Tag Archives: melatonin

From Beyond, Part 1 – the Pineal Gland

The Resonator from Stuart Gordon’s movie From Beyond (1986)

For the next few articles, the discussion will focus on HPL’s short story From Beyond.  For such a short story HPL crammed a lot of interesting scientific concepts and ideas into it.  Essentially, it is about a man who develops a machine that generates waves (radiation) that stimulates dormant parts of the human brain so we can see what is all around us beyond of five senses; essentially, it allows our dormant senses to see the true nature of the Universe.  Based on HPL the key part of the brain that is stimulated to observe these unperceived parts of the Universe is the pineal gland.

Based on Gray’s Anatomy (my version is a revised American version from the 15th English Edition; 1977), the pineal gland is a small (about the size of a pea), reddish gray body located deep in the brain (see drawing of brain below).

Gray’s Anatomy (Bounty Books, New York; 1977)

While Gray’s Anatomy provides detailed descriptions of bones and organs, it does not tell one what each organ is specifically used for (it’s a book on anatomy, not physiology).  As S.T. Joshi cites in his notes on From Beyond (The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories; Penguin Classics; 2004), HPL may have identified the pineal gland to be the organ of concern in seeing the true nature of the Universe, through the writings of Rene Descartes.  Descartes hypothesized that the pineal gland is the mediator between the material body and the immaterial soul.  However, no empirical evidence has been provided to support Descartes hypothesis.

Given its small size, the function of the pineal gland was not revealed until the 1960’s.  The pineal gland secretes a hormone – melatonin, which regulates sexual development, metabolism, animal hibernation and seasonal breeding.

Location and relative size of the pineal gland (from nabulsi.com)

The gland secretes melatonin in sync with circadian rhythms.  Essentially, more melatonin secreted contributes toward a reduction in sexual thoughts.  Thus, more melatonin is secreted while we sleep, which is why (for the most part) sexual thoughts are generally lower when we sleep.  Also, higher amounts of melatonin is secreted in children relative to adults, which inhibits sexual development in children.  After puberty, the pineal gland shrinks and releases less melatonin (www.wisegeek.org).  Thus, less melatonin is associated with sexual development and an increase in sexual thoughts.

Given the hormonal control of the pineal gland over sexual development, it is understandable why this concept was integrated into Stuart Gordon’s 1986 movie From Beyond.  The movie is loosely based on HPL’s story and, if anything, is sort of a sequel of sorts.  The movie will be discussed in upcoming articles, however, here the point is being made that when one is within the field of waves generated by the machine (in the movie it is called the Resonator), it stimulates your pineal gland and begins to physically and physiologically alter you.  One of these changes is your pineal gland increases in size, primarily through a stalk.  In addition, sexual thoughts and urges substantially increase.

Dr. Katherine McMichaels (actress Barbara Crampton) being affected by the Resonator in Stuart Gordon’s 1986 movie From Beyond. 

Based on what is known about the pineal gland, the  Resonator may have generated a field of waves that completely shuts down the production of melatonin.  However, instead of continuing to shrink in size (as it does in the development from child to adult) it actually increases in size (length-wise) and eventually breaks through the skull.  Is it possible that this wave-induced change in the pineal gland allows it to shut down the production of melatonin, to make way for allowing one to sense or experience the Universe as it really is?

Dr. Crawford Tillingshast (actor Jeffrey Combs) demonstrating the extension of the pineal gland in Stuart Gordon’s 1986 movie From Beyond

I know a lot of people are not thrilled when Mr. Gordon incorporates sexual situations in his HPL-based movies, since sex literally had no place in HPL’s stories.   However, in the case of From Beyond, it was more than justified given the role the pineal gland plays in the regulation of sexual development and behavior.  Next time, we will be discussing the philosophical origins of From Beyond.  Thank you – Fred.