It is through the seventh chakra, or crown chakra, that our Divine Self is manifest in a physical body. This is the seat of transcendence, Divine Union with the Infinite Wisdom, and an understanding of ourselves as part of the Whole. The halo that is seen around the heads of angels and other ascended beings in art is indicative of an awakened 7th chakra. It can be observed in paintings of Ra, the Egyptian God, with a solar disk above his head, and in Roman art depicting Apollo, the Sun God, with a beaming halo surrounding his head. Countless pictures of Jesus and the Buddha have been painted with halos, and one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings, entitled Benois Madonna, captures Madonna with a baby Christ, both with semi-transparent rings encircling their heads.
In yogic terms, the crown chakra is called Sahasrara, a Sanskrit word meaning thousand-fold, and refers to the petals of realization of a lotus flower blooming into full expression from the murky depths from which it rises. The petals of a lotus flower open to the bright light of divine awareness, though it has humble beginnings in the mud of Maya, or the illusion of the manifest world. The thousand petals represent infinity; however, as this is the highest level of awareness one can achieve. The chakra is also associated with the pineal gland, an important endocrine gland located in the brain, which helps give rise to this Infinite Awareness when functioning properly.
The pineal gland is a pine-cone shaped gland, thus its name, which is responsible for creating several important hormones in the body. It is located near the third ventricle in the corpus callosum of the brain. One of the important functions of the pineal gland is the creation of melatonin. Aside from influencing our sleeping cycles and sexual development through this hormone, the pineal gland converts signals from the nervous system into a language the endocrine system can understand. It is thought that if our pineal gland is not working properly, or is calcified (it becomes crusted over with a poor diet and the consumption of fluoride, for example) then we cannot have access to the ‘higher realms’ where angelic being are in abundance to guide our steps her on earth. Regardless of what you believe about the pineal glands significance to spiritual awakening, we already know through scientific research that a poorly functioning pineal gland causes a break down in the body’s regulatory functions. Renee Descartes once called the pineal gland, “the seat of the soul.”
“Although the soul is joined with the entire body, there is one part of the body [the pineal] in which it exercises its function more than elsewhere… [The pineal] is so suspended between the passages containing the animal spirits [guiding reason and carrying sensation and movement] that it can be moved by them…; and it carries this motion on to the soul … Then conversely, the body machine is so constituted that whenever the gland is moved in one way or another by the soul, or for that matter by any other cause, it pushes the animal spirits which surround it to the pores of the brain.” – Descartes
The pineal gland also has what are called glial cells, which perform countless tasks in the nervous system, but the gland also communicates important information to the body about light. This is why it is sometimes called the ‘third eye.’ It acts like an eye with rods and cons, and the pineal, upon further examination, acts just like a human eye. It in fact, has been called a ‘vestigial eye.’
In recent years, scientists gradually discovered that the mammalian pineal gland is photo sensitive. However, the mammalian pineal, unlike that of other vertebrates, is not thought to be directly light sensitive. Melatonin, the principal product of the mammalian pineal gland, acts as an internal representative of nighttime. The secretion of melatonin is increased under light-dark cycles, with an increase in the dark period and a decrease in the light period.
While the pineal gland is actually associated with the 6th chakra or Ajna chakra, it is imperative for the awakening of the 7th chakra, or crown. In the Egyptian etymology an awakened third eye is called the Eye of Horus. It leads to crown chakra awakening, which governs the entire brain. Once we have awakened the third eye, and the crown chakra, it is said that divine intelligence can stream through the crown and give us ‘sight’ through this awakened gland, into our true nature, which is, in fact, Divine. We remain ‘grounded’ on earth, but stream divine awareness through this awakened eye, therefore we have what is called Cosmic Consciousness, or, enlightenment. Those souls who have been depicted with a halo around their heads in art through the ages, are thought to have achieved this sate of awareness.
You can achieve enlightenment as well, by opening the chakras, successively, until you finally reach the crown. You can do this through yoga practices, mantra, listening to Tibetan singing bowls or binaural beats, doing Thai Chi and QiGong, getting acupuncture or meditating, for example. This is not an exhaustive list. There are many tools to awaken the spiritual energy of the body and mind, but each of these traditions/practices aims at invigorating the chakra system and helping us to develop our own halo, or awakened crown chakra, the thousand- petaled lotus.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World.
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Rodieck, R.W., The First Steps in Seeing (Sinauer, Sunderland, MA,1998)