People and Trees: Intimately Connected Through the Ages

Trees are considered sacred in many cultures. Tree worship, in one form or another, has been practiced almost universally by ancient peoples in every corner of the globe.Tree of LifeFeatured Image: Tree of Life by Judith Shaw

Trees Speak to the Soul of Human Beings

It is no wonder that trees have captured the human imagination since the beginning of time. Their strength, deeply rooted in the Earth, is an inspiration. Their trunk and branches are a wonder of nature because they stand sturdy and impenetrable most of the time, yet they can flex and sway with the wind when needed.
The whisper of a breeze in their leaves or the sight of ants marching in a straight line up or down their trunks remind us of the magic of nature that trees embody. They live for hundreds or even thousands of years, and so we revere them as keepers of past secrets and sentinels of the future.
Watching their cycles of growth, shedding of leaves, and re-flowering in the spring, people have long perceived trees as powerful symbols of life, death, and renewal. Since the beginning of time, humans have had a sense that trees are sentient beings just like us, that they can feel pain, that they bleed when they are hurt. Trees even look like us. People have a trunk; trees have arms. And so we innately feel a deep connection to them.
Many people say they can feel a tree’s vibrational energy when placing their hand upon its bark. With their deep roots, trees carry significant grounding energy. We naturally feel peace and serenity when walking in the shade of trees or on a forest trail.

Trees Help Us Every Day

A recent study shows that trees remove so much pollution from the air that they “prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone.” When an insect called the emerald ash borer killed off a significant number of trees in the American Midwest in the 1990’s and 2000’s, rates of human death from cardiovascular and respiratory illness increased.
More difficult to quantify is the psychological effect that trees have on people. People who spend time outdoors, or even those who have access to windows looking out at trees, have been shown to have better health than those who do not.

The Universal Tree of Life: Both Ancient and Modern

The concept of a Tree of Life, often symbolizing the connections between all life forms, is found in many religions and philosophies, dating back as early as ancient Egypt. The Egyptian tree of life symbolized creation and represented the chain of events that brought everything into existence.
Fast forward to modern science. The tree has become the quintessential symbol of biological evolution, as its ever-branching image poignantly depicts the unmistakable interconnections between all living species on the Earth.
The beautiful Tree of Life painting at the top of the article was shared with us by artist Judith Shaw. It was inspired by the ancient symbol of the Tree of Life as well as by Sacred Geometry.

91The Tree Leaf and Eternal Life

Consider this beautiful commentary from Thich Nhat Hanh reflecting on a tree leaf:

“I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’

… That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf because it is not afraid-it knew nothing can be born and nothing can die.”

thay-2013Cultural Beliefs About Trees

Trees are considered sacred in virtually every place where humans have settled.
There are many profound beliefs surrounding trees that people have held for millennia.
Here are some interesting and touching examples:

