The Tower - an Interpretation
"Teach Yourself Tarot" Series 2
(c)1997 by Michael Star
Understanding the meaning of The Tower card XVI in the Tarot deck.
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An Interpretation by Michael Star (c)1997
This page is copyrighted and may not be published, distributed, or sold without the permission of the author. All rights reserved.
The Tower card is often regarded by people who see the Tarot card deck for the first time as one of the "scariest" cards. Like the Death card and The Devil card, two other "scary" cards, it has a black background; while all the other cards have colored or light gray backgrounds in the popular and most familiar of all Tarot decks: "the Rider deck" or "Rider-Waite" Tarot deck.
In most Tarot decks the image on The Tower card is of a tall tower, somewhat like a modern lighthouse. But this "light-house" is being "lit up" by a lightning bolt and flames of fire! Two people are falling head-first to the hard rocks below, as if they had been blasted out of the doorless room at the top of the tower. It certainly does look like a scary sight, and one can only wonder or fear what might happen to those two poor people when they "hit rock- bottom".
But we are only seeing an instant frozen in time, and have no idea what will happen to those hapless souls in the next instant. All we know is that they have suddenly been sent tumbling down to earth from a high place, as a result of forces beyond their control that have struck them down like "a bolt from the blue". No warning. No idea why. No time to even think about what is happening or what to do about it. One moment they are comfortably perched high in their room at the top, and the next moment they are "taking a fall". And they don't even know if they will survive the fall as they hurtle headlong from the top to the bottom.
What is even more "scary" is that the occult meaning of The Tower card is "Destruction"! It surely looks like a card you would not want to see coming up in YOUR reading, doesn't it? By the way, the word "occult" simply means "hidden", and the phrase "the Occult" simply means "a body of esoteric knowledge and wisdom hidden from those who are not ready, willing, or able to understand it". What we do not understand, we often fear; and this is why some people seem to fear things which are "occult" or hidden from their understanding.
The full name of this card is "The Lightning-Struck Tower", and that adds an electrifying element of sudden "shock" to the scene, or at least an element of suprise. They couldn't see this coming, and then suddenly their whole world was turned upside-down. Who wouldn't be "in shock" when something like this suddenly shattered the reality they had been accustomed to?
I was reading another person's interpretation of The Tower card (thank you, Gawain) on an emailed version of a newsgroup on the internet (called a "list"), when I was moved to reply with some of my own ideas about this fearful but fascinating card. I ended up writing much more than I had expected, as many insights seemed to come to me as I wrote. Since one of the possible, and much "nicer", meanings of The Tower card is "insight", I found that what I wrote spontaneously would serve nicely as an article on this card for my "Teach Yourself Tarot" series on my STAR SIGNS Astrology and Tarot Zine website. What follows is the text of that posted message, modified by some editing and some additions I did while preparing the text for publication on the Web in hypertext format.
When you mentioned your interpretation of The Tower card of the Tarot, I was moved to add some of my own insights about this card. I think you have expressed the essential meaning of The Tower very well, and maybe inadvertantly added another of its possible interpretations: "Divorce". This too is often a "sudden and irrevocable change" - as you explain The Tower. It is also one of the many manifestations of these other themes which I teach to beginning students of the Tarot:
- A Reality Check
- A Rude Awakening
- Your World Turns Upside-Down
- The rug being pulled out from under you
- A Crisis Coming to a Head
- "Cruisin' for a bruisin'"
- Building Castles in the Sand (which crumble when the tide turns)
- "A Bolt from the Blue" (lightning suddenly striking from the sky)
- A Revelation (sudden, and sometimes shocking)
- A Re-Evaluation (required by changing circumstances)
- Getting Knocked Off Your Comfortable Perch
- Getting Kicked Out of Your "Ivory Tower" Into the "Real World"
- Giving Up Your Illusions (or being forced to)
- Being Dis-Illusioned (i.e. being Enlightened)
- Self-Delusions Suddenly Disappearing (when the Truth is seen)
- Breaking Free (from a limiting situation)
- Breaking Out of Self-created Prisons (made from mistaken beliefs)
- Painting Yourself Into a Corner (then having to wreck your work to escape)
- A Falling-out
- "A Whack on the Side of the Head" (the title of a book about insights)
- "Pride goeth before a fall." (from the Book of Proverbs).
As I was typing the above ideas, a song called "Her Town Too" (by former band member J.D. Souther of "The Eagles") was playing on the radio. It is a song about Divorce! I know the song, but I suddenly had a little "revelation" myself when I noticed a line that I had not noticed before - one which could be another cliche' which aptly interprets The Tower:
"You never know till it all falls down, somebody loves you."
As I mentioned in the Subject caption of my message [The Tower Card = Destruction of Old/Useless = Space for New/Useful], the occult (i.e. "hidden") meaning of The Tower is: "Destruction". But it is not necessarily "a bad thing", this "destruction".
I have found that a forest fire is an excellent illustration of this Fact of Life, especially since it involves Lightning, and since this card was originally named "The Lightning-struck Tower". Here we see Nature actually destroying a part of herself when lightning ignites a fire which spreads and utterly destroys an entire forest of living plants and insects and even some animals.
