The Two Trees as Transcendent Function

Carl Jung is one the foremost psychologists of modern times whose contributions in the field of psychotherapy have been of immense benefit in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders. A central tenet in his teachings towards the healing of a fragmented personality involved the use of the Transcendent Function. A good introduction to The Transcendent Function can be found here and there is an audiobook of Jung’s essay on the subject here. The following overview from Jung gives a good insight into the function’s origins and efficacy:

“The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function…. This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries.” (Collected Works 18,  p. 1554)

Much of this website is dedicated to a new way to explore the wonders of Hermetic philosophy through a system we have called The Two Trees.  This system combines symbolism found in Eastern and Western philosophies to produce a ‘spiral’ system.  The ‘Start Here‘ page will guide you through the fundamentals of The Two Trees which in essence allows a kabbalistic interpretation of the Yin-Yang, thereby combining Eastern ideas of cycles with the Western notion of spiritual ascension. The Two Trees provides a simple and very versatile framework for considering many different philosophical ideas. As Jung has mentioned above, The Transcendent Function was also distilled from Hermetic philosophy and, as I hope to demonstrate, is eminently compatible with The Two Trees. When The Two Trees was revealed from my researches into the nature of hierarchical systems (see here) it very quickly uprooted the foundations of my social conditioning and its associated complexes; these unconscious impulses had heavily influenced my decisions, often in a detrimental fashion. Indeed The Two Trees is, among other things, the gift of The Transcendent Function from the realms of the unconscious to allow the healing of the rift between my own conscious and unconscious worlds. As this is an ongoing process, I beg your indulgence if this article appears incomplete – I will continue to update with developments as healing progresses. While the site mainly uses Hermetic terminology, I will endeavour here to employ Jungian language in order to make it accessible to a wider audience. A glossary of Jungian terms found here will be useful for those unfamiliar with this approach.

A Symbol for theTranscendent Function

The Yin-Yang is a fundamental element of The Two Trees and is a good way to introduce the basic form of the model.

The Yin-Yang as model of The Psyche

In line with the Jungian view, the psyche is understood to consist of conscious and unconscious components constantly interacting with each other. The accompanying Yin-Yang captures the basics of this dynamic binary system with keywords to help to identify the nature of these two halves of the psyche.

The conscious self is the definition of the ‘I’ for our psyche. It represents the person we believe ourselves to be and includes all the thoughts, memories and experiences accessible to the conscious mind at any given moment. It operates as the final mediator before action though is not necessarily the driving force behind action. For example, flight from a wild animal will be directed by the conscious though the underlying unconscious fear will drive this action. This part of the psyche is related to The Tree of Life as it encompasses the existential, experiencing part of ourselves. Importantly, The Tree of Life includes the ‘outside’ world perceived by the individual as this world is ultimately constructed by the individual psyche through its senses. The veil separating inner and outer worlds may not be as solid as modern thought would have us believe.

On the flip side, the unconscious mind is the hidden underlying structure of the psyche not immediately accessible to conscious thought. Here exists an alternative to living, conscious reality driven by instinct, buried memories, social conditioning and fertile imagination. Motivation is rooted in this sphere and the logic of our actions will ultimately find their source in our unconscious drives. This inner world is one of information and so relates to The Tree of Knowledge.

The relationship between The Trees of Knowledge and Life within the psyche is comparable to that uncovered by science in life itself. Actions and behaviours of creatures can be tracked ultimately to the knowledge encoded in their DNA. Thus life generates new knowledge which in turn generates new life. This dynamic cycle of the psyche is analogous:  thoughts generated from knowledge initiate actions that in turn generate new knowledge in the form of memories and experiences. To fully explore the dynamic nature of our model, a few more details of the symbol need to be elaborated.

