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

It may be taken as the preface to Atu XX, the Last Judgment, i.e., the Coming of a New Aeon. . . .

...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

A tower high on a hill has been struck by lightning and flames spill out from within. The lightning hits in a split second, a momentary insight or realization that everything thought to be true is false. The current path is suddenly a prison, a tower built upon false hopes and incorrect assumptions; and now the truth strikes and nothing will be the same again. The loftiness of the tower points to human pride and arrogance, and the cracks lead to the inevitable fall. The phallic symbol of the tower foretells new creation, but this time with insight. Lightning used to be considered the touch of God's hand coming down from the heavens to illuminate and enlighten. The black night and steep cliffs enhance the bleakness and desperation of this card. On the Cabalist Tree of Life, the Tower's path is between Devil and Death. A total braking down, a meltdown of sorts, has to occur to make way for the transformation and reorganization. The change is traumatic but necessary. The green branches on the trees point to new growth, a new phase of life. -- Susan Hansson

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.

More quotes from Richard Roberts' _Tarot Revelations_:

"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. 


". . . The Tower. It is a puzzling card, and everybody has a different story on it. It shows a bolt of lightning striking a tall phallic structure, and two figures, one wearing a crown, falling from it. Some read ejaculation, and leave it at that. Others see a Gnostic or Cathar symbol for the Church of Rome, and this is generalized to mean any System which cannot tolerate heresy: a system which, by its nature, must sooner or later fall. We know by now that it is also the Rocket.
"Members of the Order of the Golden Dawn believe The Tower represents victory ovre splendor, and avenging force. As Goebbels, beyond all his professional verbalizing, believed in the Rocket as an avenger.
"On the Kabbalist Tree of Life, the path of The Tower connects the sephira Netzach, victory, with Hod, glory or splendor. Hence the Golden Dawn interpretation. Netzach is fiery and emotional, Hod is watery and logical. On the body of God, these two Sephiroth are the thighs, the pillars of the Temple, resolving together in Yesod, teh sex and excretory organs.
"But each of the Sephiroth is also haunted by its proper demons or Qlippoth. Netzach by the Ghorab Tzerek, the Ravens of Death, and Hod by the Samael, the Poison of God. No one has asked the demons at either level, but there may be just the wee vulnerability here to a sensation of falling, th e kind of very steep and out-of-scale fall we find in dreams, a falling more through space than among objects. Though the different Qlippoth can only work each his own sort of evil, activity on the path the The Tower, from Netzach to Hod, seems to've resulted n the emergence of a new kind of demon (what, a dialectical Tarot? Yes indeedyfoax! A-and if yo don't think there are Marxist-Leninist magicians around, well *you* better think *again!*). The Ravens of Death have now tasted of the Poison of God . . . but in doses small enough not to sicken but to bring on, like the Amanita muscaria, a very peculiar state of mind. . . . They have no official name, but they are the Rocket's guardian demons." --Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, p. 747-8.


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