Trepanation The Way To Higher Consciousness


Trepanation. The Way To Higher Consciousness? Essay, Research Paper

Throughout the history of the human race, mankind has been locked in a

constant struggle with its own limitations and imperfections. Bound by norms and

social stratification, civilization has molded itself into a conformist society. The

same society that looks upon radical medicinal practices and alternative ways of

thinking with disdain. One medical custom met with great opposition from most

cultures is that of trepanation. Elaborated in this text will be the history, truths and

falsehoods, popular views, and clinical documentation of the practice of

trepanation and reasons behind the use of this type of surgery.

Trepanation is one of the earliest surgical operations known. There is

ample evidence to show that it was practiced by primitive man in prehistoric times.

The scraping of a hole in the cranium by ancient man was probably carried out

with the intention of relieving pains in the head or curing epilepsy, and at the same

time providing an exit for an evil spirit to escape from. Recently, archaeologists

have discovered a 7,000-year-old burial site at Ensisheim, in the French region of

Alsace. At this site is the earliest evidence of trepanation. The burial contains the

well-preserved skeleton of a man, who died at roughly 50 years of age, as well as

an arrowhead and an adze typically dated to 5100-4900 BC, a date corroborated

by a radiocarbon sample from the bone. Two trepanations had been carried out on

this man. One toward the front of the skull, measuring 2.6 by 2.4 inches, had

healed completely. The second had only partially healed, probably because of its

enormous size(3.7 by 3.6inches). The larger trepanation appears to have been

produced by intersecting incisions, and the smaller one may have been made in the

same way. The long-term healing evident from the bone indicates the operations

were successful. (Walker, 2-8)

In the western hemisphere, trepanning was practiced at an early period by

the ancient Incas of Peru, who performed it with great dexterity. Scientists have

found that 5 to 6 percent of the ancient skulls excavated in Peru show that

trepanning was resorted to for therapeutic reasons. The Incas preferred square

openings, and the operation is still practiced by native medicine men among some

tribes in South America in much the same manner as it was carried out in ancient

times. The patient’s head was held tightly between the surgeon’s knees; the patient

reclining and the doctor sitting. An incision was then made in the scalp and a

section of bone, approximately an inch square, removed from the skull. The

instrument employed was a sharp piece of flint or hardened copper with a rough

edge, which was used by rubbing the edge backwards and forwards along the

bone. (Thompson 23)

In western civilization we find that trepanning was practiced freely in the

time of Hippocrates (c. 400 B.C.). The instruments employed by the early Greek

surgeons varied, and included the trerbra, or drill, chiefly used for making a circle

of holes around the depressed bone, which was operated by a thong around the

centre or on a cross beam. For the same purpose, the trepanon, operated by a bow,

like a drill, was sometimes employed to make the perforations, and the interspaces

between each hole were broken up by the scalpel so that the roundel of bone could

be removed. (Haeger, 14-15)

The first innovation in what we now know as the modern trepan was

introduced towards the end of the 16th century, when in 1575 Matthia Barvatio

invented a mechanical instrument which was operated by a cog wheel turned by

the hand. This was connected with another wheel, which when rotated actuated a

circular saw which cut into the bone. This device ultimately turned out to be too

heavy and clumsly to be used skillfully. (Haeger, 16)

Towards the close of the 19th century, there was a return to some of the

earlier types of instruments. In 1889, the trepan was introduced as a mechanical

rotatory trephine. Mechanical drill-stocks also came to be used with drills or

trephines. Several years later, the trepan was introduced with a crutch shaped

handle, but since that time no marked change appears to have been made in this

instrument employed on the cranium. (Haeger, 17)

In today’s context, most trepanations are carried out for the sake of attaining

a higher level of consciousness. For the most part, a Dutch medical scientist

named Bart Huges can be cited for the resurgence of trepanation in modern

society. In 1962, the physiology underlying consciousness was brought to light by

Huges. The breakthrough in understanding concerned the fact that the level of

consciousness is dependent on the total quantity of blood in the capillaries of the

brain; when that quantity is increased, the result is accelerated brain metabolism

and therefore an enhanced level of neurological functioning. However, three basic

factors – the force of gravity, the relative density of blood compared to water, and

the imprisonment of the brain in a case of bone – cause a problem for man in his

upright position. This problem is a shortage of blood in the brain capillaries which

necessitates permanent repression from function of most of the brain, symptoms of

which appear throughout human behavior. The solution is to increase the brain’s

blood volume. This can be brought about by trepanation; an adult’s ‘brain-blood

floor’ can be raised permanently to the level it was at during childhood and youth

when cranial sutures had not permanently closed yet. (Hughes, 42-50)

Methods of enhancing consciousness are as old as man. What is new is the

explanation of how they work; i.e. the description of the physiological mechanism

behind the experience. The question as to whether the brain pulsates when the

skull is completely closed and fully ossified, as it is known to do in open skulls, is

one of the fundamental problems in the study of cerebral blood circulation. This

question is of prime importance because those who have been trepanned state that

the pulsing of blood to the brain from the circulatory system is critical for attaining

a higher consciousness. (Sokoloff, 66)

Brain pulsation is clearly visible in the infant child. The soft tissue on the

top of the head known as the fontanel rises and falls with the beating heart. This

expansion and contraction on the heartbeat does not threaten the infant’s good

health. However, within the first few months of life this tissue hardens into skull

bone. The visual evidence that the heart beat still reaches into the brain vanishes

before our eyes. Still the infant’s good health is unaffected. But does the heart

pulsation (also known as cardiac rhythm) continue to exist inside the skull even if

it can’t be seen? This is an important question scientists have posed.

