Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Spiritual Symbolism of Plants


We know from scripture and revelation, that all plants are symbolic of spiritual things. Take for example some of the parables of Jesus:

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow.And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matt. 13:3-9)
When asked by His disciples to reveal the meaning of the parable, He then reveals the internal hidden meaning: the seed is the Word of God:

Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. (Matt. 13:18-19)

A "seed" is symbolic of truth that is implanted in one's heart.  If one accepts the truth, that there is a God, that one must live by His commandments, that little seed will begin to grow.  And if it grows properly, it will bear fruit:
But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matt. 13:23)
The "fruit" one bears is when one applies the truth to one's life. One begins to do good out of the love that grows within: not for the sake of self-honor or appearance.  In everything that is done, the deed is judged by one's intention. Good deeds done for the sake of merit or self-reward are not good, those are done for the sake of selfishness. One must learn to kill the "ego" within that seeks to rule over everything. Those who don't...well that is what psychiatrists call "narcissism."

This spiritual symbolism is not only applicable to this parable, it is a generic symbolism that can be applied to all of scripture.  And not only that, the symbolism can be applied to the entire world of plants. The entire vegetable kingdom has a spiritual correspondence, and this is what Emanuel Swedenborg saw in his heavenly visions:
When angels are discoursing about things of intelligence and wisdom, and about perceptions and knowledges, then the influx from them into corresponding societies of spirits, falls into representations of such things as are in the vegetable kingdom; as into representations of paradises, of vineyards, of forests, of meadows with flowers, and into other beauties, which exceed all human imagination. Hence it is, that those things which are of wisdom and intelligence are described in the Word by paradises, vineyards, forests, meadows; and that where these things are named, such things are signified. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3220)

When researching the modern botanical taxonomy for the plant kingdom, I discovered a lot of it was in flux. This is due to the fact that major strides are being made in genetic research.  But the downside of this is that science tends to ignore the form and function of living organisms.  On different planets, life can evolve in different ways according to the environment. But I believe that common patterns will appear, according to discrete degrees of order.  This is because a life organism will evolve according to use.  That is, if the form is useful, allowing for better survival, the life organism will probably evolve that way.  For example, our wisdom teeth are no longer useful, our jaws have decreased in size.  In some humans, the wisdom teeth have disappeared entirely. We still have left over remnants from our older evolution: e.g., we have an appendix, a tailbone, etc. They are no longer useful, or serve their original use, but were necessary steps in order to reach the human form.

As stated in the previous blog, we can divide the plant kingdom into seven stages, which closely follows its historical evolutionary past over the past millions of years:

STAGE 1. Mostly unicellular, or undistinguished multicellular, with no nucleus (Bacteria and Archaea)

STAGE 2. Mostly unicellular, or undistinguished multicellular, with no nucleus, ability of photosynthesis (Cyanobacteria)

Note: Cyanobacteria is a transitional category. Thus originally it was categorized among the algae, and now its listed among the bacteria. It is an important transitional step in evolution, and the only bacteria that can photsynthesize light. Thus I am listing it in the second stage.
STAGE 3. Unicellular or multicellular, with nucleus (Eukarotic cells), not highly organized (Algae, Fungi, Lichens). Lichens are a combination of a fungi with a photosynthetic partner, either Algae or Cyanobacteria.

STAGE 4. Distinguished multicellular, (Bryophytes).  Specialized tissues for different organs.
Note: in the previous blog I stated stage 4 was Embryophyta (following Arthur M. Young's example). That is incorrect, as it includes vascular plants. It should be Bryophyta.

STAGE 5. Vascular plants, spores only (Pteridophytes, etc.)

STAGE 6. Vascular plants, unenclosed seeds (Gymnosperm)
Coincidentally, I just noticed in the above diagram there are 7 stages in the lifecycle of the Gymnosperm seed.  I will have to take a look at that! Note it is a circular cycle.  I am suspecting there are other patterns in the other stages...I am just touching on the surface here...the smallest part of existence explains the whole.
STAGE 7. Vascular plants, enclosed seeds in flowers (Angiosperm)

In the seventh and final stage, we finally get fruit-bearing plants.

