The Leydig (Lyden) and Pineal Glands
(Posted on: April 29, 2013 by David McMillin)
(Note: In the Cayce readings, the terms Leydig and lyden refer to the same gland. This will be explained below.)
There is a strong biological/physiological dimension to opening the door to higher consciousness. As seen in the video overview for this lesson, in recent decades this has been demonstrated by the use of drugs to alter consciousness. Furthermore, research has been conducted in the field of neuroscience to study the associated physiological processes in the nervous system, most notably in the brain itself.
The Cayce approach to understanding and working with opening the door of consciousness affirms the strong physical aspects while providing a more comprehensive perspective. Yes, the brain and nervous systems of the body (and particularly the “sympathetic nervous system”) are involved in altered consciousness. But the glands (and especially certain endocrine glands identified as “spiritual centers”) are also key components of this process. And in particular the Leydig and pineal glands were cited in the Cayce readings as serving a pivotal role in the opening and closing of the door to higher consciousness at a physical level. These two glands were called the “seat of the soul.”
The Seat Of The Soul
Reading 281-13 was one of the core readings used in the creation of the meditation section created by the first study group. This reading lays out the premise of the Leydig and pineal glands as the “seat of the soul’s dwelling” that is awakened during deep mediation:
As has been given, there are DEFINITE conditions that arise from within the inner man when an individual enters into true or deep meditation. A physical condition happens, a physical activity takes place! … there is the arousing of that stimuli WITHIN the individual that has within it the seat of the soul's dwelling … it rises from the glands known in the body as the lyden, or to the lyden [Leydig] and through the reproductive forces themselves … The spirit and the soul is within its encasement, or its temple within the body of the individual – see? With the arousing then of this image, it rises along that which is known as the Appian Way, or the pineal center, to the base of the BRAIN, that it may be disseminated to those centers that give activity to the whole of the mental and physical being. (281-13)
Note that the activity that is awakened rises from lyden and then passes through the reproductive organs. This is a key point – the lyden gland is not in the reproductive system (in terms of anatomy) but its activity stimulates the reproductive organs (in terms of physiology). We will be coming back to this point later because it is easy to become confused about the location of the Leydig gland and the difference between the Leydig gland and the cells of Leydig. Here is another excerpt that concisely defines the seat of the soul with regard to the Leydig and pineal glands:
… the genitive organism [reproductive system] is as the motor, and the Leydig as a sealed or open door … Hence these may literally be termed, that the pineal and the Leydig are the SEAT of the soul of an entity. (294-142)
In addition to the Leydig and pineal glands being described as a sealed (closed) or open door that are the seat of the soul, note the differentiation between the reproductive system as “motor” and the Leydig that functions like a switch that turns the motor on. As has been noted and will continue to emphasized as we proceed, the Leydig gland is not located in the reproductive system but its activity stimulates or activates the reproductive organs. For now, let’s stay focused on the Leydig and pineal glands as a door within the body that can be opened to allow access to higher states of consciousness, including psychic phenomena:
… the lyden gland, [Leydig] which has within itself that closed door, or open door, as makes for activity through that to the base of the brain, or the PINEAL gland – as is at the base of the brain itself – which opens up for its activities and associations to those other portions of the brain … (294-141)
The lyden, [leydig] or 'closed gland', is the keeper – as it were – of the door, that would loose and let either passion or the miracle be loosed to enable those seeking to find the Open Door, or the Way to find expression in the attributes of the imaginative forces in their manifestation in the sensory forces of a body … (294-140)
The above quotes come from readings for Edgar Cayce (294) to explain his psychic process. Thus we find another aspect of opening the door at the physical level as a means to altered consciousness in service to others.