The first views on the causes of cerebral pulsations may be found in the

works of Galen (131-201 A.D.) whose observations were based on observations in

animals. He suggested that brain pulsations were directly related to the respiratory

rhythm, and were due to seepage of air into the cerebral ventricles through the

cribriform plate. He also considered brain pulsations to be possible because of the

existence of a vacuum between the cerebrum and the dura. (Michell, 53)

Later, Vesalius (1600) wrote on the movements of the brain in new-born

babies and adults who had sustained cranial injuries and on animals whose skulls

were opened in vivisection studies. The brain movements were ascribed to the

pulsations of the arterial branches of the dura. It was thus thought that these brain

movements were due to its swelling following the increased blood content

following each pulse wave. (Michell, 57-58)

After the discovery of the cerebrospinal fluid in which the brain substance

bathes, however, the problem of the existence or absence of brain pulsations was

approached in an entirely different light (Contugno, 1864; Magendie, 1825). It

then became clear that the space between the surface of the brain and the dura

mater which formerly was thought to be filled with compressible air, was actually

filled by the incompressible cerebrospinal fluid. A review of the work of different

investigators published during the past century shows that some of them were able

to solve the problem as to whether brain pulsations exist in the closed skull cavity,

as long ago assumed by Galen. Such a process was possible only when one

assumed the existence in the brain of a space filled with air, allowing for

alterations of the cerebral volume. When the cerebrospinal fluid was discovered, it

was recognized that the cranial cavity was completely filled and the point of view

that cerebral pulsations in the hermetically closed skull were not possible also

appeared in the literature. Because of this finding, Muller (1839) and Bourguignon

(1839) were of the opinion that cerebral pulsations did not exist. An attempt to

support this view experimentally was made by Pelehtan. Into the skull of a dog he

inserted a glass tube and recognized that the cranial cavity was completely filled

with fluid and cerebral pulsations would not be possible. (Hughes, 78-85)

Brain pulsation, or intracranial pulse pressure, has largely been ignored as a

subject for investigation by the medical establishment in Western Europe and

America. The primary investigators in modern times have been Russian. Most

important amongst them is B.N. Klosovskii, who is otherwise recognized

internationally for his methods of studying blood circulation in the brain. In the

mid 1950’s he developed methods of tissue staining that allowed the arteries and

the veins of the brain to be clearly distinguishable. The vascular bed was then for

the first time clearly mapped. His main work, Blood Circulation In The Brain, was

translated from the Russian in 1963 and published under an agreement with U.S.

Public Health Service. The last several chapters of Klosovskii’s text deal with the

ideas of brain pulsation and his belief that there is no pulsing in a closed skull.


Klosovskii, however, is not without critics. Other Russian investigators

dispute his findings. In their work Hemodynamics of Cerebral Circulation, also

published by the U.S. Public Health Service, Moskalenko and Naumenko take up

the case against Klosovskii. Using impedance electroplethysmography, an entirely

different method than Klosovskii’s direct observation through a “transparent

window,” they find that there is a “pulse wave” in the hermetically sealed skull.

Their measurements indicate that this pulse is in the order of 1-2mm of water.

Cardiac rhythm, pulse pressure, or pulsation is normally measured in mm. of

Mercury (mm.Hg) not mm. of water. The difference in order of magnitude here is

one to thirteen. (Thirteen mm of water equals one mm of mercury). They conclude,

“in the hermetical cavity of the cranium, the pulse wave is transmitted indirectly

from the arterial system into the veins and in doing so bypasses the capillary bed.”

The “pulse wave” that they had measured in the closed skull is in no way

equivalent to the presence of “pulse pressure” that Klosovskii observes on the

cerebral surface in the open skull. (Michell, 97-98)

In a 1960 review titled Soviet Investigations in the Field of the Vascular

Supply of the Brain, the noted American brain physiologist, Ernst Simonson,

disputes those investigators using impedance plethysmography. He says, “The

viewpoints are in need of confirmation, as it is rather difficult to imagine that

alterations of intracerebral pressure of only 1 to 2 mm. water column can lead to

blood being expressed from the cerebral veins, no matter how thin-walled these

may be.” (Hughes, 111-119)

Many people in today’s society consider trepanation to be a kind of blood-

letting. An operation done in the hopes it will make a person better, but rather

winds up hurting the sick worse. For thousands of years, a select few in society

have stood up for practices they believed would better their life. In the case of

trepanation, maybe those who open their skull should not be looked down upon as

crazy. These select few, in their own eyes, have seen all the proof they need to

consider this operation as a viable way of making their life more fulfilled.

Reviewing the information that has been published, as well as the testing of new

theories by scientists and physicians, will hopefully answer the question of whether

or not the human race is being retained from achieving a higher state of being.

However, even if it is proven that a hermetically-closed skull does in fact pulse,

many would agree it would not stop the act of trepanation. People who decide to

carry out the process of opening their skull would still stand with the notion that

increasing one’s brain blood volume is the only way to increase a persons state of


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