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Pineal Gland—A Spiritual Third Eye: An Odyssey of Antiquity to Modern Chronomedicine


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Pineal gland or “spiritual third eye” is regarded as the gateway of spiritual life as per ancient concepts about the soul. Recently, modern neuroscience has proven that pineal gland is not only the melatonin-secreting neuroendocrine organ which controls the circardian rhythm, but it also has mystical and energetic associations with spirituality. It acts as a tremendous coordinator between molecular, hormonal, physiological, and chemical rhythmic orchestra. Thus, in this article, by highlighting the relation between ancient Indian methodology and modern chronomedicine, the author describes the odyssey of antiquity to modern science.
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Special Article - Brief Communication
Pineal Gland—A Spiritual Third Eye: An Odyssey of
Antiquity to Modern Chronomedicine
Raj Kumar1 Arushi Kumar1 Jayesh Sardhara1
1 Department of Neurosurgery, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute
of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
January 14, 2018
accepted after revision
March 6, 2018
Address for correspondence Raj Kumar, MCh, Professor and Head,
Department of Neurosurgery, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute
of Medical Sciences, Rae Bareli Road, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
Pineal gland or "spiritual third eye" is regarded as the gateway of spiritual life as per an-
cient concepts about the soul. Recently, modern neuroscience has proven that pineal
gland is not only the melatonin-secreting neuroendocrine organ which controls the
circardian rhythm, but it also has mystical and energetic associations with spirituality.
It acts as a tremendous coordinator between molecular, hormonal, physiological, and
chemical rhythmic orchestra. Thus, in this article, by highlighting the relation between
ancient Indian methodology and modern chronomedicine, the author describes the
odyssey of antiquity to modern science.
pineal gland
third eye
Indian J Neurosurg 2018;7:1–4
ISSN 2277-954X.
Copyright ©2018 Neurological
Surgeons’ Society of India
Dimethyl tryptamine from the pineal gland is also known as
spirit molecule. It is linked to perception and is activated by
energetic and magnetic frequency. It may sound absurd to
some researchers, but current evidence favors existence of
the “third eye.1 The literature is flooded with articles relating
the pineal gland with circadian rhythm. In this article, the
author has highlighted the bonding between ancient Indian
methodology and modern chronomedicine. The description
of “Ham and Ksham” and its correlation with pineal gland
and hypothalamic-pituitary complex highlight the odyssey
of antiquity to modern chronomedicine.
Historical Aspect
Human beings have a “third eye” or mystic body scientifi-
cally known as the pineal gland. The third eye corresponds
to sixth “chakra”—“Ajna” that provides a “window” into the
spiritual life of every individual (►Fig.1). The ancient sci-
entists had never believed in the existence of the soul until
Cartesian neuropsychophysiological doctrine was laid in the
17th century. The two schools of science and philosophy gave
common consensus on the existence of the pineal gland and
its physiologic and mythological importance.2
The ancient philosophers and scientists have a different
belief in the soul and its existence. The exact seat of the soul
has evolved over centuries. The Platonic and Aristotle concepts
highlighted the three types of souls concluding the importance
of the heart as the center of control—“Phren.”3 According to
them, the soul is outside the body and linked with the materi-
alistic body with some part. It was Hippocrates, who changed
their concept and said that soul resides somewhere inside
the body. Hippocrates justified that it is the brain, rather than
the heart, as the focal point of feeling and reason. The “soul” is
the energy-generating part that coordinates the molecular, hor-
monal, physiologic, and chemical orchestra of the human body.
Modern neuroscience believes that the rhythmic coordination
is maintained by suprachiasmatic nucleus, via the pineal gland,
thus the pineal gland has mystical and energetic associations.4
The first specific reference to the pineal gland was given
by Herophilus who wrote that the soul is in “kalamos.” The
detailed description of the pineal gland was given by Galen
in his work “De anatomicis administrationibus.” He believes
that the soul flows in form of air from the lungs to the heart
and then to the brain. The flow of air in the brain is controlled
in valve-like fashion by the pineal gland.
