Author Archives: Majid Ali MD

Africa, the Mother of Medicine

Majid Ali, M.D.

A Does Medicine Have a Father?

 In 1958, I was told that the Hippocrates, the Greek physician, was the father of medicine. In medical school and later in my training in surgery in England and pathology in the United States, I was told a lot of other things which took me decades to un-learn. That’s a doctor’s life. Below, I reproduce an article originally published in Townsend Letter, the pre-eminent journal of integrative medicine edited by my friend, Jonathan Collin.

European and African historians agree that the knowledge of healing traditions traveled north from the Nubian and Egyptian regions to Greece—the “Northern Track” seems an appropriate designation for it—and then to the rest of Europe. I hypothesize that there was also an “Eastern Track”—from east Africa to south India, the Far East, and on to China—of greater significance in the spread of those traditions from the pre-Nubian and Nubian civilizations. The Eastern Track hypothesis offers the tantalizing possibility of integrating the ancient Indian and Chinese advances with the African enlightened philosophy and practice of medicine.

I support the Eastern Track hypothesis by explaining how the earlier African observations about the human conditions (revealed in mythological beliefs), medical thoughts, and therapeutics influenced the evolution of the same in India and China. Specifically, I present a comparative review of available information concerning: (1) the knowledge of the structure and function of the human frame (anatomy, physiology); (2) ideas about the cause of disease (pathology); (3) diet and holism; (4) genetic influences; (5) therapeutic interventions; (6) advances in other lines of inquiry into natural phenomena; and (7) mythology and spiritual beliefs. Before that, below are comments about the Northern Track to provide a context for presenting the Eastern Track hypothesis.

Who Is the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, Imhotep, or…?

Recently, I asked five young doctors on our staff who they considered to be the father of medicine. They all named Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.) Later I posed the same question to Bernard White, program director of non-commercial WBAI radio in New York. He named Imhotep (2650 B.C), the chief minister and royal physician to Pharaoh Djoser (2686-2613). This summarizes the prevailing Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives on the beginnings of the healing arts and sciences. Below is a revealing excerpt from National Geographic 1:

Even famed Harvard Egyptologist George Riesner—whose discoveries between 1916 and 1919 offered the first archaeological evidence of Nubian kings who ruled over Egypt—besmirched his own findings by insisting that black Africans could not possibly have constructed the monuments he was excavating. He believed that Nubia’s leaders, including Piye, were light-skinned Egypto-Libyans who ruled over the primitive Africans. That their moment of greatness was so fleeting, he suggested, must be a consequence of the same leaders intermarrying with the “negroid elements. “

Black Africans could not possibly have constructed the monuments! What could be the basis of this statement? Reisner’s prejudice is easily discerned in the last part of the quote: it must be a consequence of the same leaders intermarrying with the “negroid elements.”

African Attention to Anatomy and Physiology

When the early African and Nubian healing traditions are compared with those in ancient India and China, a striking difference is inescapable: the Africans were drawn to observable phenomena while the Indians and Chinese were preoccupied with symbols, such as chakras and meridians. Specifically, the former learned human anatomy and based their treatment strategies on demonstrable elements; the latter, by contrast, developed “energetic concepts” that could not be validated by physical evidence.

Edwin Smith Papyrus

The Africans’ interest in anatomy and physiology is objectively documented in the Edwin Smith Papyrus written in the hieratic script of the ancient Nubian/Egyptian language around the 16th to 19th centuries B.C.—considered to be based on conditions that prevailed a thousand years earlier (2,900 to 2,600 B.C.), a period that predates the earliest Hebrew records on the subject by a millennium.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is the only surviving copy of part of an ancient Egyptian/Nubian textbook on trauma surgery,2 and is the world’s earliest known medical text. The papyrus is kept at the Rare Book Room, New York Academy of Medicine. This document—the entire translation is available online—comprises 48 case studies, each with a description of the physical examination, treatment and prognosis.

Below is an excerpt from Ivan Sertima’s Blacks in Science3—admirably succinct and telling—that illustrates the African focus on objectivity in clinical observations:

In fact, the Edwin Smith papyrus (2,600 B.C.) proved the existence of an objective and scientific medicine, devoid of theories and magic, except in one case, and based on the attentive and repeated observation of the patient, on bedside experience, and on a hitherto unsuspected knowledge of anatomy.


Kahun Papyrus

Kahun Papyrus (also called Gynecological Papyrus) is dated to about 1800 B.C. and is sometimes designated as the oldest known medical text.4,5 It deals with female conditions— gynecological diseases, fertility, pregnancy, contraception, and others—and remarkably refers to the womb as the source of problems in other body parts. African interest in anatomy, however, clearly predates the Edwin Smith Papyrus. Some Old Stone Age drawings in Africa depict animal bones, hearts, and other organs.6 In the Eastern Track hypothesis, I see the evolution of the Chinese medical tradition taking place in the shadow of the Indian tradition. It is noteworthy that the Chinese medicine was not inclined to a diligent study of anatomy until nearly 2,000 years later. As for medical ethics, professional conduct, and negligence, the Code of Hammurabi (2200 B.C.) is given the distinction of being the oldest. The Code includes references to incest, adultery, rape, and diseases of slaves. Notwithstanding its historical importance, the priority claim of the Code is suspect—the Edwin papyrus pre-dates the Code by 300 to 600 years—since Nubian physicians were held accountable for their clinical work.

African Notions of Pathology

As for the pathogenesis of disease, again the Africans showed deeper insights than the Indians. They recognized the essential roles of diet and environment. They held that diseases were caused by the substances people fed on. The Indians and Chinese, by contrast, developed systems of chakras, meridians, and humors. If one were to enlarge the concept of disease being caused by what was fed on—oxygen, in my view, is the single most important nutrient—Africans can be seen as forerunners of integrative medicine to which I devote Darwin and Dysox Trilogy, the 10th, 11th, and 12th volumes of The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine.7-9

African Therapeutics

The Africans were astute observers of natural phenomena. While the Indians and Chinese were trying to treat illness with their non-anatomic notions of chakras and meridians, the Nubians based a significant part of their therapeutics on the knowledge of anatomy and their understanding of how anatomic structures functioned. Even if the Indian claims of the repair of amputated noses in antiquity are confirmed, such work was rudimentary compared with the Nubian surgical advances, as is abundantly evident from the study of the Edwin papyrus.

The Indians and Chinese advanced herbology by investigating the clinical benefits of indigenous phytofactors. The Indians also developed their five-element system in which the occurrence of disease was related to earth (for stability), water (for fluidity), air (for motility), fire (for heat) and wood (for life). The Chinese concept of yin-yang was a significant advance since it focused on homeostatic balance in the body. However, neither the Ayurvedic clinicians can explain why and how they use their five elements to treat disease, nor can the practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine relate their theory of heat and cold in terms of measurable temperature-related phenomena. For instance, the Chinese assign important digestive functions to the spleen, an organ that does not secrete any digestive factors and has no direct and demonstrable communication with the alimentary tract.10 The practitioners of Siddha medicine in India claim their discipline is 8,000 years old. However, such claims are not well supported by objective evidence. One Siddha practitioner told me that 80 different types of arthritis are taught in his school and one of the remedies includes 250 different natural elements. He was unable to name even five of them.

A Genetic Perspective

I conceived the idea of the Eastern Track hypothesis during a conversation with a patient that went something like this:

“Which part of south India do you come from?” I asked.

“I’m not an Indian. I’m an Ethiopian,” the patient replied.

“Ethiopian of Indian descent?”

“No. An Ethiopian of Ethiopian descent.”

“But you don’t look like an African.”

“I’m an Ethiopian and I look like an Ethiopian.” She smiled.

“Somalia is to the south of Ethiopia and Sudan to the north. Further south and to the west are Kenya and Uganda. Across the Red Sea, there is Arabia. You don’t look like the peoples of those regions.”

“Yes, we Ethiopians don’t look like the people of any of those countries. We are Ethiopians and we look like Ethiopians,” she chuckled.

Some weeks later, a patient from Sri Lanka told me that he has seen some people in the remote villages of that country whose facial features and hair are exactly African, distincty different from those of the general population of the country.

The available genetic evidence points to human origin in the Rift Valley of East Africa and human migration from there to Europe and Asia in stages about 70,000 years ago.11 French archaeologists discovered ceramic figurines, bowls and funerary objects at Nubian sites (present day Ethiopia and Sudan) that date from at least 8000 B.C.12—a period that is as old as any in Neolithic sites in Africa and elsewhere, and predate prehistoric finds in Egypt by a staggering 3,000 years and in India by two millennia. These findings support the view that the early Nubians formed the foundation of the Proto-Dravidians in the southern regions of the Indian subcontinent and the earlier peoples of the Far East, including China. It seems safe to predict that future studies in genetics and linguistics will validate this view of the spread of enlightenment—from east Africa along the Eastern Track to India, China, and beyond in addition to the recognized Northern Track to Egypt, Greece, and Europe.


African Inquiry Into Natural Phenomena

In any civilization, questions about the nature of illness and remedies arise only within the larger context of an inquiry into other natural phenomena. Archaeological evidence clearly establishes advances in tool-making, agriculture, metallurgy, and architecture in Africa before progress in these fields was made in Mesopotamia, India, China, and Europe. Such knowledge clearly supports the Eastern Track hypothesis. In southern Africa, mining took place as early as 42,000 years ago.13 There is evidence for a cultural flow that diffused the pottery and related microlithic advances from the southeast of Subsaharan Africa to the present-day Sahara and through to West Africa. Such evidence has been found in Cameroon at Shum Laka (30,600-29,000 B.C.), in the Ivory Coast in Bingerville (14,100-13,400 B.C.), in Nigeria in Iwo Eleru (11,460-11,050 B.C.), and finally in Ounjougou (9,000 B.C.).14

Mesopotamia continues to be considered by some as the birthplace of tool-making and agriculture (7,000 to 8,000 B.C.). However, grain-harvesting occurred at Wadi Tushka (Nubia) and Wadi Kubbaniya (Egypt) at least 10,000 years earlier.14,15 Even in northern Africa (present Sahara) impressive agricultural developments preceded those in Mesopotamia—the Kiffian and Tenerian cultures began 10,000 years ago—and archaeologic evidence reveals well developed ideas of diet and health.16 Some knowledge in these fields must have been developed de novo in Mesopotamia, India, Far East, and China, but the general direction of the spread undoubtedly was from Africa to the East, along the Eastern Track. Humankind spread medical knowledge as it spread knowledge in other physical sciences. If we accept that, then why didn’t the ancient Indians and Chinese focus on observable facts of anatomy, physiology, and pathology in their healing traditions? I address this question in a later section.

As for medical ethics, professional conduct, and negligence, the Code of Hammurabi (2200 B.C.) is given the distinction of being the oldest. The Code includes references to incest, adultery, rape, and diseases of slaves. Notwithstanding its historical importance, the priority claim of the Code is suspect—the Edwin papyrus, for instance, pre-dates the Code by 300 to 600 years and Nubian physicians were held accountable for their clinical work.

