Spiritual consciousness often exacts a toll. It is sometimes accompanied by feelings of separation that derive from lack of acknowledgment by friends and family who may dismissively view spirituality as an annoying distraction from the “real business” of life. Just as prevalent among the spiritually conscious is proneness toward nerve weakness and physical hypersensitivity.
Having worked with thousands of spiritually oriented people over the course of my career, I have observed that they tend to be more susceptible than others to complex forms of physical un-wellness that defy ready diagnosis. Rather, the collections of symptoms they present with seem to be a direct reflection of the complexity of the psycho-spiritual conflict between their spiritual yearning and the limitations imposed by the circumstances of their lives.
In Longing, novelist J.D. Landis notes succinctly that: “The body is a map of the soul.” Thus, any effort to resolve the physical suffering of a spiritually sensitive individual which does not address the tensions within the underlying psycho-spiritual terrain is, at best, a half-measure and at worst, utterly futile.
In this article, I offer an hypothesis regarding the spiritual consciousness/physical-suffering conundrum, and then discuss one of the essential oils: clove oil that has relevance regarding soul-level disharmony in certain spiritual, sensitive, physically vulnerable individuals.
The 14th century German Catholic mystic John Tauler, in discussing the common occurrence of ill-health among mystics, wrote: “Believe me children, one who would know much about these high matters would often have to keep to his bed for his bodily frame could not support it.”
Theoretically, the resources of human consciousness are divided between the rational consciousness that we use to navigate through daily life and higher consciousness, which we use to commune with divine reality: the spiritual ground that sustains all the phenomena of the visible world.
The spiritually inclined feel that it is crucial to develop communion with both the living reality of the natural world from which our own physical existence arises as well as with the all-enfolding divine life that is the unseen meshwork of our daily living reality. The 13th century philosopher and mystic Meister Eckhart writes: “The soul is created in a place between time and eternity; with its highest powers it touches eternity, with its lower, time.” The higher world of eternity and this world of time converge within the human soul.
The world of our living reality is always in a state of flux. The ancient Greek philosopher Heracleitus wrote: “Everything happens through strife. Reality is a condition of unrest.” As a result, much of the consciousness allotted for immersion in the precincts of the higher soul is diverted toward the ramparts of the daily struggle.
In the ancient world, when human beings lived in continuous contact with nature and in harmony with the rhythms of the natural universe, they were able to maintain a vibrant connection with the higher world of eternal being while fending off the challenges of mortal life, which, to paraphrase Plato, is “always becoming but never is.”
So for most people, spiritual matters are largely sequestered beyond the margin of daily existence because their entire consciousness is preoccupied with the “condition of unrest.”
Yet, the potentialities of the higher world, which the stresses of daily life tend to submerge below the threshold of distracted awareness, exert enormous power that pounds at the bulwarks erected by the conscious mind of the spiritually conscious individual.
Health Challenges Among Mystics
Many of the notable ancient mystics suffered from poor health of which no obvious organic cause could be readily discerned. It has to be assumed that continual engagement with the high voltage of spiritual light exerted a tremendous strain on a nervous system that had become adapted in human beings to a life of perpetual striving rather than perpetual being.
In other words, the modifications in mental life that accommodated this immersion in the divine reality were not accompanied by any parallel modifications within the physical organism. Thus, the great mystics simply came to accept that physical suffering was not only a common side-effect of communion with the higher world, but also, a vehicle on the path to even greater unitive knowledge of the divine ground of spiritual reality.
There is a traditional Hasidic tale concerning some students who sought out one Rabbi Zusya, a deeply spiritual 19th century Hasidic master, feeling that he could explain to them the enigma of the existence of evil in a world created by God. They considered the rabbi to be a credible resource in this reference because he was very pious despite suffering from painful illness. The students asked: “Rabbi Zusya, how do you explain the existence of evil?”
Rabbi Zusya replied: “What evil?”
The students then referred to the rabbi’s suffering. “Oh that,” Rabbi Zusya responded, “surely that is just what my soul needs.”
Of course, a strong connection with the divine reality that rests at the root of, and sustains, this world of the senses must be present in order for the experience of disease to inform and elevate the soul to a position of greater understanding. Lacking this connection, disease is experienced purely as meaningless suffering.
Clearly, the crashing waves of daily stress batter the body and no aspect of human physiology is exempted from this erosion. However, the brain and the rest of the neuroendocrine system (i.e., the nervous system and network of hormone-secreting glands such as the thyroid and adrenal glands) constitute the front line troops that respond to this ceaseless assault.
