Building the Tree of Life
Is there a hidden
meaning to the work that Saunière carried out in the small
village of Rennes-le-Château? Can one see the tree of truth
through the forest of theories that have been created in recent
years? And is the answer… a tree itself?
spent a fortune on restoring the church and building the surrounding
structures in the small village of Rennes-le-Château. Why?
Dozens if not hundreds of books have been written on the subject.
Amongst those, there are largely two trends. One is that Saunière
discovered a treasure, to do with the origins of Christianity,
and hence blackmailed or otherwise benefited from this knowledge.
This knowledge is believed to be about the role of Mary Magdalene
in the early Church, though some also add the heretical notion
that Jesus Christ might not have died on the Cross, and that he
might have accompanied her to this part of France. Most other
theories rely on some form of sacred geometry, in which certain
features in the landscape are used to draw pentagrams and other
shapes. However, how Saunière could have financially benefited
from knowledge of a sacred layout on the landscape, has never
The answer is – as is often the case – simple, yet
at the same time not easily straightforward: irrelevant of how
he got the money, it is clear that once he used that money to
build his estate, he incorporated a detailed knowledge and understanding
of the Kabbalah into his estate. Indeed, he built a three-dimensional
model of the Tree of Life.
cultures have “trees of life”. The one of interest
here is the Tree of Life of the biblical and Kabbalistic tradition.
First of all, the Tree of Life is mentioned in both the Books
of Genesis, in which it grants immortality to Adam and Eve, and
Revelation, in which it is referred to as the Wood of Life. It
is thus central to the beginning… and the end.
Within the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life takes the form of ten interconnected
nodes. The Kabbalah is perhaps most easily explained as a Hebrew
form of yoga: a system in which the initiate is trained, develops
along the steps/nodes as his training progresses, on a path that
will bring his awareness, his mind, closer if not in direct contact
with God. It is therefore a spiritual discipline.
As mentioned, the Tree of Life is made up out of ten spheres,
with an 11th invisible sphere – Daath. 22 paths connect
them. In Rennes-le-Château, the number 22 has always been
known to be popular, but has been mostly connected with Mary Magdalene,
as her feastday is July 22. Instead, it seems to be more logically
linked with the Kabbalah: there are twenty-two steps – steps
– in the Tour Magdala and twice eleven steps – steps
– on the path that leads up to the Belvedere. In short,
Saunière linked the number 22 with “ascending stairways”
– which is a direct reference to climbing up the Tree of
nodes are also referred to as spheres, or Sephiroth (singular:
sephirah). They are stages in the emanations of the Spirit of
God or man in his progress from noumenal existence to the building
of a physical vehicle in the phenomenal world. Each sphere is
a stage along the way.
The only form of unity is said to be found in the “Unmanifest”,
a pure state of non-existence, symbolised by three veils behind
Kether, the first sphere. They are also known as the “Veils
of Negative Existence” and should be seen as the origin,
and destiny, of the soul, throughout its spiritual development.
Apart from 11 spheres, the Tree of Life is seen as consisting
of three pillars, grouping some of these spheres. The two extreme
pillars are comparable to “Yin and Yang”, negative
and positive, two forms of “energy” that need to be
combined and balanced within one person – visualised by
the third, central pillar. At each step of the development, these
two aspects need to be combined, whereupon one can move to the
In the Tree of Life, the “final” spheres of the left
and right hand path are Netzach and Hod, followed by two “central
states”, Yesod, which culminates in the “root”
or destination of the voyage: Malkuth.
has this to do with Saunière? Quite simply, Saunière
built a Tree of Life in the ground plan of his estate, specifically
his church, the small garden in front and the cemetery behind.
And, indeed, what better way to depict the Tree of Life –
or at least a portion of it – then in a garden?
It is precisely Saunière’s triangular design in the
Calvary garden in front of his church that overlaps exactly with
a portion of the Tree of Life – spheres 7 through to 10.
The Calvary itself is Yesod, the Foundation. How “coincidental”
to have the central aspect of Christianity, Christ Dying on the
Cross, being depicted on the location of sphere 9, the foundation.
Of course, it is no coincidence at all, but Saunière who
did this by design.
We offered the above insight to Dutch Rennes-le-Château
researcher Corjan de Raaf, asking him whether he could perfect
and verify the overlay of the Tree of Life on Saunière’s
estate. Instead, he did better. Rather than erring on the side
of prudence and merely arguing that Saunière depicted the
bottom section of the Tree of Life in his garden, de Raaf straightforwardly
accomplished a total overlap: Saunière had not merely depicted
a part of the Tree of Life: he had drawn all of the Tree of Life.
did he accomplish this? First, it is clear that Saunière
could play with some, but not play with other aspects of his village.
For example, the presbytery and the church were what they were
and where they were and though they were totally refurbished,
their dimensions or location were not altered; this would have
required a complete rebuilding, which was outside of Saunière’s
remit. The cemetery is where it was and though Saunière
made alterations, he could of course not simply relocate it somewhere
else. Amongst those items he could play with, were the design
of the Calvary garden, as well as delineating the cemetery, which
he did by means of a wall.
