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 The Window of the Good Heart

an essay on the heart

© Wim van den Dungen

"The heart of man is a gift of the god,
beware of neglecting it."

Amen-em-apt : The Instruction of Amen-em-apt, chapter 24.

"Lo, every word of the god came into being through the thoughts in the heart & the command by the tongue."
Memphis Theology, 56 -57.

"Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, this Âtman forever dwells within the hearts of all. When a man is free from desire, his mind and senses purified, he beholds the glory of the Âtman and is without sorrow."
Katha Upaniśad, 2.20.

"In the space within the heart lies the Ruler of All, the Lord of All, the King of All. He does not become greater by good action nor inferior by bad action. He is the Lord of All, the Overlord of Beings, the Protector of Beings."
Brihad-Âranyaka Upaniśad, 4.4.22.

"For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
Proverbs, 23:7.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Gospel of Matthew, 5:8.

"Through constraint on the heart, understanding of consciousness."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 3.34.

"Allah does not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but He will call you to account for what your hearts have earned, and Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing."
Koran, The Cow, 2.225.

"The Wheel of the Heart corresponds to the Body of Truth. The Wheel of the Throat to the Body of Enjoyment. The Wheel of the Head to the Body of Manifestation."
Tantra of Kâlachakra, verse 27.

"So when the Bridegroom/the Word, came to me, he never made known his coming by any signs, not by sight, not by sound, not by touch. It was not by any movement of his that I recognized his coming ; it was not by any of my senses that I perceived he had penetrated to the depth of my being. Only by the movement of my heart, as I have told, did I perceive his presence ..."
Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 74, II.6, my italics.

"Let those who are versed in the mystery revel in it ; let all others burn with desire rather to attain to this experience than merely to learn about it. For it is a melody that resounds abroad by the very music of the heart, not a trilling on the lips but an inward pulsing of delight, a harmony not of voices but of wills."
Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 1, VI.2, my italics.

It happens that love is sweetly been awakened in the soul and happily raises, and that she moves in the heart, without any help of human effort. And so the heart is been tenderly touched by love, and so full of strong desire been pulled inside love, and so hearty seized by love, and so strongly dominated by love, and so lovely contained by love, that she is completely conquered by love."
Beatrice of Nazareth, Seven Ways of Holy Love, Fourth Way, § 1.

"He who meditates on this Heart Lotus becomes (like) the Lord of Speech, and (like) Îśvara he is able to protect and destroy the worlds. This Lotus, is like the celestial wishing-three, the abode and seat of Śiva. It is beautified by the Jîvâtmâ, which is like unto the steady tapering flame of a lamp in a windless place. The filaments which surround and adorn its pericarp, illumined by the solar region, charm."
Pûrnânanda : Sat-Cakra-Nirûpana, verse 26.

"Two excesses : exclude reason, accept but reason. (...)
The heart has its reasons which reason knows not."
Blaise Pascal : Pensées, 177 & 423.

"The heart of Heaven and Earth, the universal mind, is what has been previously referred to as the natural, innocent true mind. This mind is subtle and recondite, and is not easily manifested ; it only shows a glimpse when 'light appears in the empty room' and 'within darkness, suddenly there is illumination'".
Liu I-ming : Commentary on The Inner Teachings of Taoism by Chang Po-tuan, part 2,7.

"'Goodbye,' said the fox. 'And now here is my secret, a very simple secret : It is only with the heart that one can see rightly ; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'"

Antoine de Saint-Exupery : Le Petit Prince, 1943, chapter 21.

"These days people need to feel their heart and spirit more, to bring them peace, intuitive guidance, love and happiness."
Doc Childre



I : The Heart in the Spiritual Traditions.

1. The Heart as Awareness & Shrine in Ancient Egypt.

1.1 Maat : the Order of Creation.
1.2 Balancing the Heart with Righteousness.
1.3 Entering the Shrine of the Heart.

2. The Organ of Abrahamic Mysticism.

2.1 Beauty in Qabalah.
2.2 The Pure in Heart & Poor in Spirit.
2.3 The Heart as the Tent of Allah.

3. The Indestructible Drop in Buddhist Tantra.

3.1 Identifying the Three Minds.
3.2 Entering the Heart Wheel.
3.3 The Clear Light.

4. The Tao and the Harmony of Heaven & Earth.

4.1 The Three Elixir Fields.
4.2 Inner Alchemy : Transforming Body to Tao.
4.3 The Heart-Mind : Harmonizing Earth & Heaven.

II : The Heart in Science.

5. Neurocardiology.

5.1 A Few Facts.
5.2 Multiple Interactions.

6. Biofeedback and the Heart.

6.1 The Biofeedback Principle.
6.2 HeartMath & Cardiac Coherence.
6.3 From Wellbeing to the End of Suffering.

7. Opening the Heart by Way of Buddhist Meditation.

7.1 Mindfulness of Heart.
7.2 Cutting Through.
7.3 Generating Bodhicitta.

8. Integrating the Three Brains.

8.1 The Three Cortices of the Triune Brain.
8.2 Head, Heart & Gut : the Three Brains.
8.3 The Integrating Torus of the Heart.

III : The Good Heart of Direct Spiritual Experience.

9. Understanding Cognitive Activity.

9.1 The Seven Modes of Cognitive Activity.
9.2 The Three Stages of Cognition.
9.3 Finding a
Hippopotamus in the House.

10. Great Compassion at the Heart of Wisdom.

10.1 The Pursuit of Happiness.
10.2 Great Compassion.
10.3 Resting in the Union of Emptiness & Great Compassion.

Epilogue : Wholehearted Love as the Window of the Heart.



Seeking to calmly unveil or actively generate the Divine in consciousness, the creativity of the human spirit is perennial. Starting in the Upper Paleolithic cave mysteries, if not earlier, the religious reflex of humanity never died out. Giving rise to a manifold of spiritual traditions, each introduced various concepts of Godhead, leading up to complex systems of theology, featuring soteriological views and related practices. But this elaborated intellectual activity tends to replace "my Lord" with "our Lord", exchanging the radical personal experience of the "totaliter aliter" for a common communal form of worship. Building their efforts around this "magister fidei", the traditional theologies eclipse the essential and bar the way to those seeking to direct experience the Divine in their own hearts.

"Jesus said : 'The Pharisees and the scribes have taken the keys of knowledge and hidden them. They have not entered, nor have they allowed those who wish so to enter. You, however, be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.'"
The Gospel of Thomas, 39.

Despite these multiple approaches, the various spiritual traditions perceive the heart as the main organ of spiritual experience. Hermeneutically, this identification has been deemed merely symbolical, related to the powerful pulsating force of the physical heart, providing blood to all living tissues in the body. Interestingly though, current medical science evidences how the physical heart is more than just a pump, indeed, has a little brain of its own. The neurological, hormonal & electromagnetic influence of the heart extends to all tissues, whereas its torus affects the direct environment of the organism. A new spiritual science of the heart is possible.

supernatural, radical otherness

In general, the word "Divine" refers to "supernatural", meta-nominal phenomena. In non-Dharmic contexts, these are deemed as either part of nature (pantheism), as transcending nature (theism), as encompassing both nature and its beyond (pan-en-theism), or as the basis of reason without revelation (deism). In Dharmic contexts, the Divine refers to unbounded wholeness (as in Buddhism & Taoism), touching pan-sacralism.

Mysticism involves the direct experience of the Divine, i.e. the non-conceptual, non-dual, ineffable apprehension of the Divine. Derived from the Greek "mustikos" it refers to something hidden, not available to the nominal organs of cognition given to everyone, namely conceptual objects based on sensate objects. Although the mystical traditions provide two ways to this direct, un-saying experience, namely the way of the mind and the way of the heart, it may become clear the heart is the central organ enabling us to experience the Divine. The association of the superconscious mind with the heart and not with the brain refers to this.

While the brain, as "sensus exterior", deals with manifesting superconsciousness, the heart, as "sensus interior", is the actual seat of the "Imago Dei", manifesting the Bridegroom. While in Hindu Kundalinî Yoga, the brain is associated with the Crown Lotus, the abode of the Deity, the "âtman" (one with Brahman) is found in the Heart Lotus. Only in "the space of the heart" can the path leading to transcendence be found ... It is the house of the very subtle mind of Clear Light (Buddhadharma).

The heart, as the organ of the spiritual potential of human consciousness, acts as receptor (storing what has been acquired) and as the motoric focus of the activity of the higher, very subtle mind. This is achieved by way of Holy Love, the yearning of consciousness for the Absolute, rooted in a variety of powerful feelings like joy, love, compassion & equanimity. The direct experience of this Divine Presence occurs in the heart, making it the temple, tent, synagoge, church, mosk and lodge of the indwelling of the Nameless. In this sense, the Divine is Love, and the human heart is the foundational centre of mystical perception.

"My heart has become capable of every form :
It is a pasture for gazelles and a cloister for Christian monks,
A temple for idols, and the pilgrim's Ka'ba,
The tables of the Tora and the holy Book of the Koran.

I follow the religion of Love,
Whatever path Love's camels take.
That is my religion and my faith.
Ibn al-'Arabî : Ode.

In the first part of this essay, the role of the heart in a few major spiritual traditions will be discussed : Ancient Egyptian religion & sapience, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism & Taoism. The second part summarizes some of the finding of neurocardiology, in particular the importance of coherence and the electromagnetic influence of the heart on all bodily tissues as well as on the direct environment. In the third part, the heart as the seat of the direct experience of the Divine is at hand. Finally, in the epilogue, a few personal musings on the foregoing brings closure.

I : The Heart in the Spiritual Traditions.

The variety of spiritual traditions are so many paths to the same experience of unknowing. They do not exclude one another, but form a caleidoscope or mandala of the hidden, implicate unity behind all things. They are so many wild & cultivated flowers in the vast, grand garden of the Divine and present themselves to celebrate the luring Vision of Beauty and Unity.

1. The Heart as Awareness & Shrine in Ancient Egypt.

The use of capitals in words as "God", "Deity", "Deities" or "Divine", points to a rational context, i.e. how these appear in a theology conducted in the rational mode of thought. Hence, when these words are used in the context of Ancient Egyptian ante-rational thought (which, as a cultural form, was mythical, pre-rational & proto-rational), this restriction is lifted. Hence, words such as "god", "the god", "gods", "goddesses", "pantheon" or "divine" are not capitalized.

1.1 Maat : the Order of Creation.

Numerous are the Egyptian texts, in particular the wisdom literature, explaining how the heart is the organ receiving & emitting Maat. In Middle Egyptian, the word "maat" ("mAat") is used for "truth" and "justice" (in Arabic, "al-haq", is both "truth" and "real"). Through the heart, the human being participates in maintaining the balance of the cosmic and the human order and this by allowing the free flow of life. Pictured as a vase (), but representing the heart of an animal (F34), the heart can receive and pour out Maat.

the goddess Maat

Maat is both a concept and a goddess, the daughter of the Sun-god Atum-Re. As a concept, she represents truth, justice, social order and ethical values based on the cosmic order. Maat turns out to be the fundamental idea constituting ancient Egyptian religion, for the various fields of nature and culture form a unity thanks to her. Indeed, state policy, the cults, science, art, sapience, ethics and even the private life of the individual are all rooted in the cosmic order represented by Maat, the ideal of cosmic & social solidarity. As the Egyptian religion was not based on revealed texts but on nature, all rituals and cults were aimed at energy renewal. Taking into account the immaterial side of things (the "ka"), the Egyptians offered this invisible part of all living things to their deities. Thus pleasing the gods, they received their ongoing blessings. This cycle lasted for three millennia !

"Speak Maat, do Maat,
For it is mighty ;
It is great, it endures,
Its worth is tried,
It leads one to reveredness."

The Eloquent Peasant, Eighth Petition.

Daily, in every temple of Egypt, the supreme offering was executed by the divine king (and his representatives, the high priests) : offering Maat to Re. By doing so, the divine king guaranteed the continuity of life and a "good Nile", i.e. an inundation neither too violent nor too sparse.

Seti I offering Maat to Re

Many text state one has to "hear Maat" through the heart. By doing so, one receives the energy of Re, the life force. To fill the heart with Maat is deemed essential, both in this life as in the afterlife. To receive Maat in the heart, is to participate in the eternal recurrent ("neheh") communication through continuous exchanges, participating in the immaterial world of life energy.

So the aim of "doing Maat" was to allow the just flow of the rich Solar energy of Atum-Re, creating abundance, prosperity & heath for all. Just as the divine king was a reflection of his divine father Re, the justice of the material world was a reflection of the divine exchange, one dealing with sharing a limited amount of goods.

Goddess Maat, Daughter of Re.

The duality of the balance represented by Maat can also be seen at work in the two-tiered edifice of Egyptian soteriology :

  1. • STARTING WITH THE MOON : the (lower) sky of Osiris (the Eye of Horus) : the ultimate state of human blessedness is to live the life of an "Osiris NN", with a court, humbling servants and a kingdom situated in the vast darkness of the Duat (like creation is a bubble of moist air suspended in chaos). Even the smallest offer made with a sincere heart during earthly life might be enough to be helped by Isis or Osiris, and so the commoners made sure the holy family noticed them. This economy is inclusive of everyman, but conditional. The only exception to it was Pharaoh ;

  2. • ENDING IN THE SUN : the (upper) sky of Re (the Eye of Re) : the sky of Osiris and the sky of Re are proximate, and after the highest spirituality of servitude has been fulfilled, the "Ba" or soul of the deceased is transformed, in the horizon, into an "Akh" or spirit of Re, sailing, among the other pure beings of light, on the Bark of Re, illuminating the beings of day and night, including the deities and the justified blessed dead of Osiris (who otherwise sleep). The sacred knowledge regarding this spiritual evolution was for the very few and, when first written down, portrayed in the tomb of kings only. This economy is exclusive of everyman, reserved to the deities (as the king and his high priests) and unconditional.

1.2 Balancing the Heart with Righteousness.

The heart, or "ib", was deemed lodged in the "net" of the "khat", the physical body. The word "ib", written as , or with a single hieroglyph representing a mammal heart + the determinative for "one" (a stroke) : It means : middle, interior, intelligence, thought, attentions, intentions, disposition, will, wish, mind, ego. It occurs in heart-expressions like : "heart of the soul", "the dictates of the heart", "heart's desire", "heart of my heart", "to eat the heart" (to be sorry), etc (cf. infra).

"O my heart which I had from my mother ! O my heart which I had upon Earth ..."

The Papyrus of Ani, 30A.

The heart is the state, quality or "mental" condition which the Egyptians associated with the physical heart or "hâti". This "ib" is a product of maternal education. The word "hât" means a member, the flesh of the physical body, the person in bodily form, a product of Earth. See also the expressions : "hâ", to rejoice, to be glad, glad ; "hââ", to rejoice, exult, to be glad ; "hââut", rejoicing, gladness ; "hâiu", those who rejoice and "hâa-t ha-t", the joy of heart, etc.

The heart is more a self-identical state of consciousness than a vehicle or component of man. Its conservation is deemed necessary for the general mastery & steering (of the bark of life) seated in the heart. During mummification, the heart was not removed and often the amulet of a beetle, symbolic of rebirth, was placed upon it, to facilitate its weighing against the feather of Maat.

The "ib" covers the main characteristics of what today is called "consciousness", namely intention, mind, free will & ego, associated with cognitive capacity, speech and the power of the word directed towards "body & belly".

"Le coeur-conscience conçoit, pense, donne des ordres aux nerfs, aux muscles, aux membres. C'est lui qui permet aux sens de fonctionner correctement. Tout part du coeur et tout lui revient, il émet et il reçoit."
Jacq, 1983, p.16.

The heart is the place of awareness, coordination and mental control. The heart is the mind. This cognitive feature is explicit, as in : "thought of the heart", "kat", meaning "thought" (cf. "kai", to think, to think out, to say).

The heart is also the seat of free will and hence responsible for a person's evil deeds or acts against Maat. These cause the heart to become heavy and dull (for everything said & done is recorded). In a good heart, the will steers the concert of physical, vital and emotional (imaginal) forces at work in the common human being well, and remains ever as light as a feather : flexible, strong but of nearly no weight.

The Feather of Maat

In a sick, evil heart, coordination & communication is lost and so consciousness has no strong focal point, is diffuse and isolated. The will is weak and one's expectations are spoiled by fear.

The Egyptian language of the Maxims of Good Discourse of Ptahhotep, the foundational text of Egyptian sapiental literature, captures the essence of the "state of heart" in a pictorial, metaphorical and poetical way, leaving room for many readings and an alternative "coupure" of the text. Instead of trying to give a good description, my translations mostly try to remain near the phraseology of the extant original. To understand an Egyptian concept one is advised to seek context before content. The latter may be isolated within a given set of connotative meanings, but can never be defined beforehand as in the linear and geometrical methods developed by the Greeks.

The use of "heart" in the Maxims of Good Discourse (ca.2200 BCE). The numbers refer to the translation.

(011) heart is weary : to be tired in body and mind
(013) the heart, ended : the cognitive faculties being absent, finished
(032) the exactness of (every) heart : correct, precise information given 
(043) heart get big (or great) : an inflated sense of personhood
(050) directs the heart : to be able to conduct & control oneself, a powerful man
(052) seize your heart (against) : to act aggressively against someone
(057) control of heart : self-control, restraint of one's personal drives
(066) aggressive of heart : the attitude of attacking another person
(068) relieve your heart : to undo oneself of a psychological burden
(069) wash the heart : to relieve oneself of feelings, whether they be anger or joy
(070) little heart : a man of weak cognitive abilities, an incompetent person
(071) your heart desires : what you like or wish
(080) the heart that robs : the greedy person, the thief 
(106) evil on his heart : evil intentions, feelings and/or thoughts
(108) please the heart : to satisfy oneself or another person
(150) follow your heart : enjoy your life, be happy, make a good life for yourself
(152) the time of 'follow-the-heart' : sum of all happy, joyful, unmixed moments of life
(164) withdraw the heart : to separate oneself from a situation or a person
(186) reaches the heart : to enter consciousness, to become aware
(192) heart obeys his belly : the mind follows the instincts and the lower affects
(194) heart is denuded : sorrowful state of mind, degeneration of the sense of ego
(195) great of heart : great-hearted person
(197) swallowing the heart : to loose sight of reality, to falter, to forget
(220) calms the heart : to eliminate the harsh, unpolished sides of one's character 
(232) the heart rejects it : a person does not accept a thought, feeling or action
(237) greed of the heart : the vice of always wanting more material things
(261) gladden the heart : to make a person happy, joyful and serene
(292) whole heart together : to concentrate exclusively on something
(302) a high heart : to be haughty
(306) the hot of heart : a hot-heart or a hot-tempered, uncontrolled person
(308) sad of heart : a depressed, sorrowful person
(309) frivolous of heart : to be constantly light-hearted, gay and without concerns
(313) obeys his heart : to follow the rules one made one's own
(315) vex the heart : to make somebody furious
(352) the trust of your heart : the faculty of trusting something or someone
(367) lacks in heart : to be mindless, inconsiderate, disrespectful towards others
(372) water upon the heart : effeminate, unmanly thoughts, feelings & actions
(381) test his heart : to probe the authenticity of oneself or another
(411) unbound of heart : to be gay and joyful as a result of being without obligations
(415) joyful of heart : a positive, constructive attitude and a good sense of humor
(436) the heart twines his tongue : thought & speech match, are equal
(452) heart ... a listener or a non-listener : a person decides to listen or not
(453) life ... are a man's heart : the core of a person is alive, healthy & prospering
(467) valued by the heart : taken into consideration, given attention, be aware of
(511) immerge your heart : to be discreet, to hide one's thoughts, to keep to oneself
(517) be patient of heart : to be deliberate, to take the time to collect one's thoughts
(528) his heart matches his steps : he lives & acts as he thinks and says, is straight

The Weighing of the Heart
Judgment of the Dead in the Papyrus of Ani

In the Book of the Dead, the heart appears in the context of being without blame, in harmony with Maat. When the physical body dies, the heart is left in the mummy, for in the afterlife, immediately after the mummy has been reactivated by the Ritual of Opening the Mouth, it was weighed against the Feather of Maat. The above vignette from the famous Papyrus of Ani has the heart on the left scale and the Feather of Maat on the right. We see how the psychopomp Anubis checks the plummet while Thoth records the outcome. Behind Thoth, the hybrid monster Ammut waits to hear the verdict, ready to eat the heart as soon as it is found to be heavier than the Feather of Maat. When this happens, the afterlife has been lost, for only the "justified" may enter the Kingdom of Osiris. So for a good afterlife, the trial of the balance was decisive.

Various Weighing Scenes

The deceased does not wish to loose his or her heart after judgment, for the "ib" was the seat of the "Ba". As a heart found to be heavier than the Feather of Maat was recycled, various protective spells were written in the tomb, on the coffin or inscribed on amulets placed in the mummy's wrappings. Often a Scarab Beetle, representing Kheper, the resurrected Sun-god, was placed on the heart itself.

And what caused the heart to be "too heavy" ?

"Vile is he whose belly is voracious ;
time passes and he forgets
in whose house the belly strides."

The Instructions of Kagemni, I.

The sapiental texts are very consistent : the fire in the belly causes one to forget Maat ! Unbridled emotions, harsh speech, violence, hatred, greed, pride etc. block the flow of vital energy, abhorred by the "ka", and so bring down the work of Maat, the free flow of Solar energy. This only puts oil upon the fire, making one follow the belly (the afflicted affects, emotions & feelings) instead of the heart in tune with Maat (the balanced mind).

"The trustful of heart does not vent his belly's speech."
Maxims of Good Discourse, 186.

Afflictive emotionality kindles the fire and makes one loose control over oneself, causing harm to others. In return, this causes harm to oneself, for the communicational loop between the two scales of the balance must not be broken, each human being part of a society, be it national, provincial or local.

"His lips are sweet, his tongue is bitter.
A fire burns in his belly.
Do not leap up to join such a one,
lest a terror carry You away."

Instruction to Amen-em-apt, 33-36.

One speaking and acting against Maat will eventually no longer be in touch with the life force of Re and will as it were be disconnected from the universal energy circulation, lacking exchange with it and hence blocking the heart. This leads to a "heavy" heart, for due to the absence of exchange, the negative (blocked, non-circulatory) energy builds up, making the heart sluggish and solid. This is like tightening the knots, stopping further interaction with the larger whole, with the environment and with the gods.

As this condition of the heart determines a person's "last thought" when leaving this plane of existence, turning the mind towards the belly instead of the sky, towards egoistic & afflictive emotionality instead of the lightness of the Feather of Maat, the heart is a crucial organ, both physically as metaphysically.

"Earths rightness lies in Maat !
Speak not falsely - You are great,
Act not lightly - You are weighty ;
Speak not falsely - You are the balance,
Do not swerve - You are the norm !
You are one with the balance,
If it tilts, You may tilt."
The Eloquent Peasant, Third Petition.

This whole procedure of weighing refers to the exchange between the divine and human. The pair of scales involves the natural and automatic functioning of a natural, divine law.

"Said he (Anubis) that is in the tomb : 
'Pay attention to the decision of truth
and the plummet of the balance, according to its stance !'"
Papyrus of Ani, Plate 3
 (note how the plummet hangs as a heart on the Feather of Maat)

In this short exhortation, a practical method of truth springs to the fore : concentration, observation, quantification (analysis, spatiotemporal flow, measurements) & recording (fixating). This with the purpose of rebalancing, reequilibrating & correcting concrete states of affairs, using the plumb-line of the various equilibria in which these actual aggregates of events are dynamically -scale-wise- involved, causing Maat to be done for them and their environments and the proper Ka, at peace with itself, to flow between all parts of creation. The "logic" behind this operation involves four rules : 

  1. inversion : when a concept is introduced, its opposite is also invoked (the two scale of the balance) ;

  2. asymmetry : flow is the outcome of inequality (the feather-scale of the balance is a priori correct) ;

  3. reciprocity : the two sides of everything interact and are interdependent (the beam of the balance) ;

  4. multiplicity-in-oneness : the possibilities between every pair are measured by one standard (the plummet).

1.3 Entering the Shrine of the Heart.

"Whosoever puts Thee in his heart, O Amun !
Lo, his Sun dawns."

Prayer to Amun, Ostracon (BM 5656a).

The spiritual role of the heart was not limited to the afterlife, nor to the mere psychology of a person. In Ancient Egyptian thought, morality, psychology and bringing in an awareness of the divine order (spirituality) were not disconnected. Hence, besides its psychological & moral role, "to let his heart enter its shrine" (Instruction of Amen-em-apt, 9) was deemed necessary to lead a spiritual, religious life. This "shrine" of the heart was the sacred place of the "inner god", a concept developed in the Late New Kingdom, when personal piety became fully part of Egypt's cultural form (cf. Hymns to Amun). This "inner god" was the presence of the divine within each individual, i.e. the potential of each and everyone to be in direct touch with the god. Although the priesthood remained crucial to maintain the stability of the unity of Egypt by way of a "good Nile" (cf. the Daily Offering of Maat in the temples), a direct, personal and intimate experience of the divine was not excluded. Their religion accommodated Egyptians to communicate with their deities without mediation ! This would persist in Greco-Roman times.

By entering its "shrine", the heart (mind, desire, will) was brought before the god, enabling the latter to dwell in the person. The spiritual and religious dimensions were emphasized.

"Amun-Re, I love You !
My heart has been filled by You.
I have placed You in my heart,
for I know Your Name."
Prayer to Amun, Ostracon (BM 5656a).

What have we learned ?

According to the Ancient Egyptians, the heart is more than a physical organ generating a pulse. Circulating life force between the physical and vital parts of the body, it is also the seat of our psychological, moral and spiritual functions. During life on Earth, it records what we have heard and said and is the seat of our intentions, will-power and thoughts. Moreover, it acts as the foundation for our this-life experience of the "inner god". Next, it plays a crucial part in what happens to our consciousness in the afterlife. It we care about its lightness, it being constantly in touch with the Solar force and the ability to circulate this, then nothing bad accumulates and the heart remains light. During weighing, it will have little intensity, power or force to keep us from moving to the next level of existence.

The heart is our mind, our morality and our "shrine". Without it, we would not be aware, act properly, experience the divine and guarantee our own afterlife. It is directly linked with the order of the cosmos, the eternal circulation of life power. The heart is the receptive and motoric organ par excellence.

2. The Organ of Abrahamic Mysticism.

The three "religions of the book", namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, form a single monotheist tradition rooted in the revelations of Abraham, their arch-patriarch. The obvious differences between them do not eclipse their overarching substantialist concept of God. This superstructure was inspired -in various meandering courses- by Heliopolitanism and the Ancient Egyptian heritage, and evolved into an onto-theology, i.e. an ontology of an objective, self-subsisting, substantial Supreme Being. The latter was conceptualized (a) in terms of the (neo)Platonic tradition, i.e. as a "summum bonum" (cf. Philo of Alexandria, Al-Kindi, Augustine) or (b) in tune with the Peripatetic emphasis on empirical reality (cf. Maimonides, Averroes, Thomas Aquinas). Epistemologically & apologetically, these theologies uncritically accepted Greek concept-realism.

This ultimate God-as-substance created the world "ex nihilo", and is believed to be the ontological "imperial" root of all possible existence. Only in the more mystical traditions of these faiths do we find another, less positive affirmation of this substance-God's necessary supremacy : the negative veils "Ain", "Ain Soph" and "Ain Soph Aur" in Qabalah (Luria), the ineffable hyper-existence of God in negative theology (ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, Marguerite Porete) and the unknowability of the Divine essence in Sufism (Ibn al-'Arabî). But these refined mystical "apophatic" speculations were muted by the overall "katapathic" noise produced by the theologians, as always preoccupied by apologetic concerns and their manipulative, power-based mass-indoctrination.

By identifying the mind of God with Plato's world of ideas, the Platonists had to exchange Divine grace for intuitive reason. The Peripatetics introduced perception as a valid source of knowledge and so prepared the end of theology, the rational explanation of the "facts" of revelation. There seemed to be little or no facts after all !

When Peripatetic metaphysics got integrated in monotheist theology, the end of fundamental theology could not be far off. Indeed, how to assimilate the more empirical approach of Aristotle without harming the God of revelation ? As soon as the natural world became focus of attention, the "facts" of revelation could no longer be believed at their face value. The most clear example of this is geocentrism. All three faiths claimed the Earth to be at the center of the universe. Embracing Copernicanism threw humanity off its self-proclaimed pedestal and paved the way to prove most "facts" of scripture were manmade literary fictions. Not only were the so-called "scientific miracles" found in the holy books explained in a secular way, but literary criticism proved how these texts themselves are merely historical compositions adapted to the circumstances of their time. Moreover, only few authentic (original) texts could be identified ! How to erect a strong conviction or faith on nothing more than stories and remain a sane, rational human being ?

Moreover, Aristotle's concept of the "Unmoved Mover" reaffirmed the general Greek prejudice against relationality, identifying objects entertaining relationships with other objects as of "lower rank" compared to objects removed from empirical actuality, looking down at the world from their unmoved Olympic heights.

Indeed, for Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274), like Averroes (1226 - 1198) influenced by Aristotle, the relation between God and the world is a "relatio rationis", not a real or mutual bond. This scholastic notion can be explained by taking the example of a subject apprehending an object. From the side of the object only a logical, rational relationship persists. The object is not affected by the subject apprehending it. From the side of the subject however, a real relationship is at hand, for the subject is really affected by the perception of the object. According to Thomism, God is not affected by the world, and so God is like an object, not a subject ! The world however is affected by this object-God, clearly not "Emmanuel", God-with-us. Hence, the relationship between God and the world cannot be reciprocal. If so, the world only contributes to the glory of God ("gloria externa Dei"). The finite is nothing more than a necessary "explicatio Dei". This is the seen as the only way the world can contribute to God.

In this line of reasoning, the monotheist God, like a Caesar of sorts, is omnipotent and omniscient. This means God knows what is possible as possible, what is presently real as real and also the future of what is real (predestination). Moreover, God can do what He likes and so is directly responsible for all events (cf. "insh'Allah"). These views make it impossible not to attribute all possible evil, like the slaying of the innocent, to God ! Such a theology turns the good God into a brutal monster or proves the point He cannot exist (cf. Sartre). Finally, free will cannot be combined with this view of God as the sufficient condition of all things, for freedom only harmonizes with a view of God as merely the necessary condition.

The mystics of these faiths tell another story. Their direct experience of God "in their heart", unhindered by the dry bones of Greek logic, proved to them an interaction (and thus relation) with the Absolute is indeed possible. Mostly leading to savage reactions from the religious populace enraged by angry theologians, these fine flowers of faith were rare. To listen to their silent song and often paradoxal enunciations is therefore the more challenging.

2.1 Beauty in Qabalah.

“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind."
Deuteronomy, 6:5.

"... the voice of the living God speaks from within the fire, and it dwells within the heart, and thus is the speech there."
Abulafia, A. : Ozar 'Eden Ganuz, MS Oxford, 1580, fol.12a.

"Bear in mind that before the emanations were emanated and the creatures were created, the upper simple light had filled entire existence, and there was no empty space whatsoever."
Luria, I. : The Ten Luminous Emanations, 1-4.

In the Old Testament, the "heart" also plays a moral, psychological and spiritual role. To love the Lord with one's heart, soul and mind is designating three functions :

Psychological as in : "Pharaoh hardened his heart ..." (Exodus, 8:32), "I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart ..." (1 Samuel, 17:28), and "I kept the matter in my heart." (Daniel, 7:28).
Moral as in : "And these words, which I command You this day, shall be in your heart ... " (Deuteronomy, 6:6).
Spiritual as in : "... in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it." (Exodus, 36:2) and "Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." (Joshua, 24:23).

In Judaism and Qabalah, both in its Jewish and Christian form, the heart plays a pivotal role.

"What is the Heart ? It is the 32 hidden paths of wisdom that are hidden in it. In each of their paths there is also a Form watching over it. It is thus written (Genesis 3:24), 'To watch the way of the Tree of Life.'".
Sepher Bahir, part one, 98.

Etz Chayim
The Tree of Life
The Ten Sephiroth
Tiphareth (6) in yellow
Yesod (9) in purple

The Solar Tiphareth is located central on the Middle Pillar of Balance, and the pivotal sphere of the arrangement of the Four Sephiroth (or Divine Spheres) symbolizing the "ruach", referring to the whole range of a person’s emotional, intellectual, and volitional life.

The "ruach" contrasts with the so-called "nefesh", the "animal spirit", designating the instincts, the desires and the lower mental life of the ego (at the Lunar "Yesod").

The former involves higher consciousness ("gatlut"), the latter the lower states ("katnut").

The spiritual anthropology of the Qabalah has five parts : "nefesh", "ruach", "neshamah", "chayah" and "yechidah". The first three refer to the mind, whereas the last two are "envelopments" ("makifin") not entering the mind. Neshamah (Binah-consciousness) is the highest possible conceptual mind. Higher states (Chockmah-consciousness) are nondual and non-conceptual and can only be grasped when reflected and clothed in Binah-consciousness. In this context, "heart" designates Binah-consciousness. To enter Chockmah-consciousness, the higher conceptual mind has to be stopped.

"Ten Sephiroth of Nothingness : Bridle your mouth from speaking, bridle your heart from thinking. And if your heart runs, return to the place, for it is written, 'running and returning'".
Sepher Yetzirah, chapter 3.1.

"... serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind ; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts."
1 Chronicles, 28:9.

In the Jewish Qabalah, the heart ("Lev"), is also taken as a metaphor for the Tree of Life as a whole, representing the totality of Divine wisdom available to (re)connect the human world with God.

Directly linked with our spiritual nature, the wisdom of the Tree of Life feeds our supraconscious awareness and a direct experience of the Divine Presence ("Shechinah"). The heart is the connecting point between the first and the last Divine Enumeration or Sephiroth (the Ten Divine Mathematical Spheres constituting the Tree of Life).

"... the Heart is actually the primary point of the spiritual dimension that connects Kether-Crown to Malkuth-Kingship."
Sepher Bahir, part two, 106.

As the tenth Sephiroth situated underneath the lower Abyss, Malkuth is the pinnacle of the World of Manifestation (Assiah), the potential "Kingdom" of the Divine on Earth. This is the "Fallen Daughter" which the qabalists needs to "raise" upon the Throne of Understanding ("Binah", at the top of the Left Pillar of Form), entering, via the act of Divine Love ("Daleth" the 14th Path) Wisdom ("Chockmah", at the top of the Right Pillar of Force) and thus Divine Presence ("Kether", the crown of the Tree of Life).

This act of restoration ("tikun") is done by acquiring living knowledge ("Da'at"), processing negative (black) but passive (-) energy (the black pseudo-Sephirah in the Lower Abyss) by way of the "code of life", and transforming it into active (white), positive (+) energy (the white pseudo-Sephirah in the Upper Abyss). Retrieving the "sparks of the Divine" being the fundamental operation aimed at by Jewish mysticism. In this participation of the human spirit in the Jubilee of Jubilees (the Eschatological End when God sees God), the Tree of Life, the "heart of heaven" plays a fundamental role. For a sanctuary has to be build in the heart, a place of Divine indwelling and communion ...

"... the Shechinah that is called 'heart' ..."
Sepher ha Zohar, Tezawa, volume IV, 179b.

Associated in the Christian Qabalah with Tiphareth, the heart represents the Beauty of the dynamical harmony between form (the intellectual side) and force (the intuitive side). Tiphareth, the seat of the "higher Self", is linked with all Sephiroth except Malkuth, showing its central and fundamental role in the work of the Christian qabalists, the establishment of the Kingdom of God, again able to receive the Light of God.

God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
1 Samuel, 16:7.

The active equilibrium between the extremes represented by the Left and Right Pillars of form & force respectively, constitutes the Golden Middle Way trod by the sages, who does not reject understanding & wisdom, but know how to integrate both in the heart, creating a powerful intuition of past, present & future.

"And You shall speak to all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom ..."
Exodus, 28:3.

Representing the indwelling of Divine intuition ("gatlut"), the Sephiroth of Beauty holds the key to the whole edifice of the Tree of Life. In this Divine Enumeration, all Divine powers - except materialization- enter, circulate and exit. Just as the Lunar Yesod is the foundation of egoic life, the Solar Tiphareth is the seat of the life of the soul ("ruach" or "wind") rebirthing life after life to continue her task of reuniting the material world of Assiah with the Divine worlds of Yetzirah, Briah and Atziluth.

Since I know, O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things ..."
1 Chronicles, 29:17.

To realize this, both Lunar and Solar Operations are necessary. Together they constitute the Great Work ("Magnum Opus") :

Firstly, without a strong foundation ("Yesod"), rooted in the various realities of material life ("Malkuth") and the living knowledge gathered by confronting the demons of personal existence (Lower "Da'at"), the Tree of Life cannot be climbed and the restoration remains ineffective.  This Lunar Operation involves building a genuine, living spiritual foundation. It calls for four major steps : (1) purifying the four elements of our material existence, the Four Cardinal Quarters of Malkuth, namely "Air" -thought-, "Fire" -intention/volition- ; "Water" -affectivity- & "Earth" -actionality/sensation-, (2) accepting, naming, confronting and transforming the personal demons (the empty shells -"qlipoth"- exiting from the Lower Abyss, triggering authentic, living knowledge concerning one's own personal life), (3) establishing an objective, practical intellectual basis ("Hod") & (4) intuitively realizing genuine love and compassion for others ("Netzach").

Secondly, after a genuine spiritual foundation has been erected ("Yesod"), the higher levels of the Tree of Life (beyond Tiphareth) cannot be touched without having first fastened the "button" of the heart-centre, for if they are, the psyche may split, with as possible results sudden death, the denial of all things spiritual or insanity (permanent possession by the demon of the Upper Abyss). So the Solar Operation calls for an integration of one's personal spiritual foundation ("Yesod") at soul level ("Tiphareth"). To achieve this, a "Watchtower experience" is needed.

I was asleep but my heart was awake."
Songs, 5:2.

The ego has to be transcended and a panoramic perspective established. Not only does the Higher Self (on the Throne of Beauty) overlook the Lunar ego, but it also becomes aware of the history of the soul of the individual, i.e. the crucial experiences gathered by numerous rebirths in various lower vehicles (Assiah and Yetzirah). When "Paroketh", the "veil of the temple" (between Yetzirah and Briah) has thus been lifted, consciousness is no longer unifocal (with Yesod as its sole centre), but bifocal, circumambulating both the Lunar ego (at Yesod) and the Solar Higher Self (at Tiphareth). A constant pendulum-movement between both foci is now possible.

Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad."
Psalm, 105:3

With the birth of Adepthood, the higher journey towards Godhead can be commenced. The Adept communicates with and has experience of his or her "Holy Guardian Angel". The latter is a bridging spiritual entity symbolical of the "Divine spark" within (the "Imago Dei"). Guiding (like Dante's Beatrice) consciousness on the higher, heavenly planes, it protect it from any possible relapse into spiritual selfishness.

I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds."
Jeremiah, 17:10.

Indeed, especially when the work of Adepthood (in the Briatic World of Creation) has been ended and the "Adeptus Exemptus" (by composing a "Book of the World") is free to finally cross the Upper Abyss, he or she will have to void the throne of the Higher Self ...

Indeed, not "my" will (i.e. the intent of the Higher Self) but "His" Will (i.e. the Will of God) must be done ! In this final consummate phase, the Higher Self itself is experienced as empty of inherent existence, i.e. impermanent, and only if the Adept sheds this last fetter, namely that of his own spiritual Self, can his (her) consciousness enter the "Holy of Holies", witnessing God "face to Face".

hey that are of a fraudulent heart are abomination to the Lord, but such as are upright in their way are his delight."
Proverbs, 11:20.

Even the tiniest rest of Self-preservation will bar the Adept from realizing this Chockmah-consciousness beyond the Neshamah. Hence, the Holy Guardian Angel, first encountered in Tiphareth, leads the way and assists the Adept in Self-denudation, irreversible annihilating any vestige of permanency below the Upper Abyss. The demon of the Upper Abyss (the archetype of evil itself) is precisely this self-powered (not other-powered) sense of inherent existence as a Higher Self. At this level, Adepthood itself becomes a danger.

In this complex "scala perfectionis" sketched by the Christian Qabalah, involving the alchemical process of "purificatio" (negrido), "illuminatio" (albedo) and "Deificatio" (rubedo), being nothing less than the Solar throne of spiritualization, the heart-centre plays a central role. After first having erected a firm foundation, it is necessary to then establish a comprehensive picture of the soul and the world.

Tiphareth, as the establishment of an authentic spiritual Self or soul, is however not the ultimate target. Deep within this Temple of Beauty, the "voice of the silence" may be heard, a "spirit", holy angel or "Imago Dei" guiding one beyond the heart itself, transcending it to realize the highest and ultimate aim : doing the Loving Will of God on Earth, i.e. realizing the Kingdom (Malkuth) of the Divine Presence of Love (Aziluth), precipitating the Perfect Man, the Messiah. He saves creation as a whole, restores it to the point of perfection and allows the Creator to witness Himself in His Kingdom.

2.2 The Pure in Heart & Poor in Spirit.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God."
Gospel of Matthew, 5:8.

"The beatitude does not consist in knowing God (Matthew, 5:8), but in having God in oneself."
Gregorius of Nyssa : De Beatitudo, 6.

In the New Testament, the tradition of attributing psychological, moral and spiritual functions to the heart is continued.

Psychological as in : "... grieved at their hardness of heart ..." (Mark, 3:5), "Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life ..." (Luke, 21:34), and "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears ..." (2 Corinthians, 2:4).
Moral as in : "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance." (Luke, 8:15).
Spiritual as in : "Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew, 22:37), "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ; that You, being rooted and grounded in love ..." (Ephesians, 3:17) and "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which You do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." (2 Peter, 1:19).

The "pure of heart" able to "see God" do not witness God outside themselves as a kind of Supreme Being, but experience the inner Lord residing in the heart. Insofar as the mystic moves out to find the Divine, his or her ipseity is a hindrance. But when the eyes are turned inwardly, the spiritual search is rewarding.

"Out of myself a stumbling block, into myself as fulfillment."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1957.

This experience is a gift of God by way of His grace, made possible because the bride of God, the soul, prepared the nuptial bed properly by works of virtue, accumulating merit. So in this spiritual communion, a reciprocity is at work, for both the soul and God are at work. Insofar as the heart is pure, what is found is Divine. But as long as the heart is burdened by attachments to outward objects of mind & sensation, what is found will turn the soul away from its Beloved (Satan, identifying his ego with God, being the extreme example of this).

"He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed - according to the measure of his purity of heart."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1950.

This mystical view contrasts with the concepts of theologians, who, driven by an exaggerated perspective on the Fall and inherited, original sin, exalt the exclusive nature of Divine grace hand in hand with man's wretchedness. By thus complementing God, they nurture a radical difference between God and man. Such radicality harms the humanity of the Bridegroom of the soul, the fact the Word was born in a stable. The Nativity of Christ confirms He did not intent to be a Caesar or a feudal Lord towering above groveling servants & slaves. The Incarnation had not a "top-down" intent, but works "bottom-up" !

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Gospel of Matthew, 5:3.

Interpreting this verse in terms of a traditional urban and spirito-social theology, the phrase "poor in spirit" is necessarily viewed in negative terms, depreciating our humanity. Then it refers to a realizing sense of our fallen spiritual state, seeing in a true light the tendency in us to do evil, a conviction of being shut up to the grace of God, being shut up to God for faith, bound to an abiding sense of our absolute need, given our wickedness, for a Savior, or worse, a setting aside of ourselves, a self-loathing and self renunciation in all respects, casting away our hope in and dependence upon ourselves ... In this view on spiritual poverty we realize we cannot save ourselves and we have a keen sense of our own sinfulness.

If this interpretation, turning spiritual poverty into a poverty-mentality, is correct, then how to understand that in such a depraved, spiritually bankrupt condition the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to us !? Moreover, in this view, the ego has not vanished out of view, but is depreciated, humbled, abased and rejected. Turned into a slave, it can only look up, fear the Master and totally submit to Him as the Supreme Hierarch. Such a Pharaonic divide does not create space and openness, but the crampness felt in the narrow cave of repression. The ego is abased to exalt Christ, brought down to value an extreme contrast. Such a poverty-mentality brings down the soul's work of virtue & merit, leaving everything to Divine grace. Clearly, a reasonable exegesis is then replaced by blind fideism, and Christ's humility becomes the omnipotence of a Caesar or a feudal Lord.

"Never has a man been made to fall by one thing or another ; it always came to be because he did not give any attention to the ground of his soul and had allowed himself to be deceived by the external."
Eckhart : Predigten, Von der ewigen Geburt.

Being "poor in spirit" is indeed the foundation of the Beatitudes because authentic spiritual poverty is not a poverty-mentality but the prerequisite for eternal life. True, nobody who thinks they have cause to be there, other than Christ, gets into heaven. Our hands have indeed to be empty before they can be filled by God. There must be nothing there, except the space for God to fill. True, this is not something we do alone in and of ourselves. It is evidence of God’s work in us we may see ourselves for who we are and therefore, truly humble, are willing to turn to Him because He has turned our hearts toward Him. But it is the bride who whitens the nuptial bed. True, we have nothing to lay claim to Him. But genuine humility is not only rejecting more than what we are, but also accepting nothing less than what we are ! It is an awareness of what we truly are, nothing more and nothing less.

"Humility by itself is nothing else than a true knowledge and a true consciousness of oneself as one truly is."
The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 13.

"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him ..."
Genesis, 1:27.

"I have said, You are gods ; and all of You are children of the Most High."
Psalms, 82:6.

"This first way is a desire that most certainly originates from love, for the good soul that wants to follow faithfully and wants to love durably is being drawn on by the craving for this desire -to be loved and to be guarded most strongly- in order to exist in purity and freedom and nobility in which she is made by her creator, after His image and to His resemblance."
Beatrice of Nazareth : Seven Ways of Holy Love, First Way, § 1.

The Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew belongs to those who denude themselves completely. Those who become empty of themselves. Genuine love of God eliminates the strongholds of the ego and its mental & sensate constructions. The "poor in spirit" are those who end the conceptual activity of the mind, voiding the tyranny of the domination of the fortified, solid and permanent sense of ego and of all thoughts, feelings and actions associated with this narcissistic egology. They create openness for the Bridegroom to enter. They stop this being satisfied by oneself alone, this seeking happiness by making oneself happy.

Without destroying the ego, the "poor in spirit" empty its fixations. Indulging in the esthetic appeal the static ego has of itself, it looks into the mirror to be gratified, horrified by any sign of decay and loss of permanent self-satisfaction. Confirming its own ethical stance, this petty ruler forgives itself, charmed by its own fictions. Puffed-up, the hallucinating ego is a sinner uttering his own absolution, taking no risks, seeking control & domination. Thus masturbating itself to the manipulated & unspontaneous heights of a surrogate orgasm, this false ego sows the seeds of unrelenting anxiety and fear. Burdening the heart, this poison makes it turn hard, dark, bitter & spiteful.

"... without risk, no faith, the more risk, the more faith ; the less objective credibility, the more deeper possible inwardness becomes."
Kierkegaard, S. : Concluding Unscientific Postscript, chapter 2, 1846.

The poor in spirit are wholly turned towards otherness. By making others happy, they invite the radical other, opening up their heart for Divine love and making room for the Bridegroom to enter.

"For the incomprehensible marvel which resides in this love eternally transcends the understanding of all creatures. But where one understands and savors this marvel without astonishment, there the spirit is above itself and is one with the Spirit of God, and it tastes and sees, without measure, even as God, the richness which itself is in the unity of the living ground where it possesses itself according to the way of its uncreatedness."
Van Ruusbroec, J. : The Spiritual Espousals, Book III.

In the heart of these humble souls, no negative passions can linger for the very ground upon which these feed has been voided. Empty of afflictive emotions, total openness towards all beings is made possible.

"Never have I suffered to remain in my heart a thought that angered me."
Verba Seniorum, Book XI, XXX.

By emptying the hands, they become vessels in which Divine grace may pour the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As these gifts find nothing fixed to adhere to, they can be fully engaged in the work of charity, the activity of effectively ending the suffering of others, actualizing the potential of Divine love in others, assisting all human beings in the work of acquiring spiritual nakedness.

"Not I, but God in me."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1953.

"For we men have one book in common which points to God. Each has it within himself, which is the priceless Name of God. Its letters are the flames of His love, which He out of His heart in the priceless Name of Jesus has revealed in us. Read these letters in your hearts and spirits and You have books enough. All the writings of the children of God direct You unto that one book, for therein lie all the treasures of wisdom. This book is Christ in You."
Boehme, J. : Libri Apologetici, Book 1.

This emptying of the hands is a simile of stopping the conceptual mind, ending its "monkey talk" and endless chatter. It is daring to be without the securities offered by social conditioning and intellectual prowess. Jumping into the abyss or falling without knowing who is catching us.

"The boy in the forest,
Throws off his best Sunday suit
And plays naked."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 8.9.1959.

But there is more. The "poor in spirit" are "pure in heart", encountering the Bridegroom directly within, in the "shrine of the heart". They embrace Him and exist for, with and in Him.

"In this embrace, in the essential unity of God, are all inner spirits one with God in loving transport, and they are the selfsame one that the essence itself is in itself. And in this sublime unity of the Divine nature, the heavenly Father is the origin and the beginning of every work that is done in heaven and on Earth. And He says in the immersed hiddenness of the spirit : 'See : the Bridegroom cometh, go out, to meet Him.'"
Van Ruusbroec, J. : The Spiritual Espousals, Book III.

The Divine transport strengthens the soul beyond any possible measure, giving it élan and confidence. Such enthusiasm and assured vigor and liveliness makes the pure soul, in the wild storm of the self-powered afflictive emotionality of others, a protecting beacon. Due to the activity of the Holy Spirit, living in the depths of the heart, and the total denudation of the soul by the work of virtue, a fire with the name of Love is able to move about unseen, transforming the soul.

"Gain or loss, honor or shame,
Consolation at being with God in heaven
Or in the torture of hell :
This Fire makes no distinction.
It burns to death everything it ever touches :
Damnation or blessing no longer matter."

Hadewijch : Poems, 16:95-100.

And in this fire is heard : "O dulcis Jesu, o amor cordis mei !"

"Where perfection of the soul is,
there also is the habitation of God."
Richard of St.-Victor : Mystical Ark, Appendix, 2.

So the "poor in spirit" vacate space in their souls and open the inner recesses of its organ, the heart, to the quickening powers of the Divine spirit. Of course they are aware of their own initial sinfulness, but this too they lay at the feet of their Lord. They do so not to humiliate themselves as footstools, but because their absolution comes from Him. Moreover, they cannot uplift themselves without Him. But He is already in them, and when they go out they are confident to meet Him. Denudation is a necessary step in this process.

"And the truth of His rich open Heart says to their spirit that He shall be totally theirs. With this confidence they fly through all the heights of Love. These soul consume without being satisfied."
Hadewijch : Letters, 22:201.

