Marjoram Oil and the Perception of Threat to One’s Self-Concept

by | Feb 9, 2014 | Spiritual PhytoEssencing E-Journal

In the past year, I have spent a good deal of time studying the writings of the great humanistic psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers (1902-1987), and have found that many of his ideas are similar to those I have long emphasized in Spiritual PhytoEssencing practice.

While ostensibly Rogers, one of the most brilliant and influential of 20th century psychoanalysts, focused upon human psychological dynamic as both a theoretician and practitioner, he clearly operated along the borderline between mind and soul. For this reason, I find that many of his central concepts can be readily adapted to the psychospiritual framework of the art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing.

In this article I discuss some of Rogers’ foundational concepts and then demonstrate their relevance regarding the inner conflict of the marjoram oil individual. Actually, those of Rogers’ ideas presented here are relevant regarding the inner nature of many of the approximately 120+ essential oils fully elaborated in Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis Of Essential Oils (the central reference text of Spiritual PhytoEssencing). I selected the marjoram oil individual for closer examination because the relevance of Rogers’ concepts can be perceived particularly clearly within the marjoram oil typology.

Spiritual PhytoEssencing

Spiritual PhytoEssencing (SPE) (an art I began developing in the mid-1990’s) is a synthesis of certain aspects of aromatherapy, doctrine of signatures, classical homeopathy, modern physiology, Kabbalah, philosophy, anthroposophical science, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and folklore, depth psychology, alchemy, gemstone healing and color therapy. One of the central goals of SPE practice is the revitalization of a person’s real self, enabling it to assert its essential dominance with the self-structure and self-concept.

Real Self/Ideal Self Dichotomy

Rogers popularized the terminology real self and ideal self. Viewed through the psychospiritual lens of SPE, the real self is a construct of both psyche and soul that is a direct expression of an individual’s unique soul-nature that is more or less intact at birth. Ideally, this unique soul-nature serves as the operational headquarters of the self-structure that emerges as the child matures.

Rogers taught that each person has a “self-actualizing” tendency: an innate drive to actualize the potentials inherent to the real self. Accordingly, a “fully-functioning person” is one who, throughout all the ups and downs of mortal existence, never veers off the path of real self-actualization. The fully-functioning person trusts his organic nature, experiences life through its basis of understanding and mechanisms of feeling, is able to express his deepest feelings and develop independently of the judgments and limitations introjected (adapted from others, but perceived as being self- generated) into his self-structure.

Unique Soul-Portrait in Essential Oils

In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, an interview (called anamnesis – Latin for recollection) is conducted which enables the blender to identify the constitutional themes and the primary archetypal components of the real self (the unique soul-nature we are born with) that characterizes the subject’s psycho-spiritual dynamics. These archetypes and themes are then proficiently matched with corresponding essential oils whose inner soul nature features similar archetypes and themes.

The resultant “custom blend” constitutes a plant-soul analogue of a given individual’s “unique soul-portrait.” In other words, the blender is creating a portrait in essential oils of the real self. It is this customized correspondence to the real self that encourages an individual’s soul to accept the homogeneous blend of plant-souls as a “reorganizing nucleus.”

Conditions Of Worth

The ideal self is the compensated state a person begins to construct when he or she is told (in various ways), beginning as a very young child, that his or her real self is not well-suited for negotiating the harsh realities of life. Rogers emphasized the central role, what he referred to as “conditions of worth” at play in the development of the ideal self. In his view, a fully-functioning person is one whose self-concept is not thoroughly formed by these conditions of worth.

All of us as children received positive regard from our parents and other influential figures such as older siblings, teachers and friends that was “conditional” upon one of our specific actions or character traits conforming with their, and/or cultural, views and standards. Thus, a child will feel that he is loved when he receives positive regard for something considered to be of value (but not for something that does not meet the standards) regarding a particular influential other. For instance, in the modern inner city environment, while street toughness is venerated, studiousness is often viewed with derision. Therefore, this creates a condition of worth for young boys; toughness elicits positive regard, scholastic accomplishment does not.

This process establishes conditions of worth that limit the child’s real self-expression as he comes to understand that he is worthy of love and other forms of positive regard only when his behavior and other expressions of self are consistent with the prevailing concepts of influential others and cultural context. This is a demonstration of what Rogers refers to as a shift in the “locus of valuation.” Ideally, the “locus (point or place) of valuation” by which we assess our life experiences should rest within the domain of the real self – an expression of one’s unique soul-nature. However, when the locus of valuation shifts to the domain of influential others and societal expectations, the real self yields to the regime of the “manufactured ideal self.” Thus, various identifying archetypal elements within the real self are sidelined like eliminated chess pieces.

Accordingly, it is the incongruence between what we would organically feel and experience via the offices of the real self, and what we feel and experience as a consequence of our possession by the construct of the ideal self that underlies much of the discontentment and feeling of being incomplete by those who are not fully-functioning.

When the ideal self becomes dominant, an individual only gets fleeting glimpses of his or her authentic soul-nature. Essentially, the ideal self is the real self extensively altered (sometimes beyond recognition) by the establishment of a collection of conditions of worth.

The real self continues to exert a strong influence, but that is primarily experienced as sadness, discouragement, resentment and other negative emotions arising from the suppression and repression of the real self. In the course of this suppression and repression, one’s memory of the shape and image of his or her true soul nature fades. It is as if the real self is a boat that has become unmoored, slowly drifts out to sea, and disappears over the horizon.

Reestablishing the Real Self

The custom blend, a portrait in oils of the real self, serves as a mirror within which the real self can, for the first time in a very long while, gaze upon its unobscured image. It is this casting of a reflection of the true shape of a person’s soul that enables the custom blend to unlock the moribund potential within an analogous human-soul.

When a person can once again “see” his or her true self, an overwhelming urge arises to return to oneself. As the true self and the higher soul share the same spiritual root, there is also a simultaneous flaring-up of the natural desire of the soul to establish ongoing intimate contact with its divine source. Ultimately, reorientation regarding the real self and the spiritual world are central to the amelioration of the soul-level central disturbance that often ripples outward and is expressed as emotional and physical disharmony.

Perception of Threat to One’s Self-Concept

Another of Rogers’ key ideas involves the process of symbolization by the self-structure. Accordingly, the self-structure symbolizes (i.e., labels) various life experiences, organizing it into a particular relation to itself. Ideally, these symbolizations should be accurate snapshot representations of the quality of each experience and the reactions it elicited.

The symbolization process can be guided by either the real self or the ideal self, but most often by some combination thereof. To the extent that an experience is processed primarily by the real self, it is more accurately symbolized in awareness. To the extent that it is processed primarily by the ideal self, the symbol is distorted and therefore more likely to contribute toward the potential for inner conflict when it is incorporated into self-structure. True psychospiritual adjustments can proceed only when the organic feeling and sensing operations of the real self consistently assimilate experiences on a symbolic level into the matrix of the self-structure.

Being that the ideal self – unlike the real self which is an expression of one’s unique soul nature – is an artificial construct, when it dominates the process of symbolization, that process is characterized by estrangement from the spiritual realm. Consequently, the self-structure is vulnerable and much more easily destabilized.

Sensing this, the ideal self-dominant individual tends to be defensive. Any experience that does not conform to the ideal self-structure is much more likely to be perceived as a threat. The greater the ongoing perception of threat by the ideal self, the more rigidly it organizes its barriers and resistances in order to maintain the survival of its tenuous edifice of compensations, conditions of worth and illusions.

In this reference, Rogers writes in The Carl Rogers Reader“The essential nature of threat is that if the experience were accurately symbolized in awareness [by the ideal self], the self-concept would no longer be a consistent gestalt [an organized whole that is perceived as being greater than the sum of its parts], the conditions of worth would be violated, and the need for [positive] self-regard would be frustrated. A state of anxiety would exist. The process of defense [i.e., defensiveness] is a reaction which prevents these events from occurring.”

Rogers goes on to explain that defensiveness involves “the selective perception or distortion of the experience.” This is necessary to contain the perception of the experience within the rigid boundaries of a carefully constructed self-structure that has largely been shaped by conditions of worth. Rogers observes that an important consequence of the process of defense is “a rigidity of perception.” Thus, establishing genuine soul-to-soul relation with the ideal self-dominant individual often borders on the impossible. These individuals can be very trying as their capacity for uncritical acceptance and empathic understanding is greatly restricted by their”rigidity of perception.”

When the real self dominates, the higher soul exerts a continuous influence upon one’s orientation regarding daily existence. When this occurs the perception of threat to the self-structure is greatly diminished as that structure is infused with infinity via connection to the spiritual ground of all being. In this case, instead of being perceived as threatening, experiences that are incongruent with the self-structure’s nature, will be objectively analyzed and assimilated, facilitating modifications to self-structure that are consistent with inner growth.

The more consistently experiences are symbolized and processed by the real self in this manner, the greater the propensity to replace a frame of reference (which begins to be established in early childhood) based primarily on distorted symbolizations introjected by influential others with an organic valuing process rooted in one’s unique soul-nature.

Marjoram Oil

I have chosen to weave marjoram oil into this discussion of the perception of threat to the self-concept because the picture of its typology that I have presented in the Marjoram chapter of Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils provides:

a) a clear view of the dichotomy between real self and ideal self;

b) the distortion of symbolization associated with the latter

c) the characteristic reactional mode that develops in response to the ideal self’s perception of threat to a self-structure that has been primarily invested in the illusory workings of the finite realm.

