Heart-Gemuet – Arms of the Heart

May 14, 2024
By Dennis Klocek 16 min read

If we want to work with the idea of transforming the soul forces, one of the most potent areas for inner work is the region of the heart chakra. It is good to state right away that the heart chakra is not the actual physical heart. The chakra is a little more in the center of the chest where the thymus gland is found in the embryo. It’s what esotericists call the etheric heart. In the embryo, the thymus, in the center of the chest, is the largest gland. It takes up an inordinate amount of space in the embryo. By the time a person is twenty-one years old, that gland has shrunk almost to nothing. In the first seven years it’s a kind of protector; by supporting immune response and things like that. As a person grows older and their consciousness begins to develop, it’s as if their thymus gets shrunk by this blossoming capacity to think Instead of promoting abundant life the space of the thymus serves an esoteric adept as a place where they can explore the space that is beyond the day waking state of consciousness. The life of the thymus serves its function early and then the cosmic life forces are dimmed in order that the cosmic life can promote a higher life of the soul that is transforming into a spiritual existence.

And so in place of the life function that the thymus provides for the embryo, there’s an organ of perception for the kind of cosmic space in which life originates. This cosmic space is known to geometers as counter space, astrophysicists are now describing this force as dark energy, Rudolf Steiner calls it levity or the etheric force or in another context, ruling will. Whatever the name, the human being that is approaching biological maturity can learn to gain conscious access to the forces of life that are centered in the area of the heart chakra, for the purpose of self transformation. This organ of cognition is known esoterically as the etheric heart. It is a kind of heart organ and yet the etheric heart does not have the same function as the physical heart.

I was at the dentist yesterday, and the doctor was talking about the novocaine that they gave me and then the technician started talking about the blood moving through the brain and then how the novocaine would affect the heart. The dentist said something like, Oh yeah, your heart would really have to pump it out. Then we started talking about the relationship between the heart and longevity and the size of a person. He said Wilt Chamberlain—who was a basketball player— died when he was 62 because his heart couldn’t pump the blood up to his head anymore.

Well, after years of Steiner, I just couldn’t go along with the dentist. He was expressing the prevailing picture in modern physiology that the heart is a pump. But many of the details of heart physiology go against that idea. Many details in the construction of the heart are actually the reverse of what they should be if it were a pump. It’s thick where it should be thin and thin where it should be thick if it were a pump. It’s like it’s upside-down, which we know to be the case from embryology. If it were a pump, if it were right-side-up, it would be fine, but it’s upside-down, and instead of being a pump, it acts as if it is receiving a charge from a pump.

In physics there’s a kind of pump called a ram. The ram pump is the way the Egyptians moved water. They had to use this type of reciprocating ram because they didn’t have hydraulics the way we do. There’s an impulse of gravity and suddenly there’s a reciprocation, a stronger impulse comes out of the reciprocation, and according to Steiner’s research, the heart works more like a ram than a regular pump that moves fluids through creating a pressure head.

So, according to its apparent engineering design, the function of the physical heart is to receive the blood, to receive the action of the blood. The etheric heart, which results from the process in which the thymus atrophies is then found in the negative space around the gland that is losing its physical function. In actuality, the negative space around that gland is becoming stronger as we get older. So you’ll hear in anthroposophical circles that the older you get, the younger your ether body gets. The older your physical body gets, the younger your ether body gets, because the ether body is being freed up from the physical body, and moving out of space and into counterspace. It’s being released from its physical burdens and it can come more into its own etherically. And so at seven years old, the function of the ether body is released from the task of growing and becomes available to us as the force of thinking. The living patterns of growth are released from forming the physical body and are then used by the human being to think. Thinking is the ability to form inner pictures at will. So if we follow along, the function of this heart, this counter-space heart that is growing, is to be able to form inner pictures at will

So when we get older, the capacity to consciously use the forces of growth to form inner pictures is strengthened. I should actually say, COULD be strengthened, that in the maturing human there’s a POTENTIAL for this capacity to be strengthened. Nothing is automatic about this, the development of this organ has to be cultivated. There is the seed of a counter-space organ there available for us to do that. Something is there that will respond to our work. It’s not like there’s just nothing there; there’s a potential for a very active inner picturing capacity within the realm of the heart. And that inner picturing in the realm of the heart is the basis for what Rudolf Steiner calls moral imagination in the Philosophy of Freedom.

