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.
Life energy moves through all living things. A seed sprouts, growing and becoming a tree, blossoming and bearing fruit. As long as the tree is healthy and without disease its life energy will follow a path. This is not a scientific declaration, but a poetic one: energy creates transformations in form.
In human terms, we call this energy ‘libido.’ The potential transformations of our energy are shaped by ‘libidinal’ desire: our instincts animate us, drive us. Our desire moves us to seek an object; in pure form libido moves us to seek out an other, not as object but subject.
I have heard many people complain about the division between spirit and matter. Often they blame Descartes. For example in Marigold’s book titled A Guiding Hand, she says:
“If we hadn’t given so much credit to… Descartes division between spirit and matter, we would have saved ourselves a lot of time and a lot of pains.” (p. 181)
Marigold’s view represents a way of thinking that is quite common: turning a creative tension into a problem, as if it were invented by Descartes.
The opposition between spirit and matter is quite a bit older than Descartes. One might call it an archetypal dialectic. Spirit and matter represent basic categories of thought. These categories help us to conceptualize the world around us.
One of the ways in which humans conceptualize the world is through opposition. Oppositions are often represented as binary pairs, such as spirit and matter. These binary pairs provide reference points, one idea is known in relations to the other. Oppositions drive us to resolve tensions through acts of creative synthesis.
Here we see a 14th Century painting of the Madonna of the Rose. The rose is often associated with the Mother archetype. Carl Jung points out that the mother archetype “can be attached to … various vessels such as the baptismal font, or to vessel-shaped flowers like the rose.” (9i, para. 157) In the Western tradition we see the rose associated with the Virgin Mary. Cardinal Newman (1801 – 1890) said: