Theotokos: Paradox of the Tree of Death & Life

 Berthold Furtmeyr, Mediaval miniature by Berthold Furtmeyer: Baum des Todes und des Lebens, Tree of death and life- 1481
Berthold Furtmeyer: Baum des Todes und des Lebens, Tree of Death and Life– c. 1481. US public domain via wikimedia
There is a archetypal relation between the God, Self, and trees.

Jung calls the tree of life a “mother symbol” (CW 5, para 321). In the image above, we see Furtmeyer’s Tree of Death and Life. This image represents the paradox inherent in the tree as mother symbol. Anne Baring describes the scene of the image:

“The faces of the two women are identical, and their heads incline away from the central point of the tree in antithetical relationship: Eve, predictably naked, offering to humanity the apple of death, which she is passing on from the serpent; and Mary, predictably clothed, offering the redeeming apple of life. The position of the serpent arising from the not-to-be seen phallus of Adam is presumably less than coincidental. On Eve’s side of the tree lies the grinning skull, while Death waits for her on the right, and on Mary’s side of the tree – the Life side – the cross with the crucified Christ poised as on a branch, himself the fruit of her miraculously intact womb.”

This image is especially significant in that it is not only a “mother symbol”, but shows the profound paradox within the mother image. We here see a duality in the archetypal Mother. Here is Eve as the mother of our fallen state and here is Mary as the mother of redemption. Eve offers the fruit of death; Mary offers the fruit of redemption.

The fruit of redemption is Christ. Carl Jung understands that Christ is an image of the Self. Christ is an image of a re-birth into symbolic life, into life oriented toward Self. Jung says:

“Christ’s redemptive death on the cross was understood as a “baptism,” that is to say, as rebirth through the second mother, symbolized by the tree of death… The dual-mother motif suggests the idea of a dual birth. One of the mothers is the real, human mother, the other is the symbolical mother” (CW 5 para 494-495, emphasis added).

References:

The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image By Anne Baring, Jules Cashford

Symbols of Transformation (CW5) by Carl G. Jung (in US Pubic Domain, first published 1912)

 

Lady of the Sycamore: feeding from a sacred tree

Tomb of Thutmosis III, Scene: The King is fed from the Holy Tree–Lady of the sycamore. circa 1500-1450 bce. US Public Domain, Wikimedia
Tomb of Thutmosis III, Scene: The King is fed from the Holy Tree–Lady of the sycamore. circa 1500-1450 bce. US Public Domain, Wikimedia

The above image is from the Tomb of Thutmosis III, c. 1450-1500 BCE. It is called ‘The King is fed from the Holy Tree’ (US Public Domain via wikimedia).

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Arbor Philosophorum: tree as an image of spiritual development

:Arbor scientiae, Druck von 1505 in Tomkowiak: Populäre Enzyklopädien. US Public Domain Wikimedia
:Arbor scientiae, Druck von 1505 in Tomkowiak: Populäre Enzyklopädien. US Public Domain Wikimedia

Carl Jung tells us:

“The tree is an image of spiritual development.”

The tree illustrates spiritual development, as that which exists beyond our material development. Jung says:

“You see the tree is a plant and it symbols a strange development entirely different from animal life, like the development we call spiritual.

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Pomegranates: symbolism in mysticism and dreams

Sour Pomegranates. Unknown Author- c. 14th Century. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Sour Pomegranates. Unknown Author- c. 14th Century. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

Last night I dreamed of pomegranates…

Carl Jung saw a garden of pomegranates when he was near to death:

“I myself was, so it seemed, in the Pardes Rimmonim, the garden of pomegranates, and the wedding of Tifereth with Malchuth was taking place. Or else I was Rabbi Simon ben Jochai, whose wedding in the afterlife was being celebrated. It was the mystic marriage as it appears in the Cabbalistic tradition. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was. I could only think continually, “Now this is the garden of pomegranates! Now this is the marriage of Malchuth with Tifereth!” I do not know exactly what part I played in it. At bottom it was I myself: I was the marriage. And my beatitude was that of a blissful wedding.” (Jung, 1961, p. 294)

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The Selfsame Tree

Krishna_Splits_the_Double_Arjuna_Tree
Anonymous, India, Gujarat, probably Surat – Philadelphia Art Museum 1994-148-470. India public Domain via wikimedia

 

Two birds,

fast-bound companions, sit.

This one enjoys the ripened fruit,

The other looks, but does not eat.

On such a tree my spirit crouched,

Deluded by its powerlessness,

Till seeing with joy how great its Lord,

It found from sorrow swift release.”

Reference:

Shvetashvatara Upanishad, The Thirteen Prin­cipal Upanishads