TREES OF ALL SORTS
W. Bro. G. E. HARRINGTON, P.M.
Guild of Freemen Lodge No. 3525
"And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis ii, 9.)
"So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Genesis iii, 24.)
"In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Revelation xxii, 2.)
"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding....... "She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is everyone that retaineth her." (Proverbs iii, 13-18.)
"Trees of all sorts." A strange title you may perhaps think, for a Paper from a Masonic Study Circle, but it is not so really, I have taken this title from the Lectures of the Three Degrees in Craft Masonry. In the Second Section of the Second Lecture there is the following question and answer:-
Q. A beautiful illustration on the six periods of the creation I will thank you for?
A. …The earth being as yet irregular and uncultivated, God spake the word, and it was immediately covered with a beautiful carpet of grass designed as pasture for the brute creation, to which succeeded herbs, plants, flowers, shrubs and TREES OF ALL SORTS, to full growth, maturity and perfection.
Charles Lamb the essayist of Elia fame, despite his avowed preference for the streets of London, expressed his admiration for,
Sun and sky, and breeze and solitary walks, and summer holidays and the greeness of fields.
That extract, strangely enough is from an Essay of Elia entitied "New Year's Eve."
I hope that you noticed Brethren, the reference to "solitary walks". Wordsworth liked to be alone too, even when he was quite young and if you have read his famous poem "The Prelude" you will know that there are many indications of his preference for solitude.
"Oh, many a time have I, a five years child…
Stood alone beneath the sky, as if I had been born
On Indian plains, and from my mother's hut
Had run abroad in wantonness, to sport,
A naked savage in the thunder shower."
"Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up…
Ere I had told ten birthdays, 'twas my joy…
To range the open heights where woodcocks run
Along the smooth green turf…"
"I was alone and seem to be a trouble to the peace that Dwelt among them…"
"I would walk alone under the quiet stars, and at that time, Have felt whatever there is of power in sound To breathe an elevated mood."
I cannot for too long quote from this great poem. If any of you have not read it then I would recommend it to you. It is comprised in fourteen books, the eighth of which I would mention in particular because that is entitled "Retrospect-Love of Nature leading to Love of Man."
Well now, let us take a leaf (appropriate word having regard to the title of this Paper): let us take a leaf out of the books of these two famous men. Let us refrain — if only for a short time — from the feverish activities of the mundane: the cares and employments of this busy world. Let us cease from continually anticipating our own future self-satisfaction; desert our dreamlife in the darkness of cinemas and our gaping and gazing at television screens; our worrying over stock-exchange prices, the local rates and our income-tax. Instead of pulling up at the petrol station to ensure that we shall without hindrance, be able to do the next ninety miles in two hours or less, let us pull ourselves up, de-accelerate the frantic revolutions of our mental processes, stop rushing hither and thither and quietly make our way into the open countryside, leave the busy road, and in the greenness of field, in sun and sky and breeze, repose, rest and relax under the beneficent shade of some mighty tree. There and then we shall be the better enabled to estimate the wonderful works of the Almighty, to appreciate the beauty that shines through the whole of the creation in symmetry and order and indeed to:
Look with feelings of fraternal love
Upon the unassuming things that hold
A silent station in this beauteous world.
It may, however, be neither convenient nor opportune for such migration and therefore we shall have to use our imagination and I invite you to follow me now in reflection and meditation on the subject of this Paper.
If I say the word "Trees," I have no doubt that to the mind of each of you will come the thought of either a specific tree or of a species of trees. Most likely there will come to mind the mighty massive oak; the long-lived lofty lime; the hardy horse-chestnut, the sugary sycamore; the lovely laburnum, the modest ash (the "Venus of the Woods"); the beautiful birch (the "Lady of the Woods"); the English elm; the cockney tree, the London plane; the "Mother of Forests" the beech; the wending, winding woolly willows; the pinnacled poplar; the cathedral-like yew and maybe the conifers (the Indian cedar or the deodar — some of us can remember a very popular old song "Under the Deodar") and the cedars of Lebanon.
Of course I could go on like this for quite a time mentioning different species of trees and using alliteration's artful aid, but do not get alarmed Brethren I do not propose to do so. This Paper is not meant to be a treatise on trees — Forgive me the pun. It is in the sense that we are not operative but speculative Masons that I wish to consider our subject. Nevertheless I would just now like to say a few words about the last tree that I mentioned, the cedar of Lebanon. In the Fifth Chapter of the First Book of Kings in the V.S.L. it is written: -
And Solomon sent to Hiram saying…
And behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name.
Now therefore command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon…
And further in the 16th verse of the Second Chapter of the Second Book of the Chronicles: -
And we will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shaft need: and we will bring it to thee in flotes by sea to Joppa, and thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem.
The cedar is an evergreen and where conditions are favourable it will grow to well over a hundred feet in height. The wood is valued on account of its great durability and it has been said that it has been found almost without signs of decay after a period of 2,000 years. Certainly a characteristic of the wood is that it is never attacked by worms and is almost incorruptible. It has, as you know, a pleasant fragrance.
And now we will pass to a consideration of the tree in general and trees in particular, both as living plants and as symbols. In this last-mentioned aspect, I shall in no wise be original, for trees have figured in allegory and myth from time immemorial.
Tree worship and tree symbology
Indeed throughout the ages and in all parts of the world trees have been worshipped, and it is interesting to reflect on the forms such worship has taken, i.e. sacred groves and trees especially sacred, and the belief in tree spirits. As mentioned in Transaction No. 81 ("The Steps of Man") the speculations of primitive man did not take the highly intellectual objective form pursued by modern science. He did not think in terms of "I" and "IT" neither did he personify the things and forces around him. He did not recognise an inanimate world at all. Primitive man saw all the things around him in the terms of, not "I" and "IT", but of "I" and "THOU." He was, as it were, in and of the cosmos: in what Levy Bruhl has called "participation mystique." Perhaps the very first impression conveyed to him via his senses of sight and touch would be the differentiation of form. Eventually he would notice trees and animals, fishes and birds and so on, generally having certain shapes but in particular falling into common categories. To him the tree would be, like himself, a living soul, suffering if it were cut or felled and having the power to punish those who were responsible for inflicting such sufferings upon it. Another belief was that the tree was just the abode of a spirit, a tree spirit which could occupy or leave the tree at will and it is interesting to read of the beneficent powers attributed by certain tribes to these tree spirits, particularly the ability to bestow the gift of fertility to woman and to animals. Also it was believed that they had the power to grant or withhold sunshine and rain thus affecting the crops and the very existence of the people. These beliefs of course, bring us right up to our present day May-pole, it being thought originally that the tree-spirit of the May-tree had particular power to bestow certain blessings, and accordingly the tree was garlanded and danced round.
It may interest some of you to know that the Church of St. Andrew Undershaft at the junction of St. Mary Axe with Leadenhall Street in the City of London, derives the second part of its name from the fact that the May-pole was at one time set up outside the Church and revelries conducted there. Hence the name "Undershaft" (under the Pole or Maypole). It is also interesting to learn that in Sweden and in parts of Bohemia, trees are erected and garlanded on the eve of St. John's day (24th June). Time does not permit me to dilate here on a ceremony that was connected with the character known as Green George. Of course the election and crowning of a May Queen is kept up in many parts of England today.
Let us now consider trees in general. Their roots through which their living substance is drawn up are fastened in the ground of Mother Earth. The roots converge upon the bole or trunk: from this trunk there splay off the boughs and the branches terminating in twigs, and from these spring the leaves. It is rather interesting to notice how often trees appear in simile and metaphor — what I will call tree phraseology, and what more natural than that I should remind you of a reference to Freemasonry whose branches are spread over the four quarters of the globe.
Of a person suddenly stricken with fear or confronted with something horrible we say that "he was rooted to the earth" as indeed we say of some that they had their roots in a particular university or a particular town. We refer to our own torsos as "trunks" and are proud if we can boast a "genealogical tree" showing the branches of our families.
The Christian Master said: -
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do noting.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (St. John xv, 5-6.)
We are taught these things, we read these things and we think we know all that they are about, but certainly I would say that these two verses that I have just quoted call for careful meditation if there is to be any comprehension of their import and I use the words "any comprehension" advisedly. Ouspensky uses the simile of a branch being the life of a man and the twigs the lives of the people with whom he comes into contact and this idea is worthy of thought.
I want to pass on to references to particular trees and their places in myth and allegory and first of all I am going to quote from Sir Edwin Arnold's translation of the Bhagavad-Gita — The Song Celestial. These are the words coming from the mouth of Krishna:-
Men call the Aswattha — the Banyan-tree —
Which hath its boughs beneath, its roots above —
The ever-holy tree. Yes! for its leaves
Are green and waving hymns which whisper Truth!
Who knows the Aswattha, knows Veda, and all.
"Its branches shoot to heaven and sink to earth,
Even as the deeds of men, which take their birth
From qualities: its silver sprays and blooms,
And all the eager verdure of its girth,
Leap to quick life at kiss of sun and air
As mens lives quicken to the temptings fair
Of wooing sense: its hanging rootlets seek
The soil beneath, helping to hold it there.
"As actions wrought amid this world of men
Bind them by ever-tightening bonds again.
If ye knew well the teaching of the Tree,
What its shape saith: and whence it springs: and then.
How it must end and all the ills of it
The axe of sharp Detachment ye would whet,
And cleave the clinging snaky roots and lay
This Aswattha of sense-life low, to set
New growths upspringing to that happier sky—
Which they who reach shall have no day to die,
Nor fade away, nor fall — to Him,
I mean FATHER and FIRST who made the mystery
Of old Creation.
Particularly would I call your attention to the words: -
The axe of sharp Detachment ye would whet,
And cleave the clinging snaky roots and lay
This Aswattlia of sense-life low.
and to those recorded in the V.S.L.: -
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (St. Matthew iii, 10.)
The axe too, has a certain place in symbolism.
It will be recalled that in the V.S.L. it is written that fig tree which failed to bear fruit was cursed and it withered away.
The fig-tree bears its fruit first and its leaves afterwards, but what is the good of leaves only — just an appearance.
We refer to a society so widely extended whose branches are spread over the four quarters of the globe. Yes! Yes! But what do the branches bear? Fruit or just leaves. Is there a life force in all our work? Are we who are not only here in the great school of life for our own instruction but to serve a higher purpose — are we supplying that higher purpose with what is required, or are we just leaves — of no purpose — failing to supply that which is required from Above? Is there not a similitude in the parable of the talents? (St. Matthew xxv, 14-30.)
In a trade journal which sometimes it falls to my lot to read, there appeared the following paragraph. The statements in parentheses are, of course, my own.
U.N.O. [you know what that means Brethren — we live in an age of abbreviations — U.N.O., N.A.T.O., what-ho and so on] the United Nations Organisation is devoted primarily to the cause of peace and international cooperation. It is perhaps appropriate therefore that one of its associate bodies, F.A.O., [there we go again — that means Foods and Agricultural Organisation], should turn from the somewhat frustrating pursuit of the olive branch to the more practical subject of the olive fruit.
The olive tree is an evergreen growing to heights varying between 30 ft. and 60 ft., and to it is attributed a very long life; some say 1,000 years or more. In Ancient Greece the olive was considered a sacred tree and of course there are many references in the Bible to that tree. You will remember that the dove Noah sent forth from the Ark returned in the evening "and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off". (Genesis viii, 11.)
Olive trees grow more on little hills and low grounds than on mountains, hence the leaf carried by the dove revealed to Noah that the flood had subsided.
Unto the Israelites it was promised that the Lord their God would bring them unto the land "with houses full of all good things which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees which thou plantedst not". (Deut. vi, I 1.)
In verse 8 of Psalm 52 it is written, "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever."
And then there comes to our mind, Olivet or the Mount of Olives whither it was the wonted custom of the Christian Master to retire. Olivet comprised the districts of Gethsemane (the place of oil-presses) Bethany (the house of dates) and Bethphage (the house of green figs).
Another tree of considerable interest is the Bodhi, whereunder the Lord Buddha found enlightenment. The beautiful story is known to most of you, I have no doubt, of the pilgrimage of Prince Siddhartha who, leaving wealth and splendour, family and friends and earthly pleasures, divested of jewels and royal robes, clad in the yellow robe and carrying the mendicant's bowl of the monk, in scorching summer and driving rains, wandered on in the search of light. There is the lovely reference to the ewe that was worried over her injured lamb:-
"Which when our Lord did mark full tenderly
He took the limping lamb upon his neck
Saying, poor woolly mother, be at peace
Whither thou goest I will bear thy care;
Twere all as good to ease one beast of grief
As sit and watch the sorrows of the world
In yonder caverns with the priests who pray.
Can we not think here of the words of the Christian Master?:-
"What think ye, if a man have an hundred sheep and one of them be gone astray doeth he not leave the ninety and nine and goeth into the mountains and seeketh that which is gone astray." (St. Matthew xviii, 12.)
And are we not reminded Brethren and have not most of us heard the following words, many, many times:-
"To shed a tear of sympathy o'er the fairings of a Brother and pour the healing balm of consolation into the wounds of the afflicted."
Can it be possible that we hear these words so often that their true import is lost upon us? It is not over the sorrows or sufferings of a Brother that we are here enjoined to shed a tear but over his "failings." What a lot of difference it would make in some Lodges if this were observed. Injured pride, injured dignities, what are they really? They are dreams which we have while we are asleep immersed solely in ourselves as most of us are.
