“I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”
Jeremiah 24, Monday Lent Five, the Reading, the Daily Office Book, Year One
Our culture has been amiss since Descartes famously got things wrong. Ergo cogito sum. Historically this is translated as “I think therefore I am.” This is a logical misconstruction as being must precede awareness of being. If I don’t exist, I cannot think. “I”, the pronoun which initiates the statement’s existence, suffices to make the case that being precedes self-awareness, which allows for one to conceive the notion of "I" in “I think…” What is so attractive about “I think therefore I am” as a concept is that it places emphasis on the intellect and that human intellect is the superior force of reality. It seduces me to consider then the misunderstanding that as intellect precedes being, then intellect has priority over being, my intellect over your being. Our culture is top-heavy in intellect, especially left-brain intellect, placing intellect, human intellect, as the sovereign definer of reality and arbiter of being. This rationale has invaded religion as well, expressed in cultures of dogma and domination rather than spirituality and compassion. With the notion that I can build a rationale around what “I believe” and “We believe” in the authority of consenting minds, I can find a means to create or participate a religion of domination, I can even find a way to rationalize killing people in God’s name, or to ignore the suffering of the world. If "I" is the predicate of being, then "I" can justify and rationalize any selfishness, any narcissism, or any cruelty by act or omission.
Yet, God, eternal truth, calls us to love one another, in peace and with compassion. These are not functions of intellect, as the mind can only perceive, then consent, or dissent, and then construct ordered series of conclusion structured around the mental act of either consent or dissent. This is what makes “the truth” such a tricky concept, as truth and reality in our perceptions and evaluations are in perpetual flux. Yet, we all know the truth of love and of compassion. We all also possess an organ which perceives the truth and functions as the brain of the soul and of conscience, the heart. Yes the heart is an organ which pumps blood, even the ancients knew that, and they also knew it was more than that. “Conscience” and “science” share the same Latin root, scio, which means “know” or “knowledge”. So, conscience is the knowledge of the heart. It is through the heart the spirituality is perceived, where God is perceived and resides, from where our elemental understanding of right and wrong originates, where the truth of love and it's absence are perceived, "felt". Then the relationship of the mind’s consent or dissent comes into play. To the point, we need both heart and brain fully functional if we ever hope to be ourselves fully functional humans and God bearers. The truth is, we don’t need a heart, or a God for that matter, to have a religion, any ordered sequence will suffice. We have hearts that we may know God. We need a heart to be in relationship with God, and to then be in a healthy, balanced, liberating relationship serving ourselves and each other. The heart is the seat of our spirituality, our elemental truth. The journey of liberation and joy, which is the journey God calls humanity to enjoin, begins first in liberating the heart from the bonds of the dissenting mind, and then for the mind to consent to the whole heart, formed in God’s compassion. Easy? No. Painful? At times. Yet what of value ever comes easy without sacrifice or the potential of pain? To be in the restorative journey of health and balance, we are all obliged: Open your heart, open your mind, open your hands.