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Meaning of the Tree of Life

by Joshua Tilghman on March 12, 2013

Tree of Life by HiPanda1 300x187 Meaning of the Tree of LifeThe tree of life. It is arguably one of the most popular symbols in the Bible. It’s too bad that so many people read Genesis, discover the tree of life, and think it’s literal. To do so robs the mind of this ancient symbol’s true beauty and essence!

Sometimes called the cosmic or world tree, the tree of life did not originate with the authors of Genesis. For thousands of years it has been used in sacred literature to describe man’s connection with the divine. Although different cultures have known this tree by different names, the essence of this tree’s significance is essentially the same; it represents both divine and natural man, the spiritual and natural world. And just as the tree of life symbolically spans all the worlds of existence, so does man.

I know the above sounds super spiritual, so what does it really mean for all of us down here on earth? Simply put, the tree of life is about the evolution of subjective consciousness from the lower planes to the higher planes—the world of physical matter to the world of energetic spirit. And consciousness is the center of it all!

Consider the Buddha. He was enlightened under the great Bodhi tree. Is it really just a coincidence that Odin gained supernatural abilities (enlightenment) under the branches of Yggdrasil, the mythological tree of the ancient Scandinavians? How about the fact that ancient Mayan kings, including Pakal Votan, were portrayed on stone monuments with the world tree emerging from their headdress (more enlightenment imagery)?

I apologize in advance to the fundamentalist that believes the concept behind the tree of life is unique to Biblical literature, but I don’t think all this imagery is coincidental. In fact, we can easily connect enlightenment with the Biblical tree of life. Consider the scripture from Revelations:

“…To him that overcometh [achieves enlightenment] will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).

The seven seals being opened throughout the course of the Book of Revelations corresponds to the opening of the seven chakras, the cause of enlightenment, and eating from the tree of life is symbolic of the fruit one gains after traversing the many planes of consciousness.

They key to understanding the above statement must include a knowledge of both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Let’s review the scripture from genesis that references both trees. Unveiling it will reveal some heavy esoteric knowledge.

“And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

Why do you think the Genesis author implies that both trees are in the midst of the garden? It is because together they represent different aspects of ONE tree! The world tree is comprised of both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

In the realm of duality you cannot have one tree without the other. The experience of man includes both trees, from limited individual consciousness to the liberation gained through cosmic consciousness. When consciousness (spirit) incarnated on the physical plane, man began living out his existence among hardship and pain. This is part of the growing process, and there is going to be some wounds to lick. But to he who overcomes by continuing to grow consciously will be given to eat of the tree of life.

The key is in the fruit!

Within the experience of duality lies consciousness evolution and moving up the tree of life to partake of its fruit. Again, we can prove all this with scripture. Review Genesis 2:9 again. God said the trees in the garden were for food. This has nothing to do with physical food. It’s a about spiritual food. Let’s compare the fruit of each tree from Gaskell’s Dictionary of Scripture and myth.

Fruit of the tree of life: “Symbolic of the higher emotions and faculties of the buddhic [Christ] nature laid up for the soul when perfected.”

In Revelations Jesus states that the tree of life on either side of the river bears twelve fruits that provide healing. What causes us to express the higher emotions and mental faculties of the Christ? It is through the acquisition of wisdom, which brings healing.

“She [wisdom] is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her…” (Proverbs 3:18).

How does anyone gain wisdom? It starts with obedience to God on the physical plane. It ends when one truly learns the lessons (on the soul level) that experience in duality provides.

Now consider the other side of this coin:

Fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: “A symbol of the experience acquired through the activities of the lower nature and the development of the moral nature.”

How does the Bible explain how man acquired experience and learned to develop the moral nature? By being kicked out of the garden (spiritual existence) to live life among “thorns” and “thistles” (duality). This is the fruit of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil!

Other cool ways to look at the tree of life

Sometimes the tree of life is inverted in Kabbalah. The inverted tree of life has its roots firmly established in heaven (spiritual planes) and the rest of the tree emanates into the physical world. Likewise, man originated in the Eden, a spiritual plane, and ended up in the physical world, earth. The inverted tree depicts this process. Now it is up to us to climb back up the spiritual worlds. I like to picture the inverted tree as the tree of life and the right-side up tree as the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It makes sense for me to picture the two in this way because remember that the true world tree contains both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Picturing one tree as inverted and the other right-side up helps me to get a clear picture for the functions of both trees.

