Trees share their spirit and wisdom unconditionally each and every day, just as they have for millions of years. Trees by their very nature, nurture our mind, body and soul. Our first breath awakens our innate connection with trees.
Trees encouraged our ancient ancestors to leave their embrace and explore their surroundings by providing food, shelter and fire in many forms. Trees were also teachers who freely offered the ingredients for tools, clothing and medicine. The sound of wind was heard as their voice, which sparked the creation of language and music. When the rings within trees were seen as mirroring the “rings” in the sky they became connectors for humans between the earth and the stars. As the original sun dial they also anchored the stars at night.
The word sacred is synonymous with the concept of “divine” (shining ones in the sky – sun, moon, stars, planets) while the word geometry is Greek for geos(earth) and metron(measure). By observing these “shining ones” our ancient ancestors created solar and lunar earth works that functioned as ceremonial calendars. This ushered in the age of agriculture around 10,000 BCE. Stars and trees became interconnected as providers of seeds on earth and in the night sky. As agriculture grew, the once nomadic people established communities and towns that required law and order.
With the help of trees the science or knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and medicine began to flourish throughout Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3500 BCE. For some cultures, this was a “golden age” of living in harmony with nature. For others, it was a time of expansion. But, for a powerful few it was seen as man’s triumph over nature, which planted the seeds of separation as the patriarchal “father sun” now ruled over “mother earth.”
Cultures continued to cultivate stories based on their geography and the trees that grew among them. This led to mythical stories of trees as metaphors of creation and the cycles of life and death. Most cultures revered trees as sacred guardians who held the knowledge of life for the past, present and future. By honoring trees as “divine beings” the concept of “god/diety” was inspired.
The ancient Sumerians saw the Cedars of Lebanon as the “home of the gods” ruled by Enlil, lord of wind. Trees were also esteemed as oracles or “wise ones” that provided wisdom, prophecy and connection through the sound of the wind blowing through their leaves. This was interpreted as the breath and voice of the “divine” on earth. The names of Elohim, El, Elah/Alah, Elon/Alon, Elat/Alat are synonymous with cedars, oak and ash trees.
Around 500 BCE the Book of Genesis was created, which told the infamous story of the Garden of Eden where the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil lived. It was written that Elohimcreated the garden and instructed Adam and Eve to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. When they did, they were cast out of the garden and forbidden to eat from the immortal Tree of Life. This symbolized the original wound of separation between the mortal human body and the true nature of the immortal soul.
As monotheism (belief in one god) became law throughout the Roman Empire, books and knowledge about nature were prohibited. The wisdom of trees was hidden in the shadows of fear. Consequently, Europe plummeted into darkness for 1300 years.
In the 1500’s “Old World” explorers discovered “New World” cultures who knew the wisdom of trees and their medicinal benefits. These explorers brought seeds back to Europe to be planted in the King’s Gardens as treasures from the New World. Kings and scholars were intrigued by their “miraculous” healing properties, even naming one Arborvitae(Tree of Life). This new awareness of nature and trees ushered in the Age of Enlightenment as the science of medicine and botany converged with philosophy and art.
At the same time the mysterious wisdom teachings of sacred geometry and the Tree of Life began to surface, after 1500 years of hiding. The Tarot originally known as Trionfi(triumphs) was created as an allegorical deck of illustrated playing cards. When used for divination they held the insights of the Kabbalah (Tree of Life) as a path for the soul and psyche/mind to reunite as one. The Tarot and Kabbalah were associated with the “occult” (knowledge of the hidden) versus “fact” (knowledge of the measureable).
Sacred geometry holds this knowledge of the measurable cycles of the sun, moon, planets and stars in relation to earth. This knowledge helped create calendars that gave birth to agricultural. Sacred geometry, when aligned within the chakras, is also an alchemical formula of our factual and sacred connection to nature.
During the mid-20th Century, Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung (1875-1961) pioneered the field of behavioral psychology. He studied concepts such as individuation, the conscious and unconscious self, and the collective unconscious. He classified archetypes as aspects of the human condition. Jung felt that the human psyche was “by nature religious,” and what set humans apart from other species was their continued search for meaning and purpose in all aspects of birth, life, death and reincarnation. He theorized that the psyche individuated (separated) itself from its soul in search of its unique purpose in life. Yet during this quest for purpose, the psyche ultimately longed to know itself as a soul in human form and feel whole.
As a result of his work, Jung identified trees as the archetype of the psyche (soul) and mandalas (circle) as the archetype of wholeness. To be whole is to be “holy” as we reunite with our soul as “one.”
The word archetype, “original pattern from which copies are made” actually dates back to Plato. Plato, (Greek philosopher c. 424–347 BCE), identified archetypes as ideas in pure mental form that were imprinted into the soul before it was born. Many of these archetypal stories were originally inspired by humankind’s interrelationship with trees and natural order.
Trees hold these archetypal stories of our collective consciousness and continue to stir our hearts and minds. As our stories became their stories, their stories became our stories. Trees reflect our true nature by helping us see through the illusion of separation to remember that we all belong to one another.
“By awakening the Tree of Life within, we return to the garden of our soul.” – Laural Virtues Wauters
Featured photo courtesy of Keith Koch.