Besides a naked ego, i.e. a humble personal focus of consciousness truly in tune with its own true ipseity, the soul needs to constantly remember the Divine presence. This heart-based living is another necessity. Not forgetting the omnipresence of my Lord, I walk with Him and He with me. Denuded I stay naked. Clothing is always loose and cast off as soon as its purpose is fulfilled. Ideas, volitions & thoughts come and go, indeed talking about the outer world and its ways. Charity listens, but nothing cleaves unto it. It does not resist separation from remembering the Lord is an Eternal Witness.

"You should bear God in your heart with constant remembrance, and embrace Him lovingly with an open and expectant heart ; and always long for the sweetness coming from His Heart, and the inner affection of His inner sweet Nature."
Hadewijch : Letters, 24:64.

Although Christian mystics focus on the heart, and consider the Divine Love harbored there to be the primary motor of the Divine transport, they nevertheless point to a secondary organ, namely the mind. Heart and mind are both addressed.

Influenced by the Greek apophatic tradition, and its mysticism of the unknown God ("Deus absconditus") the envisaged denudation not only affects a person's existential, wholehearted wholeness, but also the emptying of all thoughts of their potential hold on the Divine. All concepts of God fail, and even the name "God" fails.

"God is so great that she cannot comprehend. And through such nothing, she is fallen in to the certainty of knowing nothing and into the certainty of willing nothing. And this nothing, of which we speak, says Love, gives her all."
Porette, M. : The Mirror of the Simple Souls, 81:3-11.

Nameless, the Absolute can only be given "hyper" names, pointing to a transcendence beyond polarity, opposition and the tyranny of affirmation and denial, of nearness and farness. The "Loingprés" cannot be grasped.

"There is no speaking of it, nor name nor knowledge of it. Darkness and light, error and truth - it is none of these. It is beyond assertion and denial. We make assertions and denials of what is next to it, but never of it, for it is both beyond every assertion, being the perfect and unique cause of all things, and, by virtue of its preeminently simple and absolute nature, free of every limitation, beyond every limitation ; it is also beyond every denial."
ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite : The Mystical Theology, chapter 5, 1048B.

Through Divine Love, heart and mind are fused and their functions mingle. Where normally the mind is lucid and the heart is loving, the mystical Fire transforms both to the point of mutual, reciprocal reflection. The mind apprehending the beauty of God's creation is a loving mind ("amor intellectualis Dei") and the heart living the perfection of Love is lucid !

"He had no need for the divided responsibility in which others seek to be safe from ridicule, because he had been granted a faith which required no confirmation - a contact with reality, light and intense like the touch of a loving hand : a union in self-surrender without self-destruction, where his heart was lucid and his mind loving. In Sun and wind, how near and how remote - How different from what the knowing ones call Mysticism."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1955.

The work of Divine Love in the soul, changing heart and mind, bringing both to closeness, is the work of perfection, and its three stages : purification, illumination and Deification. In the last phase, the soul is totally adopted by its Lord, and the Divine Presence never leaves. Total confidence and reliance is established between both, and the soul is transported by the Divine embrace again and again like a child jumps into the lap of its mother. Total recognition and similitude are realized. The soul constantly remembering its Lord and the Lord permanently taking His seat in the heart. What a life as a "son of God" !

"Forgetting the created,
reminding the one who created,
attentive to what is in You,
giving love to the Beloved."
St.John of the Cross : Short Summary of Perfection, Poems, XIV.

2.3 The Heart as the Tent of Allah.

"He it is Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers that they might have more of faith added to their faith."
The Victory, 48:4.

"If the characteristic of Allah is explicit for Allah, why would the place where it manifests among men (= yourself), remain hidden to them ?"
Hallâj, Husayn Mansûr : Dîwân, Maqatta'a, 63.4.

"He is my Friend,
and through Him am I,
for my heart has embraced Him,
so I am His tent."
Ibn al-'Arabî : The Meccan Openings (Futûhât al-makkiyya), chapter 370.

Again in the Koran, the heart has psychological, moral and spiritual functions :

Psychological as in : "There is a disease in their hearts ... (The Cow, 2:10), "Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness ..." (The Cow, 2:74), "... their hearts shrinking from fighting you or fighting their own people ..." (The Woman, 4:90), and "Your God is one God ; so (as for) those who do not believe in the hereafter, their hearts are ignorant and they are proud." (The Bee, 16:22).
Moral as in : " If Allah knows anything good in your hearts, He will give to You better than that which has been taken away from You and will forgive You, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (The Accessions, 8:70).
Spiritual as in : "Say : Have You considered that if Allah takes away your hearing and your sight and sets a seal on your hearts, who is the god besides Allah that can bring it to You ?" (The Cattle, 6:46), and "Those who believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah ; now surely by Allah's remembrance are the hearts set at rest." (The Thunder, 13:28).

Islam's mystic tradition is known as "Sufism". The Arabic term "sûfî" or "mystic" derives from "sûf" or "wool", probably in reference to the woolen clothing worn by the first ascetics of Islam. Sufism (appearing in the ninth century CE - the third Islamic century) is the totality of mystical practices rooted in Islam. These enable Muslims to attain Divine knowledge (cf. Hermetical "gnosis") & love through the direct experience of "Allah", The God ("al-ilâh"). Hence they were called "followers of the Real" ("ahl al-haqq").

Sufism consists of a variety of mystical paths. The most prominent of these being "remembrance" ("dhikr"), or the continuous awareness of the all-comprehensive Name of The God : Allah. In the textbooks, Sufism is divided into three dimensions : knowledge ("'ilm"), works ("'amal") and reality ("haqîqah"). First comes the Law in its widest sense, embracing all theoretical teachings of Islam. Then comes "the Way", the method of putting the Law into practice. Finally, the spiritual realization of the ascending stages of human perfection results in proximity to The God. Sûfîs take their orientation from the third dimension and maintain a balance between all dimensions, taking Prophet Muhammad, peace with him, as their spiritual example.

More than one Western scholar claimed Sufism to be an organized movement arising among pious Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (661 - 750). Yearning for individual union with The God on the basis of the Koran (Qur'ân), the Sunnah of the Prophet and the example of the great saints, these mystics found the externalities of the law, divorced from a genuine living spirituality, unsatisfactory and so increasingly asserted a Way ("tarîqah" or "path") and Realities ("haqîqah") other than those proposed by the Sharî'ah, the traditional law. Sufism similarly opposed its intuitionism ("ma'rifah" or "interior knowledge", "gnosis") to the rational deductions of philosophers, formal theologians & legalists ("'ilm").

These three approaches of Islam, namely law, philosophy & mysticism are discernable in the Koran itself. Islam and Sufism can be distinguished by the fact the latter takes it orientation from the third aspect : spiritual emancipation (liberation) and mystical annihilation (realization through survival & sobriety). Sufism is the Living Water of Islam, the proof unveiling is unending. Based on the Hâdîth of Gabriel, Sufism is therefore the "spirit" of Islam, for archangel Gabriel came to teach the Arabs their religion ("din").

The three foundations of Islam are "submission" ("islam"), "faith" ("iman") and "doing the beautiful" ("ihsan"). The last was not mentioned by the jurists ("fuquha'"), nor by the theologians ("mutakallimun"), the lawmakers, but became the object of the mystics. 

  1. The jurists focus on the Five Pillars, voicing the testimony of faith ("iman"), meaning "to acknowledge with the heart, to voice with the tongue, and to act with the limbs". This constitutes the "body" of Islam, telling people what to do and what not to do, namely voicing the testimony of faith ("shahadah"), five daily prayers, paying alms tax, fasting during Ramadan & making -if possible- the pilgrimage to Mecca ;

  2. The theologians, or experts in dogmatic theology ("kalam") articulate & defend creedal teachings ("sharia"). Together with the philosophers they help understand the world and can be seen as the "mind" of Islam ;

  3. Jurists & theologians show little interest or competence regarding "doing the beautiful", defined by the Prophet as to "worship Allah as if you see Him, for even if you do not see Him, He sees You." This is the object of Sufism which teaches people how to transform themselves and become what they fundamentally are. It is the "spirit" of Islam.

Law, philosophy & mysticism are the spirito-social embodiments of the life of the servants of God, namely as work/law (body), thought/philosophy (mind) & imagination/mysticism (emotion, intuition). Only if the specialists of each expression (i.e. the lawyer-theologians, the scientist-philosophers and the mystics) solidify their positions in dogmatic extremes and subsequently attack each other, may divisions occur justifying the distinction between "orthodox" & "heterodox". And unfortunately for Islam, this happened. According to some later historians because of the so-called "heretical" teachings of the champion of speculative mysticism, the Greatest Master of Sufism, Ibn al-'Arabî.

"To become what one was before one became."

Abû Bakr Muhammad ibn al-'Arabî (1165 - 1240) was a celebrated Muslim mystic-philosopher who gave the esoteric, mystical dimension of Islamic thought its first full-fledged philosophic expression. His major works are the monumental al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah ("The Meccan Revelations") and Fûsus al-hikam ("The Bezels of Wisdom"). The literary career of Ibn al-'Arabî, also called : "The Greatest Master", "The Animator of the Religion", "Doctor Maximus", "The Son of Plato", "the Seal of the Saints" or "The Platonist" is enormous. Yahia (1964) in his two-volume history & classification of his works, estimates he wrote 700 books, treatises & collections of poetry of which 400 are extant. Some works are impressive. The Futûhât al-makkiyya, a vast encyclopedia of the Islamic sciences within the context of unity (cf. "tawhîd"), includes 560 chapters and ca.17.000 pages in the critical edition. The texts of this major mystic philosopher are all of an extreme high level of sophistication.

It is impossible to identify the Absolute in its absoluteness with the Unity of the 99 Divine Names or "Allah". Within the "worlds of absolute mystery" (or the worlds of "potentiality"), two Presences ("hadrah") or ontological dimensions of the Self-manifestation of the Absolute ("tajallî") emerge :

(1) the Absolute in its absoluteness : the One (or unity of essence), the Unique, the Real, ineffable, inconceivable, truth ;
(2) the Absolute as Divine Consciousness : the permanent, nonexistent fixed entities and their relationships : the archetypes of all possible things in Allah's Knowledge, the Divine Names & their Oneness (or unity of multiplicity) called "Allah".

"The God who is in a faith is the God whose form the heart contains, who discloses Himself to the heart in such a way that the heart recognizes Him. Thus the eye sees only the God of the faith."
Ibn-al'Arabî : Bezels of Wisdom (Fûsus al-hikam), I, 121, II, 146-147. 

The heart of the gnostic ("ârif") is colored in every instant by the color or modality of the form in which the Divine Being is epiphanized to him (her). So to each believer, the Absolute is He who is disclosed to him in the form of his faith. If He would manifest in a different form, the believer would reject Him, and that is why the dogmatic faiths (those who impose a common spiritual denominator) combat one another. So one's faith reveals the measure of the capacity of one's heart, explaining why there are many different faiths. The gnostic possesses a true "science of religions", and his "ecumenism" reveals to him the form in which he himself is known to Him who evoked his being (cf. the Divine Names and their traces, the possible things). The heart is the "tent" or form in which Allah appears to the soul.

"When the heart shines with the remembrance of God as a result of sincere contemplation, meditation and worship, Divine truth is reflected in it on the surface of that spot, for that spot belongs to the Kingdom of your Lord. Then an intense light is generated from it, a light which reaches to the deepest corners of the whole being, and the whole being is conscious and in awe. Then not a single member of the human being will move on its own, for none has it own will any longer."
Ibn-al'Arabî : Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom, Chapter 17. 

To know one's eternal Divine Name is to know one's individuality as it results from the revelation of the Divine Being revealing Himself to Himself before Creation. When a human "returns to his Lord", he returns to the Absolute in the form of one of His Names. This form abides in his heart. To deny every individual his or her Lord is nothing less than to deny one's "Angel". When this happens a man confounds his Lord with the infinite number of Divine Names, and so one particular Self-manifestation of the Absolute is imposed upon all other Divine Names (each having its faith & Lord). He confuses what can appear in his own heart with everything unable to appear in that specific form. Allah appears to him in a form his heart can bear, not in forms alien to how He knows the soul for all eternity.

"The diurnal Sun sets at night,
But the Sun of the heart never disappears."
'Abd al-Kader : The Book of Stops, I.14.

Having lost this bond with a specific Divine Name (and hence having lost his knowledge of himself) one may come under the sway of a spiritual imperialism which imposed a universal, i.e. the "same" Lord instead of each man his Lord. This is the God created in the faiths. Not our Lord, but my Lord revealed in my heart is what matters.

"He who knows his soul knows his Lord."
Hâdîth attributed to the Prophet.

"... in one's state of closeness or farness one must realize that there is nothing but Allah. Yet You do not know yourself, because You do not know that You are naught but Him. You are He without yourself."
Ibn al-'Arabî : The One Alone (Kitab al-ahadiyyah).

When one reaches what the waymarks of oneself allow one to reach, then He is seen in one's own form, in one's own heart He then appears. He discloses Himself to the soul only in the form of His knowledge of the soul. And these waymarks are the godwariness of the heart, the tent of Allah.

"Surely Allah is the Knower of what is unseen in the heavens and the Earth ; surely He is Cognizant of what is in the hearts."
The Originator, 35:38.

Allah knows the heart. Filling it with remembrance of its Lord, unites the soul with the specific "form" or Divine Name by which Allah knows it. This form is the tent in which He may appear and in which I can see him "as my own". Just as water takes on the color of the glass, His infinite Names manifest as the one Name in which He knows me.

"Each of us looks at Him as other,
and He is independent of us, the Great -
Except for me, for I see Him
as my own entity, and I am the

Ibn al-'Arabî : The Meccan Openings (Futûhât al-makkiyya), chapter 384.

The spiritual process can be reduced to "remembrance" ("dhikr") of "Allah", the All-Comprehensiveness Name of the 99 Divine Names and the Oneness of Being.

Complete remembrance implies :

  1. "fanâ" : or the total annihilation of the sense of ego-identity within consciousness except for the Self-disclosure of the Absolute as my Self, His specific form in my heart as "my Lord". Then the phenomenal demarcations of objects disappear and an absolute stillness of mind & heart occurs ; 

  2. "baqâ" : after radical annihilation, "the passing-away of passing-away" ("fanâ-al-fanâ"), a new conscious identity observing multiplicity -except in the absence of Divine Self-disclosures- survives ! All forms are seen as so many Self-determinations of the Absolute Unity, the One Alone Itself. Before "fanâ", object & subject were definitely separated in ordinary consciousness, each object observed seemingly as a self-subsistent reality with an inherently existing essence of its own, independent of anything. But this was an illusion. Those with their two eyes open (the eye of reason & the eye of direct seeing) realize a consciousness transcending ordinary conceptual cognition, no longer based on duality (shaping multiplicity). They witness how each element within this variety is an expression of an implicate, underlying order or unity ... how the many waves are but Self-expressions of the single ocean.

"What ! Is he whose heart Allah has opened for Islam -so that he is in a light from his Lord- like the hard-hearted ? Nay, woe to those whose hearts are hard against the remembrance of Allah ; those are in clear error."
The Companions, 39:22.

Without remembrance, the mind will identify with its empirical ego and with outer objects seemingly fixed, independent and essential (identical and own-powered). This is the cause of ignorance. The only way out is to allow Allah to guide one's heart. Then and only then the fundamental insight of the unity of all things may rise, eliminating the fixed boundaries between subject & object and taking away the illusion of separate existence.

"... whoever believes in Allah, He guides aright his heart ; and Allah is Cognizant of all things."
The Mutual Deceit, 64:11.

The ultimate mystical experience does not touch the essence of Allah, for only He, the One Alone, has a unique "Face to Face" experience of Himself. We experience only that aspect of Allah by which He know our hearts. He is "my Lord" and I am His servant, but I become Him when I am no longer myself, but united with the Divine Name He placed in my heart. In the ultimate experience of unity, Lord and servant have therefore reciprocal and interchangeable roles. Insofar as the Moon only reflects the light of the Sun, the Moon is a "little Sun". Insofar as the Sun can only be seen without causing blindness as the light of the Moon, the Sun is a "little Moon". But without the Moon, the light of the Sun would, by lack of any other body, never reflect. Without the Sun, all would be darkness.

"Had I to You a path,
I would have nothing to signify You.
So You are an exalted Lord
and I the abased slave.
I marvel at a God and a servant,
in a high waystation that terrifies.
This is a correlation, for my words imply
that He and we are equal.
God said it -no engendered thing said it.
I said it because He said it."

Ibn al-'Arabî : The Meccan Openings (Futûhât al-makkiyya), chapter 384.

When Sun and Moon form this ultimate conjunction, the whole of creation is seen as subsisting thanks to God, and in this sense He is far. But simultaneously, God is experienced as manifesting in every part of His creation, and so He is also near. As the FarNear, Allah is the greatest deliverance and bliss, filling the tent of my heart with an incomparable bright light.

"The Sun symbolizes the Lord -may He be exalted !- just as the Moon symbolizes the servant. Their 'conjunction' symbolizes the degree of the 'union of the union', which is the ultimate degree, the greatest deliverance and the supreme felicity ; it consists in seeing at the same time the creation subsisting by God, and God manifesting Himself by His creation."
'Abd al-Kader : The Book of Stops, I.9.

3. The Indestructible Drop in Buddhist Tantra.

"Do not discriminate, do not reflect,
Do not alter, but let the mind be relaxed.
For the unmodulated mind
is the natural treasure of the unborn emptiness.
The nondual path of wisdom-gone-beyond."

Nâgârjuna (quoted in : Namgyal, T. : Mahâmudrâ, Wisdom Publications - Boston, 2006, p.275).

Historically, Buddhist Tantra was introduced by Mahâyâna Buddhism by the 2nd century CE. Some insist the Tantras are not actual teachings of the Buddha. Others, for good reasons, assert they originate from the Hindu tradition. Traditionally, the origin of Buddhist Tantra is supposed to be rooted in the Fourth Turning of the Wheel by Buddha Śâkyamuni and meant for superior practitioners. These teachings are said to have been given on the inner planes, during deep meditative equipoise.

Buddhist Tantra became a systematic body of teachings starting from the 8th century and, with the rise of the Pâla dynasty of Bihar & Bengal (760 - 1142 CE), entered Buddhist universities. At that point, Buddhist Tantra was "purged" from explicit sexual acts (internalized) and formalized. Antinomian elements were deemed part of a "logic of reversal" -steeped in doublespeak & a "twilight language"- necessary for speeding up spiritual evolution, while explicit sexual acts were replaced by a symbolism expounding the unity of compassion (the ultimate method to accumulate vast merit) and emptiness, realized by wisdom-mind.

3.1 Identifying the Three Minds.

According to Buddhist Tantra, working to transform the deluded body, speech and mind of humans into the enlightened body, enlightened speech & enlightened mind of a Buddha, the mind encompasses the whole range of psychological, moral and spiritual functions : sensations, feelings, volitions and thoughts all project into consciousness and find their final reflective form therein. The Five Aggregates are the functional basis of designation of all possible activity done by a human being, and all impermanent, driven by the unending process of arising, abiding and ceasing. Moment to moment they change and the continuity attributed to these phenomena is an untruth, i.e. merely a conventional projection concealing the ultimate nature of all phenomena : emptiness.

The root cause of delusion is identified as ignorance, the ultimate "poison" hindering the mind of observing itself and the world as they truly are, namely other-powered, dependent, interactive and non-substantial. Further conceptual analysis of ignorance, seeking the proper object to negate to eliminate it, identifies the innate and acquired sense of inherent existence as the culprit (cf. Tsongkhapa). The mind grasps at a selfhood or own-nature ("svabhâva") which, ultimately, is never the case. This illusionary observed ipseity of things, although conventionally (logically, functionally) valid, is mistaken, for making things appear otherwise as they truly are. In this illusion, phenomena seem solid, independent, self-powered and thus inherently existing, while they truly are evanescent, dependent-arisings, other-powered and empty of selfhood.

The non-conceptual, direct experience of the mind by advanced yogis points to its luminous, cognizing activity, the presence of the "nature of mind", said to be knowing, spacious Clear Light ... This is the "great seal" (Mâhamudrâ), evidencing the ultimate nature of all phenomena, the "Body of Truth" ("Dharmakâya") of a Buddha. It was advanced by Saraha, Nâgârjuna, Maitrîpa, Tilopa, Naropa and their Tibetan disciples Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa.

As the mechanisms of Tantra have been explained elsewhere, we focus on the Three Minds : the coarse, subtle and very subtle layer of the mind. These three levels have been established on the basis of the direct experience of the dissolution of the mind during meditation and the meditative observation of the stages of the process of death, intermediate stage and rebirth. For dying forces the coarse & subtle levels of mind to vanish, unveiling its deepest level, the Clear Light.

Three levels :

the coarse mind : this mind is our conventional, everyday waking sentient mind, fed by sensations (Earth), affects (Water), volitions (Fire) and thoughts (Air). Each of these inputs have their own logic & function and bring about co-relative effects :

(a) sensations : the coded data received from the five senses (perceptions) is processed in the thalamus and then projected upon the association-areas of the neo-cortex, forming visual, tactile, auditive, olfactory and gustatory sensate objects ;
(b) affects : processed by the limbic system and the non-linguistic hemisphere of the neo-cortex, lust, unlust and indifference are attributed to sensations, volitions, thoughts and states of consciousness, bringing about attracting, repulsing or neutral reactions (or affects, the emotions & feelings) ;
(c) volitions : processed by the motoric association-areas, action, non-action and absence of action are responses to various functional states ;
(d) thoughts : processed by the higher cortical systems, sensate objects are given names.

To identify the coarse mind, we have to understand its location, nature and function. Taking into account the vital body ("prânamâyâkośa"), the mind is not situated in the head (the brain), but in the region of the heart wheel ("chakra"), situated near the physical heart. Its nature is clarity, a formless continuum lacking shape & color, but possessing the cognitive power to perceive, understand and remember mental & sensate objects. Mental objects are objects of affects, volitions, thoughts & awareness (consciousness), whereas sensate objects are those given by perception & sensation. Clarity means the mind is clear enough to perceive, apprehend or cognize these objects. The simplest definition (given by Dharmakîrti) says the mind is "that which is clarity and cognizes".

The coarse mind is a conceptual, discursive mind, designating mental & sensate objects using a basis of designation upon which a concept is superimposed. For sensate objects this base of designation is perception, and for mental objects affects, acts of volition, thoughts and states of consciousness are used. Giving these a name, the coarse mind cognizes as if these objects are external to it, existing independently from it, cause of their own nature (self-powered) and self-subsisting. The most powerful of these various designations is the empirical ego, sense of personal identity, First Person Perspective or the "I". As the solitary focus of consciousness, the "I" sits on the throne of imputation, sensing ("I smell, see, hear, touch & taste."), feeling ("I feel good, bad, indifferent."), wanting ("I want this, not that, none of both."), thinking ("I think the affirmation or denial of this-or-that.") and being conscious of itself ("I am aware that I sense, feel, want, think and am conscious of myself").

There is not a single phenomenon perceived by the mind which is not imputed by the mind. This does not mean the extra-mental is non-existent. In fact, we cannot consistently think knowledge without accepting this is not the case (cf. Clearings, 2006). It merely points to the fact we cannot pull ourselves out of our own conceptual minds to witness the extra-mental directly. Not a single sensation is naked (or identical with perception). Not a single affect is unidentified or unnamed by the ego. Not a single thing wanted escapes the I. Not a single concept is without a subject. Self-reflection merely doubles the sense of personal selfhood.

Our own mind is directly identified when we attain meditative equipoise (complete concentration) observing it.

the subtle mind :

The waking mind of Homo normalis is a gross mind. This because this mind is "mounded" upon gross inner "prâna" or winds, flowing through the left and right subtle channels of the Vajra body, running parallel with the spine. Nominally, subtle and very subtle minds are mounted upon subtle & very subtle winds and these manifest only during deep sleep or during the death process (the "bardos" or "intervals" of dying, intermediate stage and rebirth). These winds flow through the central channel, a flexible, soft & transparant subtle tube, exactly midway between the left and right halves of the body, closer to the back than the front. It begins at the point between the eyebrows, ascending in an arch to the crown of the head, and descending in a straight line to the tip of the sex organ.

The subtle mind manifests when the gross mind dissolves. Identifying the emptiness of the latter will naturally cause the gross winds to enter the central channel and so cease. We first cease Earth, then Water, next Fire and finally Air. This is seeking the subtle mind. With each cessation, specific mental processes manifest. When finally the emptiness of our thoughts is apprehended, an empty space is perceived and concentrated upon. This is holding the subtle mind. When seeking & holding are repeated, we train in remaining, accomplishing the identification of the subtle mind.

The subtle mind is identified as consciousness itself, the most subtle of the aggregates. As normal consciousness is poisoned by hatred, craving & ignorance, the subtle mind is characterized by the 33 conceptions of hatred (aversion) of the Form Realm (White Appearance), the 40 conceptions of craving (desire) of the Desire Realm (Red Increase) and the 7 conceptions of delusions (ignorance) of the Formless Realm (Black Near-Attainment). These 80 modes of conceptualization have to stop.

the very subtle mind :

The "nature of mind" is the original stream-consciousness and so also called "ordinary mind". This deepest layer of the mind is unaltered and manifests upon the complete elimination of the self-delusion of the coarse and subtle mind, simultaneous with the blossoming of the Four Immeasurables (Joy, Love, Compassion & Equanimity) to their fullest extend. These Buddha-qualities are spontaneously generated when the emptiness of the coarse & subtle mind has been fully realized. Our Buddha-nature is merely the potential, by applying diligent enthusiasm, to do so. Without shadowy distortions, the light of the Sun of wisdom appears through the dark patches of clouds. Full awakening is then a clear blue sky, a mind empty of all sense of anything existing by the grace of its own power, ability, nature, essence ... The surface of the mirror itself, upon which all possible conditions (from pigs up to Buddhas) may appear ... A white crystal reflecting the color of the cloth upon which it has been posed ... Water taking on the color of the glass.

