My Encounter with the Spirit of Cora: A Transitional Journey Using Essential Oils

by | Aug 12, 2012 | Spiritual PhytoEssencing E-Journal

In the process of writing the Douglas-fir chapter for my Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils, I have discovered that paternal nurturing is one of the central themes of the inner nature of Douglas-fir oil. Elaborating this theme rekindled a vivid memory of encountering Cora, a 5-year-old girl…who had died more than 80-years before.

“The other world is, in fact, not so much another world as another half of one world, which two halves only make full rounded sense when seen in their mutual relevance and interconnection.” –

J.N. Findlay, The Transcendence of the Cave

Maternal Nurturing

We naturally associate the theme of nurturing with the mother or maternal archetype. The period of attachment in the womb while being nourished by the mother’s blood supply, and attachment to the breast during the breast-feeding period, surely constitute the most primal and intimate of nurturing bondings.

Ideally, the mother emanates vibrations of love, openness and acceptance to the child and in so doing constructs a vibrant template for the capacity to form an “I-Thou” relationship between two unique souls. Caring, warm-interest and reciprocity characterize the I-Thou relationship, wherein each of the individuals opens to and acknowledges the authentic soul of the other.

If a mother does not engage with her child with her whole being and does not hold her child and express “I love you because you are You,” the child can neither adequately develop its sense of true self nor a satisfactory capacity for self-nurturing.

Paternal Nurturing

Fathers are not conventionally viewed as performing the nurturing function within the family group. The father is more identifiable with the task of helping the child to develop a vision of his or her place in the world outside the family and empowering the child to actualize it.

However, there really are no hard and fast divisions between nurturing and empowerment, and some fathers ultimately prove to be the superior nurturer. Often a mother, for complex personal reasons, is cool and distant while a father with a warmer, more kindly nature, becomes the glowing hearth that warms the child’s soul. Sometimes both parents are nurturers with the nurturing of each having a different quality and niche.

The Kabbalah teaches that in the process of the creation of the finite world, divine qualities, which existed only as potentialities in the infinite light, were transmitted via the vessels on the Tree of Life into the domain of the material world. In this way, these divine qualities were incorporated into all the elements of the natural world and the make-up of soul life.

These transmitting vessels and the qualities they project are considered to have either a masculine or feminine character. However, all human beings, regardless of gender, contain both male and female vessels. Accordingly, each of us contains the potential for certain attributes (e.g., nurturing, empowerment, etc.) that are traditionally associated with one or the other parent.

This has clearly been demonstrated in the more openly affectionate and sensitive nature of the contemporary father that contrasts with the more formal, authoritarian father-role of the past. In single parent homes, one parent must elaborate, equally, female and male archetypal potentialities in order to sustain the cohesiveness and success of the family group.

Douglas-Fir Oil

There are many Douglas-fir trees on my land (and many thousands more on the state forest land that borders it), thus during nearly 30-years in residence, I have developed a very strong connection to this tree. My wife, Gerri, and I walk along our forest trails every day and often we will snap a small green twig and inhale the cool green, resinous, rich and sweet balsamic/woody scent of its essential oil for its wonderful tonic effect. Also, this oil is traditionally used for anxiety, nervous tension, circulatory weakness and respiratory weakness.

The theme of paternal protection from the outside world is central to the inner nature of Douglas-fir oil. Douglas-fir cones feature a distinctive long, three-pointed bract that extends beyond the cone scales and are commonly described as resembling mouse posteriors. A Native American myth holds that each of the three-pointed bracts represents the tail and back legs of a mouse that hid within the cone’s scales as the Douglas-fir tree was kind enough to provide sanctuary for the creatures during forest fires.

Douglas-fir oil is a tonic for the wei chi, an undifferentiated layer of chi found just below the skin that serves as a bioenergetic protective field, and so, is a major part of the body’s resisting power.

Douglas-fir oil is somewhat unique in that its masculine chi-forces exert a feminine, nurturing action, albeit indirectly, via the vitalization of blood (which has a feminine, yin nature). Thus, the oil, in keeping with its masculine/yang nature, is empowering while, via its raising up of the blood into an aerated vitalized state, it enhances the capacity for self-nurturing and connection with the inner self and thus a sense of completeness.

