Brief Overview of the Art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing
Spiritual PhytoEssencing (SPE), a system of soul-level healing work with essential oils that I began developing in the mid-1990s, features the use of two types of essential oil blends: constitutional and situational. The constitutional blend is referred to as the “custom blend,” because it is customized to reflect the unique inner soul nature of one particular individual.
Situational blends are prepared to illuminate and activate key spiritual perspectives regarding specific life situations such as illness challenges, divorce, encountering a pivotal crossroad in one’s life, dying, grieving, etc. Situational blends, while customized, are more limited in personal scope than constitutional blends, and can be formulated to be relevant for more than just one person. During the 2014 SPE Training Intensive (begins in March), the blending exercise will be dedicated to a situation blend I am developing called Adieu (the French term for farewell that literally means “to God”). It is designed for the dying, caring for the dying, grief and contact with the soul in the afterlife.
In SPE, the term archetype refers to a unique intangible construct of the soul that is a storehouse and generator of a specific pattern of psycho-spiritual and physical expressions. One of the effects of an SPE essential oil blend is to help the “I” within a person’s soul reestablish its governing influence. The “I” is the immortal aspect of the soul, which journeys through the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It carries with it the “DNA” of past life qualities and brings them to the portal of rebirth where it picks up new ones.
The “I” is the core of being. It is that which is aware. Its full assertion is required for the potential to achieve wholeness of being via engagement in soul-to-soul relationships with people, animals, plants, essential oils and all the other inspirited elements of the natural universe. As all of these are imbued with a level of divine consciousness, it is only through this ongoing pattern of developing a relation with the other ensouled components of the natural universe that can one can overcome the inertial “stuckness” associated with estrangement from one’s true self: the living soul.
Anthroposophical science teaches that plants produce fragrance as a means of absorbing “the soul” of the sun, which 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, anessential oil is the most concentrated carrier of the plant’s soul. Therefore, the individualized soul-nature of each oil, like each person’s soul-nature, is a product of the particular composition of non-material, archetypal forms. These archetypal forms give rise to the oil’s tangible qualities.
Accordingly, effective deep soul-level healing work with essential oils is largely dependent upon the accurate identification of the prominent plant-soul archetypes within each of a wide spectrum of essential oils. These essential oil archetypal profiles are then matched with prominent soul-level archetypes within either an individual for whom a blend is intended or the set of themes and feelings that serve as the blueprint for a specific situational blend. The deep soul-level healing action of a blend is derived from this congruence between the plant souls within an essential oil blend and the soul of the person who uses it.
One of the basic tenets of SPE is that in order for healing work with essential oils to be consistently effective and life changing, direct interface with an individual’s innermost realm: the soul, must be achieved.
As someone’s unique archetypal construct represents the actual fabric of his or her soul, the starting point for developing a customized, soul-healing essential oil blend for someone is to identify the central archetypal disturbances that underlie the outwardly expressed archetypal images (e.g., anxiety, depression, discouragement, disease) of his or her core disharmony and conflict.
Focusing exclusively upon the amelioration of symptoms (i.e., the archetypal images), while perhaps providing a degree of relief, exerts no lasting impression upon the dynamics of the disharmonious archetypal state that constitutes the central disturbance in most cases of chronic disease and/or discontentment.
The only way to achieve fundamental transformation on a true-self level is via direct engagement of the soul’s archetypal components.
Activating the Soul-Level Healing Potential Within Essential Oils Via Soul-Level Humility
Often, an unsatisfactory result in accessing the inner environs of the soul of the person for whom an essential oil blend is intended is due to the blender’s investment of all of his or her focus on the technical aspects of the analytical and blending processes while neglecting the parallel track of the development of soul-to-soul relation with the oils and other aspects of engagement with spirit.
Soul-level healing work with essential oils requires that the blender operate from the higher precincts of the soul. Of course, the process of essential oil selection and blend formulation is primarily directed by rational intellect. However, once the blend has been formulated and the actual blending begins, emotional feeling and the primeval instincts of the animal soul-level of consciousness must be recruited. In conjunction, these three capacities build a bridge to spirit, and from that point forward spirit becomes the final arbiter regarding the proportional presence of each oil within a given blend.
If rational consciousness is solely employed during the process of blending, the resultant blend will have been created by the same level of consciousness which is used to navigate along the finite channels of daily life rather than the level which has the potential to draw upon the boundless light that emanates from the spiritual ground of all being. Such a blend will have a static, mechanical nature that lacks both the nimbleness and illuminescense needed to penetrate complex layers of psychical resistance and engage with the inner sanctum of the soul.
At first, some students find it difficult to forsake the security of the well defined, yet undeniably limited parameters of rational consciousness. In other words, they find it difficult to move beyond what 19th century philosopher William James refers to as “the compound world of physical facts and emotional values in indistinguishable combination.”
Over time, these students are able to let go of the “side of that pool” and swim freely within the realm of spirit. The intent to influence the souls of others while remaining firmly ensconced within the armored outer shell of one’s own soul obstructs the blossoming of a form of humility, essential to soul-level healing work. This form of humility is not a consequence of deficient self-esteem, but instead, is effected by clear connection to one’s higher soul.
The Tree Of Life Vessel Of Keter
Keter-Crown is the highest vessel on the Tree Of Life of the Kabbalah (see diagram). In the Kabbalah, the Tree Of Life serves as a cosmological model that explains how divine qualities, which, prior to Creation, existed only in potential within the infinite spiritual ground of all being, were diffused into the domain of the material world whereupon they were incorporated into all the ensouled elements of the natural world.