Yet the fire also destroys the taller plants and trees which were crowding out the shorter ones and blocking the Sun from reaching them (just as illusions block us from "seeing the Light" of the Truth). It is said that a forest fire is actually "a good thing" for the forest as a whole - IT MAKES ROOM FOR NEW GROWTH by removing the old growth which was stifling new growth, and also quickly breaks down the useless, decaying, dead-wood into components which the new plants can absorb and USE for their growth. Farmers burn off their own dead crops on a regular basis to recycle the nutrients into the soil so they can nourish new crops.
In this material world, nothing is created unless something else is also "destroyed" - whether it be:
- an old building being demolished to make room for a newer, better one to be built;
- your own worn-out red blood cells being destroyed by your liver, and the chemical components used to create new and useful ones;
- your own old thoughts and beliefs being destroyed, to make room for newer ones which don't hold you back or block your happiness, but help you grow and be happier;
- or a "dying" relationship being destroyed by divorce, to allow the two partners to continue growing instead of remaining stuck and stifled in a stagnant situation which may now be turning somewhat self-destructive for both.
Things which were once good and growth-promoting and useful, eventually become old and worn-out and useless, and may actually be growth-preventing. When anything reaches that point, it must be transformed - re-constructed, re-cycled - into something new and useful.
The Tower card symbolically represents that part of the cycle of Life we call the Birth-and-Death Cycle. I like to call it "the "Birth-Death-Rebirth Cycle", or the "Sex-and-Death Cycle". The Tower card is associated with the planet Mars; and in Astrology the planet Mars was the ancient ruler of Scorpio, the Sign of "Sex and Death". The Sun appears in Scorpio in the season in the Northern Hemisphere called Autumn, when the leaves of the trees and plants are dying and dropping off so that the tree or plant can send its life-giving juices down into the roots below the ground (the Underworld) and survive the coming Winter frost. The plants destroy their own leaves because they cannot sustain them when the reality of the freezing weather forces them to send their sap below the frost line so it does not freeze.
Plants and trees reach towards the life-giving Sun when its rays are coming from high in the sky; but when the Earth is tilted away from the Sun in Winter the plants and trees accept the reality of their situation and let go of the leaves which can no longer gather enough of the Sun's energy to sustain their growth. They store their energy below the ground to survive the coming crisis and be ready to send it up again when the situation changes. Like the people we see going from the top of the tower to below its base when the lightning and fire occur, we see in the plants and the seasons something which changes and forces an acceptance of the reality of the situation. Trying to resist the inevitable is more dangerous than accepting the change and acting accordingly. You could "get burned" if you don't "get real" and get yourself out of the situation which has changed from "comfortable" to "critical", and could quickly change to "chaotic" and "catastrophic"!
The planet Mars is also the natural ruler of the Sign of Aries, the Sign where the Sun appears in the Spring - the season of re-birth and renewal, when the sap rises in the trees and plants spring forth from beneath the earth (The Underworld? Hades?) and the Earth (in the Northern Hemisphere) is filled with new Life after the long Winter sleep and the apparent "Death" of the plants. Their "death" was only an Illusion, for they were merely in stasis, conserving their energy until the time was right to grow again.
The Sign of Scorpio is all about "transformation", as is the Death card in the Tarot deck. Neither is about Death only; for there is always a Rebirth. Nothing "dies" in vain - it always makes room for its replacement, and its components are recycled into something new and "alive". We humans eventually die, but we also re-create ourselves while we live when we reproduce - as do all living things. Part of us lives on in our offspring, like the seeds that sprout in Spring; and what remains of our dead bodies returns to the Earth and gives Life to the plants which, in turn, die to give life to animals and humans.
This reminds me of another song: "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens. There is a line which says: "God's re-creation of the new day". Then there is that song which is titled "Everything Old is New Again". Different songs, same themes: Trans-formation, Death and Re-birth, Re-Generation, De-struction and Re-construction, Breaking-down and Building-up, Re-Placing, Re-cycling, Re-newal, Re-novation, Re-furbishing, Re-finishing, Re-creating, Re-structuring, Re-building, Re-covery, and all those "re-" words.
These are themes of Scorpio and its modern ruler, the planet Pluto, and of the Death card in the Tarot. But Mars is the ancient ruler of Scorpio, and is its co-ruler in modern Astrology. Mars, and The Tower card, represent the "Destruction" phase of the transformation cycle. You have to tear down before you can build up, and the Tower represents the act of tearing-down what is standing in the way of progress.
In my home town of Port Credit a few years ago, I watched the tall, towering smokestack of an old factory be blasted by dynamite at its base so that it tilted, fell sideways, and crashed to the ground - to make way for the construction of a new residential complex along the shore of Lake Ontario. This is an ideal image for the constructive "Destruction" aspect of The Tower card!
Mars was the god of War. He is like "Conan the Destroyer" in the movie of the same name, who actually turns out to be a hero. He is like "Worf, the Klingon" who is a warrior but also the lover of the beautiful and gentle Deanna Troi (in one time-travel episode of the TV series "Star Trek, The Next Generation" - note that "generation" word again) - and the lover of the beautiful Jedzia Dax (in "Star Trek, Deep Space Nine"). Mars was the lover of Venus in Roman mythology, and in Greek mythology Ares was the lover of Aphrodite. Lovers have sex and reproduce, and re-create themselves in their children.
The planet Mars in Astrology symbolizes the lust and thrust of love-making itself. Pluto and the Sign it rules, Scorpio, represent the actual fertilization of the egg by the sperm, the act of re-production (another "re-" word). Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus (sp?), an underworld figure similar to Hades (Pluto); but her lover was Ares (Mars). Here is another link between Mars and Pluto, Aries and Scorpio, and "Sex and Death". Hephaestus would create weapons and tools for the gods, and Ares was the God of War who used the weapons to destroy.
The aggressive act of a rape can result in the creation of a child. The phallus is like a weapon and the vagina is like a wound. The womb is like a cave or cavity, and plants and crystals and animals and humans are all nurtured and protected and grown in moist cavities. The sperm cell attacks and breaks into the egg cell to create life. Other sperm cells attack and kill the sperm cells from rival suitors, just as male animals (and some humans) who perform the "rutting" ritual attack the rival suitors for the desirable and fertile females. Both in nature and in the human experience, sex and death are often associated; and destructive acts can lead to acts of creation. Destruction and Construction are like two sides of the same coin.
It is fitting that both of these "scary" planets, Mars and Pluto, are essential elements in the function of love-making (sex) and reproduction (having babies). It is interesting that a French idiom for "orgasm" is "le petit mort" - which means "the little Death"! When we truly join with someone in sexual union, at the moment of orgasm it is our separateness which "dies" as we become one with each other. Our Ego is set aside - momentarily "dies" - and we see our sex partner as our Self, or our Self as our partner. When we join in sexual union with the higher purpose of joining with another soul, sex becomes the highest expression of spiritual Love we can give to one another in our corporeal state in this material world. Orgasm is "a letting go", "a sacrifice", of our own Ego (that part of our mind which believes we are separate from each other and from God). But we are believing in an Illusion or Self-Delusion until that magical moment reveals to us the Truth and we experience the feeling of bliss that brings. It is only a tantalizing taste of the Truth, but one that reminds us of what we once were, and could be again, if only we would let go of our Illusions of separateness.
For many of us, that may be the rare moment when we are truly "at one" with another human being, when we get a glimpse of "the at-one-ment". Notice how I spelled "atonement". This is a term used in the Christian Bible, but it never dawned on me what it really meant until I noticed the "at one" imbedded in the series of letters. I used to think atonement meant some kind of restitution for your wrong-doings or "sins". Come to think of it, it IS in a sense - the "sin" or wrong-doing is the mistake we all make when we believe we are separate from God and all others, when actually, in truth, we are One. How could we wrong one another if we were truly aware that we ARE one another, and all one with God? Atonement simply means to return to the true state of at-one-ness that we never really left - we only deluded ourselves that we could be separate from one another and from God's Love for us. Atonement is like the stubborn, pouting child who finally decides to turn to his mommy and daddy for a comforting, loving hug.
And that brings me back to the line from the song I heard playing on the radio as I started to write:
"You never know till it all falls down, somebody loves you."
The song was referring to the singer's feelings of love for a divorced woman, for it was he who loved her when her husband stopped loving her. But it could easily be said to symbolize the barrier that "falls down" when we really make Love to someone and discover the wonderful, ecstatic feeling of loving and knowing that "somebody loves you".
The barrier is our belief in separation, and it is a block to the Love which is always here but does not appear to be here when we allow ourselves to see only the Illusion our own Ego believes in and creates for us. We are the creators of our own self-Delusions, and Love is the destroyer of Illusions and Delusions and UN-Truth - as Light is the destroyer of Darkness. The darkest darkness cannot exist in the presence of even a little Light. When we remove, or "destroy", or "transform" our own self-delusions of separateness, we find at-one-ment and return to the blissful state of being in the presence of Love - which you might say is "the Face of God". It is interesting that The Tower card is also known as "Le Maison Dieu" - or "The House of God".
Have you ever heard the expression "The Finger of God"? In Astrology, a certain angle or "aspect" between two heavenly bodies and a third one is called "a Yod", or "The Finger of God" - though some call it "The Finger of Fate". Now if you look closely at The Tower card, you will see many little symbols which look like raindrops (in the shape of an apostrophe, or the black section of the yin/yang Tao symbol). These are called "yods", and a Yod is actually a letter in the ancient Hebrew alphabet. Yod is also the first letter of the Hebrew word for Jehovah - Yod-He-Vah-He. It is a symbol for God, in the same way that the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha, and the last letter, Omega, is a symbol which Christ used to describe himself: "I am the Alpha and the Omega" - the Beginning and the End. In other words, Christ (and God) is "everything" - omnipresent, everywhere, in everything and in everyone.
