about God relate to both these categories. For example, the fear of God is due to His powers: but devotion and love relate to values. This then, isbroadly, the conclusion: an element of fear be may be embedded in devotion.

Power-Related Qualities:

Let us admit that God, if He exists, is omnipresent - that is, present everywhere. But as for His other two power-related attributes - omniscience and omnipotence - can both these qualities be present in the same person at the same time? Can God, in addition to being omniscient, also be omnipotent?

The prefix ‘omni’, in the context of time, includes the past, the present and the future. If omniscient, God must have certain knowledge that a particular event will take place in future, that it is inevitable and that is impossible for anyone to change or prevent it. If, indeed, it is possible for anyone to interfere with that event, then God cannot be said to know the future for, it is now uncertain. And If He does not know the future, then He is not omniscient! Let us take an example. In 1986, Halleys’ Comet came very close to the earth. If He is omniscient, God ought to have known about it. Now if the comet had not, in fact, come close to the earth, that would have belied God's omniscience. It had to come, and it had to be beyond anyone’s, even God’s, powers to prevent its coming. But, if even God did not possess the power to prevent that event, how can we call Him omnipotent?

One of my friends objected; “No, this logic is not sound. God is quite capable of stopping the comet. But, He just does not wish to do so”. Now, this argument is not tenable. How does this gentleman know that God does not wish to stop the comet? Also, the relevant issue is not whether God has the wish or not to stop the comet; Irrespective of the desire He must have the power. If, with such powers, He had prevented the comet from appearing, then His previous understanding (that the comet will come) would have been falsified: His omniscience would then be open to question. If He possesses that power, then, He cannot be omniscient: and without that power He is not omnipotent. Logically omniscience and omnipotence cannot both be present at the same time.

Value-Related Qualities

Let us now turn to the value-related qualities. Our account of the qualities that God is said to possess is in reality, only an account of what we yearn to see in Him. The descriptions of God that readily come to mind are: ‘God is just, He punishes the guilty and protects righteous people, He is compassionate and He is the embodiment of Love’.

God should be the symbol of the qualities we consider the highest and the noblest. Let us now, for the purpose of argument, admit that God (if He exists) is the repository of all those virtues. Since He Himself symbolises many great virtues, it is only natural that righteous persons are dear to Him. Still, assertions such as ‘He is on the side of justice, He punishes the guilty, He protects the righteous’ and so on are debatable. It may be that God upholds justice. But if He should mete out strict justice, would we, human beings, welcome it? Who can dare pray for pure justice? Who knows how often the noblest of men have stumbled? The misery they might have caused and the heinous thoughts that might have crossed their minds? Can we pray for an absolutely just dealing for such acts and thoughts? And if God so deals with man would He still be the Fountain of Mercy? In Shakespeare’s play ‘King Lear’ these lines occur:

The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us[1]

(King Lear, V, 3, 170-1)

Should this be true, what fate awaits us! There is no dearth of ‘pleasant vices’ in us. A human father is gentle with his wayward son. God is the Father of the Universe; could His heart be harder than that of man? Which should dominate His nature - compassion or the desire to mete out strict punishment?

Fear of God; Fear of the Law, of Punishment

It may be argued that the fear of divine punishment will make us watch our steps. In English, to call some one a ‘God- fearing man’ is high praise. According to the Old Testament, when God saw that ‘the wickedness of man was great in the earth’, He caused a deluge and destroyed the whole world (except Noah and his collection of animals). Later, when evil again flourished in the renewed world He burnt to ashes the sinful cities and unleashed terrible diseases on Egypt. Such stories evoke the fear of God.

The question of fear is a complex one. One may argue that ‘fear’ itself is deleterious. Some times fear drives us to evil or wrong acts. Animals charge us out of fear. The fear that another person may harm us provokes the evil in us. Perhaps the fear of God is an exception. But should the fear of punishment keep us to the straight path? That would mean that if one were certain of not being caught, one could be wicked. And it would amount to virtual licence for the wickedness of nonbelievers.

Generally, it is not the fear of God that keeps people righteous - although this cannot be entirely ruled out. I remember a newspaper report of a priest appointed to perform worship in a temple, stealing the jewels of the deity. Today (29-7-1990), as I prepare the press copy of this book, the Deccan Herald’ has reported that servants have been regularly stealing money from the hundi (collection box) at the Tirupathi Venkataramana Swamy temple. Venkataramana is reputed to be a sternly righteous God, who inflicts punishment if He does not receive the money or the service that is His due. And yet, His own servants are reported to have looted crores of rupees. Two Assistant Executive Officers are reported to have amassed wealth to the tune of 70 lakhs to a crore of rupees. A servant of the temple is worth 30 lakhs, it seems. And these are the persons who work right in the presence of the Lord!

There are those who amass a crore of rupees by unfair methods and then, a little troubled, say to themselves, “It is prudent to remain on the right side of God”, and spend ten lakhs out of their ill-gotten wealth and build a temple or present a crown to the Lord. The Thugs, it seems, used to offer prayers to Goddess Kali, and set out on their mission of murdering travelers, confident that the grace of the Goddess was with them. There were people who believed that human sacrifice would bring them the fulfillment of their desires. I am told that there are such people even now. In such situations, the fear of God, far from deterring crime, emboldens the criminal.

If the fear of God keeps even a few persons on the path of righteousness, let us welcome it. But no matter whether we have cause to fear some one or another, evil should be revolting just because itis evil. We ought to love goodness because it is good. This is the attitude we have to cultivate.

(We cannot say that fear has no role at all in the world. It is difficult to imagine a civilized state without the police the judges and those who carry out their judgments - when we recall the level man has attained today! I have read in America reports of convicts released on parole[2] committing crime after crime. Here is one such incident: a convict on parole butchered the very people who employed him and fed him and lavished affection on him, violated their women and fled! I hesitate to concede that even a few persons are born evil; but I cannot brush aside the possibility. True, such people are a rare breed, but they are there. Fear of punishment is imperative in such cases) .

