heart

Linked Glossary of Terms
(References to the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless otherwise indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format. )

heart I, v, 14, 24, 30-32, 46, 64, 66, 80 (the issues of life), 132 (heart of selfhood’s existence),
II, 495, 496NC I, v-ix,11 (restlessness of meaning; tendency toward the Origin, our heart is restless and the world is restless in our heart), 31 fn1 (eternity set in the heart), 55 (self-knowledge is rooted in the heart), 174, 506 (religious root and centre of the whole of human existence; it transcends the boundary of cosmic time)NC II, 571 (the heart of the whole of human existence)

“De Structuur der rechtsbeginselen en de methode der rechtswetenschap in het licht der wetsidee” (1930)
“De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee,” (1932)

Heart is the religious root of existence. ““De transcendentale critiek van het wijsgeerig denken en de grondslagen van de wijsgeerige denkgemeenschap van het avondland,” Philosophia Reformata 6 (1941), 1-20 at 2.

The heart as our selfhood stands under a law of religious concentration, which makes it restlessly search for its own Origin and that of the whole cosmos. “Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken en het critisch karakter van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936), 1-16, at 14. Page 15 refers to the heart as the supra-rational, religious root of existence.

Dooyeweerd says that the Idea of the supratemporal heart is the “key of knowledge.” Supratemporality involves his Idea of cosmic time, which he says is the basis of his philosophical theory of reality (NC I, 28). He says that the Idea of the supratemporal selfhood must be the presupposition of any truly Christian view [“voor iedere wezenlijk Christelijke beschouwing der tijdelijke samenleving”] (De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, Amsterdam: W. Ten Have, 1931, p. 113, cited by Steen, 79 ft. 53 and 153 ft. 46. Dooyeweerd opposes any view that regards our selfhood as only immanent.

Dooyeweerd says that it is only because of our supra-temporal center that we can experience time:

Wanneer wij in het diepste concentratiepunt van ons bestaan den tijd niet to boven gingen, dan zou ook ons bewustjijn noodzekelijk in den tijd opgaan, en daarmede de mogelijkheid der religieuze zelf-concentratie ontberen. Het zou geen tijdsprobleem kennen, want tot wezenlijk probleem wordt de tijd eerst, wanneer, wij distantie tegenover hem kunnen nemen in het boven-tijdeliljke, dat wij in het diepst van ons wezen ervaren. Slechts omdat de eeuw (het aevum) in ‘s menschen hart gelegd is, terwijl hij met geheel zijn functiemantel in den tijd besloten is, kan hij ook wezenlijk tijdsbesef hebben.(“Het tijdsprobleem en zijn antinomieën,” Philosophia Reformata,vol IV, 1939, 1-2)

[If we did not transcend time in the deepest concentration point of our existence, then our consciousness would necessarily be swallowed up in time, and we would thereby miss the possibility of religious self-concentration. We would know no problem of time, for time only becomes a real problem whenever we can take distance from it in the supratemporal, which we experience in the deepest part of our being. Man can have a real sense of time only because eternity (the aevum) is set in his heart, while he with his whole mantle of functions is enclosed in time.]

Dooyeweerd therefore distinguishes between our supratemporal, central heart, and our temporal cloak of bodily functions [functiemantel]. He speaks of the supratemporal heart as “the inner person” [de inwendige mensch].

In support of his view of the heart as supratemporal, Dooyeweerd cites the Biblical verse Ecclesiastes 3:11 in the Dutch translation (e.g. Statenvertaling), that God has set eternity in our hearts.

How could man direct himself toward eternal things, if eternity were not “set in his heart”? (NC I, 31 Ft. 1).

