The Heart’s Mind

HeartsMindIn P-B the human experience has become centered in modern times on the brain as the arbiter of reality and the engine of evolution; it is neither. Most of us do not know what reality is nor are we evolving if evolution means growing in our ability to create a satisfactory life. We have failed so far but our story is not yet over. What if the wisdom (intuition) that would empower us, at long last, to change direction existed in each person and had always been there? What if the human heart was the connecting point to the One Mind, the source of creation, the Cosmic Google that would tell us everything we needed to know?

Simple Reality explains the distinction between intuition and the intellect and how they can function harmoniously. Our failure to understand the role of each is literally “killing us.” Jungian analyst Eugene Pascal gives an historical overview. “The rift between head and heart manifested itself sporadically in the West from classical times, but it appeared in a more virulent form during the Renaissance in the fifteenth century. The contagion spread mainly among the nations of the northwestern Europe, moving the consciousness of these populations further and further from a positive relation with the world of instinct and the realm of the unconscious. This psychic imbalance became firmly entrenched in most of the West during the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment and evolved to the present psychic stance and views of rigid hyper-rationalism that ludicrously and arrogantly calls itself scientific, a term intended to make us believe in its infallible all-knowingness. This shortsighted mentality ridicules and negates all opinions except its own, which are solely based on extraverted sensation and thinking and left-brained dominance. The unconscious non-rational sides consequently strike back with a vengeance. They do so in exceedingly ugly ways in the forms of amorality, violence of every category, chaotic relationships, and drug and alcohol abuse among all ages and social groups. This need not be so, if we could only begin expressing the full range of our psychic potential and human typology. It all really comes back to learning about the values of the ways in which our psyches operate and putting them into motion.”

As the gap between the intellect and intuition grows wider so does our estrangement from our True self. “… spiritual growth does not come merely through intellectual or emotional development. There is another state of being to be reached, another quality of awareness that reveals new aspects of reality.”  Exactly why is the intellect problematic in our attaining peace of mind, happiness and a sustainable community?

The intellect has indeed played a role in blocking us from a realization of Oneness. It has created a radical separation involving an alienation of the individual from the human world by supporting the illusion of the other and our growing estrangement from the natural world.

Pascal gives his description and we recognize his Jungian worldview. “Persons who are stuck in their heads and who focus only on what is ‘understood’ forget that they have hearts; they lose touch with those archetypal forces that provide deep emotional satisfaction. The deities truly make life enchanting and worth living, the problem is that one-sided, cerebral people do not appreciate the non-rational, which is basically what the archetypes are. Cerebral folk confuse the non-rational with the irrational, a neutral term with a negative term. Consequently they suppress and/or repress everything that is trying to reach ego-awareness from the archetypal realm. The non-rational and symbolic world of unconscious, mytho-poetic archetypes completely eludes them since these left-hemisphered ‘cerebrals’ can perceive reality only in clear-cut, three-dimensional, extraverted, rationalistic terms. This mentality unfortunately has dominated Western culture. However, those right-brained forces that their hyper-rationalism has suppressed are beginning to fight back.”

“What helps us tell the difference is what Jung called the feeling function—our inner means of ascertaining the value of something. The feeling function tells us what is desirable and not desirable, but it’s not an ego judgment. The ego determines what’s good and bad from the point of view of its own concerns [the false-self survival strategy in P-B]: that which tends to support our egocentric defense system is what we deem to be good; that which is antithetical to it, we deem to be evil.”  Intuition is sometimes called the right brain or the feminine aspect or Jung’s “feeling function” but it is clearer and simpler to think of it as the True self which can empower all of us to choose response over reaction and thereby promote awakening and reduce human suffering.

David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd, written decades ago has a timeless validity to it in the sense that it is not speaking of a psycho-social phenomena of the 1950’s, but of the existential condition inherent in P-B that simply intensifies over time. Psychotherapist Rollo May, writing in 1983, makes observations similar to Riesman’s. “Broadly speaking, the symptoms of isolation and alienation reflect the state of a person whose relation to the world has become broken. Some psychotherapists have pointed out that more and more patients exhibit schizoid features and that the ‘typical’ kind of psychic problem in our day is not hysteria, as it was in Freud’s time, but the schizoid type—that is to say, problems of persons who are detached, unrelated, lacking in affect, tending toward depersonalization, and covering up their problems by means of intellectualization and technical formations.”  Modern humanity has longed used the intellect as a refuge from existential suffering. It has never worked and never will.

Let’s continue with sociologist Riesman who in his book wrote about what May called “the isolated, lonely, alienated character type [that] is characteristic not only of neurotic patients but of people as a whole in our society and that the trends in that direction have been increasing over the past couple of decades. He makes the significant point that these people have only a technical [intellectual] communication with their world; his ‘outer directed’ persons (the type characteristic of our day [1950’s and 60’s]) relate to everything from its technical, external side.”

