Tag Archives: Saint Augustine of Hippo

On a Few Reflections and Observations

“Monday Musings” for Monday October 27, 2014

Volume IV, No. 43/143


Potpourri of Reflections and Observations

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

The Birth of Existentialism

I am delighted to know that many of our readers are pleased with our occasional philosophical discourse. After all, philosophy means literally “love of wisdom.”  Wisdom is not information, it is not knowledge; yet it is both of those, and more. Also, it is gratifying to receive readers’ mail who ask for more discussion of people who have made a difference in this world, like Soren Kierkegaard, born 1813, died 1855, a brilliant sarcastic, humorous and incredibly prolific thinker theologian/philosopher. He, along with Martin Heidegger (1889-1976—I once went to Berlin to meet and talk with him), Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1950) and Albert Camus (1913-1960) are the four horses of Existentialism, all of whom give credit to St Augustine of Hippo for their start and cutting their teeth in understanding the basic premises and principles of existentialism. Soren used to write books pseudonymously, and then critique them harshly, calling the writer of the books, meaning himself, a no good “oeuf”…

A writer asked about Manicheans. This reader was stimulated by my review of James O’Donnell’s book on the life of Saint Augustine. Yes, Saint Augustine of Hippo for 14 years of his life, between ages of 18 (372) and 32 (386, the year he converted to Christianity) was a Manichean. Augustine was baptized by Bishop Ambrose of Milan on Easter morning 387.

Mani was a Persian. He was born and raised near today’s Basra which was a part of the Persian Empire. The religion is heavily based on Zoroastrianism and Zoroaster’s (Zaratustra) dualistic approach to heaven and earth, good and evil, body and soul… He is purported to have gone to China and converted Turan, Shah of China, (Puccinin’s Turandot which is really Turan-dokht, the daughter of Turan) and is based on this Emperor’s daughter.  Manicheans were sophisticated and learned. They often ridiculed Christians and their ”faith.” Manichians were highly educated, most master-rhetors, engaged in the art of persuasion, like today’s Law professors. They believed in dualism, rationalism and materialism. Augustine’s corpus of work contains19 volumes refuting Manicheans, Donatists, Palagirists and Arians. It makes for stimulating reading and ultimately giving reader a roadmap to true wisdom.


Greed/Financial Dysfunction

The market has rebounded from five years ago. S&P is back to new highs. The stock market is volatile but not in a doldrums. Several years ago, when depression and unemployment engulfed our nation, I wrote that I needed help to understand a few things about our financial system. Here is what I wrote: “While stocks have lost about 50% of their value in one year, and many 401 K for the middle class American workers have been wiped out, we see the salaries and compensations of the CEOs who have caused this chaos have gone up. Let me quote some of these salaries from published statistics, US Department of Labor: Lloyd Blankfein, Chair and CEO, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. received $68.0 million dollars in compensation, and when the company failed the federal government pumped in $10 billion dollars to rescue it.  Similarly, James Dimon, Chair and CEO, J. P. Morgan Chase & Co., $30.4 million in compensation and $25 billion government bailout; Kenneth Lewis, Chair, CEO, Bank of America Corp., $16.4 million, $25 billion; John Mack, Chair & CEO, Morgan Stanley, $16 million, $10 billion; Vikram Pandit, CEO Citigroup, Inc, $5.7, with $25 billion bailout;  William McGuire, Chair and CEO, UnitedHealth $40.7 million; and another Merrill Lynch high flyer, Peter Kraus, head of strategy, $25 million, just to name a few.”

What I still don’t understand and would like for someone to explain to me is how could these people run their companies to the ground, cause millions of their shareholders to have their retirements wiped out and yet be rewarded and the government, without shame, bailed them out?  Please help. Today, five years later I do not believe any of these individual have been reprimanded.


Editor, Psychiatric News:

The August 16 presidential column, Psychiatric News, interested me immensely. In her column, Dr Stotland made a point that the meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatry in London was modest, “using the meeting facilities of the inexpensive venue of the Imperial College has enabled the College to experiment with a meeting without pharmaceutical support…” She stated that “The meeting briefcases carried only the seal of the college…”

For decades, I have criticized the unholy and ethically unacceptable marriage of organized medicine and drug manufacturers. The unwelcome and greed-laden alliance of healthcare and pharmaceutical industries is an abomination. In recent months, we have learned that the scientists, writing papers in leading medical journals, have been sponsored by the drug makers. The Vioxx/Merck mess is a good example. Ghost authorship and ghostwriting occur even in our most trusted peer reviewed journals.

