“He says he has the third eye.”
”He says what?”
”He has the third eye – whatever the third eye is.”
Sharing a house one autumn with two men who went to live in a Hindu monastery, there were vague memories of there being a deity that had a third eye. Was it something to do with second sight or sixth sense? Was it to do with having special awareness or perception?
An internet search suggested there were more possible interpretations than there were possible eyes, not one of which commanded the slightest scientific veracity. The third eye could mean anything from a supposedly deeper awareness of reality to a power that could destroy the world at the end of time.
When there is instant internet access offering possible answers to every imaginable question, why do esoteric concepts from pre-modern times still have a hold on the imagination?
The third eye is rare among the range of odd beliefs; stories of ghosts are far more plentiful. Accounts of sightings of Roman soldiers are common, though the legionaries are only visible from the knees upward as the surfaces of the roads are higher than in the Second and Third Centuries. Past residents of houses also seem to put in the odd appearance, usually in the same spot each time.
Perhaps things are more rational than they were in the past. No-one I know would now claim to have met Merlin and tales of Arthur and his knights riding from Cadbury Castle no longer reach these parts. Even Glastonbury has become a rather humdrum mix of New Age paganism and plain silliness.
Perhaps the old superstitions have been able to linger because they offer a touch of excitement, because they are completely removed from the mundane business of everyday life in the Twenty-First Century. Perhaps people need something exotic, something mysterious, something that pushes the bounds of the imagination.
Fifty years ago, science provided an alternative reality, the space race offered the prospect of the discovery of planets and stars and galaxies. Space was the final frontier, and within the lifetimes of those of us who were young we thought that frontier would be crossed. It never happened.
Science turned inwards. Technology was applied to the manufacture of consumer goods. Smartphones were revolutionary, but they were not Captain James Kirk and the starship Enterprise. In the absence of rational diversions, the irrational offers excitement, even if it is only an amalgam of old superstition and modern imagination.