At the heart of symbolism

Heart, world and being's centre


“At the heart of symbolism lies the symbolism of the heart”
(René Guénon)

Heart, image of Unity

Leaf of lilacAs the central organ of the blood circulation, the heart was associated with multiple roles since the highest antiquity. However, it only revealed its affective character in European poetry towards the 13th century as testified by "The Book of the Love-Smitten Heart" of king René of Anjou. Moreover, its stylized form (Heart image) only appeared around the middle of the 14th century in the watermark of paper sheets. Let us note that the perfect symmetry of the drawing comes more from a plant leaf than the real form of the heart. Yet, the form of the human and mostly animal heart has been known by the seers for a long time.

The heart at the heart of the World

As the “seat” of life, the heart symbolizes the life principle which regulates the organism during its existence. It is made in the image of the non-manifested Principle, the divine Intelligence governing the world. From that point of view, it constitutes the receptacle of all influences of the world beyond, whatever domain they refer to (physical or affective, psychical or intellectual). Thus were the views of the Hindu, Egyptian or Arab traditions for instance. Such an approach has opened the descending path to all supreme influences crossing the three manifestation orders, at the macrocosm (cosmic world) as well as microcosm (individual world) level:

The three manifestation orders









While descending, the influences of the proper metaphysical world are firstly manifested into their unified, centred or principial state before deploying themselves under their diversified appearance within each of the three orders.

It follows that the heart is in the first place an image of the primeval Unity, the Centre or the Principle at the source of everything, at both macrocosm and microcosm level. As such, it is qualified as “World Heart” and a “being's heart”.

As an image of the Centre, the heart symbolizes the source from which everything originates and where, finally, everything must go back. Just as the blood circulates from the heart and returns to it, the descending influences can only be crowned by ascending influences bringing the world and the being back to the Centre.

The Centre is a balanced point of an alternative double movement of expansion and contraction, expiration and inspiration, diastole and systole representative of two complementary paths: one descending from non-manifested to manifested and an other ascending from manifested to non-manifested.

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