Africans in South India

There is remarkable convergence of evidence of the Nubian rule over India—and, by extension, of the Eastern Track hypothesis—from historical records of diverse regions of the world. Before summarizing the salient aspects of this evidence, below I describe one major source of the prevailing and mistaken beliefs on the subject.

An important player in my story is Friedrich Max Müller (1823 – 1900), the German philologist and Orientalist who is credited with virtually creating the discipline of comparative religion.18,19In 1846, he went to England and joined Christ Church, Oxford in 1851. Later he was appointed as the Taylorian Professor of Modern European Languages at Oxford University. Based on linguistic work, professor Müller proposed that the people of Indo-European languages descended from Japheth—a favored son of Noah—while those who spoke Hebrew were descendents of Shem. In his version, peoples of African and Indian Dravidian languages were the progeny of Ham, Noah’s least favored son. Mueller asserted that: (1) Noah’s Flood can be dated from Biblical genealogy to approximately 2500 B.C.; (2) ancient Indian Vedas were written before the time of the Buddha (around 1,200 500 B.C.); and (3) the Aryans defeated the Dravidian descendants of Ham around 1500 B.C. He went on to speculate that the Israeli descendants of Shem defeated other descendants of Ham, the Canaanites. Specifically, the invaders were “virile people—blue-eyed and fair-skinned warriors—who subdued the “short and black” locals. The ancient Harappan civilization was annihilated. Furthermore, the invaders vigorously shunned their subjects in order to prevent mixing of bloods and accordingly established themselves as the superior caste. Mueller’s legacy is uncritical acceptance by generations of scholars who perpetuated his story: Aryans invaded India in 1500 B.C. and conquered the indigenous people commonly designated as the Dravidians. Below is a revealing quote from a letter Müller wrote to his wife20:

The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years.

Fortunately, all of this can be readily dismissed in light of mitochondrial genetic studies of migrations of populations.17-19 Mitochondrial genetics strongly point to a single dispersal of modern humans from east Africa. More importantly, such dispersal first occurred through southern India. Many generations of such Africans lived in India until the climate improved allowing them to migrate North and West out of India about 45000 years ago.21

More pertinent to the Eastern Track hypothesis are the later African influences on India, the Far East, and China. The Naga were early indigenous people of India.22 They are mentioned in the ancient Indian classics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Dravidian classic, the Chilappathikaran, indicates that the first great kingdom of India was Naganadu. The Naga appear to have been the descendents of the pre-Nubian and Nubian (Kush-Punt/Ethiopia) peoples. Among them were the Puntites, the great sailors of ancient times. Egyptian inscriptions refer to the Puntite ports of Outculit, Hamesu and Tekaru (corresponding to Adulis, Hamasen, and Tigre port of Massawa) on the Red Sea coast of the Ethiopian/Eritrean region. Mahabharata also informs us that the Naga had their capital city in the Deccan (a region in south India), and other cities spread between the Jummna and Ganga rivers before the Aryan invasion of India.

Outside India, some Sumerian texts indicate that the Puntites traded with the people of the Indus Valley,23 not surprising since later sailers, such as Arabs, also sailed up the Indus river in their conquests. In the Greek tradition, Kushites ruled India up to the Ganga. The Aryan traditions of Mlechchas—the Sanskrit name for some of the non-Aryan people—refers to Kushites/Puntites as one of the aboriginal groups of India. The accounts of Naga kings of Sri Lanka described the Dravidians as having descended from the mixed Indian aboriginal and the visiting Kushites/Puntites peoples.

Equally important, on the African side the ancient Ethiopian traditions refer to the rule of Puntites/Ethiopians in India.24 The Kebra Nagast (the Book of the Glory of Kings, kept at Bodleian Library at Oxford University) is an account written in Ge’ez of the Solomonic line of the Ethiopian Emperors.25 The present text is at least seven hundred years old. The Kebra mentions the Ethiopian king Arwe who ruled India. The dynasty was founded around 1370 B.C. by Za Besi Angabo. Kerba also calls the Ethiopia-Indian kings Nagas. Their dynasty began around 1370 BC. To lend further weight to the account, the Kebra gives accounts of Queen Makeda and her son Menelik I. The Queen “had servants and merchants who traded for her at sea and on land in the Indies and Aswan.” Menelik I campaigned in the Indian Ocean and accepted gifts from the King of India. He ruled an empire extending from the Blue Nile to the west to south Shoa to eastern India (see documentation).

Taken together, these diverse historical accounts conjured a picture, as incomplete as it might be, that provided tenable historical case for genomic mixing of pre-Nubia and Nubian people with aboriginal groups of India. A look at the world map and the proximity of the Ethopian coast to Yemen and Oman—then on to the valleys of the Indus River and India—adds a supportive geographic perspective to this picture. Together the historical and geographic perspective fully explains the unmistakeable similarities in facial features of the peoples of the two continents—and establishes the primacy of the Africans over the Indians—and strongly supports the Eastern Track hypothesis

What were the healing traditions in Neanderthall Europe before the Afro-Indian treatment methods reached Europe via the Eastern Track? They must have had some. However, no data are available on the subject. Genetic studies show that the lineage of Euroasian Neanderthall diverged from that of modern humans about 370,000 years ago. The last of the Neanderthalls appear to have lived in Gibralter about 28,000 years ago. By contrast, the earliest modern humans reached Euroasia from Africa and the Middle East about 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthalls were short and stocky—the average males were five feet and weighed 180 pounds)—and engaged in cannabalism. The reasons for their extinction was a mystery until recently. Recent DNA studies reveal that they succumbed to climatic changes. They were not pushed to oblivion by the newcomers from the south. In any case, they left no evidence of how they cared for the sick.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric burial place in England. Composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of massive iconic stones, it is believed to have been erected around 3,000 B.C.—about the time the Edwin Smith papyrus was penned. Recent studies have added a new dimension to Stonehenge. A high proportion of skeletons recovered from the area show signs of serious diseases, and the analysis of their teeth reveals that about half were from outside the Stonehenge area. It seems probable that the stone icons were thought to possess healing properties.

