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Greater Arcana Study Group—The Tower

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Greater Arcana Study Group—The Tower


Occult explanations attached to this card are meager and mostly disconcerting. It is idle to indicate that it depicts ruin in all its aspects, because it bears this evidence on the surface. It is said further that it contains the first allusion to a material building, but I do not conceive that the Tower is more or less material than the pillars which we have met with in four [n.b. Original says three] previous cases. I see nothing to warrant Papus in supposing that it is literally the fall of Adam, but there is more in favor of his alternative—that it signifies the materialization of the spiritual word. The bibliographer Christian [Jean Baptiste Pitois, a.k.a. Paul Christian] imagines that it is the downfall of the mind, seeking to penetrate the mystery of God. I agree rather with Grand Orient that it is the ruin of the House of Life, when evil has prevailed therein, and above all that it is the rending of a House of Doctrine. I understand that the reference is, however, to a House of Falsehood. It illustrates also in the most comprehensive way the old truth that “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”

There is a sense in which the catastrophe is a reflection from the previous card, but not on the side of the symbolism which I have tried to indicate therein. It is more correctly a question of analogy; one is concerned with the fall into the material and animal state, while the other signifies destruction on the intellectual side. The Tower has been spoken of as the chastisement of pride and the intellect overwhelmed in the attempt to penetrate the Mystery of God [Christian]; but in neither case do these explanations account for the two persons who are the living sufferers. The one is the literal word made void and the other its false interpretation. In yet a deeper sense, it may signify also the end of a dispensation, but there is no possibility here for the consideration of this involved question.
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Christian actually says “downfall of the Spirit” (see http://www.green-door.narod.ru/pctarot.html), but I think the point Waite is making is the futility of trying to penetrate the mysteries of God with the natural mind. For Christian, as I understand him, the Tower represents a setback on the path to immortality, although one that doesn’t lead to complete ruin but serves as a learning experience. Waite’s reference to Christian as a “bibliographer” may refer to his career as a librarian in Paris for the Ministry of Public Education.

Once again Waite agrees with Grand Orient [himself ]. The references are from Waite’s Manual of Cartomancy. “Ruin of the House of Life” refers to the Tower in the World of Conformity; “Rending of a House of Doctrine” is the Tower in the World of Attainment.

Waite says there’s an analogy between this card and the previous one. The Devil represents the Fall into a “material and animal state” while the Tower represents “destruction on the intellectual side.” And he says something interesting regarding Papus: “But there is more in favor of his alternative—that it signifies the materialization of the spiritual word. This is suggestive of something that was only hinted at in the previous card; but Waite elaborates more in his comment on the Waite-Trinick Devil (Lucifer):
"The Lucifer of this diagram is the desire after spiritual things, to empower the life of sense and to equip the mind in separation."
It’s one thing to desire after Spiritual words and quite another to discern them correctly in a way that brings one closer to Divinity. Waite’s description of Lucifer doesn’t sound like a simple matter of misinterpretation though, but a deliberate building up of a “spiritual” tower based on human wisdom.

He describes the two people as “The literal word made void” and “Its false interpretation.” I noticed there are 12 Yods on the left side and 10 on the right. It’s hard to say what these symbolize exactly but obviously the 12 and 10 are important. 12 could apply to either the Old Testament or New Testament; it might also mean Astrology. 10 could mean Kaballah; these are just some examples. In any case, whatever is being symbolized, it is the literal and false interpretations which are being thrown down. Alternatively, they look like sparks or flames falling from above and might represent "sparks of truth" amid the destruction.

Waite-Trinick Tower

The Waite-Trinick Tower is very similar to the Waite-Smith. There’s the tower being struck by lightning; and there are two people who are either about to be hurled off or have decided to jump before they get crushed by the tower. There’s a ramp going up on the lower right-hand side. Here’s Waite’s comment from the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross initiation ritual. The Tower has replaced Judgement on the path of Shin (31, Malkuth-Hod); normally the Tower is Hod-Netzach:
“The lesson in chief of that Path of Shin on which you have looked in your journey, is shewn in the Symbol of the Path. It is called the Tower and exoterically it is that of Babel, as signifying utter overthrow, ruin and confusion. It is therefore in analogy with all symbolical events which carry the same suggestion, and most obviously with the traditional Fall of Man. But in the Secret Tradition, Babel is the wisdom of man, or the word of man in separation from the Word of God, and the confusion visited on its builders is that which befalls the human mind in its divorce from things that are Divine. You have been in this state of separation, my Brother of the Rosy Cross. You have erected in your own personality a Tower of Babel, a Palace of Art, hoping to reach up into heaven from the roof thereof, which is the apex of the natural mind. When you enter into the mystical life, this Tower has to fall, and that by which it is destroyed is the glorious and all-holy violence of the Divine Will, called down by your Divine Spirit to break up the Kingdom of this world within you, to cast out the Kings of old who have reigned therein. Then shall your Tower be rebuilt after another manner, and the mystery of its building shall be that of Babel no longer, but it shall be a Tower of Ivory, a House of Gold, and He Who shall reign therein will be truly King of Israel.”—Practicus 3 = 8 Initiation Ritual
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