The Heart Knows First

Back in my undergrad, I took a class called “Spiritual Psychology of the Human Heart.1” I actually didn’t start university until I was 37, which is a story in and of itself. First of all, what an amazing class title and second what an amazing university to offer such cool classes! The professor teaching the class was one of the most popular in the BA program. His classes were always full which meant as a first year student one rarely got a place to study with him. Since he ran his classes on a two-year cycle some students ended up missing out on some classes completely. However, as I was completing my whole degree at this university I had only to wait for any given class to roll around again. They were all worth the wait. 

The Heart class as it became known, journeyed students from the etiological reasons human beings are thought of as machines through to the interconnectivity of all sentient beings. When did human beings within Western culture become head centric instead of holistic centric beings living in relationship with the natural world around them? The following is ironic to say the least, René Descartes, was a French scientist and philosopher who lived from 1596 to 1650. On the night of November 10th, 1619 Descartes had three consecutive dreams after which he proclaimed to have received “the Spirit of Truth” which allowed him direct access to a profound insight about fundamental aspects of science (yeah, his writing is deep stuff).2After this he declared, “Cogito ergo sum” which translated means, “I think therefore I am.” 

Essentially Descartes cut the head from our bodies and declared that brain only intellect was supreme over any other form of intelligence, wisdom, or knowing. Ironically, for Descartes only intelligence received while awake was considered the supreme form even though he felt as if his insight had been a gift from God. The severing and elevation of our brains as the only intellect indeed fostered the fields of critical thinking, rationale, and science, which has been extremely useful for humanities survival. But it has also been at an enormous cost. For the past 380 years we have been dismissing vital information based solely on our intellect and rational bias. 

My connection to the world around me has been somewhat unconventional, so a class with this title didn’t seem at all strange. As a child I could hear animals, trees, and birds speak, I knew when they were in pain and what they were communicating. My strong intuition and ability to hear the supposed voiceless was developed during what was years of severe adversity during my childhood. The ability to work with the unseen or voiceless has never left me rather it has only got clearer as I have learned the nuances of the language. I once asked my beloved and now deceased Rhodesian Ridgeback Lola, why she hated getting her nails clipped. She didn’t answer straight away but a day or so later while out for a walk, I heard the words in my left ear, “because they cut my toes off.” Needless to say, this stopped me in my tracks, her response a complete shock. I looked down at her, and she was looking back at me. Before we got her as a puppy, both of her dewclaws had been removed. I bowed my head to her head, so she knew I had heard her. The conversation between us continued without words, but how? The conversation over her dewclaws was not a single isolated event in the 9 years she was alive. Other humans have been known to call me while I’ve been traveling and let her ‘talk’ to me and then for me to translate (really, I kid you not, Face-timing the dog!).

According to The Heart Math Institute3our bodies first receive information through our hearts. Think about that for just a moment. Human beings receive information about the world around them through their heart first. We have been taught that we first think then feel but that’s just not true. Everything within the world is made up of energy (thank you Descartes!) that emits a frequency or vibration. The human heart also emits energy. The energy within the world is in communication with our human hearts before our brains are ever involved. In other words, the human heart is constantly receiving energetic hits about the world around them. The heart speedily sends signals to the brain for processing which in turn floods the body with hormones in order to respond. 

Read that again, go get a coffee, take a few minutes or few months to ponder on the above. This is tough to comprehend as it deconstructs everything we have been taught about our human brain and the elevation of logic as supreme and only ruler. The heart sends signals about the energy it receives, the positive and negative, the pleasant and the threatening, the mundane and urgent, to the brain for processing. Heart first; brain second.

The result of placing our mind intellect over our intuition, heart wisdom means that we rationalize our way out of just about anything, any feeling, any wisdom, any knowing, any insight, any intuitive inkling for which there is no scientific proof. Most humans are very, very, v-e-r-y good at this! Well done for those of who did not lose their minds under the weight of constant questioning, dismissal, and name-calling, you not only held strong to your knowing you must have learned discernment. You may have even heard your dog’s deep wounding through your heart.

What is the cost to humanity of our head centric lives? By dismissing other forms of intelligence as less than or non-existence means that humans have also been cut off from their surroundings. Indigenous cultures the world over try to live in relationship with the broader non-human world. Instead of human beings having dominance over all other beings (animal, bird, plant, and mineral), as is the supreme command within the Christian mythos, indigenous cultures understood the innate need for reciprocity. Whereas western culture has grown fat from taking without asking, there are those within western culture and indigenous cultures that have been thrown into famine.  

Ultimately, while some folk in western culture are obese with intellectual and material wealth they are starved of heart connection and wisdom. A lot of research has been done surrounding the intelligence of the heart as an independent organ of perception. It is as if Western scientific domain is catching up to the main center of most spiritual traditions and indigenous cultures world over. 

I will build more on this subject over the next few months. But I’ll leave you with some things to ponder. 


When did you first get a warning or knowing about something you shouldn’t do a few seconds ahead of time? For instance, like taking a certain road while driving, or before entering a building or when on a date?

Did you listen or not. If so, why? If not, why not?  If not, what happened? No judgment is need; ask with curiosity. 

Have you ever felt a connection to the supposed voiceless: plants, trees, bees, and other creatures?

What messages have you been told about your intuition? 


Notes/Citations/ i.e. the interesting stuff!

1. BA program, Antioch University, Seattle Washington

2. Descartes, René. “Discourse on the Method of Rightly conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences.” Part IV. Trans. Elizabeth S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross. 41-67. U of Chicago. 1952. Print.

3. The Heart Math Institute