Edgar Cayce scholar Mark Thurston has pointed out the unique relationship between the Leydig and pineal as a door in consciousness during meditation:
And so, a special relationship exists between the cells of Leydig and the pineal (i.e., between the closed and the open door). The readings suggest that the most effective way to work with meditation is to raise the energy associated with the cells Leydig directly to the level of the pineal temporarily by-passing the other lower centers. That energy then awakens the highest center (associated with the pituitary) and flows back down to cleanse the patterns of consciousness related to the lower centers. (Thurston, 1976, p. 88)
This excerpt very nicely emphasizes the activity of the Leydig and pineal as a door in consciousness that can be opened during meditation. The reference to the “cells of Leydig” when discussing the Leydig gland is actually quite common amongst Cayce scholars and writers. However it is problematic and can be confusing. For instance, Paul Johnson, in his book Edgar Cayce in Context (The Readings: Truth and Fiction), used the common association of the Leydig (lyden) gland with the cells of Leydig as example of how the readings were sometimes mistaken. Johnson’s logic was based on the fact that the cells of Leydig secrete testosterone in males, therefore females would not a have a Leydig gland. There are a couple of fallacies here, but the main one is identifying the Leydig gland as the cells of Leydig. The Leydig gland is not the cells of Leydig. There is an actual Leydig gland. Both males and females have this gland, just as the readings insist. We will cover this in detail in the next section. This is an important point for me, because I don’t like to see the readings criticized based on inaccurate data.
The Leydig (Lyden) Gland
(Q) The leydig gland is the same as that we have called the lyden, and is located in the gonads.
(A) It is in and above, or the activity passes through the gonads. Lyden is the meaning – or the seal, see? while Leydig is the name of the individual who indicated this was the activity. You can call it either of these that you want to. (281-53)
This is a very interesting and important excerpt in our understanding of the Leydig gland and is also fascinating from the standpoint of Edgar Cayce’s psychic process. There are two important aspects to the question cited above: (1) The synonymous meaning of Leydig and lyden; and (2) The location of this gland.
The first question is easy: Yes, both terms (Leydig and lyden) refer to the same gland. And in fact they are used interchangeably in the readings. When the biological or strictly physiological aspect of the gland is emphasized, it is often called the Leydig, in reference to the man who discovered it and its biological function. When the metaphysical or symbolic aspect of the gland is emphasized, the term “lyden” is typically used to signify the “closed” or “sealed” nature of the gland in its normal state. Apparently, in historical times the word lyden meant “sealed” or “shut.”
With regard to the location of this gland, it is a bit more complex. The question itself may have contributed to the confusion. Edgar Cayce’s psychic process was affected by many factors, including the consciousness, intent and understanding of the person asking the question. So the wording and assumptions of the question could bias or influence the answer by Cayce. This effect was described in the readings themselves with the insistence that people pay particular attention to how and why they asked questions.
In the above excerpt the questioner has not only assumed that the terms Leydig and lyden refer to the same gland (a correct assumption), but also that this gland is located in the gonads of the reproductive system (testes in males, ovaries in females). The reply by Cayce appears to try to correct this assumption while also being influenced by it. It seems that the anatomical location of the Leydig gland is above the gonads but its physiological activity is through the gonads. This will require some careful thought and study of other related readings. Let’s begin with the man whose name is associated with the gland.
Franz Von Leydig was a famous and well-respected biologist who discovered the cells of Leydig in 1850 and the Leydig gland in 1892. Let’s be clear: These are two different discoveries of different anatomical and physiological entities. They are not the same, even though some Cayce scholars have interpreted them in that way, as was noted in a previous section.
The cells of Leydig discovered in 1850 by Dr. Leydig are interstitial cells located primarily in the reproductive glands of males and are best known for the production of testosterone, a sex hormone associated with masculinity. Interstitial means that the cells of Leydig are scattered throughout the tissue rather than being grouped together as a unit. So although the cells of Leydig secrete an important hormone (testosterone), properly speaking the cells of Leydig cannot be considered a gland, at least not as we normally define gland.
On the other hand the Leydig gland, discovered in 1892, is a distinct unit of glandular tissue. According to Franz Leydig, the Leydig gland is located in the mesonephros tissue in vertebrates. This places it between the reproductive tract and kidneys. Its function is unknown. Dr. Leydig thought its role was to stimulate movement of spermatozoa. So while the leydig gland is anatomically distinct and separate from the reproductive system, there may be a physiological connection between the leydig gland and the reproductive system (at least in males). This is exactly how the Cayce readings described the anatomy and physiology of the Leydig (lyden) gland. It is separate from the reproductive system anatomically (situated above in location) while its physiological activity (presumably via the chemicals it secretes) affects reproductive functioning.
