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Symbology Of The Tree Of Life


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The following is excerpted from About.com. I find comparative symbology very interesting and decided I'd share. :)

 

The Tree of Life is an important symbol in nearly every culture. With its branches reaching into the sky, and roots deep in the earth, it dwells in three worlds- a link between heaven, the earth, and the underworld, uniting above and below. It is both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance, and a masculine, visibly phallic symbol- another union.

 

In Jewish and Christian mythology, a tree sits at the center of both the Heavenly and Earthly Edens. The Norse cosmic World Ash, Ygdrassil, has its roots in the underworld while its branches support the abode of the Gods. The Egyptian's Holy Sycamore stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the worlds. To the Mayas, it is Yaxche, whose branches support the heavens.

 

The tree has other characteristics which lend easily to symbolism. Many trees take on the appearance of death in the winter- losing their leaves, only to sprout new growth with the return of spring. This aspect makes the tree a symbol of resurrection, and a stylized tree is the symbol of many resurrected Gods- Jesus, Attis, and Osirus all have crosses as their symbols. Most of these Gods are believed to have been crucified on trees, as well. The modern Christmas tree hearkens back to trees decorated to honor Attis, the crucified God of the Greeks.

 

A tree also bears seeds or fruits, which contain the essence of the tree, and this continuous regeneration is a potent symbol of immortality. It is the fruit of a tree that confers immortality in the Jewish creation story. In Taoist tradition, it is a divine peach that gives the gift of immortality.

 

This aspect of the tree as a giver of gifts and spiritual wisdom is also quite common. It is while meditating under a Bodhi tree that Buddha received his enlightenment; the Norse God Odin received the gift of language while suspended upside down in the World Ash (an interesting parallel is the hanged man of the tarot). In Judeo-Christian mythology, the Tree of heaven is the source of the primordial rivers that water the earth- similar to the Tooba Tree of the Koran, from whose roots spring milk, honey, and wine.

 

This tree and its gifts of immortality are not easy to discover. It is historically difficult to find, and almost invariably guarded. The tree of Life in the Jewish bible is guarded by a Seraph (an angel in the form of a fiery serpent) bearing a flaming sword. To steal the apples of knowledge, the Greek hero Hercules had to slay a many-headed dragon Ladon. In Mayan legends, it is a serpent in the roots that must be contended with. Similarly, the Naga, or divine serpent guards the Hindu Tree. The Serpent Nidhog lives under Ygdrassil, and gnaws at the roots.

 

The tree as the abode of the Gods is another feature common to many mythologies; in some, the tree itself is a God. The ancient Sumerian God Dammuzi was personified as a tree, as is the Hindu Brahman. The Byzantine World tree represents the omnipotence of the Christian god.

 

Here is another great article.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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More good tree stuff.

 

Excerpted from Autobiography of a Yogi

 

"The Adam and Eve story is incomprehensible to me!" I observed with considerable heat one day in my early struggles with the allegory. "Why did God punish not only the guilty pair, but also the innocent unborn generations?"

 

Master was more amused by my vehemence than my ignorance. "Genesis is deeply symbolic, and cannot be grasped by a literal interpretation," he explained. "Its 'tree of life' is the human body. The spinal cord is like an upturned tree, with man's hair as its roots, and afferent and efferent nerves as branches. The tree of the nervous system bears many enjoyable fruits, or sensations of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. In these, man may rightfully indulge; but he was forbidden the experience of sex, the 'apple' at the center of the bodily garden.14

 

"The 'serpent' represents the coiled-up spinal energy which stimulates the sex nerves. 'Adam' is reason, and 'Eve' is feeling. When the emotion or Eve-consciousness in any human being is overpowered by the sex impulse, his reason or Adam also succumbs.15

 

"God created the human species by materializing the bodies of man and woman through the force of His will; He endowed the new species with the power to create children in a similar 'immaculate' or divine manner.16 Because His manifestation in the individualized soul had hitherto been limited to animals, instinct-bound and lacking the potentialities of full reason, God made the first human bodies, symbolically called Adam and Eve. To these, for advantageous upward evolution, He transferred the souls or divine essence of two animals. 17 In Adam or man, reason predominated; in Eve or woman, feeling was ascendant. Thus was expressed the duality or polarity which underlies the phenomenal worlds. Reason and feeling remain in a heaven of cooperative joy so long as the human mind is not tricked by the serpentine energy of animal propensities.

