The Human Heart is a Supersensible Organ of Perception
By Douglas Gabriel
Chapter Two: Physiological Aspects of the Human Heart – Chambers of the Heart
“Go to your bosom; knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know…”
Fifth Chamber of the Heart
In Anthroposophy, much is made of the nature of the “fifth chamber” of the heart. This secret has been kept since ancient times but now is the focus of the next step in understanding the true nature of the human heart in its future development. It is our belief that the pericardium, the “sac” around the heart is indeed this fifth chamber that holds the secrets of proper heart evolution.
University of Calgary researchers were the first to discover a previously unidentified cell population in the pericardial fluid found inside the sac around the heart. The discovery could lead to new treatments for patients with injured hearts. Researchers found that a specific cell, a Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage, helps heal an injured heart. The cell was discovered in the pericardial fluid within the human pericardium of people with injured hearts, confirming that the repair cells offer the promise of a new therapy for patients with heart disease.
Heart doctors had never before explored the possibility that cells just outside the heart could participate in healing and repair of hearts after injury. Unlike other organs, the heart generally has a limited capacity to repair itself which is why heart disease is the number one cause of death in North America.
This discovery will open the door to new therapies and hope for the millions of people who suffer from heart disease. Doctors now know that pericardial fluid is rich with healing cells. These cells may hold the secret to repair and regeneration of new heart muscle.
The pericardium (pericardial sac) is a double-walled sac containing the heart and the roots of the great vessels. The pericardial sac has two layers, a serous layer and a fibrous layer. It encloses the pericardial cavity which contains pericardial fluid. The pericardium fixes the heart to the mediastinum, gives protection against infection and provides the lubrication for the heart.
The pericardium has a tough double layered fibroelastic sac which covers the heart. The space between the two layers of serous pericardium, the pericardial cavity, is filled with serous fluid which protects the heart from any kind of external jerk or shock. There are two layers to the pericardial sac: the outermost fibrous pericardium and the inner serous pericardium. The fibrous pericardium is the most superficial layer of the pericardium. It is made up of dense and loose connective tissue which acts to protect the heart, anchoring it to the surrounding walls and preventing it from overfilling with blood.
The serous pericardium, in turn, is divided into two layers, the parietal pericardium, which is fused to and inseparable from the fibrous pericardium, and the visceral pericardium, which is part of, or in some textbooks synonymous with, the epicardium. Both of these layers function in lubricating the heart to prevent friction during heart activity.
When the visceral layer of serous pericardium comes into contact with the heart it is known as the epicardium. The epicardium is the layer immediately outside of the heart muscle proper. The epicardium is largely made of connective tissue and functions as a protective layer. During ventricular contraction, the wave of depolarization moves from the endocardial to the epicardial surface. The pericardial sac also:
- Sets the heart in the mediastinum and limits its motion
- Protects it from infections coming from other organs
- Prevents excessive dilation of the heart in cases of acute volume overload
- Lubricates the heart
The Auricles of the Atria – the Sixth & Seventh Chambers of the Heart
In the future, the sixth and seventh chambers of the heart (auricles) will develop to take on a more central role in heart function. At this point, the auricles insinuate that the “capacity” of the heart can be expanded when necessary. The auricles have been generally ignored by science and their place in heart function is little understood. We believe that the auricles are another part of the sensory mechanism of the heart that listens to (senses) venous and arterial blood and then can respond appropriately.
The auricles are like wings on the heart, which is an image of the heart used by the ancients for millennia. They are sometimes referred to as the “ears” of the heart – as their name implies. Is it possible that moral development can expand the heart’s capacity to become a better listener that can react to blood flow in an extraordinary fashion? This is a part of heart evolution yet to be developed.
The first speculation concerning cardiac auricles were findings from Ancient Egyptian archaeological studies. It is believed that Diocles of Carystus (4th century BC) considered the role of the heart as a leader of the body and discovered two cardiac ears or auricles. He described the ability of the heart to listen and understand by these ears or auricles. He also attributed a sensory role to these appendages.
Herophilus of Alexandria (300 BC) and later Rufus of Ephesus (1st century AD) were the first persons who described auricles and distinguished them from ventricles. This clarification was continued by Persian physicians in the Golden Age of Islam (9th–12th century AD.) During the Renaissance, William Harvey (1578–1657 AD), a British physician, noticed auricles and emphasized their function of contracting before the ventricles.
In Egyptian sculptures, paintings, and writings the heart was the symbol of faith and courage. Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs for the heart with ear-shaped auricles in the symbols and paintings. They saw these ear-like parts of the heart, the auricles, but we do not know if they were aware of their role and function because we cannot find any mention of them in their texts or other written documents.
Today, in anatomy, auricles are known as part of the human heart which is roughly cube-shaped except for these ear-shaped projections. Auricles are pectinate tubular muscle walls that are positioned at the root of the pulmonary vein on the left and externally overlap the ascending aorta, on the right. But the true role of the auricles is still little understood today and their role in future is not understood.
