It has been dubbed the Ajna Chakra, the third eye, the seat of the soul, The Eye of Horus and many other names in a myriad of cultures. It is the pineal gland. The word ‘pineal’ derives from the Latin pinea, meaning ‘pine cone’ which references the pine-cone like shape of the gland. It is a small endocrine gland about one centimeter in length situated right in the center of the brain, and it’s consciousness-related properties have been little understood in terms of most scientific thought yet revered, intuitively understood, and intentionally activated by ancient cultures across the globe and throughout history.
The pineal gland, often associated with the ‘third eye’, center of consciousness and knowing, has not only been a pinnacle of spiritual technology and practice but has been heavily depicted in the symbolic art of such fascinating and advanced civilizations as the Sumerians, Egyptians, Hindus, Greeks, Chinese and more. It is treated differently by each people group yet a common thread seems to weave a tapestry of an almost universal understanding of this powerful center of consciousness. Most all cultures seem to in some way depict this gland and this central area of the brain in association with enlightened consciousness, higher energy centers, spiritual sight, dream states, creativity, and intuition.
Here we will take a look at some interesting facts about the pineal gland through the eyes of three different cultures; Hinduism in India, Ancient Egyptian Spirituality, and modern science. Although ‘science’ would not traditionally be considered a culture, in many ways with it’s dogmas, cast of important characters, and long spanning transformative history, it represents a sort of culture in and of itself. By looking at both cultural depictions and scientific understanding, one can observe that references to the metaphysical properties by the ancients were clearly based on real practical knowledge rooted in the physical world as well as first-hand mystical experience.
In India, knowledge and practical application of the mystical science of the entire Chakra system dates back thousands of years. Spiritual and medical systems, which were intrinsically interconnected, such as Ayurveda, closely associated the 7 main Chakra centers with the endocrine glands of the physical body. In art and sacred texts alike, the sixth Chakra or third eye ‘Ajna’ Chakra was located in the forehead in the immediate proximity of the pineal gland.
In Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of health and wholeness, oil massage is a prized and widely used therapy applied to patients for healing on many levels. One technique called Shirodhara is a 6,000 year old “massage for the pineal gland”. One writer calls it, “the king of all healing treatments…surgery of the subconscious mind to amputate negativity and to expand your consciousness.” In the treatment an unbroken stream of pure warm oil is drizzled steadily onto the middle of the forehead in the location of the third eye, suggesting the importance of this center in Indian culture.
The word Chakra itself is a Sanskrit word used by the Hindus meaning “wheel of light”. The chakras were understood to be energetic centers which processed energy in different frequency bands. The sixth chakra- the pineal center, is associated with the processes of spiritual sight, intuition, imagination and an elevated state of conscious functioning. In Sanskrit this chakra center is named Ajna meaning ‘command’, ‘summoning’, ‘authority’, or ‘knowledge’. The famous Hindu deity Shiva is often depicted with an eye in the center of his forehead. Shiva represents the energy of destruction and regeneration. It’s said that when he is angered, he shoots flames from his third eye pineal center. Clearly the ancient Hindus understood the correlation between this gland and the non-physical energy of the ‘third eye’ as a center of enlightened function. The pineal gland was focused upon artistically, spiritually, and in healing and meditation practices throughout India.
Totally unique to Indian and Hindu tradition and in an altogether different region of the world, the ancient Egyptians incorporated their own unique relationship to the pineal gland into art, spiritual practice, and culture. One of the most obvious connections one can draw between archetypal Egyptian symbology and the pineal gland is in the countless artistic uses of the famous Eye of Horus. The Eye of Horus symbol is almost the exact same shape as a cross section of what the pineal gland looks like resting inside the thalamus and corpus collosum in the mid-brain.
The Eye of Horus, called by a number of names such as The Wadjet, Ujat, meaning ‘the whole one’, and The Eye of Ra, was a powerful symbol frequently fashioned into jewelry made of lapis lazuli, gold, silver, wood, carnelian, and other natural materials. It is considered the ‘all seeing eye’ and was believed to protect the wearer from harm of all types. The ‘all seeing’ quality of this eye which has been widely likened to the pineal gland is in close correlation with the alleged metaphysical properties of this gland. Because this center is energetically attributed with ‘sight’ beyond the physical plane and the heightened conscious state of ‘knowing’ one can easily see the Eye of Horus as a depiction of the pineal gland.
