Trees of Meaning

treesTrees are a recurring metaphor in Bahá’u’lláh’s writings and the Baha’i writings more generally. Here are a few examples.

Trees are a metaphor for transformation of the human heart.

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.[1]

They stand as a symbol for Bahá’u’lláh himself and the messengers of God: in the form of the “tree beyond which there is no passing” – the “Sadratu’l Muntaha”. It is the tree which marks the end of the path.

There hath branched from the Sadratu’l-Muntahá this sacred and glorious Being, this Branch of Holiness; well is it with him that hath sought His shelter and abideth beneath His shadow. Verily the Limb of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root which God hath firmly implanted in the Ground of His Will, and Whose Branch hath been so uplifted as to encompass the whole of creation.[2]

In another sense human beings are themselves like trees:

Man is like unto a tree. If he be adorned with fruit, he hath been and will ever be worthy of praise and commendation. Otherwise a fruitless tree is but fit for fire. The fruits of the human tree are exquisite, highly desired and dearly cherished. Among them are upright character, virtuous deeds and a goodly utterance.[3]

A tree is also a metaphor for a clearer understanding of the true nature of human relationships.

Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.[4]

As we saw in the Interconnection of all Things, Abdu’l Baha expands on this metaphor:

Thus hath [Bahá’u’lláh] likened this world of being to a single tree, and all its peoples to the leaves thereof, and the blossoms and fruits. It is needful for the bough to blossom, and leaf and fruit to flourish, and upon the interconnection of all parts of the world-tree, dependeth the flourishing of leaf and blossom, and the sweetness of the fruit.[5]

In trees, Bahá’u’lláh sees symbols of knowledge:

In the trees I behold only the revelation of the fruits of Thy wisdom and knowledge, and in their leaves I read but the pages of the books enshrining the mysteries of all that hath been through Thy command or will be through Thy power.[6]

But perhaps the most striking image of a tree is the tree of life, which appears in Bahá’u’lláh’s Hidden Words, the tree and gathering we have forgotten.

O MY FRIENDS!
Have ye forgotten that true and radiant morn, when in those hallowed and blessed surroundings ye were all gathered in My presence beneath the shade of the tree of life, which is planted in the all-glorious paradise? Awestruck ye listened as I gave utterance to these three most holy words: O friends! Prefer not your will to Mine, never desire that which I have not desired for you, and approach Me not with lifeless hearts, defiled with worldly desires and cravings. Would ye but sanctify your souls, ye would at this present hour recall that place and those surroundings, and the truth of My utterance should be made evident unto all of you.[7]

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(This article is the 97th in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)

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