The Human Heart is a Supersensible Organ of Perception
By Douglas Gabriel
Chapter One: The World Changes When Our Hearts Do
“Go to your bosom; knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know…” William Shakespeare
Any undertaking to describe the human heart in all its glory is bound to be limited in its scope because the heart has been evolving along with humanity and will continue to do so into the future as its nature, over time, is unlimited. Any comprehensive expose on the human heart would have to go back in time to witness the embryological development of the heart and project into the future an attempt to describe what the heart will become. Even with a comprehensive historical perspective on what great thinkers have “discovered” about the heart, we cannot wrap our arms around this central core of the human being. The ideas of what the heart becomes has been speculated upon by doctors and philosophers with mysterious stories of the future fifth, sixth, and seventh chambers of the human heart yet to be discovered.
These speculations shed light on a few parts of the unfolding heart mystery. Indeed, the ancients focused on the heart as the seat of human consciousness and speculated that the involuntary muscle of the heart will become a voluntary muscle that will someday be completely controlled by human will power that is charged with moral forces. Many philosophers say the voice of the heart is the moral conscience of the individual, a type of super-organ that can perceive everything, both inner and outer.
There is no limit to the power and majesty of the cardiovascular system working together with respiration. As Christopher Fry tells us in his play, A Sleep of Prisoners: “The human heart can go to the lengths of God.” In fact, spiritual scientists, old and new, agree that the heart is a sense organ that can listen to and understand the language of the divine. Some would go so far as to claim that the human heart is the holy grail that is the treasure found by the worthy knight who suffers the quest for the grail for the sake of others. Or as Walter J. Stein tells us in his book, The Nineth Century: “The Holy Grail is the consummation of the heart’s desire, its root and blossoming . . . paradisical, transcending all earthly perfection.”
Throughout our presentation we will be seeking answers to many questions about the heart from the ancient Hindu Vedas to cutting edge modern research on heart rate variability. Many misconceptions will be outlined in a timeline that reflects the evolution of heart knowledge over the course of history. One of those gross errors in understanding the heart and its function is the myth that the heart is a pump. But the true view of blood circulation is much more complicated and has only become accepted by cardiologists in recent times. Dr. Rudolf Steiner’s teachings contend that: “The heart is not a pump; the heart is an organ of perception.” As a matter of fact, he believes that the heart is the most important organ of perception that can be trained to become a supersensible organ of perception of both the outside world and the inside world of the human being. The heart is the organ that can commune with the divine through a language of the spirit that is unique to the heart.
The mechanisms that develop this supersensible organ will be the major theme of this multi-series post. We intend to show that a thorough examination of the heart will unveil numerous “heart mysteries” that have been known since time immemorial, but little understood by modern science. Even though, the most current heart research demonstrates that the ancients, and spiritual scientists like Rudolf Steiner, had the story correct all along.
Some of the mysteries that have come to light concerning the heart are leading doctors and scientists to rethink and reimagine the profound centrality of the heart and its effects on all aspects of human physiology and health. Some ideas from the past will sound somewhat unfounded or magical, but over time they have come to be the new view that is being adopted by main-stream science. A few of those heart mysteries are:
- The nature of the seven chambers of the heart
- The connection between heart and brain coherence
- The etherization of the blood through the “front spinal column” (vagus nerve)
- The importance of the axis of the heart in utero and as an adult
- The predictive capacities of heart rate variability to determine longevity and illness
- The electrical nature of the heart and its torus field of energy
- The nature of the human “I am” found in the heart
- The central focus of the human mind in the heart – not the head
- The capacity to develop heart-thinking through warmed up thoughts
- The secret “box” in the heart that records karma from one life to another
- The role of the heart “chakra”, its nature and function
- The etherization of the blood and its ability to nourish the pineal and pituitary gland
- The development of morality through the supersensible organ of the heart
- The true shape of the heart in current times and its shape in the future
- Heart perception as an alchemical process involving salt/mercury/sulfur
- The mystery of the “jewel in the heart of the lotus” – the cintamani stone
- The mystery of the wish fulfilling tree – the world tree planted in Eden
- The awakening of the heart as the tool to define and control all perception
- The heart is created by two interpenetration vortices
- Perception is written into the blood
- There is a cognitive path of heart-perception
This list of heart mysteries is not exhaustive and many other hidden truths will come forth as we look at the literature concerning the heart. We find many of these insights and inspiration in every type of writing, from sacred texts to modern poetry. Everywhere we look, we will find aspects of the heart being described as the most profound center of human consciousness, evolution, and love. The ancients often lumped the heart together with other key components of human self-development by linguistics and association. The heart is clustered together with ideas about the hearth (seat of fire), the ear (hearing), the home, heaven, and mother.