By this emphasis on the heart, Dooyeweerd nor does not mean to refer solely to our emotions. Our heart is the center of our being. It is the concentration point of all our cosmic functions, a subjective totality lying at the basis of all the functions in time (I, 5, 65). All our experience must have a relation to a selfhood (NC III, 58). Our experience within time is related to our true selfhood (I, vi, 31), which is our supratemporal heart. Our heart is our true center, in which we transcend time:

In time, meaning is broken into an incalculable diversity, which can come to a radical unity only in the religious centre of human existence. For this is the only sphere of our consciousness in which we can transcend time (NC I, 31).

For Dooyeweerd, our heart is therefore the unity of our life before it is divided into diverse functions. The heart is a central reality–the fullness of our central selfhood (NC I, 20). The reason that our selfhood transcends our theory is that the self is a supratemporal “totality” that goes beyond our theoretical thought (NC I, 5). The religious centre of our existence expresses itself in all modal aspects of time but can never be exhausted by these (NC I, 58). It is a “totality” that transcends the mutual coherence of modal aspects of temporal reality, just as our selfhood transcends the coherence of its functions in these aspects (I, 4, ft. 1; I, 5; III, 71 ft 1).

The heart is related to our creation as image of God:

The integral Origin of all things according to God’s plan of creation has its created image in the heart of man participating in the religious community of mankind. The latter is the integral and radical unity of all the temporal functions and structures of reality, which ought to be directed in the human spirit toward the Absolute Origin, in the personal commitment of love and service of God and one’s neighbour. (NC I, 174)

Development of the Idea of the supratemporal heart

Dooyeweerd says that his discovery of this idea of the supratemporal heart was a “turning point” for him (NC I, v-ix). He attributes it to Abraham Kuyper. This is odd, because at the time of this discovery, Dooyeweerd was not reading Kuyper. Dooyeweerd says that Kuyper was the one who “rediscovered” the biblical revelation of the heart as the religious center and root-unity of our entire existence. As I have also shown, Kuyper was influenced by Baader.

But Verburg says that the first time that the term ‘heart’ receives the central position in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is in his 1930 article “De Structuur der rechtsbeginselen en de methode der rechtswetenschap in het licht der wetsidee”:

Sin in its supratemporal religous sense is not a transgression of a norm in a meaning-functional sense, but concerns the heart, the root of the human race. It means the rejection of the eternal meaning of the law, the service of God. But sin is revealed in time in a rebellious attitude towards the meaning-functional ordinances, which God the Lord has set [gesteld] for each law-sphere (cited by Verburg 124, my translation).

Verburg says that the first time Dooyeweerd cites Prov 4:23 [“Keep thy heart with all due diligence, for out of it are the issues of life”] is in his 1932 article “De Zin der Geschiedenis en de ‘Leiding Gods’ in de Historische Ontwikeeling,” (Verburg 150).

In “De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee,” (1932), Dooyeweerd says that our selfhood, which is broken [geborken] into temporal meaning functions, is found in our heart, the religious root of our existence, which individually pariticpates in the rleigious root of the whole human race. (Verburg 156).

In “Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer” Philosophia Reformata (1939), 211, Dooyeweerd cites Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism:

‘Maar gelijk heel de schepping culmineert in den mensch, kan ook de verheerlijking haar voleinding eerst vindenen in den mensch, die naar Gods beeld geschapen is; niet omdat de mensch, die zoekt, maar omdat God zelf de eenig wezenlijke religieuse expressie door het semen religionis, alleen in het hart des menschen inschiep. God zelf maakt den mensch religieus door den sensus divinitatis, die Hij spelen laat op de snaren van zijn hart.”

[Just as the whole creation culminates in man, its glorification can only first find its fulfillment in man, who was created as God’s image; this is not because of man (who seeks), but because God Himself created in the human heart alone the only truly religious expression in the semen religionis[religious seed]. God himself makes man religious through the sensus divinitatis [the sense of the Divine], which He lets play on the strings of his heart].

Dooyeweerd also cites another passage from Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, where Kuyper refers to “that point in our consciousness where our life still remains undivided and still lives together in its unity.”