What is stated in the brackets above refers to the fear in man - fear of the law, of punishment. Fear of God is something different. Why cannot God transform wicked persons into good ones instead of meting out punishment? After all, it should not be difficult for an omnipotent God to do so! Instead of being the enemy of evil persons, He could be the enemy only of evil. He can destroy evil and save the evil ones. If it is true that He is ‘All Merciful’, only this course would be natural to Him.

[1] These are the words of a character called Edgar. His view need not necessarily be Shakespeare’s opinion.

[2] Parole: A serving convict, who has displayed good behavior in prison, is permitted to leave the prison for a specified period on a written undertaking that he would be law-abiding even outside the prison. He is said to be on parole.

The word for “Excellences” used in the original is ‘mahatvagalu’. The English word does not fully convey the connotation of the word ‘mahatvagalu’ - Translator

Akkihebbalu Narasimha Murthy Rao (June 16, 1900—August 23, 2003) was an eminent Kannada writer.  He was the first Director of Kannada and Culture Department of the Karnataka Government.

His popular book, Devaru (God), won (1992) the Pampa Award instituted by the Government of Karnataka.

This essay is from Chapter III (Stories about God) of the book, which was translated into English by Prof LS Seshagiri Rao and published by Kannada Sahitya Parishath, Bangalore in 1995

Shadows of Trident: Modi as Prime Ministerial Candidate

Ram Puniyani

From last several months (April 2013) the Bihar Chief Minister Niteesh Kumar is becoming more vocal about his opposition to his electoral ally BJP projecting Narendra Modi as the Prime ministerial candidate. He went on to say that the PM candidate should be one who has a secular image, in obvious reference to Narendra Modi’s role in Gujarat carnage of 2002. He also said that it was ok to work with Vajpayee or even Advani should be ok. It is clear that all three; Vajpayee, Advani and Modi are from the same political stable of RSS. They are all the trained swayamsevaks of RSS, believing in the ideology of Hindutva, which wants to bring in Hindu nation in place of secular democratic India. Vajpayee played his role in this direction in his own way, i.e. rojecting a liberal image at a time when nobody was willing to touch the BJP even with a barge pole. At that time its role in Babri demolition and consequent communal violence was too fresh in peoples’ memory. Advani was the one to bring to fore this divisive agenda. Same Advani later tried to put forward a secular image by calling Jinnah as a secular leader.

Kumar and his likes have given respectability to the BJP starting from Jaya Prakash Narayan. He has no ideological compunction as the longing for power is what matters more to him. Today why is there such an opposition to Modi? One reason may be to woo the minorities for electoral purpose which is very clear. For all those who wish to uphold democracy and the liberal democratic space for struggle of weaker sections of society, it is much more pertinent that Modi-BJP remain on the margins and defeated electorally. Irrespective of the calculations of Niteesh Kumar it is clear to any student of politics that now BJP is making a transition from a party working for communal agenda to the communal fascist party in action, especially with Modi as the leader. This communal fascism was inherent in its agenda right from the beginning but it is becoming apparent lately, more so with Modi’s possible candidature.

This transition of BJP’s politics and Modi’s candidature for Prime Minster ship is a signal of sorts of the descent of fascism in India. This fascist potential may become actualized if ignored by those political formations which are committed to the interests of weaker sections of society and for liberal values. The classical fascism which trampled Europe’s Germany and Italy had certain characteristics, which are there in the policies of BJP and more so with Modi being on the helm. The major party of UPA, Congress, is also for some of the economic policies which BJP is insisting on. There are more points which fit into Modi’s persona being a fascist one. To begin with more than any other leader his harsh unrelenting opposition to minorities is a ploy to consolidate the majority community. Surely this communal polarization has been going on in India more so from last several decades through the communal violence. The latest in this is that RSS seems to have outsourced some of its vehemence to the communalized state apparatus.  This was so much visible in the recent Dhule (Maharashtra) violence where the police itself went on to kill the Muslims on some pretext. The polarization along religious lines and communal fascist mobilization is also being achieved through the acts of terror, which are attributed to the Muslims, irrespective of who does it. In this polarization; Modi is the hero of the section of society, which is fed with the poison of communal propaganda.

The communalization of different wings of state is now becoming qualitatively different, as a section of bureaucracy in particular is on the same page as the communal forces. The state of media, where the divisive thinking is projected in a sensational way and the outpourings of RSS family are highlighted is a more than just a matter of concern. The societal culture, the retrograde values being dished out through TV serials of the genre of Saas bhi kabhi… have their own role. The hordes of God men have played no mean role in glorifying the values which are a modern version of caste and gender hierarchy. These values are the base of sectarian politics.

Modi has, more than others become the darling of big business and the IT-MBA class. This section of middle class were also the fulcrum upsurge of Anna-Kejriwal-Ramdev trio, which tried to create distrust in the parliamentary democracy and hyper projected the symptom of corruption rather than looking at the system which gives rise to this abominable phenomenon. The Tata’s, Adani’s and Ambani’s are all gaga about Modi as he has been gifting away subsidies and land to them in a manner which shows a clear collusion between big business and Modi. Parallel to his creating an illusion of development, Modi has successfully propagated about himself, an image which is that of a mass leader. In the analysis of political phenomenon of fascism in India one knew that fascist onslaught is led by a mass charismatic leader. Now with the help of self generated propaganda and supported by the big business Modi has filled that gap.

