The Sacred Tree In Dreams And Myths

The tree is one of those images taken from nature that plays a significant role in shaping the worldview of our own and many other cultures. Although the tree in this role is a mythic creation, this does not detract from its power in our daily life or in our unconscious. In the introduction to her book Primal Myths, Barbara Sproul explains this by saying that myths “organize the way we perceive facts and understand ourselves and the world. Whether we adhere to them consciously or not, they remain pervasively influential.” As an example of this she quotes Genesis in which humans are said to be created in the image of God. “Most Westerners” she writes, “whether or not they are practicing Jews or Christians, still show themselves to be the heirs of this tradition by holding to the view that people are sacred, the creatures of God. Declared unbelievers often dispense with the frankly religious language of this assertion by renouncing God, yet even they still cherish the consequence of the myth’s claim and affirm that people have inalienable rights (as if they were created by God).”

Other examples are the way we organise our week into seven days, and the attitude we have in the west to animals. Namely, that we as humans are dominant and can treat them in any way we wish. As Sproul points out, this originates from the statement in Genesis that says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Other cultures, depending upon the foundations of their own mythology, have quite different attitudes toward their relationship with the earth and animals the holy cow in India for example.

If this is true, then the place of the tree in our dreams and mythology is of enormous importance, in reference as it is to human destiny, to independence, to guilt, and to our own ancient past.

The history of the tree as a symbol is extremely old. In the British Museum the stone panel in the photo shows an early representation of the Tree of Life, or the Sacred Tree. This is from the North West palace of Ashurnasirpal II, king of Assyria 884-859 BC.

Also in the British Museum is a stone representation of the Bodhi Tree under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. Buddha lived and taught between 563 and 483 BC. But long before this the tree was an important part of oral traditions, as for instance what was eventually recorded in writing in what we now know as the Old Testament. Such traditions go back much further than the period of Buddha’s life, or the reign of king Ashurnasirpal.


Also, such traditions certainly arose from even earlier cultures, and from the mother of all cultures, the continent of Africa. (1) In his book The Lightning Bird, Lyall Watson describes a cave rock painting shaped like a ‘spidery symbol a little like the cross of Lorraine’. This represented the tree of Life, and had done so since pre-history.

In general the tree from ancient times was linked with powerful human feelings or intuitions to do with fertility, fruitfulness, with the cycle of human life and its many seasons and trials. But as with the incident of Buddha’s enlightenment, it also has connections with the emergence of human potential, or even transcendence.

So we have the legend of Odin being hung on a tree as a sacrifice as he transcended human life and limitations. “I know I was hanged upon a tree shaken by the winds for nine long nights. I was transfixed by a spear; I was moved to Odin, myself to myself.”

The fastening of Jesus to a wooden cross and ‘transfixed by a spear’ echoes the Odin story and many others like it. The connection with this ancient past is still met in people’s dreams today. Below is a dream showing the connection between the tree and transcendence.

On the left is A representation of the Bodhi Tree. Notice the snake at the base of the tree.

I was floating atop a tree near houses and a rising walkway. I was saying to people around the tree that I had found something wonderful. Reaching out my hand I told them they could join me if they accepted this possibility in themselves. Some thought it was a publicity campaign, but were enjoying the spectacle. A few reached out and were immediately with me, until there were about six of us men and women. We joined hands, experiencing a most amazing sense of well-being. Then we slowly and effortlessly flew to a great height, leaving a trail of coloured smoke that could be seen for miles. It was to demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit. We then descended and were going somewhere else to show others. Margareta H.

This next dream is in some ways even more direct.

A tremendous jolt of power poured into me from the tree. I saw that we had arrived at a place where a line of trees, about a hundred yards or so, stood very close together in a slight semicircle on the top of a bank. The trees had great spiritual power, and the place was a holy temple. Two spiritual beings were there – an ancient Earth being, and Christ. They told me something to do with me practising healing.

Such myths and dreams are not irrelevant or superstitious. They are portrayals of the deeps of human nature and the path of human development, along with an indication of what we are capable of as individuals. But to understand this to properly grasp it for ourselves it helps to gain some insight into how such connections with the tree arose, why they arose, and what import they have for us today.

