Roman Chamomile and the Theme of Ambiguous Loss
Copyright 2017 by Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc.
By Bruce Berkowsky, N.M.D., M.H., H.M.C.
Dr. Berkowsky's August 2014 Webinar-Based Client Interview Training Course
Recently, I read about the remarkable work of a man (who
for many years has spent all of his spare time without pay, and continues to do
so) attempting to locate (both in ocean and jungle) the wreckage of World War
II American aircraft as well as the remains of airmen who were aboard them.
Those planes were shot down by occupying Japanese forces in a remote area of
the western Pacific Ocean.
It has been seven decades since that fierce combat
occurred. With the exception of military historians, those men and the battles
they died in have been largely forgotten. To this day, the fate of hundreds of
American airmen who died in battle with the Japanese remains a mystery. Their bodies
and the aircrafts they were aboard have never been found. Declared as Missing
In Action (MIA) seventy years ago or more, the families and comrades of these
men have lived ever since in a limbo-state fostered by lack of certain
knowledge and closure.
While the loss of a loved one sometimes elicits
unbearable grief, not knowing with certainty where and how a loved one died
elaborates a type of grief that is more nebulous and open-ended. Commonly,
relatives of someone who has been kidnapped and murdered will agree to a lesser
sentence regarding the vile perpetrator of those crimes in exchange for his
revealing the location of the missing victim's body. This is due in part to a
driving conviction that one must bring a loved one home from the forsakenness of
a postmortem exile in some unknown location. Another important factor is the
primal human sense that the remains, regardless of the passage of time, will
still be imbued with some artifact of the unique vital element that ensouled
the body during its lifetime.
While finding the loved one's remains and learning the
details of his or her fate does not eliminate the pain of loss, it does ease
the emptiness and end the subtly tortuous limbo referred to in psychology as a
state of ambiguous loss. Dr. Pauline Boss, the principal theorist
regarding the concept of ambiguous loss, fully describes its contours in her
book Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (Harvard
University Press, 1999).
Ambiguous loss, sometimes referred to alternatively as frozen
grief, is associated with a lack of closure or clear understanding of the
circumstances of a person's death or disappearance. Instead of the familiar
form of grief which is characterized by the concrete certainty of loss and its
ensuing consequences, ambiguous loss leaves family and friends perpetually
searching for answers.
As regards the missing World War II airmen, it should be
borne in mind that these were most likely very young men. The average age of a
combat soldier in World War II was 26 years old. Many of these men were still
living at home with their parents, or were newly married, when they left to
fight for their country. When they disappeared, their rooms in their parents'
homes (the preserved habitat of recently graduated high school boys) often
became shrines tended to by the parents for the rest of their lives. Often a
young father (as part of his legacy) left behind a young child who would never
gaze upon his face except in the haunting photograph of him in his dress
uniform that his widow always kept nearby on her nightstand.
What happened to him? What emotions did he experience as
the plane descended in flames into a jungle or ocean in a part of the world he
had never heard of before the war? Is he lying near his comrades so that he isn't
totally alone? Was he taken prisoner? Could he have amnesia and still be alive?
Circumstances and Symptoms of Ambiguous Loss
The phenomenon of ambiguous loss is not restricted to the
aftermath of disappearance and/or mysterious death. In fact, the experience of
ambiguous loss is nearly universal. Some examples of other situations or events
that activate the potentiality of ambiguous loss are: infertility; abortion
or miscarriage; disappearance of a family member; desertion by, or long term
incarceration of, a parent; adoption with the child wondering about her
biological parents or, on the other hand, a biological parent unable to stop
thinking about the child; death of a family member with whom one was once
close, but became estranged from, many years before; death of a young sibling
who passed away before her siblings were born or else were too young to
remember her; a spouse or parent, who, though still alive, has disappeared into
the dark vortex of Alzheimer's disease or mental illness; two teen lovers, who,
due to circumstances beyond their control (e.g., one moved away with his family
to a different part of the country) rather than discord, separated, and even
after marriage to others, each of the lovers wonders what became of the other,
and grieves for their lost romance. The challenge for those who must live
in the perpetual fog of frozen grief is to restore their resiliency of will and
emotion despite this ongoing ambiguity.