"The emptiness explained in Buddha's Sûtra teachings,
And the great bliss explained in Buddha's Tantra teachings,
The union of these two is the very essence of Buddha's
eighty-four thousand teachings.
May the doctrine of Conqueror Losang Dragpa (Tsongkhapa) flourish for evermore."

Guntang : Prayer for the Flourishing of the Doctrine of Je Tsongkhapa.

3.2 Entering the Heart Wheel.

"Those meditating on the drop
Always abiding in the heart,
Single-pointedly and without change,
Will definitely attain realizations."

Amibhidana Tantra.

The very subtle mind is mounded upon the very subtle wind. The latter is the very subtle body. Both very subtle mind and very subtle body are always together and both may become manifest during meditation. At the heart wheel, the left and right channels coil around the central channel forming six knots constricting it. At the very center of this knot, inside a small vacuole, is the "indestructible drop". Its two halves only separate until death and inside this very subtle drop is the union of indestructible very subtle wind (body) and indestructible very subtle mind. It is visualized as a tiny, reddish-white flame, symbolizing the Clear Light. The indestructible drop is like a house for this union of very subtle mind and very subtle wind.

Although the inner winds may enter the central channel through ten doors, of which the navel wheel, as explained in the Hevajra Root Tantra, is the most common (in the lineage of the Six Yogas of Naropa), in the school of Je Tsongkhapa, the heart wheel is used among the ten doors. In this way, the indestructible drop is aimed. In this uncommon Mahâmudrâ, the three yogas of the "isolated body" (practices to transform the impure body into the pure body of a Buddha) are : (1) penetrating the central channel via the heart wheel, (2) concentrating on the indestructible drop and concentrating on the union of the very subtle (indestructible) wind and the very subtle mind. These practices lead to meditations on "isolated speech", "isolated mind", giving birth to the "illusionary body", meaning Clear Light and union. Using this method, Buddhahood may be attained in three years.

3.3 The Clear Light.

In Hindu Kundalinî yoga, the heart wheel is the domain of the "âtman", the Divine within. This soul or self is identified with Brahman, the Absolute. Clearly Buddhism, discovering the wisdom-mind of emptiness, has to reject this notion as a wrong view, i.e. one allowing inherently existing entities to condition the mind. It is of course not a coincidence for Buddhist yoga to locate the ultimate nature of mind in the heart wheel ! Lacking the notion of soul or selfhood, i.e. an independent self-powered entity, Buddhist Tantra did not find the "âtma", but the Clear Light, the luminous & empty ground of all mental activity.

"... for what the natural light shows to be true can be in no degree doubtful ..."
Descartes : Meditations, III.9, my italics.

The very subtle Clear Light mind, constantly in union with the very subtle wind abiding in the deepest recesses of the heart wheel, is a union of bliss and emptiness, of wisdom-mind and the ultimate nature of phenomena. Bliss arises when the method of melting of "drops" inside the central channel is perfected though Bodhicitta (cf. infra), its function is the direct perception of empty like space and its location is at the very centre of our heart wheel. When qualified, i.e. resulting from the nearly complete end of the subtle mind, the mind experiencing great bliss with a generic image is called "ultimate example" Clear Light. This is merely an approximation of the final aim. Experiencing emptiness directly in a fully qualified sense, completely ending conceptualization, it is called "meaning" Clear Light. Then the mind finally rests in the union of emptiness and Great Compassion.

This Clear Light is the natural, ultimate and perfected nature of our mind. This deepest level of the mind can only be brought to the surface of consciousness when all adventitious contents are eliminated. Ending self-cherishing, gross (learned) self-grasping and subtle (innate) self-grasping, the mind recognizes its own nature and the Clear Light spontaneously dawns. While it is possible to experience this Clear Light while using a very subtle concept or generic image, directly seeing it only results when all gross and subtle conceptualizations have totally ended. This naturally happens at the end of the "bardo of dying", but can also be realized by advanced yogis.

4. The Tao and the Harmony of Heaven & Earth.

"In meditation, go deep in the heart."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, 8.

"With an open mind, You will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, You will act royally.
Being royal, You will attain the Divine.
Being Divine, You will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away."

Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, 16.

"... the sage wears rough clothing and holds the jewel in his heart."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, 70.

A summary of Taoism can be found here.

According to Taoism, the whole of the cosmos is infused with a subtle, pervasive yet invisible resource called "ch'i" or "qi". This fundamental, omnipresent Force, present as a seamless pool of pre-existent, infinite potential, is the universal, primordial Ch'i. Before emanating the cosmos, it is called "Wu Ch'i", the Great Limitless. In this dark potential, a "red" impulse stirred, exciting this active nothingness ("wu"), differentiating into "something". Suddenly light emerged, contrasting darkness, and bringing about cosmic Ch'i, or "Tai Ch'i", the macrocosmic Great Ultimate. Out of this cosmic Ch'i, on the basis of a fivefold process, gases, stars and planets were formed. Eventually, helped by Earth Ch'i, living beings were generated on this planet. So both emptiness (potentiality) and actuality are permeated with this ever-present "Ch'i", the Force running both the pre-cosmic, universal potential and the actual cosmos in all its parts. When Ch'i flows in a human being, health and longevity are a fact, but when it is stagnant or deficient, disease and a short life ensue. This flow of Ch'i is determined by practice and intention, i.e. by working with Ch'i ("Ch'i Kung").

4.1 The Three Elixir Fields.

The Chinese worldview associates the body with Earth (Yin) and the spirit with Heaven (Yang). From the universe, Ch'i of Heaven ("Tian Ch'i") enters into the human system. From the Earth, Ch'i of Earth ("Ti Ch'i"), an equally potent force, enters the body. The resources of the Yang Heaven gather in the head, and those of the Yin Earth in the belly. Both reservoirs are linked by the Central Tai Ch'i Channel, and this connection parallels the vertebral column (note the correspondence with Hindu & Buddhist teachings). It is linked with the flow of blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid & neurological activity.

The traditional way to investigate Ch'i in the human system, is to explain the difference between Body Ch'i, Mind Ch'i and Spirit Ch'i, the Three Treasures (Jing, Ch'i & Shen).

Body Ch'i is "jing", productive energy. It is the most subtle aspect of the physical system, equivalent to neurotransmitters, hormones, DNA, sperm and egg. The body is local, material and operates through physiological interactions.
Mind Ch'i is simply called "ch'i" or lifeforce and refers to the psychological system. Mind Ch'i is somewhat local, immaterial and works through memory, emotions, thoughts, intuition & creativity.
Spirit Ch'i is "shen", spiritual energy, is transcendent, non-local & boundless. Being perfect, it is completely healthy, now and forever. It is used to help heal the mind and the body. It merges with the Tao.

In Chinese, "Tan T'ien" means "Elixir Field". It is a place where the energies of our own body, of the Earth, nature & the universe come together. Three Elixir Fields ensue :

the Lower Elixir Field (Earth Treasure) : situated between the navel, the "kidney center point" or "gate of life" (in the spine between the second and third lumbar) and the prostate gland (top of cervix between the ovaries), this Elixir Field is the center of the physical body and its strength. It is also called "medicine field", "ocean of Ch'i", "sea of energy", "cauldron" or "navel center". Associated with the "jing", the productive energy of the physical system, and the Body Ch'i, it serves as the source of the lifeforce or "ch'i", related to the Mind Ch'i. Here this productive energy, healing the body, is collected, stored, calmed & purified (refined), ready to be transformed into this lifeforce. The rising of this subtle Body Ch'i or vital damp ("jing") to the Middle Elixir Field, where it is transformed into Mind Ch'i, is called "the blossoming of the lead flower" (Caterpillar).
the Middle Elixir Field (Life Treasure) : situated around the heart area and the Plexus Solaris, this field has as main task to collect, store, calm and refine the lifeforce ("ch'i") mainly resulting from the transformation of refined productive energy ("jing"), but also from food & air. This heart Elixir Field is the residence of the mind. In Chinese, the concepts "mind" and "heart" are not differentiated. The concept "xin" (pronounced "shin") embraces both and so we may say it is the mind of the heart or "Heart-Mind". The Chinese characters for "thinking", "thought", "intent", "virtue", "listen" and "love" include the character for "heart". The Life Treasure Elixir heals affective and mental disorders. To work with this Elixir Field may well be the central key of spiritual growth, for when the Mind Ch'i is clear, the spirit ("shen") is revealed and a total integration happens, creating balance and radiation ("Jing Shen"). The rising of the refined Mind Ch'i to the Higher Elixir Field, to be transformed there into Spirit Ch'i ("shen"), is called "the blossoming of the silver flower" (Cocoon).
the Higher Elixir Field (Heaven Treasure) : situated between the brows, this "Tan T'ien" collects, stores, calms and refines the Mind Ch'i or "ch'i" rising from the Middle Elixir Field. Here Mind Ch'i is transformed into spiritual energy ("shen") and then integrated in the primordial, universal Ch'i of the Tao itself. The mind is emptied of concepts, and the duality of subject & object is gone. This is called "the blossoming of the golden flower" (Butterfly). The three energies (Jing, Ch'i and Shen) now move upwards to the top of the head and become one single undifferentiated energy. This collection of the three flowers is called "the arising of the seed of the Tao". This goes down to the belly and forms the immortal embryo, the "golden pill", "golden elixir" or "great medicine".

4.2 Inner Alchemy : Transforming Body into Tao.

Chinese alchemy understands the process whereby the lowest lifeforce is transformed as the spiritualization of matter. The process of inner alchemy is divided into four stages :

Jing > Ch'i > Shen > Hsu > Tao

stage 1 : Jing > Ch'i ("lien-ching-hua-chi'") :

Here the productive energy ("jing"), concentrated in the Earth Elixir Field is collected, stored & refined. To accomplish this, sexual activity and craving need to be regulated, for this allows to collect, store and refine the Body Ch'i. Good health, both internal and external, accommodates this. Productive energy can be quickly generated in the young & strong, but slower in the old & weak. Sexual Yoga is a good way to cultivate Body Ch'i. As sexual stimulation feeds on Body Ch'i, it has to be bridled. When enough has been collected, appeased and stored, it can be refined by igniting the "cauldron", the Lower "Tan T'ien", producing heat. This is known as "the birth of yang". This vital damp rises to the Middle Elixir Field and is transformed there into Mind Ch'i.

stage 2 : Ch'i > Shen ("lien-ch'i-hua-shen") :

At this point, Body Ch'i is transformed into Mind Ch'i and the latter is collected, stored, calmed & refined in the Middle Elixir Field. The fire of the "cauldron" is pumped up by way of specific Breath Yoga. To seal Mind Ch'i in the Middle Elixir field, the Taoist must be free from emotional extremes and mental unbalances. Especially negative emotions like hate, worry, depression, grief, fear and anger have a very negative effect on the cultivation of Mind Ch'i. When refined Mind Ch'i rises up to the Higher Elixir Field, the pathways of Ch'i (meridians) between the upper part and the lower part of the body are linked and the free flow of Ch'i is at hand.

stage 3 : Shen > Hsu ("lien-shen-huan-hsu") :

When refined Mind Ch'i rises up to the Higher Elixir Field, it is transformed there into spiritual energy or Spirit Ch'i ("shen"). The Three Treasures unite at the top of the head, forming a single energy. This undifferentiated vapor descends to the belly to form the immortal embryo, turning, moving and growing in the alchemist. In this phase, the practitioner retires to a solitary place. Undisturbed, the embryo gestates and grows. A wrong move, and it is lost.

stage 4 : Hsu > Tao ("lien-hsü-ho-tao") :

When the embryo appears, it is called the original spirit ("yüan-shen"). Just as a small child becomes an adolescent, this spirit needs to ripen. Eventually this spirit rises to the head and escapes the body at the crown aperture. First it makes small trips, but eventually longer ones, seeking a way home to the Tao. The original spirit prepares for the moment it will irreversibly leave the physical body. When, at a very old age, the latter dies, this original spirit leaves the body and merges with the undifferentiated energy of the Tao. This ends the process : returning to the place we were before we became.

4.3 The Heart-Mind : Harmonizing Earth & Heaven.

The radiant Heart-Mind ("Jing Shen") is the integration of Yin Earth Ch'i and Yang Heaven Ch'i in the Middle Elixir Field, generating refined Mind Ch'i rising up to the Higher Elixir Field, producing spiritual energy ("shen").

To clear the Earth Elixir Field  ("ti tan t'ien"), dietary change and relaxation are called for. As a function of the Element Type (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire or Earth), certain foodstuffs are appropriate to cultivate Body Ch'i. Too much sexual activity and a life without sufficient moments of rest are also to be avoided. To clear the Heart-Mind Elixir Field ("xin tan t'ien"), emotional conflicts need to be solved. This may require forgiveness, absence of grudges, releasing negative emotions like hate, anger, fear and worry. The elimination of stress and the cultivation of a tranquil mind are crucial. Without peace of mind, the tensions stored by the Heart-Mind Elixir Field will block the free flow of "ch'i", causing physical and psychological disorders. Finally, the Heaven Elixir Field ("shen tan t'ien"), by nature clear and luminous, needs not to be balanced. Clearing Earth and Heart-Mind will spontaneously allow the light of spirit to shine through.

The Yin of the Earth Field naturally descends (water), while the Yang of the Heaven Field naturally ascends (fire). The work of Taoist alchemy, by deep and focused intention, reverses this natural direction of these two fundamental states of energy. Then the Yin of Earth ascends to the Heart-Mind and the Yang of Heaven descends to the Heart-Mind. They penetrate each other, reinforcing life, vitality, creativity and eventually spirituality. When both forces meet in the Middle Elixir Field of the heart, the harmony of the primary forces or "Tai Ch'i" is experienced within the human. This is the harmony of the microcosmos reflecting the primordial harmony of the macrocosmos.


In Ancient Egyptian spirituality, the Abrahamic faiths, Alchemy, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism, the heart is pivotal :

Egypt Alchemy Qabalah Mysticism Tantra Taoism
ka negrido Malkuth purificatio Root Body/Yin
ba albedo Tiphareth illuminatio Heart Mind
akh rubedo Kether Deificatio Crown Spirit/Yang

These different spiritual traditions make it clear the word "God" is not straightforward. What is meant by this concept is not fixed at all, but varies with respect to semantics, syntax & pragmatics. Elsewhere, these differences have been given due attention, and in what follows the word "God" is not used in the usual theist context prevailing in the West, stressing substantiality, but in a process-like view, grasping God insubstantially. In the West, such an approach is found in Process Philosophy. The integration of this remarkable philosophy, in tune with relativity & quantum mechanics, with Dharmic teachings, in particular Buddhism and Taoism, has been carried through here.

To clarify the position implied simply this : God is not a Platonic substance of substances, but a supreme process. Although this movements-of-movements has stable architecture, namely the structure of the differential equation characterizing this grand process, God is also near us and affected by us. He is not isolated, indifferent, closed and independent. If a genuine moral interaction takes place, which is the case, then He cannot be omnipotent. To be a God in harmony with reason, even His omniscience must be limited : God knows what happened and knows what might happen, but not what will happen. Throwing reason out, God becomes ambivalent and thus, as history shows, the final excuse for all possible atrocities.

In the West, certainly on the basis of Plato, but even when giving credence to the Peripatetics, such a view is anathema. Indeed, as explained earlier, for Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274), the relation between the monotheist God and the world is a "relatio rationis", not a real or mutual bond. According to Thomism, God is not affected by the world, and so God is like an object, not a subject ! The relationship between God and the world cannot be reciprocal. If so, the world only contributes to the glory of God ("gloria externa Dei"). The finite is nothing more than a necessary "explicatio Dei". This is the only way the world can contribute to God. This view is completely rejected. The God deemed to be like that, does not exist ! He is merely a human fabrication.

The view of God as a closed and isolated super-substance, as a One Alone, can do not more than allow us to worship an indifferent, cruel Caesar sternly looking down upon us. But our Visio Dei must be an embrace of the two aspects of God, of His remoteness hand in hand with His nearness. Of His being-Himself and His being-with-us. What a contrast with the Hellenic God adhered to in the monotheist theologies !

II : The Heart in Science.

In the Ebers Medical Papyrus (chapter 6, 854a), the Ancient Egyptians left us a quotation pointing to the fact the peripheral pulses reflect the beating of the heart. The whole concept of circulatory system, discovered by Harvey in the XVIIth century, was however unknown to them, for they believed the arteries contained air, a view prevailing until the work of Galen of Pergamum (130 - 200 CE) in the second half of the second century CE. Paragraph 855 of the Ebers Medical Papyrus deals with pathological states of the heart. We find expressions as "weakness on the heart", "weakness of the heart", "constricted, small & heated heart", "heart does not speak", "heart is covered up", etc. But none of the available medical papyri (Smith, Ebers, Kahun, Hearst, Chester Beatty VI, Berlin, London, Carlsberg VIII, Ramesseum III, IV & V, Leiden, Crocodilopolis and Brooklyn) shed light on the pathologies at hand.

5. Neurocardiology.

5.1 A Few Facts.

In 1991, after years of extensive research, dr.J.Andrew Amour of Dalhouse University in Halifax, Canada, evidenced the existence of a functional "heart brain". This is an intricate network of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells allowing activity independent from the "head brain". Many of the signals flowing out of the heart to the brain regulate signals flowing out of the brain to the heart, the blood vessels, glands and organs. The work of the Laceys (1970) and others made clear neural messages from the heart affect cortical activity, including the amygdala and the higher brain centers.

There are at least forty thousand neurons in the heart. This is as many as in the various subcortical areas of the brain. The heart is not merely pumping blood, but demonstrating a complex set of interactions between these neurons and those in the brain. The idea peripheral autonomic ganglia function as "little brains" dates from the XVIIIth century, and was formulated by Benigne Winslow, a Swedish anatomist working in Paris. These neuronal networks were considered to perform routine tasks required to maintain organ function, ensuring afferent data arising from each organ did not flood the spinal cord and the brain.

Armour, J. & Ardell, J. : Neurocardiology, Oxford University Press - New York, 1984.
Wiggers, C.J. : "The autonomic nervous system.", in : Physiology in Health and Disease, Lea & Febiger - Philadelphia, 1949, pp.286-303.

At first, scientists assumed the brain was the primary source of neuronal input controlling the rhythmic activity of the heart, but in the 1970s, physiologists John and Beatrice Lacey (Fels Research Institute) evidenced afferent neuronal signals arising from the heart are equally important, affecting the neurons of the central nervous system (CNS, encased in bone : brain and spinal cord) but also the ganglia of the thorax and in the heart itself. They also found the heart did not automatically obey when the brain sent orders to the heart, but had its own distinctive logic. At time arousal signals did speed up the heartbeat, but at times it also slowed down while other organs responded with arousal ! This selectivity was not mechanical, but depended on the nature of the task at hand and the type of mental processing required. Moreover, the heart could also send messages back to the brain, making the latter obey. Hence, these messages could influence behavior, for under certain circumstances, the heart "thought for itself" ...

Lacey, J. & Lacey, B. : "Some autonomic-central nervous system interrelationships", in : Black, P. : Physiological Correlates of Emotion, Academic Press - New York, 1970, pp.205-227.

The heart has a "little brain", with a two-way communication between the heart and the brain, influencing each other. The same seems to be true between the immune system and the gut, pointing to three "brains" : one located in the head, one in the heart area (heart & Plexus Solaris) and one in the gut (navel area).

Ader, R., Felten D.L. & Cohen, N. (eds) : Psychoneuro-immunology, Academic Press - Sand Diego, 1991.
Gershon, M. : The Second Brain, HarperCollins - San Francisco, 1999.
Cooke, H.J. : "Rold of the 'little brain' in the gut in water and electrolyte homeostasis.", in : FASEB Journal, n°3, 1989, pp.127-138.
Armour, J.A. : "Anatomy and function of the intrathoracic neurons regulating the mammalian heart.", in : Zucker, I.H. & Gilmore, J.P (eds) : Reflex Control of the Circulation, CRC Press - Boca Raton, 1991, pp.1-37.

This division is in harmony with the anatomical features of the Autonomous Nervous System (ANS), functioning outside the control of conscious will. Three distinct clusterings of neurons can be identified : cranial (upper), thoracolumbar (middle) and sacral (lower or caudal). The middle component makes up the bulk of the sympathetic nervous system, whereas the cranial and sacral component is parasympathetic, with axons projecting in nerves arising from either extreme of the CNS. The tenth cranial nerve, the vagus, contains the largest parasympathetic efferent neuronal outflow from the brain, as well as a sizeable number of afferent neurons, connected to the sensors of the internal organs. This "great wanderer" courses through the thorax into the abdomen, innervating many tissues throughout the body.

Langley, G.N. : The Autonomic Nervous System, Cambridge University Press - Cambridge, 1921.
Gaskell, W.H. : The Involuntary Nervous System, Longmans, Green and C° - London, 1916.

The functions of the ANS involves six postulates :

1. The unstable functional state of mammals, constantly subjected to disturbances, is counteracted by bodily acts aiming to maintain the stability of the organism : homeostasis ;
2. the tendency changing this homeostasis is counteracted by neurohumoral factors maintaining stability ;
3. homeostatic agents (such as a hormone) exerts consistent actions on its different targets, i.e. displays uniformity of function ;
4. agents opposing each other to regulate one organ may act synergistically to regulate another ;
5. the overall system regulating the internal state of the body is defined by a number of cooperative factors (chemicals, innervation) ;
6. one chemical altering the homeostatic state in one direction makes other factors become operational exerting opposing effects, maintaining overall stability.

Cannon, W.B. : Body Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage, Appleton & C° - New York, 1929.

Scientists have altered their views on the relationship between the effects of stress (both physical and mental) on the cardiovascular system. Stress-induced breakdown of the human organism is acknowledged. Stress arises from changing external milieus, including emotional stress based on afflictive emotions and difficult interpersonal relationships. It causes the rise of internal organ disease, like gastroduodenal ulcers, high blood pressure and sudden cardiac death.

External stressors can overwhelm the ANS, compromising organ function through overloaded central input. Excessive high input, associated with a diseased organ, may also stress the CNS. When overwhelmed, the ANS becomes maladaptive and so one organ may become the target of repeated exposure to stress, leading to patterns of neural behavior promoting instability within the ANS. Especially repeated exposure to seemingly innocuous daily events are strong stressors.

L'Abatte, A. (ed) : "Acute effect of psychological stress on the cardiovascular system : Models and clinical assessment", in : Cullen, J., Siegrist, J., Wegmann, H.M., Ballieux, R.E., Fielding, J.F. & L'Abatte, A. (eds) : Breakdown in Human Adaptation to 'Stress' : Towards a Multidisciplinary Approach, Martinus Nijhoff - Boston, 1984, pp.843-1061.

First described as "the little brain on the heart" (Armour, 1991), the nervous system of the heart is intrinsic to the heart, and because this population of neurons is capable of processing information independent from extracardiac neurons (those of the CNS included), it may well be called the "heart brain". This system integrates information arising extrinsic to the heart (via sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons) and responds to input arising from sensory neurites in the tissues of the body. It also responds rapidly to changes in the local environment of the heart and displays short-term memory.

The "brake and accelerator" model has been superseded. There is more happening than merely sympathetic efferent neurons enhancing and parasympathetic efferent neurons suppressing cardiac function. On the contrary, the complex interactions occurring among the various neurons located in the intrathoracic ganglia happen with relatively little input from CNS neurons. Minor changes in the input from the latter to this heart brain can exert a strong influence on its interactions, while minor changes in a relatively small population of cardiac neurons can also have devastating effects on the overall cardiac electrical behavior. This may lead to cardiac diseases like coronary artery arteriosclerosis or arrhythmias.

Armour, J.A. : "Instant-to-instant reflex cardiac regulation.", in : Cardiology, n°61, 1976, pp.309-328.
Armour, J.A. : "Physiological behavior of thoracic cardiovascular receptors.", in : American Journal of Physiology, n° 225(1), 1973, pp.177-185.
Williams, R.B., Haney, T.L., Lee, K.L., Kong, Y.H., Blumenthal, J.A. & Whalen, R.E. : Type A behavior, hostility and coronary arteriosclerosis.", in : Psychosomatic Medicine, n°42(6), 1980, pp.539-549.

Armour, J.A. : Neurocardiology : Anatomical and Functional Principles, Institute of HeartMath - Boulder, 2003.

5.2 Multiple Interactions.

The complex communication between the heart and extracardiac processes involves :

neurological communication : the transmission of nerve impulses allow the heart to act as an independent unit influencing cortical activity and therefore, by way of the sensory neurites, act on organs & tissues ;
biochemical communication : through hormones and neurotransmitters. With each contraction, the heart secretes a number of hormones correlating with its rhythms, thereby encoding information ;
biophysical communication : through pressure waves caused by the powerful blood pressure wave travelling throughout the arteries much faster than the actual flow of blood, creating a pulse. Important rhythms exist in the oscillations of blood pressure waves, indicative of the health of the individual (cf. the importance of pulse-reading in Traditional Chinese Medicine). This rhythmic activity of the heart is a code allowing the heart to communicate with the rest of the body. These waves also influence the brain's electrical activity ;
energetic communication : through the quality & pattern of the electromagnetic field emitted by the heart and transmitted throughout the body. This field (measured in an ECG) is the most powerful field produced by the body, five thousand times greater in strength than the field produced by the brain and sixty times greater in amplitude than brain waves recorded with an EEG. This field permeates every cell in the body but also radiates outside of us into the space around us, measurable with magnetometers (like SQUID) up to 2.4m to 3m away. There is also evidence of a direct energetic interaction between this field and the field produced by the brain. Information is probably also encoded in the interbeat intervals of the pressure & electromagnetic waves produced. Indeed, the time interval between each beat varies and these pulses create fields within fields, giving rise to interference patterns influencing magnetically polarized tissues & substances.