The parties like Congress also have tried to work towards an authoritarian state, trying to restrict democratic ethos. In contrast Modi is a living embodiment of totalitarianism, wanting to abolish any dissent and liberal space. Seeing the pattern of politics prevalent in Gujarat one knows the total dominance of Modi, where the opposition to the mass leader cannot survive in any form. Many a friends try to confuse between authoritarian regimes and totalitarian fascism. Earlier many political streams tried to label the emergency regime (Indira Gandhi 1975) as a fascist one. The mistake in that is that emergency was not a product of mass movement, which the BJP-Modi led movement is. Modi seems to be filling the missing slot of the mass charismatic leader in Indian scenario. Whatever be the reasons for Niteesh Kumar to oppose Modi, we need to realize that yes Modi is different in today’s context. Ashish Nandy was very accurate when he said that Modi has a classic fascist persona. Nandy had also written an article 'Blame the middle class’, that again sums up the class base of Modi and the looming fascism in India.

Still the game is not lost. The unevenness of Indian political scenario is a saving grace against the homogenizing totalitarian politics of Modi and company. The regional diversity and struggles of democratic and oppressed sections is the major force which can halt the march of Communal Fascism with Modi as the leader. The point however is; will this be actualized in practice as the role of Congress has been very suspect as for as secular values is concerned. In popular imagination Congress is held responsible for the anti Sikh violence of 1984, which is true. It is also true that Congress has indulged in opportunism as for as secular values are concerned, and BJP-Modi are clever enough to capitalize on that. Irrespective of the party affiliations and shades, one thing is sure that unlike other electoral formations, which are fairly opportunist in different degrees and do compromise as for as secular values is concerned. Still none of these should be compared with BJP-Modi as the latter are the electoral wing of RSS, the organization wedded to the agenda of fascist Hindu Rashtra. Unfortunately currently many a countries are witnessing the fascist streaks in the garb of politics in the name of religion, Islamo-fascism being another such tendency which has been trampling our neighboring countries.

We need to realize that democracy has no substitute. The politics masquerading in the name of religion is a sure recipe for the destruction of democratic edifice in the country. In India the other point to note is that here this fascism has been growing at a comparatively slower pace, which may distract our analysis from its real character. It is in tune with this that critics of Hindutve fascism are labeled as being anti Hindus, that is a propaganda which appeals to the raw religiosity of section of society. It’s time that all democratic elements form a united front to thwart to fascist onslaught on the country, if the country is to be saved from long dark tunnel of totalitarian politics represented by Narendra Modi and his ilk.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Science versus Miracles: Demonstrating Psychic Powers with Playing Cards – Part III

B Premanand

The psychic claims to have powers to hypnotize every one. He calls six persons from the audience. On the left side he asks five people to stand facing the audience and on the right side the sixth person.

He hypnotizes the five volunteers and shows a pack of cards and asks each one to remember one of the cards.  He does so to all the five volunteers. Then he requests the volunteers, one by one, to tell the audience as to what card they have remembered. After they announce different cards which they have selected and remembered, he requests the sixth person to look at the pack of cards and tell them what the cards he is seeing are. He tells them what the cards he is seeing are. He tells the audience that all the cards are the same. The five volunteers are shocked and when they are shown the cards they find them all of one denomination.

Experiment: 110

Effect: Hypnotizing the whole audience with a pack of cards.

Method: When you release the cards up, one by one with your fingers holding tightly the bottom of the cards, different cards are seen. When you release them down, you see the same cards.

Experiment: 111

Effect: Psycho-kinetic power proved with a pack of cards.

The psychic claims to have PK. He shows a pack of cards with different cards.  He shows a particular card to the audience and places it on the pack face down. With the pack face down, he releases the cards one by one and requests the volunteer to order “STOP” when he wants. The psychic stops and takes out the top dealt card and tells that the particular card has moved there by PK. Thereafter, whenever the volunteer asked the psychic to stop, the top card is the same. No matter how many times he tries, it does not change. With his PK powers, the card comes to the top of the pack, where he is ordered to stop every time.

Props: Svengali Card Pack.

Method: Show the cards are different by dealing out the cards one by one face up. Then hold the pack face down keeping a specific card at the top of the pack face down and slowly release out, one by one, the cards from the bottom. But take out the card at the top when the volunteer asks you to stop and name the card. Do it as many times as he wants and the top card of the pack is always the same.

What is a Svengali Deck of Cards?

The Svengali Deck is a specially constructed deck of cards that can be used by magicians to perform various card tricks. The deck and the tricks performed with it are self-working and require almost no skill. Burling Hull claimed to have invented the deck in 1909.

Diagram showing operation of Svengali deck
The deck alternates between normal cards and shortened cards, with the shortened cards all of the same number and suit. When the deck is riffled front to back, only the normal cards are visible; when it is riffled back to front, only the shortened cards are visible.

The deck can be dribbled or riffled to create the illusion that the deck is completely ordinary. It can even be shuffled. One basic trick involves a spectator choosing a card from the deck and returning it; the card can then appear practically anywhere in the deck, making tricks like the Ambitious card incredibly simple. The final and most stunning trick is when all the cards are suddenly presented as being all the same as the initially chosen card.

While the Svengali Deck allows for the easy performance of seemingly complex tricks, the conjurer cannot allow an audience member to examine the deck. The use of a Svengali Deck can also be detected by its characteristic faster riffle and sound. Finally, because the deck is widely sold in joke and novelty shops, many laypeople are familiar with it.

(Courtesy: Wikipedia. Accessed on 06 April 2013)

Monday, 22 April 2013

Whither Annihilation of Caste?

Ram Puniyani

When on this (14th April 2013) anniversary of Dr. Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar, we pay tribute to his yeomen services towards the cause of social justice and bringing to fore the values of democracy; we also need to think as to how his dream and vision of annihilation of caste can be taken further. Where do we stand in this direction six decades after the Independence and after the formal implementation of Constitution of India, which gives us the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity?

