Towards Uniting the Heart and Mind – part 2

I am exploring the conflicting relationship between the Heart and the Mind using the song “Hemispheres” by Rush, which is the only rock song I know of devoted to this theme.  To recap, the god of Reason enabled people to transform nature into great cities, but left them feeling empty, their need for meaning being unfulfilled by their conquests.  The god of Love restored a sense of meaning, renewing their joy and liberating their souls, but left them without the means to protect and provide for themselves when nature turned hostile and winter came. Disillusioned by both gods, the people began to fight against themselves, split by conflicting allegiances to the Heart or to the Mind.  But some, weary of the conflict, seek reconciliation in a mysterious force called Cygnus:  “To the heart of Cygnus’s fearsome force/ We set our course/ Spiraled through that timeless space/ To this immortal place.”

Cygnus is presented in the song as a transcendent spirit, without physical form, who resides hidden from the gods of Olympus, yet monitors them from above.   As the plight of humanity is brought to his attention, he looks upon the unending feud between Apollo and Dionysus, who are oblivious to the havoc wreaked by their conflict on humanity, with anger.  So he manifests himself to the gods:

Then all at once the chaos ceased
A stillness fell, a sudden peace
The warriors felt my silent cry
And stayed their struggle, mystified.

As Cygnus calls to their attention the tragic consequences on earth of their raging feud, the gods respond with regret and call on him to bring peace:  “We will call you Cygnus/ the god of Balance you shall be!”  The song closes with a kind of vision for reconciliation between the Heart and the Mind:

Let the truth of love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty
With the heart and mind united
In a single perfect sphere.

At this point, I tell my students that simply declaring a need for unity of heart and mind is easy; actually achieving it is an entirely different matter.  We then discuss ways that the Heart and Mind, or our emotions and reason, might work in concert in our quest for knowledge.  This is a challenging discussion, as they realize the difficulties inherent in such a synthesis.  The pursuit of this harmony, I tell them, must be grounded in a view of the nature of reality (metaphysics) that coheres with such an approach to life.  This last verse of “Hemispheres” points to this.

Consider the phrase “truth of love.”  In the most basic sense, truth is simply that which corresponds to reality.  So for love to be ‘true’ in some way, love must be part of reality:  found in the fabric of the way things really are.  Yet love inherently is something that exists between persons in relationship.   Where does one get an understanding of the nature of the universe as essentially persons in relationship?

Some worldviews regard the universe as essentially impersonal.  Atheism (or secular naturalism) is an obvious example.  Pantheism (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism) also regards reality as ultimately impersonal.  While in these religions, there might be lesser deities with personal qualities, the Supreme Being is essentially an impersonal force that does not even have a moral character, but is beyond good and evil.  These “reality as impersonal” worldviews plainly do not cohere with the concept of love actually existing.

Other worldviews regard the universe as essentially personal.  This is a defining characteristic of Theistic religions.  But among theistic religions there are two fundamentally different views of the personal nature of God:  the simple one God, one person view (Allah); and the complex one God, three persons view (the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).  If love is essentially persons in relationship, then in the simple view, love is not intrinsic to God Himself, but may only come into being with the creation of other persons, i.e. human beings.  Perhaps this is why one does not find much, if any, language of God and love in the Quran.   Indeed, only in the Bible, specifically in the New Testament, does one find plain, direct attribution of the property of Love to the Supreme Being.  This is quite consonant with the complex view of God as a plurality of persons united in a single essence.  In other words, love is intrinsic to God Himself because within the nature of God there is persons in relationship!  (see the above video for an extensive discussion of this concept).

This is not to say that the Trinity can be grasped in rationalistic terms; there is wondrous mystery in such a Being.  But one can argue that only this view of ultimate reality coheres with the belief that love really exists.  And this belief is crucial to any endeavor toward reconciling the Heart and the Mind.

I have decided to devote one more post to this theme, next time looking at the phrase “love of truth” and what kind of view of the nature of knowledge makes sense of loving truth.

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4 comments on “Towards Uniting the Heart and Mind – part 2

  1. Gary R. says:

    Reminds me of something Giacomo Casanova wrote: “Remember that reason has no greater enemy than the heart. Yet it is possible to reconcile them.”

  2. John Gunter says:

    Jeremy, great posts. Catching up on reading today.

    I have always found the phrase “truth in love” a little confusing. As a Christian, since God defines Himself both in “God is love” and “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life”, can there be such a thing as truth apart from love? Just curious about your thoughts on this.

    Also, how are your students responding to this Greek mythology and Rush mixture in processing is concept. I think it is brilliant, but just curious as to how 17 year olds respond to this.

    • Though they think the song strange (which it is!) and most don’t enjoy the music, they respond well to the lyrics and for the most part quickly ascertain the meaning and recognize the heart-mind conflict in their own lives.
      And while truth and love are distinct metaphysical concepts, in a biblical worldview neither is complete/fulfilled without the other. That’s the quick answer. Look forward to processing this more when we are together again!

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