Let us continue our journey with Prince Siddhartha:-
There in the sylvan solitudes once more,
Lord Buddha lived musing the woes of men,
The ways of fate, the doctrines of the books,
The lessons of the creatures of the brake,
The secrets of the silence whence all come,
The secrets of the gloom whereto all go,
The life that lies between, like that arch flung
From cloud to cloud across the sky, which hath
Mists for its masonry and vapoury piers
Melting to void again which was so fair
With sapphire hues, garnet and chrysoprase.
and so as we read on we find that eventually the Master wended his way unto the Tree of Wisdom.
"Even while he mused under the Bodhi tree
Glorified with the conquest gamed for all
And LIGHTENED by a LIGHT greater than Day's."
the Lord Buddha had found Light,
We too at a time in our journey had a predominant wish for Light.
Before leaving this particular subject I would just mention that at ANURADHAPURA, the old capital of Ceylon, there is a Bodhi tree (the ficus religiosa) which is reputed to be some 2,200 years old and it is said that when Mahinda an ambassador of Asoka converted King Tissa and his court in Ceylon to Buddhism, he was followed by his sister Sanghamitta who took with her a cutting of the Bodhi tree of Buddha Gaya, and that cutting commenced the growth of this very old tree at Anuradhapura.
Now I come to another tree of life not so long-lived as the ficus religiosa but nevertheless of considerable longevity — a tree particularly well-known to us in the British Isles. I refer to the oak. The oak tree does not produce an acorn until it is over sixty years of age and its timber is of little use until it has passed the century. Unfortunately it does not enjoy the same immunity from insects as does the cedar but has the undesirable reputation of being more persistently attacked by a greater number of insects than any other tree. It has been said by an authority that some five hundred insects enjoy their livelihood at the expense of the foliage, bark or timber of the oak. Despite that the oak survives and lives to a great old age.
The oak figures in many mythologies and cults. Among the Celts of Gaul, the Druids held sacred the mistletoe and the oak on which it grew and performed their rites with oak leaves in groves of oak trees. Zeus, the highest of the Greek Gods, the Jupiter of the Romans, was worshipped in an oak tree at Dodona. Zeus was said to be the God of rain and I have already mentioned the ancient belief in the ability of tree spirits to grant, or withhold sunshine or rain.
The daughter of Zeus and the twin-sister of Apollo was the Greek, Artemis, the Diana of the Romans. Diana was an oak-goddess with a temple among evergreen oak trees at Nemi, guarded by a priest with a drawn sword. Diana bore the title of Vesta and the vestal fires were fed with oakwood. Vesta actually was a Roman Divinity identified with the Greek Hestia and was the goddess of the hearth. In her Temple the eternal fires were kept burning by the Vestal Maidens. It is interesting to reflect that Dianus as goddess of light represented the sun, while Diana as goddess of light represented the moon.
In Germany the chief of their holy trees was said to be the oak which was dedicated to the God of Thunder, Donar or Thunar (hence we have Thunar's day; Thor's day and our present Thursday) the equivalent of the Norse Thor. Now Thor was the God of the Hammer and is usually shown with such in a shape very similar to our gavel with which three sound to order.
"Gavel" is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "give all." An old form of land tenure was called "gavel-kind" where, on the death of the holder, the land descended not just to the eldest son but to all sons in equal shares i.e. to his kind: gavelkind.
He to whom power is given must be not only Master but also servant of all.
And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." (St. Matthew xx, 27.)
He who is Master must give to those Initiated in the Mother Lodge to all alike. He is empowered to use the gavel to all alike. Hence the term "common gavel".
The gavel is derived from a very ancient symbol. We have the Norse God "Thor": the Egyptian God of the Hammer — "Ptah": the Greek "Hephaestus" called "Vulcanus" by the Romans, the god of fire, an artist in metals, Tubal Cain the lame God, Vulcan Mulciber of whom the poet Milton wrote in Paradise Lost:-
"Each in his Hierarchy, the Orders bright,
Nor was his name unheard or unadored,
In ancient Greece and in Ausonian land,
Men called him Mulciber...."
We love all sprang from the same stock, are partakers of the same nature and sharers in the same hopes. All live in three bodies, the physical, emotional and mental or according to St. Paul "body, soul and spirit".
Modern scientific thought considers that phenomena is produced by and depends upon vibration. An explanation of the gavel is that it denotes the force of conscience. When the inner compelling power knocks upon our own being it should reverberate so that the three levels of spirit, soul and body vibrate in harmony to prevent the intrusion of inharmonious and unbecoming thoughts.
Thus the knocks with the gavel are vibrations representing three ascending grades of life. These knocks are summed up in the First Lecture as alluding to: --
"An ancient and venerable exhortation: seek and ye shall find: ask and ye shall have: knock and it shall be opened unto you." The phrases of seek, ask and knock are to be found also in the V.S.L., and if you do not know where I will leave you to find them for yourselves. True is it not, that he who comes humbly soliciting and knocks at the door of the Lodge, finds the door opened to him.
Of the God "Thor" Longfellow wrote these verses: -
I am the god Thor,
I am the war god
I am the Thunderer
Here in my Northland
My fastness and fortress
Reign I for ever.
Jove is my brother:
Mine eyes are the lightning:
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake.
In Scandinavian Mythology, the world is thought of as supported by a great tree, an ash-tree (Ygdrasil). There are three wells at its roots in one of which there is a dragon or serpent. One of the roots of the world-tree (Ygdrasil) grew in Midgard, from which arose Asgard, the Norse Olympus — Odin and the twelve Aesir — here was Valhalla. The second root grew in Nifelheim — a place of mist, darkness and cold from the midst of which burst forth the great fountain from whence all waters flow and to which all waters return. It is interesting to note that these waters traversed a vast distance before congealing and becoming ice when the river grew silent and ceased to move. An illustration of force and form. In the well in Nifelheim is the dragon "Nidhog" which chews constantly at the root. For evil always comes to good, decay to growth and time is spent. Ygdrasil, the Tree of Existence which sustains all spiritual and physical life grows out of the past, lives in the present, and reaches towards the future. The third root is in Hela, the lower world of the gods where the souls of the dead are judged. For all the gods, save Thor, there is but one road from Asgard to Hela and that is over the curved bridge Bifrost "the rainbow" — not altogether without significance. Thor had to wade across the four great rivers in the under-world to reach Hela, because as thunder god, if he travelled across the bridge — the rainbow — the fire from his chariot might set the bridge alight and destroy it.
In relation to Thor as the god of Thunder of Norse mythology it is interesting to note that the Sumerians who held that the universe was controlled by an assembly of gods also had a trinity which included a god of thunder, or a storm god, Adad the "Thunderer". The trinity consisted of Sin, the moon-god, Shamash the sun-god and Adad or Hadad the storm-god called also Tarku in the west and Teshup in the east. In Syria he was known as Resheph and, in the old Testament as Rimmon. This god is generally represented as holding a hammer in one hand whilst three flashes of lightning proceed from his other hand.
