Monday, February 21, 2011

The Tower

The Tarot card of the Tower seems a highly symbolic and appropriate depiction of contemporary world-events, not only of the unrest and challenge against incumbent governments throughout North Africa, but also of the sudden change of fortune experienced by many today. The card depicts a tower struck by lightning with two figures falling headlong from it.

It’s probably best to state at the very outset that personally I give little credence whatsoever to any fortune-telling aspect of Tarot cards, all such methods of divination of individual destiny being prone to highly subjective interpretation; but its also worth reminding those who condemn any form of occult divination that the foremost book which has shaped the Western psyche for millennia, namely the Bible, has itself been used as a source of divination in the form of bibliomancy, that is, the casual choosing of  a  verse from a randomly opened Bible to be heeded as God-given advice upon a situation.

The Tarot is believed to have originated from Northern Italy, a hand-painted Tarot pack was created for the Duke of Milan in 1415. Sometimes believed to contain the wisdom of the mythic ancient Egyptian god Thoth-Hermes, Tarot cards have fascinated and intrigued many minds throughout history. Even the eminent 20th century psychologist Carl Jung, after attending a lecture upon Tarot cards was open-minded enough to confess that- 

'It seems as if the set of pictures in the Tarot cards were distantly descended from the archetypes of transformation'.  (CW 9 i:81) 

 It’s in this context, as  pictorial representations of  archetypes, that the  cards of the Tarot are of particular  psychological interest.

Mention of towers can be found throughout the Old Testament; frequently alluded to in the form of a fortified frontier post or watch-tower for vine-yards. More importantly, the tower in the Bible often symbolizes  an impregnable stronghold in which to place one’s trust in God.

For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. 
-Psalm 61 v. 3

But occasionally  the tower in the Bible is likened to the human body, especially in the love poetry of Solomon’s Song –

Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury. 
Thy neck is  as a tower of ivory;….. thy nose  is as the tower of Lebanon.
I am a wall, and my breasts like towers.    Solomon’s Song  4:4, 7:4 and  8:10

The symbolism of the tower card in the Tarot may originate  from the Biblical Fall of Man, or more aptly, to the tower of Babylon which was destroyed by God as punishment for Man’s overweening pride (Genesis 11). In modern times the symbolism of a tower struck suddenly by lightning holds a peculiar resonance to the devastating trauma of the 9/11  attack upon the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.

There are a number of interpretations relating to the Tarot  card of the Tower but most conform to a standard meaning. These include - Chaos, Sudden change, Hard times, Crisis, Revelation, Disruption, Realizing the truth, Disillusion, Uncomfortable experience, Downfall, Ruin, Ego blow,  Explosive transformation, failure and catastrophe.

Other interpretations of this flexible and inevitably inexhaustible symbol include the paradigms constructed by the ego and the sum total of all schemata which the mind constructs to understand the universe. Frequently a symbol of ascent heavenwards, as in the Babylonian tower, the Tower is struck by lightning when reality does not conform to expectation. Another interpretative insight of the Tower card is the war between the structures of lies and the lightning flash of truth, in which, ‘false concepts, beliefs and institutions come tumbling down, suddenly, violently and all at once resulting in being blinded by a shocking revelation'. It sometimes takes a devastating  lightning strike to see a truth that one refuses to see. Such  cataclysmic activity is sometimes necessary for real change and growth.

Yet another highly relevant interpretation of this enigmatic, yet archetypal card is that it symbolizes hard times, sudden change, crisis and ruin, a trauma experienced by many individual lives at present.

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Highly  Recommended reading-
Meditations on the Tarot : A journey into Christian Hermeticism
by Anon, Element  1985
(Although the author is stated as anon, the Russian theosophist,
Valentin Tomberg is considered to be the author).
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