Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Amphibians, dreams, and the third eye

*All those who read this waive the right to label me a hack, New-Age hippy etc.
In the Chinese martial arts of Karate and Aikido, which are based on the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, trainees undergo a process of 'third eye training' . Involving focussing attention between the eyebrows, where pressure or tingling is reportedly felt, this process results in a heightened ability to focus attention on one's opponent in physical combat. Hindus, incidentally, commonly mark this spot with a dot, known as a tilak, which is a symbol of enlightenment, or nirvana. And you thought your third eye was in your pants.

I find that if I take my index finger from, say, 15cms away and slowly approach the tilak spot, attention is automatically focussed there and I feel this tingling very distinctly, precisely between the eyebrows. If it doesn't work try closing your eyes and doing it (one of those things to avoid doing in public). Having once brought about this sensation, I can then summon it just by closing my eyes and focussing mentally on that spot. I have also read that this is a good meditation technique.

Western medicine identifies the physical manifestation of this 'third eye' as the pineal gland, a pea-sized endocrine gland which secretes melatonin, tucked in between the two hemispheres of the brain. The latter chemical is what regulates diurnal rhythms in humans, being secreted only in darkness and inhibited by light. It is more abundant in children and its production slows at puberty. In amphibians, this same gland is apparently used to "sense light", which is interesting in connection with the clairvoyance which some people associate with this gland. Those of you who know me know that I can sleep unreasonable amounts sometimes, and also may have noticed that I have unusually large pupils which can look like I'm on e even if I'm not.

The non scientifically-verified aspect of the pineal gland relates to the excretion of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) "which is believed to be a chemical precursor to dreams, near-death experiences, meditation, visions, and other forms of awareness that aren't well understood yet". Not wishing to show off, I am certain that I have often experienced lucid dreams, which are dreams which can be consciously guided. For example, I recently dreamed I was mountain-biking down a trail and I was exercising my will to pull off different moves on this obstacle course, very much like a telepathic virtual-reality game might be. Other lucid dreams I have had have involved sex and, probably coolest of all, flying. In fact, I think the explanation for these dreams is simple: the longer you sleep, especially if intermittently waking up, the closer you get to consciousness, and the more you approach being in control of your mental activity.

Other tripped experiences in my life, which I think could be related, include having a very vivid impression of seeing a ghost in a red dress when I was on holiday as an eleven year-old, which I hope was a dream, and having really mind-blowing impressions of human forms EVERYWHERE when I once took hawaiian mushrooms.

I try to avoid being superstitious and I like that this provides a physiological explanation for strange events in my life, not that that necessarily precludes metaphysical ones. All this could be used as an elaborate conceit in defense of using your alarm-clock's snooze button more. But the pineal gland does seem to be worth more attention, as all the Eastern religions are heavily into it and René Descartes once called it the "seat of the soul".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I also reckon I've had one or two lucid dreams that were eerily vivid. Oddly enough, mine also involved flying .. I could fly anywhere at will, it all seemed surprisingly real. I remember the next day feeling absolutely shattered, almost as though I was mentally fatigued from all the flying I'd been doing. Hmm, weird.

Anyway, very interesting blog - anything relating to the third-eye (not the one in my pants) is well interesting blog material.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Thea said...

Showing a side of yourself that I didn't think you had! But then, sadly, I don't know you very well :) Did you know that "flying" in your dreams is thought to be the ultimate out-of-body-experience? (except if you actually get in broad daylight ;)) I wish I'd had that! On the other hand, I've dreamt of people choking me and me, being half awake, being terrified of the fact that I couldn't move! When I finally wrestled myself loose I was absolutely void of all energy. It was crazy scary! Anyways, very interesting blog! I shall be stalking you now ;)

5:16 PM  

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