The Third Ventricle: The Temple of the Soul

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By: Joyce A. Kovelman, Ph.D., and Hoang Van Duc, M.D.
Eastern mystics tell us that the Mind dwells within the heart. Mystics and luminaries  of all ages and traditions under-stood “Mind” as the Soul essence of humankind. These ancient visionaries also recognized  two hearts within each human being. The first is the heart that resides in the chest, known in the East as the bleeding, beating heart. This is the heart that nourishes and sustains the body and the brain according to the understanding of Western science.

But this is not the “True Heart” of enlightened mystics. Rather, the “True Heart” is said to exist first within other realms beyond the brain and beyond the limits of space and time. The True Heart must be approached through the brain’s third ventricle, a  vast  system of fluids, cisterns and forces that serves to unite each individual with its Soul and Creator.
The third ventricle strategically sits between the higher centers of cognition, emotion, and integration, and the more vegetative, housekeeping centers below. It serves as gateway to other ways of knowing and perceiving ourselves, our world and our reality. The concept of higher and lower levels, each influencing the other, creating a nested, interpenetrating holoarchy of awareness and understanding, is found in most  spiritual traditions including the seven chakras of Yogic traditions, the ten Sephirot of Jacob’s Ladder in Jewish mysticism, the seven Gardens of the Alam-al-mithal of the Sufi tradition, Dante’s levels of Purgatory, and the Great Chain of Being recognized in Eastern disciplines.  More recently, Wilber’s “Spectrum of Consciousness,” Kohlberg’s developmental levels of ethical behavior, and Beck’s “Spiral Dynamics” have introduced modern versions of the Great Chain of Being. All these spectra of awareness  come together in the teachings of the “True Heart.”
The third ventricle is a gateway to the deepest levels of human knowing and under-standing.  We must open our “True Heart” to discover how to be fully human and how to co-create with one’s soul and the universe.  

The reptilian brain, the oldest, serves to keep us alive through vegetative and autonomic functions such as  eating, breathing, heart rate, response to threat and aggression, everyday behaviors to which we give little conscious concern or thought. The limbic brain (Paleomammalian) is the emotional brain that exquisitely reflects who we are in the depths of our being. Our understanding and perceptions are elegantly and faithfully translated into the many complex experiences and events that unfold during our daily lives. Perception takes place in the cerebral cortex (neomammalian), the highest seat of learning according to Western science. In Eastern circles, the highest seat of learning, the seat of enlightenment and compassion, occurs centrally within the third ventricle region and is deemed superior to objective, rational constructs of thinking.

The cerebral cortex of Western science is seen as most recently evolved. It is usually subdivided into four lobes or quadrants based upon anatomical structure and function.

The forward region is the frontal lobe which serves movement, speaking and a sense of identity. It allows each of us to be especially aware in a logical, rational and symbolic way.  The temporal lobe, on the lower sides of the brain, subserves hearing, memory and comprehensive speech.  When injured or damaged, the temporal lobe is prone to seizures and epilepsy.  This region seems to be involved in déjà vu experiences,  hallucinations and intense imagery.  It may also be a place where spirit speaks to us more directly and often bestows gifts of great vision to those who are able to “see and hear” in these more rarified realms of awareness.

The upper lateral aspect of each hemisphere of the brain, known as the parietal lobe, is an area that integrates and blends sensations and information received from the rest of the nervous system. The parietal lobe allows us to imagine, see, name and create the symbol of a “table” from its many separate components, granting us the ability to perceive more than the sum of its parts.  

The fourth is the occipital lobe, the seat of sight and vision. Western neuroscientists tell us that each half of the brain responds to slightly different information.  The left hemisphere of the brain is the cognitive, logical, abstract and thinking brain, whereas the right hemisphere is the region where feeling, intuition, the arts, music, and sensuality are expressed. The infinite levels and understandings of differing aspects of the human brain, along with the exquisite sensitivity and complex, harmonious interplay of each aspect with every other facet creates a remarkable tapestry of symbols and a cacophony of impressions that is nothing less than extraordinary, astonishing, and miraculous.  
A major difference between Eastern and Western understanding of brain and awareness revolves around the idea of Consciousness.  Most spiritual traditions up until the last three hundred years have believed that Consciousness, i.e., a Source or Creator, is primary.  Consciousness exists necessarily and it is Consciousness which gives rise to matter. Western science considers matter to be the source of consciousness, arising with birth and ending upon death. No more dissimilar cosmologies exist and this has caused much confusion and misunderstanding between Eastern and Western schools of thought.  The Perennial Philosophy, found in spiritual disciplines in all regions of Earth, supports the notion that Consciousness is primary.  This article also adheres to the tenets of the Perennial Philosophy, acknowledging that Consciousness is the creator of All of Existence.

Let us now look at the ventricular system which is a vast, complex reservoir filled with cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that bathes and surrounds the entire central nervous system (Figure 2). CSF is produced by the choroid plexus, a thin sheet of tissue found only in the four ventricles.  CSF prevents the brain, which weighs approximately 1500 grams in an adult, from collapsing upon itself and from harm due to impact or injury. The brain floats effortlessly in the CSF much as a fetus dwells in the amniotic fluid of its mother’s womb. Similarly, the planets, stars and galaxies float in space, as is each being enveloped within the Spirit and Oneness of All, eternally immersed in the underground stream of existence from which we come and to which we return.
The third ventricle sits in the center of the brain, connecting cognitive, thinking aspects with emotional centers that make us truly human, and with the  housekeeping functions of the brain stem that prepare and sustain the body for daily existence (refer to Figure 3).  

In essence, our Third Ventricle connects mind, body and spirit to make us complete and fully integrated beings.  How we think, believe and perceive will determine whether we live in harmony with nature and with each other. The location of the Third Ventricle behind the sixth chakra, known as the Third Eye, tells us of its extreme importance.  Indeed, the Third Ventricle truly connects Heaven and Earth, the manifest and unmanifest, as well as inner and outer realities, to forge a truly remarkable cosmology and worldview.  It is much like the concept of complementarity embodied in the Chinese symbol of Yin and Yang. Each contains a bit of the other in the eternal dance of creation and annihilation and as a reminder: “As Above, So Below.”  In this way, the soul essence and “True Heart” nurtures the brain and body. How we feel, whether we choose to love or hate, is translated into our personality and worldview by the emotion we generate each moment. The “True Heart” of spirit, in concert with the bleeding and beating heart of our body, keeps us ever alive and grants us the ability to connect with the deeper recesses and dimensions of soul.  Our “True Heart” enables us to grow, to learn, to change and to create ourselves and our world anew.

Because the brain houses the “True Heart,” it is a biologically privileged organ. It is the first to receive newly oxygenated blood from the beating heart by way of The Circle of Willis, and is the main organ granted precious supplies of glucose with which to quench its thirst for energy. Moreover, CSF returns and recycles blood back to the beating heart through the subarachnoid spaces of brain and spinal cord. It serves as an important  defense and one of the first places where nervous system pathology is revealed.

Remarkably, CSF is the purest and most rarefied of fluids, containing only electrolytes and a few small molecules.  Although it resembles an ultrafiltrate of blood serum or plasma, its density is considerably lower because it does not transport cell elements or large proteins as does the cardiovascular system.  Pure CSF interpenetrates, caresses, embraces and nourishes the entire central nervous system, allowing us to transcend daily life and open to a higher consciousness, if we but choose.  

In both Eastern and Western science, the thoughts and feelings we hold and generate create an ever-changing reservoir of emotions and experiences that color and influence the events of daily life.  Grief, fear, anger, even gratification of senses and worry have very different locations in the brain than do feelings of love, joy, compassion and healing. Only in the last few years has Western psychology shown interest in the positive emotions that provide meaning, purpose and a host of beneficial personal and social repercussions.  Recent studies reveal that the overall balance of negative emotions (anxiety, sadness, anger, guilt and shame) and experiences of positive emotions  (joy, gratefulness, courage, empathy, self-respect, and love) contribute to each person’s sense of well-being, contentment, and state of health. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson,1 a pioneer in research on positive emotions, tells us that we should cultivate positive emotions not just as end-states in themselves, but also as a means to achieving psychological and physical health. Her “broaden-and-build” theory suggests that efforts to discover and implement ways to cultivate positive emotions in ourselves and others hold the key to designing a life-enhancing future for our world. This, too, is the intent and purpose of the “True Heart.”
We are the ones who choose how to hear, to see, to interpret and to respond to the world, both inner and outer.  If we close our “True Heart” to love, we dim our spiritual evolution and regress to lower levels of being in the world. Whenever we risk, grow and open to what is, rather than what should or must be, we begin to reach the heights humanity is capable of achieving and realizing. The need to  attune ourselves to the nobler attributes of love, compassion, and harmony has never been more imperative than in our present world.  We stand at a dangerous precipice and the very survival of humankind awaits the choices we each make. Will we open and reconnect to Source through the “True Heart” of the Spirit? Will we learn to increase the vibrations of the CSF in the third ventricle of our brain so that we may grow in wisdom and compassion?  Will we do so in time?  Only a change of heart and mind can heal humankind and offer us the wisdom to heal ourselves and our planet.   

1. Fredrickson, Barbara, “Joy and Love Genetically Encoded” in Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology, September, 2001, pp. 22-23.    

Illustration References:
Figure 1. The Triune Brain, Mac Lean, Paul A. in Restak, R. “The Brain” Bantam Books, New York, 1984, pp. 136-137
Figure 2. Ventricles of the Brain, Netter, Frank H, “CIBA Collection of Medical Illustrations,” Vol.1: Nervous System, Ciba Pharmaceuticals, Summit, NJ, 1980, p. 46
Figure 3. Meditation and Contemplation of the “True Heart,” Hoang Quy Luat, Liege, Belgium, 1983

Note: A special acupressure of the head, known as “The Mirror of the Spirit-Soul” which gradually leads to the awareness/consciousness of the Temple of the Cosmic Spirit-Soul was developed during the last century by Mr. Do Thuan Hau (1887-1966) in Vietnam and by Mr. Luong Si Hang, his disciple. For more information about this exercise, please contact  the Unity and Diversity Fellowship at (310) 577-1968.

Hoang Van Duc, MD, ScD is a clinical professor of theoretical pathology at the Keck School of Medicine U-So.Cal. and a minister at the Unity-and-Diversity Fellowship. In 1980 he initiated his teaching program of Attitudinal Immunology. He lectures worldwide.

Dr. Kovelman holds PhD’s in both anatomy and psychology with a post-doctoral fellowship in Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychiatry and has taught at the Medical School at U.C.L.A.   Presently she is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Chatsworth, California. She is the author of two books. See

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