Scholars of Eastern religions recognize the Third Eye as having a long history in India, China, and Asia, where Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism hold sway. Strangely, the Third Eye is ignored by archaeologists of New World cultures, despite extensive evidence of Third Eye symbolism in ancient American artwork. Are the following Third Eye images from the New World (which I´ve researched and collected over the past twenty years) the key to unlocking the religions of the Maya, Olmec, Aztec, Inca, pre-Inca, and other ancient American cultures?
(NOTE: Click on the video below to watch a 5-minute YouTube presentation I created to help explain this discovery of the Third Eye in the ancient Americas. To learn more about this archaeological find, read my 2011 book Written In Stone.)
The “Third Eye” is a mysterious ancient faculty we all possess, according to occult tradition. It gives us the ability to see beyond ordinary sight. Though mystics and adepts speak of the mysterious powers the Third Eye endows us with (i.e., higher consciousness, greater perception, clairvoyance, expanded capacity for self-healing) on a simpler level the Third Eye denotes spiritual insight, providing us with a vision of our inner soul or higher Self, our true eternal being.
Readers familiar with Eastern religions will recall the Third Eye as having a long history in India, China, and Southeast Asia, where the religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism hold sway. The Third Eye is known throughout the Indian sub-continent as the “urna” or “trinetra,” and is often marked by a dot in the middle of the forehead, above and between the eyes.
THIRD EYE IN THE OLD WORLD
Third Eye symbolism in Old World cultures. This “forehead dot,” called “urna” or “trinetra,”
signifies the Third Eye. By closing our two eyes and opening our Third Eye, we see our
higher “Self” or spiritual “soul within.”
During my travels and during my three decades of studying ancient cultures, I have come to realize that the same symbolic Third Eye “forehead dot” present in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism is also abundant in the archaeology of ancient New World civilizations.
This fact has not yet been recognized by scholars of New World cultures.
We find this Third Eye symbolism among cultures that evolved and flourished in present-day Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Panama and even the United States (i.e., the Olmec, Toltec, Maya, Zapotec, Aztec, Inca, pre-Inca, and Mississippian cultures, among others):
This collection of ancient American artifacts, assembled here for the first time in history, indicates that the same Third Eye “forehead dot” that plays such an important role in the religions of the Eastern Hemisphere (i.e., urna and trinetra) is also present in the Western Hemisphere.
Are these New World “forehead dot” images symbolic of the Third Eye?—The same Third Eye known throughout the Old World? If so, then how is this possible, since scholars insist New World cultures evolved separately from their Old World counterparts? Do these examples of Third Eye symbolism in the Americas prove that an ancient worldwide Third Eye tradition once existed?
There is a long history of the Third Eye in the so-called “occult tradition” or “hermetic tradition,” and this tradition teaches that during a long-ago Golden Age our ancestors had a “Third Eye” in the center of their foreheads. As humans evolved, this Third Eye atrophied, becoming the modern “pineal gland,” located precisely in the geometric center of the human brain. Today the Third Eye organ no longer works in our daily lives and must be intentionally “awakened.” This awakening can be achieved through the ancient practice of “Yoga,” a system of holistic health traced to the Indian sub-continent.
A specific type of yoga called “Kundalini Yoga,” virtually unknown in the West, is particularly structured to help seekers awaken the Third Eye and find the “higher Self” or “soul within” (called “Atman” in India). Kundalini is an ancient Sanskrit term denoting the “illumination” or “enlightenment” one experiences during the discovery of the soul:
“This Mechanism, known as Kundalini, is the real cause of all so-called spiritual and psychic phenomena…the secret origin of all esoteric and occult doctrines, the master Key to the unsolved mystery of creation, the inexhaustible source of philosophy, art and science, and the fountainhead of all religious faiths, past, present and future.”
—Dr. Lee Sannella (Physician, Author, Founder of The Kundalini Clinic)
Kundalini Yoga teaches that the Third Eye or “ajna chakra” forms the sixth of seven major energy centers or “chakras” in the human body. The chakras are aligned in ascending order from the base of the spinal column in the pelvis to the top of the head, like seven energy centers that interface between the physical and nonphysical parts of yourself.
The seven chakras of Kundalini Yoga.
All the chakras are connected, from the lowest to the highest, through a central channel called the sushumna, which parallels the spinal column, and which can be thought of as one’s axis mundi or inner soul. Two opposing channels, ida and pingala, run to the left and right of the sushumna but do not connect with the chakras. Ida is the left channel, our physical feminine side. Pingala is the right channel, our physical masculine side. Negatively charged ida ends in the left nostril, and has characteristics of coolness related to the moon. Positively charged pingala ends in the right nostril, and has characteristics of heat related to the sun.
Balancing the two channels in perfect equilibrium activates the sushumna and awakens the Third Eye.
