In esotericism blood is seen as the bearer of the soul. We know from experience that our state of mind translates instantaneously into the changing chemical composition of our blood. And vice versa. Blood repeatedly flows through the heart and lungs and through our entire body. A mechanistic view sees the heart as the pump, complete with inlet and outlet valves, that pumps the blood around. A more nuanced view of heart, blood and body makes one see the blood as an organ, a living organism in dialogue with the heart and body. Like the soul. Dialoguing is the transmission and exchange of content.
At Harvard in 1932, Bremer filmed blood flow in a very young animal embryo. He observed blood circulation in self-powered spiral flow before there was a functional heart. Earlier, in 1920, Rudolf Steiner had pointed out to doctors that the heart was not a pump propelling inert blood under pressure but that blood was propelled by its own biological momentum or amount of movement. The blood is charged with momentum from the heart in response to blood flow. The blood pressure measured is not the cause of blood circulation but is caused by restricting that circulation when measured. Even in ancient times, doctors knew that the heart alone was unable to maintain blood circulation. Even today, the concept with a central source of pressure – the heart – generating a very high pressure at the source to leave enough pressure in the distant capillaries is not really an elegant model. Within the current boundaries of biological and medical thought, the driving force for the movement of blood remains a mystery.
It is assumed – among others by Ralf Marinelli in his 1995 article – that blood is free to pulsate, to beat, and is not subject to the pressures of the pressure circulation model, which would restrict free pulsation. The arteries perform a secondary yet heart-like function. They provide spiralling impulses to the circulating blood. In the process, the arteries dilate to receive incoming blood and contract to give impulse to the blood, thus increasing the quantity of movement of the blood.
It has been found that during systole ejection – the phase when blood is pushed out of the ventricle – the curvature of the aorta increases. This would mean that the aorta then does not undergo positive pressure but rather negative pressure. Think of the garden hose where you first put water pressure on and then turn off the tap. This negative pressure is linked to the vacuum at the centre of moving vortices or eddies in the blood.
If a quantity of fluid is subjected to force in the form of pressure, that mass will first resist change of motion because of its properties of inertia and viscosity. This means that in a pressure-driven system, the pressure (cause) increases faster than the change in the fluid’s motion (effect); the pressure will go through its maximum before the fluid’s velocity becomes maximum. In contrast, when measuring pressure and flow in the aorta, it is observed that the maximum of flow clearly occurs before the peak in pressure.
In Bremer’s previously cited film of a beating embryonic heart, you can also see that the spiralling blood receives a boost from the heart without creating turbulence in the blood. This means that the transfer of momentum between heart and blood is in phase. Apparently, the heart ‘senses’ the movement of the blood and responds with spiralling impulses at the same speed as the blood. In the process, impulses from the blood and the heart are merged.
A highly ordered gas is an essential component of the blood vortex, the swirl in the blood. The heart as a minimally functional organ consists not only of muscle tissue but also of the permanent vortex in the blood stream. This provides at its centre the perpetual vacuum that presumably contributes to the withdrawal of blood from capillaries and veins to the heart. The vortex is reflected in the distribution of the heavier red blood cells – close to the centre – and the lighter platelets more towards the circumference against a plasma layer on the wall of the artery. The red blood cells deform in their own rotation in the larger blood vortex. So blood flow is a very highly ordered phenomenon.
Branko Furst argues in his book The Heart and Circulation: an integrative approach: when you get into the details and bring together the research that many different groups are doing from different perspectives, you don’t get a consensus on explanatory frameworks. The phenomena cannot be captured in a simple model. The mystery remains.
In any case, what becomes clear in the book is how closely heart function, blood flow and the organism’s metabolic needs are intertwined. For example, blood flow in the embryonic heart plays an important role in shaping the later adult shape and structure of blood vessels and the heart.
Following a suggestion by Rudolf Steiner, he proposes that the heart, although of central importance for the generation of blood pressure, is not so much a driving pump as (through the action of valves and the heartbeat) an organ that restrains and rhythmically regulates blood flow. Moreover, he shows how closely blood flow far from the heart is linked to the metabolic activity of the organs and tissues through which it flows. The blood is itself an organ. And Furst suggests that if we were to accept the idea that blood is capable of autonomous movement, its complex and ever-changing and modulating circulation could be better understood.
If we are looking for a force that can move blood through the circulatory system, the capillary side of the equation is a good candidate. Each cell is microscopically beating and constantly renewing blood content. This could well be the real force behind blood circulation in the body.
Go a little deeper into the dialogue between heart, blood and body. The Rosicrucian J. van Rijckenborgh writes:
When we think of or speak about a person’s state of mind and about his disorders of mind, we involuntarily turn our attention to the heart. On the one hand, all flows of consciousness move from the main sanctum through the medulla to the heart, where they are received. On the other hand, the candle holder of the solar plexus also sends numerous forces upwards to the heart. And in many cases, the heart receives direct radiations from the central heart of the microcosm, the domain of the rose. The many influences are transmuted in the heart into one fundamental state of mind with its own radiating power. The state of mind mixes with the blood, rises to the head and occupies all the organs there. And thus determines man’s life course.
Connecting this brief description with the model of blood as an organ outlined above, we can very clearly sense human reality as an ongoing conversation between mind, soul and body.
– Marinelli, Ralph and Fuerst, Branco et al, The heart is not a pump: a refutation of the pressure propulsion premise of heart function 1995
– Chitty, John, The heart is not a pump
– Fuerst, Branco, The heart and circulation, an integrative model, London 2014
– Rijckenborgh, J. van, The Egyptian Arch-Gnosis IV; II The heart and the state of mind, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem