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Historical and cultural aspects of the pineal gland: Comparison between the theories provided by Spiritism in the 1940s and the current scientific evidence

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Significance has been attached to the pineal gland in numerous different cultures and beliefs. One religion that has advanced the role of the pineal gland is Spiritism. The objective of the present study was to compile information on the pineal gland drawing on the books of Francisco Cândido Xavier written through psychography and to carry out a critical analysis of their scientific bases by comparing against evidence in the current scientific literature. A systematic search using the terms "pineal gland" and "epiphysis" was conducted of 12 works allegedly dictated by the spirit "André Luiz". All information on the pineal having potential correlation with the field of medicine and current studies was included. Specialists in the area were recruited to compile the information and draw parallels with the scientific literature. The themes related to the pineal gland were: mental health, reproductive function, endocrinology, relationship with physical activity, spiritual connection, criticism of the theory that the organ exerts no function, and description of a hormone secreted by the gland (reference alluding to melatonin, isolated 13 years later). The historical background for each theme was outlined, together with the theories present in the Spiritist books and in the relevant scientific literature. The present article provides an analysis of the knowledge the scientific community can acquire from the history of humanity and from science itself. The process of formulating hypotheses and scientific theories can benefit by drawing on the cultural aspects of civilization, taking into account so-called non-traditional reports and theories.
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... Galen believed in the "pneumatic-ventricular" theory, which proposed that imagination, reasoning, memory, and body movements themselves were due to the circulation of volatile vaporous substances ("psychic pneuma") inside the cerebral ventricular system (Lokhorst, 2018). Influenced by these theories and considering the anatomical location of the gland, Galen stated that the PG could be one of the brain structures to play a valvular role, allowing or preventing the passage of subtle fluids within the ventricular system (Lokhorst, 2018;Lucchetti, Daher, Iandoli, Gonçalves, & Lucchetti, 2013). It was only in the XVI century that the Italian anatomist Niccolò Massa (1485-1569) discovered and described that the cerebral ventricles were not filled with spiritual vapors, but with liquid (cerebrospinal fluid). ...
... Also, he tried to explain most of our mental life in terms of processes involving the PG, stating that is was the "seat of the soul" (Lokhorst, 2018;López-Muñoz, Molina, Rubio, & Alamo, 2011). In the same vein, Hindu literature, yoga (Rama, Ballentine, & Ajaya, 2007), Spiritism religion (Lucchetti et al., 2013) and the esoteric literature (Luke, 2011;Strassman, 2001) bring speculations that the PG would have an important role to transcendence and contact with "higher energies." Unconventional theories stemming from sociocultural traditions can generate hypotheses to be tested in scientific studies (Lucchetti et al., 2013). ...
... In the same vein, Hindu literature, yoga (Rama, Ballentine, & Ajaya, 2007), Spiritism religion (Lucchetti et al., 2013) and the esoteric literature (Luke, 2011;Strassman, 2001) bring speculations that the PG would have an important role to transcendence and contact with "higher energies." Unconventional theories stemming from sociocultural traditions can generate hypotheses to be tested in scientific studies (Lucchetti et al., 2013). ...
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Background Cultural traditions attribute to pineal gland an important role for spiritual experiences. Mediumship and spirit possession are cultural phenomena found worldwide which have been described as having dissociative and psychotic‐like characteristics, but with nonpathological aspects. A sympathetic activation pattern in response to spirit possession has been reported in some studies, but empirical data on pineal gland is scarce in this context. Methods We aimed to investigate pineal gland and pituitary volumes, as well as urinary 6‐sulfatoxymelatonin levels in 16 alleged mediums (Medium Group‐MG) compared with 16 healthy nonmedium controls (Control Group) (Experiment 1). Furthermore, we aimed to evaluate urinary 6‐sulfatoxymelatonin and stress reactivity in GM (n = 10) under different physiological conditions (Experiment 2). Results In Experiment 1, MG presented higher scores of anomalous experiences, but there were no between‐group differences regarding mental health or subjective sleep quality. Similar pineal gland and pituitary volumes were observed between groups. There were no between‐group differences in urinary 6‐sulfatoxymelatonin collected under equivalent baseline conditions. In Experiment 2, the rise of anxiety and heart rate in response to mediumistic experience was intermediate between a nonstressful control task (reading) and a stressful control task (Trier Social Stress Test—TSST). No significant differences were observed in 6‐sulfatoxymelatonin urinary levels between the three conditions. The pattern of stress reactivity during the TSST was normal, but with an attenuated salivary cortisol response. Conclusion The normal neuroimaging and stress reactivity findings in MG contrast with the abnormal results usually observed in subjects with psychotic and dissociative disorders.
