Theoretically, this being the holiday season, people should be turning more of their attention toward divine reality while decreasing their preoccupation with the self-conscious personal self. Of course, if anything, the holiday season has metamorphosed into a grotesque magnification of this preoccupation.
If we operate from the premise that the human soul is a spark of divine light, we cannot help but agree with the famous 12th century Catholic monk Bernard of Clairvaux when he states: “In those respects in which the soul is unlike God, it is also unlike itself.” In a similar vein, the ancient Chinese philosopher Sen T’sen observed: “When the Ten Thousand things are viewed in their oneness, we return to the Origin and remain where we have always been.”
Unfortunately, the frenzied materialistic craving associated with the Ten Thousand things, which has come to characterize the modern Christmas celebration, serves to highlight the basic conflict of all those who are spiritually conscious: the simultaneous yearning for higher light and attachment to that which shadows that light.
I created Spiritual PhytoEssencing (a soul-level healing art which employs highly individualized combinations of essential oils) to help spiritually conscious individuals overcome the state of psycho-spiritual stasis that follows from enmeshment within the workings of those lower precincts of the soul that sustain the survival personality as well as the primal drives and instincts of our animal nature.
This bondage perpetuates an estrangement from the authentic self, which emanates from that aspect of the soul that never turns from its unitive knowledge of the transcendent spiritual ground of all being. In turn, this estrangement represents the central soul-level disturbance that underlies much of the emotional and physical disharmony afflicting modern man.
The Difference between Spiritual PhytoEssencing and Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy, the practice most commonly associated with healing work with essential oils, is a clinical discipline, which, in accordance with the biochemical composition of the various oils, uses them to ameliorate emotional and physical symptoms.
On the other hand, Spiritual PhytoEssencing views an essential oil as the most concentrated carrier of the soul of the plant, which, thus, can serve to reorient the soul back to continuous unitive knowledge of its divine source. The idea here is that only when everyday rational consciousness re-engages with higher consciousness on an ongoing basis can the soul reestablish wholeness and enable a moribund spiritually creative individual to move forward with full presence of being.
Essential Oils as Soul-Level Healing Agents
The logical question at this point is how did I come to the realization that essential oils–used primarily as medicines and flavoring- and scent-agents–could alternatively serve to initiate the momentum within the soul required to overcome the inertia of “psycho-spiritual stuckness.”
In the mid-1990s I was studying the principles of both anthroposophical medicine and the Kabbalah simultaneously and this theoretical interface led me to an understanding of the unique potential of essential oils for healing on both the material and higher planes.
Anthroposophical science teaches that plants produce fragrance as a means of absorbing “the soul” of the sun that contains the essence of spirit. Fragrance-formation represents an interaction between terrestrial and cosmic forces, and it is used by the plant as a means of uniting with the spiritual essence contained within sunbeams. Anthroposophy founder Rudolf Steiner states: “Matter is most spiritual in the perfume of the plant. When the spirit most closely approaches the physical earth, then we have the perception of fragrance.” In other words, an essential oil is the most concentrated carrier of the plant’s soul.
This understanding, conflated with a key kabbalistic insight, turned on the light that illuminated for me a practical pathway to soul-level healing. 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. Plants are alive, and everything that lives has a soul. An essential oil, the bonding medium for the soul of the plant, is uniquely suited to act as the physical entity that can facilitate an interface between plant and human souls.
Based upon the interface of these two principles, I formed the following hypothesis: The plant-soul is not encumbered by ego, so it has the qualities of purity and infinity. Thus, an individualized plant-soul combination within an essential oil blend, when proffered to the human-soul, 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.
The Concept of the Custom Essential Oil Blend
I hypothesized that the key to moving the soul in this way is the formulation of a customized essential oil blend that accurately reflects an individual’s unique soul-pattern. Like fingerprints, each soul is unique. Living within the context of one’s true soul-nature requires continuous connection with one’s higher self.
Happiness is the key to wellness. No unhappy person can truly be well. In turn, the key to happiness lies in accepting, and living in accordance with, one’s authentic inner soul nature and having it be acknowledged and accepted by others.
The inability to actualize who we really are leads to anger, anxiety, frustration, depression, regret, etc. And these emotions are often repressed, becoming morbidly introverted emotional “cysts.” Our bottled-up emotional cysts impact the physical body as well.
Creating “Portraits” 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.
Identifying the Unique Soul-Nature of Each Essential Oil
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 can be used to develop an understanding of its spiritual roots.
The central reference text in Spiritual PhytoEssencing is Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils, which contains 120+ chapters and each is devoted to the elaboration of the inner soul-nature of a specific essential oil. This process of elaboration involves the interweaving of information regarding plant characteristics, habitat, historical and folkloric associations and therapeutic action with a diverse variety of synchronicities. The blender relies upon this reference work (as well as the Spiritual PhytoEssencing Repertory of Essential Oils and Berkowsky’s Six Element Paradigm Workbook) to determine which oils are most relevant in the construction of a particular portrait in oils.
