[NOTE: The following selection comes from "The Treatment of Schizophrenia"
by David McMillin. Copyright © 1991 by David McMillin.
Used with permission. All rights reserved. The Treatment of
Schizophrenia is currently available from A.R.E. Press in Virginia Beach,
The Treatment of Schizophrenia
This and subsequent appendices will address
various topics relevant to the treatment of schizophrenia by providing
a general discussion of each subject which is followed by a selection of
excerpts from the readings. In this initial appendix addressing the
pineal, the discussion section will be approached from three perspectives:
a brief literature review, Edgar Cayce's view of the pineal, and a look
at some contemporary perspectives on the clinical significance of a form
of pineal dysfunction designated as "kundalini crisis."
For centuries the pineal gland has been associated
with paranormal phenomena and insanity. Eastern philosophies have
tended to view the pineal as an important "chakra" or energy vortex,
which if activated, opened the individual to psychic experiences and cosmic
vision (Judith, 1987). Contemporaneous western philosophies also attached
mystical significance to the pineal:
The ancient Greeks considered the pineal
as the seat of the soul, a concept extended by Descartes, who philosophically
suggested that this unpaired cerebral structure would serve as an ideal
point from which the soul could exercise its somatic functions. Descartes
thus attributed to the pineal a prominent function in uniting the immortal
soul with the body. Being influenced by this thesis, many 17th and
18th century physicians associated the pineal causally with "madness,"
a link that has been uncannily prophetic for the present day. (Miles
& Philbrick, 1988, p. 409-410)
The reference to "unpaired cerebral structure"
is an example of one of the many anatomical peculiarities of the pineal
gland. The brain exhibits a high degree of bilateral symmetry, a
characteristic not shared by the pineal because it is not generally regarded
as having left and right divisions. The pineal is a small, cone shaped
gland attached to the posterior ceiling of the third ventricle of the brain,
suspended in cerebrospinal fluid. Its location in the center of the
brain, combined with its unique proclivity to calcify, make it a valuable
landmark for neuroradiologists.
Recognition of the pineal as an active
endocrine gland is a recent advancement because the highly sensitive bioassays
required to detect pineal secretions are relatively new. Melatonin is the
most easily detected of the pineal productions and has therefore received
the most attention in current research. Thus, the frequent references
to melatonin throughout this review is a reflection not only of its primary
biochemical status among pineal secretions but also of its accessibility.
There are numerous anatomical and physiological
idiosyncrasies associated with the pineal. "Relative to total body
weight the pineal is small (50-150 mg in man; 1 mg in the rat), but its
blood flow is second only to the kidney" (Arendt, 1988, p. 205-206).
Morphologically, the pineal has been considered as a homologue of the "third
eye" in certain lizards (Gray's Anatomy, 1977). The photosensitivity
of pineal in humans derives from nerve impulses from the retina and may
have a basis in the structure of the gland.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note
that some of the pigmented cells were arranged in a rosette-like structure
reminiscent of developing retinal structures. When one considers
these findings along with the electron microscopic observation ... it is
reasonable to conclude that human pineal glands exhibit transient cellular
features reminiscent of developing photoreceptor cells as shown in other
mammals. (Min, 1987, p. 728)
The pineal has been labelled a "photoneuroendocrine
transducer" due to its photoperiodic influences on reproductive cycles,
coat color, coat growth and seasonal variations in behaviors of many mammals
(Arendt, 1988). "Many other seasonal variations both physiological and
pathological exist in humans and it will be of interest to consider their
possible relationship to daylength and other seasonal synchronizers" (Arendt,
1988, p. 210). Ralph (1984) has reviewed the role of the pineal in
thermoregulation and emphasized the "adaptive" nature of the gland.
The key word to understanding the pineal organ
probably is "adaptation." That is, one can argue, with substantial justification,
that the pineal organ participates in preparation for future conditions
.... While the literature relating pineal organs to thermoregulation is
not nearly as large as that dealing with reproduction, or rhythmycity,
it is substantial and compelling. (Ralph, 1984, p. 193)
Pineal involvement in cycles of growth and
development during the life span has long been recognized. Pineal
tumors have been associated with both precocious and delayed puberty in
humans (Kitay & Altschule, 1954; Turner & Bagnara, 1971). Blindness
has been linked to earlier menarche in girls and blind adults also appear
to exhibit disynchroncities related to photosensitivity (Parkes, 1976;
Lewy & Newsome, 1983). Melatonin secretions is known to decrease in
amplitude from infancy to adulthood (Young et al, 1986) and during old
age (Iguchi et al, 1982)
Pineal involvement in circadian rhythms,
particularly the sleep cycle within these rhythms, has received considerable
attention in recent years.
