The tree of life is a recurring motif in many traditions. For example in Norse mythology, the universe-spanning tree Yggdrasil connects the nine worlds of Norse cosmology.
‘Three roots there are | that three ways run
‘Neath the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
‘Neath the first lives Hel, | ‘neath the second the frost-giants,
‘Neath the last are the lands of men’.
Source: The Ballad Of Grimnir
The Book of Genesis refers to a tree planted by God in the Garden of Eden the fruit of which confers immortality. Along with the tree of life grows the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
‘Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.
‘Trees of Life’ are also important symbols in modern paganism-
‘The trees are cosmic maps of the Otherworlds our ancestors recognised. They are also called Trees of Life – all life, not just human. The more familiar “wheel of the year” showing the elements and compass points is a flat diagram of earth. World trees must be thought of in 3-D. The tree is a living cosmic axis with its roots in the Underworld, linking with the trunk on the soil of our Earth and its branches in the air of the Otherworld of spirit’.
I am personally struck by the amount of tree imagery in the writings of Baha’u’llah. Some examples of this imagery include the appearance of the tree as symbols of spiritual renewal, wisdom, the unity of mankind and the relationship of God and his Manifestation. For example-
‘Cast into the fire the tree that hath rot and dried up, and abide under the shadow of the green and goodly Tree, and partake of the fruit thereof.’
‘When the channel of the human soul is cleansed of all worldly and impeding attachments, it will unfailingly perceive the breath of the Beloved across immeasurable distances, and will, led by its perfume, attain and enter the City of Certitude. Therein he will discern the wonders of His ancient Wisdom, and will perceive all the hidden teachings from the rustling leaves of the Tree that flourisheth in that City’.
‘Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship’.
‘All comparisons and likenesses fail to do justice to the Tree of Thy Revelation, and every way is barred to the comprehension of the Manifestation of Thy Self and the Day Spring of Thy Beauty.… these Birds of the celestial Throne are all sent down from the heaven of the Will of God, and as they all arise to proclaim His irresistible Faith, they, therefore, are regarded as one soul and the same person. For they all drink from the one Cup of the love of God, and all partake of the fruit of the same Tree of Oneness’.