FEATURE image: 16th century/Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), The Daoist Immortal Lü Dongbin (detail), artist unknown, China. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Public Domain.
Can you walk on water? You have done no better than a piece of straw. Can you fly in the air? You have done no better than a bluebottle. Conquer your heart; then you may become somebody. Abdullah Ansari of Herat (1006-1088), quoted in Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, 1945.
A spiritual master and the “Sage of Herat,” Abdullah Ansari of Herat was a Muslim Sufi saint.
The awakening of the spirit is accomplished because the heart has first died. When a human being can let his or her heart die, then the primordial spirit wakes to life. To kill the heart does not mean to let it dry and wither away, but it means that it is undivided and gathered into one. The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese Book of Life.
The Secret of the Golden Flower is a Chinese Taoist book about Neiden, or inner alchemy. It provides an array of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that Taoist initiates use to prolong life.
The text is attributed to Chinese scholar and poet Lü Dongbin (796 -1016) of the late Tang dynasty which ruled from 618 to 907.
I was sleeping, but my heart was awake./The sound of my lover knocking!/“Open to me, my sister, my friend,/my dove, my perfect one!/For my head is wet with dew,/my hair, with the moisture of the night.” Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 5:2.
The Song of Songs, also known as Song of Solomon, or Canticle of Canticles, is a book of the Old Testament. The Song of Songs is unique within the Hebrew Bible: it shows no interest in Law or Covenant or the God of Israel, nor does it teach or explore wisdom but celebrates sexual love, giving “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy.” The two are in harmony, each desiring the other and rejoicing in sexual intimacy. The women of Jerusalem form a chorus to the lovers, functioning as an audience whose participation in the lovers’ erotic encounters facilitates the participation of the reader.
Jewish tradition reads it at Passover as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel. Christianity interprets it as an allegory of Christ and his bride, the Church.
The entire Universe is condensed in the body, and the entire body in the Heart. Thus the Heart is the nucleus of the whole Universe. Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950).
Ramana Maharshi was an Indian Hindu sage and jivanmukta (liberated being).
As I stood there it seems to me that the gentle lady seemed to be coming towards me to open my breast and write within, there in my heart, placed so as to suffer, her beautiful name, in letters of gold, so that it might never escape. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), Amorosa visione, 1343.
Giovanni Boccaccio together with Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321) and Petrarch (1304- 1374) is part of the so-called “Three Crowns” of Italian literature of the fourteenth century. He was a versatile writer who put together different literary genres and trends and making them into original works. His creative activity was characterized by experimentation.
Boccaccio’s most notable work is The Decameron, a collection of short stories or tales begun in 1349 and completed in 1353. Ranging from the tragic to erotic, the 100 tales are told during the Black Death by a group of three young men and seven young women who are sheltering in a villa outside Florence to escape it. Boccaccio revised The Decameron in the early 1570’s, after likely having conceived the series of novellas after an epidemic in 1348. The Amorosa Visione was a fifty-canto allegorical poem.
It isn’t enough for your heart to break because everybody’s heart is broken now. Allen Ginsburg (1926-1997), Indian Journals (1970).
Allan Ginsburg was a poet and writer. Starting in the 1940’s, Ginsburg was a member of the Beat Generation along with Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) and William S. Burroughs (1914-1997). Ginsburg opposed militarism, capitalism, and sexual repression. His views on drugs, hostility to the government, and an openness to Far Eastern religions and philosophy were countercultural.
Ginsburg’s Indian Journals: March 1962 – May 1963 is a travel journal during Ginsberg’s journey in India with partner Peter Orlovsky.
The heart is the monarch of the body. Tikunei haZohar, chapter 13.
Tikunei haZohar is a main text of the Kabbalah which is a method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism.
The light of splendor shines in the middle of the night. Who can see it? A heart which has eyes and watches. Angelus Silesius (1624-1677).
Angelus Silesius was born Johann Scheffler in Breslau, the capital of Silesia. Raised a Lutheran, he changed his name when he became a Catholic in 1653. He became a Franciscan Catholic priest in 1661. During this time, Silesius began publishing polemical essays against Protestantism as well as religious mystical poetry.
That sun of the intellectual world, that inner eye of the heart…Richard of Saint-Victor (1110-1173), medieval mystic.
Richard of Saint-Victor was one of the founders of medieval Christian mysticism. A Scottish philosopher and theologian, Richard was a member of a religious order (or “canon regular”). From 1162 to 1173 he was the superior of the famous Augustinian Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris, a richly endowed monastery and school.
The abbey and school of Saint Victor was an international center of piety and learning. During the first (though less famous) Renaissance of the 12th century, the monastery and school attracted many famous scholars, students, and retreatants, such as Peter Abelard (1079-1142), Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141), Peter Lombard (1096-1160), Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Thomas Becket (1119-1170).
I know of no restorative of heart, body, and soul more effective against hopelessness than the restoration of the Earth. Barry Lopez (1945-2020), nature writer.
Barry Lopez was an American writer of both fiction and nonfiction. His extensive nature writing is known for its humanitarian and environmental concerns. Lopez won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for Artic Dreams (1986) and Of Wolves and Men (1978) was a National Book Award finalist.
“Dear Lord we beg but one boon more: Peace in the hearts of all people living, peace in the whole world…” Joseph Auslander (1897-1965), U.S. Poet Laureate.
Joseph Auslander was an American poet who was appointed as the first Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress in 1937 and served until 1943.
I’d like to know what it is that catches the imagination like a strange touch on the very heart, the very spiritual being of prenatal memories, that persist with reference to earth-places, like little streams bordered by willows, like fields of yellow wheat, like hills with the summoning sky above them against which may stand an old corncrib? Why should such common things stir down where there is no explanation in the heart? Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950), U.S. poet.
Edgar Lee Masters grew up in Sangamon County in Central Illinois. In Chicago he built a successful law practice, and for eight years he was the partner of Clarence Darrow. At 30 years old, in 1898, Masters published A Book of Verses, his first collection of poetry.
His Spoon River Anthology, a collection of monologues from the dead in an Illinois graveyard, was published in 1915. It was wildly successful and is one of American literature’s most popular books of poetry. Masters was friends with other Illinois poets such as Carl Sandburg and Vachel Lindsay.
For where your treasure is there your heart will be also. Gospel of Luke 12:34.
One of the sayings of Jesus on trust in God. In talking about the Kingdom of God, Jesus develops it in terms of one’s own death. He keeps its ideal positive and demanding.
The human heart is local and finite, it has roots; and if the intellect radiates from it, according to its strength, to greater and greater distances, the reports, if they are to be gathered up at all, must be gathered up at that center. George Santayana (1863-1952), The Philosophy of Travel.
George Santayana was a Spanish-American philosopher, poet, and humanist who made important contributions to aesthetics, speculative philosophy, and literary criticism. A one-time professor of philosophy at Harvard University, Santayana was well known for his aphorisms. Attributed to Santayana is the famous aphorism: “”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In The Philosophy of Travel (published in The Virginia Quarterly Review in Winter 1964), Santayana speculates on the human capacity for locomotion as the source and definition of our intelligence.
Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre: Thus says the Lord GOD: Because you are haughty of HEART, you say, “I am a god! I sit on a god’s throne in the HEART of the sea!” But you are a man, not a god; yet you pretend you are a god at HEART! Ezekiel 28:2
According to certain scholars Ezekiel is the “first fanatic in the Bible” and whose motto was “for the greater glory of God” (R.H. Pfeiffer, Introd., 543). Ezekiel’s visions and actions are strange, prompting many in modern scholarship to interpret them as symbolic. Ezekiel prophesied starting about the year 600 BCE and whose oral tradition was written down later by others. Traditionally, Ezekiel is understood as being the major prophet of the Babylonian Exile and whose major theme is the condemnation of idolatry as the source of evil befalling humankind.