Melatonin secretion increases during
sleep and decreases during waking hours (Axelrod, 1974; Arato, et al, 1985).
Since light both entrains and suppresses melatonin secretion, melatonin
has been called a "darkness hormone" (Arendt, 1988). Arginine
vasotocin (AVT), another pineal secretion linked to sleep cycles, has been
found to induce slow-wave sleep in cats (Pavel, Psatta & Goldstein,
1977) and a specific AVT antiserum markedly increases the number of REM
(rapid eye movement or dream sleep) periods while decreasing REM latency
(Pavel & Goldstein, 1981). However, the role of the pineal in
the modulation of circadian rhythms such as sleep cycles cannot be considered
as primary. Rather, it works in conjunction with other systems and
has its basis in evolutionary processes.
Among the vertebrates, two areas seem to
have assumed major importance in the organization of circadian systems
- the pineal organ and the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus). The pineal
organ of lower vertebrates is photosensory in nature and it may have been
this, presumably ancient, function that caused the pineal organ to assume
such a predominant role with circadian systems. Clearly, light is
the preeminent entraining or synchronizing stimulus for circadian systems,
and the pineal organ may have been involved in the perception of LD (light-dark)
cycles. (Underwood, 1984, pp. 245-246)
In addition to being sensitive to variations
in environmental light, the pineal appears to possess sensitivity to the
earth's magnetic field and various electromagnetic influences.
There is ever increasing evidence
that the magnetic irradiation of a strength equal or approximate to that
of the geomagnetic field exerts a variety of behavioral and physiological
effects on the organism. Some studies focused on the pineal gland
as the most feasible candidate for a mediator of magnetic irradiation on
the organism. Such an approach is quite in keeping with the generally
accepted concept that the pineal gland plays its physiological role through
the modulation of the homeostatic and behavioral responses upon the changes
in the living microambient. (Milin, Bajic & Brakus, 1988, p. 1083).
The pineal may also serve as a somatic interface
with other sources of environmental energy designated as extremely low
frequency (ELF) electric and magnetic-field exposure. Wilson, Stevens and
Anderson (1989) reviewed studies of ELF electromagnetic-field exposure
in relation to health risks such as cancer, depression, and birth outcome
(e.g. miscarriage, stillbirth). Citing work from their laboratory
and elsewhere which shows that ELF field exposure alters the normal circadian
rhythm of melatonin synthesis and release in the pineal gland, the authors
present evidence which suggest pineal susceptibility to such sources:
Whether directly affected or not, the pineal
is a convenient locus for monitoring dyschronogenic effects of these fields.
It appears ever more plausible, however, that the pineal may also play
a central role in the biological response to this environmental factor.
(Wilson, Stevens and Anderson, 1989 p. 1328)
The link between pineal dysfunction and suppressed
immune response highlights another active area of pineal research. In particular,
research has focused on melatonin and its relation to cancer. Depletion
of melatonin by pinealectomy has been associated with proliferation of
cancer cells (Rodin, 1963).
Loss or reduction of oncostatic melatonin
in the circulation is only one of the several possible mechanisms for increased
cancer risk resulting from pineal gland dysfunction. Melatonin appears
to have a stimulatory effect on immune function in the whole animal.
(Wilson, et al, 1989, p. 1323)
The minireview of this topic provided by Wilson
et al. is a concise discussion of pineal research and is highly recommended
to readers interested in the pineal/immune interface. In recognition
of the role of the pineal in current cancer research, Blask (1984) has
referred to the pineal as an "oncostatic gland" and an entire conference
was recently devoted to this subject (Gupta et al., 1988)
Pinealectomy has been implicated in the
production of convulsive states (Philo & Reiter, 1978). Furthermore,
melatonin has been shown to suppress seizure activity in humans and other
mammals (Fariello, et al., 1977).
Surgical removal of the pineal gland apparently
produces rather uniform alterations in EEG activity and, under special
circumstances (e.g., when rats are previously parathyroidectomized), severe
seizures occur when the pineal gland is surgically extripated. Several
other rodent species ... and certain strains of mice convulse after simple
pinealectomy, i.e., loss of the parathyroid gland is not a prerequisite
... The appearance of the convulsions suggests basic alterations in the
biochemical and electrical activity of the CNS which are presumably due
to the loss of some pineal constituent. (Reiter, 1977, p. 257)
The role of melatonin in brain excitability
is an interesting example of the widespread explorations of pineal functioning
and Albertson et al. (1981) have provided an excellent review, including
results of their own research. Their paper is an excellent resource
for those readers interested in the relationship between the pineal and
The neuroendocrine functions of the pineal
affect a wide variety of glandular and nervous system processes.
