Saturday, March 14, 2009

the shape of the universe

Reality Sandwich | If you are fortunate enough to share a neighborhood with a leafy elm, a gnarly oak, a soaring redwood, take another look at its silhouette against the sky. That self-similar 4-D explosion of branching branches is a clue to a cosmic riddle or two and a key concept in fields as unrelated as vascular surgery and software design.

The Buddha knew this, and so do neurologists, database programmers, and mythologists.

Axis mundi, the axis of the world, is the tree at the center of everything sacred. Mythologist Joseph Campbell, referring to the Buddha's awakening, noted that: "This is the most important single moment in Oriental mythology, a counterpart of the Crucifixion of the West. The Buddha beneath the Tree of Enlightenment (the Bo tree) and Christ on Holy Rood (the tree of redemption) are analogous figures, incorporating an archetypal World Savior, World Tree motif, which is of immemorial antiquity."

To Hindu dream adepts, the question of how you know that you are awake is at once psychological and metaphysical. David Shulman, in Tamil Temple Myths, discussing a character in a myth who realizes that he is dreaming the tragedy of his life, notes: "The nature of his delusion is clear from the moment he first catches sight of the upside-down tree -- a classic Indian symbol for the reality that underlies and is hidden by life in the world, with its false goals and misleading perceptions."

To say nothing of the Garden of Eden and its two special trees. Why do trees always happen to be on the set when God talks? It doesn't matter whether your cosmology is Hebrew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan, Shamanist or Animist: trees are always part of the scenery when a theophany happens.