The Symbolism of the Heart

The Symbolism of the Heart

In the third degree lecture, as well as on many versions of trestelboards of this degree, we see a sword pointing to a naked heart. Masons, and non-masons alike, often put their hand over their heart while praying, as a sign of respect, or when speaking in Lodge.

The heart in modern times, has come to be seen as the center of feelings. However, many ancient civilizations regard the heart as the center of intellect and intuition, which we in modern times associate with the head. Even Pascal once remarked "great thoughts come from the heart."

The Egyptians believed that the god Ptah conceived the world in his heart before creating it through his spoken words. To the Egyptians, the heart was the core of an individual’s life, will, and intellect and hence it was the one internal organ left in the mummy so that it could be weighed (compared to a feather, symbol of Ma’at, the god of justice) at Osiris’ judgment seat, to ensure it has not been made heavy by misdeeds. Perhaps the phrase “to have a heavy heart” derives from such beliefs. It was the one organ responsible for a person’s actions, as the following ancient inscriptions show “What the arms do, where the legs take us, how all the parts of the body move - all of this the heart ordains”.

It was also believed that the heart was the first organ to be created within a mother’s womb, and as it also the first organ to die, therefore “to love with one’s whole heart” often meant until one’s last breath. It was also believed that dreams came from the heart, hence the phrase “I sleep, but my heart wakes.” Spirit and heart are often intertwined, as can be seen from the phrase “a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). As such it is the heart that is associated with the spirit, not the soul.

The Aztecs believed that the Sun, through its journeys through the underworld (night) would loose its strength unless the blood in the hearts of ritually sacrificed humans was offered.

It was only in the Middle Ages that the heart became associated with love, especially in poetry.

The heart, being in the center of the body, has been closely associated with the number five. The body has five parts, the torso, two arms and two legs. The world, according to Diodorus, was also comprised of by 5 elements, earth, fire, water, air and spirit. The symbol of the heart, can be seen first used on a Greek amphora dating back to 500 BC. Th Roman number for 5, V, looks like much like a heart. Five is also a symbol of marriage, because it is the first sum of the first even number (2 - female) to the first odd number (3 - male).

 

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