The Tower

The Sixteenth Key


□ DOUBLE LETTER: Grace-Indignation

□ ESOTERIC TITLE: The Lord of the Hosts of the Mighty

Serpent Kabbalah
Tarot Journal

THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM: The Twenty-seventh Path is the Active or Exciting Intelligence and it is so called because through it every existent being receives its spirit and motion.

The Path of Peh, THE TOWER, connects the center of the reasoning process (Hod) with the center of the intuition-desire nature (Netzach). It is the equilibriating Path of the Personality, related to Mars, and to the North, the quarter known traditionally in the Mysteries as "the place of greatest darkness," because it is said that the Sun never shone in the North of Solomon's Temple. Yet we are instructed that Light comes from Darkness, that "gold cometh from the North," and that "Enlightenment has its origin in the hidden sources of power which terrify the minds of the ignorant."128

Peh is a double letter, meaning that it is one of the "Gateways of the Soul," with two possible directions of passage. As a word, Peh means mouth, an orifice related both the taking of nourishment into the system and to speech. In the first case we understand that it is through the function of this devastating Path that the higher energies are brought in to enervate the Personality. And while spiritual nourishment passes into the system via this symbolic mouth, speech passes out of it.

Anyone who has done some practical esoteric work is aware of the singular importance of words and of the sounds of which these words are composed. The vibration of a God Name (its utterance in such a way that it can actually be felt in the body) has a definite effect on the physical vehicle as well as a concomitant effect on the psychic vehicles. This is a fact easily tested by the student, although the effect on the psyche may not be completely perceived by the waking consciousness.

"Words of Power," properly vibrated with martian force, help to bring about the destruction of our personal Towers, false concepts and institutions which we believe to be reality. But it should be understood that to tear something down is to make room for something new. Mars may be a god of war and destruction, but it is also the God which rules over the fertility of crops.129 And, relative to speech, we know that the Logos is also called the Word.

Most versions of this key picture a Tower, set in a desolate landscape, being struck by lightning. Figures fall from it as the Crown is struck off. In the most simple of terms, this symbolizes the sudden destruction of our perception of what constitutes reality. The Tower is the concept of what most people call "I," the Personality awareness being shattered by an influx of force revealing something of the nature of the Higher Self. The Tower also symbolizes all man-made institutions, whether that means government, religion, or any accepted values.

Yet this is not to be construed as the striking down of evil. In fact one title of the card is The House of God. The spiritual learning process involves the continual building up and striking down of concepts formed only as useful stepping stones into the inner worlds. For example, on the Paths we first encounter the Archangels in anthropomorphic guise. This appears to be their reality, particularly if we may not have believed that Archangels exist in the first place. What we encounter are contact pictures which have been established through centuries of meditative practice. These are a useful creation of man, rather than being the true and pure consciousness of the Archangelic beings. To encounter the Archangels as formless consciousness means to destroy another Tower which we have created. Yet these Towers are necessary and sacred. They are, like the densest expression of ourselves, our bodies, temples of the Holy Spirit. Appreciating this, we learn to apply the underlying principles of each Path without being bound by their necessarily artificial outward manifestation. We know that any Path we follow is, by definition, artificial, whether that be Qabalah, Hinduism, Catholicism, Judaism or Buddhism, and that each carefully laid brick of these structures will ultimately be destroyed.

One key symbol of THE TOWER is its very isolation. It stands on a desolate mountain top. Most individuals perceive themselves in this way, as totally separate units of consciousness. So the destruction of the Tower means to experience the True Ego, which is not ours alone. The lightning flash on the Tower is a sudden realization, or flash of perception, of our real identities. That lightning is in the shape of the circle and spear of Mars to indicate the power which initiates the experience.

On the Golden Dawn and Waite cards the lightning strikes the Crown at the top of the Tower, an obvious reference to the Crown of Kether. But what is symbolized here is the false crowns of our existence, those man-made values which we believe to control us. And one of the meanings of the Crown here is the will, the Primal Will of Kether which is the only true reality. Our conscious attempt to align ourselves with this Primal Will brings about the destruction of our belief that we actually have a personal will.