Returning to Scandinavian mythology, their ideas of creation are rather interesting. According to them, the sun, moon and earth with the seasons were established but there were no men on earth. At a certain time, however, the sons of Bor were walking on the world's shores: Again we have a triad or trinity. There were three sons: Odin (spirit) Ve or Honor and the third appropriately spelt Vile whose other names were Loder or Loke. Now Odin was the god of the wind and as such was associated with "breath" the "pneuma" of the Greeks. He is the "all-father" "Val-father" the father of the brave who dwelt in Valhal in high Asgard. Father too, of Balder the Beautiful, the fair, the comely, the wise, the eloquent — surely the prototype.
As the sons of Bor walked on the shores they beheld two logs, one from an ash tree and the other from an alder tree. Odin breathed life into them and the gods gave these logs, mind, will and desire so that the ash log became a man named Ask and the alder, a woman named Embla. From these descended the whole human race, who lived in Mid-gard "middle-ward" and Manaheim "the home of men."
Now Svipdag son of Egil (the Archer), Svipdag the Brave, the Shining One, rescued the beautiful Freyja from captivity.
In mentioning Egil the Archer I would remind you that the arrow is a symbol often used by artists. Jung has reminded us that "heart" and "smart" rhyme. We know the painful arrows that come from gossip and therefore we should beware of gossip:-
"I shot an arrow in the air
And where it went I know not where."
We do not know the wounds that the arrows of gossip can inflict on those whose hearts they enter.
In Asgard there was a goddess Idun who kept in a fast shut basket the golden apples of eternal youth. As soon as she drew one apple forth another took its place. And this leads me to the consideration of the apple-tree and apples in myth. At Asgard, the apples of Idun bestowed immortality on the gods and when the goddess was lost the gods grew old. In Greek mythology we have the twelve labours of Hercules, one of which was fetching the golden apples of the Hesperides. These apples Hera (wife of Zeus) had received at her wedding from Ge (the Earth) and she had entrusted them to the keeping of the Hesperides and the dragon Ladon. The Hesperides were stated to be the daughters of Atlas and Hesperis. They kept custody of the apples on Mount Atlas. Hercules went to Mount Atlas and undertook to bear the burden of heaven for him whilst he fetched the apples. On returning with them Atlas refused to resume the burden of heaven. By a trick Hercules succeeded in obtaining the apples and dedicated them to Athena who restored them to their proper place.
Jung has further reminded us that the tree is predominantly a mother symbol — that a coffin is made of wood and in German called "totenbaum" which means tree of death. So the dead are delivered back to the mother, and mother earth receives us into its cold bosom.
It is interesting to compare this with the myth of Osiris whose body having been fastened in a coffin was said to have drifted ashore on the coast of Syria where a tree shot up suddenly and enclosed the coffin in its trunk.
It is still customary to plant sprigs of cypress, acacia or other plants on graves and the practice has been said to have originated from the ancient idea that the vital and immortal principle of a man took shelter in such trees or shrubs growing on the graves. To the observant, the number of branches shown pictorially may have interest when we remember that we are said to be the fifth root race and recognise that we have five toes on each foot and four fingers plus a thumb on each hand and we have five senses. The Chinese believed that planting a tree on a grave strengthened the soul of the deceased with which it was identified.
In verse 2, chapter 3 of the Book of Exodus it is recorded that unto Moses:
the angel of the Lord appeared … in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush
and in verse 25 of chapter 15 of the Book of Exodus it is written:
And he cried unto the Lord and the Lord shewed him a tree which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet
and in chapter 22 of be Apocalypse there is the reference which I have quoted at the commencement of this Paper.
Maybe, Brethren, that in this Paper, you have observed that I commenced by writing about trees as we see them around every day and I gave instances of a few common ones known to us. I then passed to the primitive worship of trees and the powers with which they were credited by the worshippers — fertility, rain, thunder and so on. We then dealt with tree spirits, temple groves and tree ritual. Next came tree symbolism and so we have gradually ascended from the material through to the mental or spiritual aspect of tree symbolism and I want to pass on to a very important tree glyph, known as the Qabalistic Tree of Life.
The ancient Hebrews possessed three great writings, the Books of the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament of the V.S.L.; the Talmud, a collection of commentaries on the Books of the Old Testament: and the Kabalah, the mystical interpretation of the Old Testament, the Oral Tradition in Israel.
I am sure that there are many among you who know considerably more about the Kabalah than I do and about that very wonderful glyph, the Tree of Life but will surely forgive me, if for the benefit of those having little knowledge thereof, I give what of necessity must be a very brief and rough outline.
- (i) There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. I would like you to keep this figure in mind for a time as I shall refer to it again.
- (ii) In the system we are considering, to each of these 22 letters is allocated a number.
Hebrew, by the way, is the sacred language of the west as Sanskrit is of the east.
Now the Kabalah can be divided into two sections: the Practical and the Dogmatic. The Practical Kabalah is concerned with the mystical and allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament, dealing exhaustively with each phrase, word and letter and the connections between the letters and numbers and the different modes of their inter-relations. In this there are three methods of interpretation applicable: -
- 1. What is known as GEMATRIA — interpretation by which a name or word of certain numerical value is related to others of the same value.
- 2. NOTARICAN — Abbreviation — Words formed from the initials and finals of a sentence.
- 3. TEMURA — A complicated system with various modes of interpretation.
Time does not permit of details and I must pass on to the Dogmatic Kabalah — with which we are more interested being concerned as it is largely with philosophical conceptions of God, of Angels and of other Beings, presumably more spiritual than man. It considers the human soul and its aspect and parts and is devoted also to a study of pre-existence, reincarnation, and the division of the various planes of existence.
The Dogmatic Kabalah points to thirty-two mystical paths. These paths are ways of life that must be trodden to be understood. They are indicated on a peculiar glyph which is well worthy of study, and for meditation purposes is very helpful. The glyph is called The Tree of Life and I have reproduced a copy and included it in this Transaction.
The thirty-two mystical paths of the Dogmatic Kabalah correspond in number with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet plus the ten sephiroth (of which more later). The glyph can also be studied and its parts related to the Tarot Pack of which there are twenty-two Trump Cards.
It is significant to observe that the thirty-two paths plus that trodden in the physical body on this Earth makes a total of thirty-three, corresponding in number with the years of the Christian Master and with the Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.
The Tree of Life
The Kabalistic Tree of Life is formed of Three Pillars, the Pillar of Severity, the Pillar of Mercy and the middle one, the Pillar of Beneficence. On these Pillars are placed the Ten Sephiroth (or Emanations) and these are connected by The Paths.