Closing thoughts

4546250325 45b06b7f1b z1 297x300 Meaning of the Tree of LifeThe tree of life then is the ultimate motif of the evolution of consciousness. Its branches reach into heaven, the spiritual planes. The trunk resides on the material plane, and the roots grow into the earth, or underworld, which represents many subconscious aspects of our soul.

The consciousness of man then can be likened unto a tree itself. The ultimate goal is to become complete and whole, which is the true meaning of Biblical perfection. This is accomplished through following and understanding the deeper esoteric meanings of God’s commands.

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf [true ideals] shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3). 

Returning to the tree of life is to gain enlightenment. It is guarded by Cherubim because we must go through the planes of existence and experience duality in order to raise consciousness before we can gain access. It’s that simple.

Every day that you wake up, consider it your day to experience something that brings you one step closer to again gaining access to the tree of life, or enlightenment! And it’s all Biblical! I especially want Christians who are questioning orthodox interpretation to know this, so I’ll say it again. It’s all Biblical! Don’t fret the fact that the Bible is truly a book with eastern concepts woven throughout. Doing so only limits the truths provided through this great book. It certainly isn’t of isolation.

Blessings!

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carol March 12, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Thank you SO Very Much!!!!!I had been so confused about this, but you revealed the true meaning. I always knew that the Church;s interpretation was wrong, I just didn’t know how. After decdades of rejecting Eastern philosophy, it is actually embarrassing to find that the information was there, I just didn;t know how to process it. I could have found enlightenment much sooner!
Carol

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2 Joshua Tilghman March 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Carol,

So glad this was some benefit to you!

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3 selina March 12, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Joshua, The saying “As above as below” springs to my mind whilst reading your post as this is what sums up your meaning of the tree of life is and which I totally agree with you.
I am not really aware of the Mayan kings as such in depth so did not know of their connection to the tree of life but thank’s to you I shall have another quick history lesson on them(The human sacrifices connected to the Mayan’s put me off) haha.:-)
Love and light Selina x

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4 Joshua Tilghman March 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Selina,

That phrase pops up in my mind quite a bit, too. I also thought about it while writing the post.

The Mayans did go through some pretty bloody stages in their history. And it is a big turn-off. But I wouldn’t count out some “Golden-Age” stages for them as well.

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5 vondre March 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

The emails i recieve from this website are always mind opening. and by my mind already being open it helps me to give the choas of an open structure. thank yu!

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6 Joshua Tilghman March 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

You are so welcome, vondre. And thanks for commenting.

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7 vondre March 13, 2013 at 9:59 am

*choas of an open mind͵ the structure needed to understand better

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8 Rhonda March 13, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Hi Joshua,
Enjoyed this post, I have long pondered on the relationship of the tree to our own being and the many biblical references that link the concept together. I found the healing of the blind man who saw men ‘like tree’s walking’ interesting and am sure there is a message there.
Also the fact that our entire nervous system and our spine is like a tree with the snake in it! For the lower brain is even called the reptiallian brain! I had’nt thought of the two tree’s as being inverted and upright…a good way of explaining it though:-)
Last year I wrote a poem on this very topic and shared it with my family…I hope you enjoy it…

A tree of life I am
my roots dig deep into Spirit
where Source swells,
sweet nectar of Love
in myriad forms of grace.
Thirst and draw
from timeless streams of infinite supply,
generous and giving.
Old dead wood,
my former self in brittle memories,
cracks and falls,
a decaying fertilizer
God made…
soil to grow in.
Rich golden sap
courses through my wooded veins
circumnavigates my hidden storied rings
bursts forth in wide spread bough
and shaded limb,
wide gnarly fingers
sheathed in verdent peace.
Beneath in numinous
succoured rest
green things flourish and
small frightened creatures refuge.
High in skyward branches
heaven born travellers
pausing for breath,
find a temporary home.
Just so…
pause a moment
Think.
Will I stand when bitter howls the
spiteful voice of tortured soul,
who’s battered voice a ragged wind
in shards of ignorance
swaths me in
finest choking silk?
When weakness tempts,
will I stand?
Just so…
pause a moment
Think.
I will
on cliff edge curl my
silted toes and stand.
Feel the fertile truth and
draw, draw upon the
cosmic patterns
secreted there.
I will turn within,
feel the fire
welcome the molten flame that heals.
I will fold and hold
the blessed little things that
whisper pure-fed secrets,
bend my inner ear and
listen.
Awake the inner eye and
see.
Just so…
Let Love Live,
Let Life Love,
This tree of Life
I am.
(Rhonda Lever 8.12.12)

Namaste!:-)

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9 Joshua Tilghman March 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Rhonda, excellent! Thanks so much for sharing this. It complements the post well.

Have you ever put together a short book of poems? You could use esoteric themes throughout.

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10 Robert March 14, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Josh. Thanks. This was a good introduction to the Tree of Life. I know it is a very important symbol in the Kabbalah and stands for the organization of various relationships between man and the divine, by the understanding of which man can ascend to higher levels of conscio0usness. It is a very mystical symbol. We can not comprehend everything that is divine, but by heartfelt study we can fulfill more of our otherwise untapped human potential.

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11 Joshua Tilghman March 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm

No problem, Robert. The important thing is that we realize its a universal symbol. We can learn from all the cultures who have used in. Often times it is difficult digging through ancient religious text, but there are more and more books being published now that explain the underlying message without all the jargon.

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12 Robert March 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Carol, I have often had similar thoughts… why couldn’t I have been taught the right stuff earlier. Sometimes I think, maybe I just wasn’t ready. I had to get my feet wet in something spiritual somewhere or otherwise remained an agnostic. When I think back, there were opportunities way back when to take a different turn and experiment with other belief systems besides the conventional ones, but I passed them up for a reason. They seemed hokey to me, complex and foreign. I needed something black and white and based on ABCs, like the law, and later, a fix for breaking the law – grace. I was satisfied with that for a while, but not totally, but I didn’t know there was anything else. But when I got frustrated enough and got a glimpse of something new, I was then ready to take another look at these other belief systems I had turned away from before, and to keep an open mind and appreciate them, rather than prejudge them. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is easier to climb at first, it just doesn’t go too far and when you realize it leaves you and others unfinished, at odds with each other, and hurting, then no one has to twist your arm (too much) to start climbing the other tree.

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13 Carol March 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Robert, I think we have the same conclusion – our faith leader could have shown us this, but didn’t. It may have taken a long time for us to see the Truth in what others told us, but we eventually got it., because that is what we wanted. While we are happy to have come closer to the Truth, how do we reach out to others who also wish to fin it, yet have been so misguided. To use an over used cliche’ “All we can do is all we can do.” Thank you for your comment.

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14 Christine Hoeflich March 16, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Josh, if only each one of us could wake up to each day ready to learn something new, we’d have a different world! The tree of life–is that also not the DNA, in a sense?

Thanks for this enlightening post Josh!

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15 anny April 18, 2013 at 6:50 am

Hi Joshua, I had also recognized the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil to be two sides of the same tree. The tree of knowledge of good and evil you can also see as the tree of duality.

When God tells both Adam and Eve that they will experience pain and sorrow as a consequence of eating the fruit of this tree, it just means that they will have to continue eating from it. Pain is ‘etsev’ in Hebrew and sorrow is ‘itsavon’. You can write these words as ‘ets-2′ and as ‘ets-2 and 50′. ‘Ets’ means tree. So they will have to continue eating from this tree of the knowledge of good and evil but the result in the end will be 50. Fifty stands for the world to come/heaven/higher awareness. It is on the fiftieth day after the exodus from Egypt that God gives the Ten Commandments; it is on the fiftieth day after the resurrection that the Holy Spirit is given. Pentecost in fact means fifty. Joshua is called the son of Nun as if that were just the name of his father. But Nun is the name of the number/character fifty and tells us that Joshua has regained his high awareness.

And there is more. As you already wrote above, man will experience thorns and thistles in their new reality. But thorn is ‘kots’ in Hebrew and that is the root of the verb ‘hakets’ which means to wake (someone) up. The thorns and thistles in our life will wake us up if we interpret them in the right way. And look at Jesus on the cross: the thorns in his life have become his crown because he used every little thing to grow. It is not another instrument of torture but a badge of honor. And all these ‘punishments’ are nothing but promises.

Anny

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16 Joshua Tilghman April 20, 2013 at 11:46 am

Anny,

Excellent comments. Thank you.

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17 anny April 21, 2013 at 8:37 am

Hi Joshua,

Re your post about the kabbalistic tree of life: with a view of my comment about take the image of Jesus with his crown of thorns and put it over the image of the kabbalistic tree of life, going all the way to the top. See what you come up with?

