“The Tao that can be told, is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named, is not the eternal name.
The unnamed, is the origin of Heaven and Earth.
Naming, is the mother of all things.
Without desire, one views the mystery.
Desiring, one can view only the [outward] manifestations [of the mystery].
These both spring from the same source, but differ when named.
Both are mysteries.
[However] The mystery of mysteries, is the way to pass through.”Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching (506 B.C.E.)
The Tao Te Ching provides guidance regarding living in harmony with the Tao. Tao (pronounced “dow”), a Chinese word meaning the path or the way, is the absolute principle that underlies all manifestations of the created universe and beyond. While it does not itself have being in an existence sense, it gives rise to all being. As it is the source of the duality of yin and yang, it must simultaneously be non-being and primordial being in potentia.
“Soundless and formless, it [the Tao] depends on nothing and does not change.
It operates everywhere and is free from danger.
It may be considered the mother of the universe.
All things in the world come from being.Lao Tzu
And being comes from non-being.”
While one cannot “know” the Tao, using all four windows of knowing (i.e., sensing, feeling, connection to spirit and thinking), one can achieve resonance with it via the same type of deeper consciousness that enables transcendent communion with Nature. Philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) held that the universe contained creative forces that could not be comprehended through mathematics, but only through deep intuition.
Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu (c. 4th century B.C.E.) observes: “The Way is to a person, as rivers and lakes are to fish; the natural condition of life.” The SPE Tao of blending is the soul’s natural condition of relation with essential oils.
One of the central features of Spiritual PhytoEssencing (SPE) blending of essential oils is its focus on the “mystery of mysteries” within the oils, rather than the outward manifestations of that mystery. These “both spring from the same source, but… the mystery of mysteries [in this case, the inner soul-nature of the essential oils], is the way to pass through.”
The following observation by kabbalist Rabbi Yechiel Bar-Lev in Song of the Soul is relevant regarding all living beings, plant or animal. “Through its behavior, the body reflects its deep forms [i.e., its totality of spiritual potentials]. The body, as it were, translates the spiritual dimension into a language that can be understood by others. Thus, the body is the form’s vehicle of expression…Light and vessel are synonyms for form and substance, respectively. The vessel reveals and expresses the character of the light through its actions…The light is internal. The vessel is external. The light is the essence which clothes itself in and directs the action of the vessel. Through the action the light is revealed; the inner self is shown.”
The art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing (SPE) emphasizes a deep understanding of the inner-nature of an essential oil, which includes the analysis of the physical properties of a given essential oil, but also incorporates a complementary perception of the spiritual roots from which these physical properties arise. These spiritual roots are the source of the material properties of an essential oil.
I-Thou Relation with Essential Oils
Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue, eloquently elaborated in his book I and Thou, has greatly influenced me in my development of both the theoretical structure and techniques of the art of SPE.
Buber’s central point is that one encounters spirit only through a meeting of souls at a “between” space. This “I-Thou” meeting engenders the development of “pure relation” characterized by caring and reciprocity between souls. In contrast, the more common and generally superficial “I-It” experience is characterized by one’s lack of acknowledgement on a soul-to-soul level, thus using and experiencing rather than knowing and caring.
The central focus of SPE blending is the development of I-Thou relation with each of the essential oils included in a blend. This development of pure relation, of the blender’s consciousness engaging directly with the consciousness of the oil, encourages that oil to reveal and share its inner mystery. This mystery, conducted from spirit into the material world, is the ultimate source of the oil’s healing potential.
Buber writes regarding an encounter with a tree: “The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, no aspect of a mood; it confronts me bodily and has to deal with me as I must deal with it ¾only differently.
The living wholeness and unity of a tree that denies itself to the eye, no matter how keen, of anyone who merely investigates, while it is manifest to those who say Thou, is present when they are present: they grant the tree the opportunity to manifest it, and now the tree which has being manifests it.
Our habits of thought make it difficult for us to see that in such cases something is awakened by our attitude and flashes toward us from that which has being. What matters in this sphere is that we should do justice with an open mind to the actuality that opens before us.”
The far more commonly utilized approach to essential oil blending is for the blender to remain within the boundaries of an I-It relationship with the oils. In this case, an oil is considered to be a scented collection of useful biochemicals that is both pleasing to the olfactory sense, and has specific therapeutic potential which may prove of good service for treating certain symptoms. Accordingly, the essential oil is an “It” to be used and experienced, rather than and I with which to have a reciprocal, soul-to-soul exchange.
Plants are alive, and everything that lives has a soul. Anthroposophical science teaches that fragrance formation represents an interaction between terrestrial and cosmic forces, and it’s used by the plant as a means of uniting with the spirit.Accordingly, anessential oil is one of the most concentrated carriers of a plant’s soul.