Indeed, the wall around the cemetery is one of the greatest clues
– never observed by any “Rennes researcher”
– to one of the real mysteries of this priest. Building
this wall around the cemetery is assumed to have been done so
that Saunière had privacy, allowing him to do inside the
cemetery whatever it was that he was doing. Some have accused
Saunière of performing black magic, and it is definitely
proven that Saunière illegal dug up some of the graves
of his deceased parishioners.
What became evident was that what for a century had only been
seen as a normal wall around the cemetery… was actually
built in such a position that it would overlap with the outline
of the Tree of Life!
is how Saunière built the Tree of Life. Having projected
spheres 7 to 10 on the Calvary Garden, we see that the line from
sphere 4 to 5 runs along the northern wall of the Church. There
is no direct overlap on the left hand of the Tree, to “anchor”
sphere 5, as he could not control anything there: the position
of the presbytery and church were where they were.
The proof that the entire Tree of Life is depicted here, can be
seen because the wall of the cemetery defines both the right-hand
path of the Tree, whereby the line between spheres 2 to 3 coincides
with the northern wall of the cemetery. There is no room for doubt:
Saunière used the Tree of Life design to build this wall,
as each part of the wall perfectly overlaps with the outline of
the Tree of Life. This cannot be a coincidence.
Sphere 2, Chokmah, Wisdom and Sphere 3, Binah, Understanding,
are seen as the first “duality”, created out of the
unity – the monad – that is sphere 1, Kether, the
Crown. That region, as well as the “Unmanifest”, lies
beyond the cemetery. It seems, indeed, that Saunière left
it “unmanifest”: he did not anchor that other reality
inside our earthly realm. This is once again obviously not coincidental
but shows the level of detail and understanding Saunière
possessed in the construction of his oeuvre.
is therefore right to conclude that Saunière was a master
of symbolism, expertly using the Kabbalistic Tree of Life in this
architectural plan of the religious heart of the village. This
requires intelligence, knowledge, insight, as well as understanding
of architecture. To this, we can add wit, for the area inside
spheres 2-3-4-5 contains a hidden part, Daath, the Abyss. We note
that this “Veil of the Abyss” runs through the middle
of the cemetery – the bailiwick of potential lost souls
Daath is the location where all ten sephiroth in the Tree of Life
are united as one. It is sometimes controversially described as
an eleventh sephira. In Daath, all sephiroth exist in their perfected
state of infinite sharing. The three spheres of the left column
that would receive and conceal the Divine Light, instead share
and reveal it. With this 11th sphere active, all spheres radiate
infinite self-giving Divine Light, and it is thus no longer possible
to distinguish one sphere from another. Thus they are one.
In Kabbalistic doctrine, the Divine Light is always shining, but
not all humans can see it. Humans who become self-giving –
like the Light – become able to see it, and for them the
benefits of Daath's Light are "revealed". However, humans
who remain selfish cannot
see it, and for them its benefits seem "hidden". How
remarkable therefore to see this “Divine Light” to
be also present in the cemetery, the realm of the souls! Though
in the Kabbalah, it was considered Man’s mission to achieve
this state during life, in death, Daath was of course omnipresent.
Surely, if there was the slightest of doubt left that Saunière
played with the Tree of Life design, this should not be gone.
is no room for doubt: Saunière can only have accomplished
this consciously. The conclusion therefore reveals an unknown
dimension to Saunière, that of a man well-versed in Kabbalistic
lore. As the Kabbalah is not part of the normal curriculum of
a person studying for the priesthood, the question needs to be
asked: where did he acquire this knowledge? And if he did not
achieve this knowledge purely through self-study, who taught him?
The answer is that there is a clear track record of Saunière
having been exposed to such doctrines. Specifically, study of
the Kabbalah was popular at the end of the 19th century, even
in religious circles. The Kabbalah was a spiritual doctrine and
hence not at odds with the dogma of Christ and the Church. There
is a large body of evidence from elsewhere that shows that priests
were practicing or interested in the Kabbalah and therefore to
posit that Saunière did as much, should not pose any problem
– in theory.
However, the next question than is whether he did so in practice.
The answer is yes. Evidence for this comes in the form of the
knowledge that Saunière visited some of the leading Kabbalah
specialists of his time in Lyons. France’s second largest
city was also the home of Martinism, a spiritual discipline that
incorporated teachings of the Kabbalah. In 1995, evidence was
uncovered that showed that Saunière had attended at least
one meeting of a Martinist organisation in Lyon. The records show
that Saunière was identified as a member of a Martinist
lodge, though the attendance records do not reveal where Saunière
attended his normal meetings. One would assume it was closer to
Rennes-le-Château, but so far, no further information has
become available. In 2008, evidence that Saunière was a
member of a Freemasonic lodge was made public, clearly revealing
a pattern that shows that Saunière was a man with a deep
interest in the esoteric. And this explains why he decided to
incorporate such esoteric lore into the design of his estate,
which was thus seen as a functioning alchemical Tree of Life.
But he left it to those who would carefully map his estate, and
who would have a detailed esoteric knowledge, to understand what
his master plan was all about.