Leydig's discoveries lay dormant for decades, as it was almost 100 years before medical science began serious research on the cells of Leydig in the 1950s. Now there are hundreds of articles on Medline documenting the functions of these cells. It is certainly understandable why Cayce scholars would have noted this large and growing body of research and drew an association with the readings’ use of the Leydig.
In contrast, the Leydig gland has yet to be rediscovered. When Edgar Cayce spoke of the Leydig or lyden gland, he always called it that – a gland. He never called it the “cells of Leydig.” In one particularly explicit instance, he observed that this gland (which is normally about the size of a small pea) had become engorged to the size of a wren's egg. The person was suffering from schizophrenia.
(Q) What is the lyden [Leydig] gland and where located?
(A) Lyden [Leydig] meaning sealed; that gland from which gestation takes place when a body is created through coition, or inception, through conception of two bodies meeting in creating a body. Located in and above the gland called genital glands, see? In the male, above the glands corresponding to testes. In the female, that above gland responding to testes in the male. Here in THIS particular case, near the size of a wren's egg. Nominally should be about the size of a small pea. (3997-1)
Here are several key points to consider based on this excerpt:
- The lyden/Leydig is a discreet glandular entity, a ball of glandular tissue that is normally about the size of a small pea but had become swollen to the size of a wren’s egg. This description only makes sense in relation to the Leydig gland and not the scattered, interstitial cells of Leydig.
- In the male, the lyden/Leydig gland is located “above the gland called the genital glands.” In the female, the lyden/Leydig is “above gland responding to testes in the male.” So in both cases, the Leydig gland is anatomically above the reproductive system. This is consistent with the anatomical location of the Leydig gland as noted by Franz Leydig.
- Although anatomically above the reproductive system, the physiological activity of the Leydig affects (or is directed to) the reproductive organs in both males and females. This is also consistent with the physiology of the Leydig gland as noted by Franz Leydig. So the gland is above, but its activity passes through the reproductive organs.
From Cayce's perspective, pathology of the Leydig gland was sometimes associated with psychiatric and neurological conditions such as schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder, and epilepsy. Cayce also linked the Leydig gland to psychological and spiritual development and functioning. Hence, opening the sealed or closed door associated with Leydig gland is a powerful and sacred process, that can sometimes result in unpleasant or even pathological (psychiatric/neurological) conditions if the awakening process is becomes distorted.
The Pineal Gland
Like the Leydig gland, the pineal gland is surrounded by mystery. For centuries the pineal has been associated with paranormal phenomena and insanity. Eastern philosophies have tended to view the pineal as an important “chakra” or energy vortex, which, if activated, opened the individual to psychic experiences and cosmic vision. Contemporaneous Western philosophies also attached mystical significance to the pineal:
The ancient Greeks considered the pineal as the seat of the soul, a concept extended by Descartes, who philosophically suggested that this unpaired cerebral structure would serve as an ideal point from which the soul could exercise its somatic functions. Descartes thus attributed to the pineal a prominent function in uniting the immortal soul with the body. Being influenced by this thesis, many 17th and 18th century physicians associated the pineal causally with “madness,” a link that has been uncannily prophetic for the present day. (Miles & Philbrick, 1988, pp. 409-410)
The relatively frequent references to the pineal in the Cayce readings reflect the importance that the readings attached to this gland. During the early decades of the twentieth century when Cayce was giving his readings, the pineal was widely regarded as a vestigial organ of little physiological significance. The readings acknowledged the prevailing view of medical science by describing the pineal as a “mass without apparent functioning” (294-141). However, the readings continued to insist upon the preeminent role of the pineal as a major mediator of physio-spiritual processes. Interestingly, the modern research literature suggests that contemporary views regarding the pineal are rather expansive and tend to support the readings’ insistence that the pineal is much more than a dormant, vestigial organ.