The realization and belief in this is "the at-one-ment". In "A Course In Miracles" the times we achieve atonement are called "The Holy Instant" - that instant in time where we actually remember that we are all One and not separate from one another, when we look upon a brother with Love and see him or her as being "at one" with ourselves - and all of us innocent and always loved and loving. For a brief instant, it is as if we are in Heaven gazing upon the face of God, and when we experience these brief glimpses of the Truth, we feel an ecstatic rush unlike anything else we normally experience here in The Illusion we call "the material world" - unlike anything except those other rare instances when we allow ourselves to extend or receive Love in any of its myriad of forms, one of which is true sexual union. Another would be the sense of Awe on seeing the magnificent Beauty of a sunrise, or being touched in our soul by a beautiful song, or feeling true Compassion for a brother who is truly suffering.
In The Tower card, these yods could symbolize the end (destruction) of something old, and the beginning (creation) of something new. A Divorce is just one of the many manifestations of this symbolic meaning. Suddenly being laid off or "downsized", as many people are experiencing in these times, is another manifestation of the same symbolic theme. And in my opinion, this is "a good thing" for most of them; for they had become trapped in a stagnant and sometimes self-destructive situation in a job that was stifling their creativity and/or stressing them to the point of illness or death by heart attack. Sometimes "the gold handcuffs" of a pension plan can trap us in a "dead"-end job or in work that we cannot put our heart into, or that "kills" our creativity.
Notice that the top of The Tower has a window but no door. Perhaps those two people were not comfortable in their tower, but were trapped in their own tower? Perhaps they built themselves a tall tower to get away from the hard truths on that rocky ground, and then found themselves so far from the truth they were escaping that they got stuck in their safe place.
The destruction of that kind of self-created prison is a blessing in disguise. The lightning is "a blessing in disguise" for the forest it destroys. Lightning brings to mind a thunderstorm and thunder clouds, and the old proverbial expression: "Every storm cloud has a silver lining". That is another cliche' that clearly expresses the meaning of The Tower: Destruction makes room for Re-construction. Without destruction (demolition) many people would still be living in slum buildings, and without destruction (divorce) many people would still be living in destructive relationships, or be trapped in stifling situations which did not allow room for growth.
The Tower card reminds me of another cliche': "living in an Ivory Tower". This refers usually to academic professionals, like professors at a university, who live in their own little world of academia and lose touch with the reality of "the real world" or the business world. They live under a self-delusion that what they learned years ago, and are still teaching as truths to their students, is still The Truth. But the world changes, and their old truths may not be true anymore. "Tenure" is another illusion academic types are trying to maintain, even as the "real world" of business is shattering that old illusion with constant down-sizing. Who believes these days that they will reach retirement with the same company they started with? Who can believe the big corporation or the government will "take care of them"? Who still believes that "loyal service" to a soul-less corporate entity will be rewarded when the corporation's profits are at risk? Many illusions are being destroyed these days, and all this is represented symbolically by The Tower card with its two people being blasted out of the ivory tower they built for themselves, but which turned out to be a prison for themselves.
The transition from self-delusion to dis-illusion may be uncomfortable, shocking, painful, or even life-threatening. But ultimately it leads to freedom, like a daring escape from prison in an action adventure movie. You almost get killed escaping, but you do escape and survive, and thrive in your new freedom. It is worth the danger and the risk and the pain, and the loss of something you should have let go of long ago, because it was no longer good for you to hold onto anymore. You may suddenly lose the job you were beginning to despise; or you may suddenly lose the house or the car or the credit card you really couldn't afford, but deluded yourself into thinking you could; or you may suddenly get dumped by a lover or spouse who was good for you at one time but now leaves you free to find a better partner to continue the next stage of your growth.
Sometimes we actually breathe a sigh of relief even while facing the tragic loss of something we once held dear; because along with the sudden shock of the "destruction" we have also been given a "revelation" that this change is necessary and good, and probably long overdue. It is like an anchor around our neck that suddenly falls away, a monkey on our back which suddenly jumps off and runs away. A stifling situation suddenly disappears and leaves us free once more to choose new situations or explore new places. And to the extent that we realize this, and accept the inevitable, the less the pain and suffering we experience.
It is not the "destruction" wreaked which hurts. What hurts us is the self-destructive holding-on to something, when we know in our hearts we really should be letting-go. When we draw The Tower in a card reading, it is a signal or sign to us that we are now facing something that is about to go, whether we refuse to see it or acknowlege it or stuggle against letting it go. We can let it go the easy way, or the hard way, but it will go anyways because it is in our best interests "in the long run" or "in the greater scheme of things" for it to go away and leave space for something better for us to come into our life.
Try holding your breath until it hurts - that is what The Tower card is all about! Eventually you will let it go in order to survive; but the longer you hold onto it, the more you suffer needlessly! Not only does your resistance cause pain, it deprives your body of the life-giving new breath of fresh air it needs to nourish and energize itself.
When I read the Tarot, I use the reversed cards as indicators of "too little or too much" of the card's basic themes. In the case of The Tower card, an upright card is not necessarily "a bad thing" - it is simply saying that "something has to go now". You are probably aware of it, even if it's just a nagging feeling or thought, and may be willing to let it go the easy way. You drew the card to remind you that the time is near when you must make your break, or accept your loss, or just "let it go" and "get on with it".