Mythology and the Eastern Track Hypothesis

Early African and Nubian cultures were matriarchal. So were the early peoples of southeast Asia. Ancient Greece, by contrast, had a patriarchal tradition. Does this difference support the Eastern Track hypothesis? I think it does.

Mythology reveals what was authentic about ancient civilizations of the world—and, how imagined, life ought to have been. In the structures and functions of their goddesses and gods, the ancients revealed what was true in their lives—food, dwellings, tools, fears, and imagination. Four conclusions can be drawn from the study of the mythologies of the world: (1) African mythologies predate those of other lands; (2) there is a remarkable universality of mythic themes; (3) female dieties were assigned crucial roles of life-givers, life-sustainers, and nurturers while male dieties were often warriors and destroyers; and (4) the transition from primarily matriarchal to patriarchal social mores occurred in Egypt and Greece long after the evolution of far more insightful, humane, just, and enlightened thought in earlier African times.

African mythology is considered too large a swath to allow a meaningful synopsis.26 I believe it is possible to do a broad survey of dieties and their assigned roles to draw some conclusions that shed light on the Eastern Track hypothesis. African gods are excitable and love fireworks (lightning and storms) and utterly delinquent in their obligations to mortals. Male dieties are not sympathetic to thier mortal subjects. They want humans to become independent and stand on their own. The accounts of humans building mythological heavenly ladders for direct audience with gods are revealing. Such ladder always collapse, crushing the limbs of climbers and dashing their hopes. African goddesses, by contrast, are deeply supportive of humans—loving, nurturing, and forever sustaining hope. Specifically, Yemoja is the African “mother of gods.” She is a nurturer and directs the all-important portfolio of water management (as the goddess of rivers). The god Sango is interested in big bangs and huge flames (as the god of thunder and lightning). Yemoja and Sango are the forerunners—essentially prototypes for the planetary evolution of gender-related mythology—for generations of loving and nurturing female dieties and mean-spirited and violent male dieties ever ready to torture the hapless mortals.27 The essential attributes of male gods are best exemplified by the Greek supergod, Zeus, who was precocious and violent. He made love to everything that moved and incinerated mortals without provocation with his lightning rod. Hades ruled the underworld with other ill-tempered gods.

In the Mesopotamian pantheon, the trio of Ishtar, Nuntura, and Dumuza were designated as the mother goddess, fertility goddess, and sea goddess respectively. In pre-Islamic Arabia, Allat, Menat, and Al-Uza were the three principal goddesses. Allat was the mother goddess of Nabataean, the Queen of Heaven, a morning star (of war) as well as the evening star (of love). In Indian mythology, the trio of Durga Kali, Saraswati, and Lakshami comprise the primary dieties. Durga Kali’s rank is revealed by her titles of “Great Goddess” and “Universal Goddess.” Saraswati is the goddess of education and Lakshami is the goddess of earth. Kali is also the goddess of consciousness and has the rare distinction among dieties of the world of carrying a prayer book. She is also the goddess of life and is widely celebrated in fertility festivals in India today. The word kali in Punjabi and Urdu languages means black. Kali is also the name of the female Indian deity considered to be black and a fierce goddess of death, as well as the destroyer of the “Power of Eternal Time.” Animal and human sacrifices were done to escape her wrath. One wonders if Kali indeed was a female African deity of fertility and goodness and her dark side was the creation of some early South Indian religious cults, as was done in other religions of the world. Did early Indians add the evil trio to the African deity of fertility and life?

In patriarchal Greece, the male-dominant Greek pantheon was inhabited by many nefarious and testosterone-ticked characters, including Hades, Posiedon, and Haphestus. Like Zeus, they amused themselves by unleashing storms of death and destruction. Apollo was the god of medicine. Goddess Psyche was an illusion. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was the only diety of note, perhaps because she emerged from Zeus’s head.

To understand the place of women in the ancient healing traditions, the case of Moses’s wife and sister may be cited here. Zipporah, a Nubian/Ethiopian princess and the wife of Moses, had medical skills. In the Book of Exodus (4:24-27), there is a reference to an incident in which Moses and Zipporah reach an inn and something (or somebody) attempted to kill Moses, until (in the opinion of some scholars) Zipporah carried out a circumcision. Miriam, Moses’s sister, served as the physician for his flock.

The Master Latrine Builder

I need not romanticize African mythology to make my larger point. Africa has—always did and , most likely, will—its shame. History does not acknowledge romaticizing. I cite the cases of a master latrine builder and joyous wife-buying African king to bring out the profound irony of the sublime coexisting with the absurd.