Besides this bioelectromagnetic communication within the body, there is evidence the interaction between human beings involves energetic communication below the conscious threshold, leading to physiological synchronization or entrainment between individuals. Given the strength of the field of the heart, researchers call this information exchange "cardioelectro-magnetic communication". Not only is the heart the prime generator, organize and integrator of energy in the human body, but its field has a dramatic effect on its milieu. The signals radiated by the heart can therefore influence the brain activity of another person, even at conversational distances (smaller than 1.5m).

Song, L., Schwartz, G. & Russek, L. : "Heart-focused attention and heart-brain synchronization : Energetic and physiological mechanisms.", in : Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, n°4(5), 1998, pp.44-62.
McCarty, R. : Science of the Heart : Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance, Institute of HeartMath - Boulder, 2001.

McCarty, R. : The Energetic Heart : Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People, Institute of HeartMath - Boulder, 2003.

6. Biofeedback and the Heart.

6.1 The Biofeedback Principle.

The Biofeedback Principle involves a training loop. If, using a device, a subject becomes conscious of an internal event of which he or she is usually unconscious (like heartbeat, skin temperature, skin resistance, brainwaves, etc.), and receives reinforcements each time a target condition is met, then one can learn to control some aspect of that event. So biofeedback modalities, based on the mechanism of operant conditioning, involve three steps :

(1) the recording of a biological activity of interest ;
(2) a trainee reinforced each time a desired activity occurs ;
(3) voluntary control of this biological activity.

The first investigator studying operant conditioning of EEG Alpha waves and the associated changes in mental activity was Joseph Kamiya. In 1963, he trained a volunteer to recognize bursts of Alpha (8 - 12 Hz) brain wave activity, giving him verbal reinforcement each time he entered an Alpha state. His successful experiment showed humans are, via instrumentation, able to control brain wave activity. In 1968, Barry Sterman published a landmark experiment in which cats were trained to increase sensorimotoric rhythm (SMR : 12 - 15 Hz). This frequency band shows increased activity when motor activity decreases. The cats were rewarded each time SMR increased, which accompanied decrease in their physical movements. In the same year a number of scientists gathered at a convention, including Elmer Green, Barry Sterman, Thomas Budzynski, Joe Kamiya, Barabara Brown and many others. They adopted a descriptive name for this new science of changing biological signals with equipment : biofeedback.

Kamiya, J. : "Operant Control of the EEG Alpha Rhythm.", in : Tart, C. (ed) : Altered States of Consciousness,  Wiley - New York, 1969, pp.507-517.
Wyricka, W. & Sterman, M.B. : "Instrumental conditioning of sensorimotor cortex EEG spindles in the waking cat.", in : Physiology & Behavior, n°3, 1968, pp.703-707.
Sterman, M.B. : "Basic Concepts and Clinical Findings in the Treatment of Seizure Disorders and EEG Operant Conditioning.", in : Clinical Electroencephalography, n°31, 2000, pp. 45-54.
Green, E. & Green, A. : Beyond Biofeedback, Knoll - Fort Wayne, 1977.
Budzynski, T.H. : "Bain brightening : Can neurofeedback improve cognitive process ?", in : Biofeedback, n°24, 1996, pp.14-17.
Budzynski, T.H. : "From EEG to neurofeedback.", in : Evans, J.R. & Arbarbanel, A. (eds) : Introduction to Quantitative EEG and Neurofeedback, Academic Press - San Diego, 1999, pp.65-79.

The Biofeedback Principle, the operant conditioning of biological signals, evidences the functions of the organism can be altered and thus improved. Rewarding certain target events (output signals, thresholds, ratios etc.) will give rise to permanent changes. These involve considerable upgrades of certain functions, generating a more profound state of general well-being, enhancing creativity, lucidity, learning capacity, memory, visualization, peak-performance, accommodating meditative & trance states, etc.. Biofeedback training also heals certain malfunctions such as heart arrhythmia, blood pressure, migraine, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma, neuromuscular disorders, tension, anxiety states, depression, stress, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, insomnia etc. This adaptability of the organism points to neuroplasticity, the ability of neurons to reorganize (by growing new connections or by reconfiguring their modular interactions and interdependences). It also suggests the mind to be more than merely an emergent property of the brain, for by conscious effort the fundamental mechanisms of the brain (and other extracranial ganglia) can be affected (cf. mind over matter).

The ontology attuned to this points to three operators instead of one. Scientific materialism (a monism) needs to be replaced by scientific pluralism :

  • pragmatism or matter (hardware) : the executive material aggregate, composed of matter, obeying the laws governing particles and forces ;

  • syntax or information (software) : by virtue of the laws of symmetry & symmetry-break describing well-formed (coherent) code and non-redundant information, there is an ordered architecture ;

  • semantics or consciousness (userware) : a source of meaning develops a unique perspective or conscious outlook on matter, information & itself, suggestive of the ability to auto-redefine, auto-regulate and auto-reorganize as a function of the degree of intelligence (or freedom). Consciousness is a meaning-giver involved in percipient participation.

Cade, C.M. : Self-awareness and E.S.R., Audio - London, 1980.
Cade, C.M. : Measurement by Temperature Meter, Audio - London, 1980.
Cade, M. & Blundell, G. : The Meaning of EEG, Audio Ltd - London, n.d.
Cade, C.M. & Coxhead, N. : The Awakened Mind : Biofeedback and the Development of Higher States of Awareness, Element - Dorset, 1989.
Hutchinson, M.: Mega Brain Power, Hyperion - New York, 1994.
Wise, A. : The High-Performance Mind, Penguin Putnam - New York, 1997.
Wise, A. : Awakening the Mind, Penguin Putnam - New York, 2002.
Evans, J.R. & Arbarbanel, A. (eds) : Introduction to Quantitative EEG and Neurofeedback, Academic Press - San Diego, 1999.
Robins, J. : A Symphony in the Brain, Grove Press - New York, 2000.
Crane, A. & Soutar, R. : Mindfitness Training : Neurofeedback and the Process, Writers Club Press - New York, 2000.
Churchland, P.S. : Brain-Wise, MIT Press - London, 2002.
Demos, J.N. : Getting Started with Neurofeedback, W.W.Norton & C° - London, 2005.
Larsen, S. : The Healing Power of Neurofeedback, Healing Arts Press - Rochester, 2006.
Evans, J.R. : Handbook of Neurofeedback, The Haworth Medical Press - New York, 2007.
Beauregard, M. & O'Leary, D. : The Spiritual Brain, Harper One - New York, 2007.
Fehmi, L. & Robbins, J. : The Open-Focus Brain, Trumpeter - London, 2007.
Swingle, P.G. : Biofeedback for the Brain, Rutgers University Press - London, 2008.
Nataraja, Sh. : The Blissful Brain, Octopus Publishing Group - London, 2008.

6.2 HeartMath & Cardiac Coherence.

The HeartMath system was invented by Doc Childre, who spent most of his adult life researching and developing an innovative view of psychology, physiology and the human potential. His aim is to help people to be more caring, compassionate, poised and resilient. In 1991, together with a team of professionals, he founded the Institute of HeartMath (www.heartmath.org). The reader is invited to take heed of the available online material.

The HeartMath system has been scientifically validated and researched over three decades. It is taught on four continents by corporations, government agencies, educational systems and healthcare institutions. The core of their training involves increasing "heart intelligence".

"Heart intelligence is the intelligent flow of awareness and insight that we experience once the mind and emotions are brought into balance and coherence through a self-initiated process. This form of intelligence is experienced as direct, intuitive knowing that manifests in thoughts and emotions that are beneficial for ourselves and others. The HeartMath Solution provides a systematic way to consciously activate and develop this heart intelligence. With that solution, we can learn to expand our awareness and bring new coherence to our lives. In short, we can go beyond the brain."
Childre, D. & Martin, H. : The HeartMath Solution, HarperCollins Publishers - New York, 1999, p.6.

The HeartMath system calls for three basic techniques : "Freeze-Frame®", "Cut-Thru®" and "Heart Lock-In®". Although the specific protocols of these procedures are unique and part of the specifics of the HeartMath Solution developed at the Institute of HeartMath, parallel methods can be found in the Buddhist tradition. For example, "Freeze-Frame®" resembles the practice of mindfulness of the heart-wheel found in Tantra, in particular the Mahâmudrâ of Tsongkhapa. "Cut-Thru®" reminds me of  "cutting-through" (Tib. "trekchö"), a fundamental method used in Dzogchen, whereas "Heart Lock-In®" can be found in meditations on the Four Immeasurables (Joy, Love, Compassion, Equanimity), the practice of generating Bodhicitta and meditations on Great Compassion (mahâkarunâ) in the cycle of Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha of Compassion.

Technically, at the heart of the HeartMath Solution we find the concept of "coherence". This term is used in physics to describe the ordered distribution of power within a waveform, and so the more stable the frequency and shape of the waveform, the higher the coherence. Coherence also refers to the fact two or more oscillatory systems are either phase- or frequency-locked, becoming entrained and oscillating together. This is called "cross-coherence".

In the human body, entrainment can be found between heart rhythms, respiratory rhythms, blood pressure oscillations, low frequency brain rhythms, craniosacral rhythms, electrical potentials across the skin and rhythms in the digestive system.

Another phenomenon is "resonance", whereby a large vibration is produced in a system in response to a stimulus with a frequency identical or nearly identical to the natural vibratory frequency of the system. When the human system is in a coherent mode, increased synchronization happens between the two branches of the ANS, and entrainment between heart rhythms, blood pressure oscillations and respiration is evidenced. These oscillatory subsystems all vibrate at the resonant frequency, which, in humans and many animals, is approximately 0.1 Hz or oscillations in a ten-second cycle.

In the HeartMath system, "coherence" is used as an umbrella term for entrainment, resonance and synchronization. A coherent mode is a smooth, sine-like pattern in the heart rhythms and a narrow-band, high-amplitude peak in the low frequency range of the HRV (heart rate variability) power spectrum, at a frequency of about 0.1 Hz. A coherent mode reduces the activity of the sympathetic branch of the ANS. This branch speeds heart rate, constricts blood vessels and releases stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol. The production of cortisol reduces DHEA production, an essential "vitality" hormone produced by the adrenal glands, reducing aging, stimulating the immune system, lowering the cholesterol levels and promoting bone and muscle deposition. But when the heart is operating in a disordered mode (low coherence), an incoherent electromagnetic signal is broadcasted throughout the body and out into our milieu.

"Coherence confers a number of benefits to the system in terms of both physiological and psychological functioning. At the physiological level, there is increased efficiency in fluid exchange, filtration and absorption between the capillaries and tissues ; increased ability of the cardiovascular system to adapt to circulatory demands ; and increased temporal synchronization of cells throughout the body. This results in increased system-wide energy efficiency and conservation of metabolic energy. These observations support the link between positive emotions and increased physiological efficiency that may partially explain the growing number of documented correlations between positive emotions, improved health and increased longevity."
McCarty, R. : The Energetic Heart : Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People, Institute of HeartMath - Boulder, 2003, p.5.

To actually measure coherence and train it, the Institute of HeartMath developed "emwave PC", a software package processing, via spectral analysis, data gathered via a finger or ear sensor connected to the USB port.

"A healthy reserve of assets results in vitality, adaptability, resiliency, creativity, and a steady improvement in a healthy quality of life - psychologically and physically. (...) It is not hard to see (...) that people who are typically angry, hostile, and aggressive tend to have increased rates of heart disease and premature death later in life."
Childre, D. & Martin, H. : The HeartMath Solution, HarperCollins Publishers - New York, 1999, pp.94-95.

Here are two typical screens, and the results for a short 4.5 minutes session showing optimal coherence (at normal challenge level or L = 2).

Heart Rate in Beats per Minute (top) - Accumulated Coherence Scores (left)
Average Heart Rate - Coherence Ratio (4.5 minutes)

Heart Rate in Beats per Minute (top) - Power Spectrum (4.5 minutes)

Combining AVE (Audio Visual Stimulus) machine (like the Proteus or the Procyon from www.mindplace.com) at Alpha frequencies, providing Alpha stimuli and Alpha-pulsating tone-feedback linked with high coherence (using Mind WorkStation software from www.transparentcorp.com), gives a much better outcome in HRV than HRV training alone (a soundtrack may be added as "atmospheric conditioner"). Here is a typical screen after a 30 minutes session (L = 2) showing a combined coherence pattern with a coherence score staying with "the Zone" of "peak performance". Note how the coherence score line nearly drops out of "the Zone" and then picks up to stay in a comfortable range away from its bottom threshold.

Mixed Coherence Result Screen with AVS combined (30 minutes) - Low Coherence (red) makes the Coherence Score Line drop

6.3 From Wellbeing to the End of Suffering.

The contented state of being happy & healthy (and on the basis of this prosperous) is within the reach of all human beings. Afflictive emotions and the unbalanced mental states co-relative to them are the main functional cause of unhappiness. According to the Buddhadharma, the root cause of these exaggerated cravings and the hatred of rejecting, negating and denial is ignorance defined as adhering to objective and subjective states as permanent while phenomena are impermanent. Considering ourselves and outer events as self-powered, i.e. existing from their own side, independent and substantial, is the sole fundamental cause of all our troubles. Root that out, and the whole superstructure erected on top of this comes down, irreversibly ending suffering. So although one may focus on the First Noble Truth of Arising affirming all compounded states are suffering, the Third Noble Truth of Cessation is the actual remedy, eliminating the cause of our afflictions.

The Truth of Cessation is revolutionary. It confirms we have it within our power to end our own suffering. We no longer have to depend on outer forces to save us, for all we need to dare is to address our ignorance. Likewise, the HeartMath Solutions makes it clear we can train ourselves into happiness. The heart's coherent power helps balance our emotional states, aligning brain and heart to facilitate higher brain function and its higher-order intelligence or intuition. This provides the necessary fuel to attack ignorance head-on, and enter the wisdom realizing emptiness, the ultimate nature of all events. Higher-order intelligence by-passes mere mental analysis, accommodating a direct experience independent of the "spirit of geometry", introducing the "spirit of finesse" (Blaise Pascal). As long as this higher-order intelligence is blocked by afflictive emotionality, the understanding of the ultimate nature of phenomena is only analytical and rational. No direct seeing of this absolute nature is possible. Cultivating heart coherence is a necessary step to open up the window of the good heart, allowing the Divine light to enter directly.

Emotions are very strong and move us. They generate complex reactions and create sediments (emotional history). This memory defines how we appreciate ourselves and the world, and if the stored data is negative, our future experiences will be tainted and reduced. An honest assessment of how things truly are is then a priori impossible. In his Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Buddha introduced compassion and emptiness together. One cannot understand things as they are when the heart is closed and undermined by negative, afflictive emotions such as hatred, greed, ignorance, exaggerated attachment, arrogance and pride. As long as our organs are filled with hatred, worry, grief, fear and anger, our system cannot process what is necessary to see things as they are. Hence, the first task ahead is to generate positive feelings & mental states, such as patience, generosity, wisdom, enthusiasm, honesty and concentration (cf. the Six Pâramitâs). Transforming our stored negative energy into joy, love, fairness, righteousness, serenity, wisdom, compassion & forgiveness brings the necessary peace of mind to approach ultimate truth adequately.

A coherent physical heart is required to set the tone of an inquiry leading to the final & irreversible eradication of one's personal suffering or liberation. This excellent state is then enhanced by generating the mind of awakening for all sentient beings (Bodhicitta), leading up to Buddhahood.

7. Opening the Heart by Way of Buddhist Meditation.

"As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it (on a piece of touchstone), so are You to accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard for me."
Jñânasara-samuccaya, 31.

The three fundamental techniques of the HeartMath Solution ("Freeze-Frame®", "Cut-Thru®" and "Heart Lock-In®") can be studied at the Institute of HeartMath and will not be described here. However, the practices described below, based on Buddhist teachings, are consistent with these techniques. The setting of the HeartMath Solution is rather laic, based on physiology, psychology and spiritual techniques applicable without reference to any organized religion or spirituality. Here, I would like to place these discoveries in the context of comparative mysticism in general, and Buddhism in particular.

The reason why Buddhism has been singled out is the author's contention the Buddhadharma is more of a science, philosophy and art of mind than an organized religious creeds. It seamlessly locks in with biofeedback and works with an ontology consistent with the nonsubstantialist (strictly nominalist) view on matter, information & consciousness advanced by quantummechanics, relativity and chaos theory. More than any other world religion, the tenets of Buddhism foster personal experimentation, adaptation to contexts and the critical study of phenomena.

7.1 Mindfulness of Heart.

Mindfulness, staying focused, aware and paying close attention to an outer or inner object of concentration, is one of the most fundamental technique of Buddhist meditation. In the Satipatthâna Sûtra, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are defined as : contemplation of the body, feelings, the mind and mind-objects. The first practice of the First Foundation is breathing in four steps. In one of its many variations, it consists of : (1) concentration on the out-breath, (2) on the in-breath, (3) on breathing through the whole body and (4) tranquilizing the body by concentration on the breath passing through the nostrils. These practices are meant to calm the mind, leading to meditative equipoise, the flower of Calm Abiding.

When the meditator has achieved meditative equipoise and generated the mind of enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings (Bodhicitta), the path of Tantra can be entered. Mindfulness of heart is a technique specific to the uncommon Mahâmudrâ practice of Tsongkhapa (cf. supra - making the winds enter the central channel via the heart wheel instead of the navel), but it can also be found in the Lower Tantras, in the "concentration of abiding in fire", part of the "yoga with signs" dealing with "exalted speech". In this practice, we imagine the union of our very subtle mind and emptiness to appear as a tiny flame burning steadily on a Moon disk at our heart.

The heart wheel contains the indestructible drop, the house of the union of very subtle mind and very subtle body (wind). This immortal union has been present since beginningless time and is the ground of the consciousness-continuum of every sentient being. It is the potential of Buddhahood (Buddha-nature), the natural state of mind, devoid of any impurities rising from coarse (gross) or subtle minds. To concentrate on the heart will allow this very subtle mind to spontaneously manifest and when this happens nothing more needs to be done than attend to it and stabilize it.

As a practice, mindfulness of heart can be summarized in the following steps (compare with the Freeze-Frame® technique) :

recognize the work of the coarse and subtle minds, dragging our attention to sensate states, the coloration of affective states, stimulating positive & negative volition, generating conceptual thoughts and judgments, causing attractions, rejections & delusions ;
moving away from these minds by concentrating on the heart wheel ;
generating a positive, uplifting state of mind (cf. infra, the Four Immeasurables) ;
asking one's meditative deity ("iśta-deva", "chosen Deity" or Tib. "Yidam" of Deity Yoga) visualized at the heart wheel for support, council and assistance ;
being open to the "voice of the silence", the council of the small voice reflecting the natural state of mind.

7.2 Cutting Through.

"A direct introduction into the nature of mind is the first imperative. Absolute conviction in the practice is the second imperative. Gain confidence in release is the third imperative."

Garab Dorje : The Three Incisive Precepts.

Dzogchen (Tib. "rdzogs-chen") or "Great Perfection", preserved in Tibet in the "Old Translation School" (Nyingma) and Bön, has a historical lineage beginning with Prahevajra (Tib. "Garab Dorje") in the first century CE. He summarized the 6.4 million verses of "Dzogpa Chenpo" in "The Three Incisive Precepts" ("Tsiksum Nedek") above. But according to tradition, these teachings began thousands of years earlier, if not in another world-system or were taught by the Buddha to the deities only ... Then they were brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava & Vimilamitra in the 8th century, unified into a "system" by Longchenpa in the 14th century and condensed by Jigme Lingpa (1730 - 1798).

"Cutting-through" (Tib. "trekchö") is the constant return to the recognition of the natural state, cutting through whatever obscures it and this beyond conceptual elaboration. The coarse and subtle mind constantly produce adventitious contents covering the natural state, like clouds moving before the Sun. In the open, luminous mirror-surface of the natural state, all kinds of energies ("tsal") manifest. Although seemingly dislike (at time pure, at other time impure), these are like so many waves of the same ocean, of the same water. To constantly realize this and to see the surface of the mirror and not the appearances reflected is "cutting through" the images and identifying the natural state. By constantly returning to the heart wheel, one stabilizes one's placement-meditation on its indestructible drop.

When, in Dzogchen practice, this re-initiation or rebooting has been mastered, "leaping-over" (Tib. "tögal") is trained. Every possible event of which one is conscious is treated as a display from the natural state, as an expression of energy, irrespective whether is it "samsaric" or "nirvanic", impure or pure, good or bad. Everything which happens is but one of the "colors" emanated by the white prism of "rigpa", the natural state abiding in the heart wheel. To directly experience this unbounded wholeness, all judgments are postponed. This is "lhundrup" or "spontaneous presence".

As a practice, cutting through can be summarized in the following steps (compare with the Cut-Thru® technique) :

being aware of the actual state of mind ;
identifying the kind of mind at work (4 coarse minds, 3 subtle minds with 80 conceptual activities) ;
moving away from these minds by concentrating on the heart wheel ;
recognize all minds are but manifestations of the natural state of mind, i.e. having no objective significance without this fundamental very subtle mind ;
focus on this empty, luminous, natural state of mind ;
appreciate the spontaneous emergence of one's meditative deity out of this natural state.

7.3 Generating Bodhicitta.

The fundamental quality of heart-based living is caring for other sentient beings. In the Mahâyâna, this is the ideal of the Bodhisattva, the enlightenment being. The core heart qualities associated with the heart wheel are intimately related to this. To open the heart wheel, one must generate Bodhicitta. This is done by focusing on the Four Immeasurables ("brahmavihâras"), also used in the meditations of the Lesser Vehicle and later incorporated in Patañjali's Yoga-sûtra, the canon of the Hindu Yoga school.

  1. • joy ("muditâ) : "may all mother-sentient beings enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness" : this is the act of rejoicing in the happiness of others. Taking joy in the merits visible in this world opens the mind to the truth, the beauty & the goodness present around us in every moment, but often we are taken by unawareness. Seeing these virtues, opens & feeds the mind with positive, constructive thoughts and to focus on these thoughts opens the heart wheel ;

  2. love ("maitri") : "may all mother-sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering" : this is wishing every other not to be afflicted with suffering. If we can love our enemies, our friends and the strangers we encounter, we have conquered our own self-cherishing, the coarse mind seeking to satisfy the needs of the empirical ego. Wishing all living beings happiness broadens the mind even further, for not only do we rejoice in their virtues but we also wish to increase them ;

  3. • compassion ("karunâ") : "may all mother-sentient beings realize the greatest happiness : freedom of suffering" : this moves beyond merely wishing, but refers to actually realizing or contributing to the happiness of every other being. Here we actually do something and afterwards we check whether sustainable improvement has been generated. This is charity, the action of making others happy, even -seemingly- at one's own expense ;

  4. • equanimity ("upeksâ") : "may all mother-sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from attachments to loved ones, free from hatred of foes" : this is dealing with every other in an impartial way. While acting, and contributing to the happiness of other sentient beings, they are not considered to be inherently different from one another, while their functional, dynamical distinctions are pertinent.

As the effects of these core heart qualities cannot be measured, they are called "immeasurable". Maintaining these states will lead to spontaneous Bodhicitta.

As a practice, cutting through can be summarized in the following steps (compare with the Heart Lock-In® technique) :

abide in meditative equipoise on the breath ;
move away from coarse minds by concentrating on the heart wheel ;
remember the positive intentions on one's meditative deity and concentrate on the positive states of mind thus generated ;
send joy, love, compassion and equanimity to yourself and/or to others ;
as soon as the conceptual mind starts to produce thoughts, watch them and bring attention back to the heart wheel ;
be aware of all arising intuitions and put them to memory.

8. Integrating the Three Brains.

Neuroscientist MacLean (1970, 1978, 1990) advanced the concept of the triune brain. In the brain as a whole, he identified a three-tiered structure, called "reptilian", "mammalian" and "neocortical". This division has been used by neurotheologians to explore the meeting between religion and neuroscience (Albright & Ashbrook, 2001).

MacLean and other researchers observed animals whose activities depend on each of these "brains". In this way, various functions have been attributed to each of these three parts of the brain, characterized by a different structure and chemistry, yet extensively interconnected.

  • the reptilian brain : brain stem (midbrain, pons, medulla), midbrain, hypothalamus ;

  • the mammalian brain : thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala ;

  • the human brain : neocortex of cerebral hemispheres of cerebrum, angular gyrus.

Recently, neurocardiology and neurogastroenterology discovered two other neuronal ganglia, respectively situated in the heart (and Solar Plexus) and in the gut area.

"Only one or two thousand nerve fibers connect the brain to the hundred million nerve cells in the small intestine. Those hundred million nerve cells are quite capable of carrying on nicely, even when every one of their connections with the brain is severed ..."
Gershon, M. : The Second Brain, HarperCollins - San Francisco, 1999, p.xiv.

These findings suggest the presence of three brains in the human body and a triune brain in the skull.

Triune Brain Sign-system Three Brains Main Task
symbols head-brain conceptual
limbic system
icons heart-brain affective
signals gut-brain survival

It goes without saying the correspondences with the Elixir Fields in Taoism and the Pranic Wheels in Yoga are unmistaken :

Triune Brain Three Brains Elixir Field Chakra
head-brain Heaven Crown
limbic system
heart-brain Heart-Mind Heart
Solar Plexus
gut-brain Earth Hara (navel)

MacLean, P. : The Triune Brain in Evolution, Plenum Press - New York, 1990.
Childre, D. & Martin, H. : The HeartMath Solution, HarperCollins Publishers - New York, 1999
Gershon, M. : The Second Brain, HarperCollins - San Francisco, 1999.

