Our modern representations of imagination usually involve things being emitted from or contained within our heads. (Thought bubbles, for example, and the many pieces of "imagination" clip-art where things are exploding out the back of people's minds.) This fits our modern understanding of our internal worlds as a product of our brains, which are located in our heads. I might hazard a guess that, since our eyes are also located on our heads, historical pictures of imagination might involve an analogy to vision and end up in the same place.

So, has the head always been the seat of the mind's eye? Are/were there any cultures that put it elsewhere? This is a very broad question that could potentially involve any culture's mythology, so I guess any concrete example of a story where the mind's eye was placed elsewhere (or the statement that there are none, if that's the case) would constitute an answer.

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    Welcome to Mythology! Interesting question. You want to look at Hindu and Buddhist literature for the origins. (The wiki for third eye indicates dharmic traditions.) The wiki also talks about modern mythologies relating the third eye to the pineal gland, which got a lot of traction. More recently, the thalamus has been proposed. I can't think of any examples offhand of the minds eye not being on the head, but there is an idea that the navel is the root of consciousness.
    – DukeZhou
    Dec 29 '17 at 22:22
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    @DukeZhou is correct. Hindu and Buddhist mythos, and some Tantric cults describe the human body as having seven (or six, I don't remember) points where our (spiritual) energy has the most concentration. It is believed that pressing/massages/acupuncture on or near these points is especially effective. The 'first' (or second) point, located on the forehead, is associated with intelligence, wisdom, and sight. This is similar to the 'Mind's Eye' concept. Jan 1 '18 at 13:32

This answer assumes you are referring to the Third Eye, not the Mind's Eye.

Yes, there are documented instances in other cultures where the seat for the cultural equivalence of the third eye is elsewhere in or on the body. For example, in certain lineages of Buddhism (notable Ch'an or Zen) this function has been said to permeate the body. From the 12th century Blue Cliff Record collection:

Yunyan said, “All over the body are hands and eyes.” Daowu said, “That is very well expressed, but it is only eight-tenths of the answer.” Yunyan said, “How would you say it, elder brother?” Daowu said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”

Note that this is not a universally held view in Buddhism. In most lineages this feature can reside in different chakras, as it does in Hinduism. In many other lineages this is placed between or just above the eyes, like in Taoism. It is also the predominant location in North and South american cultures.

There are also cultures/mythologies where the eye plays a powerful role even when detached from the owner's body, like in Egyptian mythology. The origin of the wadjet

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associated with Horus actually goes back on a much older origin story involving the disembodied eye of Atum, the creator deity, which he sent out to find his children Shu and Tefnut who had wandered off.

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Arguably, the Christian/Freemason Eye of Providence is at least inspired by this legend as it is often depicted on a pyramid.

  • I am indeed talking about mental images and where they are depicted as "being." Presumably before modern science it was not known that the brain was the seat of cognition. Nov 12 '18 at 15:04

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