16 The Tower

The Tower in the Book of Law

The Tower divinatory meanings

The collapse of a world view or belief. In a perfect world, this would be immediately replaced by a new view or belief, but life is not simple. Either the old views are tenaciously held onto, or there is a lack of belief or perception in the new. Either way, there is a hiatus until things settle down. The problem is that views and beliefs are closely related to self and identity, so that changes are seen as an attack on the self. There comes a point when gentle transformations get no result, so they become more violent, until the grip is loosed. By then of course, the results are more dramatic. The key is to be more sensitive to change and accommodate it, rather than rigidly to hold on to the past and its now irrelevant views.

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The more rigid the views and the inability to change them, the more catastrophic the outcome. Fanatics, terrorists etc, have extremely rigid views – so they expect all the non-believers to change, usually by force and coercion. On the other hand, the views of so many people are either wishy-washy or change with the zephyr. What is required is enough rigidity to stand up, but with some flexibility. The wings on an aeroplane are a good example.

The Tower prominent in the past is an indication that they have not integrated or accepted a change in their perceptions. Prominent in the future shows that views will change soon. Maybe they are already preparing for such an event, so it will beholden upon the tarot reader to help them face up to accommodate the change. In my experience change is rarely as bad as people think.

Four Modern Visions


Image of TheTower Major tarot card in the Rider-Waite deck
The Tower – Rider-Waite

Occult explanations attached to this card are meagre and mostly disconcerting. It is idle to indicate that it depicts min 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 three previous cases. I see nothing to warrant Papus in supposing that it is literally the fall of Adam, but there is more in favour of his alternative – that it signifies the materialization of the spiritual word. The bibliographer 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 We, 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 labour 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; 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.

Divinatory meanings

Misery, distress, indigence, adversity, calamity, disgrace, deception, ruin. It is a card in particular of unforeseen catastrophe.

Reversed meanings

According to one account, the same in a lesser degree; also oppression, imprisonment, tyranny.

Book of Thoth

The Tower in the Book of Law

Break down the fortress of thine Individual Self, that thy Truth may spring free from the ruins.

Quarrel, combat, danger, ruin, destruction of plans, sudden death, escape from prison.

The Tower represents war, destruction, but also spiritual renewal. Plans are disrupted. Your views and ideas will change as a result.

More information

Golden Dawn -Lord of the Hosts of the Mighty

Ambition, fighting, war, courage. Destruction, danger, fall, ruin.


Ruin, Disruption, Overthrow, Loss, Bankruptcy.

Reversed meanings

These in a more or less partial degree.

Etteilla: Misery

Distress, Indigence, Poverty, Dearth, Need, Destitution, Catastrophe, Adversity, Misfortune, Pain, Torment, Sadness, Affliction, Trouble, Punishment, Thrashing, Chastisement. Awakening, Disgrace. Severity, Inflexibility, Harshness.

Misery reversed meanings

Imprisonment, Detention. Arrest, Captivity, Oppression, Tyranny, Chains, Subjection, Constraint.

Thierens: XVI. Uranus

“Occult explanations attached to this card are meagre and mostly disconcerting.” (W.) The reason for this is easily seen: the principles of Uranus and Neptune were not much known in antiquity save that they were the general principles of the Heavens (the Air or also the atmosphere) and the Ocean, and as such we find them in the Pantheon and in the original Tarot, not yet as the much later discovered planets, which personify these general cosmic principles. Later ages added very little, if anything at all, to those original explanations. Still Ouranos and Poseidon were known in Greece as well as Dourga and Varouna in India.

16. Le Feu du Ciel – Paul Foster Case

Corresponds, through the letter Peh, to Mars. The symbolism, which has, for a long time, been connected with the story of the Tower of Babel, has a direct bearing upon the divinatory meanings.

Le Feu du Ciel – Meanings

These meanings correspond also to the influence of Mars in astrology. As a rule an evil card, although in spiritual matters it may be understood as symbolizing the overthrow of mistaken conceptions, or the defeat of activities opposed to the Querent’s spiritual development. In material affairs it signifies ambition, unforeseen catastrophes, fighting, grave dangers, the ruin of the Querent’s plans, the defeat of his hopes.


Sectarianism. Tower of Babel. Exoterism. Confusion of tongues. Fall of exoterism. The force of Nature re-establishing the truth distorted by men.

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Tower tarot meanings - Ambition, fighting, war, courage
The Tower shows the collapse of a world view or belief. In a perfect world, this would be immediately replaced by a new view or belief, life is not simple.

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