Marjoram and the Real Self

Marjoram (also referred to as sweet marjoram) is a tender perennial which is usually treated as an annual, because outside of those warm regions to which it is native, including North Africa, Turkey and southwest Asia, it cannot stand the cold of winter and so must be sown anew every year. Here we see signatures that point to the inherent sweetness, tenderness and vulnerability of the marjoram individual.

The plant’s short-stalked, gray-green, oval leaves are soft and fuzzy and occur opposite each other on the plant’s square stem (as is typical of mint family plants). The leaf is nurturing and extensional (reaches out); thus, it is the plant part that relates most directly to human capacity for feelings. Marjoram leaves’ soft and fuzzy quality is another signature of similar qualities within the realm of feeling in the marjoram oil individual. The opposite arrangement of the leaves points toward a strong desire for 1:1 soul relation with another human being.

The mature leaves, when bruised, emit a distinctive spicy, aromatic fragrance. As scent is the product of an interaction of cosmic and terrestrial forces and represents the most spiritual aspect of matter, the leaves’ increased emission of scent when bruised suggests that, when operating from her real self, the marjoram individual’s response to wounding will be strongly influenced by spirit.

The plant’s white or pink flowers are very small and are arranged in long burr-like heads that resemble knots before blossoming (thus, marjoram’s alternative common name: knotted marjoram). On a psycho-spiritual level, pink (the color associated with the energy of kindness and unconditional love) pacifies and calms, and so, can be used to ameliorate anger, aggression, irritation, over-sensitivity and feelings of neglect, and otherwise promote emotional comfort and healing.

The origin of marjoram’s name can serve as an important signature. Its genus name Origanum derives from the Greek words oros and ganos which, in conjunction, translate as joy (or adornment) of the mountains. The origin of the name marjoram is less clear. It is thought that it derives from the Latin word amaracum, whose meaning is uncertain. However, because of its similarity to the unrelated Latin word amar, meaning love, the Roman’s associated it with love.

The English word marjoram is a product of the combination of amaracum and another Latin word: maior, meaning greater. Thus, it can be argued that marjoram means “greater love.” An alternative view holds that the name marjoram comes from the French word maiorana which is a diminutive of Mary. In ancient cultures, marjoram was a plant that sanctified marital bliss and was often incorporated into the marriage ceremony.

Among the ancient Greeks, the bride and groom were crowned with marjoram. The Greeks associated marjoram with Aphrodite, their goddess of love, beauty and fertility who supposedly created marjoram as a gentle symbol of happiness. Supposedly, Aphrodite’s gentle touch endowed marjoram with its warm, sweet scent. According to their myth, Aphrodite applied marjoram to the wounds of her son Aeneas – who, heroic and pure of heart, after having already carried his aged father from the city of Troy as it was collapsing in flames, went back into the blazing city to search for his lost wife. Marjoram was also planted on graves by loved ones of the deceased to help ensure that he or she does, in fact, rest in peace.

Clearly, the plant signatures and historical associations of marjoram suggest that marjoram oil’s inner nature is characterized by sensitivity, beauty and connection to spirit. However, when we shift our attention to the marjoram oil aromatherapy symptom picture we see all the hallmarks of dominance by the ideal self and the disharmony associated with estrangement from the real self. In this reference, relevant symptoms include: hyperactivity; nervousness; anxiety; irritability; deep psychological trauma; feelings of persecution; oppressed feeling; obsessions; addictive behavior; grief; insomnia; loneliness; claustrophobia; mental and physical weakness and exhaustion; chronic lethargy; chilliness; excessive sexual desire; wounds; bruises.

In the Marjoram oil chapter, there is a good deal of explanation devoted to the hypersexuality (or, conversely, sexual indifference) often seen in the failed state of the marjoram individual. I am going to reserve a discussion of that for my next article wherein I will explain the sexual behavior of the marjoram type through the lens of the anthroposophical model of etheric body and astral body, as well as the alchemical model of Mercury and Sulfur. So for our purposes here, I will limit my remarks in this reference to the observation that the hypersexuality, or the sexual indifference, of the marjoram individual is often the product of varying conditions of worth.

Marjoram and the Homeopathic Remedy Palladium

I have observed that individuals who require the homeopathic remedy Palladium commonly have a strong affinity for marjoram oil. This is not to say that one is a substitute for the other in clinical practice. Instead, they act synergistically, and for our purposes, this relationship enables us to use relevant portions of the Palladium picture to more fully elaborate our understanding of the marjoram individual.

In this reference, the following Palladium symptoms are revealing within the context of the current discussion: subtle self-centeredness and haughtiness; vanity; problems with looking older; need for approval and praise; very pleasant and eager to please; cheerful and upbeat in company but becomes exhausted from the effort; extremely fatigued in the evening; mental exhaustion; bad news aggravates all her symptoms; nervous sensitivity to company; strong-willed yet tries to appear amiable; need for expressions of appreciation from others; needs to be made to feel that she is of value; prone to feeling offended or ignored when no insult was intended; pride easily wounded; complaints from feelings of shame, humiliation or wounded pride; delusion of being unappreciated; feels neglected; anger with trembling; irritability, takes everything in bad part.

The synchronicity between marjoram and Palladium runs very deep. The following description of the marjoram type provided by Gabriel Mojay in Aromatherapy For Healing The Spirit clearly corroborates this. Mojay writes: “There may be feelings of real or imagined emotional deprivation—the idea that ‘no one cares.’ Regardless of whether the person is truly isolated or not, they tend to see themselves as lonely and unsupported, easily feeling denied both warmth and affection.”

Mojay’s description is consistent with the central Palladium feelings of not being appreciated and/or the need to earn the love or good opinion of others lest she be neglected. These feelings are expressed in such symptoms as: need for expressions of appreciation from others; needs to be made to feel that she is of value; prone to feeling offended or ignored when no insult was intended; pride easily wounded; complaints from feelings of shame, humiliation or wounded pride; delusion of being unappreciated; feels neglected.

On the other hand, Philippe Mailhebiau in Portrait In Oils provides a description of the characterology of marjoram which points back in the direction of the marjoram type’s real self. He writes: “… [she has] nobility of heart, love for life and people and beauty of soul and body…[she is] upright, pure and motivated by noble feelings…[she has] an inner beauty reflected in a stately bearing.”


All the essential oils described in Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis Of Essential Oils (within which a complete chapter of 15 to 30+ pages is dedicated to each of the 120+ oils included thus far), on a soul level relate therapeutically to some aspect of dysfunction of the partnered dance in which the real self and ideal self are perpetually engaged. Each oil addresses either variations of said dysfunction or is specific for certain of its causative or complicating factors. The complete Marjoram chapter (19 pages long) provides an in-depth view of those causative and complicating factors particular to the marjoram oil individual.

Even with the limited amount of the marjoram oil picture presented here, the outlines regarding the marjoram oil individual’s conditions of worth, tendency toward inaccurate symbolization in awareness, rigidity of perception, insecure self-concept, heightened sense of threat and associated volatile emotional defensiveness, can be clearly discerned.

Rogers’ following description of the process of the perception of threat and related defensiveness ties these threads together and helps explain some of the psycho-spiritual “knots” (recall that a common name for Origanum majorana is “knotted marjoram”; marjoram flowers are very small and are arranged in long burr-like heads that resemble knots before blossoming) that can mire the marjoram oil individual in a tenacious state of stuckness.

“The process [of defense] consists of the selective perception, or distortion, of experience and/or denial to awareness of the experience or some portion thereof, thus keeping the total perception of the experience consistent with the individual’s [insecure, ideal self-dominant] self-structure, and consistent with his conditions of worth.”

In Ecomysticism, Carl Von Essen, M.D. writes: “William James [1842-1910; renowned philosopher, psychologist and physician] discussing individuality wrote: ‘the recesses of feeling, the darker, blinder strata of character, are the only places in the world in which we catch real fact in the making.’ Hidden deep in each of us, these strata are near to what some may speculate is the soul. They are reachable when we clear the way by sweeping aside the bits of information, the ‘noise’ that blocks the inner journey to the plenum [complete, incorporating all components] of our ground state.”

Dr. Albert Schweitzer observed “The tragedy of man is what dies inside himself while he still lives.” Rabbi Zadok HaCohen of Lublin, a 19th century Hasidic master,makes a similar observation, albeit from a different, more inspirational perspective: “The essence of a person is what his heart deeply wants.”

Clearly, both of these men are indirectly referencing the need for a person to be directed in life by the real self, that aspect of being which can never forsake spirit as it is inherently a tangible expression of the interaction between spirit and soul. When one wanders outside the realm of the real self and becomes totally immersed in the illusory meshwork of the ideal self, he or she loses touch with what the heart deeply wants. This essentially represents one of the primary trailheads on the pathway of despair and disease.

On the other hand, when the real self is the consistent center of operations, one’s thoughts and feelings are always influenced by an ongoing connection to spirit – the only viable pathway to wholeness of being. In this vein, Helen Keller, in Light In My Darkness writes: “My mystic world is lovely with trees and clouds and stars and eddying streams I have never ‘seen.’ I am often conscious of beautiful flowers and birds and laughing children when to others there is nothing. The skeptical declare that I see light that never was on sea or land, but I know that this mystic sense in them is dormant and that is why there are so many barren places in their lives.

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