Yes, the Heart Really Can “Think” and Have Emotions!
Amazing New Scientific Evidence Corroborates Biblical Teaching Yet Again!
Time was when such biblical verses as the following were looked upon with some amusement by science:
When the Bible describes the heart as the seat of our souls and personalities is it just using a poetic/romantic idiom?
'For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...' (Proverbs 23:7a KJV)
''...that you may know the thoughts of your heart.' (Daniel 2:30b NKJV)
'...The thought of your heart may be forgiven you.' (Acts 8:22b NKJV)
These verses appear to suggest that the heart is capable of thought. We have all always known that the Bible often speaks of the human heart as the seat of emotions, feelings, sincerity, passion and love, but I think most of us have just left it at that – simply the poetic approach to the thoughts and feelings of the heart which the Bible, and much romantic literature also, has used - After all, we all know that the heart is simply a superbly efficient pump, a most vital bodily organ which pumps blood around the body, but no more than that – right? That is all that modern science has ever considered the heart to be able to do. Yet it has remained the case that of the around 400 places in which the Bible uses the word 'heart', it assumes that the heart is a place of intellect, thought, emotions, character, love, compassion and faithfulness – probably fewer than 10 Scriptures may refer to the heart's physical role in maintaining life by pumping blood. The Scriptures are obviously far too many for us to consider here, just consult any good concordance for many such references.
But amazing new evidence has made heart specialists and researchers think again! It has been estimated that between 5-10% of recipents of donated hearts have had most unusual experiences, including taking on aspects of the lives, interests, tastes and passions of the unfortunate deceased heart donor! Heart specialists who initially scoffed at this, blaming possible side-effects of anti-rejection drugs, are being forced to look more closely at the available evidence (source: Mindshock: Transplanting Memories? Channel 4 television, UK, 26 June, 2006 at 10pm BST). Channel 4's own description of this programme (which your article writer carefully watched) says this,
“...In recent years several heart transplant recipients have reported unexpected side effects including experiencing memories, habits and desires they never had before. With studies showing that these are not isolated cases, 'Transplanting Memories?' meets patients searching to understand what has happened to them. The film follows organ recipients as they make contact with their donor families in an effort to understand their new found lease of life and features scientists who are pioneering research into the intelligence of the heart and the biochemical basis for memory in our cells. Is science's understanding of how memory works quite as cut and dried as once thought?” (source: http://www.channel4.com/health/microsites/W/who_gets_the_heart/).
Before we check out the medical side of this, let us note just one or two of these experiences.
A Few Amazing Examples:
The donor was a 16-month-old boy who drowned
in a bathtub. The recipient was a seven-month-old boy diagnosed
with tetralogy of Fallot (a hole in the ventricular septum with
displacement of the aorta, pulmonary stenosis and thickening of
the right ventricle).The donor's mother, a physician,
"The first thing is that I could more than hear Jerry's [donor's] heart. I could feel it in me. When Carter [the recipient] first saw me, he ran to me and pushed his nose against me and rubbed and rubbed it. It was just exactly what we did with Jerry. Jerry and Carter's heart is five years old now, but Carter's eyes were Jerry's eyes. When he hugged me, I could feel my son. I mean I could feel him, not just symbolically. He was there. I felt his energy.
"I'm a doctor. I'm trained to be a keen observer and have always been a natural-born sceptic. But this was real. I know people will say that I need to believe my son's spirit is alive, and perhaps I do. But I felt it. My husband and my father felt it. And I swear to you, and you can ask my mother, Carter said the same baby-talk words that Jerry said. Carter is six, but he was talking Jerry's baby talk and playing with my nose just like Jerry did.
"We stayed with the ... [recipient family] that night. In the middle of the night, Carter came in and asked to sleep with my husband and me. He cuddled up between us exactly like Jerry did, and we began to cry. Carter told us not to cry because Jerry said everything was okay. My husband and I, our parents and those who really knew Jerry have no doubt. Our son's heart contains much of our son and beats in Carter's chest. On some level, our son is still alive."