 

"The human body was therefore not solely a result of evolution from beasts, but was produced by an act of special creation by God. The animal forms were too crude to express full divinity; the human being was uniquely given a tremendous mental capacity—the 'thousand-petaled lotus' of the brain—as well as acutely awakened occult centers in the spine.

 

"God, or the Divine Consciousness present within the first created pair, counseled them to enjoy all human sensibilities, but not to put their concentration on touch sensations.18 These were banned in order to avoid the development of the sex organs, which would enmesh humanity in the inferior animal method of propagation. The warning not to revive subconsciously-present bestial memories was not heeded. Resuming the way of brute procreation, Adam and Eve fell from the state of heavenly joy natural to the original perfect man.

 

"Knowledge of 'good and evil' refers to the cosmic dualistic compulsion. Falling under the sway of maya through misuse of his feeling and reason, or Eve—and Adam—consciousness, man relinquishes his right to enter the heavenly garden of divine self-sufficiency. 19 The personal responsibility of every human being is to restore his 'parents' or dual nature to a unified harmony or Eden."

 

As Sri Yukteswar ended his discourse, I glanced with new respect at the pages of Genesis.

 

"Dear Master,' I said, "for the first time I feel a proper filial obligation toward Adam and Eve!"

Edited by fatherman
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Knowledge of 'good and evil' refers to the cosmic dualistic compulsion

 

That I agree with. Eating of the Tree of Knowledge, imo, has to do with what it means to be alive and living life in this reality. It has to do with being sentient and aware. No sentience, no awareness of dualities.

 

It's interesting that in many of the stories, a serpent guards the tree and grants wisdom to certain seekers. Being aware of duality (being conscious), in the Eden story, makes us more like God.

 

Some see the serpent as doing God's will. Some see the serpent as being God's enemy. It's interesting that the serpent, just within the Bible, seems to play a dual role. The serpents brought death in the desert. But Moses, holding a serpent high upon his staff (a cross? an axis mundi?) brought healing.

 

It seems obvious to me that the serpent was not a literal talking snake. B)

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Gee guys, it's good to be back here at home.

 

As I've stated before here, shamans of the ancient tribes of the Eurasian plains climbed a pole that represented the universal tree so that they could go to the heavens and commune with the spirits on behalf of their communities.

 

Don't forget Gaugin's depiction of the serpent as a smallish red dragon-like being flying around in the air above Eve's head. He also depicted the garden of Eden as a locus in the S. Pacific, but then he WAS a French dude.

 

It's also true that for punishment, people were hung from trees in the U.S. in the 19th and 20th century, sometimes whether they deserved it of not, and sometimes just because they were of African descent. Red-blooded Americans even sent post cards to each other that depicted such goings on. It was called "lynching".

 

Legend says that Judas Iscariot (assassin) was hung from a tree for betraying Jesus ( in the traditional version). I even saw that in an old Cecil B. DeMille film. And Jesus died because he was nailed on a tree (in the traditional story) as opposed to eating of the fruit of knowledge with the Magdalene and having children and all that according to recently popular versions.

 

In my version of archaic reality there are tree people and rock people and they have been trying to get along since the very beginning.

 

I have an old Currier print of the tree of life that shows fire coming out of the tips of the branches. And of course when Moses struck the rock with his staff, a spring was opened up and water came from it.

 

Water-fire, Rock-tree, basic elements depicted as being in some sort of dynamically balanced opposition.

Coincidence or intentional design ?

 

But then we have trees that are rocks in Arizona.

 

Confused yet?

 

flow.... :blink:

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Gee guys, it's good to be back here at home.

 

Yeah, I can't seem to stay away for long. :rolleyes:

 

In my version of archaic reality there are tree people and rock people and they have been trying to get along since the very beginning.

 

Could you expand a little on that?

 

I have an old Currier print of the tree of life that shows fire coming out of the tips of the branches.

 

Cool. First thing I think of is that fire is symbolic of purification. Many interpretations there. This life certainly does purify, if we let it.

 

And of course when Moses struck the rock with his staff, a spring was opened up and water came from it.

 

Heh. I'd forgotten about that. I'm going to have to delve into the symbolism of rocks and water (from the Ancient Eastern perspective) a bit more, if I can find info. It might be significant that Moses hit the rock with a staff. Both are symbols of the axis mundi. As you intimated, perhaps the 'joining' of them (dual polaritie) symbolized some sort of unity. (I'm just musing out loud here.)

 

Confused yet?

 

Nah. I love this stuff.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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In my version of archaic reality there are tree people and rock people and they have been trying to get along since the very beginning.

 

Could you expand a little on that?

Reply:

 

My impression of reading the old stories of the scriptures is that tales including two brothers are prominent.

 

The first appearance of the Zadokite priest Melchizedek to Abraham is with two unidentified men. I believe that they represent this dual-unity.

 

Then there are Isaac's sons Jacob and the red headed guy, Esau. Jacob/tree man, Esau/ rock man. Jacob fooled Issac and gained his inheritance and blessing in place of Esau. But these brothers reunited and reconciled in the fullness of time.

 

Cain and Abel were Adam's first born. One planted crops and raised animals (Abel) and the other (Cain) is implied to be a metalworker who made music ( you have to search out the Chaldean roots in your Strong's Concordance). Abel would equate with the tree man, and Cain, since he worked with earth/rock substances (metals) would equate with the rock man. Cain slew Abel (rock man sacrifices tree man) with the jaw bone of an ass (recall the opening scenes of 2001, A Space Odyssey).

 

Jesus, the high priest of the New Testament, had, according to tradition two brothers, Judas Thomas (Didymus/twin-twin) and James the just. I haven't done any research on which is the tree man or the rock man, but I would guess Judas Thomas /tree, and James/rock.

Don't forget that the church was founded on the rock, Simon Peter.

 

There's more, but that's the best I can do now.

 

I have an old Currier print of the tree of life that shows fire coming out of the tips of the branches.

 

Cool. First thing I think of is that fire is symbolic of purification. Many interpretations there. This life certainly does purify, if we let it.

Reply:

 

I went into my bedroom and looked at it closely, and it actually shows the fire streams coming from the leaves, which look like elm leaves.Technically, it's an accurate depiction of the energy flows generated by plants when functioning normally. They take in fire (sunlight) and water to sustain their life and growth, and then emanate energy forms from their extremeties as the product of their internal energy utilization. Don't forget that they corrall carbon, and cleanse and purify the air that we all breath. So to my way of thinking trees are more G-d-like than rocks since trees purify the world, and rocks just sit there. But then again, trees grow in rock and its variable forms. One cannot exist or continue as part of a whole and living system without the other.

 

And of course when Moses struck the rock with his staff, a spring was opened up and water came from it.

 

Heh. I'd forgotten about that. I'm going to have to delve into the symbolism of rocks and water (from the Ancient Eastern perspective) a bit more, if I can find info. It might be significant that Moses hit the rock with a staff. Both are symbols of the axis mundi. As you intimated, perhaps the 'joining' of them (dual polaritie) symbolized some sort of unity. (I'm just musing out loud here.)

Reply:

 

The Temple Mount (Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem is honeycombed with water channels and resevoirs. I also think that this all symbollically has to do with the quantum tangling of interconnecting multidimensions and opening them up for our benefit and use. I'm reading Lisa Randall's book on that now. What A Fox !

 

Confused yet?

 

Nah. I love this stuff.

 

Muse out loud all you wish. You're really good at it. Bed time. Work tomorrow.

 

flow.... :P

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Yeah , can't stay away long.

 

In Haitian Voudon , Damballah is a snake god(loa), who lives in trees by streams of water. His wife is the goddess of the rainbow. Oddly enough in Haitian Voudun, Damballah , the snake god, is considered a"good" god, and father of all the loas.

 

It seems the symbols of ,snake,trees, water, and rainbow , are found in many religions.

 

 

MOW

Edited by MOW
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