In Part I of this series, I presented an introductory discussion regarding the rationale for preparing customized essential oil blends for the purpose of deep soul-level healing and the methodology used to create them. Part II elaborates upon the requisite “Zen state” within which the blender must operate from in order to create a deep-acting, soul-level healing blend.
I use the term “Zen” with metaphorical license here as I’m not referring to the actual practice of Zen as a spiritual discipline, but rather, to a state reminiscent of that achieved though Zen meditation. In Spiritual PhytoEssencing blending, the blender must operate from an inner point of Nothingness and Silence in order to transcend the purely physical mechanics of blending and gain entry into the inner domain of the oils where (what kabbalists refer to as) the “divine sparks” are most concentrated.
The Immanent Divine Presence Within the Natural World
Theism (belief in the existence of God or gods) has always featured either a balance or a conflict between the principles of the transcendence and immanence of God. In order to lend coherence to spiritual faith, both theologians and philosophers have often struggled to explain how God can be both transcendent to, and immanent within, Creation.
The doctrine of immanence infers that an infinite divine presence pervades all phenomena within the natural universe (e.g., plants, animals, stars, rocks, etc.). On the other hand, the doctrine of transcendence holds that an intelligent and creative spiritual force or being exerts its influence from outside the bounds of the natural world. In Judaism, Christianity and various other religions, God is viewed as being simultaneously present and active in the natural world and transcendent to the created universe.
Two central cosmological mechanisms proposed by Rabbi Isaac Luria, a great 16th century kabbalist, describe how transcendence gives rise to and sustains immanence. The first of these is the concept of tsimtsum: God’s withdrawal from the central point of the uncreated Light which resulted in a Vacated Space in which finite Creation could unfold.
In the Kabbalah, the true infinite essence of God is referred to as Ein Sof (“The Endless”), emphasizing that this essence is beyond the limitations of both time and space. As the Ein Sof is completely transcendent and unknowable in a rational consciousness sense, it cannot have any direct interaction with the finite, material world.
According to Luria, after tsimtsum, the Tree Of Life (the most widely known mystical symbol of the Kabbalah; see diagram) was introduced (and then began to continuously diffuse Infinite Light in an attenuated form) into this Vacated Space. Each of the circular vessels (sefirot in Hebrew) on the Tree of Life extracts and concentrates a particular quality that existed only in potential within the Infinite Light (Or Ein Sof in Hebrew) and continuously streams that quality downward toward the lowest vessel, Malkhut (Kingdom or Earth), the domain of the material world. Here the various divine qualities are incorporated into the fabric of all phenomena within the natural world, including the archetypal construct of the souls of all ensouled beings. The sefirot, while intimately a part of God, are able to maintain tangible contact with the natural universe in a way that the completely transcendent Ein Sof cannot.
Another major feature of the Lurianic model of the cosmology of Creation that seeks to explain how immanence developed from transcendence is the concept of The Shattering of the Vessels (Shevirath Ha-Kelim). Accordingly, after the Vacated Space first developed, the sefirot (designed to receive and distribute the powerful Infinite Light and thus serve as the facilitators of Creation) experienced a traumatic event. While the upper vessels of Keter, Chokma and Binah (vessels charged with introducing the dynamics of intellect into the material world) were able to contain this Light, the next six sefirot below these upper three did not have the tensile strength to do so, and thus, were broken and shattered by the ingress of the Or Ein Sof (Infinite Light).
The last sefirah, Malkhut (the domain of the material world), was also structurally damaged but not completely shattered. This shattering of the vessels causes the most insoluble aspects of the powers of judgment, commingled with a countless multitude of shards of the broken vessels, to descend downward through the primordial space toward the material world. These shards, now cut off from their spiritual source, begin an estranged existence as the powers of evil. However, each of these shards captures within itself some “sparks of holiness” or “divine sparks” of Infinite Light.
These divine sparks rained down upon Malkhut and were incorporated into the spiritual roots of all phenomena within the natural world. Accordingly, through the leading of an exemplary spiritual existence, the ultimate purpose of a person’s life is to help restore unity and harmony to Creation by reuniting these divine sparks with their source.
Ultimately, the tolerances of the sefirot were reengineered to be able to contain the Infinite Light, and the Tree of Life was reconstituted into a completely integrated mechanism that sustains the perpetual process of Creation–not only in the macrocosmic sense but also regarding the microcosm of soul existence.