Similarly, the brain and nervous system serve as the processing center and channels for the incoming sensations and information from the higher world. Though no less challenged by the assaults of modern existence than anyone else, the spiritual individual never completely turns off the tap of higher consciousness.
Carl Jung, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, writes: “Wherever the psyche is set violently oscillating by a numinous [characterized by a sense of a supernatural presence] experience, there is a danger that the thread by which one hangs may be torn. Should that happen, one man tumbles into an absolute affirmation, another into an equally absolute negation.”
The neuroendocrine system of the spiritually sensitive individual, while defending against the challenges of daily survival, is simultaneously drawn into the ongoing psycho-spiritual conflict between affirmation and negation of the mysterious force which masses just beyond the bounds of rational consciousness.
Ultimately, the wiring of the spiritual person’s body, not designed for such a load, frays. Accordingly, the various organ systems supplied by the neuroendocrine system decline in efficiency, giving rise to the often confounding mix of symptoms which the spiritually sensitive individual often presents with.
Spiritual PhytoEssencing and Archetypal Blending
The art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing that I have developed uses customized combinations of essential oils for deep soul-level healing work, which involves what I refer to as archetypal blending. The term archetype refers to a unique intangible construct of the soul that generates a characteristic pattern of perceptible emotional and physical expressions. In turn, these expressions—such as temperament, personality traits, reactional tendencies and diverse symptoms of dysfunction, such as anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, stomach weakness, etc.—are considered to be archetypal images.
In Jungian psychology, archetypes are considered to be: inherited patterns of thought or symbolic imagery present in the individual unconscious that derive from the infinite inventory of past experiences stored within the collective unconscious. While Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious is undoubtedly a rich source of the formative archetypes of the soul, Spiritual PhytoEssencing also places a great deal of emphasis on genetics, constitutional remodeling (due to early childhood influences) and past lives as primary sources of influential archetypes.
The premise of Spiritual PhytoEssencing is that in order to be able to ameliorate soul-level disharmony, the essential oil blender must engage with the archetypes embedded within the fabric of the soul rather than with the archetypal images which manifest as emotional and physical symptoms.
Every living cell must be animated by a vital force, or “ensouled,” and it is this incarnation of higher forces into living tissue that lends each organism its tangible expression. Hence, when using essential oils for psycho-spiritual work, all of the physical features, clinical properties and historical associations, etc. of the plant, as well as diverse synchronicities, can be used to develop an understanding of an oil’s soul archetypes or spiritual roots. Once this understanding has been adequately developed, essential oils with specific archetypal patterns can be used to address similar archetypal patterns within the human soul.
Furthermore, since each soul is characterized by an array of archetypal patterns, soul-level healing work is best approached with a customized blend of essential oils rather than a single oil. Thus, in the discussion of clove oil that follows, even though I refer to a hypothetical clove oil type individual, it is important to bear in mind that clove oil would not be used in isolation. Instead, clove oil, corresponding to one archetypal pattern component, would be blended with other oils, each of which correspond to other archetypal patterns within a given individual’s soul.
“Painting” a Portrait in Essential Oils
Each essential oil within a Spiritual PhytoEssencing custom blend corresponds to a particular aspect of a given individual’s unique soul-pattern of archetypes and qualities. Thus, the construction of a custom essential oil blend is similar to painting a portrait. I often refer to the custom blend development process as “painting a portrait in oils.”
Accordingly, the relative effectiveness of a custom oil blend will depend upon the degree of congruence there is between a person’s inner soul image and the soul image constructed by the combination of plant souls within the blend. It is this congruence that will encourage the person’s soul to absorb the soul-force generated by the plant soul combination and use it to reorient toward its divine source.
Given the wherewithal, the soul’s first priority is to overcome the estrangement between the self-conscious personal self and the higher self. When these aspects of soul existence are reintegrated, the latter reassumes its natural hierarchical superiority and once again contextualizes and guides the operations of daily existence.
The Clove Oil Type
In the discussion of clove oil that follows, I use excerpts from the Clove chapter in Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis Of Essential Oils (the central reference work in the art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing) to demonstrate how creative interpretation of plant characteristics, folklore, therapeutic properties and various synchronicities, in concert, can reveal the soul-nature of a given essential oil.
Clove plant signatures
The wood of the clove tree is hard and the lance-shaped leaves are arranged on the stem in opposite pairs that are at a right angle to the pairs above and below them, creating an X-shaped pattern.
