An Imaginal Look at Trees

An Imaginal Look at Trees

Albert Einstein said,

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

I am of the opinion that we can learn all we need to know from Nature. The Hermetic maxim,

As above, so below.

implies this in the sense that Nature as Macrocosm mirrors man as Microcosm. We can learn more about the Microcosm, ourselves, by observing and pondering the images we see in Nature.

With that in mind, I would like to focus on the tree, a very common image that most of us see everyday. The tree has long been used in religious and mystical teachings to represent life, its proliferation, abundance, growth, and regeneracy. It is a very important symbol in the teachings of most religions. For example, In Norse mythology, the Yggdrasil is a huge ash tree that connects the nine worlds of the Norse cosmos. In Mayan religion, the Wacah Chan similarly encompasses the three realms of Mayan cosmology. The Tree of Life in Christianity and Judaism is well-known. In alchemy, the arbor philosophica symbolizes evolutionary growth. In Qabala, the Sephirotic Tree of Life is the central symbol for the entire teaching.

Photo by 
Andy Beecroft

I’ve become interested recently in the image of the inverted tree, with the roots growing into the heavens and the branches growing into the earth. Humans are such trees, but there is something else. Humans are also trees having their branches growing into the heavens, while their roots grow deep into the earth. Paradoxical? Yes, but we are such beings. This symbol is akin to the Yin-Yang of Taoism.

Photo by Jonathan Billinger

I believe that Soul is exemplified by trees that do not look “normal.” I like the gnarled, twisted kinds best. They remind me of old souls, who have suffered much, but have learned much about life. I am reminded of Tolkein’s Ents in The Lord of the Rings. What an incredible insight into Nature he had!

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