A Psychonaut's Monolog

Office Kitaoka Inc.
Vol 002: 2018.4.24

"A Psychonaut's Monolog" Online Newsletter

Guhen Kitaoka, as a psychonaut who is versed both in Western psychology
and in Eastern philosophy, expounds "An Integral Epistemology for Enlightenment,"
as a new methodology for perpetuating the ultimate state of human consciousness.

"Isolation Tank, Amygdala, and Hermes Trismegistus"

Latest Info #1: The new online newsletter written by Guhen has begun to be published. This is the second edition of the newsletter, which is published simultaneously with the first issue. Please refer to the #1 issue for the background of this article.

Latest Info #2: The current article is a translation of the original essay in Japanese published on 7th January 2017 at:

Recently, I gave a private life coaching session to one of my executive clients, in Okayama City, and took advantage of this opportunity to use the "isolation tank" managed by a psychiatric clinic in the city.

(With regard to what an "isolation tank" is, please refer to the following Wikipedia page:

The following picture shows myself besides the isolation tank (

During the experience of "sensory deprivation" I had in the tank during ninety minutes, I had a series of "hypnagogic" images and felt that some kind of "somatic purification" was happening to my paralyzed left hand (due to cerebral palsy I got when I was 4 months old), whose tension was being released.

This time, I had all the more interesting experiences in the tank, because my purpose of using the tank for this occasion was, in particular, to ascertain what would happen if the "amygdalae," which I had lately been interested in studying, were relaxed in the tank, as well as what would happen if I applied the techniques I myself had lately developed to myself in the very state of sensory deprivation.

Actually, the reason why I wanted to use an isolation tank this time - I had used isolation tanks a number of times in the past, while the tank in Okayama was of the same latest model as the tank I had used in London several years before - was that I had been reading the book "Hermes Trismegistus," written by Gary Lachman, an occult writer - who is practically a protege of Colin Wilson - whom I have been recently often referring to, and that, when I came across the paragraphs in the book quoted below, I was quite intrigued by the "old brain" discussed by Lachman. I thus decided to want to activate my own old brain while being inside an isolation tank, though the old brain referred to by him may not exactly correspond with the amygdalae.

(Hermes is a mythical figure who is often equated with Thoth of Atlantis, and is supposed to have been the author of "Emerald Tablet", an esoteric and mystic book, while his esotericism seems to have universal importance. According to Lahchman, if the medieval popes had been a little more "occult" oriented, Hermes' teachings could have been incorporated into Christianity. Historically, the teachings of Hermes after all came to be rejected both by science and religion (i.e., Christianity), though Lachman seems to claim that the incorporation of the Hermes-like esoteric elements into human consciousness will be indispensable, if it is to start to be able to make "spiral" development.)

The following quotations are made from "Hermes Trismegistus," which are quite long:

"The notion of seeing clear, distinct, independent images as one is waking up is related to the phenomenon of hypnagogic imagery, which occurs during a brief, visionary state we all pass through as we fall asleep at night and as we wake in the morning. It occurs in that twilit intermediary state between sleeping and waking, and in different ways, visionary thinkers such as Swedenborg, Rudolf Steiner, and Carl Jung, among others, have explored this strange in-between state of consciousness. (...)

"The most exhaustive study of hypnagogic states is 'Hypnagogia' by Andreas Mavromatis, published in 1987. (...) The simplest way to describe hypnagogic states is to say that they are a kind of dreaming while awake. Although clearly related, they should be distinguished from 'lucid dreams,' which we can describe as 'waking while dreaming.' They are most closely associated with the intermediary state between sleeping and waking, but Mavromatis makes clear that hypnagogic states can be induced voluntarily, through conscious relaxation. (...)

"Mavromatis argues that hypnagogia is linked to the sub-cortical structures of the brain, which are known collectively as the 'old brain.' During hypnagogic states, he suggests that the usually dominant neocortex - the evolutionarily recent and specifically 'human' part of the brain - is inhibited, and much older structures, such as the reticular brainstem core, hippocampus, medulla oblongata, and thalamus 'take over.' Cortical brain activity is associated with clear, logical thought and the perception of well-defined 'external' world. When such activity is inhibited during sleep or in states of deep relaxation, the older brain structures dominate. These structures are more attuned to inner experience and to a 'pre-logical' form of thought that uses imagery, symbols, and analogy rather than language and clearly defined concepts. (...)

"In describing hypnagogic states as 'dreaming while awake', Mavromatis associates them with the Fourth State of Tantric Yoga, the 'half-dream state', in which all of the states of consciousness - waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep - 'intersect.' (...) The Thalamus, which Mavromatis suggests is the center of consciousness and the probable source of hypnagogic phenomena, is anatomically linked to the 'reptilian brain,' limbic system, and the cerebral hemispheres, the three 'houses' of the triune human brain. (...) Each of the three brains, Mavromatis argues, has a consciousness and 'logic' of its own, and he suggests that the consciousness of one brain would appear rather strange to another. What happens in hypnagogia is that the dominance of the cortex (...) is inhibited, either through sleep or deep relaxation, allowing the consciousness of the other 'brains' to emerge. As cortical consciousness 'shuts off' fairly quickly as we fall asleep - 'falling asleep' is cortical consciousness 'shutting off' - we pass into these other forms of consciousness without noticing them. This is because 'we,' our conscious, observing egos, are associated with cortical consciousness, and if 'we' are not there, there is no 'one' to observe them. Yet, if a minimal level of cortical arousal can be maintained, then the 'consciousness' of the old brain can be observed. This is exactly what Tantric exercises concerned with the 'Fourth State' aim at, but it is also what consciously induced hypnagogic states try to achieve. (...)