The Pineal System
To fully appreciate Cayce’s perspective of the pineal, it is necessary to discuss the various ways in which the term pineal was used in the readings. Although the term pineal was often used to designate a discrete, glandular entity in the center of the brain (a notion consonant with contemporary views of the pineal), the readings also occasionally spoke of the pineal as if it were a system. This is more than just a problem of semantics, for in the readings the “pineal system” represents the interface of mental and spiritual dimensions within the body—it was described as the body/mind/spirit connection.
When viewed as a system, other terms were often associated with the pineal, such as the “cord of life,” the “silver cord,” the “Appian Way,” and the “imaginative system.” In this context, the pineal seemed to be regarded as a life energy system as well as a glandular entity. This perspective is congruent with certain Eastern religions and occult traditions which emphasize the paranormal aspects of pineal activity by labeling it a major “chakra,” or energy center in the body. In the Cayce readings, the energies associated with the pineal system carry several designations including: “kundalini,” “kundaline,” “life force,” “psychic force,” “aerial activity,” and “creative energy.”
The status of the pineal as a system is established in the readings by noting the diversity and essentiality of its functioning. The pineal system was said to function through nerve impulse (e.g., 2197-1, 4800-1), glandular secretion (e.g., 567-1, 2200-1), and vibratory energies such as the life force or kundalini energy (e.g., 281-53) while mediating numerous processes including fetal growth, sexual development and functioning, and alterations in consciousness. Two brief excerpts from the readings are provided to portray the physiological and psycho-spiritual parameters of the system:
… for the PINEAL center is engorged, especially at the 3rd and 4th LUMBAR and the 1st and 2nd cervical … the mental capacities as related to the imaginative system refuse to coordinate with the rest of the activity of the body … as we have indicated, a constitutional condition, you see, which affects the glands of the body, as related to the pineal—which runs all the way through the system and is the GOVERNING body to the coordinating of the mental and physical. (567-1)
In this particular body [Edgar Cayce] through which this, then, at present is emanating, the gland with its thread known as the pineal gland is the channel along which same then operates, and with the subjugation of the consciousness – physical consciousness – there arises, as it were, a cell from the creative forces within the body to the entrance of the conscious mind, or brain, operating along, or traveling along, that of the thread or cord as when severed separates the physical, the soul, or the spiritual body. (288-29)
These excerpts contain some important examples of the diverse influences attributed to the pineal system. The references to “the gland with its thread known as the pineal” and “the pineal—which runs all the way through the system and is the governing body to the coordinating of the mental and physical” indicate the anatomical expansiveness of this system. The “thread” or “cord” which emanates from the pineal gland may be physical (e.g., nerve tissue), nonphysical (e.g., “vibratorial” or subtle energy), or both. The readings are particularly vague on the subject.
With regard to the pineal as part of the “seat of the soul” (along with Leydig gland), consideration of the pineal as a system makes the relationship between Leydig and pineal even more fascinating and mysterious. The Leydig is within the pineal (i.e., pineal system) as was described in the following explanation of the source of seizures in a case of epilepsy:
(Q) From what part of the body do the [seizure] attacks originate? and why does body lose consciousness during attack?
(A) From the solar plexus to that of the lyden [Leydig] gland, or through the pineal. The lyden [Leydig] is IN the pineal, see? (1001-9)
Fascinating, isn’t it?!
Johnson, K. P. (1998). Edgar Cayce in Context (The Readings: Truth and Fiction). New York: State University of New York Press.
Miles, A. & Philbrick, D. R. (1988). Melatonin and psychiatry. Biological Psychiatry, 23, 405-425.
Study Group # 1. (1992). A Search For God. 34th Printing. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press.
Thurston, M. (1976). Experiments in a Search for God. Virginia Beach, VA: A.R.E. Press.
- The Pineal: For those interested in a more thorough (and scholarly/academic) consideration of the pineal gland, I have extracted an appendix on that topic from one of my books (The Treatment of Schizophrenia). The references for this appendix were in a different section (along with hundreds of other references), so if you need those, you may have to do some searching.
- Silver Cord and Golden Bowl – This resource is based on a reply to a question submitted by a member of the online ASFG study group.