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Can Your Heart Think?

Viewed 2378 times 2014-5-31 12:01 |Personal category:intuition|System category:Others| heart, think, Mencius, brain, mind

By means of what do you think? Can you locate your thoughts? Are your thoughts in your head? Or somewhere else? 
Are you like most of us, who have received regular education, and believe that according to modern science we think with the brain? Is it possible that your thoughts are not confined to that comparatively little round box that you always carry on your shoulders? Is it possible that we think not only with the brain, but also with other parts of our bodies?

If some years ago you had asked older Chinese people similar questions, you might find out that quite a few of them, when asked about thinking and feeling would not point to their heads, but instead they would point to their hearts. Even in present days not only Chinese people, but people from other countries as well, when they want to express themselves, what they feel and sincerely think, would point with their hands to their hearts. In modern day China, if they occasionally do that, often they start giggling and say, yes, we know, science told us that we actually think with brains in our heads, but not with hearts like it was believed in ancient China and for thousands of years.

Common sense and regular education tells us that intellect is our highest cognitive ability, and usually, on a biological level intellect is connected with the brain. If someone has other data, and if you know that we have abilities that surpass intellect, please don't hesitate to share. At least up till this moment, I assume, that most of us would agree with what I just said about common sense, conventional knowledge and intellect.

However, contrary to popularly accepted idea, I don't think anymore that intellect and logic of reason is the best what we have. And I don't think anymore that it is only the brain which is responsible for thinking. My journey into this different direction, different idea about the intellect, thinking and the brain, started long ago, when I found a very intriguing chapter in a book written a little less than a hundred years ago by a Latvian writer. The chapter in that book was about the significance of the heart.

The book was written in Russian language, and only some parts of it were translated into English, so I will do a little poor quality translation on my own, and I will use parts that have been already translated if I find them. In my later blogs, I also want to write more how important was the idea of the heart in Chinese history and culture. And I am planning to bring some findings from recent 20 years of scientific research that, I think, at least to some extent confirms ancient Chinese idea that it is the heart which thinks, feels and knows. But about that later, now back to that Russian chapter.

The chapter in the beginning states plainly, that it is time for us to realize that heart can play a primary significant role in all areas of life and in the evolution of the whole humanity. "It does not matter how valuable was human reason, it is important to admit, that this value is not absolute, but is relative, in the same way as it is with any other human ability if it is separated or taken on its own. The absolute value human reason could have only if its all conclusions, statements and reasoning always were right, but we know the reality is far away from that. In the same manner we can't claim, that human reason can develop infinitely and that a man by using his reason can comprehend all phenomena and things. Namely, it can't do that, because it has a limit of its development, the limit that can't be crossed, meanwhile the perfection of human being as a whole does not know limits and has to continue further."

"Thus in the evolution of humanity once comes a particular moment, when human reason, which up till now was unquestioned authority and the only judge in solving all questions, suddenly becomes incompetent. Its all ready made solutions and pattern based conclusions not only does not bring expected beneficial results, but worsens currently existing situation. [...] People painstakingly search for answers to arising questions of life, they feel a necessity of coming of something new, but they can't leave the path that was tread and start walking a new one, meanwhile the salvation lies in looking for new paths."

The whole idea that human reason is not the highest what we can attain, sounded very new and fascinating. But what I found when reading further stumbled and inspired me even more: "A person can think with the heart or think with the brain." Think with the heart? Sounds interesting and new, even unbelievable for some of us, but how can we do that? "People have thought up a thousand ways to place limitations on the heart. The works of the heart are understood in a narrow sense, and not even always in a pure sense." "The heart thinks, the heart affirms, the heart unifies. One can always recall the significance of the heart, which for so long has been obscured by the brain. The heart will be the first to thrill, the heart will be the first to quiver, the heart will discern a great deal before the reasoning of the brain dares to begin thinking." 

"Even in the most ancient times people understood the significance of the heart. They regarded the heart as the Dwelling of God. When they took oaths, they placed their hands on their hearts. Even with the fiercest tribes, they drank the blood of the heart and ate their enemies’ hearts in order to acquire strength. That was how the significance of the heart was expressed. But now, in our enlightened times, the heart has been reduced to nothing more than a physiological organ."

These quotes are just a few that I chose to share. Here is not the place to give a full translation. But I hope that some of these thoughts will find an echo in you, and it will make sense to you if you just think a little about it, and recall your daily experiences. Chinese cultural heritage gave me a lot of confirmations about the validity of significance of the heart that was being talked in that book. But I always felt as if Western science came to China and told Chinese people to stop thinking and feeling through the heart, because it is only the brain that thinks. Now, in recent years, I have discovered that this is not true anymore. The heart is much more sophisticated part of human body than we thought, it is not just a physiological organ that pumps the blood. In other words it is time for this Western science to bring the heart back to Chinese people. But about that I will write more in my next blog.

Let me finish with the quote from Mencius. I guess you know that "learning" 学 xue has been always very important for Confucians as well as for Chinese people in general. The "Analects" of Confucius start with this very word "learning": "Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application?" 学而时习之,不亦说乎?xue er shi xi zhi bu yi yue hu? Or the book of Xunzi: "Learning must never be concluded." 学不可以已。xue bu ke yi yi. There is a lot of research and discussion what was "learning" for Confucius himself, because it was not just reading books and studying in a library. I found this passage in Mencius that gives yet another light on what learning is:

Mencius said, “Humaneness is the heart of human beings. Justice is their path. To abandon the path and not follow it, or to lose the heart and not know enough to seek it: this is a pity indeed!” When people lose their chickens and dogs, they know enough to look for them, but when they lose their heart, they do not know enough to seek it. The way of learning is none other than the search for the lost heart.

孟子曰:“仁,人心也;义,人路也。舍其路而弗由,放其心而不知求,哀哉!人有鸡犬放,则知求之;有放心,而不知求。学问之道无他,求其放心而已矣。”


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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  • Dreams - Signs of Reality 2014-5-10 07:33

    juliuy: Thanks for the comment! It is not only our brains, hearts also do a lot during the sleep.

    I used to fly and visit some people through the windows in  ...
    "body is afraid of the spirit" will get me thinking for days!

    I didn't know it's bad to go through winows, sounds interesting. I always used the door- slipped in when I see it open ^^

    And when I change places, I can't be sure where I am when I wake up, similar to your experience but doesn't necessarily mean I think of the previous place fondly. After coming back to China, several times I had dreams that I was still back in the house I stayed in Korea, and when I woke up it took me some time to notice that I came back ^^

  • Dreams - Signs of Reality 2014-5-9 23:23

    Maierwei: Sleep is a speed recovery for the body, so of course it has a meaning! But our brains are still unsolved and nobody knows what exactly happens while o ...
    Thanks for the comment! It is not only our brains, hearts also do a lot during the sleep.

    I used to fly and visit some people through the windows in my dreams. Until I was told it is not good to go through the windows in your dreams. It is a bad sign or something like that.

    Somewhere it was said that body is afraid of the spirit. Sometimes we are scared of what is real  

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