Chapter 1: Heart Operation; Or, On the Eucharistic Excess

This chapter has got me thinking quite a bit, a propos, about the heart—its various levels of meaning (physical-mechanical, emotional-energetic, visionary-spiritual…), and personally in terms of how I experience my own heart.

What role does the heart play in Sloterdijk’s spherology? How do hearts-in-relationship effectuate intimate spheres?

The romantic-religious mythopoetics that Sloterdijk illustrates via the stories of Herzmaere and Saint Catherine of Siena, along with the various “heart cults” (which are still with us today) and how these give way to the materialist-mechanistic view exemplified by Julien Offray de La Matterie’s L’homme machine (which is prefigured in Ficino’s interpretation of Plato’s story Phaedrus and Lysias), and which is the norm in modern Western medicine, are interesting…but I think present a quite limited view of the full being and significance of the “heart.”

What about the chakra theory of the heart? And what about the research into the neurological connections between heart and brain, and how the heart creates (“emanates”) a subtle/electric field, which can be measured and even modified (synchronized) via technology and conscious practice. (See the HeartMath Institute, for example:

I also recall that spiritual teacher Adi Da posited “three stations of the heart,” with different functions for the left, middle, and right sides of the heart, roughly corresponding to gross/egoic, dream/subtle, and causal/witnessing states of awareness.

And…there’s the importance of the mother’s heartbeat, which I expect Sloterdijk returns to in his “negative gynecology” and discussion of the formative psychoacoustic experience of being-in-the-womb. (I remember how, when our first daughter was a newborn, we sometimes soothed her with a CD called “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” which was essentially just the loud, thumping, muffled recording of a heartbeat.)

(And btw, does anyone remember when the Jarvik artificial heart was implanted in 1982? I was a kid, and I recall how amazing—and unnerving—it was, as an event in the news.)

And I feel my own heart, when it’s “tight” and “closed,” and when it’s “open” and “expansive,” and the sensation of energies flowing through, and what it means to “come from my heart.” And I think of Terry Patten’s notion of the “integral heart,” which regards the heart as a central form of “whole being intelligence.”

The heart is obviously a rich, multidimensional, ontologically radiant organ! How might we expand the field of consideration in this chapter to include a conception of the heart more broadly understood? Or, how do you understand Sloterdijk’s analysis of the heart, its gifts and limitations?