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Understanding Nature’s mysteries

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Emeritus Prof. S. N. Arseculeratne

My plea to readers, is please keep an open mind on what I will say, despite your conditioning and beliefs.

This is an abbreviated version of a lecture titled “Published records on and my personal experiences with Paranormal phenomena,“given in 2019 to the Peradeniya University’s Alumni Association. It will recount evidence for the reality of Parapsychological (Paranormal), mysterious phenomena described in the published literature and in my personal experiences, in accordance with what John Ziman (Fellow of London’s The Royal Society), wrote “Come with reliable, consensible evidence , and we will be ready to be convinced” and that is what I did in my lecture.

Aristotle commented ” It is of man’s nature that he wants to know“. In that quest for knowledge, scientists have unearthed much about Nature in many categories of knowledge, in the physical and biological sciences; these are considered branches of natural phenomena, which are amenable to direct exploration. There are however phenomena that were well known for centuries, but have defied exploration though they have been written about by many prestigious authors; these fall into the category of Parapsychology.

Many persons are skeptical of the reality or validity of these phenomena and consider them as mumbo-jumbo as did Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene; I wrote to him challenging his unsubstantiated skepticism. Sceptics should remember that Shakespeare’s Horatio said “There are more things in Heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy“. A former physicist Peter Betts, now a Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahmavamso in Australia, with whom I corresponded wrote “Scientists, for the most part, are brainwashed by their education and their in-group conferences to see the world in a very narrow, microscopic way“.

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world”. In 300 BC in China, the Lu Shih Chhun Chhiu commented ” If a man climbs a mountain, the oxen below look like sheep and the sheep like hedgehogs. Yet their real shape is very different. It is a question of the observer’s viewpoint“.

Britain’s Society for Psychical Research had 12 Nobel Prize laureates and many Fellows of the most prestigious scientific society in the world, The Royal Society of London; members included Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson turned from Physics to the paranormal after he saw Mathew Manning performing psychokinesis (physical acts through the mind alone) at a conference on parapsychology (psychokinesis) in Toronto, Canada; I corresponded with him.

Sigmund Freud wrote a book on Parapsychology. Albert Einstein wrote: “It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses worlds are hidden of which we are unaware.” Sigmund Freud wrote ” I am not one of those who , from the outset, disapprove of the study of so-called occult phenomena as unscientific , as unworthy or even dangerous. If I were at the beginning of a scientific career, instead of as now at its end, I would perhaps choose no other field of work, in spite of its difficulties.”

Psychologist Carl G. Jung wrote ” I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I I cannot explain, as fraud”. Philosopher Arthur Schoenhauer wrote “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world”. I contributed a chapter “Approaches to the study of Reincarnation” to the book Yoga and Parapsychology edited by the Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research Prof. K. Ramakrishna Rao.

There are nine categories of these phenomena, in all of which I had personsal experience, reported evidence from friends or evidence in the published literature. I have discussed some of these topics personally with Ian Stevenson (USA), Erlandur Haraldsson of Sweden, and Rama Krishna Rao of India.

These categories comprise, 1. Rebirth, also termed Reincarnation and Palingenesis. This refers to the successive births of a personality after the death of each one. Ian P. Stevenson of Virginia University (USA) the world’s foremost authority on it, published a book, “Twenty cases suggestive of Reincarnation” to which I contributed a case; I introduced him at his lecture at the Peradeniya university. N. Senanayake also wrote a book “Recent trends in Rebirth Research“, to which I contributed.

The succeeding birth has a person recapitulating some of the characters of the preceding personality and his acts committed in previous births, reaping their karmic consequences. Arthur Ellison, University of London wrote “The best evidence for genuine reincarnation appears to be that produced in such quantity and high quality by Professor Ian Stevenson in his work all over the world, with children having appropriate memories. John G. Fuller in his remarkable book “The airmen who would not die” wrote that the evidence “…brought many discerning and even skeptical people to the unalterable conclusion that there is life after death”. The evidence cited by most authors is circumstantial in legal terms.

 

2

. Spirits of dead people; also termed Discarnate Entities, DEs are personalities after their death on earth, which then exist in some unidentified celestial abode. These entities can be accessed parapsychologically. They are considered to be helpful to people on earth as when the sister who had died, temporarily disabled a car to be driven by her brother thus preventing his entry to the site of a later bombing. It expresses the bond between the Discarnate Entity and the beneficiary. John G. Fuller wrote two books on this topic. Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck wrote The Unknown Guest, about these cases. DEs seem to have precognitive and psychokinetic abilities.