Riesman is correct in that humanity suffers through relating or identifying with the world of form but it is not only the form of the modern “technical” world but all form. Form, whether physical or mental, lacks substantial reality and understanding and identifying with these illusions as reality leads to craving and aversion which are the real causes of human suffering. Riesman’s ideas are passé now and have been replaced by the next round of intellectual explanations for self-destructive human behavior. The intellect-driven models come and go, as impermanent as form itself. Modern humanity has long used the intellect as a refuge from existential suffering. It has never worked and never will.

Before Riesman, the novelists Kafka (The Castle) and Camus (The Stranger) gave “… a vivid and gripping picture of a man who is a stranger in his world, a stranger to other people whom he seeks or pretends to love; he moves about in a state of homelessness, vagueness, and haze as though he had no direct sense connection with his world but was in a foreign country where he does not know the language and has no hope of learning it but is always doomed to wander in quiet despair, incommunicado, homeless, and a stranger.”  These writers depict the human condition in an agonizingly accurate way. Why? Because they, as artists, have transcended a strictly intellectual understanding and they write with the “feeling” of the “heart” or internal, intuitive wisdom.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “… when psychological consciousness is refused, as Jekyll had refused it, the feminine part of us, our very souls, weakens and languishes and falls into despair, a tragedy, for it is this very feminine power that can help find a way around what is otherwise an insoluble problem. Speaking of Utterson, the narrator of the Jekyll and Hyde story … He represents the human being who has a sufficiently strong feeling function that he is shocked by evil and can therefore resist being overcome by it.”

Simple Reality keeps the focus of the highest human attainment on compassion and Rollo May seems to agree. “Temporarily we can transcend [italics added] the usual limits of conscious personality. Through what is called insight, or intuition, or the other only vaguely understood processes which are involved in creativity, we may get glimpses of objective truth as it exists in reality, or sense some new ethical possibility in, let us say, an experience of unselfish love [compassion].”  Rollo May is talking about the creative process which at its deepest connection is an experience of the Now.

May also felt that the Gospel advocates a paradigm shift from “head” to “heart.”  “ For the essential point in Jesus’ ethics was his shifting the emphasis from the external rules of the Ten  Commandments to inward motives … The wholeness of the man whose external actions are at one with his inner motives is what is meant by the expression in the beatitudes, the ‘pure in heart.’”

“We can reach the point of blocking all movement and staying in the head; at this extreme, we become obstructed, and then nothing matters … In the Bible Jesus said a sentence that in my interpretation makes a very important point. Speaking to his disciples he taught, ‘Do not resist evil’ (Matthew 5:39). Let us examine this. The resistance [reaction] itself is the evil. When there is no resistance, energy is unobstructed and flows. When there is resistance, movement stops, backs up, stagnates the organism. Resistance suffocates the emotions, deadens energy and kills feelings. Resistance is bred of caution, a thinking mechanism—thinking not in the sense of abstract thinking but of organizational thinking.”

Next, we hear from the heart-centered voice found in A Course in Miracles. “Right-mindedness listens to the Holy Spirit [intuition], forgives the world, and through Christ’s vision sees the real world [P-A] in its place … Wrong-mindedness listens to the ego and makes illusions [P-B]; perceiving sin and justifying anger, and seeing guilt, disease and death as real.”

The intellect masticates the emotional content of life until all the flavor and juice are squeezed out of it and what was a rich and tasty morsel is now only a dry, bland, meaningless and indigestible fiber. The intellect would make a soup of a thousand ingredients and end up with an inedible stew. The heart thrives on simple nourishment but prepares a meal with a thousand subtle delights to thrill the palette. The intellect is tied to recipes but intuition is a chef who never repeats the same dance in his kitchen.

Deepak Chopra corroborates our hypothesis regarding the superiority of “heart” over “head” in coping with the vicissitudes of life. “The heart is intuitive; it’s holistic, it’s contextual, it’s relational. It doesn’t have a win-lose orientation. It taps into the cosmic computer—the field of pure potentiality, pure knowledge, and infinite organizing power—and takes everything into account.”

The intellect is problematic in that it is designed to function within the narrative of P-B and therefore is limited in its ability to support our search for profound insights into a reality beyond the illusion that dominates human consciousness. Nevertheless, when engaged in the creative process in the present moment anyone can catch a glimpse of the good, the true and the beautiful.

In 40 years as an artist Rembrandt created 650 paintings, 280 etchings and 1200 drawings—a stunning example of the “flow” of the creative process. It is also an example of a person who was “present” to the creative process. Not unremarkably, he was also aware of the importance of understanding of the distinction between the intellect and intuition in creating beauty. He had many students from the time he began teaching at age 22.  He taught them to “… work not from knowledge of theories [the intellect] but from a visual experience of life [the heart].

Karl Marx’s intellect led him to believe that human suffering was caused by modern capitalism’s materialism (a partial insight). We know that he is speaking of the security energy center of the false self which expressed itself in all of humanity long before the advent of modern capitalism. Communism as a solution to human suffering was doomed from the beginning because Marx’s intellect couldn’t come up with a profound solution since he didn’t fully understand the problem to begin with.