In addition to its presence in Kundalini Yoga, the Third Eye is used extensively in the East, appearing in varied disciplines of Yoga and Ch’an Buddhism as well as martial arts like karate, qigong, and aikido. The idea of the Third Eye, however, is quite foreign to the West. Despite living in the “information age” of globalization, this idea has yet to really cross the cultural divide to our own; it is still treated as something strange and alien, an enigma unique to the Eastern religions.
Why won´t Western scholars or scientists study, analyze, discuss or even mention the Third Eye in their research papers, archaeological investigations or academic studies? Why is the Third Eye never taught in schools? Why are so many of us in the Western Hemisphere oblivious to the deep and powerful roots and meaning of the Third Eye, despite its long and storied history in the Eastern Hemisphere?
These questions become even more pressing when begin to examine the possibility proposed in the present paper—namely, that Third Eye symbolism is present across ancient American cultures. Many examples don´t necessarily depict a “forehead dot,” but nevertheless still express Third Eye symbolism. For example, in Peru the Inca king was often depicted in art with a semi-circular “solar” motif around his head—an illustration, perhaps, of his spiritual Third Eye awakening:
These ceremonial knives called Tumis show human beings crowned with a semi-circular
“solar halo,” which portrays them as being illuminated by the rising sun around their heads.
Left: The entire head is inundated with “solar” (read “spiritual”) light. Right: The same solar
light appears; here there is even a circled dot in place of the Third Eye.
The Inca king also wore a golden orb necklace across his chest, which may have symbolized his knowing or “gnosis” of the “inner sun” or “higher Self” within. Such representations may have implied that sunlight or soul-light resides inside every human being.
Interestingly, the Incas understood the doctrine of duality—the ida and pingala of Kundalini Yoga—believing a totality is comprised of two opposing and contrasting forces locked in equilibrium. They associated the male /pingala “side” with the sun and the female/ida “side” with the moon. Victorian era archaeologist and anthropologist Zelia Nuttall wrote:
“In Peru…a silver image of the moon, associated with the female sovereign, was the complement to the golden effigy of the sun, associated with the Inca [King]…
Two forms of cult prevailed: the Inca lords and warriors were associated with the cult of the Above of which the emblems were golden images of the Creator and of the Sun, “the lord of the day”…
…the silver huaca or image of the moon…was in the figure of a woman and was kept under the charge of women, the reason for this being “that the moon was a woman.”
—Zelia Nuttall, The Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilizations
Like the ancient Hindus, the Incas understood the sun was spiritual and masculine while the moon material and feminine. It was on the basis of this male/female relationship between the sun and moon that the Incas perceived the entire universe as a duality, which they called hanan and hurin. Hanan expressed the Sun, High, Strong, Aggressive, Right, and Masculine. Hurin denoted the Moon, Low, Weak, Passive, Left, and Feminine.
More importantly, the Incas knew that it wasn´t just “duality” that was important; it was the “union” of this duality…the “joining” of these hanan/hurin opposites…that enabled the magic of “balance” and “transcendence” to take place. Author Malena Kuss tells us:
“A more general aspect of Andean sensibility stresses the synthetic joining or fusion of complementary or opposing entities: large/small, male/ female, insider/outsider…human/divinity, hanan (high)/hurin (low), sometimes around a central point or entity…”
—Malena Kuss, Music in Latin America and the Caribbean
This “joining” of “opposites” “sometimes around a central point or entity” precisely parallels the union of ida and pingala in Kundalini Yoga. This is the so-called “alchemical marriage” (to borrow an alchemical term) that stimulates the sushumna and awakens the Third Eye chakra; hence the gold Tumi in the photo above.
It´s interesting to note that in India the word “chakra” derives from the Sanskrit word for “wheel” or “turning” and is linked to the words “vortex” or “whirlpool.” These words all imply first a center point and then, encircling that center point, a periphery—basically, a circle with a dot in the center. This is noteworthy because many depictions of the Third Eye in ancient American art use a “circled dot” chakra as the Third Eye symbol—with a circled dot being the exact shape of an Eye:
Toltec wall frieze depicting matching “halves” that combine to form a single image. Note the
solar/floral forehead emblem, shaped like a circled dot “chakra” in the position of the Third
In these examples, a circled dot marks the Third Eye. In the Toltec wall frieze directly above, “twin halves” of a human body “unite” into a single unified face and head—highlighting not just “duality” but the idea that the “balance” of this duality forms a totality.