The pedicels (a supportive part of the flower stalk) are referred to as “claws” because they are crowned with claw-like bracts. The dried clove bud has a tack-like shape, which led the French to refer to it as clou de girofle. The word clou derives from the Latin word clavus, meaning nail; de girofle is a derivative of karyophyllon (the Greek word for clove).
From these plant signatures we can expect that the clove type features a significant degree of armoring and a defensiveness that can lead to outbursts of anger. On the other hand, in ancient Chinese calligraphy, an X-shaped character symbolized the meeting point of heaven and earth, yin and yang and the in-breath and out-breath. This highlights the spiritual sensitivity of the clove type: her/his (clove is equally relevant for both genders) yearning for wholeness of being and attraction to the practice of quiet contemplation and meditation.
The clove tree has a relatively narrow temperature range, being intolerant of temperatures that are consistently below 50, or above 100, degrees F. Similarly, the clove type tends to be chilly, especially when feeling stressed, depressed or fatigued. Also, proneness to coldness of the hands and feet is commonly experienced.
The wild clove tree is virtually extinct in its original habitat. The cultivated tree is shorter but much more aromatic and can live for more than a century, but it’s most productive when between 10 and 20 years of age.
The theme of extinction is an ongoing one for the clove type as he is an old soul who feels displaced by the increasingly digitalized, superficial, impersonal world and the metastatic coarsening of the culture. In the wildness of his youth, he roamed freely and walked tall. However, though the exigencies of life have restricted him physically, they have also led him to much greater spiritual knowing. As a plant’s aroma represents the incarnation of spirit, we can metaphorically correlate the enhanced aromatic property of the cultivated clove tree with the much more tangible spirituality of the mature clove individual.
While Syzygium aromaticum is the preferred nomenclature for clove, it is also commonly identified as Eugenia cayophyllata. The Latin word Syzygium means a joining or yoking together. Eugenia roughly translates as “good birth,” “well-born” or “noble birth,” as the genus Eugenia is named in honor of Prince Eugen of Savoy, a great patron of botany in the 18th century.
The clove type not only seeks communion between heaven and earth but also with a compatible life-partner. Notably, the clove tree’s leaves—the emotional feeling part of the plant—are arranged in pairs. Also, the clove type has a distinct nobility manifesting in her desire to help make the world a better place.
Therapeutic Properties of Cloves
India’s Ayurvedic doctors have used cloves for thousands of years to treat digestive and respiratory ailments. The clove first arrived in Europe in the 4th century C.E. where it became a valued medicine in the treatment of toothache, cough, indigestion, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, parasitic infection, gout, warts and wounds. In American herbal medicine, cloves are used primarily to treat digestive problems and toothache.
The clove individual is subject to digestive weakness potentially manifesting as food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, mucus colitis, gastro-esophageal reflux and other gastrointestinal tract symptoms. Cloves increase blood circulation and body temperature and promote digestion and nutrient assimilation. Teeth problems begin for the clove type in childhood with an unusual propensity for developing cavities. As she ages and the teeth deteriorate, the clove type becomes a dentist’s dream-come-true.
Perhaps the best known use of clove oil is as a dental anesthetic. While bruised cloves can be held in the mouth to relieve toothache, clove oil is practical and effective in this regard. To this day, some dentists still use clove oil to disinfect root canals and a mixture of clove oil and zinc oxide for temporary fillings. Powdered cloves or clove oil are also commonly used as mouthwash and throat gargle ingredients.
In aromatherapy, clove oil is considered to be potentially useful for the treatment of the following symptoms and conditions: depression; lethargy; mental fatigue; drowsiness; general debility and weakness; poor circulation; low blood pressure; immunological weakness; lupus; Multiple sclerosis; Hodgkin’s disease; bacterial, fungal and viral infections; polio; tension headaches; toothache; thyroid dysfunction; tonsillitis; sinusitis; asthma; tuberculosis; bronchitis; hepatitis; dysentery; colitis; gastrointestinal spasms; colic; dyspepsia; intestinal fermentation; parasitic infection; spleen weakness; sluggish kidneys; impotence; frigidity; osteoarthritis; rheumatoid arthritis; shingles; leg ulcers.
A flowing read-through of these symptoms provides a feeling for the physical propensity of the clove type: a tendency toward deficiency and weakness of the neuroendocrine, digestive, immunological and musculoskeletal systems.
On a psycho-spiritual level, clove oil is thought to cleanse the aura, encourage contentment through self-awareness and expanded inner knowledge, stimulate creativity, intuition and creative expression of feelings, and to help free the mind of negative thoughts.