The importance of the pineal gland as a center of
soul reached its peak in the era of Saint Thomas Aquinas
(1225—1274 AD) who formed a council and proved his
Pineal Gland: A Spiritual Third Eye Kumar
Indian Journal of Neurosurgery Vol. 7 No. 1/2018
“theory of three cells.” Later on, Descartes and Andreas Ve-
salius (1514—1564 AD), the father of modern anatomy, also
proposed the brain as the center of the soul.4 Rene Descartes in
his book The Passion of Sole described the pineal gland as the
meeting place of the physical and spiritual worlds and wrote
that “The body and spirit not only meet there, but each affects
the other and the repercussion extends in both directions.”
Ancient Indian Mythology and
The three main “Nadis” are Ida, Pingla, and Sushmna. These
Nadis are the subtle energy channels of the body, and they
conduit “Prana” (soul) throughout the whole body.5 Ajna
Chakra, the area of the third eye, is the sixth Chakra, which is
found in the space between the eyebrows (Brow Chakra, the
third eye, the eye of wisdom, the inner eye Chakra, or the com-
mand Chakra). An invisible yet powerful third eye, this is our
center of intuition.2
The letter “ham” represents Shiva. “Ksham” represents
Shakti. These two words written on petals represent the
manifest and the un-manifest mind and are sometimes said
to represent the pineal and pituitary glands.
Actually, as human beings, we do not know the power
of the mind. Ancient “gurus” have gained mystic and su-
pernatural powers by igniting the third eye.6 Although
substantial evidence is missing, the scientific world has a
strong inclination toward the existence of Ajna chakra or
third eye. We probably possess an intense capacity for vi-
sualization, and our mind is composed and opens to mystic
truths. We realize more and more that the world of appear-
ances is but an allegory, a symbol of a spiritual principle
manifested on the physical level. We possibly notice from
time to time that our thoughts or ideas come true. Some
people called it déjà vu. The more our third eye Chakra de-
velops, the more our thoughts are based on a direct inner
awareness of reality.6
Rhythmicity and Circadian Rhythm
The term “circadian” comes from the Latin ca., “around,” and
Diem or dies, “day,” meaning literally “approximately one
day.” The formal study of biological temporal rhythms such
as daily, tidal, weekly, seasonal, and annual rhythms is called
Chronomedicine is prescribing medicines at specified
clock hours to achieve an optimization of therapeutic ad-
ministration. Rhythmicity is seen in metabolic pathways and
serum chemical levels inside the human body. It is also seen
in the sensitivity of target systems to endogenous or exoge-
nous chemical substances.8 It is proved that plasma proteins
also undergo a circadian rhythm so drugs binding to these
plasma proteins follow rhythmicity. For example, antihyper-
tensive drugs expressing first dose phenomenon are usual-
ly administered at bedtime to avoid complications due to
Role of Pineal Gland in Maintaining Circadian
The pineal gland is the neuroendocrine organ that primarily
functions to maintain circadian rhythm and provide “light
and dark” information to the rest of the brain through hor-
mone melatonin. The melatonin is derived from amino acid
tryptophan, and its formation is controlled rhythmically by
the hypothalamus and pineal gland. The melatonin shows
rhythmic secretion and control in following four steps. The
rhythmicity is controlled both locally (enzymes) and central-
ly by suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus.9
1. Dietary amino acid tryptophan to 5-hydroxytryptophan
(5-HTP) by tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (TPH1).
2. Synthesis of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT or serotonin) by
aromatic amino acid decarboxylase.
3. Formation of N-acetylserotonin (NAS) by arylalkylamine
N-acetyltransferase (AANAT).
4. Production of melatonin by hydroxyindole-O-methyl-
transferase (HIOMT) (also termed N-acetylserotonin meth-
yltransferase [ASMT]).
