Prima Materia, Alchemy and Nature's Blueprint for the Heart: Vortex rings, Vasomotion and Flow Patterns by Prue Jeffries
This article was re-written in May 2023 for the Biodynamic Craniosacral Associations Journal 2023 “The Cranial Wave”. The 2023 Issue is called “The Heart of the Matter”.
What can “The Heart of the Matter” mean to me? What can it mean for you? There are many interpretations. Let’s go on a creative, imaginal, ecological, biological, and alchemical journey together. Exploring the etymological root of Matter. I discovered the Latin word Materia. Meaning, “substance of which something is made” also “timber and wood”.
Trees are the “substance” that produces wood. The flesh of a Tree is an actual matrix, a netting. We too have matrices in our bodies – trabeculae of our bones come to mind. Trees have rings that result from patterns in vascular tissues. The spiral laying down of Tree cells are memories following the shaping of water’s movements. Of water finding its way into the air, the ethers and back to the earth.
The circle is a primary motif of life, metaphorical and biological. We see it recreated over and over in biological systems throughout our planet. Our hearts and circulatory system are created and maintained through the movement of vortices – of circles and rings.
The matrix of Tree roots communicates as a network of branching through the substance of the soil within which a delicate web of biochemistry, nutrients and information exchange occurs. The patterning, shapes and communication are similar to our own nervous and vascular systems. Through the roots, what appears as an individual Tree, is the entire forest in unity. One organism of interconnection. Wood comes from the fluid interconnection, netting, branching, and ringing of Trees.
Through the branching, spiraling circulatory system and the direct felt-sense experience of my heart, I experience life as personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal. The heart is a center of convergence, interconnection, and transformation. For many of the body’s biological processes.
I experience my Heart as a Tree. Branching into infinity, spiraling with creative waters, rooting into belonging with the earth. How can I experience these patterns in my body? In ways that expand my sense of myself and connect with the depth of nature?
Materia – The Substance of Wood
Going back into the etymology of Materia – as wood. It is a substance used as fuel, for energy and transformation. Igniting wood creates fire. There is change from one element to another. Bringing energy, warmth, heat, light, purification, life, and further alchemical possibilities with fire. By exploring Trees and our bodies, we have moved through the elements of water, the earth, the air, wood and now fire from the light of the sun and stars. The Heart of the Matter has ignited as a “Heart on Fire.”
Both Tree roots and the circulatory system of our bodies have the element of metal. For Trees iron is essential to photosynthesis. We have iron in our blood. Trees have all the elements of creation in their being, as do we. Which we can experience embodied in the heart. Here in the fires of the Materia, the substance, of the Heart – all elements converge, cycle and change.
I could see the fire of the heart, as passion. It can melt, soften, expand with the element of water into compassion. Physiologically, the sinoatrial node sends an electrical charge to fire up the heart muscles. To move, contract, spiral and spin blood. In each spiral, assuring life. The etymology does not end here. The Latin Materia, and might I add Matrix, both derive from the Latin root Mater. Mater which became “Mother” in English.
The Heart of the Mother – Prima Materia
Our heart is the mother of our lives and moves us to mother or nurture life itself. Do we find reciprocity and gratitude for nature? The Heart of the Mother. What does this mean for you? Was it the Heart of the Mother that brought us into life? Literally? Cosmologically? We can think of our personal meanings and relationships with Mother.
Our hearts are the center of being, where we find belonging within ourselves, each other, and life. With the earth, creation, and the cosmos. I will explore the Heart of the Mother, as the Prima Materia, the Prime Matter, the alchemical first matter. Sometimes seen as the primordial, formless, state from which all emerges. In ancient Greek cosmogony it is the fertility of Chaos. The Prime Mother, the Heart of the Matter, is the essence of everything.
Across cultures it has been called The Rainbow, The Serpent, the Water of Life, the World Soul. Is the heart the Great Work of the Alchemists? We can enter the alchemy of the heart, the mother. In the mystery of the heart, all the elements merge in the fires of transformation and awakening.