The late President Eisenhower, once in the late 1950s warned against the military-industrial complex. Now, the nation must be warned against the medical-pharmaceutical complex. It is ominous. Organized medicine and APA must find a way to fund their needs through Foundation moneys and not through revenues of advertisements by drug companies.  Also, physicians ought to buy their own lunches, their own pens and their own scratch pads. And they should not get their “medical education” from drug representatives but from rigorous engagement in continued medical education. We must cleanse the holy temple of medicine from these corrupt practices. Maybe Dr. Stotland will start us off on this much needed pilgrimage.


Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA

The Gift of Pistachio and a Pinch of Sufism

This is a personal note.  I know that it should be handwritten. But legibility becomes a problem.  I am writing to tell you how touched I was to receive your thoughtful card with your inserted personal note bearing syntactical elegance and rabbinical wisdom (Rabbi from Aramaic and later Hebrew roots means ‘My teacher’.) Also thank you for the gift of pistachios, every individual kernel depicting the Hafez poem” Pesteh Khandan.” Pistachios were known to Sumerians. There are records in cuneiform (spike or Mikhi) alphabet what scholars have interpreted to be pistachio associated with green color. Sanskrit word PESTEH is the etymology of our word pistachio. During Achamenid Dynasty, in Persia, Shiraz became the center for growing groves of pistachio trees. And in the pre-Islamic world, they used to ferment and make a wine from pistachio. There was and continues to be to this day, one species of pistachio that actually opens in the pod/shell on the tree before they are picked.  They are called “laughing or smiling pistachios.” The Shiraz poets such as Mosleh-Din Saadi (1210-1290) and Khajeh Shams-Din-Hafez (1337-1406) have romanced this species of pistachio as the smiling or laughing (KHANDAN) fruit. As one can see, a cracked pistachio looks like a smiling face.

Saadi and Hafez were Sufis. Sufi philosophy has given birth to the discourse and science of “ontology.”  For the last 1200 years, it has evolved the beatific message “to be in the world but not of the world.”  Sufism invites, encourages, and teaches the art and skill of “being” as a contradistinction of “doing.”  We need to set aside time for introspection and reflection…All one’s “doings” should be in the ultimate service of “being” and “becoming”….

Rumi, one of the most eloquent and influential Masters of Sufi in relation to ontology said: “Blessed are those who are in a state of constant worship….for the very act of worship is the essence is self-awareness and self-knowledge…”.  I must assert that Rumi is very much exploited by literary charlatans and marketers who pose as Rumi authorities, yet do not know a word of Farsi language!)

May your faces like Hafez’ Pesteh be Khandan, smiling and happy forever.


Etymology of the Word “Religion”

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and John Calvin (1509-1564), two disparate theologians of the 13th and 16th centuries, along with Persian physician Abu Ali Sina Avicenna (980-1037), the famed medical diagnostician and clinician of the eleventh century have written independent treatises on the “religion.”  Here is a summary of their work on the topic:

The etymology of the word “religion”, re-ligion”; re: again, ligating: binding, connecting (surgeons ligate veins and tie up arteries); thus, re-connecting, re-binding, re-attaching…what to what is the question.  Perhaps to the beatific vision of eternity and transcendence of love…


A Euro for Asia

The wire services just unloaded a very heartwarming and personal story: Robert Mundel, Reagan’s Chairman of Economic advisors, father of trickle down Reageanonomics (Ibn Khaldoun ‘1332-1406’ was the real father, Robert Mundel was a promulgator!), but he was the true father of the “Euro”, the 1999 Nobel Laureate in Economics, is now back in the news. He wants to foster or father the equivalent currency of Euro for Asia. The name has not been conceived. The Sultan of Abu Dhabi, owner of the multi-trillion dollar “Sovereign Fund” which has been rescuing American Banks and Financial institutions (including Bank of America, UBS, CitiBank, and Washington Mutual) is behind the effort.

A personal note: We had the privilege of having lunch with Dr. Mundel in his Palladian villa in Italy on Friday June 25, 1992. It was a memorable occasion.

