A psychospiritual exegesis of the development of Love


“My heart has adopted every shape; it has become a pasture for a gazelles, and a convent for Christian monks. A temple for idols, and a pilgrim’s Ka’ba, The tables of a Torah, and the pages of a Koran. I follow the religion of Love; wherever Love’s camel turns, there Love is my religion and faith”

— Ibn al Arabi

In some spiritual traditions, particularly Christian and Islamic, there is a strong emphasis on the heart. Both traditions have slightly different viewpoints, but both agree that the heart is an organ that has a huge influence on us and others; modern science has seen that it possesses a large electromagnetic field. It is also known as the heart chakra or plexus and is mediated by the sympathetic-vagal mechanisms that alter the heart’s function on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment balance.

The 7 sympathetic-vagal plexi and heart's field

The 7 sympathetic-vagal plexi and heart’s field

Christianity introduces us to the Heart of Love, the huge and wide prophetic heart of Christ, as a ruh or Holy Life Force. Likewise, Islamic mysticism would tell us that we need to develop the heart as a spiritual organ and that there is both an outer heart (Arabic: “Qalb”) and an inner one.

Neurological mindfulness–5 stages

For us to develop our heart we need to be (instinctual) attentive–an instinctual / animal quality that helps us to (material) notice (when something is different, polarized, switched off), and then to be (vegetal) aware of what field or sensory state we are in or surrounded by. When we are attentive to the power of this field or element which has switched Love off, or turned it towards something lesser, we then should be mindful–that is, try to understand the narrative we are in at that moment. We then have the opportunity as humans to surrender to the Divine, presenting our immediate state and thus allow the Highest Love to clean our small yet very important organ that transmits Love to and through our whole self, to all those that we meet and have a relationship with.

Using the model of the life forces we can view the development of the heart through five stages. These psycho-spiritual stages mirror our human development from:

  1. child

  2. teenager

  3. marriage

  4. adult

  5. wise person

The heart sits metaphorically between our various elements–material, vegetal, animal, and human–and acts variously as a bridge, pacifier, toner, and instrument to slowly take us away from our binary state of, for example, our emotions, to a centered trinity, where the purified element of this (particular) heart lifts us up from the mere mortal, binary, volatile nature of, again the example, our emotional life; to a heart that is still, deep, wide and pure (e.g. the heart of water).

The five elements of the heart

The heart of Earth

The heart of earth, germinating

The heart of the earth, germinating

The physical or material heart is the organ that does the hard and continuous work throughout our lives. It is called the heart of Earth. It does not change, nor miss a beat unless it starts to fall into some pathology or disease. This heart may carry memories, as if a footprint, of our ancestral patterns concerning love, as well as our historical and early relationship to love. This material heart may carry the code that informs itself of an ancient and repeated pattern of a proverbial broken or fractured love or one that has burst or has become inflamed. Illnesses can mimic these narratives when our heart muscle hypertrophies (enlarges) when we burst a vessel, have an infarct (closes down), flutters (unstable), is arrhythmic, or leaks at the valves (failing, leaky). This is our material, ancestral, and genetic heart. However, this heart contains a secret. It contains a wish to

Our ancestral heart of earth carries a history of love

Our ancestral heart of earth carries a history of love

return towards Love itself. So like a seed, it wants to germinate, to rise up, to move away from its history. It contains the potential of emergence–towards Love itself. In this way, as the heart is purified by our attentiveness, and then surrendered to resolve, relieve, and absolve our historical patterns concerning basic or historically nuanced love, the heart emerges upwards, towards a greater Love. It then acts as a fulcrum above the elements that it corresponds to and acts like a balance to stop us from falling back down towards our history and old narratives.

By offering our 'heart' to a Higher Reality, we can slowly be guided in our behaviours in love

By offering our ‘heart’ to a Higher Reality, we can slowly be guided in our behaviours in love

The Heart of Water


During our lives, our hearts may become tempered and shaped. This may take years, but we may slowly develop a heart that goes through the five stages of growth. The second stage from that which is cold, stern, walled-in, and protected is the heart of a teenager – an emotional and soppy heart, one that is often drowned in emotion and feeling. This is known as the heart of water. This heart has the fortune to wash the heart below, the one of earth,  cleaning the heart in emotion and feelings. It is often unstable, as, like a lake blown by turbulent winds can be choppy and dangerous. It can, as we develop this watery heart become emotionally unstable, or deeply emotional which can sometimes drown its owner or the lover in its empathetic or emotional love. However, as in the narrative of the Heart of Earth, through our attentiveness and subsequent surrender to Love itself, this watery developing heart eventually gives way to a heart that is deep, full, wide, quiet, pure, and nourishing. It rises and falls, and has an inherent rhythm bigger than our ordinary rhythms and cadences. It is susceptible to the Greater Life (like the pull of the moon) and pulls us up into balance so that we are not swayed by errant emotions or feelings. It contains innocence, and purity and has a huge width encompassing the whole of humankind. It heralds the birth of compassion. In many spiritual cultures the act of purification–ritual baths, fasting, preparation for prayer (Arabic: “Wudu”)–acts as the initial act that begins the mental preparation to purify our heart from errant love.

