Do you remember when you were a child with an overactive imagination? You saw the world through a lens of curiosity and magic. Nothing was as it seemed. You and your friends played games in which you had different names and identities; maybe you were cats and dogs crawling around the kitchen, maybe you were mermaids exploring the ocean in a pool, maybe you were survivalists living off the land in your backyard — the possibilities were endless. You had dolls, or action figures, or stuffed animals with their own in-depth personalities and complex background stories. And in your head, you were an entirely different person — a celebrity, a superhero, king or queen of the world.
Now you sit in front of a screen, bored out of your mind, in hopes that something — a TV show, a TikTok video, whatever — will bring back that glimpse of excitement you once had as a child. But never again, will you allow yourself to stray so far from reality… because imagination is stupid, weird, immature, illogical, and insane.
In this post, I will be discussing the science behind imagination and how it is directly linked to a specific area of the brain (pineal gland), a specific chemical produced in the body (DMT), and the strength of synapses. I will explain how the loss of imagination is directly related to the loss of plasticity in the brain, a natural process of aging along with the stressor of environmental factors. I will also show how, and why, world leaders have been actively fighting to suppress the power of imagination. And lastly, I will give my best advice for reclaiming your imagination.
The pineal gland
The pineal gland is a small part of the brain that is poorly understood. What’s known for sure is that it plays a role in cardiac rhythm and regulating hormones. And most importantly, it controls how you perceive reality.
This gland produces melatonin, which is responsible for sleep. A lack of melatonin is not only linked to poor sleep, but also heart problems, cancer, irregular menstrual cycles, and brain disorders such as chronic migraines, schizophrenia, and dementia.
Seventeenth-century philosopher, Rene Descartes, claimed that the pineal gland was “the seat of the soul.” Even today, this mysterious gland can be referred to as “the third eye.” And the pineal gland goes much further back in history, all the way to ancient Egypt as it was referred to as “eye of Horus.”
It is not yet completely proven, but extremely likely that the pineal gland is also responsible for producing DMT.
DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine) is commonly referred to as a psychedelic drug that is classified as an illegal, Schedule I currently in the USA. It is made in a lab or extracted from plants that naturally contain high amounts of the chemical. When taken, it is said to produce a complete loss of reality, intense hallucinations, in which one feels like they are dreaming.
Unlike any other psychedelic drug, DMT is said to naturally exist in humans. Many experts believe it is released during sleep (causing dreams) and excessively released during birth and death. Yet still, there is some debate around this.
Very recently, a 2019 study proved that trace amounts of DMT naturally occurs in rats. Not only that, but excess amounts of DMT was proven to be released during cardiac arrest. This study provides further proof that all mammalian brains, including humans, naturally produce DMT.
Loss of imagination with age: changes in the brain
Babies and small children have very different brains compared to adults. In babies, brains are “permeable” or “fluid,” (high plasticity) while an adult’s brain is “solid” and “concrete.”
In contrast to an adult, a baby’s brain has far more synapses and connectivity between different areas of the brain. With age, certain synapses become much stronger while other synapses weaken and die out. And so, an adult’s brain is basically separated into different parts, and all of these parts have minimal interaction with one another. This is what gives adults much more focus and control than a child’s, but also more stubbornness and inability to adapt to change.
Many recent studies have explored brain activity and concluded that an adult’s brain while dreaming (or on psychedelic drugs) draws many parallels to a baby’s brain.
Along with a loss of synapses and neural connection, aging also comes with the deterioration of the pineal gland — known as “calcification.” Being the most vulnerable spot of the brain, the pineal gland has no blood-brain barrier and therefore receives a significant amount of blood. Consequently, it is prone to excessive amounts of fluoride and pesticides found in our food, water, and hygienic products.
It is likely that in the near future, with the further understanding of the pineal gland and DMT, that we will be able to find proof that children have higher amounts of naturally-occurring DMT in their bodies, as well as stronger pineal gland function, compared to adults — which can provide scientific reasoning as to why we lose our imagination with age.
“Why do we lose our imagination with age?” is a commonly asked question — our loss of imagination is commonly blamed on an accumulation of life-experience, the increase of responsibility, a reliance on technology, and the conditioning of logical perception. While all of these factors may partially come into play, I would argue that the answer is more simple than that — that is all comes down to one thing: biological degradation.