Randy Pausch’s name was being considered by some members of the National Humanities Center Nominating Committee for membership to the Board before we earned that he was dying. I was fortunate to be in the audience when he gave his “Last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon. It was a fascinating experience. He was a picture of health. He did summersaults and push-ups during his lecture, and at the conclusion of his speech, carried his wife off the stage. It is very sad that he died, yet, it is glorious the way he lived and the legacy he left for us. I am reviewing his book which will appear in a future issue of WCP.


The Dope on Cannabis

In response to a reader’s question about cannabis and alcohol:

The scholarship on cannabis and data driven research on this controversial drug show that cannabis may and does affect not only the higher cortical structures but also the subcortical parts of the brain, what is known as the Limbic system, causing not only bipolar disorder (radical mood swings and irrational and impulsive behaviour), but actual psychosis. Alcohol has the same adverse effects on the brain through different pathways. So, I really condemn both. I am absolutely against legalizing cannabis. I would be happy to give you reference to these studies. A drunken parent should not hypocritically admonish a pothead child. It does not work. This is one of the astonishing teachings of Saint Augustine of Hippo, the ultimate role model to humankind. Although he was addicted to sex, after his conversion to Christianity and soon after becoming a Bishop, he had enough discipline to stop sex altogether. The same, I condemn tobacco and its ill effects on the body in general. However, I guess the reason tobacco is not banned is that it does NOT cause bipolar disorder and psychosis.

The ultimate answer to these problems is education which starts in utero. Mamas must adopt Augustinian discipline to love themselves and their fetus(es), stop tobacco, alcohol and over-eating while they are pregnant, and continue to be role models to their children. Greed spoils capitalism and private enterprise. Making money out of harming others by selling, cannabis, tobacco, alcohol,  and other harmful substances is immoral.


Hypocrisy and Greed of University Leaders

I am opposed to lowering drinking age in college as many, including 100 college and university leaders, promote. While prohibition is often counterproductive, I believe the answer to binging, abuse and unreasonable use of alcohol is education. The answer also lies in curtailing greed and hunger for money. The University leaders ought to cut out advertising of beer from all TV sports. It is sheer greed to have alcohol products sponsoring sports events, and it is sheer hypocrisy for the university leaders to tolerate this practice because it produces revenue for their institutions. Ban alcohol ads from all television sports.



*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.


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On Higher Education in America

“Monday Musings”, for November 4, 2013

Volume III, No. 42/136


The Sad State of Higher Education in America

By Assad Meymandi, MD PhD, DLFAPA*

America’s greatness is in danger, not because as a nation we are economically bankrupt. Not because China owns us and could cash in their vast holdings of US treasury bonds and send us in a tailspin. Not because we keep borrowing without restraint and spend the money among other things to buy oil form our declared enemies in the Middle East and pollute the air we breathe, but because America is in mortal danger of ominous decline in education. Every day some flagship university announces that they are doing away with teaching foreign language, revising their curriculum to include more courses on cultural diversity and women studies and fewer courses in math, history and liberal education. The latest such a diatribe is the University of Arkansas. Inside Academe, a publication of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) reports that the University of Arkansas is going down the slippery slopes of academic mediocrity. Here is a bit of history: in order for students to graduate from J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, all students were required to take English Composition, philosophy, mathematics, world literature, western civilization, American history, fine arts, science and foreign language. ACTA reports that the University is planning on gutting its stellar core by cutting away important requirements. The University has announced that foreign language requirement would be eliminated, along with Western civilization, philosophy and literature. Math and science would be trimmed, too.

These actions bear disastrous results. For example, 78% of the University of Illinois students surveyed did not know who the author of  “of the people, by the people, for the people” is.  America is losing its memory. We are denying the type of education that imparts love of learning and prepares graduates to become effective workers and informed citizens.  The late Senator Fulbright is turning in his grave… We have replaced studies in chemistry for healthy cooking, understanding mortgages for trigonometry, and a student will be more likely to read “Harry Potter” than anything by Thomas Jefferson. Most disturbing is that our young college students are better versed in a peculiar guilt for their forefathers’ misdeeds than in the proud history of the West’s pre-eminent society. That guilt will further compromise the basic understanding of what is sacred about our nation and the United States Constitution.

Survey after survey shows these startling facts: Americans know more about the TV cartoon known as “The Simpsons” than they do about the First Amendment.  Only one in four American students of higher education can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.  As a reminder, the five freedoms are freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition for redress of grievances.

