“Mans veneration for trees as symbols of the abstract qualities of wisdom and integrity also led him to designate as trees those individuals who possessed these divine qualities to an apparently superhuman degree. Highly illuminated philosophers and priests were therefore often referred to as trees or tree men—for example, the Druids, whose name, according to one interpretation, signifies the men of the oak trees, or the initiates of certain Syrian Mysteries who were called cedars; in fact it is far more credible and probable that the famous cedars of Lebanon, cut down for the building of King Solomon’s Temple, were really illuminated, initiated sages. The mystics know that the true supports of God’s Glorious House were not the logs subject to decay but the immortal intellects of the tree hierophants.
“Trees are repeatedly mentioned in the Old and New Testament, and in the scriptures of various pagan religions. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil mentioned in Genesis, the burning bush in which the angel appeared to Moses, the famous vine and fig tree of the New testament, the grove of olives in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray, and the miraculous tree of Revelation, which bore twelve manners of fruit and whose leaves were for the healing of the nations, all bear witness to the esteem in which trees were held by the scribes of Holy Writ.” ~Manly P. Hall
Veneration of Trees
I think veneration of trees may be overstating it, yet it is true that trees have been important symbols in many societies, more so than most of us know. Most of us know about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that was the downfall of Adam and Eve, though few know what is actually represented. The same is true for the Tree of Life. And the Jews at the time of Jesus considered it a great insult to be killed by being hung on a tree and reserved such punishment for only the worst criminals. And being crucified on a wooden cross was the same as being hung on a tree, so the Romans used this method to not only kill Jews but to insult them in the process. And it was the Roman authorities who killed Jesus, not the Jews. The Jewish “authorities” did what the Roman governor told them to do, nothing more.
That the ancient illuminated people were often known as trees, or as a specific variety of trees like oaks or cedars, is news to me, but it makes sense. Trees are often symbols of quiet strength, wisdom, and knowledge. So the Druids may very well have gotten their name from Oak trees.
Cedars of Lebanon
The Cedars of Lebanon refers to a specific species of Cedar that was once found all over Lebanon but is now only found in a few places thanks to deforestation. There are actually several stories about them in the Bible and other ancient tales and scripture. Besides the story mentions in the quote, Solomon also named the Cedar of Lebanon “first of trees”. It is said that he used the wood of this tree to build Jerusalem. If we consider that in regard to the above interpretation by Hall, it really means that Solomon was guided in the building of Jerusalem, as well as his Temple, by the great mystics and prophets of the time.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Cedar forest was a divine place fought over by demigods and humans. It is also said that Gilgamesh built his city of Cedar wood. That might also mean that Gilgamesh was guided by true mystics and prophets. The Egyptians used Cedar sawdust and resin in their mummification process because it has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil found in the Bible are the most obvious symbolic tales of trees, though many still take them literally. Of course, they don’t represent trees at all, nor did Adam and Eve eat an apple, which the Bible never claims in the first place, yet millions keep repeating it. The tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil represents the material sun and the material world. It is a world of life, but also death; health, but also disease. It is a deformed world created by the Demiurge, not the true God. The Tree of Life, on the other hand, represents the Spiritual Sun which shines with the Light from God. It brings life only, not death; health only, not disease. That is why the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is a thing to avoid. It is not that we can’t have such knowledge, but we must choose the spiritual above the physical, the Godly above the material. The Burning Bush that guided Moses is just another analogy for the Spiritual Sun.
For more on the veneration of trees, click here to read an older post on the subject.