The reference to Mars on the 27th Path points to the Path's correspondence with Geburah, the fifth Sephira. Here the activity of Geburah in tearing away obsolete values takes place. Of course, it must be reiterated that the Sephiroth are the centers of objective energy, while the Paths are our subjective use of those energies. In varying degree, the energies of all of the Sephiroth are on all of the Paths, in this case that of Geburah being predominent. We also recall that Netzach and Geburah, Venus and Mars, are integrally linked, and that the Gods associated with both Hod and Netzach are called the Gods of Armies.

It is for good reason that Crowley sub-titled his card War. Throughout esoteric literature spiritual self-development is often described in martial terms. The Bhagavad Gita, for instance, describes a symbolic battle of the component parts of the Self: Krishna is the Higher Genius, guiding Arjuna onto his inner, and personal, field of battle.

Far too many people make the mistake of assuming the process of spiritual development to be one of "sweetness and light," a misconception fostered primarily by Christianity. THE TOWER points out that inner growth must be a painful and overwhelming process. Nature is not always kind to us. Once we invoke the inner forces we soon discover that what we get is what we need, and that is not always what we want. Most of all, it is often not what we expect. The branches of the Tree of Life are, as this card suggests, filled with surprises!

The surprise and suddenness of insight is symbolized both in the Golden Dawn and in the Waite card by the lightning flash. Crowley's version represents the same principle, but attempts to demonstrate some of the more subtle shades of meaning of the Path. He tells us also that his card represents the "preface" to the coming of a new era shown in the 20th Key, JUDGMENT. His version of THE TOWER represents the destruction of the old order.

As in THE STAR, Crowley uses straight, geometric lines to mean that which is made by man. He points out that since perfection is Nothing (literally no-thing): "all manifestations, however glorious, however delightful, are stains."130

In his card the all-seeing Cosmic Eye observes and directs the disruptive process of the Tower's destruction, while Dis, a Roman God of the dead, belches flames from the structure's base. On either side are the Serpent and the Dove, representing "the two forms of desire.. .the Will to Live and the Will to Die..." He says that they are also the "masculine and feminine impulses."131

In both the Golden Dawn and Waite cards two figures are shown falling from the Tower. Case explained them as the dual modes of the lower personal consciousness (consciousness and sub-consciousness) while Mathers called these the Kings of Edom. Waite presumably agreed with Mathers insofar as his two figures both wear crowns.

Reference to the Kings of Edom leads us to some very subtle meanings of this card. The fall of the Kings of Edom refers to the conquest of that nation by the Jews, led by Judas Maccabeus. There is, however, a much deeper meaning imbedded in that fall, a meaning which is discussed at some length in the Zohar. That book states that prior to the creation of our universe there were other universes, or forms of existence, with which the Divine Creator was displeased, and which he thus reduced to a state of chaos or nothingness.132

The Tower, furthermore, has other biblical implications. It is the Tower of Babel, a parable wherein the relationship of Speech-Tower is clearly shown: After the flood the descendants are said to have settled in Babylonia (Babel) where they built a city of brick. They built a tower in a supposed attempt to reach up to, and conquer, the heavens. Seeing these men as coarse and ambitious, God sought to punish them. Where previously "the whole earth was of one language and of one speech," and men could work in unison, God imposed diverse languages, forcing a dispersion across the land. In symbolic terms, the building of a tower of false notions results in confusion; it is acceptance of the limitations of "language," meaning the strictures of any particular culture. In this sense, then, the Tower also represents the structure of individual religious systems. Those who are locked into the bricks and mortar of any system are unable to see beyond that system to the Divine Unity and purpose which is the Light of all true religions.

The extent to which the implications of this card go far above even the level of the Christ center of Tiphareth is shown by the three windows in both the Golden Dawn and the Waite cards. The number three is a reference to the Supernal Triangle, meaning that the activity of THE TOWER somehow involves our cosmic selves. Crowley uses the symbol of the Cosmic Eye (the third eye of inner vision) but the meaning is precisely the same. Here is the involvement of God the Father. What happens is that the Path of THE TOWER may be considered the affirmation of the Primal Will that It alone is the True Crown, thus bringing into balance in the self the pure positive (Chokmah) and the pure negative (Binah) which stand at the top of each Pillar in our individual, internal Trees of Life.