When you draw The Tower card in the reversed position (upside down), it indicates that something still has to go - but either you are not even aware of it, are consciously choosing not to be aware of it (in denial), or are aware of it and are choosing to resist letting go of it. To do this is just "setting yourself up for a fall", or at least "a rude awakening".
Sometimes we let Pride tempt us to hold onto something or some belief when we really know in our hearts that we should let go. The saying in the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament advises: "Pride goeth before a fall". The Tower card also symbolizes this, and in a pretty graphical manner!
Personally, I wouln't mess with a reversed Tower card or Death card. Let go now, and save yourself from a lot of pain and suffering you could have avoided! Cut your losses. Bail out now before you go down with the ship. The change is inevitable, because ultimately it is in your best interest to change.
Once you accept that, you can use the letting-go or the change as an opportunity to make room for something good that may be coming your way! If you stubbornly or foolishly hang on too long, you may miss out on the golden opportunity which was waiting to come into your life; but could not because you didn't clear away any space for it. If you need convincing of that truth, just look back at all the times in your life when something good came along after you thought you had lost something else; and realize now that the good thing could not have come to you unless you had been willing to lose the other thing. Did you ever get "dumped" by a romantic partner, and then meet someone even better for you shortly afterwards? Many people who go through Hell in a first "failed" marriage find Heaven with the next marriage partner. If they had held onto a "dying" relationship they would not have been available for the wonderful new one. Their fear of change would have kept them trapped in an unhappy place, when they could have been living in a much happier space.
A divorce often comes as a surprise to one partner - a sudden "shock" when that partner is finally forced to face the reality of a bad situation. It can be pretty painful, much more painful than it would be if the two partners had faced the reality of their relationship issues willingly, while there was still an opportunity to avoid the crisis which caused the "falling out".
Retirement from the workplace is another manifestation of The Tower card themes. In essence, it is the same thing as being suddenly laid off or fired - the only difference is that you are aware of it and are not suddenly shocked by the realization that you are leaving; although some people live in their illusions until the last possible moment and find the day of retirement a sudden shock to their system when it actually happens. They knew they had to go, and they had time to plan and prepare for a happy new life of freedom from financial worry and the requirement to show up for work each day; but they chose to delude themselves and not think about it or plan for it.
They built their own "ivory tower" that became the infamous "Tower of London", and then they were held captive in their self-imposed prison. On the day of their retirement (or termination) their illusions are shattered and they are forced to accept the Reality of the situation, and let go and get on with the next stage of their personal growth.
Fear is often what holds us captive in The Tower. Yes, it may seem "scary" to have to leave your comfortable perch up there in your own ivory tower; but it will be even scarier when you inevitably get blasted off that comfortable perch and tumble to the hard ground below. Why not just accept the reality of your situation, and let go of your illusions and self-delusions before you get smacked in the face with Reality as you hit the ground? Unlock your self-created prison and walk out the door and down the stairs to the ground.
Fear is an illusion, a trick of the Ego which keeps us from seeing the Truth, or experiencing true Love, and even from facing God. It is all smoke-and-mirrors, an illusion created by our own insane Ego who is afraid of the Truth and Love and God. If we do not allow ourselves to be fooled by our fears, and walk through them instead of running away from them, we will ultimately find that the very thing we want most is hidden right behind a thin veil that has no power to hold us back. As a friend of mine has often said: "Heaven waits behind Fear's gate." Face the Fear, for that is the very place you really should go. You can tell, because where Fear appears, that is the place where your Ego doesn't want you to go. And when you understand that your Ego always wants the opposite of what your Higher Self (your Spirit, your Soul) really wants and needs, then you can turn the Ego's own tricks to your own advantage. Your Ego may be insane, but it is consistently insane, like an enemy you know and can predict. The Ego is also your insane friend, whose insanity shows you where NOT to go when you are not sure of where you should go. As long as you get there, it does not really matter how you got there, does it?
Perhaps I should explain the term "Ego" I am using here. It is not quite the same as the "ego" used in everday conversation. That "ego" is a term which describes your concept of "who you are", which is why we sometimes say that someone who thinks he is bigger or better than others "has a big ego". The capital-E "Ego" I refer to here is also the concept (belief) of who you are, but it also implies that this belief is an Illusion, a mistaken idea. If you think you are Napoleon Bonaparte, you are probably living in a rubber room because society has decided you are insane to think you are someone you are not. If we think we are separate from each other, are bodies and not spiritual beings, and are separate from the Love of God; then we are believing in something which is not true, believing we are something we are not. And that belief is insane.
The part of our own mind that believes this is what the "Ego" is. Yes, we must have an ego and have some concept of who we really are, in order to be able to function and survive in this world. Having an ego is a good thing, a necessary thing. But if our concept of who we are is mistaken, and we believe in this mistaken concept of ourselves, then we are going to be making a lot of mistakes when we base our actions on this basic premise which is not true. It would be like going to the guy who thinks he is Napoleon to get advice on how to live your life. You have an Ego, and it is not "bad", but it believes in things which are not the Truth, so it is best not to listen to the advice it whispers in your mind. Your Ego will always give you advice which will lead to errors and painful results in the long run. It will never lead you to peace or joy or Love or the ultimate Truth about what is real and what is not real, for the Ego believes in Illusions and will try to create Illusions to get you to believe in them too
If you are thinking this description of the Ego would also describe that concept some people call "the Devil" who does "evil", then perhaps it is because Devil is just another word we make up to describe the source of those thoughts in our own mind which tempt us to do the "wrong" thing - to make "mistakes" based on a mistaken set of assumptions about what is Truth. It is more comfortable to make "the Devil" and "evil" something separate from us, to anthropomorphize it and give it a name and characteristics like a human person; than to realize that these mistaken beliefs are a part of ourselves.
