By Thomas Von Rottenberg
Issue: Spring 2008: The Spirit in Color - Issue #51, Vol. 13
Thomas Von Rottenberg is a naturopath with a practice in the heart of Berlin, in the old Jewish quarter, which he says is now the most lively part of the city since the wall came down. In his practice, he works with the oil-dispersion bath, soul work and a treatment based on the zodiac. His work brings him to the US, Israel and throughout Europe.
The Birth of Oil-Dispersion Bath Therapy
At the beginning of my studies, I was lucky to meet Werner and Franziska Junge, who, following indications of Rudolf Steiner, developed the oil-dispersion bath. They lived in Berlin in the 1930s and studied hydrotherapy at the University. They were approached by a patient, a woman who had a systemic fungal infection, which at that time was a fatal disease because they had no effective anti-fungal medication. As this disease progresses, it comes into the lungs, and people died because they suffocated. As they had no proper means to treat it, they suggested taking out all her teeth, in order to be able to better treat the fungus. But, of course, the opposite was the case, because with the whole mouth being a wound, the fungus would much more easily infiltrate.
The next thing they suggested was to open her jaw. She said, “I’ve seen what the first measure brought, and I’d rather die, than have my jaw broken.” So she was completely hopeless––well for her, life was over, she had no hope for any kind of healing, and she was a young mother of four children. Her husband was desperate, of course, and he went to Werner Junge and said “Do you have any idea what we can do?”
Junge went to his bookshelf and took out the freshly published medical course given by Steiner. It fell open to a certain page, and he was sensitive enough to read this page. So, he read the passage where Steiner refers to the disease of diabetes, and says that diabetes actually comes about through the ego-organization not being able anymore to penetrate the pancreas. He suggested that to bring the ego-organization to penetrate the pancreas again is to bring the patient into the relationship with the oil-forming process.
The oil-forming process is a dynamic that exists––it is the inner knowledge that the plant has in order to be able to build up an oil. So it’s not the oil itself which is needed; it is the dynamic that leads to the forming of the oil. And Steiner says we need to bring the patient into a relationship with that oil-forming process. He says this can be done by bathing in water with highly dispersed essential oils. For diabetes he recommended rosemary. And in fact with the rosemary the blood sugar goes down immediately.
Junge didn’t want to use an emulsifier, which weakens the therapeutic impact of the essential oil and instead had the idea to disperse the oils through a vortex. He calculated how to do that, went to a glass blower, and had this device blown. The next day he gave the woman a bath with the rosemary oil and after she said, “This is the first time that I feel that something healing is going on in my mouth.” Her temperature went down, the pus was less abundant, and her pain was much less. They gave her three baths a week, and within five weeks she was completely healed. So that was the start of the therapy.
Then they experimented to find out which concentration of oil was the best, what kind of oil you need for what kind of disease, and they set up the whole therapy. They spent the next 30 years developing it. I got to know them when they were wise old people already in their 80s, and I was in the beginning of my naturopath studies. What they said about the practical use and the efficacy of the treatment was so convincing that I thought, I cannot let this pass.
I bought an oil dispersion device and began to treat people with it. I was so amazed by the results that would never have come about in that short period of time with the homeopathy that I had learned. For example, I had a patient coming with polyarthritis. Her doctor said she would end up in a wheelchair in three months if she didn’t take a very strong immune suppressant medication. She didn’t dare to take it, but she didn’t want to end up in a wheelchair, obviously. She couldn’t even hold a cup of coffee without severe pain. I then gave her baths, and after ten baths she was nearly pain free. I called her again five years later, and she still had no pain. I was convinced by what I saw with my patients.
I began to explore the elemental beings of the oils, their individual characters. Some diseases are individualized, more related to our human development or constitution, depending on our own state of development. We may also take on issues that are more than our own, that don’t only originate in our own personal karma, but are more to do with family karma or even folk karma, and these diseases need different oils. So with the oil dispersion bath, I want to learn which oils are more related to the issues of our time, that some people take on and subconsciously want to solve. That's why the main part of my work is research into the character of essential oils. For example, the southernwood is a very rare oil, very few companies have it, but it is for our time one of the major oils because it helps us deal with our own shadow side, this part of ourselves that we actually don’t want to see. There are other oils, like the moss oil that comes from the Himalayas, or the black cumin oil from Egypt, and others that help us deal with the contemporary issues related to our time.