  • For the Sng’oi people of Malaysia, a person and a tree can belong with each other, and this relationship is maintained for life. Certain trees and certain people belong together. When a person belongs with a tree, they also belong with its offspring: any trees that grow from the seeds of the first tree, no matter how far the seeds may scatter. The Sng’oi people call upon their intuition to know which child trees have sprung from which parent trees.
  • The World Tree is said to dwell in three worlds: Its roots reach down to the underworld, its trunk sits on the Earth, and its branches extend up to the heavens. Many cultures share a belief that this tree is the Axis Mundi or World Axis which supports or holds up the cosmos. For the Mayan peoples, the Axis Mundi was a massive Ceiba (in other cultures, it is called Kapok) tree that stands at the center of the world. The Mayan beliefs reflect that human souls first came into being as the sacred white flowers on the branches of the Ceiba tree. Souls of the dead Mayan ancestors rose from the roots of the Axis Mundi up through its branches and into the celestial realms.
  • In Germanic regions, it was believed that mankind was created from tree trunks, echoing the perception that people and trees have much in common.
  • In Sweden, some trees were considered “wardens” and could guard a home from bad luck. The warden was usually a very old tree growing on the lot near the home. The family living there had such great respect for the tree that they would often adopt a surname related to the name of the tree.
  • yggdrasil_by_seless-d4caiaxA well-known sacred tree in Norse mythology was Yggdrasil, a giant ash tree that was said to link and shelter the nine worlds that were believed to exist.
  • In Irish and English folklore, fairies would be found wherever Ash, Oak, and Hawthorne trees grew together. Hawthorn trees were regarded as a powerful symbol of protection, and were often planted near houses to ward off lightning as well as evil spirits. On the dawn of Beltane, it was believed that women who bathed in the dew from a Hawthorne blossom would become beautiful, and men who washed their hands in the dew would become skilled craftsmen.
  • Buddhists have a deep reverence for the Bodhi tree, a type of fig tree with heart-shaped leaves, beneath which the Buddha is said to have meditated for 49 days, trying to reconcile his mind to the fact that there was suffering in the world. On the 49th day, he stood and thanked the tree for providing shade for him, and in that instant he attained enlightenment. Today, in the same location where the Buddha is believed to have sat, there grows a descendant of that same Bodhi tree. Buddhist myths say that the tree will live there until the world is destroyed, and the place where it grows will be the last place to be destroyed; and when the world is reborn, that site will be the first place to appear.
  • The villagers of Piplantri, in Rajasthan, India, celebrate the birth of each little girl by planting 111 trees in her honor. The entire village works together to plant and care for the trees. This tradition not only ensures that the environment will be able to support the increasing population of the village, but it has also brought harmony and a drop in crime to the village.
  • In Malaysia, people maintain a very intimate relationship with trees. “There is a practice of tree planting around houses to the extent that the walls and wooden structures are allowed to give way to the roots of creeping plants, purposely sown at the bases of these structures.” The graveyards in Malaysia are covered so thickly with trees that the entire grounds are cool and sheltered from the tropical sun. The trees are allowed to take root into the graves and it is said that the trees whisper prayers to the creator asking for forgiveness of past transgressions of those buried in that place.


Native American Peace Pipe And The Sacred Meaning to Native Americans

A Native American peace pipe is often used in a spiritual ceremony. During the ceremony, Native Americans will smoke from the peace pipe and say a prayer to the four directions.
The Native American peace pipe is not restricted to being used only be Native Americans, but it is a spiritual thing and what it symbolizes must be respected by everyone attending the ceremony. Other types of pipes used in ceremonies were the medicine pipe and the war pipe. The Indian that carried the peace pipe was often allowed to pass through enemy territory out of respect. The war pipe had red feathers symbolizing blood and was smoked before going into battle.
What a Native American peace pipe is made of may vary from tribe to tribe. The Cherokee and Chickasaw tribes often used river clay that was formed into a bowl shape then “cooked” by putting it over a hot fire for the bowl of a peace pipe. Bluestone is hard quartzite that is greenish blue. Found in the Appalachian Mountains, it was used for the bowl of a pipe by the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw as well. The Eastern, Western, Great Basin and Plains Tribes often used red pipestone (also known as catlinite) to make their Native American peace pipes. Another form of catlinite called blue pipestone is used in some Native American peace pipes. This type of stone can be found in South Dakota. The Plains tribes also use black pipestone while the Shoshone and Ute sometimes use green pipestone. The Uncompahgre Ute of central Colorado mine salmon alabaster to make their peace pipe bowls.

The Plains Indians often carried the Native American peace pipes in a bag called a pipe bundle. This bundle was decorated on the outside and also was used to carry the tobacco that would be used in the pipe. The Native Americans considered tobacco to be a sacred and powerful plant. If help was needed from the spirit world, sometimes tobacco would be offered in return for help. It was believed that the smoke from the Native American peace pipe carried prayers up to the heavens.

