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.
Prejudice Against Physicians
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 (Source).
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 mostly 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 essential oils. Below are excerpts from articles on this subject.
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 “Essential Oils and the Bible”
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 “Biblical Essential Oils”
[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 “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 “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 article on Hyssop).
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.
Vitalism, the Life Force, and Panentheism
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). This view of energy and frequency is a blatant pagan belief, found particularly in the New Age and the occult.
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).
The view that a non-thinking extraction from a plant can understand and respond to our thoughts and words is animism. And the view that prayer, rather than an appeal to the Lord of the universe, works by increasing the frequencies of the oils is not only unbiblical but contrary to the Bible.
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.
New Thought and Divine Intelligence
This “intelligence” of plants and nature is common to New Age philosophy because it is a component of it. An example is Deepak Chopra’s view of God as a divine intelligence permeating creation. This is a view also from New Thought, a movement claiming to be Christian but which denies all the essentials of the Christian faith.
New Thought gave rise to Unity, Christian Science, and the Church of Religious Science (the teachings of the latter church’s co-founder, Ernest Holmes, influenced Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller as well as many Christians).
Expressing this view about intelligence, a New Thought luminary, Abel Leighton Allen, writes in his book, The Message of New Thought:
The adherents of New Thought conceive of a universal mind or divine intelligence pervading and permeating the universe, manifesting in all forms of creation; that there is also a unity of life and that each individual is a part of that intelligence and that universal life and spirit. The visible forms of nature are the expressions of that divine life and intelligence, and the same life and intelligence that seek expression in the bud, the grass blade, the flower, the bird and animal, are also seeking expression in man.
The highest conception of religion as taught by New Thought is to unfold and develop the soul into harmonious relations with divine intelligence, and thus come into spiritual unity with God. From online book on New Thought
Why is it so essential to have this life force and vibration from the plants via (supposedly) essential oils? Stewart tells us:
One of the most important modalities of the oils is their ability to lift our bodily frequencies to levels where disease cannot exist (33).
If you have not been involved in or studied the New Age, this statement might seem strange. But in the New Age, this makes sense because the body is seen as existing on vibrational levels, and the higher the level is that one reaches, the purer and healthier one becomes. Here Stewart claims that the oils will help raise the vibrations of the body to higher levels, a distinctly New Age idea.
The concept of spiritual levels is in the New Age and the occult and could be classified under Gnostic esotericism, which is the foundation of such thinking.
Stewart extolls something he calls the seven levels of heaven, a supposed secret teaching of the Jews, which is the name for his 7th Heaven Kit of oils. Stewart explains what this term means:
In order to reach God, one ascends through seven ‘levels’ or ‘rings’ of consciousness (or spiritual awareness) with the top, or seventh level, being total awareness of or complete communion with God, himself (273).
Why is this teaching not in the Bible? Stewart’s explanation is a very elitist and Gnostic one, namely, that the Bible’s authors did not share this because it could be shared only with persons of sufficient spiritual development (273).
Stewart then tries to support this view from the Second Corinthians 12 passage where Paul writes about going to (or his vision of) the third heaven as well as the repeated use of the number seven in the book of Revelation.
Did Jesus teach the seventh heaven concept? Stewart writes that we cannot know but claims that Jesus did teach secrets and esoteric and hidden matters via parables, allegories, and symbols (275). While parables veiled the meaning from those who refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus never taught esoterica, which is a hallmark of occultism. Esoterica is intended only for a few who are initiated into a secret group or body of beliefs, such as the Gnostic beliefs which attacked the teachings of Jesus and denied his true nature. Jesus never referred to symbols, much less teach them. In fact, Jesus himself said:
I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. John 18:20
This erroneous occult concept from Stewart is compounded in the discussion of the seven oil blends in the 7th Heaven Kit (where the assertion that Paul’s term third heaven supports seven levels of heaven is repeated). Claims for all of these include a promotion of New Age views.
The most egregious oils in this kit are Awaken, which is to awaken our spiritual awareness and consciousness of our true inner selves to bring an inner knowing to reach one’s highest potential (277), and White Angelica, whose oils allegedly were used to increase the intensity and size of the aura (electric field) around the body) as well as claiming that its frequency neutralizes negative energy (278).
A New Ager could not come up with a more New Age description than that!
The information on the 7th Heaven Kit is to be passed on in sales situations, so this New Age occultism is being promoted to even more people than those who read the book. This is deeply disturbing.
So what was Paul’s third heaven? Is this a level of heaven? The third heaven referred to the location of God:
Paul was suddenly snatched up into the third heaven which, transcending the first (earth’s atmosphere; Deut. 11:11; 1 Kings 8:35; Isa. 55:10) and second (interplanetary and interstellar space; Gen. 15:5; Ps. 8:3; Isa. 13:10) heavens, is the abode of God (1 Kings 8:30; Ps. 33:13-14; Matt. 6:9). From Grace To You article (Also see article from CARM).
There are numerous misuses of Scripture but two examples are especially flagrant.
God told the Israelites to strike the lintels and doorposts in Egypt with hyssop during the last plague, claims Stewart, because the fragrance of hyssop was a part of the ritual to cause the evil spirit of death to pass over them (209).
But there was no evil spirit of death! The Lord himself announced that He would pass over them:
The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:13; also vv. 23, 27).
How can Stewart ignore the clear words of the passage and tell his readers that it was an evil spirit of death that was passing over Egypt? It is difficult to know what to conclude from such a gross error except that one should be strongly skeptical about anything Stewart states about the Bible.
When David begs forgiveness from God in the anguished Psalm 51, he states in verse 7:
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Stewart writes that the hyssop oil directed by our sincere intent can create a clean heart and restore a right spirit in ourselves and can blot out our transgressions (both statements are quotes from Psalm 51) as well as
erase the sinful tendencies (negative emotions) stored in cellular memory, thus releasing and cleansing the root cause of wrong action (210).
Note that Stewart points to the hyssop oil as the agent of healing and forgiveness. This is an audacious and blasphemous assertion. Verse seven in Psalm 51 is a parallelism where the purifying with hyssop is referring to and representing God’s washing of David through forgiveness. Secondly, no substance can do what Stewart is stating hyssop (oil) can do.
Everything Stewart writes about this is wrong. David did not use hyssop oil; it was not hyssop since hyssop did not grow in that area; no substance can erase sinful tendencies or negative emotions; cellular memory is an unproven pseudoscience theory; and no substance can spiritually cleanse anyone.
Furthermore, what does directed by our sincere intent mean? That we are in charge of creating a clean heart and restoring a right spirit through our intention? New Thought-New Age author and speaker, Wayne Dyer, would agree (ironically, or maybe appropriately, Dyer has been a speaker at Young Living conventions, the company for which this book was written).
The hyssop (though it was probably not hyssop) in Psalm 51 is possibly alluding to the cleansing of the leper in Leviticus 14, but it is not the hyssop that heals the leper, but God who forgives and heals based on the sacrifices delineated in the rest of that chapter.
Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). This is a picture, as all sacrifices were, of the blood that would be shed by Christ in the atonement as payment for the penalty of sins. Hyssop in Psalm 51 is clearly a picture of God’s forgiveness based on God’s mercy and grace due to David’s repentance.
By ascribing healing and forgiveness power to a plant, Stewart undermines God’s majesty and power and gives magical abilities to a plant. If it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to remove sin (Heb. 10:4), how can our intention and the oil of plants do so?
Contrary to Panentheism, Gods word makes it clear that God is holy and distinct from creation. See Genesis 1 and 2; Job 38:4-41; and Isaiah chapters 44, 45, and 46. There is no supposed intelligence from God or his word that permeates plants or creation, as asserted by Stewart.
We are to use reason and the rational mind: Psalm 16:7; Proverbs 1:2-5, 18:15, 22:17; Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 22:37; Acts 17:17, 18:4, 19; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 14:15; and Philippians 4:8. The Bible is in words, and language is based on logic and reason, all of which come from God’s character.
Science and the Christian faith are not in conflict. In fact, the ability to think and reason that God has given man has enabled him to produce solutions to many problems and to illnesses people used to die from. This is due to God’s order in the world and the reasoning function created by God in man’s mind.
The filter for a Christian is God’s word when one encounters teachings that cite the Bible and uses it to support a philosophy. We must be on guard for the mishandling of God’s word and for spiritual views that conflict with it. It does not matter how popular the book or author are, how many other Christians recommend it, or how appealing it is.
I consider the book Healing Oils of the Bible to be one of the most unbiblical books claiming to be Christian I have ever read, and moreover, to be one of the top books that most egregiously misuses Scripture and misunderstands the nature of God. It could not be more unchristian.
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. John 7:24
Anointing with oil from Bible Study Tools
Regarding the Greek word pharmakeia, translated as sorcery and witchcraft in some passages, as being equivalent to modern day pharmaceuticals and medicines, see