It was 1961 and I was 11 years old. A boy my own age lived around the corner in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and I often walked over to his house to pass the time in the largely meaningless way that boys of that age often do. Every now and then he would mention his next-door neighbor whom he referred to only by his last name – Bartell.
Bartell was a young man of about twenty or so, whom my pal had the kind of respect for that Brooklyn boys reserve exclusively for the inherently strong and tough. He informed me more than once, in a tone tinctured with awe, that he had heard it said that Bartell had killed a man.
Bartell lived with his parents on the ground floor of a circa 1920s two-family, stuccoed house. Occasionally, I had noticed his late 1950s black Chevy Impala parked in the driveway but had never actually seen its driver.
Then, one gray fall day my friend and I were sitting on the stoop when we heard a door open and shut behind us as we turned our heads in unison: there stood Bartell – a man with the kind of powerful physique that is acquired through genes rather than barbells. The sleeves of his unbuttoned black leather coat clung to his large biceps. No doubt, Bartell had been the toughest, strongest boy in his class from the first day of kindergarten until high school graduation; one of those boys that those budding sociopaths in school who were apparently training for prison rather than college, knew better than to try and bully.
My friend called out, “Hey, Bartell!” – seemingly more to demonstrate bravado than neighborliness. Bartell, who already had one leg in his car, turned and fixed an expressionless gaze on his diminutive neighbor. He quickly assessed him to be a harmless, adolescent wiseacre, granted him a nearly imperceptible nod, and climbed the rest of the way into his Impala.
The Chevy’s engine turned over on the first crank, and, with his right arm draped over the back of the front seat and his left hand deftly controlling the steering wheel, Bartell backed out of the driveway into the flow of traffic. My sense was that the deep rumble of the car’s V-8 engine and its dark-of-night color were extensions of Bartell himself.
The Impala’s twin set of three round, red taillights winked out when he removed his foot from the brake pedal and accelerated down the block. Left behind was a vapor trail of tailpipe exhaust and Bartell’s brooding human presence that slowly dissipated as we silently watched the Chevy disappear into the distance.
I lived in that neighborhood for another two years, but after that day, while I occasionally saw the black Impala parked in that driveway, I never again saw Bartell.
Death of a “Gladiator”
About forty years after that incident I happened across a magazine article about an old boxing tragedy that had occurred on April 9, 1960: a Saturday night – the night of dates, parties and inebriated revelry on college campuses. The University of Wisconsin Field House contained a standing-room-only crowd of more than 10,000 full-throated college students, faculty and alumni. That night, the Wisconsin Badgers’ boxing squad was vying for the national boxing team championship. Most people today are not aware that colleges across the country once had boxing teams. But what happened that night initiated boxing’s permanent demise as a collegiate sport.
Charlie Mohr, captain of the Badgers’ team, was an intelligent, likeable and deeply religious senior. While getting ready in the locker room – having his hands taped, shadow boxing until his muscles warmed up – he must have heard the swelling noise of the crowd. Perhaps anticipation and reminiscence swirled uneasily in his mind as this was to be the last fight of his college boxing career. His opponent was a college boy that he had previously fought twice with each boxer winning one of the bouts.
Charlie, robed and gloved, left the locker room and walked down the passageway to the arena surrounded by his stoic corner men. As he made his way down the aisle between sections of the crowd, a roar ripped through air already ripe with tobacco smoke, testosterone and the sour odor of perspiration. Bending at the waist, he stepped through the ropes into the ring and began to bounce up-and-down on the balls of his feet, turning deeply inward as soldiers do when they receive orders to advance upon the enemy line.
The two fighters fought evenly during the first round, but in the second, Charlie was knocked to the canvas by a hard blow to the left temple. Charlie got back to his feet by the count of two. The referee nevertheless continued to give him the mandatory nine-count while looking into his eyes to see if they were clear. “You all right Charlie?” he asked. “Yes,” the boxer replied. So, the referee signaled for the fight to continue.
At first, Charlie seemed to have recovered. For thirty seconds he moved around the ring normally. However, when his opponent began landing hard, unanswered punches, the referee knew something was wrong, stepped between the fighters, and stopped the bout. Charlie, badly hurt, tentatively made his way back to the locker room. He complained to his brother about head pain and lay down. The University of Wisconsin team physician, suspecting a possible concussion, as a precaution, ordered Mohr to remain lying down. However, nine minutes later Charlie started convulsing and slipped into a coma.
Charlie was rushed to the hospital where he underwent three hours of emergency surgery to reduce brain swelling and arrest cerebral hemorrhaging. Although the swelling receded and the bleeding stopped, Charlie remained unresponsive. After eight days of unconsciousness, the bell ending the final round of Charlie’s fight for survival sounded and his soul stepped out through the ring’s ropes and silently exited life’s arena.
The college boy who threw the punches that killed Charlie Mohr was named Stu Bartell.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Feelings of Guilt and Remorse
When I read the name Stu Bartell in that magazine article, the memory of my encounter with Bartell that long-ago gray Brooklyn day rushed back in photographic detail. Could it be that Bartell, the one who was rumored to have killed a man, and whom I had watched drive off in his black Impala? Were he and Stu Bartell one and the same person?
While that is a possibility, I will never know for certain. The old neighborhood has completely changed and everyone who lived there back then is long gone. However, the article and my memory of Bartell’s inward, withdrawn and brooding presence provoked questions in my mind regarding a particular genre of “guilt feelings.” How does the knowledge that one unintentionally killed another human being affect: the boxer who kills an opponent, the soldier who kills to keep from being killed, the driver who skidded on black ice and crossed into oncoming traffic, the mother who underestimated the virulence of her child’s symptoms of illness and slept while her child’s condition became critical, or the doctor whose inaccurate assessment in a difficult-to-diagnose case results in the death of a patient?
Clearly, feelings of guilt will invariably be prominent among the swirl of emotions experienced by these individuals. Often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is framed as a product of a personal trauma and/or the witnessing of others being harmed or traumatized. However, haunting thoughts and memories of having played a role, albeit a wholly unintentional one, in the severe injury or death of someone are often key components of PTSD.
There are a variety of essential oils that can help assuage guilt feelings. Yet, the first one that came to mind while I pondered this particular genre of guilt feelings was pine oil.
Note: The discussion that follows regarding the properties of the pine tree and the healing substances derived from it is largely excerpted from Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils.
In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, essential oils are primarily used in blends with the component oils each contributing an archetypal pattern that, in concert, has congruence with a similar archetypal pattern encoded into the soul of the individual for whom one is specifically preparing the blend. Nevertheless, it is important to study each of the oils in isolation in order to develop the soul-to-soul relation with it that is a prerequisite for effective deep soul-level healing work with essential oils.
Pine oil is an important oil to consider when blending for a paralytic emotional state characterized by traumatization and related guilt feelings. Relative to soldiers and other warrior types, pine oil harbors powerful astral body forces.
The astral body, associated with the “animal soul” component of the human soul, can be defined as the “animal principle” derived largely from certain cosmic regions that comes into the living organism as an active psychic force and is responsible for all instincts, desires, passions, attractions, repulsions and movement. It’s the astral body and the conscious state it facilitates that make animal life possible. Air is the medium of the astral body, which incarnates into the body through breathing.
Animal life exceeds plant life in that it is imbued with a perceiving soul that permeates the physical-etheric body complex, leads to the development of organs and senses, and instigates movement. The astral body perceives and internalizes impressions from the external world, which are subsequently exteriorized in the form of behavioral responses and movement.
Pine’s powerful animal soul affinity is evidenced by the fact that many pine species have developed adaptations that enable them to be aggressive invaders and aggressive colonizers. Accordingly, one significant dispersal event, such as strong winds during the time the trees are coning can result in the colonization of a large disturbed area. Pines are able to spread into more productive sites, even outside of their natural ranges, when some natural disturbance reduces the competitive edge of other vigorous tree species. In temperate and tropical regions, pines are fast-growing, forming relatively dense stands, and their acidic, decaying needles inhibit the sprouting of competing hardwoods.
Pine’s animal soul qualities are counterbalanced by both nurturing (plant soul) and spirit-connection (higher soul) properties. Regarding the former, pine seeds (nearly all pines produce edible seeds) are eaten by chipmunks and squirrels as well as a variety of bird species, including chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, finches and warblers. The trees are also important to various birds for cover, roosting and nesting sites. Grouse use pine needles for nesting material while mice, porcupines, and other rodents use the bark for nesting material.
The pine tree’s white, soft and moist inner bark or cambium: the layer of cells situated between the inner bark and the wood of a tree that repeatedly subdivides to form new wood and bark cells is edible and rich in vitamins A and C. It can be eaten raw in slices as a snack or dried and ground up into a powder for use as a thickener in stews, soups, and other foods, such as pine bread. Native Americans also used the boiled mashed inner bark (as well as pine tar salve) to heal injuries.
The tribes of the Adirondacks (which actually means “tree eaters”) ate the inner bark of white pine (Pinus strobus) as one of their primary winter foods; and also in the spring when it was rich with sap. The Zuni prepared bread from the inner bark. The sap-filled cambium was so commonly used as an emergency food and flour (ground, dried bark) that great stands of these trees came to be stripped of their bark.
During the first winter that early European colonists spent in North America, when many of them died of scurvy (caused by a severe vitamin C deficiency), Native American’s came to their rescue with pine needle tea.
In reference to spirit connection, the pine tree is noted for its remarkable resilience: the measurement of a plant’s ability to tolerate conditions of adversity and return to a healthful state. Demonstrating such resilience through challenging climatic and environmental circumstances, it is unsurprising that on a psycho-spiritual level, the pine tree is thought to transmit the qualities of clarity and peace, and to enhance a person’s ability to weather challenging “climatic changes” in his life, and, through difficult times, continue to work to secure the well-being of future generations. The Iroquois called the white pine the “Tree of Great Peace,” and burned its wood as a means of pacifying ghosts and banishing nightmares.
In aromatherapy, pine oil, on an emotional level, is considered to be: energizing and otherwise uplifting, in part via its support of the adrenal cortex. The oil may help ameliorate mental fatigue and nervous exhaustion, reduce anxiety and nervousness, enhance mental clarity and counteract poor concentration and memory weakness.
On a psycho-spiritual level, pine oil helps to clear and refresh the mind, reduce emotional repression, build self-confidence, encourage forgiveness, including self-forgiveness, and counteract feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, guilt and rejection.
Gemmotherapy Remedy Pinus Montana
One of the leading symptoms of PTSD, deeply intertwined with guilt feelings, is a paralytic stuckness state characterized by an inability to let go of one’s emotional woundings and move on with life. The gemmotherapy remedy Pinus montana suggests that pine oil is highly specific for this tenacious form of psycho-spiritual stasis. While the Pinus montana symptoms listed below are physical in nature, the essential nature of symptoms on a physical level often serve as mirrored images of related emotional symptoms. Thus, the themes and patterns of the physical and emotional symptom pictures are commonly redundant.
Gemmotherapy (gemma is the Latin word for bud) is a type of homeopathic/herbal medicine that employs remedies made from the buds, emerging shoots, seeds, catkins and newly grown tissues, such as rootlets, of various trees and shrubs.
The value of using these remedies is that the vital force of trees and shrubs is at its highest point when the new leaves, branches and flowers begin to emerge, and thus, vital force is most concentrated in these parts. One important gemmotherapy remedy is prepared from the buds of the pine species Pinus montana, commonly known as mountain pine or dwarf pine. The species is native to the Tyrolese Alps and Carpathian Mountains and grows at an elevation of between 4300 and 8250 feet (1300-2500 meters).
Pinus montana is effective in the regeneration of hard tissue, bone, and cartilage. Interestingly, given the theme of movement or lack thereof in the composite pine oil picture, Pinus montana is thought to have the ability to restore the effectiveness of other remedies whose actions have stalled.
Indications for the use of Pinus montana include: cartilage deterioration; chronic rheumatism; osteoporosis; demineralization and dystonia in the elderly (abnormal tonicity of muscle, characterized by prolonged, repetitive muscle contractions that may cause twisting or jerking movements of the body or a body part); vertebral arthritis; ankylosing spondylitis (also known as rheumatoid spondylitis; refers to inflammation of the joints in the spine which may lead to fusion of vertebrae, curvature and inflexibility of the spine); osteoarthritis of the hips and knees.
Pine oil and Guilt Feelings
A very important clue regarding my understanding of the inner nature of pine oil is Dr. Edward Bach’s description of the flower essence he prepared from pine. In The Twelve Healers And Other Remedies, Bach describes “pine flower essence” as being specific for individuals “…who blame themselves. Even when successful, they think they could have done better and are never content with their efforts or the results. They are hardworking and suffer much from the faults they attach to themselves. Sometimes if there is any mistake, even when due to another, they will claim responsibility for it.”
Sea Pine and Black Pine
Clearly, if we connect all the dots represented by the preceding information regarding the pine tree, pine oil, the gemmotherapy remedy Pinus montana and pine flower essence, the potential soul-level healing value of pine oil in cases of PTSD mixed with strong guilt feelings is undeniable.
The questionis, which of the more than 100 species of pine would be particularly relevant in this reference? There are only a handful of different types of pine oil commercially available, so I can only speak to those. Among the pine oils that I have worked with over many years, I find the combination of sea pine and black pine to be best suited regarding the PTSD/guilt complex described herein.
Sea Pine (Pinus pinaster)
Sea pine, indigenous to the coastlines of the Mediterranean basin, is a maritime plant. Accordingly, it has a subtle energy relationship with salt (sodium chloride) and thus, the homeopathic themes of the element sodium.
Grief is one the leading emotional themes among those who require one of the homeopathic sodium remedies. There is an underlying fear of being hurt and of being alone as well as feelings of low self-esteem and insecurity. When grieving, the sodium type feels isolated and becomes withdrawn. Sodium individuals are often sensitive, vulnerable, closed people who fortify themselves against potential rejection. They often feel alienated from the external world and feel that they must shoulder their burden walled-off in solitude. They have the persistent feeling of being on their own; of having to carry the burden of their sadness alone.
When loss or rejection occurs, they tend toward melancholy and pessimistic feelings, believing that they will never be well again or things will never be right again. They can come to feel that it is forbidden to experience happiness. They sometimes feel as if their losses will continue until all has been taken away from them. After having experienced a loss or rejection, they become averse to company and consolation and shut themselves off from others in order to concentrate on their loss and sadness. They carry their grief inside themselves and hide it from the world. The sodium type is easily frightened, reacting to unexpected occurrences as a prelude to further loss.
Black Pine (Pinus nigra)
Black pine is a medium-to-large conifer indigenous to central and southeastern Europe and western Asia. When young, the trees exhibit a dense pyramidal structure. With age, the crown rounds, forming a dome. Older trees have dense, spreading branches with a bark that is plate-like, furrowed and dark brown-to- black. A highly adaptable pine, black pine is tolerant of alkaline and heavy clay soils, as well as seaside and urban conditions. Over time, it develops a lot of character. Considered a good sheltering tree, it is often planted to serve as screening or as a windbreak.
I have found black pine oils to be one of the most nurturing of the various pine oils. From the brief description of the tree provided above, we can correlate its plant signatures with the Water Element, shelter, protection and adaptability.
“Disturbance” of the Water element may give rise to: panic attacks; paranoia; a multiplicity of fears; rigidity; resistance; paralytic trepidation. On the other hand, an undisturbed Water element facilitates: inner quiet; sound sleep; opening up to higher consciousness; a deepening of Self; the capacity for meditation. Black pine’s tolerance of salt-spray suggests it also has an important dynamic plane relationship with the themes of sodium.
Application of Sea Pine and Black Pine
As noted above in Spiritual PhytoEssencing, pine oil might occasionally be used alone to address the guilt feelings associated with unintentional harm. However, they will most often be components of a more dynamic blend that features a number of other oils, each of which has congruence with specific archetypal patterns commonly found in cases of the type of guilt feelings as described in this article.
Nevertheless, the simple combination of sea pine oil and black pine oil, if used wisely and consciously, may prove to be of some degree of good service in these cases. To prepare this mixture: combine 1 part each of the two pine oils. And then, mix in ½ part lavender oil. In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, lavender oil is included in every blend, because it is the only oil that can harmonize the soul-to-soul relation of all the other oils in the blend.
A potentially useful way to use this blend would be the shallow, warm foot-soak. To do so, mix 7 drops of this 2 pine oils/lavender oil combination with 1 tsp. of unrefined sea salt. Add the scented salt to a basin of very warm (but not scalding hot) water. Add sufficient water, so that when the feet are placed in the basin, the water-level comes to just above the ankle bones.
Soak the feet until the water begins to cool. Then, wrap the feet in a warm towel for 15 minutes.
Rest at least 30 minutes before eating or beginning an activity.
This warm foot-soak procedure can be performed 3 to 4 times per week.
This is only one method of using these 2 pine oils/lavender oil blend. It can also be applied to various chakras or acupuncture points, diffused into the air, etc.
In my development of the theoretical foundation of Spiritual PhytoEssencing (SPE), I have drawn on a number of great thinkers and practitioners, including Martin Buber, Carl Jung, William James, G.W.F. Hegel, Plotinus and Carl Rogers. The work of Dr. Carl Rogers, the great 20th century psychologist, has contributed a great deal to the methodology of SPE client interviewing and case-study analysis.
Rogers espoused the principle of “unconditional positive regard,” which can be defined as accepting a person’s basic worth without negative judgment. Accordingly, accepting or acknowledging another’s current actuality is the only pathway to truly understanding that individual. Lacking this, the practitioner is operating upon the basis of his own subjective ideas rather than those of the client. Rogers found that when people are accepted as they are, then, paradoxically, their ability to change is activated.
He writes (excerpted from The Carl Rogers Reader): “When I can sensitively understand the feeling which a person is expressing, when I am able to accept them as persons in their own right, the more he tends to drop the false fronts with which he has been meeting life and the more he tends to move in a direction which is forward.”
Acceptance also encourages self-acceptance. Rogers writes: “We cannot move away from what we are until we thoroughly accept what we are.
One day while I was writing this article, a fantasy surfaced in my mind. In it, I had traveled back through time and was once again 11 years old and sitting with my boyhood friend on his stoop on that long ago day. As before, we heard the door open and shut, and Bartell appeared and began to climb into his black Impala.
This time, however, some things were different. First, I knew about the boxing match that led to the death of Charlie Mohr. However, I was still not certain that Bartell was the other fighter in the ring that fateful night in Wisconsin.
Secondly, it was me, not my friend, who called out a simple greeting to Bartell. I simply said, “Hello.” This time Bartell looked our way and nodded. As I returned the nod, my eyes projected acceptance and understanding – just in case he was whom I thought he might be.
Perhaps he would have felt my understanding projection as he drove off down the street and out of my thoughts for 40 years. Once again, I will never know, but it was rewarding for me just to imagine that.
- Pine Materia Medica$5.00