It was once believed that a child does not experience a
sense of loss regarding separation from a birth family he or she had never
known. It is now an accepted fact that adopted children often grieve over the
loss of relationship with their birth families. It has been found that adopted
children who are able to discuss their conflicted feelings (about the "whys"
concerning their birth parents) with their adoptive parents present with less,
or milder, symptoms of ambiguous loss than do those children whose adoptive
families are resistant to discussion of the birth parents along with the
circumstances that led to the child being put up for adoption. (Powell, K. A.,
& Afifi, T. D. (2005).Uncertainty management and adoptees' ambiguous
loss of their birth parents. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22,
129–151.) According to Dr. Boss: "The greater the
ambiguity surrounding one's loss, the more difficult it is to master [the
loss] and the greater one's depression, anxiety, and family conflict."
Ambiguous loss may overlap with trauma, and symptoms may
be similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A person experiencing
ambiguous loss may: have difficulty with transition or change; be trapped in
a state of decision-paralysis wherein they feel nearly overwhelmed when having
to make important choices that will affect the course of their lives;
demonstrate decreased capacity to cope with routine childhood or adolescent
losses; exist in a state of stuckness wherein he is unable to accept
disappointment or loss and move on; experience chronic feelings of:
helplessness, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, guilt.
Factors associated with the activation of the archetypal
theme of ambiguous loss include: inability to resolve grief because of
uncertainty regarding whether the loss is transient or permanent; uncertainty
about the loss inhibits reorganization of roles and relationships within the
family structure and society in general; lack of clear symbolic ritual such as
a funeral; their loss is often hidden from, rather than shared with, others.
Ambiguous Loss: An Archetypal Theme
Ambiguous loss not only delays the process of grieving,
but often results in an unresolved, somewhat intangible grief that is
transmitted from one generation to the next. This potential to be an
inter-generational theme lends ambiguous loss an archetypal quality. Carl Jung
defines archetypes as spiritual forms or potentialities that serve as
structural elements within the psyche. An archetype is not a potentiality
unique to one individual but rather a universal one that exists beyond time and
space – in other words in the higher realm.
In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, the term archetype refers
to a unique intangible construct of the soul that generates a pattern of
characteristic potentials. Accordingly, particular identifiable patterns of
emotions and physical predispositions are viewed as tangible expressions of
underlying psychospiritual archetypes. In turn, these expressions are
considered to be archetypal images.
In Jungian psychology, archetypes are considered to be
inherited patterns of thought or symbolic imagery, present in the individual
unconscious, which derive from the infinite inventory of past experiences
stored within the collective unconscious.
Jung writes (from The Freud/Jung Letters edited by
William McGuire; 1974): [An archetype] is that in which all individual
psyches are identical with each other [i.e., it is a universal psychical
structural element, not the product of an individual psyche], and they [the
archetypes collectively] function as if they were the one undivided Psyche
the ancients called the psyche tou kosmou – the common psyche. In
our ordinary minds we are in the worlds of time and space within the individual
psyche. In the state of the archetype we are in the collective psyche, in a [higher]
world-system whose space-time categories are relatively or absolutely
Archetypes, while components of the collective
unconscious upon which an individual psyche draws, serve as the wellheads of
potential within the higher world that give rise to all the tangible
manifestations of human behavior in the material world. As noted above, the
outward manifestations of archetypes (which in and of themselves are beyond the
intellect and senses) are referred to as archetypal images. It can be
argued that the phenomenon of ambiguous loss, which over the ages of human
existence has been so common an experience, is archetypal, and the various
feelings and thoughts it evokes are its archetypal images.
As ambiguous loss has an amorphous quality that doesn't
quite conform to the conventional concept of an archetype, I refer to it as an archetypal
Intergenerational Transference of Ambiguous Loss
One of the qualities that ambiguous loss shares is another
archetypal form called a miasm (e.g., Cancer miasm, Tubercular miasm, etc.),
which can be transmitted inter-generationally through some non-genetic
Thus, miasm is the homeopathic concept that I have adapted
into Spiritual PhytoEssencing. A miasm is a constitutional pattern of emotional
and physical tendencies that is transmitted from generation to generation
bioenergetically rather than genetically. In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, it is
believed that miasms can also be transmitted from one incarnation to the next
along the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Similarly, regarding the archetypal theme of ambiguous
loss: Even after all of those who, for instance, had a relationship with one of
the long-dead airman (e.g., parent, sibling, etc.) have themselves passed on,
succeeding generations (e.g., grandchildren) inherit the legacy of that
ambiguous loss and continue to wonder about and grieve for (meaning the
experience of a difficult-to-describe feeling of loss) a young man who may have
died before they were born.
