“There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is why it will not stand.” Neil Gaiman, Instructions
Every time the Tower appears, I know I am to brace myself for some kind of momentous upheaval. Previously, the Tower has foreshadowed the toppling of narcissistic-type figures (ie. The Shadow Queen) or some kind of significant personal event in which a God-like authority figure was revealed to be mere human. This card always seems to always signal a new beginning, the fall of the status quo or a stroke of insight that breaks through old thought structures (“The lightning illumeth– / The darkness devours!” Schiller). Finally, as seen in the drawing of this card, the tower also suggests the crumbling of Babel– the tower erected to reach God in a feat of human hubris– and the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden a.k.a the prelapsarian Fall. Perhaps, The Tower was erected as a way of reaching God through human means (the building of a physical structure) or perhaps, it was constructed as a way in which clandestine figures could define the meaning of reality and possibility for the populace from the shadowy confines of an imposing physical form (the central castle of the medieval world). As such, it must fall as it was created from dim motivations and not the light of love.
If you look at the image of the Tower, there is a tall, imposing structure build from brick and a lightning bolt that reaches out of nowhere, destroying the top of the tower. Two figures, a man and a woman, fall from the top of the tower. The lightning bolt, as previously alluded, signals sudden change that usually results in the demolition of old structures or systems. The fall of the two figures, archetypically man and woman, also seem to suggest the dethroning of Kafka’s larger-than-life parental figures from their previously walled up fortress where they could define in black and white the terms and conditions of reality. The fact that this physical structure is so easily destroyed points to a fallacy in the foundation of the tower: “something is rotten in the heart of Denmark” (Hamlet (1.4), and thus the external reality cannot persist to be because there is internal inconsistencies, corruption and deception coming from within. Also, the eye (or “I”) of revelation often appears at the top of the Tower, shining a light down upon cloistered secrets previously hidden in the dark of the tower’s cellars. The eye and the lightning bolt can be thought of as dual forces of divine intervention: the hand and mind of a cosmic entity that arrives out of nowhere in order to reestablish order
from seeming chaos. This revelation of the Tower’s inner secrets is vital for progress to happen, because it reveals all that is wrong with previous systems of power. Uncovering, revealing shadow to light: these are all steps needed towards healing and creating a new approach based upon love.
One of the key themes of the Tower, thus, can be summed up as the toppling of pre-existing patriarchal1 forms of power to a positive end. When I say patriarchal, I do not really mean gendered male–dominated society so much as the masculine forces that underly how we act and behave. I refer to abstract structures of thought and dogmatic figures/ideas that dictate how we see the world for us through the establishment of boundaries of what we should or should not think. As Nietzsche said in his time, an old age dominated by preordained ideals (the God-like structures we based our world upon) has passed away, paving the way for a new world where life is dictated by prescient concerns of the present. A present, moreover, that we build continuously based on the lessons we learn rather than the guidelines that were handed down to us to be followed.
The Tower, in this light, is a reminder of the fallacy of the human will when removed from love and light (representative by the darkness of the tower). Any action or decision that is made from the desperate need to reach God (Babel) through human effort will fail, as well as any type of authority established from fear and control. The important thing, here, is to realize that the light of love resides from within, with each revelation of shadow to light. As past shadows are unravelled through the process of healing, the soul-body also becomes purer and a better conduit or vessel to speak with ‘God’: the ultimate light and truth. The Tower, as such, points to a flaw in the foundation of human desire: confusing the ability to control with power and confusing dominating through fear with acts of love. As such, it must fall in order for it to be replaced with a new system built upon the love, light and the integration of shadow-aspects. This is how one creates a more humane reality in which each individual’s integrity is uplifted.
1. I use the term “patriarchal” in the generic sense as a category for various forms of intrinsically ‘male’ dominating structures such as language (confining ideas to linguistic units), politics (the governing of bodies) and science (the structuring of the natural world through rational logic). Conversely, ‘matriarchal’ systems are centred about community, and the gathering and binding of peoples.↩