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The Heart - Life Giving Pump or Site of Emotions?

© - 2013 Stanton O. Berg

Heart in hands

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Early Thoughts about the "Heart"

In ancient Egypt it was believed that the heart was the organ responsible for feelings and emotion because it was the one organ that pumped blood throughout the body and that also displayed detectable alterations in its beating when we altered our feelings or emotions. If we were happier, or angrier or sadder, or sleepier, our heart rate would be different. They assumed that our anatomical heart and our emotional heart were one and the same.

If this were true then even the Alzheimer’s damaged brain would not erase the victim’s emotional being and emotional feelings…such a victim would still have their emotional being and feelings safely moored on site in their human anatomical heart. Sadly that is not true…

Today science has determined that it is not the anatomical heart that is responsible for our feelings or emotion, but rather it is the brain. The anatomic heart does not have anything to do with our emotions. Neuroscientists have been studying the brain and have determined that the brain is in effect the body’s control center…it is our brains that govern our emotions, gives us our memories, process sound and sight, responds to pain, controls body movements and signals the heart beat…the several parts of the brain are all working together.

This is the explanation for the advanced Alzheimer’s victim’s loss of both their short term and long term memory, personality changes, loss of control of arms and legs, swallowing difficulty and even seizures.

Our anatomical heart has nothing to do with our feelings and or emotions; it is our brain that does...

There are those of us however, who believe that the anatomic heart and the emotional heart are one and the same.

The usage or reference to the heart as a center of emotions and feelings is currently either symbolic, metamorphic or a figure of speech with origins in ancient Egypt…the emotional heart is really in the brain while the anatomical heart is in our chest working to pump blood with it’s oxygen supply to all parts of the body.

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The Heart is a Muscle

The heart is essentially nothing more than a muscle (a little larger than the fist). Like any other muscle in the human body, it contracts and expands. Unlike skeletal muscles, however, the heart is said to work on the "All -or-Nothing Law". This means that each time the heart contracts it does so with all of its force. In skeletal muscles, the principle of "gradation" is present. The pumping of the heart is called the Cardiac Cycle, which occurs about 72 times per minute. This means that each cycle lasts about eight-tenths of a second. During this cycle the entire heart actually rests for about four-tenths of a second. The heart has no ability to think or process thoughts and or emotions. It operates in accordance with instructions from the brain.

 

 

Biblical References to the "Heart"

The Bible has many references to the “Heart” in both the old and new testaments…I found 85 such references… Most of the Bible references (83), clearly referred to feelings and emotions…our emotional heart…this is a function of the brain…only two appeared to refer to the anatomical heart…four examples from the King James Version are shown below…the last two are the ones that appear to refer to the anatomical heart. See Pastor Glesne’s commentaries below for his Biblical view of the meaning of Psalms 22:14.

Psalms 51:10 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Proverbs 14:30 – “A sound heart [is] the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.”

Psalms 22:14 – “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

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 Dictionary Definitions of the "Heart"

Most of our standard dictionaries distinguish between the anatomical heart and the emotional heart. The Oxford Advanced Dictionary for example has a break down in definitions under different heading such as:

…between that of a “Part of the Body

The organ in the chest that sends blood around the body, usually on the left in humans…The patient's heart stopped beating for a few seconds…Heart trouble/failure - to have a weak heart - I could feel my heart pounding in my chest..

 …and definitions relating to “Feelings/Emotions

The place in a person where the feelings and emotions are thought to be, especially those connected with love…She has a kind heart…Have you no heart?...He returned with a heavy heart….Her novels tend to deal with affairs of the heart…The story captured the hearts and minds of a generation.

…(in adjectives) having the type of character or personality mentioned cold-hearted kind-hearted…

Others headings unrelated to either of above grouping of definitions may reference:

(a.) an important part,

(b,) a shape,

(c.) the center of, and

(d.) card games

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“Brain only, controls all things like emotions / expressions / our acts and what ever we have done, do or will do. Heart is just a pump (physical machine) which works under the command of the brain...that’s it.”  Dr. J. Kumar

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Artificial or Heart Transplants

If this were not so and the anatomical heart did in fact do both functions, then one might want to consider the persons who have either an artificial heart or a heart transplant.

1. Persons with an artificial heart…Do these people then no longer have emotions and feelings…of course not….

An artificial heart is a device that takes place of the original heart. Artificial hearts are typically used to bridge the time to heart transplantation, or to permanently replace the heart in case heart transplantation is impossible. Although other similar inventions preceded it going back to the late 1940s, the first artificial heart to be successfully implanted in a human was the Jarvik-7, designed by Robert Jarvik and implemented in 1982. The first two patients to receive these hearts, Barney Clark and William Schroeder, survived 112 and 620 days beyond their surgeries, respectively. A Centrifugal pump or an Axial flow pump can be used as an artificial heart, resulting in the patient being alive without a pulse...Artificial hearts are typically used to bridge the time to heart transplantation...It has been implanted in more than 800 people as a bridge to transplantation. An Artificial heart may last for several years.

2  Persons with a heart transplant…are they then burdened by feelings, emotions and beliefs of the previous heart owner…like Atheism and Agnosticism…violent criminals…of course not….

Heart transplants have become more and more common since they were first performed in 1967. Dick Cheney's was one of the roughly 5,000 heart transplants performed worldwide each year; about 2,000 are performed in the U.S. alone. This actually is a rather low figure, considering that at any given time, there are more than 3,000 people waiting for a heart transplant. Today, there are at least 3,100 people awaiting a heart transplant in the U.S.

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Brain Areas and their functions

 Map of Brain

 (The above map of the brain, designates the functions of each area of the brain.).

