“This readiness to assume the guilt for the threats to our environment is deceptively reassuring: We like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, it all depends on us. We pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really hard for us (at least in the West) to accept is that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence, we engage in frantic, obsessive activities. We recycle old paper, we buy organic food, we install long-lasting light bulbs—whatever—just so we can be sure that we are doing something. We make our individual contribution like the soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in the belief that this will somehow influence the game's outcome.”
― Slavoj Žižek
The Tower is an impressive archetype.
It dominates the last row of cards like a spectre looming from the abyss. It can be intimidating and I hear myself saying between clenched teeth, ‘ok, hands up, what now?’
To my mind the message from the Tower could be: make those changes, forget your fear of letting go, just take those steps because otherwise the universe will do her thing and come trampling all over your stagnant little life with great big jackboots and a wicked sense of timing! It really is a case of feel the fear and do it anyway. That is the beauty of this card, it really is a key, it has the power to release from you the prison that is mediocrity, outworn relationships, deceit and unbeknown betrayal, self-sabotage and a whole gamut of things that are ultimately toxic and life threatening especially in a spiritual sense. Even in the most traumatic of calamities that can be embodied by the Tower, the goal is one’s freedom and a path back to destiny; stagnation won’t rock it, the universe abhors a vacuum.
Another aspect of this card is that it could depict the ego.
I relate this to the tall tombstone hat of the Sufis. This hat represents the death of the ego, the passing away of attachments and false beauty, the trammels of life that are not relevant to the path of the heart. Wearing the hat denotes the awareness that the ego serves the impermanent. It too, must come tumbling down to foster growth and evolution.
We could apply the context given by Rumi who brings storms and lightning to symbolise spiritual illumination and the flash of enlightenment. Rumi says, ’’The Lord of all the East is here: The glittering storm cloud of eternity reveals his lightning flash to thee.’’
In the RWS deck, Pamela Colman Smith’s imagery stirs the imagination to the point that you actually recognise something familiar about this card.
It is not always clear what that may be, possibly a recognition of the human journey versus the hand of the Great Spirit at work even in the most bleakest of scenarios. In this deck the tower has no door, so as the crown of Kether makes its heavenly blast and the lightning rises from the ground to meet it, the figures have no choice but to leap from the parapet. What is interesting about this is that the two figures, male and female have changed position, swapped sides. This is the right brain/left brain dynamic and through catastrophe we become rewired.
Over the years I have come to respect this card and its ability to show what and how destructive forces can be a force for good.
I have several stories that show the magnitude and grandeur of this card.
I have lived in my current home for nigh on 26 years. In the early years, when my children were young, we were a vibrant, lively family. We moved from a place which had not felt quite like home and the kids had seen a lot of restriction in some form or another. Perhaps we were not the most peaceful family to live next to, especially if you were the kind that had a goal for gentrification but let’s just say that we had an uneasy and troubled relationship with our next door neighbours. All kinds of complaints, vilification, sabotage tactics and general unhappiness existed between us; this went on for years. Then one day, I looked out of my window which overlooked their rather beautiful garden. It was a sunny spring day and all should have been good in the world but the negative relationship we had was hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles. The lady of the house was sitting on her bench and as I washed the pots and tidied around I wished that things were better with our neighbours.
I sent up a prayer to spirit, a prayer for healing for the relationship. I had no doubt in my mind that this would happen but didn’t know how.
One evening I was on my way home, I had finished grocery shopping and was keen to get indoors and have some tea. As I drew level with my house I gasped in horror...outside my front window I had a tall sapling, a lime tree which had been planted the year before and I always enjoyed its slender beauty from the window. The woman from next door was brandishing a saw and was hacking into the trunk of the tree. The sapling was not a problem as it didn’t block the light or annoy anyone, I only saw it as a thing of loveliness. Before very long the tree came crashing to the ground and lay pathetically on the path. She then noticed I had been watching her and quickly scurried indoors. I was devastated. Totally gutted. It wasn’t just the fact that the sapling was now gone but more about how can anyone do such a thing.
Drying my tears, I decided to confront the woman.
This was something that I had never really done and as I went through her gate my heart was beating fast. I can’t quite remember all that was said but I was able to speak my truth and I did it in a calm and collected manner. She of course gave her reasons for her actions which spoke of her personal dilemmas at the time. This surprised me and gave me an insight to the fickleness and fear that can reside within the spirit when it is under-developed and stuck in its banal existence of nothing.
The following day, the lady arrived at my door with a gift and we began talking. Very slowly we began to repair the damage that had been done. From that day to this we swap pleasantries when we see each other and we have not exchanged one cross word ever since. A gnosis had been reached and we saw each other in ourselves and what we did to the other we were doing to the self. My prayer had been answered. The tree had sacrificed herself, like the Hanged Man, to become the fallen Tower; the relationship had been rebuilt, not from the rubble of the old but from the resources found in the new materials. A new stasis had been reached, void of stagnation and negativity.
My daughter was recounting a programme one evening.
She had watched a progamme and she was explaining about how two people had been in adverse conditions. They were truly feeling the pressure but through conversation they had realised that each could relate to the other and discovered an empathic kinship. They dropped their hard exterior and embraced, afterwards they went on and smashed their challenges and success lay before them. Love and acceptance, particularly around change and challenges, can transform; it is what rebuilds the Tower.
I shall be speaking at the Tarot conference this October and the subject is the Tower.
There are some awesome speakers who will also be discussing this giant of a card. If you want to understand the dynamic of constructive deconstruction then this will be a place to find it.