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18 anny April 21, 2013 at 8:39 am

I meant: with a view to my comment above

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19 Robert April 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

I found this very interesting about superimposing the images, also about the Hebrew meaning of the word for thorns and thistles.

20 anny April 22, 2013 at 7:58 am

Robert, Isn’t it interesting when we start to bring elements from different traditions together? It makes us understand all of them better because of course they are all about the same journey.

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21 Angel May 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Hi Joshua,
How refreshing to see someone with the courage to record what many of us have quietly contemplated for so long. The fear of rejection can be strong, you know. That’s certainly one thing to overcome. I own a yoga studio in Texas and on June 8th will be offering a workshop entitled: “Return to the Garden”. This workshop is available to those who are interested in exploring the symbolic meanings of the Garden and the Trees from a yogic perspective. With 20 pages or so of notes and a willingness to surrender every moment, I know the course material will unfold just in time. Questions will undoubtedly arise, but even in our current state of consciousness, when we seek God for answers, the next step will always reveal itself. Finding your website today is one of those steps for me, so thank you. If you don’t mind, I would like to list you in our training material as a source and resource. Blessings and revelations on your path, -Angel

I plan to share some of your insight and use your blog as a resource.

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22 Joshua Tilghman May 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Angel,

Thanks so much for your kind words. And I think it’s great that you are going to offer the course. There are so many people out there that intuitively know there’s more to the Bible but don’t know how to act on it. Please feel free to use the site however you wish. Many blessings and let me know how the course goes.

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23 lisa October 8, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Hi, I just wanted to say thanks to people like you, I have become to have much more peace.My daughter died almost three years ago and I was so hurt that I began crying out to god to teach me truth cause of the horrible pain. I didn’t want to hear any religious people cause I’ve been a Christian my whole life so I knew what their comments would be, and they wouldn’t be satisfying for me. I remembered the scripture that says ” the spirit will lead you into all truth” so I cried out and slowly these past three years the spirit has been teaching me all these things you are teaching but all my family made me think an evil spirit was teaching me but I knew that wasn’t the case so I began to search the internet to see if anyone else could see these things in the bible like I was seeing and here you are!! Thank You!!

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24 Joshua Tilghman October 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Thank you, Lisa. Don’t let your family steer you off the path. There’s nothing wrong with the path you are pursuing! I am truly sorry for your loss. I know you will have much to share with the world when the time is ripe. Many blessings.

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25 andy January 7, 2014 at 12:19 am

Fool….mixing lies with The Word of God. ..don’t take part of His Word and ignore the rest… if you’re going to quote Revelation, quote whoever adds or takes away from is eternally cursed…and Christ Himself said He is The Way The Truth and The Life. ..He makes you choose. ..Hes either full of it, or He is Who He says He is…. you don’t get the option of putting buddha in the same category as Christ…..

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26 Joshua Tilghman January 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Andy,

Calling someone a “fool” is not the best way to make your point. Furthermore, I would be glad to quote any part of Revelations. And I don’t think Christ “makes” you choose anything as you have pointed out. In fact, I believe the choice is all ours. That’s why we have free will. As far as Buddha is concerned, they both taught many of the same concepts, even though Buddha was around before Christ, so why can’t they be put in the same category? If the shoe fits, where it, right?

Blessings.

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27 TrueLightPrince July 17, 2014 at 10:10 am

The Bible isn’t 100% true, certain Leaders distorted things, so you wouldn’t see the higher truths. The Bible is culminated off of various spiritual teachings. You find the same concepts in books that have come long before it, so don’t be a fearful/dark man and try to wrath against other Souls. You Andy, need to not be so fearful and open your heart, then read other religions, so you can become spiritual. The Tree of Good and Evil is the Body/Finite Fear, and The Tree of Life is the Spirit/Infinite Love. We were all religious at one time, but things fail, so we try to expand and then we become Spiritual. I mean isn’t that the point. Light in Darkness. Ascension. Redemption.

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28 Tafiat January 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Good posts. I loved the poem by Anny. I would add what I see. The tree of life represents a singularity or ideal love. Romans 5:5 says that God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is therefore experienced the same way that we experience love, in our hearts. It guides us as we choose between right and wrong (moral choices). Our fall into this world allows us to experience the difference between good and evil, sorrow and joy, pain and happiness. However, through the love of the tree of life, who is Jesus Christ, and in whose image we aspire to be (reference to Anny’s poem and her statement “I am”), which sheds its light into all our hearts (Jn 1), if we allow it to singularly possess and transform us, we become one (At-one-ment) with the divine purpose and love of God the Father (Jn 17 – “that they may be one, even as we are one.”) Eternal life is to “know God” (Jn 17) who is love (1 Jn 4). In the celestial realm I imagine there is only one tree – the tree of life, a representation of God’s love. In his presence there is no duality – evil, sorrow, pain. The story of Adam and Eve is our story, a fall from grace (the tree of life), finding grace (the tree of life), and a return to God’s presence (where the tree of life is, Rev 22). Whereas before Adam and Eve (us) could be tempted by dual or counter ideas, not having experienced them first hand, we would be changed being, recreated in God’s image, which is solely love. And whereas before we might choose poorly, by his divine plan God has “proven” and “sanctified” us by what we have come to personally “know”. Only those who have purified themselves “even as he is pure” (Jn 3:1-2) by keeping his words (my words are Spirit and life) will be where God is, in his holy (pure) presence (a singularity).

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29 anny January 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Hi Tafiat,

Thanks for the compliment for the beautiful poem but it should go to Rhonda, who composed it, and not to me!

Well, I recognize the problem of mixing names. I am great at it myself.

Love,

Anny

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30 Sid February 22, 2014 at 8:57 am

What a beautiful, well- thought of piece of enlightenment, wisdom and intelligence. I would like to give something to you a sense of wonder and joy and mysticism. The Fruit from the Tree of Life is meant to be shared, offered. An offering is something one gives in order to add value to another entity’s life. Any act one does whether it is write, sing, dance, work, play and inaction- meditation, do it as an offering to Mother Earth and Father Sun, to the creatures of the planet, light and dark,
angels and demons, and the complete unity that is God
With that, I offer this to you.

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31 Joshua Tilghman March 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Sid,

Thanks for your encouragement. Your words are so true! Many blessings!

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32 Sid March 3, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Dear Joshua,

What a beautiful name. Truly, the grace of God is with you. I would like to offer you something to aid you on this journey of soul discovery. The Serpent mentioned in the book of Genesis, originally had legs. A Cherub is an angelic being with wings similar to an Eagle, a guardian of the Sky. Prior to there being religion, there was a worship of animal spirits especially Serpent worship and Eagle worship. In Mayan history, there is a being that represents an Eagle/Serpent Deity, Quetzalcoatl. The Garden of Eden is actually the Garden of God that is what is meant by the name, Eden.

Now this is where enlightenment shows, the center of the Garden of Eden is a tree. One tree, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The Eagle/Serpent deity tempts man to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, however those who are wise and careful do this.

When one is selfless, egoless, puts the desires of God, the world and others above one’s self; they gain access to the tree of life. The Tree of life are the roots to the tree of knowledge, roots planted in the Garden of Eden or in the Garden of God.

God has many names across different cultures, why because God is the God of Farming. God is the God of Wisdom. God is the God of Pleasure. Those different names are different aspects of one Source, one mind, one consciousness. After all the word Maya is illusion, however the word Brahman refers to the awareness of everything, nothing, everything. Yahweh Elohim, the God of the Canaanites speaks volumes to those who listen, know and understand. The memories of the Past, Present and Future.

Serve the Lord, completely with one’s heart and truly understand what does God desire and one will be surprised that man and God share many commonalities.

Last, God is everywhere, nowhere and in all things, living and nonliving, across multiple universes, dimensions and timelines, M- theory.

I hope this helps people, Joshua, you and your family because there is God in all of you. This is what I practice in a daily basis. Just serving God, serving as in giving, giving to add value.

If this message adds value to you that is all that matters…

Cool.

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33 TERRY February 27, 2014 at 12:18 am

Is there anymore enlightenment regarding the tree of life? I am urged to learn everything about it so I can apply it to my life. What do you suggest?

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34 Joshua Tilghman March 1, 2014 at 11:22 am

Terry,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, there is a ton more information. You can start by reading this post: http://www.spiritofthescripture.com/id1519-the-kabbalistic-tree-of-life-and-the-tree-in-the-book-of-revelations-compared.html

But to really get into the meat of it, you should study Kabbalah. You will find all the information you need there.

Blessings.

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35 Brian May 5, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Josh,
I love the picture of the tree shaped like a human head. Do you. Happen to know the artist?
Peace,
Brian

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36 Joshua Tilghman May 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Brian,

No idea. Got it off a google free image search, but it is pretty neat.

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