Circadian signals from the SCN are transmitted sequen-
tially to the paraventricular nuclei, the intermediolateral
nucleus of the spinal cord, superior cervical ganglion, and
then finally the pineal gland. The pineal gland is also in-
nervated by parasympathetic system.9 Apart from light
and parasympathetic system, melatonin rhythm is coupled
tightly to the core temperature rhythm with the peak of
melatonin secretion corresponding closely to the nadir of
Retinohypothalamic Tract and
The intrinsic cycle of electrical activity of suprachiasmatic
nucleus is closer to 25 hours rather than 24 hours.11 Thus,
the neural “clock” runs slow, and if this rhythm is not be
adjusted nearer to a 24-hour cycle, the physiology of the
Ajna (third eye)
Fig. 1 Diagrammatic presentation showing the seven “Chakras” in
human being.
Pineal Gland: A Spiritual Third Eye Kumar
Indian Journal of Neurosurgery Vol. 7 No. 1/2018
organism would quickly be “out of phase” with the stan-
dard time. The pathophysiological process is called as de-
synchronized or chronodisrupted. This highlights the need
of some organ to maintain neural clock into the circadian
rhythm. This pathway is known as retinohypothalamic tract
(RHT) (►Fig.2).12 In this pathway, the light is perceived by
highly specialized intrinsically photosensitive retinal gan-
glion cells (ipRGC). These cells involved in synchronizing the
neural clock consists of the small percentage (1–2%) of the
total ganglion cell population, and they contain their own
specialized photopigment, melanopsin. Melanopsin is fur-
ther different in that it does not respond to blue range wave-
length, roughly 460 to 480 µm wavelength of light only.10
The axons of these neurons travel in the optic nerve to the
level of the optic chiasm where they then diverge to pene-
trate the SCN where they make synaptic contact with clock
neurons. From the SCN, it passes via the paraventricular nu-
clei, the upper thoracic intermediolateral cell column of the
spinal cord, and then sympathetic neurons of the superior
cervical ganglion, which innervate the pineal. This series
of connections linking the retina to SCN to pineal gland is
sometimes referred to as a photoneuroendocrine system.
When the photoperiodic environment is artificially per-
turbed, for example with light exposure during the nor-
mal dark period, the central circadian pacemaker receives
inappropriate information for that time, and melatonin
suppression and circadian disruption results. The chrono-
disruption leads to change in the physiology of human body
leading to ill health known as diseases of decrease mela-
tonin activity.13
Sequelae of Chronodisruption
In chronobiology, light is the major zeitgeber (‘time giver’) af-
fecting the alignment and entrainment of circadian rhythms
in children and adults.
One particular disease that has frequently been discussed
relative to excessive or abnormal light exposure is cancer. The
International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified
light at night as a group 2A carcinogen, that is, a probable
carcinogen in humans14 (►Fig.3).
The free radical scavenging action of melatonin and its an-
tioxidant effect finds its role in the protection of the mucosa of
the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) being generated and released by
the EE cells of the GIT in enormous amounts to portal circula-
tion to protect the liver and biliary tract from various irr itants.10
The rhythmicity of melatonin level not only predicts day-
night cycle but also acts as the marker of seasonal calendar.
The contrast between short-duration signals in the sum-
mer and long-duration winter signals is both necessary and
sufficient to drive subsequent seasonal rhythms in diverse
processes such as reproduction, metabolism, and immune
function. The phenomenon of “jet lag” is linked to chronodis-
ruption. Melatonin has the role in antiaging phenomenon via
its free radical scavenging effects.13
Circadian Rhythm and Ayurveda
The Ayurvedic physiology and pathology are based on the
circadian rhythm of three “Doshas.” According to Sushruta,
these doshas govern the physiologic integrity of body by
controlling the distribution of energy, in the same way as
soma, Surya, and Anila maintain the integrity of the terres-
trial world. The three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—follow
a circadian rhythm, and by this rhythm, all the metabol-
ic functions of the body are regulated. Disruption in this
rhythm leads to the production of various pathologic states.
Beside daily circadian rhythm, these doshas also follow the
circannual rhythm and yearly cycle by the process of their
“Sanchaya,” “Prakopa,” and “Shaman” for regulating the bio-
chemical, physiologic, or behavioral processes of the body.