8.1 The Three Cortices of the Triune Brain.

Compare the triune brain with the anatomical division of the brain in fore-, mid-, and hindbrain (for more information click here) :

Reptilian brain = hindbrain + midbrain + hypothalamus (the "oldest" master controller) ;
Mammalian brain =  higher thalamic diencephalon + basal telencephalon (hippocampus and amygdala, the "old" senior executive) + cingulate cortex (relay to cortex) ;
Human brain =  forebrain, neocortex (the "new" senior executive, in particular the prefrontal cortex).

neocortex higher order cognitive, affective and motoric processes
cerebral hemispheres concert of analytical (left) and synthetical (right) higher order approaches
prefrontal cortex senior executive of all
higher order functions
cingulate gyrus willful acts, intent
angular gyrus senior language controls
threshold between cortical & subcortical structures
hippocampus memory consolidation
and emotional equilibration
amygdala security and emotional regulation
thalamus universal gateway
integration & projection
hypothalamus master controller
of the ANS
limbic system overall emotional circuit
ARAS filter and master modulator
ANS basal neurophysical activity


The behaviors of reptiles are ritualistic, conservative and "programmed", with no playfulness, joy or sadness. There are four main types of reptile display, defining their rudimentary communication :

  • signature display : reptiles share signals to help identifying members of the same species ;

  • courtship : signals to attract the attention of the opposite sex ;

  • territorial challenge : instinctual attempt at deception to fend off invaders or attackers ;

  • submissive/dominance : strict hierarchy & ritual submission allows the group to survive.

In the reptilian brain of non-reptiles, the territorial imperative (cause of war) is still at work, in geosentimentality, life support and self-protection. In reptiles, the latter is often realized through deception, imitation & secrecy (cf. the treacherous serpent, the violent crocodile, the cowardly chameleon, the slow tortoise). The responsive (not reactive) nature of this brain, makes it suitable for guarding, patrolling and vigilance, which are bound to routine, precedent and ritual. The conservatism of this brain is stabilizing, and routinizing saves energy. However, a failure to adapt, is characteristic of it. In the brain stem, addiction & deep memory storage through dreams are processed. The reptilian brain houses the more violent, aggressive -even murderous- expressions of impersonal sexuality, expressing a vertical, hierarchical, dominance  versus submission signal communication. 

The reptilian brain has two major neurological structures : the ARAS and the hypothalamus.

This earliest brain and its "automatic pilot" are anchored in the embodied, the concrete. It has no emotions and no language, except signals. To keep one "pure", traditional religious, philosophical and cultural systems (computed in the prefrontal cortex) devise rituals to exorcize (banish, cast out or at best tame) the troublesome and unwholesome urges & drives of the reptilian brain. The whole strategy is dualistic. By dividing and ruling, theologies do not assist in the integration of the triune brain, which, on the lowest level, implies a rhythmical ride "on the back of the crocodile", knowing the precise momentum to co-opt "the Beast" and to create a win-win situation instead of making us captive of the division between the "law of God" and "the law of sin that dwells in my members" (cf. Paul, Letter to the Romans, 7:21-24).


Reptiles fight without excitement, show no panic at being prey and display no hot-blooded couplings, just ritualized (at time violent) behavior. Mammals, to a greater or lesser degree, exhibit anger in competition, cravings for food and lustful drives to mates. They are also capable of expressing a wide range of emotions.

Emotion is the motivating & mobilizing source of sympathy and memory and unites relatedness and nurturance. In reptiles, the limbic structures around the brain stem are present in abbreviated form only. They are found in all mammals and specialize in attaching emotional labels to the incoming and outgoing streams of information. This brain is able to trigger emotions related to eating, mating, fighting (food, mates), the care of the young, play & community. Relating and nurturing are the essential feature of this brain (Albright & Ashbrook, 2001, pp.85-86).

The mammalian brain has three major neurological structures : the thalamus, the hippocampus and the amygdala.

Emotion labels this-or-that as something which matters to us. Emotion adds color & affect to mental states. Emotion enables permanent storage (in the brain stem), suggestive of the ongoing processes between the three levels of the living brain, computing the activity of the mind. While emotional memory is formed and its individual, emotional aspects stored in the amygdala, cognitive, visual and contextual variables are stored (recalled) by the hippocampus (Gloor, 1997).


To be able to compute all higher order operations is the "nominal" mode of working of the cerebrum and its specific, bi-modal approach : two hemispheres processing one integrated cerebral activity from two different angles. Abstract thoughts can be thoroughly computed after the axonal bridge between both, the corpus callosum is completed (cf. Piaget's "formal-operatoric phase" after the age of 10).

Contrary to the reptilian, mammalian and all other cortical brains on Earth, the neocortex of Homo sapiens sapiens is exceptional in size, wiring & function. Of all mammals, humans have the most "uncommitted cortex" at birth (Penfield, 1975), i.e. fewer neurons with, in their hardware, instinctual patterns built-in. This implies the human brain is made for organic neuroplasticity (the more difficult a task, the more cells process it) and has the ability to learn and individualize.

The human brain has one major neurological structure : the neocortex.

The bi-modality of the human brain is horizontal & vertical. On the horizontal horizon, there is the joint project of the two cerebral hemispheres : cerebral activity is called to be an integration of a duality. This is accepting the difference while opening up as many neuronal alleys between the hemispheres (cf. the "concordia discors" of thought in Criticosynthesis, 2008).

Vertically, the neocortex (or upper telencephalon) and the basal telencephalon perform different tasks. The basal telencephalon is part of the limbic system. It is essential in the relay of information down from and up to the neocortex and adds "emotional color" to what comes in and goes out. Especially the amygdala play a crucial role in this, while the association of memory & emotion is noteworthy.

  • left hemisphere/neocortex : higher order verbal operations ;

  • left hemisphere/basal telencephalon : emotion/word associations, digital memory ;

  • right hemisphere/neocortex : higher order visuospatial operations ;

  • right hemisphere/basal telencephalon : emotion/imaginal sensations, visual memory.

8.2 Head, Heart & Gut : the Three Brains.

Parameter Value
number of neurons ca.1009
cortical neurons ca.209 (*)
surface of neocortex ca.11 m²
connections per neuron ca.1000
cortical synapses ca.240 trillion (*)
storage capacity/synapse  1 bit (1/8 byte)

(*) Koch, C : Biophysics of Computation, Oxford University Press - New York, 1999, p.87.

The specific task of the head-brain consists in computing conceptual thought, designating labels to inner and outer phenomena. By doing so the fundamental impermanence of events is halted and concealed by the illusion of ipseity, own-power or selfhood, attributing inherent, independent existence to sensate and mental objects. The root cause of ignorance and of all our afflictive states is therefore to be found in this head-brain and the co-relative states of mind computed (processed) by it. The pivotal construction computed by the head-brain is the First Person Perspective, the sense to possess an empirical ego, an "I" identifying with sensate states (I see, I hear, I touch, I smell, I taste), volitional states (I do, I don't do, I remain indifferent), affective states (I feel good, bad, neutral) & mental states (I think this-or-that).

The head-brain makes up this ipseity and brings about the hallucination of its permanence. This in turn activate self-cherishing, the tendency to first consider "number one" and invent the notion a single individual is more important than all the others, while clearly the opposite is true. The sense of independent selfhood is also totally delusional, for there is no selfhood without otherhood and nothing permanent among the five aggregates (of sensating, willing, feeling, thinking & apprehending) can be found. Although we maintain a certain architecture and consider this to be stable, in truth the highest mountains crumble and eventually not a single atom remains the same. Everything moves and changes, constantly transforming from one state to another, arising again, remaining for a while and they ceasing. F
or the conceptualizing head-brain, fixing its objects & subject into rigid, eternalized and eternalizing distinctions, this fundamental law of cyclic existence is very difficult to process. This then is ignorance, not witnessing the impermanent nature of all compounded things.

Clearly the neocortex, responsible for designating labels and attributing own-powered selfhood to objective and subjective events,
works -to root its computations in an emotional soil- together with the limbic system. Efferent & afferent neuronal pathways pass through this old mammalian brain, adding feelings of attachment or hatred to anything moving about in the head-brain. So the ignorance processed at the level of the neocortex gives way to desire and hatred at the level of the limbic system. These are the Three Poisons (ignorance, craving and hatred) causing all our suffering.

Let us recall the problems commonly facing our fellow human beings focused on the head-brain, with their hearts enslaved by their brains.

Once the ego is conceived as inherently existing, it solidifies and becomes a static center, creating a "real" separation or schism between the subject and its objects, in particular other humans. This gulf between "me" and "the other" conveys to me a sense of specialness, and its distinguishing mark is the erroneous conception of me being split off from my own experience, somehow suspended above all events, much like a distant witness, not a participator. This allows the conventional, empirical ego to claim : "I am a thinker, possessing a mind and a body". This I-ness, although in reality only functionally imputed on the five aggregates, is turned into a static substance, causing the ego to consider itself as permanent and endowed by enduring properties making up its "essence" or "core being". The latter is of course unique, special and not shared by others !

Likewise, other egos are usually considered to be permanent too, possessing different combinations of properties than myself. These people cannot inherently be like "me", for "I am" this unique, self-powered individual, one of a kind. Although it is conventionally true for the aggregates to form a unique combination of functional characteristics, it eludes the self-cherishing ego these aggregates of body & mind are constantly changing. Hence, the ego cannot ever remain the same. The sense of enduring selfhood is not what it seems, but this conventional truth is not witnessed by our deluded, self-cherishing egos, neither is it the natural way for the head-brain to process the data received from post-thalamic projection. Moreover, in the case of Homo normalis, only few connections exist between the neo-cortex and the subcortex ! Once the nerve impulse leaves the human brain, it encounters mammalian and reptilian structures more or less independently adding contents ...

Identifying with the fiction or hallucination of this false solid sense of "me", conceptual elaboration then brings conceptually reified categories to life in which the solid "I" plays the puppeteer. Substantialist thinking makes the illusionary self stand stronger, causing self-affirmation & self-aggrandizement. Attachment to worldly concerns (material things, praise, fame, sensual pleasure) increases. However, these projections and the cravings they engender, being false, cause the ego not to be adequate to them, eventually (after much play & folly) generating a sense of insufficiency.

Emotionally and intellectually, the static ego aches due to being confronted with its own fundamental incompleteness. To soothe the pain of this inner lack and given the need to regularly boost the power of the hallucination, requires constant fulfillment. But when, to compensate for the ever-returning insufficiency, no new toys or playmates can be found, the lurking suspicion of an ultimate lack of authenticity and genuineness dawns. Accommodating this realization, not willing to give up, turns the static ego to cynicism & loneliness, or worse, to self-willed degeneration and virulent self-destruction. Too much & too long attached to this false reified vision of oneself, makes one turn away from possible cures, fearing to go cold turkey, refusing to quit the addiction.

The substance-ego, being a fake, must deceive all it associates with. The end result of this is chronic disquietude and anxiety. These close the circle, for both are expressed in a compulsion to build and fortify the illusionary ego even more, getting rid of everything and everybody endangering the illusion with the sobriety of the ultimate truth : the ego does not exist as it appears.

Fortification of the fictional ego gives birth to a relentless craving for worldly things. In vain these are considered valid means to satisfy the need for self-security. Nothing less is true. Their pursuit causes hatred, selfishness and violence, and these, creating "the war of all against all" (Hobbes) undermine the ego even more. In this way, the agent becomes the victim of its own fundamental ignorance and misconception about itself ! Once a victim, the majority of one's waking hours are spend in brooding, in mental chatter, in being negative, depressed, unhappy and unhealthy, causing others to feel likewise, polluting young minds with one's garbage-mentality.

Is it not extraordinary and extremely profound the Buddha found the single root-cause to all of this ? What he uncovered is true peace because it is how things ultimately exist, namely lacking substance while being process-bound. The moment we accept a single phenomenon, be it the ego or anything else, to inherently exist as a self-powered entity on its own, we rekindle the fire of ignorant craving & hatred. Eliminate the slightest tendency towards reification, and the fuel is gone in the face of awakening.

8.3 The Integrating Torus of the Heart.

The electromagnetic field produced by the heart permeates all cells of our body and influences the electromagnetic fields of those around us. The more coherent this field is, the more the "pulse" of the heart aligns our physiological state and builds our homeostasis. The more incoherent this field, the less cells work together and the more stressors are produced to keep up homeostasis. The longer these are at work, the less healthy, happy and good looking the body becomes. Eventually, disease ensues and one's natural life-span is shortened. Incoherence also blocks the integration of the three brains, allowing the head to dominate the heart, closing the door of empathy and genuine care & fairness.

By allowing the heart-brain to work properly, i.e. as the place of balance between the gut (and its instincts) and the head (and its conceptualizations), we accommodate a new sense of well-being. Coherence makes head-brain, heart-brain & gut-brain harmonize at a higher level, calling in an overarching higher-order intuition, a superior intelligent prehension constantly working at the integration-point of these three. Hence, self-discovery & self-realization primarily involve working with the heart-brain and establishing a heart-based living. Once this is done, notwithstanding severe mental disorders, all the rest naturally & spontaneously follows. And this is not the "voice of faith" speaking, but the evidence of science.

Then, when these brains integrate, the prefrontal cortex of the human brain, now highly integrated and working together with subcortical structures like the limbic system and the reptilian brain, is able to process the compassionate vision of unity and beauty, one in which the process-nature of all phenomena (the antidote to ignorance) goes hand in hand with a fair care extending over the borders of one's own selfhood, breaking down the barriers of self-cherishing, operating the Four Immeasurables : Joy, Love, Compassion and Equanimity (the antidotes to craving & hatred). When these root-poisons are eliminated, the afflictive states depending on them just vanishes, for when the cause is gone the effect dies out.
The resulting higher-order intelligence, "gnosis" or sapience is then expressed by the Six Perfections : Patience, Generosity, Morality, Enthusiasm (devoted energy), Concentration & Wisdom. These bring about spontaneous Bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment for the sake of all sentient being.

So the truly balanced ones "follow" their heart and by doing so "are" their heart ...

III : The Good Heart of Direct Spiritual Experience.

As the physical heart has two chambers, so the moral heart has also two faces : a good inclination and an evil one. The latter is a heart dominated by the head, following the rule of reason only. Too much reason blinds the heart, closing its window to the higher-order intelligence necessary to lead a fulfilling life, caring for others and safeguarding a good afterlife. The evil tendency of the heart cannot be negated, repressed, rooted out or destroyed. It needs to be accepted, named, experienced and then integrated. If not face to face, the Shadow needs to be experienced for it to actually add shade & depth to the colors of the picture of life. If not, the colors of the whole thing are dead, run over by a recurrent grayness. The Shadow needs to be actualized, not cultivated.

To do so constructively belongs to the "black box" of our hidden life. Then, darkness leaves our colors, making them bright and shining. Working in this box, we empower our bright space. But if our Shadow is clothed with guilt, shame and fear, then our field is cramped and mean. Moreover, if the experience of the Shadow leaves the confines, privacy, intimacy and secrecy of this black box, this spill-over creates havoc in one's life to the point of ruining it. The work of darkness must be hidden from the eyes of the world. Those who bring it out, become slaves of their negativity, anchoring their afflictions in others, and by doing so generating a powerful "choc-en-retour", returning the negative effects brought about amplified.

Following the head is emphasizing the power of one's cognitive activity. Altogether rejecting cognition to open the path to the heart (as some devotional paths suggest) is not helpful, for if too much reason spells disaster, so does too little. To only way left is to understand cognition in such a way as to not exceed its own limitations, the work of critical thought (cf. Criticosynthesis, 2008). This means one studies concepts to find ways to eliminate concepts. By truly understanding the mind, one is able to clear it and by thus opening space one brings in calmness, serenity, lucidity and openness. These qualities bring about a strong, razor-sharp and acute mind, drawing the fine distinctions characterizing the "spirit of finesse". In such a mind, no mental babel chatters, and the monkey mind stops jumping from branch to branch, finally truly enjoying its long sought endless banana. Then discursive activity only occurs when it is needed, and if not, a vast sea of tranquility fills the mind. This peace of mind ends wasting mental energy and generating futile thoughts exhausting our ability to think clearly, calmly and lucidly. When these conditions prevail, the heart can be made coherent and a higher-order integration may occur. Then the heart's greatest secret is unveiled : truly seeing what is at hand.

9. Understanding C
ognitive Activity.

In various Dutch and English texts written over the last sixteen years, the cognitive possibilities of the human mind have been extensively studied. It what follows, a short summary will therefore suffice. Readers who wish to acquire an in-depth view are invited to read the following :

Towards a Cybernetical Anthropology, 1993, Dutch, 113p - 183KB
Prolegomena or the Rules of the Game of 'True' Knowledge, 1994, Dutch, 216p - 403KB
Knowledge and Love-Mysticism, 1994, Dutch, 416p - 1.012KB
Knowledge, 1995, Dutch, 456p - 807KB
The Rules of the Game of True Knowing, 1999, Dutch & English, 57KB
Clearings : On Critical Epistemology, 2006, English, 398KB
Behaviours : On Critical Ethics, 2006, English, 179KB
Intelligent Wisdom : from Myth to Nondual Thought, 2007, English, 443KB
Neurophilosophy of Sensation, 2007, English, 125KB
Sensations : On Critical Esthetics, 2007, English 204KB
Theory & Practice of Philosophy, 2007, English, 180KB
Criticosynthesis, 2008, English, 1852KB
Emptiness, 2008, English, 567KB.

The mind is cognizing and luminous. "Cognizing" means the mind, as a subject of experience, apprehends an object. The cognizing subject is therefore an object-possessor. "Luminous" points to the clarity & awareness factor present in this activity, for when the subject knows an object, it is simultaneously aware of this object and this awareness involves a distinct clarity or open reflection of this object on the surface of the mind. This "prise de conscience" is intentional, i.e. there is an active tension between the object-possessor and the object possessed. This tension allows for the reflection on the mind and is more than merely cognizing or knowing. So these two features are necessary. Without awareness, there is only the establishment of a passive relationship between a subject and an object, much like when a computer adds a bit to a previous bit. With awareness, there is the presence of a self-reflective act characterizing subjectivity.

The mind knows two and only two kinds of objects. On the one hand, sensate objects appear to it. These are processed perceptions of smell, touch, light, sound and taste projected by the thalamus on the various association areas of the neo-cortex, and synthesized by the latter to actually designate the object through labeling and naming. On the other hand, mental objects appear to the mind. These are conceptual designations (imputations) on the basis of sensations, feelings, volitions, thought and conscious awareness (the bases of imputation). While the mind shapes the illusion of permanent, fixed entities, turning the objects possessed into substances, all of these sources of possession are impermanent and constantly changing. Hence, the objects known by the mind appear as substances but are actually processes. To "realize" this distinction means to
four mental processes are clearly and sharply present :

1. to fathom : applying the correct observational and/or mental procedures to grasp the object possessed ;
2. to understand : gathering all necessary, valid knowledge about it ;
3. to eliminate uncertainty : sustaining a clear, certain view concerning it ;
4. to intensely experience : living it directly, in a sharp & saturated way.

concerning one's intense & sustained reflection on the nature of the cognitive process itself, these four processes are present, one truly realizes the distinction between how cognitive objects appear (namely as independent, substantial and self-powered from their own side) and how they are on the basis of the nature of their causes (namely as dependent, process-like, other-powered and thus not existing from their own side). In other words, realizing the nature of the cognitive process is discovering the difference between "das Ding für uns" and "das Ding an Sich" (Kant), between appearance and reality.

"... there exists in our reason (considered subjectively as a faculty of human knowledge) principles and maxims of its use, which have the appearance of objective principles, and lead us to mistake the subjective necessity of a certain connection of our concepts in favour of the understanding for an objective necessity in the determination of things by themselves. This illusion is as impossible to avoid as it is to prevent the sea from appearing to us higher at a distance than on the shore, because we see it by higher rays of light ; or to prevent the Moon from appearing, even to an astronomer, larger at its rising, although he is not deceived by that illusion."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B:350-354, my italics.

The "Copernican Revolution" is precisely this : although the Sun seems to rise and set, we know this not to be the case (for it is actually the Earth turning). But while we know the appearance is false, we nevertheless continue to see it. According to Kant, conceptual reason is unable to end this illusion. And he was right. But because Kant mistakenly thought there was no higher-order intelligence above conceptual reason, he could not realize conceptualization needs to be terminated in order to arrive at a "seeing" of the ultimate nature of phenomena.

When the realization of this crucial epistemic difference is repeated and repeated, as in Critical Mâdhyamika, particularly with emptiness as defined by the brilliant mind of Je Tsongkhapa
(1357 - 1419), namely as absence of inherent existence, then this cognitive activity finally generates a generic image of the nature of the cognitive process itself. This conveys the clear difference between seemingly self-powered appearances (independent substances) and truly other-powered realities (interdependent processes). This image acts as a meta-concept ending the substantializing streak of conceptualization and when this happens, the mind self-empties ! With the head, more cannot be done.

"Kaśyapa, it is like this. For example, two trees are dragged against each other by wind and from that a fire starts, burning the two trees. In the same way, Kaśyapa, if You have correct analytical discrimination, the power of a noble being's wisdom will emerge. With its emergence, correct analytical discrimination will itself be burned up."
Śâkyamuni : Kaśyapa Chapter Sûtra.

9.1 The Seven Modes of Cognitive Activity.

In Jean Piaget's (1896 - 1980) theory on cognitive development, two general functional principles, rooted in biology, are postulated, namely organization & adaptation.

The former implies the tendency common to all forms of life to integrate structures (physical & psychological) into systems of a higher order. The latter (to be divided in assimilation & accommodation) shows how the individual not only modifies cognitive structures in reaction to demands (external) but also uses his own structures to incorporate elements of the environment (internal). 

Organisms tend toward equilibrium with their environments. Centration, decentration (crisis) & re-equilibration are the fundamental processes forcing the cognitive texture of humans to complexify.

Mental operators are the result of the interiorization of this cognitive evolution. An original, archaic sense of identity is shaped. After prolonged exposure to new types of action -challenging the established original centration and its equilibrium- a crisis ensues and decentration is the outcome. Eventually, a re-equilibration occurs because a higher-order equilibrium was found through auto-regulation (re-equilibration, autopoiesis).

Over time, various different strands, levels, layers or planes of cognitive texture unfold. The process is as follows :

  1. 1) repeated confrontation with a novel action involving motor functions (original, initial coordinations of actions) ;

  2. 2) action-reflection or the interiorization of this novel action by means of semiotic factors : the first level of permanency or pre-concepts having no decontextualized use ;

  3. 3) anticipation & retro-action using these pre-concepts, valid insofar as they symbolize the original action, but always with reference to the initial context ;

  4. 4) final level of permanency : formal concepts, valid independent of the context of the original action & the formation of permanent cognitive (abstract) operators.

In this way, Piaget defined four layers of cognitive growth :

  1. sensori-motoric cognition, between birth & 2 years of age ;

  2. pre-operational cognition, between 2 and 6 ;

  3. concrete operatoric cognition, between 7 and 10 ;

  4. formal-operatoric cognition, between 10 & 13.

In his Le Structuralisme (1970), Piaget defines "structure" as a system of transformations abiding by certain laws and sustaining or enriching itself by a play of these transformations. These occur without the use of external factors. This auto-structuration of a complete whole is defined as "auto-regulation". In the individual, the latter is established by biological rhythms, biological & mental regulations and mental operations. These are theoretically formalized.

Piaget refuses to accept "real" dialectical tensions between physical objects are the "true" foundations of thought and cognition (its possibility, genesis & progressive development), as in most other types of psychology and pedagogy attuned to materialism. Piaget never fills in what reality is like. He maintains no ontological view on reality-as-such, considered to be the borderline of both the developing subject and its objective world, stage after stage.

This psychogenesis (based on the worldwide observation of children) shows how knowledge develops a relationship between a thinking subject and the objects around it. This relationship grows and becomes more complex. Stages of cognitive development are defined by means of their typical cognitive events and acquired mental forms. This development is not a priori (pre-conditions), a posteriori (empirical) but constructivist, in other words, the construction eventuates in its own process, and so the system has been, is and will always be (re)adapting and (re)creating new cognitive structures, causing novel behavior & different environmental responses. These may be interiorized, forming new internal cognitive forms, etc. The foundation of this process is action itself, the fact its movements are not random but coordinated. The form of this coordination, the order, logic or symbolization of the pattern of the movements eventually stabilizes as a permanent mental operator.

Two main actions are distinguished :

sensori-motoric actions existing before language or any form of representational conceptualization ;
operational actions ensuing as soon as the actor is conscious of the results & goals of actions and the mechanisms of actions, i.e. the translation of action into forms of conceptualized thought. These operations are either concrete (contextual) or formal (decontextualized). The latter are identified with rational, conceptual, discursive thought.

The last decades have seen the many applications of these crucial insights in the functional, efficient (educative) side of the process of cognition. An example is schema theory, at work across the fields of linguistics, anthropology, psychology and artificial intelligence. Human cognition utilizes structures even more complex than prototypes called "frame", "scene", "scenario", "script" or "schema". In cognitive sciences and in ethnoscience they are used as a model for classification and generative grammar (syntax as evolutionary process). 

The schema is primarily a set of relationships, some of which amounts to a structure, generating pictorial, verbal and behavioral outputs. The schemata are also called mental structures and abstract representations of environmental regularities. Events activate schemata allowing us to comprehend ourselves & the world around us.