Spiritual PhytoEssencing's assertion that past lives, as
well as Jung's concept of the collective unconscious, are primary sources of
influential archetypes, extends to the archetypal theme of ambiguous loss.
Accordingly, a lifelong, persistent, yet undefinable feeling of ambiguous loss
may be linked to an event in a past life, such as the disappearance of a child
or forced separation from a lover. Sometimes this past life seed
of ambiguous loss serves as an organizing nucleus for experiences of
ambiguous loss in this life, thus amplifying this archetypal theme's influence
over one's journey on this mortal plane of existence.
Identifying the Inner Nature of Essential Oils via "Synchronicities"
Carl Jung coined the term "synchronicity,"
referring to thoughts and events that are connected in ways other than causally
(i.e., by the law of cause and effect). In Carl Jung: Wounded Healer Of The
Soul, Clair Dunne writes: "Jung called synchronicity 'acausal
[without rationally explicable cause] orderedness', a principle not
contradicting the scientific time, space, and causality modes of Western
thinking, but rather a complementary addition to it...Synchronicities are hard to
verify objectively, but they are subjectively meaningful."
In the classic example from his own work, Jung, while
listening to a patient recount a dream about a scarab (a type of beetle), heard
a light tapping on his office window. When he went to investigate the sound, he
saw a brilliantly colored beetle just outside the window. This uncanny
coincidence made him wonder about the meaning of such "synchronicities."
Synchronicities play a major role in my elaboration of
the unique soul-nature of each essential oil. In the discussion below of Roman
chamomile, you will see how I employ synchronicities to move beyond the oil's
surface-identity as a pleasant scented complex of clinically useful
biochemicals to a far more dynamic view of the oil's inner soul-nature.
Plants, like human beings and all other animals, are
alive and everything that is alive is ensouled. In the same way that one cannot
really know another person without developing relation with his or her
authentic self (that aspect of the self-structure which has never disengaged
from spirit), one cannot truly know an essential oil without developing
soul-to-soul relation with its innermost realm. This cannot be achieved solely
through study of the biochemical profile and therapeutic actions of an oil. Those
are archetypal images that represent just a fraction of the archetypal fabric
of the oil.
An essential oil is the most concentrated carrier of the
soul of the plant. Thus, to truly know an oil, we must endeavor to reveal to
our conscious awareness the unique archetypal pattern of its soul structure. In
Spiritual PhytoEssencing, this is accomplished through the identification, and
subsequent inter-correlation, of synchronicities. Being a naturopath, classical
homeopath and master herbalist, who for many years has also studied and
included in my work gemstone healing, Chinese medicine, anthroposophy and
Kabbalah, the synchronicities I identify and draw upon (when developing
profiles of the inner nature of essential oils) derive from those frames of
As regards the discussion of Roman chamomile presented
below, the "composite Roman chamomile picture" includes not only the healing
properties of Roman chamomile noted in herbal medicine, aromatherapy and
homeopathy (the homeopathic remedy Anthemis nobilis is prepared from a
tincture of Roman chamomile) but also certain symptoms and qualities drawn from
the synchronicities that Roman chamomile oil has with the homeopathic remedies Asterias
rubens (prepared from a variety of red starfish) and Aurum arsenicum
(prepared from gold arsenate) as well as with the gemstone heliodor (a
type of golden beryl).
Roman Chamomile and the Theme of Ambiguous Loss
Roman chamomile, a member of the Compositae (also
referred to as the Asteraceae) family, is a low-growing, evergreen, perennial
herb. The ancient Egyptians held that Roman chamomile was sacred to the sun god
Ra, and used the essential oil to anoint the body for rituals in their god's
honor. To the ancient Egyptians, the ability of Roman chamomile to restore
wholeness to the Self represented the omnipotence of Ra.
One of Roman chamomile's key signatures is its reputation
in earlier eras as the "Plant's Physician." Mrs. M. Grieve in her book: A
Modern Herbal writes of Roman chamomile: "Nothing contributes so much to
the health of a garden as a number of Roman chamomile herbs dispersed about it,
and that if another plant is drooping and sickly, in nine cases out of ten, it
will recover if you place Roman chamomile near it."
Symptoms from the composite Roman chamomile picture
relevant regarding the theme of ambiguous loss include: nervous exhaustion;
extreme susceptibility to pain; hypersensitivity; depression; post-partum
depression; depression and restlessness, worse at night; despair; loneliness;
tearfulness; weeping from least emotion; the slightest cause moves her to
tears; grief; from silent grief; emotional withdrawal; self-blame; addiction;
suicidal; sensitive to voices; delusions of hearing voices; sense of impending
misfortune; delusions of smell; delusion he is under the control of strangers;
anguish; fear of death; lamenting; loathing of life; amnesia; absent-minded;
critical of himself and of others; self-blame; anger directed at himself;
insecurity; dreams of dead people; dreams of death; frightful, vivid dreams;
amorous dreams; anxious dreams.
On the other hand, as noted above, the ancient Egyptians revered the herb and
dedicated it to Ra, their sun god. Roman chamomile flowers are also heliotropic:
eagerly turning their faces to the sun. The daisy-like flowers with their
yellow centers and surrounding white rays resemble primitive representations of
the sun. Roman chamomile is a member of the Asteraceae (meaning resemblance to
a star) family; and the sun, of course, is a star.
Roman chamomile flowers not only have yellow centers, but,
unlike blue chamomile whose distilled oil remains a deep blue, Roman chamomile
oil changes from blue to yellow on storage. Exciting and uplifting, yellow is
the color of the sun. It is the symbol of mind and intellect and the premier
color in the spectrum regarding brightness and luminosity. In color therapy,
yellow relates to the solar plexus center. Accordingly, it elaborates true
wisdom via interaction among the brain, nervous system and heart spirit center.
Yellow also has affinity for the left-brain, and so, supports visualization,
logic, memory, language skills and the memory processes of logic and
organization. Yellow also interacts with the ego and the subjective
thought-processes which develop and accrue various fears, worries and
anxieties. Yellow is useful in helping to let go of fear and thus be able to
develop personal power.
On a psycho-spiritual level, the gemstone heliodor
(which derives from the Greek, meaning "gift from the sun"), Roman chamomile's
most prominent gemstone synchronicity: increases the power of
the solar plexus chakra to channel spiritual energies into his or her material
reality; brings a sense of optimism and possibility to the psyche; promotes
compassionate understanding; boosts mental cogency and communication skills;
helps one identify the purpose within the scheme of creation of one's unique
soul; helps one overcome a state of decision-paralysis caused by fear of error;
aligns personal will with Divine will; counteracts inertial idleness; reduces
despair in certain situations by empowering the individual to refocus and
assert control; assists in the discharge of toxic emotional debris; relieves
the sense of being heavily burdened.
Roman Chamomile and a Sense of Guilt, Self-Blame and Loss of Higher Connection
Many different essential oils (including, among others: angelica,
black spruce, blue chamomile, galbanum, juniper, lavender, marjoram, muhuhu,
myrrh, neroli, niaouli, Peru balsam, pine and violet leaf) are relevant
regarding the theme of ambiguous loss. However, each essential oil is
potentially useful in this reference only in regard to a particular context of
ambiguous loss. For instance, a given oil may have relevance regarding
ambiguous loss involving the disappearance of a loved one, but have no
particular relevance for ambiguous loss related to miscarriage or a spouse who
develops Alzheimer's disease.
Roman chamomile has specificity for a number of varieties
of ambiguous loss involving some feeling of guilt, difficult choices and conflicted
personal leadership. We can see this pattern in the symptoms and qualities
listed above, including: self-blame; critical of himself; anger directed at
himself; insecurity; anxious dreams; helps one overcome a state of
decision-paralysis caused by fear of error; aligns personal will with Divine
will; counteracts inertial idleness; relieves the sense of being heavily
Due to the apple-like scent of the plant, the common name chamomile
derives from the Greek composite word chamaimēlon,
meaning "earth-apple", constructed from chamai,
meaning "on the ground" and mēlon,
meaning "apple." The Spanish name for Roman chamomile is manzanilla,
or "little apple," and Spain produces a sherry with the same name which is
flavored with the herb.
