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Literature The Image of the Heart Many scholars today claim that symbols transmit a message even when their meaning escapes the consciousness.
This is because the symbols speak to the unconscious, which absorbs the meaning of symbols through our inculturation and socialisation. The paradigm of the time Francis de Sales lived in is the context of 16th century theology and philosophy as well as the baroque mentality, which is characterised by a certain double movement: A call for introspective sincerity and an intense desire for expression.
In baroque art this is seen in the choice of powerful effects meant to move the spectator to experience the greatness of God. The image of the heart is by these standards well suited as a symbol in the baroque mode of expression, since as a concept it is the manifestation of sincerity and devotion, and as a religious image it has great expressive and artistic power.
The medical profession of those times had a different understanding of the heart than what we have today. They were educated according to the works of the second-century physician Galenus, and nothing of significance had been added to his teachings in the centuries since they were written.
The fluids correspond to the four elements and to four basic temperaments in the following way: This is why the heart was so often depicted as a burning and smoking furnace. The heat of the heart influenced a persons spirit as well as the body.
The heart was, by its fire, thought to maintain life and warmth in the body, and it was seen as the seat of consciousness, wisdom, courage, will and love.
This means that it was not only the most important organ of the body, but also as the physical seat of the most central properties of the psyche.
At the time of Francis de Sales, the use of symbols was inspired by the renaissance neo-platonism. In this way it is possible to gain understanding of the divine by contemplating the mundane.
This also applies to the human body, since it is created in the image and likeness of God.
The physical aspect on the one hand and the psychological or mystical aspects on the other hand, were often, but by all means not always, thought of as one and the same.
William Harvey is known as one of the fathers of the modern mechanistic idea of the heart as a blood-pumping muscle, and in he put forward the hypothesis of blood circulation. However, he was obviously influenced by the neo-platonic mysticism of the renaissance, as he could write passages such as this one: The heart, like the prince of a kingdom, in whose hands lie the chief and highest authority, rules over all.
Francis de Sales probably never read Harvey, but these thoughts are typical of the mentality thriving in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Studying Francis de Sales, it is important to keep in mind that texts of mystical theology normally are meditative. The rhetoric is not the issue in such texts.
The writer circles around images which express a specific theological point, and this point is not primarily understood by analysing the structure, logic and exposition of the text. It is understood by dwelling upon the images as the text itself does, and by meditating upon them in the way the text invite us to do.
These are texts where much of the meaning is to be found in the details, and where images are chosen because of the many rich allusions they give. He quotes Saint Augustin who says that the human heart is made for God, and cannot rest except in him. Would it not have been enough for him to give public permission whereby he would grant us leave to love him, just as Laban permitted Jacob to love his fair Rachel and win her by his services?
No, he gives stronger expression of his passionate love for us. He commands us to love him with all our strength so that neither thought of his majesty and of our misery, which makes so infinite a disparity and inequality between him and us, nor any other pretext would turn us away from loving him.
This is the dynamics of love, and its objective is unity. This is surly mysticism and mystical theology, which Francis defines as: In his mysticism of the heart, I see four elements: In my thesis, these dynamics of love were the structure of my analysis of the way Francis de Sales used the image of the heart.
In the context of this seminar, it seems natural to focus on the heart of Christ.
For this reason, the heart of Christ is the starting point of the dynamics of love. Because he is Love incarnated, he is the standard by which all love is measured. Since love has its seat in the heart, Christ's heart is the symbol of this love.
It is an important property of this love that it makes the lover shift his gaze from himself to the beloved. As a consequence, none has greater love than he who gives his life for his friends. When the human being accepts this invitation, an upward movement towards God is accomplished.
By means of the incarnation, God challenges mankind to move towards him in love, and the upward movement is the answer to this challenge. Once the motion is started, love is moved on by an inner dynamics: The more a person loves, the more love will God place in his or her heart, and in this way the upward motion accelerates.My last essay discussed John Locke’s theory of a negative commons.
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