Thought of the Heart

A short break for me tonight from all things Non-Profit, here at National Harbor where I am attending a software users conference, enjoying a lovely view from my hotel room overlooking the Potomac river and Washington, D.C..

BlackBaud is a software company dedicated to providing database tools for fundraising and related enterprises. I am fortunate to attend and very much enjoy both increasing my awareness of the technical aspects of using the database to help the fundraising efforts where I work (which is my primary role at the Monastery that I work for), but also in hearing what other non-profits are up to. It is very inspiring to hear the stories of people who are so amazingly dedicated to solving, or at least lending aid to those most in need, alleviating some of the pain and suffering where and whenever it is possible. Here is a small list of BlackBaud customers and how they use the software to engage the public to help fund projects that help people.

Although it is a recent observation, working for a non-profit continues to influence my thinking about the state of the world and the ways in which people do and can help each other. I am grateful to be exposed, not only to the idea, but to the witness of charitable giving in others. Perhaps not every person with wealth is endowed with generosity, but there are many who are, and getting to know them through my work at the Abbey cautions me not to assume that wealth always leads one astray.

The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World, two lectures given by James Hillman at the Eranos conference in 1969, and later published together in one book, may perhaps have something in common with the vision of non-profits. Both are examples of the different ways in which people can help others through very different talents and ways of giving.

For Hillman this vision meant restoring ideas and our sense of place in the world, and to lessen our sense of alienation from each other, and from the natural world of animals, elements, places and things.

In the first essay of this short book, The Thought of the Heart, Hillman presents to us the idea of the “thinking heart,” rather than the “feeling heart,” found in the writings of the Parisian Islamic scholar Henri Corbin. The thinking heart, says Hillman, is the imaginal heart:

“When we fall in love, we begin to imagine and when we begin to imagine, we fall in love.”

He begins by laying out the three imaginings of the heart:

Richard I. Cœur de Lion (Lionheart, Löwenherz) Illustration from a 12th century codex

1) The heart of humanity – my heart is my humanity, from folklore and mythology, the heart finds the courage to live, with strength, fierce passion, and an immediacy that knows no separation between subject and object; thinking and doing together. The image here is the Coeur de Lion, the Lion’s heart, ruler of the will.

2) The heart as organ of the body – muscle, pump, mechanism and “secret holder of my death.” Hillman refers us here to the Heart of Harvey, from a book titled, “An Anatomical Dissertation Concerning the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals,” published by William William Harvey 2.jpgHarvey, a 17th century English physician who theorized about the circulation of the blood and the nature of the heart as a pump.

3) In the third imagining of the heart we see strong associations to the personal self. Here the heart refers to our personal feelings; love, in which heart is the locus of soul bringing us a sense of personal intimacy,
File:Saint Augustine Portrait.jpginteriority, identity and self as found in the 4th century writings of The Confessions of  St. Augustine of Hippo. A deeply personal account of the heart as subjective feeling and awareness of the individual.

In the lecture, Hillman expands upon each of these three imaginings of the heart, setting the stage for the next lecture, The Soul of the World, also called Anima Mundi.

In future writings I hope to continue the theme of this little book, moving on to how the three imaginal natures of the heart relate to the much needed sense of beauty in the things of the world, both natural and man-made, which takes us to the subject of the 2nd lecture, in which the thought of the heart moves outward into the world around us, a world that Hillman observes has lost its soul and vitality somewhere between Descartes and Kant. He concludes by returning us to the thinking heart – towards a more primative, animistic sense of the world ensouled, aiming to restore the animal sense in us in which we gain a mindfulness of the “ten thousand things of the world.”

Here is a link to the first lecture, The Thought of the Heart online:

6 thoughts on “Thought of the Heart

  1. Rex

    “Perhaps not every person with wealth is endowed with generosity, there are many who are and getting to know them through my work at the Abbey cautions me to assume that wealth always leads one astray.”

    This is so true Deb and a reminder to what I myself believe. And once again in human hierarchy, it is equally true that beauty of character is often found “down below”, not “up above”, like in poor people unlike rich people. This is why voluntary poverty, renunciation of desires was taught by any religion or spiritual path of worth. I simply loved that insightful sentence of yours!

    I guess I will return to think more on the rest of your post only after listening to the first lecture.


  2. In the lecture that you shared with me there is a beautiful part on the yearning and the longing that are the essential qualities of the soul. Thank you for sharing this today and always looking forward to more!


    1. Thanks Monika. I love that by giving a place, a necessity for yearning and longing changes how we think of desire, Such a simple thing to know that has a place in our hearts, a quality of soul and belongs rather than being seen as something to be rid of.


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