Caste has been the major marker of Indian, particularly Hindu, society. While world over the serfs were under the bondage of feudal lords, we had religiously ordained system of Varna-Jati (Caste). Many theories of caste prevail, the racial theory, superior Aryans versus the natives, now stands debunked. The hypothesis of Morton Klass argues that it was a way of adjusting of tribal to the system of production, which generated surplus. This understanding indicates towards the understanding that caste evolved with the particular system of production in India. Kosambi looks at origin of caste as being due to the continuous process of fusing of tribal into general society. The major contribution to the understanding of genesis of caste comes from Ambedkar as per whom caste-varna came into being due to ideological-religious factors. According to him caste system came into being as the result of ideologies of Dharmshatras, which was part of Brahmanism.

In Indian society the interesting point is that caste is prevalent not only amongst Hindus, it also prevails in other religious communities. The difference being that amongst Hindus, the caste is prescribed in the holy books, while in other religious communities; it is a social phenomenon, like Ashraf, Ajlaf and Arzal amongst Muslims and different denominations amongst Christians and Sikhs. The first challenge to caste system came from Lord Gautam Buddha, who talked of Samta, equality. This concept of Samta, equality became very popular and was accepted by large number of people till Buddhism was attacked and wiped out from India in eighth century by those who wanted to restore the varna-caste. During medieval period the Bhakti saints in particular talked against and questioned the system of graded inequality, but their voice though a powerful articulation of the plight of the low caste, remained just an expression of pain and sorrow of the poor, and was strongly opposed by Brahmin clergy.

The rule of Muslim Kings and British did not change the social structure of the subcontinent, though during British rule due to the industrialization and introduction of modern education, the caste system started being questioned, opposed and socially challenged. The edifice of caste started loosening up. During the rule of Muslim kings the social structure remained intact. With the British rule the half way process of industrialization and modern education came in. At the same time the caste-varna also continued on the side, though its legitimacy started being questioned in a more serious way. In the changed situation starting form Jotirao Phule the movements for caste abolition found grounding in society, though they were not able to uproot the phenomenon of caste in the full measures as the feudal production system ran side by side with the process of modernization. The process of secularization, abolition of the hold of landlord and clergy, remained incomplete and so the process of caste transformation remained half way through.

All the struggles started by Ambedkar aimed for social justice, social equality and democratic values. He led the movements like Chavdar Talab, for right to have access to public drinking water, Kalaram Mandir, right to enter temples and also the burning of Manusmriti, as symbolic of the rejection of religiously ordained caste hierarchy. The resistance to these led to his conclusion that he had to leave the Hindu fold, which is dominated by Brahmanical values of Varna. The social political base to his movements was provided by the national movement, which was aspiring for throwing away the British colonial power and also struggling for democratic values. Here Ambedkar rook off from this movement, but the national movement was not adequate to give him total social justice as this movement also had upper castes in good measure. So here we see the dilemma of Mahatma Gandhi versus Ambedkar. Gandhi was not able to go beyond the limits posed by the participation of all castes in freedom movement. He kept talking of varna system in a more refined form while taking up cudgels against untouchability.

Gandhi also opposed the separate electorate, provided by communal award of MacDonald in 1932. The Poona pact between Gandhi and Ambedkar led to the reserved Constituency and the provisions of reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Ambedkar’s vision was that reservations and inter-caste marriages will be steps towards annihilation of caste. Today both these face serious obstacles on social ground. The rigidity of caste is increasing and inter-caste marriage is facing serious obstacles from conservative forces. While freedom movement led by Gandhi was half way conceding to the needs of dalits, the other ideology, the one of religious nationalism was waiting in the wings with the concept of Hindu Rashtra, Hindu nation. Ambedkar did realize that acceptance of religious nationalism, formation of Pakistan on that ground will be a disaster for dalits as it will pave the way for Hindu Rashtra, the slavery of dalits. Today while most of the commentators are attacking Gandhi, they need to focus more attention to the impact of the politics and ideology of Hindu religious nationalism, which is a major obstacle to caste abolition today.

The reservations for dalits led to newer caste equations. On one hand the section of rising middle class stood to oppose these reservations, tooth and nail. The anti reservation violence has been witnessed in the Gujarat in particular in 1980s. Also since the overall development process is not accommodative of all, the inner competition for reservation has led to a strange situation where different communities are vying for status as a particular reserved category. The overall future for the youth is dismal and it gets reflected in the form of movements for particular castes getting recognized in this or that category. The other major obstacle to caste transformation is the politics of Hindutva. On one hand it talks of Samajik Samrasta (social Harmony), that all castes should have harmony amongst them. The Hindutva’s concept of ‘Integral Humanism’ emphasizes on different castes continuing their professions for smooth social functioning. The social engineering by religious political forces is co-opting the low caste through various mechanisms, to the extent of using them as foot soldiers of their anti minority violence. A section of dalits also is influenced by the process of Sanskritization, aping at upper caste and imitating them for their future trajectory. As a logical corollary; the cultural mechanisms, the TV serials, the preaching’s of hoards of God men are promoting the values of Manusmiriti in a more sophisticated form.

At the same time a serious layer of progressive and dalit intellectuals are trying to restore the core values and principles of struggles against caste-varna. The situation today is very complex and caste as a social phenomenon is far from extinct. Today’s political scenario is a conflict between the values of democracy on one hand, and the values of religious nationalism; the politics representing the defense of caste and gender hierarchy; on the other. The process of social equality; caste annihilation and values of democracy need to be brought in through a fresh series of multilayered struggles for a truly democratic society. That alone will be a tribute to the life and work of the legend of this great visionary, Bhimrao Babsaheb Ambedkar.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Abraham Kovoor’s Case Diary: Rebirth and Prodigies

Abraham Kovoor

“Mr. Kovoor’s sound arguments to prove the absence of a life after death are, no doubt, very convincing. Yet, 1 like to ask Mr. Kovoor what he has to say about the numerous cases of rebirths investigated scientifically and confirmed by persons of high integrity and learning like Dr. Ian Stevenson, Prof HN Banerji, Prof K.N Jayatilleke, Mr. V.F. Gunaratne, and many others.
“How will Mr. Kovoor explain child prodigies, and inequalities in children born to the same parents?” (A. Wickramasinghe. Times of Ceylon - 29-5-1967).

