The third eye, an ancient mystical, metaphysical concept has finally opened itself to understanding in the minds of Western science. When you consider what science has discovered about the pineal gland and add that to what the mystics have known since they were painting ceremonial cave walls, things start to get interesting.
Third Eye Science: The Pineal Gland
The pineal gland is a pinecone shaped endocrine gland located in the center of our brain. It helps to modulate our sleep patterns by producing the hormone called melatonin. The interior lining of the pineal gland is composed of retinal tissue, having rods and cones, i.e. photoreceptors, just like the eyeball; and, it is even “wired” to the visual cortex of the brain. How can this be? Because both the pineal gland and our eyeballs come from tissues of the embryonic brain. It has been further speculated that the pineal gland was actually a functional, primitive form of an eye in earlier vertebrates, suggesting that all organic beings descend from the same ancestry.
Now, let’s consider just how old that ancestry really is. Fossil evidence from many sources suggests that life on earth is somewhere around 3.7 billion years (Evidence of Archean life: Stromatolites and microfossils). So, it is possible that we possess a “perceptual” organ, deep within our brain, which has seen quite a lot in its lifetime, so to speak. If we consider further that some neuroscientists believe our brains actually hold the memory of our entire evolution, then can we consider the possibility that we have access to that memory through the pineal gland?
Now consider this. Regarding it as the “seat of the soul,” this tiny organ played a significant role in Descartes philosophy.
My view is that this gland is the principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed. The reason I believe this is that I cannot find any part of the brain, except this, which is not double. Since we see only one thing with two eyes, and hear only one voice with two ears, and in short have never more than one thought at a time, it must necessarily be the case that the impressions which enter by the two eyes or by the two ears, and so on, unite with each other in some part of the body before being considered by the soul … Since it is the only solid part in the whole brain which is single, it must necessarily be the seat of the common sense, i.e., of thought, and consequently of the soul; for one cannot be separated from the other.
The soul has long been regarded as that part of ourselves which is eternal. Could this concept be related to the possible memory of the pineal gland?
Metaphysical and Spiritual Views of the Third Eye
Mystical traditions have long since posited the concept of an inner eye, and many even consider the pineal gland to be the intersection between the physical and spiritual world. We have all heard of the concept of spiritual awakening. Awakening often symbolically refers to the opening of the inner eye (not to be confused with the pineal gland at this point). In Hinduism, the mystical eye of Shiva represents Cosmic vision, or perception that is beyond ordinary dualistic awareness – that is, through the mystical eye, you are able to see or experience the non-ordinary reality beyond all concepts and thought constructs. In Hindu and Buddhist tradition the third eye is associated with the sixth, or ajna, chakra. The word ajna loosely translates as “command” or “unlimited power”. The metaphorical “opening” of this chakra puts you in touch with your deepest voice of wisdom, allowing you to overcome self-doubt, confront negative experiences from a transformative perspective, and see the unity in all life. In other words, the third-eye opening is a direct experience of your highest Self.
The Third Eye and Shamanism
The Ayahuasca medicine ceremonies of South America are indigenous healing ceremonies led by shamans. Those who enter the ceremony drink a tea brewed of the sacred vine of Ayahuasca and the bark of many other trees. The tea has profound psychedelic effects. The word psychedelic comes from Greek and means soul /mind manifest. People report having profound visionary experiences, such as drinking from the Grail, bathing in the waters of the infinite, and seeing the divine. Others have re-experienced past trauma and healed their wounds, while others still report seeing the primordial past. Shamans and those who have had these kinds of direct experiences say that these are not hallucinations, but rather experiences of other aspects of reality, those normally veiled to anyone trapped by limited dualistic vision.
So, what’s the connection here? Well with Ayahuasca, the visionary “ingredient” is Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Visionary-minded medical doctors like Rick Strassman, have written books about the profound healing that can occur with DMT administration. In his book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule. A Doctor’s Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences, Dr. Strassman posits that the pineal gland produces DMT, suggesting that visionary experiences actually have a biological locus. This does not meant that these experiences are merely chemical, but rather that we are as biologically meant to have these inner visions as we are outer ones.