Tree of Life

   Another aspect of Orpheus is that he was torn apart, as Jesus was torn apart in the scourging and crucifixion.  What does this represent in the older, let’s say, Corpus Hermeticum way of reading it?  First, that eternity is in love with the forms of time, but to come into those forms it has to be dismembered, and then, that you, as a separate entity in the form of time, in order to lose your commitment to this little instance, you must be dismembered and opened to the transcendent.  So the cross, in this tradition, represents the threshold from eternity to time and from time back to eternity.  And that’s also the symbology of the two trees in the Garden of Eden.  The tree of knowledge of good and evil is the tree of going from unity into multiplicity, and the tree of eternal life is that  is that of going from multiplicity to unity.  It’s the same tree in two directions.  Some of the discussions in the rabbinical Midrash, during the first five centuries or so of the Jewish Diaspora, revolve around the question “What about the two tress in the garden?”  They’re seen in various aspects, but it all comes out in these two senses.  TMTT 207

   For as we have heard: When the Lord God discovered that the man fashioned to work in his garden had been lured by his wife and a serpent into eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, which he had reserved for himself, he cursed the serpent to crawl on its belly, the woman to give birth in pain, and his disobedient gardener to toil “in the sweat of his face” on an Earth of dust cursed to bring forth thorns and thistles.  And then, as we read: “lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and live forever – therefore Yahweh sent them forth from the garden… and at the east of the Garden of Eden placed the cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life”  (Genesis 3).

   It is surely clear (and can be shown) that the two trees in question are aspects of the one Bo Tree of Enlightenment and Eternal Life under which Prince Gautama sat, where the cosmic serpent Mucalinda lived, and the Goddess (here in reduced form as the serpent’s messenger, Eve) testified to the right of Man to come to the knowledge of the now forbidden Light.   G xxiv