The Tree of Life and not Taking Sides


The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

– Edmund Burke

As someone who has had a troubled youth, in many ways my adult life has been about a search for a peace. Inner peace mainly and in the moments I have experienced that, known what it looks and feels like, my inevitable focus and desire has been to create and share that peace outside of myself too.

Recently, I took a short break to a summer school in memory of Pheroz Mehta. It was a short retreat where we listened to talks, had readings of poetry and meditated in grounds surrounded by serene, beautiful gardens. The purpose is spiritual fortification. To reaffirm the elusive idea of what it means to be a religious♦ person and attempt to get closer to the actions that embody it.

One talk was a brief explanation on The Tree of Life in Kabbalah. This talk resonated with me at the time but the lesson feels further underscored by recent events taking place in Charlottesville, USA. I had been out of touch with the news and came back to these heartbreaking, tragic and disturbing reports. Often, as I do when something hits me emotionally, my first response was to just absorb what was happening attempting to compute and make sense of it. I fleeted between MSM, independent news sources and Twitter for my news trying to scan the mood and comprehend the zeitgeist of these events.

The first thing that has struck me about these events, and this is the crux of my entry here, is the way in which some people mistake pacifism or apathy with peace, freedom of speech with unlimited license and attempt to present events as though they have no historical context.

As a practitioner of yoga, my life's (or many lifetimes) work in the practice is to find transcendence. Transcendence from the dualities of this world in an attempt to find peace; to find and reside in a Higher part of ‘myself’ that understands the dance of illusion that takes place in the human world and is able to disconnect in order to gain knowledge and perspective. My task is often to ‘not take sides’ as polarisation results in conflict and conflict leads away from enlightenment. I see echoes of this line of thinking in the attempt not to add to polarisation in response to the events in Charlottesville. However, I wanted to write this to make it clear that transcending duality is very different from being an apologist for hate and ignorance. It is important that I make clear at this juncture that it is always problematic talking about these matters as often we are talking about things for which words are inadequate. I will nevertheless still try to articulate this piece and hope that some forbearing can be found in it.

Kabbalah is a large, mystical body of knowledge about the human condition and its relationship to the divine. I'm not an expert but I hope I can explain this simply and also do the complexity justice. The Tree of Life represents interconnected modes of being related to human existence, thought and action. There are three vertical columns and a number of inter-sectioned and horizontal columns, with the Divine represente