It is one of two or three Tarot cards that pulls everyone up short. You draw The Tower, and everything comes to a screeching halt. If you’re like me, you kind of blank out for a moment, or hear that dead-air, offline buzz. This is big.
The way I learned The Tower was as an external force coming in out of nowhere like a lightning strike. Although really, even lightning is not this bad because at least you know you’re in the middle of a storm; but The Tower is out of nowhere. Perfectly decent day and then whammo! The representation of this moment as a lightning strike is particularly interesting, as we’ll see below … but the question for now is, What’s being torn asunder? What is being blasted away, and why?
Western culture has been trending away from religion for a little while now; we are becoming more secular as people turn away from the Church, or any organized religion. That’s the real problem — it’s not spirituality that we are rejecting – it’s the organization, the hierarchy. When people get involved, it’s so easy for everything to go awry, even if things start off with the best of intentions. There is a reason why we have so many different kinds of monks – Benedictines, Cistercians, Franciscans, Carthusians, et al – each one would start with ideals of reforming the ones that went before, and it was all fine until they started accumulating sheep or land.
Something interesting happened to Trump XVI while all this was going on in the background; what in the Marseilles version of this card is entitled La Maison Dieu, became The Tower in the RWS and Thoth. If you look at your RWS Tower, you see some kind of representation of lightning coming in from the side or above, striking the top off a tower and sending two people tumbling to the ground. And you have the Hebrew letter Yod as flames illustrating the fiery path downward. The Yods are our clue to what was originally going on in this card. In the Thoth Tower, the transformation originates with the Eye — the Eye of Shiva, but also perhaps our own moment of seeing and understanding. I think that if we can reclaim the original meaning of the Tower card by considering all of this symbolism and then we can reinstate the vast power and opportunity it represents, no matter what we call it.
The Marseilles House of God (top image) shows a tower with three windows, divided into three sections by rows of coloured bricks – two rows of green bricks and one row of red bricks with an additional red brick under the top window. What we would normally see as the top of the tower is very clearly a crown, but it is just a fancy turret? Hm. There is a sun just out of view on the upper right, sending waves toward the place where the crown joins with the tower. They are drawn like fluffy gusts of Air, but also the licking flames of Fire. Their colours are Yellow, Blue, Green, and Red – the four Elements – but it looks to be powered by the yellow, which is at the beginning and the end.
Yellow as Air includes speech, which brings us to the Hebrew letter associated with this card: Peh, for Mouth. The Voice of God. On the Thoth Tarot, you see an eye at the top – the Eye of Shiva, whose opening causes the destruction of the world through enlightenment. On the Marseilles version above, if you look to the left of the tower in the blue, there is a line drawing of what looks like an open eye (no pupil) with lashes underneath … and on the right, still on the blue, there is a closed eye. These are stylized of course, but this imagery of an eye opening is so interesting, especially because the closed eye on the right is aligned with the ‘before’ part of the picture, and the open eye is aligned with the ‘after’. The closed eye is positioned under the Sun, ‘before’ any breath or lightning, or anything. The open eye is positioned on the opposite side of the tower under the falling Crown, as our Third Eye opens.
On our Marseilles House of God, there are the two people we are used to seeing. One of them is falling, almost to earth, and one of them is … tripping out the door? What’s happening there? Or is he falling from the other side? His body is angled parallel to the ground, not vertically the way his friend is. This second man, the one in the red shirt (uh-oh) is also touching the ground, but he’s not falling as far. I am not very familiar with the Marseilles, but I think we can work with the Elements in a comparable way to the Thoth and RWS. The man falling is touching yellow with his hand, but his foot is braced on the green row of bricks. Grounded on earth and reaching to the Divine Word, maybe? But what’s happening with the red-shirt? I would love to hear your interpretation of what he’s doing.
And so, the Crown. Date-wise, I don’t think we can say confidently that this Crown is Kether. As far as we know, the association between Tarot and the Tree of Life dates to the 18th century, which is later than the deck I have here, which was published in 1650. Maybe occultists were making this connection before the 18th century. That is when we have proof of the association, but people don’t always write things down. But this Crown feels to me more like a real crown, a construction like the tower itself — the kind you would make here on earth as you assign roles and think that being a King or Queen is the highest you can get. Blammo!
In this Maison de Dieu above, there is a green bolt of lightning coming out of the tower and zigzagging upward. Usually the lightning is coming downward, but this time we have the wind (red, blue, and yellow only) coming down and the green going up. Something is being released, anyway, and it’s powerful. Is it our earthly fixation, since it’s green? Our attention is now free to move upward and recognise — or rather, re-recognise — that there is really nothing between us and Spirit? It fizzles like electricity.
La Maison Dieu / Tower is a card of enlightenment; we know that already. And we know it works via destruction. It’s the destruction of the obstacles that keep you from hearing and seeing the truth. And that obstacle was right on the top of your head, your Crown. The division between the Crown and the Tower re-creates an opening where the Divine Fire, Water, Air, and Earth can flow in. This is Shazzam! How did I not see this before?! enlightenment. You’re awake now, that’s for sure
We might call a church — the building — a ‘House of God’ today. And I seem to remember in The Three Musketeers someone getting shouted at for fighting in a ‘House of God’ then, too, so I’d guess it’s a term that has been known for a while. That’s what we don’t want — the building and the rules and the hierarchy — and we are right to reject this as a constriction, but let’s keep the baby and just throw out the bathwater. We like the baby. Let’s break down the walls and let our Spirit strike out toward heaven, where we belong.
 I’m referring to the traditions that I know, Christian and Buddhist. I can’t speak to any other tradition, but would love to hear from you about yours!