Pomegranates: symbolism in mysticism and dreams

Sour Pomegranates. Unknown Author- c. 14th Century. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Sour Pomegranates. Unknown Author- c. 14th Century. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

Last night I dreamed of pomegranates…

Carl Jung saw a garden of pomegranates when he was near to death:

“I myself was, so it seemed, in the Pardes Rimmonim, the garden of pomegranates, and the wedding of Tifereth with Malchuth was taking place. Or else I was Rabbi Simon ben Jochai, whose wedding in the afterlife was being celebrated. It was the mystic marriage as it appears in the Cabbalistic tradition. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was. I could only think continually, “Now this is the garden of pomegranates! Now this is the marriage of Malchuth with Tifereth!” I do not know exactly what part I played in it. At bottom it was I myself: I was the marriage. And my beatitude was that of a blissful wedding.” (Jung, 1961, p. 294)

The pomegranate garden is a symbol of heaven in the mystical traditions. In the Canticle of Canticles (Books of Solomon), it is said: “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates.’ (iv. 13). Author Edward White (1902) says:

“The pomegranate, with its innumerable seeds, is a favorite object for symbolism, and in the garden, orchard, or paradise has deep lessons for all mysticism. Here, in a general sense it is the treasury of scriptural meaning, and the word by which it is described having four consonants, these meanings are classified as four: PRDS ; the P signifies the literal sense, R the mystic sense, D in the enigmatic sense, and S in the secret and concealed sense.”

“Dwelling upon these involves meanings, as may be well imagined, the “Garden of Pomegranates” is an obscure and difficult treaties… But the heart of the Kabbalist, in opposition to the ascribed nature of his nation, was fixed with peculiar interests on the eternal destinies of man and not on temporal concerns, so his chief interest with the soul… There is therefore no need to say that a special tract in the “Garden of Pomegranates” is dedicated to the subject of the soul, discussing the region from which it emanates, its purpose in the world, the prophet of its creation, its union with matter, its superiority over the angels, its chief divisions, the relation one with another, the Sephiroth to which they are referred, the places to which they resort after death, the absence of one or both of the higher divisions in many individuals, and the good and evil angels accompanying each human being.”

We see mystical images of the tree of life date back to the fourth millennium B.C., where it is found in the art motifs of Mesopotamian cultures. Upon the tree of life hung fruit, “palmettes, pinecones, or pomegranates.” Simo Parpola (1993) discusses the symbolism:

“The pomegranate is commonly taken as fertility symbols…, but as Farouk al-Rawi informs me (oral communication), in Iraq pinecones and pomegranates are traditionally symbols of unity. In Christian symbolism, the pomegranate represents “multiplicity in unity as the Church, with the seeds as its many members” and, secondarily, “regeneration and resurrection”….  the position of the cones and pomegranates in the fringe could be taken by palmettes, a universal symbol of regeneration, self renewal, and victory over death.”(p. 164)

References:

  1. The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy by Simo Parpola, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 52, No. 3,  pp. 161-208 (1993)
  2. The doctrine and literature of the Kabalah By Arthur Edward Waite (1902)