What is the meaning of the tree of life?

We are now accustomed to seeing this easily identifiable and attractive symbol that is a great success in jewellery sales. It is also gaining ground in the field of decoration and interior design.

A fashionable symbol with dark esoteric roots

The tree of life is directly associated with positive feelings, because its image sends us back to nature, to rooting, to growth. It also reminds us of the family tree and reminds us of the importance of family and the consideration we give to those who have gone before us. Recently, the use of this symbol has been observed on World Breast Cancer Day or in the making of a large sculpture as a representation of a Tree of Life, to send "a message of support to patients", or to write "feelings and concerns and to leave messages of hope and encouragement". A simple piece of jewellery and an ornament? A universal symbol used as a decoration or as a solidarity wall initiative? Yes, but much more. One should not look too far to find, in the promotions around this symbol, a detailed explanation of its deep spiritual content. Used in various cultures and civilizations, today it is also said to be a source of spiritual strength, a link between the upper and lower worlds, bringing wisdom, security and strength to those who wear it. Thus, it is seen as a protective amulet, a talisman that protects from all that is negative (the evil eye) and is linked to positive energies, to a sense of positivism, remission, healing and regeneration, both spiritual and bodily. All this gives it its pseudo-therapeutic New Age facet, in which any reference to harmony, good vibrations or positive energy is so widespread. Proponents of this attribute assure that it will attract to them the positive energies that will make them grow as a person, just as the branches of trees grow to achieve the desired abundance, tranquility and prosperity. And even more so, because it is a "bridge between this life and the next".

Biblical roots?

In the historical retrospective that its promoters make in tracing the presence of this symbol in different cultures and religions, they refer to its appearance in the Bible, more precisely in its First Book. We find in Genesis, in fact, two fundamental trees to explain the origins of the universe and of the human being. The Book which contains the Jewish Torah and the Christian Scriptures evokes two main trees in the Garden of Eden. We read in Genesis 2:9: "The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground, beautiful to look at and good for food, and the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We must insist on the fact that these are the two trees, even if it seems repetitive, because in some current explanations of the meaning Tree of Life, it is confused with the other, the one that is best known to be the object of Adam and Eve's sin. What is often overlooked is that the Christian faith does speak of this symbol, but identifies it with the cross of Christ, which is the true tree that gives eternal life to the world. This is repeated in the Church's liturgy (see, for example, the medieval hymn Crux Fidelis).

The Kabbalah enters the scene

In connection with these biblical roots, and leaving aside all Celtic, Egyptian or Persian interpretations, among many others, most versions of this emblem refer to its Kabbalistic origin. The Kabbalah is nothing more than a mystical derivation of Judaism which eventually leads to Gnosticism and esotericism. In the Kabbalah, the image of this symbol is of great importance directly related to its concept of divinity. In the Book of Creation (Sefer Yetzirah), it is stated that God created the world through the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alephate and the ten numbers. These numbers are called Sephiroth (spheres or crowns). It is common to find in the books of Kabbalah the ten Sephiroths represented schematically in the form of this symbol or "Sephirotic Tree". Thus, in a single image, we could contemplate the creation of everything that exists through the successive emanations of the Most High.

The occult key

In the continuation of Kabbalah, we can take a new step, which is very common when we enter the field of the New Age and thus fall into the purest esotericism. We can do this, for example, by Dion Fortune (1890-1946), an important British occultist author and founder of the Society of the Inner Light. In her famous book Psychic self-defense, she states categorically that "in Kabbalah we find the esotericism of the Old Testament". In this perspective, she writes that in this Gnostic system of thought, "the Creator is conceived as bringing the universe to manifest itself through a series of Divine Emanations, ten in number. They are called the ten Holy Sephiroth and are represented in a particular diagram. This is the famous Tree of Life, the key to all symbolism". The author establishes the links of this symbol with astrology, since "the planets, the elements and the signs of the zodiac are all intimately linked to the Sephiroth, being arranged on this tree according to a diagram known only to initiates". This is a classic argument of esotericism: a unique knowledge reserved for the few.

A false and confused "Christianity“

Dion Fortune insists that this is a key concept in the knowledge of the divine: "the doctrine of the ten Sephiroth Saints, arranged in a precise structure to form the Tree of Life, is invaluable in enabling us to conceive the Invisible". Therefore, it is not surprising that the author has devoted an entire treatise to this subject: the Mystical Kabbalah. As is also very common in the New Age, she mixes Christian terms in her treatment of the subject, when she says that "the occultist does not ignore the power of Christ; he recognizes him among the hierarchy of the supreme forces of the universe, although he may not be ready to attribute to him the exclusive position he occupies in the heart of Christian mysticism. In the Western tradition, it is symbolized by Tifareth, the central Sephira of the ten Holy Sephiroths of this Kabbalistic Tree". It speaks of "Christ" as the supreme force, as the universal energy. Hence the distortion of New Age discourse and esotericism when they use Christian terms. Hence also the ambiguity and danger of what, in principle, seemed to be a mere symbol of positive meaning and "good vibrations" At bottom, it is nothing more than another amulet, another object of superstitious and magical (and even occult) reminiscences, as we have seen. Nothing that can bring us closer to God, but rather lock us each time more and more into a self-referential spirituality full of harmony and energies... that do not come from Him.

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