With the recent turmoil in our beloved University of NC at Chapel Hill, allegations of misdeed and abuse by coaches and sports administrators, which according to the university leaders have eroded “the academic integrity of the University”, we thought a few reflections on American education, are in order.

The basic question is: are our universities citadels of knowledge or a huge stage for entertainment?  America’s higher education seems to be held hostage to sports, athletic programs and entertainment. UNC’s Kenan Stadium’s new east addition costs $70 million dollars, adding thousands of seats, luxury boxes and plush athletic training and tutoring facilities while the infrastructure of the science laboratories are eroding and in ill repair. I never understood a system that rewards a coach with as much as five million dollars a year income, fifteen times the chancellor’s salary, and rewards the science professors, those who deliver the end product of a university, namely, scientific research and knowledge, with comparative pittance. And, Lord knows I have tried to understand this diabolic system but have failed. I fear America’s higher education is on the wrong track.

There are numerous instances today of individuals trying to deprive us from our freedom.  For instance, our freedom of speech is threatened by those who say that the only allowable speech on our college campuses should be politically correct speeches. Our freedom of religion is routinely targeted by groups who want to ban God from our schools, courthouses, and civic buildings. Freedom of assembly is challenged by those who believe the only legitimate protests are the left-oriented kind.

Plato (427-347 BC). Listening carefully to his teacher, Socrates, has outlined in his Dialogue on Education, a curriculum which consisted of music, gymnasium, rhetoric, logic  and mathematics. Some six hundred years later, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in his book The Teacher (he co-authored the book with his teenage son Adeodatus)  recommended a school curriculum that was very much the same as Plato’s. Augustine added learning of one or two non-mother tongue languages. He regretted that he himself did not learn Greek as well as he should have. I believe we must stop transforming our institutions of higher education and learning into arenas of sports and entertainment.

Here in America, I support ACTA because it has many colleges, universities and places of higher education under surveillance to sound the alarm if the basic curriculum of liberal education is diluted.

Readers recall my review of the book Take the Risk by Ben Carson, MD, Professor, pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins, who truly epitomizes the fulfillment of American virtues, and what it means to be an American. Ben has performed numerous delicate neurosurgical operations at Hopkins and throughout the world, including separation of twins conjoined in the head and brain. He is a consummate physician, skilled neurosurgeon, and has the soul of a Saint. In his book Take the Risk he talks about how education and education alone, rescued him from the depth of a segregated neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, marred by drugs, gangs etc., to become one of the world’s most eminent neurosurgeons. He emphasizes (and admonishes) that America is on the slippery slopes of abandoning education and replacing it with sports and entertainment. He argues that America is producing fifty thousand engineers a year, while we need 350,000. How much longer can we import engineers form Bangalore, China and other developing nations?  We are NOT producing nearly enough scientists. America ranks below Ethiopia and Somalia in math and basic science tests, and we do not know much about our own history, language, arts, and basic humanities that connect us with the rest of the world. Look at our daily newspapers- the sport section is the fattest, followed by the entertainment section. Take the Risk is a wakeup call worth reading by parents, educators, rabid sports fans and university Chancellors.

America needs to turn back to its roots.

Our founding fathers gave their lives, their sacred honor to fight a formidably powerful enemy to give us this beautiful Republic. In 237 years life of America, we have done very little to protect and preserve and nurture the gift of America, the gift that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and other patriots gave us. We submit that every American child by the fifth grade ought to memorize George Washington’s Farewell Address, The US Constitution and John Adams’ Inaugural Address. We should also support organizations such as ACTA to keep a critical eye on the conduct of our colleges and universities lest under social pressure and political correctness, they may dilute the curriculum to accommodate the lowest common denominator in education.

In my university lecture tours, I come across splendid examples of liberal arts curricula that have kept faith. These schools demonstrate reverential devotion to the notion of liberal arts as it was meant to be. They insist on teaching, English composition, philosophy, mathematics (math in Greek means knowledge), world literature, western civilization, American History, Fine Arts, science and literature. One such school is our own Davidson College in NC. Another is Hillsdale College in the boonies of Michigan which has provided education to young people since 1844. We need more schools like Davidson and Hillsdale.