One thing to note, is that the discrete orders are cumulative: we see photosynthesis from stage 2 onwards, Eukarotic (nucleus) cells from stage 3 onwards, distinguished multicellular plants from stage 4 onwards, vascular plants from stage 5 onwards, then specialized seeds in stage 6, ending in flowers in stage 7. The symbolism of the seed is important in scripture, thus the form of the seed is important in classifying the plants.


I have been blogging about the seven planes of existence, as originally proposed by Arthur M. Young in his book The Reflexive Universe, but with corrections. There are seven discrete orders by which the universe has been created.  They are:
1. Space-time
2. Subatomic particles, including light
3. Atoms
4. Molecules
5. Plants
6. Animals & Man
7. (An unknown state of existence: the spiritual world of heaven and hell)
In the first plane, we have the dimensions of space-time.  Some physicists and mathematicians state there are seven dimensions -- or more (String Theory says 11).  Mathematically, the universe as we know it cannot be explained using just 3 dimensions - higher level math in physics is showing that there are more than 3. But I will get back to that later. The important thing to note is that unicellular organisms, beginning with bacteria, are a microcosm of the universe.  We see this little circular blobs expanding and growing. Likewise we live in a universe that is accelerating, similar to a little circular blob. We should not think of space-time as nothing, but a bubble. The discovery of the Higgs-Boson shows that there is a universal field throughout space, from which mass is created.

In the second plane, we have subatomic particles, including light. Thus in the second stage of existence, plants acquire the ability to photosynthesize light.  Light is symbolic of the truth, thus the plant kingdom corresponds to spiritual truths.

In the third plane, we have atoms which have formed a nucleus. In the third stage of plants, plants are formed from Eukarotic cells, which have a nucleus. Just as the DNA determines the kind of life organism that gets created, so the atomic number - the number of protons in the atomic nucleus - determines the properties of the atom.

In the fourth plane, we have molecules, with many different properties. In the fourth stage of plants, plants begin to have differentiated cell tissues.

In the fifth plane and higher, we have life forms. It is in the fifth stage that plants become vascular: that is, they start to form stems, stalks and trunks by which they can grow upward.  We see a progression towards the sky, thus the overall progression is spiritual, one that leans towards heaven.

It took millions of years to reach these higher stages...and it is only recently that science has discovered the facts concerning these stages of existence.  And it is from these facts that we can derive spiritual truths from correspondences, once we know of the seven discrete degrees of order.


I would like to concentrate a little bit on the spiritual correspondence between the nucleus of the atom, and the nucleus of Eukaryotic cells. It is from these Eukaryotic cells that all plants and animals have formed, so it is an important stage of existence. Is there a correspondence between the atomic nucleus, and the nucleus of DNA of living cells?  We have seen this before. The atomic nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons:

And here is the nucleus of Eukaryotic cells:

A nucleus is surrounded by a nuclear envelope, and within the nucleus, there is the nucleolus. Within the nucleolus the complicated process of transcribing ribosomal RNA takes place. Whereas the atomic nucleus is composed of a collection of protons and neutrons, the cellular nucleus is composed of a small nucleolus inside the bigger ball of the nucleus. It is a higher level of complexity: as the DNA in the nucleolus determines the form and functions of the life organism, so the atomic number of the atom - the number of protons - determines the nature of the atom. Thus in simple life forms, we see similar cells joining together to become multicellular, after which in the next stage multicellular organisms develop distinguished tissues.

The nucleus of living organisms - is the simplest seed of all.  Cell division can be symbolically represented by two intersecting circles:

The intersection of the two circles forms the vesica piscis, which of course is the symbol of Christianity:

In the incarnation - something mysterious happened - where Jehovah became incarnate in human form from the virgin Mary. Somehow, human parthenogenesis occurred, but instead of a female (as one would expect with XX chromosomes) there was a male (XY chromosomes).  In the parables of scripture, the seed that is planted is the Word of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. ...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-2, 14)
And coincidentally, the fish sign - the vesica piscis - became the symbol of Christianity. But back then, no one knew about cell division, that would only become known centuries later.

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