Obviously, the first thing to strike us is the number of the Pillars — three — and we are instantly reminded of the law of threefoldness. Hindu philosophy teaches that during a state of dissolution of the universe, Prakriti (the substantial cause of both mind and matter — is in a state of equilibrium of the three gunas, Sattwa (natural law and order — also the law and order in the spiritual life of man — to reveal consciousness) Tamas (inertia — which suppresses or veils consciousness) and Rajas (which makes active — energy). When this state of equilibrium is removed there is cosmic vibration. One of the laws of the science of mechanics states: "If three forces acting on the same principle can be represented in magnitude and direction (but not in position) by the sides of a triangle taken in order, they shall be in equilibrium." W.Bro. President in his Transaction No. 65 entitled "Explanatory Notes on Craft Symbolism" refers to the fact that the three Pillars emblematical in our Order, Wisdom, Strength and Beauty do in fact, represent an indissociable trinity of Divine attributes, and like the Master and Wardens of the Lodge (another trinity) who always act in concert, these triple attributes are inseparable. If Wisdom from on High visits the soul, Strength comes likewise, whilst Beauty shapes the structure and irradiates it with spiritual graces.
I will not take up too much of your time or that of the Circle by reminding you of all the triads in connection with our Order. You are sufficiently well acquainted with them. And that may remind you that there are three sets of W.T.'s with three in each. The interior of the Lodge is composed of Ornaments, Furniture and Jewels (3), the ornaments are three; the Mosaic Paving, the Blazing Star and the Indented or Tesselated Border, the furniture comprises three articles, whilst there are three movable and three immovable jewels. There are Three Degrees, Three Grand Principles, three regular steps, and so on. One can think of any number of triads. It is interesting to observe how Trinities appear in most of the Great Religions of the World: -
Hinduism, Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver) and Shiva (the Destroyer) — I prefer the Transmutor. These we can say are representative of the Creative, Preservative and Annihilative powers of the Deity.
- Assyrians and Phoenicians: Ana, Ea and Ba
- Egyptian: Osiris (the risen One), Isis and Horus (Son).
- Northern Buddhism: Amitabha, Avolokiteshvara, Manjushri.
- Zoroastrian: Ahura Mazda, Mithra and Ahriman.
- Scandinavian Mythology: Odin, Freya and Thor (I have mentioned the hammer of Thor).
- Jewish Traditional: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- Christian: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
- Gurdjieff refers to the three aspects of the Universe existing under the denominations of:- Holy-Affirming, Holy-Denying and Holy-Reconciling.
- The three in the Jewish Kabalah are Kether, Chokniah and Binah.
If you look at the Three Pillars on the Tree of Life you will observe that the left-hand one is called the Pillar of SEVERITY, the right-hand one the Pillar of MERCY, whilst that in the Middle is the Pillar of Beneficence — of Mildness, of Equilibrium (reminding us of the Triangle of Forces in Mechanics and also the equilibrium of the three Gunas which I have mentioned). This middle Pillar also reminds us of the pendulum which at each end of its swing has what is known as Potential Energy (those of you who are not mechanically minded can see that for yourselves by a little thought). If I hold the rod of a pendulum at ninety degrees to the vertical I must exert pressure with my hand to work against the force of gravity which will swing the weight towards the earth and this force is the potential energy at that moment. As soon as I let the weight go, it becomes kinetic energy and the weight travels towards the earth. When absolutely vertical, for a brief fraction of time it has no movement and then it travels upwards in the opposite direction. Now it is not difficult to see that between the extremes of severity and mercy there is mildness and beneficence. The two Pillars left and right are those that stood at the porchway or entrance to King Solomon's Temple and are represented in all the Mysteries. The Candidate when he stands between them is the Middle Pillar. "I came from between the pillars," said the Egyptian neophyte.
At this juncture I would point out that in our meditations upon the Tree of Life, we can use it in terms of the Macrocosm (the Universe) or the Microcosm (man) but to do so we must remember that it represents for us the Macrocosm when we are looking at it as it is, but that to represent ourselves, we must, as it were, stand with our back to it so that the Pillars left and right are reversed. The Pillars thus, can represent the Ida, Shushumna and Pingala, of the Hindu system. The two outside Pillars also represent the Yin and the Yan of the Chinese, the positive and negative and the active and passive forces of Nature and if you like, the Yes and the No with the Yes-No in the Middle, the Yes-No of Ouspensky.
The universe, the earth, our lives and our physical bodies all illustrate the law of the pendulum, of the opposite pillars of Boaz and Jachim.
We are told that the level at which the sun and the earth are taken to be moving in space is called the ecliptic. Also that the earth's axis is tilted at an angle of about 66½ deg. to the plane of the ecliptic, the Equator therefore being approximately 23½ deg. to that plane. Further that there are twelve constellations lying on or about the ecliptic and this 16 deg. belt is called the Zodiac, so called because several of the twelve constellations take the names of animals, each of the twelve being given a sign with a name. In what is known as the Lesser Zodiacal Year the sun passes through each of the signs, a sign a month, and the tilt of the earth breaks up the year into the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter and gives us the vernal and autumnal equinoxes or points when the ecliptic cuts the Equator. The earth, however, not being a perfect sphere, but having a bulging at the Equator upon which the gravitational pull of the sun works, does not revolve truly on its axis the points of which (the Poles) move in a circle. This means in effect that the points of intersection of the Equator and the ecliptic are not fixed and we get what is known as the precession of the equinoxes with the result that it takes approximately 25,920 years (The Greater Zodiacal Year) for the solar system to make the complete cycle. Thus a new sign is entered every 2,160 years.
The autumnal equinox is ushered in by shorter days and longer nights, the dying off of vegetation, the descent of sap reminding us of the descent of the soul into incarnation. With the advent of the vernal equinox, however, the commencement of spring, we have the reverse effects, days get longer, nights get shorter, more light, less darkness, the sap rises, vegetation grows and we have the symbol of rebirth.
Daily in our passage round the sun, we record its rising and setting. The rising to open and enliven the day in the east, the meridian in the south, and the setting in the west.
In our lives from day to day we experience sunlight and darkness, warmth and cold, health and sickness, success and failure, progress and frustration. To these external impressions we respond emotionally and mentally. At one time we are exultant, at another depressed; we are joyful and sorrowful, the weather is good we say or the weather is bad; or this is good or that is bad. We do not stop to ask ourselves what is good and what is bad. We feel well, we feel ill; at one time we are as it is said "on top of the world" and at another like poor old Atlas, we seem to have the world on our shoulders; prosperity may brighten us or poverty may dismay us.
