"All theory, my friend, is grey, But green life’s golden tree."
— Faust I.
In his Alchemical Studies Jung published a series of thirty-two images of the Tree. These were spontaneously produced by Jung’s patients who knew nothing of the tree’s alchemical or mythological symbolism; indeed, neither did Jung at the time when most of the images were produced. Jung came to understand that the unconscious produced this image so frequently because the tree stands as the preeminent symbol of growth, renewal, and transformation. The unfolding and growth of a tree is a metaphor for the unfolding and growth of an individual, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
In his important essay entitled The Philosophical Tree, Jung explained how the whole process which we now understand as psychological development or individuation was designated the “philosophical tree”, a poetic comparison that draws an apt analogy between the natural growth of the psyche and that of a plant. The philosophers’ tree or tree of wisdom was to be sought inside: for a transformation of consciousness to take place, one had to seek and know this inner tree. Jung wrote, “If a mandala may be described as a symbol of the Self in cross-section, then the tree would represent a profile view of it: the Self depicted as a process of growth.” The all-embracing image of the Cosmic Tree is a fitting symbol for the unconscious source (the root), the conscious realization (the trunk) and the “trans-conscious” goal (the crown) of individuation.
The tree has been one of humankind’s most universal symbols. This presentation, including rich visual images, will highlight the tree’s appearance in religious traditions, myth, ritual, legend, alchemy, shamanic initiation, aboriginal lore, sacred literature, art and poetry, as well as in the dreams and visions of ancient and contemporary seekers and seers. We will explore the manifestations and meanings of this rich and multi-dimensional archetypal motif as a symbol of self-unfoldment. You will also be invited to experience a gentle guided tree meditation, to support grounding, strengthening and centring.
Suzanne Davidson, BA, LLB, AACC, is currently undertaking post-graduate studies in depth psychology and mythology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, California. A former practising lawyer, communications professional and conference producer, Suzanne founded a career consultancy for adults in mid-life called Life Artistry. With her husband James, in 2000, she established eContent Management, an academic and scholarly publishing house (www.e-contentmanagement.com). After making a tree-change from Sydney, Suzanne now lives in Maleny, Queensland, amidst the shelter and majesty of many wondrous trees.