The Human Condition

The human condition is fundamental to any creation of myths, and at the core of the emergence of any religion or personal dream. The journey from conception to maturity, and on from there to death, is a heroic one no matter which one of us makes it. The beauty of life, the struggle, the pain and challenges, both crush us and call upon whatever we have innate in us. In our most magnificent acts of creation we project gods and goddesses, stories and images on the world, upon the stars in the sky, upon animals and trees, and upon rivers and mountains. We create majestic and unearthly heroes who face the demons that torment us, who heal sickness and conquer death. Throughout the ages these heroes have appeared under different names — Odin, Mithras, Krishna, Quetzalcoatl, Christ; Amun, Morrigan. The stories we weave around their life and teachings evoke from some depths within us what appear to be intuitions of our own origins and possibilities — a view of our small and fleeting life as seen on a vaster canvas. Each one of us must decide whether these magnificent stories reflect a truth, or are a means of comfort in a meaningless life.

What we can be assured of though, is that the myths and dreams of humanity have enabled millions of us to live a richer and fuller life. They have done this by providing doorways to the abundant strength of hope. They have provided a pathway to the experience of transcending the transitory nature of our own body and identity. They have given a context within which our life has connection and meaning.

That is not to say anything found in myths and dreams is either true or false. The greatest secret of them is that whatever we live is our truth. If a belief or hope, however foolish, enables as to give love, to patiently care for our children and each other, then that love and patience is our reality. If kneeling before a statue gives us the strength to transcend the angers and pains that beset us, or move beyond the seeming injustices of life, then the act of transcending is our reality no matter how we managed it. Unfortunately we often take hold of our beliefs as if they were a piece of metal we are testing to see if it is gold. We pour acid upon these gentle and beautiful parts of our nature to test their reality. In doing so we miss the wonderful secret that the truth lies not in the belief, the dream, or the religion, but in what we live of it. That is the important decision we make what shall I live?

Looked at in this way the great religions and myths outline for us what great men and women, what striving cultures of the past, have depicted for us of the best they could live and move toward. Because of this a careful look at some of these creative moments of the past might portray our own possibilities and powers of transcendence.

So, with this in mind, let us look at the tree and how it has been seen and represented in myths and dreams.

If we are to understand, even in a small degree, what the tree has represented through the ages, we have to recognise that the human mind, the experience of existing as a man or woman, has not always been as it is today. It is tempting to think that earlier human beings were ignorant, or savage and uneducated, but fortunately recent findings have found that this is not so. Many tribal people had an immense knowledge of their environment, hunting skills, skills of manufacturing clothing and tools, and a deep knowledge of the medical use of herbs. This knowledge was often encyclopaedic, and the individuals, lacking writing or means of keeping records, had amazingly developed memories.

The Ancient Mind

Neanderthals actually had a larger brain than present human beings, so we cannot think of them as lacking the means to complex associations and insights. The lack of a vast and subtle language would have restricted them in the type of thinking that we take as normal today. Also, the development of identity seems to be a quite recent thing. (2) Early human beings possibly thought less in words, and used images of external things, rather like a waking dream, to ‘think’. The development of writing from ideograms or images such as in Egyptian writing is a possible indication of this. The stories of early discoveries, mentioning as they do the meeting with a god or goddess, also suggest a powerful process of seeing images as a means of exploring a creative realisation. As I have said in an early work,(3) the mind of early humans had to be able to form a gestalt an insight from such diverse pieces of information as dust rising on the horizon, silence of birds, movement of animals, a drought in the area. They needed to know whether the dust was caused by an enemy or food? Survival depended on having a clear response. But prior to the use of words, and until recent times, there was no ability to reason. The creative solution had to be reached by intuition, a feeling response or a dream.

Early human beings were not as distanced from their instinctive responses to their environment and each other as we are today. This distance is largely due to the way we look at the world through the agency of words and thoughts. The instinctive guidance was not simply an automatic way of dealing with events. It also held in it the vast experience of forebears, just as a bird holds in itself the knowledge of how to make an intricate nest. But in the case of human beings, with the beginnings of personal awareness, this inner wisdom often felt like a guiding being or influence, and was presented as such by their image forming process of thinking.