These psycho-spiritual healing properties of clove oil are directly reflective of the yearnings and orientation of the clove oil individual. Clove’s clinical role as a dental anesthetic is significant in that the clove type benefits greatly when her nerves are quieted and both chronic physical pain and deep-seated inner pain are assuaged.
In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, certain oils are recognized to have important synchronicity relationships with specific homeopathic remedies. The great psychologist Carl Jung coined the term “synchronicity,” referring to thoughts and events that are connected in other ways than causally (i.e., by the law of cause and effect). In this reference, my experience as both Spiritual PhytoEssencing blender and classical homeopath have demonstrated to me that there is a distinct synchronicity between clove oil and the homeopathic remedy Natrum silicatum, prepared from sodium silicate.
This is not to say that one is a substitute for the other in clinical practice. Instead, they may act synergistically, and for our purposes this relationship enables us to use relevant portions of the Natrum silicatum picture to more fully elaborate our understanding of the clove oil individual. A brief review of some of the guiding qualities and symptoms of Natrum silicatum will provide valuable insight relevant to the clove oil individual.
The Natrum silicatum Individual
The Natrum silicatum individual has a characteristic type of introversion because he feels vulnerable in the outside world and awkward around strangers. He doesn’t like to talk about himself because he doesn’t like anybody to know too much about his private life and feels more secure when insulated by his reserve.
He is self-conscious and depends upon serious study and unrelenting hard work to establish an admirable image. Accordingly, he tends to be perfectionistic about his work and very careful to not make errors and be caught out as being less than he wants others to appraise him to be. This rigorous work ethic, in conjunction with his natural reserve, makes him a type of loner who is most comfortable when he does everything himself.
Although he has no difficulty speaking to groups of people who are familiar with him and his work, when he anonymously mixes with a group of strangers he tends to be shy and does not want to draw attention to himself. While as a youth he may have had a large circle of friends, as he gets older, this circle becomes progressively smaller so that apart from family members he hardly knows anyone on an intimate basis.
He feels most comfortable when at home among his family; however, even in this setting, he may be somewhat uncommunicative and maintain a distance. In some cases, he may have found it hard to leave home after he was grown. He maintains contact with a few close friends, but if one or more of these disappear from his life, he makes no effort to find new friends to serve as replacements.
He tends to be moody and easily upset by trifles as he takes inconsequential remarks and actions as evidence of disrespect or rejection. As the years go by, he becomes progressively focused on withdrawal in order to avoid what he views as a relentless gauntlet of disregard. Here again, he tends to insulate himself by paying great attention to detail. This not only insulates him from detraction but also allows him to interact with others while keeping his vulnerable inner domain sequestered.
His loner-nature makes him covet independence, and he likes to appear confident and self-sufficient. However, beneath this confidence and self-sufficiency lurks a type of moody loneliness—a sense of separation and lack of personal fulfillment. Nevertheless, because of his sense of vulnerability, he prefers to keep people at a distance and to stubbornly navigate the waters of his inner feelings independently.
Other relevant Natrum silicatum qualities and symptoms include: refined; pessimistic; melancholic; delicate; artistic; aristocratic; thinks about the past; sympathetic; clairvoyant; clairsentient; loves music; nervous weakness; very excitable; wakes up with anxiety and fear; easily frightened; fear of: failure, loss of relations, death, not waking up anymore, the future, trifles, narrow spaces, noise, unexpected events; extreme sensitiveness to noise; starting from noise; restless during the night; forgetful; mental prostration; indifferent to her friends and surroundings; indisposed to take part in conversation; irresolution; irritability; no longer desires to live and seems to loathe life; sadness during menses; unrefreshing sleep; restless sleep; fall asleep late; wakes too early and/or frequently.
If we draw together all the strands of this clove oil picture, an image develops of a distinctly spiritually inclined, sensitive and refined individual who is subject to nervous inquietude. This sensitivity to perceptions and stimuli (both of this material world and of the higher world) while expanding the dynamics of her soul weakens her nerves and depletes the vital force required to operate the body at an optimal level of efficiency. This is a clear demonstration of the point elaborated at the beginning of this article: spiritual consciousness can exact a toll on the body. Thus, it is essential that spiritually sensitive individuals live a healthy lifestyle within the bounds of the laws of nature. Only when one lives in harmony with the rhythms of the natural universe can he or she engage with the spiritual realm in a poised and fully present manner. Then one can live comfortably between heaven and earth, and connection with the spirit world can serve to strengthen the body rather than draw on its vital reserves.
Disclaimer: This publication is intended as an educational tool, and not as a prescription. Seek the advice of your health-care provider before discontinuing any medication and/or trying any new remedy or technique.