 

3

. Planetary controls in Nature, Astrology, I had numerous experiences with the mundane variety as well as with the 1,400 years-old Indian Palm leaf horoscopes studied by the German author Thomas Ritter. My personal experience was the astrological prediction of my future medical career and my writing of a book on poisons, both of which were realized over the next 20 years. I verified from an expert on snake poisons, that he has Rahu, an indicator or poisons, in the first house of his horoscope representing his mind. Another who had Venus, the controller of sex, in his first house of his horoscope which had Venus as the ruler; he had a tragic end through sexual misadventures. R. S. Offenbach wrote on the palm leaf horoscopic writings from India, about the bombings of New York in 2001. I had a remarkable case of an astrologer who, from the birth data of a scientist, constructed in my absence to avoid telepathy, the fate of this man in a car accident which left him totally disabled and later dead.

 

4.

Palmistry, This refers to the analysis and prediction of life’s events through the lines on a palm. I was told of three cases by the persons concerned, themselves, of events predicted through the lines on their palms. West & Toonder (1970) noted that “Most professional palmists combine straightforward analysis along traditional lines with clairvoyance and it is not as a rule possible to distinguish between the two”.

 

5. Anomalous cognition,

Extra-sensory Perception, Clairvoyance is the ability of a psychic to read concealed writings mentally without direct vision. I had an Indian who visited my home in Malaysia, who was able to read and recopy documented but concealed items through the mind alone. Hans Eysenck (London University and pioneer psychologist) commented: The only conclusion the unbiased observer can come to must be that there exist a small number of people who obtain knowledge existing wither in other peoples’ minds or in the outer world, by means as yet unknown to modern science”.

 

6

. Fore-seeing the future, Precognition, The most remarkable example was the publication of a novel by Morgan Robertson in England in 1894, some 18 years before the predicted event really happened; the congruence between the fictional events and the real event was total. Robertson described fictionally the sinking of the British ship Titan after a collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, The real ship the Titanic suffered the identical fate 18 years later, with the loss of 1,500 passengers. Nostradamus the 15th century French psychic made accurate predictions of global events including the rise of Hitler in Germany and Middle Eastern terrorists.. My personal experience was with a layman-psychic who foresaw the results of my medical research which were totally confirmed by scientists abroad 10 years later. His technical description of the immunological results was e stunningly accurate. He also predicted my foreign tour for work in WHO.

 

7.

Acts done by the mind alone, Psychokinesis, The performance of physical acts through the mind alone and not through physical means. My experience was my contact with the famous Indian psychic Sai Baba, followed a day later by my recovery of an important lost item. Nobel laureate Brian Josephson wrote his experiences after seeing Mathew Manning perform psychokinesis in Toronto; he said that he then became interested in the paranormal. I corresponded with him. Uri Geller’s psychokinetic performances were confirmed by Dr David Bohm and Dr John Hasted (University of London).

 

8.

Purely mental communication of information between persons, Telepathy. A classic example was that of the inventor of the electro-encephalograph Hans Berger whose sister was accessed telepathically by him when he had an accident far away. Alan Turing, the inventor of the computer, wrote on telepathy, (1950): “These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas; how we should like to discredit them. Unfortunately the evidence at least for telepathy is overwhelming“.

 

9.

Prophetic dreams. These are dreams experienced by people about events which concerned their professional or personal interests . The most remarkable was Auguste Kekule’s dream of a snake biting its own tail as a parallel of the circular structure of the Benzene molecule in 1862; Benzene is a key chemical compound in organic chemistry. He was a professor of Chemistry in Belgium. A Sri Lankan parallel of a prophetic dream was a domestic’s dream of her employer’s wife who was hospitalized with a head injury; she visited the hospital to see her employer’s wife, eight years after leaving her service.

My frequent experience of the denial of paranormal phenomena by skeptics, commonly arises from the work of fraudulent or incompetent practitioners, especially astrologers, compounded by incurable skepticism, or beliefs especially of religious origin which negate such experiences and phenomena.

 

(The writer is an Emeritus Professor of the Peradeniya University and a Founder Fellow of the National Academy of Science, Sri Lanka)



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Foreign policy dilemmas increase for the big and small

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‘No responsible American President can remain silent when basic human rights are violated.’ This pronouncement by US President Joe Biden should be interpreted as meaning that the supporting of human rights everywhere will be a fundamental focus of US foreign policy. Accordingly, not only the cause of the Armenians of old but the situation of the Muslim Uyghurs of China will be principal concerns for the Biden administration.

However, the challenge before the US would be take this policy stance to its logical conclusion. For example, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of the most heinous crimes to be committed by a state in recent times but what does the Biden administration intend to do by way of ensuring that the criminals and collaborators of the crime are brought to justice? In other words, how tough will the US get with the Saudi rulers?

Likewise, what course of action would the US take to alleviate the alleged repression being meted out to the Uyghurs of China? How does it intend to take the Chinese state to task? Equally importantly, what will the US do to make light the lot of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny? These are among the most urgent posers facing the US in the global human rights context.

Worse dilemmas await the US in Africa. Reports indicate that that the IS and the Taliban have begun to infiltrate West Africa in a major way, since they have been compelled to vacate the Middle East, specially Syria and Iraq. West African countries, such as, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mauritania are already facing the IS/Taliban blight. The latter or their proxies are in the process heaping horrendous suffering on the civilian populations concerned. How is the US intending to alleviate the cruelties being visited on these population groups. Their rights are of the first importance. If the US intends to project itself as a defender of rights everywhere, what policy program does it have in store for Africa in this connection?

It does not follow from the foregoing that issues of a kindred kind would not be confronting the US in other continents. For example, not all is well in Asia in the rights context. With the possible exception of India, very serious problems relating to democratic development bedevil most Asian states, including, of course, Sri Lanka. The task before any country laying claims to democratic credentials is to further the rights of its citizens while ensuring that they are recipients of equitable growth. As a foremost champion of fundamental rights globally, it would be up to the US to help foster democratic development in the countries concerned. And it would need to do so with an even hand. It cannot be selective in this undertaking of the first importance.

The US would also from now on need to think long and deep before involving itself militarily in a conflict-ridden Southern country. Right now it is up against a policy dilemma in Afghanistan. It is in the process of pulling out of the country after 20 years but it is leaving behind a country with veritably no future. It is leaving Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban once again and the commentator is right in saying that the US did not achieve much by way of bringing relief to the Afghan people.

However, the Biden administration has done somewhat well in other areas of state concern by launching a $1.9 trillion national economic and social resuscitation program, which, if effectively implemented could help the US people in a major way. The administration is also living up to the people’s hopes by getting under way an anti-Covid-19 vaccination program for senior US citizens. These ventures smack of social democracy to a degree.

The smaller countries of South Asia in particular ought to be facing their fair share of foreign policy quandaries in the wake of some of these developments. India, the number one power of the region, is in the throes of a major health crisis deriving from the pandemic but it is expected to rebound economically in an exceptional way and dominate the regional economic landscape sooner rather than later.

For example, the ADB predicts India will recover from an 8% contraction in fiscal 2020 and grow by 11% and 7% this year and next year. South Asia is expected to experience a 9.5% overall economic expansion this year but it is India that will be the chief contributor to this growth. A major factor in India’s economic fortunes will be the US’ stimulus package that will make available to India a major export market.

For the smaller states of South Asia, such as Sri Lanka, the above situation poses major foreign policy implications. While conducting cordial and fruitful relations with China is of major importance for them, they would need to ensure that their relations with India remain unruffled. This is on account of their dependence on India in a number of areas of national importance. Since India is the predominant economic power in the region, these smaller states would do well to ensure that their economic links with India continue without interruption. In fact, they may need to upgrade their economic ties with India, considering the huge economic presence of the latter. A pragmatic foreign policy is called for since our biggest neighbour’s presence just cannot be ignored.

The Sri Lankan state has reiterated its commitment to an ‘independent foreign policy’ and this is the way to go but Sri Lanka would be committing a major policy mistake by tying itself to China too closely in the military field. This would send ‘the wrong signal’ to India which is likely to be highly sensitive to the goings-on in its neighbourhood which, for it, have major security implications. A pragmatic course is best.

In terms of pragmatism, the Maldives are forging ahead, may be, in a more exceptional manner than her neighbours. Recently, she forged closer security cooperation with the US and for the Maldives this was the right way to go because the move served her national interest. And for any state, the national interest ought to be of supreme importance.

