Tree of knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

The Third Eye  

Interest in a third eye can be traced back to the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey and to the Hindu ‘Third Eye of Enlightenment’

Found only in New Zealand and some of its offshore islands, the small lizard-like tuatara is virtually a living fossil because it has remained comparatively unchanged from related forms that existed 200 million years ago. However, the tuatara’s actual claim to fame lies elsewhere. Like a very small number of animals such as the sea lamprey and some species of frogs, it possesses a cleft like opening on top of its skull called the parietal foramen consisting of a lens and a retina connected by nerves to the brain while the skin covering this area has, over the years, become thin and translucent. In fact, this ‘eye’ is, in reality, a vastly modified pineal gland – a gland which even the higher mammals such as man, possess.

Does this mean we all have a ‘third eye’?  Mythically at least, it would seem so. Interest in a third eye can be traced back to the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey, Sister Three Eyes in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales and to the Hindu ‘Third Eye of Enlightenment’. Also, even as early as in the 4th century BC, Herophilus, the Greek anatomist believed that the pineal was a sphincter which regulated the flow of thought and aided visual acuity, which Rene Descartes believed was functioning as a valve mediating between body and soul. But is there any basis for all this?

Yes, some. The first serious study, for instance, done in 1919, established beyond doubt that the pineal organ had definitely evolved from a central light sensitive spot that could still be seen in some primitive reptiles. But until 1959, this tiny cone-shaped endocrine gland, embedded deep in the diencephalon of the brain, was only thought to be a useless vestigial appendage left over from earlier time because its functions were not clearly understood. In that year, however, Aaron Lerner of Yale University discovered that the pineal gland pro­duced a hormone called melatonin and that it responded by an indirect route to quantitative changes in outside light to secrete appropriate amounts of the hormone.

Thereafter what happens is, again, part mystery. In birds for example, these ‘eyes’ may help in synchronising their internal biological clock as marked by the cycle of day and night and in lizards it could aid body heat regulation. In humans, various other hypotheses have been put forward — one being the pineal’s possible role in the regulation of sexual matters through the interaction with light.

On the other hand, some people also believe in an occult connection, claiming that the pineal gland is the seat of all paranormal modes of cognition. They maintain that a significantly evolved pineal, automatically means a spiritually or mystically attuned person capable of enlightenment. Perhaps there may be something in this.

Consider. Melatonin, the hormone secreted by the pineal gland, is actually synthesised in the pineal from serotonin and serotonin occurs abundantly in nature. It is found, for instance, in dates, bananas and plums, but is nowhere more common than in a species of wild fig growing in the tropics. These are those huge sprawling trees with familiar hanging roots we call the peepal or bo.

It has also been called the Bodhi tree. Sitting cross-legged under one such tree, more than 2500 years ago, the Buddha gained enlightenment.In birds, for example, these ‘eyes’ may help in synchronising their internal biological clock as marked by the cycle of day and night and in lizards it could aid body heat regulation  


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