Once Ethiopians were master pyramid builders. Recently, though they had to import a master latrine builder—a president of the United States. Ethiopia has one of the highest prevalence rates of blindness caused by trachoma in the world. Jimmy Carter thought he could help by improving the hygiene. He faced a significant hurdle. There was a strong taboo against women relieving themselves during the day, a standard of modesty vigorously imposed by the pious men of Ethiopia. Parenthetically, I might add, that growing up in Pakistan I also observed this standard enforced on the women of my village by their pious men. Carter planned to build 10,000 latrines in the country to address the problem of trachoma due to poor hygiene. Eventually, he built more than 340,000 latrines and rightfully earned the distinction of being a master latrine builder.28

Swaziland’s King Mswati III symbolizes Africa’s insensitive and cruel rulers. Mswati collects wives and BMWs—thirteen human beauties and untold four-wheelers at the last count.29 His father, Sobhuza II, took 70 wives—110, by some accounts. The country is ravaged by H.I.V. infection. Life expectancy fell from 60 years in 1997 to half that number. Nearly a third of all children have lost a parent. In 2001, the king invoked an ancient chastity rite, telling his country’s maidens to refrain from sex for five years. When he violated that rite himself—by bedding his 17-year-old ninth wife—he atoned by fining himself one cow—Mswati personal wealth equals one-eighth of the country’s total annual budget. Undoubtedly, many ancient kings in various regions of Africa were true ancestors of King Mswati in their thirst for young women and oppression of their people. Notwithstanding the dark side of African history exemplified by Mswati III , my view of ancient African enlightenment and philosophy of human rights, social justice, and primacy of women in mythological traditions stands on solid historical and archaeological evidence.

Discarding of the Scientific Method

Early Africa used the scientific methods by focusing on the observable—the sciences of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and metallurgy.30-35 I return to the question raised earlier: If the Eastern Track did bring the African influence to India and China, why didn’t the healers of these lands pursue the African method? Why did they limit themselves to non-anatomic models of chakras and meridians? I offer a speculative answer: India developed a rigid caste system with oppressive and cruel customs—sati (burning of young wives in the funerary fires of their old husbands) is just one example—that required relentless enforcement with unyielding structures of oppression. Science, by contrast, is liberating. It is a matter of the observation of natural phenomenon. Science neither owns anyone nor accepts ownership. The liberating attribute of scientific knowledge could not have been acceptable to powers that be in India. Superstition is a sworn enemy of science. Once entrenched in a civilization, it relentlessly suppresses reason and openness. One wonders if the need for objectivity and openness in healing traditions was a victim of those structures of superstition in India. The Chinese, it seems to me, simply followed the Indians. Unlike India, Africa did not have oppressive customs and traditions that endured for millennia and over large areas. Certainly, Africa could not have had a caste system based on the color of skin. There may have been yet other factors in the loss of African spirituality in the healing traditions in India. Superstition is not only a sworn enemy of science but also of spirituality—of compassion that is authentic and universal, as well as of understanding that is liberating.

My comments is the preceding paragraph may not be considered derisive to the healing methods based on the concepts of prana (Indian word for breath energy), chi (Chinese word for flowing energy), chakras (Indian energy circles), and acupuncture meridians. Indeed, I visulize the words prana, chi, chakras, and meridian of energy as I do oxygen signaling and oxygen-driven mitochondrial energetics. All of them represent mechanism for assuring homeostasis—harmony among diverse cellular populations of the body—for preserving optimal health. There is, however, one crucial difference: the phenomena of oxygen signaling and oxygen-driven mitochondrial energetics are observable and demonstrable.

Closing Comments

History, like science, is never a complete story. History, like biology, is race-neutral. It does not recognize any intrinsic superiority of some peoples over others. It simply reflects human nature and sheds light on the deepest recesses of the human condition. Time will tell whether future archaeological and genetic findings will support or invalidate the proposed Eastern Track hypothesis. As it stands now, I offer it as a synthesis of diverse and disparate archaeological and historical records concerning the spread of the arts and sciences of healing traditions worldwide. It seems to offer a unifying model of integration of a large body of information—connects mythological, archaeological, historical, and genetic dots, so to speak—that has a strong explanatory power for questions that remained unanswered in the past. As for the priority claim, it seems more appropriate to consider Africa as the “mother of medicine” rather than continue to accept Hippocrates as the father of medicine.


1. Draper R. Black pharoahs. National Geographic. 2008;213: 35-59 ( page 39).

2. James Henry Breasted, The Edwin Smith Papyrus. 1922. New York. New-York Historical Society.

3. Sertima IV. Blacks in Science. 1994. Transaction Publishers. New Brunswick, New Jersey. page 132.

4. Michael J. O’Dowd, Elliot Philipp, The History of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Informa Health Care 2000, p.43.

5. Laurinda S. Dixon. Perilous Chastity: Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightenment Art and Medicine, Cornell University Press 1995.

6. Weatherwax JM. The African Contribution. 1964. Los Angeles. Aquarian Spiritual Center Bookshop.

7. Ali M. The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine Volume III: Darwin, Oxygen Homeostasis, and Oxystatic Therapies. 3 rd. Edi. New York. Insitute of Integrative Medicine Press. New York.

8. Ali M. The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine Volume XI: Darwin, Dysox, and Disease. 2000. 3rd. Edi. 2008. New York. Insitute of Integrative Medicine Press.

9. Ali M. The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine Volume XI: Darwin, Dysox, and Integrative Protocols. 2008. New York. Insitute of Integrative Medicine Press.

10. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. (Nei Jing ). Written about 1000 B.C.

11. Bisson MS, Childs ST, Voge JO. Ancient African Metallurgy: The Sociocultural Context. 2000. Rowman Altamira. By Michael S. Bisson, S. Terry Childs, Joseph O. Vogel, Philip De Barros, Augustin F. C. Holl. Published by Rowman Altamira, 2000. ISBN 0742502619, 9780742502611.

12. Mali relics recovered in France.

13. Wilford JN. Graves found from Sahara’s green period. The New York Times. August 15, 2008.

14. Mutunhu T. Africa: The Birthplace of Iron Mining. Negro History Bulletin. 1981;44:p5,20.

15. =334&mforum =africa for further information).

