Psychics and many traditional cultures have maintained that human beings have a special connection with the earth and, as the earth and the planets wax and wane, so we do, too. But is there a single part of the body that serves as our antennae?
Any oriental mystic will tell you the answer lies with a tiny gland buried deep in the brain, which functions as the body’s conduit to psychic energy and the universal cosmos.
The pineal gland has been called the ‘Oracle of Light’ or the ‘third eye’ in animals because it lies close to the skin in birds that can distinguish day or night without the benefit of sight.
This gland is a cone-shaped pea that sits on the roof of the third ventricle of the brain, directly behind the root of the nose, floating in a small lake of cerebrospinal fluid. Because it lies in the center of the brain, neurosurgeons and radiologists have found it a useful landmark for brain surgery.
But until relatively recently, it was the subject of much lore as the gateway into a higher realm. René Descartes is often quoted as claiming that the pineal gland is the seat of the soul.
After Descartes, however, the gland was consigned to the neurological dustbin, regarded by the scientific community as an evolutionary leftover, the appendix of the brain.
Then, in the 1950s, Aaron B. Lerner at Yale University isolated a peculiar hormone produced by the pineal and dubbed it ‘melatonin.’ Julius Axelrod, an American pharmacologist, neuroscientist and eventual Nobel prize winner, went on to discover the importance of this gland as our body’s biological clock.
The pineal gland has been called a ‘window of the brain’ because it doesn’t have a blood–brain barrier, relying on a constant supply of blood via a particularly rich vascular network, considering its minuscule size.
In fact, the late Italian Brunetto Tarquini, head of Internal Medicine at the University of Florence, considered the pineal gland the most bathed with blood of any organ of the body besides the kidneys, constantly nourished with oxygen and nutrients.
In all higher vertebrates, including humans, the pineal gland secretes melatonin. Production of this hormone is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light, so its production peaks in the early hours of the morning.
The official role of the pineal is what biologists term a ‘photoneuroendocrine transducer,’ through which a neural signal with environmental information is converted into a chemical message – in this case, to switch on or off the production of melatonin.
Melatonin acts as a kind of master clock, regulating our sleep/wake cycle and retarding the ageing process. However, it also appears to function in regulating growth and other aspects, even mental stability. A malfunctioning pineal gland may even be related to epilepsy, schizophrenia and even autism.
Although scientists realize that the pineal is light sensitive, it’s always been assumed that the light or darkness enters as usual from the rod and cone receptors in the eye retina and makes its way to the gland via the sympathetic nerves.
However, the pineal gland appears to be far more complicated than electrical nerve impulses or chemistry.
Evidence from animals suggests that this gland itself senses something more than light. Julius Axelrod, the Nobel laureate biochemist once ran a series of experiments that set out to determine exactly what controlled melatonin production.
He and his team discovered that when rats were kept in constant light, the serotonin–melatonin rhythm disappeared; in rats kept in constant darkness, the serotonin rhythm was normal. Apparently, some other mechanism was doing the driving.
Another study in blind mice born with no retinal light receptors showed that even without the ability to ‘see’ light with their eyes, the mice responded to it – their biological clocks turned on production of melatonin at night and turned it off at daybreak.
Even more astounding, some of the mice had a defective visual pathway, so light information was being processed through some other mechanism.
There’s also the fact that mammals continue to produce melatonin in their 24-hour rhythm even when kept mostly in artificial light, as do people in areas such as the Antarctic, which has no daylight in winter.
Bruno Tarquini, fascinated by the prospect that human beings are connected to Earth’s and other planetary rhythms, suspected that the pineal is not simply following circadian rhythms, but other rhythms as well.
On comparing healthy women with those with breast disease, he discovered that healthy women had a similar annual rhythm in circulating prolactin. The same signature annual rhythm was not found in the women with breast disease.
In other studies, blood samples taken from women in the Channel Islands who did and did not develop cancer were examined for prolactin and thyroid-stimulating hormone. Again, the healthy women showed an annual cycle – a rhythm absent in the women who had gone on to develop cancer.
Tarquini also discovered pronounced weekly rhythms in blood pressure and heart rate in newborn babies. Indeed, he found that these rhythms were predominant during the first month of an infant’s life, suggesting that, as humans arrive on the earth, they “lock into the . . . seven-day harmonic of the planetary geomagnetic disturbance.”
Tarquini also revealed an association between heart-rate variability (sign of a healthy heart) and particular stages of the solar cycle.
His studies finally answered the riddle of the pineal gland with something extraordinary: melatonin is being produced via two impetuses, rather than just one: light by day, but also the Earth’s geomagnetic rhythms at night.
Something out there in the cosmos – in this case, the sun’s effect on the Earth’s geomagnetic field – is controlling life.
More evidence that we are born to be part of an intergalactic superorganism.
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