Although experimental results suggested
many years ago that the pineal may inhibit growth of the gonads, substantial
progress in this field has occurred only in the last ten years, since the
pineal began to be considered as one of the central regulating mechanisms
in charge of pituitary control rather than as an endocrine gland only.
(Moszkowska, Kordon & Ebels, 1971, p. 241) Evidence that the
pineal gland exerts a regulatory influence on several endocrine functions
is rapidly growing. (Motta, Schiaffini, Piva & Martini, 1971,
The prevalence of sigma receptors in the pineal
has been noted by Jansen, Dragunow & Faull (1990) and may be an important
interface with several systems and pathologies:
The highest concentration of sigma
receptors was seen in the pineal gland, an area which has not been previously
studied. This is of interest as both sigma receptors and the pineal gland
have recently been shown to play a role not only in the nervous system
but also in the immune and endocrine systems ... Haloperidol and some other
antipsychotic drugs bind sigma receptors, as do psychotomimetic benzomorphan
opiates, suggesting that the receptor may be involved in psychosis. (Jansen,
Dragunow & Faull, 1990, P. 158)
Research indicates that pineal involvement
in mental health may go beyond psychosis. It is very likely that
the pineal plays a significant role in the manifestation of several mental
Currently, much interest is focused on
the role that melatonin may play in various psychiatric disorders, and
pineal research now represents one of the active areas of current psychiatry
research.... Present ideas suggest a positive involvement of melatonin
in affective disorders, possible involvement in the schizophrenic psychosis,
and potential involvement of this hormone in other psychiatric categories.
(Miles & Philbrick, 1988, p. 405)
Reduced nocturnal melatonin secretion has
been noted in depression (Wetterberg et al., 1979, 1981 & 1984) and
schizophrenia (Ferrier et al., 1982). Brown et al. (1985) found that
lowered nocturnal melatonin concentrations differentiated between melancholic
patients and patients suffering from major depression without melancholia.
The role of the pineal in depression may be related to neurotransmitters
associated with depression.
In that various theories of depression
have suggested reduced serotonergic and noradrenergic function, and both
of these products are involved in the synthesis of melatonin as a precursor
and neurotransmitter, it would not in fact be at all surprising to find
low melatonin in depression.... It is tempting to speculate that all anti-depressants
increase melatonin production. (Arendt, 1988, p. 218-219)
Recognition that the pineal is photosensitive
and plays a major role in the regulation of seasonal physiological adaptations
has led to speculation that pineal dysfunction may be related to SAD (seasonal
affective disorder). SAD is a recurring winter depression presenting
with weight gain, hypersomnia and carbohydrate craving (Rosenthal et al.,
1984). Phototherapy has been utilized in this and other forms of
depression to ameliorate depressive symptoms (Kripke & Risch, 1986).
Persons suffering from bipolar have been
shown to be supersensitive to the inhibiting effect of bright light on
nocturnal melatonin secretion (Lewy et al., 1981). Research by Lewy
et al. (1979) suggests that during mania (particularly during the early
phase of mania) bipolar patients exhibit consistently elevated levels of
melatonin throughout the day and night. Because lithium has been
shown to affect pineal functioning and may be linked to decreased photosensitivity,
some researchers have speculated that some individuals diagnosed as bipolar
may be suffering from circadian disorganization (see review by Miles &
Structural similarities between melatonin
and agents of known hallucinogenic potency (i.e., harmine, bufotenine,
and psilocybin) has led to speculation about a possible connection between
this pineal hormone and schizophrenia (Arendt, 1988). Psychotomimetic
agents (lysergide, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, and harmaline) induce
HIOMT, a methylating enzyme, which increases melatonin production in the
pineal (Klein & Rowe, 1970; Hartley & Smith, 1973). Furthermore,
agents which produce symptoms closely resembling schizophrenic psychosis
(i.e., cocaine, L-dopa, and amphetamine) also increase melatonin production.
Research into the assimilation of LSD in monkey brains reveal a propensity
for LSD concentrations in the pineal and pituitary glands, these accumulations
being 7-8 times those found in the cerebral cortex (Snyder & Reivich,
1966). Winter et al., (1973) report that the pineal must be capable
of functioning for hallucinogens to have behavioral effects. Although
melatonin has direct biochemical effects on dopaminergic function (Wendel
et al., 1974; Zisapel & Laudon, 1983; Bradbury et al., 1985) and haloperidol
is highly concentrated by pineal tissue (Naylor & Olley, 1959), direct
evidence of melatonin involvement in schizophrenia has not be forthcoming
(see excellent review by Miles & Philbrick, 1988).
