"And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
~ Genesis 2:8-9 ~
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the tree of knowledge, connecting heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree. According to some scholars, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, portrayed in various religions and philosophies, are the same tree.
The Tree of Life, as one of the two primary trees in the Garden of Eden, is one of the roots of all human understanding. To understand the Tree of Life is to understand the basic formula of existence.
Every great mystical tradition has a profound structure or cosmology. Every great cosmology corresponds to the Tree of Life.
The primary symbol of the Tree of Life is a structure of ten spheres called Sephiroth in Hebrew. These spheres have many levels of meaning. Macrocsmically, they represent dimensions or worlds. Psychologically, they represent aspects of our consciousness. Physically, they represent parts of the body. While these ten spheres have different levels of meaning, they are not the only structures on the Tree of Life. The ten spheres are but a simplification of a much more sophisticated and complex rendering of the many dimensions found in existence and non-existence.
In general, there are said to be three manifested levels of existence: the heavens, the physical realm, and the inferior worlds (hells). Yet, these three manifested worlds only exist temporarily, in stages or great epochs. They emerge from and return to a great non-existence or void, the Emptiness or Absolute.
The Absolute, Emptiness, or Void: Negative Existence or Uncreated Light
Ain Soph Aur
Manifested Existence (from the most subtle to the most concrete)
Kether - related to the zero or seventh dimension
Chokmah - related to the zero or seventh dimension
Binah - related to the zero or seventh dimension
Chesed - related to the sixth dimension
Geburah - related to the sixth dimension
Tiphereth - related to the sixth dimension
Netzach - related to the fifth dimension
Hod - related to the fifth dimension
Yesod - related to the fourth dimension
The Physical World
Malkuth - related to the third dimension
The Hells or Inferior Dimensions
The Nine Inverted Sephirah (as listed above, but not including Malkuth)
The ten Sephiroth are within each one of us. They subexist in all organic and inorganic matter. Every human being has them, but needs to incarnate them. When they are already Self-realized, the Sephiroth sparkle like precious gems within Atman. The Sephiroth form regions where the Archangels, Angels, Cherubim, Potencies, etc., live. The Sephiroth have their points of relation with the physical body.
Location of the Sephiroth within the physical body:
1. Kether - the crown, in the superior part of the head
2. Chokmah - right side of the brain
3. Binah - left side of the brain
4. Chesed - in the right arm
5. Geburah - in the left arm
6. Tiphereth - in the heart
7. Netzach - in the right leg
8. Hod - in the left leg
9. Yesod - in the sexual organs
10. Malkuth - in the feet
These are the points of contact of the Sephiroth with the human body. The Sephiroth are atomic. They are not atoms of carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen. They are atoms of a spiritual nature that belong to occult, esoteric, and spiritual chemistry.
In Egyptian mythology, in the Enneadsystem of Heliopolis, the first couple, apart from Shu& Tefnut(moisture & dryness) and Geb& Nuit(earth & sky), are Isis& Osiris. They were said to have emerged from the acaciatree of Saosis, which the Egyptians considered the "tree of life", referring to it as the "tree in which life and death are enclosed". A much later myth relates how Setkilled Osiris, putting him in a coffin, and throwing it into the Nile, the coffin becoming embedded in the base of a tamarisk tree.
The Egyptians' Holy Sycamorealso stood on the threshold of life and death, connecting the two worlds.
What is known as the AssyrianTree of Life was represented by a series of nodesand criss-crossing lines. It was apparently an important religious symbol, often attended to by Eagle-Headed Gods and Priests, or the King. Assyrilogists have not reached consensus as to the meaning of this symbol. It is multi-valent. The name "Tree of Life" has been attributed to it by modern scholarship; it is not used in the Assyrian sources. In fact, no textual evidence pertaining to the symbol is known to exist.
The concept of the tree of life appears in the writings of the Baha'i Faith, where it can refer to the Manifestation of God, a great teacher who appears to humanity from age to age. The concept can be broken down still further, with the Manifestation as the roots and trunk of the tree and his followers as the branches and leaves. The fruit produced by the tree nourishes an ever-advancing civilization.
A distinction has been made between the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The latter represents the physical world with its opposites, such as good and evil and light and dark. In a different context from the one above, the tree of life represents the spiritual realm, where this duality does not exist.
In Chinese mythology, a carving of a Tree of Life depicts a phoenixand a dragon; the dragon often represents immortality. A Taoiststory tells of a tree that produces a peachevery three thousand years. The one who eats the fruit receives immortality.
An archaeological discovery in the 1990s was of a sacrificial pit at Sanxingduiin Sichuan, China. Dating from about 1200 BCE, it contained three bronzetrees, one of them 4 metershigh. At the base was a dragon, and fruit hanging from the lower branches. At the top is a strange bird-like (phoenix) creature with claws. Also found in Sichuan, from the late Han dynasty(c 25 – 220 CE) is another tree of life. The ceramicbase is guarded by a horned beast with wings. The leaves of the tree are coins and people. At the apex is a bird with coins and the Sun.
Germanic paganism and Norse mythology
In Germanic paganism, trees played (and, in the form of reconstructive Heathenryand Germanic Neopaganism, continue to play) a prominent role, appearing in various aspects of surviving texts and possibly in the name of gods.
The tree of life appears in Norse religionas Yggdrasil, the world tree, a massive tree (sometimes considered a yewor ash tree) with extensive lore surrounding it. Perhaps related to Yggdrasil, accounts have survived of Germanic Tribes' honouring sacred trees within their societies. Examples include Thor's Oak, sacred groves, the Sacred tree at Uppsala, and the wooden Irminsulpillar.
In Norse Mythology, the apples from Iðunn'sash box provide immortality for the gods.
Flora in general play a central role in the Indian culture, which has largely a vegetarian tradition. The symbolism of the tree is mentioned in the 135th hymn of the 10th book of Rig-Veda, and in the 15th chapter of Bhagavad-gita(1–4).
Two varieties of the fig(called Ashvatta in Sanskrit), the banyantree and the peepaltree are the most revered in the Indian tradition, and both are considered the trees of life. The banyan symbolizes fertility, according to the Agni Purana, and is worshipped by those wanting children. It is also referred to as the tree of immortality in many Hinduscriptures. The banyan is believed to have nourished mankind with its ‘milk’ before the advent of grain and other food.
The fig tree is either a player or an observer in several scriptural events in Hinduism. The sages and seers sit under the shade of the fig tree to seek enlightenment, hold discourses and conduct Vedic rituals. The Bodhi treeunder which Gautama Buddhaachieved enlightenment is a peepal tree.
The fig tree assumes special importance in the Indian tradition owing mainly to its 'two-way growth'
The Book of Mormon
The Tree of Life is shown to Lehi and then also to his son Nephi in a dream or vision, between 600 and 592 B.C., according to the Book of Mormon. Lehi recounted the tree as "a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy."
"And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow."
Nephi seeks to learn from the Spirit what the tree represents: "10 And he said unto me: What desirest thou? 11 And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof."
Nephi is then shown in vision Mary with the baby Jesus in her arms, after which the Spirit says "21 Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? 22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. 23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul."
These visions were experienced by Nephi and Lehi before they departed from the Bible lands and travelled by boat to the Americas.
When the Buddha Shakyamuni sat at the Bodhi tree, the tree of wisdom, the Tree of Knowledge, he harnessed the forces of the Amrita, the milk, and transmuted those forces to enliven his spinal column), the Tree of Life.
The Buddha stayed in meditation at the base of this tree for 49 days. Why? Why 49? 49 days, in the eastern traditions, is symbolic. When someone dies, there is always a period of mourning for 49 days, a period of observance, a period of remembrance, a period of prayer, to honor that person and to assist them as they move on to their new life. When the Buddha Shakyamuni sat for 49 days at the base of the tree, this is symbolic of the approaching death, psychological death, the death of the mind, the full and complete and total death of everything that is subjective and illusory within himself. In other words, he will take the waters of the Amrita, that milk, and transform that into fire, and light the 49 fires of the mind. And these 49 fires are related to the seven bodies and the seven chakras in each body.
It is said that after four weeks of meditating at the Bodhi tree, he was so concentrated, so focused, that he did not realize or care that a great storm was brewing around him. The storm symbolizes a karmic, initiatic ordeal; in a dream or religious story, a storm represents an ordeal, challenges, sufferings, difficulties, with all the qualities of any storm in nature.
A flood began to creep up around Shakyamuni. So, his life was in danger. But a great king of the elemental kingdom came to assist him. This king is named Mucalinda, and he is a Naga king.
The Mayan Tree of Life
The ancient Mayans symbolized their mystical sciences in a Tree of Life, depicated as a vertical axis upon which all life is balanced and sustained, upon which depend the three levels of life: the underworld, the earth, and the heavens.
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