Imagination as a threat to society
The so-called “natural” loss of imagination is a travesty. It is our reasoning for the fast-paced, productivity-obsessed, consumerist society that we currently live in. Imagination places us in a space of “being” — while the loss of imagination puts us in a state of “doing.” With age comes the fixation of accomplishment, which can be blamed on everything from war (conquest of land) to climate change (killing the environment through consumerism.) In the grand scheme of things, it is not so extreme to make the statement that imagination saves lives.
There is an active war on imagination. A likely reason for this is that the loss of imagination is the foundation of a capitalist society that forms a corrupt system in which the 1% owns most of the entire world’s wealth.
Proof that imagination is actively being suppressed by world leaders can be shown through the (failed) attempt of suppressing psychedelic research. This is because psychedelics have the power to reverse the biological degradation that is responsible for the loss of imagination.
Out of all the type of drugs that exist, psychedelic drugs seem to be the greatest threat to first-world countries. Think about this: opioids are accountable for 70% of overdoses, yet are classified as Schedule II drugs and commonly prescribed by doctors. On the other hand, psychedelics are classified as Schedule I drugs with no recognized medical benefit.
Psychedelic research took off in the first half of the twentieth century, until it was abruptly prohibited in 1970. While the prohibition of psychedelics for recreational use has liable arguments, there is no logical reason as to why the government put a stop to the scientific research of these substances in lab-controlled environments, conducted by professionals under medical watch.
It was not until 2000, when psychedelic research was lawfully resumed. The start of the millennium brought brilliant insights into psychedelic medicine — a 2014 study proving psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) helps smokers quit, a 2019 study showing psychedelics can treat alcoholism, and studies from 2020 showing that psychedelics “tamp down brain’s ego center” and also works as a treatment for clinical depression.
But what stands out most is the 2021 study titled “Serotonergic Psychedelics in Neural Plasticity.” The study confirms something that many researchers have been proposing for years — that psychedelics can induce neural plasticity by reconnecting neural pathways and synapses that are lost during growth into adulthood. In other words, it brings back the imaginative powers of a child’s brain. And this not temporary, rather long-lasting on the brain.
And remember — DMT is a psychedelic — the only psychedelic in existence that naturally occurs in our bodies.
It’s not too late – bringing back imagination
One can only hope that someday, with the accumulation of enough research, psychedelic medicine will be readily available for all adults. So far, we have recently seen the incorporation of psilocybin and MDMA in therapeutic settings. However, we cannot (nor should we) rely solely on psychedelics to save the day.
There are plenty of ways to decalcify your pineal gland and induce neural plasticity — take supplements such as melatonin and Omega-3s, reduce WiFi and screen time, avoid fluoride products, eat organic, exercise, indirect sunlight, strengthen your immune system to avoid infections, etc.
However, I believe that the most effective way to reclaim your imagination is to activate it with the power of your mind. Just give yourself the permission — permission to dream, to be whoever you want to be, to seek beyond the surface…
Imagination is a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. As you use your imagine (for example — imagine that there’s a dragon right in front of you) you can actually feel part of your brain working extra harder. People equate imagination to stupidity, when it’s just the opposite — it requires great mental strength!
We are conditioned to fear imagination — and that’s because, as stated before, it is the greatest threat to consumerist society, the world leaders, and the 1%. But there is absolutely nothing to fear about imagination when you’re in control.
For example, take hallucinatory disorders such as schizophrenia — a brain disease that is linked to a lack of melatonin. It could be argued that the suppression of imagination leads to these uncontrollable hallucinations. The more you suppress your imagination, the more overpowering it becomes, thus controlling you. In contrary, when you make the choice to actively embrace your imagination, you become the one who is in control.
This post may seem overwhelming, so let me put it all together… Imagination likely comes from a mysterious chemical called DMT, which is produced by the pineal gland. Due to aging and environmental factors, the pineal gland becomes defective and produces less DMT in the body, decreasing the plasticity of the brain as synapses weaken and neural connections break. As imagination decreases, our mind state transforms from a place of “being” to “doing” — the very foundation of a consumerist society that keeps the 1% on top. They tried to suppress psychedelic research, but the truth is slowly coming out that psychedelics have the power to heal the brain and therefore restore imagination. Despite the fate of psychedelics, you have the mental ability to bring back your imagination if you set your mind to it!
4 thoughts on “Science (and Politics) of Imagination | Pineal gland, DMT, and brain health”
The late Terence McKenna thought DMT in “recreational” doses stripped away the mind’s filters, allowing the user to “tune in” to things that would normally fall outside the range of conscious perception.
We do know for sure that the brain constantly edits input and becomes more efficient and practiced at it as we age. That’s why things that fascinate kids might fall beneath the notice of adults. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: That process of editing, of condensing reality down to manageable input, is what separates the typical functioning adult from someone with autism. The fewer filters, the less the mind is able to focus and make sense of the world.
So in many respects our minds are constantly weaving a tapestry from the raw sensory input of our eyes, ears, olfactory receptors, etc., and that tapestry is our subjective experience of reality. Whether or not there’s anything to McKenna’s idea of DMT opening the mind up to signals that are usually blocked is not something that can be answered without experimentation. Someone would have to figure out a way to get people tripping on DMT to stay still in an fMRI machine for starters. That’s an amusing image.
I don’t agree that capitalism is detrimental to creativity. In fact, I think it’s the opposite. It’s easy to criticize capitalism, and much of the criticism is valid, but at the end of the day it’s the best of many imperfect options until we come up with something better. It might not feel that way, but that’s because of our own ignorance as people who have only known capitalism and life in an open society. For 99.999% of human history, human beings have not had the leisure time or resources to engage in creative endeavors.
It’s only been the last 100 years or so that first-world countries have had literacy rates above 90 percent, and the advent of electricity, light bulbs, climate control and leisure time have allowed regular people to pursue creative endeavors like learning musical instruments, painting and sketching, reading for pleasure, tinkering with stuff in the garage, you name it.
Before that, literacy was the exclusive domain of the aristocracy, government officials and monastic orders. You had to be born a noble or join a religious order if you wanted to read and write, or learn an instrument, and even then, you were pretty much restricted to reading the bible, copying it by hand, and playing religious songs. That’s also why so many discoveries in fields like astronomy and medicine were made by Catholic clergy for the better part of 1,500 years — it was only through the church that promising and bright kids could get an education, become literate, and learn things like the nascent scientific method.
These days, for regular people to have a shot at participating in things like art and music, they have to be part of an open society that rewards and encourages innovation and experimentation. It’s not an accident that authoritarian societies are not exactly hotbeds of creativity or invention. DJs aren’t up in the clubs spinning the newest jams out of North Korea, Russia or Saudi Arabia.
Hopefully we continue to evolve and come up with better systems, but as it stands right now, I’ll take the western blend of capitalism with elements of socialism over pure socialism any day. A rising tide lifts all boats, even if some are yachts and some are crappy little inflatables.
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Yes, I have read that about Terence McKenna! I believe he made very valid points in his lifetime, most certainly including his thoughts on DMT.
And yes, it is fact that there are sounds, colors, and so much more in existence that our severely limited brains cannot process. That is accurate about those with autism who have the gift of accessing wider parts of their mind, but consequently the struggle to fit in with the majority of society and the neurotypical’s way of functioning in everyday life.
Terence McKenna’s theory regarding DMT has yet to be scientifically proven, and psychedelic research suppression has not helped… but hopefully, with the trend that we are headed in, humankind will eventually get there. (Very amusing indeed!!! Would love to see that…) Hallucinations — internal projections or uncovering the blindfold to a wider part of reality!?
Capitalism may be the lesser of evils. Of course there are far worse corrupt systems of economics out there. It is not so much capitalism, but the extremity and severity of consumerism. The path we are on is not sustainable — not only for the environment, but for the human psyche. Further conditioning of instant gratification, addiction to novelty, and a constant desire for stimulation is shaping our brains to become more robotic and thus losing touch with our creative forces.
Consumerism at a slower rate would be ideal, but this is a hamster wheel that’s moving faster and faster with time. All industries are understaffed with employers who are overworked and underpaid — because if companies do not cut corners (cutting cost, cutting employers) then they cannot keep up with the pace of the hamster wheel. Employers must decide between exhausted/stressed employees in a thriving business, or satisfied employees in a business that will soon fail because they couldn’t keep up with their competitors. Turnover rates at companies continue to increase, people do not stick with their jobs, because they are fed up with companies cutting corners and buy into the novelty syndrome (“grass is greener on the other side”) that their next job will be different. And as soon as the novelty high wares off, they are onto the next, and it’s a cycle.