There exists a vast pineal literature
which is undergoing phenomenal expansion. As the present discussion
is intended to serve as an introduction to the subject, interested readers
are directed to these useful reviews for further elaboration: Wilson et
al., 1989; Arendt, 1988; Ebels & Balemans, 1986; Miles & Philbrick,
1988; Mullen & Silman, 1977; and Reiter, 1984.
In summary, whereas only a few decades
ago the pineal was widely viewed as a vestigial entity, current research
has revealed it to be an important neuroendocrine gland involved in thermoregulation,
immune response, and the mediation of various cycles (i.e., circadian rhythms
involving the regulation of sleep, seasonal rhythms affecting patterns
of reproduction and physiological adaptations to the environment, and cycles
of growth and development during the lifespan such as sexual maturation).
In consideration of the pineal's influence on the other endocrine glands,
it can be viewed as a "regulator of regulators" (Reiter, 1984, p. v).
Further, pineal functioning may play an important role in mental illnesses
such as schizophrenia and affective disorders. Perhaps the most controversial
area of pineal research may involve the gland's functioning as a transducer
of environmental energies such as electromagnetic fields. "After years
of disregard the pineal has taken its place in mainstream biology and medicine.
It is an organ of particular fascination in that it serves as an interface
between the environment and the body" (Arendt, 1988, p. 205)
The pineal gland, viewed historically as
a "sphincter to control the flow of thought," as the "seat of the soul,"
as a "third eye," and depicted more recently as a "neuroendocrine transducer
organ," now promises to portray more complex physiological functions than
originally believed and forecasts to reveal more extensive implications
in pathological processes than once deemed possible ... Future investigations
should be directed toward comprehension of the functions of numerous neglected
neurotransmitters and biological substances found in the pineal gland.
The results of these investigations may bring forth multifunctional significance
for [the] pineal gland not only in "temporal arrangement of various reproductive
events" in mammals, in "rhythmical thermoregulatory process" in some ectotherms,
and in "nightly pallor response" in amphibians, but also in major arenas
of human suffering such as seizure disorders, sleep disorders, and behavioral
abnormalities. (Ebadi, 1984, pp. 1 & 27)
Cayce's Perspective of the Pineal
The relatively frequent references to the
pineal in the Cayce readings reflect the importance which the readings
attached to this gland. As previously mentioned, during the early
decades of this century, the pineal was widely regarded as a vestigial
organ of little physiological significance. The readings acknowledged
the prevailing view of medical science by describing the pineal as a "mass
without apparent functioning" (294-141). However, the readings continued
to insist upon the preeminent role of the pineal as a major mediator of
physiospiritual processes. The research literature just cited in
this appendix suggests that contemporary views regarding the pineal are
rather expansive and tend to support the readings' insistence that the
pineal is much more than a dormant, vestigial organ.
To fully appreciate Cayce's perspective
of the pineal, it is necessary to discuss the various ways in which the
term pineal was used in the readings. Although pineal was often used
to designate a discreet, glandular entity in the center of the brain (a
notion consonant with contemporary views of the pineal), the readings also
occasionally spoke of the pineal as if it were a system. This is
more than just a problem of semantics, for in the readings the "pineal
system" represents the interface of mental and spiritual dimensions within
the body - it was described as the body/mind/spirit connection.
When viewed as a system, other terms
were often associated with the pineal such as the "cord of life," the "silver
cord," the "Appian Way," and the "imaginative system." In this context,
the pineal seemed to be regarded as a life energy system as well as a glandular
entity. This perspective is congruent with certain eastern religions
and occult traditions which emphasize the paranormal aspects of pineal
activity by labeling it a major "chakra," or energy center in the body
(e.g., Bailey, 1932; Besant, 1959). In the Cayce readings, the energies
associated with the pineal system carry several designations including:
"kundalini," "kundaline," "life force," "psychic force," "aerial activity,"
and "creative energy."
The status of the pineal as a system
is established in the readings by noting the diversity and essentiality
of its functioning. The pineal system was said to function through
nerve impulse (e.g., 2197-1, 4800-1), glandular secretion (e.g., 567-1,
2200-1), and vibratory energies such as the life force or kundalini energy
(e.g., 281-53) while mediating numerous processes including fetal growth,
sexual development and functioning, and alterations in consciousness.
