"Before you upon the Altar is the 16th Key of Tarot, which symbolically resumes these ideas. It represents a tower struck by a lightning flash proceeding from a rayed circle and terminating in a triangle. It is the Tower of Babel struck by the Fire from Heaven. It is to be noted that the triangle at the end of the flash, issuing from the circle, forms exactly the astronomical symbol of Mars.
"It is the Power of the Triad rushing down and destroying the columns of Darkness. Three holes are rent in the walls, symbolizing the establishment of the Triad therein and the crown at the summit is falling, as the Crowns of the Kings of Edom fell, who are also symbolized by the men falling headlong. On the right hand side of the Tower is LIGHT and the representation of the Tree of LIFE by ten circles thus disposed. On the left hand side is DARKNESS and eleven circles symbolizing the QLIPPHOTH."
The Magickal Title of this card is The Lord of the Hosts of the Mighty. The path of the Tower is the first reciprocal path encountered by the initiate aspiring upwards on the Tree. It equilibrates between Hod (intellect) and Netzach (emotions), thus it straddles all three Pillars on the Tree. It is "The Victory over Splendor. Venus acting through Mars upon Mercury. Avenging force." This is one of the most difficult paths to undertake on the Tree, because it involves sudden and complete destruction of old "realities." To one undertaking this path, it can be quite an ordeal. Yet the total destruction of the Tower is followed by a rebuilding and restructuring which reveals a portion of the Higher Self and balances the dualities inherent in all humans—the conflict between mind (Hod) and emotions (Netzach). The balancing of intellect and desire is the crucial task that the student must complete on the 27th path.
The Tower symbolizes the beliefs which each person has built up through life since childhood—those beliefs that were programmed into the child by parents, teachers, institutions and peers. The Tower is built in this fashion, one brick, one belief at a time and is fortified in adulthood like a tower under siege. The Tower is protected by the Ego from attack by other belief systems which disagree with it. Thus it becomes a closed armory, firmly shut against the free flow of expression from the outside as well as from the inside.
The Tower is struck by the lightning flash, which represents sudden illumination or realization. Thus the old "realities" are changed forever ... destroyed for all intents and purposes. The
Lightning Bolt is Mars, for it is the force of Geburah in action, blasting away outmoded beliefs. (The process of inner growth is not always pleasant, and must be painful at times.)
The crown at the top of the Tower is Kether, the head of the old belief system which is sheared off. The crown itself can also be seen as a phallic symbol alluding to the sexual energy of Netzach which is encountered on this path. The Dukes of Edom who fall from the Tower are the Lords of Chaos; imperfect forms which are sent back into the nothingness from whence they came. The Tower itself is of Eastern design because it alludes to the story of the Tower of Babel (the limitations of language and the confusions which arise from it). The mouth at the bottom of the card refers to the Hebrew letter Peh, meaning "mouth" which is the vehicle of language as well as vibration. It is the vibration of Geburah which tears the Tower apart. The background of the card is mainly red, the color of the path of Peh, and the Trees of Light and of Darkness are depicted in the flashing martial colors of red and green.
Interpretation in a Tarot Reading
Ambition, fighting, war, courage. Compare with the Emperor. In certain combinations, destruction, danger, fall, ruin.
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.