But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from
every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22
But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. Matthew 12:6
This is an examination of spiritual views in the book, Healing Oils of the Bible by David Stewart, not a commentary on the use of essential oils or their medical efficacy.
Healing Oils of the Bible is a book whose title and content suggest it is compatible with a biblical and Christian worldview. However, by randomly reading a few pages in less than five minutes, I was able to tell that a strong non-biblical worldview is present in what I read. Further reading revealed more of the same. Yet surprisingly there are several endorsements from Christians at the front of the book.
Multiple problems surface in the book, including an adulation of nature, a dangerous anti-medical view, and a misuse and misapplication of Bible Scripture. Additionally, Stewart endorses a book by Pastor Henry Wright, a book which has been criticized for its misuse of Scripture (see https://bible.org/article/review-more-excellent-way-henry-wright).
While it is true that some of the properties of the oils have the effects
claimed by Stewart for minor problems, he expresses hostility to all forms of
medical care. However, Stewart himself gives medical advice in this book and yet
he is not qualified to do so.
Stewart had one semester in medical school. His undergraduate degree is in mathematics and physics, while his graduate degree (the PhD in the "Dr." title, which I am not using since it is misleading) is for geophysics (theoretical seismology), which has to do with earthquake study (http://www.raindroptraining.com/care/stewart.shtml).
This education hardly qualifies Stewart to give medical advice, yet he generously dispenses such advice, even suggesting that the use of two essential oil products "can create an environment that makes it difficult for cancer cells to survive" (283), and the use of another will straighten the spine and add up to an inch or more in height within an hour (80)! Such outrageous claims should immediately cause any reader to take Stewart's other advice with a large shaker of salt, or to even stop reading the book.
Stewart's constant attacks on the medical profession and pharmaceuticals and repeated claims that oils are always from God are childish, misleading, and tiresome. This idea greets the reader in the first chapter, startlingly titled, "God: The First Aromatherapist" (Aromatherapy is a New Age field). This view about what is and is not from God is not only false but is mostly based on fallacious logic combined with New Age views about nature.
Mishandling of scriptural passages abound in this book, which is not too surprising given the New Thought/New Age beliefs pouring from the author's pen. One is the convoluted attempt to apply First Corinthians 14:33 to the use of modern drugs. Another is citing Hebrews 6:18 (which states God cannot lie) as meaning that essential oils are "full of truth" (47). The latter example is also a logical fallacy called begging the question because Stewart gives no biblical evidence that essential oils (which did not exist in Bible times anyway) were meant as medicine for today, so his assertion is baseless. And how could Scripture endorse essential oils when they did not yet exist?
In yet another instance, Stewart equates rejection of Jesus with disbelief in essential oils (82). This idea would certainly make those advocating oils feel righteous, but it is an insult to Jesus Christ and to Christians. There are many examples like this, but too many to discuss.
Stewart gives a reluctant nod to physicians, saying there are times one may need them, but prayer should be involved. While prayer is certainly a good thing, it is not a sin to see a doctor, or to see a doctor without prayer. Modern medicine is based on the objective data and laws that God put in place when he created our bodies. Stewart has an unbiblical view of prayer which is the root of this advice, to be explained later.
While medicine, like anything else, can be misused and errors occur, the data itself about our bodies that has been discovered and observed is a gift from God to help us know how our bodies work. The anti-medical bias in the book sets up a false dilemma between essential oils and modern medical treatments.
Before examining the spirituality in the book, three misleading assumptions need mention.
The First Faulty Assumption: The book is based on the belief that essential
oils were used in biblical times, but this is not true. Oils were either olive
oils or infused oils, or water-based oils, not the oils processed today as
The aromatic and anointing oils mentioned throughout the Bible were likely to be what we refer in modern times as infused oils, not essential oils.
Essential oils are produced via steam and hydro distillation. If any stills were in existence during Biblical times, they were probably only capable of producing hydrosols (water-based oils).
I've seen comments that baby Jesus was given Frankincense Essential Oil and Myrrh Essential Oil.. That would be rather unlikely. Jesus was probably presented with frankincense and myrrh resins. From https://www.aromaweb.com/aromatherapyspirituality/essential-oils-bible.asp
The process of steam distillation was at least eight centuries away from refinement and popular use. Healing oils and unguents of the biblical age were infused oils, made largely from macerating plant matter in olive oil, palm oil, or tallow. From https://www.aromaceuticals.com/blog/biblical-essential-oils-should-you-believe-everything-they-say-about-the-good-book
[T]here is no evidence of distillation taking place during biblical times. Many modern authors incorrectly refer to essential oil use during this time of history. When old, translated material refers to a healing oil, for example, many have erroneously assumed this is an essential oil. It is thought that aromatic oils were made by infusion, which we now refer to as infused oils. From https://www.cherylsherbs.com/blogs/cheryls-herbs-articles/oils-of-the-bible
Yet Stewart continues to allude to "essential oils" of the Bible, and it is implied in the title of the book. This is enough not only to discredit most of the book but to discredit the author as well. Either Stewart made false claims or he did no research.
The Second False Assumption: It is difficult knowing what exact plants in the Bible correspond to plants we know today (this is also true for names of animals.)