Our sleep depends on Kapha and Tama Doshas, and if the
time of “Kapha predominance” passes, one feels the state of
awareness and leading to vitiation of “Vata.”15 Vitiation of
Vata leads to the development of “Rakshasa” in the body and
symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, and arduousness
in concentrating, facile fatigability develop in the person. If
it is done only for 1 or 2 days a week, the body can adjust
it by taking day sleep (Divaswapa).16 However, if it becomes
our quotidian routine, our cycle of Doshas is inverted and
disease develops.8
Fig. 2 Retinohypothalamic track pathway: intrinsically photosensitive
retinal ganglion cells (iPRGC) → suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) →
dorsal and ventral subparaventricular nucleus (DSP and VSP) → cervical
ganglion → pineal gland → melatonin.
Fig. 3 Representative magnetic resonance imaging showing a pineal
gland tumor arising from and expanding the third ventricle of the brain.
Pineal Gland: A Spiritual Third Eye Kumar
Indian Journal of Neurosurgery Vol. 7 No. 1/2018
The existence of the pineal gland as third eye or mystic con-
trol has been described in Indian ancient science.17 The mod-
ern world is trending toward the same inference. Circadian
rhythm, its maintenance, and role of melatonin are import-
ant in controlling the normal physiology of the body. Fur-
ther melatonin has shown pharmacologic uses as anticancer
and antiaging agents. Its role in preventing osteoporosis and
menstrual irregularity is under trials. The author believes
that someday the modern science could decode the mystery
of “third eye” completely, and he intends to find the solution
for supernatural controls also.
Conicts of Interest
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Full-text available
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The pineal gland, epiphysis, is a small endocrine gland in the brain. since Descartes it is known organ, but in the past decade it has been the subject of much research and debate in recent years. Written and edited by leading international authorities in the field, it provides an in-depth review of knowledge of the developmental anatomy, imaging, benign and malignant neoplasms of the pineal gland, and their treatment by endoscopic techniques and surgical procedures. Moreover, the biological effects of melatonin, the chief product of pineal gland, and experimental pinealeactomy procedures in small animals are given. As a result, it gives clinicians and investigators current evidences and an outlook to future areas of study and to innovative therapeutic philosophies. This book represents the first comprehensive reference book on the pineal gland and its product melatonin.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is a network of neural oscillators that program daily rhythms in mammalian behavior and physiology. Over the last decade much has been learned about how SCN clock neurons coordinate together in time and space to form a cohesive population. Despite this insight, much remains unknown about how SCN neurons communicate with one another to produce emergent properties of the network. Here we review the current understanding of communication among SCN clock cells and highlight a collection of formal assays where changes in SCN interactions provide for plasticity in the waveform of circadian rhythms in behavior. Future studies that pair analytical behavioral assays with modern neuroscience techniques have the potential to provide deeper insight into SCN circuit mechanisms.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), site of the primary clock in the circadian rhythm system, has three major afferent connections. The most important consists of a retinohypothalamic projection through which photic information, received by classical rod/cone photoreceptors and intrinsically photoreceptive retinal ganglion cells, gains access to the clock. This information influences phase and period of circadian rhythms. The two other robust afferent projections are the median raphe serotonergic pathway and the geniculohypothalamic (GHT), NPY-containing pathway from the thalamic intergeniculate leaflet (IGL). Beyond this simple framework, the number of anatomical routes that could theoretically be involved in rhythm regulation is enormous, with the SCN projecting to 15 regions and being directly innervated by about 35. If multisynaptic afferents to the SCN are included, the number expands to approximately brain 85 areas providing input to the SCN. The IGL, a known contributor to circadian rhythm regulation, has a still greater level of complexity. This nucleus connects abundantly throughout the brain (to approximately 100 regions) by pathways that are largely bilateral and reciprocal. Few of these sites have been evaluated for their contributions to circadian rhythm regulation, although most have a theoretical possibility of doing so via the GHT. The anatomy of IGL connections suggests that one of its functions may be regulation of eye movements during sleep. Together, neural circuits of the SCN and IGL are complex and interconnected. As yet, few have been tested with respect to their involvement in rhythm regulation.