Now although Dooyeweerd cites Kuyper in support of the Idea of the supratemporal heart, it seems that Kuyper himself was not sure of this Idea. Kuyper praised Baader for his emphasis on embodiment, and for opposing a spiritualizing dualism. But in Het Calvinisme en de kunst Kuyper objects to the fact that Baader does not affirm a dualism of body and soul. Kuyper says that Baader did not maintain a strong opposition between Spirit and matter, and that this amounts to ‘pantheism.’ Baader’s philosophy is not pantheistic, but that is what Kuyper says. It therefore appears that despite his praise of Baader’s opposition to dualism by Baader’s emphasis on embodiment, Kuyper is here reintroducing a dualism of his own. And it is interesting that Dooyeweerd later criticized Kuyper for maintaining exactly this dualism. (‘Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,’ Philosophia Reformata 1939, 193-232).

Kuyper gave his Lectures on Calvinism in 1898. Did Kuyper disavow his dualistic division between body and soul, or did Dooyeweerd read his idea of the supratemporal heart back into Kuyper? In any event, in Dooyeweerd’s Idea of a nondualistic supratemporal heart, his philosophy agrees with Baader. Instead of a dualism, Dooyeweerd sets out the idea of the heart as the supratemporal integral religious root of the whole of our temporal existence, including all of our temporal functions. The heart therefore unites both the “spiritual” and the “material” aspects of our temporal reality.

Such an idea of the supratemporal heart is found in Baader. The supratemporal heart is the center of Man. In Biblical language the heart is called the inner man, and it speaks of good and bad thoughts of the heart (Begründung, 79 ft. 9). Baader cites Tauler:

There is in our hearts, as Tauler says, a center in which no creature can fathom (eindringen) (Elementarbegriffe 534).

‘Creature’ here must be understood as meaning temporal reality, as distinct from the heart, which is supratemporal.

Baader makes a distinction between our inner and outer being. The inner (or higher) is the central heart; the outer is our temporal, creaturely, bodily, or ‘earthly’ reality. He also refers to the outer being as the ‘peripheral’ reality. The Central Totality is different than just the sum of all the peripheral points (Peripherie-Punkte); rather, the Center stands as essence (Inbegriff) over them. Just as the sum of all creation does not constitute a creator, so the Center is more than the sum of the periphery (Begründung 63 ft. 7).

Bavinck makes reference to the heart, and quotes the same Biblical reference from Proverbs 4:23 as does Dooyeweerd:

Man tries to give direction to his life by his consciousness, but that life itself has its origin in the depth of his personality. It must not be forgotten, Coe says truly, that though reason is necessary to guide the ship of life, feeling is the stream that propelsit.30 Beneath consciousness there is a world of instincts and habits, notions and inclinations, abilities and capacities, which continually sets on fire the course of nature. Beneath the head lies the heart, out of which are the issues of life. (The Philosophy of Revelation, Longmans Green, 1909, p. 215).

The Idea of the heart as a supratemporal center of all our temporal functions is also of importance in some Hindu philosophy. See my book on Abhishiktananda.Abhishiktananda refers to the “ascent to the depth of the heart.” Ramana Maharshi also refers to our selfhood as our heart.

This Hindu Idea of the selfhood or heart influenced Frederik van Eeden’s Idea of the selfhood, as well as the later Ideas of C.G. Jung, who expressly refers to the Upanishads in support. See Frederik van Eeden. It is therefore possible that Dooyeweerd was influenced by van Eeden in his Idea of the supratemporal heart. Van Eeden in turn was also familiar with Baader.

Opposition to Dooyeweerd’s Idea of the Supratemporal Heart

Hepp was opposed to what he called Dooyeweerd’s “heart theory” because he wanted to maintain a dualism (Verburg 218). He believed that the supratemporal heart contradicted the traditional Calvinistic theology of a dualism between body and soul. I believe that Hepp was correct in this; Dooyeweerd was opposed to all dualisms; it is open to argument whether or not such dualisms are inherent in Calvinism.

Dooyeweerd certainly opposed the traditional view that we are composed of a body and a soul. He says that the body that is put off [afgelegd] at death is the whole earthly existence of man in all temporal spheres of life, as this existence is interwoven in individuality structures. Bodily death is in fact the freeing from all earthly bonds. It is not just a material body that is given up, a body that is conceived as being closed up in the physical-chemical aspects of temporal reality. And the soul, which Scriptures assure us continues after death, must not be understood as any part of this temporal earthly existence, nor as the theoretical abstraction of a substance that has only psychical and normative fucntions. The soul is rather the full human selfhood, one’s heart, in the sense of the center of one’s whole existence, of which the body is only the temporal organ. (March 19/1938 response to Curators; excerpted in Verburg 226-227).

Josef Bohatec, the Austrian scholar on Calvin, and a personal friend of Dooyeweerd, did not find the use of ‘cor’ or heart in Calvin in the sense of referring to our whole human existence. (Verburg 191, citing letter to Dooyeweerd from Bohatec).

What is surprising is that others have rejected Dooyeweerd’s Idea of the supratemporal heart on the grounds that is is dualistic! Steen sees dualistic traces of the nature-grace Ground Motive in Dooyeweerd’s idea of supratemporality. Dooyeweerd’s colleague and brother-in-law D.H. Th. Vollenhoven never accepted supratemporality. It was also rejected by C.A. van Peursen, J.M. Spier, Hendrik van Riessen, S.U. Zuidema and K.J. Popma (Steen, 7, 13, 24, 30, 126, 154). It is interesting that Vollenhoven was aware of Baader and characterizes his thought as ‘semi-mystical,’ which was also Vollenhoven’s criticism of Kuyper (Bril, krt #49). Olthuis sees the supratemporal heart as dualistic: ‘Dooyeweerd on Religion and Faith’ (Legacy 21, 33, 34). See also McIntire (‘Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy of History,’ Legacy 88) and Hart (‘Problems of Time: An Essay,’ The Idea of a Christian Philosophy, 41). Geertsema rejects the supratemporal heart on the grounds that it is ‘anthropocentric’ (“Dooyeweerd’s Transcendental Critique: Transforming it Hermeneutically,” Contemporary Reflections, 93, 97).

One reason for regarding Dooyeweerd’s view of the supratemporal as dualistic is based on an incorrect understanding of the supratemporal. It is assumed that the supratemporal is a static being. But both Baader and Dooyeweerd reject the Greek view of eternity as static and unchanging. See supratemporal.

Vollenhoven, who rejected the Idea of the supratemporal heart, wanted to maintain the Idea of the heart as a temporal but pre-functional unity. Hart followed Vollenhoven in this view. Dooyeweerd was certainly aware of this idea of a pre-functional concentration point in time. But he explicitly rejects this idea! He says,

But, at least within the horizon of cosmic time we have no single experience of something “pre-functional”, i.e. of anything that would transcend the modal diversity of the aspects. We gain this experience only in the religious concentration of the radix of our existence upon the absolute Origin. In this concentration we transcend cosmic time. How could man direct himself toward eternal things, if eternity were not “set in his heart” (NC I, 31, fn. 1).

Therefore, Dooyeweerd rejects the notion of a pre-functional heart because it is not something we experience. This implies that we do have experience of the supratemporal heart!

Another reason that some people have rejected the supratemporal appears to me to be based on what Dooyeweerd would call a nominalistic religious individualism. For example, J.D. Dengerink says that the Archimedean point cannot mean man in religious unity; there would be as many centers then as individuals (as many concentrations points as men on earth (“Mens, kosmos, Tijdelijkheid, Eeuwigheid,” Philosophia Reformata, 1989, 83-102, p. 84). But this fails to understand Dooyeweerd’s view of individuality as itself a differentiation in time, and the supratemporal heart as also supra-individual.

Revised Setp. 26/07

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