In fact, the whole Tree of Life is involved in this Path. Waite suggests this by placing the Tower between two sets of falling Yods (the descending Spirit), adding up to twenty-two, the number of the Hebrew letters and of the Paths. Here it will be recalled that the Lightning Flash is the very means of creation of all ten Sephiroth.

In the Golden Dawn card an even more profound suggestion is made concerning our human value systems. On the right hand is seen the Tree of Life, while on the left is another Tree which is the Qlippbth. As the Tower is struck down, the opposites of "good" and "evil" are suddenly viewed differently, and one knows that all that is in the Universe is a part of the One Creator. And again, as has been repeatedly stated: every created thing contains the seeds of its opposite.

To this point we have considered the psychological implications of the Path, ideas which may easily be derived from meditation on the card. But THE TOWER involves some symbolism rarely found in print. This symbolism is purely sexual.

In the past the meaning of certain symbols was only broadly suggested because many in polite society might find them shocking. One such symbol is the Tower itself, which is a phallus. Moreover the mouth (Peh) may be interpreted at one level to mean the opening of the male reproductive organ, that from which the Yod, seed of life, issues. Crowley's card more than hints at this by the form of the mouth breathing fire on the lower right. And in his diary of 1923 he is very explicit as he speaks of "the Blasted Tower which is really a Phallus shooting forth lightnings of seed."133 The Fire is the destroyer and the renewer, for it forces the transmutation of energy from one form to another. It is, thus, the initial activator which will ultimately lead to fruition. This becomes clear as one asks the question: What happens to the Tower, here seen in the process of being consumed? The answer is that what happens is exactly the same as in our physical world when something burns. Energy is released to be restructured and to manifest in another way.

Thus is an extremely important lesson about the nature of transmutation of energies in the Universe imbedded in this card. The transmutation is so all-pervasive that it is found at every level of the Tree of Life. Knowing that the Mars energy is the universal sexual force of Microprosopus, and that the image of the Tower is in some (though not all) ways the phallus, points to one important meaning of the card. It is the higher sexual energy destroying the perception of the Personality about the nature of the sexual function; it is destruction of the perception of the sex organ itself in orgasm. And, as earlier noted, one of the precepts of the Mysteries accurately states that "God is sex." Needless to say, this precept was not much bantered about in the Victorian era.

There is still another complex mystery to be encountered here. This is the mystery of circumcision, an idea implied by the striking of the "Crown" from the top of the Tower. This is unquestionably one of the most secret meanings of the card, and one which is supported by Gematria. The letter Peh has a value of 85, which we discover to be the same value as the Hebrew word for circumcision. It might also be added that when they conquered the Edomites, the Jews forced them to be circumcised, which allowed the Edomites to be absorbed into the Jewish society.

The rite of circumcision is of very obscure origin, but it is a practice known to have been spread by the Egyptians.134 Biblical texts show that a number of ideas were involved: 1) It was related to preparation for marriage. In the case of the Mysteries, this may be taken to mean what is called by Alchemists the "Chemical Wedding." 2) It was a rite of initiation into a social group. 3) It was a "redemption offering," as is described in Leviticus.135 4) Most important, it was a token of the covenant between Abraham and God. In ancient terms this meant an agreement between two parties, not as a contract in the modern sense of the word, but as a bi-lateral pledge of loyalty.136

Thus it may be interpreted that the fall from the Tower, the sacrifice of one's perception of the sexual function (a symbolic circumcision) is required continually of mankind to maintain the covenant between Abraham and God, i.e., to maintain the given Path by which one may return to the Source of All. But this is also initiatory; it is a preparation for the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel of Tiphareth.

Interestingly enough, the biblical text calls for circumcision of all male children on the eighth day of their lives. The correspondence with the eighth Sephira, Hod, connected to Netzach by the Path of THE TOWER can certainly be suggested.

The Tower is the phallus. But this symbolism does not mean in any way that the Path is exclusive to those functioning in male incarnations. The Path of Peh exists prior to the point of differentiation of the sexes for incarnation, and is thus an amalgam of both masculine and feminine energies. On this Path one must focus on the male component of the sexual force, as on other Paths one must deal with its female components. A male or female body does, however, make some differences in the way one approaches the lower Paths beneath Tiphareth. Energies are polarized differently in the experience of a Path, according to the sexuality of the physical vehicle. This makes no practical difference in individual working; only in group working are such polarities of neccessity considered.

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