The Vagus Nerve
Rudolf Steiner spoke many times about what he called, “the frontal spinal column” in contradistinction to the regular spinal column which is associated with the standard chakras of the Hindu/Buddhist system of spiritual development. This frontal spinal column has often been misunderstood by spiritual scientist. The simple reality is that, the vagus nerve accomplishes the exact tasks that Steiner attributes to the frontal spinal column.
The front column is obviously the vagus nerve that gathers information from all the organs below the heart and gathers them together into the vagus nerve running through the human heart. Then, from the heart, through the throat and brow, the vagus nerve reaches up to the crown of the head and there interacts with the energy arising from the normal spinal column which baths the pineal gland. The front and back spinal columns merge in the fourth ventricle of the midbrain and unite the ascending and descending columns into the cyclic flow of regenerating energy. Descriptions of these two columns are found throughout spiritual literature concerning ascension practices.
We will describe this phenomena in the later parts of this article as the wish-fulfilling stone or cintamani tree or the “jewel in the heart of the lotus.” The front column is well-known as a ruyi stone, which is generally pictured as a specter-like device with multiple stones that represent the heart, throat, brow, and crown chakras. The ruyi stone (scepter) is a common tool used by Tibetan Buddhist monks in their daily practice. Speculation runs wild when Westerners try to define or understand this vajra tool. Much more is known about the regular spinal column which is connected to the major chakras.
It is clear to the initiated that the ruyi is a spiritual tree that is part of “bringing down the heavenly dew” that nourishes the nerves and circulatory systems of the human body.
Let’s examine what science tells us about this ruyi stone – or the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, also called the tenth cranial nerve, starts in the brain and runs down the trunk of the body, with branches innervating the major organs. A major component of the autonomic nervous system, it interfaces with the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to regulate the heart, lungs, and the digestive system. It is a bi-directional nerve, meaning it both sends signals from the brain to the organs and the organs send messages back to the brain. The vagus nerve runs from gut to brain directly through the atrio-sinus node, the pacemaker of the heart.
The vagus nerve is an important sensor and regulator of basic functions including breathing, heart rate, the relaxation response, the gut-brain connection, and the formation of memories. The motor vagus nerve normally holds inhibitory influence over both systemic inflammation and some autonomic functions such as heart rate. It exerts stimulatory effects on gastric motility, detrusor contraction, pupillary activity, salivatory secretion, and tear secretion and it is also involved in pancreatic exocrine function.
The vagus nerve is a bi-directional nerve, so both the afferent (sensory) and efferent (motor) branches have important functions: afferent pathways mediate anti-inflammatory responses and the release of corticosteroids from the adrenal glands, whereas efferent pathways mediate anti-inflammatory processes via direct effects on immune cells or through the splenic sympathetic nerve. The vagus nerve is important for maintaining homeostasis and preventing an overreactive immune response. It can send a signal into the brainstem that triggers both glial cell activation within the central nervous system as well as the general innate immune response, sometimes called the sickness response.
Vagal tone is a measure of the constitutive output of the motor branch of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is responsible for the autonomic changes that allow us to go from lying down to standing up without fainting. With a loss of vagal tone, both the anti-inflammatory pathway and parasympathetic inhibition over autonomic systems are diminished.
The vagus nerve is so named because it “wanders” like a vagabond, sending out sensory fibers from your brainstem to your visceral organs. It is the longest of the cranial nerves and it controls your inner nerve center – the parasympathetic nervous system. It oversees a vast range of crucial functions, communicating motor and sensory impulses to every organ in your body.
The neurotransmitter acetylcholine, elicited by the vagus nerve, tells your lungs to breathe. You can stimulate your vagus nerve by doing abdominal breathing or other breath exercises. The vagus nerve is responsible for controlling the heart rate via electrical impulses to specialized muscle tissue – the heart’s natural pacemaker – in the atrial sino-node, where acetylcholine release slows the pulse.
Your gut uses the vagus nerve to tell your brain how you’re feeling via electric impulses called “action potentials.” Your gut feelings are carried to the heart and then to the brain. Vagal syncope is when your body, responding to stress, overstimulates the vagus nerve causing your blood pressure and heart rate to drop. During extreme syncope, blood flow is restricted to your brain, and you lose consciousness and faint.
The importance of the vagus nerve cannot be overemphasized and it does all that the ancients said the frontal spinal column accomplishes.
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
Chapter Two: Physiological Aspects of the Human Heart
Chambers of the Heart (you are here)
Next: A Thumb of Fire
The Gabriels have several Ruyi stones. Pictured below is one of our favorites. You can find them in a variety of sizes and ornamentation. This one is 10 inches long. Ruyi Stones bring the resonance of frontal spinal column development into your environment and have been used for spiritual practice for centuries.
The stone represents the completion of the cycle of the earthly and cosmic nutrition stream.
For those of you that have been “traveling” on this spiritual path with us for awhile, you might now see why we frequently point you to the ASCEND diet as a way to help your physical body prepare for ascension.