The recipient's mother reported:
"I saw Carter go to her [donor's mother]. He never does that. He is very, very shy, but he went to her just like he used to run to me when he was a baby. When he whispered 'It's okay, mama', I broke down. He called her 'Mother', or maybe it was Jerry's heart talking. And one more thing that got to us. We found out talking to Jerry's mom that Jerry had mild cerebral palsy mostly on his left side. Carter has stiffness and some shaking on that same side. He never did as a baby and it only showed up after the transplant. The doctors say it's probably something to do with his medical condition, but I really think there's more to it.”
"One more thing I'd like to know about. When we went to church together, Carter had never met Jerry's father. We came late and Jerry's dad was sitting with a group of people in the middle of the congregation. Carter let go of my hand and ran right to that man. He climbed on his lap, hugged him and said 'Daddy'. We were flabbergasted. How could he have known him? Why did he call him dad? He never did things like that. He would never let go of my hand in church and never run to a stranger. When I asked him why he did it, he said he didn't. He said Jerry did and he went with him."
2. The donor was a 19-year-old woman killed
in an automobile accident. The recipient was a 29-year-old woman
diagnosed with cardiomyopathy secondary to endocarditis.
The donor's mother reported:
"My Sara was the most loving girl. She owned and operated her own health food restaurant and scolded me constantly about not being a vegetarian. She was a great kid. Wild, but great. She was into the free-love thing and had a different man in her life every few months. She was man crazy when she was a little girl and it never stopped. She was able to write some notes to me when she was dying. She was so out of it, but she kept saying how she could feel the impact of the car hitting them. She said she could feel it going through her body."
The recipient reported:
"You can tell people about this if you want to, but it will make you sound crazy. When I got my new heart, two things happened to me. First, almost every night, and still sometimes now, I actually feel the accident my donor had. I can feel the impact in my chest. It slams into me, but my doctor said everything looks fine. Also, I hate meat now. I can't stand it. I was McDonald's biggest money-maker, and now meat makes me throw up. Actually, when I even smell it, my heart starts to race. But that's not the big deal. My doctor said that's just due to my medicines.
"I couldn't tell him, but what really bothers me is that I'm engaged to be married now. He's a great guy and we love each other. ....The problem is, I'm gay. At least, I thought I was. After my transplant, I'm not...I don't think, anyway...I'm sort of semi- or confused gay. Women still seem attractive to me, but my boyfriend turns me on; women don't. I have absolutely no desire to be with a woman. I think I got a gender transplant."
The recipient's brother reported:
"Susie's straight now. I mean it seriously. She was gay and now her new heart made her straight. She threw out all her books and stuff about gay politics and never talks about it any more. She was really militant about it before. She holds hands and cuddles with Steven just like my girlfriend does with me. She talks girl-talk with my girlfriend, where before she would be lecturing about the evils of sexist men. And my sister, the queen of the Big Mac, hates meat. She won't even have it in the house."
3. The donor was a three-year-old girl who
drowned in the family pool. The recipient was a nine-year-old boy
diagnosed with myocarditis and septal defect.
The recipient's mother said:
"He [the recipient] doesn't know who his donor was or how she died. We do. She drowned at her mother's boyfriend's house. Her mother and her boyfriend left her with a teenage babysitter who was on the phone when it happened. I never met her father, but the mother said they had a very ugly divorce and that the father never saw his daughter. She said she worked a lot of hours and wished she had spent more time with her. I think she feels pretty guilty about it all...you know, the both of them sort of not appreciating their daughter until it was too late."
The recipient, who claimed not to know who the donor was,
"I talk to her sometimes. I can feel her in there. She seems very sad. She is very afraid. I tell her it's okay, but she is very afraid. She says she wishes that parents wouldn't throw away their children. I don't know why she would say that."
The recipient's mother said about the recipient:
"Well, the one thing I notice most is that Jimmy is now deathly afraid of the water. He loved it before. We live on a lake and he won't go out in the backyard. He keeps closing and locking the back door. He says he's afraid of the water and doesn't know why. He won't talk about it."
These are just a few of many amazing stories, there are many more, such as Claire Sylvia, a woman who received a heart-lung transplant. In her book entitled, A Change of Heart: A Memoir, Ms. Sylvia describes her own journey from being a healthy, active dancer to becoming ill and eventually needing a heart transplant. After the operation, she reported peculiar changes like cravings for beer and chicken nuggets, neither of which she had a taste for prior to the transplant. She later discovered that these were favorites of her donor. She even learned that her donor had chicken nuggets in his jacket pocket when he died in a motorcycle accident. Or, the recipient of a donated heart who suddenly became an avid fan of classical music (whereas he had previously been disinterested), it turns out that the heart came from a young black man who was a very keen classical student of the violin (sources of these two examples: Mindshock: Transplanting Memories? Channel 4 television, UK, 26 June, 2006 at 10pm BST).