Two brief excerpts from the readings will be provided to portray the physiological
and psychospiritual parameters of the system:
... for the PINEAL center is engorged, especially at the 3rd
and 4th LUMBAR and the 1st
and 2nd cervical.... the mental capacities as related to the imaginative
system refuse to coordinate with the rest of the activity of the body ...
as we have indicated, a constitutional condition, you see, which affects
the glands of the body, as related to the pineal - which runs all the way
through the system and is the GOVERNING body to the coordinating of the
mental and physical. (567-1)
In this particular body [Edgar
Cayce] through which this, then, at present is emanating, the gland with
its thread known as the pineal gland is the channel along which same then
operates, and with the subjugation of the consciousness - physical consciousness
- there arises, as it were, a cell from the creative forces within the
body to the entrance of the conscious mind, or brain, operating along,
or traveling along, that of the thread or cord as when severed separates
the physical, the soul, or the spiritual body. (288-29)
These excerpts contain some important examples
of the diverse influences attributed to the pineal system. The references
to "the gland with its thread known as the pineal" and "the pineal - which
runs all the way through the system and is the governing body to the coordinating
of the mental and physical" indicate the anatomical expansiveness of this
system. The "thread" or "cord" which emanates from the pineal gland
may be physical (e.g., nerve tissue), nonphysical (e.g., "vibratorial"
or subtle energy), or both. The readings are particularly vague on the
subject. The readings compared the activity of the pineal to an aerial:
In your radio you have what you call
an aerial for communications that are without any visible connection.
This is not a part of that making up the framework, yet it is necessary
for certain characters of reception or for the better distribution of that
which takes place in the instrument as related to communication itself.
So in the physical body the aerial
activity is the flow through the pineal, to and through all the centers.
It aids the individual, or is an effective activity for the individual
who may consciously attempt to attune, coordinate, or to bring about perfect
accord, or to keep a balance in that attempting to be reached or attained
through the process.... Understand the processes of activity through which
there are the needs of the aerial in reception. For, of course, it
is a matter of vibration in the body, as well as that illustrated in the
physical condition. (281-53)
This evocative description of pineal activity
brings to mind contemporary research into the pineal's ability to detect
variations in geomagnetic and electromagnetic fields. Reading 2501-6
suggests a similar phenomenon relating the phase of the moon to behavioral
changes - an association apparently mediated by the pineal through the
sympathetic nervous system.
Regardless of whatever the pineal and
its "cord" may represent, the readings stated that it extended throughout
the body and governed the coordination of mental, spiritual and physical
energies (311-4). Note also that the pineal provides the connections
of body, mind and spirit which was regarded as a prerequisite for the functioning
of consciousness (1001-9).
The "pineal system" may be conceptualized as
including the endocrine glands (262-20, 281-49, 1001-9, 1593-1).
The holistic perspective of the readings was frequently reflected in a
systems approach to anatomy and physiology: "... there is to be considered
ever the whole activity; not as separating them one from another but the
whole anatomical structure must be considered EVER as a whole ... Then
we find the endocrine system - not glands but system ..." (281-38)
Certain glands within this system were
noted as having an especially close affinity - the pineal/pituitary interaction
was frequently cited in the readings. The interface between pineal
and leydig gland was also particularly important and deserving of close
study (e.g., 263-13, 294-141, 294-142).
The pineal system's close association
with the nervous systems is exemplified by its role as mediator between
the "mental body" and the central nervous system (1523-17). There are frequent
references to both the pineal and the sympathetic systems as the "imaginative
system" and the "impulse system" - expressions intimating the role of mind,
in particular the unconscious mind, in the phenomenon of imagination.
The readings referred to the sympathetic nervous system as the nervous
system of the unconscious mind while the CNS was identified with the conscious
mind. Thus, the readings frequent association of pineal dysfunction
with incoordination between the sympathetic and central nervous systems
may be related to its role as mediator of states of consciousness.
In this capacity, the pineal was said to be involved in such common phenomena
as imagination and sleep, paranormal experiences such as kundalini awakening
and past life recall, and pathological conditions such as psychosis and
The "life force" energy discussed in
the readings was said to function in two modes; 1) a growth and development
mode (a health maintenance mode) and 2) a "supercharged" mode which the
readings associated with "kundalini" experiences similar to those described
in the meditative literature of the orient (281-53). In the growth
and development mode, the pineal was said to begin activity within the
third week after conception by organizing fetal development (294-141, 281-
141). In its activity, the pineal system could be conceptualized
as a morphogenetic blueprint for embryonic elaboration, particularly the
formation of the brain (294-141). Just as it would later serve as
the interface of physical, mental and spiritual bodies in the newborn child,
during gestation the pineal system was said to serve as a conduit for mental
and spiritual impulses from the pregnant woman (281-53, 294-141).
