Human Heart, Cosmic Heart
Thomas S. Cowan, MD
Tom Cowan is a student of the esoteric philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and since his first introduction to Steiner’s work, Tom has been haunted by one of Steiner’s statements: that in order for mankind to make spiritual progress in the physical world, he must realize that the heart is not a pump. What a strange statement! Everyone knows that the heart is a pump! And why would it make such a difference to the spiritual evolution of mankind if the heart were not a pump?
Tom’s early lectures on the subject—presented at our Wise Traditions conference and elsewhere—were spellbinding. He soon had us convinced that the heart is, indeed, not a pump. A pump makes a slow-moving liquid move faster, but the blood is rushing at full speed when it reaches the heart. Rather, the heart functions in part as a hydraulic ram, a device that uses the force of moving water to vector that water to places where it is needed—in the case of the heart, some of the blood is shunted to the head, while the rest moves out into the arteries.
As the blood begins its circulation throughout the body, it slows down, and when it reaches the tiny capillaries, so small that only one blood cell can pass through at a time, the movement of the blood actually comes to a stop. Each blood cell then oscillates slightly before it begins its journey back to the heart, moving faster and faster—in effect defying the forces of gravity as it moves up the arms, legs and torso to reach the midpoint of the body.
One thing Tom had not figured out in those early lectures is just what causes the blood to accelerate in the venules and veins as it journeys back to the heart. Now Tom has an explanation—but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is! Here’s a hint: he figured it out when listening to Gerald Pollack discuss the properties of water at a Wise Traditions conference.
And why is it so important to understand that the heart is not a pump? The notion that the heart is merely a pump derives from the modern, materialistic view that we live in a clockwork universe, and that life is a kind of mechanism, or a bunch of mechanisms put together, much like a car is a bunch of mechanisms put together. But as Tom shows in his book, the heart is a cosmic organism that is tied to the mysteries of the universe in its geometry and rhythms; one of its many roles is to sense what is in the blood and communicate to the rest of the body what is needed. More than the brain, the heart is a repository of our interests, talents and relationships—as evidenced by the many examples of heart transplant patients taking on the personality of their donor.
Properly understood, the heart provides a model for human government, one in which the government listens to the people, the way the heart listens to the blood, a model for human society governed from the people up, not from the government down.
And finally, a better understanding of the heart’s role in the body lends itself to a gentler type of medical practice, one that strengthens the heart with medicinal herbs and satisfying diets, rather than slices open the chest with a circular saw, prescribes poisonous medicines or dictates soulless lowfat foods. As Ben Greenfield says, “If you have a heart and want to live a long time, you must, must read this book.”
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2016.