The Dynamics of the Symbol

Dynamics of The Two Trees

The two points of opposite colour within the Yin-Yang symbol are interpreted as points of intense interaction between the light and dark sides. A powerful interpretation sees each point as the microcosm of one side within the structure of the other side. Following this reasoning, the black point representing the microcosm of the Tree of Knowledge and hence the psyche or Self can easily be identified as the persona from a Jungian perspective. The persona is the projection of the Self into the outside world and hence represents a microcosm of all that is contained therein. The persona is not only a vehicle for the conscious ego but is also the means through which projections from the shadow as well as other instinctual and unconscious behaviour manifests externally.

The white point is not so straightforwardly defined but can be thought of as analogous to the persona: it is the projection of the external world or life into the Self. I have labelled it the ‘Archetypal Source’ as archetypes form the basis for communication between the conscious mind and the unconscious, especially the collective unconscious extending beyond the individual. This microcosm of the external world and thus life itself can be seen as the source for dreams which have a universal, archetypal content. Interestingly one could also view it as ‘the persona’ of the external world manifesting within the psyche. Could this be a way of understanding the experience of God within? Another way to see it would be as the Divine Spark, the microcosm of all life and hence ‘The Living God’,  illuminating the psyche and providing the energy to drive our creative processes.

These two points act as anchor points of an axis passing through both to give a scale for the division of one’s emphasis between the inner and outer worlds. Moving along the axis towards the persona leads to an increase in the white portion indicative of life and the external world. The increase in ‘white’ is reflective of becoming more extrovert or ‘out there’ in the world. Conversely moving to the Archetypal Source increases the black portion or introspection within the self. The individual thus becomes increasingly introverted and detached from the external world.

The dynamic nature of the Yin-Yang is traditionally viewed as being cyclical, switching between the dark and light parts of the symbol in continuous rotation. One can use this characteristic to formalise metaphors for spiritual discovery and healing. If all is well and the self is well-adapted and thriving in its environment, awareness will dwell mostly in the external world. Inspiration flows from the Archetypal Source to The Persona and out into the world. Feedback comes back through The Archetypal Source to inform future actions. This cycle is represented as the larger, blue cycle in the above diagram and can be seen as the cycle of the extrovert.

If something goes amiss and a person becomes mentally displaced within the external world, the Persona implodes and forms the rabbit hole down which awareness falls. A struggle towards ‘the light’ within the darkness of the interior world then ensues. The Archetypal Source is this light as it is the information flooding in from outside to guide the person towards a new functioning understanding with the surrounding environment. In this sense, The Archetypal Source is a proto-ego, a hazy image of the future conscious self acting as a guiding light to the struggling awareness. If successful the new form of the ego is attained and a new persona is obtained as a vehicle in the outside world. In the diagram above, the inner red cycle informs of this method of progression and can be viewed as the cycle of the introvert.

In a spiritual context, the cycles of the extrovert and the introvert navigate up and down Jacob’s Ladder, allowing the aspirant to move between the different worlds of experience. In general, both cycles will be experienced in contra-rotation. People undergoing internal metamorphoses will still simultaneously be engaged externally in all but extreme cases of introversion or extroversion.

The Psyche in Detail

A more detailed model for both parts of the symbol will help to develop it for use in a transcendent function. Firstly the ‘Yin’ element representing the inner psyche is expanded below in a ‘straightened’ conical format to enhance clarity.

Model for the Self

The widening of the cone from a point at the base indicates the increasing engagement of the mind traversing from The Observer to The Archetypal Source and beyond. The Observer is both the simplest and the most mysterious element of the inner world. As the data gatherer of the Self, dedicated to the pure act of observation with no interpretation or analysis, this is the catatonic state noted among the symptoms in most mental ailments. It lacks any measurable mental activity beyond basic mimicry of the external stimuli. The mysterious side to this part of the psyche derives from the teachings of quantum mechanics – The Observer observes the universe and thereby causes it to exist. The Observer sees the universe as it truly is, free from the warping lenses of the complexes that will feed a very different worldview to the ego. The data of The Observer is presented in the first instance to The Self through The Archetypal Source.