Another representation of the pineal gland in the many astonishing undertakings of the ancient Egyptians is found in the Temple of Luxor at Thebes. Schwaller de Lubicz, an esoteric initiate, philosopher and mathematician living in Egypt, upon studying the Temple at length, discovered that it’s layout was designed as a representation of the human form. He found that “…the temple’s design incorporated the knowledge and location of the endocrine glands, the Hindu Chakras and the Chinese acupuncture points. This conclusion, together with the astronomical alignments he had observed, revealed that the temple was a symbol of the universe in human form.”
One hall in the top portion of the temple corresponds to the optical center of the brain. The hall is lined with twelve columns. Interestingly the optical nerve consists of twelve bundles of nerves. Above the optical hall there is a room consisting of three interlocking chambers apparently correlating with the higher glands in the brain. Represented in the center of this triple chamber is the pineal gland. This is also seen in frequently depicted image of the rising cobra in the foreheads of the pharaohs, which signified the awakened third eye or activated pineal gland. The pharaoh’s were understood to be humans in a perfected state. This further builds the understanding of the pineal gland as a center of a heightened state of awareness and elevated level of function; what could and has been referred to as enlightenment.
The Egyptians are revered for their advanced and beautiful civilization and their understanding and utilization of the pineal gland’s extraordinary spiritual features could be a significant explanation for their amazing intelligence and culture.
What does the science say?
It’s nearly effortless to draw a wealth of information about the pineal gland and it’s associated energetic functions when studying advanced ancient cultures, but is there any empirical foundation for such concepts? The answer is surprisingly, yes.
It is first interesting to note that earlier in our human evolution, the pineal gland may have actually been much more like an eye than it is now, with the opportunity to develop structurally and functionally in that direction. In fact some other species such as certain reptiles possess what is known as a parietal eye situated on the top of their foreheads which has the ability to sense light and movement. When pineal tissue is developing in utero, it contains the same pre-cursor cells which have the specific ability to form eyes. The best understood neurotransmitter produced and regulated by the pineal gland is melatonin, a substance utilized by the body in regulating sleep-wake cycles. The pineal gland uses non-visual photoreception to accomplish balance of natural circadian rhythms.
Perhaps the most prominent researcher in modern times to dive into the mystical properties of the pineal gland is Dr. Rick Strassman, author of “DMT The Spirit Molecule”. Strassman ultimately spent 5 years administering exogenous DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) to volunteers in a clinical setting. His research was inspired by the intriguing connections he began making between altered states of consciousness and the activity of the pineal gland. As previously mentioned, the pineal gland has mostly been looked at as a structure of the brain whose primary function was to release and regulate melatonin. Strassman, however, spent years researching the role of another neurotransmitter produced in the pineal gland- dimethyltryptamine, which is a psychoactive chemical only released during pivotal times of high stress in the human experience. DMT is only released in the body during birth, death, trauma, and certain altered states of consciousness. Strassman ultimately hypothesized that the pineal gland, with DMT as it’s facilitating vehicle, is the gateway of the soul into and out of the body.
Dr. Strassman noted that it is in precisely the 49th day of gestation in the womb that a human embryo develops the pineal gland and also becomes a distinct gender. Amazingly, the Tibetans believe that the period required for a soul to be reincarnated into the physical dimension is 49 days; a striking link between science and spirit. Nearly all of the volunteers in Dr. Strassman’s study who were administered DMT experienced unique but highly correlated experiences in which, without fail, they perceived the separation of their consciousness from their body and very vivid interactions with other-dimensional beings of all sorts. Some experiences were beautiful and euphoric, some were frightening or confusing, yet all were very real and nearly every subject reported that the experience changed their life forever. Many expressed that it imparted peace about their destination after this physical life.
Thanks to Dr. Strassman and other information we have about the chemical and physical features of the pineal gland, we see that even from a scientific standpoint, the pineal gland contains a sort of gateway into other dimensions and mystical states of consciousness.
Pineal Gland- The Seat of the Soul
One can see how science is uncovering fascinating evidence of what ancient cultures have known about the pineal gland for thousands of years. Depicted in art, intrinsic in spiritual practices throughout the ages, and understood by cultures worldwide, the pineal gland is a center of the human body existing in many dimensions of reality simultaneously; a house of the spirit, a gateway into higher realms, and a center for intuitive knowing.