There are different ways to research an essential oil. The first is the purely physical determination of the biochemical makeup of an oil, which shows the direction of its physiological impact. Then the etheric aspect, which I research within a group setting, in my seminars, by teaching the participants to become aware of the etheric impact that the oils have on them. We share the results in the groups and then we move to the next stage, the soul or astral level.
In the astral sphere, we have that wonderful situation in that the scent of an essential oil immediately affects our emotions. Right away, we either like, dislike, or don’t care so much about the scent. By understanding why we like or dislike it, or why certain symptoms arise through an oil, we are able to distill the character of the oil through the subjective reactions of all the participants. Through understanding the common ground of all the participants´ reactions, we come to the objective character of the oil. Each oil carries a certain life principle and our reactions reflect our state of development concerning this principle.
And finally there is the sphere of the ego- or I-organization, the spiritual aspect of the elemental beings. And this we address by a meditation, by meditating on the elemental being of the essential oil. This is where we meet the being of the oil, and let it reveal what it wants to reveal to us, and share this.
Every person is like an antenna to the elemental being and perceives what he can perceive according to his own personality and development. So the oil which smelled like rotten cheese to me because I have a problem with that principle may smell like flowers two hours later. But only after I have understood why it smells so bad for me, what feelings I have suppressed at a certain point, and give these feelings a way to be expressed, the same oil may smell like flowers afterwards.
A Tool for Therapists
The people who are working therapeutically are very much interested in this work because essential oils give us the possibility to directly help a patient. What helps is that we have a tool that empowers our ego-organization, the highest level of healing potential we have. In normal aromatherapy, which uses the bath, or inhaling, or taking it in orally, we only reach the astral or emotional body. But we don’t reach the ego-organization. And this is our leading agent. That is why the oil-dispersion bath is so effective, also with acute disease––because you bring in this ordering and guiding agent of the ego-organization into a direct effect on the disturbing element.
It is not the oil itself. The oil itself is a door to come to the dynamic of the oil-forming process.
In the seminars, what we do is a kind of proving, similar to that done in homeopathy. Take fennel, for example. It has a lot to do with the father principle, the father being the person who shows us the outside world, and leads us into it and helps us to explore it; the father gives us the confidence to feel at home in the world. So if this principle is disturbed for whatever reason, I probably won’t like the fennel. And by going through the process, I’ll understand why I don’t like it. When a group explores the fennel, then everyone goes through his own fennel process and sees everyone else going through his fennel process differently, and this has a very strong transforming force.
Selecting the Oil
When I work with patients one-to-one, I of course have them smell it. I would never give an oil to someone if he doesn’t agree with it. I need the patient’s consent and I will only work in this way. Because I’m the facilitator, and I only can help him understand why he doesn’t like this oil, and how he could benefit from it, what it would do physiologically, what it would do to his emotions, and then he is the one to decide. I can recommend and I will recommend. But the last word is the patient’s. It depends on the strength of the patient. And his or her consciousness. To a child, I would never give an oil he doesn’t like. Because it means confronting something that will be difficult. Often the people need exactly that which they don’t like at all. But it requires them to be strong enough to face it.
And that’s what I love so much about the oils; the reaction to the oil is always objective. If I don’t like an oil, I don’t like it, I cannot pretend I like it. Because it is a subconscious reaction and our subconsciousness is always precise. It’s always true. If I come to like an oil I used to dislike strongly, it is an objective sign that I have changed in relation to that principle that is standing behind the oil, that I have come to terms with it. We have the strongly diagnostic value of the essential oil.
Because I need to understand whether the patient is facing primarily an individual thing, or taking on his family or folk issues, I use a therapy called soul work. And this is a kind of meditative process I do with the patient, in order to find out the underlying cause of his disease or state. This has become more and more important in my work. It is a joint meditative process. I ask questions and facilitate the patient to come to a meditative state, and inner images will come up, certain thoughts from deeper levels. Jointly we try to determine what comes from where, what it is that is responsible for our developing a disease. We can talk in that realm, because in this realm, we also know how we can heal or overcome this. You can call it the inner doctor, or the inner healer. And you know the old shamans, they addressed this faculty within us. Soul work is a way to address this faculty. On some level, the individual has chosen to experience this illness, even if we hate it, we don’t understand it, and we would never consciously say we have chosen it. I think we have all gone though diseases and states that we would never have thought we have chosen, and only years later we understand how deeply necessary it was.