The incoming data and the higher elements of the Self linked to the Collective Unconscious merge in The Archetypal Source to form a persona-like mask of the external world within the psyche. Information from The Archetypal Source is then filtered through the series of complexes before reaching the conscious ego. These complexes are emotionally charged amalgams of ideas and images that form hidden personalities rooted within the unconscious part of the psyche. These personalities ‘inform’ the ego about the external world and what actions to take.  Archetypal complexes are formed through environmental pressures or social engineering and are to be found widespread within a particular society.  Personal complexes are formed by individual experiences and will vary widely between individuals.  To illustrate the nature of the complex, consider a clerk working in a monolithic administration who receives two urgent telephone messages, one to contact his doctor and the other to contact his boss. Due to his job, he is likely to have a large hierarchical content within one or more of his archetypal complexes (see here for a study of how hierarchy may be simply framed in such a complex). This complex will ‘inform’ him that his boss has priority – a more naturally inclined soul may think differently! Many complexes will blur the distinction between archetypal and personal – a ‘Father’ complex will contain elements both from the social sphere concerned with the accepted role of the father as well as the personal experiences of the individual’s parent.

The realm of the ego is that which is within the reach of the conscious mind at any given time. The ego is the driver within the self, and is, in general, the final arbiter before action in the external world is initiated. An exception to this rule comes in the form of projections from the unconscious onto others through the persona. The persona is thus not completely under conscious control. Strong emotional responses may also be channeled through the unconscious. Such responses arise through the shadow, the realm of thoughts, ideas and experiences beyond conscious recall. Generally the contents of the shadow develop from repression of undesirable experiences that would disrupt the ego’s equilibrium as well as discarded material no longer of use within present circumstances. Information arising from The Archetypal Source may be redirected by complexes to be processed within the shadow. The ego may receive the outcomes of this cognition as subliminal hopes and fears. For example signals of impending failure coming from a teacher to a pupil may be re-interpreted by the pupil into feelings of irrational hope: this allows the pupil to keep going and even sit the examination even though probability of success is in reality low.

Any part of the diagram of the Self shown above not labelled belongs to fully autonomous parts of the unconscious not amenable to communication with the ego through the medium of hidden personalities. The collective unconscious largely falls into this category as no single personality can express universal concepts contained therein.

Life – The Great Outdoors

The very general model of existence given in the diagram below is  similar in form to the very familiar ‘eye in the triangle’ symbol on the back of the dollar bill. This is perhaps unsurprising as many aspects of our life in the external world are heavily influenced by  the hidden hand of the Elites. The main difference with the standard hierarchical design resides in the cyclical nature of the Two Trees: there is no definition of ‘up’ in a cycle. How the cycle can be hidden inside the illusion of hierarchy is dealt with in the ‘Eye in the Triangle’ article. Here we will deal with a general form that will include interaction with the Psyche.

Model for Life

As with the model of the psyche, the breadth of the ‘straightened’ cone gives some idea of the diversity of experience. At the base are the material basis of the Universe that includes both the realm of human experience and that which lies beyond. From the material base arises human physiology which houses The Persona, the interface to the realm of Knowledge. The Persona is the means by which an individual interacts with others and so it is to be found in the midst of society. As well as communication, The Persona acts as the foundation upon which social status and reputation is built. The first tier accessible from this platform is an individual’s role within family and the local community.

Elevation into the realm of ‘The Lovers’ allows someone to build their own family and even community through the gifts of their biology. This layer is also named after the Tarot Trump card whose basic meaning is doing The Great Work. Thus here one will undertake other creative work to advance the knowledge and extent of the human domain.

Progressing towards the ‘Command & Control’ layer leaves behind the more natural social and creative aspects of life and enters into the more isolated role occupied by those who manage others. This layer would be the ‘gap’ between the floating Eye of Providence and the lower section of the pyramid on the dollar bill. It is the invisible ‘hidden hand’ by which the elites control society.  Though there is interaction between individuals in this layer, actions are Machiavellian and tend towards maintaining the hierarchy. In contemporary society, corporatism and banking are found here.

