The heart is the central organ of the blood circulation. It is a hollow muscular organ about the size of a fist, resembling a rounded cone with the tip pointing downwards and to the left, slightly offset to the left side of the body behind the sternum. Only in the relatively rare case of right-heart disease is it more offset to the right side of the body, usually with an overall mirror-inverted organ arrangement (situs inversus). In the macrocosm, the heart corresponds to the Sun and, as a planetary metal, to gold.
The heart as a future voluntary organ
The heart consists mainly of striated muscles, similar to our skeletal musculature, which we can activate at will. According to Rudolf Steiner, this already heralds the future development through which the heart will one day become an voluntary organ:
„It is that organ which is intimately connected with the circulation of the blood. Now science believes that the heart is a kind of pump. This is a grotesquely fantastic idea. Never has occultism made such a fantastic assertion as the materialism of today. That which is the moving force of the blood is the feelings of the soul. The soul drives the blood, and the heart moves because it is driven by the blood. So exactly the reverse is true of what materialistic science says. Only, man today cannot yet direct his heart arbitrarily; when he is afraid, it beats faster because the feeling acts on the blood and this accelerates the movement of the heart. But what man now suffers involuntarily he will later, at a higher stage of development, have under his control. Later on he will drive his blood and move his heart as he does the muscles of his hands today. The heart with its peculiar construction is a crux, a cross, for present-day science. It has striated muscle fibres that are otherwise only found in voluntary muscles. Why? Because the heart has not yet reached the end of its development, but is an organ of the future, because it will become an arbitrary muscle. Therefore it already shows the disposition for this in its construction.
Heart and Blood Circulation
The heart is not a pump!
The heart begins to form from the flowing blood circulation as early as the 3rd week of embryonic development and begins to pulsate independently from the 23rd or 24th day of pregnancy. In Steiner's view, the shape of the heart is a result of the accumulating currents of force from left-right or right-left and from above and below. The backwater of these currents creates thickenings from which the four chambers of the heart are formed. But according to Steiner, not only the shape but also the activity of the heart is a result of the living movement of the blood circulation. In his view, the heart does not function as a pump that drives the blood through the body, but rather the blood circulation sets the heart in motion. The left half of the heart receives the oxygen-rich blood from the small pulmonary circulation, the right half of the heart receives the oxygen-poor blood from the large systemic circulation.
The cardiac output (CO) is about 4.5-5 l/min in healthy adults; under high stress it can rise to over 30 l/min, especially in top athletes.
„The mechanical-materialistic view has turned this heart into a pump that drives the blood through the human body. It is the opposite, this heart: a living thing is the circulation of the blood - embryology can prove it exactly if it only wants to - , and the heart is set into action by the internally moving blood. The heart is that in which the activity of the blood is finally manifested, in which the activity of the blood is taken into the whole of human individuality. The activity of the heart is a consequence of the activity of the blood, not the activity of the blood a consequence of the activity of the heart.“ (Lit.:GA 74, p. 92f)
„If one learns to recognise the rhythmic system as it is expressed in the formation of the course of respiration, of the course of the blood, one breaks with the superstition that the heart is a pump which drives the blood through the organism like some kind of water. Then one learns to recognise that the spiritual intervenes in the blood circulation, that therefore the rhythm takes hold of the metabolism, effects the blood circulation and then in the course of human development, already in the embryonic development, the heart is sculptured out of what is the blood circulation, so that the heart is formed out of the blood circulation, thus out of the spiritual.“ (Lit.:GA 203, p. 151f)
Rudolf Steiner's view that the heart is not a mechanical pump, but rather is put into action the other way round by the living flowing blood, was largely ignored in medical research for a long time. However, more recent studies confirm his statements. Branko Furst, for example, summarises in his book The Heart and Circulation:
„In summary, an attempt has been made to review the current status of the pressure- propulsion model of circulation and highlight a number of inconsistencies which have been either explained away or tailored in order to fit its mold. According to the mechanistic (cardiocentric) model, the blood is considered an inert fluid, impelled along the vessels by the pressure gradient created by the heart. Experimental and phenomenological evidence presented in this monograph suggests exactly the opposite, namely, that the blood is a “fluid organ”, with self-movement as its inherent characteristic. Conceptually, autonomous movement of the blood is no different than autonomous contraction of the heart, the enterohepatic circulation of bile salts, or the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid ...