Across the lifespan, the pineal system
was viewed as a regulator of cycles of growth and development and was responsible
for the maintenance of health. In this capacity, the life force was
referred to as elan vitale (281-24) and was related to youth and vigor.
"Keep the pineal gland operating and you won't grow old - you will always
be young" (294-141). The life force was said to "strengthen and maintain
equilibrium in the system" (1026-1) and "sustain coordination to the organs
of the body" (5162-1).
The readings recommended various forms
of energy healing to reestablish a healthy state in bodies with insufficient
or unbalanced energy. Magnetic healing was one such modality and
could be accomplished by raising the life force (i.e., "kundalini") and
passing this energy into the body of the afflicted person by "laying on
of hands" (281-14). The readings described a specific technique for
this intervention and provided guidelines for persons interested in utilizing
it (e.g., using the hands in polarity, resting between sessions to maintain
vigor, etc. - see circulating file on Magnetic Healing for details; available
from the A.R.E.).
This life force could be rebalanced by
an apparatus called the radial appliance. The readings stated that
magnetic healing and the radial appliance utilized the same energy, frequently
referred to as "vibratory energy" or the "low form of electrical energy,"
which was said to be the basis of life. This energy flows through the body
and is particularly accessible along the spine at seven "centers" (3428-1),
apparently corresponding to the seven chakras of eastern meditative traditions.
Three of these centers were preferentially noted as being key interfaces
between the physical and soul forces:
... the 3rd cervical ... the 9th dorsal, and ... the
4th lumbar ... These are the centers through which there is the activity
of the kundaline forces that act as suggestions to the spiritual forces
for distribution through the seven centers of the body.
It is no coincidence that these three centers
(and specifically the 9th dorsal) were frequently specified locations for
attachment of the wet cell battery utilizing "vibratory metals" (i.e.,
gold and silver) to stimulate the regeneration of the nervous system in
cases of dementia praecox. These key centers were also consistently
pointed out to osteopaths and chiropractors making the spinal adjustments.
Cayce even gave specific instructions for coordinating these centers using
massage and manipulation.
In the "growth and development" mode,
the life force was described as a subtle influence which was generally
not physically perceptible in its action or effects. In the "supercharged"
mode (such as kundalini), the life force was much more easily perceptible
(occasionally painfully so) in its action and effects. In this mode,
the life force was said to vary its circulation through the body (281-53)
by arising along the spinal cord to the base of the brain. The "opening
of the lyden [leydig] gland" was a prerequisite for this activity and could
be accomplished by a variety of meditative and pathophysiological processes.
The utilization of traditional yogic techniques such as altered breathing
(2475-1) and incantations (275-43) were noted as effective means of "awakening
In several cases of psychopathology noted
in the readings, the awakening of the kundalini was associated with somatic
dysfunctions such as spinal injury and lesions in the reproductive system.
Throughout this book, such cases have been designated as "kundalini crisis."
A further consideration of this topic from the perspective of contemporary
sources will be included in the final section of this discussion.
To fully appreciate the readings' perspective
on "kundalini crisis," one must keep in mind that the pineal system includes
a "thread" or "cord" which extends from the pineal gland proper, along
the spinal cord to various centers in the body (281-46). Pressure
upon this system can produce hallucinations and dementia (294-141, 4333-1).
It is unclear whether this pathology resulted from the secretion of a glandular
substance by the leydig gland or as a result of some change in the "subtle
energy" balance within the pineal system. The readings are not explicit
about this process and these two scenarios are not mutually exclusive,
nor do they preclude other interpretations of this process. The important
psychopathological implication here is that the pineal system is quite
vulnerable to somatic insult, particularly along the spinal column.
The psychic readings of Edgar Cayce were
said to have resulted from the activation of the kundalini within the pineal
system (288-29, 2475-1) resulting in cosmic consciousness (2109-2).
In other words, Cayce apparently had a kundalini experience during each
reading. The possibility that he could be rendered insane by a misapplication
of this process was noted in the readings and cautions were provided for
the maintenance of a healthy physical vehicle for a safe and optimal
If one accepts the plausibility of psychic
productions such as the Cayce readings or other such manifestations which
are common within the tradition known as the perennial philosophy, one
comes to view the pineal system as the "consciousness system" - i.e., altered
states of consciousness such as kundalini experiences are produced by alterations
within this system. Psychosis which is produced by pineal system
dysfunction (i.e., kundalini crisis) may thus be viewed as one of the alterations
in consciousness mediated by this system.
Epilepsy is another major pathology involving
altered states of consciousness - a phenomenon which the readings frequently
associated with pineal activity. The overlap between epilepsy and
schizophrenia has been discussed in Chapter 7 and will not be recapitulated
here. However, several excerpts from the readings on epilepsy have
been included in this appendix to provide a context for comparing the role
of the pineal in these two major pathologies.
