Through a Jungian Lens

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The Tree of Life – After Death

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I took this photo years ago because it fascinated me.  The tree had died but still remains standing to this day a dark and dry contrast to the life below it and the clear sky above.  In a way, the photo drew me to it as if being drawn to an altar behind which stands the cross. Even in death, this tree serves a purpose.  It serves the living and continues to nourish.

In most cultures, the tree has been the symbol of life.  So much has been written by so many on the “tree of life” symbol that I don’t want to go into it here as this is a dead tree and must have different symbolic meaning.  For me as I allow my imagination to run rampant, the dead tree symbolises something beyond life, a transition or transformation.

Okay, so how did I come up with this?  Well, it has to do with when I took the photo and what was happening in my life and how this scene worked on my psyche.  To me the tree symbolises a shift in consciousness much the same as the dead wood of the cross lead to a shift in consciousness for the modern world via the crucifixion of Jesus.  That crucifixion wasn’t about symbolising death, it symbolises a new consciousness.

In my life at the time when this photo was take, I had entered my final year as a principal of a rural community school.  I knew it was my final year both in terms of having reached the right age and having  pressure from the elected board.  Professionally, I was being crucified, offered up as sacrifice to external powers.  I wasn’t going to be fired, but I would have ceased to be principal in that school which I had chosen to be my last school.  It was a time of doubt and fear of what was to follow.  Somehow, that first week of my last year, when I wandered through the valley where I found this tree, I found hope, that something more would be born with retirement.  I knew that in retiring my life as a school principal was going to be over.  I would become just another ghost of the past.  What I needed to know was that there was life after death, the death of a career spanning thirty-one years.

It has been over five years since that photo was taken and the promises of the tree were true.  Not only was there life after career, the shift in consciousness showed me that leaving a career and the phase of life to which a career belongs allowed me time and energy and the passion for the more important task, the task of this life-stage, that of nourishing my soul.


6 Responses

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  1. I like this…

  2. Lovely shot. The natural death of a tree, surrounded by grass, other trees, provides a promise of regeneration. While it stands, it creates a stark beauty of its own, reminds of change and natural cycles. As the wood rots it becomes transformed, nourishes the soil, and provides homes for animals, birds and insects.

    If we are lucky, our transformations also regenerate ourselves, nourish new growth and life within us.

    Deborah Howard

    May 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    • Well spoken Deborah. Thanks.

      Robert G. Longpré

      May 8, 2010 at 6:33 pm

  3. Robert,

    yesterday was my Mother’s funeral, and here in the States, today is Mother’s day. I do believe we threw the biggest and best Mother’s Day party we could offer her. While there, I was re-introduced to my Father’s two foster sisters. And was pleased to tell them a story about their mother, who came to visit me while I was a lonely four-year old trapped in a hospital bed. They were pleased by the story and thanked me for telling them something they hadn’t known about their parent.

    You say that our task is to nourish our soul. It begins with the first breath and is never finished. I think the task of those of us who are ‘retired’ is to express the wealth of wisdom we have garnered through the years, leaving it behind, like the tree in your photo, to nurture and provide shelter for others who might pass or travel a similar path. You certainly do that for me. Thank you again,



    May 9, 2010 at 6:36 am

    • I like how you express our task in retirement. Thanks. I am thankful that your Mother’s funeral gave you so much rather than taking so much away. I noticed your capitalisation of “mother” something that makes me think of the Great Mother, an archetype.

      Robert G. Longpré

      May 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm

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