When you think about the heart, the most important human thoughts also come to light. The seat of life and consciousness find their home in the heart as the throne of love that reflects the love of heaven on earth. The heart is the mystical source and crucible of love, the ‘august master binding of all.’ As the Chaldean Oracles state: “Having mingled the spark of soul with two, with breath and mind divine, he added to them a third, pure love, the august master binding of all.”
It is now time in human evolution to start thinking with the mind of the heart. As Van Morrison puts it in one of his lyrics: “If my heart could do my thinking, and my head begin to feel, I would look upon the world anew, and know what’s truly real.” This poetic injunction is the key mission of humanity as it develops moral (warmed-up) thinking instead of brain-bound, cold, dead thinking that leads to the void of materialism. The head is the past. The heart is the past, present and future where we learn to speak with the divine and receive cosmic nourishment from the exchange of love between humans and the divine. Or as Meister Eckhart has told us: “God is born in the heart and the heart is born in God.”
When hearts begin to feel, thinking can develop into living imaginative thinking that is based in reality – not cold-hearted scientific materialism that leads to nihilistic despair. Living thoughts are born in warm-hearted thoughts that have a life of their own that is fired through and through by hierarchical beings who share those inspirations with humans. Learning the language of the spirit is basically learning the language of the moral heart. Often this language of the heart is spoken in poetic language that can stretch the human imagination to “the lengths of God.” The great poet and writer, Fredrick von Hardenberg (Novalis) gives us the insight that: “The human heart is the universal field of beings. It is the field where all faculties of the mind – understanding, reasoning, imagination, and feelings, are integrated. Human beings can feel with their heart using a language indicative of love.”
Novalis also tells us that it is only the human heart that can satisfy this unquenchable desire to commune with our higher nature that is found in the divine. He tells us: “Building worlds is not enough for the deeper urging mind; but a loving heart sates the striving spirit.”
Khalil Gibran agrees with Novalis that the heart is where the secrets of love are found: “All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of life’s heart.” Or as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it: “What is uttered from the heart alone will win the heart of others to your own.” Goethe predicated the perception of the world upon the capacity of the individual’s heart content: “A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.” Thus, the heart is the key to perceiving the world either as heaven or hell, depending on what each person carries in their heart. We see the world through the lens of the heart. It seems that to change our view of the world, we simply need to change the content of our hearts. The great Sufi poet Kabir insinuates the same wisdom when he said: “Lift the veil that obscures the heart, and there you will find what you are looking for.”
We must learn to seek the answers about the world and our self inside the heart as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke tells us: “The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you. All the soarings of the mind begin in the blood.” This shows us that our conscious mind needs to realize that the depth of heart-wisdom never ends. Rilke tells us in another passage: “Our heart always transcends us. Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart… live in the question.”
Poets have given us the ability to transcend brain-bound thinking with a few simple words that open the heart to its truly divine nature. Whatever you consider the divine to be, we find its source and end in the human heart. As the Sufi poet Rumi tells us: “Only from the heart can you touch the sky. Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction. If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” So we begin and end in the heart, which sometimes is unfamiliar to the secular humanist who “believes” in modern materialistic science. Human consciousness transcends the five senses that modern science is based upon. There are higher senses that reveal our divine nature found in the quiet beating of the heart.
Rumi points to the source and finds it to be never ending. He gives us the injunction: “Why are you knocking at every door? Go, knock at the door of your own heart. Whoever has heart’s doors wide open, could see the sun itself in every atom. Surely there is a window from heart to heart: they are not separate and far from each other. And now the time has come to turn your heart into a temple of fire.” This temple of fire is the source of fiery wisdom that connects us directly to our higher self and the divine self of the universe. Rumi gives us the formula in the following lines: “When you seek love with all your heart you shall find its echo in the universe. When love for God has been doubled in your heart, there is no doubt that God has love for you.”
But modern poetry takes its lead from the wisdom of the ancients found in every sacred book or text of the past. In ancient India, a profound understanding of the heart was known as a central principle of spiritual teachings that go back to the first writings of humanity.
