The Tree of Life
A holy or sacred “Tree” of life is a symbol used in many spiritual or religious traditions in the world. For example, the "Tree of Life" is mentioned in the books of Genesis, Proverbs and Wisdom in the Hebrew Tanakh (Old Testament), and in John's book of Revelation in the Christian Bible. And it was mentioned by the great Native American prophet, Black Elk, and by other prophets of the tribes of the Western Hemisphere, such as the Mayans.
That "Tree" is a powerful symbol for the spiritual Source. The Tree of Life is a redeeming source of "food for the soul," which is why Genesis 3:22 states that Man can “put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever.” And that's why its "leaves are for the healing of nations," as John put it in Revelation 22:2.
In a spiritual sense, it is synonymous with the term “Zion,” because while Mount Zion is the name of a place in Jerusalem, in a spiritual sense Zion is much like the Tree of Life because neither term refers to any thing material. They refer to the spiritual realm or state of being or consciousness, and the Source out of which everything flows.
Of course, in a physical sense, the name "Zion" designates a specific high ground near Jerusalem where a Jebusite fortress had stood, which was conquered by King David and was then named the City of David. And some say Zion is also the name of the Temple Mount where David’s son King Solomon's Temple was in Jerusalem.
However, in the spiritual and far more important sense, Zion is not a physical place but a symbol for that which is the divine, spiritual source or essence or "cornerstone and foundation" of God's creation, as well as the spiritual or heavenly “residence” of God.
Why It’s Not a Worldly Place or Thing, But a Spiritual Reality
There is a very good reason why Jesus of Nazareth said: "The kingdom of God comes not with observation” ... “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” — Luke 17:20-21
When you understand what that means, you will understand why Isaiah 2:2 states that when prophecy is fulfilled, “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the top of the mountains.”
If you think about it, you can see that obviously does not refer to a literal mountain or mountains. It refers to that “high and holy place where God inhabits eternity,” as is stated in Isaiah 57:15. It is not a worldly place, but a spiritual state or spiritual reality.
For the benefit of “he that believes,” Isaiah 28:16 states that the Lord God said: “I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a corner-stone of sure foundation, [so that] he that believes shall not make haste.”
“He that believes” is the servant of God who fulfills prophecy, the modern son of man and Messiah, who has learned to not make haste. For he knows why he is to remain “hidden,” as Isaiah wrote several times, until the message he has delivered is finally accepted. And he knows the stress of 27 years of the work will lead to his premature death because of his broken heart, unless he goes steadily but slowly, and carefully.
So, the "stone" is in "Zion," and the stone is an esoteric symbol for divine truth. For the “stone shall shatter the image of the King of Babylon [and] shall become as a great mountain that fills the earth,” just as Daniel wrote in Daniel 2:32-35. The “stone” is the spiritual foundation, which is revealed in the universal truth in the written message of truth the world needs, and was promised. And both “Zion” and “The Tree of Life” symbolize it.
The Tree of Life
"Wisdom is beneficent and kind. She is the aura of the power of God, the radiance of the eternal Divine Light, a spotless mirror of God. She renews all things, and passing into holy souls from age to age, She produces friends of God and prophets. She is firm, but Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon Her. And Wisdom is far better than weapons of war." –– The Book of Wisdom
The book of Proverbs states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and God shall direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes ... My son, do not despise chastening of the Lord, nor be weary of being corrected. For whoever the Lord loves are corrected; even as a parent corrects the child in whom he delights. Happy is the man that finds Wisdom, and the man that gets understanding. ... For She is more precious than rubies: and all the things you can desire are not to be compared unto Her. Length of days is in Her right hand; and in Her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon Her: and happy is every one that retains Her. The Lord God by Wisdom has founded the earth; by understanding has God established the heavens.” — Proverbs 3:5-19
Many if not most religious Jews, Christians and Muslims have not understood that, because even though the terms are mentioned repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible, its meaning is esoteric, and can only be understood be those who actually see the inner Light of God and thereby understand the ultimate secret of the Torah and Tanakh - as Jesus of Nazareth did.
That is why all the Jewish prophets, including Jesus, foresaw and foretold that it would be explained in the future, and why Jesus said it would be explained at the end of the age – as much as it can be explained in human terms – when humanity was more ready.
During the entire passing age the preparation for that has been taking place, behind the scenes, while spiritually blind men sought and fought for personal wealth, power, and worldly domain. The work has been done behind the scenes because those who knew the truth knew that men of wordly power would not understand, and in fact would be threatened by the truth -- because the truth sets us free, liberates us, and empowers us all.
Part of that preparation has been by those who actually learned and understood the esoteric mystical traditions of Jewish Kabbalah and its Western offshoot Qabalah. And of course, many other enlightened ones from other religions have also been preparing the world for the truth, but this article is for the benefit of those who adhere to Judaism or Christianity.
The reason the "Tree of Life" is so important is because, again, the real "Zion is in certain instances referred to with regard to the spiritual source from which material reality emanates into The Tree of Life.
In Chapter 22, the last chapter in the book of Revelation, it mentions: “ ... the river of life, clear as crystal. On both sides of the river is the Tree of Life, which bears twelve manner of fruits and yields Her fruit for each and every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” And it also states that the “throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it,” referring to that “Tree of Life.”
That makes it obvious that John was not referring to literal, material, corporeal things or beings. He was referring symbolically of the spiritual, divine reality, and of that exists in the spiritual realm, and will be manifested as much as possible on earth as well.
That's because John was familiar with the mystical side of Judaism, Kabbalah, which dates back to the beginnings of Judaish and was more fully developed in the days of Solomon. Some of the Essene groups were familiar with it, and Jesus and some of the early Christians were too. But today, of course, the term Kabbalah has become generally misunderstood, especially by those who claim to know.
Anyway, in the traditions of Jewish Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is symbolized by a diagram of ten Sepheroth or spheres of emanation. And, in the more esoteric Christian and Interfaith tradition of Qabalah, between and around those ten spheres are 22 connecting and related principles. And altogether they represent 32 paths of Wisdom.
You see, John's symbolic book of Revelation speaks of spiritual revelation and knowledge that can come only from within by and through revelation, and no amount of effort or logic or reasoning or study can attain it. It is a spiritual gift that comes when you least expect it.
Unfortunately, the symbolism John used is not understood by many. For example, let's just consider that passage about the Tree of Life, and here it is quoted in full:
“And [the angel] showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of it, and on either side of the river, there was 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 22:1-2
Now, some Christians think the “12 fruits” are the 12 apostles because in Revelation 21:12-14 John had written that an angel had said to him:
“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. And her light was like a precious stone, even, clear as crystal. And [the city] had a great and high wall, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels and the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” – Revelation 21:9-14
The "bride" is mentioned four times by John, and it is associated with or identified as "New Jerusalem" in other sections of the book. But that's another issue that is discussed in another article, The Bridegroom Lamb, which discusses what the "bride" and "New Jerusalem" are. But here the subject is the the Tree of Life and the 12 "manner of fruits" on it, and the "leaves" that are "for the healing of nations."
The number 12 is very significant for many reasons. But John also wrote: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” Revelation 12:1-2
Some believe that John was describing an archetypal image that was a part of the Qabalah, an advancement of the Kabbalistic system of spiritual teaching that Jesus and a group of Essenes had developed. However, you won't find that in academic circles, because most academic scholars still hold to the theory and opinion that Qabalah did not develop until about the twelfth century, and that the image used in the mystical teaching system was merely copied from John's book of Revelation. Nevertheless, more evidence will be revealed that shows more about the mystical roots of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions.
The fact is that symbols and archetypal images from Kabbalah (and Qabalah) are laced throughout the Torah and Tanakh or Old Testament, especially the book of Daniel, which contains much astrological symbolism along with other esoteric symbolism.
In the Qabalistic tradition, there is an image of a woman who has a crown of 12 stars, which refer to the "twelve manner of fruits" which can symbolize the 12 apostles but specifically refer to the 12 months of a year, the 12 signs of the Zodiac, and the 12 most basic characteristics of humanity.
The woman in the archetypal image is the symbol for creative intelligence, imagination, reproduction, fruitfulness, and growth. She is a pregnant matron, the great mother principle. She also symbolizes Venus, the Morning Star, which is why the ghost of Jesus of Nazareth told John that he (Jesus) was the "bright and morning star."
The Kabbalah and Qabalah is part of a spiritual teaching system which mystic Jews and Christians consider the Secrets of the Torah. And that system began to be developed well before the time of the building of Solomon's Temple.
So again, in conclusion, the “Tree of Life” is in a sense synonymous with“Zion” and "New Jeruslaem," for such terms speak not of the material world, but of the spiritual realm or heaven, which every human being may realize from within.
May you seek it, and find it within.