Now, when a human being forms an inner picture in which they have penetrated that inner picture to the point where they feel morally sympathetic to it or morally in line with it, they form an emotional link to the picture they are forming, they have penetrated it with we could say a moral impulse, there are tremendous forces of warmth that come out of the picture towards the person that is contemplating it. If the person works to try to make the picture morally progressive, to try to lift it into a little more of an objective realm, away from their own personal feelings, into the realm of the transcendent feelings of the world soul, then the heart expands greatly into that space. When this happens as the result of an ongoing practice, the organ of the etheric heart becomes a kind of sense organ of moral force. This happens a great deal in our lives without our knowing it. Generally, when we perceive a moral perception with that organ, the spiritual adversaries living around that organ cast down our moral feelings into judgment. They rob us of feelings of warmth, and instead of feeling the lift of moral experience we’re left with feelings of judgment, that is, casting down others because we judge them to be in error or something.  The spiritual adversaries of humans know that the only real source of freedom and love in the immediate cosmos is around the human heart, the only source of these types of higher feelings. Unfortunately, the adversaries are well aware of this but the human being isn’t. Generally, as humans we don’t know that we are a potential source of moral capacity. We think that morality exists somehow external to us. You know, God tells us what to do, and then we do it. If we’re bad, we get hit or something. In reality morality has to do with how much consciousness of understanding, warmth and compassion we can bring to a given situation.

This capacity for the human soul to radiate compassion and moral forces is embodied in the Bodhisattva Avelokiteshvara or his female counterpart Kwan Yin or in Japanese Kannon. These beings are those who understood the dimensionality of Buddha’s compassion and allowed Buddha’s compassion to move them into enlightenment. They are Bodhisattvas of the new etheric heart organ of perception of compassion and moral force without casting down others in judgmental ways. They represent the capacity to be able to use discrimination without being discriminatory. Or, they represent the capacity to employ judgment without being judgmental about others. They are Bodhisattvas of the compassionate understanding of the other person in an objective way.

So these great Bodhisattvas are an embodiment of this potential of the human gemuet (from German “compassionate feeling heart”) to bring moral force into the world. This realm may seem remote but the unfolding of gemuet actually happens in human beings all the time, especially when we are in the realm of aesthetic experience, when we’re in the realm of art. When we are forming artistic capacities our judgments are lifted into a higher realm of the rightness of things. Unfortunately, this is just when the spiritual adversaries work the hardest to make us move into judgmental habits. It’s ironic that just when we begin to open aesthetically, to become vulnerable, to become soft-hearted, or warm-hearted, in order to experience aesthetic experience, that shadows come in from the past and we remember how hurt we are and then we become habitually judgmental.

So there’s a battle for the human Gemuet. There’s a battle for this compassionate heart space that’s being waged on the other side of the threshold, especially with the souls that have the most potential for seeing with their heart. I’ve been doing this course for many years, and I’ve seen many people with incredible capacities for seeing that are caught in great self-doubt. The great doubt arises in this kind of inner work because people come to this work already having Gemuet capacity. They’re drawn to this work because they understand that they need the training to move their Gemuet further, to open it up. But then they’re the very ones that get attacked the most, that fall into judgmental states and declare themselves stupid or somehow flawed. This is really big, this work on oneself.

So aesthetic perception and Goetheanism are the two threads that can be used to work your way into Gemuet. Aesthetic training, hand in hand with Goetheanism, that is, training in how to observe phenomena correctly, these are the two threads that support heart development. A third one is some kind of practice where you consciously watch images arise in your soul and then consciously dissolve them. Those are the three threads that we work with here. And in the third thread while we are watching the images arise in us, we want to have a clear perception of how they are moving our feelings, how they are moving the heart.

So there’s a practice that’s very useful in establishing what we call the arms of the heart. Rudolf Steiner states that we can learn to turn the ether body with the arms of the heart  To consciously turn the ether body means we try to determine how the etheric heart is being moved rather than letting it up to the spiritual adversaries. We need to be able to steer our etheric heart, our gemeut. We need to line it up with forces that are harmonious and progressive so that through a secret breathing process it can begin to see into the spiritual world.