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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On Curiousity

“Monday Musings” for September 21, 2013

Volume III, No. 40/134



 by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

As “Monday Musings” approaches another year of life, we have added a celebratory note for its raison d’être. Of course, we have had a mission statement since the conception of the project. We also added a vision. But now we are adding the mood of celebration. The purpose of “Monday Musings” is to encourage curiosity and bridge the gap between basic sciences, the arts and the humanities. The more one broadens the base of knowledge, the higher one can elevate it…  “MM” seeks to build higher towers of knowledge by broadening the base. We are starting the new chapter of the life of “MM” by celebrating medicine, the arts, intellect, ideas, and curiosity. Some readers have strongly suggested that we should add education to the mix. We agree.

For millennia, humans have struggled with the complex issues of faith, belief, reason, the dualistic juxtaposed soul and body, deductive and inductive observation, and even right and left brain. Finally, at the beginning of eighteenth century, the birth of enlightenment, which lasted about 200 years (roughly the birth of Voltaire in 1694 to the early twentieth century the birth of aviation 1903), brought hope that faith and reason can co-exist.  And folks like Scottish philosopher David Hume (born 1711), and a generation later, caustic British cleric, Jonathan Swift (born 1745), can live together within the same century, disagree with each other vehemently, yet have good things to say about each other.

Enlightenment gave mankind the gift of idea, skepticism and curiosity. It permitted us to question things. It brought us the delight of being seekers, doubters and eternal students and learners. Romanticism followed enlightenment in the twentieth century. It deepened our abilities to be better seekers, and heightened our potential to become better students of science. The first theologian/philosopher/poet/existentialist/romanticist who ushered in the age of Romanticism was the Dane, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). There were other romanticists such as Byron (1788-1824), Shelly (1792-1822) and Keats (1795-1821) who fanned the wonderful ember of romanticism. They wrote about the beauty of the soul and man’s ability to fuse with mysticism.

In the 21st century we have the best of both. The faithful readers of this space recall our sharing the most recent contribution of science to finding solutions to the brain disease known as schizophrenia. We have the poetry of Rumi, Saadi, Baba Taher Oryan, and Romantic poets of Europe (see names above) to help our transcendence into amorphous ether of tomorrow. We will continue to assist the seekers and students of transcendence by providing recommended list of the writings of people of consequence, such as Saint Augustine of Hippo (his most celebrated book, The City of God, written in Latin, around 410 AD, and The Confessions) and other kalendars (Dervish) such as Khahjeh Abdollah Ansari’s Monajat,poems, written in Arabic and Farsi in 1245 AD.

As one enters the temple of transcendence, one finds many dwellers and many seekers of wisdom who use the same language, the language of love. Polyglossia and the Pentecost are eloquent testimonies that difference in how we speak and how we articulate thoughts and feelings are unimportant. Like music, the language of love and elevated spiritualism and deep connectedness of humankind are the same no matter where you go, and no matter who is speaking and in what language it is spoken.

One of the most intriguing words in the English lexicon is “curiosity.”  As physicians, we must remain curious and continue to learn as much as possible about our profession. In medicine, mere competence is NOT good enough. We must be excellent in what we do. We must be engaged in continuous medical education, keeping up with cutting edge research, medical literature, and read peer-reviewed journals. This unending curiosity is not only desirable but necessary. Yet, we cannot be curious by experimenting with drugs and wondering how they affect us and our brain by partaking some! Therefore, one form of curiosity is an integral part of practicing proficient and good medicine, while the other form of curiosity is a detriment. Also, being curious about other fields of knowledge expands our mental and cognitive capacity, and in many instances, brings us joy and fresh insight. “Monday Musings” is privileged to encourage curiosity, facilitate expansion of cognitive capacity, and elevate the majesty of human soul….


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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On Yom Kippur and Moses Maimonides

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 9, 2013

Volume III, No. 34/128


Yom Kippur,

Moses Maimonides of Cordoba

(Editor’s Note: Muslims have Ramadan, month of fasting and worship. Christians have Lent dedicated to worship, fasting and contemplation. Jews have Yom Kippur. Etymology: Yom in Arabic and Aramaic means Day, Kippur from Semitic roots means atonement.  It is a Holy day observed on the 10th day of Tishra marked by fasting, prayer, and atonement of sins. On our calendar this year, it falls on Friday September 13, 2013.  We thought it is appropriate to look at one of the most formidable Jewish Rabbis, philosopher, physician, research scientist, astronomer, and theologian, Moses Maimonides of Cordoba.)