The Heart of Air

The heart of air allows us to be suspended between earth and heaven, when love expands

The heart of air allows us to be suspended between earth and heaven when love expands

As the teenager moves into adulthood and marriage or stable partnership the heart can also, albeit slowly, morph into its next developmental phase. This is the heart of air, which is characterized by our instinctual-driven heart that is less emotional, more light, and easy. It allows insults and negative influences to move past it like stalks of grain or grass, allowing the wind to ruffle through it. It is less reactive, easy in love, has an absence of lightheartedness to caring, and is less self-centred. Its Achilles heel is in its lightness, and carelessness because it too can easily be drawn by the winds of change, the perfume of another. Its lightness can take the person into promiscuousness or other relationships. It is fickle, and like the winds, change or alter in temperament, be forceful and stormy, or easy and light on the touch. You can envisage it like a balloon rising up, and if we let the balloon go, then the heart would simply be free. Then the winds of fate will take it; it will be drawn to whatever (attractive or seductive) force is present at that time. So we, as humans, must keep hold of the string on the heart (balloon- full of air), and allow this heart to teach us, mentor us in our behaviour in love, and then prompt us to surrender these various stereotypes that we hold so that our heart truly becomes light, adventurous, pure, full, easy and lifts us up into a higher station away from instinct, lust and carnal behaviour, or power, shame, vice, fickleness or abuse. This heart is like an outstretched arm that is raised in salute, raised to receive something new, a heart that is held aloft heralding a larger role. It is the heart that initiates the Prometheus within, to dare to rise up and steal the fire. As it lifts us up, we become balanced from these fickle power plays in love and allows us to be carried by Divine Love.

The Heart of Fire

The heart of fire is like a torch–it lights the way, lights love in others

The heart of fire is like a torch–it lights the way, lights love in others

We can grow through this fickleness, this ease and lightness, and find passion, oration, fire, and light in a heart consumed by fire. This heart of fire personalizes the human heart. It is the torch bearer in essence, and as it develops through growth, we can initially scald, temper, burn, cast a shadow, and light the way. This heart of fire initially acts through a Promethean narrative–for we often, like him, steal from Zeus (the gods), and we must be careful not to bring to earth and our human life all the old pains and narratives and to utilize this heart in the wrong way. We must be conscious that our passionate fiery heart can mislead, hide the shadow by being so bright, can mesmerize, and bring false hope. This heart first ought to cast light upon our old stories that we still carry as wounds and cauterize them. This fire will start out fueled by human passions, and slowly as we surrender these passions–pride, greed, impatience, arrogance, and spiritual hubris–this heart becomes fueled by Love itself. It is then we can truly light the way and serve as a beacon of hope.

As we take on and review, reflect, and allow both life and surrender to change our various states of love, we become aware of our heart’s progress. One can gauge the state we are in, by how we react or how we get stuck in an emotionally habitual or arrogant place. Even though we cannot change this, we can realize that this is where we are–” Here I am, as I am”. In so doing we can offer up our heart and our state to the Creator. Once our heart has shifted station, then the ontological moment occurs, as we look down at where we have been.

The Heart of Love

A symbolic archetypal icon of Pure Love

A symbolic archetypal icon of Pure Love

This is much harder to write about because the writer cannot, in all consciousness, describe this heart. We can say this is the heart that belongs to God. This is a heart that is purified. This is the heart that is unconditional. It allows the human to be in the flow of Love, be with Love, and be guided by Love. It is a state of Grace. It comes not from our effort but through total submission (rather than surrender) to the Absolute–Love.

To summarize: 5 hearts, from base upwards:

Earth – holds the imprint, and remembers all that is done to it; the heart of culture and the old; (the footprint in the sand)–the heart that remembers the hurts and wounds of the past. The heart that wants to emerge.


Water – is unsettled by the forces of nature, it often is in vacillation (yin or yang) and in its functional dynamic, slowly comes back to ease; this is the heart of feeling and emotion. It can clean our feelings, and wash our history away, but can also drown us or others in emotion. This heart wants to grow and come alive in its inner feelings through finding innocence, peace, purity, quietness, depth, and fullness in Love. It is substantive; as there is a spiritual aphorism of possessing (or wishing for) a heart that is as wide as the ocean. This heart takes in everything that is thrown at it, and it absorbs it slowly decomposing and getting rid of these things. A heart such as this can express love that is so wide, deep, and expansive that it is immense. However, it may contain old models of love still submerged within its body. However, as we said, this heart purifies and makes innocence that which was not.


Air – moves with any force, bends with it, and then settles back; this is the heart of instinct and passion, it can be unsettled, light, and easy and fly off to land on another; so it can be a heart that is promiscuous. This heart wants to lift us up from old stereotypes and wants to teach and be an example. It brings lightness and an otherworldliness (lifts us off our feet) to our hearts reminding us of other realities and a greater Love. It is characterized by a balloon with a piece of string on it. This infers that the human needs to hold tight to this light heart, so as not to lose it in a sudden gust.


Fire – burns and scorches the insult or emotion that comes towards it, and can be too hot to handle or cause a blister or two! This is the heart of a human and provides us with the fire of love to help others be fired up by a common enthusiasm. This heart makes us the bringer of knowledge, or the light of knowledge. This Love does not hurt but transforms.


LOVE – changes the moment before it occurs, changing hate to love; the heart of nobility. This is the Christos – the heart of Christ, unconditional, beneficent, uncompromising, forgiving, all-consuming. The Light (Nur) of Mohammed; The Light of the Prophets.

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