The pineal system is involved in two
other major alterations in consciousness - sleep and death. Sleep
was said to be a "shadow of, that intermission in earth's experience of,
that state called death" (5754-1). According to the readings,
the soul temporarily disengages during sleep to "visit" other dimensions
and have experiences which are remembered during the waking consciousness
as dreams. "Each and every soul leaves the body as it rests in sleep."
(853-8) The idea that some aspect of the self dissociates during
sleep and transits between dimensions (e.g., astral travel) is not original
to the Cayce readings. This is a common theme in the traditions of
many cultures (Hanson, 1989). In the readings, sleep is viewed as
an op portunity for the mental being to review previous experiences and
plan future actions accordingly (hence the retrospective and precognitive
function of dreams). During sleep, connection of the physical, mental
and spiritual bodies is maintained by a "silver cord" which sounds strikingly
similar to the "thread" or "cord" of the pineal system.
Death involves the severance of this
cord (262-20) whereas sleep may be viewed as merely a temporary "stretching"
of it. The "projection" of consciousness out of the body during sleep may
be related to the projection which Edgar Cayce experienced during his psychic
readings. In other words, perhaps everyone has a "kundalini" experience
and psychic awakening each night while they sleep. The physiological
alterations which occur during "dream sleep" (i.e., REM or paradoxical
sleep) seem to parallel those described in the readings as occurring during
This may related directly to schizophrenia
research because for several decades clinicians and researchers have recognized
the similarities between hallucinations and dreams. This apperception
has led to the hypothesis that hallucinations represent dream intrusions
into waking consciousness. "Schizophrenia may be characterized by a breakdown
in the normal boundaries between the REM-sleep and waking states."
(Wyatt, 1971, p. 46) This hypothesis was bolstered by research confirming
that schizophrenics tend to exhibit distinctive sleep patterns (most significantly,
decreased REM rebound after deprivation; e.g., Azumi et al., 1967).
As with most areas of schizophrenia research, sleep and dream studies have
suffered the effects of variability, thus the sleep anomalies in schizophrenia
From a transpersonal perspective, many dreams
represent a conscious experience of paranormal realities (i.e., not just
epiphenomena resulting from brain activation during sleep). Dreams may
reflect an altered state of consciousness where the conscious mind has
access to other dimensions of reality normally unavailable during waking
states (Roberts, 1974). The experience of precognition, direct communications
with discarnate entities, past life recall, etc. during dreams is thus
viewed as representing a valid perspective of "reality."
Hence some persons experiencing acute
psychosis with paranormal features could be viewed as suffering from a
form of "kundalini crisis," or a pathological activation of the pineal
system resulting in psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. The
Cayce readings indicated that such persons were close to the "borderland"
and that pathological symptoms such as auditory hallucinations were "real"
experiences to those individuals. This pathological aspect of pineal
functioning is the focus of the final part of the discussion section and
will consist of contemporary formulations of pineal activation which result
Current Perspectives on Kundalini
Numerous accounts of spontaneous "awakening"
of the kundalini energy can be found in the modern clinical literature.
Gopi Krishna believed that the awakening of the kundalini force could go
awry and produce acute psychosis. His personal experience with kundalini
provides valuable first-hand information about its effects:
The condition [kundalini awakening] denotes,
from the evolutionary point of view, a physiologically mature system ripe
for the experience, and a highly active Kundalini pressing both on the
brain and the reproductive system. But the activity of Kundalini,
when the system is not properly attuned, can be abortive and, in some cases,
even morbid. In the former case [when the brain is not ready], the
heightened consciousness is stained with complexes, anxiety, depression,
fear, and other neurotic and paranoid conditions, which alternate with
elevated blissful periods, visionary experiences, or creative moods.
In the latter [when the reproductive system is dysfunctional], it manifests
itself in the various hideous forms of psychosis, in the horrible depression,
frenzied excitement, and wild delusions of the insane. (in Kieffer,
1988, pp. 138-139)
Thus, Krishna's emphasis on the enlightening
properties of kundalini is balanced by his awareness of its destructive
potential when awakened prematurely. As Krishna observes, in some
cases the difference between the two outcomes is difficult to assess:
There is a close relationship between the
psychotic and the mystic. In a mystic, there is a healthy flow of
prana into the brain, and in the psychotic the flow is morbid. In
fact, the mystic and the psychotic are two ends of the same process, and
the ancient traditions class mad people as mad lovers of God, or something
divine. (in Kieffer, 1988, p. 110)
Joseph Campbell expressed the same idea poetically
by stating, "The schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which
the mystic swims with delight" (in Mintz, 1983, p. 158). Sannella
(1987), a psychiatrist, also notes the dual manifestations of the kundalini
I have also witnessed this regrettable
tendency among those who have stumbled onto the kundalini experience.
