The Tree of Life


The Tree and the Djed Pillar

[See the Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Creation) for symbolic references.]

The supernatural mystery is the mystery of God himself, but since our knowledge of the Divine will forever be imperfect, the only way to convey ideas about the spiritual realities is to express them in myths or analogy, along with images expressing practical and temporal realities that concretize it; such as the Tree of Life, which is used to help convey some sense of the Realtionship between the Absolute and the Relative, the One and the Many. The Tree of Life mediates between the Macrocosm and the Microcosm.

The Tree consists of ten spheres or Sepheroth (plural of Sephera) [analagous to ten fingers and toes], connected by 22 Paths [analagous to the 22 Hebrews Letters (see Psalm 118) and the 22 Tarot Trump cards], for a total of 32; adding Daath (the Sephera on the Tree which is invisible or not explicitly depicted), we get 33, analagous to the 33 segments of the human spine (The human vertebral column consists of 24 separate (presacral) vertebrae and two composite vertebrae, the sacrum (5 pieces) and coccyx (4 pieces) for a total of 33 segments), and the 33 degrees of the Scottish Rites in Masonry.

[Note that the eagle in the US Great Seal has 32 feathers on one wing and 33 on the other.]

We are immediately reminded of the Djed Pillar, conceptualized as the Spine of Osiris, which was traditionally raised at the completion of the annual Rites of Osiris in ancient Egypt, in order to re-establish the right connection between the earth and the sky. (Compare with the names and notions connected with the twin pillars J & B at the porch of the Temple.) The raising of the Djed pillar in the ancient rites of Osiris not only memorialize that connection, but by comparing the human spine to the world axis suggests that the human body and the cosmic body are analagous, an idea mirrored in the Kabbala.

Before becoming the chief of the gods and absorbing the attributes of other deities, Osiris was a god of vegetation, the son of the earth-god Geb and the sky-godess Nuit. The Osiris ceremonies began with earth ploughing and ended with the raising of the Djed pillar. Osiris (the son), as the djed, was seen as mediating between the earth and the sky (both essential aspects of agriculture).

The pillar (undoubtably made by stripping the limbs from a tree) appears to have been a column with 4 cross bars at the top (symbolic of the four elements), like the yards of a mast of a sailing ship. It has been suggested that the djed is a kind of tree of life, representing the evolution of the soul through the elemental kingdoms to the state of self-awareness. The erection of the column represented the resurrection of Osiris.

James Frazer (The Golden Bough) relates the raising of the djed to the Maypole celebrations of Europe, and notes that different cultures use a pillar, a whole tree, a doll or person hung on a tree, or later, just an image of a person (like the Celtic Green man) to represent the tree or vegetation spirit associated with the Spring Festivals. [The similarity to the biblical crucifixion and to phallic imagery should not be lost here.]

Recall that (according to legend) Osiris had been thrown into the Nile in a sealed coffin, which made it's way to the shores of Byblos (Lebanon/Syria), where a tree enfolded the coffin in it's trunk, and where the King, admiring the growth of the tree, caused it to be cut down and converted into a pillar of his palace (or temple). In inscriptions Osiris is referred to as "the one in the tree".

A Symbol of Transcendence

Osiris, like Menes, is seen as a symbol of transcedence, a bridge, if you will, between two realms. In the the image below we see birds symbolizing the heavens and the "dragons" symbolizing the earthly elements; note how the latter are depicted twining around each other as in the alchemical symbol above. Note also how the wrappings image elements of the tree of life, including the triple crown of the supernals and the X across the sun center (solar plexus), the sixth sphere.

The Cadeusus

The next two images map the sephera of the tree to the cadeusus, another symbol of transcendence, which is associated with the god Mercury (the guide of spirits), who is depicted with wings. This image is a perfect symbol for the exile and return story of the Kabbalah, symbolizing both the upward striving and the balancing of opposites; the middle pillar of the tree represents equilibrium and harmony.

     

The cadeusus (sign of the medical profession) consists of a staff entwined by two battling (copulating?) serpents topped by a sphere and a pair of wings, where the serpents are creatures confined to the earth and the wings symbolized creatures of the sky.

Kundalini Yoga

In the symbolism of Kundailini Yoga the opposites that are being mediated are the body and mind [analagous to matter and spirit] and the axis image that is used is the spinal column. The Kundalini Energy is envisioned as a serpent rising upwards in the body, through paths associated with three channels or pillars. You will note that while Kundalini uses physical methods and physical images, that the real goal is the transmutation of the material into the spiritual, just as in Alchemy where the metaphor that is used is that of converting gross matter into Gold. [Recall the Sacrament of the Eucherist.]

The next image depicts the Kundalini system made up of seven chakras and three pillars, analogous to the pillars of the tree. Note that the kundalini system is based on the number 7 rather than 10, and is limited to the length of the spine; that is, it does not extend to the feet, as the images above do, so that images depicting the system almost always feature an individual seated in the lotus position.

Yogins teach that there are two currents of Prana (or life force), called Pingala and Ida, traveling along the spinal column, which Hindus call Shusumma, and which is the center of the substance of the spinal cord. The Pingala is the nerve curent along the right side of the Shusumma, the Solar current, and the Ida is the left-side current, the Lunar current; analogous to the male and female currents around a mediation column in the Kabbalistic system of the tree.

Kundalini comes from the word kudalin, which means coiled up; the reference being to the spiritual energy which is pictured as a serpent or serpents coiled three and a half times (3.5 x 2 = 7) at the base of the spine. It has been suggested that the 7 churches, stars and candle stands referred to in the Book of Revelations are symbolic of the kundalini chakras, as well as the seven, classicly know "planets".

In Revelations Chapter 11, we read, "And the holy city shall they tread underfoot forty and two months", which is three and a half years. Later, "And they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three-score days", which is also three and a half years. He speaks of two witnesses, that remind us of the two serpents on the cadeusus, and the kundalini sepents coiled three and a half times.

While proponents of Kundalini suggest that the chakras and the pillars do not necessarily correlate to physical elements of the body, the chakras have been associated with the 7 Endocrine Glands, and the three pillars do seem to be an adequate description of what we seen in pictures of the human nervous system (below).

If you have ever studied the human nervous system, you might rememeber that the spinal column is formed by 12 pairs of Cranial Nerves, which are symbolized by the four and twenty elders seated round the throne is Revelation 4. You may also rememeber that all motor impulses for the body stem from the frontal ascending convolution along the Rolandic fissure, although in an inverted fashion; that is the highest point of the Rolandic fissure controls the feet, whereas the controls for the head are located at the bottom of the fissure. You will note that the Tree of Life is depicted as having it's roots at the top, as well.

Hiram

It has been recommended that the similarity of the language of the raising of the Kundalini and the raising of the dead Master Hiram (as the symbol of the Spirit trapped or buried in the physical body) in the third of the Blue Degrees in Masonry, indicates that the story being told is the same alchemical story.

Consider this passage from Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma, his commentary on the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite, entitled the Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret or Master of the Royal Secret:

"The Royal Secret.. is that which the Sohar terms the Mystery of the Balance. It is the Secret of Universal Equilibrium...man is one, though of a double nature; and he attains the purpose of his being only when the two natures that are in him are in just equilibrium...from the action and opposition of each against the other, result Harmony, and that MOVEMENT which is the Life of the Universe and the Soul alike."

The science of arousing the Kundalini is known as Pranayama; and the primal point in the exercises of Pranayama is the arousing of Rythmic Vibration by means of controlled breathing, often times in conjunction with mantra meditation.

Recall the story in the Royal Arch myths about the search for the True Word of a Master mason; reflect on the significance of the word "Aoum" (Aum/Om), a symbolic "Holy Word" signifying The Absolute Idea (of the Deity); and remember the names of the "ruffians" who killed Hiram Abiff in the ceremonies of the Blue Degrees; JubelA, JubelO, JubelUM- A-O-UM.


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