The heart was always given the highest praise and was placed on a throne that was unequal to anything but the divine beings themselves. In the Chandogya Upanishad we are told: “As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in that inner space, fire and air, sun and moon, lightning and stars. Whether we know it in this world or know it not, everything is contained in that inner space. The heart is the center of the perception process of the soul and the sensory environment of the human being. In the heart, these sense impressions are perceived, detected, bound together, and thus first truly felt and understood. The heart is the starting point for all sensory impression.”
This view of the heart is far beyond the scientific nonsense that the heart is simply a muscle that is a “pump” that forces blood through the cardiovascular system. To underestimate the heart is a grave mistake that veils the true nature of what a human being will become in the future through the evolution of the heart. Even Aristotle, in his On the Generation of Animals, has a more profound view of the heart than our top heart doctors:“We are justified in seeing the heart as the source of the being’s life, shape, and organization.Blood and its blood vessels are the original source of life. All other parts of the body depend on the heart and have their source, or origin, in the heart.”
We need to listen to the ancients and glean the wisdom they developed thousands of years ago concerning the importance of the heart as a highly developed sense organ. The primary place of the heart is beautifully described by Aristotle and only now is coming to be understood as the king or queen of all organs.
The capacity for the human heart to be an organ of knowledge that produces our concepts that are connected to our perceptions is often ignored by science, medicine, and philosophy. Over eight hundred years ago Thomas Aquinas informed his students that a concept is a “word of the heart” that forms after perceptions are digested by the heart. Concepts in the modern world have been relegated to the brain where they are stored in nerve cells. Some new research on heart/brain coherence has demonstrated that Aquinas was correct when he wrote in Summa Theologica that: “The heart is related to the higher cognitive activities, which take place after sensory perception and the development of imaginative images.
Something takes place in people whenever they perform an act of perception. This is the act of receiving and conceiving the perceived object. This concept designates the sound, and the concept itself is called a word of the heart. This thought process takes place in the individual penetration and unification of the act of perceiving with what is being perceived. Sense perception is the tool for the spiritual and intellectual activity of thought. The human heart is an organ of knowledge and love, mediating between heaven and earth, thinking and willing, human being and environment.”
Theosophists, who study the wisdom of god, also give the highest praise to the heart as the home of god in the human being. The heart is the center of the universe and is a perfect reflection of the cosmos. Helena P. Blavatsky wrote in The Secret Doctrine: “In the heart is the only manifest God. The first born are life, the heart, and pulse. Shiva is the being in the heart, the lowest aspect of Brahma – force or mind. Shiva is the Lord of the Pulse, the only direct manifestation of spirit in matter. It is the heavenly breath and the rhythm of the Infinite. The pulse point is also termed the ‘drum of Shiva.’ The heart is also the great mountain of the divine rising above the four elements into the ether concealing a spirit so vast that the universe can scarcely contain it.”
Another great spiritual science, Rudolf Steiner, points out that the human being has evolved to the point where hearts must begin to have conscious thoughts – warm, imaginative, living thoughts. He is also one of the strongest proponents of the idea that the human heart is a sensing organ, a type of eye for the divine beings to work through. Steiner tells us in The Michael Letters: “Hearts begin to have thoughts, that is the new way of thinking with the heart. The newly developed heart-organ slowly transforms into an eye or a sensing-heart-eye-organ.”
A follower of Dr. Steiner’s, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, was one of the closest students of Steiner who was directly taught the secrets of the heart by his master. Pfeiffer has written a great deal about the etheric heart, its fifth chamber and the necessity to develop the heart as a supersensible sense organ that can perceive the working of the etheric Christ. These mysteries were guarded by Pfeiffer and others due to their sensitive nature which describes evolutionary aspects of the heart that were well-guarded secrets of the ancient mystery schools. The mystery of the fifth chamber of the heart was central to why Steiner’s life was somewhat “cut-short”, according to Pfeiffer. But even though Pfeiffer indicated these secrets were to be still hidden in the present time, he revealed as much as he could about the fifth chamber to help change the current view of materialism that believes the heart is a pump. Pfeiffer clarified his point of view in December 1950, by writing:
“The radiation from this etheric organ of the heart is actually developing into a spiritual sense organ. A new sense organ is developing in this etheric heart, and this is the only organ by which man is able to sense and to recognize the Etheric Christ.”
Another Anthroposophist, named Karl König, agreed with Pfeiffer and described the etheric heart and the etherization of the blood in his book, Earth and Man. König reaffirms Pfeiffer’s ideas and adds to them the future condition of the etheric heart that loosens itself from the physical heart. König tells us: “The heart is concerned with warmth and light within the blood. Rudolf Steiner describes how into the heart – on account of its being a sensory organ – stream all the activities of our metabolic system, all the activities of our limbs, arms and legs, where we go, what we do, and how we do it. All this is stored up in the heart, as in a casket. This now, going through life between death and rebirth, becomes the whole of our karma in our next incarnation. Since the year 1720, the heart has altered its condition and loosened its connection from the physical structure of the heart and very great changes in the whole life and existence of man have come about.”
Even though Rudolf Steiner’s lecture, The Human Heart (May 26, 1922) is not usually combined with his pedagogical lectures, it is a key for Waldorf teachers to unlock the secrets of the etheric bodies of elementary aged students. My teachers in Waldorf education asked that I make sure to include this lecture in our materials necessary for Waldorf teacher training. It is imperative that Waldorf teachers understand the evolution of the physical, etheric, and astral components of the human heart as it develops from birth through age fourteen. Only when the teacher can work with the incarnating etheric heart and help birth the incarnating astral heart, can the teacher understand the true task of education. Teachers are the mid-wives of numerous births in the growing child and a complete cosmology, pedagogy, and psychology can paint the full picture of what a child is and what they are becoming. In Steiner’s The Human Heart, we find a guide to these delicate processes and are given the insight that allow the teacher to offer each child what they need in a developmentally appropriate fashion.
Many mysteries of the heart are revealed in Steiner’s, The Human Heart. Here are relevant selections from his book:
“All that happens in the moral life, and all that happens physically in the world, the moral and the physical, are found in their real union when we learn to understand all the configurations of the human heart.
“When puberty occurs, man’s own etheric heart is so far formed that it can receive these forces that develop out of our activity in the outer world. Thus, from puberty onwards man’s whole activity becomes inserted, via the astral body, in his etheric heart – out of the pictures of the stars, out of the images of the cosmos – this is a phenomenon of untold importance. At the same place where our own etheric heart – has formed itself, we now have an astral structure too, which gathers together all our actions. And so from puberty a central organ is created wherein all our doing is centered. The etheric-astral structure wherein the heart is floating, so to speak, contains all that man takes with him into his further life of soul and spirit; wherein, he can hand over his entire karma to the cosmos.
“In the heart, as far as the etheric universe is concerned, you have a cosmos gathered up into a center; and a gathering together of all that man does in the world. This is the point where the cosmos – the cosmic process – is joined to the karma of man – This intimate correspondence of the astral body with the etheric body is to be found nowhere in the human organism except in the region of the heart.
“In our time there are certain changes taking place in the heart, by which gradually a fifth chamber will develop. In this fifth chamber man will have a new organ which will allow him to control life forces in a different way than is possible at the moment.”
The lucid insight of Dr. Steiner about the human heart is unparalleled in any time of history. He gives the reader the ability to understand human development so that the teacher can become a knowledgeable person assisting the cosmological aspects of human evolution. When the teacher first knows what to look for, then the sense organs can be developed to perceive the subtle and invisible forces at work in the physiological and psychological development of the child (or even the yearning adult) that recapitulates the development of humanity. Each child relives the development of its ancestors and must be given the proper building blocks to create the modern human being anew.
Each stage of development has a curricula that feeds the needs of the growing human heart. The many secrets of karma are found, and placed, into the etheric heart through the integration of the astral desires of the individual. The “casket” or “little box” in the heart-of-hearts holds the treasures each child brings with them from the past. The point of education is to nurture this “jewel in the heart of the lotus” that carries with it the eternal “I am” of the child that wishes to be born again with new opportunities to gain wisdom and ascend the path of human evolution.
Learn how to educate the children in your life, even the child “inside of you” that may not have been properly educated and spiritually-nourished, with Douglas Gabriel’s books and lessons on the Eternal Curriculum. Our books are free to download as PDFs. Begin to relive the development of your ancestors and heal your wounded heart. https://eternalcurriculum.com/books/
Douglas Gabriel has written a book about the heart, entitled The Human Heart is a Supersensible Organ of Perception, which we are releasing section by section until complete. Below are the chapters released so far. You can also access the chapters by typing “The Human Heart” in our search bar and all of the posts will be displayed.
Chapter One: The World Changes When Our Hearts Do (you are here)
Next: Chapter Two: Physiological Aspects of the Human Heart