16. Jon R. Stone (ed.), The Essential Max Müller: On Language, Mythology, and Religion, New York: Palgrave, 2002.

17. Brahm Datt Bharti, Max Muller, a lifelong masquerade: The inside story of a secular Christian missionary who masqueraded all his lifetime from behind the mask of literature … intellect, and scholarship to wreck Hinduism, Erabooks, 1992.

18. Müller, Georgina, The Life and Letters of Right Honorable Friedrich Max Müller, 2 vols. London: Longman, 1902.

19. Macaulay et al., “Single Rapid Costal Settlement of Asia Revealed by Analysis of Complete Mitochondrial Genomes,” Science 308 (2005), 1034-1036.

20. Bamshad et al., “Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations,” Genome Research 11 (2001), 994-1004.

21. Padma Manian, “Harappans and Aryans: Old and New Perspectives of Ancient Indian History,” The History Teacher 32:1 (November 1998), 17-32.

22. Joseph JE. In: T. R. Trautmann: Languages and Nations: The Dravidian Proof in Colonial Madras. Applied Linguistics 2008;29:518-521.

23. Diodorus S. (the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote: “From Ethiopia he (Osiris) passed through Arabia, bordering upon the Red Sea as far as India…. He built many cities in India, one of which he called Nysa, willing to have remembrance of that (Nysa) in Egypt, where he was brought up.” Also: Itinerarium Alexandri wrote: “India, taken as a whole, beginning from the north and embracing what of it is subject to Persia, is a continuation of Egypt and the Ethiopians.”

24. Ullendorff E. Ethiopia and the Bible. 1968. Oxford. Oxford University Press. p. 75.

25. (As of September 8, 2008).

26. Turner P, Coulter CH. Dictionary of Ancient Dieties. 2000. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

27. Aguwa J. Diety in Igbo Religion. 1995. Nigerai. Fourth Dimension Publishing Company.

28. Time magazine. October 8, 2007. p 10

29. Bearak B. In destitute Swaziland, leader lives royally. The New York Times.September 5, 2008.

30. Finch CS. The African background of medical sciences. In: Sertima IV. Blacks in Science. 1994. Transaction Publishers. New Brunswick, New Jersey. pp 140-156.

31. Newsome F. Black contributions to the early history of western medicine. In: Sertima IV. Blacks in Science. 1994. Transaction Publishers. New Brunswick, New Jersey. pp 127-139.

32. Ivan Van Sertima, Editor. Journal of African Civilization. African Studies Department. Beck Hall. Rutgers University. New Brunswick, NJ 08903.

33. Cogan L. Negros for Medicine: Report of A Macy Conference. 1968. Baltimore. The John Hopkins Press.

34. Haber L. Black Poineers of Science and Invention. 1970. New York. Harcourt. Brace, and World, Inc.

35. Sandra Blakely. Myth, ritual, and metallurgy in ancient Greece and recent Africa.

The Breath – A Poem From “Heart Dancing, Feet in Lead”

Majid Ali, M.D.

Fears and suspicions,

Why so seductive?

Anger and rage,

Why so addictive?

Misery, why so easy?

Happiness, why so hard?

Suffering, why so ready?

Love, why on guard?

Men crazed and craven,

What determines their fate?

Pathology of control,

Power of hate.

Bitten and scorned

Who would care?

Deep healing,

Why so rare?

Conniving, conspiring,

Bring the wrath,

Sensing, conversing,

Delineate the path.

The breath belongs

To breathing,

As breeze to air,

And the spirit

To soul, generous and fair.

Majid Ali, M.D.

Dreams, Darwin, and Freud

A Darwin-Freud Series

Majid Ali, M.D.

When we are asleep, we are not dead. Darwin would have told me. Our brain cells do not go dead when we sleep, he would have added. Imagine how the unfiltered firing of neurons would create images that may be outside the reality of awake hours, he would have smiled. Yet within the context of our larger physical reality and the range of our desires and hopes. That would have sounded reasonable to me. I would have thanked him for it.

Freud would have told me to read his The Interpretation of Dreams. He would have expected me to be overwhelmed by his astounding intellect and never question his superior. Marvel at how I parse things, then put them together and analyze them to reveal deep truths that only I—I repeat, only I—can see, expand, and teach.

Darwin would have exhorted me to makes thousands of observation of natural physical phenomena and draw as few conclusions as possible. He would have spoken about observing the truth, not making it up. Stick to the observable reality, which others with natural power to observe, can observe. Be loyal to your natural senses. Use them authetically. Don’t just make things up.

Look deeper than the surface but believe only what I show you there, Freud would have countered Darwin. . Don’t you forget what I did to people who came before you and were foolish enough to challenge me. Think of, what of his name, that fellow Gustav. Never mind where I told him to go.

Just see what is there to see, Darwin would have smiled. See what you see in light of what you have seen before. When you deduce anything, don’t forget to say it is your deduction and needs to tested and re-tested to determine if what I say is valid.

Freud’s Interpretation of Jung’s Dream About Two Horses

Consider the following text about Jung’s dream about two horses as related in a chapter on Jung in a book by Irving Wallace and his colleagues*:

“At first, their marriage was idyllic. By 1906, however, Jung was having dreams, one of which, about two horses [was interpreted by Freud as] “the failure of a rich marriage.” Jung replied, “I am happy with my wife in every way…there has been no sexual failure, more likely a social one” The dream held, Jung believed, was “an illegitimate sexual wish that had better never see the light of the day.”

In 1909 one of his (Jung’s) patients wanted him to impregnate her, and he confessed that his professional relationship with had “polygamous components…However, these two experiences oly set the stage for other important women in his life—Toni Wolff, 13 years his junior, who came to him as a patient in 1910.”