You can make your own peace pipe. The most desired material to make a peace pipe bowl from is the red pipestone. That is because the red pipestone is very easy to carve with a knife when it is first quarried. It then later turns hard after exposure to the air. There are many solutions as to what to use for the stem, which should be about 20 inches long. You can use a hollow reed or bamboo. You can also use a hollow bone like the leg bone of a deer or the wing bone of a large bird. If you do not have access to either of those, you can cut a stem from a tree (such as a maple, willow, or poplar). After you split it down the middle, dig out the inside and glue the pieces back together. It should join easily so the split is hidden.

Secrets In Plain Sight – Macrocosmic Harmony

The best temples serve as bridges between human scale and the macrocosm. When Beverly Spicer sent me the following image, something clicked and I understood the human body, the Sphinx and the Pyramids in a new way. I’m not sure which book this black-and-white geometric analysis of Pharaoh Rameses II was scanned from—it appears to be mirrored all over the Internet.


The nemes headcloth has distinctive, straight-edged folds, which imply an intersection point above the head. Nested equilateral triangles locate the pharaoh’s third eye appropriately as an all-seeing-eye in the center of the triangle (like the eye of providence on the dollar bill).

That reminds me of an image I made recently. Here is essentially what I wrote about it on Facebook:

Beauty is experienced in the world, love in the body, and truth in the mind. The eye of horus in the center symbolizes the view of any observer. The transcendentals are ontologically one and thus they are convertible: e.g., where there is truth, there is beauty and love also. The transcendentals are irreducible qualities of awareness. The circle represents the seeming boundary between your interior sensations, thoughts, and perceptions and your exterior body, mind, and world.


Just as the transcendental qualities of awareness (love, beauty, truth) are ontologically one, so too are the trinity of data types you experience. How far from your awareness are your sensations, perceptions or thoughts? Examine your experience and you will see that there is no distance.

Do the thoughts running through your mind take place in a fundamentally different place than the sensations of your body or your perceptions of the world? They are all convertible because all this data is experienced by awareness and yet we have no trouble identifying which channel the information flows through. There is a fundamental and irreducible trinity to awareness.

I now see this ontological trinity as the fountainhead of relationships such as Isis/Horus/Osiris, Mary/Jesus/Holy-Spirit, and even Neutron/Proton/Electron.

Following a hunch I wanted to see if the Sphinx’s nemes followed the same pattern. I discovered that the pattern is similar but is also subtly different. The Sphinx’s nemes doesn’t imply nested triangles but the uraeus symbolizing the pharaoh’s pineal gland is located in the center of the vesica piscis as indicated by the crossed red lines. Incidentally, I described how to draw this image step-by-step in the latest installment of my Photoshop User Magazine column, Beyond Photoshop.


Zooming out, the G2 pyramid also appears to fit the pattern.


It clicked for me when I realized that the geometric template for the Sphinx is the same as the geometric template for the Great Pyramid that I published in my book Quantification. The edge of the inscribed equilateral triangle measures 555.5 feet in the Great Pyramid.


In this way the House of the Temple (it was never a tomb) is a macrocosm of the Body carved on the Sphinx. Zooming out once again, the Engraved Hourglass Nebula is a macrocosm of that House. As above, so below.


The above image wonderfully illustrates Mircea Eliade’s homology, Body—House—Cosmos, from his book “The Sacred and the Profane” (1959).

A big synchronicity for me is that I learned about this three-level holographic homology not from reading Eliade but from reading Beverly Spicer’s excellent book and PhD thesis from the School of Architecture at the University of Texas called, “The Ka’bah: Rhythms of Culture, Faith and Physiology,” which she was kind enough to send me. Remember Beverly was the person who sent me the black-and-white Rameses II image? That whole sequence of events was quite illuminating!

Speaking of illumination, did you know that the human eye is most sensitive to a wavelength of 555 nanometers, which forms the center point of our visual perception? At other frequencies, more radiant intensity is required to achieve the same luminous intensity.

See how the colors are strongest in the middle of the color ramp and fade away as they approach the infrared and ultraviolet ends of the spectrum? 555 nm marks the midpoint.