This is still seen today in dreams and visions. And if we can grasp something of that, then we can conceive that the inner world of early human beings would perhaps have been an amazing meeting of external objects being illuminated by a vast inner wisdom that used imagery to express itself. This is not fantasy, as our dreams still do this. Therefore the stylised carving or painting of a tree would have depicted the tremendous and perhaps awe inspiring feelings these early humans experienced in realising things about the depths and wonders of their own existence and of life around them.

The Seed and the Tree

For instance, living as they did in the very midst of untamed nature, they would have observed a seed fall from a tree. Later that strange object seemingly so inert would be seen to sprout roots and a stem. Then the tiny plant would grow into an immense tree. The inner processes of the observer would at some point see this as a whole, and their innate intuition fill it with the realisation that within the small seed a huge tree existed. And although to the unselfconscious early human this might not be immediately seen as a description of their personal inner emergence and maturity, something of the wonder of this would be felt and associated with the tree. From this point on the tree would come to represent the mystery of how something can emerge into the world, and would be used to represent this mystery of how the unseen or small can grow. This could then link with creation stories. Also, the sense that a huge tree existed in the tiny seed, leads to the concept of a germinal tree already existing beyond the body of the seed and gradually forming itself. This view has a direct link with what later became known as the Great Man that exists beyond the individuals of the human race, and manifests through them trying to realise itself. This almost certainly led to a realisation that some trees never reach maturity or full expression of the great tree within the seed. So an idea of a spiritual power or potential arose suggesting the same thing in human life. There is an immensity in us that stands beyond what we attain physically, and perhaps in only a few people, really manages full growth.

To bring this to a more personal and present day meaning, it suggests that we may still use a tree in our dreams or artistic creations to depict what lies within us unexpressed. It depicts the possibility of manifesting our own innate potential, and a conscious realisation of what is trying to manifest itself in our life.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who told me she feels constantly frustrated, as if some vital part of her, perhaps her creativity, has not been released. This is not an unusual state for any of us, living in a way in which our own innate and natural push to growth and fruition may be overshadowed by economic needs and a rather constrained and controlled existence cut off from instinctive or intuitive feelings, in a rather mechanistic society.

As the complexity of language and thought developed, so the subtlety of the tree as a symbol also deepened. People developed more self-awareness, and so brought their insight more directly to bear upon the human condition and personal existence. After all, no matter what we may have as our innate potential, the external facts of life challenge us; disease and difficulties may cripple the expression of what or who we are. The struggle of the growing tree to deal with extremes of climate, of insect attack and of competition from other trees, all feed in to the sense of our personal difficulties and achievements in maturing. But what many of us fail to do, looking at the world as we do through our self conscious ego and rational mind, is to recognise and experience the power of our core self the Great Man/Woman that has been the driving force behind our own growth from seed. For some strange reason we seem to believe that it is only our ego that exists, separate and separated from those great natural processes that grew us. As Marie Louise von Franz points out, “The ego must be able to listen attentively and to give itself, without any further design or purpose, to that inner urge toward growth. Many existentialist philosophers try to describe this state, but they go only as far as stripping off the illusions of consciousness: They go right up to the door of the unconscious and then fail to open it.” (4)

In fact the tree of our dreams and of mythology has its roots in the unconscious, and unless we manage to experience those roots, not just think about them, we fail to truly understand our own foundations. It is in the unconscious, the true temple of the Mysteries, that we meet initiation into the great truths underlying our personal being. Here we find the source of creation and procreation, birth and death. Here is the garden in which the tree grows.

Commenting on this in his book Pagan and Christian Creeds, Edward Carpenter writes:

The Tree therefore was a most intimate presence to the Man. It grew in the very midst of his Garden of Eden. It had a magical virtue, which his tentative science could only explain by chance analogies and assimilations. Attractive and beloved and worshipped by reason of its many gifts to mankind Its grateful shelter, its abounding fruits, its timber, and other invaluable products why should it not become the natural emblem of the female, to whom through sex man’s worship is ever drawn? If the Snake has an unmistakable resemblance to the male organ in its active state, the foliage of the tree or bush is equally remindful of the female. What more clear than that the conjunction of Tree and Serpent is the fulfilment in nature of that sex-mystery which is so potent in the life of man and the animals? (5)

The Old Old Story

Considering what has already been said, if we look at the story of Genesis and the Garden of Eden, we must understand it as a myth using symbolic language to convey intuitive insights into the creative beginnings of human consciousness. Unfortunately it has often been presented as a literal description of human origins, and therefore lost much of its depth, subtlety and beauty. Because of this view translators working with the original Hebrew twisted meanings to make the literal story work. For instance the word Adam, when analysed, is like the words Man or Mankind, often used to represent individual men and women in the collective sense. So Adam is both a singular and plural word, but it does not refer to an individual person. So to think of a lonely man called Adam wandering the earth without a woman companion is a complete misunderstanding of the text. (6)

But not only does the word Adam represent the single species we call ‘human’ it also points to the many individuals who can be born from ‘humanity’ or Adam. However, the Hebrew text is very subtle and points to something more than that. It depicts Adam as the potential that lies within humanity the great tree lying within the seed. It suggests that as individuals we have Adam within us as the potential leading toward transcending the aggressive, destructive creatures we are at the moment. It is an important point, because it is saying we already have the transcendent within us. It will emerge if we allow ourselves to grow. It is not something we must weld onto ourselves from outside by harsh discipline and controls. It is something already innate in us. As Marie von Franz says, if we are to find it, “The ego must be able to listen attentively and to give itself, without any further design or purpose, to that inner urge toward growth.” (7)

Not only is Adam a primal factor in this story, but also the Garden of Eden is the environment or background in which the story takes place. It is there for Adam to “dress it and keep it.” The Hebrew word for what is translated garden is ‘gan’. Its root meaning is an enclosure, or a sphere of activity. It refers to the realm of physical existence. But remember that Adam is only a potential from which humanity can grow or emerge. Therefore the sphere of this emergence is physical life, or at least, the processes and forces that are the formative matrix of physical life.

So this is like planting a seed the Adam within the flux of natural processes that flow into the formation of the physical worlds. This seed is designed to move ‘man-wards’ as life unfolds. The physical body we today call self has to be evolved through long process. (8)

But we cannot leave Adam alone, for Eve appears in the Garden. The Genesis story as it is translated into English says that God felt Adam would be lonely without a companion. The Hebrew word for lonely is ‘l’abaddo’. It means ‘In a state of internal oneness’. In the text it suggests a lack of self-realisation, of only being a reflection of the creative process of Life, and having no separate will of one’s own. It does aloneness in the sense of an individual man or woman feeling alone

East of Eden

The sentence including the words ‘woman’ and ‘man’ (And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.) says – ‘To this he gave (the name) Aisha, because from Aish this was taken’. It doesn’t say ‘she’ was taken, but ‘this’ was taken. Aisha means: ai – desire, inclination, self expression. Aish – all activity in which oneself is expressed. Aisha or Eve as we call it, is therefore, the faculty of will and emotion, individual feeling and personal decision. It is the ability to conceive personal desires, thoughts and plans. So Eve is not a separate person, just as Adam is not a separate person. Eve is the ability to make personal choices, to have a will distinct apart from the will of ‘God’ or the creative forces and instinctive drives out of which humanity have emerged.

There is quite a beautiful concept hidden in the term ‘East of Eden’. The word that is wrongly translated East is ‘m’kedem’. It rightfully suggests ‘what existed beforehand’ and refers to the eternity, the unknown forever that existed prior to the formation of the universe out of a timeless existence.

This brings us to the central theme the tree planted in the midst of the Garden. The word translated tree is ‘whetz’. Its root meaning is something that grows and spreads, branching out yet connected. Considering that Adam is only a seed in the processes of life, this tree cannot be a material one remember the story is symbolic. In the story, Adam/Eve does not take on physical form until, as it says in Genesis, “they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” This translation is a hideous example of trying to make up a story about two individuals. The Hebrew word translated ‘sewed’ is ‘va ithepherou’. It means fruitfulness, to produce or bring forth. The word leaves is ‘aleh thaeneh’. It is singular, and so cannot refer to leaves. But it does mean a covering or awning or protection. The word translated as fig thanah means suffering or pain. The prefix of ‘th’ suggests being plunged into. And the word aprons in its rightful translation suggests a fugitive, or being lost. So the overall meaning is that Adam/Eve, by attaining the ability to will something apart from the guiding will of their creative impulse, chose to experience physical life, with its experience of male female, sexuality, and knowledge of good and evil. The good being following the creative will, and the evil meaning turning toward a direction that took the gift of consciousness more deeply into physical sensation only.

Now we come to the central scene in Genesis. It is a turning point, revolving around the serpent Nahash the Tree of Life, and its fruit.

Remember that Adam/Eve is the potential that has not yet taken on physical form until they leave the Garden. This is exactly the same as an idea that you have not yet given form to in word or deed. The idea is still a reality at its own level. So Adam/Eve are not unreal or imaginary. The are as real as the potential in the seed. It is a real force in nature, having gradually expressed as all animal forms. It has also developed independent will, and the scene in the garden is a difficult one. The Adam/Eve being faces a decision. It, like us, has a multiplicity of facets. It has a sense of connection with the creative forces that gave rise to it. But it also has another facet enabling it to make independent choices.

However, it knows, from its connection with the creative forces (the word of God) that to partake of the tree of knowledge will cause it to die. But this is a contradiction, because it knows that its essence can never die. But the death it faces is of dying to its present condition of being whole a male female unity a being knowing eternal life a being with direct awareness of its source, and partaking in tending the garden of material evolution, and being a conscious part of the creative process.

This moment has been described elsewhere in the following words:

Now that the human spirits could follow their own feelings, there arose a question from the forces that caused the Adam/Eve to have individual existence. It entered their consciousness asking, “Did the Creator really mean that I should not totally experience material existence? Surely, if I entered the sphere of opposites I would gain knowledge and experience from it?”

And the divine wisdom in Adam warned it of the consequence of this, saying, “You must not centre your consciousness in matter, for by that you will die to your cosmic awareness and have only consciousness through physical senses.”

But the forces of individuation, flowing into matter Nahash the serpent (9) seemed to say that if they allowed their being to enter into and experience physical life, how could they lose their eternal consciousness? Instead they would gain knowledge of the opposites, of the paradox the Creator knows.

Then the desires for this fired their will, for many spirits wished to know life in physical realms; to experience fully the knowledge of time and space, of the incompleteness of being just male or female, of looking out through the senses of a physical body, and knowing the feel of winds and water, separation and aloneness. Thus came about the fall of the angels, and many spirits fell into life within a physical body.

Kundallini – Nahash – and the Serpent

If these pieces of information are put together the meaning of the tree falls into place. The snake, the potential for individual human awareness and the tree are all linked.

The snake appears in many myths throughout the world. In Indian mythology and philosophy it is described particularly clearly, and given the name Kundalini. As such it is shown residing coiled at the base of the spine the tree of life upon which the body of man/woman is hung. It is the energy that lies latent unless released in personal growth and the expansion of awareness. As an aspect of human nature it is not the potential itself, but the flow of energy as that potential expresses. In this sense it can be thought of as the evolutionary process. It is not driving to be expressed, but is there as a potential.

There is a difference between a huge lake held behind floodgates, and the enormous energy released if those floodgates are opened. The snake depicts the energy when it is released, or the energy that is potential and can be released.

The tree, in its mythological and Hebraic symbolism, is something that grows. It is something that can grow from a tiny thing into something grand. It can then bear fruit and reproduce itself countless times. In doing so it is both victim to time and circumstances, and eternal, in that the essential tree remains throughout its generations.

The tree is also portrayed in two ways in this story. It is the “the tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

As already explained, the good and evil represent two directions for the potential of human awareness to go. The good is the awareness of connection with the creative and eternal forces lying behind existence. The evil is the centring of awareness in the physical world and therefore dying to a sense of eternity and awareness of connection with all creation.

Therefore, the story tells us that lying in the centre of our being in the centre of our potential to be human individuals, lie these two possibilities of growth.

The tree of lives still remains within us. It holds in it the power that heals, that redeems; it resurrects us from the virtual death of life in the body. It is the growth toward remembering our life in eternity. In other words the awareness of the potential we hold within that is the Great Man/Woman beyond all human existence.

The other tree holds in it the power to reproduce, to experience life in the body, and the ability to survive amidst the storms and pains and summers of physical existence. But even as this physical emblem of mortality, it still represents the power that grows us from seed. It still reminds us of the life that exists in us unconsciously; the power that grew us from the seed in the womb, without our will. It holds out to us something we can allow into the life of our ego that will gradually link it again with the creative forces at our core. It offers redemption.

Buddha is shown experiencing enlightenment under the Bhodi tree because he became aware of the forces of evolutionary energy that had led to the formation of the body, and the formation of the mind, and through that the culture in which he lived. Both he saw as structures that gained their reality out of a series of circumstances human beings had passed through. He saw that mind and our view of the world had arisen out of the evolving concepts of self linked with tribal group, kinship, locality, language, and nationhood. The mind is not something to take as a reality, or as a means of properly understanding who we are. It evolved and has shape and limitations in the same way our body does.

The snake linked with the tree shows the energy that can lead to transcending the limited view the mind gives. But the snake can be dangerous, just as the energy of the released lake can be dangerous when the floodgates are opened. So careful discipline is necessary.

Christ is shown on the wooden cross because he is both suffering the life of the body, and also dying to the physical life through the redemptive potential of the tree. The cry from the cross, “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me” can be interpreted as his loss of any sense of separation from the One – a falling back into the cosmic life. He therefore becomes a sign of the way, the pattern of growth for humanity.

Our own personal experience of this inner process, represented by the tree of our dreams, can be that of accessing the possibility of growing beyond our present limitations and miseries. As Marie von Franz say:

The fact that we often speak of “arrested development” shows that we assume that such a process of growth and maturation is possible with every individual. Since this psychic growth cannot be brought about by a conscious effort of will power, but happens involuntarily and naturally, it is in dreams frequently symbolised by the tree, whose slow, powerful, involuntary growth fulfils a definite pattern. (10)

While writing this feature I had the following experience, along with the dream mentioned at the end.

This morning I was finishing work in my big bedroom, painting walls and ceiling. It is an old cottage with thick walls, and the windowsill is deep enough to sit in. While filling cracks and holes in this alcove something attracted my attention outside. A couple were on the rooftop next door, looking for somewhere to live – a couple of jackdaws that is. I could see from her movements as she looked down the nearest chimney pot, that the female was keen on this property. The male was sitting on another pot watching her though. He must have seen my slight movement and given her a signal, and they flew off. I seemed to know exactly what he communicated to her. “Let’s get out of here. This place has got nosy neighbours.”

I then went downstairs to find something to open the lid of a can of paint. When I took my toolbox out of the cupboard under the stairs and opened it, something extraordinary happened. There was the shiny little tool I had bought so many months beforehand for just such a need. As I picked it up I had an immense experience of my father, and his father, and all the people who have used tools to create their home — and beyond this the animals that strive so hard to build a nest, to make a den, in which to rear their children.

And the wonder was that I knew I am not in any way separated. I am an extension of all they have done or longed to do. Because, there in the small space under my stairs, were all the tools they had left me through their endeavours. And more than that – I knew in those moments, moving me to tears, that my very urge to make my dwelling a place to be proud of is their spirit flowing through me. It is a beautiful clear river of life.

A Dream of a Whole Life

Some days ago I dreamt that I stood before an immense tree. It was old. It was gnarled with the storms and summers of its life. It was wonderful to see. And as I crouched over my toolbox half in the cupboard under the stairs, with tears streaming down my face, I knew that I am the tree of life. I could feel all that has lived before living in me.

It was a precious moment.


(1) See Lyall Watson’s book Lightning Bird. Published by Hodder and Stoughton.

(2) See The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Brain, by Julian Jaynes. Published by Allen Lane.

(3) The Instant Dream Book, by Tony Crisp. Published by Daniel.

(4) From Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung and others. Published by Picador.

(5) Pagan and Christian Creeds Their Origin and Meaning by Edward Carpenter. This and many other books are available in electronic form at:

(6) See The Unknown God – Ain Soph, by F. J. Mayers.

(7) Nevertheless, the serpent energy that is released when that surrender is achieved needs wrestling with.

(8) See:

(9) The word translated ‘serpent’ is Nahash. The word for snake in Hebrew is sheretz. Nahash is a special word that does not refer to a snake at all, but to a force or process. It means evolutionary energy, or energy which tends to individualisation or selfhood. A whirlpool is simply water. But it is water drawn by an energy circling toward its centre. This circle of force draws things to its own centre – to its own self.

(10) Quoted from Man and His Symbols the section by Marie von Franz on The Process of Individuation.

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