The 40-hour work week (at least, 50-60+ for many) does offer great opportunities for one to pursue creative endeavors (like a WordPress blog!) outside of work. But the great struggle is this — going from an environment that requires 100% alertness at all times (work) to going home and attempting to tune that alertness down to at least 90-80%, maybe 50% if you’re lucky. The “on” and “off” switch that our brains our expected to do from work to home is unnatural and nearly impossible. Unwinding from a day of work is incredibly difficult without relying on alcohol or drugs (not recommending that — not judging either…) Jumping back and forth between “doing” and “being” doesn’t work, because we aren’t robots with on/off switches. So, I do think that our way of living severely stunts our creativity and imagination. Having said that — some people are more naturally imaginative than others, and we do still find ways to embrace our creativity — but I still think it’s stunted.
I agree that pure socialism is not ideal — definitely not at this point. We are not evolved enough for that as a whole. We do live in a world full of opportunities which is an incredible blessing — even the “poor” by today’s standards have a vast amount of knowledge and resources that could be equated to the middle age’s definition of “rich.” It’s important not to take that for granted.
Still, the more fixated we become on the material world, the more we lose the magic. Depression and anxiety is at an all-time high and gets worse with time. As humanity we are becoming more possessive, jealous, and greedy, because the line continues to blur between object vs. human. We have become so out of touch with our own feelings and emotions because there’s always something in front of you to distract you from your inner world.
At the very least, we should be striving for more of a balance between the inner world and the outer world.
Thank you so much for reading and for your engagement. I think this is a really interesting topic to discuss. Glad you also found some fascination in this. 🙂
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Are you familiar with Art Bell, the late host of Coast to Coast AM? It was a national radio show that began at midnight, and it would combine open lines with longform interviews of scientists as well as guests who were into things like UFOlogy, the supernatural, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, etc. Art would interview a preeminent scientist like Michio Kaku one night, and the next night talk to an exorcist. It was an interesting blend of guests and topics.
Anyway, Art had Terence McKenna on his show a few times in the 90s, and they discussed DMT and several other interesting topics:
[audio src="https://archive.org/details/TerenceMckennaWithArtBell/TerenceMckennaWithArtBell97-05-22-TimewaveZero.mp3" /]
Here’s one of Terence’s appearances in full, broken down into 3 parts on this Youtube channel. Interestingly, he talks about the effect of DMT and psychedelics on returning the mind to a childlike state:
I agree with you about consumerism, and I especially agree with your point that it is not sustainable. Our economy is almost entirely dependent on consumerism and product lifecycles, with planned obsolescence of expensive tech and the drive to buy, buy, buy.
We tear down irreplaceable jungles to make more palm oil plantations, rendering animals like orangutans extinct, we’ve destroyed 70% of world wildlife, we’re clearing the ocean of marine life and creating vast supercontinents of garbage floating in the ocean, and we have vastly populated countries like China and India that do not abide by any environmental regulations.
It’s sad. We have people who talk about climate change, but I don’t know why anyone doesn’t talk about the destruction of wildlife. Who wants to live on a lonely world with no animals?
When I read the Sonmi-451 chapter of Cloud Atlas when the book came out (2006 I think?), I thought it was dystopian science fiction. I mean, it’s brilliant and exciting but it’s also depressing AF. Now I think it’s our future if we do not find a way to balance human existence with nature.
I also agree with your point about how we tend to self-medicate to get us back to a place where we can engage and be creative.
Indeed, good topic!
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I haven’t heard of those, so thank you for sharing! Excited to check them out!
Destruction of wildlife is the true evil and I do think that’s very peculiar that no one is talking about it… well, no one in the spotlight or world leaders.
I think there is such balance and you can find a way to enhance your imagination while still living in a capitalist society. It’s definitely difficult, and takes a lot of strength, when this world is constantly throwing out distractions and reasons for you to fixate on the external. But anything is possible with your mind.
Thank you again 😄