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Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor's Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

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Thomas Cowan was a 20-year-old Duke grad--bright, skeptical, and already disillusioned with industrial capitalism--when he joined the Peace Corps in the mid-1970s for a two-year tour in Swaziland. There, he encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner and Weston A. Price--two men whose ideas would fascinate and challenge him for decades to come. Both drawn to the art of healing a Thomas Cowan was a 20-year-old Duke grad--bright, skeptical, and already disillusioned with industrial capitalism--when he joined the Peace Corps in the mid-1970s for a two-year tour in Swaziland. There, he encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner and Weston A. Price--two men whose ideas would fascinate and challenge him for decades to come. Both drawn to the art of healing and repelled by the way medicine was--and continues to be--practiced in the United States, Cowan returned from Swaziland, went to medical school, and established a practice in New Hampshire and, later, San Francisco. For years, as he raised his three children, suffered the setback of divorce, and struggled with a heart condition, he remained intrigued by the work of Price and Steiner and, in particular, with Steiner's provocative claim that the heart is not a pump. Determined to practice medicine in a way that promoted healing rather than compounded ailments, Cowan dedicated himself to understanding whether Steiner's claim could possibly be true. And if Steiner was correct, what, then, is the heart? What is its true role in the human body? In this deeply personal, rigorous, and riveting account, Dr. Cowan offers up a daring claim: Not only was Steiner correct that the heart is not a pump, but our understanding of heart disease--with its origins in the blood vessels--is completely wrong. And this gross misunderstanding, with its attendant medications and risky surgeries, is the reason heart disease remains the most common cause of death worldwide. In Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, Dr. Thomas Cowan presents a new way of understanding the body's most central organ. He offers a new look at what it means to be human and how we can best care for ourselves--and one another.


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Thomas Cowan was a 20-year-old Duke grad--bright, skeptical, and already disillusioned with industrial capitalism--when he joined the Peace Corps in the mid-1970s for a two-year tour in Swaziland. There, he encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner and Weston A. Price--two men whose ideas would fascinate and challenge him for decades to come. Both drawn to the art of healing a Thomas Cowan was a 20-year-old Duke grad--bright, skeptical, and already disillusioned with industrial capitalism--when he joined the Peace Corps in the mid-1970s for a two-year tour in Swaziland. There, he encountered the work of Rudolf Steiner and Weston A. Price--two men whose ideas would fascinate and challenge him for decades to come. Both drawn to the art of healing and repelled by the way medicine was--and continues to be--practiced in the United States, Cowan returned from Swaziland, went to medical school, and established a practice in New Hampshire and, later, San Francisco. For years, as he raised his three children, suffered the setback of divorce, and struggled with a heart condition, he remained intrigued by the work of Price and Steiner and, in particular, with Steiner's provocative claim that the heart is not a pump. Determined to practice medicine in a way that promoted healing rather than compounded ailments, Cowan dedicated himself to understanding whether Steiner's claim could possibly be true. And if Steiner was correct, what, then, is the heart? What is its true role in the human body? In this deeply personal, rigorous, and riveting account, Dr. Cowan offers up a daring claim: Not only was Steiner correct that the heart is not a pump, but our understanding of heart disease--with its origins in the blood vessels--is completely wrong. And this gross misunderstanding, with its attendant medications and risky surgeries, is the reason heart disease remains the most common cause of death worldwide. In Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, Dr. Thomas Cowan presents a new way of understanding the body's most central organ. He offers a new look at what it means to be human and how we can best care for ourselves--and one another.

30 review for Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor's Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

  1. 4 out of 5

    The Book

    I really enjoyed this, but it felt like half a book - like we didn't get deep enough into the topic, and in almost every chapter the author made a statement that I wished he'd gone into a little more to show the veracity of it. That said, it's a pretty easy read and the subject matter is fascinating. My key takeaways: live a good life, take care of your physical health and your mental and spiritual wellbeing to keep your heart and body healthy! - The heart may be a hydraulic ram, not a pump; mov I really enjoyed this, but it felt like half a book - like we didn't get deep enough into the topic, and in almost every chapter the author made a statement that I wished he'd gone into a little more to show the veracity of it. That said, it's a pretty easy read and the subject matter is fascinating. My key takeaways: live a good life, take care of your physical health and your mental and spiritual wellbeing to keep your heart and body healthy! - The heart may be a hydraulic ram, not a pump; movement of the blood originates in the capillaries [but then when people's hearts stop beating, how come we revive them by shocking the heart into movement again? my question] - about 80 percent of ischemic events [no oxygen to cells] are preceded by chronic reductions in parasympathetic activity, which can be brought on by smoking, emotional stress, inactivity, poor diet and hypertension, followed by a significant, often drastic increase in sympathetic activity such as an acute traumatic event or physical exertion - if we want to prevent heart attacks, we must protect our parasympathetic activity, use medicines that support it, and nourish the heart with what it needs - The known things that nourish our parasympathetic nervous system are contact with nature, loving relations, trust, economic security, and sex - a diet of liberal amounts of fat and low in glucose is crucial for heart health [I concluded the same thing from reading Trick And Treat, but there were more studies to back this up in that book which I enjoyed]

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mwalkes

    When Dr. Cowan writes a book, I read it. When he writes a blog, I follow it. I have heard him speak at seven consecutive conferences where he has already shared much of this information. That said, this book is a delightful read. It is both light and deep. It is rich with personal anecdotes that make the ethereal information more meaningful. It provides the reader an exquisite peek at the cosmos and its significance. Years ago Dr. Cowan encouraged us, especially women, to really connect with the When Dr. Cowan writes a book, I read it. When he writes a blog, I follow it. I have heard him speak at seven consecutive conferences where he has already shared much of this information. That said, this book is a delightful read. It is both light and deep. It is rich with personal anecdotes that make the ethereal information more meaningful. It provides the reader an exquisite peek at the cosmos and its significance. Years ago Dr. Cowan encouraged us, especially women, to really connect with the moon; to relish its energy. That still causes me to pause and “take in” the awesomeness of the moon instead of giving it just a passing glance. In the same way, after reading Human Heart, Cosmic Heart, crossing a stream of water traversed many times before, the vortex made by the running water filled me with awe. Read this book. It might make you appreciate everyday cosmic “miracles.” Or it might save your life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Yep. Here we go. Two reviews in a day. And they are both five stars. Human Heart, Cosmic Heart was an interesting, mind-blowing and sometimes frightening book to read. I don't mean frightening in the Stephen King way, though. I mean frightening in the sense of the sheer incompetence of the medical industry on the concept of the heart, circulation and the nervous system (I believe there is sheer incompetence in many other things on our part about the medical industry, but I'm not going to get into Yep. Here we go. Two reviews in a day. And they are both five stars. Human Heart, Cosmic Heart was an interesting, mind-blowing and sometimes frightening book to read. I don't mean frightening in the Stephen King way, though. I mean frightening in the sense of the sheer incompetence of the medical industry on the concept of the heart, circulation and the nervous system (I believe there is sheer incompetence in many other things on our part about the medical industry, but I'm not going to get into that right now.) What Cowan says is that there is simply no way that the heart PUMPS the blood down and then back up. It is physically impossible. There is no way blood could return back UP the arms and legs to your heart with the strength of a single pump. He then talks about the why's and how's of this concept. As for the book itself, it was incredible. The writing was briliant. Engaging. The whole book is about science and anatomy, and I never felt bored. I highly recommend looking up EVERY word you don't recognize in the dictionary. It helps a ton. I also highly recommend this book. It really should be mandatory reading for everyone in and studying for the medical profession. But teachers wouldn't stand for it. 5 Stars EDIT: I figured I should write something of what Dr. Cowan says the heart does, cause I did a very bad job of explaining that. He believes that to make the blood move, the body exercises the same action that allows sap to move to the tops of trees. This is the capillary property. It, to my understanding, creates a sort of gel pushed against the side of the arteries. The main fluids sort of rebound off of this gel and are pushed upwards. I think that's what he said. As for the heart, he said that it's purpose is to create vortexes, which push out and pull in the blood. There is an entire chapter on the geometry of the heart that explains this. Still 5 Stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    3 1/2 stars. An alternative view of the function, health and healing of the heart from a doctor with many years of practice as an Anthroposophical physician but who is now an independent physician. It gave me a lot to think about, though I’m not sure how I could verify independently some of the material that was most interesting to me, though he gives references. How does a nonspecialist evaluate controversies in a technical subject where a minority view is opposed to the accepted majority view? 3 1/2 stars. An alternative view of the function, health and healing of the heart from a doctor with many years of practice as an Anthroposophical physician but who is now an independent physician. It gave me a lot to think about, though I’m not sure how I could verify independently some of the material that was most interesting to me, though he gives references. How does a nonspecialist evaluate controversies in a technical subject where a minority view is opposed to the accepted majority view? It’s just assertion on both sides if you’re not willing to dismiss the minority view simply because it is held by a minority, which I’m not willing to do, and not obsessed enough with the matter to obtain the qualifications to verify it personally.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Devesh Dahale