"The Ego" is a part of our own mind that is literally "insane" because it believes in things which are not true. But we are more than our mind, and we have another part of our mind which knows the Truth. When we listen to that part of our mind and the thoughts it creates, we will always find their advice leads ultimately to peace and joy and Love and the Truth. If you want to call the Ego a "Devil", then you might want to call this other part of your mind your "Conscience" or your "Angel".
You don't have to hate or fight or destroy the Ego or "the Devil", just don't pay attention to it! It believes it is trying to help you, but it is crazy and its crazy ideas of "helping" you will only hurt you. Getting instructions about sky diving from an insane person who believes they don't need a parachute because they can fly, is something most of us would want to avoid...
I will finish with one more thought that just came to me. In The Tower card we see "the finger of God" in the form of a lightning bolt which blasts the people out of the doorless tower which imprisons them. This sure looks like "destruction" - and we may wonder how a God of Love could be capable of such a destructive act. But we must remember that God's agenda is not "of this world", but of God's spiritual plan for us. His Will is for us to remember that we are all his "sons" (the Son of God, or The Sonship, or "godlings", whatever you want to call it) and that we are part of Him and can never be apart, no matter what we choose to believe, no matter how we may be deceived. We were always in Heaven, are still in Heaven, and cannot possibly be apart from Heaven or separate from God.
But we are free to believe we are, because we have Free Will, and that is what creates this "hell" we see, and all the "evil" we see on this Earth plane.
I like to say: "We are asleep in Heaven having a nightmare we call Hell, and all we have to do is WAKE UP!" However, that is easier said than done.
God knows this, and his Will is for us to remember it. If we create a hellish experience for ourselves, that is one way to finally realize it. So God allows us to do that too, if that is what we choose, and if that is what it takes to convince ourselves of the Truth. When we have experienced enough pain and suffering to wonder why we have to keep suffering, we may get to a state of desperation where we stop trying to do it all ourselves and then choose to "let go and let God". We can get to Heaven by the route of Hell. Or we can choose not to go that route, and get there the easy way. But since it is all an Illusion anyways, it really doesn't matter how we get there, does it?
The Tower card is all about getting rid of our Illusions and seeing the Truth those illusions and self-delusions were keeping us from seeing. "The Truth will out", the old saying goes; and if you look back at your own life experience, you will see that many illusions and self-delusions you were holding onto have already been "destroyed" - usually by some temporarily painful crisis or some catastrophic event. The Truth is that we create our own Illusions when we listen to our crazy Ego, and if we stop listening we will create fewer Illusions - illusions that eventually must be destroyed because they are standing in the way of our own Truth and our own happiness.
If you keep building sand castles too close to the ocean, you will keeping having your creations crumble when the tide inevitably rolls in. Why not stop believing that it won't, and learn to build your castles where they will last as long as you want to keep them? Why not stop believing in things which are not true, and only lead to lack, loss, lovelessness, pain and suffering?
We don't need to be so presumtuous as to blame God for the pain and suffering in this world. If we realize that we create all this ourselves by OUR choice to separate ourselves from God and from each other, then we will also realize that we can UN-create it or choose NOT to keep on creating it for ourselves. But we like to keep banging our heads against the wall until it hurts enough for us to stop and look around and see the open door that we could have walked through instead! Then we decide to try something different, and manage to get out of our illusory prison the easy way. We could have done that all along, but we just didn't believe we could.
Often we are just like a little kid who throws a tantrum and says he hates his mother or father, and goes off and separates himself from his loving parents so he can pout and be angry at them and blame them for not giving him what they could not give, or were wise enough not to give what was not good for him. Then when he finds he doesn't like being separated from all the wonderful things his parents mean to him and give to him, and all the things he needs from them; he becomes fearful that they will be angry with him and punish him for his behaviour - so he may continue to keep himself separate out of this fear. He may even get angrier because he is frustrated he cannot have what he now knows he wants, but fears he can't have; and may begin to hate the parents he really loves because he is caught in this vicious circle of mistaken beliefs.
Yet a wise parent would know that he has already punished himself by putting himself through this needless pain and separation; and a loving parent would love his child no matter what he could possibly do or say, simply because the child IS his or her child. Could God be any less loving and forgiving than a human parent?
I have heard it said that the definition of insanity is: "Trying the same thing you have already tried a thousand times and expecting it to turn out differently this time!" We are all insane, if this is the definition. But we can choose not to be, and often we do. Our Ego is that part of our own Mind that is insane. But we have a Will that can choose not to listen to it, or to hear it and NOT take its advice. When we choose to align our Will with God's Will, then we get the best advice, and we no longer have to learn through pain and suffering. Pain is just "feedback" to tell us we are making a mistake and choosing the wrong things or the wrong actions. Pain and "bad feelings" can be our friend and not our enemy, if we use them as signs to warn us away from where we really should not go - where God knows it would not be in our own best interest to go.
Along with Free Will must come the freedom to choose NOT to love God nor to love one another, and also the freedom to choose Evil and Sin - which is really just another label for choosing against Love and choosing self-Ish-ness instead of self-less-ness and one-ness.
We can choose one-ness or we can choose separation. But like all the cells in your own body, which are always part of You - You are always part of God. It is only by believing you are NOT, that all the trouble starts and Evil is manifested on this Earth plane. In your own body, when some cells believe and act as if they were not part of the whole, then you call it "cancer". When we choose to believe we are separate from God and one another, we are like cancer cells in the body of God. But our Spirit cannot ever be killed by cancer, and we cannot kill God or one another's Spirit no matter what we do. Believing that this could ever happen is an Illusion.
When we have life-threatening cancer, we may undergo chemo-therapy or radiation treatements which are designed to kill the cancerous cells to save the body as a whole. These treatements are done by subjecting the body to highly poisonous and dangerous things which in larger doses could kill us. This too is another act of "destruction" symbolized by The Tower card, but it is kind of a special case which brings up an issue I found hard to resolve. Will God destroy those of his sons which are threatening the life or the spiritual growth of the sonship as a whole, or will God ALLOW them to destroy themselves or be destroyed by other sons of God?
Is "the God of Love" also "the Vengeful God" of the Old Testament, who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and the enemies of the Israelites, and even devastated the whole world with The Flood? Or are these just two aspects of the same God, like Vishnu and Shiva the Destroyer in the Hindu religion?
We would cut off a leg with gangrene before the poison spreads and kills the whole body. We destroy the part so the whole may survive, even when it is part of US. We attack ourselves with poisonous chemicals because our healthy cells will survive better than the cancerous cells which we want to kill. Sometimes our own immunue system goes insane and kills the cells of our own body because it mistakenly judges them as invaders like the microbes it was designed to kill. All this "destruction" is a natural part of our life, and even of our own body. Is it not possible that the Universe and God have both a destructive and a creative side, which is just naturally part of their nature? Or is this "duality" only manifesting on the material plane (as God vs. Satan, for example) but does not manifest in the heavenly realms?
The Universe itself was created in an instant, according to the "Big Bang" theory, and some astrophysicists now speculate that at some point in Space-Time the expanding Universe will begin to contract again into some kind of "Little Poof" (my word for it, not theirs). This theory is similar to the belief system of the Hindu religion - the exhalation and inhalation of the sleeping god. With every breath we humans inhale we burn up parts of ourselves with the oxygen we inhale, and millions of our body cells are destroyed, and created, with each breath.
I believe that in the ancient occult wisdom, the symbolism of The Tower represents this "Destruction" aspect of the Universe, in contrast to the "Creation" aspect which is probably symbolized by The Empress in a physical sense and by The Magician in a mental sense. The Empress just happens to be associated with the planet Venus, and the astrological glyph for Venus appears in some Tarot decks on The Empress card. Venus was the consort of Mars in mythology, so once again we see the duality of destruction vs construction/creation. The Empress makes babies (baby Emperors), just as the consort of the Emperor did in the times when monarchs and dictators ruled nations; and that card can symbolize "fertility" or "pregnancy" or "nurturing" and "growth" - or "creativity" in general. The Tower/Mars vs. The Empress/Venus form one of the several pairs of dual aspects of the same thing in both the Tarot and in Astrology.
In numerology, The Tower is card XVI or 16, which reduces numerologically to 7 - the number of "Perfection". How can a card with the meaning of "Destruction" mean "Perfection" too? Well, if The Tower is about "destroying Illusions" and doing that will lead to the perfect "Truth", then "Perfection" does seem to be a theme of The Tower card. Also, the things which are perfect right now do not need to be "destroyed" - it is only the things which become imperfect or inappropriate (not perfect for you) which need to be "destroyed".
Let's look at the "secret" number of some Tarot cards. The Empress card III is the 4th card in the series when 0, The Fool, is placed as the 1st. The Tower card XVI is then the 17th, which reduces numerologically to the number 8. This way of counting the sequence of the Tarot cards with the "wild card" 0 at the beginning of the sequence produces a second set of "secret" numbers which will be "occult" (hidden) to the people who are not "initiated" into this particular piece of hidden knowledge. You will find these numbers also give useful clues to the real meaning of the Tarot cards, which is why it is a good idea to study Numerology as well as Astrology if you really want to understand and use the Tarot. The Fool is not simply a "wild card", but a very important and powerful card in the Tarot which can be placed at the beginning of the series as "The Young Fool" about to begin his "Fool's Journey" in this lifetime and learn all the Principles represented in the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot. Or The Fool can be placed at the end of the series as "The Wise Fool" who has completed his journey and gained Wisdom and Understanding. The Fool actually symbolizes your immortal Spirit or Soul. It is the part of you that breathes Life into your body, and it is the part of you that is always connected to God. Some New Age people might like to call it your "Christ Consciousness". It is not of this Earth, but of Spirit, which is why The Fool can walk off that high cliff in the picture without worrying about being hurt or killed!