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Note: Emotions and feelings are functions of areas of the brain in the Frontal Lobe (behavior and personality), and the Temporal Lobe (behavior and emotions). These same two areas of the brain also collect and store memories. One should note also that it is the Brain Stem that controls the heart Beat.

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 Commentary by Pastor Dave Glesne, Redeemer Lutheran Church

 “Here is my understanding of the bible’s teaching concerning the heart and emotions. The word “bowel” or “affection” is the biblical word for the seat of the emotions. So when the bible wants us to focus on emotions and emotions only it uses the word “bowel” or “affection.” The word “heart” in the Bible, both in the O.T. and the N.T. means the inner man as a unity. It means the whole person exclusive of his physical parts. The word “heart” in the bible includes the intellect and the will and the emotions. So the word “heart includes the emotions but is not limited to the emotions. For example, when the Apostle Paul says in Romans 5:5,

Pastor Glesne“And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us,”

He doesn’t mean just an emotional reality. He means that the whole person – intellect, will and emotions - is to experience the outpouring of the love of God.

Let me clarify, because I think what I am saying supports what you are saying. When the Bible talks about the “heart” it is not referring to a person’s physical heart or what you refer to as the anatomical heart.

When the Bible talks about the “heart” it is meaning the inner person as a unity of one’s intellect (brain), one’s will (volition) and one’s emotions (bowels). So I am agreeing with you that the physical organ inside of us - our anatomical heart – is not the source of our feelings and emotions. The word “heart” in the bible, then, means the whole person exclusive of his or her physical parts, i.e. exclusive of the anatomical heart, or mechanical heart, or a transplanted heart. The source of the emotions of a person then comes from a person’s mind (brain) and/or bowels – which might indeed also be located in a person’s brain.

I think what the biblical word “heart” means supports your thinking that the seat of our emotions or our feelings is our intellect or brain.”   (10 May 2013)

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The Alzheimer’s Connection - “The Soul” and “Holy Spirit”

This discussion of the “Heart” and the “Brain” and “Emotions” should not be confused with the Christian Religion’s precepts of a “soul” and the “Holy Spirit”.

I believe that the Christian reference to the “soul” and to the “Holy Spirit” are God given entities that do however use the functions of the brain as a means of communication with the person…It is my thought that the “Conscience” is the “Holy Spirit” communicating with the person and through that person’s brain…on death both the “soul” and the “Holy Sprit” return to God from where they originated...to clarify that statement a bit:

At death the Christian’s “spirit” or “soul” departs to be with God and the "Holy Spirit", which first began to indwell us when we are baptised after birth and/or become Christians, no longer indwells in the dead body of a Christian – so in this sense, both depart at the time of death.

Alzheimer's disease is a slow death of the brain…first it destroys the short term memory, then the long term memory and alters severely the emotions. The brain cells (Neurons) are dying and by the time the victim has progressed deeply into the late stages, the brain is only 2/3rds of its normal size. As the brain cells and the brain dies, the brain being the body's control center, begins to shut down the various body functions. The late stage victim of Alzheimer's, in most cases  have lost their memory, cannot speak or understand language, cannot read or write, cannot recognize anyone including themselves in the mirror, cannot repeat words or actions, they may be unable to feed themselves, chew or swallow, they may have seizures, usually can no longer walk, may be incontinent, they demonstrate a complete withdrawal or apathy, they have an inability to survive without total care.

It should be made clear however that I do not endorse what has been described as prominent views of the status of the mind of the late stages of Alzheimer’s dementia in that the “mind is absent and the body an empty shell.” or that Alzheimer’s is an “apparent disintegration of the human being.” My position is that no matter how the personality, the mind, the mentality and the intellect of the Alzheimer’s victim is changed by the disease, the “soul” of the victim/believer remains until the body dies at which time the “soul” then leaves the body and is ushered into a heavenly realm to meet God…in a way not understood by man’s’ intellect there is a molding and intertwining of the “soul” and the “Holy Spirit”….God would be true to his promise as reflected in the Bible and found in:

Romans 8: 38-39"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, ..Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus our Lord."

Bible References from the King James Version

Matthew 10: 28 – “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body…”

Ecclesiastes 12: 7 – “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

Acts 2:38  – “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Holy Spirit)

1 Corinthians 12: 7 – “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”

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Note: For those desiring a more in depth discussion, I suggest he review the only significant work in this field: "Forgetting Whose We Are - Alzheimer's Disease and the Love of God" by David Keck - (Abingdon Press, 255 pages.)

Book Forgetting Whose We Are...This textbook's in depth treatment of this subject is the best I have ever seen...for that reason, I made a gift of this book to each of the three Pastors at our Redeemer Lutheran Church for their future guidance...it was presented as a gift from June accompanied by her picture.

This 6x9 book is completely indexed, has a bibliography and many pages of additional notes and references.

The forward by George Lindbeck, Professor at Yale University Divinity School suggests a great need for this book and this thinking:

"Alzheimer's as a "Theological Disease", and it's neglect by the Theologians is puzzling."...memory is crucial both to the life of the individual and the life of a church...when one beholds the frightened and confused face of an Alzheimer's patient, it should be apparent that profound religious questions are at stake when memory itself dissolves."

 

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© - 2013 Stanton O. Berg

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Reader's Comments

Tracy Lund  - Roseau, Minnesota - (2 June 2013): "Always a joy to read. Blessings & smiles to you my friend."

 

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June's Passing

June 1994

 

June's funeral notice as published in the Minneapolis Star in October 2008 can be seen on this website under the "In Memoriam" label - or Click on:

 

 

"June K. (Rolstad) Berg - In Memoriam"