    Excellent book. The author highlights the mystery and magic of the human heart in ways that transcend the conventional medical understanding of it as a mere mechanical pump. The book gives you an appreciation of how the heart functions, how to take good care of it, and how to prevent heart disease. The author's deep understanding of the heart and its significance well beyond an organ that pumps blood is what makes this book special. I have gained a new perspective on the significance of the hear Excellent book. The author highlights the mystery and magic of the human heart in ways that transcend the conventional medical understanding of it as a mere mechanical pump. The book gives you an appreciation of how the heart functions, how to take good care of it, and how to prevent heart disease. The author's deep understanding of the heart and its significance well beyond an organ that pumps blood is what makes this book special. I have gained a new perspective on the significance of the heart - thanks to this book. One piece of constructive criticism: Although the last chapter was very well written and befitting of the ending chapter of the book, it felt as if the overall ending of the book was shortened. A little more explanation of the important labs and a slightly longer version of the book would make it even better!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amber Kelly

    I really enjoyed this book. Finally, a Doctor who questions and investigates one of the most amazing and powerful organs in the body but not just from a medical viewpoint. I am a Craniosacral Therapist and love to read more about the 'energy' aspect of the body as well as the science and other critical factors to good health including diet and natural medication. A very good read. I really enjoyed this book. Finally, a Doctor who questions and investigates one of the most amazing and powerful organs in the body but not just from a medical viewpoint. I am a Craniosacral Therapist and love to read more about the 'energy' aspect of the body as well as the science and other critical factors to good health including diet and natural medication. A very good read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

    Everything you THINK you knew might be wrong. As a former RN and one-time CCU nurse, I suspected our whole approach might be wrong. But it is a big ship to turn. I'm profoundly glad Dr. Cowan is fearlessly poking at the nest'. This is where I would go if heart-disease befell me. Everything you THINK you knew might be wrong. As a former RN and one-time CCU nurse, I suspected our whole approach might be wrong. But it is a big ship to turn. I'm profoundly glad Dr. Cowan is fearlessly poking at the nest'. This is where I would go if heart-disease befell me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    A very interesting quick little read. A little off the beaten track, but very thought provoking.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mary Clare

    This is a really cute book! Part anatomy and medicine, part philosophy. I'm glad I read it! This is a really cute book! Part anatomy and medicine, part philosophy. I'm glad I read it!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra S

    Some concepts are a stretch but it definitely made me consider things that are out of the box and concepts to explore further.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    we are still a part of something big

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dravafox

    a MUST read to those with an open mind to question the sometimes illogical 'truths' of convention, and reexamine what we know... fascinating! and great story a MUST read to those with an open mind to question the sometimes illogical 'truths' of convention, and reexamine what we know... fascinating! and great story

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fit4life218

    Absolutely fascinating! A must-read for anyone interested in the dynamics of the human heart! Happy reading friends! Cheers! :-)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pat Mulroy

    Totally interesting perspective on how the heart works.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Wood

    Very entertaining, educational, and illuminating. Anyone who has heart issues, health issues and wants true insight on how to live your best life needs to read this.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tamara L.

    What a lovely book about the heart, I find this book quite valuable even if someone has no heart issues. Cowan approach on looking and explaining the role and functioning of the heart is so holistic that you start perceiving your own heart in another way. References to it's shape and also that it might hold the essence of a person (e.g. changes in personality due to heart transplantation) where quite eye opening. The book offers very practical and natural ways dealing with heart matters which can What a lovely book about the heart, I find this book quite valuable even if someone has no heart issues. Cowan approach on looking and explaining the role and functioning of the heart is so holistic that you start perceiving your own heart in another way. References to it's shape and also that it might hold the essence of a person (e.g. changes in personality due to heart transplantation) where quite eye opening. The book offers very practical and natural ways dealing with heart matters which can lead only to positive results, not just for the heart.

