The heart is an organ with high electrical activity
The heart is an organ with high electrical activity that can be recorded as an electrocardiogram (ECG). The electrical currents that flow through the heart generate a corresponding cardiac magnetic field that can be recorded as a magneto cardiogram (MCG). Although the magnetic field of the heart is much weaker than the earth’s magnetic field, it is 500 – 5000 times stronger than the magnetic field of the brain and can still be detected several meters outside the body.\\
The activity of the heart muscles is stimulated by electrical impulses. In so-called myogenic hearts, as found in vertebrates, tunicates, mollusks, and some annelids and arthropods, these autonomous rhythmic impulses are excited by cardiac muscle cells specialized for this purpose. Neurogenic hearts, as found in some annelids and arthropods, in contrast, are excited by nerve cells. However, heart rate is also influenced by nerve activity in myogenic hearts such as that of humans. Appropriate heart rate variability is of crucial importance for the health of the entire organism. The actual cause of the heart’s movement, however, as Rudolf Steiner points out, lies in the astral body, but its influence on the heart can be promoted or inhibited by nervous activity.
“Toward the heart go two nerve cords. They go out from behind there, go down there and go toward the heart. There goes one, and then it spreads out in the heart. Then there goes another one, also spreads out in the heart. Now think of me passing an electric current through the nerve. There I can perceive something strange: The heart starts beating faster and faster. Why? Because the electric current excites the nerve, the heart starts beating faster and faster. The electric current excites the nerve.
But now you think, I am not electrifying this nerve, but I am electrifying the other nerve, the second nerve. Now you might think nerve is nerve, I electrify there, and now you might think, inaccurately, the heart will start beating faster and faster again. But it doesn’t. If I electrify the nerve here (the first one), the heart beats faster and faster, but if I electrify this one (the second one), the heart beats slower and slower. And if I electrify it very strongly, then the heart stops beating completely. I have to stop quickly otherwise the human being will die from no heartbeat. It is so, that between this one and the other nerve there is no difference at all in the construction. They are both constructed in the same way. Yes, why is this?
You see, it is like this: If this is electrified, then the astral body goes in there, stimulates the heart that it beats faster because work, which it otherwise must do itself, is taken from it by the electric current. So it can work faster in the heart. Now suppose, however, that here electrified (at the other nerve). Now the astral body wants to move the heart faster; but from the other side an obstacle is put in its way. As soon as it wants to start moving the heart faster, it cannot pass through on the other side. This excitation (in the first nerve) is useful to it because it takes away work from it. This excitation (the second one), harms it, because it works against it. If I could go into the heart and electrify it from there, then this would also make the heart beat faster and faster. But if I electrify this nerve from the outside, then this astral body cannot move the heart, because it has more and more obstacles.
From this you see that one can see exactly how things actually happen in the human body, how the astral body intervenes on one side just as when I, let us say, want to turn a wheel: there I push, there I turn it further; but if I turn in the opposite direction, then it does not work. So it is with the heart, so it is with the lungs, with every organ. Every organ is supplied from two sides with the nerves; but that which intervenes, that is the astral body.” (Lit.:GA 349, p. 174f)
The heart of living things is the foundation of their life
In occultism, the heart is associated with the sun and its associated metal, gold. William Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of blood, writes about the heart:
“The heart of living things is the foundation of their life, the prince of them all, the little world sun, on which all life depends, all freshness and strength emanates. Similarly, a king is the foundation of his kingdoms and the sun of his small world, of the state heart, from which all power radiates, all grace emanates. This writing here on the movement of the heart I have dared to dedicate to His Majesty (as is the custom of the time) all the more because […] almost all human acts, as well as most acts of a king, take place under the inspiration of the heart.”
\- William Harvey: The Motion of the Heart and Blood (translated from the original Latin edition of 1628).
The heart as a central heating organ
The heart is a central organ of warmth, which through its tireless activity produces a large amount of surplus warmth in which the human ego can incarnate in the constant encounter of microcosm and macrocosm. Here, the large body circulation corresponds to the microcosm, while the small lung circulation, which establishes the connection with the environment, corresponds to the macrocosm.
“The heart is the organ through which heat passes into the human and animal body, it transmutes heat. The heart, like the other human organs, is built symmetrically. Actually, man has two hearts separated by a septum. Each half of the heart is in turn separated by a septum into atrium and actual heart, so that one has to distinguish four spaces: Atrium and ventricle, connected by the valve, and right and left heart. Now from the left ventricle goes the great vein, aorta, upward first; then the aorta sends a branch that supplies the brain. Another branch goes throughout the body, supplying the abdominal region through a fine vein. Other branches go down into the limbs, and then they come into the right atrium. From the brain, a branch goes back to the right atrium. This is the great circulation.
From the right ventricle goes the small circulation; the vein goes directly into the lung and coming back from the lung into the left atrium, then through the left valve into the left ventricle. In the lungs, the blood is renewed; it breathes in the oxygen, the blue blood goes through the combustion process and starts its cycle again as red blood. Combustion always means the combination of a substance with the oxygen of the air. What goes on in the lungs is a process of combustion; a real relationship that develops between the individual animal body and the whole air is what happens. Just as the plant consumes light, so the animal consumes fire; it is a heating of the body. The higher process is the one which then takes place in man alone – animals have only a disposition of it – that is the sound.
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These three links represent a connection between microcosm and macrocosm. The great circuit that goes through the whole body is called microcosm; the individual being and the small circuit represent the connection with the macrocosm. There are transitions between individual beings: Fish have no lungs and also no heart so developed, therefore the fish has alternating warmth, the warmth of its environment. The heart gradually works its way out in the reptile; the lungs work their way out of the swim bladder, from an aquatic organ into an air organ. Everything in the world is based on this connection between microcosm and macrocosm. The connections made in this way make it clear that it is impossible for human beings to be separated from the larger world. It is impossible for man to exist without air. It is illusion to believe that man is more independent than his hand. He, too, can live only in connection with the great organism. It belongs to the earth as the hand belongs to man. The heart is a kind of brain for the future. This can already be understood now. The brain is merely a bulge of the nervous system. Now there is not only this nervous system in the human body, but also the solar plexus, the sympathetic nervous system. There are two smaller strands on the spinal cord, they spread out, and their task is to supply all involuntary movements of the human being, which are connected with digestion, respiration and so on, plexus solaris. In lower animals this sympathetic nervous system has a much greater importance, because it precedes the actual formation of the heart, as for example in the intestinal animals, they are also called plant animals. Now the heart is formed with its nervous system and makes the being independent, which develops its brain.” (Lit.:GA 91, p. 174ff)