"As the steps of man are trod in the various and uncertain incidents of life and his days are variegated and chequered by a strange contrariety of events, his passage through this existence, though sometimes attended by prosperous circumstances is often beset by a multitude of evils: hence is our Lodge furnished with Mosaic work to point out the uncertainty of all things here on earth.
Today we may travel in prosperity, tomorrow we may totter on the uneven paths of weakness, temptation and adversity. Then while such emblems are before us we are morally instructed not to boast of anything but to give heed to our ways, to walk uprightly and with humility before God there being no station in life on which pride can with stability be founded. (Fifth Section of the First Lecture.)
In the East they talk about "being free from the pairs of opposites" and really that is what we should strive to attain although of course it is by no means easy.
Says Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita:-
To cease from works is well
And to do works in holiness is well
And both conduct to bliss supreme
But of these twain the better way is his
Who working piously refraineth not.
That is the true Renouncer, firm and fixed
Who — seeking nought, rejecting nought —
Dwells proof against the 'opposites'."
There are methods by which this proof against the opposites can be obtained, one of which in certain modern philosophy is known as non-identifying.
We are told at a certain time that we are at liberty to work with both the points of the compasses to render the circle of our Masonic duties complete. Our real initiation takes place in life itself, the great school, wherein we are taught our lessons and learn them or do not learn them, receive our rewards and receive our punishments, for by the same instrument that I have just mentioned we learn that in having defined for our instruction the limits of good and evil the Almighty Architect will reward or punish as we have obeyed or disregarded his Divine commands.
And so we see that in the universe and on the earth there is this pendulum-like sway between the opposites to which we as mortals here are subjected. The universe the macrocosm, and man the microcosm, and if we give thought to our physical bodies we see there again the pendulum sway. Our hearts beat and the two opposites evolve, the diastole, receiving the blood and the systole collecting it and sending it forth. Our lungs expand and contract, we inspire, we expire and that in an aspiration. Beneath the lungs and the heart there is a well-known network of ganglia or nerves aptly called the solar plexus.
The blood is the life (Genesis ix, 4), it is pumped from the heart and oxidised by the lungs from the air which we have inhaled. The oxygen in the air is constantly replaced by the action of the sun on vegetation. Air is a mixture of roughly 20 per cent oxygen and 80 per cent nitrogen. These figures can be slightly modified for the inclusion of the so-called rare gases, neon, helium, argon, etc., but the fact remains that we humans take oxygen from the air and give out carbon dioxide. Now the action of sun on the green matter in vegetation (known as chlorophyll) results in the plants taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen. Incidentally, chlorophyll as a drug, has been found to affect blood pressure. And so Brethren we see how dependent we are for our very existence on the Sun, the centre of our solar system. As a pattern of excellence, we are told to consider that grand luminary the Sun which rising in the E. diffuses light and lustre to all within its circle. On the Kabalistic Tree of Life the sphere of the Sun is assigned to Tipharetli, and when we come to consider that Sephirah, let us remember what has just been said about the Sun.
In considering these Pillars and remembering that this is a Paper on "All sorts of Trees" I now want to quote to you from another Transaction of our W. Bro. President (No. 62 "Some Further Notes on Craft Symbolism") in which he wrote as follows: -
From the Lecture on the Tracing Board of the Second Degree we learn that the symbolic pillars are both alike in form, as follows: -
1. Square base, or cubical pediment, resting on the ground.
2. Rising on of the base is a shaft, or column, resembling the trunk of a tree.
3. At the top of the column there is a capital, or chapiter, garnished with flowers and fruit, and surmounted by a circle, or globe, over which is thrown a veil or net-work.
In the description of these two pillars we are invited to see an image of ourselves, and their interpretation as symbols is the Craft method of providing, at the very entrance to the Lodge, our first lesson in the science of self-knowledge. This lesson is likewise threefold: -
1. The square base is a figure of our normal personality; the bodily man, sprung from, and resting upon, the earth.
2. Within the earthly square of our mortal person dwells an energy, or Life-force, called the soul. This is denoted by the ascending shaft of the pillar. Like a tree trunk springing from the soil in which it is rooted, and from which it draws nourishment, so the human soul grows upwards out of the personal patch of Mother-Earth forming the physical body, and is developed by earthly experience, ever building something new into itself by daily activities of thought, conduct and aspiration. And as the sap, or life-force, of a tree ultimately breaks into leaf, flower and fruit, so here at the capital of the pillar, the energies of the soul are shown as manifesting in analogous results (the graces and fruits of the spirit), and finally shaping themselves into a circle, or rounded whok.
3. The highest part of ourselves, our spiritual summit is always beyond the sight of the eye and the ken of the mind. This is why, in the pillar, it is exhibited covered with a veil, or net-work. We see not what we build into ourselves from day to day, but as the pillar indicates, the essence of our bodily activities is conserved and comes to bloom in our superphysical part. Note especially in this pillar imagery the contrast between the base, which is a square, or cube, and the summit, which is a circle, or globe. The square is the ancient geometrical symbol for what has physical form, whereas the circle is the traditional symbol of what is spiritual and formless. In the old Chinese cosmogonies we find the adage: "Heaven is round; earth is square." The veiled globe, or circle, at the top of the pillar, therefore, is an emblem of man's spiritual pole; it is the sphere into which the seeds, or essence, of his bodily activities come to final fruition. These seeds are described emblematically by the many-seeded pomegranate fruit with which the chapiter is surrounded, whilst the globe itself is otherwise spoken of as the "golden bowl". In the poem, "The Testament of Beauty", our Masonic chapiter is referred to as: -
"The full circle where the spirit of man, Escaping from the bondage of physical law, Re-entereth eternity."
This quotation from "The Testament of Beauty" calls to mind the admonition given to the Craftsman: "In all his pursuits to have eternity in view." Let me remind you of another phrase which is very fresh in my memory at the moment and will by no means be new to you "Where the divisions of time shall cease and a glorious eternity burst open to our view." Taking these two phrases side by side, we find that there are two words common to both: "eternity" and "view" but the second one says "where the divisions of time shall cease," NOT when the division but where — mark that Brethren.
In considering such a word as "eternity" one is forced to realise the limitation of language. Part of the study of "The Tree of Life" reminds us that when a force becomes a form, it is limited. We are painfully reminded how, in this earthly body, this perishable frame, our spiritual capacities are restricted but we are also reminded that we may have confidence to lift our eyes to that bright Morning Star. What are the eyes we are to lift and with what are we to view the glorious eternity that is to burst open to us? I remember a simple little verse that went something like this: -
Two men looked out from behind prison bars,
The one saw mud — the other saw stars.
One was asleep and had his inner eye closed. The other was awake and lo! he beheld. For it is the inner eye that is to be raised to that bright Morning Star: it is with the inner eye with which in all our pursuits, we are to have eternity in view and we do not have to wait for that change which we call death. Eternity must not be confused with time. Time is not. Eternity is.