We need to direct this process because as soon as our ether body expands, and loosens from the physical body, then we become vulnerable.

 So the etheric heart, the Gemuet, is in contact with the patterns of the moving blood that flows from the heart to the arms, and from the arms back to the heart again. The blood flow is accompanied by a surge of warmth that can, through practice, become perceptible. The heart, the physical part of the organ, is particularly aware of this blood and warmth flow. It has various nodal areas in it so it can monitor the quality of the flow of the blood between the upper part of the heart that receives the blood and the lower part of the heart, from which the blood flows out to the body. There’s a node right in the center where those blood flows would cross, except they can’t, there’s a septum there. In the septum there’s a ganglia of nerves called a sinoatrial node, that’s one of the first ganglia formed in the human being, and that monitors the flow of blood, the temperature, the salinity, the velocity, the chemistry. The movements of the heart are responding to that flow through that node. Above, below, right and left, front and back. So all around the heart there are these vortices of blood moving, and the sinoatrial node is in the center where the astral body can monitor the flow. The blood moving up into the arms comes right out of the aorta and directly into the arms and then it’s back. And so that’s kind of the short loop that the heart’s involved in from the heart right out into the arms. This makes the blood flow in the arms a direct sense organ for the heart.

From the heart to the arms and back again there’s a very strong etheric circulation within the space that’s between the heart and the arms. Blood is sensitive to movements that happen in that space. Any movements that we make with the arms are registered in the heart. That’s why the eurythmists always work out of the collarbone. They want this heart and collarbone area to be free so that it can listen to the silent word like sounds that are happening in the movements in the form, or in the music or whatever it is. That whole gesture there from collarbone and heart down to the arms, that’s Gemuet. It’s a kind of blood breath that is feeling the warmth of the space between the arms. That’s where our perception of the true warmth or coldness of a thought happens, in that heart space of motion. Through practice it is possible to use that heart space as a scanner, but it takes much practice in order for the Gemeut to be made objective.

To begin with, if you simply listen to the flow from your heart to your arms and back again, you can actually feel the pulse of your heart in your hands. When you can do this your hands will get warm. Then inside your hands you can feel the pulse of your heart. It’s like a little buzz or tingle that eventually can be linked consciously to the heart beat. That’s the first step. Once you establish that your heart and your hands are linked to one another, and you work with that, you can have the experience that in your inner picturing eye that’s connected to the etheric forces in the heart chakra, you have two arms that come out that are etheric replicas of these physical ones. And with those arms and hands that you can actually feels these movements of warmth and cold as someone is speaking or you are considering a thought.

However, this work is not without its trials. As soon as you start to enter into that flow of blood and warmth and start to open up, you become vulnerable as you’re expanding into your etheric body. So there’s a technique. Once you can actually feel the space from your heart to your arms and your hands, when you can actually feel that your heart and hands are linked, focus your gaze on an artwork that has a quality of being sacred. You want it to be sacred so you can control what’s happening and you can really become vulnerable to it. And with your eyes in an open gaze, let your eyes start to scan the movements that you see. Imagine that those movements that you’re making with your eyes are being followed by movements of your etheric arms. So if my eyes scan a curve like an S-curve, have the feeling that as your eyes are scanning the curve your etheric arms are also feeling that curve, sculpting it in space with these arms of your heart. You’ll find that there’s a very strong connection between your eyes and these etheric arms from the heart. That the etheric arms are very sensitive to the forms that you’re scanning with your eyes, the movements that you’re making with your eyes. Those movements through the oculomotor muscles go into the midbrain, and the midbrain and the sinoatrial node is an octave. At the sinoatrial node there’s an octave in the great node there in the cervical plexus that comes right at the bottom of the skull, the first three vertebrae, there’s a whole ganglia in there.

Raphael, The Small Cowper Madonna, Italian, 1483 – 1520, c. 1505, oil on panel, Widener Collection

When you’re moving your eyes around, your mid-brain is telling your heart there’s a movement that goes like so and you can actually imagine that your hands are feeling that movement that your eyes are watching, you’ll find there’s a whole area of space or potential where you can really feel what you’re looking at very clearly. You get access to it in an objective way and the feelings that come out of that are not personal at all.