... A number of recent studies on the late Brazilian "medium" Francisco (Chico) Cândido Xavier (Lucchetti et al., 2013;Rocha, 2001;Rocha, 2008;Rocha et al., 2014;Silva, 2012) seems to indicate that Xavier might be another "white crow" in mediumship research. ...
... Another study (Lucchetti et al., 2013) analyzed Xavier's books whose authorship was attributed to a deceased physician named "André Luiz." The objective of this study was to analyze the information about the pineal gland reported on these books and to compare them against evidence in the current scientific literature. ...
Article
The scientific study of mediumship can contribute to the understanding of the mind-brain relationship. This study investigated a letter written by the influential Brazilian “medium” Chico Xavier, whose authorship was attributed to a deceased person. We identified the letter's pieces of information that were objectively verifiable, and we analyzed their accuracy based on documents and on interviews with the deceased's relatives, and the likelihood of Xavier's access to the information via ordinary means. All the 29 items of verifiable information conveyed on the letter were rated as “clear and precise fit.” The information conveyed was highly specific (e.g., names, dates, and specific events). Fourteen items (48.3%) conveyed information that was also very private. We concluded that ordinary explanations for accuracy of the information (i.e., fraud, chance, information leakage, and cold reading) were highly unlikely. We recommend further research on the phenomenon of mediumistic writing, particularly experimental controlled studies with exceptionally gifted mediums.
... A parceria Chico Xavier/André Luiz já rendeu ao mineiro de Pedro Leopoldo a condição de objeto de estudo de um artigo científico em uma das mais prestigiadas revistas da área de endocrinologia do mundo. Escrito por três médicos brasileiros, o paper trata das antecipações científicas que o médico desencarnado teria trazido no campo da endocrinologia acerca da glândula pineal pela mediunidade de Xavier (LUCCHETTI, 2013). ...
Article
Resumo: O presente estudo traz uma abordagem em torno da constituição do imaginário espírita no tempo e no espaço através do conceito alemão de literatura apresentado pelo crítico literário Antonio Candido. Apresenta também como esse imaginário, a partir da conceituação do pesquisador francês Gilbert Durand para esse campo de estudos, dialoga com o contexto atual da pandemia de Covid-19 que assola a humanidade neste ano de 2020. O conceito de literatura da cultura alemã se apresenta mais abrangente do que aquele que é adotado pela cultura brasileira, que não possui terminologia própria para distinguir toda e qualquer produção textual daquelas de natureza artística. Este trabalho articula o conceito literário alemão, projetando-o sobre um recorte historiográfico do espiritismo franco-brasileiro, numa perspectiva de como essa interação se reflete no atual contexto pandêmico da Covid-19.Palavras-chave: Literatur. Dichtung. Imaginário. Espiritismo. Covid-19.
... Le Maléfan, et al. [43] HIS FR It describes how clinicians, at the turn of the XX century, gave mediumistic delusions a place in nosology, especially in France; through ideological visions, they associated pathology and belief. Lucchetti, et al. [44] RES BR It discusses how mediumistic texts in the first half of the XX century described important functions of the pineal gland, against medical knowledge of the time, and 13 years before the discovery of melatonin. Lucchetti, et al. [45] RES BR It compares the effects on bacterial growth in cultures submitted to Spiritist passe, other healing techniques, and in a sample without intervention, in a randomized and blind model. ...
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Spiritism brought many insights about life, health, disease, cure, and death. In Brazil, they are adopted on thousands of Spiritist centers, on many Spiritist-oriented psychiatric hospitals, and on Spiritist support for inpatients. The objective of this paper is to make a narrative appraisal of scientific publications in the last 30 years linking Spiritism and health. A literature search revealed 71 pertinent papers. Over the decades, the increase in the number of published papers is noticeable. These data could deploy more interest on Spiritism and health correlation, warranting its place in high-level academic discussion, with funding institutions considering address grants for this field.
... What is Unexplained: Some studies revealed the data provided by the supposed deceased individuals are meaningful, fit and accurate ( Rocha et al., 2014). A paper reported that, among the writings of a poorly educated medium, a detailed description of the importance of the pineal gland for physiology; it was written many years before the scientific discovery of melatonin ( Lucchetti et al., 2013). Other paper demonstrated by neuroimaging that the neurophysiology of a mediumistic psychography trance is different from the same person when writing a mere essay ( Peres et al., 2012). ...
Chapter
Religiosity is an important source of spiritual support for individuals diagnosed with cancer. Drawing on religion enables cancer patients to find meaning and purpose in their illness and provides comfort in the face of physical and mental difficulties. However, religious and spiritual factors do not always bring comfort as they can also generate conflicts or distress. The twofold role played by religion in cancer is clearly visible in the domain of coping which reflects the ways of understanding and dealing with stressful life events. The aim of this paper is to examine whether religiosity is related to illness acceptance in cancer patients and, furthermore, whether these relationships are mediated by religious and non-religious coping styles. 317 patients (160 women and 157 men) with gastrointestinal cancer completed measures of religiosity, religious coping, non-religious coping, and illness acceptance. Results showed that religiosity conceptualized as the religious meaning system was related to illness acceptance, religious coping, and nonreligious coping. Furthermore, SEM analysis demonstrated that three coping styles: problem-focused, meaning-focused, and negative religious mediated the associations between religiosity and illness acceptance. These findings suggest that the relationship of religiosity with illness acceptance is mediated by both religious and non-religious coping which work together in shaping cancer patients' responses to illness.
... If science accomplishes such achievement, mediumship would have yet another utility. An intriguing essay [19] studied a psychographic writing from the 1940's about some biological functions that were known then. The text describes many functions of the pineal gland, at the time taken as an unimportant structure. ...
... Some contemporary examples of this productivity is listed as follows, in chronological order: guidelines to differentiate genuine spiritual experiences from psychotic dissociative disorders [9]; evidence by neuroimaging that mediumistic psychography trance is different from writing a mere essay [10]; argumentation for psychotherapeutic approaches take into account the patient's belief in reincarnation, when present [11]; study about the fit and accuracy of information received through mediumship [12]; a report of knowledge by a medium about melatonin functions, many years before it was described [13]; a tentative conciliation between distant healing techniques (including intercessory prayer) and science [14]; a bibliometric review about experiences pointing to autonomy of consciousness in relation to brain [15]; and an open-mind report and discussion about end-of-life experiences and deathbed phenomena [16]. ...
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There is a common notion that science and religion are in conflict and have little in common. However, authorities from both sides timidly rehearse an approach intention. Some phenomena that seem to counteract the common sense of reality are genuine calls for collaboration between science and religion. Spiritism (not synonym of spiritualism) was conceived as science, philosophy, and religion, all together. The form into which Spiritism has evolved in Brazil is very peculiar, taking contours of a religious denomination. Specific therapeutic approaches were developed to prevent and to restore a balanced spiritual-energetic state. Thus, most adepts search spiritist centres due to physical and mental health problems. The interest on the interface between medicine and the Spiritist Doctrine led to the creation of the Spiritist Medical Association. The Spiritist Medical Model aims at a change to a more humanized medicine, with a pretension of presenting to the world a renewed vision of the human being. Thus, it also brought the philosophical dictates from Spiritism to value implications of healthcare practices. Spiritism has many arguments with potential do fill some gaps about the human nature, which can contribute to understanding many unexplained or misinterpreted phenomena. Medical debates may be enriched with its principles, with potential to contribute for a paradigm shift on medicine and science. Currently, scholar researchers linked to this ideal are trying to sew all these fields in a continuous fabric. Who knows if, in the next 50 years, this constant dialog among science, philosophy, religion, medicine and bioethics will fade off the borders of these disciplines? At this point, the human knowledge will be facing a real paradigm shift.
Chapter
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Chapter
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