The names of plants mentioned in our modern translations of the Bible are not as accurate as we might assume..... As translations were written and the Bible was first distributed to many different countries, translators did not realize that the same plants were not present in all countries of the world.....Compounding the difficulty of plant identification even after it became common knowledge that lands contained their own unique groups of native plants is the fact that many native plants had already disappeared from the Holy Land or dwindled to small traces because of environmental changes due to over-cultivation and destruction of forests.... Some may be disappointed to learn that Hyssop, Calamus, Rose, Lily, Blue Vervain, Elm, Sycamore, Chestnut and Willow are plants of European and American countries. These did not grow in Biblical lands in ancient times. From https://cherylsherbs.com/blogs/cheryls-herbs-articles/plants-of-the-bible
In fact, Stewart himself admits this difficulty with plant identification on page 98 and elsewhere of the book. Despite this, references to plants such as hyssop continue although the word translated as hyssop is thought by some scholars to indicate marjoram or the caper plant (see https://ww2.odu.edu/~lmusselm/plant/bible/hyssop.php and http://tinyurl.com/napqaeu).
The Third False Assumption: There is the assumption that because certain oils were used in Bible times there is something sacred or special about them, and we should be using them now as our main medicine. Plants and oils were used then because that is what they had.
Anointing with oil in the Old Testament is often symbolic, sometimes of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing inherently sacred or supernaturally healing in oils, as Stewart clearly believes. Nor does it mean that oils are superior to medicine we have today. However, this is Stewart's clear baseless assumption. There is a spiritual reason for this, as we shall see.
Even if the above problems in the book did not exist, the profound non-Christian spiritual views in the book are so prevalent that they alone are a sufficient reason to warn against this work.
The overwhelming worldview in the book is a mixture of Panenthestic beliefs in
Vitalism, the Life Force, a Divine Intelligence in creation, and Gnostic
esotericism, all of which are part of New Thought and New Age spirituality.
On the very first page of the Introduction, "Healing Versus the Practice of Medicine," we find this statement:
"These oils are the vital fluids of the plants that are their life blood.....Essential oils contain life force, intelligence, and vibrational energy that imbues them with healing power that works for people."
The "life force" and "intelligence" of plants are concepts from Vitalism, a pagan philosophy that includes the animal magnetism of hypnotist Anton Mesmer (a pioneer of New Thought), and which was revived in the 19th century with Samuel Hahnemann, founder of the energy-based treatment called Homeopathy. The basic view is that there is an invisible energy or life force which can be channeled, captured, or manipulated for healing.
Contemporary forms of this belief are New Age energy healing modalities such as Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and any alleged healing treating the body's energy field or chakras (invisible wheels of energy in the body connected to spiritual awakening, according to Hinduism).
While treating his pastor's pneumonia using his famed "raindrop technique," Stewart writes that, as he did so, he told the patient:
"by dropping these oils a few inches about the skin, they are falling through your electromagnetic field and will start administering therapy to you before they even hit your body" (emphasis added, 214).
How will oils administer therapy before hitting one's body? This can only happen if one believes an energy is in the oils and an energy field surrounds the body, what is called the subtle body in the New Age. This body has no visible or objective data supporting it because it is a spiritual view from Hinduism and is found in the New Age. It is not based on rational thinking, facts, or a Christian outlook.
Stewart's acceptance of New Age views of energy infuses the book. Oils were gently extracted in Bible times, claims Stewart, to preserve their life force and therapeutic constituents (177).
God's word in speaking creation into existence, according to Stewart, imbued nature with a special vibration:
Word is a vibration, a frequency, a consciousness, an expression of energy (Introduction, xvii).
By speaking plants into existence, God imbued them with his word and his intelligence and this included the oils (ibid).
Astoundingly, Stewart tells readers that demons don't like essential oils because the high vibrations and high energies of oils put there by God are too much to take and make them want to leave (89).
Not only is this a Vitalist, New Thought view, but it also elevates natural substances to a higher level than how God created them. This view of nature is the same as magical environmentalism in the New Age and modern Witchcraft. There are further references to the vibrations of the oils so this is not a random remark from Stewart.
To believe that plants contain God's intelligence and a consciousness is Panentheism, the claim that God is contained in creation and creation is in God. God speaking creation into existence did not in any way meld any part of God with creation, but that is what this view asserts. It is contrary to God's word, to God's nature as he has revealed who he is, and to the historic Christian faith.
In this view, manufactured or synthetic products are dead since they do not contain the life force, the intelligence, and the vibrational energy found in healing oils (xvi) and so they will have no healing quality (187).
I had this same view when I was a New Ager, that synthetic materials would be dead and have a negative energy. This is why we clothed our son only in cotton or natural fabrics, and why we did not use plastic dishes or tableware, believing that it would kill the supposed energy in the food we ate.
Compounding this unbiblical view, Stewart claims that since essential oils are products of God's word, they will respond to our thoughts and words! "Essential oils magnify intent," writes Steward, so that we can
"mentally or verbally direct them to places in the body that need therapy" and "the oils respond to your thoughts and understand." (93)
Not only do we have that very New Age proclamation, but "when we pray over oils, their frequencies increase" (93).
Here is a view that a non-thinking extraction from a plant can understand and respond to our thoughts and words; and that prayer, rather than an appeal to the Lord of the universe, works by increasing the frequencies of the oils.
Only man is made in God's image; plants are part of God's creation but they do not possess the ability to respond to thoughts and words. Such a belief system is not only New Age but is occultic and contrary to every principle of God's word about God, man, and creation.