The Importance of Intent in Spiritual PhytoEssencing Blending
Kabbalists place great emphasis on the importance of kavanah, or intent.
Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue, eloquently elaborated in his book I and Thou (acknowledged by many to be one of the greatest philosophical treatises of the 20th century) has greatly influenced me in my development of both the theoretical structure and techniques of the art of Spiritual PhytoEssencing.
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. 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.
In I and Thou, Buber discusses the I-Thou relationship between human- and plant-soul: “The living wholeness and unity of a tree that denies itself to the eye…of anyone who merely investigates [i.e., views the tree as an It] is manifest to those who say You [i.e., acknowledge it as a kindred living soul], is present when they are present; they grant the tree the opportunity to manifest it [individualized soul consciousness], and now the tree that has being manifests it.”
A practitioner of Spiritual PhytoEssencing must “say” You (i.e., internally acknowledge the soul consciousness of another ensouled being) to the oils (carriers of plant soul consciousness) or they will not reveal the meaning of their being and the resultant blend will be limited in its potential to meet the client’s soul in the “between space,” attract spirit and encourage realization.
The following poem by Masanobu Fukuoka is relevant in this reference:
Only to him
where the barley stands
and listens well,
will it speak and tell,
for his sake
what man is.
The Role of the Spiritual PhytoEssencing Blender
Clearly, the development of a Spiritual PhytoEssencing custom blend requires training not only in terms of practical skills but also kavanah: intent. Spiritual PhytoEssencing is not intended for the direct treatment and alleviation of the symptoms of disharmony or disease. Rather, its role is to engage at the deepest level of being, and by doing so, help initiate living wholeness, the absence of which is the breeding ground for the chaotic patterns that develop on both the emotional and physical planes.
The following observation by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (in The Lights of Penitence, Lights of Holiness, the Moral Principles, Essays, Letters, and Poems) can serve as a description of the proper intent of the Spiritual PhytoEssencing blender: “All that is required by study is only a profound strategy as to how to draw on what is hidden in the heart, in the depths of the soul, one’s inner understanding, from the knowledge within. Knowledge in our inner being continues to stream forth. It creates, it acts.
The higher creative individual does not create. He only transfers. He brings vital, new light from the higher source whence originality emanates to the place where it has not previously been manifest, from the place that ‘no bird of prey knows, nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.’ (Job 28:7)…’that no man has passed, nor has any person inhabited it.’ (Jer. 2:6). And with the emergence of such greatness of the self, there is fashioned the faithful ear, the listening heart.”
Similarly, if one substitutes the word blender for carpenter, and blend for musical stand, and oils for tree, the following anecdote related by the ancient Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu can serve to further refine the intent of the Spiritual PhytoEssencing blender.
“Ch’ing, the chief carpenter, was carving wood into a stand for musical instruments. When finished, the work appeared to those who saw it as though of supernatural execution; and the Prince of Lu asked him, saying, ‘What mystery is therein your art?’
” ‘No mystery, Your Highness,’ replied Ch’ing. ‘And yet there is something. When I am about to make such a stand, I guard against any diminution of my vital power. I first reduce my mind to absolute quiescence. Three days in this condition and I become oblivious of any reward to be gained.
” ‘Five days, and I become oblivious of any fame to be acquired. Seven days, and I become unconscious of my four limbs and my physical frame. Then with no thought of the royal court present in my mind, my skill becomes concentrated, and all disturbing elements from without are gone.
” ‘I enter some mountain forest and search for a suitable tree. The tree contains the form required, which is afterwards elaborated. I see the musical stand in my mind’s eye and then set to work. Beyond that there is nothing.
” ‘I bring my own native capacity into relation with that of the wood. What was suspected to be of supernatural execution in my work was due only to this.’ “
The Intent of the Person Using the Custom Blend
A well-crafted custom blend initiates realignment within the organization of the soul that encourages the ingress of a guiding higher light. This illuminates the pathway of choices and decisions one must make in order to achieve wholeness of being. Clearly, what is required of the person for whom the blend has been prepared is to surrender to the superior understanding that streams downward from the higher soul and informs everyday rational consciousness.
Within the context of this discussion, the following observation by the Catholic theologian Francois de Sales (1567-1622), can serve as counsel to those who are experiencing a finely rendered Spiritual PhytoEssencing custom blend: “When the favorable gale of God’s grace swells the sails of the soul, it is in our power to refuse consent and thereby hinder the effect of the wind’s favor; but when our spirit sails along and makes its voyage prosperously, it is not we who make the gale of inspiration blow for us, nor we who make our sails swell with it, nor we who give motion to the ship of our heart; but we simply receive the gale, consent to its motion and let our ship sail under it, not hindering it by our resistance.”