  17. 5 out of 5

    A

    A life philosophy integrated into the function of the autonomic nervous system.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristine Soly

    OMG!!! Does this author have ADHD? He hops from topic to topic and idea to idea, including hopping from positions where he studied or researched. I began to think he was a bunny, he hopped so much! But seriously...just because you discover something new does not mean that all the facts before that were wrong. If your research reveals something not known before (like how blood flows), it does not negate that the heart is a pump. And, if you're going to disagree with what has been thought before, OMG!!! Does this author have ADHD? He hops from topic to topic and idea to idea, including hopping from positions where he studied or researched. I began to think he was a bunny, he hopped so much! But seriously...just because you discover something new does not mean that all the facts before that were wrong. If your research reveals something not known before (like how blood flows), it does not negate that the heart is a pump. And, if you're going to disagree with what has been thought before, you have to give adequate discussion of how the facts have changed. I am a holistic cardiologist, and I like to discover new ways to approach things, but if you just arbitrarily discard all the previous "facts" in medicine and science, then that's like throwing out the baby with the bath water. Though it's true that 75% of the "facts" in medicine are subsequently changed or are outright wrong, that does not release this author from the responsibility of explaining how his "ideas" mean that everything before is wrong rather than that his "ideas" are just some new information or understanding of something that adds to our previous knowledge. Just because he says that something is "so" does not make it "so". And just because he says that our previous understanding is wrong does not make it wrong.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carole Simpson

    Challenging and fascinating This book takes you through the life experience and thoughts of Dr Cowan which confirms his ability to think for himself and not plump for what he has been told is true. The conclusions he has reached will not suit everyone’s view of life but for me there is a resonance. I am urging everyone I know to read it with an open mind because as soon as you say ‘no that cannot be’ you will be lost and back to popular ‘truths’.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Gamble

    It's about a 3.5 in my mind, but I plan to re-read or re-listen to it again to make sure I'm understanding everything as I didn't see how some of it quite pieced together. There's some interesting stuff; I'd like to revisit his ideas about the heart not being a pump. Overall this book was weird in the sense that there's these vast swaths of emptiness and then a whole bunch of cool things in pockets like a mental mine field. That was both fun and frustrating. It's about a 3.5 in my mind, but I plan to re-read or re-listen to it again to make sure I'm understanding everything as I didn't see how some of it quite pieced together. There's some interesting stuff; I'd like to revisit his ideas about the heart not being a pump. Overall this book was weird in the sense that there's these vast swaths of emptiness and then a whole bunch of cool things in pockets like a mental mine field. That was both fun and frustrating.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diana Abu-Jaber

    I thought it was very sincere and good-hearted (pardon the pun) but not extremely helpful because it was too broadly defined, trying to cover too much ground, and including esoteric systems like anthroposophy that really needs its own book. It ranged from extremely scientific to very mystical, which might work for other readers, but I was hoping for a more pragmatic middle-ground.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Beautiful homage to our hearts which are so much more than just a muscle that pumps blood through our body.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Frederic D. Jones

    Excellent I enjoyed his writing style. The explanation of how the heart and circulation work is fascinating. If you are open to alternative medicine, this book is for you.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Manish