The Kabbalah teaches that the scent of a plant represents the superconscious aspect of its soul. Whereas the taste of a fruit, such as an orange, nourishes a person on a conscious level, the scent of its oil provides sustenance for his or her spiritual dimension.
According to Kabbalah, the human soul contains animal-, vegetable- and human-soul components. Thus, each of us has the ability to relate to plant souls on a soul-to-soul level. An essential oil (a central bonding medium for the soul of the plant) is uniquely suited to act as the physical entity which can facilitate an interface between plant and human souls.
Based upon the interface of these two principles, I developed one of the foundational principles of SPE: The plant-soul is not encumbered by ego, so it has the qualities of purity and infinity. Thus, an highly individualized plant-soul combination within an essential oil blend, when proffered to the human-soul whose image it mirrors, would be eagerly received and infuse the latter with the impetus to move beyond limitation by changing its orientation from the finite to the Infinite.
Portraits in Oils
The art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing (SPE) utilizes customized combinations of essential oils for deep, soul-level healing work, which involves what I refer to as archetypal blending. In SPE, 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 (anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, stomach weakness, etc.)—are considered to be archetypal images.
The basic premise of Spiritual PhytoEssencing is: In order to be able to ameliorate soul-level disharmony, an essential oil blend must engage with the archetypes embedded within the fabric of a person’s soul rather than with the archetypal images which manifest as emotional and physical symptoms. While oils are not selected to directly treat specific emotional and physical symptoms, these symptoms are used to identify their underlying archetypal roots.
Spiritual PhytoEssencing is a synthesis of certain aspects of: aromatherapy, doctrine of signatures, classical homeopathy, modern physiology, Kabbalah, philosophy, anthroposophical science, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, folklore, depth psychology, gemstone healing and color therapy.
I have used this synthesis to develop individualized portraits of the inner soul nature of each of the oils used in Spiritual PhytoEssencing blending. Thus far, I have elaborated highly detailed portraits of 124 different oils (Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils). Accordingly, each of the oils represents a unique plant soul with a characteristic mixture of prominent archetypal qualities.
Since each person’s 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. In Spiritual PhytoEssencing, the construction of a customized essential oil blend is similar to painting a portrait. Accordingly, the custom blend development process can be characterized as “painting a portrait in oils.”
The relative effectiveness of a custom oil blend will depend upon the extent to which the soul-image constructed by the combination of plant souls within the blend mirrors a person’s inner-soul image. It is this accurate mirroring that will encourage the person’s soul to absorb the soul-force generated by the plant-soul combination and use it to reorient from its outer self-structure back to its source – one’s eternal nature.
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, higher consciousness and the real self (the first aspect of the self-structure that emanates from one’s eternal nature) reassume their natural hierarchical superiority. Accordingly, they can then, once again, direct one’s decision-making process and guide the evaluation of personal experiences and the navigation of daily existence. Clearly, this wholeness of being is a fundamental component of mind/body wellness.
The “Between Space”
In order to be able to unleash this healing potential within essential oils, one must develop an I-Thou, soul-to-soul, relation with them. The blender must meet each of their souls at the “between” space (essentially the borderline between the material and spirit planes) that the organizational flow of the Tao permeates.
Buber writes: “Inner actuality is only where there is reciprocal activity. The strongest and deepest actuality is to be found where everything enters into activity¾the whole human being, without reserve, and the all-embracing God; the unified I and the boundless Thou.
…Nature yields to one’s I, and speaks ceaselessly with it; she reveals her mysteries to it and yet does not betray her mystery. It [i.e., the pure I] believes in her and says [for instance] to a rose: ‘So it is Thou’¾and at once shares the same actuality with that rose. Hence, when it returns to itself, the spirit of the actuality stays with it; the vision of the sun clings to the blessed eye that recalls its own likeness to the sun, and the friendship of the elements accompanies man into the calm of dying and rebirth.”
Archetypal Blending versus Archetypal Images Blending
The “I” is the immortal aspect of the soul which journeys through the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It carries with it the “DNA” of past life qualities, and brings them to the portal of rebirth where it picks up new ones. But these exist only as potentialities, all of which coexist in seamless harmony.
The “I” is core of being. It is the “I-Am.” It is that which is aware. It is the true self, and its actualization is required for one’s ability to develop conscious relationships with others, animals, plants, rocks, stars, all the elements of the natural world as all of these are imbued with a level of consciousness as well. If all derives from the Divine, then some element of divine consciousness must be indwelling.
The “I” can be compared to the nucleus of an atom. Expanding upon this metaphor, the electrons that orbit that nucleus are the archetypes that the “”I has accumulated through genetic transference, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, prenatal imprinting, and constitutional modeling during the first few years of life.
As noted above, in Spiritual PhytoEssencing, the term archetype refers to a unique intangible construct of the soul that generates a pattern of characteristic potentials. Accordingly, identifiable outward manifestations of an oil’s inner mystery – its scent dynamics, biochemistry, therapeutic actions, etc., are viewed as tangible expressions of underlying archetypes of its plant-soul. In turn, these outward expressions are considered to be archetypal images.
An essential oil, as a concentrated carrier of the soul of the plant from which it is derived, is holographic in that it contains the image of the entire plant. Accordingly, a database consisting of the plant’s morphology, the growing conditions which it requires to thrive, the relationship it has with other living beings within its indigenous environment, its traditional folkloric associations, etc. are all catalogued within the essential oil.
While an essential oil may not be able to exert the same therapeutic actions as an herbal extract from the same plant, consciousness of those therapeutic actions are nevertheless stored within its inner soul nature. If that plant produces flowers that are unusually attractive to butterflies, if it thrives best in a warm, humid climate, if its wood has traditionally been used to make canoes, if for millenniums it has been placed on altars as a spiritual offering ─ then these factors will be recorded in the plant’s soul archetypal blueprint via the same mechanisms of collective consciousness, evolutionary record and genetic transference that influence the soul-nature of every living being. In turn, consciousness of this entire archetypal blueprint will be archived within an essential oil.
Therefore, the inner-soul nature of an essential oil, being a concentrated carrier of the soul of that plant that is its source, can only be known to the blender who is familiar with a broad spectrum of that plant’s botanical characteristics and historical uses and associations.
Buber writes: “If will and grace are joined, as I contemplate the tree, I am drawn into relation, and the tree ceases to be an It. The power of exclusiveness has seized me.
There is nothing that I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number included and inseparably fused.
Whatever belongs to the tree is included: its form and its mechanics, its colors and its chemistry, its conversation with the elements and its conversation with the stars¾all this in its entirety.”
In order to truly “know” an essential oil and engage with it on a soul-to-soul level, one must understand that the archetypal images of that oil (e.g., its scent dynamics, biochemistry and therapeutic properties) are the named manifestations of its mystery.
Despite the limitations inherent to engaging solely with these outward manifestations, one can still use the oils for practical, therapeutic applications. However, the blender who does so, never connects with the unnamed mystery that is the progenitor of those named mysteries. Absent that connection, the opportunity for much deeper, soul-level healing work with essential oils is missed. Consequently, only outer symptoms can be addressed, rather than the inner-core state that, in chronic states of disease and/or psychospiritual stuckness, is a central factor regarding the generation of said symptoms. After all, symptoms are most often local effects of a general state.
Plato, in The Symposium writes: “The true order of going is to use the beauties of Earth as steps along which one mounts upwards for the sake of that other Beauty [Spirit], going from one to two, and from two to all fair [pure, ideal] forms [potentialities], and from fair forms to fair actions, and from fair action to fair notions [true understandings], until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of Absolute Beauty, and at last knows what the essence of Beauty is.”
Plato’s phrase “the true order of going” is essentially synonymous with the concept of the Tao. It can also be used as a roadmap for the Tao of essential oil blending. Begin with the outward perception of the beauty and physicality of the oil. Then, mount upward to “that other Beauty,” via the establishment of I-Thou relation with the oil. Proceed from consideration of all the potentialities of that oil’s soul nature to the “fair action” of blending those potentialities with the potentialities of other essential oils.
From the fair action of blending within the framework of soul-to-soul relation with oils, come to “fair notions” ─ true understandings, not only of the oils with which you are engaged, but of your own soul-nature and authentic self as well. That fair notion will lead you inward to both to the Absolute Beauty of the inner “mystery” of the oil, and the inner point where your soul meets the Light of spirit. Then, you will glimpse in a realizational way, the essence of that Beauty and experience the healing power of its radiation.
There is no change, alteration, or transformation, in short no creative act at all,Rabbi Joseph Ben Scholem of Barcelona (c. 1300)
in which the abyss of nothingness is not crossed
and for a fleeting mystical moment becomes visible.”
You can study the Tao of essential oil blending with Dr. Berkowsky by joining the NHSS/SPE Membership Program.
Blending projects for the rest of 2023 include: SPE Lymph-Flow Blend (to be used to help assist lymphatic drainage); Autumn Leaves Blend (to be used throughout autumn to help one bond with the natural world and the cycle of the seasons; this blend will be used during the Fall Equinox Cosmic Light Projection); Snowy Night In the Woods (to be used in the same manner as Autumn Leaves, except during the winter; this blend will be used during the Winter Solstice Cosmic Light Projection).