As described in his wonderful new book, Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, when Tom read that interview, he was angry that someone else knew more about food than he did. He had his receptionist find my phone number and give me a call. I was out, but got the message on my answering machine when I returned, that a Dr. Cowan wanted to speak with me. I called back, thinking that a doctor would be too busy to speak to me during the day, and to let him know that he could phone me in the evening. “No, no,” said the receptionist, “he wants to speak to you right now!” So Tom left his patient to come to the phone, and that was the beginning of a long professional relationship. Tom organized my first seminar—in New Hampshire—has served on the board of the Weston A. Price Foundation since its beginning, and has educated our members with his fascinating lectures since our earliest conferences. We worked together on his book The Fourfold Path to Healing (which took seven years to produce) and then the Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care.
I would describe Tom’s new book as a shining example, a paradigm, of what happens when a person puts his mind to solving a riddle, a mystery, and keeps his attention on that riddle until he finds the answer. If anyone has done this, you know that wonderful things begin to come your way, the answers slowly manifest. It happened to me when I asked the question, how do healthy traditional people eat? What are their diets really like? And then as I thought and thought, and searched and searched, the answers appeared. Many came from the work of Weston Price, but others came from surprising sources. One was Jacques de Langre, founder of the Grain & Salt Society, who in a telephone conversation with me about salt, just casually mentioned the importance of fermented foods, including grains. He told me about a couple of books on these subjects available only in French (and then I knew why the Universe had conspired to make me learn French!)
Anyway, since his first introduction to the work of Rudolf Steiner, Tom was haunted by Steiner’s statement that in order for mankind to make spiritual progress in the physical world, he must realize that the heart is not a pump. What a strange statement! Everyone knows that the heart is a pump! And why would it make such a difference to the spiritual evolution of mankind if the heart were not a pump?
Tom’s early lectures on the subject were spellbinding. He soon had us convinced that the heart is, indeed, not a pump. A pump makes a slow-moving liquid move faster, but the blood is rushing at full speed when it reaches the heart. Rather, the heart functions in part as a hydraulic ram, a device that uses the force of moving water to vector that water to places where it is needed—in the case of the heart, some of the blood is shunted to the head, while the rest moves out into the arteries. As the blood begins its circulation throughout the body, it slows down, and when it reaches the tiny capillaries, so small that only one blood cell can pass through at a time, the movement of the blood actually comes to a stop. Each blood cell then oscillates slightly before it begins its journey back to the heart, moving faster and faster—in effect defying the forces of gravity as it moves up the arms, legs and torso to reach the midpoint of the body.
One thing Tom had not figured out in those early lectures is just what causes the blood to accelerate in the venules and veins as it journeys back to the heart. Now Tom has an explanation—but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is!
And why is it so important to understand that the heart is not a pump? The notion that the heart is merely a pump derives from the modern, materialistic view that we live in a clockwork universe, and that life is a kind of mechanism, or a bunch of mechanisms put together, much like a car is a bunch of mechanisms put together. But as Tom shows in his book, the heart is a cosmic organism that is tied to the mysteries of the universe in its geometry and rhythms; that one of its many roles is to sense what is in the blood and communicate to the rest of the body what is needed. More than the brain, the heart is a repository of our interests, talents and relationships—as evidenced by the many examples of heart transplant patients taking on the personality of their donor.
Properly understood, the heart provides a model for human government, one in which the government listens to the people, the way the heart listens to the blood, a model for human society governed from the people up, not from the government down.
And finally, a better understanding of the heart’s role in the body lends itself to a gentler type of medical practice, one that strengthens the heart with gentle herbs and satisfying diets, rather than opens up the chest with a circular saw, prescribes poisonous medicines or dictates soulless low-fat foods. As Ben Greenfield says, “If you have a heart and want to live a long time, you must, must read this book.”
Did you know that Dr. Tom Cowan wrote a whole series of fascinating articles for the Weston A. Price Foundation in his “Ask the Doctor” column? Become a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation to receive the Foundation’s quarterly journal, filled with fascinating articles by thoughtful, holistic scientists and practitioners like Dr. Tom.