... the ontogenetic origin and morphology of the cardiovascular system indicate that it can be considered an organ, whose function is rhythmic mediation between the nerve–sense (form) and the metabolic poles of the organism. Its mobile component, the blood, fulfills this function ...“ (Lit.: Branko Furst: The Heart and Circulation, p. 217)
The heart as an electrically active organ
The heart is an organ with high electrical activity, which can be recorded as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). The electrical currents that flow through the heart generate a corresponding cardiac magnetic field that can be recorded as a magnetocardiogram (MCG). Although the magnetic field of the heart is much weaker than the earth's magnetic field, it is 500 - 5000 times stronger than the magnetic field of the brain and can still be detected several metres outside the body.
The activity of the heart muscles is stimulated by electrical impulses. In so-called myogenic hearts, as found in vertebrates, tunicates, molluscs and some annelids and arthropods, these autonomous rhythmic impulses are excited by cardiac muscle cells specialised for this purpose. Neurogenic hearts, as found in some annelids and arthropods, are in contrast excited by nerve cells. However, the heart rate is also influenced by nerve activity in myogenic hearts such as that of humans. A corresponding heart rate variability (HRV) is of decisive importance for the health of the entire organism. The actual cause of the heart's movement, however, lies, as Rudolf Steiner emphasises, in the astral body, whose influence on the heart can be promoted or inhibited by nervous activity.
„Two nerve cords go to the heart. They go out from behind there, go down there and go to the heart. One goes there, and then it spreads out in the heart. Then another one goes there, also spreads out in the heart. Now think of me passing an electric current through the nerve. Then I can perceive something strange: The heart begins to beat faster and faster. Why? Because the electric current excites the nerve, the heart begins to beat faster and faster. The electric current excites the nerve.
But now you think, I am not electrifying this nerve, I am electrifying the other nerve, the second nerve. Now you might think that nerve is nerve. I am electrifying there. And you might now think, isn't it true, the heart starts beating faster and faster again. But it doesn't. If I electrify the nerve here (the first one), the heart beats faster and faster. But if I electrify this one (the second), the heart beats slower and slower. And if I electrify it very strongly, then the heart stops beating at all. I have to stop quickly, otherwise the human being will die from the heartbeat. The fact is that there is no difference in construction between this one nerve and the other. They are both constructed in the same way. Yes, what is there?
You see, it's like this: When this is electrified, the astral body enters and stimulates the heart so that it beats faster, because, as it were, it is relieved of a task which it would otherwise have to do itself by the electric current. So it can work faster in the heart. Now suppose, however, that an electric current is being applied here (to the other nerve). Now the astral body wants to move the heart faster; but from the other side an obstacle is placed in its way. As soon as it wants to begin to move the heart faster, it cannot get through on the other side. This excitation (of the first nerve) is useful to him because it takes a job off him. This excitation (the second), it harms him because it comes against him. If I could go into the heart and electrify it from there, then that would also make the heart beat faster and faster. But if I electrify this nerve from outside, then this astral body cannot move the heart, because it has more and more of an obstacle.
From this you see that one can see quite exactly how things actually happen in the human body, how the astral body intervenes on one side just as when, let us say, I want to turn a wheel: there I push on, there I turn on; but if I turn in the opposite direction, then it does not work. It is like that with the heart, like that with the lungs, with every organ. Every organ is supplied from two sides by the nerves; but that which intervenes is the astral body.“ (Lit.:GA 349, p. 174f)
Heart and Sun
„The heart of living creatures is the foundation of their life, the prince of them all, the little world sun, on which all life depends, all freshness and strength emanates. Similarly, a king is the foundation of his kingdoms and the sun of his little world, the heart of the state, from which all power radiates, all grace emanates. This writing here on the motion of the heart I have dared to dedicate to His Majesty (as is the custom of the time) the more because [...] almost all human acts, as well as most acts of a king, are performed under the inspiration of the heart.“
The heart as a central organ of warmth
The heart is a central organ of warmth, which through its tireless activity produces a large amount of surplus warmth in which the human I can incarnate in the constant encounter of microcosm and macrocosm. The large systemic circulation corresponds to the microcosm, the small pulmonary circulation, which establishes the connection with the environment, on the other hand, to the macrocosm.
„The heart is the organ through which the warmth passes into the human and animal body, it works the warmth around. The heart, like the other human organs, is built symmetrically. Man actually has two hearts, which are separated by a septum. Each half of the heart is in turn separated by a septum into the atrium and the actual heart, so that four chambers have to be distinguished: Atrium and ventricle, connected by the valve, and right and left heart. Now from the left ventricle goes the great vein, aorta, upwards first; then the aorta sends a branch that supplies the brain. Another branch goes throughout the body, supplying the abdominal region through a fine vein. Other branches go down into the limbs, and then they come into the right atrium. From the brain a branch goes back into the right atrium. This is the great circulation.