The term is thus used to define a structured set of generalizable characteristics of an action. Repetition, crisis & reformation yield strands of co-relative actions or stages of cognitive development. Knowledge begins in the coordination of movement.

Ergo, in genetical sequence, consensual types of schemata emerge, each corresponding to one of the seven modes of cognitive activity :

sensori-motoric, mythical thought : aduality implies only one relationship, namely with immediate physicality ; object & subject reflect perfectly ; earliest schemata are restricted to the internal structure of the actions (the coordination) as they exist in the actual moment and in the differentiation between the actions connecting the subjects and the actions connecting the objects. The action-scheme can not be manipulated by thought and is triggered when it practically materializes ;
2) pre-operatoric, pre-rational thought : object and subject are differentiated and interiorized ; the subject is liberated from its entanglement in the actual situation of the actions ; early psychomorph causality. The subjective is projected upon the objective and the objective is viewed as the mirror of the subjective. The emergence of pre-concepts and pre-conceptual schemata does not allow for permanency and logical control. The beginning of decentration occurs and eventually objectification ensues ... ;
3) concrete-operatoric, proto-rational thought : conceptual structures emerge providing insight in the essential moments of the operational mental construction : 
(a) constructive generalization ; 
(b) the ability to understand each step and hence the total system (1 to 2 to 3 ...) and 
(c) autoregulation enabling one to run through the system in two ways, causing conservation. The conceptual schemata are "concrete" because they only function in contexts and not yet in formal, abstract mental spaces ;

4) formal-operatoric, conceptual thought : abstract conceptual structures positioned in mental spaces independent of the concrete, local environment. This mode of cogitation is liberated from the contextualizing approach, but roots the conditions of knowledge outside the cognitive apparatus itself ;
5) formal-operatoric, transcendental thought : abstract concepts explaining how knowledge and its growth are possible ;
6) formal-operatoric, creative thought : the hypothesis of a possible (arguable), conceptual immanent metaphysics ;
7) non-conceptual, nondual thought : pointing to a possible, meta-rational and transcendent metaphysics.

The Architecture of Thought





1 Mythical
libidinal ego


2 Pre-rational
tribal ego


3 Proto-rational
imitative ego
barrier between instinct and reason





4 Rational
formal ego


5 Critical
formal Self
barrier between rationality and intuition






higher-order Self




9.2 The Three Stages of Cognition.

Considering cognition genetically, i.e. its complexification from non-reflective myth to highly reflexive nondual awareness, three stages can be observed. These stages are separated by barriers, demanding a "jump" to cross them. The epistemological features of each of these has been studied elsewhere.


Focusing on the sense of wonder, the first is the stage of natural wonderment. For a child, the world constantly arouses the feeling of something strange and surprising. Its mind is daily thrilled by new and unexpected events. Because semiotic factors are absent, scents, sounds, images, taste and kinesthetic sensations dominate. Objects are not conceptually designated and no First Person Perspective is at work. The environment is oceanic. The first decentration occurs when the coordination of movement is identified as belonging to a subject. Manipulating outer objects then returns to the subject, reinforcing its libidinal awareness of itself.

Living against the background of myths, the mind grows slowly, forming signals, icons and pre-concepts lacking stability and constantly entertaining psychomorph projections. Irrational associations are ample. The "participation mystique" (Lévy-Bruhl) in which the mind baths is strong & spontaneous, i.e. unconditional and  so sustainable without effort. In this stage, the fundamental ante-rational constructs are determined and instinctual patterns are brought into play.

The resulting openness of the child is remarkable. In the libidinal and imitative modes, the direct environment is affectively explored and assimilated. Satisfying lust and soothing unlust bring about an affective patterning influencing future emotional life. Then, an adequate formation of the tribal ego (consolidating a niche of belongingness) ensues. Everything disrupting the fluid integration of this mode of cognition will have severe repercussions later. It may affect sexual and affective development as well as impair cognitive growth. This shows how important it is for parents to try to communicate their own sense of wonder and serendipity. It is the stage of basic images and instincts ; the gut-brain and the gut-mind.


When contextualization stops, the stage of natural wonderment ends. This heralds a kind of death, for the child becomes an adolescent and begins the path towards adulthood. Formal reason takes over, psychomorphism ends and the background of myth is covered by the world of sensate & mental objects, designated as independent, self-powered and existing from their own side. Facts and abstract conceptualization enter stage. These are no longer determined by context, but merely by generalizations, inferences & discursive processes. Instrumental, strategic and communicative reason manifest.

This is the stage of subliminal wonderment, for although the direct sense of awe is no longer immediately present to consciousness, it is not lost but merely becomes unconscious. It is retrieved by surrogates, and no longer directly confronted. These are the icons of affective attraction and repulsion. Falling in love, sexuality, eroticism, competition and luring images, fantasies and fictions about one's personal future play an increasing important role. The natural, spontaneous and therefore unaware sense of "living in the now" of the previous stage is replaced by "living in the future", hoping to individualize into successful adults who achieve a place among their peers and in society. Icons are replaced by symbols. And while in the previous stage, the logical hemisphere of the neo-cortex, namely that part of the human brain involved in speech, did not yet dominate the affective hemisphere, now the predominance of speech-acts based on abstract conceptualizations prevails. This is the stage of the head-brain and the head-mind.

How long does the stage of subliminal or surrogate wonderment last ? Highly individual, the stage of subliminal wonderment may endure for several decades, at which point it is shattered by crisis (cf. the mid-life demon). As self-realization does not come by automatically, the second barrier (between rationality and intuition) is not crossed without a decisive personal choice.
Although there are good reasons for deciding to individualize and so to fully emancipate -the activity is not capricious- the core, as Pascal argued, is intent and not reason. The choice is made with the heart, not with the head.

"Two excesses : exclude reason, accept but reason. (...)
The heart has its reasons which reason knows not."
Blaise Pascal : Pensées, 253 & 277.

He who has not yet decided for or against the Divine has to wager, but the Divine is the best bargain. A genuine existence commits and gives direction to life. One chooses this and rejects that. To be authentic, a human being seeks to become what he or she really is : individual before this higher-order intelligence. Hence the fundamental choice called for implies wanting an "authentic existence". This is Pascal's argument in a nutshell.

To make this pivotal choice is crucial. It does not matter in what walk of life the individual was conditioned into adulthood. If wonderment is not made conscious again, continued personal suffering will always be the outcome ; anxiety and fear without end. So if, due to wrong conditioning by wrong learned views, one is unaware of this possibility to retrieve the direct experience of wonderment and awe, decades of horrible adult grayness result. And yes, before the poetical world of colors is again regained, even this grayness can become habitual and its momentary pleasures seemingly beneficial and exclusive. By the false ways of sex, money & power an unsettling security is gained ... In its Great Compassion, Nature accommodates the dull minded by the would-be grace of ignorant oblivion.

It is important to make this very clear. It is possible and even desirable to make,
in early adulthood, a decisive choice in favour of the power of intuition. All what is needed is the stable background of reason. If so, one's quality of life is truly enhanced. Putting into place a higher-order intelligence -after formal reason has been firmly established- will allow the individual to fully individualize and enter the third stage without severe disruptive crisis. Integration into society will then become part of this ongoing intuitive heart-based approach of life, and no walls have to be build which will have to be demolished later in life. Moreover, because the body is still young, and so vital, vibrant & not recalcitrant, the highest peaks of intuitive development are within reach ... So a good education allows adolescents to make choices for themselves. It does not pamper them into adulthood, nor stuff them up with the illusions of the parents. If parents cannot give this fundamental freedom to their children, then they themselves are slaves of societal, conventional reason and lost to their own hearts.


When, after having made this decisive, existential choice, attention is given to the heart to better it, its window opens and the Divine light of a higher-order intelligence enters. Then the stage of luminous wonderment begins. The lost but immature direct experience of wonderment & awe of childhood is found again and the sense of existing in immediacy, lacking the intervention of the silenced head, brings in a new, clear, lucid and luminous quality to consciousness. Reason's abuse is immediately detected and the antidote administered. Often silence is gold. Caring, honest communication silver. Because the background of this experience of the heart is no longer myth but reason, directly seeing the wonders of life matured. By silencing the conceptual mind, a direct, immediate experience of the Clear Light comes within reach. This transforming intuition of the omnipresent, unbounded wholeness conveys the vision of unity & beauty, inviting one to participate in the constant remaking of the wholeness of the universe out of all possibilities. When this final stage culminates, the process of this-life ends. As the good heart is not weighed down by incoherence, but in balance with the Divine principles of life, light and love, physical death, no longer a fatality but a conscious choice, announces one's rebirth in the afterlife. This is the stage of the heart-brain and the heart-mind.

9.3 Finding a
Hippopotamus in the House.

The conceptual mind substantializes its sensate and mental objects. Although this mind has no direct access to perceptions, the whole spectrum of sensuous data being a mere projection of thalamic information already processed by pre-thalamic structures (cf.
Neurophilosophy of Sensation, 2007), the neo-cortex processes this information in such a way that its objects appear to mind as independent substances existing from their own side. For sensate objects this means they are deemed to operate outside the mind, i.e. extra-mentally. This fixating streak makes mental objects circumambulate a seemingly static centre : the empirical ego or First Person Perspective. The wrong view consolidating these objects and the rational process producing them, denying the possibility of a higher-order intelligence, can do no more than generate the "monsters" of reason : a world filled to the brim with substances.

But if
substances indeed exist, then they must be as easily identifiable as any large object, say a hippopotamus. This is a very large, solid object, one about which there can be no doubt when it appears. If self-powered, inherently existing sensations and mental constructions are effectively there, then their detection must pose no problem. If not, the view sustaining their existence is in doubt. This ultimate, impeccable logical analysis has been carried in detail elsewhere, and so will not be repeated here. When the fine points of this logic are realized, there is only one conclusion left : no inherent existent, substantial object can be found. One does not conclude : "An inherent object does not exist !", for this is positing one has found an path to deduce such a final, complete conclusion. Using the reductio ad absurdum, one merely shows the absurd conclusions resulting from accepting substances hypothetically, the only outcome possible confirming no substances have as yet been found ! This is an "open end" kind of logic. So to his critics, one asks : "Show me a static object !", "Posit a substance !", etc. As soon as the challenge is taken up, the absurdities can be deduced, dislodging the opponent. When asked to positively prove no substances are to be found anywhere, one answers : What is a mere absence cannot be affirmed.

Conveying this conclusion with an image, we suppose the number of possibilities to find a substance is ten (it could be more, but the reasoning stays the same). Suppose a house has ten rooms and someone says there is a hippopotamus in the house. If, after having closed all exits, a healthy, reasonable person is placed in each room and asked to search everywhere for the hippopotamus, and if, after having searched thoroughly, all ten willing observers agree on the fact no hippopotamus was found, then the conclusion there is no hippopotamus in the house must be considered as a posteriori valid.

Suppose the claim is made again, and the search is repeated a number of times with identical results, then at some point the absurdity of the claim must become obvious to all reasonable persons and no more searches are made or need to be made to ascertain whether there is a hippopotamus in the house. Perhaps if a reasonable doubt arises again, one may search again, to find the supposed hippopotamus nowhere. Likewise, if after thinking over all possible arguments positing inherent existence honestly, repeatedly & profoundly, no such object is found, then one may reasonably assume such an object cannot be found.

Not wanting to posit unfindability, one merely asks : "Show me a single static object !". "Where is the hippopotamus ?" Up till now, the answer is : there is no hippopotamus in the house ! To fully realize this is the case, is realizing the ultimate truth of phenomena (absence of inherent existence) nominally. A conceptual, generic image of emptiness has been established, and the view of emptiness is s
olely based on a so-called "nonaffirming negation", i.e. merely negating the substance-nature of all phenomena without positing (affirming) anything else. This is an absolute negation, for the negative is posited without considering anything else (the nonaffirming negation of a flower is the absence of a flower and nothing more). This concept merely points to nonduality. But because a concept is used to void inherent existence, this view is contrived and mixed with conceptualization. This has to be abandoned. Then actual (and not nominal) ultimate truth is experienced. No longer involving concepts, it is a direct seeing of the absence of substance in all phenomena, going hand in hand with the experience of their interdependent, process-like nature.

Great Compassion at the Heart of Wisdom.

The Pursuit of Happiness.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
US Declaration of Independence, the 4th of July 1776.

What is happiness ? The best way to be unhappy is to try to make ourselves happy, while to make others happy is a safe path to one's own happiness. This points to the fact happiness is not a simple or self-evident phenomenon. Neither are life and liberty. But the Founding Fathers of the United States of America were not considering the ontology of happiness, but the legal right of every citizen to live, to be free and to seek happiness.

To grasp the fundamental nature of happiness, four degrees will be advanced :

fortune : the moment of luck ;
felicity : momentary well-being, contentment & joy ;
beatitude : the supreme happiness in sorrow and intense joy ;
coherence : an overarching sense of connection with all things.


"O Fortuna, velut Luna, statu variabilis ..."
Carmina Burana

As the Moon, the faces of fortune constantly change. A friend of today may become the enemy of tomorrow. Wealth suddenly acquired may be lost again. An orgasm, an excellent dish, superb wine exist only for a short while. Although, due to training, these impulses may be extended, they arise, abide and inevitably cease. Their entropy makes them move towards the greatest homogeneity, disorder and lack of difference. Their energy dissipates.

Of course, those devoid of basic human needs, struggling to survive, cannot really understand the futility of seeking fortune. Haunted by bad luck, they seek to possess the sensate objects they lack. They may discover the relative happiness provided by them only when they actually have savored them for a while. Without these stimuli, hungry, thirsty, cold and without shelter, they identify happiness with material fulfillment and as a function of the duration of their lack, they continue to seek and, if found, amass material goods to compensate for their previous destitute and poverty "without end". They have been conditioned by their material poverty, and idealize the presence of goods and signs of opulence.

"An ape is an ape, though clad in scarlet."
Erasmus : In Praise of Folly, Oration : Look down on Earth.

Fortune is primarily related to sensate objects. As material goods are scarce, an organization of needs is necessary. Without an economy, no fortune can be amassed, for no surplus can be produced. To identify happiness with fortune is to guarantee the return of crisis and poverty. The "war of all against all" only makes everybody poorer. And although utilitarianism is valid, it is not universal.
Its happiness principle holds that actions are good, right or just when they promote pleasure. Classical utilitarism concludes : as some kinds of pleasures are more desirable and valuable than others, a scale of goodness is possible, with the greatest good to the greatest number on top. But is there a universal scale ? Preference utilitarism tries to bring about the fulfillment of preferences and is called consequentialism. It comes closer. But how can impermanent and momentary pleasures give lasting happiness ?


When we are fortunate enough to have our sensate needs fulfilled, we discover our cup of happiness not be full at all. No longer hungry, needing shelter and warmth, and able to work to sustain these conditions, the human being remains an unhappy animal. When certain needs are met, other needs arise and this cycle of craving has the capacity to loop and become unending. More, more, more ... However, by each addition of sensate stimuli, across the ranges relevant to decision-making, marginal utility diminishes (Gossen's First Law). Moreover, when the physical magnitude of stimuli increases logarithmically, their perceived intensity-increase is linear (Law of Weber-Fechner). Combine these two laws and realize sensate satisfactions have their limitation. So we need more to be happy !

"Primum vivere, deinde philosophari."
Aristotle or Hobbes.

Felicity, momentary well-being, contentment and joy, relate to mental objects. We like certain signals, enjoy certain images and contemplate certain feelings, volitions, thoughts and states of consciousness, turning them into conceptual objects deemed stable and existing from their own side. With enough wealth to create a surplus, we generate and enjoy culture. Art & science bring in a subtle pleasure, one sustainable over a longer period of time, indeed, even over a lifetime. Cultural objects may lure us into believing lasting happiness has been found. In our minds we travel into the marvelous and imaginal and contemplate more complex thoughts. We study other cultures and ways of life, we communicate with an endless variety of fellow human beings and other creatures on this planet. We contemplate the extended cosmos and plunge into the riddles of the very very small. These adventures excite us and bring felicity.

But how long do we play with our new toys ? In fact, we fool ourselves into thinking these toys will last. They too are momentary and have a very short impact. But because of our imagination and conceptualization of them, superstructuring the experience of a work of art with concepts of artistic value, erecting theories on sensate data, we mummify these experiences, merely worshipping dead bones. Here, a poverty-mentality is at work. Considering our mind, devoid of possessing mental objects, to be intrinsically poor, we amass cultural goods. Thus covering the luminous nature of mind with an acquired, learned mentality, we conceal the very subtle level of mind and never realize a treasure is hidden underneath our own house.

Eventually, also felicity will not give us this lasting Happiness, this nirvanic state beyond happiness and unhappiness !


Arrived at this stage, we are aware of the ephemeral nature of both fortunes and felicity. While we still enjoy sensate and mental objects, and our science and experience teach us to reject any hope for these objects to bring something lasting, we have not given up the pursuit of happiness, neither the quest to find lasting bliss. We are possessed by a good spirit ! In Greek, we have this wonderful word : "eudaimonia", from "eu-" or "good" + "daimon" or "spirit, fate, fortune". This good spirit is very powerful and does not seem to be linked with our empirical ego, too shackled to sensate and mental objects to be able to give us this kind of trust in the face of the tragicomedy of life.

"And then she is like a housewife who has well taken care of her house. Who has furnished it in a clever way and who has put it in order nicely. Who protects it wisely, who guards it cleverly, and who works according to plan. She brings inside and outside. She does and leaves everything according to her will. With the soul it is likewise : love rules enormously in her, works powerfully and rests in her, does and leaves, internally and externally, and all that according to her will. Just like a fish swims in the wideness of the sea, and rests in the depth, or a bird that flies in the space of the height of the air, so she feels her mind go about unrestrained in the depth, space and height of love.

This superior power of love has drawn the soul and has accompanied, guarded and protected it. She has given her the intellect and the wisdom, the sweetness and the strength of love. Yet she has hidden her violence for the soul until she has climbed up to a greater highness and has become completely free of herself, and until love rules with more strength in her. Then love makes her so strong and so free that she does not consider human or devil, no angel or saint, not God Himself in her doings, in her work or her rest."

Beatrice of Nazareth : Seven Ways of Holy Love, Sixth Way, §§ 2- 3.

Beatitude is part of the mystic's life. Possessed by this "good spirit", he or she is able to witness the higher-order Beauty and Unity of the whole, integrating all possible lower-order polarities (beauty versus ugliness, truth versus falsehood, evil versus good) into a grand Vision of Perfection, one accepting the perfection of imperfection. The discordant truce or "concordia discors" of conceptuality is replaced by a "coincidentio oppositorum".

This is truly a blessed state of mind, for the momentary nature of life's objects is replaced by an epochal view on reality, on in which the totality is placed before the parts and deemed greater than these, one overarching singular moments to put into evidence one's own lifespan. Movement itself has a pattern, an order or "strange attractor" ruling the wildest turbulence. Although the swimmer constantly moves, he or she does so by using a certain swimming style, for if these movements were random, drowning would be inevitable. Those who merely paddle in the water soon find the deep. So seeing process, change and impermanence does not make it patternless.

The blessed soul is immersed in a superhuman strength enabling her to accept the presence of impermanence and witness the continuity within change. This is "Sein-zum-Tode" (Heidegger), a way of being here and now. Clearly death is determinate in its inevitability, but this "Being-toward-Death" understands the indeterminate nature of one's own inevitable physical demise -one never knows when or how it is going to come about- without putting death in some distant "not-yet". Instead, one's individual death is always already deemed part of one hic et nunc. Likewise, beatitude brings all past and future into this vision of the eternal now in which all possibilities are fully present and integrated. This implies a form of ecstasy.

Unfortunately, ecstasy does not last. The soul placed outside herself returns to herself. The beatic vision is also impermanent. For the cycle to begin again, the highest state of consciousness is followed by lower states of consciousness. Although beatitude can last far longer than fortune & felicity, it is inevitably followed by a return of the mind experiencing the world as a strange place. The empirical ego is not eradicated by ecstasy, but merely temporarily bracketed. The "natural condition" (Husserl) returns and one finds oneself again facing the fears and anxieties given by sensate and mental objects one so dearly needs to possess. Again the infernal dualities are confronted and the loss of the beatic vision becomes in itself a kind of hell. Although in the vision itself, the epoch of its activity was one's own lifespan and thus seemingly "secure", its end proves the epoch to be less extended, in fact, as long as the beatic vision lasted. As this may be hours, days, weeks and years, it remains far more rewarding than sudden luck and momentary felicity. But precisely because of this its end generates a deeper sorrow, a metaphysical grief touching the very foundation of one's existential situation.

Recovering from this memory of beatitude is hard. Often we try to return to this altered state of consciousness, unaware it can only be entered spontaneously. Every Promethean way to force one's way eventually turns into disaster. We are so chained to this fierce craving for this heaven of ecstasy, that surrogate means, like the warm tiger skin of sensuality, or psychedelic drugs are welcomed. We have to accept the solution to our craving cannot be found by a higher level of satisfaction. After beatitude, after the top of our mountain of pleasure, the path can only go down. The transcendence offered was an illusion. This heaven only leads to hell and so cannot be the permanent, irreversible hyper-happiness sought. Gods exist there, and while their lifespan, pride and power are so extremely long & strong, their death or exhaustion of pleasurable conditions is inevitable. How painful to loose everything after having it all ! Deities move away from those who are thus dying, with utter bitter loneliness joining the moment of their supreme agony of death.

Distracted by the highest pleasure, it is hard to realize even the heaven of ecstasy is impermanent. This cosmic consciousness, this highest possible experience of union or "asamprajñâta samâdhi", this supreme formless "jhana", or "Peak of Samsâra", characterized by letting go the sense of existence of nothingness, with neither perception or non-perception, indeed has a residue of subtle discrimination. And the latter causes an extremely powerful all-pervasive, subtle attachment. Gods feeds themselves with it and lack the concentration to see the end of it. But ending it will.

"The union of those who have merged with Nature & those who are bodiless is due to their focus on the notion of becoming."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 1.19.

The mind has to stop grasping at becoming ;  becoming enlightened, becoming happy, becoming happier, etc. Culminating happiness and sustaining the culmination are all vain pursuits. In this way, after lots of sensate & mental pleasures, massive pain ensues. The process of change itself has to be accepted, not manipulated as it were from its outside. Its profundity must be penetrated. Although all phenomena change, they are not random or without dynamic patterning. An interconnection is present. To let go of becoming and its conception of growth, we may finally decide to actually enter the stream and merge with it by learning how to swim instead of staying merely afloat (like a piece of wood carried away by uncertain waves) or drowning by wild, turbulent movements without grace and architecture. We learn to be sportive, introducing change while moving, watching the game while part of it. Thus swimming, we will get somewhere, but not because we focus on the goal, but because we have become the path.


What do we mean when we say things "make sense" ? A text is a well-ordered sequence of sentences. A sentence is a well-ordered sequence of words. A word is a well-ordered sequence of letters. A letter is a well-ordered sequence of dots. A dot is a well-ordered sequence of paint-molecules contrasting with the medium (white paper, a screen). Each molecule is a well-ordered sequence of atoms, etc. Connectivity is the key. Phenomena interconnect to make larger wholes and this organization between events is at work at every level of the scale of existence, starting with the universal quantum field, with its emerging subatomic particles, up to living creatures, planets, solar systems, galaxies and the universe as a whole.

"Part of me is now in your heart and part of You is now in my heart. No longer will we fight !"
Paule of the Trinity

As long as the pursuit of happiness involves adding pleasure upon pleasure, self-gratification and self-cherishing are not eliminated. By making our own happiness, from filling our bellies to filling our minds, we only sow the seeds of our own unhappiness. This is an inevitable fact each and every human being will soon or later realize. We are able to fool ourselves for a very long time, and may even die as fools. But our continuing stream of consciousness will be reborn with the same cravings and the whole cycle will start again.

"Seeking but not finding the house-builder,
I travelled through life after life.
How painful is repeated birth !
House-builder ! You have now been seen.
You will not build the house again !"

Dhammapada, verses 153 & 154.

Entering coherence is not easy. It results from an extremely deep realization of the futility of fortune, felicity & beatitude and an ability to stop following afflictive e-motions, but instead truly move. This calls for an uncontrived view.

"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers ; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."
Heraclitus : Fragments, n°53.

Because coherence implies connectivity, it comes down to making sense and giving sense to phenomena. This is entering their creative advance (Whitehead) and adding to this reality. Consciousness is a percipient participator, and the degree in which things make sense depends on the extend we prehend our ability to become involved in a spectrum of interconnected events and widen it to the full of our potential.

This means a variety of fields of such interconnected activities ensue : personal life, health, family, property, society, the Natural world, the world as a whole, the cosmos, the Divine etc. spring to the fore. The extend to which we are able to integrate these various domains into our lives, will make it possible for us to participate in way generating meaning, sense and relation.

Let us avoid limiting ourselves to the cocoon of our personal relationships and self-cherishing pursuits. Let us avoid fixating this interconnectivity, considering the interactions as stable and unchanging. The very idea of connection calls for a fluid and dynamical approach. Although some bonds are surely more stable than others, all form of stability is relative and so other-powered, i.e. determined by conditions outside the bond itself. To be open to this crucial insight, is to allow change when necessary and cherish interactions when functional, but not out of principle. For the principle of cyclic existence, of conventional reality of "thoughts, words and images" (Mipham) is dependent arising ("pratîtya-samutpâda"), and the root cause of ignorance is isolating process and turning it into stable natures ("svabhâva"). Wisdom-mind sees insubstantiality.

"My son, mere appearances do not bind.
Grasping binds.
Naropa, cut through all grasping."


