The Magic And Power Of Darkness – Part 2

Posted by: michael  :  Category: Factors affecting Brain Health

So what is it about darkness that makes it both magic and powerful?

To further our discussion, let me try and define those terms:
The magic of darkness is that it can produce an altered state of consciousness. In effect, it can take your mind and body to another ‘world’ – a world of higher consciousness.
The power of darkness is that it can bring about profound and, if it is sustained, lasting changes in the structure of the brain.

The magic of darkness
As you know I have a long-standing interest in Tao and I mention Taoism here because it helps me illustrate the magic of darkness. Let’s go find a cave.

You see, in the Taoist tradition caves contain the vital essence of earth power. So entering a cave is equated with returning to the womb and nature’s original darkness.

I have previously referred to the creative intelligence that flows through and connects everything in the universe. So returning to the ‘cave womb’ enhances your ability to connect with and conduct the universal creative intelligence – the pure spirit.

Enhancing the connection and flow of universal energy through your body and mind causes the stimulation of what are sometimes  called the ‘cosmic glands’ – the pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus – to secrete certain chemicals that appear to precipitate an altered state consciousness.  

The Pineal is the key…
The gland of most interest is the pineal. Psychedelic chemicals that occur naturally in the brain include 5 MeO DMT, DMT and Pinoline. We should also include melatonin, although that acts more as a foundation by soothing the way to higher consciousness. The production of these powerful chemicals is facilitated by the pineal gland.

The positive effects of 5 MeO DNT are reported to include: non-visual visions, spirituality, sensual and erotic feelings, insight and enhanced intuition, and perceptions of timelessness  Pinoline is said to create the sleeping and dreaming state of consciousness and so give rise to psychic experiences.  

Wow! What causes all this to happen? Darkness. While the ‘power’ of the magic is multiplied by being in a cave, I believe the same effect can be achieved through meditation in the dark.

No wonder the Phantom wanted Christine to immerse herself in his composition “The Music Of The Night”

The power of darkness
Well, it’s back to earth for this section. We have seen that darkness depresses the cognitive functions of the brain such as reasoning and judgement as the production of the ‘psychedelic’ chemicals leads us to an altered state of consciousness.

But what if the darkness is more than just being in a cave or blindfold for a few days? Suppose we had total loss of vision which we can equate with total darkness.

Questions we need to ask include:

  • Which senses, if any, act to help compensate for vision loss?
  • Does the visual cortex have additional resources it can call on in such a situation as total vision loss?
  • If other senses are heightened, is it because new connections are made in the brain?
  • If so, does that happen quickly or progressively over time?
  • If vision was restored what would happen?

What do we know so far? Well, researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that in loss of vision the visual cortex becomes very active in response to touch. The studies also suggested that the speed with which the changes occurred implied latent abilities in the visual cortex that come to the surface when needed.

The results further suggest that if the circumstances (loss of vision) are sustained the changes can eventually lead to permanent structural alterations in the brain. In other words the brain will reorganise itself functionally.

Other studies have found that blind persons when walking along a corridor with windows can detect even small changes in temperature and sense the difference between echoes from walls and windows.

Research at the Harvard Medical School observed that study participants who were blindfolded were superior at learning Braille than their non-blindfolded counterparts.  This implies  they found an enhanced tactile function in the blinfolded subjects.

I have been unable to find research that conclusively supports the notion that blind persons have heightened sense of smell. In fact, I found two studies that suggested little or no difference in smell senstivity between blind and sighted persons. However, a common observation was that blind persons made a more concerted effort to identify smells.

More sensitive hearing, touching and possibly smelling…
It is reasonable to assume that with total loss of vision the brain will act to reorganise itself. Senses such as sound, touch are heightened and may be smell too. It is not entirely clear whether those abilities are innate. In other words are they already wired in the brain and waiting to be called up. An alternative view is that the loss of vision creates new nerve cells and connections in the brain. Maybe the answer is yes to both depending of the timeframe.

Interestingly, some people who go blind report they found that heightened senses developed over time. Nothing immediately switched on. It was as though they had to learn to be more alert to sounds, more sensitive to smells and more conscious of touch. In general, become more aware of their environment. That experience is not entirely consistent with some of the research results.

Quickly and over time…
That said, adaptive changes have been shown in research studies to occur quickly but only sustained after a more prolonged period of time. That implies that if sight was restored after a few days of darkness the state of the senses prior to the event would be returned. On the other hand, if vision was restored after say several years the person involved may need to relearn some aspects of seeing.  
In some regards I feel I haven’t done justice to this absorbing topic. But I hope I’ve done enough to whet your appetite – made you hungry to find out more.

Here again are my definitions:

The magic of darkness is that it can produce an altered state of consciousness. In effect, it can take your mind and body to another ‘world’ – a world of higher consciousness.
The power of darkness is that it can bring about profound and, and if it is sustained, lasting changes in the structure of the brain.

I have to say it’s the magic that turns me on! How about you?

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