Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Intelligence of the heart - Courtesy Dr. Gohar Mushtaq Ph.D. (Biophysical & Biochemistry)

Chapter Two

The Intelligence of the Heart

THERE IS NO doubt that both the human brain and the human heart possess intelligence. However, the intelligence of the heart and that of the brain are not the same and as a consequence the two organs perceive truth and reality in different ways. This chapter discusses the differences in the two organs and their relationship with each other.

What is Intelligence?
Prior to the 1980's, it was widely believed that there was only One kind of intelligence, expressed by the brain and measurable through IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests. In 1983, Howard Gardner, the Harvard University researcher and developmental psychologist, in his book 'Frames of Mind', revolutionised the whole concept of intelligence. He propounded that there are different kinds of intelligence such as linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal (dealing with one 's own knowledge) and interpersonal (dealing with knowledge of others).14 Gardner's theory of multiple types of  intelligence is in stark contrast with the prevailing scientific view of intelligence as a single, general faculty of the mind. According to Dr. Gardner, every person possesses a blend of these seven kinds of intelligence, most of which are overlooked in our educational system. Hence, intelligence is far more complex than an IQ rating would suggest. An IQ test only measures two aspects of intelligence, logical-mathematical and linguistic. As a result of Gardner's research, many people started to reconsider their definitions of intelligence. Presently, there is a growing recognition among educators, neuroscientists, psychologist and others that human beings possess a range of potentials and capacities that cannot be easily quantified.

In 1996, Daniel Goleman presented a more holistic view of intelligence in his famous book 'Emotional Intelligence' based on his own research as well as the research of many other scientists. Goleman argued that success in life depends more on the ability to manage emotions rather than simply mental abilities. He explained through research that having a high IQ does not necessarily guarantee success in life and many people with an ordinary IQ are more successful in their lives just because they are emotionally more intelligent.15 According to Goleman, IQ measures are inadequate as determiners of an individual's future success (or happiness). Emotional intelligence, even though it is not a wholly quantifiable factor, is a more important contributor to an individual's potential success. The heart plays a major role in regulating our emotions and has a direct connection to emotional intelligence, even though that is not the only kind of intelligence that the heart possesses.

Emotional Intelligence of the Heart

Scientists of the past believed that the brain was the source of ll emotions that we experience. It has been shown now that our emotions are much faster than our thought process and they surpass the linear reasoning process of the brain due to their speed. Since the thought processes of the brain ate much slower than the speed with which emotions appear, emotions cannot be the result of a normal thinking process of the brain. Hence, as LeDoux showed in 'The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life', it is not true that emotions originate in the brain.16 The centre of the brain that plays the most important role in our emotional memory processing is called the amygdala. Recent research has shown that the heart affects this centre of the brain, 17and thus our heart influences our emotion.

The concept of mind and body being distinctly separate entities originated when Rene Descartes (1596-1650), French mathematician and philosopher, proclaimed, "I think, therefore I am". Since then, philosophers have considered mind and body as separate entities, a concept known as Cartesian Dualism. Antonio Darnasio, head of neurology at the University of Iowa and a prominent researcher on human brain function, has recently challenged this premise in his book 'Descartes' Error:
Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain'. Damasio showed that psychology's separation of reason from emotion is flawed and that emotions playa central role in human decision-making. He showed this through case studies of various patients whose own emotion-interpreting brain centres were damaged in accidents. Despite their perfect memory and no physical impairment, those individuals were lacking the ability to make correct decisions. Damasio showed that rational decisions are not the result of logic alone but they need the support of emotions and feelings. 18

Intuition of the Heart
Intuition is an immediate knowing or learning of something without the conscious use of reasoning.19 In other words, it is the process through which information is perceived by us which is normally outside the range of our conscious awareness. People use terms such as 'sixth sense' and 'gut feeling' to describe their intuitive feelings about a future event or a distant object. Often, the person having the intuitive feeling is certain about the experience and these feelings may be accompanied by positive emotions such as hope and excitement or negative emotions such as pessimism fear or terror. People across all cultures generally know that our heart plays an important role in our sense of intuition. However, little scientific research has been conducted to elucidate the role of the human heart with respect to intuition.

One such study was recently conducted with the aim of showing, using the latest biomedical instruments, that the body has the ability to respond to an emotionally arousing stimulus seconds before it actually happens and also to investigate where and when in the body the intuitive information is processed.20

The results of this study found that both the heart and brain appear to receive and respond to intuitive information. A significantly greater heart rate deceleration (decrease in the rateof heart beat) was detected before the occurrence of future emotional stimuli as compared to future calm stimuli, showing that the heart plays a direct role in processing and decoding intuitive information. Another very interesting finding was that there appear to be significant differences in the way men process intuitive information as compared to the way women process the same kind of information. The results indicated that, in females, the heart was controlling the electrical signals in the cortex of the brain when the intuitive information was processed. Thus, "females are more attuned to information from the heart. "21 It is truly one of the signs of Allah that the ideal family unit is comprised of a balance between masculine intuition (brain- Inclined) and feminine intuition (heart-inclined).

The Intelligence of the Heart and the Intelligence of the Brain

The human brain works in a linear, logical manner. Its basic functions are to analyse, memorise, compartmentalise, compare and sort through the information obtained from our senses. Based on past information, experiences and memories, the brain sorts the incoming messages from our senses and transforms that data into perceptions, thoughts and emotions. This linear approach of the brain is necessary for our survival, but there are disadvantages to this ability. The brain can easily get stuck in a fixed pattern. This means that since there is already information in the head (it does not matter whether that information is based on reality or not), the brain always compares the new information to the old model it has and sees unconsciously if the new information matches with the old ideas and perceptions it has. This is the reason why it is so hard for us to change our old habits and perceptions.22

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argued that intellect alone is totally inadequate for the comprehension of God's Essence.23 That is true because the Qur'an says about Allah:

There is nothing like unto Him. (Surah Ash-Shu'ara: 11)

The brain works by comparing new information with information that it already possesses. In the case of the Essence of Allah, the brain does not have anything to compare it with because there is nothing like Allah. Therefore, the brain alone becomes helpless in discerning Allah directly. The only way it can understand Allah is by indirect knowledge - by contemplating upon the creations of Allah. That is why, Abu Bakr Siddique ~ said about the recognition of Allah: lory to God who has not given to his creatures any other way to attain the knowledge of Him except by means of their helplessness and their hopelessness of ever reaching such attainment.24

The heart, however, cuts through any needless complexity or confusion, very similar to a flashlight beam that illuminates the darkness and allows one to see what is actually important. The intelligence of the heart processes incoming information in a different way that is less linear, more intuitive and more direct. In fact, there are many things in life, which we cannot explain logically. For example, belief in the Unseen and fear of Allah coupled with a desire to please Him all defy logic. But the heart can understand these concepts because of the way that it processes information.

Imam Malik, the great jurist, referred to the superiority of the heart's intelligence over that of the brain when he described true knowledge:
Knowledge does not refer to plenty of information; rather, knowledge is a light that Allah puts into the heart of a true believer. 25

Real knowledge is not the learning of facts and theories but the recognition of the Essence of Allah, the purpose of creation and the realisation of man's insignificance in comparison to the vastness of Allah's creation. It is this kind of intelligence which Rumi referred to in his poetic masterpiece Mathnawi as follows:

"The intelligent person sees with the heart
The result from the beginning;
The one lacking in knowledge
Only discovers it at the end."
(Mathnawi, Vol III, 4129) 26

The intelligence of the heart is of the humanistic type, which cares about other people as well. The intelligence of the brain is of a selfish kind, which is more concerned about its own survival.
As researcher Dr. Paul Pearsall writes:
"The brain itself never truly falls completely asleep. It has different levels of vigilance, but it never gives up its hold on the body .... The brain is mortality phobic. "27
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states in his book 'The Evolving Self that our brain is inclined more towards pessimism and always expects the worst to happen. This is the brain's mechanism for being prepared for the unexpected.28 It is this fear and pessimism of the human brain that is exploited by the shaytan when our heart wants to spend in the path of Allah: Shay tan threatens you with poverty, (Surah AI-Baqarah: 268)

Similarly, shaytan takes advantage of the hidden fears of the brain and, as a result, the brain makes the heart spiritually sick as well. As a consequence, both the sinful brain and the sinful heart will be punished on the Day of Judgement:

Nay! If he ceases not, We will catch him by the Forelock (front portion of the brain), a lying sinful forelock. (Surah Al-'Alaq: 15-16)

The fire of Allah, kindled, which leaps up over the hearts. Surah Al-Humazah: 6-7)

While it is vital for man's survival on this earth to have intelligence of the brain, the possession of emotional intelligence is also   important for happiness and success both in this world and in the Hereafter. For it is only people who have intelligent hearts who have been promised success in the next world:

The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, except him who brings to Allah a clean (sound) heart. (Surah Ash-Shu'ara: 88-89)

Dr, Mohammad Iqbal, great Islamic poet, philosopher and Islamic scholar, in his 'Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam' made the following remarks about the heart:

"The heart has a kind of inner intuition or insight which, in the beautiful words of Rumi, feeds on the rays of the sun and brings us into contact with aspects of Reality other than those open to sense-perception. It is, according to the Qur'an, something which 'sees', and its reports, if properly interpreted, are never false. "29

Relationship between the Heart and the Brain

Up until the 1970's, it was widely believed that the brain sends one-way commands to the heart which the latter then obeys. However, it was during the 1970's that it became clear that two- way communication exists between the heart and the brain.30 When the brain sends a command to the heart through the nervous system, the heart does not always blindly obey but seems to use its own kind of logic. In addition, the research found that the heart was also sending messages back to the brain that the brain not only understood but also followed.31

More recent research is beginning to uncover specifically how the heart can communicate with the brain and it has been found that it can do so in four different ways. 32 33 Firstly, the heart has its own set of 40,000 nerve cells or neurons that transmit information to the brain. This transmission of information through the nerves is called neural traffic and research has shown that the heart sends more neural traffic to the brain than the other way round. 34 Secondly, the heart has been found to secrete a very powerful hormone called Atrial Natriuretic factor (ANF) that has a profound effect on many parts of the body including those portions of the brain that are involved in memory, learning and emotions.35 Thirdly, with every heartbeat, pressure waves are generated and when these travel through the arteries to the brain, there are recordable changes in the electrical activity of the brain.36 Finally, the heart has an electromagnetic energy field 5,000 times greater than that of the brain and this field can be measured with magnetometers up to ten feet beyond the physical body.37 Since the heart's energy field is greater than that of the brain, it can be assumed to have a profound effect on the brain's functions. It must be borne in mind that as the heart is the only organ in the body that pulsates so its effects will reach each part of the body at every moment.

Even though the timing of the heartbeat can be influenced by the brain (through the autonomic nervous system), the source of the heartbeat is present within the heart. There appears to be no need for nerve connections between the heart and the brain.38 That is why, when a person has a heart transplant, all the nerve connections between the heart and the brain are cut but that does not stop the heart from working when it is placed in the new person's chest. 39

Usually, a person's heart is about the size of his own fist. As the body develops, the heart grows at the same rate as the fist. Hence, a baby's heart and fist are about the same size at birth. In the womb, however, that similarity is not always true. During the first few weeks after conception, the foetal heart occupies most of its mid-section. The ratio of the heart size to body size is nine times greater in the foetus than in the infant. It is common knowledge now that the heart of the unborn child develops and starts pumping long before the brain cornes into existence. Even though the actual event which triggers the beating of the heart cells of a baby is not known, it is suspected as Paul Pearsall, Ph.D. writes, that "the mother's heart energy conveyed in primal sound waves contains the information that is the code that jump-starts our life."40 Once the heart begins to beat, it continues to beat throughout a lifetime (auto rhythmic beating function) even when the brain stops working in cases like 'brain death'. Brain death is described as a condition when brain activity has stopped forever. Hence, even when the brain dies, the heart can still live. But when the heart dies (unless we find a replacement for the heart), the brain cannot live. Thus, the brain needs the heart for its survival more than the heart needs the brain.
The final words on this subject have been reserved for the verse of Iqbal highlighting the differences between the roles of the brain and the heart:

"Intellect (brain) one day said to the heart:
'I am a guide to those who have gone astray
Though bound to earth, I reach the heaven above
Just see how far reaching is my sway
I am cast in the mould of the legendary Khidhr
I am destined in the world to show the way
I am the interpreter of the book of life
I am an attribute of divine display
You are only a drop of blood
I am the envy of ruby's ray.'
'This is all true', replied the heart
'But look at me, be as it may
You look at life's trauma and drama
I see through life's white and grey
You deal with outer manifestations
And I am aware of the inner fray
Knowledge is to you, intuition to me
You seek God, I show how to pray
Limit of wisdom is restless doubting
I am cure for the malady of dismay
You are a lantern to illuminate a spot
I am a lamp to illuminate the path
You deal with time and space
I deal with Judgment Day
To what lofty place do I belong?
I am the pedestal of God Almighty, I say.'"
Aql aur Dil (Intellect and Heart) by Mohammad Iqbal 41

 14.Gardner, Howard (1985). Frames of mind: The Theory of Multiple intelligences.  New York, Basic Books.
15.Goleman, Daniel (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York, Bantam Books.
16.LeDoux,J. (1996). The Emotional Brain: The mysterious underpinnings of Emotional Life. New York, Simon and Schuster.
17_ Armour.J, Andrew, M.D., Ph.D. & Ardell, Jeffry L., Ph.D. ed. (1994). Neurocardiology. New York, Oxford University Press.
18.Damasio, Antonio (1994). Descartes' Error: Emotion, 1-(ca5011 and the Human Brain. New York Quill Publishers.
19.Webster's Dictionary
 20. Mc Craty, Rollin, Ph. D., Atkinson, Mike & Bradley, Raymond T., Ph.D. (2004). Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: The Surprising Role of the Heart. Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine 10(1), 133-143.
21. ibid 
22.Childre, Doc & Martin, Howard (1999). The HeartMath Solution. New York, Harper San Francisco.
23.Kant, Immanuel, (1990). The Critique of Pure Reason. New York, Prometheus Books.
24. Ghazali, Imam Abu Hamid (1978). Ihya Ulum ad Din. Karachi, Darul Isha'at Publishers
25. Abu Zahra, Muhammad (1990). Life of lmam Malik (Urdu) Lahore, Sheikh Ghulam Ali & Sons.
 26.Rumi, Jalaluddin Mathnawi quoted in Helminski. Kabir (1999). The Knowing Heart: A Sufi path of Transformation.  Boston, Shambhala Publications.
27.Pearsall, Paul Ph.D. (1998). The Heart's Code.  New York,  Broadway Books.
28.Csikszcntmihalyi, Mihaly (1993). The Evolving Self.  New York, HarperCollins.
29. Iqbal. Sir Mohammad (Allama) (1994). The Reconstruction o{ Religiolls '17lOught in Islam. New Delhi,
Kitaab Bhavan.
30.Lacey, Beatrice C. & Lacey, John L (1978). Two-Way Communication Between the Heart and the Brain: Significance of Time Within the Cardiac Cycle. AmcriwlI Psychologist, 99-113.
31.Lacey, Beatrice C. &' Lacey, John I. Some autonomic-central nervous system interrelationships. In:
Black, Perry. Ed. (1970). Physiological Correlates oi Emotion. New York, Academy Press: pp. 205-227.
32.Childre, Doc & Martin, Howard (1999). The Heart Math Solution. New York, Harper San Francisco.
33. Ibid.
34. McCraty, Rollin, Ph.D. (2003). Heart-Brain Neurodynamics: The Making of Emotions. Boulder Creek, California, Institute of HeartMath.
35. Cantin, Marc & Genest, Jacques (1986). The Heart as an Endocrine Gland. Scientific American 254(2),76-81.
36. Childre, Doc & Martin, Howard (1999). The HeartMath Solution. New York, HarperSanFrancisco.
37. Pearsall. Paul Ph.D. (1998). The Heart's Code. New York, Broadway Books.
38. Childre, Doc & Martin, Howard (1999). T1,c Heart.Math Solution. New York, HarperSanFrancisco.
39. ibid.
40. Pearsall. Paul Ph.D. (1998). The Heart's Code. New York, Broadway Books.
41.  Iqbal, Sir Mohammad (Allama) (1987). Bang-e-Dara. Lahore, Sheikh Ghulam Ali & Sons.
English translation of the poem taken from: http://underprogress.blogs.com/weblog/2003/10/intellect_and_ h.html

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