The Tree of Life & It’s Many Meanings

The Tree of Life & It’s Many Meanings

The Tree of Life is a symbol that appears again and again throughout human history, from the book of Genesis to evolutionary biology.

This image shows up in many of the world’s religions: in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, in Norse and Celtic mythology, among the Mayans, the Aztecs, and the shamans of Siberia. It is often called “the World Tree,” which connects the different worlds – it’s branches uphold the heavens, it’s roots sink down to the Underworld, and it’s trunk is the living Earth itself.

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life

photo credit: Alan James Garner
photo credit: Alan James Garner

Perhaps the most unique version of the Tree of Life is found in the Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism. This ancient symbol has many layers of meaning, and multiple interpretations – none of which are the whole truth, but all of which intertwine and complement each other, pointing toward a greater Truth, beyond our understanding.

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life depicts 10 sephirot – nodes, powers, pillars, lights, crowns, names, worlds, all of these and more – and 22 connecting paths between them. It’s a two dimensional depiction of the multi-dimensional universe, how it came into being, and how it functions.

The 10 sephirot, and the qualities they represent, are:

  1. Keter, The Crown
  2. Chokhmah, Wisdom
  3. Binah, Understanding
  4. Chesed, Mercy and Love
  5. Gevurah, Strength and Judgment
  6. Tefiret, Beauty and Compassion
  7. Netzach, Victory
  8. Hod, Glory
  9. Yesod, Foundation
  10. Malkut, Kingdom

One interpretation is that the Tree of Life represents Creation, heaven and earth and all living things; the microcosm as well as the macrocosm, a single atom or an entire galaxy. It is often seen as an ideal representation of the human body, or the blue print of every organism.

The symbol also relates how creation works: Keter, the crown, represents a singularity of infinite light, power and potential. Keter then begets Chokhmah, which begets Binah, and so on, down to Malkuth, which represents matter, form, the Earth and the physical cosmos.

So the universe unfolds itself, and differentiates itself, from perfect Oneness to infinite multiplicity. And this describes not only the creation of the universe at the beginning of time, but also the ongoing process of creation: how we conceive of an idea, and unfold it into manifestation.

The Tree of Life is also said to be a representation of the names and attributes of God; as well as a map of the spiritual path, that leads us from fear and separation, to harmony and wholeness.

The truth is, there are so many possible meanings and interpretations that I could write a whole book, and only just scratch the surface. Jewish mystics devote their entire lives to the study of this symbol, and all the teachings it contains.

A Universal Meaning

But whatever form it takes – a mythical, cosmic World Tree, or a numerological diagram – this ancient symbol captures the human imagination in ways that transcend culture and religion.

Charles Darwin chose it as a metaphor to explain how all life on Earth could have evolved from common ancestry. It continues to inspire our poetry, music, literature, artwork, even Hollywood movies (like the 2011 film, The Tree of Life, or James Cameron’s Avatar).

We see something sacred and magical in the graceful curve of roots and branches, limbs and twigs; a universal pattern. Perhaps it’s the reflection of ourselves that so captivates us… the same shape we see in our veins and arteries, our nervous system.

The Tree of Life reminds us how closely we are related to each other, to Nature and all living beings. It stands as a timeless symbol of harmony, inter-connectedness, and the common life force that we all share.

 

Modern Art with Ancient Meaning Gifts

Our recommendations on a few gifts that captures the symbolism of “THE TREE OF LIFE”

 

ma00055b-zodiac                         60c-MA_runes                          tree-of-life-crystal-pendant

Tree of Life Ring $137          Leather Journal $145       Crystal Pendant $30

 

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