From the right ventricle goes the small circulation; the branch goes directly into the lungs and coming back from the lungs into the left atrium, then through the left valve into the left ventricle. In the lungs the blood is renewed; it breathes in the oxygen, the blue blood goes through the combustion process and starts its cycle again as red blood. Combustion always means the combination of a substance with the oxygen in the air. What goes on in the lungs is a process of combustion; a real relationship that develops between the individual animal body and the whole air is what happens. Just as the plant consumes light, so the animal consumes fire; it is a heating of the body. The higher process is that which then takes place in man alone - animals merely have a disposition for it - that is sound.
These three links represent a connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm. The great circuit that goes through the whole body is called the microcosm; the individual being and the small circuit represent the connection with the macrocosm. There are transitions between individual beings: Fish have no lungs and no heart so developed, therefore the fish has alternating warmth, the warmth of its environment. The heart gradually works its way out in the reptile; the lungs work their way out of the swim bladder, out of a water organ into an air organ. Everything in the world is based on this connection between microcosm and macrocosm. The connections made in this way make it clear that it is impossible for human beings to be separated from the larger world. It is impossible for human beings to exist without air. It is illusion to believe that man is more independent than his hand. He too can only live in connection with the great organism. It belongs to the earth as the hand belongs to the human being. The heart is a kind of brain for the future. That, too, can already be grasped. The brain is merely an outgrowth of the nervous system. Now there is not only this nervous system in the human body, but also the solar plexus, the sympathetic nervous system. There are two smaller strands on the spinal cord, they spread out, and their task is to supply all the involuntary movements of the human being, which are connected with digestion, breathing and so on, plexus solaris. In lower animals this sympathetic nervous system has a much greater importance, for it precedes the actual formation of the heart, as for example in the intestinal animals, they are also called plant animals. Now the heart is formed with its nervous system and makes the being independent, which develops its brain.“ (Lit.:GA 91, p. 174ff)
- Thomas Fuchs: Die Mechanisierung des Herzens. Harvey und Descartes - Der vitale und der mechanische Aspekt des Kreislaufs. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 978-3518581100
- Branko Furst: The Heart and Circulation - An Integrative Model, Springer-Verlag, London 2014, ISBN 978-1-4471-5276-7 eBook: ISBN 978-1-4471-5277-4
- Armin Husemann: Die Blutbewegung und das Herz, Verlag Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart 2019, ISBN 978-3772517037
- Rudolf Steiner: Die Philosophie des Thomas von Aquino, GA 74 (1993), ISBN 3-7274-0741-7 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Kosmologie und menschliche Evolution. Einführung in die Theosophie – Farbenlehre, GA 91 (2018), ISBN 978-3-7274-0910-3
- Rudolf Steiner: Die Theosophie des Rosenkreuzers, GA 99 (1985), Dreizehnter Vortrag, München, 5. Juni 1907 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Vergangenheits- und Zukunftsimpulse im sozialen Geschehen, GA 190 (1980) English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Die Verantwortung des Menschen für die Weltentwickelung durch seinen geistigen Zusammenhang mit dem Erdplaneten und der Sternenwelt, GA 203 (1989), ISBN 3-7274-2030-8 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Das Geheimnis der Trinität, GA 214 (1999), ISBN 3-7274-2140-1 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Der Jahreskreislauf als Atmungsvorgang der Erde und die vier großen Festeszeiten, GA 223 (1990), Achter Vortrag, Dornach, 30. September 1923 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Zur Geschichte und aus den Inhalten der erkenntniskultischen Abteilung der Esoterischen Schule von 1904 bis 1914, GA 265 (1987), ISBN 3-7274-2650-0 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Geisteswissenschaft und Medizin, GA 312 (1990), Zweiter Vortrag, Dornach, 22. März 1920 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Physiologisch-Therapeutisches auf Grundlage der Geisteswissenschaft. Zur Therapie und Hygiene, GA 314 (1989), ISBN 3-7274-3141-5 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
- Rudolf Steiner: Vom Leben des Menschen und der Erde. Über das Wesen des Christentums, GA 349 (1980), ISBN 3-7274-3490-2 English: rsarchive.org German: pdf pdf(2) html mobi epub archive.org
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.
- Das Herz – unser zweites Gehirn, retrieved 31 Oct 2018
- Über Neurone im Herz: Unser Herz kann mehr als gedacht, retrieved 31 Oct 2018
- HeartMath Institute, retrieved 31 Oct 2018