"As Mavromatis makes clear, in meditative states the thalamus and other 'old brain' structures are active, while enough attention is maintained to prevent the practitioner from falling asleep. The new brain, as it were, 'shuts down' enough for the old brain to 'turn on,' but stays 'on' just enough to observe the old brain's consciousness. We can say, then, that in hypnagogia, one brain 'watches' another.

"I should point out that Mavromatis sees that thalamus as important for another reason as well. This is because the pineal gland is located within it. The function of this tiny organ is still something of a mystery. Famously, the philosopher Descartes believed it was the physical 'seat of the soul,' a hypothesis that earned Descartes some criticism. Yet modern neuroscience and ancient wisdom suggests that Descartes may not have been far from the mark. The pineal gland is very old, dating back as far as the Devonian and Silurian periods, roughly from 450 to 350 million years ago. One of its earliest functions was a kind of eye located in the top of the head of primitive reptiles. In some contemporary vertebrates, including humans, the pineal gland is still photosensitive, and in humans the early 'pineal eye' appears in the initial stages of life. It soon disappears, but the associated gland remains, and it too is sensitive to light. In mammals, the pineal gland produces the amino acid melatonin, which is important in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. (...)

"One curious fact about melatonin is that an excess of light and stress tends to inhibit its production, and this in turn affects the size of the pineal gland, making it smaller. The opposite effect is achieved through darkness and relaxation; these increase melatonin production and pineal gland's overall activity. As anyone who has taken melatonin as a supplement knows, it can have a relaxing effect on the nervous system, and this suggests a kind of positive feedback loop between melatonin production and the state most conductive to it. Relaxation increases melatonin production, which in turn produces deeper relaxation, which results in more melatonin, and so on. This is some hard neurological evidence for the mystic's appreciation of calm and darkness, and why the poets traditionally favor the night.

"It is also neurological evidence for the ancient Hindu idea of the 'third eye.' The pineal gland is located exactly where this source of visionary insight is supposed to lie, suggesting that Descartes may have closer to pinpointing the 'seat of the soul' than his critics believed. Opening the 'third eye' results in 'spiritual vision' and 'enlightenment,' which may be a way of expressing the connection between melatonin production and its affect on neurotransmitters.

"Mavromatis notes the strong link between the pineal gland and the 'third eye,' but he also suggests that the intersection of the old and new brain structures that he believes is responsible for the visionary states associated with hypnagogia, is reminiscent of the symbolism of the Hermetic caduceus. Opening the 'third eye' symbolizes the reawakening of the ancient spiritual vision, once available to man, but 'temporarily (for some millions of years, that is) lost due to an evolutionarily necessary descent into matter, to be regained in due course at a higher level.' (...)

"That hypnagogia is produced by a 'return' to earlier forms of consciousness, housed in the 'old brain,' gives new meaning to the notion of 'ancient wisdom.' Curiously, Mavromatis remarks on the 'spiral fashion' in which this is achieved, with the older forms of consciousness being observed by the newer, 'cortical' consciousness, and in turn producing a consciousness that 'transcends' both. (...) This 'spiral' motif seems to have strong connection to Hermetic ideas, linked to the snakes of the caduceus, and also to the Ouroboros."

Regarding the above quotations, I have the following comments:

1) According to Drunvalo Melchizedek (e.g., "Flower of Life"), etc., the ancient Atlantic people used to take "Prana (Qi)" into their body through their pineal gland. It is said that the pineal gland has been atrophied in human beings since they stopped the archaic breathing method, and began to adopt the pneumatic breathing method through lungs.

2) The contents of the above quotations are consistent with my own recent research on the amygdalae. Actually, I had already read Mavromatis' "Hypnagogia" sometime before, but, at that time, I was not that much interested in the amygdalae (the "old brain"). It was through Lachman's observations in the book in question that I came to recognize anew that Mavromatis had already been indicating almost the same thing in 1987 as my own discovery I have made in my recent research.

3) I personally was "astonished" by the fact that the model of "spiral transcendence" mentioned at the last part of the above quotations is indicating almost the same thing as the theme of my recent work of "spiral dialectical integration" between the phenomenal world and the spiritual world.

Be that as it may, "researchers of consciousness" seem, without exception, to be inclined to emphasize almost the same theme, whether it is related to the "mechanism in which the old brain comes to dominate when the new brain shuts down" or to the "spiral transcendence of human consciousness."

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