Explanations for congenital variations are better sought in the science of genet­ics and the Mendalian laws of heredity than in karma and Rebirth.

Man has succeeded in producing prodigies among domesticated animals by se­lective breeding making use of his knowledge in the science of genetics. The prodi­gious egg-layers like the ‘High Line’hens, and the prodigious milk-yielders like the Jersey and Cape cows are the products of such selective breeding. The prodigious characteristics of the high-yielding hens, cows, cultivated plants etc., are governed by their genes and DNA molecules, and not by their Karma and 'previous births'.

Time will not be long before man will be using his advanced knowledge of genetics to improve the congenital qualities of his own species - Homo sapiens. Fu­ture man will surely find the need for discarding religious taboos, and to put into practice the knowledge he has gained by scientific researches to improve the quality of his own offspring. I visualize a future when the State will be interfering with the freedom of the individual in the field of procreation. By this I did not mean that individuals will be deprived by legislation their freedom to quench their sexual thirst by legitimate means.

Human procreation may become one of the most important nationalized con­cerns guided and controlled by expert geneticists and far-sighted statesmen.

It may be that semen banks, like blood banks, will be established at state ex­pense for preserving specially selected semen for artificially inseminating specially selected women possessing desired qualities. Thus, if man adopts selective breeding for improving his own species, it will be possible to plan the births of more and more child prodigies than at present. Today such prodigies are few and far between, being the product of mere chance.

It will not be too long before science works out a safe and satisfactory method of sex determination with chemicals. When such a possibility is available, man may be determining not only the quality of his offspring but also the sex.
Abraham Kovoor with his wife investigating a case

To say that child prodigies are born with the knowledge they had acquired in their ‘previous lives’ is as absurd as the assertion of some investigators of rebirth in Ceylon that acquired physical characteristics like wounds can reappear as scars on the bodies in subsequent births. If it is so, it will be a death-blow to the Eye Donation Society of Ceylon. The fear of being reborn blind will prevent people from donating their eyes!

A protagonist of rebirth goes about in this country proving the genuineness of an alleged case of rebirth at Balangoda on the basis of his pet theory that acquired physical characteristics, like wounds, could reappear on ‘reborn’ body. Another cham­pion of rebirth - a university don, and a close friend of mine - says, “Human birth is accountable in terms of the deaths of human beings, animals and non-human beings in this world or on other planets in this vast universe          The experimental evidence in rebirth is derived by using the age regression technique to regress a subject to ante­natal period. The subject is deeply hypnotized and taken back in time by suggestion. At any point in time in his past, the subject may be made to recount his experiences as well as to re-live them”.

Indeed, this is the first time a claim is made that rebirth can occur with both the body and mind of the previous birth intact. If this claim is correct, then there is no foundation for the don's theory that one organism can be reborn as a member of another species. If organisms retain the same bodies with all the congenital and ac­quired characteristics when reborn, how is it that the genital organs of a woman changed into male organs when she was reborn as a boy? If the pet theories of these exponents of rebirth are true, tigers and zebras should retain their stripes when they are reborn as human beings! Mathematical prodigies should be able to retain their mathematical knowledge even when they are reborn as donkeys or monkeys! We can then look forward for the wonderful day when a donkey - a mathematical prodigy­ will be occupying the Chair of Mathematics in one of our universities!

The three-pound mass of human brain built of 10 billions or so of nerve cells known as neurons, together with a mass of supporting glia cells is an organ crammed with much physicochemical activity. A great deal of physical and chemical activities takes place in its tissues. In short, it is a physicochemical laboratory where work goes on day and night throughout the period of its life. The force that makes the brain work is electricity. An adult brain works on 20 watts of electricity. Each neuron is in effect a tiny dynamo. All mental activities such as thought, will, cognition, volition, memory, reasoning, emotion etc., result from physicochemical activities which go on in the brain tissue. Mind does not exist apart from the brain. Damage to one's brain affects ones mental processes. With the death of the brain, consciousness and indi­viduality (ego) also end.

Just as there cannot be fire without a substance to burn, there cannot be life and mind without a body to respire. Mind cannot survive the death and decomposition of the brain. To say that mental faculties can remain intact after the death of the person is as absurd as saying that the body-less and brain-less spirit can appear in physical form (often dressed in white) as ghosts, and perform volitional acts.

Stories about children recalling the memories of their ‘previous births’ have to be discarded as myths, like the numerous ghost stories appearing in weekend newspapers.

Courtesy: Abraham Kovoor: Soul, Spirit, Rebirth and Possession; Published by B Premanand, Indian CSICOP, Podannur, Tamil Nadu; Date of Publication: 17-02-2000

The Concept of One God

A.N. Moorthy Rao

We have not succeeded in our attempt to understand the nature of God by the inductive method. Since each one of the gods that we encountered in our attempts has some shortcoming or the other, none of them could be the Supreme God, the Monarch of the Cosmos. We describe God with weighty epithets such as the Holiest, the Sinless, the Chaste, the Benign, and the Compassionate. But, none of the gods that we have considered so far merits these descriptions. Let us, therefore, bid them all good-bye here and proceed further.

The very people who attributed to God all the vices that we saw in the last chapter also claim that God is not only omniscient and omnipotent but is also the perfect repository of all virtues. At least some thoughtful persons must have noticed this contradiction long ago. They are the ones who went beyond that stage and reflected deeply on the matter. The first stage in their reflective process was the conclusion that there cannot be more than one God. Some among them also felt that God ought not to be labelled.[1]

Let us now consider the thoughts of one such reflective person. There is this verse in the 'Shvetashwatara Upanishad'.