From the perspective of Spiritual PhytoEssencing, the spiritual intent of the blender facilitates the full elaboration of the sparks of holiness contained within the material matrix of every essential oil. These sparks can then help to reconnect the human soul with the spiritual world and thereby contribute not only to the repair and reconstruction of a particular human soul, but also, to the cosmos as a whole. This process of repairing the breach between earthly and spiritual realms, and, on a microcosm level, reestablishing the full presence of being of a given human soul, is referred to in the Lurianic Kabbalah as Tikkun or Restoration.
Connecting With The Divine Within Nature
Ultimately, the ability to work with the inner nature of essential oils and to direct the divine sparks within them toward the healing of a soul requires acknowledgement of the oil’s ensoulment–that it is more than just an “It” — an unensouled, scented collection of biochemicals that has clinical value. If the oil is merely used and experienced, rather than accorded soul-to-soul relation, it will never open its inner mystery to the blender and will have very little value as an agent of soul-level restoration. The intent of the blender determines the parameters of the blend’s action.
Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue, eloquently elaborated in his book I and Thou, has greatly influenced me in my development of both the theoretical structure and techniques of the art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing. Buber’s central point is that one encounters spirit only through a meeting of souls at a “between” space. This “I-Thou” meeting engenders the development of pure relation characterized by caring and reciprocity. In contrast, the more common and generally superficial “I-It” experience is characterized by one’s lack of acknowledgement on a soul-to-soul level, thus using and experiencing rather than knowing and caring.
In this reference, Buber in I And Thou writes:
“If will and grace are joined that as I contemplate the tree I am drawn into relation, the tree ceases to be an It. This does not require me to forego any of the modes of contemplation. There is nothing that I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number included and inseparably fused.
Whatever belongs to the tree is included: its form and its mechanics, its colors and its chemistry, its conversation with the elements and its conversation with the stars–all this in its entirety. The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no aspect of a mood; it confronts me bodily and has to deal with me as I must deal with it –only differently.
We find here not the deed of posture of an individual being but a reciprocity of being itself–a reciprocity that has nothing except being. The living wholeness and unity of a tree that denies itself to the eye, no matter how keen, of anyone who merely investigates, while it is manifest to those who say Thou [who acknowledge the tree’s unique “I,” or singular soul-nature], is present when they are present: they grant the tree the opportunity to manifest it, and now the tree that has being manifests it.
Our habits of thought make it difficult for us to see that in such cases something is awakened by our attitude and flashes toward us from that which has being. What matters in this sphere is that we should do justice with an open mind to the actuality that opens before us.”
Similarly, in his teachings, the great rabbi of the Lubavitch Hasidim, Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), related the following anecdote concerning Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak [1890-1960]: “As a young boy, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak would go with his father on walks through the woods. One time, as they talked, the boy absent-mindedly plucked a leaf off a tree and began to shred it between his fingers.
“His father saw what his son was doing, but he went on talking. He spoke about the Baal Shem Tov [Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, aka The Good Master of the Name, 18th century founder of Hasidism] who taught how every leaf that blows in the wind–moving to the right and then to the left, how and when it falls and where it falls to–every motion for the duration of its existence is under the detailed supervision of the Almighty.
“That concern the Creator has for each thing, his father explained, is the divine spark that sustains its existence. Everything is with divine purpose, everything is of concern to the ultimate goal of the entire cosmos.
“‘Now,’ the father gently chided, ‘look how you mistreated so absent-mindedly the Almighty’s creation. He formed it with purpose and gave it a divine spark. It has its own self and its own life. Now tell me, how is the ‘I am’ of the leaf any less than your own ‘I am’?'”
Essential Oils And Divine Immanence
The idea of divine sparks is a compelling variation on the theological theme of divine immanence: the indwelling of God’s omnipresent spirit within all aspects of the natural world. In turn, an acknowledgment of divine immanence is a primary principle of nature mysticism: the perception of the divine within nature. In this reference, in Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most famous nature mystic poets declares:
“Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin.”
In the following excerpt from The Story Of My Heart, 19th century English naturalist Richard Jefferies (whose writings are often both profoundly spiritual and eloquent) describes his perception of the divine presence within nature:
“With all the intensity of feeling which exalted me, all the intense communion I held with the earth, the sun and sky, the stars hidden by the light, with the ocean–in no manner can the thrilling depth of these feelings be written–with these I prayed, as if they were the keys of an instrument, of an organ, with which I swelled forth the notes of my soul, redoubling my own voice by their power. The great sun burning with light; the strong earth, dear earth; the warm sky; the pure air; the thought of the ocean; the inexpressible beauty of all filled me with a rapture, an ecstasy, an inspiration. With this inspiration too, I prayed.”
Anthroposophical science teaches that plants produce fragrance as a means of absorbing “the soul” of the sun that contains the essence of spirit. Fragrance-formation represents an interaction between terrestrial and cosmic forces, and it’s used by the plant as a means of uniting with the spiritual essence contained within sunbeams. Anthroposophy founder Rudolf Steiner states: “Matter is most spiritual in the perfume of the plant. When the spirit most closely approaches the physical earth, then we have the perception of fragrance.” In other words, an essential oil is the most concentrated carrier of the plant’s divine sparks. To the extent that the immanent divine presence can be perceived in plant matter, it is most tangible and accessible in essential oils.
Light and Vessel (Form and Substance)
Each sefirah (vessel) of the Tree Of Life is composed of infinite Light and the vessel that contains it. Similarly, soul (a distillate of divine Light) and body can also be viewed, respectively, as light and vessel. The synonymous terms form and substance can be used as alternatives to light and vessel. Each ensouled being consists of form (soul) and substance (body). Form vitalizes and directs the actions of substance. The character and quality of the substance is largely determined by the dynamics of its form or spiritual roots.
The soul and the higher forces associated with it is intimately united with the physical body but is invisible and otherwise inaccessible to the physical senses. The soul serves as an invisible organization of formative forces that connect the physical body into a living entity with distinct functions and design. In other words, the soul is the organizational, non-physical form that provides the blueprint for the structure of the body as well as the vital force that sustains its organized function and continued existence. Once the soul withdraws, or otherwise loses control of the physical body, the latter once again becomes subject to purely physical laws and proceeds to degenerate into unorganized, inanimate matter.
An essential oil, like the human organism, consists of form and substance, with substance being the tangible physical associations of the oil and form being its soul (or inner) nature. In Song Of The Soul, Rabbi Yechiel Bar-Lev provides an insight that helps to explain the Spiritual PhytoEssencing perspective regarding the true nature of essential oils: “The light [form] is internal. The vessel [substance] is external. The light is the essence that clothes itself in and directs the actions of the vessel. Through the action the light is revealed, the inner self is shown.”
Accordingly, it is the inner soul nature of an essential oil–the essence of its reality–that determines the scent qualities and therapeutic actions of its substance. Therefore, in Spiritual PhytoEssencing, the primary focus is upon an oil’s light or form. All the attributes of the substance of an essential oil are viewed as outer expressions that, if carefully examined and correlated, reveal the dynamics of its “architectural” inner light. Only when one has a direct soul-to-soul encounter with an oil’s “inner self” can that oil be used to exert a healing action within the deepest precincts of the human soul.
The Shape Of The Soul Of An Essential Oil
Genesis 1:26 – 1:27 relates: “Let us make man in our image and likeness…God thus created man with His image. In the image of God.” The content of these verses infers that both the form and substance of the human being was, as Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem writes in On the Mystical Shape Of The Godhead, “placed in relationship to the primal shape reproduced in him.” Accordingly, this “image” or “primal shape” defines the inner essence of the human being and guides the outer reality of human physicality.
This discussion in Genesis appears to be limited to the “shape” of the human soul. However, as all the elements within the natural world are material manifestations of spiritual forms that, prior to Creation, existed in potential within the divine light, each form of each ensouled being, plant or animal, has a characteristic archetypal shape that mirror certain aspects of the “primal shape.” Thus, one of the prerequisites for blending essential oils for the purpose of soul-level healing is to be able to perceive the outlines of the “shape of the soul” of each oil that is included within a given blend.
If one substitutes the word blender for carpenter, and blend for musical stand, and oils for tree, the following anecdote related by the ancient Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu can serve to further refine the intent of the Spiritual PhytoEssencing blender.
“Ch’ing, the chief carpenter, was carving wood into a stand for musical instruments. When finished, the work appeared to those who saw it as though of supernatural execution; and the Prince of Lu asked him, ‘What mystery is therein your art?’
“‘No mystery, Your Highness,’ replied Ch’ing. ‘And yet there is something. When I am about to make such a stand, I guard against any diminution of my vital power. I first reduce my mind to absolute quiescence. Three days in this condition and I become oblivious of any reward to be gained.
“‘Five days, and I become oblivious of any fame to be acquired. Seven days, and I become unconscious of my four limbs and my physical frame. Then with no thought of the royal court present in my mind, my skill becomes concentrated, and all disturbing elements from without are gone.
“‘I enter some mountain forest and search for a suitable tree. The tree contains the form required, which is afterwards elaborated. I see the musical stand in my mind’s eye and then set to work. Beyond that there is nothing.
“‘I bring my own native capacity into relation with that of the wood. What was suspected to be of supernatural execution in my work was due only to this.’ “
In this anecdote, Ch’ing not only refers to the “Zen state” that he operates from within when performing his masterful woodworking, but also, to the fact that the tree he selects for his work already “contains the form required” for the object he plans to construct. Accordingly, in his deep state of connection to the tree, a state that requires recruitment of his higher soul and establishment of soul-to-soul relation with the tree, he can perceive the form that anticipates the materialization of the object he will construct. Ch’ing views his task to be not one of creation of the object, but rather facilitation of the transformation of non-physical form into tangible substance.
Similarly, in Spiritual PhytoEssencing, rather than conform the oils to one’s finite plan, the blender organizes the unique weave of soul archetypes within each essential oil into a complexly integrated fabric that reflects the true “shape” of a given individual’s soul.
The Blender’s “Zen State”
In the previous section, Ch’ing the carpenter alludes to the “Zen state” in which he immerses himself while performing his art. The Spiritual PhytoEssencing blender aspires to achieve a similar state when developing and constructing a blend.
In Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel provides important insight into this desired state:
“…Out of the fullness of this presence of mind, disturbed by no ulterior motive, the artist who is released from all attachment must practice his art…[It would appear to him] as if the individual parts of the creative process were being played into his hands by a higher power; he would experience how intoxicatingly the vibrancy of an event is communicated to him who is himself only a vibration, and how everything that he does is done before he knows it.
“The necessary detachment and self-liberation, the inward turning and intensification of life until full presence of mind is reached, are therefore not left to chance or to favorable conditions… Before all doing and creating, before ever he begins to devote and adjust himself to his task, the artist summons forth this presence of mind and makes sure of it through practice.
“Mastery proves its validity as a form of life only when it dwells in the boundless Truth, and sustained by it, becomes the art of the origin…The man, the art, the work–it is all one. The art of the inner work, which unlike the outer does not forsake the artist, which he does not ‘do’ and can only ‘be,’ springs from depths of which the day knows nothing.”
Descent For The Purpose Of Ascent
In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, this state is achieved by proceeding along a pathway of specific stages of directed consciousness that follows the vertical pattern of organization of the vessels of the Tree of Life. This method is a variation on the kabbalistic theme of “descent for the purpose of ascent.”
The stratification of the sefirot (vessels) on the Tree Of Life can serve as a guide to achieving the “Zen state” required for effective soul-level blending. The highest sefirot on the Tree of Life (Chokma-Wisdom, Binah-Understanding and Daat-Knowledge; Daat is the external manifestation of Keter) concentrate and project the powers of intellect.
These vessels, which comprise the top section of the Tree Of Life, are therefore the ones closest to the spiritual world. The justification for this placement is that according to the Torah, God created the world with thought. For instance, Genesis 1:3 relates: “God said: ‘There shall be light,’ and light came into existence.” Speech is essentially the mechanism for expressing thoughts. The entire creational sequence in Genesis is thus initiated by divine thought. Therefore, the powers of intellect are situated on the Tree Of Life in closest proximity to the source of creational thought. Thus, the Spiritual PhytoEssencing blender first engages with each oil to be added to a blend with his or her intellect. Accordingly, he reviews some of the physical properties of the oil, its therapeutic actions, the history and folklore associated with the plant from which it is derived, etc.
As we move downward along the Tree of Life to the strata of sefirot, we find Chesed- (the generator of unconditional loving kindness), Gevurah- (the generator of emotional restraint) and Tiferet- (the generator of compassion). These are the sefirot of emotion or feeling. After intellectually reviewing an oil’s properties and associations, the blender then proceeds to connect with that oil through feeling. What do you feel emotionally when you review the properties and associations of an oil? For instance, on a psycho-spiritual level, eucalyptus oil has the following properties and symptom specificities (excerpted from Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis Of Essential Oils): melancholy; negativity; bitterness; resentment; depression; guilt; self-blame; addictive behavior; cooling effect upon the emotions; feeling of stagnation; feeling of being hemmed in or constricted by one’s surroundings; sense of being “suffocated” by the circumstances in one’s life; brings a degree of psycho-spiritual expansion and peace; aids incarnation of spirit body; helps restore psychosomatic equilibrium; clears head; regenerative by opening the heart to universal love; brings an immediate sense of release and well-being; attunes one to the rhythm of the cosmic breath; gives “room to breathe;” can transform a sense of suffocation into one of expansive reserve; exhaustion; nerve weakness; unable to do mental work; no desire for any motion. Now connect with the feeling you experience about eucalyptus when you knit all of these individual properties and symptom-specificities into an interwoven fabric.
Finally, situated below the sefirot of feeling on the Tree of Life, we find the sefirot associated with the instincts related to the animal soul portion of the human soul. Instinct is autonomic; it is not guided by rational thought. Instead, it flows from primeval drives and reactional modes that are artifacts of the millenniums during which the human being was just another wild creature. Using the capacities of thought and feeling after connecting to an oil, the blender then opens the bottle of a given oil, takes a deep inhalation of its scent and energy, and explores it through the prism of the primal, sensory faculties of the animal soul.
It is only when the blender’s consciousness has descended from the lofty aerie of the intellect and then continues downward through feeling to the domain of the animal soul that he or she can connect with spirit and achieve the requisite “Zen state” of the Spiritual PhytoEssencing blender. This seems counterintuitive. Shouldn’t the powers of intellect be the point of embarkation for deep connection with spirit rather than the lower soul faculty of animal instinct?
The direction of this flowing stream of consciousness from higher soul to animal soul actually represents a variation on the kabbalistic theme of “descent for the purpose of ascent.” This concept is often discussed in reference to the need for each person’s soul to descend from the higher realm into the hurly-burly of earthly existence in order to be afforded the opportunity to perfect itself via the performance of good deeds and the maintenance of faith in God despite being sorely tested by the myriad challenges of mortal life.
It is only through this voluntary alignment of individual will with divine will in the face of great resistance that the soul can realize its full potential. Therefore, the descent of the soul can actually facilitate greater ascent; and often there can be no ascent at all without a prior descent. There is no question that one’s periods of greatest inner growth and maturation are commonly products of hard, rather than the carefree, times in one’s life. The Zohar (the central text of the Kabbalah) explains: “The impulse from below calls forth that from above.”
The great 13th century kabbalist Rabbi Moses de Leon (thought by some to be the author of the Zohar) describes the journey of the soul as follows: “The purpose of the soul entering this body is to display its powers and actions in this world, for it needs an instrument. By descending to this world, it increases the flow of its power to guide the human being through the world. Thereby it perfects itself above and below, attaining a higher state by being fulfilled in all dimensions. If it is not fulfilled both above and below, it is incomplete…Departing this world, it is filled with the fullness of all the worlds, the world above and the world below [the material world]. Before descending to this world, the soul is imperfect; it is lacking something. By descending to this world, it is perfected in every dimension.”
The instincts of the animal soul, guided largely by the senses (including very prominently the sense of smell), gather crucial data regarding the inner nature of an oil. The animal soul examines the scent of an oil much in the same way that a deer does when it sniffs the foliage of a shrub before browsing on its leaves.
Given the flow-dynamics of the Tree Of Life, the human being’s animal soul, while driven by primal instincts, is nevertheless tinctured by the higher intelligence that streams downward from the upper sefirot along channels that interconnect all the sefirot. Therefore, the animal soul is not completely dependent upon the higher soul for its rescue from the allure of the call of the wild. Instead, it contains (albeit on a different quantum level) the same intellectual powers of wisdom, understanding and knowledge associated with the workings of the higher soul. Thus, the divine sparks in the animal soul can undergo a process of locally directed extraction from their obscuring matrix of existential dross and develop into flames that reach up and immerse themselves in the higher soul’s illuminating fire.
When the scent of an oil is introduced to the animal soul, it not only familiarizes itself with that oil on a substance level but on a form level as well. It then relays this intelligence about substance and form upward to the sefirot of feeling and intellect. Thus, it is the animal soul that provides the final link in the chain of being between the operations of the transcendent and immanent aspects of the divine within the human soul.
Once this circle has been completed, the blender is now positioned to reach out to spirit and be guided by unitive consciousness, wherein there is no separation between the knower and the known. Paradoxically, the blender is now operating from within a Vacated Space, a place of pure form, created through complete immersion in substance.
In The Lights of Penitence, Lights of Holiness, the Moral Principles, Essays, Letters, and Poems, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook writes: “All that is required by study is only a profound strategy as to how to draw on what is hidden in the heart, in the depths of the soul, one’s inner understanding, from the knowledge within. Knowledge in our inner being continues to stream forth. It creates, it acts. The higher creative individual does not create. He only transfers. He brings vital, new light from the higher source whence originality emanates to the place where it has not previously been manifest, from the place that ‘no bird of prey knows, nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.’ (Job 28:7)…‘that no man has passed, nor has any person inhabited it.’ (Jeremiah 2:6). And with the emergence of such greatness of the self, there is fashioned the faithful ear, the listening heart.”