Monday, December 5, 2011

The Tower

The Tower: Wake up!

Wham! A bolt of lightning strikes “The Tower” from out of the blue. Shock! Dismay! Are you feeling shattered and burnt out? Are you fleeing from chaos and disaster? A lot has been written lately about the “The Tower” card of Tarot, especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 collapse of the twin towers in New York City. The commentaries range from endless discussions in popular magazines, newspapers and blogs, to rants of biblical proportions (see Revelation 9:11). In Tarot, the meaning of The Tower differs from what we think about concerning the watchtowers erected on ancient city walls. However, we note that the belief of the populous was—if the watchtower fell during an attack or siege—it signified the doom of the city.

The traditional Tarot view of The Tower is considered an allegory, symbolic of collapse of the social order. In early Tarot cards, lightning strikes the tower knocking off a crown. Two people are seen falling from the top—usually interpreted metaphorically as the plunge from a build up of self-aggrandizement. This refers to someone who has succumbed to “the love of money.” It typifies greed and corruption as seen in promoting rampant selfish capitalism and the tyranny of the “will to power.” In a reading, it can mean its time for a necessary break-up of “towering defenses,” and a willingness to give up old habits. It’s an impulsion to restructure oneself. It’s about liberation from delusions, ignorance, and materialistic thinking. In some interpretations, the thunderbolt that topples the crown is seen as a symbol of celestial power. A lightning flash reveals sudden spiritual insight and awareness. “The tower of pride is here destroyed by the lightning bolt of God’s judgment,” says Joseph Campbell in “Tarot Revelations,” (with Richard Roberts, Vernal Equinox Press, 1982). In mythology, Jupiter throws thunderbolts, which are an emblem of his sovereignty and power.

In Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness, the background of The Tower card appears red, indicating violence as bands of lightning streak through a shower of sparks. The crown is falling off a broken brick structure, much like we see it in older decks. What is the significance of the “crown”? It’s a mighty emblem of sovereignty that takes a fall when a false will to power and puffed up egos are exposed.

Johannes Dorflinger portrays “The Devil” and “The Tower” together in his sculptures at Constance, Germany, as mentioned in the previous blog. There, a sign describes the juxtaposition of the two as: “A tenuous balance between aggressive and defensive impulses…” The significance of the falling people represents those who are experiencing a sudden flash of insight about the Higher Self as disaster strikes. Something has to change in a hurry.

J.E. Cirlot says that “…liberation rather than ruin is the esoteric meaning of this key,” in “A Dictionary of Symbols,” (Philosophical Library, 1962 p.75).
An arrogant and powerful king, Nimrod, was building a tower to reach the heavens in the biblical allegory of the “Tower of Babel.” But the workers, who originally spoke a common language, couldn’t understand each other’s speech anymore so the work stopped and the tower collapsed. The implication was that Nimrod’s vanity brought about its downfall. This was his punishment for his arrogance and pride. Only the “Book of the Jubilees” from the Dead Sea Scrolls mentions the actual destruction of the tower.

Cynthia Giles in “Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore,” (Fireside, 1994, p. 176) describes a Surrealist art exhibition held in Paris, 1947, where the Major Arcana, including The Tower, were exhibited as a stairway made of book ends. The Tower was referred to as “The God House” whose reference book was Goethe’s “Faust.The artists were comparing the symbols of Tarot to certain books that seemed to exemplify the themes of the Major Arcana.

In a reading, when you get The Tower card, its time to ask yourself: what is breaking up in your life? How can you restructure and improve your environment? Gail Fairfield in “Choice Centered Tarot” (Red Wheel-Weiser, 1984) says: “The flash of enlightenment is like the lightning hitting the tower. It starts off a whole chain reaction.”