Eko devaha, sarvabhutheshu goodhaha
Sarvavyapi, sarvabhootanataratmaa |
 Karmadhyakshaha, sarvabhootadhivasaha
Sakshee, chetha, kevalo nirgunashcha ||

[The gist: God is only one. He is omnipresent, and is present in everything. He is the soul of all living beings. He is the Lord of all Karma, the witness, the Energy Manifest, without attributes, and absolute. (Nothing exists except Him)].

The God described above is at a higher level than the ones we saw in the stories before. Yet, when we analyze this description logically, we encounter difficulties. That God must be only one is self-evident - for there cannot be more than one omnipotent entity. Nor is there any contra­diction in the descriptions that He is the Primordial Spirit and that all our energies are derived from Him. And right now, let us not raise the question whether such a person exists.

We may even accept the description that God is ‘without attributes’ by assigning the word a special sense. The logic of this interpretation is: God is infinite; no limits can possibly hem Him in; attributing any quality to Him only results in imposing limits on Him. For example, no sooner do we describe Him as ‘smaller than the atom’ than we are implying that He cannot be bigger than the atom. But, how can there be something with absolutely no properties? Such a thing just cannot be. If God is without attributes, then God does not exist, and if He has attributes He cannot be God. To escape from this trap, some people interpret the word ‘attribute’ differently: “God cannot be said to possess any particular quality. But he possesses all qualities - all qualities without exception”. This is mere jugglery of words. Also, we are resorting to the same jugglery when we say ‘Anoraneeya’, ‘Mahatomaheeya’ (smaller than the minutest, larger than the largest). To avoid explaining the identity and nature of God by saying ‘Neti’, ‘Neti’ (‘not this’ ‘not this’) is also a similar attempt to wriggle out of these logical contradictions. We need not be critical of such attempts. Once we say, “God is beyond the reach of the senses, the mind and words retreat, unable to grasp Him”, any attempt to describe God necessarily involves such jugglery of words.

The statement that God is ‘without form’ also will have to be interpreted similarly: “No particular form can be ascribed to God, but He comprehends all forms”. If this is accepted, it renders all objections to idolatry baseless. If we concede that God exists and that He transcends all limitations of name and form, then, why can we not visualize Him in a human form with four shoulders? It is just one of the infinite forms that He can assume. After all, even the idolater does not claim that his idol is God’s only form. For the purpose of worship, God may be invoked to rest in the idol. Worship over, one may not even recognize it as God, or, since every thing is, at all times, God only, the idol is God, even after worship, one may say. In fact, even those who oppose idolatry do pay some obeisance to some symbol - for example: the cross or the icon of Mary.

Two concepts, in the verse from Shvetashwatara Upanishad quoted above, generate controversy - Lord of Action (‘Karmadhyaksha’) and witness (‘Sakshi’), Dr. D.V. Gundappa, in his small book ‘Devaru’ has quoted an interpreted this verse. In DVG’s words, ‘witness’ mean “The Spirit which is itself not a part of the universe but only its observer”. Again, in DVG’s own words, the Lord of Action (‘karmadhyaksha’) means, “The Superintendent of all that man does or does not do, that is, one who provides the energy necessary for all action, but is Himself beyond all action” (‘Devaru’ - pages 15 - 16). We must also take note of DVG’s statement in the last chapter of his book: “He (God) rules the entire universe”. The word ‘Karmaadhyaksha’ also suggests governance.

  1. God is neutral, only a witness
  2. He rules the world, as ‘Karmadhyaksa’.

Are these two descriptions logically consistent?

This is how DVG explains the concept of ‘neutrality’:

“The man who stands on the bank of the river, watching others struggling in the water and drowning, is the neutral one, the witness” (Page 16). This means: although capable of saving the drowning man, God does not interfere but remains aloof.

  1. Witness: One relevant question here is: is it fair for God to remain neutral, only a witness? And if He does, does He not become irrelevant to our life? Still, I am not, at the moment, raising that question. I am only asking whether the definition of this concept, accepted by DVG and others, is logically tenable. If God is only a witness, and is inactive, doing nothing at all, how can He rule the world? Ruling involves action of some kind. He will have to make laws to regulate people’s conduct. He must ensure that the laws are obeyed by the people: judges must be appointed to inquire into complaints of violations of the laws: if the violations are proved, then there has to be a mechanism to mete out punishment to the guilty. A mere witness cannot accomplish any of these. God has two options - to act and get things done or to do nothing and remain neutral. We can not expect Him both to act and not to act, at the same time. If He is only a witness, He cannot rule, and if He rules, He IS no witness.
  2. Karmadhyaksha’ (Lord of Action): This word creates other difficulties. As we have seen before, DVG while explaining the meaning of the Upanishadic verse, has entrusted the Lord of Action with two tasks :

1.      He supervises all action. What does ‘supervision’ mean? DVG himself has said that God has no responsibility of action. Therefore, we will have to conclude that “God’s only job is to award the just fruits of action”. But, is it not the deeply prevailing conviction that ‘karma’ (action) yields its own fruits? There is the inevitable cause-and-effect relationship between karma (action) and its fruits.

Who does anything, what can anyone do?
My actions in a former birth haunt me.

So sang Purandaradasa - and this faith manifests itself again and again. The most common answer to the question why God does not save us from suffering is this: “It is our karma. We must suffer it. Even God cannot undo it”. If this is true, then God (karmadhyaksha – ‘Lord of Action’) has no work at all. The chain of karma and the fruits of karma moves inexorably.

2.    It may be said that the ‘karmadhyaksha' (Lord of Action) provides the energy required to perform action. That this can only be done by God, the Primordial Spirit, is also a tenable argument. But, is it that He gives me Just the right measure of energy for each of my actions - for example, when I pick up the pen or sit or stand or go for a stroll? Or is it that He grants all the energy at once and is done with it? There is also the argument that “God has already bestowed all attributes and energy on His creation - man, animals and objects. It is for us to decide to what use we put them. Having completed creation, God now has nothing to do with it. This, broadly, is the stand of the deists. If this is true, then, God’s position, after creation is only titular.   