by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Moses Maimonides

Edited by Fred Rosner, MD and Samuel S. Kottek, MD

229 pages of text, 41 pages of reference notes and 10 pages of index

Jason Aronson, INC., Publisher

There is a sweet anecdote at the beginning of Sherwin Nuland’s biography of Moses Maimonides which has to do with Jewish mothers insisting their sons to become doctors, the “My son, the Doctor” paradigm.It goes something like this: “Imprisoned in a tower in Madrid, disabled by syphilis and further weakened by abscess in his scalp, The French King Francis asked of his captor, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, to send the finest Jewish physician to attempt a cure.” Frances discovered that the doctor sent to him was not Jewish but a baptized Christian. Irate, Francis dismissed the doctor and insisted to be treated by a genuine Jew. That physician may have been-most historians say it was-“Moses Maimonides brought all the way from Cordoba.” Not only was Moses Maimonides of Cordoba a good Jewish doctor, he was a rabbi, a philosopher and a prolific writer. During his life time he wrote 5.3 million words, most of which have been preserved. He wrote on all aspects of medicine, infectious disease, nutrition, spirituality, and internal medicine. But he also made inroads into the world of psychiatry.

You would think that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an effective method of treating a wide range of psychiatric problems, including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorder, depression, borderline personality disorder and many other neuroses including phobia and panic disorder, is thought to be one of the contributions of the twentieth century medicine, until you read about the life and work of the polymath, “super-genius” physician, theologian, philosopher and astronomer, Rabbi Moses Maimonides of Cordoba.The Rabbi, a major author of Helakhic authorities, the collective corpus of Jewish religious, rabbinical and later Talmudic laws wrote about CBT way back in 1170. Fred Rosner, a respected hematologist and medical ethicist, a professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NY, and his colleague Samuel Kottek, professor of the history of medicine at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, have collected papers and articles by no fewer than 20 scholars offering this remarkable edited volume. It is a slender and compact 229 pages chock full of historical jewels. In essence, it is a biography of Dr. Maimonides, along with a description of his writings and work.

Fred Rosner’s erudite discussion in this well-researched and meticulously referenced book shows the reader that Moses Maimonides in his famous trilogy, the Commentary on Mishnah ( repetition), which is the major source of rabbinic Judaism, the Mishneh Torah, and the Guide for the Perplexed, which traces much of what we know today about the effect of nutrition, methods of practicing CBT and biofeedback, guided imagery, and self-awareness, a discipline he learned from the  work of the Persian physician, Abu Ali Sina, Ibn Sina or Avicenna (980-1130) and Saint Augustine of Hippo (345- 420).

In a chapter that asymptotically approaches brilliance and virtuosity, Gad Fruendenthal explains how Maimonides, a citizen of the medieval age of superstition and primitive thinking, radically opposed astrology. He was quick to give credit for his enlightened thinking to Omar Khayam, the Persian poet and astronomer, born 1085, died 1123, only eight years before the birth of Maimonides. So, for all practical purposes, Avicenna, Khayam and Maimonides were contemporaries. Although Omar Khayam is known for his poetry and the Rubayats, he was a scientist and an avid astronomer to whose work Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) has made numerous references. Like Aristotle, Maimonides insisted on scientific objective and not speculative findings. In a seminal paper (Resaleh), Maimonides outlined four methods of learning that remain in practice today.They are:

1)  Learning by Devine authority. He gives the example of Moses learning on Mt Sinai and bringing to his people the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

2)  Learning by human authority through science and scientific method. Science is not faith-based, it is fact-based. This reminds me of a former professor of pathology of mine at GW school of Medicine who used to insist that “In God we Trust, the rest bring data…I am sure my professor learned that from Maimonides.

3)  Learning by experimental observation. Our current discoveries of Genomics, Proteomics and Connectinomics (also called Connectomics) are examples. We will soon have ’MM’ devoted to this exciting topic showing that stem cell utilization to grow body parts and organs are as the result of this type of learning.

4)  Learning by logic and deductive reasoning. Maimonides credited Aristotle for this type of learning.

In his book, the Guide, collection of his personal letters referring to the practice of medicine, Maimonides wrote: “Medicine is not knitting and weaving and the labor of the hands, but it must be inspired with soul and be filled with understanding…” 

Reading this fascinating book about Moses Maimonides of Cordoba make us fall in love with our holy profession of medicine all over again, and take refuge from the oppression and intrusions of the government, Obamacare, HMOs and BCBS!


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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On the Church and Same Sex Union

Monday Musings for Monday March 25, 2013

Volume III, No. 12/116


A  Few Thoughts about the Church and Same Sex Union

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*


 (Editor’s Note:  Our inbox is full of requests for a ‘Musings’ about same sex marriage.  Here are a few thoughts.)

The history of growth of religious and secular institutions consistently shows that inclusion and assimilation of “converts” is the key to progress. Saint Augustine of Hippo, the brilliant scholar (354-430 AD) was a Manichean (a sect of Zoroastrianism). He was converted to Christianity at age 31. Earlier in the history of Christian Church, Saint Paul was a convert. It is agreed that without Paul there would be no Christian Church. On the secular side, without Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), an Italian boy who immigrated to France at the age of 14, working his way up to become the court composer to the “Sun King”, Louis XIV, there would be no French opera, no majestic French overture, no dotted rhythm, and no marshal and magisterial musical form, no ballet, and no Palais Garnier, which are uniquely Lully’s. Without Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), the accomplished linguist and librettist, we would not have many of the most beloved Mozart operas. Da Ponte was an Italian Jewish boy converted into Catholicism. He became an ordained priest, later immigrated to America to become the first chair, Department of Arts and Languages at Columbia College (now Columbia University) in 1820. The intellectual and artistic contributions of the uninitiated infuse us with curiosity and restlessness. Therefore, we should welcome those who do not think like us, or challenge our smugness and comfort.

Dissention and disagreement are not strangers to the Christian church. The split of apostolic succession in 1352, followed by the migration of the papacy to Avignon, southern France, is a good example. During that period there were many who claimed to be the Pope. In Avignon, the leadership of the church, while partying and having a good time, paid little attention to the people suffering from bubonic plague. It wiped out nearly eighty percent of Europe’s population. The people were wondering where were their religious leaders to save them from the plague.

Then there were the epoch making 1519 questions of Martin Luther, posted on the church door, ushering the reformation and the birth of Protestantism. And later there was the emergence of the counter-reformation which in essence gave birth to the baroque period. It gave us the stunning beauty, symmetry and sublime complexity of baroque music, art, and architecture. The beautiful music of Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann and others is the fruit of the baroque era. So, schism, dissent and revolution within the church, while unpleasant, have always been fruitful and consequential.

The epistemology, phenomenology and theology of Christian teachings offer profound and unique aspects. The teachings are flexible; they invite and nurture seekers and doubters. I believe as one who has been exposed to many religious teachings, the uniqueness of Christianity is the theology of possibility, and, of course, loveagape–, toleration (not tolerance)acceptanceinclusion and accommodation. I do not think that Christ as a person would exclude anyone from his house or his table, because of gender orientation or preference.

As a psychiatrist, I was involved in the panel sponsored by the American Psychiatric Association in 1972 that studied and de-classified homosexuality as a mental illness. Forty one years later through the powerful instruments of genomics and proteomics, we are learning that homosexuality carries a heavy load of genetic predisposition. In some instances, we even know the address and even the zip code of the strand of atavistic genes or polygenes that skulk the physiological architecture of humans. Therefore, the more one knows, the more tolerant and understanding one becomes. Unfortunately in the last 40 years, social science has not kept up with brain science in that regard.

I believe leaders of all religious institutions and Christian denominations ought to collect knowledge, information and intellectual input, and through the prism of history, transform them into wisdom. Wisdom takes patience, deliberation and deference. I am reminded of Fredrick Nietzsche (1844-1900), the German philosopher, who saw the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet (1838-1875), 21 times.  He said “every time I see Carmen I become more patient, wiser and a better philosopher.” We need to generate wisdom. Impulsive actions, impatience, arrogance, expedient political moves to gain gratification of narcissistic needs and power are not needed. All religious teachings behoove us to avoid those pitfalls. I also believe that the future of the institution of faith is in the children and the programs that nurture and produce a strong community. Any erosion or diminution of programs that ultimately injures and compromises that commitment is sinful. This is how I define sin.

It is appropriate to respectfully and faithfully observe the holy days before us, namely Passover which begins at sundown today; Good Friday, coming on March 29, and Easter on Sunday March 31.  All three occasions exemplify the gift of hope, love, possibility, redemption and grace.


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.


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