Isolation continues to increase until the middle management gives way to the realm of their overlords, the Elite. Here there exists a society similar in some ways to that well below but this one is but an extension and completion of the Machiavellian layer upon which it sits . Here more than anywhere else is the sense of moving in a ‘progressive’ trajectory upwards apparent and any idea of cycling back to a lower level is anathema. From these lofty heights change is perceived as failure and hence there is a strong urge to maintain the status quo. The only progression beyond this level is towards increasing isolation and taking on the role of The Hermit. The tendency for the rich and famous to barricade themselves behind high walls is a clear indicator of this tendency. At this point diversity of experience, measured by the width of the cone, has shrunk while the equivalent realm of the inner world of the psyche is hugely expanded. The individual thus sinks more and more into the realm of imagination and thus transitions from the living world into the world of Knowledge, cycling back through this inner world. The Fool is representative of the individual completely absorbed into their own private inner world and is the fate of any who resist the cycling process or who control their outer world so completely that The Archetypal Source becomes their own face. They end up trapped entirely within their own self-created worlds. The Fool is the complement in Life to The Observer in Knowledge . In the latter case, if the individual refuses to transition into being active in the external world, they are doomed to becoming a passive participant of that world with all self-awareness lost.

Other Interpretations

The interpretations here are but one of many available to begin to explore the inscrutable wisdoms of Taoist philosophy. For example one could take a macro-perspective on the Yin-Yang symbol. The Persona would then become representative of society itself while the Archetypal Source would become in effect The Living God, guiding society towards a harmonious future within its womb.

Another viewpoint would be to begin life with a baby as The Fool. Each layer brings the juvenile towards realisation of the Persona and a place within society. This view produces some interesting insights! What is important above all is to use The Two Trees as a tool to make some sense of this very complex and often confusing world we live in.

“May ye be wise as serpents”


Have a look at this video connecting serpents, knowledge, enlightenment, the phoenix  and the two trees –

This shows how the Two Trees  is more than just a story from the bible.  The stories and legends from across civilisations and time all seem to share a universal foundation of enlightenment through various methods.

Life wants to refine it’s consciouness to partake of greater knowledge, whilst this new-found knowledge, wants to change Life, but  like the legend of Prometheus

Those who steal fire from the Gods will be punished for their transgressions.

Near the end of the video, the name of Wilheim Reich is mentioned. Does anyone know his name today?  What he did was  promethean in its scale, and for his pains, he was imprisoned and died in jail.

Oh, and by the way, don’t bother to look him up on Wikipedia, here’s why:

A good introductry video is 1/3rd of the way down the following webpage:


Maat Kheru,


Tolkien, Tarot and the Two Trees

A central theme of this website is the exploration of a ‘Two Trees’ interpretation of the Hermetic Qabalah. The development of this idea can be viewed in the article on Jacob’s Ladder and the attribution of the Tarot Trumps to the Two Trees can be found here.  An earlier blog post examined the role of simple geometry as a framework used by Tolkien to illustrate spiritual themes within his works. The spiritual ‘sophistication’ of a race could be ascertained by their dimensionality. Elves, for example, were capable of dealing with the two dimensional nature of rings while men were ensnared by their complexity. The article posited Tolkien’s sympathies lay with characters of the simplest dimensions, identified as Tom Bombadil and his wife. These two characters represent points within the geometrical schema: Tom is the static point and his wife is the point constantly in motion. All other geometrical forms are constructed from the interplay of points and so Tom and Goldberry can be viewed as the creators of the spiritual geometry within their world. From this viewpoint, they are also valuable in illustrating aspects of the Two Trees system.

The Two Trees combines the fluidity and dynamic nature of Taoism with the deep insightful approach of the Hermetic Qabalah. Tom and Goldberry fit naturally into the two points of opposite colour found in the two halves of the Yin-Yang Symbol.