Describing this Toltec wall frieze, author and researcher Victor Sanchez wrote:
“… modern humans have denied half of themselves. The indigenous Toltec people of Mexico did not make that mistake. They knew that we are double beings. They knew about the double nature of the world. That is why they call the world Omeyocan, or “the place of duality.” …Those ancient Toltecs were aware of our dual nature and envisioned the integration of the two sides of our being as the goal of human existence…We have lost contact and even awareness of our magical side. In forgetting this, we have lost the source of our power…”
—Victor Sanchez, The Toltec Path of Recapitulation
Like the ancient Hindus, the Maya also believed that the world and everything inside it is made of duality, including our own physical bodies:
“Throughout Maya history the left and right sides of the human body, left/right spatial orientation, and handedness have had important cultural and symbolic meanings… For the Classic Maya, as with contemporary Maya peoples, the right hand or side of the body often signified “pure, powerful, or superordinate,” and the left frequently symbolized “weaker, lame, or subordinate” in particular cultural contexts.”
—Dr. Joel W. Palka, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University
Note the parallel here to the ida and pingala left-side / right-side duality of the Hindus. Incredibly, the Maya too believed that to touch the alchemical gold we must understand and balance this duality; in fact, this was the fundamental “religion” of the Mayan people. This is a truth recognized by scholars. Respected Mayanist Mercedes de la Garza tells us that:
“…the basic concept of the Maya religion (and that of Mesoamerica in general) is harmony of opposites…”
—Mercedes de la Garza, Maya
This idea of “harmony of opposites” is also visible in pre-Inca art and architecture across western South America. In some cases, it was directly related to the Third Eye. In the following examples of Chancay art, two puma bodies on the forehead unite into a single puma face/head:
The body of the puma on the right symbolizes the “right” side of the human body, while the body of the puma on the left symbolizes the “left” side of the human body. The single head of the puma symbolizes the “joining of opposites” and thus the awakened Third Eye.
In some pre-Inca cultures, like the Moche, the Third Eye was depicted as an owl´s face; this is because the owl is an ambivalent symbol, encompassing both sides of the duality and thus symbolizing a “union” or “reconciliation” of the opposites as one:
Three examples of an owl´s face in place of the Third Eye,
from the ancient Moche (Mochica) culture Peru.
Sometimes, Third Eye symbolism in New World cultures takes the shape of a three petal flower or plant, which, in the Old World cultures of Europe is called a fleur-de-lis emblem, as shown below:
Left: Funeral mask with Third Eye dot inside fleur-de-lis symbol. Maya, Tikal. Middle: Zapotec
urn with fleur-de-lis symbol. Right: Fleur-de-lis symbol whose shape—three leaves with the
leaf in the middle taller and wider than the twin leaves flanking it—depicts the “balance of
opposites” and “awakening the Third Eye.”
Here in the images of the Mayan and Zapotec cultures, we see a fleur-de-lis on the forehead, depicted in place of the Third Eye. Inside the fleur-de-lis is a circular symbol, perhaps a chakra. This “fleur-de-lis on the forehead” is not an uncommon theme in pre-Columbian art. As shown below, sometimes the fleur-de-lis takes the form of a corn plant, a motif associated with the Olmec culture. Note how the Olmec artist encodes an ear of corn, or perhaps a pine cone, as the “center” leaf of the Fleur-de-lis.
One of the most interesting and pertinent symbols used to depict the Third Eye is the sun. We see this in Peru especially, as shown in the following Moche art:
Central part of a gold bell depicting a man with an
awakened Third Eye. Moche culture, Peru. Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán.
The Moche may have understood that the Third Eye and the sun are directly linked insofar as the Third Eye “sees” the “soul within” (read “sol within”).
Finally, the Aztec sculpture below shows a direct reference to the Third Eye on the forehead. The symbol is clearly shaped like a giant single eye:
This collection of images forces us to ask some penetrating questions:
Was the Third Eye a “Universal Religion” shared by all New World cultures? Otherwise said, just as the Third Eye has long been at the center of Old World religions in the Eastern Hemisphere (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism), could this same Third Eye have been at the center of New World religions in the Western Hemisphere? If so, then was the Third Eye a kind of “lost Universal Religion” shared globally in Antiquity?
To learn more about the Third Eye in ancient American cultures, read my 2011 book Written In Stone. You can purchase a copy here:
Richard Cassaro’s new book, The Missing Link, explores the meaning, transformations and propagation of the ancient world’s most important religious icon. His first book, Written in Stone, is a wide-ranging exploration of hitherto-unknown connections among Freemasons, medieval cathedral builders and the creators of important ancient monuments, in support of his theory that a spiritually advanced mother culture, lost to history, is behind many of the world’s architectural and artistic traditions.
Prior to the publication of Written in Stone, Cassaro enjoyed a successful career as a U.S. correspondent, professional journalist, and photo researcher for Rizzoli Publications, one of the world’s leading media organizations. Cassaro, who is a graduate of Pace University in New York City, has examined first-hand the ancient ruins and mystical traditions of Egypt, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Sicily, France, England, India, Peru and Spain; he has lectured on his theories to great acclaim in the United States, Egypt, Italy, Spain and Peru.
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