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Jan 14, 2005
The Vortical Tree

The tree of life is a well-known concept in the ancient cultures. An increasing number of scholars now concede that the mythical tree was essentially a symbol of the cosmic axis, the column that links the rotational poles of the earth to the poles of heaven as they appear from any place on earth. Seeing the connection of the tree to the axis is an important step, but it is only the first of many to follow.

The axis as it appears today is no more than an abstraction, describing the movement of the stars and placing a grid on the map of the heavens. The mystery is that ancient cultures unanimously and insistently described the axis as a visible object, a stupendous pillar of light dominating the ancient sky. Myths and early cosmological traditions of many cultures attribute a large number of features to the axis-column. All seem nonsensical when referred to the current axis, but make excellent sense if the object described was a plasma configuration centered at the celestial pole, where such a configuration would be expected in an electrically active sky.

Shown above is a damaged fragment of an Assyrian bronze sheet, decorated with hammered representations in zones. Archaeologists have concluded that it was produced in an Assyrian workshop in the 8th century BCE but subsequently transported to Greece, where it was reused as part of the clothing of a statue; this took place in the 2nd quarter of the 7th century BCE. The sheet is presently exhibited in the museum at the site of ancient Olympia, on the Peloponnesus.

The fragment shown depicts the tree of life. The ovoid 'fan' on top and the flanking pair of goats are standard features of the Mesopotamian tree, confirming that the image represents the tree of life. The three superimposed pairs of branches end in volutes. Such curling branches are also encountered in other representations of the cosmic tree.

Specialists tend to quietly gloss over such peculiar features, failing to answer the question as to which species of tree provided the prototype for the spiraling branches. Instead, they label the tree as 'stylized'. But if the tree were 'stylized', one wonders why the goats look so natural. In addition, the same kind of 'stylization' is encountered in the very earliest Mesopotamian depictions of the tree, with no indication of a gradual process of stylization over time. The 'stylized' trees were there from the start.

If the tree of life represented a plasma column rising along the polar axis, the volute-branches receive an immediate, natural explanation. The distinguished plasma physicist Anthony Peratt has outlined the evolution of a high-energy plasma discharge column that formed a few thousand years ago and was accurately recorded in petroglyphs. The column consisted of a stack of plasmoids that, when flattened, compared to the branches of the tree of life. At some point in the development of the column, these plasmoids began to warp and curl, eventually leading to extensive merger. The curling branches of the 'stylized' tree of the ancients look like recordings of this event more than anything else. Thus, the Assyrian image could be a precise snapshot of a towering form that once rose into a sky ablaze with life.

Contributed by Rens van der Sluijs.


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
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