This is the contradiction in the Upanishadic verse. But leaving it aside, let us concede that God (if He exists) could only be one and proceed further.

[1] I remember reading somewhere that the belief among the Jews is that God is nameless. But even they referred to God by the name of Yahveh. That word is used even to day as Jehovah. But in English there is only one word, God

Akkihebbalu Narasimha Murthy Rao (June 16, 1900—August 23, 2003) was an eminent Kannada writer.  He was the first Director of Kannada and Culture Department of the Karnataka Government.

His popular book, Devaru (God), won (1992) the Pampa Award instituted by the Government of Karnataka.

This essay is Chapter IV (The Concept of One God) of the book, which was translated into English by Prof LS Seshagiri Rao and published by Kannada Sahitya Parishath, Bangalore in 1995

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Science versus Miracles: Demonstrating Psychic Powers with Playing Cards – Part II

B Premanand

The psychic is blindfolded. The volunteer is asked to select a card from the card pack given to him and place it on the table with the back of the card up. The blind folded psychic moves his index finger over the card and identifies it correctly.

Experiment: 109

Effect: Telling the card while blind folded.

Props: Cloth for blind-fold, marked cards.

Because of our protruding noses, however tight one ties a blind fold, the person can see through the space between cheeks and the nose. When the knots are being tied, close your eyes tight. After the knots are tied, open the eyes. When the wrinkles are gone you will be able to see down through the side of the nose. The cards are marked on the back. Pass your index finger over the card slowly as if you are seeing with your “third eye” while you are looking for the marks, one by one. Tell the colour, then the symbol and lastly the value of the card.


Blind-folded Card Tricks by Lennart Green

Friday, 12 April 2013

Nationalism, Kingdoms and Kings: Looking at Shivaji and Rana Pratap

Ram Puniyani

The legend of some of the kings continues in different forms and is used by different political formations. These political formations draw their identity from the past and project it on the present. These sectarian streams have been using the names of different kings and glorifying them in various ways. There is a hidden message of a politics behind such efforts, as they eulogize the pre-colonial period for their political agenda. While the incidents and events are the same, the way they are looked at by different streams and different schools of historiography are very diverse.

Recently in Mumbai one play is making rounds, ‘Shivaji Underground in the Bhimnagar Mohalla’. (September 2012). Similarly in Rajasthan at various places the big hoardings of Maharana Pratap have appeared. These hoardings proclaim him as the first freedom fighter. This play on Shivaji seems to be a major contribution to the theater on Shivaji after the much hyped and publicized play on Shivaji, ‘Jaanta Raja’ (Enlightened King) by Babasaheb Purandare. Purandare’s Shivaji is an anti Muslim King, with a mission to establish Hindu kingdom, he the protector of Brahmins and Cows (gobrahmin pratipalak). This is a theme song of Hindu nationalism propounded by RSS-Shiv Sena, where Kings like Shivaji fighting against Muslim Kings were the brave warriors committed to the cause of Hindu nation. Here the anti Muslim stance and pro Brahmin stance merges and upholds Cow, the identity used by Hindu nationalist’s time and over again.

The play ‘Shivaji underground…’ takes a totally different stance. Here Shivaji is neither pro Cow Brahmin, nor an anti Muslim hero. It upholds the identity of dalits and targets the Brahmins. The struggle between Dalits on one side and Hindutva, upper caste, politics on the other has been manifesting in Maharashtra from quite some time. Many an events like attack on Bhandarkar Museum, banning of James Lanes book on Shivaji, which doubts the paternity of Shivaji, are few instances of this. The Braminic, Purandare version, of Shivaji gives all the credit to Dadaji Kond Dev, a Brahmin, who is supposed to have mentored Shivaji. The dalit version of Shivaji opposes this and it is due to this that the statue of Dadaji Kond Dev was desecrated recently in Maharashtra.

As such the interpretation of Shivaji goes far back in our history. Phule, the dalit icon of tall stature, called Shivaji as Raja of ryots (poor peasants). Tagore praises him as ‘king of kings’. It was Tilak who saw him as symbol of Nationalism and organized a festival in his name.  Purandare’s play has been made immensely popular and its popularity runs parallel to the rise of Hindu nationalist politics. The ‘Shivaji underground…’ play points out that Shivaji was not for Hindu rule in any way. He was not anti Muslim at all. The highlight of the play is its focusing that Brahmins were clerks in the courts of Muslim as well as of Hindu Kings. The play does give it a total anti Brahminic slant. This play is the first major attempt to challenge the current narration about Shivjai which is constructed around his being a great Hindu patriot. Nathuram Godse, from Hindutva; RSS-Hindu Mahasabha stable, in his book, ‘May it please your honor’, which is his statement of his defense of murdering Mahatma Gandhi in the court, states that Gandhi was a pigmy as for his nationalism was concerned. The real nationalists have been Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind Singh. This is the line of thinking of RSS-Hindu nationalism.

In this ideological understanding of RSS, all the kings who fought against Muslim rulers are Hindu nationalists. It’s a total distortion of understanding of history as kings did not fight for religion; their fights were for power and wealth. And kings of same religion also had running battles with each other.