Cemetery View

Like many people, I have a complex relationship with cemeteries. My earliest memory of one goes back to when I was 8-years-old. I grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie, which was built on the land of the Canarsie Indians who, by my time, hadn’t been spotted in centuries. Canarsie Cemetery, a relatively small rectangle of grass and carved stone, was located about 10 blocks from where I lived.

That Memorial Day weekend, my father, a World War II veteran and history buff, took my older brother and me to the cemetery because he had heard that some Civil War soldiers were buried there.

It was a pleasant, sunny day. When we entered through the wrought iron gates, I saw a scattering of small American flags in the dappled sunlight thrust like bayonets into the graves of war veterans. The flags were like an exotic species of wildflower that bloomed only in cemeteries, and for just a few days each spring.

We walked along the pathways while my father scanned the headstones for one belonging to a Civil War veteran. It was a small place, so it only required a few minutes to find what he was looking for. He called us over. There, 6-feet below my sneakers, lay the remains of a man who may have fought at Antietam, Chancelorrsville or Gettysburg. There he smelled fear-sweat, blood and smoking gunpowder as his heart started to pound while his bowels turned to water when hearing the rebel yell followed by their cannon and small-arms fire, and a sudden cry from a nearby comrade that served as that soul’s farewell to this life. He had survived battle, returned home to Canarsie and picked up his life, taking his horrific memories to this grave.

About 25-years later, on a gray winter’s day, my experience of cemeteries changed from one of boyhood imagination to the grief, emptiness and incredulity of irretrievable loss as my father was laid into the ground.

Cynics smirk at talk of graveyard ghosts; however, cemeteries are populated with spirits. Standing by some graves, you feel no presence at all, as if the spirit of the body below the ground long ago packed up and moved on. At others, a presence of being is palpable: perhaps it is a moored spirit eager to be acknowledged by a living “I” who at long last turns to it and says: “So, it is Thou.”

Meeting Cora

As I said, I have a complex relationship with cemeteries. It was early spring of 2002 when my wife Gerri and I drove from our home in western Washington State, across the Cascade Mountains that separate the western and eastern parts of the state, to a small town called Cle Elum. There resided my father-in-law Arnold, a man in his mid-eighties, whom we made the long trek to visit whenever we could in order to keep him company for a few days and lift his spirits.

During one of these trips, he said that he would like us to accompany him to a cemetery a few miles from his house where he had purchased the plot that would be his final resting place. While this seemed like a somewhat morbid outing, I realized it was not an unusual idea among old folks who sense their time is short and worry about being forgotten after they are gone. So he maneuvered himself into the passenger seat next to me like a rusty folding chair, Gerri settled into the back seat and we headed to the cemetery.

After we drove through its gate, the old man guided me through a few turns until we rolled on to a graveled road, like a private country lane, with an open field on the driver’s side and a tall stand of Douglas-fir and western red cedar on the other. The open field was, of course, a manicured garden of engraved stone.

I stopped the car at the beginning of the road which was about 20-yards from Arnold’s plot, situated under a tall Douglas-fir. Gerri and her father exited the car first while I stayed behind to rummage inside my naturopathic medicine case for a particular homeopathic remedy I had included for him.

I watched for a minute as the two made their way down the path. He was once a strong, athletic man, but now he ambled along with the stiff gait of someone with joints hardened by age and pernicious eating habits. My wife, moving gracefully beside him, held his elbow and enveloped him in a cloak of daughterly kindness.

Finding the item I was searching for, I opened my door, stepped out and was about to join them where they now stood speaking quietly under the canopy of the Douglas-fir. However, the open car door was pointing like a compass needle to a small headstone and so it caught my attention.

Less than half the size of the surrounding headstones (and topped by a carving of a lamb–often seen on children’s gravestones because it represents innocence), it was located in what was clearly a family plot bordered by a knee-high perimeter fence that set it apart. The fenced-in area could accommodate six graves, but contained only one. The rest of the grassy rectangle felt like empty prairie land after the buffalo disappeared.

I read the engraved writing: Cora, born 1914 – died 1919. Beneath the ground where I stood, there lay a 5-year-old girl. As soon as I read the name, I felt magnetically drawn to this little girl. It was as if a whirlpool from the other side had drawn me in.

Instantly, I constructed a hypothesis which, although not substantiated by anything but circumstantial evidence, felt to me like truth. I deduced that Cora had died in the Spanish flu pandemic which, first found in the United States, spread to nearly every part of the planet, including the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. It came in three waves lasting from March, 1918 to June, 1920. It is estimated that 50 million to 100 million people worldwide died which is much higher than the number killed in the shocking carnage of World War I. I have always been a very careful practitioner who never acted without clear understanding of circumstances; however, in this one case I drew the instant conclusion that Cora had been counted into that tally of millions.

The powerful draw and connection to Cora deepened as I lifted my gaze and again became aware of the emptiness of the rest of the family plot. I didn’t hear an actual voice but yet I instinctively knew I was being told a story: a recounting of Cora’s father having purchased this little piece of ground as a final resting place for his family. However, soon after he buried his young daughter here, circumstances changed and the family had to move far away. Thus, Cora was left here all alone, abandoned in her innocence by all except her vigilant stone lamb.

The name Cora derives from the Greek word kore, meaning maiden. It is borne as a byname for Persephone (an Earth goddess). In Greek mythology, Hades abducts Persephone and absconds with her to the underworld. Then Zeus, on behalf of Demeter (Persephone’s mother), commands Hades to release his captive.

The name Cora derives from the Greek word kore, meaning maiden. It is borne as a byname for Persephone (an Earth goddess). In Greek mythology, Hades abducts Persephone and absconds with her to the underworld. Then Zeus, on behalf of Demeter (Persephone's mother), commands Hades to release his captive.
Anonymous (Roman)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Zeus (the supreme ruler of the pantheon of gods) sends Hermes (the herald of the Olympian gods and son of Zeus) to ensure the safety of Persephone’s passage. Hermes found Persephone seated next to Hades. Upon seeing Hermes, Persephone became elated. Hades knew he must heed Zeus’ command and let Persephone go. However, eager to ensure her return before Persephone leaves, Hades gives her a pomegranate as a gift. She accepted the gift and Hades knew that once she tasted the sweetness of the ripe pomegranate seeds she would return to him. Indeed, thereafter Persephone came back to Hades for three months each year, eliciting the onset of winter.

This story was used to explain the division between the sweetness of spring and the bitterness of winter. When Persephone is with Hades, Demeter, consumed with sorrow, inflicts the world with the bitter cold and biting winds of winter. When Persephone returns from the underworld to walk upon the Earth again, Demeter welcomes her beloved daughter home by pouring forth the sweet abundance of spring.

I didn’t know this mythology then, but now it seems loaded with strikingly relevant symbolism. In essence, I assumed a Hermes-like role regarding Cora over the course of the next 24-hours.

Cistus Oil

Cistus oil is also crucial in Cora’s case. The oil is a specific for physical/emotional coldness and inner emptiness and it’s also associated with retrieval of lost or repressed memories and past-life information. The theme of coldness runs throughout the picture of the homeopathic remedy Cistus prepared from Cistus canadensis, a relative of Cistus ladanifer: the species from which cistus oil is distilled. Accordingly, the Cistus type is extremely sensitive to cold and tends to have a sensation of cold in various body parts. This proneness to coldness makes the cistus oil type susceptible to blood stagnation and congestion of various organs, including the heart. Within the organism, cistus oil’s most important psycho-spiritual affinity is the heart center.

One of the primary foundations of the Kabbalah is the concept of the vacated space. Accordingly, prior to creation there was only endless eternal light of God referred to as the Or Ein Sof, meaning Light of the Infinite. There was no beginning, middle or end, nor time or space, only the Or Ein Sof. Hence, there was no room or place for creation nor finite, material emanations.

In order to “make room” for creation, God constricted His light away from a center point in this circle of supernal light, creating a vacated space. This space is the area where all the galaxies, the Earth and humankind exist. The vacated space was created so that humans could have an independent existence and free will, and not only receive from God but also give back.

The great 18th century Kabbalist Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches that so long as the heart is filled with worldly passions, there would be no space for spiritual revelations. Thus, the heart must contract its load of cold, constrictive thoughts and fears and create a vacated space, which could then be filled with spiritual revelations. He cites Psalm 109 wherein King David states: “My heart is a hollow space within me.” Nachman interprets this to mean that within the vacated space of the heart, one’s connection to the higher world can be revealed. Accordingly, the heart must become a vacated space wherein the attributes of the eternal can be revealed in stages. Cistus oil is one of the leading oils for decongesting the heart center and opening a vacated space within it that accommodates the ingress of spirit.

Coldness is, of course, a major factor in Cora’s case. For more than 80-years she had been lying alone in the cold ground in a region of cold winters and heavy snowfalls. If she did die from the Spanish flu, her fever may have been accompanied by uncontrollable shivering. This shivering may have continued until her passing.

Homeopath John Henry Clarke, M.D. provides an important clue regarding the cistus oil type when he suggests that the homeopathic remedy Cistus has a notable compatible relationship with the remedy Magnesium as cistus grows on magnesium-rich soil.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms include: apprehensiveness; confusion; anxiety; disorientation; insomnia; weakness. One of the central themes of magnesium is repressed internal anxiety and insecurity. A second main theme of magnesium is the emotional desire for strong parental nurturing and protection. Renowned homeopath J.T. Kent describes the homeopathic remedy Magnesium carbonate as a remedy for orphans. Homeopath Dr. Rajan Sankaran writes: “I have found that many magnesium patients have a history of being neglected in some way by their parents. The feeling of being unwanted in the very early years of life…or a person who has lost his mother or father at a very early age.”

The relevance of this cistus-magnesium connection in reference to Cora is apparent and requires no further elaboration except to add that the theme of abandonment is a prominent one in cistus oil’s psycho-spiritual picture.

Cora’s Healing Begins

Nature’s conditions that spring day in 2002 were tailor-made for imaginative consciousness and connection with spirit. The sky was dark gray with small patches of lighter gray, like frosted windowpanes backlit by soft white sunlight. In the trees behind me, chickadees chattered evanescent sparks of sound within the cemeterial quiet. A chilling breeze, an artifact of recent winter, washed over the terrain, making Douglas-fir branches bob like buoys and leaf-draped cedar branches wave like heavy bird wings.

Of all the people over the course of more than 80-years who have passed her grave, I felt that Cora chose me to be her healer because she felt my strong connection to the spiritual world and could sense that I was a pushover for sad little girls. Also, perhaps she was lifted up by the scent of an essential oil blend from my diffusor which drifted out through the open car door (a wonderful therapy during interstate driving). An essential oil is the most concentrated carrier of the soul of the plant. So maybe, when the oils subtly scented the air around her grave, she engaged with them on a soul-to-soul level.

Cora was reaching out to me for help. Sometimes a soul cannot fully cross over and remains, at least in part, bound to this earthly realm. Perhaps it was because she died with such suddenness that it disoriented her soul. Often people were struck with the Spanish flu on the street and died rapid deaths. There are stories of people on their way to work suddenly developing the flu and dying within hours. Another recounting: four women played bridge late into the night, and before sunrise three of them had sickened and died. Whatever Cora’s reason, she could not find her way “home.”

Some sources say the name Cora derives from Greek for filled heart. Having studied French in school, I knew the French word foheart was le coeur. In Italian, Cara means beloved. Of course, the naturopath in me thought of the word coronary, referring to the heart. From the first minute at her gravesite, I linked Cora with heart, and that little girl had no difficulty finding and filling mine. I wasn’t about to leave her there all alone. So I reached out to her, and together, we joined my wife and her father under the canopy of the tall Douglas-fir.

I didn’t share any of this with anyone, not even Gerri at that time. Sometimes the connection with a soul who has passed is so tenuous and ethereal that it can only be sustained by utter confidentiality.

Later that day, we said our goodbyes to Arnold and headed west back across the Cascades. The entire journey home I could feel Cora clinging to me. It was late afternoon when we finally arrived home. I helped unload the car and then went to my office, surrounded by cedar and Douglas-fir trees, and sat down alone with Cora.