As the core of all possible relationality is the First Person Perspective, we need to realize the empirical ego is not a substance, or an independent fixed entity, but merely a function designated on the basis of mental and sensate processes. As some of these are relatively stable, the ego portrays relatively stable features, none of which are however absolutely self-identical. Understanding self-cherishing is not the bringer of coherence is the safe path avoiding incoherence. The latter is the breaking down of our ability to integrate a wide variety of phenomena, impoverishing ourselves and all others with whom we come into virtual or actual contact.

Likewise, projecting stable connections outwards will also conceal the experience of unbounded wholeness. Phenomena are not self-powered, but other-powered. They are not independent but dependent, not isolated but always in the process of making relationships. They do not exist from their own side, but find their ipseity in logical & functional instantiations. It is the conceptual mind, attributing substance to process, who makes the fundamental mistake. Silencing this mind is ending this designation, emptying its need to populate the world and itself with static, eternalizing objects, not eliminating reason. To stop this, by critically investigating what the mind merely seems to possess, is not ridiculing rationality, but uplifting it, freeing it from the chains it chose for itself. Then and only then can reason be married with intuition and may a higher-order intelligence start its work by unveiling the luminosity of all things and making us actually constantly see the marvel of Divine Presence.

Not happiness will bring us home, but the end of ignorance. Then and only then wisdom dawns.

Great Compassion.

Building a house on a block of ice, fortune, felicity and beatitude do not succeed in making us permanently happy, i.e. generate true peace, or a state of mind beyond every possible conceptuality. Uncontrived, this state does not posit something, nor does it deny something. It does not focus on something beyond polarity (as does beatitude), nor on something which is neither this or that. Beyond all extremes, in particular beyond the ideas of permanence (eternalism) and nothingness (nihilism), this state is open to all possible phenomena. Because of this spaciousness, it accommodates all and rests in this open, luminous space. This is Great Compassion ("mahâkarunâ").

When the Four Immeasurables and the Six Perfections have been practiced, spontaneous Bodhicitta, the mind of awakening for the sake of all sentient beings arises. This is an exceptional mind, for encompassing all beings without exception. This is the mind of the Bodhisattva, the enlightenment-being.

In order to help sentient beings to the full of his or her capacity, the Bodhisattva wishes to attain full enlightenment as soon as possible. Without Buddhahood, no omniscience and so no best possible help ! The popular idea dictates the Bodhisattva vows to postpone his own enlightenment until all sentient beings attain theirs. This is a misrepresentation based on two admirable but unrealistic devotional forms of the Bodhisattva intent, called "shepherd-like" & "boatman-like" Bodhicitta. The good shepherd seeks to save all sheep. The boatman wishes to cross all those who seek the other shore. They place themselves before those they wish to save and this is an admirable attitude. However, as they are not fully awakened, they cannot succeed. Only an omniscient mind is able to assist all possible beings, and Bodhisattvas, although very powerful, are not omniscient yet. For example, First Stage Bodhisattvas are able to actually take on the negativity of others upon themselves, but this does not mean they have all the knowledge needed to guide all to enlightenment. Only a Buddha knows what is necessary to awake each and every sentient being.

So these two forms of Bodhicitta are inspirational. Actual, true Bodhicitta is called "king-like". The Bodhisattva first becomes enlightened, a Buddha, and then uses his or her resources to help others. The Bodhisattva vows to generate Bodhicitta, the "mind of enlightenment for all" and to complete the Ten Stages of the Bodhisattva training, involving deeper probing into the real, ultimate nature of phenomena, eliminating innate self-grasping. When this has been realized, the Bodhisattva is no longer a sentient being, but a Buddha. As such, he or she has all what it takes to save everybody seeking to cross the sea of "samsâra" in order to reach the other shore of "nirvâna". Because the Bodhisattva vowed to help others, as a Buddha he or she does not remain in his or her "Truth Body", but generates Form Bodies to be able to communicate with sentient beings.

It goes without saying aspirational and actual Bodhicitta may be combined and usually are. While training to become a Buddha, the Bodhisattva engages in "shepherd-like" and/or "boatman-like" activities. But as a Bodhisattva, he cannot avoid some sheep are lost or certain sentient beings cannot enter his boat. Only as a Buddha, all seeking salvation can be given the means to do so. Let this be very clear : a Buddha, although possessing vast miracle powers, is not omnipotent. If this were the case, cyclic existence would already have ended long ago. Those who do not seek liberation and/or awakening, those -like Devadatta- fighting the Superior Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, cannot be helped to the point of saving them. To cure us, a Buddha does not take our medicine, he or she offers it to us for us to swallow. Those who do not wish to be saved are beyond the reach of even a Buddha ...

But while it is true some sentient beings do not know salvation is possible and others know it but do not seek it, Superior Bodhisattvas & Buddhas continually bless all sentient beings with the power of their wisdom-mind. Sowing seeds on (as yet) barren ground prepares it and invites a change of heart. So even those who do not wish to cross the river or do not know this is possible benefit from their enlightened activities. This is also Great Compassion. Those who seek to cross are taught how to do so, while the others are prepared to do so, even without them knowing it or being able, in the present moment, to actually know this. In this way, it is true to say the Buddhas benefit, actually or potentially, all sentient beings.

The cycle of Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha of Compassion, is linked with Great Compassion and the heart chakra. In Tibetan Buddhism, complex visualizations train the mind to mimic the enlightened activity of this Buddha. To make clear how this is done, here is a simple version of these spiritual exercises (leaving out Refuge and Dedication practices). Each step is taken only after the previous one is firmly established :

1. with erect spine, assume a comfortable posture, relax and concentrate on the out-breath, the in-breath and finally on the breath as it touches one's nostrils ;
2. concentrate on the breath as if breathing through the heart-wheel ;
3. imagine a drop inside the heart-wheel and visualize it as pulsating five kinds of lights : yellow, red, blue, green and white light ;
4. visualize how multiple rays of these colors leave the heart-wheel and touch all Bodhisattvas and Buddhas in the ten directions (four cardinal directions, four directions between the cardinal directions, top and bottom) ;
5. visualize how the light-offerings to these superior beings is pleasing to them ;
6. visualize how these lights return to the heart-wheel and then penetrate all the other wheels and the whole of one's body, energy and mind, purifying these thoroughly ;
7. visualize these lights leaving the heart-wheel again, this time touching all sentient beings (in the world of gods, demi-gods, humans, nature, hungry ghosts and hell-beings), cleaning away their obscurations and impurities, liberating & awakening them ;
8. visualize these rays returning to the heart-wheel and again radiating around the indestructible drop ;
9. let all these visualizations slowly dissipate and concentrate again on the breath as it were entering and leaving the heart-wheel ;
10. concentrate on the breath as it touches the nostrils, on the in-breath and finally on the out-breath.

10.3 Resting in the Union of Emptiness & Great Compassion.

The four schools of Tibetan Buddhism define the method of realizing the nature of mind or ultimate truth in various ways. In the old school of the Nyingmapas, it is called "Dzogchen", the Great Perfection.
In Tibetan, "dzogpa" means (a) something completed, finished, exhausted, and (b) everything is full, perfect & complete. Dzogchen or "mahâsandhi" in Sanskrit, affirms the natural state of the mind, of the nature of clarity, to be "from the very beginning" inseparable from ultimate truth, the emptiness of the "Truth Body" ("Dharmakâya"). The Kagyupas call the nature of mind "mahâmudrâ", the Great Seal, implying all phenomena, the mind included, are fundamentally empty. Recognizing this is like placing a "seal", certifying all events are devoid of substance (not eternal and not nothing). For the Sakyapas, the union of "samsâra" and "nirvâna" is the method to realize the nature of mind, seeing the difference between both as non-existent, or merely the result of the obscuring activities of the mind. The Gelugpas will focus on the Great Middle Way, generating the qualities of a Buddha by concentrating on the absence of inherent existence of both persons & phenomena.

Despite these differences, the four views rely on resting in the union of emptiness (the ultimate nature of all things) and Bodhicitta, or Great Compassion. This means the method of compassion and the wisdom of emptiness walk hand in hand. They are the two wings of the bird of awakening, for wisdom leads to the Truth Body of a Buddha, while method brings about the Form Bodies. The latter are used to aid sentient beings, and they have no other purpose. Accumulating merit is done by practicing the Four Immeasurables and the Six Perfections. This leads to the Form Bodies. Accumulating wisdom is realizing the emptiness of all phenomena.

In the Sûtras these two "baskets" are filled one after another, never simultaneously. Only the Tantras have a special method, namely Deity Yoga, to generate bliss (method) and wisdom (emptiness) simultaneously. Bliss without wisdom leads one into the trap of beatitude and the higher states of consciousness. Wisdom without bliss does not allow one to generate Bodhicitta, and so only personal liberation can be attained.

Epilogue : Wholehearted Love as the Window of the Heart.

To open the window of the heart, is to invite the light of Divine Presence to shine in and invite its luminous grace to descend, embracing our whole being and cascading down to touch all phenomena, placing the Great Seal on all. The ladder of light extends from our material root to our spiritual crown, but without our decisive, existential choice to raise ourselves up, we cannot spiritualize matter nor materialize spirit. To turn away from this necessary process of finesse, identifying with the Earth at the expense of Heaven, hurts the heart so much ...

The good heart is not a moralist, one following standards out of fear for punishment or because morality makes itself its own standard, but an epicenter of gratitude choosing a bright clarity to enlighten the dark recesses of our lower being. It knows how to descend into hell to assist hell-beings, is generous to hungry ghosts, teaches interconnectivity and is a good slave to those who need one. Naked, it ascends into heaven and converses with angels. It empowers to uplift all sentient beings. The good heart is an enthusiast, engaged with others for the benefit of others. Suffering without hurting itself, it sympathizes with the suffering and enjoys without overacting, it dances with all creatures moving up and down the ladder of lights. Serene, wise and caring, it can take on all forms ; strong as a square on the inside, but supple and tender as a circle outside.

To not cultivate the good heart blocks the flow of life and causes stern stagnation. Weighed down by burdensome stress, the heart stops communicating comprehensively and turns sour. The bitter heart does nothing more than become more bitter, polluting its environment. Too heavy, it cannot hold the balance and breaks down. It is devoured by its own demons. To give way to afflictive emotions and mental obscurations, focusing one's awareness exclusively on the material pole of our being-in-the-world hurts the heart so much ...

Although the existential choice needed is not spontaneous and so does not come about in a natural way, free
of encumbrance, it is nevertheless vital, both in this life and the afterlife. Staying fixed on the material root, and its afflictive emotions and power-driven egology, will deplete the lifeforce of the body and by absence of any transformation into more subtle thoughts, feelings, volitions and states of consciousness, will lead to the gross and vulgar expressions of humanity. This is then the birth of the Beast, not an animal and no longer fully human ! And what happens to this Beast ? It dies a horrible death ! All this denial and stupidity hurts the heart so much ...

We eat and eat and eat the cause of our own misery, covering the planet with unused mountains of our own filth, an ocean of floating waste material suffocating life. The cult of materialism is a religion of excrements. The
solid excretory product of blind liberalism, capitalism and consumerism make us all stink. And this stench is so putrid, it clogs the nose and kills off its capacity to inform us that too much is too much. We are degenerated. As surgically conditioned mammals, we continue to push our pleasure buttons until our stomachs explode and the botox we injected inflames our hypocrite faces, breasts and asses. The bad heart is as destructive as the good is loving. But only the good heart survives, and so only the fool says in his heart : "I have no heart !" To smile at this mountain of shit is the first step in confronting it. Without a smile, we will never start to clean-up.

Making a choice for the good, is to stop generating unused waste. To start the process of transformation, we have to stop the process of polluting. Accepting, naming, actualizing and integrating our Shadow is the first step. Without this, nothing can be done, for our climb up the mountain is made impossible by the heavy stones we want to take along. Just drop them ! Let go of the dross ! Nearly no force pushes the feather of truth upwards. It seems to move on its own accord. Finding a new foundation to reach the heaven of the heart, one leaving the serpent of hatred and craving encased in the transparant cube of insubstantiality, is the practical task preparing the road to our salvation, the direct experience of Divine Presence, the end of loneliness, the ongoing embrace of the Beloved.

Having stopped defecating too much, we must attend the nonsense daily produced by the conceptual mind. The endless chatter and useless noise must stop. Mindful of our breath and the thoughts riding on it, we bring about peace of mind. Empty when not needed, clear, strong, limpid & crisp when at work. The good mind invites the good heart. The clogged mind and its
thick lumps of balooney concepts drain our vital energy, making further ascend impossible. The mind must be a slave, not a Master. The monkey has to be bridled, for without restrains it jumps, steals and makes havoc in the grandest temple. This ape has no respect and, by retrieving dark memories and projecting futures like mirages, it tricks the ego into believing it will make its dear wishes come true. In fact, it drains the lifeforce, gathering it to itself, taking a few bites from the fruits it plucks, and dropping them as soon as something more luring is seen. In this way, the conceptual mind is like a field of rotten corpses left behind on the battle-field of our useless thoughts about past and future states of mind. Attend to what happens here and now. Attend to this, and stop shitting so much !

In this sense, theology is impossible, for we must stop the ambition of the brain to grasp the Divine conceptually. How to pour an ocean in a glass ? But to open the heart even more, God can be just experienced and embraced. This is taking a risk, allowing our minds to move beyond the frontiers of reason, but never without the background of reason. The higher-order intelligence aimed at does not, in a romantic frenzy of sorts, reject logic. It is not a protest philosophy. It does not return to the primitive irrationalism which is the root of cognitive growth. Aware of the head is abides by its natural laws. Aware of the heart it opens up to the immeasurable Love concealed therein. Integrating both, it makes it possible to lift both affects and conceptual thought to a higher level, to a more sophisticated coordination. It takes a risk, but not one leading to ambivalence but to a calculated, intelligent jump across the precipice of our existential loneliness.

With a good heart, the gap between our frail human nature and the Presence of the Divine is bridged. To move from the side of our precarious material existence to the side of this spiritual overflowing and boundless grace, is to cherish the organ of the soul ; the heart. Here, both sides come together to integrate, allowing a higher-order intelligence or "special" knowledge to rise and be our guide. Conscience is the memory of the soul, and a burdening memory conceals the "puer aeternus", the "little prince" for ever abiding in the heart. The good heart remembers this eternal child it endlessly embraces and is therefore aware of every impurity. These are manifold, hurting our vital energies, our emotional life and our mental ruminations. We cannot expect to evolve if we identify with our lower nature. Indulging in its excesses while seeking heaven is like taking a shower with mud. This is like piling waste upon waste. And yes, unfortunately so, youth is wasted on the young.

Open and aware, the good heart is like unobstructed space. Living in this "gnosis" is all it takes to keep the "temple of God", the nuptial bed spotless clean. Such breathless whiteness reflects the truth, beauty and goodness of our Divine origin and brings this Edenic state into proximity. Our conscience is a guard, a witness at the door of our heart, watching the ingoing and the outgoing of our intentions. Not weighed down by sullied emotions, volitions & thoughts, our consciousness can relate to all things, grasping & rejecting none. Then it finally happens, the Beloved comes.

"... I will tell You the help that is fitting to You : Follow the demand of your heart, to live in God alone. No stranger lives in God."
Hadewijch : Letters, Serve Nobly (n°2).

Basically, in his natural state, the human, born and dying alone, cannot stand loneliness. Seeking company to avoid being confronted with this piercing absence, waving away the awareness of this great void around and in us, we fill it up with impermanent nonsense, disconnecting us from our true source. We forget time & space and behave as if eternity & infinity are already ours. Thus we train ourselves into becoming
lonely, unhappy Beasts. Shackled, we are strangers to ourselves and to others. Even when falling in love, only the image we project returns to us. An yet, the moment we feel this strong urge of selfish love for a loved one, we have received, without realizing it, the golden opportunity to go out and meet the Beloved. But this is not this physical, emotional and/or mental experience, but the spiritual encounter with the totaliter aliter. These are the ways of Holy Love. Only this radical otherness mends the brokenness of our soul. This is truly fitting help to us. No human being, no selfish love can fulfill our heart, for as long as we do not find ourselves breathing in Divine Presence, we remain strangers to each other. Only as we find the Beloved, can we truly love others. How sad so few dare to take the risk ... How joyful this path remains open, always !

Mystical experience, the direct encounter of Divine Presence, is more sensation than mentation. Its field is the feeling heart more than the conceptualizing head. Of all senses, touch, the way of our largest organ, the skin, rocks us. When the Divine Process-God touches us, He does so as wind and fire. Unseen and anywhere the wind blows around us, embracing us gently and completely. Fire burns us, piercing us and wounding us. Both sensations are kinesthetic. Here, we are moved and cannot stand still. Wind blows us away or shakes us, fire makes us run and scream. We cannot remain indifferent when we are touched. Unlike what we see or hear, being touched moves the heart, entering its intimacy.

Being touched brings immediate proximity. When this happens, there is this smell of roses. Does reading R.O.S.E.S. yield any fragrance (cf. Rumi) ? It does not. As soon as the Divine touches us, our nose inhales the sweet perfume of His breath, unmistaken and pervasive. We immediately recognize it and its deep sweetness sticks to us. Its residue remains, but bathing in scented water does not bring back its intensity. It is unique, elusive and challenging. More than touch it pulls us into ecstasy. Smell leads to taste, and with this sense, the spiritual process of closeness culminates. To taste Divine Presence is to become intimately aware of its omnipresence. Touching suddenly thrills us, smell embraces us, but taste penetrates. Communion cannot be more secret, powerful and intimate than when this holy presence melts on our tongue. No words exit the mouth when His body is united with ours.

"A soul would be only too foolish
If, for the sake of a poor pleasure,
It made itself so miserable
That it did not know in the slightest degree
What high Love means.
But he who sailed the sea of Love
Dwelt in her uttermost depths,
And she made herself wholly known to him,
So that in a short time
She healed all the wounds of his desires."

Hadewijch : Poems in Stanzas, 6.

And what about our eyes and ears ? In their natural state, these organs feed the ego and the head. When the God of process is actually seen, He is best killed ! Experiencing Him "face to Face" is impossible. Such hallucinations are dangerous constructions. When the Divine is heard, it is the "voice of the silence", not demonic whisperings. The Holy Spirit talks with silence, serenity, discretion and tact. The tricky spirit speaks the sweet words of poison. Without being touched by the heart, both eyes and ears create distance, not proximity. They need to be transformed in such a way to allow the heart to see and hear through them, for then the secret truth can be seen and heard.

"He who knows, feeds his Ba (soul) with what endures,
so that it is happy with him on earth.
He who knows is known by his wisdom,
(and) the great by his good actions.
(That) his heart twines his tongue,
(and) his lips (be) precise when he speaks.
That his eyes see !
That his ears be pleased to hear what profits his son.
(For) acting with Maat, he is free of falsehood.

Useful is listening to a son who hears !
If hearing enters the hearer, the hearer becomes a listener.
To listen well is to speak well.
He who listens is a master of what is good.
Splendid is listening to one who hears !
Listening is better than all else.
It manifests perfect love."

Ptahhotep : Maxims of Good Discourse, 95 - 96.

When the heart transforms the eyes, they become the "mirrors of the soul". The orbifontal area of the prefrontal cortex directly behind the eyes is then integrated with the higher areas of the limbic system, with the presence-sensing amygdala in particular, part of the mammal brain of belongingness intimately connected with the heart and its r
hythms. When thus feelings and thoughts are processed simultaneously, empathy, the sublime form of sympathy, is generated. Eye-consciousness changes from a concept-filling mentality to one directly and immediately seeing the connection between the thinking brain and the feeling heart.

When the heart transforms the ear, the "voice of the silence" is heard. This soundless voice whispers when concentrating on the space in which air waves travel. Ear-consciousness then listens with the heart too. Not the sounds themselves but the space in which they move becomes meaningful. When speaking, we are mindful of the sounds as if they were produced by a flame flickering in the heart, not by our own voice. When another speaks we listen to his or her heart, not only minding the conceptual patterns of the sounds. This allows us to hear minute variations in the vibrations and these inform us far better than the actual sounds produced by the source. Exercising our ears to hear sounds fading away before new ones are produced, makes us listen more sharply & crisply. We then tend to become more silent, with a more penetrating capacity of speech.

"Through constraint on the relation between ear and ether, the Divine ear."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 3.41.

Transformed in the light of this special knowledge ("gnosis") of the heart, eventually all five senses become united at the service of this higher-order intelligence. Then the heart touches, smells, tastes, sees and hears and the truth of perfect love matures.

"'Goodbye,' said the fox. 'And now here is my secret, a very simple secret : It is only with the heart that one can see rightly ; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'"
Antoine de Saint-Exupery : Le Petit Prince, 1943, chapter 21.

This is the opening of the window of the heart, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, of the Divine as Holy Love. For this kind of Love is all-encompassing. It can touch every being, smell the sweet breath of God everywhere, taste Divine Presence, see the incredible, omnipresent power of light all around us and hear the little voice of the very subtle mind of Clear Light guiding our ways. This awe-inspiring arrival of this seemingly complex experience but simple essence is giving entrance into our heart to all the sublime Intimacy, Words and Visions, to all the Divine forms the heart can take. But what is experienced as an arrival is actually a recognition of a Presence never coming to us or leaving us, a continuous lipless kiss always already there from beginningless time to the unbounded wholeness of eternity & infinity.

When touched, the experience of the Divine is initiated. This shakes our whole being. Thus opening up, we smell Divine fragrance and feel this Presence enter us for the first time. Then we taste, we melt and fuse. This union makes the heart burn, and this heat ignites the fire burning concepts with concepts, forcing the monkey-ego to finally sit still. Then the great transformation makes us feel Holy Love as an ever-new death. This passion resurrects our eyes and ears, teaching us how to Envision and Listen !

"Where are You hiding,
Beloved, leaving me in sighs ?
As a deer You escape me,
After You wounded me ;
I ran and called after You, but You left without a trace."

St.John of the Cross : Song of Songs, 1.

"And like a devouring fire that draws everything towards itself and consumes what it can destroy, thus she feels that love ardently rages in her, without saving her and without measure, and that she takes and consumes everything. By this she is being hurt heavily and her heart is weakened very much and all her strenght is nullified."
Beatrice of Nazareth : Seven Ways of Holy Love, Fifth Way, § 3.

Let us not be naive. Divine Love has its violence too. It manifests in a most subtle way in the life of the mystics, but is also revealed as the blazing, bizarre & grotesque terror operating nature. From the death of stars to the ongoing destruction & regeneration of life, the harmony and unity of all possible phenomena apparently demands horror and annihilation too. Here our inability to conceptually comprehend the Divine is at its most intense, for reason equates harmony with absence of death, pain, suffering and virulent annihilation. A "good" God à la Plato cannot exist. Reason's thirst for linearity cannot cope with turbulence and chaos that well. It seeks equations with solvable unknowns and opts for an all-comprehensive view. Inevitable unpredictability & ambivalence  are shunned. We pretend our reason may avoid them, and seek vain comfort in limiting ourselves. Poor reason !

Were we not clearly told the incompleteness of logical systems is inevitable (cf. Gödel) ? Simple mathematical operations are per definition incomplete, so more the complexities of existence. We cannot even calculate precise values of place & momentum of a single atom (cf. Heisenberg). Pardoxically, minute changes effect humongous changes (cf. Butterfly-effect). The amygdala sense Divine Presence, but also process extreme sexual violence ! Evil & death are abhorred by reason, but the Divine is able to encompass both and so to be near all possible events. Only fear of death and fear of life will foster limitations one cannot maintain. Eventually, the impermanence of all is understood, and although we hate evil is brought into this world, we finally intuitively acknowledge evil has its place.

Finally, the good heart keeps another promise ; not only a good death, one well prepared and fully lived, but a resplendent afterlife ! What can we say ? As we have died numerous times before, we may retrieve the memories ourselves. Indeed, in this body we live only once, but we have travelled countless times before in other vehicles. This is the wisdom of the wise heart. So should we listen to what others have to say about death ? As birth itself, death is an intimate and extremely personal entry. People who fear death as the unknown have an inflated ego ; it shields them from their inner wisdom. People who do not fear death because they forgot about it, have not yet opened the window of the heart, for it opens to life and death likewise. The heart remembers the many times it went in and came out ... The good heart knows in a special way.

"How do I know that the dead do not wonder why they ever longed for life ?"
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 2.

Those who have been near those lucidly dying and so have witnessed these last moments of this-life know. We have died numerous times. We have been born numerous times. This moment of consciousness is followed by another moment of consciousness and this stream has no beginning and no end. Opening the window of our heart brings back all memories and this gives us the power to stand firm in life and prepare well for death, the rebirth into another level of existence.

In Ancient Egypt, the heart was not taken out of the body to be mummified separately. For this organ of the soul is the boat, the raft, the vehicle bringing us safely to the other shore. With it, all fares are paid and we arrive with dignity, lightness of being and wisdom. The heart guarantees our rebirth and ends our rebirth. As Enlightened Immortals, we gracefully smile upon all sentient beings, assisting those who wish to be assisted and blessing all others without distinction. We prepare their lightpaths and beckon them. They may look and just pass-by for now, but eventually they too will jump across the abyss and join us in the eternal & infinite embrace of Love with Love.


General Bibliography (2005 - 2007) l Biblio Egyptology (2004 - 2007) l Biblio Neurotheology (2003) l Biblio Epistemology (2006) l Biblio Ethics (2006) l Biblio Esthetics (2007)


SiteMap of Philosophy SiteMap of Ancient Egyptian Sapience SiteMap of Studies in Buddhadharma




initiated : 21 VI 2009 - last update :  10 I 2016 - version n°1