The Tower


Tarot 16 – The Tower

By James Donahue

Of all the cards in the Tarot deck, the Tower is the most unpopular to see when it comes up in a reading. Just looking at the images on this card explains why. The card warns of a looming disaster and a dynamic change in life as we know it.

The white tower stands before a black background. A bolt of lightning hits the tower, tearing away its crown and starting fires that can be seen in every window. Smoke pours from the building. Balls of flame fall, as do a man and a woman, from the high peak to the rocks below. It is a picture of complete disaster.

The tower may represent the human ego, a stumbling block in everybody’s spiritual walk. Some people spend their lives building their positions, their reputations, their place in society brick by brick, but in the process forget their real purpose for being on this planet, in this body and at this time. It sometimes takes a jolt to bring them back to reality.

The picture reminds us of the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, where the people erected a mighty tower made of ambition and false ideas. The blackness surrounding it suggest that everything about the tower is evil and materialistic. The humans falling from it have been thrown violently from their world of material security. The falling balls of light, or flame, might represent the descent of the life force, or possibly the ego itself.

The sudden occurrence of the looming disaster is symbolized by the bolt of lightning. Some perceive this as a judgment or divine intervention. The two figures falling from the tower are symbolic of our dual nature.

There are two different ways in which the Tower calamity is experienced in life. One is an unexpected occurrence such as a fire, flood or natural disaster. The other might be caused by someone else’s deliberate action. It might mean a firing from a job, or a false accusation or arrest that undermines our lives.

It is difficult to find much of a positive message in the Tower card, although one exists. If we allow it to be a teaching experience, with destruction we may also find enlightenment. Sometimes freedom of mind and spirit can be achieved only at great sacrifice.  The card may encourage us to see that such upheavals can force new and more beneficial directions in our lives.

The Mind of James Donahue