Interestingly, both Roman chamomile and the apple are
referred to as a "physician." The former is the "plant physician," and
regarding the latter, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Similarly, both
the apple-like scent of Roman chamomile and the scent of apples are also
considered to have healing properties. The Roman physician Pliny described a
mythological race of small people in India who "eat naught and live by the
smell of apples." Centuries ago, the English physician Dr. John Caius advised
his patients to "smell a ripe, sweet apple" in order to recover their
Regarding the mythological Garden of Eden, the popular
theological view holds that the apple was the fruit plucked by Adam from the
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and subsequently eaten by Eve and him.
Although the identity of this highly symbolic fruit is a subject of dispute
among biblical scholars, it cannot be argued that in the popular consciousness
it is considered to have been an apple.
The fact that the apple has so tenaciously held to its
legendary role as the forbidden fruit in and of itself is very significant,
even if the original telling of the story actually referred to some other
variety of fruit. The act of eating the "apple" has long been characterized as
a sin, although this is highly debatable.
If in fact, all aspects of creation originate in God and
via the offices of divine will, then it is illogical to assert that an act
which facilitated the full elaboration of individualized soul life was a "sin."
Instead, Eve, rather than being the easily swayed temptress she is commonly
portrayed to be, was actually an instrument of divine will. She is essentially
the symbolic "mother" that activated the potential to connect to spirit
voluntarily via a unique, individuated soul rather than automatically, like a
dependent child who lacks mature responsibilities and has no say in the matter.
Bear in mind that independent soul existence is required
for the capacities for faith in God and the desire to receive divine light for
the purpose of sharing with others as well as reflection back upward to the
ground of all being. Thus, the action of Eve, a mythological cosmic mother,
allegorically represents the moment of ignition of the evolution of human soul
existence. If not, then all of human existence, in all its complexity, must be
dismissed as the meaningless consequence of a reckless impulse.
However, setting all that aside, there is no question
that the generally held view by those who accept the authority of the Bible is
that Eve committed an error that destroyed the seamless connection between God
and mankind and set the stage for the perpetually flawed historical journey of
the human race. Within this perspective we clearly see the themes of poor
judgment, error, personal responsibility, guilt and loss of connection to
spirit, an ill-considered choice one made that became the moment that changed
all the rest. Accordingly, the ensuing sense of ambiguous loss would largely be
the outgrowth of "paradise lost."
As a counterpoint to this, the following heliodor actions
provide a glimpse of the potential of Roman chamomile regarding this particular
manifestation of the archetypal theme of archetypal loss: increases the
power of the solar plexus chakra to channel spiritual energies into his or her
material reality; illuminates higher wisdom; stimulates the higher mind;
encourages nobility and selfless leadership; builds self-confidence and
self-trust; brings a sense of optimism and possibility to the psyche; helps one
identify the purpose within the scheme of creation of one's unique soul;
supports decision-making that is based on thoughtful reflection rather than
emotional impulse; helps one overcome a state of decision-paralysis caused by
fear of error; boosts drive and determination to succeed despite the inhibiting
influence of others; aligns personal will with Divine will; aids in the
exertion of personal will in response to the challenges encountered during the
course of one's life; promotes sincerity and sympathy; relieves the sense of
being heavily burdened and pressured.
Dr. Berkowsky's August 2014 Webinar-Based Client Interview Training Course
If you are
interested in studying with Dr. Berkowsky and would like a free recording
wherein he discusses the theoretical foundation of Spiritual PhytoEssencing,
e-mail your request for the recording link.
Written by Dr. Bruce Berkowsky, N.M.D., M.H., H.M.C.
Dr. Berkowsky, a registered naturopath, master herbalist and classical homeopath--is President of Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc. He is the founder/teacher of both Spiritual PhytoEssencing and the Natural Health Science System which he designed following many years of research and clinical practice, and includes herbology, nutrition, homeopathy, aromatherapy, exercise, traditional nature-cure as well as East/West healing arts/bodywork. Dr. Berkowsky teaches in-depth seminars/teleseminars/workshops to health-care professionals and spiritually aware individuals.
Disclaimer: This publication is intended as an educational tool, and not as a prescription. Seek the advice of your health-care provider before discontinuing any medication and/or trying any new remedy or technique.