“The ‘trap of mind’ is exemplified by the myth of Perseus slaying the Medusa. Medusa is depicted with a head from which snakes grow like hair (the powers of mind). Her effect on people is to turn them to stone (the mind ‘objectifies,’ i.e., makes inert). To deal with this difficulty and avoid being himself turned to stone, Perseus looks at her in a mirror, itself a symbol of mind.”

The following story illustrates the dangerous limitation involved with relying on the intellect, especially focusing on the details of analytical thinking. During the French Revolution a doctor, lawyer and an engineer had been sentenced to the guillotine. The executioner told the doctor after he climbed the scaffold that he had the choice of facing the blade so that he could see it fall should he choose to or to place his head on the block facing away. He chose to face the blade. Releasing the blade, the executioner was shocked when it came to an abrupt stop only three inches from the doctor’s neck. Taking that to be divine intervention the executioner told the doctor that he had escaped death and was free to go. The same thing happened to the lawyer and he was deemed to have received divine forgiveness. The engineer chose to face the blade as well and upon looking up toward the blade said to the executioner, “Look up there, I think that I see the problem.”

Mystics have been reporting evidence of a “heart’s mind” for thousands of years and recent scientific research done by the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Institute of HeartMath indicates that may be the case. “Turning our attention away from the brain, we focus on the heart. One of the quintessential scientific discoveries about the heart is that it plays a significant role in consciousness. At the Institute of HeartMath, scientists have established that the heart communicates with the brain and the body by way of both an extensive neural network and an electromagnetic field interaction. The electrical component of the heart’s field, which permeates every cell in the body [see the work of Candice Pert re: cellular memory], is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the brain’s. The heart’s magnetic field is about 5,000 times stronger than the brain’s and can be detected several feet away from the body with magnetometers. That gives the heart quite an edge on electromagnetic power. The heart’s rhythmic field has a powerful influence on processes throughout the body, and it appears to transmit physiological, psychological, and social information between individuals. In addition, research shows that the nervous system within the heart functions as its own ‘brain,’ enabling it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independently of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Experiments at HeartMath have demonstrated that the signals the heart continuously sends to the brain influence the higher brain centers involved in perception, cognition, and emotional processing.”

Dean Ornish, although trained as a traditional physician has proved himself a divergent thinker in both his research and his practice. “Ornish has come to believe that the single most important factor in ‘opening’ the heart—physiologically and otherwise—is the degree to which people are able to find a greater sense of meaning, contentment, and connectedness in their lives.”

Fritjof Capra takes us to the East and the teachings of Lao Tzu and Confucius. “Chinese philosophy on the other hand, has always emphasized the complementary nature of the intuitive and the rational and has represented them by the archetypal pair yin and yang which form the basis of Chinese thought. Accordingly, two complementary philosophical traditions—Taoism [intuition-centered] and Confucianism [intellect-centered]—have developed in ancient China to deal with the two kinds of knowledge.”

Joseph Campbell doesn’t equivocate in his insight which connected the Tao and the “heart’s mind.”  “… the Tao, the Way of nature and the universe, which is the way of one’s heart …”

There is an old saying (practically a major thesis) in Zen philosophy which understands the pitfalls of an over-reliance on the intellect.  “The mind is the slayer of the real.” In stark terms, Arthur Young describes the challenge that we have in reducing our dependence on conventional problem solving. “Rational process is a splendid assistant but a poor guide in almost any field, especially in the fundamental questions where the normal polarities fade out or reverse.”

Ken Wilber referring to his first wife, gives us a heartfelt contrast between the person comfortable in the paradigm of the intellect and one who lives closer to the wisdom of the heart. “I had remained where I wanted to be, where I myself am at home—in the Appolonian world of ideas, of logic, of concepts and symbols. Heaven is of the mind. Earth is of the body. I took the feelings and related them to ideas; Treya took ideas and related them to feelings.”

Geoffrey Hodson concludes our essay by emphasizing the importance of listening to the still, small voice, our heart’s mind.  “Outwardly a [person] lives a life dedicated to serving his fellow man and working toward world betterment. He maintains a pure motive, a spiritual outlook, and strives toward the heights, avoiding fanatical and unreasoned extremes, and he can be said to be treading the Path. Inwardly he works to create a path that enables a flow of energy from his spiritual nature to his personality—a Path that provides him consciousness of higher knowledge. This inner path he builds out of himself, and thus be becomes the path. Success in this endeavor results in the true intuitive thinker, who brings down the ideas that change the world and an attitude of goodwill that encourages their proper application. Treading the path has been defined as ‘self-conscious participation by man in the fulfillment of nature’s plan.’”  Yes, we are naturally wise, but we must be awake to use that wisdom.


References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in the Simple Reality Trilogy
by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I?  Story – The First Great Question
Who Am I?  Identity – The Second Great Question
Why Am I Here?  Behavior – The Third Great Question

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