Rana Pratap, being projected as the First Freedom fighter by communal forces is against the truth. The kings before the British rule were fighting to expand or protect their empires.  The era of Kingdoms is not comparable with freedom movement. Just fighting against Muslim King is not being a freedom fighter. Freedom struggle was against British rule, when India was coming to become ‘a nation in the making’ due to industrial, educational and social changes. The era of Kingdoms and logic of Kings can in no way be compared with the Indians coming together to fight the British Empire. Even these kings be it Shivaji or Rana Pratap were neither ruling for religion not for Hindus. Their administration was having both Hindus and Muslims. Their armies were also mixed ones with Hindu and Muslim Generals both, with Hindu and Muslim soldiers both. Rana Pratap had Hakim Khan Sur on his side and Shivaji was having Siddi Sambal and Rustam-e-Jamaan amongst others. Shivaji’s confidential secretary was Maulana Haider Ali.  Shivaji had reverence and respect for the holy people like Hazrat Baba and Ambrose Pinto.

Rana Paratp’s battle against Akbar was not for religion. It was on the issue of Mansabdari (status in the administration). Rana Pratap was asking for a Das hazari, (ten Thousand) Mansab) while Akbar was offering only Panch Hazari. (Five thousand). Interestingly Akbar never came to Haldi ghati where the battle took place. It was Akbar’s commander in Chief Raja Mansingh, assisted by Shahjada Salim, who fought against Rana Pratap. By no stretch of imagination it is anywhere close to a Hindu Muslim battle or a struggle for nationalism. As a matter of fact Tilak and the later genre of Hindu nationalists associating Shivaji with nationalism are totally off the mark as the term nationalism is a recent one coming up with the rise of nation states. The confusion between Kingdoms and nation states opens the window for communalism to infiltrate in a big way.

In Shivaji’s case now a new frontier of presentation has been opened up. This is that of Dalit-OBC on one side and Brahmins on the other. This is an interesting aspect reflecting the current struggle between these two social groups. The play, ‘Shivaji underground…’ is veering more around this theme while equally powerfully quashing the communal interpretation of Shivaji. One observes that dalit bahujan version and Brahminic versions are polar opposites. Dalit The role of Brahmins against Shivaji is particularly worth its mention. One does recall that the local Brahmins had refused to coronate Shivaji on the grounds that Shivaji is a Shudra. It was the priest from Kashi, Gaga Bhatt, who coroneted him with the little toe of his left foot, the organ in the body which is lowest in the hierarchy, as per Braminic norms.  This play highlights the role of Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni, an official with Afzal Khan. But again it is not a question of this or that religion; Brahmins were working for most of the kings, irrespective of their religion. So while Shivaji and Rana Pratap have to be seen in the proper light, as kings with valor, the other interpretations of nationalism, freedom fighters, anti Muslim Kings are all constructs emerging from the communal historiography and need to be dumped. Also what needs to be brought in the arena of the history is the pain and pleasure of average women and the men. What needs to be projected is the interaction of cultures which were the foundation of human progress, cutting across religions.

It is India’s arrested transition to a democratic society due to which the Kings are being brought to glory and identified with. Whatever the virtue of king of any religion, in current times we need icons who were part of India’s freedom movement, a struggle running parallel to the struggle for caste and gender equality. While projecting the kings as heroes, we do need to remember that it was the system of peasants’ exploitation, which was the base of kingdoms. Surely kingdoms are no systems to emulate today and so need to rethink this iconization of Kings!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Science versus Miracles: Demonstrating Psychic Powers with Playing Cards

B Premanand

The psychic gives a pack of cards to a volunteer for shuffling, and after shuffling he takes it back. After spreading the cards in his hands, he asks the volunteer to pick a card, remember what card it is, and then put it back in the pack. He is then asked to shuffle it again and return it. With the card pack m his hands the psychic gazes into the eyes of the volunteer and through his telepathic power knows which card he has selected. Then he need not go through the pack of cards to take out the card. He holds the card pack near the ears, shuffles it and brings out a card. It is the selected card.

Experiment: 108

Effect:  Picking the card which you have selected with X-ray powers.

Method: Call for a volunteer from the audience, hand over the card pack to him and ask him to shuffle it and return it. Spread the cards on your hands with the broad part towards the volunteer and ask him to pick a card. After noting what that card is he puts it back in the pack. At the same time bring the cards together, bolding the cards with your left hand at the lowest end keeping the card pack facing the volunteer length wise. 99% of the people take the card the same way they have taken out and replace it in the pack. If they are replacing the same way, turn the other broad side towards the volunteer and let him insert it in the pack. Then ask him to shuffle the pack and return it. No one can know where the selected card is.

After the pack is returned to you explain to the audience that through your X-ray powers and telepathy you can know the card and pick it out without going through the pack. As you talk, search for the card side that is a little broader than the other cards. Keep the car pack near your ears, explain that you are finding where the card is through your X-ray powers, pass your right hand finger over the card pack, give a hit to the pack at the back, and pull out the protruding card with the thumb and the index finger and show it to the volunteer. It will be the same card which he had selected.

What are Stripper Cards?

A Stripper Deck (also known as a Tapered Deck, Wizard Deck, or Biseauté Deck) allows the magician to control the main location of a card or group of cards easily within the pack. Even after being shuffled into the deck by a spectator, the magician can cut to a selected card. Similarly, even after being lost in different parts of the deck, the magician can move multiple cards to the bottom or top of the deck with a few innocent shuffles.

Unlike the Invisible or Svengali Deck, the Stripper Deck can be handled by an audience member unfamiliar with the concept and can withstand a modest amount of scrutiny without exposing the secret; however, this deck is found in a number of beginners' magic kits, so the secret is well-known, even among non-magicians.

The cards of a Stripper Deck are slightly tapered, so that the sides no longer form a perfect rectangle. The change is slight enough to be undetected by visual inspection or even casual handling, but if a single card is rotated 180° so that it's tapered in the opposite direction from the rest of the deck, the card's broad end can easily be detected, by feel or even by sight, among the narrow ends of the rest of the deck. At this point the magician can select the target card through sleight of hand.

Many of the effects achieved with a Stripper Deck can also be accomplished with sleight of hand.

(Courtesy: Wikipedia - Accessed on 06 April 2013)


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