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"Five Trees" in Paradise is a mysterious allegory or concept from famous Coptic Gospel of Thomas NHC 2: (gnostic library from Nag Hammadi in Egypt) 19th saying/logia of Jesus and other sources of religious mythology.
(19) Jesus said: Blessed is he who was before he came into being. If you become disciples to me (and) listen to my words, these stones will minister to you. For you have five trees in Paradise which do not change, either in summer or in winter, and their leaves do not fall. He who knows them shall not taste of death.
"Blessed is he who was before he came into being," is similar to other enigmatic statements commonly found in mysticism across cultures, referring to the benefits of self-awareness (knowledge of one's true nature) before development of ego identity beliefs. "If you...listen..., these stones will minister to you," may refer to both "listening" to the true self within – which would allow one to accurately trace internal/cause from observing external/effects (physical reality/stones), or that only through this "self-awareness" are we able to understand Jesus' symbolic language and master external reality. The word, tree, is a creative (manifesting) symbol in Jewish and Christian sacred texts, descriptive of both ingesting (taking in) fruits and/or producing fruits (Genesis and Four Gospels).
In the Acts of Thomas, Chapter 27, during an anointing ceremony, the apostle implores, "Come, elder of the five members of mind, communicate with these young men;" the five words for 'mind' according to Theodore Bar Konai are the equivalents of hauna (sanity), mad'a (reason), re'yana (mindfulness), mahshebhatha (imagination), tar'itha (intention) – considered the Five Manifestations of the Father of Greatness which may provide the clue to the meaning of the five trees. These five would therefore be the causal factors in the experience of the Real.
Marvin Meyer writes: "The "five trees" in paradise are mentioned frequently in gnostic texts, ordinarily without explanation or elaboration. In Manichaean Psalm Book 161,17-29, it is said that various features of life and faith are put together in groups of five. This section opens with the statement, 'For [five] are the trees that are in paradise ... in summer and winter.' On the trees in paradise according to Genesis, see Genesis 2:9."
According to the Naassenes, paradise was the human head. It has been suggested that the "five trees" may parallel the five human senses which produce one's internal world view and belief system – knowledge of which is a requirement for purification and thus enlightenment or return to paradise/unity. However, the body's five senses – more synonymous with lower level egoism and learned misperception, would more likely be referenced as an impediment to reunion with the divine.
The "five trees" also could be interpreted as referring to the Five Worlds of the mystical Jewish Kabbalah: Asiyah, Yetzirah, Beriah, Atzilut & Adam Kadmon – descriptive of dimensional levels related to the soul's progress toward unity with or return to the Creator. Generally understood as developmental levels of intentionality related to man's natural "desire to receive". The methodology for accomplishing this is considered the secret Science of Kabbalah – how to receive by correcting intention until a state of unity with pure altruism is achieved. One then becomes pure Creator (experience of the divine). Related to this, the concept of "reality as a mirror of desire" (pure desire = perfect results/impure desire = negative results), would correlate to the tree symbol as "productive" of paradise.
These developmental levels are in parallel with five Partsufim. And these are same as soul levels: Nefesh, Ruah, Neshama, Haya and Yehida. Possibly these important Judaico-Biblical concepts are most similar to "five trees".
As noted from a Hindu reference page, which may also relate to The Gospel of Thomas's reference of the Five Trees, are the five trees of Indra's paradise. There is a theory that Jesus traveled to India during his "missing" years from in the Bible. This could support that theory.
The five trees (panca-vrksa) which adorn Lord Indra's garden (Nandana) in his paradise (Svarga) are:
- mandara (Erythrina stricta) with scarlet flowers in horizontal clusters at the ends of branches; its shade relieves one of physical ailments and mental stress;
- parijata (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) with bark of gold, leaves of copper color, and fragrant, rejuvenate fruit; it arose out of the ocean of milk and was taken away by Indra to his paradise from where it was brought to Dvaraka by Lord Krsna at the instance of his wife Satyabhama. After the passing away of the Lord and the submerging of Dvaraka in the ocean, it was taken back to heaven;
- samtanaka, a tree of wonder having leaves which promote fertility in men; its identification remains obscure;
- haricandana or sandalwood (Santalum album) well known for its fragrance and cooling effect, it keeps evil spirits at bay; and
- kalpa vrksa or kalpa taru, the tree of eternity which emerged as a result of the churning of the ocean of milk; it was lifted to Svarga by Indra, and is frequently mentioned in Sanskrit literature for its wish-fulfilling quality.