Taking up a brush not so long ago, with an empty canvas before me, I pondered awhile about the way in which a painting comes into life. My mind wandered as I contemplated putting the brush to the canvas. “What is the process?” I wondered. Drifting off into a sort of dream world, I visualized completing my painting. As thoughts came to mind, and as I changed colors, new concepts sparked off new thoughts.
The Tree of Life
The Canvas of life that we see surrounding us today, is in fact, a new Canvas, the earth has changed its appearance many times. Just as the cells of our body’s die and are replaced, so too is the outward spiritual, physical, and even the intellectual surroundings of our world. Nothing comes into existence at maturity. The only constant in our lives is change, and just as the leaf turns and changes its color progressively, and finally becomes bright orange and falls off the tree in autumn, so too does the painting of the Artist change as His concepts take on a new form according to the exigencies of the time. It could change from a pencil sketch to a full-blown painting, yet like life, nothing is born fully mature. Even a painting comes into effect gradually. A table cannot create itself. Yet we live in a world with people who want instant gratification.
The Artist in our lives (God) takes up a Spiritual paintbrush, after having prepared His Canvas properly, and after He has chosen the right paintbrush, He dips the paintbrush into the paint and proceeds to leave us His impression of what His Will is. He puts onto His tray, several shades of color, and He mixes the colors together in the right proportions, painting the Tree of Life from all angles.
In the beginning, He takes the Seed of the idea of the Tree and places it under the earth, then with the germination of that Seed comes the Roots of understanding. He spreads the Roots out onto the canvas and draws the grass around it and a top it. Nestled snugly beneath earth’s covers, the warmth of the Sun penetrates, and the seed yields to the purpose of its being. It sacrifices itself to the Creator and His Canvas.
Up through the ground, the seed begins to move. Its destiny defined. The roots begin to spread. Under the ground it weaves its mesh of roots. Upward, as if compelled, the trunk begins to manifest itself. It has to be a firm foundation for the Branches which are to come. On the strength of the Trunk will depend the beauty and fullness of the Tree.
The Branches come from the Trunk, and will only be as strong as the Trunk will allow them to be. The Artist paints the sequence of events leading to the completion of the painting.
The Painter began with a picture of the Seed and spread out to the other parts of the canvas, but the Seed is no longer able to be seen. It sacrificed itself to the Whole. Yet, the Seed of the Idea is still in the Painters Eye. The Seed had the potential to be the fully grown mature Tree. The Trunk grows thick and strong, and it has the potential of carrying many branches.
The Branches now have the potential to hold lots of Twigs, and these in their turn have the potential to form lots of leaves. But still, the Tree is not in its completeness. The maturity of the Seed is in its Fruiting and its bearing new seeds. Before the Fruit comes, the Blossoms have to appear. The Artist places the Blossoms there in abundance.
Now the tree is ready for its Fruiting season. To place the Fruit on the Tree takes careful, artistic skill. The timing has to be perfect, for the Fruit will not be edible if they should appear too early, or come too late in the Season. Adam was therefore told not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, for how could the seed eat the fruit? It would not be ready to spiritually eat until the end of times, or the latter days.
- God – The Artist
- The Renewal (The Covenant of God)
- The Tools – The Brush – Different sizes – Different thickness – Different times
- The Earth – The Canvas – Mankind
- Paint – The Teachings – The Word and Will of God
- The Holy Spirit – The Manifestations of God once every 1000 years or so.
- The Completed Painting – The Manifest Will of God in the Teachings in each age
- The Frame – Prophecies which we cannot understand until after they are fulfilled.
“From the seed of reality, religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequalled, its existence eternal. The seed of reality must be sown again in human hearts in order that a new tree may grow therefrom and new divine fruits refresh the world. By this means the nations and peoples now divergent in religion will be brought into unity, imitations will be forsaken and a universal brotherhood in the reality itself will be established. Warfare and strife will cease among mankind; all will be reconciled as servants of God. For all are sheltered beneath the tree of His providence and mercy. God is kind to all; He is the giver of bounty to all alike, even as His Holiness Jesus Christ has declared that God “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust”; that is to say, the mercy of God is universal. All humanity is under the protection of His love and favor, and unto all He has pointed the way of guidance and progress.
(`Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith – `Abdu’l-Bahá Section, p. 226)
The Painting fades with time and confusion sets in – The Painting is no longer easily understood, mankind seems happy to have the counterfeit works of art – the creations of man’s ideas of what God’s Will might be. The Painting becomes old and faded; touched-up with man’s interpretation, and no longer applicable to a new age. This is when there is a need for The Artist (God) to renew His Teachings to mankind with another spiritual springtime, a New Canvas. The Will of God is renewed. A New Canvas is prepared once more. The counterfeit picture looks beautiful, everything about it seems lovely, but it is dead, without spiritual life; spiritually dead. Materialism has gathered momentum, the physical and material world has become more important, the idols of our corrupt inclinations have taken possession of it, disobedience is running rife in the guise of misunderstandings, and godlessness prevails. God, the Artist, prepares a New Canvas once more, and His Will is Re-Manifested in the form of a New Messenger. And His Will is once more revealed.
“Consider; we plant a seed. A complete and perfect tree appears from it, and from each
seed of this tree another tree can be produced. Therefore the part is expressive of the whole,
for this seed was a part of the tree, but therein potentially was the whole tree. So each one of
us may become expressive or representative of all the bounties of life to mankind. This is the
unity of the world of humanity. This is the bestowal of God. This is the felicity of the human
world and this is the manifestation of the divine favor.
(`Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith – `Abdu’l-Bahá Section, p. 219)
“From the days of Adam until today, the religions of God have been made manifest, one following the other, and each one of them fulfilled its due function, revived mankind, and provided education and enlightenment. They freed the people from the darkness of the world of nature and ushered them into the brightness of the Kingdom. As each succeeding Faith and Law became revealed it remained for some centuries a richly fruitful tree and to it was committed the happiness of humankind. However, as the centuries rolled by, it aged, it flourished no more and put forth no fruit, wherefore was it then made young again.
“The religion of God is one religion, but it must ever be renewed. Moses, for example, was sent forth to man and He established a Law, and the Children of Israel, through that Mosaic Law, were delivered out of their ignorance and came into the light; they were lifted up from their abjectness and attained to a glory that fadeth not. Still, as the long years wore on, that radiance passed by, that splendour set, that bright day turned to night; and once that night grew triply dark, the star of the Messiah dawned, so that again a glory lit the world.
“Our meaning is this: the religion of God is one, and it is the educator of humankind, but still, it needs must be made new. When thou dost plant a tree, its height increaseth day by day. It putteth forth blossoms and leaves and luscious fruits. But after a long time, it doth grow old, yielding no fruitage any more. Then doth the Husbandman of Truth take up the seed from that same tree, and plant it in a pure soil; and lo, there standeth the first tree, even as it was before.” (Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá p. 51-53)
Below are some Writings about the different parts of the Tree that we have found that may cause more discussion on this matter. Please also consider that the tree could symbolize not just a Dispensation, or length of the cycle assigned to the Messenger of God in each Age, like Christ, Moses, Buddha, and so on; it could also depict the time that runs between the Supreme or Universal Messengers of God, ADAM, till the Supreme Messenger of God, BAHA’U’LLAH. Undoubtedly you may come up with other quotations too, as this is an inexhaustible topic. Quotes are in Bold Italics, and personal opinion of mine is between.
The Divine Tree
“But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said,
Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (King James Bible, Genesis)
“Lastly“, says Shoghi Effendi in Citadel of Faith, “the Holy Seed of infinite preciousness, holding within itself incalculable potentialities representing the culmination of the centuries-old process of the evolution of humanity through the energies released by the series of progressive Revelations starting with Adam and concluded by the Revelation of the Seal of the Prophets, marked by the successive appearance of the branches, leaves, buds, blossoms and plucked, after six brief years by the hand of destiny, ground in the mill of martyrdom and oppression but yielding the oil whose first flickering light cast upon the somber, subterranean walls of the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, whose fire gathered brilliance in Baghdad and shone in full resplendency in its crystal globe in Adrianople, whose rays warmed and illuminated the fringes of the American, European, Australian continents through the tender ministerings of the Center of the Covenant, whose radiance is now overspreading the surface of the globe during the present Formative Age, whose full splendor is destined in the course of future milleniums to suffuse the entire planet.”
Dying in this quotation may symbolize spiritual death, not physical. A going away from God.
“I am the Supersoul, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all living entities.” (Lord Krishna,Bhagavad-Gita 10.20)
“I am in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 7.21)
“I, dwelling in their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 10.11)
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 18.61)
“Know thou that Nature and the Spirit both Have no beginning!” (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita [Edwin Arnold tr])
“I will make thee (Abraham) exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.”
‘Abraham, from whose descendants came a succession of prophets (David, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the
Bab and Baha’u’llah) was born in Ur in present day Iraq.
Abraham’s steadfast devotion planted deep the roots of the oneness of God and blessed His lineage:
“These people believed not in one God but in many gods, to whom they ascribed miracles, and hence they all
rose up against Abraham….Abraham then came to these regions, that is, to the Holy Land.
“My point is that His enemies imagined that this exile would lead to His destruction and ruin….But Abraham
stood fast and showed forth extraordinary constancy, and God changed His exile into abiding honour, till at
last He established the oneness of God, for at that time the generality of mankind were idol worshippers.”
(Abdu’l-Baha’i, Some Answered Questions“
“Through the divine benediction, noteworthy and luminous prophets issued from the lineage of His
Holiness. There appeared Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon. The Holy Land
was conquered by the power of the Covenant of God with Abraham, and the glory of the Solomonic wisdom
and sovereignty dawned. All this was due to the religion of God which this blessed lineage established and upheld.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 270-80)
“This would be in the day when the branch, the root of Jesse, the ‘seed’ of Abraham had appeared on earth.”
(William Sears, Thief in the Night)
“It was by this Light that Moses was enabled to see and comprehend the Divine Appearance, and to hear the Heavenly Voice which spoke to him from the Burning Bush.”
[1 Exodus iii, 2.] (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 69)
Consider Moses! Armed with the rod of celestial dominion, adorned with the white hand of Divine knowledge, and proceeding from the Párán of the love of God, and wielding the serpent of power and everlasting majesty, He shone forth from the Sinai of light upon the world. He summoned all the peoples and kindreds of the earth to the kingdom of eternity, and invited them to partake of the fruit of the tree of faithfulness. Surely you are aware of the fierce opposition of Pharaoh and his people, and of the stones of idle fancy which the hands of infidels cast upon that blessed Tree. So much so that Pharaoh and his people finally arose and exerted their utmost endeavor to extinguish with the waters of falsehood and denial the fire of that sacred Tree, oblivious of the truth that no earthly water can quench the flames of Divine wisdom, nor mortal blasts extinguish the lamp of everlasting dominion. Nay, rather, such water cannot but intensify the burning of the flame, and such blasts cannot but ensure the preservation of the lamp, were ye to observe with the eye of discernment, and walk in the way of God’s holy will and pleasure….
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah)
‘Go towards that tree that is beautiful, high-growing, and mighty amongst the high-growing
trees, and say thou these words: “Hail to thee! O good, holy tree, made by Mazda!”
(The Zend-Avesta, Avesta Fragments)
Zarathustra, in the first chapter of the Zand í Vahman Yasn, prays for immortality. God (Ahura Mazdá, the “Wise Lord” or, perhaps, “The Lord Wisdom”)(1) grants to the prophet “the wisdom of all-knowledge” instead. Zarathuctra then beholds a vision of a tree with four branches: gold, silver, steel and mixed iron, the latter representing the “dominion of the heretics.”(2) In the longer account found in the third chapter, the branches become seven in number. All of these are interpreted as kingdoms, “and so provide an ex eventu prophecy of the periods of world history.”(3)
(Baha’u’llah as Zoroastrian Savior, Christopher Buck)
“Just as on a heap of rubbish thrown upon the highway the lotus will grow sweetly fragrant,
delighting the soul, so also among those who are like rubbish the wise student of the truly
enlightened Buddha shines brightly with wisdom above the blinded crowd.”
(Buddhist, Dhammapada – Sayings of the Buddha 2 [tr. J. Richards])
‘The Founder of the Christian Faith is designated by Bahá’u’lláh as the ‘Spirit of God,’ is proclaimed as the One
Who ‘appeared out of the breath of the Holy Ghost,’ and is even extolled as the ‘Essence of the Spirit.’”
( Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 109)
“A fruitless man, in the words of His Holiness the Spirit (Jesus the Christ), is like a fruitless tree, and is fit for the fire…”
(William Sears, Thief in the Night)
“Christ became manifest in the Christian community which Christ founded through sacrificing Himself. When you look at the tree, you will realize that the perfections, blessings, properties and beauty of the seed have become manifest in the branches, twigs, blossoms and fruit; consequently, the seed has sacrificed itself to the tree. Had it not done so, the tree would not have come into existence. Christ, like unto the seed, sacrificed Himself for the tree of Christianity. Therefore, His perfections, bounties, favors, lights and graces became manifest in the Christian community, for the coming of which He sacrificed Himself.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 449-452)
“It is the one, universal God Who is worshipped in Islam; One closer to man” than his neck-vein” and aware of all things:
“no leaf falleth but He knoweth it.”
(Islamic Miscellaneous, Gail – Six Lessons on Islam, p. 13)
“If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.”
(Reported by Ahmad and Al-Bukhan on the authority of Anas in Al Adab Al-Mufrad,)
“God is the Light of the Heavens and of the Earth. His Light is like a niche in which is a lamp – the lamp encased in glass – the glass, as it were, a glistening star. From a blessed tree it is lighted, the olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would well nigh shine out, even though fire touched it not! It is light upon light. God guideth whom He will to His light, and God setteth forth parables to men, for God knoweth all things.”(Rodwell, The Koran, pp. 446-447, Everyman’s Library, Dutton, New York 1971 [first published 1861])
‘ The Herald of the Baha’i Faith’, the Bloom through which will blossom the Fruit.
“Shoghi Effendi himself gave the most beautiful and poetic description of this natural process
of growth in his message to the Intercontinental Conference held in Chicago in 1953, in which
he likened the history of religion to a tree, which grew for thousands of years, from the days of Adam
until the days of the Bab, putting forth branches, leaves, buds, blossoms and
finally producing a Holy seed which was the Manifestation and Revelation of the Bab.”
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 372)
‘Him Whom God shall make manifest.’ The fruits, latent in the Tree, are now manifest.
“Bahá’u’lláh, as you say, is the culmination of the Adamic Cycle. He is also the Inaugurator
of the Bahá’í Cycle.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer,
March 13, 1986, in Lights of Guidance, no. 1683)
“Incline your hearts, O people of God, unto the counsels of your true, your incomparable
Friend. The Word of God may be likened unto a sapling, whose roots have been implanted in the
hearts of men. It is incumbent upon you to foster its growth through the living waters of wisdom,
of sanctified and holy words, so that its root may become firmly
fixed and its branches may spread out as high as the heavens and beyond.”
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 97)
“The first part of this process was the slow and steady growth of this tree of divine revelation,
successively putting forth its branches, shoots and offshoots, and revealing its leaves, buds and
blossoms, as a direct consequence of the light and warmth
imparted to it by a series of progressive Dispensations associated with Moses,
Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and other Prophets, and of the vernal showers of blood
shed by countless martyrs in their path.”
(The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 752)
(c) copyright Tricia Hague-Barrett 2017
- “Ahura Mazda,” in Bowker, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions 34.
- Cereti, “On the Date of the Zand í Wahman Yasn,” 246.
- Collins, “Persian Apocalypses,” 209.