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third eye

third eye A number of yogic traditions from around the world have developed the metaphor of the so-called ‘third eye’. This eye is not usually conceived of as a physical organ, although most forms of yoga will emphasize that all mental and spiritual realities have some kind of physical counterpart. The image is used particularly to refer to certain meditative techniques of self-reflection. The third eye is understood as a spiritual eye which perceives spiritual realities, a seat of intuition. Practically speaking, it can also serve as a metaphor for the relationship between concentration and meditation. The ability to concentrate is often likened to the ability of the eye to stare at a single object for long periods of time. Just as the muscles of the eye can be strengthened through exercise to facilitate vision, so too the capabilities of the third eye can be cultivated and thus its sensitivity and range of perception can be deepened, increased, and augmented. Meditation subsequently involves this strengthened eye watching itself watch itself watch itself, in order to stop identifying with the ego and to identify properly with the true, essential reality of the Self, according to tradition.

Although many attempts have been made over the years, and particularly upon the reception of yoga by the West, to find physical organs corresponding to the spiritual organs of Asian psycho-spiritual systems, no such discoveries have been made with any degree of certitude. The third eye is sometimes associated with either the pineal gland or the hypothalamus, which themselves have been considered the seat of the soul by a number of Western traditions.

Alan Fox


See also pineal gland; yoga.

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Third Eye

Third Eye

The mystical center behind the forehead between the eyes, which is a focus for Oriental mystical meditation. It is known in yoga philosophy as the ajna chakra (center of command) and its activation or opening through meditation is often the preliminary to activation of other chakras. The initial experience of the third eye, the seeming presence of a screen inside the head at the front of the brain, can be had by anyone who simply shuts his eyes and attempts to reach a focus.

The idea of "opening" the third eye is a common one in psychic and metaphysical circles. An interesting variation of the idea is found in the popular book The Third Eye (1956) by T. Lopsang Rampa (pseudonym of Cyril Hoskins). It states that this chakra may be opened by a physical operation. Rampa's story was a hoax and the operation complete fiction. No such operation is featured in Hindu or Tibetan mysticism (or any other system of occult thought) and it must be regarded as an imaginative fantasy.

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Third eye

Third eye (divine-seeing eye in Hinduism): see DYOYA-DṚṢṬI.

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