Never was time, it was not.
End and beginning are dreams
Eternity is right here and now; "nearer than hands and feet, closer than breath." To the scribe who said to the Christian Master "that to love God with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the soul and with all the strength; and to love one's neighbour as oneself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," was the answer given:
"Thou are not far from the Kingdom of God" (St. Mark xiii, 54).
Now at the top of the glyph of "The Tree of Life" you will observe three lines. These are the three planes of unmanifestation or negative existence and reading their descriptions from the lowest upwards they are: -
- AIN SOPHAUR (or the Limitless Light)
- AIN SOPH (or the Limitless)
- AIN (Negativity).
At this point let us ask ourselves' what might appear silly questions. I will put them: How far is right? How far is left? How far is up? How far is down? How far is forward? How far is backward? Well there is no limit apparently — we do know — even the much vaunted operation of sending satellites miles away from and round the earth has not and will not answer that question for us. A very sound axiom however, can help us and that is that although the greater can know the less — the less cannot know the greater.
We are made conscious of what is called manifestation but in the Vast Design of Heaven and Earth we cannot tell and cannot expect to be able to tell in our present stage where man is manifest and so the Kabalist has these three veils of unmanifestation.
In this Paper I have referred to Assyrian gods, Egyptian gods, Scandinavian mythology, Greek mythology and so on. I have made but passing reference to them, but students of mythologies know how extraordinarily comprehensive and yet complicated they are and such students see how a certain god of one religion, cult or mythology can be equated with that of another religion, cult or mythology and indeed it has been the subject of much speculation as to how it is that in widely separated parts of the world separated also in time, there have been formulated religions having gods of similar character and import. How this can be Brethren I am not going to try to essay an answer but why this is — perhaps I might. It is believed that man, pretty well unchanged in configuration from what he is today, has existed on this world for some 500,000 years — we do not KNOW of course. But however long he has lived man has been acted upon by the very forces that I have mentioned. Now could man describe those forces?
Man described these forces; these energies which impressed themselves upon him from without and the ideals, inspirations and spiritual yearnings which impressed themselves upon him from within in the only manner possible to him: the language of himself and the things about him. In other words he personified them and he deified them. He illustrated his impressions, his ideas and his experiences to himself and to others in the forms of man, animal, bird, TREES, metals, stones and so on. In short by personification and symbol. Now this "scheme" is used by the Kabalist with the Tree of Life. He uses the simple and well-known expedient of travelling to the unknown via the known. He does not attempt to allow us to rush rashly forward in areas unknown and inimical to us and where indeed we could be accessories to our own death — our spiritual death. A glance at the glyph reveals that there are three pillars with which I have already dealt, three triangles ten sephiroth and 22 paths.
The Kabalist recognises these as existing in Four Worlds. These are
- 1. ATZILUTH. The Archetypal World, the World of Emanations, the Divine World. (Here are the ten Holy Names of God.)
- 2. BRIAH. The World of Creation, the World of Thrones. (Here are the Ten Mighty Arch-- angels.)
- 3. YETZIRAH. The World of Formation and of Angels.
- 4. ASSIAH. The World of Action, the World of Matter. (Here are the Ten Mundane Chakras.)
The Malkuth of Atziluth becomes the Kether of Briah, the Malkuth of Briah becomes the Kether of Yetzirah and so on.
It would be a good thing now to consider the Three Triangles since we have already considered the Three Pillars. Kether, is at the apex of the Top Triangle — it is the Crown. A Crown is not the head but rests upon the head and could be considered the material of consciousness in man and the material of existence in the Universe. Other titles given to Kether are The Vast Countenance, The Inscrutable Height, the Primal Point. The Point within the Circle. Now if we follow the paths we find that the One becomes Two, differentiating into Chokmah and Binah; the one on the Pillar of Mercy and the other on the Pillar of Severity. The one a Force and in the other the Force becomes a Form, the one the Supernal Father and the other the Supernal Mother. Binah has two aspects: Ama, the Dark Sterile Mother and Aima, the Bright Fertile Mother. She is called the Great Sea, Marah, the root of Mary, the Mother, a Virgin of whom a Saviour is born. It will be noticed here that there is the differentiation into opposites. Male and female, force and form, positive and negative Chokmah is assigned to the sphere of the Zodiac, but Binah to the sphere of Saturn. Papus equates Binah with the Tarot card of The Empress which seems appropriate, particularly as on this card she bears a sceptre forming the astological sign of Venus; Venus called Aphrodite by the Greeks, goddess of love who sprang from the foam of the sea, Marah, the Great Sea, Binah. The sephiroth or emanations flow from one to another in the form of a lightning flash, sometimes shown as a sword with a hilt.
The second triangle consists of Chesed, Mercy or Love sometimes known as Gedullah — greatness or beneficence. To it is assigned the sphere of the planet Jupiter. Continuing in the direction of the lightning flash, that is right to left we have on the Pillar of Severity, Geburah which means strength also called Pachad, fear. To it is assigned the sphere of the planet Mars. Now coming down diagonally from left to right we reach Tiphareth — meaning Beauty — assigned to the sphere of the Sun.
Jupiter is equated with the Greek Zeus. He was recognised as Lord of Heaven and the highest and most powerful amongst the gods: as we might say of the Deity-Lord in Heaven or on High. Jupiter was worshipped as the god of rain, storms, thunder and lightning and you will remember that I have said that Zeus, the highest of the Greek gods, the Jupiter of the Romans was worshipped in the oak tree at Dodona. Papus equates the fourth card of the Tarot "The Emperor" with Jupiter and it is interesting to note that whereas "The Empress" equated with Binah, carries the sceptre of Venus in her left hand, indicating the passive influence, "The Emperor" holds the sceptre of Venus in the right hand, indicating the active influence, the vivifying principle.
Jupiter was the guardian of law and order. He maintained the sanctity of an oath and was the protector of justice and virtue. It is not surprising therefore that we find him balanced in Geburah by the planet Mars, the war-like god of the Romans, the Greek Ares. These two, Chesed and Geburah (Jupiter and Mars) are balanced in Tiphareth. In the first triangle we have creation, in the second evolution. Tiphareth is the Saviour, the Christ Centre, the sphere of the Son, the reflection of Kether.
The third Triangle consists of Netzach, Hod and Yesod, Victory, Foundation and Glory respectively. It will be noted that again they have been taken in the direction of the Lightning Flash. Netzach is the sphere of Venus the Goddess of Nature. Hod is the sphere of Mercury, the Greek Hermes, the Egyptian Thoth, the messenger of the Gods, the herald of Zeus. The cultivation of the OLIVE TREE is attributed to him and the PALM TREE was held sacred to him. He bore the Caduceus which he received from Apollo. May I point out that the Senior and Junior Deacons are the messengers of the Master of the Lodge, they bear and carry his messages, commands and communications and whilst the jewel on the collar of a Deacon is a dove carrying a sprig and although sometimes this jewel appears on the wand, yet in many cases the Caduceus of Mercury surmounts the Deacon's wand. Yesod is the sphere of the Moon — near to the sphere of Earth. Yesod being in the sphere of the moon is associated with Luna, goddess of the moon, the Greek Selene, sister of Helios the Sun also identified with Artemis called Diana by the Romans of whom I have already said that she was oak-goddess with a temple among evergreen OAK TREES.
