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In Context #7 (Spring, 2002, pp. 15-18); copyright 2002 by The Nature Institute

The Dynamic Heart and Circulation
Craig Holdrege

This essay is a substantially shortened version of Craig's introduction to a book called "The Dynamic Heart and Circulation", of which he is the editor. Many of the supporting references have been removed from the text. The book will be published later this year and is aimed at teachers, health professionals, and anyone interested in learning about a Goethean approach to the human being. To order the book, contact AWSNA Publications (916-961-0927 or

The liver is a chemical factory. The kidney is a waste treatment plant. The heart is a pump. The brain is a computer.

If we lived in a more poetic age, we might say, "the heart is a rose." But a mind at home in the mechanical world of cause and effect can hardly avoid seeing the heart as a pump circulating the blood through the body.

The damaging thing about mechanical models is that they tend to be exclusive. High school or college students don't usually learn "the heart has some functions that we can interpret in terms of a pressure pump." Rather, they learn "the heart is a pump." Mechanical metaphors in science all too often become fixed and literal, losing their vibrancy and openness. This makes them easier and clearer to apply—and al