You’ll have imaginations of the harmony of the curves as the drapery moves across the head and then down the back. You’ll leave like a vortex train of movements. That’s what you’ll see, it’s that woman and a child. You’ll see there’s a flow of the harmony of the movement. And the picture will be symphonic, it will be eurythmy, you’ll feel that you’re doing eurythmy with your eye. Cause you are. And everything can be looked at in this way. If you just go out in the world and start doing it, Aaah!—suddenly the flowers start going like this, and it can get a little disconcerting, so you want to not go there yet, just stop and work with something where there’s a whole content behind the image. Do it in a soft way, try to get a feeling that with your eyes you’re actually sculpting the space, forming the space, as if you had hands. You’ll have the experience that your eye and your heart are linked and you’ll keep coming back to it because it’s very useful.

Starry Sky - Dennis Klocek
Starry Sky – Dennis Klocek

Take this picture of the stars now and scan it, and see if you can get a feeling that as your eyes are moving through the picture that your blood and your heart are also part of that and that you have hands coming out of your eyes and that you’re sculpting that space. Okay, close your eyes to the actual image, and see if you can get that experience inwardly, try to find the flow pattern that best represents the image to you.

When we’re working and we want to know where the next place to go is, this mood tells us where the flow is stuck. You’ll always register that the flow in the picture is stuck somewhere. In the places where the line is fine, my inward vision looks and sees breathing and says okay, and then goes on. But where it gets stuck, the heart will through the eyes look at the picture and say, “Oh Gee what a shame”, that kind of feeling is a guide. We don’t want to judge people out of that kind of feeling, we don’t want to let it fall into a psychic egoism, but simply use it as a tool. Hmmm, there’s something up here that doesn’t feel right and instead of shifting that immediately into judgment, hold off from the judgment, keep this dialog open and then ask yourself, what color needs to be in this place? What color needs to be in that place?

(We also have the capacity to determine for ourselves what form needs to be here. So the second question is what form needs to happen here, but that’s a little more advanced.)

So, fundamentally in this particular painting all we need to ask is what color needs to be in this stuck place? If you look at the painting in an open gaze, and you get a feeling like… ahh, stuck place here, or right here in the painting I see a stuck place. I’ve isolated this away from this and that, there’s a stuck place right in there somewhere. Can you feel it?

If you squint through your eyes, what do you see in the picture? Yeah, that’s a stuck place. It’s in my soul, it’s like I have a piece of concrete in there in my soul when I look at that. There’s a stuck place. So now I can be judgmental and say, “You stupid guy, you made that place too dark and blah,” and try to erase it before somebody sees it. Or I can learn to trust the process that this too shall pass, and have a little compassion for myself, that I’m following a process and that it’s okay.

So if I look at my picture and I find a stuck place, the first question is What color needs to go in there?

I can do the following, I can call on my angel, go into the open gate, look at your paint palate and sort of gently move your eyes across your palate in a figure eight, just scan it. And you’re asking What color needs to go in that place? Okay, you’re just massaging the palate in an open gaze, What color needs to go there, and massage it. And then you close your eyes, and you go to silence, and then you open your eyes and look at the palette. Wherever your eye goes first, pop, that’s your color. It sounds a lot like woo-woo, New Age stuff, but if you do this every time, it’s a protocol. Is the protocol made concrete? No—except for the fact that you repeat it all the time. That’s what makes the protocol effective, that’s what makes the rule effective, that you repeat it all the time. It’s like a meditative practice. If I am making a mistake but I keep repeating the protocol, I will be led to the correct version through the wisdom of my will. It’s the same here in this painting. If you find the stuck spot, ask the question, scan the palette, and then let it go into a calm state of silence eventually you will feel an intuition about what the stuck spot is and how to correct it.

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Dennis Klocek

Dennis Klocek, MFA, is co-founder of the Coros Institute, an internationally renowned lecturer, and teacher. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released Colors of the Soul; Esoteric Physiology and also Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics. He regularly shares his alchemical, spiritual, and scientific insights at soilsoulandspirit.com.


  1. Peter Webb on May 15, 2024 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks Dennis for your constant generosity and will for us all to grow. Your gardeners’ eye and alchemists’ heart are warmly felt as abundance.
    Thanks to you too Ben for your constant care and attention; our cup is always comfortably full through your will to share and care.
    Regards Peter

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