Years later, Jung himself wrote about Toni Wolff, Emma (his wife), and himself in a “triangle [that] was an ideal situation” (Wallace’s words). This situation lasted for many years. There were, of course, several other women in Jung’s life.

So, now let us consider how did Freud’s interpretation of Jung’s dream about two horses work out? Freud saw Jung’s wife and mistress in the two horses of Jung’s dream. Perhaps, Jung really saw several horses in his dream (not just two) and Freud was right all along—one horse for each woman in Jung’s life.

The Primal Malignancy of the Mind—Not-Me-Ness

Majid Ali, M.D.

What might be the primal malignancy of the human mind? This question first took form when I first saw images in my mind of 132 school boys collapsing in blood in a Peshawar school, their bodies pierced with Taliban bullets. Then the mind drifted to about 500,000 Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs killed in the retributive genocide of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. That triggered more questions.

What occupied the minds of “drone-democratizing” sages of Washington when they began to carve up Iraq? Or the mind of Boka Haram when it abducted, raped, and murdered hundreds of teenagers in Nigeria? Or of ISIS when it decapitates men in the desert and burns some in metallic cages? Or the framers of the U.S. constitution when they legalized unspeakable horrors of slavery? Such questions, of course, are endless. But each brings me to the question in the beginning of this article: What might be the primal malignancy of the human mind?

What history informs me about the question is the same as my reflections on current world affairs. The answer to the questions is always the same. The righteous are always are always right because of their “me-ness,” the others are always wrong because of their “not-me-ness.” It is simple. It is ennobling. It is empowering. It provides full justification for molesting, maiming, and murdering those in the not-me-ness domains.

My mind drifts some more. It wanders into earlier time in the history before the birth of healers, the predecessors of doctors today. I see a hunter falling off a cliff and tearing up his thigh. Then I see some other hunter climbing down the cliff, looking seeing the blood spilling out, looking around, in despair picking up some tree bark, and slamming it on the gaping wound. The wounded hunter lives and looks at the tree bark as the miracle. Seeing this, the hunter who picked up the bark begins to engage in a different ideation. I chose the right bark and so it must be within me to pick up the right bark. This or something akin to it must have been the beginning of me-ness.

Or, there was a drought in African savanna. The land was parched and so were its people. Children without water were wilting. Their mothers were listless. Everyone sought help from the chief of the tribe. The chief looks up to the sky, then stared at distant hills, then at the sun squinting to escape its scalding light. He looked down at the dirt, then back to the comforting distant of hills. He was a chief and must have known well the dependence of his tribe on him. How can I help these creatures? He must have murmured to himself. He must have known that he had no answer and that he couldn’t admit it. He must have had become good at pretense (how else could anyone have become a chief then? How else can anyone become a leader now?).

Later, perhaps that night, it must have happened. The sky poured and poured and poured. There must have been water everywhere. The whole tribe must have meshed around the chief for a and celebratory rain dance begins. The chief must have had the same ideation as the hunter: His me-ness and others’ not-me-ness.

This or something like this must have been the beginning of the men of spirits, then connivers and schemers, then men of power.

The Greeks were ingenious god-makers. They created gods for everything—every desire, every rage, every pursuit, every war, and every conquest—under the umbrella of their super-god, Zeus. But the god-making Greeks were not the first god-inventors. There were Indians before them. And the people of Rift Valley long before them. God-making craft was the legacy of the seers among the hunters-gatherers, the discoverers of me-ness and not-me-ness.

Then must have come those willing and able to seek greener pastures. They became preachers, pundits, and prophecy-makers.

Colonists, their paths paved by their kept missionaries, had to have followed. How could they have not seen the great virtues of me-ness and the absolute need of total subjugation of lesser beings of not-me-ness?

Should anyone be surprised that some sired by Herculese went on to clone Hannibals, Hilaku Khans, Hitlers, and Hitlerettas?

Now to our times. Europeans are not Asians. Asians are not Africans. Africans are not, well … Hindu mundars are not Jewish synagogues, which are Buddhist monasteries, which are not Christian churches, which are Muslim mosques, which are not Sikh gurdawaras.

And, above all, is there any doubt that we Americans are not exceptional? A spade must be called a spade, right?

We now celebrate not-me-ness as diversity. Why shouldn’t we? Doesn’t that entitle us to be the staunchest supporters of not-me-ness? I mean, don’t we now have the United Nations, that ultimate arbiter of not-me-ness??

What Is Love? – Circa 1994 and 2011

Majid Ali

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Midwinter Day’s Images

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Circa 1594

It proposes that love is a dream, or perhaps a vision; that it is absurd, irrational, a delusion, or, perhaps, on the other hand, a transfiguration; that is doomed to be momentary, (“So quick bright things come to confusion” [1.1.151]0, and it constitutes at the same time the proper foundation for lifelong marriage.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, page 182. Folger Shakespeare Library

Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, New York 1993

A Midwinter Day’s View – Circa 2011

                                                          Love is to celebrate,

                                                          A crystal without creed,

                                                          A dew drop without color,

                                                         A raven without race,

                                                         A river without religion.

Drone Democracy page 64

Canary 21 Press (2011), New York

Choua, Lupus, and Multiple Sclerosis

Majid Ali, M.D.

( A story from “From Healing Voices From the Wild” )

Tammy, a woman in her late forties, consulted me for multiple sclerosis. For several months, she had experienced abnormal sensations in her limbs with “pins and needles” and weakness of muscles. She became very frightened when she started losing her balance and had difficulty walking. MRI scans ordered by one neurologist showed demyelination (loss of insulation sheaths of nerve fibers) in her brain and spinal cord. A second MRI scan ordered by a different neurologist confirmed the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

“Is is not that,” Choua spoke in his usual abrupt voice. He had entered the room unnoticed as he often does.

“Choua, keep quiet,” I replied.

“It is not that,” he repeated.

‘It’s not what?” I asked with irritation, then regretted immediately asking the question.

“It is not multiple sclerosis,” he replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Oh, shush, Choua. Cut it out. Don’t you see I am with a patient,” I rebuked him.

Choua has attention deficit disorder and is very impulsive. He also thinks for himself, which I find interesting, sometimes even charming. I have strictly, sometimes angrily, forbidden him from speaking to me when I am talking to a patient. But he cannot help himself and regularly ignores my edicts as well as pleas.

I returned to Tammy’s chart, pretending to look for more information, still annoyed that Choua’s violated my rule.

“I know it’s not that,” Tammy spoke after I finished reading her file and looked up.

“It’s not what?” I asked, without really needing any clarification of her words.

“It’s not multiple sclerosis,” she said firmly.

“How do you know?”

“She just knows,” Choua’s voice came from under the desk.

“Please go away, Choua,” I said under my breath, struggling to maintain the pretense of a a clinical conversation with Tammy and hoping she would not read frustration on my face.

“How do you…how do you know? How do you know it is not MS?”I asked fumbling.

“I just know,” Tammy replied calmly.

“How?” I persisted.

“Because that’s what happened the last time,” she replied emphatically.

“What happened last time?”

“They said it was lupus and they gave me cortisone. I threw the cortisone out after a few weeks.”

“Then what?”

“Then I took a lot of vitamins and my lupus went away.”

“How was lupus diagnosed,” I asked, feigning ignorance.

“They did all the tests. ANA, LE prep and a test for proteins in the urine. You know, everything the rheumatologists do.”

We looked at each other for some moments. I dreaded Choua’s voice returning. It would have been inappropriate for me to lean over and look under the desk for him.

“Curing lupus with vitamin pills, eh.” Choua taunted, peeping from behind the waste basket under the desk and shaking his whiskers.

“I do. I do, Yes, I do believe in vitamins, but for God’s sake, leave me alone, you little beast,” I replied, exasperated. “Please , please, Choua…… “

“You didn’t believe this stuff,” he cut me off. “Then you were a pathologist and pathologists believe in observable stuff.”’

“I’m warning you, Choua, I will…..”

“Then you became an integrative quack. You got used to such stories. The first few times had been different. It had been hard to believe patients who told you such stories. It literally meant throwing out all your medical texts. Patients with serious autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis are not supposed to get better by simply taking vitamin pills, at least not according to your medical texts. The hard-nosed pathologist in you had great difficulty believing what medical texts said couldn’t be believed. Then things changed for you.”

“Stop it!” I nearly screamed.

“Then your patients forced you to think differently.” Choua was indifferent to my anger. “With the passing years, you saw many patients who were told they had lupus with positive lupus tests who went on to recover completely and live healthy lives.”

“Yes, yes,” words escaped my lips.

“You also saw patients with arthritis and positive rheumatoid tests who recovered. Then you realized that the tests merely indicate stress on our immune defenses. The injured and confused immune system begins to make destructive antibodies. Positive lupus and rheumatoid tests were merely that. Nothing more. How many times does one have to be hit on his head?”

“Tell me something about the stress in your life.” I asked Tammy with a calm I didn’t know I had.

“You know how it is. Everyone suffers stress in life,” she replied.

“That’s true. Still, tell me. Is he very supportive?” I asked her, gesturing to her husband who sat silently listening to us.

“Yeah, he is supportive,” she replied after a slight, initial hesitation.

“You physicians do learn with time,” Choua spoke before I could. “Minor delays in answers often tell you more than many carefully crafted answers from your patients.”

I looked at her husband, forced a limp smile, and asked,

“When did they tell you that you had lupus?” I asked.

“1984.” Tammy leaned back in the chair.

“What happened in ’84?”


“What happened in ’83?”


“Nothing in ’84 and nothing in ’83?” I looked into her eyes, persisting with my inquiry.

“What happened in 83?” Tammy sat up.

“Yes, what happened in 83?”

“My mother died.” Tammy’s neck stiffened.

“Were you close?”


“Very close?”

“She was my best friend.”

“What happened early this year?”

“What do you mean?”

“What happened in the months before you developed pins and needles in legs and arms?”

A hurt expression crossed Tammy’s face and she leaned forward in her chair. I looked at her in silence. She seemed to read my mind and quickly recovered her composure. Then she turned her face to her husband who glanced at me uncomfortably. I looked back at Tammy.

“We had family troubles.”

“Would you rather not talk about them?” I asked.

“No! There’s nothing to hide. We separated for some months.”

“And then?”

“Then we got together to see if we could make it.”

“And then?”

“And then we realized it had to end. There had to be a divorce.”

Tammy broke down. I didn’t have to look at her husband to learn anything more.

“Is there a chance for some healing here?” Choua asked sympathetically.

“I wonder about that myself, my rodent-friend.” I surprised myself by my civil answer this time.

“Serious illnesses sometimes break good marriages. Sometimes they also mend broken ones,” Choua went on.”If the latter were going to prevail, it would not be the first time you have seen a serious disease lead to reconciliation and healing of the deep wounds of lost love. Those things just seem to happen, don’t they?” he asked with a yawn.

“Tell me, how do you react to perfumes and formaldehyde and tobacco smoke?” I looked at Tammy and changed the subject.

To order a copy of my book entitled Healing Voices From the Wild (2015), please go to or call 1-800-633-6226.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »