The term "energy cardiology" was first coined by Russek and Schwartz in two 1996 papers where they suggested that the heart can be viewed as a dynamical energy-generating system. The energy aspect of the heart has received only scant attention compared to the heart's mechanical "pumping" function. Yet, the heart also "pumps" patterns of biochemical nutrients, hormones generated inside the heart, and other signaling molecules to every cell in the body. Simultaneously, the heart also generates unique patterns of electrical fields, magnetic fields, electromagnetic energy and subtle informational fields that modulate the body's tissue matrices. This essay will describe the energetic nature of the heart and propose several mechanisms by which it may influence biological function.


To understand the importance of the heart from an energy medicine perspective invites a reexamination of its essential function in the body. To overcome the entrenched belief that the heart is merely a pump requires an investigation of the energetic and informational nature of living systems. The legacy of contemporary medicine has been a profound appreciation of the molecular and biochemical mechanisms within living organisms. However, molecules and atoms cannot alone describe the nature of life without an appreciation of the energetic dynamics associated with their complex interactions. Electromagnetic fields, potential fields and quantum fields appear to give a more complete description of the global bioenergy field inside the body. These endogenous fields regulate biochemical processes and precede the physical and chemical changes which manifest as disease (Rein, 1998).

The heart plays a modulating, perhaps even coordinating, role in the body's electromagnetic, potential and quantum fields acting through the living matrix described in detail by Oschman (Oschman, 2000, 2003). From the perspective of an energy cardiology, the energetic, informational, and even spiritual nature of the heart's activity is valuable in understanding healing processes in the body. Biological systems, including the heart, exhibit non-local, global properties which are consistent with their ability to function at the quantum level. It is hypothesized that due to the central location of the heart and its reaction to emotional states mediated through the autonomic nervous system, as well as by a series of other mechanisms outlined below, implicit emotional memories could be stored within the field associated with the heart cells. The electrical and magnetic fields generated by the heart interact in unique ways with different tissues and their constituent cells based on their dielectric and magnetic permeability properties. Only an expanded biophysical approach that includes these considerations is capable of beginning to explain the many anomalies that confront the biomedical researcher seeking to understand the nature of life.

The Heart from a Systems Theoretical Perspective

Living systems are dynamic organizations of intelligent information expressed in energy and matter (Russek & Schwartz, 1996a). It is a truism of classical physics that information contained in energy, once produced, does not spontaneously vanish (Orear, 1962). The electromagnetic pattern generated by the heart as the largest electromagnetic signal generator in the body, also travels into space and continues indefinitely. The question is whether this energy and information has the capacity to interact with other dynamical systems and influence them significantly.

The example of water serves to illustrate the importance of a systems perspective in the emergence of higher levels of order. Studying the nature of hydrogen and oxygen gases gives little predictive ability of the unique properties of water once these two gases are combined in a chemical reaction. This reflects the fact that studying the component parts of a more complex system, as is the norm in contemporary reductionist science, does not describe or predict the emergent properties of higher-order systems. Similarly, looking at the heart as a muscular pump, as is currently the norm, misses the possibility of a new role of the heart as an energy and information transducer.

From a general systems theory perspective, the heart may play a coordinating role for emotional memory that is not unlike patterns of mental memory associated with the brain. General systems theory, first developed in the 1940's by Ludwig von Bertalanffy and others (von Bertalanffy, 1968) as well as living systems theory (Miller, 1978) serve as conceptual tools to organize and integrate knowledge within and across disciplines. These approaches offer an interdisciplinary approach spanning the physical, biological, behavioral, and social sciences and have been applied to cardiovascular psychophysiology (Schwartz, 1982). Dynamic energy systems and information theory have become key elements in the reemergence of an expanded, integrative mind-body medicine (Schwartz, 1996; 1997). Schwartz has suggested that systemic concepts involve patterns of interdependence, dynamic relationships, interactive connectivity, complex order, and the emergence of memory patterns that are state-dependent. All higher level systems demonstrate some type of inherent memory as an emergent property. The distinguished neuroscientist, Dr. Karl Pribram, the developer of the holographic and holonomic theory of memory storage in the brain, is also favorably inclined to the value of the systemic memory hypothesis proposed by Schwartz (Pribram, 1998).

For example, the current scientific perspective has no capacity to explain, how after heart transplant surgery, the transplant recipients frequently report having experiences of memories, speech patterns and behaviors, potentially associated with the donor of the transplanted heart (Pearsall, 1998; Schwartz, 1999). Russek and Schwartz's concept of an energy cardiology (Russek et al, 1994; 1996a; 1996b) offers a new systems theoretical approach that may be helpful to explain systemic memory, the capacity of all cells to store information (Schwartz et al, 1998, 1999). Siegel (1995) has reported on changes in a heart recipient's perceptions and preferences that sometimes occur. Pearsall (1998) describes a series of case histories that give credibility to the idea of systemic cellular memory which, in some cases, are quite startling. For example, a little girl who received a heart donated by another girl who had been murdered was able to identify the killer of the donor and assist the police in having him convicted. There are many other cases in which heart transplant recipients take on new dietary and behavioral habits, use new words or expressions that were later confirmed to have been used by the heart donors. These observations reflect the fact that transplant recipient's lives sometimes change in strange ways after their transplants. It may even represent a type of information retrieval from the organs the recipients inherited.

These observations have deep implications for modern heart transplant surgery. It is well known that a transplant recipient's body typically treats the donor's heart as foreign matter requiring immunosuppressive drugs to prevent this observed reaction. However, what if this rejection response is not simply due to biochemical and immunological messenger molecules triggering this reaction, but also a potential rejection of stored energy and information contained within the transplanted heart? Future research in this regard from the emerging energy medicine paradigm may offer new answers. It is interesting to note that Rudolf Steiner already spoke in the early part of the 20th century about the importance of an etheric heart (Steiner, 1922), a concept that has recently been reexamined by other students of Anthroposophy (Haertl, 2000).

Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Heart

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is considered to be the most important of all internal organs. In The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (1979 edition), the heart is referred to as the ruler, emperor, or monarch, of the internal organs and it governs the mind (Shen). In the Chinese classic, Spiritual Access (1981 edition), it states, "The Heart is the Monarch of the five Yin organs and the 6 Yang organs, and it is the residence of the Mind (Shen)." The word shen can have many different meanings and, in Chinese medicine, it is used in two different contexts. In a narrow sense, shen indicates the complex of mental faculties which are said to „reside' in the heart. In this sense, the shen corresponds to the mind and is specifically related to the heart. Secondly, in a broader sense, shen is used to indicate the whole sphere of mental and spiritual aspects of a human being. In this sense, it is not only related to the heart, but encompasses the mental and spiritual phenomena associated with all other Yin organs; specifically the Ethereal Soul (Hun) associated with the liver, the Corporeal Soul (Po) associated with the lungs, the Intellect (Yi) associated with the spleen, the Will-power (Zhi) associated with the kidneys, and the Mind (Shen) itself.

From the Chinese perspective, the state of the heart (and blood) will affect the mental activities of a person including his or her emotional state. In particular, all consciousness, memory, thinking, emotional activity and sleep are affected by the state of the heart. Only if the heart is strong and blood abundant will there be normal mental activity and a balanced emotional life. If the heart is weak and blood deficient, there may be mentalemotional problems such as depression, poor memory, dull thinking, insomnia, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness.

The complex of the five mental and spiritual phenomena associated with the five Yin organs outlined above together represent the Chinese medical view of the body, mind and spirit. The five aspects together form the "Spirit" which is also called "Shen." In summary, the heart is the chief residence of shen, which corresponds to the mind while simultaneously also being aligned with the complex of mental and spiritual aspects of a human being which might more appropriately correspond to the overall "spirit" aspect of the human being. The view that the heart is simply a pump was never held in the East. This view is also changing in the West, where scientists have recently discovered that the heart also acts as an endocrine organ.

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About the Author

Dr Karl MaretKarl Helmuth Maret practices Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), specializing in nutrition, functional medicine and Energy Medicine at the Dove Center for Integrative Medicine in Aptos, California. He holds an M.D. from the University of Toronto, a Masters in Biomedical Engineering and Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He completed a four-year post-doctoral fellowship in pulmonary physiology at UCSD and developed the biomedical instrumentation for the successful 1981 American Medical Research Expedition to Mt. Everest. Dr. Maret lectures extensively in Europe and America about electromagnetic healing approaches, new water technologies, electrosmog challenges, and new integrative energy medicine therapies. As president of the Dove Health Alliance non-profit foundation, he promotes global research networks in Energy Medicine. Dr. Maret is President-elect of the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine (