Ever since the human imagination began to evolve images and myths to explain the enigma of physical existence, the tree has provided an essential and supreme primordial symbol of ascent, regeneration, immortality and salvation. The concept of a mighty tree, the Tree of Life, penetrating and uniting the three levels of the invisible and visible cosmos, took symbolic shape: a vast pillar or central axis, its roots immersed in the soil and waters of the underworld (the unconscious), its trunk and lower branches passing through Earth (the conscious) and its topmost boughs reaching up to the light of the heavens (the superconscious). In this imagery, the Tree of Life, Cosmic Tree, was perceived as a conduit for celestial energy flowing from a divine source and permeating the creation. Hence, the symbol often appears inverted, with its foliage on Earth and its roots in heaven, drawing down spiritual nourishment from above. Particularly majestic trees and those that bear valued fruit were held to be sacred by some cultures.
The immortal, incorruptible conifer
Deciduous trees “die” and shed their golden brown leaves in autumn and are “reborn” in their fresh green raiment of spring, suggesting in this cycle the eternal, cosmic processes of germination, growth, proliferation, death and regeneration. But even more sublime is the image of the ceaseless, inexhaustible life process encompassed by the Cosmic Tree, synon ymous with incorruptibility, immortality and the concept of “life without death”, which represents “absolute reality”. This higher symbolism belongs to the evergreens: the conifers (the pine, fir, spruce, cedar, cypress, juniper etc) and their relatives. Their primacy is also inherent in their antiquity, dating back to the close of the Palaeozoic era. Indeed, the most majestic trees of all, the giant sequoia and its cousin the coastal redwood, are both conifers. Yet, it is a seemingly humbler member of the order that has had the exalted designation, Tree of Life, bestowed upon it: thuja occi dentalis, the northern white cedar, and homeopathic provings and cures have substantiated this entitlement. Like Lachesis, which of all snakes has proved the very embodiment of the snake archetype, among trees, Thuja is the supreme healer, even the lordly oak having to yield precedence.
The sycotic archetype
Synchronicity and the intuitive, inquiring mind of Hahnemann provided us with this remarkable remedy very early in the development of the homeopathic materia medica. A young clergyman sought Hahnemann’s advice regarding an irritating, greenish, urethral discharge with inflammation and swelling of the genitals. On questioning, he stoutly denied any sexual contact that could have accounted for his affliction. Respecting his honesty, Hahnemann refrained from prescribing and asked him to report again in three days. On his return, all symptoms had passed away and he confessed to an unusual feeling of wellbeing. He then recalled that whilst sauntering through a garden he had broken off and chewed a sprig of Arbor vitae (Tree of Life); the discharge had commenced shortly afterwards. This episode led to provings, which confirmed that Thuja occidentalis was capable of producing phenomena identical to gonorrhoea, including its chronic consequences, and was the pre-eminent remedy for the gonorrhoea-related sycotic constitution (sycosis). In his introduction to the symptom picture of the remedy, Hahnemann wrote: “… the pure effects of this uncommonly powerful medicinal substance will be regarded by the homoeopathic practitioner as a great addition to his medicinal treasury, and he will not fail to make a useful application of it in some of the most serious diseases of mankind, for which hitherto there has been no remedy”. He did not exaggerate!
Thuja is one of our greatest remedies for the ills caused by humanity’s efforts to escape the stress of a troubled world through wine, women and song. It has proved invaluable in the treatment of addiction to alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs (especially cannabis) and even the excess consumption of tea, coffee, sweets and salt. It is often called for in sexually transmitted diseases and to assist the victims of sexual abuse. Both predator and prey may need it. When a person feels deep self contempt, Thuja should be considered. Sufferers from gonorrhoea, like the victims of rape, experience shame and a sense of being soiled or stained. This creates self loathing and feelings of worthlessness. It is a sense of being a pariah, an object for contempt, different and inferior to others. They feel they have something reprehensible and unwholesome to hide. Thuja may indulge in compulsive hand washing in an unconscious attempt to cleanse or absolve themselves. It has the delusion: “thinks his blood is dirty or poisoned”. Thuja will often compensate for this perceived inferiority by cultivating an image of excellence and immaculate perfection.
