Heart of Soul (Part II of III)

windmill of the soul

“The heart rules over the whole human organism, and when grace takes possession of the pastures of the heart, it reigns over all a man’s thoughts and members. For the intellect and all the thoughts of the soul are located there.”

 – St. Makarios the Great (Philokalia)

Matters of the Heart

This post contains notes from selected writings intended to help clarify scriptural use of the word heart as it relates to soul. Honestly I’m “chomping at the bit” to jump straight into the mystical functionality of these three post “On The Soul”, but a little patience on my part is required. In the meantime, my hope is that others will be blessed by having a more comprehensive use of the word soul added to their understanding, as have I.

The following is quoted from:  Rev. J. B Heard (The Tripirtite Nature of Man)


The Relation of Body to Soul in Scripture

“The relation between body and soul, and spirit, is implied rather than asserted in Scripture. We are not told in the language of the schools that reason is the governing principle, and sense the subject, or that the will as the middle point between the two is bound to follow reason, and to resist the motions of appetite. The scholastic method is not the scriptural, but the two are not therefore opposed. It is possible to draw out a right theory of the relation of the animal to the spiritual and rational nature in man, from the teaching of Scripture, and to throw it into a scheme like that of Aristotle, if desirable…

The first point to be ascertained is the connection which Scripture points out between soul and body. What light does the physiology of the Bible throw upon its psychology?

Aristotle clung to the opinion that the brain is a mere excrescence of the spinal marrow, adapted by its usual coldness and moisture to allay the fire at the heart. This was the reigning opinion until the Alexandrian physicians, Erasistratus and Herophilus, by dissecting the bodies of criminals given for examination in the medical schools, overturned the old theory that the heart was the seat of the soul. But language does not advance with the advance of scientific ideas. To this day the heart is popularly supposed to be the centre of feeling, though not of thought. We speak of a large heart and a feeling heart, of the heart bleeding, and so on. The head and the heart are indeed contrasted to this day, as if the one were the seat of intelligence, the other of feeling. By and bye we shall give up the absurdity of “bleeding hearts” with ts accompanying jingle of “cupid’s darts,” but our language at present is in the transition state, and although the transfer of the capital of Mansoul from the middle of the body to the crown is not complete, it is at least going on. We know that it is an accommodation to prejudice to speak of the heart as in any sense the organ of perception and feeling…

As the heart, then, and not the brain was supposed to be the centre of thought and feeling, we find in Scripture expressions used of the heart which we should apply now to the head. Not only do we read of a broken and a contrite heart, of a clean heart, of an honest and a good heart, an evil and a hard heart, a gross and a fat heart, expressions in which the heart is spoken of as the seat of the moral affections: it is also spoken of as the seat of the intellectual acts as well. God opens a man’s eyes, not as we should say to pour knowledge into his head, but into his heart. Solomon is given wisdom and largeness of heart, the disciples are fools and slow of heart. When we should speak of sluggish brains, the Hebrews spoke of a slow heart, when we should speak of a man taking a thing into his head, they spoke of laying it to heart. It is needless to multiply instances of this, which any English reader can do for himself, but it is worthy of notice that while there are hundreds of passages in which the heart is said to be the seat of certain internal and mental acts of thought and feeling, we have not been able to find a single instance of the head being more than the summit of the body in the external sense only.” In Scripture the head is thus contrasted with the feet, but not with the heart. From the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, the whole body is diseased, according to Isaiah, but the fountain of the disease is in the heart, from whence, as our Lord teaches, proceed evil thoughts, &c. Blessings rest, it is true, upon the head of the just, but this is because the blessings come down from above, and fall first on the head. It is like the anointing oil which descends from the head even to the skirts of Aaron’s clothing. The head is the summit of man’s external and bodily form, but it is not the capital or seat of empire. Nothing goes into the head and nothing comes out of it. The inference so obvious to us, that as the chief senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, are all clustered round the brain, and in close communication with it, the brain and not the heart must be the centre of thought, does not seem to have occurred to the ancients. Misled by a false analogy between warmth and intelligence, they assumed that the cold white and grey matter of the brain could not be the instrument of thought, and they therefore placed the seat of the soul, and the centre of the nervous system at the fountain-head of the blood, for the blood was the life, and where the life was warmest, there the seat of the soul Undoubtedly must be…

To sum all up, as the physiology of the Bible is that of the age when it was written, in all these passages in which psychology touches upon physiology, we find that those organs of the body are spoken of as the organs of thought and feeling which are directly sympathetic with thought and feeling. The heart, the liver, and the diaphragm are organs so sympathetic with our emotions that it requires more knowledge of anatomy than the ancients possessed, not to go a step farther, and to make them the very centres from which these affections flow…

The Hebrews probably, inclined to the opinion that the soul was diffused through the body, and that the whole body was an organ of intelligence, and was not localised in some one organ, as modern physiologists too much incline to think…

It is dangerous to shew man how much he resembles the beasts, without at the same time pointing out to him his own greatness. It is also dangerous to shew him his greatness without pointing out his baseness. It is more dangerous still to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is greatly for his advantage to have both set before him.” In these words of Pascal we have the true rationale of the relation of the lower to the higher nature in man. Scripture assumes this throughout. Man is treated all through as being made for a little while lower than the angels, and clothed with a body of flesh, in order that, by a discipline of the will, the flesh might be subdued to the spirit, so that by and bye he may be admitted to a higher state of being, equal with the angels, and clothed upon with a body which is from heaven.”

 -Rev. J. B Heard (The Tripirtite Nature of Man)


Scriptural Heart: “Shrine of Thoughts”

“Our heart is therefore, the shrine of the intelligence and the chief intellectual organ of the body, When, therefore, we strive to scrutinize and to amend our intelligence through rigorous watchfulness, how could we do this if we did not collect our intellect, outwardly dispersed through the senses, and bring it back within ourselves – back to the heart itself, the shrine of the thoughts? It is for this reason that St. Makarios – rightly called blessed – directly after what he says above, adds: “So it is there that we must look to see whether grace has inscribed the laws of the Spirit.” Where? In the ruling organ, in the throne of grace, where the intellect and all the thoughts of the soul reside, that is to say, in the heart, Do you see, then, how greatly necessary it is for those who have chosen a life of self-attentiveness and stillness to bring their intellect back and to enclose it within their body, and particularly within that innermost body within the body that we call heart?”

– Gregory Palamas (Philokalia)

  Pax Vobiscum
-C.M. Gregory

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4 Responses to Heart of Soul (Part II of III)

  1. Anne says:

    Great, I look forward to more. As the heart, mind and soul grow together.

  2. I am unable to connect to any of the book links that are listed on this page: http://christianmystics.com/Ebooks/Biblical_Psychology.html#TripartiteNatureofMan
    Is this problem unique to me/my computer or is there a problem with the links?

    Regardless… great post!!

    • C.M. Gregory says:

      Hi Fred,

      Glad you found something useful in the post. It appears as though the server that hosted the biblical psychology books went down (again). Fortunately I had backup copies and have uploaded them to the ChristianMystics.com server. The link should work now.

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