From a cosmogenic and evolutionary biology perspective, the development of our hearts started long before our personal and collective human lives. Perhaps it started in the first swirling from Chaos, of the Universe, and later the Earth’s waters. In Orphic Cosmogonies the motif, the movements that shape our heart and all of life began in the fecundity of the Cosmic Egg. Within the form of an egg, much like the shaping of our heart, water will spiral. The Orphic Egg is often depicted with a serpent wrapped around it. This serpent represents primal waveform, and so movement. From the spiral shaped egg, sprung the androgynous self-procreated primeval Eros, connecting life and spreading the fires of cosmic, universal love.
The impetus for the procreation of the many from the one, and the one from the formless. I like to call it Original Diversity in Unity. A continuum of inclusion rather than a world of fixed opposites and duality. Love. From creation mythologies, the imaginary, to the biological and ecological. How can the heart teach us to broaden? To find a way to connect with life, shift beliefs or ideologies, even discard them. This is an inquiry for me. What happens in my development as a practitioner, as a human, when I shift or broaden my perspective on the process of life?
Delving into the biological and scientific study of the heart, we can look at how a blueprint for the heart’s development started millions of years ago as the Earth came into creation. Before we as human beings existed. It started in the substance, the matter, the Waters of Life.
Looking at the Heart from an Evolutionary Biology Perspective
As a BCTA/NA Approved Craniosacral Teacher I offer two advanced classes called “The Heart: Presence, Interdependence & Circulation” and “The Heart of Flow” where we explore the fluid dynamics of the heart from an evolutionary biology perspective. I also use evolutionary biology along with Meta-themes in the practitioner training for the holistic awareness and somatic education process called NAIO® that I have developed.
A valuable contribution for practitioners, as we work with the vastness of the heart is to explore biological movements. I find using the fluid practice of Continuum, helps embody insights from the practice and learn together. These are all ways to support experiences that move beyond personal and group identity. These movements are the foundation of creating life and are still occurring within us.
Evolutionary biology provides insights into the remarkable adaptations and structures that have emerged in the natural world over millions of years. Among these fascinating phenomena are vortex rings, which play a crucial role in various natural systems.
From the universal birthing of solar systems to the earth’s atmosphere, oceans and volcanic magma, vortex rings are ubiquitous. Wherever there is fluid dynamics, there are vortex rings at work. They shape the development and function of the heart, vasomotion, and flow patterns. I would like to shed some light on their role within the cardiovascular system.
Understanding Vortex Rings
Vortex rings are coherent, self-sustaining structures composed of rotating fluid or gas. They form when a fluid is displaced and set into motion in a circular or toroidal path. They exhibit unique properties such as stability, momentum preservation, and efficient propagation over long distances. Vortex rings are prevalent in nature. Countless organisms have harnessed their benefits for survival and efficiency.
Role of Vortex Rings in Nature
Vortex rings found throughout the natural world serve a variety of functions in different organisms. Birds, for example, generate vortex rings during flight. This enables them to maintain lift and maneuver with agility.
In aquatic environments marine animals like jellyfish use vortex rings for locomotion and prey capture. You can see it in the slalom swim of trout, and in the propulsion of cuttlefish through the water and air. Yes – they fly! In many ways the bodies of cuttlefish, with their chambers using vortex rings and spiral funneling for energy conservation and jet-propulsion are an ancient prototype for the spiraling and contracting of chambers in the efficiency of heart function.
Plants such as dandelions, glide through the air using vortex rings for seed dispersal, maximizing their chances of successful reproduction. These examples highlight the versatility and significance of vortex rings in nature. As a surfer, we are looking, feeling, and riding waves with vortex rings for sheer joy. Dolphins and Belugas will often make vortex rings to play with. Clearly a lot of common watery love occurs through vortex rings.