At the bottom of the three Triangles there comes Malkuth, the Kingdom of Earth.
So we have Maikuth (the Kingdom) Netzach (the Power) and Hod (the Glory), thereby expressing the omnipotence of the Father of all as in that well-known prayer which ends "for Thine is the Kingdom the Power and the Glory".
"As above — so below." The Universe the Macrocosm — man the Microcosm. We can meditate upon the Tree of Life in both, the one in evolution and the other in planes of consciousness. In this way, the two side pillars can be as positive and negative aspects of manifestation whilst the central pillar can represent consciousness, consciousness which would rise from Malkuth to Yesod to Tiphareth. Such ascent of consciousness as depicted on the Tree of Life can be equated with the Chakras of the Hindu system. This is not a Paper on the Kabalistic Tree of Life — it is a Paper on "Trees of all Sorts". Volumes of course can be, and indeed have been, written on the Kabalistic Tree of Life. I am not qualified to write much about it except to introduce it in the brief manner that I have done, neither am I qualified to talk to you about the Chakras of the Hindu system but their concept is this. Just as I have mentioned that in the principle of Chokmah and Binah, the force becoming form but remaining in the form, so are there forces extant in our forms: these according to the Hindu system are vortices or, as the word Chakras means, wheels of force and they are situated in certain parts of the body, that is to say they are located in those parts but not necessarily in a particular organ. It is said that they are linked with the cerebro-spinal and nervous system and the following is their location with a brief description of their attributes. Now the Caduccus of Mercury consists of two serpents plaited or intertwined round a central rod above which there are a pair of wings (indicating aspiration). The central rod is the Shushummna and the serpents the Ida and Pingala that I have already mentioned. They correspond to the Three Pillars on the Tree of Life. The points where the serpents cross the central rod and the junction of the wings correspond with the position of the Chakras in man. Starting from the lowest we have: -
Muladhara — Root or basic. Base of spine. Svadhisthana — Pelvic. Near genitals. Splenic — Near Spleen. Manipura — Navel or umbilical. Near navel. Anahata — Heart or Cardiac. Over the heart. Vishuddha — Throat or laryngeal. At the front of the throat. Ajna — Brow or frontal. Between the eyebrows.
At the top is the Brahmarandha or Sahasrara — the Lotus of a Thousand Petals, the Halo — The Crown — Kether — and whosoever rises to that, it is said enters into the Light and comes not forth again.
The Kabalist equates these Chakras with the Sephiroth in the following way:
Muladhara — Malkuth: Svadhisthana — Yesod Manipura and Anahata Chakras: Tiphareth Vishuddha — Binah Ajna — Chokmah.
With a knowledge of astrology and with the use of the Tarot Cards, the Tree of Life can yield to the truly meditative soul, some rich and remarkable results.
You will have realised that in considering the progress from one Sephirah to another in the form of the Lightning Flash each Sephirah in turn becomes positive and negative and this is an illustration of polarity. Polarity arises from the flow of force. Energy is received at one level of pressure and given out at a lower one and so from the Unmanifest to Malkuth we show on this glyph the flow of force. Just as there is really no difference between matter and spirit so can it be said there is no true contradiction between good and evil and if we are to work with both points of the compasses to render our Masonic duties complete we must understand both good and evil. To avoid these is to endeavour to by-pass as it were Netzach (the true Victory). It is only when we exceed the limits laid down by the unerring and impartial justice of our Maker that we lose balance.
Time does not permit of detailed investigation into the Sephiroth, but I will mention that a symbol connected with Hod is that of the Apron, whilst one connected with Yesod is the sandal or heel-less slipper.
Now I want to come back to Tiphareth. It should be noted that this Sephirah is equilibrated in the centre of the whole Tree. The six Sephiroth around Tiphareth are refered to as Adam Kadmon (archetypal man). Keter can be considered as the Divine Spark, the four Sephiroth above Tiphareth as the higher self and the four below as the lower self. It is in Tiphareth that the higher self is brought through into the consciousness of the lower self. Tiphareth is the Christ Centre, the place of Crucifixion. It is assigned to the sphere of the Sun, and I would have you remember what I said previously about the beneficence of that Grand Luminary the Sun, Tiphareth is the Sun behind the Sun, the reflection of Kether.
Of Tiphareth one may quote Keats' words:
Beauty is Truth And Truth Beauty
That ye know and that is all ye need to know.
Here Brethren must I close my very sketchy and totally inadequate outline of the Kabalistic "Tree of Life" but as the year in the Christian Tradition ends with the Christmas Festivities so may I close this Paper with a reminder of yet another tree, a conifer. I refer to the symbolic tree, the Christmas Tree. It is of course well known that one religion borrows from another and it is strange how in the passage of time the adherents to a particular religion are quite satisfied that all the symbols and rituals they use are completely and justly their own. But they are often mistaken. The cult of Mithra was essentially the religion of the soldier, Mithraism overlapped, as it were, Christianity by some 200 years and today we are proud of our Church Army, our Salvation Army and our hymn Onward Christian Soldiers. In like manner every time of the year approaching the 25th December we obtain spruce or pine trees which have little or no connection with the Holy Land, we deck thein with presents and toys and sometimes, not always, candles. Right on the top we put an effigy which we call the Christmas Tree fairy and everybody is happy except the children, when they find the toys are not quite what they wanted! Now actually we have borrowed this idea of a Christmas Tree from Scandinavians who celebrated the Winter solstice by a Festival to the god Thor (the God of the Hammer) with rejoicing and gifts to one another which they hung upon the evergreen conifer.
Holly, you may be interested to know, was used to decorate the streets and buildings of Rome during the Feast of Saturnalia coinciding with the Christian's Christmas. Mistletoe of course was associated with the rites of the Druids and its use was condemned by the early Church as being pagan.
The early Christians used to place wafers upon the Christmas Tree representing the Host and the candles placed also upon the Tree were arranged in pyramidical form, the top candle being emblematical of the Chrst. Finally Brethren, to close with the beautiful words of a well-known and delightful song — "Trees":
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree;
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast:
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray.
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intiniately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
And with an Invocation: -
May the Most High replace the and wastes Of separation, bitterness and strife With the rich soil of His Holy Spirit That a mighty Tree may grow Bearing the fruits of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
So Mote It Be.