Did you say she was a tree? (Princess Twilight Sparkle)

Veni, veni, venias (Gloriosa)
Ne me mori facias (Generosa)

There is a room in my dreams. Or there was, once; I haven’t dreamed of it in nearly fifteen years.

The room is perfectly cubical, about fifty feet on a side. The walls and floor and ceiling are transparent, and through them I can see that the room floats in a vast black void. The only thing in the room, the only source of light, is a shining crystal tree rising proudly from the center of the floor, its uppermost branches touching the ceiling. Blue lightning sparks from the branches, flows down the trunk, trickles along the roots to vanish into the floor.

In the center of each wall is an arch. Through each arch is a room just like this one–no, it is this room. If I stand at the edge of the archway, so the trunk of the tree does not block my view, I can see myself from behind.

The room, in the dream, is the entire world. The tree is me.

It is not a particularly difficult dream to interpret. (My dreams tend to be obnoxiously and disappointingly blatant in their metaphors.) The tree is the axis mundi, the World Tree, the Tree of Light and of Life. Its color, its shape, the lightning: it is a neuron, too.

The dream ended when I started researching kabbalah. This may not be a coincidence.

Let us enter the Kingdom. This is supposed to be about ponies, so it might as well be Equestria as any other kingdom. This is where the Tree is rooted, where the Light, the rainbow, the Bridge of Heaven touches the earth. The tree appears to grow up from the ground and emit the light, but in truth it is the other way around; the World emanates from the Tree as the Tree emanates from the Light.

This is the realm of the material, where Harmony loses purity, becomes unbalanced. Beneath the world, as the Light is above, there is the Darkness, the Silence, the Absence of Light; the world acts as a filter, catching the light. Beneath the world is the Tree of Darkness, the qlippothic reflection of the Light; not the opposite of light but its distortion, the unbalanced elements.

Once, you see, the Tree was whole and harmonious, but then chaos entered the world. The vessels were taken from the Tree. The Light scattered, the vessels were divided, the spark hidden. The opposite of Harmony is Silence; the unbalancing is Discord.

Now the tendrils of the Tree of Darkness, of Death, of Discord are everywhere in this world, seeking ever to steal the magic, the Light, the world. The sources of the Light are occulted away–like an eclipse, but not quite the same. Not Moon obscuring Sun (that comes later as it came before), but Sun and Moon trapped in the same chaotic space.

But as below, so above. We have performed alchemy with this series before, just to ascend to this point. Now we do it again.

Consider the Tree itself, that smooth crystalline trunk, the Foundation of the world and of the branches above both. This is the point where the Light enters the World. What Harmony is to be found in this broken world enters it here. Sun and Moon, passion and intellect, power and symbol, are brought together and held here. This is the final part of the tree itself, the last emanation to come directly from the source.

If the vessels are not brought back together, if the Light wanes, if the Kingdom falls–when the Kingdom falls–this is where the darkness will strike. This is where its creeping tendrils wrap and squeeze and poison.

The Kingdom has already fallen. The princesses are nowhere to be found, two stolen, one too distant to be of help, one sent away. How can we save the Tree and restore the Kingdom?

Maybe the answer is higher up, further back, closer to the source. Chug the elixir. Climb the tree.

A rayed sun. A shining moon. Two sisters. We encounter Majesty first, the one who separates herself, the one who sits in judgment. The intellect, the one who deals in symbols, where intentions take shape into comprehensible symbols. The shaper of form, morpheus, Dream. Yet also that which submits, the lesser one, the one who was defeated.

Victory, the one who defeated the other, the eternal, the long-suffering. Passion and emotion, the empathic one, yet also patient. She is kindness presaged by harshness, the guiding hand you barely realize is leading you by the nose.

Jealous, one rose against her sister, and was banished for a thousand years.

For a thousand years, the other mourned alone while others celebrated the loss of her sister.

They are the feet, the hooves, on whose backs the others stand, the upper trunk from which the branches rise.

Once they were in balance, united, harmonious, but then strife came, chaos, Discord. The Nightmare Moon, the battle of sisters, one vengeful, the other determined, a surprising burst of violence that nonetheless does not feel out of place. The vessels were brought together, but one person cannot truly unite them alone; all they could do was fight and imprison and banish. The Healing of the World was not achieved.

There are no answers here. Drink. Climb.

A star. The Adornment, jewels and necklaces and headgear, the spirit, the balance. The one that unites the higher branches, the bringing together of the vessels, the tzaddik. The Anointed One who wears the Crown (but more on that later). Perhaps she died and returned, perhaps she is a Goddess; maybe that was someone else. Accounts vary.

But she brought them together, the bearers of the vessels. They were shattered into countless shards, but she and her companions reunited them. She reignited the spark. She healed that which was broken, once, ending the Nightmare Moon and restoring the Dream. If anyone can heal the Tree, heal the World, restore the Kingdom, it is she.

As it turns out, anyone can.

But she cannot do it alone. She must have something to unite. Quaff and ascend.

Another level. Two more shining symbols, vessels of light.

Strength, that which rejects what is false. Here’s where we have to admit how tenuous this all is; the tree in the show is missing yesod, forcing us to imagine it in the trunk itself; hod and netzach are stacked instead of side-by-side; and now, worst of all, gevurah and chesed are outright swapped! The apple and the butterfly are in each other’s positions, if this reading is to work at all. It’s too bad; an apple would be perfect here. After all, in the false version of this story, the simplified, lie-to-children one that everyone knows, it’s an apple that leads to the tree being taken away. Or some unspecified fruit, anyway; it might as well be an apple, even if some prefer a pomegranate or even an etrog. It definitely wasn’t a butterfly.