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A Sri Lankan centre for infective disease control and prevention

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The need of the hour:

BY Dr B. J. C. Perera

MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)

Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

On 01st July 1946, the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) of the United States of America opened its doors and occupied one floor of a small building in Atlanta, Georgia. Its primary mission was simple, yet highly challenging. It was to prevent malaria from spreading across the nation. Armed with a budget of only 10 million US dollars, and fewer than 400 employees, the agency’s early tasks included obtaining enough trucks, sprayers, and shovels necessary to wage war on mosquitoes.

It later advanced, slightly changed its name, and transformed itself into the much-acclaimed and reputed Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It became a unique agency with an exceptional mission. They work 24/7 to protect the safety, health and security of America from threats there and around the world. Highest standards of science are maintained in this institution. CDC is the nation’s leading science-based, data-driven, service organization that protects the public’s health. For more than 70 years, they have put science into action to help children stay healthy so they can grow and learn, to help families, businesses, and communities fight disease and stay strong and to protect the health of the general public. Their are a bold promise to the nation, and even the world. With this strategic framework, CDC commits to save American lives by securing global health and America’s preparedness, eliminating disease, and ending epidemics. In a landmark move, the CDC even established a Central Asia regional office at the U.S. Consulate in Kazakhstan in 1995 and have been involved in public health initiatives in that region.

More recently, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), was established. It is an agency of the European Union, aimed at strengthening Europe’s defences against infectious diseases. The core functions cover a wide spectrum of activities such as surveillance, epidemic intelligence, response, scientific advice, microbiology, preparedness, public health training, international relations, health communication, and the scientific journal Eurosurveillance.

Still later on, the African CDC (ACDC) was born. It strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions, as well as partnerships, to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.

All these organisations are autonomous, independent, and are confidently dedicated to hold science to be sacred. They play a major role in advocacy and work in a committed advisory capacity. With the cataclysmic effects of the current coronavirus pandemic COVID-19, the contributions made by these institutions are priceless. What is quite important is that they are able to provide specific recommendations based on the latest scientific information available for countries and nations in their regions, even taking into account the many considerations that are explicit and even unique to their regions. All these organisations have been provided with optimal facilities and human resources. The real value of their contribution is related to just one phenomenon: AUTONOMY.

Well…, isn’t it the time for us to start a Sri Lankan Centre for Infective Disease Control and Prevention (SLCIDC)? It should be formulated as an agency constantly striving, day in and day out, to safeguard the health of the public. Science and unbending commitment to evaluation of research on a given topic should be their operating mantra. It would work as a completely apolitical organisation and what we can recommend is that it would be directly under the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, unswervingly reporting to and accountable to the President. It would consist of medical doctors, scientists and researchers but no politicians of any sort, no non-medical or non-scientist persons, no hangers on and no business persons. All appointments to the SLCIDC will be made by the President of the country, perhaps in consultation with medical professional organisations.

The prime duty of the SLCIDC would be to assess the on-going situation of any infective issue that has any effect on the health of the public. The organisation will undertake in-depth examination and assessment of a given situation caused by an infective organism. They need to have all relevant data from within the country as well as from outside the country. There will not be any vacillation of the opinions expressed by them and their considered views should not be coloured by any consideration apart from science and research done locally and worldwide. Their considered opinion would be conveyed directly to the President of the country. They are free to issue statements to keep the public informed about the results of their deliberations.

We believe that it would be a step in the right direction; perhaps even a giant step for our nation, not only during the current coronavirus pandemic but also on any major problems of an infective nature that might occur in the future.

 

This writer wishes to acknowledge a colleague, a Consultant Physician, who first mooted this idea during a friendly conversation.

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Kudurai Madiri Pona

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The big jumbo has come from the French land and as the French themselves say it is ‘annus mirabillis’ the miracle year, finally, and finally the wait is over. The world will now see the Big- Bus that we all waited for so long to see. As the years roll by, none would talk of delays regarding the delays on delivery dates and how late the bird flew in. These would be like words written on a blackboard, erased forever. But the aeroplane will grace the sky and, perhaps rewrite all the records of commercial aviation when the mega-miracle A380 dominates the international air-routes.

Singapore Airlines went into the record books as the launch customer. Some of my old friends from SIA would fly the A380. Perhaps, Luke would, too, and this story is about him. Luke of yesteryear and how he first flew as a cadet and how young Luke and I went romping the skies in our own special way, writing a few new lines in the flight training manual.

Luke was from Johor Baru, in Malaysia. His roots were in South India where years ago his grandfather had done a Robinson Crusoe and ended up in the Malayan Peninsula. Luke was named after one of the four Gospel scribes. Luke really isn’t his name. It is a pseudonym, I use just to give him some anonymity. Not much protection, but one is to three are playable odds. Like in Rumple stiltskin the manikin, you are welcome to guess the name.

We first flew to Seoul. He, straight out of flying College, and yours truly, as old as the hills, driving the ‘Jumbo’ classic, the lovable 747. The first thing I noticed about him was his socks, black and white diamond shapes, a mini version of the flags they swing at Grand Prix finals – if Luke swung his feet, a Ferrari would pass underneath. That we sorted out the first day itself. In Seoul,he went shopping and the next day he was Zorro, waist to toe, black as a crow.

His flying credentials were all there, somewhat mixed up between what they teach in modern flying schools and how to apply the ‘ivory tower’ jargon to cope with the big 747. As for raw handling of the aeroplane, all his skills were intact, only they were in bits and pieces and spread in places like an Irida Pola (Sunday Fair). They had to be streamlined, the wet market needed to be modified to a ‘Seven-Eleven’ – that was my job.

The next round we went flying to Europe, his first run to the unknown, like Gagarin in his Sputnik, young Luke flew to Rome. The flying was same as before, a bit mixed up amidst the hundreds of aero dynamical paraphernalia that spelled out from the encyclopaedic collection of books that he had to study.

That’s when I decided to change the tide.

‘Luke my friend,” I said to him in a fatherly fashion.

‘You and I are from similar fields, you from Kerala and me from Sri Lanka. These Min Drag Curves and VFEs and WAT limits and VLEs are too much for us. Just remember when you pull the stick back, the houses will become smaller and when you push the stick down, the houses will become bigger, that’s climbing and descending this monster,” I explained the simple theory of flight.

“As for landing my friend, Kudurai Madiri Pona, just ride it like a horse.”

That was it. We flew, over Europe and he flew like a Trojan, bravely battling the weather and the overcrowded skies. Every time he came in to land it was pure and simple Kudurai Madiri Pona and the big jumbo responded and touched down on the concrete as smooth as a honeymoon lover.

On the way back, we flew via Colombo, that’s my home ground. I requested the radar controller to give Luke a very short ‘four-mile’ final. They know me well here and the controller said “No problem, Captain.”

I was depicting what we did in the Old Hong Kong Airport or what we do in the Canarsi Approach in New York; both, most demanding. A ‘four-mile’ final is a challenge for anyone. I was throwing him in at the deep end and I had no doubt Luke could manage. He came in tight and right, like Hopalong Cassidy and rode the horse straight and beautiful to do a perfect landing. Gone was the Kampong kid and his ‘Irida Pola’ flying, this was Takashimaya and Robinsons rolled into one, everything was in place, nice and shining and professional to the tee.

That was our little story, Luke the ‘jockey’ and me. Sometimes in the field of training, the script needs a little changing. New acts to be introduced to suit the stage. That is the essence of teaching, different hurdles for different horses. It wasn’t for Luke to learn what I knew, more so, it was for me to know who he was and what he could cope with. That part was difficult to find in the flying training manual, and so was Kudurai Madiri Pona.

The world has gotten older and young Luke now wears four stripes and flies in command of Boeing Triple Sevens, fly-by-wire and multiple computers. I met him a few times, flew as his passenger, too, with great pride. “Captain Luke is in command,” the stewardess announced, and silently and gratefully I said, ‘Amen’.

I saw him walking down the aisle, looking for me. Same old Luke in his flat and uncombed Julius Ceaser hairstyle. He came to my seat and grinned and shook my hand and lightly lifted his trouser leg and said,

“Captain, the socks are black and it is still Kudurai Madiri Pona.

I am sure Luke will fly in command of the gigantic A380 one day. That’s a certainty. It would be the zenith for any pilot. Luke is ready, that I know. He is competent, polished and professional and will wear socks as black as midnight. It’s nice that he remembers his beginnings. That’s what flying is all about, that’s what life is all about.

Kudurai Madiri Pona

– ride it like a horse. Some flying lesson.

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