The Biblical Words Used for 'Heart'
Several Hebrew and Greek words are translated as
'heart' in English translations of the Bible, but mostly it comes
down to three words:
The Work of Dr Andrew Armour and Others...
Completely independently of such heart transplant experiences, Dr Andrew Armour Ph.D. is a heart specialist who had noticed the presence of neurons in the heart – he noted a sophisticated collection of these and learned that the heart contains a complex nervous system of its own. He soon realised that there is a more intimate connection between the heart and brain than had previously been known or understood. Indeed, the doctor claims that the heart actually sends more information to the brain than the other way around! Dr Armour has written a pamphlet called, Anatomical and Functional Principles. His publisher makes the following comment about this writing:
'Groundbreaking research in the field of neurocardiology has established that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated information encoding and processing center, with an extensive intrinsic nervous system sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a "heart brain" .... Armour discusses intriguing data documenting the complex neuronal processing and memory capabilities of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system, indicating that the heart brain can process information and make decisions about its control independent of the central nervous system. By providing an understanding of the elaborate anatomy and physiology of the cardiac nervous system, this monograph contributes to the newly emerging view of the heart as a complex, self-organized system that maintains a continuous two-way dialogue with the brain and the rest of the body.(source: http://www.heartmath.org/research/e-books/index.html)
Professor Paul Pearsall Ph.D. has also made a contribution to the new discussion of the intelligence of the human heart. After interviewing nearly 150 heart and other organ transplant recipients, Pearsall proposed the once staggering concept that cells of living tissue could have the capacity to remember.
“...Paul Pearsall is one of many researchers who has observed that transplant patients who receive an organ from another person's body may also receive much more -- what he calls their "cellular memories." Recipients have reported inheriting everything from the donor's food cravings to knowledge about his murderer -- information that in one case led to the killer's arrest. As a result of these and other researchers' findings, Pearsall is now convinced that the heart has its own form of intelligence, that we are only rarely aware of in modern life. In his view, the heart processes information about the body and the outside world through an "info-energetic code" -- a profuse network of blood vessels and cells that serves not only as our circulatory system but as an energy information gathering and distribution system, much like a complex telephone network. What's more, he believes that the soul, at least in part, is a set of cellular memories that is carried largely by our hearts. Predictably, such views have met with opposition in the medical world. But in his view, the implications of his theories -- that the heart "thinks," cells remember, and communication can therefore transcend the boundaries of time and space -- are too important for him to dismiss.” (These comments come from here: http://www.ikosmos.com/wisdomeditions/essays/mw/bennett01.htm)
Of course, much of mainstream science remains sceptical about the newly discovered powerful links between the brain and the heart. Why is this? This is largely because mainstream science mostly works through a system of theories which have been proposed, whereas this new line of research has mostly (though not entirely) come about because of the sudden production of enormous and unanticipated evidence from recipients of donated organs. Despite this, more scientists are regularly joining this exciting new area of research and even Britain's foremost heart transplant doctor, Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub (in the televised channel 4 programme), while being guarded in his comments, nevertheless welcomed the new area of research, although, of course, the professor is typical of a long line of heart specialists who have only seen the human heart as a pumper of blood.
However, the extensive research of Armour and others show that there can now be no going back – we can all now state quite dogmatically that the relationship between the heart and brain has been hugely underestimated and that the heart contains more brain-like capacities than anyone would have thought just a very few years ago. There is an inter-change between heart and brain with the brain actually receiving more information from the heart than vice versa. No one would have believed this only 5-10 years ago! Armour's separate and unassociated area of research to the 'transplanted memory' phenomenon has shown that there is no biological reason why the heart cannot store memories, thoughts and passions.
This means that the biblical concept that the heart is the seat of one's soul , intellect and character can no longer be taken as a purely poetic/romantic writing idiom.
Robin A. Brace, 2006.
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