Occult explanations attached to this card are meagre and mostly disconcerting. It is idle to indicate that it depicts ruin in all its aspects, because it bears this evidence on the surface. It is said further that it contains the first allusion to a material building, but I do not conceive that the Tower is more or less material than the pillars which we have met with in three previous cases. I see nothing to warrant Papus in supposing that it is literally the fall of Adam, but there is more in favour of his alternative-- that it signifies the materialization of the spiritual word. The bibliographer Christian imagines that it is the downfall of the mind, seeking to penetrate the mystery of God. I agree rather with Grand Orient that it is the ruin of the House of Life, when evil has prevailed therein, and above all that it is the rending of a House of Doctrine. I understand that the reference is, however, to a House of Falsehood. It illustrates also in the most comprehensive way the old truth that "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."
There is a sense in which the catastrophe is a reflection from the previous card, but not on the side of the symbolism which I have tried to indicate therein. It is more correctly a question of analogy: one is concerned with the fall into the material and animal state, while the other signifies destruction on the intellectual side. The Tower has been spoken of as the chastisement of pride and the intellect overwhelmed in the attempt to penetrate the Mystery of God; but in neither case do these explanations account for the two persons who are the living sufferers. The one is the literal word made void and the other its false interpretation. In yet a deeper sense, it may signify also the end of a dispensation, but there is no possibility here for the consideration of this involved question. -- A.E. Waite
Sudden crises are life's way of telling you to wake up! Something's wrong, and you're not responding.
How you respond to the Tower's changes will make all the difference in how painful the experience will be. Recognize that the disruption occurred because it was needed. . . . . In fact, you may feel tremendous release that you have finally been "forced" into a new direction. You may have a burst of insight about your situation and reach a new level of understanding about it.
It is unfortunate that such severe "destruction" may be required if the Fool is to free himself, but the resulting revelation makes the painful experience worthwhile. The dark despair is blasted away in an instant, and the light of truth is free to shine down. -- Joan Bunning
...all manifestations, however glorious, however delightful, are stains. To obtain perfection, all existing things must be annihilated. The destruction of the garrison may therefore be taken to mean their emancipation from the prison of organized life, which was confining them. It was their unwisdom to cling to it. -- Aleister Crowley
Some quotes from Richard Roberts' _Tarot Revelations_:
The lightning-struck tower is another form of the stone to which the lovers of Key 15 are chained; hence liberation rather than ruin is the esoteric meaning of this Key.
...destruction of what is base to make way for what is superior. The thunderbolt which frees the crown from the foursquare material world (the four-sided tower) unites the volatile and fixed, the fiery and earthly. . . freeing the pairs of opposites from the grip of matter.
Somehow it seems always that the spirit finds the proper means of education--a guru, book, or crisis--when the life is amenable to change....liberation of the soul's bondage being the goal of the instruction.
Return to unity is symbolized by the shattering of polarities, king and queen, masculine and feminine, and by the material stone, akin the The Emperor's cubic throne. The solar crown again appears, and the lightning-like Logos reasserts the autonomy of the macrocosmic Monad, the apparent catastrophe resulting in a new regeneration.
"The House of God" ... The lightning-struck tower is another form of the stone to which the lovers of Key 15 are chained; hence liberation rather than ruin is the esoteric meaning of this Key. From the nadir only one direction is possible and that is up.
The red-caped king . . . sun descending to the winter solstice.
Thus we may read Key 16, The Tower, as a necessary sacrifice, perhaps not as willing as that of The Hanged Man but, nevertheless, liberating, since it commences the ascent. That which was inflexible has begun to bend.
In Key 16, nigredo, Key 15, gives way to Logos, the higher will, Below yielding to Above. ... smoke symbolizes the soul leaving the body.
The lightning logos pierces the tower, freeing the pairs of opposites, volatile and fixed, from the grip of matter.
...the tower bears a relation to the Stairway of Planets and the whole theme of ascent/descent; for the tower is symbolic of ascent "by the simple application of the symbolism of level (whereby material height implies spiritual elevation) . . . the same symbolism as the ladder--linking earth and heaven . . . .Since the idea of elevation or ascent, implicit in the tower, connotes transformation and evolution ...
Key 16, we recall, is the beginning of the ascent to heaven. What is it that shatters the chains of materiality which bind the lovers of Key 15? It is the action of Above on Below. "The thunderbolt (or lightning) is celestial fire as an active force . . . related to dawn and illumination, symbolic of the spring principle and of the initial stage (ascent) of every cycle. The thunderbolt is held to be an emblem of sovereignty."
The structure of the tower presents a picture of undifferentiated matter (prima materia) at the base, and gold at the crown. . . . The twenty-two yods of fire are the initiatory keys of the Major Arcana, transforming in effect, which lead the initiate to the spiritual height and liberation of The Fool.