    This is a very fascinating book. I'd seen several videos by the author from Youtube before reading it, so had an idea already of the topic. Of course Cowan goes much deeper into the topic in the book, but in short: the heart is not a pump, but an organ for regulating and nourishing the blood (beyond the purely chemical or physical changes observed by modern science). This is a radical concept, and to get anything out of this book I'd suggest you keep an open mind and a willingness to look at obse This is a very fascinating book. I'd seen several videos by the author from Youtube before reading it, so had an idea already of the topic. Of course Cowan goes much deeper into the topic in the book, but in short: the heart is not a pump, but an organ for regulating and nourishing the blood (beyond the purely chemical or physical changes observed by modern science). This is a radical concept, and to get anything out of this book I'd suggest you keep an open mind and a willingness to look at observed results - instead of the mathematical and mechanistic models that are so often used to guide 'scientific' understanding about the world. Cowan doesn't beat around the bush, and lays out his observations and discovery process used to come to the perspective he holds. He mixes in a few stories about his personal life and journey with a form of heart disease. While these stories are interesting, they remain anecdotal and don't really contribute to his explanations of the heart and heart disease directly. There is a chapter on the geometry of the heart which was perplexing to me, and I didn't take away much from it except to consider that there could be a greater purpose to the heart's physical structure than modern medicine gives it credit for. Which is arguably the biggest theme of the book - this crops up again and again as Cowan explores the limits of medicine from the mainstream to the anthroposophic he himself practiced for many years. On that point, I think his willingness to even abandon a practice he was deeply familiar with, after recognising it wasn't having the expected impact on his patients, is a testament to Cowan's ability to look for the fundamental 'truths' or principles that guide systems, despite prevailing opinions. This gives me more confidence in his insights about the heart. On the topic of heart disease, Cowan's views also have some weight simply because it does seem like mainstream medicine fixates on the effects of disease (such as blocked or constricted arteries), and lacks a convincing explanation of the underlying causes. Fortunately I don't have heart disease myself, but I'll look forward to seeing if Cowan can treat more people for this and build an even more convincing case for the fundamental ideas of the heart he describes. A word of warning - while Cowan does try to explain terms and use simpler language, there are a few points where he goes full on 'doctor' mode and gets very technical. I tried my best to understand it then moved on. Those parts are probably more useful for other medical practitioners, not laypeople like myself. Cowan's advice on heart health (spend time in the sun, go for walks in nature and touch pets and loved ones) can be followed by anyone. And his diet advice is also fairly accessible. All in all this was a very interesting read. My big takeaways are to spend more time in the sun and in nature, as part of a daily practice of good health.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mwansa

    I was not sure what to expect but was interested in reading something by Thomas Cowan after his interview with Patrick Bet-David of Valuetainment. The book started off interesting and strong but tapered off towards the end. Cowan offers a quasi-holistic view of human physiology which is very interesting. I like how his explanations are rooted in a common sense view of how the body works. I particularly enjoyed how he shows how our modern lifestyle has led to the compromise of our health. A lot of I was not sure what to expect but was interested in reading something by Thomas Cowan after his interview with Patrick Bet-David of Valuetainment. The book started off interesting and strong but tapered off towards the end. Cowan offers a quasi-holistic view of human physiology which is very interesting. I like how his explanations are rooted in a common sense view of how the body works. I particularly enjoyed how he shows how our modern lifestyle has led to the compromise of our health. A lot of the things we do to improve our quality of life actually end up damaging it in the long run. His view of the things that lead to heart problems is particularly insightful though he lost me in a few areas when the medical jargon was hard to follow. Two chapters at the end of the boon and particularly his last paragraph assume the world is not affected by sin but you could see that coming throughout the book

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andreas Spaeth

    The title explains the book! In our current western paradigm our hubris outshines true knowledge! Our perception of the cosmos is pieced together from many THEORIES and is in a constant state of flux, however it is canned and sold to you with the vigour of any branded commodity. The same can be said about medicine. If there is money to be made it will be canned and sold. Books like this are important because they challenge the current paradigm by explaining other theories that have been swept und The title explains the book! In our current western paradigm our hubris outshines true knowledge! Our perception of the cosmos is pieced together from many THEORIES and is in a constant state of flux, however it is canned and sold to you with the vigour of any branded commodity. The same can be said about medicine. If there is money to be made it will be canned and sold. Books like this are important because they challenge the current paradigm by explaining other theories that have been swept under the carpet because they are not as easily monetized.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lenny De finis

    I’m very torn. It was thought provoking. And at times off topic which somehow turns out to be ON topic when he brings it around. Then I find out while reading he’s the 5G causes covid guy and he got himself into some trouble in California. Even the woo woo structured water thing throws me off. Again it was thought provoking and I found it useful to read but now we have some trust issues. 😂

  28. 5 out of 5

    Zac

    Only 3 stars because a few things he said spurned some great personal insights, but really the book reads like a manic manifesto of sorts and offers tons of conjecture with little substance, just lots of “I’m not saying......but just think about it” ideas. Doesn’t help that this guys was one of the biggest “5G caused COVID” voices and currently has a suspended medical license.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ali Hamedani

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rohit

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