Chapter 6

The Heart, Lungs, and Liver Icon

January 8, 2022

When all things were in disorder, God created all the measures and harmonies possible:

  • in each thing in relation to itself, and
  • in all things in relation to each other

Back then, nothing had any proportion except by accident. Nothing even was named.

All these the creator first set in order, and out of them he constructed the universe, which was a single animal comprehending in itself all other animals, mortal and immortal.

Now of the divine, he himself was the creator, but the creation of the mortal he committed to his offspring. They, imitating him, received from him the immortal principle of the soul.

Around this they proceeded to fashion a mortal body, and made it to be the vehicle of the soul.

They constructed within the body a soul of another nature which was mortal, subject to terrible and irresistible affections.

  1. First was pleasure, the greatest incitement to evil
  2. Then pain, which deters from good
  3. Rashness and fear, two foolish counsellors
  4. Anger hard to be appeased
  5. Hope easily led astray.

These they mingled with irrational sense and with all-daring love according to necessary laws, and so framed man.

Wherefore, fearing to pollute the divine any more than was absolutely unavoidable, they gave to the mortal nature a separate habitation in another part of the body, placing the neck between them to be the isthmus and boundary, which they constructed between the head and breast, to keep them apart.

In the breast, in the thorax, they encased the mortal soul.

The one part of this was superior. The other was inferior. And so they divided the cavity of the thorax into 2 parts and placed the midriff to be a wall of partition between them.

That part of the inferior soul which is endowed with courage and passion and loves contention they settled nearer the head, midway between the midriff and the neck. This is so that it might:

  • be under the rule of reason, and
  • join with it in controlling and restraining the desires when they are no longer obey the word of command from the citadel.

The Heart

The heart is the knot of the veins and the fountain of the blood which races through all the limbs. This was the guard.

Reason proclaimed any wrong passion assailing the body externally or internally. The heart would quickly let body perceiving the commands of reason and thus allow the principle of the best to have the command in all of them.

The Lungs

But the gods, foreknowing that the palpitation of the heart in the expectation of danger and the swelling and excitement of passion was caused by fire, formed and implanted as a supporter to the heart the lung.

It was soft and bloodless, and also had within hollows like the pores of a sponge, in order that by receiving the breath and the drink, it might give coolness and the power of respiration and alleviate the heat.

They cut the air-channels leading to the lung, and placed the lung about the heart as a soft spring, that, when passion was rife within, the heart, beating against a yielding body, might be cooled and suffer less, and might thus become more ready to join with passion in the service of reason.

The part of the soul which desires meats and drinks and the other things of which it has need by reason of the bodily nature, they placed between the midriff and the boundary of the navel, contriving in all this region a sort of manger for the food of the body;

There they bound it down like a wild animal which was chained up with man, and must be nourished if man was to exist.

They appointed this lower creation his place here in order that he might be always feeding at the manger, and have his dwelling as far as might be from the council-chamber, making as little noise and disturbance as possible, and permitting the best part to advise quietly for the good of the whole.

This lower principle in man would not comprehend reason.

This is why God combined with it the liver. He placed it in the house of the lower nature, contriving that it should be solid and smooth, and bright and sweet, and should also have a bitter quality, in order that the power of thought, which proceeds from the mind, might be reflected as in a mirror which receives likenesses of objects and gives back images of them to the sight.

and so might strike terror into the desires, when, making use of the bitter part of the liver, to which it is akin, it comes threatening and invading, and diffusing this bitter element swiftly through the whole liver produces colours like bile, and contracting every part makes it wrinkled and rough;

Twisting out of its right place and contorting the lobe and closing and shutting up the vessels and gates, causes pain and loathing.

The converse happens when some gentle inspiration of the understanding pictures images of an opposite character, and allays the bile and bitterness by refusing to stir or touch the nature opposed to itself, but by making use of the natural sweetness of the liver, corrects all things and makes them to be right and smooth and free, and renders the portion of the soul which resides about the liver happy and joyful, enabling it to pass the night in peace, and to practise divination in sleep, inasmuch as it has no share in mind and reason.


The authors of our being, remembering the command of their father when he bade them create the human race as good as they could, that they might correct our inferior parts and make them to attain a measure of truth, placed in the liver the seat of divination.

He who would understand what he remembers to have been said, whether in a dream or when he was awake, by the prophetic and inspired nature, or would determine by reason the meaning of the apparitions which he has seen, and what indications they afford to this man or that, of past, present or future good and evil, must first recover his wits.

But, while he continues demented, he cannot judge of the visions which he sees or the words which he utters;

The ancient saying ‘only a man who has his wits can act or judge about himself and his own affairs’ is very true. This is why it is customary to appoint interpreters to be judges of the true inspiration.

Some persons call them prophets. They are quite unaware that they are only the expositors of dark sayings and visions, and are not to be called prophets at all, but only interpreters of prophecy.

Such is the nature of the liver, which is placed as we have described in order that it may give prophetic intimations. During the life of each individual these intimations are plainer, but after his death the liver becomes blind, and delivers oracles too obscure to be intelligible. The neighbouring organ (the spleen) is situated on the left-hand side, and is constructed with a view of keeping the liver bright and pure,—like a napkin, always ready prepared and at hand to clean the mirror.

When any impurities arise in the region of the liver by reason of disorders of the body, the loose nature of the spleen, which is composed of a hollow and bloodless tissue, receives them all and clears them away, and when filled with the unclean matter, swells and festers, but, again, when the body is purged, settles down into the same place as before, and is humbled.

The creation of the rest of the body follows next in order, and this we may investigate in a similar manner. And it appears to be very meet that the body should be framed on the following principles:—

The authors of our race were aware that we should be intemperate in eating and drinking, and take a good deal more than was necessary or proper, by reason of gluttony.

The gods made:

  • the lower belly to be a receptacle for the superfluous meat and drink
  • the convolution of the intestines, so that the food would not pass quickly and compel the body to require more food.