But strength and honesty alone are too harsh, too unforgiving, too practical. Driving Twilight away, even though it hurt her, was the obvious, practical, logical, correct thing to do. It was also wrong.

Kindness is needed on the opposite side of the tree, for balance. Grace, compassion, the unconditional love that might be a bit gentler than is wise, since it loves even Discord. Look at the new opening credits–Kindness let Discord into the Tree itself! (Well, a tree, anyway, and every tree is in some sense the Tree.)

“There is nothing beyond the text,” as has been said. Outside the room is the void, which means everything must be inside the room, whether we can see it or not. Everything that is not visible within the text is invisible within the text, waiting only for us to find it. Every tree is in some sense the Tree, and therefore this tree is the Tree, swapped cutie marks or no.

The answer begins to form; climbing the Tree is itself the path to healing the Tree. Bringing the vessels back together is the restoration of the Kingdom and the Healing of the World. We must surrender them, return them to where they came from.

It remains only to witness them all, higher in the Tree of Light, deeper in the Cup of Life.

Intuition and Creativity, placed exactly where they needed to be. The gap crossed, our momentary crisis of doubt transcended. The reading works like a guided tour. “If you look to your left you will see the intuitive, revealed wisdom that descends out of the unknown, the inexplicable twitching tail that lets you dodge a thorny, aggressive branch of the Black Tree. Those of you on the right side of the trunk can look over at the creative energy, the generous gift of previously nonexistent potentials.”

Discord must have known that Celestia and Luna were working against him. He knew of the Tree of Harmony, created his qlippothic seeds to sap its strength, imprison the princesses, and free him even if they defeated him–and he likely also knew that the only way to free them and restore the Tree would be to surrender the only weapon that could harm him. He didn’t plan on Harmony being stronger than he thought. He didn’t plan on making friends.

Once again: Discord is not the opposite of Harmony, merely Harmony gone off balance. If there is one thing modern music has taught us, it is that Harmony can safely hold Discord within it.

It is not necessarily a bad thing that the opening has him in that tree.

He is here with us. Harmony and Discord, opposites united, just as the two sides of the tree–Intuition, Strength, Majesty on the left, Creativity, Kindness, Harmony on the right–are united through Adornment, Foundation, and the Kingdom down its center. And one more, higher up. The ascent is the very alchemy we seek. Drink the Tree. Climb the elixir.

The Crown of the Tree. The lightning bolt, the divine spark, the exploding rainbow light that created all of these six upper symbols. The Source of destiny, the start of the episode, teaching us how to fly, how to ascend.

The vessels are returned. The tree is healed. The bonds of friendship, of loyalty, hold Discord in check. But now what?

The problem with master narratives: there are always more stories to tell. Enlightenment is a process, not a destination. Just as passing through the arches brought us back to this room, at the top of the tree we find the world again. The Kingdom is the World, and we stand once more at the base of the Tree.

But it would be wrong to say we have accomplished nothing. This is the same Tree, and yet it is new.

Knowledge leads always to new questions. That is the joy of enlightenment, the knowledge that there is always a step farther to go.

A single flower sprouts, a widening Gate, a locked box that contains the promise of opening. There is no answer here, yet; the interior of the box is an unknown Abyss.

Yet the Tree is us, has always been us. This is Knowledge sought by turning inward, which means on some level we already know it.

The original spark that gave these tzaddikim their destinies was a rainbow.

Discord is not the opposite of Harmony.

Inside the Darkness there was Light all along.

Yes; we know what is in that box. But that’s not really the point.

No matter how many times we climb the Tree, there is always more Tree. No matter how many times Twilight drinks the elixir, there is always still some left in the bottle.

The point of a journey with no end is the journey.

When we are ready to open the box, to learn what we know? The Tree will be here.

Until then? We spiral ever upwards, ending somewhere that is back where we started, yet also new. It is the Summer Sun Celebration, and Twilight Sparkle has the important task of…

4 thoughts on “Did you say she was a tree? (Princess Twilight Sparkle)

  1. I thought of the Tree of Harmony more as Yggdrasil than the Sephirot, with the plundervines as a vegetable Nidhogg. The place associations work out fairly well: let Ponyville be Midgard, Canterlot Asgard, the Frozen North Niflheim, the dragon migration's destination Muspelheim, Tartarus Helheim…

    It's especially interesting if one looks at Twilight's return of the Element of Magic. She is the Princess of Friendship, and thus Magic. She sacrifices Magic—that is, herself—at the world tree, and receives a great gift. Granted, it works better in “Twilight's Kingdom,” but there's still something Odinic here. And, of course, Discord as Loki helps and hinders at the same time.

    Of course, all trees are the Tree. The distinction is little more than academic window-dressing. But it's still fun to look at it from a different angle.

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  2. This works well! For me, however, the return of the vessels to the tree just screamed “Sephiroth,” as did the fact that it is crystal (though that's a purely personal association). Then again, kind of the whole point of the Sephiroth is that they are simultaneously the individual soul, the Tree of Life, and the World Tree, so.

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  3. No need to apologize, I'm even further out on a limb (pun not intended) here than usual. This is me going full gonzo mystic and treating the episode as a journey up the kabbalistic Tree of Life, pretty much just because I can. It has no real purpose except to set up some ideas I want to come back to later this season.

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