Tom is ‘Daath’ the microcosm of the Tree of Life found in the black realm of the Tree of Knowledge. Goldberry is ‘Yesod’, the microcosm of the Tree of Knowledge embedded in the white realm of the Tree of Life. Tom is the single-pointed representation of Life in its totality while Goldberry is the complementary point representing the totality of all knowledge.

Further insight is gained from the Tarot attribution to the Kether sephiroth on each of the trees. The Tree of Life has ‘The Fool’ in Kether while ‘Adjustment’ is its complement on the ‘Tree of Knowledge’. Tom can be easily identified with the archetypal ‘Green Man’ figure often associated with the iconography of The Fool.  The description of ‘Adjustment’, also known as ‘Justice’ in other Tarot decks is seen as the feminine aspect of ‘The Fool’.  The fluid grace of Goldberry speaks of the dancing Harlequin, a perfect complement to the merry capering of Tom,  the Clown.  ‘Adjustment’ represents perfect balance, the pivot of the scales held by Lady Justice. She defines the centre, the place of equilibrium.  In Tolkien’s ‘Fellowship of the Ring’, Goldberry is found at the homestead,  the centre of  Tom’s world while he is portrayed roaming around The Old Forest and beyond: when journeying with the hobbits, he always insists he must return to Goldberry as she is waiting.

As mentioned in the post on Tolkien geometry, Tom and Goldberry may be seen as the two points defining the lines of fate within Middle Earth. The One Ring has no effect on the couple because they belong to a much greater cycle of existence. The ring cannot make Tom disappear but Tom can make the ring disappear. The hobbits meet them as they leave behind the Shire, the only world they have ever known. When they leave the couple’s farmstead, they are moving ahead into the jaws of the great adventure that will engulf them all. Tom’s last appearance is to free the hobbits from the grasp of the barrow wights and again set them on their way. The barrows and burial grounds are recognisable as those ancient sites found around Great Britain. The hobbits’ burial in the barrow mounds and ‘resurrection’ by Tom is also reminiscent of the dramatic ritual of Christian Rosenkreutz found in the Rosicrucian and Hermetic traditions. Here the hobbits leave behind their old life and are ‘reborn’ into a vast and dangerous realm beyond the wooded borders of the Shire.  We, as readers, are also taken through this path of burial and resurrection in the familiar surrounding of a barrow in order to be ‘reborn’ into this new and strange world of elves, goblins and men. As ‘The Green Man’, Tom is the guardian and warning awaiting the hobbits at the boundaries of their experience as well as being the initiator into their new adventures.

Goldberry is at the other end of the line of destiny unfolding through the hobbits’ adventures – this may explain the parting image of Goldberry with outstretched arms, awaiting their return:

“But Frodo found no words to answer. He bowed low, and mounted his pony, and followed by his friends jogged slowly down the gentle slope behind the hill. Tom Bombadil’s house and the valley, and the Forest were lost to view. The air grew warmer between the green walls of hillside and hillside, and the scent of turf rose strong and sweet as they breathed. Turning back, when they reached the bottom of the green hollow, they saw Goldberry, now small and slender like a sunlit flower against the sky: she was standing still watching them, and her hands were stretched out towards them. As they looked she gave a clear call, and lifting up her hand she turned and vanished behind the hill.”

 Tom and Goldberry form that never-ending flow to which elves, men, rings and even hobbits belong. Perhaps the strangest and most meaningful part of the great tale of Middle Earth is not in its ending but in its beginning.

Tarot Trump Attributions to The Two Trees

After a number of fruitless years attempting to attribute the Tarot Trumps to the Two Trees out of 1021 possible permutations, the assignments given below flooded through in a moment of intense illumination. The attributions should be treated as a personal interpretation but it will give a starting point for anyone who wishes to collate a version which better reflects their own point of view. Daath and Yesod do not have assignments as they represent, respectively, the totality of The Tree of Life and The Tree of Knowledge in microcosm. A more detailed article on the relationships and patterns of the Tarot Trumps and The Two Trees will follow in the near future.

A full page image can be viewed here.