But this says nothing about the experience itself, which is not inherently
regressive. On the contrary, I view the kundalini awakening as an
experience that fundamentally serves self-transcendence and mindtranscendence.
In 1974 Sannella co-founded the Kundalini
Clinic in San Francisco, a facility dedicated to helping persons undergoing
sudden kundalini arousal.
The transformative potential of
spiritual awakening with psychotic features (which we have designated as
kundalini crisis) has been noted by Christina and Stanislav Grof and labelled
"spiritual emergency." Christina's description of her spiritual emergency
and Stanislav's clinical insight into the transformative potential of these
experiences provide a valuable resource in this area. Their criteria
for distinguishing between spiritual emergency and psychosis provides a
helpful "yardstick" for clinical assessment.
Among favorable signs [indicating
spiritual emergency] are a history of reasonable psychological, sexual,
and social adjustment preceding the episode, the ability to consider the
possibility that the process might originate in one's own psyche, enough
trust to cooperate, and a willingness to honor the basic rules of treatment.
Conversely, a lifelong history of serious psychological difficulties and
of marginal sexual and social adjustment can generally be seen as suggesting
caution. Similarly, a confused and poorly organized content of the
experiences, presence of Bleuler's primary symptoms of schizophrenia, strong
participation of manic elements, the systematic use of projection, and
the presence of persecutory voices and delusions indicate that traditional
approaches might be preferable. Strong destructive and self-destructive
tendencies and violations of basic rules of treatment are further negative
indicators. (p. 256)
Christina Grof founded the Spiritual Emergence
Network (SEN) in 1980 to provide educational information and a referral
service for people experiencing transformational crises. It is currently
located at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (250 Oak Grove Ave.,
Menlo Park, CA 94025; 415/327-2776).
Mariel Strauss (1985) provides a practical
source of information about kundalini awakening in all its aspects. Recovering
from the New Age: Therapies for Kundalini Crisis documents the symptoms
of kundalini arousal and suggests therapies to minimize its distress.
Strauss describes "kundalini crisis" from her personal experience, while
providing a scholarly review of the kundalini literature. Her familiarity
with the Cayce philosophy and frequent citations from the readings serve
as valuable stepping stones between the various sources and perspectives
in this literature. Her recognition of the pervasiveness of kundalini
manifestations, both clinically in psychosis and subclinically in "dis-ease,"
accurately portrays the readings' perspective of this phenomenon:
We must remember that Cayce found degrees
of kundalini imbalance in many individuals, not just in those with the
syndrome of extreme symptoms we have delineated [i.e., kundalini
crisis]. His cases ranged from those who were simply nervous and
fatigued, as the above mentioned woman, to those who had been confined
to hospitals or their homes for many years, sometimes since early childhood.
Therefore, his remedies dealt less with large alterations in diet and more
with the other aids we will discuss, such as spinal adjustment and massage,
mental regroupment, and treatments with the electrical appliances he designed.
Another excellent source of information regarding
kundalini is John White's Kundalini: Evolution and Enlightenment. White's
expertise as an editor is evident in this thorough discussion of the kundalini
In summary, the pineal is an important
endocrine gland which is probably involved in a wide spectrum of developmental
and health maintenance processes including major mental illnesses such
as schizophrenia. Its association with paranormal processes is documented
in traditional and current sources and is congruent with the Cayce readings
on the subject. Cayce viewed the pineal as the focal point of a system
utilizing subtle energies (e.g., kundalini) capable of pathological
disruption. Because such disturbances may present with paranormal
features, clinicians are advised to become more familiar with the operation
of this system and all of its transpersonal manifestations. From
the Cayce perspective, the most significant aspect of pineal functioning
is its role as the interface of mental and spiritual facets of the self
with the physical body. This role has been acknowledged historically,
and restated succinctly by Mullen:
The human pineal is now under intensive investigation
by various groups throughout the world. In the next few years we
can confidently expect the physiological and pathological roles of this
mysterious gland to be elucidated. The pineal which for Descartes
was the seat of the mind and the immortal soul may yet turn out to be of
interest for biological psychiatry. The pineal has been called a
neuroendocrine transducer but it could one day be more accurately termed
a psychosomatic transducer standing as a mediator on the boundary between
soma and psyche. (Mullen et al, 1978 p. 370)