555 Nanometers

The peak luminous intensity of sunlight also has a wavelength of 555 nanometers. This should be no surprise because our eyes evolved, or perhaps were designed to view the light of our particular Sun. The beauty of repeating 5’s harmonizing our visual perception, 5 symbolizing life, is not lost on me.

After reading a stimulating article Joe Dubs linked on Facebook entitled, “The Pythagorean Relationship Between Pi, e, and Phi” by Peter Felicetti, I realized I already knew the content, but I hadn’t considered the following geometry algebraically before. One can arrange Phi, Pi and e as an almost perfect Pythagorean triangle, but there is a tiny gap that I labeled “The Mystery” at the end of my article on Graham Hancock’s site.

This mystery is drawn to scale

When I saw it algebraically, a few more puzzle pieces fit together and it is no longer a mystery to me but a harmonious work of rational design from a very high level.

Tech note: I realize that some of my detailed graphics might be hard to see. I recommend pressing Command+ on the Mac or Ctrl+ on Windows several times to enlarge the content displayed in your browser. Use Command/Ctrl- to make it smaller later on.

The Quadrivium

The same gap that we hear between twelve just perfect fifths and seven octaves (known as the Cycle of Fifths or the Pythagorean comma), the relationship of transcendental constants arranged in a Pythagorean triangle, and the orbital mechanics of our planet are all related because we are living in a mathematical construct. This was known long ago.

“All is number.” -Pythagoras

The above image expresses the quadrivium: number, geometry, music, and astronomy. In other words, number in itself, number in space, number in time, and number in spacetime.

I knew the Solar Year also factors in the Earth’s equatorial circumference—the following equation was published by John Michell and Robin Heath in The Lost Science of Measuring the Earth. I made this illustration commemorating this important relationship, one that essentially defines the foot.


Speaking of Michell and Heath, they were the authors who deciphered the 5:12:13 triangle and its connection with the lunar cycle. When I was researching extending the Pythagorean theorem into three dimensions, I came across a diagram connecting the 5:12:13 and 3:4:5 triangles. That, and studying Gary Osborn’s work, inspired me to put together this image showing how dynamics related to the Earth, Moon and Sun emerge from something as fundamental to geometry as the first two Pythagorean triples.

Number in space and spacetime

Earth’s orbital circumference has certain clear resonances with our measurement systems.


Bringing together what I wrote about in Cubits, in my book Taking Measure: Explorations in Number, Architecture and Consciousness, and from my recent experience participating in Graham Hancock’s forums when I was author of the month, these pieces now fit together with greater clarity.


Michael Kuser wrote something on my wall that inspired the following image. The first part shows the combined diagonals of the cubes bounding Earth and Moon compared to their average distance from the Sun are proportioned as the foot is to the mile (99.3%).
Lawrence Edlund discovered that the average distance of the Earth to the Sun compared to the distance light travels in one revolution of the Earth around the Sun are proportioned as the inch is to the mile (99.9%).
I put two and two together and graphically show how our units of measure resonate with our local macrocosm.


In “Rotations” you see more proof that our system is a product of base-10 design. The Moon’s orbital period with respect to the fixed stars is 27.3 Earth days. Earth actually rotates 366.3 times per year relative to the stars because the orbital motion of the Earth around the Sun causes roughly one additional rotation of the planet on its own axis. Here is what Knight and Butler had to say about this phenomenon in Before the Pyramids (p240), where they describe how the megalithic system is based on the division of a circle into 366 units:

“In a solar year the Sun rises 365 times but, during the same time, a star will have risen 366 times. It sounds odd but it’s true. Each day according to the rising of a star (a sidereal day), is 23 hours 56 minutes 4 seconds in length, whereas a mean solar day is 24 hours in length. That leaves a discrepancy of 236 seconds, which over the course of a year amounts to another 24 hours. It is part of the clockwork mechanism of our solar system that there are different sorts of years, dependent on what one is observing. Our megalithic and pre-megalithic ancestors in Britain focused on the number of times a star rose in a year, and the result was 366 times [366.3 with one more digit of accuracy].”


