Many people believe that the seat of the spirit is the heart. This is mistaken. The heart is the seat of the life of the body, i.e. of the animating force, or soul, which is a function of material existence. It is also the seat of the emotions, these being a function of life. But the heart is not the seat of the spirit because the spirit is a function of that which is beyond life and beyond this material existence.
Some peoples, such as the Ancient Egyptians, have even believed that the heart is the seat of thought. This is obviously an error. The seat of thought, i.e. of the mind, is the brain, as is well known today. But what is not well known is the fact that the mind is in fact the spirit. Thought is indeed a direct function of the spirit, but the belief that the spirit is seated in the heart rather than in the head is an error. And the failure to realize the identity of the spirit with the mind is a curious thing.
The Ancient Celts correctly understood that the seat of the spirit is in the head. This is why Ancient Celtic warriors would keep the heads of their conquered enemies, so that they might harness their spiritual power. And this is why Ancient Celtic myths feature stories about severed heads that remain alive and aware, such as the head of Bran the Blessed. Most moderns, including most Neo-Druids, may find the Ancient Celtic practice of head hunting disturbing, and would prefer to deny that the Ancient Celts were head hunters. But this is a symptom of the modern inability to understand the way the Ancient Celts truly understood things.
An interesting teaching of Valentinus (c100 – c160 BC) was that there are basically three types of people: the hylics (Greek ὕλη “matter”), who are primarily interested in the physical body, the psychics (Greek ψυχή “life, soul”), who are primarily interested in the emotional soul, and the pneumatics (Greek πνεῦμα “breath, spirit”) who are primarily interested in the spiritual mind. The followers of Valentinian Gnosticism believed that only the pneumatics could receive Gnosis and be saved.
The Hindu Tradition similarly defines three prevailing tendencies in people, called gunas (literally “threads”). These are: tamo-guna (ignorance), rajo-guna (passion) and sattva-guna (truth). In the four varnas of Hindu society, the shudras were thought to be influenced primarily by tamo-guna, the vaishyas were thought to be influenced by both tamo-guna and rajo-guna, the kshatriyas were thought to be influenced primarily by rajo-guna, and the brahmans were thought to be influenced primarily by sattva-guna.
The Tree of Life of Qabbalah shows clearly that the mind is above the heart. The Sephirah called Da’ath (Knowledge), which is the mind, is set in the centre of the upper part (i.e. the upper hexagon) of the Tree of Life, while the Sephirah called Tiphereth (Beauty), which is the heart, is set in the centre of the lower part (i.e. the lower hexagon) of the Tree of Life. I could discuss my views on the Qabbalistic Tree of Life, but for now I will only mention that Malkuth (Kingdom) should not be a Sephirah at the bottom of the Tree of Life, but should rather be the space above and beyond the Tree of Life.
The human being physically consists of a body from which four major limbs extend. Above the body is the head. The head of the human being is distinct from the rest of the body, being joined to the rest of the body by the neck. This is a visible indication of the particular significance of the human head. It may even be understood that the head is the true core of the human being, and that the physical body is essentially an outgrowth of the head which exists only to serve the purpose of the superior human mind.
Due to the special situation of the head, the mind is closer to the heavens than the rest of the body. [Conversely, the genital and excretory organs are on the bottom of the body, closest to the ground.] The heavens are more than simply the physical sky. According to Tradition, the heavens are the transcendental source of all material manifestation. Because it is above the body and nearest to the heavens, the mind is functionally between these two. The mind is thus meant to serve as the mediator between the transcendental source of existence and the condition of physical existence in a material body.
More precisely, there are in fact two minds. The superior human mind serves as the receptor of spiritual knowledge which is of a superior essence, while the inferior animal mind serves as the receptor of the natural information which is of an inferior essence.
It is through the superior human mind that the superior influences of the heavens may rule over the heart and the body according to superior purposes. But in most people, especially in this modern world, the inferior animal mind is predominant, with its attention directed downwards towards the inferior influences of the heart rather than upwards towards the superior influences of the heavens. Often enough in truly vile and degenerate people, the conscious attention of the mind is primarily engrossed in the even more inferior influences of the base physical needs, such as consumption and reproduction. In either case, the human being is no longer being directed according to superior purposes.
In The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the fox tells the Little Prince “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” This utterance by the fox is generally taken to be a great truth. But what people fail to understand is that the fox is the perennial symbol of cunning and deception. Everything that the fox tells the Little Prince, and even the manner in which the fox deals with the Little Prince, is a matter of emotional manipulation. This is obviously cunning and deception, but there are so very few people who can actually recognize it as such. Of course, the inability to recognize this is due to the fact that most people are ruled by their hearts, and this is very much a function of the way this modern world is going.