5 Levels Of The Soul

During the ride home I had plenty of time to work out the details of my therapeutic strategy. The cure in Cora’s case did not involve preservation of mortal life but completion of the transition to the afterlife. With Cora still clinging to me, I opened a bottle of one of my handmade, pure AromAnita Essential Oil Blends called 5 Levels Of The Soul.

The Kabbalah describes the soul as having five levels. The highest of the five levels is named Yechidah, or Unique Essence. At this level, the soul is still one with God. The only conscious perception that one has for this level manifests in the yearning to love God.

The next highest level is called Chayah, referring to life and life force. Chayah is the level on which the soul is still bound to all other souls; in other words, it is the level of the Collective Soul. Our conscious perception of this level manifests in the sense of self-transcendence.

The third level is Neshamah which derives from the Hebrew word neshimah, or breath. On the level of Neshamah, one experiences the divine breath. On this level, one becomes aware not only of spirituality but also develops an intimacy with his or her source.

The level of Neshamah, which correlates with the incarnation of the spirit body via breathing, segues into the fourth level of Ruach which translates as spirit but also has connotations of wind, air and the directions of their movement. This level involves the blowing downward of the Divine Wind into the organism. Ruach is associated with meaningful speech and a sense of truth.

Finally, the level of Ruach transforms into the fifth level of Nefesh from the word nafash, meaning to rest. Nefesh is the lowest, most corporeal extremity of the soul. This stage correlates with the incorporation of the spirit body into the bloodstream. Nefesh literally means resting soul and is the basis for intuitive knowing. Nefesh is associated with meaningful action and a sense of understanding that one’s actions could be, and should be, meaningful.

When formulating this blend, I correlated each of the 22 oils of 5 Levels of The Soul with the soul levels, or with the heart’s emotional/spiritual center. This center must be opened in order to effectively serve as a conduit for the descending and reascending dynamics of the soul levels. Cistus is the oil I used in this blend to touch and open the heart’s emotional/spiritual center. Also, it is the nucleus fragrance note around which all the other scents are organized.

This blend has been used on numerous occasions to assist a soul in its journey to the other side. Several times that I know of, a bottle of this blend was placed with a body just before cremation so that the scent, illuminated like the Northern Lights, helped guide the soul to the next stage of its existence.

Cora’s Transition

I tapped 3 drops of the 5 Levels of The Soul blend on to my wrist, rubbed my wrists together and began a series of deep inhalations and exhalations–in and out through the nose. I closed my eyes and began to follow my breathing, slowing it and clearing my mind of thoughts. In this meditative state, I created a vacated space filled only by breath, spirit and scent. I felt Cora’s merger with the oil blend. She relaxed her hold on me and became more infused with spirit. We worked this way for about 30-minutes, after which she was still right next to me but no longer clinging.

I awoke the next morning around 6 a.m. and went directly to my office wing where I wouldn’t be disturbed at that hour. Cora’s presence of being was still strong but the attachment of her soul to mine was far less. She was beginning to let go. I repeated the same 5 Levels Of The Soul-breathing/meditation technique I had used the previous day. I could feel Cora’s presence becoming progressively lighter and more distant. About 15- to 30-minutes elapsed before she fully transitioned. The office was filled with a residual celestial sweetness: Cora’s vapor trail.

Certainly, I missed her. But I am a healer. My job was to effect her release, not to cement our bond. I sat quietly for a while and gazed out the window at the trees and morning sky, then turned to my desk and got to work.

During the six years since my encounter with Cora, I have thought about her now and then, but I never encountered her again…until a few days ago.

Healer’s Reward

I was sitting at my computer writing the Meeting Cora section of this piece when I heard a slight sound behind me. I turned and saw that a sheet of paper had somehow lifted off my main desk and landed on the floor. I thought this to be quite odd as there was no breeze or perceptible movement of air in the room that could have caused it. I had a suspicion but wasn’t sure.

A few minutes later, I got up and walked over to that desk to pour myself a cup of spring water. I leaned down to pick up the sheet of paper, and, as I did, a second sheet just lifted off the desk and drifted to the floor. Now I knew. I looked up and a smile slowly spread across my face. I could feel, but not see, an incandescent reciprocal smile–happy, mischievous, acknowledging. I and Thou: filled hearts.

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