Tonight I realized that the product of these rotations, 27.3 x 366.3 = 9999.99. What are the chances? I can’t begin to calculate the astronomical odds against such a numeric symmetry if our planet and its natural satellite were formed by random processes. Note that this product is independent of units and calculated solely on number of Earth rotations relative to our Moon and Sun.

Peter Plichta’s book God’s Secret Formula: Deciphering the Riddle of the Universe and the Prime Number Code taught me that 1/27.3 ≈ 0.03663 and 1/366.3 ≈ 0.00273, which you can easily verify with a calculator.

The ratio of the polar diameter of the Earth to the polar diameter of the Moon is 3.663 and vice-versa, the reciprocal ratio is 0.273 with more than 99.9% accuracy. This means the Earth and Moon system’s rotations and sizes are related in a reciprocal mathematical relationship.

Of course this is another example of what I have called “The Mystery of 273,” in this page out of Quantification.

The Mystery of 273 (update)

Is what we call “conscious thought” incredibly rare in the grand scheme of things, relegated as it is to 2-3mm of neocortex on the surface of our brains?
We and all other organisms on this planet live in a thin biospherical shell 2-3 miles thick. The Earth orbits the Sun in the sweet spot where oceans are kept liquid and the planet retains a transparent atmosphere so perfect for astronomy and our survival. A planetary magnetic field and ozone layer shields us from the charged particles continually pouring out of the Sun, along with many variables conductive to life being fortuitously fine-tuned.

Our system orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy in another sweet spot, a circular band where products of stellar fusion such as elements heavier than helium are plentiful enough, but star formation isn’t still so active that we are bombarded out of existence. In this light, consciousness appears to be a gossamer membrane, a rare and exquisite miracle in all the cold vastness of space. This membrane/shell structure is another Body—House—Cosmos homology if you think about it.


The following comparison highlights another possibility. The neuronal structures within our brains, roads (which evolved organically around Paris rather than through city planning as in much of North America), and the large-scale structure of the universe (simulated on the Max Planck supercomputer) all exhibit the same specific branching, filamentous pattern. Come to think of it, so too do mushroom mycelial mats, and maps of the entire Internet. What these disparate phenomena have in common is that they are all information processing networks.


If we view Paris from the level of cars, then roads don’t seem to be self-aware. If we view the large-scale structure of the universe from the vantage point of supercomputer simulations computed on Earth, it doesn’t seem self-aware. If we were able to view a neural structure from the point of view of electrons it probably wouldn’t seem self aware to them either, just a kind of electrical network.

However, when we use our own neural structure to introspect, then awareness is self-evident. It’s really a question of which way you are looking. If the universe looked inward, then it presumably would be self-evident that it is self-aware, including all its in-formation including suns, planets, cities, roads, people, neurons, electrons, etc.

The amazing thing is we experience this same self-awareness at our level. We are a microcosm of larger wholes and have microcosms within. Perhaps cells are also self-aware, coordinating the activities at their tiny scale. The organism of which they are a part wouldn’t seem to be self-aware to them at all. Talk about all that would seem like mere philosophy.


This is yet another example of the Body—House—Cosmos homology. The human built environment accessed by roads, our “House,” is a macrocosm of the neurons in our Body, and the large-scale Cosmos is a macrocosm of our House. It is the same form, harmonizing and coordinating information at vastly different scales.

The universe itself looks like it might literally be “the mind of God,” a self-aware matrix in the process of creating complex in-formation. Awareness is not rare, but the ground of being. There has only ever been, is, or ever will be awareness being aware of itself.

That said, our limited form of consciousness might be rare and in a way, precious. We occupy the privileged position of being right in the middle of it all.


However, our awareness doesn’t require human minds anymore than the Sun requires a candle for illumination.


Everything is sacred, everything is precious.