The Tree of Life and Death
From the beginning a duality was discerned in the mythology of the Tree of Life. Genesis reveals the presence of two sacred trees in Eden: the Tree of Life paralleled by a Tree of Death. Through the Tree of Life, humanity ascends from ist lower nature to spiritual realisation, salvation and release from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth; through the Tree of Knowledge, comes the “fall”, the descent into materialism and bondage to intellect and the flesh. However, though they stand in contention, the two
trees are one, being representations of the same idea of spiritual struggle and transformation, since it is only by death of the mortal (the ego personality) that the immortal (the soul) can truly live. This is the terrain of Thuja.
A homeopathic remedy being in dynamic form, touches the collective unconscious, which is the realm of myth, and in a sensitive subject will give vent to often deeply repressed images through dreams and imagination. Remedy, archetype, myth, universal consciousness, the personal psyche and disease dance together in timeless patterns choreographed in eternity. Thuja elicits a sense of being double, split in two, on waking of being unable to tell which part he has possession of, that mind and body are separated and, most significantly, that the soul is separated from the body or that the body is too small for the soul. In step with the cosmic dance, the pathogen, Neisseria gonorrhoea , is a diplococcus, comprising two kidney shaped cocci within a single membrane: a symbol of duality and the collision and conflict of the sacred and the profane. This “war” is also the terrain of Thuja.
Long before Genesis was written, the serpent or dragon had become inextricably entwined in the metaphor of the Tree of Life. It was synonymous with the animating force that coursed through the tree and also the guardian of its fruit or treasure. In images of the Great Goddess in every culture, the serpent is never far away, standing behind her, eating from her hand, wreathed round her tree, or even presenting in the shape of the goddess herself. In the Neolithic period the serpent was the Lord of Rebirth, inspiring and presiding over the shedding of the lower self, but in Judaeo-Christian tradition, the serpent in Eden has transformed into his evil shadow, a tempter towards the “fall”, the instigator of (spiritual) death, with whom Eve, the fallen goddess, is in league. In this patriarchal allegory we are persuaded that human nature, especially when feminine, is inherently inclined to corrupt and betray all that is sacred within it. This falling from grace (although not gender related) is often the plight of both Thuja and Lachesis. Thuja even dreams of falling and of being overwhelmingly heavy. There is much of the snake in the picture of Thuja: ailments are predominantly left sided (the feminine side) and often worse on waking; a sense of being double; jealousy, suspicion, secretiveness, deceit; rapid talkativeness; but most significantly the war between the higher and lower selves leading to religious despair. Two powerful elements in both archetypes are mysticism and sensuality. Sexual fantasy and feelings clash with religious aspiration and tear them apart.
The etymology of Thuja
The derivation of the word Thuja comes from the Greek word thyra meaning to sacrifice or thusia a burnt offering for the gods. Thuias (plural: thuiades ) means raving woman, a generic name for a maenad (bacchante) who worshipped the orgiastic god, Dionysos (Bacchus), god of wine, who was also the lord of trees. Thrysus was a wand or staff consisting originally of a fennel stalk, but later, a vine or ivy twined fir branch tipped with a pine cone: the emblem of Dionysos, fre quently brandished by his votaries in their wild processions and sensual dances. The cone itself is a phallic symbol of masculine, generative power. The mythical counterparts of the maenads were the satyrs (sileni), part human and part animal. They loved to sing and dance, drink wine and chase maenads whilst in a state of perpetual sexual arousal. The religious congregation of the fanatical and frequently frenzied followers of Dionysos was known as the holy thiasus All these correspondences pertain to Thuja.