Four and Eight are both numbers of the material plane, four being "Manifestation" and eight being "Order". Making a baby is a material manifestation of Spirit - the Soul inhabits a body made from the materials of Earth. So the secret number of The Tower adds the concept of "Order" to its real meaning.
You would think The Tower is more about "Chaos" than "Order", but perhaps its secret number 8 is a clue to the Order that is manifested out of Chaos? Remembering that Destruction must precede Construction, the chaos created by the lightning-struck Tower is actually a preparation for new construction, a "New Order", which forms out of the scattered elements.
The Tarot can be very subtle.
This Order-to-Chaos-to-Order kind of things is, from a wider perspective, exactly the kind of "destruction and re-construction" kind of dynamic that takes place when our own body cells are broken down so their elements can be used to construct new cells; and when our digestive system breaks down the proteins in animal flesh to reconstruct them in a new molecular order to form the kinds of proteins humans are made from; and when the priest says "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust" as our lifeless body is laid to rest beneath the earth so it can break down and its chemical elements can be re-cycled and re-constructed (resurrected?) as new living organisms.
I may have gone too far afield in extending the symbolism of The Tower to so many things, but that is the beauty and usefulness of the Tarot - because it is composed only of symbols, and symbols cannot be given any one single meaning, the Tarot is a wonderful tool for stimulating "lateral thinking" and "imagination", and seeing things in a new perspective which is not limited by our usual definitions or experience. It helps us give MEANING to things which we do not fully understand, and to SEE things from a different angle and get new insights from that new way of looking at the same old thing. As I mentioned at the start, two of the meanings of The Tower are "Revelation" and "Re-evaluaton" - seeing things differently than before!
This is what insights are, and The Tower is a symbol for "Insight". The High Priestess symbolizes "Intuition", the "feeling" or "sensing" kind of insights; while The Tower symbolizes the kind of insight which comes from a paradigm shift - where the old way of thinking or old beliefs are thrown out (destroyed), and new ones are created to take their place. It is the card that represents the "Eureka! I have found it!" kind of discoveries, the "A-HA!" experience, and genuine "revelations" that come like a "lightning bolt" out of the blue. It is the lightbulb that turns on when a new idea dawns on an inventor. It is the "spark" of an idea which ignites a concept which spreads like wildfire - like the concept of "Love your neighbour as yourself" which has spread world-wide as "Christianity" or the concept of "inter-connected computer network" which has spread as "the Internet" and "the World Wide Web"!
In this sense the Insight of The Tower card is similar to The Magician card, which represents innovation, invention, and manifesting ideas into material form; but The Tower often symbolizes the BIG stuff like major shifts in beliefs (paradigm shifts) and major revelations about the meaning of things - like inspired writings or channelings that change the world. The prophets of all religions, and the inspired poets and songwriters that influence the thinking of their generation or of all humanity, these are the people who experience the kind of revelations symbolized by The Tower. But so are we, when we suddenly see things differently and our whole life changes as a result of that insight and new understanding. Who would have thought that a "scary" card with an occult symbolism of "Destruction" would turn out to have so many positive and "constructive" meanings?
We should always remember that things are not always the way they appear to be. Enemies can be your friends, and your friends can be your enemies. Your students can be your teachers. Liars sometimes reveal the Truth. "The Devil" can demonstrate why you should NOT be tempted to choose Evil instead of Good, or to choose to hate instead of to love. Pain and suffering can lead to love and happiness.
Everything on this material plane is dual in nature, so all things except the things which are of God have an opposite, and also may be the opposite of what they first appear to be. Everything which is not a manifestation of God on this Earth plane is an Illusion; and everything which your own Ego mind tells you is based on an Illusion, an untruth.
After all, The Tower card is all about destroying Illusion and seeing The Truth behind it. And the Truth is that you are a part of God and you can never be separate from God and his Love, even when you are under the Illusion that you are. If you read the parable of "The Prodigal Son" in the Christian "New Testament" with this in mind, you will see that this is what Jesus was illustrating by a story which may not seem to make sense to you at first.
The rebellious son who left his father's home and spent all the money his father gave him ended up broke and living in a pig sty.
He had fallen from his privileged position and had hit rock bottom. Only then did he realize that going home in shame and being a servant in his father's house would be better than this unhappy life he had created for himself.
So he went home, fearing that his father would be angry and unforgiving over what he had done. But, to his surprise, he was welcomed with loving arms by his father, who was overjoyed at reuniting with his prodigal son and called for a big party to celebrate his return.
His brother - the "good son" - could not understand why the returning "bad son" was getting all this love and attention and a big party after he had rejected his father, left home, wasted his inheritance, and lived in shame.
It didn't make sense to me either - until I managed to "destroy" some of my own Illusions and see the Truth behind the concealing and confusing veil of those Illusions. No matter what you do, God is always loving you.
The Bible can be very subtle too.
-- Michael Star
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First Published on www JUL 07 1997. Last Updated June 12 2014.
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