Being the highest vessel on the Tree Of Life (actually an upside-down tree whose roots are in heaven and whose branches reach downward toward the material world), Keter represents the pinnacle of the higher soul. Keter is the point of interface between the Infinite and emanated creation. It is completely hidden from rational consciousness and conception as it is imbued with the quality of infinity. For this reason, Keter is referred to as ayin—“nothingness.” It is the primeval root of all reality, which it vitalizes in order to ultimately perform all actions within the material realm.
13th century kabbalist (author of Gates Of Light) Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla explained: “Because of the hiddenness of Keter, utterly remote from all creatures, it cannot be gazed upon but only heard.” Keter is a crown in the sense that it is the focal point of the divine energy that hovers just above, and encompasses, all Creation while remaining beyond the bounds of conscious awareness. As a crown, it rests atop the body, but it is not part of the body itself.
Keter is the superconscious source of faith. The power of faith emanates from the hidden juncture where the human soul clings to its divine source (i.e., Keter). It is this connection that imbues the soul with its eternal quality. This is the basis for the verse from Deuteronomy 4:4: “You who cling to God, your Lord, are alive, everyone of you this day.” As the power of faith originates in the superconscious realm of Keter, it is entirely abstract and unstructured.
18th century Hasidic sage, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov offers this wisdom concerning the subjugation of subjective thoughts and development and deepening of one’s faith in God as ultimately being the fundamental pathway of spiritual healing: “When things are very bad, make yourself into nothing. Close your mouth and your eyes—and you are like nothing. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by evil thoughts, finding it impossible to overcome them. You must then make yourself like nothing. You no longer exist, your eyes and mouth are closed. Every thought is banished. Your mind ceases to exist. You have nullified yourself completely before God.”
This effort toward self-nullification as a product of faith is related to Keter’s identification with ayin—nothingness. Implicit within Rabbi Nachman’s teaching is the importance of another quality that originates within the environs of Keter and which it transmits downward toward the earthly realm: humility.
Keter is considered to be the source of humility because, despite being the loftiest of all the vessels of the Tree Of Life, its direct interface with the divine realm informs it that, compared to God: the All In All, it is a mere storage vessel for (not the originator of) divine light.
Angela of Foligno: Important Insight from a 13th Century Mystic
Angela of Foligno was a 13th century Italian Christian mystic who led a life devoted to the perfection of her soul, in part via an understanding of the deepest spiritual mysteries. She was noted not only for her spiritual writings, but also for the founding of a religious community that she refused to affiliate with any well-established religious order so that it would be free to fulfill her inspired vision regarding caring for the needy.
The following quote from Angela of Foligno’s writings can serve as a nearly perfect template for the mixture of faith, understanding and humility which is required in the art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing: deep soul-level healing work with essential oils.
“The eyes of my soul were opened and I beheld the plenitude of God, wherein I did comprehend the whole world, both here and beyond the sea and the abyss and ocean and all things.
In all these things I beheld naught save the divine power in a manner assuredly indescribable; so that through excess of marveling my soul cried with a loud voice, saying: ‘The whole world is full of God!’
Wherefore I now comprehended how small a thing is the whole world. That is to say both here and beyond the seas, the abyss, the ocean and all things; and that the power of God exceeds and fills all.
Then He said unto me: ‘I have shown thee something of my power,’ and I understood that after this I should better understand the rest. He then said: ‘Behold now My humility.’
Then was I given an insight into the deep humility of God toward mankind. And comprehending the indescribable power and beholding that deep humility, my soul marveled greatly, and did esteem itself to be nothing at all.”
We can clearly see within Angela of Foligno’s description of her mystical experience, the elements of faith, understanding and humility previously discussed in relation to Keter.
It is only when the blender forsakes ego and obedience to the dictates of the relative in favor of those of the absolute (thereby immersing within the light of humility that emanates from Keter-Nothingness) can he or she create an essential oil blend that has the potential to serve as a conduit to spirit and actualization of the real self.
Humility and Essential Oils as Teachers
In traditional spiritual practices, respect for the teacher is a primary aspect of the development of soul-level humility. In this reference, we must regard each of the oils we work with as one of our teachers.
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.”
Accordingly, if the aura of soul-level humility envelops us when we work with essential oils, to paraphrase Buber, we give them the opportunity to manifest their being, and now the oils that have being manifest it. In this process, the oils reveal their inner mysteries to us and we are guided by both the spirit of the oils and the coordinated capacities of our own souls to weave those mysteries into a blend that has the capacity to heal another soul.
When, through dedicated practice, this type of humility becomes second nature, we have the ability to develop soul-to-soul relation with all the sentient beings, plant and animal, within the natural world. Each of these beings, from lowest to highest in the order of consciousness, then has the potential to serve as a teacher.
This concept is implicit within the following anecdote regarding the 18th century Hasidic sage Rabbi Dove Baer of Mezritch (the Great Maggid; maggid is a Hebrew word meaning wandering preacher), excerpted from Martin Buber’s Tales Of The Hasidim:
“After the maggid’s death, his disciples came together and talked about the things he had done. When it was Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s turn [another 18th century Hasidic sage], he asked them: ‘Do you know why our master went to the pond every day at dawn and stayed there for a little while before coming home again?’ They did not know why. Rabbi Zalman continued: ‘He was learning the song with which the frogs praise God. It takes a very long time to learn that song.’”