Vortex Rings and the Development of the Heart
The heart, a complex organ responsible for supporting the swirling of blood throughout the body, relies on vortex rings for its development and efficient functioning. During embryonic development, the heart begins as a linear tube, a series of intricate events transform it into a chambered organ. Research suggests that vortex rings play a pivotal role in shaping the heart’s structure during this development process.
As the linear heart tube loops and forms chambers, the blood flow within generates vortex rings. These vortex rings guide the flow of blood. Ensuring the efficient distribution of oxygen and nutrients to the body’s tissues. In human and mammalian hearts, as the chambers form. The muscle fibers have a 3-dimensional spiral arrangement. Reflecting the helical flow forms of water and throughout nature.
Vortex rings within the heart chambers facilitate the mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. They promote efficient oxygen delivery. Prevent blood stasis and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The rotational flow patterns of vortex rings optimize the heart’s pumping efficiency. Enhancing stroke volume and ensuring adequate blood supply with each heartbeat.
Vortex Rings and Vasomotion
Vasomotion refers to the rhythmic oscillations in the diameter of blood vessels. Particularly arterioles. This phenomenon plays a crucial role in regulating blood flow and blood pressure. Recent studies have discovered the presence of vortex rings in the vasculature. Suggesting their involvement in vasomotion.
Vortex rings within blood vessels contribute to effective vasodilation and vasoconstriction. The rhythmic contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle cells in blood vessel walls, coupled with the presence of vortex rings. Modulate blood flow and regulate systemic blood pressure. These vortex rings create flow patterns that optimize the exchange of nutrients and waste products in the vasculature. Further enhancing the cardiovascular system’s efficiency.
Vasomotion impacts health in nearly all the body’s organ systems, most importantly within the intestines and the brain also. I explore vasomotion in-depth for the Glymphatics of the CNS advanced seminar I offer.
Linear and Laminar Flow Patterns
In addition to vortex rings, the evolutionary biology perspective of flow patterns within the cardiovascular system provides valuable insights. The heart and blood vessels exhibit two primary flow patterns: linear and laminar.
Linear flow patterns are characterized by a straight, unidirectional flow of blood along a vessel. This pattern is observed in large arteries and veins, where high flow rates and low resistance allow for efficient transport of blood throughout the body. Linear flow patterns contribute to the rapid distribution of oxygen and nutrients to various tissues.
Laminar flow patterns involve blood flow in adjacent layers. Each layer sliding smoothly over the adjacent one. This pattern is observed in smaller blood vessels and capillaries. Laminar flow promotes optimal nutrient exchange and waste removal in the microcirculation. Facilitating the proper functioning of tissues.
At the time of writing this article the above is what is generally accepted to occur. There is a more in-depth exploration to be discussed or alternate views. As far as flow patterns in general, and within the arteries and veins.
Nature’s Blueprint for the Heart
Vortex rings, along with linear and laminar flow patterns, exemplify the intricate evolutionary adaptations within the cardiovascular system. From the development and efficient functioning of the heart. To the regulation of blood flow and nutrient exchange. These phenomena play critical roles in maintaining optimal cardiovascular health.
Exploring vortex rings and flow patterns can provide valuable insights into cardiac development, vasomotion regulation, and potential therapeutic strategies for cardiovascular disorders. Nature’s blueprint for the heart and vasculature continues to unfold. Revealing evolution’s wonders of artistry in optimizing the cardiovascular system.
Creating, Sustaining and Evolving Life
From a cosmic perspective our hearts are aeons of creative genius spiraled into billions of years of life asearth. The heart’s knowledge is ancient, and its wisdom is timeless, vast, mysterious and beyond categories. Just as vortex rings are ubiquitous in nature so, too, the heart field permeates all of life. It is through the hearts transformative capacities we can find the ability to meet in unity with the primary substance that generates and sustains life – the Mater – in a connubial kiss of transmutation.