Aaaaaahhhhhh the pineal gland -- considered the seat of the soul by the great French philosopher Descartes, (the one who famously stated “Cogito ergo sum" --I think, therefore I am). Known for its central location in the brain (almost in the middle, buried deep behind our forehead) and its lack of symmetry (to the naked eye there is only one of them) this cute little structure has long received the attention of philosophers and scientists interested in the mind. For Descartes, this was the window through which the ephemeral, intangible mind could interact with the body, and exert control or influence over the material world. This concept served a central purpose in Descartes’ Dualist (i.e., duality between mind and body) theories about consciousness. After all, without a portal to the physical world, how could the mind instruct the body to do all of the things it does? Alas, however, modern neurophysiology has humbled this tiny structure, discovering instead it is responsible for regulating hormones important for a host of behaviours, including the sleep-wake cycle and sexual development. Hormonal regulation and not a mind-material portal? Ho-hum.
The relationship between the pineal gland and sexual development is exploited in the hysterical plot of From Beyond (1986), in which Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) discovers, via magnetic stimulation, that the pineal gland is literally a “third-eye”, allowing him to peer into a dimension of sexual awakening, Freudian metamorphoses, and florescent lights, apparently! Not that we --ahem-- mind! The film takes us on a multi-dimensional adventure, and though its explorations of sexuality and brain anatomy are questionable, the dialogue makes us squirt milk through our noses, the effects are bedazzling, and we find ourselves groping at our foreheads, wondering what depraved horrors that cute little structure is hiding from us.
More on From Beyond (1986) here:
For more on the pineal gland visit:
Yuzna, B. (Producer), Gordon, S. (Director). (1986). From Beyond [Motion picture]. United States: MGM Home Entertainment.