19 Pages

Notes on the evolution of evolutionary psychiatry

ByAllan Young

In 1984, Charles Leslie participated in an international symposium on the comparative history of medicine, held in Japan. His paper was an account of the people, philosophies, and controversies that have shaped modern ayurveda. One of the individuals mentioned in the paper was Chandragiri Dwarkanath, who served as Advisor on Indian Systems of Medicine in the Ministry of Health (India) from 1959 to 1967. His magnum opus was a three volume monograph titled Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda (1954). In it, Dr. Dwarkanath compared the epistemologies of ayurveda and Western science. Western science, he observed, had devised procedures that allowed researchers to incrementally eliminate the errors and misconceptions of their predecessors. In contrast, the traditional system of Hindu philosophy, the Darsana, lacked equivalent procedures. Yet this was a sign of strength and not weakness, for the knowledge of the Darsana was the telos toward which Western science was moving. As science progressed, its findings confirmed “the unchanging, complete, and perfect truths of Hindu theory.” Evidence in support of this conclusion could be found in correspondences, notably between ayurvedic humoral functions and Western physiological science. The ayurvedic concept of vata [wind] corresponded to the “processes of the central, vegetative, and autonomous nervous system.” Pitta [bile] matched the functions of the nutritional system, including the “activities of glandular structures, especially enzymes and hormones, whose functions [are] tissue building and metabolism.” Kapha [phlegm] referred to the skeletal and anabolic systems as they are described by Western physiologists (Leslie 1987: 22).