Yeah, we get it. “Pineal gland” doesn’t have the sexiest ring to it. It comes from the Latin word for pine cone, or pinea, relating to its shape and appearance. This gland is responsible for vital hormonal secretions that have a lot to do with our general well-being, and it’s been linked to a deep sense of spirituality. It just got a little sexier.
The pineal gland has often been referred to as The Third Eye. Those of us yogis who are familiar with the Third Eye Chakra know that this has to do with spiritual alignment, overall balance, and acceptance of the moment. It’s clairvoyance and knowledge, packed into a mental state of calm clarity.
Perhaps this is because of its location, which is in the middle of the ol’ noggin, to put it technically. It’s located in the center of the brain and is often picked up by X-ray images due to calcifications. The main function of the pineal gland as we understand it today is to receive information on the status of light and dark cycles from our environment and to relay this information in such a way that we secrete the hormone melatonin at the right time in order to support our sleep cycles and circadian rhythm.
It’s also a vital part of our endocrine system, meaning it’s a part of our body’s ability to regulate metabolism, growth, and sexual development. Melatonin has a big impact on all of our hormones and our endocrine regulation, not just sleep. In fact, it’s critically involved in reproduction.
However, the understanding of the pineal gland dates back to Descartes. He described it as “the principal seat of the soul” and the place in which all our thoughts are formed. While we now know that the pineal gland is not responsible for all of our thoughts (that’s actually the neocortex), its connection to light gives us a metaphysical understanding of bridging physical and spiritual worlds.
Descartes’ philosophies of the mind and his “mind-body theories” promote his beliefs that most of our mental life comes down to processes involving the pineal gland. While this is supported in our feelings of wellness, stability, sex, and sleep, we cannot claim that the pineal gland controls our spiritual capabilities.
There is a rich history via Hindu literature and yogic culture that speculates the pineal gland has an important role in transcendence and contact with higher energies. Perhaps this has to do with our perception of light and dark literally, as well as metaphysically. When we raise our prayer to our third eye and whisper namaste, we are repeating the mantra that “the light within us recognizes the light within others.” The light we allow in, physically or spiritually, comes through our pineal gland for an overall sense of wellness, in both the body and mind.
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